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UC Santa Barbara
Department of Geography
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Department of Geography
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UC Santa Barbara Geography / News & Events / Department News

July 31, 2014 - When PCH Blasted Through Point Mugu

The following is an article by Nathan Masters, posted July 28, 2014 on’s Social Focus page, L.A. as Subject, with the title above:

Today, Pacific Coast Highway passes effortlessly through Point Mugu between Oxnard and Malibu. But when highway engineers began plotting the route in 1919, the rocky promontory presented a colossal challenge.

Then, Point Mugu was a near-vertical ridge of resistant volcanic rock -- an igneous dike that in a distant epoch intruded the Topanga formation's softer sedimentary strata--standing some 150 feet tall against the pounding surf. As the westernmost tip of the Santa Monicas, it represented the last hurrah of the rugged mountain range. Just north and west of the point, the land opened up as the Oxnard Plain. (The Santa Monicas don't truly end at Point Mugu. Instead, geologists speculate, the thrust fault that gave rise to the mountains plunges beneath the waters of the Pacific only to reemerge far to the west as the northern Channel Islands.)

Point Mugu was a formidable barrier to the planned coastal highway, but California's state highway engineers attacked it with a full arsenal of geologic weapons. First, in 1923-24, they blasted a road cut around the base of the headlands. Workers scaled the cliff with ropes and drilled a series of 30-foot holes into the rock. Into the holes went 18 tons of hand grenade powder left over from World War I and 25 tons of black blasting powder, and down came 108,000 cubic yards of rock -- much of it used as fill for the adjacent road embankments. By October 1924, a narrow road snaked around the point where waves once lashed at its stony face.

But a spate of fatal accidents soon proved the alignment to be inadequate. Weather was often a factor, but so was the tight, 275-foot radius curve around the point. Drivers plunged their cars off the road and into the Pacific -- sometimes leaving little trace except for bloodstained rocks. The tip of Point Mugu earned the dark moniker Dead Man's Rock, and in 1930 Inspector Kenneth C. Murphy of the California Highway Patrol appealed to the state highway commission for help. Blow up the rock, he pleaded.

The commission complied. In October 1937, an army of day laborers began carving a 200-foot-deep road cut through Point Mugu. Workers used 107 tons of explosives, a diesel shovel, a bulldozer, ten dump trucks, and five jackhammers to carve out the new 60-foot-wide roadway. Where the highway once bent around Point Mugu, it would now plow straight through the stony wall.

By February 1940, their work was complete. The original road around the rocks survived as a scenic bypass (it's since eroded away), but the main highway now sliced through Point Mugu, leaving only a rocky stub where the Santa Monica Mountains once thrust themselves into the Pacific with a final flourish.

Editor's note: Many thanks to Bernadette Weinberg, our Academic Personnel Analyst, for suggesting this material.

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From 1937-40, workers blasted a roadcut through Point Mugu. The rocky stub of the headlands, Mugu Rock, now appears frequently in car commercials. Undated photo courtesy of the Santa Monica Public Library Image Archives (from the article)
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The coast highway's original alignment bent around Point Mugu where waves once lashed at its stony face. Photo from the October 1924 issue of California Highways, courtesy of the Metro Transportation Library and Archive (Ibid.)
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Workers used 107 tons of explosives to create a 60-foot cut through Point Mugu. Photos from the October 1940 issue of California Highways and Public Works, courtesy of the Metro Transportation Library and Archive (Ibid.)

July 31, 2014 - The Geography of Graffiti

“Two things I hate: graffiti and hypocrites” (graffiti on the door of a men’s room in Ellison Hall, UCSB).

Graffiti is writing or drawings that have been scribbled, scratched, or sprayed illicitly on a wall or other surface, often in a public place. Graffiti ranges from simple written words to elaborate wall paintings, and it has existed since ancient times, with examples dating back to Ancient Egypt, Ancient Greece, and the Roman Empire. Both "graffiti" and its occasional singular form “graffito” are from the Italian word graffiato ("scratched"). "Graffiti" is applied in art history to works of art produced by scratching a design into a surface. A related term is "sgraffito", which involves scratching through one layer of pigment to reveal another beneath it. This technique was primarily used by potters who would glaze their wares and then scratch a design into it. In ancient times graffiti were carved on walls with a sharp object, although sometimes chalk or coal were used. The word originates from Greek γράφειν — graphein — meaning "to write." (Wikipedia: Graffiti).

The term, graffiti, referred to the inscriptions, figure drawings, and such, found on the walls of ancient sepulchers or ruins, as in the Catacombs of Rome or at Pompeii. Use of the word has evolved to include any graphics applied to surfaces in a manner that constitutes vandalism. The first known example of "modern style" graffiti survives in the ancient Greek city of Ephesus (in modern-day Turkey). Local guides say it is an advertisement for prostitution. Located near a mosaic and stone walkway, the graffiti shows a handprint that vaguely resembles a heart, along with a footprint and a number. This is believed to indicate that a brothel was nearby, with the handprint symbolizing payment (Ibid.).

