Endangered Species

Detroit River Institute Dispatch from the Road: Day Two

The Detroit River crew continued their adventures on Friday with a day focused on rivers, wetlands, water quality, and conservation efforts.

Check out the Storify synopsis of Day 2 of the Institute!

Earth Month, Day 14: Peeing Wolves and Scientific Bling

On today's installment of Earth Month, we bring you the ongoing tale of a wolf named OR7 (lonely no more!) and a bracelet that's helping scientists understand pollution: Cally CarswellFirst, from Cally Carswell with High Country News, a look at OR7's new friend:

Against All Odds, Wolf OR7 May Have Found a Mate

OR7's lady-friend. Photo courtesy USFWS / Oregon Department of Wildlife.

On May 3, a wolf slipped through the frame of a remote camera in southwestern Oregon, a blur of black and brown. The next day, under the cover of darkness, it stared directly at a camera, eyes aglow, and did something ordinary that, under the circumstances, was an extraordinary sight: It squatted and peed. This was a she-wolf.

Her gender had big implications because a famous he-wolf, known as OR7, was right nearby. OR7 rocketed to celebrity in 2011, when he was two years old. He ditched his pack in northeastern Oregon that year and went where no wolf had gone for decades. He traveled south through Oregon, crossing I-84 and four U.S. highways, and became the first wolf known to have been west of the Cascades since 1947. Then, he slipped over the border into California, giving his species a presence in that state for the first time in almost a century... Read more.

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BrianBienkowskiAnd, from Brian Bienkowski with Environmental Health News, the scoop on some new scientific jewelry:

Armed with Arm Candy: Bracelets Can Detect People's Chemical Exposures

Wristbands are the accessory of choice for people promoting a cause. And the next wave of wrist wear might act as a fashionable archive of your chemical exposure.

Researchers at Oregon State University outfitted volunteers with slightly modified silicone bracelets and then tested them for 1,200 substances. They detected several dozen compounds – everything from caffeine and cigarette smoke to flame retardants and pesticides.

“We were surprised at the breadth of chemicals,” said Kim Anderson, a professor and chemist who was senior author of the study published in Environmental Science & Technology.

Beginning with Lance Armstrong’s Livestrong, the cheap, colorful, rubbery wristbands have been a popular fad over the past decade in promoting charities and other affiliations.

Anderson initially tried to use silicone pendants attached to necklaces to test for contaminants. But then, at a football game she saw “all kinds of people, even burly men” sporting wristbands. That’s when the idea hit her.

Silicone is porous and acts similar to human cells, so once chemicals are absorbed by the wristband, “they don’t want to go back to the water or the air,” Anderson said... Read more. 

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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)

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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)