The Blog

The Rise of the Tick

Outside Magazine has a nice story on Lyme disease ecology in which they discuss some of the results of our recent PNAS paper.

Some species may even be able to control tick numbers and infection prevalence not by killing the ticks but by killing their favorite hosts. That is the new argument that Taal Levi, a postdoctoral researcher at the Cary Institute, put forward in a 2012 paper in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. After the morning tick drag, I sat down with Levi at a picnic table outside the institute to hear about the history of foxes.

Foxes were originally very abundant in the eastern United States, where they feasted on small mammals like white-footed mice. But the past few decades have not been good to them. “Fox harvests in the Northeast have declined substantially,” says Levi.

Taal is continuing this work in his postdoc at the Cary Institute in New York.  Read the whole story here.

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Cougars in the mood stay far from humans

From the San Francisco Chronicle, a nice article on our recent PLOS ONE publication.

 Mountain lions, the most fearsome predators in California, lurk closer to suburbia when they are stalking prey or searching out new territory, but the cagey cats steer clear of humans when they are in the mood for romance, according to a UC Santa Cruz study.

If you can’t view the full article on the Chronicle article, here is a pdf version (page 1 , page 2).

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Mountain lion just miles from downtown San Jose photographed by automatic camera

Sometimes I am amazed at how easily mountain lions make it into the news!  Here’s a story in the San Jose Merc about a lion caught on camera at UC’s Blue Oak Reserve in the Hamilton range…

The lion photographed weighs more than 100 pounds. Wilmers said it is a male from 4- to 10-years-old, and it looks healthy. That it wandered into photo range on the outskirts of America’s 10th largest city was bound to happen sooner or later, he said.

“It’s not a surprise to me. There is a lot of great open space there,” Wilmers said. “If anything, it is a testament to the fact that people have been able to protect large open spaces that animals like mountain lions need to be healthy.”

View the full article here.

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Fear and Loathing in Wolf Country

Here’s a great all around article about wolves by Liza Gross, just appearing in QUEST, which draws on some of our research in Yellowstone and Alaska.

Though Ecology 101 tells us that healthy ecosystems need top predators, researchers are just beginning to understand how the presence—and absence—of wolves affects other species.One study found that wolves may buffer the effects of climate change in Yellowstone National Park, where winters have been getting shorter, by leaving their moose and elk leftovers for eagles, ravens, coyotes and other scavengers. Another papersuggests that the absence of wolves may explain the precarious status of the Canada lynx. No wolves means more coyotes—which hunt snowshoe hares, the lynx’s favorite food—and more elk and deer—which eat the shrubby vegetation that sustain and shelter hares. And a 2011 paper in Biological Conservation supports earlier work showing that wolves in Yellowstone influence the behavior of deer and elk, releasing grazing pressure on vegetation, which in turn increases songbird habitat and diversity.

Read the full article here.

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Study: Otters eating urchins reduces greenhouse gas

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.

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UCSC biologist: Sea otters could help fight climate change

From the San Jose Mercury News and Santa Cruz Sentinel, an interesting article relating our recent otter/carbon paper to California’s new carbon emission trading program.

Designated by the California Air Resources Board, carbon offset credits qualify as environmental processes scientifically proven to reduce atmospheric greenhouse gases.

The board has four carbon offset categories: forestry management, tree planting in urban areas, capture and destruction of methane emissions from livestock manure, and destruction of coolant gases. Whereas the first two directly suck carbon out of the atmosphere, the latter two eliminate existing greenhouse gases.

Legally establishing these categories takes time. The forestry project alone took a decade to make scientific sense within the framework of carbon credits, said board spokesman Stanley Young.

Otters currently do not fit into any of these categories. And Wilmers, an assistant professor in UCSC’s Environmental Studies Department, acknowledges that getting them in the game would be difficult.
“Literally trying to do that in the future would take a lot of work,” he said.

But officials involved in evaluating offset programs for the board say the idea is not entirely out of the question. The board, eventually, intends to expand its list. A wetland management category, for example, is among the most promising potential additions — and has been in the works for several years.

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Webinar on sea otter impacts on ecosystem carbon

I gave a webinar on our work on sea otters and ecosystem carbon through the Alaska Center for Climate Assessment and Policy yesterday.  Check it out below…

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Otters’ Effect on Kelp Offers Clues to Predators’ Link to CO2

From KUSP, another nice NPR piece about our sea otter research.  Clink on the play button below to listen.

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Why the Beaver Should Thank the Wolf

From the NY Times, a great op-ed piece connecting our work on sea otters with wolves and elk in Yellowstone!  Couldn’t be more perfect.  Notice the little Sea Otter poking his head out of the reads below the elk.

Scientists call this sequence of impacts down the food chain a “trophic cascade.” The wolf is connected to the elk is connected to the aspen is connected to the beaver. Keeping these connections going ensures healthy, functioning ecosystems, which in turn support human life.

Another example is the effect of sea otters on kelp, which provides food and shelter for a host of species. Like the aspen for the elk, kelp is a favorite food of sea urchins. By hunting sea urchins, otters protect the vitality of the kelp and actually boost overall biodiversity. Without them, the ecosystem tends to collapse; the coastal reefs become barren, and soon not much lives there.

Read the full article here.

Here’s the full photo!

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Otters and Climate Change

From NPR – Living on Earth a nice radio piece on our recent sea otter article.  Just press on the play button below to listen.

 

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Alaska Bay Area British Columbia carbon cascade climate change collars connectivity corridor elk energetics evolution fear fish habitat fragmentation Lyme disease overexploitation predator puma salmon scavenger sea otter treadmill wolf Yellowstone

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