The ancient Romans carved graffiti on walls and monuments, examples of which also survive in Egypt. Graffiti in the classical world had different connotations than it carries in today's society concerning content. Ancient graffiti displayed phrases of love declarations, political rhetoric, and simple words of thought compared to today's popular messages of social and political ideals. The eruption of Vesuvius preserved graffiti in Pompeii, which includes Latin curses, magic spells, declarations of love, alphabets, political slogans, and famous literary quotes, providing insight into ancient Roman street life. One inscription gives the address of a woman named Novellia Primigenia of Nuceria, a prostitute, apparently of great beauty, whose services were much in demand. Another shows a phallus accompanied by the text, 'mansueta tene': "Handle with care" (Ibid.).

Ancient tourists visiting the 5th century citadel at Sigiriya in Sri Lanka scribbled over 1800 individual graffiti there between 6th and 18th centuries. Etched on the surface of the Mirror Wall they contain pieces of prose, poetry, and commentary. The majority of these visitors appear to have been from the elite of society: royalty, officials, professions, and clergy. There were also soldiers, archers, and even some metalworkers. The topics range from love to satire, curses, wit, and lament. Many demonstrate a very high level of literacy and a deep appreciation of art and poetry. Most of the graffiti refers to the Sigiriya Frescoes of semi-nude females found there (Ibid.).

Among the ancient political graffiti examples were Arab satirist poems. Yazid al-Himyari, an Umayyad Arab and Persian poet, was most known for writing his political poetry on the walls between Sajistan and Basra, manifesting a strong hatred towards the Umayyad regime and its walis, and people used to read and circulate them very widely (Ibid.).

Historic forms of graffiti have helped gain understanding into the lifestyles and languages of past cultures. Errors in spelling and grammar in these graffiti offer insight into the degree of literacy in Roman times and provide clues on the pronunciation of spoken Latin. It was not only the Greeks and Romans who produced graffiti: the Mayan site of Tikal in Guatemala also contains ancient examples. Viking graffiti survive in Rome and at Newgrange Mound in Ireland, and a Varangian scratched his name (Halvdan) in runes on a banister in the Hagia Sophia at Constantinople. These early forms of graffiti have contributed to the understanding of lifestyles and languages of past cultures (Ibid.).

Present-day graffiti, “the style of urban graffiti that most people have seen and know about, the kind that uses spraycans, came from New York City in the late 1960s, and was born on the subway trains. Taki 183, who lived on 183rd street in Washington Heights, worked as a messenger who traveled all throughout the city. While he did so, he would use a marker and write his name wherever he went, at subway stations and also the insides and outsides of subway cars. Eventually, he became known all throughout the city as this mysterious figure. In 1971, he was interviewed for an article by the New York Times. Kids all over New York, realizing the fame and notoriety that could be gained from "tagging" their names on subway cars (that traveled all over the city, naturally) began to emulate Taki 183. The goal was to "get up" (using the slang of the day), to have one's name in as many places as possible, and as kids competed against each other to get famous, the amount of graffiti on trains exploded” (source).

"Graffiti may also express underlying social and political messages, and a whole genre of artistic expression is based upon spray paint graffiti styles. Within hip hop culture, graffiti has evolved alongside hip hop music, b-boying, and other elements. Unrelated to hip-hop graffiti, gangs use their own form of graffiti to mark territory or to serve as an indicator of gang-related activities. Controversies that surround graffiti continue to create disagreement amongst city officials, law enforcement, and writers who wish to display and appreciate work in public locations. There are many different types and styles of graffiti, and it is a rapidly developing art form whose value is highly contested and reviled by many authorities, while also subject to protection, sometimes within the same jurisdiction" (Wikipedia, op. cit.).

Today, graffiti, in many of its guises, has begun to be regarded as a contemporary art form which has brought commercial success to many aspiring 'street artists.' One such artist, Frank Fairey, distinguishes between graffiti as art and graffiti as vandalism by saying, "It’s about the use of public space and the dynamics of public space, about what was allowed and what wasn’t allowed. The criteria wasn’t necessarily aesthetic…more about what facilitated commerce and what didn’t, not what looked good" (source). "Graffiti is revolutionary, in my opinion, and any revolution might be considered a crime. People who are oppressed or suppressed need an outlet, so they write on walls—it's free" (Terrance Lindall, an artist and executive director of the Williamsburg Art and Historic Center; quotation cited in Wikipedia: Graffiti).

Article by Bill Norrington. For more on the subject, see the November 13, 2008 article, titled "Wheatpasting and Psycho-Geography," which was written by Ryan Goode, a PhD candidate in the UCSB-SDSU Joint PhD Program.

