Earth Month, Day 12: Bone Collectors and Fish Ladders

Today on Earth Month we bring you two stories about aquatic critters, and the people interested in them: lauren sommerFirst, from Lauren Sommer with KQED Public Media, a look at how one man's quirky pastime is helping protect sea life in California:

For San Francisco Bone Collector, Skulls Are a Lifelong Love Affair

There are hobbies and then there are lifelong passions. Ray Bandar’s passion is finding and cleaning skulls.

For six decades, Bandar has been making a quiet contribution to science, harvesting the bones of dead animals on the California coast and amassing an impressive collection of skulls. On Friday the California Academy of Sciences in San Francisco is opening a new exhibit of skulls that features his work.

Bandar keeps his own collection in the basement of his San Francisco home. The “bone palace,” as he calls it, holds close to 7,000 skulls and skeletons, stacked floor to ceiling. He organizes the shelves by species, including seals, sea lions, leopards, cheetahs, horses, zebras, giraffes and dolphins.

“This is largest animal that lives and breeds in California,” Bandar says, holding up an elephant seal skull. “That’s an adult female.”

Bandar is a spritely 86-year-old with an encyclopedic knowledge of the bones. “Sixty years at Ocean Beach, I’ve been decapitating dead marine mammals,” he says... Read and hear more.

There are almost 7,000 skulls and skeletons in Bandar’s San Francisco basement. (Lauren Sommer/KQED)

__________________________________________________________

rebecca kesslerAnd from Rebecca Kessler reporting for Yale Environment 360, a story about how nature's own designs may be the best way to help fish:

Mimicking Nature, New Designs Ease Fish Passage Around Dams

On a chilly April morning, when the buds had opened just enough to cast a faint red haze on the trees, Jim Turek drove me out to see how his latest construction project was faring after a long winter. In December, work crews completed a project designed to let fish swim over the old Kenyon Mill Dam spanning the Pawcatuck River in Richmond, Rhode Island. The dam, and one that probably preceded it, had been blocking the fish’s path from the sea to their upriver spawning grounds since the 1700s. What was once likely an annual migration of hundreds of thousands of river herring and tens of thousands of American shad had dwindled to just a few hundred fish. Runs of Atlantic salmon had long since disappeared. 

This was not your typical fish ladder — narrow concrete, metal, or wood contraptions that look a bit like flooded pedestrian highway overpasses. Instead, work crews had installed boulders in sweeping arcs or V-shaped formations clear across the river to create a series of broad pools. These ramped gradually from the natural riverbed up the now nearly submerged 5-foot-tall dam, whose top they had replaced... Read more. 

A new "nature-like" fish passage on Rhode Island's Pawcatuck River that has been carefully designed to accommodate the particular swimming capabilities and behavioral quirks of river herring and shad. The new passageway enables migratory fish to move around the Kenyon Mill Dam. However, three dams downstream are still blocking fish passage. (Photo credit: Rebecca Kessler)