Camera Trap Treasure

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A black bear mother with three cubs. Photo © TNC

Camera traps have proven valuable in the work we have been doing in Belize, India and elsewhere in the wilderness areas of the developing world. But equally important are the photos captured in areas closer to urban settlements. Thanks to The Nature Conservancy’s publication of these photos with the article below:

As a Nature Conservancy forester in Pennsylvania, Mike Eckley spends a lot of time assessing the health of woodlands. That means he spends as much time thinking about white-tailed deer as he does trees.

Many conservation biologists consider over-abundant deer to be an even bigger threat to eastern forests than climate change. Deer can fundamentally change the forest ecosystem, threatening everything from rare wildflowers to migratory songbirds. These deer also can cause deadly vehicle collisions, increase risk of Lyme disease, and cause significant agricultural and property damage.

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Two white-tailed deer boxing. Photo © TNC

Eckley educates hunting clubs and landowners on deer management issues, and recently co-edited a book on the topic. He also works to make sure the deer herd is healthy on Conservancy projects like the West Branch Forest Preserve, a 3,000-acre preserve in north central Pennsylvania. Continue reading

Great Rivers Are Worthy Of Great Restoration Projects

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The Colorado River delta in Baja California is now a mosaic of largely dried-up river channels and tidal salt flats. TED WOOD

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Downstream from the Morelos Dam, the Colorado River delta now runs dry before reaching the Gulf of California. MAP BY DAVID LINDROTH

When the first couple of stories about the Colorado River ran in Yale e360, it was difficult to imagine how much more there might be to say about it. But now the last article in the series, Restoring the Colorado: Bringing New Life to a Stressed River, provides an example of saving the best for last:

The Colorado River has been dammed, diverted, and slowed by reservoirs, strangling the life out of a once-thriving ecosystem. But in the U.S. and Mexico, efforts are underway to revive sections of the river and restore vital riparian habitat for native plants, fish, and wildlife. Last in a series.

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The Morelos Dam on the U.S.-Mexico border, where the Colorado’s remaining water is diverted to cities and farms in Mexico. SUPPORT FOR AERIAL PHOTOGRAPHS PROVIDED BY LIGHTHAWK

From the air, the last gasp of the Colorado River is sudden and dramatic. The pale green river flows smack into the Morelos Dam on the U.S.-Mexico border, and virtually all of it is immediately diverted into a large irrigation canal that waters a mosaic of hundreds of fields — alfalfa, asparagus, lettuce, and other vegetables, their vivid green color clashing against the sere desert. The slender thread of water that remains in the Colorado’s channel continues to flow south, but is soon swallowed up by a sea of sand, far short of its delta, which lies 100 miles farther on.

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A fisherman on the upper Colorado River in northern Colorado. Low water flows have endangered fish populations and led last year to the closing of parts of the river to fishing.

The Colorado River once surged through the delta during high flows, carrying so much water at times that shallow draft steamboats chugged hundreds of miles up the river into the U.S. with loads of freight. The water in the delta nourished a vast fertile landscape, a fitting end to a river known as the Nile of North America.

“The river was everywhere and nowhere,” the naturalist Aldo Leopold wrote during a 1922 canoe trip to the delta, describing the waterway as it ebbed, flowed, braided, and stalled into pools, nourishing a rich and diverse ecosystem of “a hundred green lagoons,” a “milk and honey wilderness” with thick stands of cottonwoods and willows that provided habitat for hundreds of species of birds. The delta’s marshes, mudflats, and white sand beaches were home to clapper rails, bitterns, mallards, teal, and clouds of egrets.

Bobcats, puma, deer, and wild boar wandered the delta’s forests. Leopold was searching for the jaguar that roamed there, but didn’t see any. Continue reading

Connecting the Dots Between Technology & Nature Conservation

REEF FISH, BAHAMAS Fish congregate near a shallow reef in Exuma Cays Land and Sea Park. © Jeff Yonover

Those familiar with our work will recognize the word valorization, which is an essential element of what we write about and what we do. It’s increasingly important to note that Nature, made more fragile with each passing year by human impact climate change, requires human efforts to protect and hopefully, turn back the clock on damage already done; and it appears to be human nature that maintain a direct  correlation between how something is valued and the amount of attention it gets.