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Ancient Pompeii graffito caricature of a politician (Wikipedia: Graffiti)
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The historian R. Dale Guthrie theorizes that Paleolithic cave paintings also qualify as graffiti. “His research has concluded – based on handprints and other traces of the artists – that these artists were most often adolescent males who may have been left out of hunts and were entertaining themselves by doodling on the walls. In essence, some of the first art known to humankind was graffiti! Far from being exquisite representations of the natural world – although some paintings are indeed such – these cave paintings were more likely a way for bored kids to pass the time, Guthrie contends” (; picture of the Altamira bison is from Wikipedia: Cave painting)
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“The most recognized contemporary street artists include the likes of Banksy and Shepard Fairey. Banksy, who uses stencils in his street art, recently took the media by storm during his self-proclaimed month-long artist’s residency in New York City, where his works and social experiments drew hordes of fans, the ire of politicians, and intense media scrutiny regarding issues surrounding the nature of graffiti. This, in turn, sparked national dialogue concerning larger structural questions, such as what constitutes art, what is public and what is private, and a variety of other sociopolitical issues. Banksy’s unique vision, self-referential style, and examination of the hypocritical capital “A” Arts scene, can be viewed in the award-winning documentary Exit Through The Gift Shop (2010)” ( "Hammer Boy" was Banksy’s 20th installment in New York, located on the Upper West Side, October 2013 (Wikipedia: Better Out Than In)
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Frank Shepard Fairey (born February 15, 1970) is an American contemporary street artist, graphic designer activist and illustrator who emerged from the skateboarding scene. He first became known for his "Andre the Giant Has a Posse" (…OBEY…) sticker campaign, in which he appropriated images from the comedic supermarket tabloid Weekly World News. He became widely known during the 2008 U.S. presidential election for his Barack Obama "Hope" poster. The Institute of Contemporary Art, Boston calls him one of today's best known and most influential street artists. His work is included in the collections at The Smithsonian, the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, the Museum of Modern Art in New York City, the Museum of Contemporary Art San Diego, the National Portrait Gallery in Washington, D.C., the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts in Richmond, and the Victoria and Albert Museum in London (Wikipedia: Shepard Fairy)

July 30, 2014 - Bumphead Parrotfish Are to Coral Reefs what Elephants Are to African Savannas

In a July 29, 2014 edition of The UCSB Current, Julie Cohen sums up UCSB research into “the mixed impacts of the world’s largest — and threatened — parrotfish” in an article titled “Underwater Elephants”:

In the high-tech world of science, researchers sometimes need to get back to basics. UC Santa Barbara’s Douglas McCauley did just that to study the impacts of the bumphead parrotfish (Bolbometopon muricatum) on coral reef ecosystems at two remote locations in the central Pacific Ocean.

Using direct observation, animal tracking, and computer simulation, McCauley, an assistant professor in the Department of Ecology, Evolution and Marine Biology, and his colleagues sought to understand whether the world’s largest parrotfish is necessary for positively shaping the structure and functioning of ecosystems. The answer, published in a recent issue of the journal Conservation Biology, is yes and no.

“We actually swam alongside bumphead parrotfish for close to six hours at a time, taking detailed data on what they ate and where they went,” McCauley explained. “It was one of the more exhausting but wonderful experiences I’ve had as a field scientist.”

Often more than 4 feet long and weighing in at more than 100 pounds, bumpheads are major coral predators; one fish can consume just over 2 tons of living coral in a year. They are also a threatened species in serious decline across the Pacific. Hunted throughout the region — often at night in sea caves where they sleep — they have cultural significance (i.e., they’re coveted for feasting ceremonies) among many Pacific islanders.

“These large parrotfish crunch off entire pieces of reef and audibly grind them up into sand in their pharyngeal mill — specialized teeth in the back of their throat,” McCauley explained. “You know bumpheads are near when you begin noticing branches lopped off stony corals and golflike divot scars marking the reef.”

McCauley’s research demonstrates that bumpheads exert a complex mix of positive and negative effects on reefs. On the plus side, bumpheads reduce the abundance of fast-growing algae that compete with corals for light and space. Their feeding helps corals reproduce by opening up space on reefs. In addition, when feeding, they can disperse small coral fragments around reefs that can later grow into adult coral colonies, just as birds disperse plant seeds.

Conversely, bumpheads eat coral and this predation reduces its abundance and diversity. “They can completely consume small coral colonies, and the feeding scars they leave on large corals can be a source of physiological stress,” McCauley said. “The coral skeleton that they grind up and excrete falls also back atop corals as biosediment and this can amount to 50 tons of sediment a year from a school of bumpheads. Sedimentation in other contexts is known to contribute to the smothering of corals.”

The team’s results highlight the diverse effects that species can have on ecosystems, adding a deeper perspective on understanding the ecological role of endangered species. McCauley noted that conservation often tacitly advances the expectation that endangered species must be good for the environment.

“This viewpoint is ecologically misleading,” he added. “Most species do things to ecosystems that we would construe as both positive and negative. Endangered species are no different from their more abundant counterparts.” McCauley is quick to add that these findings by no means suggest that declining species like bumphead parrotfish are undeserving of protection.

“We can, in fact, strengthen the integrity of the field of conservation biology by being rigidly objective about the observations we make in nature — even if this means reporting occasionally that rare species can damage ecosystems,” he added. “If anything, better understanding the full complement of ways that at-risk species use and affect their environment empowers us to more effectively protect them.

“The case of the bumphead parrotfish is analogous in interesting ways to the African elephant,” McCauley continued. “African elephants are a vulnerable and imperiled species that can be agents of deforestation and reduce regional biodiversity. These effects are particularly strong in areas where elephants have been artificially confined in high-density aggregations. Science that describes how elephants reshape ecosystems can help managers more effectively approach the complicated task of reversing severe global elephant declines while protecting local ecosystems. Bumphead parrotfish are to coral reefs what elephants are to African savannas.”

