Local knowledge sheds light on some of the world’s strangest mammals
by Dominic Rowland
One of the difficulties of studying rare and endangered species is that they are, by definition, hard to find. Scientists attempting to understand their distributions and the threats to their survival can spend hundreds of hours in the field while collecting little data, simply because sightings are so few and far between. To find out more about rare and elusive species, scientists often have to turn to other methods, including using the knowledge of local people.
One team of researchers did just that in 2010 while trying to study two rare, elusive, and wonderfully bizarre small mammals on the Caribbean island of Hispaniola: the Hispaniolan solenodon (Solenodon paradoxus) and the Hispaniolan hutia (Plagiodontia aedium). The solenodon is a venomous, long-nosed insectivore reminiscent of a giant shrew, but belonging to its own family. The hutia is a large rodent, shaped like a guinea pig but as at home in trees as a squirrel. Both animals are nocturnal, listed as Endangered, and represent the last two species of a plethora of unique, endemic creatures that once inhabited Hispaniola, which is shared by the Dominican Republic and Haiti…
Did you know that in many parts of the United States, cougars are making a comeback? Listen to this National Geographic radio interview with Panthera’s Teton Cougar Project Leader, Dr. Mark Elbroch, to learn about this comeback, our work in NW Wyoming to understand why cougars are NOT on the rise in this region, what to do if you encounter a cougar in the wild, competition between cougars & wolves, & more @ http://bit.ly/1gYLlM7.
The nesting season for sea turtles began in the U.S. on March 1
Leatherbacks are the first to lay eggs along Florida’s Atlantic coast, followed by loggerheads and green sea turtles, pictured here, later this spring. Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge is one of several wildlife refuges where the endangered green sea turtle (pictured) is found:
Scientists have created an ingenious computer model that mimics a honey bee colony over the course of several years. The BEEHAVE model was created to investigate the losses of honeybee colonies in recent years and to identify the best course of action for improving honeybee health.
A team of scientists, led by Professor Juliet Osborne from the Environment and Sustainability Institute, University of Exeter (and previously at Rothamsted Research), developed BEEHAVE, which simulates the life of a colony including the queen’s egg laying, brood care by nurse bees and foragers collecting nectar and pollen in a realistic landscape.
To build the simulation, the scientists brought together existing honeybee research and data to develop a new model that integrated processes occurring inside and outside the hive. The model allows researchers, beekeepers and anyone interested in bees, to predict colony development and honey production under different environmental conditions and beekeeping practices.
Last year, after decades of fighting, environmentalists and the forestry industry reached a landmark agreement that added 170,000 hectares of old-growth forest in Tasmania as a part of a World Heritage Site.
But less than a year later and that so-called peace agreement is in danger of unraveling. The new Australian government, under Prime Minister Tony Abbott, is going ahead with removing 74,000 hectares (43 percent) from the World Heritage site…
In 2013, we planted 93,000 trees in Michigan as habitat for the threatened Kirtland’s warbler. Since we began restoring warbler habitat in 1990, their population has rebounded from 167 to 1,800 singing males. Help us restore more forests for wildlife in 2014.
Freshwater fishes are an integral component of our environment…
yet large gaps persist in our scientific knowledge of their diversity, distribution, and ecology.
Several conservation groups recently joined forces to announce the first “Global Freshwater Fish BioBlitz”, which will allow non-specialists to upload photographs of freshwater fishes observed in their natural habitat, along with details of where and when they saw the fish.
In addition to providing useful data about the world’s freshwater fishes, this initiative is intended to raise awareness of the threats faced by our planet’s freshwater fishes and the importance to all of us of preserving unpolluted, well-functioning freshwater ecosystems. Although most fish species spend their lives in either freshwater or marine habitats, some, such as many salmon, move between the sea and freshwater during their lives, connecting these habitats in ecologically important ways.
Listen to Encyclopedia of Life’s One Species at a Time podcast about one group’s efforts to educate schoolchildren all across British Columbia, in western Canada, about how the actions and choices all of us make in our daily lives impact Chinook Salmon and the habitats in which they live.