We’re particularly impressed by this example of tech collaboration. Thanks to the Nature Conservancy for highlighting these stories…

The Caribbean Needs Tourism, and Tourism Needs Healthy Coral Reefs

AI and social media are helping quantify the economic value of coral reefs

The Caribbean region is more dependent on tourism than any other region in the world—the sector accounts for over 15 percent of GDP and 13 percent of jobs in the region. And almost all visitors to the Caribbean take part in some activity that relates to coral reefs—either directly, like snorkeling and scuba diving, or indirectly, like enjoying sandy beaches, eating fresh seafood and swimming in crystal waters. That means the health of the Caribbean’s tourism industry—and thus the whole regional economy—is dependent on the health of its coral reefs.

But just how much value do reefs produce? After all, “what gets measured gets managed and improved.” The Nature Conservancy (TNC) recently released the results of a study that focused on reef-adjacent activities and the value they generate for the tourism industry, island governments and Caribbean communities. This study, which builds on an earlier body of globally focused research produced by TNC, found that reef-adjacent activities alone generate an estimated $5.7 billion per year in the Caribbean from roughly 7.4 million visitors. When combined with reef-dependent tourism activities, they generate $7.9 billion total from roughly 11 million visitors.

In other words, a major draw for people traveling to the Caribbean are activities related to coral reef ecosystems, and both the tourism industry and other aspects of the local economies depend on healthy coral reefs to keep this relationship afloat. This evidence offers a pivotal opportunity for advancing coral conservation initiatives not only in the Caribbean but around the world, as it can catalyze both the tourism industry and local governments and communities to invest in protecting and restoring coral reefs for the benefit of economies and incomes.

We now know that these natural wonders are responsible for generating billions of dollars, sustaining livelihoods and anchoring economies in the Caribbean as well as other tropical destinations across the globe. And that should translate into a major incentive to conserve them.   Continue reading

Using Water Cleverly

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Hydrologists Zach Freed (The Nature Conservancy) and Hank Johnson (U.S. Geologic Survey) measure water chemistry of the spring from the inflow pipe to the old trough, which is filled with emergent aquatic vegetation. Photo © Allison Aldous / The Nature Conservancy

Thanks to Lisa Feldcamp at the Nature Conservancy for this story:

Sharing Water: How I Met the MacGyvers of Water Use

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Down the stream at Sand Spring you can see an elk wallow. Photo © Lisa Feldkamp / The Nature Conservancy

“It’s like leaving the kitchen faucet on all year for one glass of water,” says Zach Freed, a hydrologist for the Nature Conservancy in Oregon. That’s how people in Oregon and throughout the US West have traditionally used spring water.

When European homesteaders first came west, spring water must have seemed like an endless resource. Homesteaders could find a potable spring and turn on the tap to provide water for their families and livestock. As the generations came and went, old ranches failed, and new ones sprang up. Springs came in and out of use, but it often happened that nobody ever turned off the tap. Continue reading

Indonesian Seaweed Farming

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Seaweed harvesting in Takalar, Indonesia. Photo © Tiffany Waters / The Nature Conservancy

The subject of seaweed farming, which we sometimes refer to as kelp farming, is of keen interest to us because of the relationship to conservation; our thanks to Tiffany Waters at Cool Green Science:

Seaweed Farming: A Gateway to Conservation and Empowerment

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Seaweed seedlings. Photo © Tiffany Waters / The Nature Conservancy

“What does your husband do while you’re working on the seaweed lines?”, we ask. She laughs and says in Bahasa, “He does the cooking and the cleaning.”

It’s day 6 of our field visit to Indonesia and we’re in Takalar visiting our fifth island and third seaweed farm of the trip. On the brink of the ‘extreme season,’ stifling hot is an understatement, but the light breeze from the Flores Sea provides a welcome break from the three flights and 2-hour van trip that brought us here. Continue reading

Feeding 7 Billion People

Farmer Doug Thomas holds rice at a storage facility near Olivehurst, California.

Farmer Doug Thomas holds rice © Drew Kelly for The Nature Conservancy

 Thanks to Cara Byington and her colleagues at Cool Green Science:

When They Said They Wanted to Rethink Agriculture, They Meant It

Continue reading

Naming For The Sake Of Conservation

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The Helmeted Honeyeater, a subspecies of the Yellow-tufted Honeyeater and the state bird of Victoria. Photo © Dylan Sanusi-Goh / Wikimedia Commons

Thanks to the Nature Conservancy for its conservation and scientific work in Australia, and for this finding shared on Cool Green Science:

…Recognizable common names are often critical for species protection, but subspecies miss out on this public perception benefit. A new paper argues that standardized English names are key to conservation success for Australia’s fantastic avifauna, and creates a definitive list for every subspecies on the continent. Continue reading