Image 1 for article titled "Bumphead Parrotfish Are to Coral Reefs what Elephants Are to African Savannas"
The world's largest parrotfish, the bumphead (Bolbometopon muricatum) is often more than 4 feet long and can weigh in at more than 100 pounds. Photo Credit: Klaus Stiefel (from “The Current” article)
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Bumphead parrotfish divot bites on coral (Hydnophora microconos) are not insignificant. The calipers are extended to 6.8 cm (2.7 inches). Photo Credit: Douglas McCauley (Ibid.)
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Bumphead parrotfish grind coral in their pharyngeal mill and excrete it. When this material settles on living coral, it may inhibit processes of feeding and photosynthesis. Photo Credit: Douglas McCauley (Ibid.)
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Doug McCauley tracks a bumphead parrotfish, recording bite by bite how much material it removes from the coral reefs upon which it feeds. Photo Credit: Lauren Palumbi (Ibid.)

July 30, 2014 - Is a Crow Smarter Than a First-Grader?

An article in The UCSB Current, written by Andrea Estrada, titled “Smarter Than a First-Grader, and posted July 21, 2014, is subtitled “UCSB researcher shows that New Caledonian crows can perform as well as 7- to 10-year-olds on cause-and-effect water displacement tasks”:

In Aesop’s fable about the crow and the pitcher, a thirsty bird happens upon a vessel of water, but when he tries to drink from it, he finds the water level out of his reach. Not strong enough to knock over the pitcher, the bird drops pebbles into it — one at a time — until the water level rises enough for him to drink his fill. Highlighting the value of ingenuity, the fable demonstrates that cognitive ability can often be more effective than brute force. It also characterizes crows as pretty resourceful problem solvers. New research conducted by UC Santa Barbara’s Corina Logan, with her collaborators at the University of Auckland in New Zealand, proves the birds’ intellectual prowess may be more fact than fiction. Her findings, supported by the National Geographic Society/Waitt Grants Program, appear today in the scientific journal PLOS ONE.

Logan is lead author of the paper, which examines causal cognition using a water displacement paradigm. “We showed that crows can discriminate between different volumes of water and that they can pass a modified test that so far only 7- to 10-year-old children have been able to complete successfully. We provide the strongest evidence so far that the birds attend to cause-and-effect relationships by choosing options that displace more water.”

Logan, a junior research fellow at UCSB’s SAGE Center for the Study of the Mind, worked with New Caledonian crows in a set of small aviaries in New Caledonia run by the University of Auckland. “We caught the crows in the wild and brought them into the aviaries, where they habituated in about five days,” she said. Keeping families together, they housed the birds in separate areas of the aviaries for three to five months before releasing them back to the wild.

Getting individual crows into the testing room proved to be an immediate challenge. “You open the testing room door and then open the aviary door, with the idea that the bird you want is going to fly through into the testing room,” she said. But with four birds in an aviary, directing a particular test subject is tricky at best. “So I thought, let’s pretend the sky’s the limit and I can train them to do whatever I want,” Logan said. “I started by pointing at the one I wanted and continuing to point until he or she flew out. I got to the point where I could stand outside the aviary and point at the one I wanted and it would fly out while the other birds stayed put.”

Two birds in particular — 007 and Kitty — became so well trained that Logan had only to call them by name and they’d fly into the testing room. The testing room contained an apparatus consisting of two beakers of water, the same height, but one wide and the other narrow. The diameters of the lids were adjusted to be the same on each beaker. “The question is, can they distinguish between water volumes?” Logan said. “Do they understand that dropping a stone into a narrow tube will raise the water level more?” In a previous experiment by Sarah Jelbert and colleagues at the University of Auckland, the birds had not preferred the narrow tube. However, in that study, the crows were given 12 stones to drop in one or the other of the beakers, giving them enough to be successful with either one.

“When we gave them only four objects, they could succeed only in one tube — the narrower one, because the water level would never get high enough in the wider tube; they were dropping all or most of the objects into the functional tube and getting the food reward,” Logan explained. “It wasn’t just that they preferred this tube, they appeared to know it was more functional.” However, she noted, we still don’t know exactly how the crows think when solving this task. They may be imagining the effect of each stone drop before they do it, or they may be using some other cognitive mechanism. “More work is needed,” Logan said.

Logan also examined how the crows react to the U-tube task. Here, the crows had to choose between two sets of tubes. With one set, when subjects dropped a stone into a wide tube, the water level raised in an adjacent narrow tube that contained food. This was due to a hidden connection between the two tubes that allowed water to flow. The other set of tubes had no connection, so dropping a stone in the wide tube did not cause the water level to rise in its adjacent narrow tube.

Each set of tubes was marked with a distinct color cue, and test subjects had to notice that dropping a stone into a tube marked with one color resulted in the rise of the floating food in its adjacent small tube. “They have to put the stones into the blue tube or the red one, so all you have to do is learn a really simple rule that red equals food, even if that doesn’t make sense because the causal mechanism is hidden,” said Logan.

As it turns out, this is a very challenging task for both corvids (a family of birds that includes crows, ravens, jays, and rooks) and children. Children ages 7 to 10 were able to learn the rules, as Lucy Cheke and colleagues at the University of Cambridge discovered in 2012. It may have taken a couple of tries to figure out how it worked, Logan noted, but the children consistently put the stones into the correct tube and got the reward (in this case, a token they exchanged for stickers). Children ages 4 to 6, however, were unable to work out the process. “They put the stones randomly into either tube and weren’t getting the token consistently,” she said.

