In a time when we are deluged with “big data”, it is easy to forget that there are still plenty of species that we don’t know much about. A common conservation dilemma is how to monitor or protect species when information about population sizes, distribution, or habitat preferences is lacking.
Little fish with little data: Olympic mudminnow (Novumbra hubbsi), endemic to Washington
Such is the “little data” plight of many noncommercial freshwater species like Olympic mudminnow (Novumbra hubbsi), a highly endemic species found only here in Washington State. Distributed primarily in a single river drainage (the Chehalis River Basin), Olympic mudminnow by far have the smallest range of any of the five species of mudminnow worldwide. Based on this small range and some evidence of population declines, the state listed Olympic mudminnow as ‘State Sensitive’ in 1999, a designation for species likely to decline in the future without some proactive management or removal of threats. Continue reading
Recording equipment deployed on lake to capture the ‘soundscape’
If you are wondering why you seem stressed out lately, it could be the noise around you. My co-authors (Britta Padgham and Julian Olden) and I just published an article in the journal PLoS One which showed that environmental noise levels at freshwater lakes (the places we like to live, recreate, and relax) can be noisy – quite noisy, in fact – depending on the level of surrounding urbanization. Noise levels at urban lakes surpassed thresholds established by the Environmental Protection Agency for ‘outdoor annoyance and disturbance’ in over two-thirds of hourly measurements (see Figure below); noise levels decreased predictably with lower urbanization in the area surrounding the lake. Interestingly, lakes with public parks were actually noisier than lakes without, which may reflect the influence of the park, but also the fact that parks are placed more often in densely urban areas
But our reporting on urban ‘soundscapes’ isn’t all pain to our ears. A sound check (no pun intended) on the places where people like to spend time and which are often intended as green spaces for wildlife is a first step toward monitoring and managing for the impacts of noise pollution on people and animals. Acoustic oases, anyone?
You can read more about this study published in the open-access journal PLoS ONE here. This study was also partially funded by a crowdfunding campaign, including a short video, in May of 2012 – I am very grateful to all the people who helped fuel this research on soundscapes where we live and play!
Sound levels over a 24 hour period for lakes which had High, Medium, and Low urbanization in the surrounding area
Would these fish approve your water bill? Photo of Rio Grande chub (Gila pandora) courtesy of the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service.
A few months ago, I posted Why the mayor wants you to have a green lawn: The dark side of water conservation where I “exposed” the open secret of declining support for water conservation programs. Water managers call it “the conservation death spiral” when conservation – to put it bluntly – starts cutting into needed revenue generated by water consumption, and forces a rise in rates for the same water. This leads to understandably bewildered and betrayed consumers, and increasingly strapped public utilities who literally can’t afford conservation. Continue reading
Although I originally just set out to describe some of my newly published research (“Costs of living for juvenile salmon in an increasingly warming and invaded world”), it’s probably not an accident that I find myself part of an unintentional series on effects of interacting stressors (e.g., temperature, disease, or pollution) on organisms. With all of the global change going on – from climate to ocean acidification –
Non-native smallmouth bass ‘sitting’ on nest. John Day River, Oregon. Photo: D. Lawrence
it’s no wonder multiple environmental stressors are on our minds. Despite the stressful (pun intended) topic, I’m not one to turn down good company from other early career ecologists, like Nate Snough-hee’s post on climate stress on PNW yellow-cedar and Sarah Bisbing & Kristen Pelz’s report on stress-related decline of Colorado aspen. I’m glad to be able to offer an account from my more fishy (no pun intended) view.
What your water district would really like to say?
I recently met a new acquaintance (who shall remain nameless) that works in an agency (also nameless) that supplies water to a medium-sized metropolitan area (let’s call it “Somewhere, WA”). Over coffee, where I traded my stories in freshwater research for theirs from the convoluted hallways of freshwater management, I was surprised to learn that per capita use of water has dramatically declined in many urban areas over the last 20 years, largely a result of conservation programs telling us “No, brown lawns are in this year!”
This seemed encouraging, which is why the next remark surprised me – that city councils and other water management politicos are quietly dropping and cutting back water conservation programs.
Water rights – then and now?
The famous team of Rogers & Hammerstein, who wrote musicals during the 1930’s-1950’s, are generally less well known for environmental law commentary as much as hummable classics like “I’m Gonna Wash That Man Right Outta My Hair”. But their musicals were innovative for the time largely because they chose stories with real political or social tension. Their first musical, Oklahoma!, actually happens within a historic environmental drama of violent tension between farmers and cattlemen in America. Largely forgotten today, skirmishes and hostilities between the two groups over fences, free range, and water rights were common across the American West up until the early 1900’s.
WordCloud of favorite species of project supporters: June 8, 2012
Twenty-seven days into #SciFund Challenge, The Lakes Are Alive With the Sound of Data project is 103% funded! I am so grateful to everyone who has supported this research and helped us reach our goal. The project page and video has had over 200 viewers, and I would love to see that number hit 300 by the end of the month, so please post/Tweet/FB this important and innovative research on to your peeps! Here is the current version of our fueler WordCloud, of the animals that are important to you, the people making this research happen.