Citizen Science, 2017 & Beyond

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We have an event coming up that is our main focus now with regard to citizen science. After a few years of linking out to plenty of initiatives in this realm, 2017 is our big year, so to speak. And not only for us, nor only for 2017. We see the trend building momentum. Thanks to the Nature Conservancy and Cool Green Science for this story reminding us of the variety of citizen science projects are out there waiting to be discovered:

As a remotely operated vehicle (ROV) descends into the ocean depths, inky blackness slowly consumes all sunlight. Jellyfish and unidentified floating objects drift by, marine snow shimmers in the vehicle’s headlights. Suddenly, mountains and canyons taller and deeper than any on land materialize out of the darkness. Then, a voice breaks over the intercom, “Bridge, this is Nav, can we move five-meters South and hold position? Okay, let’s get underway again. Bearing 180°, 20 meters.” Continue reading

Tools, Tinkering, Science & Salvation

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Tim Boucher sets a camera trap near a bird of paradise lek. Photo © The Nature Conservancy (Justine E. Hausheer)

Camera traps are never going to lose our fascination, and have played a mitigating role in our non-Luddite but still determined effort to keep it simple, back to nature. The future depends on innovation, and we cannot hide behind trees pretending otherwise. If conservation efforts are going to compete effectively against the forces supporting environmental destruction, unconventional approaches are needed. We are entrepreneurially-inclined, and so are naturally comfortable with FishFace, among seven innovative pivots to a better future described by the wonderful team at Cool Green Science:

7 Science Innovations That Are Changing Conservation

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In our still relatively brief existence, humans have evolved our way to an era many are now calling the Anthropocene – a new geological epoch defined by human impact on Earth. But our unparalleled creativity is a double-edge sword. We are undeniably contributing to many of the global challenges now facing our species, and all species who share this planet. Continue reading

No Forestry? No Way

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A caged songbird overlooks a logging yard in East Kalimantan, Indonesia. Photo © The Nature Conservancy (Justine E. Hausheer)

Thanks to Justine E. Hausheer for Modeling Logging’s Impacts on Biodiversity & Carbon in a Hypothetical Forest over at Cool Green Science:

Tropical forests are widely celebrated for their biodiversity and increasingly recognized for their carbon sequestration potential. But what’s less often acknowledged is halting logging entirely will make climate change worse, as wood is one of the most sustainable building materials.

So how can conservationists help nations meet the demand for wood products and protect forests, while minimizing both biodiversity loss and carbon emissions? Continue reading

Looking Forward To The Debate On Nature As Climate Technology

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We cannot help wondering, with the political upheavals in the USA and Europe, what will become of our commitments to take care of serious environmental issues, and specifically climate change; we are looking forward to this debate on the Intelligence Squared podcast, and will post a reminder when the podcast drops:

NATURE: OUR BEST CLIMATE TECHNOLOGY?

It was historic. The 2015 Paris climate agreement saw every member country of the UN pledge to cut its carbon emissions to zero by the second half of this century and keep global warming at well below 2°C above pre-industrial levels.

There’s just one problem. To reach this goal the world would need to shut down all of its coal-fired power stations by 2025 and ditch the combustion engine entirely by 2030. To reach its own targets, the UK will need to decarbonise the vast majority of its electricity supply within a mere 15 years. Eliminating fossil fuels this way is going to be extremely challenging. An extra lever is needed to reach the Paris climate targets. But from where? Continue reading

Healthy Prairies & Space Cowboys

Thanks to Cool Green Science:

Space Cowboys: A New Generation of Prairie Keepers

Continue reading

Coastal Preparations

Thanks to the Nature Conservancy’s Cool Green Science, and specifically Lisa Feldcamp, for this note and video on adaptive coastal folks:

“It hurt my heart to see how [the beach] had been deteriorated,” says Norris Henry of St. Andrew’s Development Organization. “I know in the past there was a nice beachfront, where you can play cricket, you can play football, you can run. But it’s so sad to see it is no longer there.” Continue reading

Grasslands, Underdogs & Hope

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Butterflies congregating on the Nature Conservancy’s Bluestem Prairie, considered one of the largest and best northern tallgrass prairies in the United States, designated by Minnesota as a state natural area. Photo © Richard Hamilton Smith

We agree with the sentiment, never underestimate the underdog; more often than not, we root for the underdog. Thanks to the Nature Conservancy’s Cool Green Science for the reminder, in an ecological context:

Can Grasslands, The Ecosystem Underdog, Play an Underground Role in Climate Solutions?

By Marissa Ahlering

Never underestimate the underdog — in sports or in ecosystems. My favorite baseball teams, the Royals and the Cubs, reminded us of this over the last two years, and prairies (the underdog in the world series of ecosystems) proved this again recently in an analysis demonstrating that grasslands have a role to play in our climate change solutions (Ahlering et al. 2016).