Recently, Jelbert and colleagues from the University of Auckland put the New Caledonian crows to the test using the same apparatus the children did. The crows failed. So Logan and her team modified the apparatus, expanding the distance between the beakers. And Kitty, a six-month-old juvenile, figured it out. “We don’t know how she passed it or what she understands about the task,” Logan said, “so we don’t know if the same cognitive processes or decisions are happening as with the children, but we now have evidence that they can. It’s possible for the birds to pass it.

“What we do know is that one crow behaved like the older children, which allows us to explore how they solve this task in future experiments,” she continued. Research on causal cognition using the water displacement paradigm is only beginning to get at what these crows know about solving problems. This series of experiments shows that modifying previous experiments is useful for gaining a deeper understanding.

The research on the crows is part of a larger project Logan is working on to compare the cognitive powers of crows with those of grackles. “So far, no smaller-brained species have been tested with the tests we use on the crows, and grackles are smaller-brained,” she said. “But they’re really innovative. So they may have a reason to pay attention to causal information like this.” The next research phase will begin next month, after the grackles’ breeding season ends and they are ready to participate.

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New Caledonian Crow. Photo Credit: Jolyon Troscianko (from "The Current" article)
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New Caledonian Crow. Photo Credit: Jolyon Troscianko (Ibid.). “This species uses stick tools in the wild by finding small twigs and probing them into holes in logs to extract insects and larvae. New Caledonian crows are also able to manufacture tools by breaking twigs off bushes and trimming them to produce functional stick tools. Tool manufacture is rare in comparison to simple tool use and indicates a higher level of cognitive function. The crows can also make leaf tools by tearing rectangular strips off the edges of Pandanus spp. leaves. The New Caledonian Crow is the only non-primate species for which there is evidence of cumulative cultural evolution in tool manufacture. That is, this species appear to have invented new tools by modifying existing ones, then passing these innovations to other individuals in the cultural group. Recent experiments show that New Caledonian Crows are able to use one tool to affect another to achieve a task, at a level rivalling the best performances seen in primates” (Wikipedia: New Caledonian crow)
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Researcher Corina Logan with a great-tailed grackle (left) and a night heron at the Santa Barbara Zoo. The zoo is one of the sites where Logan is gathering data to compare and contrast the cognitive abilities of grackles and New Caledonian crows. Photo Credit: Sonia Fernandez (from "The Current" article)
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"Corvus moneduloides map" by Steve nova (talk). Original uploader was Steve nova at en.wikipedia - Transferred from en.wikipedia; transferred to Commons by User: Magnus Manske using CommonsHelper.(Original text : Steve nova (talk): hand coloured distribution map). Licensed under Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons

July 30, 2014 - Peter Fisher, a Leading Figure in the Development of GIS, Has Died

Alumni Richard Middleton (PhD 2006), now a Research Scientist in the Earth and Environmental Sciences Division of Los Alamos National Laboratory, recently wrote to say:

Ooooh no! Just found out that my Master's Mentor, Peter Fisher, has died, aged 59. The University of Leicester tribute describes him thus: "He was fun, rude, honest and loving – a great person to have as a mentor, a colleague and a friend." For reference, Pete was sometimes known as the "Michael Goodchild of Britain." (OK, so you have to understand that Michael Goodchild is one of the few most famous geographers in the USA to be impressed by that comparison.) (Oh, and the comparison is a little ironic, perhaps weak, since Goodchild himself is British and can thus has a very strong claim to being the actual "British Michael Goodchild.")

Fisher’s obituary in the online Times Higher Education (“Peter Fisher, 1955-2014,” written by Matthew Reisz and posted July 10, 2014) states: "A leading figure in the development of geographical information science has died. Peter Fisher was born in London on 12 January 1955 and spent much of his youth in Hampshire and Wiltshire. He studied environmental sciences at Lancaster University, graduating in 1977, moved to the University of Reading for an MSc and completed a PhD on “Plateau gravels of the western part of the London Basin” at Kingston Polytechnic (now Kingston University) in 1982.

After some temporary positions, Professor Fisher became a lecturer in geography at Kingston in 1983. This was followed in 1987 by several years at Kent State University in Ohio, where he rose to the rank of associate professor. Returning to the UK in 1991, he joined the University of Leicester as a lecturer and was awarded a personal chair in geographical information in 1998. Although he transferred to City University London as a research professor in 2005, he came back to Leicester three years later.

Passionate about maps of every kind, whether traditional or high-tech, paper or digital, two- or three-dimensional, Professor Fisher was unsparing in his criticisms of those that were inaccurate or obscure. Much of his research focused on uncertainty. This arose out of work on expert systems and artificial intelligence that sought to automate human processes in the identification and mapping of landscape features. What soon emerged was that the kinds of strict rules that computers rely on for automated mapping are not really appropriate to the nuanced judgements that people make. To get around these difficulties, Professor Fisher used a branch of mathematics known as fuzzy sets as a way of capturing and describing landscape features that can be classified in different ways depending on other factors.

Such interests fed into the emerging discipline of geographical information science, which draws on the fields of computational and automated cartography. Professor Fisher served as editor of the International Journal of Geographical Information Science (later Science) from 1998 to 2007, the very time when GIS was establishing its credentials within the wider arena of information sciences. He also worked on more political topics such as the impact of closed-circuit television and Global Positioning Systems on human rights.

An enthusiastic teacher, Professor Fisher insisted on giving the large first-year introductory classes on GIS. He was also a committed supporter of younger academics, developing an extended professional family with his wife Jill and often opening his house – sometimes known as Fisher Towers – to visiting researchers. He died on 20 May and is survived by Jill and their three children.