This time, however, it’s a much different and important battle…
by Kit Fischer
As deep snows continue to accumulate on the high Yellowstone Plateau and bison begin their inevitable migration out of the national park, Montana’s Department of Fish Wildlife and Parks, and Board of Livestock once again are at odds over where America’s largest wild bison herd should be allowed to roam.
Government agents have begun capturing and sending to slaughter bison from Yellowstone National Park. They’ve announced plan to slaughter as many as 600 this winter. But while wildlife managers agree that the park can sustain just so many bison, significantly more habitat could be available to bison just outside the park…
There are only 160 Florida panthers left in the wild. One hundred and sixty! These incredible cats are teetering on the brink of extinction. We’re so close to reaching our $20,000 goal to help protect the critical lands and waters threatened and endangered wildlife like the Florida panther depend on. Every last one of these panthers is precious and every gift counts – make your gift by MIDNIGHT tonight.
Conservationist Dr. Paul Salaman describes efforts to save the endangered golden poison frog, which releases enough venom to kill up to 13 adult humans.
by Eric Niiler
For most of his career, conservationist Paul Salaman has been traipsing across South and Central America, looking for unusual animals that call tropical rain forests home. In recent years he has become obsessed by the rare golden poison frog, one of the world’s most toxic animals.
The amphibians — which measure about two inches long and are covered by a secretion of a poison known as a batrachotoxin — number fewer than 5,000, all living in a tropical forest along the Pacific coast of Colombia. The species is on the International Union for Conservation of Nature’s red list of threatened species.
The golden poison frog is both feared and coveted. Its scientific name, Phyllobates terribilis, includes “the terrible” because its toxins are so poisonous. For centuries, indigenous people used the poison for hunting. They collected the frogs and carefully rubbed their darts on the frog’s back where the toxin is secreted, using it to help bring down game. But doing so was treacherous to humans, too…
A First for the Atlantic Forest: Radio-Tracking the Helmeted Woodpecker
by Victoria @ All About Birds
Researcher Martjan Lammertink has spent the past two and a half years in Argentina studying the rare Helmeted Woodpecker (Dryocopus galeatus), which lives in the heavily deforested Atlantic Forest of southeastern South America. A handsome bird with a spectacular bushy red crest, this woodpecker shows a strong affinity for old-growth forest and makes a perfect flagship species for the Atlantic Forest, a biodiversity hotspot that has just 12 percent of its original forest cover remaining. Here is a field report from Martjan about his work with this fascinating species.
Attracted by the possibility to study a little-known, endangered woodpecker in a region in need of forest conservation, I moved to Misiones province in northeast Argentina in 2011. My aim was to study the requirements of the Helmeted Woodpecker in old-growth and logged forests. I also wanted to learn how it coexists and possibly competes ecologically with two similar large woodpeckers, the Lineated Woodpecker (Dryocopus lineatus) and Robust Woodpecker (Campephilus robustus), which both can cope with a higher degree of forest disturbance than the Helmeted Woodpecker can…
After a 65-year absence, harbor porpoises are back in San Francisco Bay, providing scientists a unique view into their lives
by Anne Bolen
ON A BLUSTERY CALIFORNIA AUGUST DAY, researchers are studying some of San Francisco’s least-known residents from an unlikely laboratory: the Golden Gate Bridge. Below in the bay glides a parade of boats—fishing vessels, a tall ship, a slow container barge packed with colorful boxes like giant Legos.
Behind the scientists, tourists pause to snap pictures, unaware of the ongoing hunt. Through binoculars, Bill Keener suddenly spots his quarry: a harbor porpoise, its dark gray dorsal fin appearing briefly before resubmerging. Keener predicts the porpoise’s course and, just as it surfaces again, photographs the animal before it disappears. “Got it,” he declares triumphantly.
This harbor porpoise is one of more than 600 that Keener and the three other marine mammal scientists of Golden Gate Cetacean Research have recorded in the San Francisco Bay since 2008. This team, made up of Keener, Isidore Szczepaniak, Jonathan Stern and Marc Webber, is compiling the world’s first photo catalog of wild harbor porpoises…