Globally, grasslands are one of the most converted and least protected ecosystems (Hoekstra et al. 2005). The rich soil of Earth’s grasslands plays an important role in feeding the world and because of this much of our grassland has been converted to row-crop agriculture. Loss of grasslands is a big problem for two reasons: Continue reading

Economic Models Adapting To Evolving Challenges

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Aerial view of flooded rice fields participating in California’s BirdReturns program. White areas are dense gatherings of birds. Photo © Drew Kelly for The Nature Conservancy

The Moneyball approach to thinking about how to make the next big breakthroughs in conservation–not surprising that we are hearing this from The Nature Conservancy’s best and brightest:

Economics: The Next Frontier in Conservation Science

BY ERIC HALLSTEIN, SARAH HEARD

Engaging in markets is not new for The Nature Conservancy. But with our roots as a land trust, we thought about markets in a very specific way. We bought property to protect biodiversity using donor and public funding. We were in the market for “externalities.” Continue reading

Birding By Season

Violet-crowned, blue-throated and magnificent hummingbirds, along with a dozen other bird species, have been recorded at the the Conservancy’s 380-acre Ramsey Canyon Preserve. © Teagan White

Violet-crowned, blue-throated and magnificent hummingbirds, along with a dozen other bird species, have been recorded at the the Conservancy’s 380-acre Ramsey Canyon Preserve. © Teagan White

Thanks once again to the Nature Conservancy’s Cool Green Science blog for simultaneously highlighting conservation history as well as inspiration to spend time outdoors. We stand with the TNC and all organizations in support of the legendary legislation that illustrates the core principles of wildlife and land stewardship.

The Audubon Society states it simply, the Migratory Bird Treaty Act protects birds from depredatory human activities. And the more we involve ourselves in birding activities, the more appreciation and awareness we have for the fragility of our ecosystems and the biodiversity they sustain.

 A Birding List for the New Year

In 2016, birders celebrated the centennial of the signing of the United States’ Migratory Bird Treaty. In 1918, the resulting legislation became one of the country’s first major pieces of environmental law. Today birders reap the benefits of the act, which barred, among other things, the hunting of migratory birds during nesting and mating seasons.

Continue reading

Fish & Coconuts & Conservation

S.W. Reddy’s discussion of the islands where she carried out empirical research in the behavioral economics vein reminds of some fundamental similarities to Kerala, especially the fish and coconuts part. Thanks to the Nature Conservancy’s Cool Green Science for bringing this to our attention (if you do not have 15 minutes for the video now, save the text below for later reading):

Bringing Behavioral Insights into Conservation Programs and Policies

By Sheila Walsh Reddy

Behavioral science and economics have provided important insights for health, finance, and many other domains, but are largely untapped resources for conservation. A new paper in Conservation Letters helps practitioners tap into behavioral sciences. Continue reading

Urban Tracking And Other Soft Local Adventures

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Raccoon track in mud along stream. Sarpy County, Nebraska. October 1996. Central Tallgrass Prairie Ecoregion. Photo © The Nature Conservancy (Chris Helzer)

It seems to go hand in hand with today’s other post, so thanks to The Nature Conservancy as always for this one:

A Field Guide to Tracking in Your Neighborhood

By Matt Miller

Tracking is one of the most family-friendly wildlife activities; you can enjoy it anywhere there is a patch of open ground. As I’ve written previously, kids love deciphering the mysteries of animal tracks. Even my two-year-old son loves checking out the tracks in our yard.

Continue reading

Camera Trap, Australia Edition

Thanks to the Nature Conservancy’s blog for this addition to our growing file of stories about non-intrusive filming of wild animals in remote places:

Camera Trapping in the Australian Desert

BY JUSTINE E. HAUSHEER

When trying to drink out of a tiny waterhole, camels hit approximately a 9.5 on a scale from 1 to Exceptionally Awkward. Continue reading

Droning Over Wetlands

Thanks to The Nature Conservancy’s Cool Green Science team for helping us realize we almost missed this story:

Flight Over the Bas-Ogooué: Using Drones to Map Gabon’s Wetlands

BY JUSTINE E. HAUSHEER

How do you map a nearly inaccessible 9,000-square-kilometer African wetland that is home to hippos, forest elephants, crocodiles, and the notorious Gaboon viper?

Enter the drones.

Nature Conservancy scientists are using unmanned aerial vehicles to create the first-ever detailed wetlands habitat map of coastal Gabon, in collaboration with scientists from NASA, and other conservation groups working in Gabon. Continue reading