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From 1998 to 2007, Fisher served as editor of the International Journal of Geographical Information Science. He edited six books: Innovations in GIS 2 (1995), Virtual Reality in Geography (2002, with David Unwin), Spatial Data Quality (2002, with John Shi and Michael Goodchild), Developments in Spatial Data Handling (2004), Re-Presenting GIS (2005, with David Unwin), and Classics from IJGIS (2007). He also published over 80 papers in refereed journals, as well as nearly 50 book chapters (from the University of Leicester / Departments / Geography web site)
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P. F. Fisher and D. J. Unwin (2005). Re-presenting GIS. Chichester, England: John Wiley and Sons.
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Richard Middleton and his wife Erin (PhD 2007) in the Museum of Qin Terra-cotta Warriors and Horses, Wuhan, China. Erin was a Postdoctoral Researcher at Oak Ridge National Laboratory, but says she is now "staying home, looking after the three monsters (way more stressful than working)"

July 24, 2014 - Largest Aquatic Insect in the World Discovered in China

A newly discovered member of the Megaloptera family may earn an entry into The Guinness Book of Records as the largest aquatic insect in the world. Its wingspan is a whopping 8.2 inches (21 cm). Images of the huge insect appeared on China's ECNS website on July 21, 2014 and have since gone viral on the internet. The specimen was discovered in the mountains of Chengdu in Sichuan province. (All photos are credited to China News Service / Zhong Xin.)

“Megaloptera is an order of insects which contains the alderflies, dobsonflies, and fishflies, and there are about 300 known species. The order's name comes from Ancient Greek - from mega- (μέγα-) "large" + pteryx (πτέρυξ) "wing" -, in reference to the large, clumsy wings of these insects. Megaloptera are relatively unknown insects across much of their range, due to the adults' short lives, the aquatic larvae's tolerance to pollution which is often rather high (so they are not often encountered by swimmers etc.), and the generally crepuscular or nocturnal habits.

However, in the Americas, the dobsonflies are rather well-known, as their males have tusk-like mandibles. These, while formidable in appearance, are relatively harmless to humans, as well as all other organisms; much like a peacock's feathers they serve no purpose other than to impress females and, in addition, to hold them during mating. Hellgrammites, which are dobsonfly larvae, are often used for angling bait in North America. The larvae grow slowly, taking several years to reach the last larval stage. When they reach maturity, the larvae crawl out onto land to pupate in damp soil or under logs. Unusually, the pupa is fully motile, with large mandibles that it can use to defend itself against predators. The short-lived adults emerge from the pupa to mate - many species never feed as adults, living only a few days or hours” (source).

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A monster member of the Megaloptera family
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Protohermes grandis. A Dobsonfly is any insect of the subfamily Corydalinae, part of the megalopteran family Corydalidae. There are over 220 species of dobsonflies. Dobsonflies are found throughout the Americas and Asia, as well as South Africa. Their closest relatives are the fishflies. Both male and female dobsonflies can reach lengths up to five inches (12.5 cm), measured from the tips of their pincers to the tips of their four wings (Wikipedia: Dobsonfly)

July 23, 2014 - The Advent of Computers in UCSB Geography

The following is from Chapter 7, “Technologic Revolution,” of Susan Baumgart’s "Department History – A Lively Chronicle: 1963-2000.”

The Advent of Computers: Dozier and Strahler team-taught the first Department computer course in Spring 1975, Geography 170 "Univariate Statistics." The course used an IBM main frame, a PDP-11 minicomputer belonging to the university and available through approximately 20 terminals, most of which were in North Hall. (North Hall is not the building in which Geography was housed.) The two young professors followed up with Geography 171 "Multivariate Statistics."

Jim Frew, who was an undergraduate at the time, says Dozier and Strahler were like "Laurel and Hardy" - very different, but very good together. The charismatic personalities of the teachers, the joy of finding a tool which solved problems that were otherwise painstaking, and the discovery of latent talents "fired up a whole bunch of us."

Frew remembers that Simonett "carefully 'vultched' [making a verb out of 'vulture'] space all over campus." He obtained a very large room in Engineering that had been trashed and ignored and happened to be next door to a computer running UNIX. Frew and the statistics group required two days to remove the enormous, conical pile of junk that sat in the middle of the room. It filled two dumpsters. With the room cleared, they set up little work areas on the perimeter and put a large conference table in the middle. No one knew how to use UNIX next door. The machine was one of the very first made. Dozier taught himself, then badgered Frew into using it. Dozier and Frew became steeped in the machine and its software, knowing them inside and out. "This is where the computerized aspect of the Department [research] took off," recalls Frew.

A happy group of computer enthusiasts accreted around Dozier and Strahler, working and playing together at all hours. They instituted an annual statistics desert field trip to remote lands east of the Sierra Nevada. They soaked in hot springs sans clothes, climbed rocks with Dozier, and consumed gentle wines and fine foods served on the carryall tailgate by Strahler. For a small subset of Geographers, computers were like Star Trek adventures: going where no man had gone before.

