Another great NPR video on our Sea Otter – Climate change work…
When people talk about sea otters, the words “cute,” “cuddly,” and “curious” often come to mind. But now you can add another descriptor to that list — climate change fighters.
An NPR Quest radio piece about road crossings affecting our study animals. Listen below.
Here’s a great article by Liza Gross in KQED’s Quest. It ties our recent puma work nicely together with other work on predator effects on ecosystem function.
These “top down” trophic cascades, which the ecologists dubbed “trophic downgrading,” have been documented from the poles to the equators and every major biome in between, making the loss of top predators, they wrote, “arguably humankind’s most pervasive influence on the natural world.” Earth has weathered five mass extinctions but never before at the hands of one species—human beings. And we humans seem hell bent on clearing the Earth of larger bodied apex predators.
I considered all this as I read a new paper from wildlife ecologist Chris Wilmer’s lab (published last week in PLOS ONE) that looks at how human development affects pumas. Like most large carnivores, pumas need vast territories to hunt, find mates and raise young. Pumas living in the San Francisco Bay Area have no such luck. Wilmers, an associate professor of environmental studies at the University of California-Santa Cruz, has been studying the effects of habitat fragmentation on the behavior, ecology and even the physiology of pumas around the Santa Cruz Mountains. He develops cutting-edge GPS collars to track both the location and behavior of his animals.
Fragmented landscapes often pave the way to extinction for wide-ranging large carnivores like pumas, with cascading effects. Freed from the threat of top predators, smaller carnivores like foxes increase in number, driving declines in birds and small mammals. But habitat fragmentation can produce effects similar to extinction because large predators tend to avoid small fragmented parcels. Given the heterogeneous patterns of human developments—with houses and other structures interspersed among natural areas—predicting how animals might respond, and with what consequences, presents a serious challenge.
Read the full article here.
From KTOO in Juneau Alaska, a public radio piece about our sea otter research with an Alaskan twist. Clink on the play button below to listen.
From KUSP, another nice NPR piece about our sea otter research. Clink on the play button below to listen.
From Crosscurrents on NPR, I love this radio piece about our puma project. Pay close attention to my toothbrush quote!
Although they live all around us, encounters with lions are unusual because there just aren’t a lot of them and each lion has a large territory. In the Bay Area, males use about 200 square miles and females about 50. People are increasingly hiking and biking in mountain lion country, yet attacks remain exceedingly rare – although media hype may make it seem otherwise.
WILMERS: With over 30 million people in California and thousands of lions, there’s only been six lethal attacks in the entire history of the state. So basically that means there’s a very, very, very small probability of ever getting attacked, and if you do, of dying. You’re much more likely to die from getting struck by lightning or from impaling yourself on your toothbrush than you are from a mountain lion.
From Science Friday on NPR, Chris Darimont discusses our recent PNAS paper on human-driven evolution. Listen to the full radio spot here.
Can humans angling for the prize-winning fish shift the course of evolution? Research published this week in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences says that predation by humans through hunting, fishing, and gathering has had significant influences on the rate of evolutionary change in a wide variety of species. Traits such as body size and first reproductive age shift significantly in species that are ‘harvested,’ the authors say.
“Fishing regulations often prescribe the taking of larger fish, and the same often applies to hunting regulations,” said Chris Darimont, one of the authors of the study. “Hunters are instructed not to take smaller animals or those with smaller horns. This is counter to patterns of natural predation, and now we’re seeing the consequences of this management.” Darimont and colleagues found that human predation accelerated the rate of observable trait changes in a species by 300 percent above the pace observed within purely natural systems, and 50 percent above that of systems subject to other human influences, such as pollution,. We’ll talk with Darimont about the team’s findings.