Oceans

Earth Month, Day 15: Whales and Sustainability in Uruguay

Carol Ann BasettFor today's Earth Month offering, we bring you something a little different. From alumna Carol Ann Bassett, who teaches environmental writing and journalism at the University of Oregon, comes an innovative project. In her own words:

I direct a new & on-going Study Abroad Program through the University of Oregon's Office of International Affairs: "Environmental Multimedia in Uruguay." The program is similar to the core values and design of IJNR as expedition-style immersion journalism on environmental issues. Last fall I worked with a team of eight students (mostly juniors) over an intensive 4-week period in Uruguay. We became the first journalists in the world to ever document Uruguay's Route of the Whale, from its beginning in the hillside town of Piriapolis to the Brazilian border at Chuy. The result is our website, which was released a few months ago. It's bilingual -- and my faith in environmental multimedia on an international level has taken a quantum leap!

Check out their great work here - Route of the Whale - and watch a video synopsis, below:

[vimeo 79445302 w=500 h=281]

 

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)

 

 

 

Earth Month, Day 11: Fire and Ice

Two stories for your reading and listening pleasure on this Monday morning installment of Earth Month. kirk sieglerFirst, from Kirk Siegler with NPR, a look at how researchers are trying to unlock the mysteries of wildfire, as fire season bears down on the Southwest:

Ahead of Wildfire Season, Scientists Study What Fuels Fires

As fire managers in the drought-stricken Southwest gear up for another long and expensive wildfire season, federal fire scientists are trying to better understand the physics behind what makes blazes spread.

At a U.S. Forest Service fire lab in Riverside, Calif., a team of scientists is conducting daily experiments over the next few months on different fire behavior conditions. They hope to hand off their findings to fire managers, who have to make the quick decisions on where to deploy resources that could protect lives and property.

The centerpiece of the lab is a 30-foot-long, 10-foot-high wind tunnel and inside is a layer of wood shavings meant to mimic a dry, forest floor. Above them, resting on a shelf, are freshly picked green shrubs, the live green trees in this soon-to-be simulated forest fire.

"OK, collect in three, two, one. Start!" shouts lab technician Christian Bartolome, a graduate student at nearby UC Riverside... Read more.

[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RY-aH1XYoIc?feature=player_detailpage&w=640&h=360]

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Lizzie GrossmanAnd Elizabeth Grossman writes in High Country News about the risk oil spills pose to people living in the Arctic:

The Growing Concern about Arctic Oil Spills

Standing on the snowy  shore of the Bering Sea in the village of Gambell, Alaska (population 681) on a blindingly bright but frigid day, I watched skiffs load and launch for the first whale hunt of 2014. Ice piled high along the shoreline and the horizon was rimmed with sea ice beyond the open water. A cluster of snow-machines was parked above the beach as boat crews arrived and families and dogs watched the action. Life centers on the ocean here so it’s appalling to imagine what would happen if this community that sits on the western edge of St. Lawrence Island were to find itself beset by an oil spill... Read more.

 

Earth Month, Day 10: Chesapeake Bay Cleanup

Betsy KulmanToday on Earth Month we bring you Betsy Kulman's story about the politically complicated business of cleaning up Chesapeake Bay, in Al Jazeera America. How the Chesapeake Bay Became a New Front in States' vs. Federal Rights

ROCK HALL, Md. – Since the 1960s, Chesapeake Bay waterman Dave Kirwin has seen the waters where he earns his livelihood overwhelmed with a combination of agricultural and industrial runoff, sediment and wastewater from sewage-treatment plants.

“When they started using fertilizer, stepping that up in agriculture, and the runoff, that’s what killed all the grasses,” he said of the plants that once poked up along the entire coastline. “I’ve worked on this water for 48 years and I’ve seen a lot of changes. And not any of them good.”

For 30 years, the six states surrounding the bay have pledged to clean it up.

But with no financial penalties, their numerous voluntary agreements have failed to limit pollution in the watershed that’s home to 17.5 million Americans. So in 2009, President Obama stepped in, inadvertently setting off a fight that has made the bay an unexpected but critical battleground in the broader war between states' versus federal rights... Read and watch more.

Waterman Dave Kirwin has been fishing in the Chesapeake Bay for decades, and his seen it transform firsthand. (Photo courtesy America Tonight)