But that didn't mean all professors and students could expect advanced technology. Tobler described what computing was like when he first came to campus in 1977: "When I arrived here, the computing facilities were abominable. [Chancellor] Cheadle had turned computing over to an administrator who promised to curb the rapid growth in costs that were occurring. This he did, with disastrous results. One of the professors in engineering [Glen Culler] had established an internet-like arrangement, with interactive graphics and computing, far in advance of most other places. This was not supported by the university. It was actually squelched, and the professor in charge left. The computer administrator at UCSB let IBM dictate the type of computing available to faculty with rather awful rituals and clumsy software. I did most of my computing via telephone back to Ann Arbor on a teletype machine, using their Amdahl machine and the interactive MAD language."

Meryl Wieder, the highest ranking staff member of the Department, arrived June 1978, a year after Tobler. Neither faculty nor staff had personal computers. She remembers Tobler bought the very first: the earliest available Apple with 64K of memory. It sat in Tobler's office across the hall from her. At the urging of a graduate student named Otto Matt (we did not make up this name!), Wieder bought a $26 dollar software package and installed it on Tobler's machine. The program performed tasks in three minutes that she used to do in a week by hand. Wieder was now convinced that computers could be great tools. (Not everyone agreed with her.)

Pioneering Application of Computers to Administrative Needs: Golledge's assistant, Patty Fenwick-Miller, attended a demonstration of VisiCalc spreadsheet software and, returning, urged Wieder to attend the workshop the following Sunday - which she did. From that workshop, Wieder was able to create the first spreadsheet to calculate faculty salaries based on FTE and percent time. In 1980, Wieder changed software to Lotus and processed all the Geography accounts on the computer.

In the early 1980s, State legislative analysts came from Sacramento to assess computing on campus. Geography was one of the few departments that had computers. They saw Wieder using the little Apple for spreadsheets and interviewed her for details. Their report featured Wieder's computerized tracking and accounting. Geography garnered respect from UCSB Administration. In response, the UCSB College of Letters and Science spent half a million dollars creating an ARCS system, available to all departments within the College. It was a clone of an accounting system developed by programmers in the UC Berkeley Biochemistry Department, which was originally designed to run on Sun workstations. But it ran very slowly on the IBM PCs that Letters and Science bought for the departments. How slow? Screen refreshing could take up to three minutes.

Wieder used her own system in tandem with the College's system. If she didn't use the College's, the Department wouldn't qualify for the PCs the College distributed. Although not an efficient tool for managing a department, the college's program was a solution to acquire needed equipment. Over the years, she designed fourteen different databases and changed software from Lotus to Reflex and then, in 1989, to Paradox - which still is used today. In the future, she expects the Department administration to go to the GUS system that is being developed by three programmers hired by the Marine Science Institute and the Department of Chemistry. [GUS replaced Paradox in 2004-05.]

Transformation in Four Years: Golledge, while Chair, parlayed two VAX machines, one for research, one for teaching. The research machine was paid for by Terry Smith's grant. The teaching machine was paid for with "instructional" funds. Jim Frew had advised Golledge on what kind of machines to get: 11/750s. "750s could plug into the wall; 780s needed special wiring," Frew explained.

The two VAXes arrived just before Church became Chair, which puts the year probably 1984. (The Remote Sensing Research Lab, Estes' realm, had had a VAX since 1978, but it wasn't available to those outside the lab.) Frew was hired to install them in a cool room on the ground floor of Ellison Hall, where Siegel and Washburn now have their labs. Chancellor Huttenback officially inaugurated the machines, and he complained about the poor quality of the champagne that was served. "Rightly so," confirmed Golledge, since "I served Cooks instead of a good brand."

Faculty networked to the hulking, early UNIX machines through workstations - some of the very first Sun workstations ever shipped, with serial numbers around "100." The instructional machine was used for statistics courses and also for document preparation, because a laser printer was hooked up to it. The document prep software was "t-roff," which wasn't the least bit wsiwg (what-you-see-is-what-you-get). You marked up your pages, a little like HTML, and didn't know what the document would look like until you printed it. Soon after the Department got the VAX machines, the first computer system support person was hired.

In addition to Geography's VAX's, in 1980 the University made available to faculty and students a computer center with IBM 360 Model 65 clones. At this time, only a few faculty had garnered their own computers through grants. However, by 1988 the Department was completely weaned from the University, and the faculty all had either their own PC or a workstation hooked to Geography's UNIX. Frew said, "Some of us were slow to adapt to the PC, because we had far more capable UNIX stations. The workstations forestalled the eventual take-over of the PC." The staff, who had never interfaced with UNIX, now all had their own PCs.

Mapping: Goodbye Pen, Hello Mouse: This computerization of the Department also dramatically affected the way cartography was done. In 1984, student labs had been set up with drafting tables, pens, compasses, protractors, and lettering sets. The Department Artist/Cartographer, Dave Lawson, drew on paper. He had a camera stand with lights for photographing illustrations, used in professors' slide presentations and printed in journals, and a black-and-white photographic darkroom. In 1988, paper and pen were gone. The labs were set up with workstations and ArcInfo. Lawson drew on a Macintosh, although he still used the camera stand for making slides of illustrations and the darkroom for developing photos of faculty and graduate students.

