June 22, 2018
The Bird Scientist
the Internet Branded
a Murderer
By Kirk Wallace Johnson/The New York Times
Wikipedia image
For some time, I’d been searching for Christopher Filardi, a biologist with decades of field experience in the Solomon Islands. I wanted to interview him for a book I was writing, but the email system at the American Museum of Natural History, which once listed him as the director of Pacific programs at its  Center for Biodiversity and Conservation , bounced back my message.

The auto-reply said that he’d moved to another organization, Conservation International. When I wrote him there, another auto-reply informed me that he had moved on. I couldn’t find him on Facebook or Twitter. The man seemed to have vanished.

When I finally found a working number for him, he was reluctant to talk. Three years ago, his life was overturned by an online mob that accused him of murder. The fact that the mob’s outrage was driven by ignorance didn’t make it any less frightening.
When One Protected Species Threatens Another
By Karin Brulliard/The Washington Post
Photo by sgrace/flickr
For years, hundreds of California sea lions have colonized the docks in the Oregon port town of Astoria, their loafing brown bodies serving as both a tourist attraction and a nuisance begrudgingly tolerated by officials. Authorities have deployed deterrents — including beach balls,  electrified mats  and a  mechanical orca — in futile attempts to scare off the pinnipeds without harming them, because they are protected under federal law.

But when it comes to sea lions that swim their way from the coast to inland rivers, Oregon officials are no longer feeling so indulgent. After years of nonlethal hazing efforts, the state wildlife agency is  now seeking permission to kill them .

The sea lions are a target because of their voracious appetite for threatened and endangered fish. They gobble up so many winter steelhead at Willamette Falls, south of Portland, that state biologists say there’s a 90 percent chance the fish run will go extinct. If granted a special permit from the federal government, Oregon could trap and kill as many as 92 sea lions at the falls each year.
Bunker Mentality:  Menhaden Return, Everyone Wins
By Glyn Vincent/East
Photo by Chesapeake Bay Program/flickr
Last summer, in August, I got a text from a neighbor, Pamela Morgan, who was on the beach with her family for the afternoon. A humpback whale, she wrote, was breaching right offshore. Her grandchildren and scores of beachgoers stood at the water’s edge pointing and cheering. Dolphins were also spotted in the area, as well as schools of frenzied bluefish, striped bass, and the odd shark, too. All converged for several weeks close to Long Island’s southern shoreline to feast on dense schools of swirling bait fish, called menhaden. “It was amazing. I’d never seen anything like it,” Morgan later told me.

Conservationists and scientists like William Wise, director of New York Sea Grant at Stony Brook University, are cheering the resurgence of menhaden because of the vital role they play in the marine ecosystem. “The list of things in the sea that eat menhaden is a long one,” he said. “They are a principal species in the overall structure and function of the coastal food web.” Some marine ecologists have even dubbed menhaden  “the most important fish in the sea.”

Menhaden, commonly called bunker by fishermen, are by weight the number-one fish commodity in the continental U.S. Despite that, this small, bony fish—never seen on a restaurant menu—is hardly known to the public. 
Passion for Ducks Fuels a Beautiful Friendship
By Dennis Anderson/Star Tribune
Photo by Sandy/Chuck Harris/flickr
Appropriately, a duck decoy brought Arnold Krueger and Larry Thomforde together. This was in the 1960s, and Thomforde was vacationing in northern Minnesota when he saw a bluebill decoy on a fireplace mantel that, as it happened, was carved by Krueger.

A waterfowl hunter since childhood, Thomforde knew enough about decoys to tell those that are shaped and painted correctly from those that aren’t.

“This decoy was different,” he said, meaning “better.” Thomforde was recalling this chance encounter with one of Krueger’s decoys the other day while sauntering across Krueger’s southern Minnesota farmyard. The two have been friends now for more than half a century, with ducks and all things duck related their shared passion.

Hunting has been part of this; it started there. But more so now, biology and numbers incite their fascination with these birds — lots and lots of numbers.
Drying Salt Lake Threatens
California Communities
By Michael Zelenko/The Verge
Photo by Akos Kokai/flickr
An enormous blue void at the north end of the Imperial Valley, the Salton Sea once attracted more visitors than Yosemite. But California’s largest lake is now mostly forgotten, and those who know of it don’t have flattering things to say: they’ll tell you about vast beaches where the sand is made of fish bones; about eerie, half-abandoned Mad Max-esque communities; and most of all, its noxious emissions. In 2012, the Salton Sea burped up a cloud of sulfurous odor so thick that residents in Los Angeles 150 miles away  were hit  by the nauseating smell of rotten eggs.

Though it’s been shrinking for decades, on January 1st, 2018, the Salton Sea entered a nosedive. Thanks to a water transfer agreement with San Diego, 40 percent less water will now flow into the sea. It will recede dramatically, and its already shallow surface level will drop 20 feet. By 2045, its waters will be five times as salty as the Pacific Ocean, killing whatever fish still live there and scattering the birds that feed on them.

Though we often think of lakes as permanent landmarks, global warming, irrigation, and our constant thirst  threaten these resources  around the world. Terminal lakes like the Salton Sea, bodies of water that have no natural drain, are particularly vulnerable. Iran’s Lake Urmia — once the largest body of water in the Middle East — has shrunk by almost 90 percent over the last 30 years; Africa’s Lake Chad is also 90 percent smaller than it was in the 1960s; and Kazakhstan’s Aral Sea, once the fourth largest salt lake in the world, has practically been wiped off the map.
"Study nature, love nature, stay close to nature. It will never
fail you."

-- Frank Lloyd Wright

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