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Susanna Baumgart was the Geography Department’s Artist, Photographer, Webmaster, Writer, Editor, and Publisher from 1998 to 2005. Susanna lived for her artwork, and her dream of having a major solo exhibition of her work came true shortly before her untimely death, thanks to the Santa Barbara Dream Foundation (see the April 22, 2005 and April 17, 2009 News articles)
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Glen Culler was the engineer who left after Cheadle transferred the computing center to the fiscal administrater. “Glen Jacob Culler (July 7, 1927 – May 3, 2003) was a professor of electrical engineering and an important early innovator in the development of the Internet. Culler joined the University of California, Santa Barbara (UCSB) mathematics faculty in 1959 and helped put the campus in the forefront of what would become the field of computer science. He later served as director of the UCSB Computer Center and professor in the College of Engineering and extended his revolutionary view of the role of computers to include their use in the classroom. He left UCSB to work in industry and establish his own company, called Culler-Harrison, in 1969. Culler-Harrison became CHI Systems, and later, Culler Scientific” (Wikipedia: Glen Culler; photo of Culler receiving the National medal of Technology in 1999 is from
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A VAX-11/780. VAX was an instruction set architecture (ISA), developed by Digital Equipment Corporation (DEC) in the mid-1970s. The VAX-11/780, introduced on October 25, 1977, was the first of a range of popular and influential computers implementing that architecture. "VAX" is originally an acronym for virtual address extension, both because the VAX was seen as a 32-bit extension of the older 16-bit PDP-11 and because it was (after Prime Computer) an early adopter of virtual memory to manage this larger address space (Wikipedia: VAX)
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Meryl Wieder, ca. 1968. Meryl began as a staff member in the UCSB Department of Earth Science and became Geography’s first MSO in June 1978. She was instrumental in the development of computerized accounting at UCSB in general and for the Department of Geography in particular. Meryl retired in 2004 after 36 years of service to UCSB

July 22, 2014 - Kate Voss Receives Editor’s Choice Award from Water Resources Research Journal

UCSB Geography graduate student Kate Voss just received the following announcement from Alberto Montanari, Editor in Chief of Water Resources Research:

"Dear Dr. Voss: Starting in 2011, Water Resources Research has instituted the Editor's Choice Awards. Editors’ Choice Awards are given to about 1% of published articles in any calendar year to provide professional recognition to scientists and students for their outstanding work. The selection is made by the Editors of WRR based on technical significance, novelty, originality, presentation, and broader implications of the publication. Awards made in a given year are for publication in the previous calendar year, the “award year.” I am delighted to let you know that for the 2013 award year your publication listed below is being recognized as a recipient of this award.

Voss, K. A., J. S. Famiglietti, M. Lo, C. de Linage, M. Rodell, and S. C. Swenson (2013), Groundwater depletion in the Middle East from GRACE with implications for transboundary water management in the Tigris-Euphrates-Western Iran region, Water Resour. Res., 49, doi:10.1002/wrcr.20078.

Please accept my hearty congratulations on behalf of the editors of WRR. The award will be formally presented at the Hydrologic Sciences Luncheon of the AGU Fall meeting in December 2014. We look forward to seeing you and/or your coauthor(s) at the event."

Kate’s response? “Super exciting!!! I am so honored and stoked that our paper is receiving this recognition!!!”

And we’re honored and stoked to have Kate as one of our grads!

Editor’s note: For a summary of Kate's article, see the highlights at Many thanks to David Lopez-Carr for bringing this material to our attention.

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Kate Voss, now a UCSB PhD candidate in Geography (advisor: Lopez-Carr), was a water policy fellow at the University of California's Center for Hydrologic Modeling (UCCHM) at UC Irvine. ( Kate was also recently awarded a NASA fellowship and a NSF graduate fellowship (see the April 3, 2014 News article). She had the enviable situation of having to choose between them and opted for the NSF.
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Water Resources Research is an interdisciplinary journal that focuses on hydrology and water resources. It publishes original research in the natural and social sciences of water. Submissions are evaluated for their novelty, accuracy, significance, and broader implications of the findings (WRR home page)

July 18, 2014 - How a 12-Year-Old Girl’s Science Project Changed the Way Scientists See Lionfish

The following article was written by Crystal Shepeard and posted July 13. 2014 with the title above:

Lauren Arrington was in the process of trying to figure out her sixth grade science project when she noticed a lionfish while fishing in the Loxahatchee River in south Florida. Lionfish had been spotted in Florida as early as 2010 and have since spread to many of its waters. Surprised to find it, the 12-year-old wanted to see if a dead lionfish’s spikes would still be venomous. Her father discouraged her from the idea, unwilling to be a human test subject. The daughter of two scientists began to wonder how the lionfish was surviving in the river and decided to do some investigating. The results of her experiment would end up in a science journal and change the way scientists are dealing with a pervasive lionfish invasion in non-native waters.

A native of the Indian and Pacific Oceans, the lionfish is relatively harmless in its natural habitat. Its prey consists of other marine animals in its environment. With a stomach that can expand to 30 times its normal volume, it can consume creatures that are up to half its body size and is only limited to prey that can fit into its mouth. Other species that include the lionfish as part of their diet include sharks, groupers, large eels, and humans. The beauty of the lionfish’s long mane-like spikes makes it a favorite in exotic aquariums and belies their venomous nature.

For decades, however, the lionfish has been on a path of destruction, pushing our earth’s waters to the brink of an ecological disaster. The intentional release of lionfish from home aquariums has put them into non-native waters in the Western Atlantic Ocean, the Gulf of Mexico, the Caribbean Sea, and the Mediterranean Sea. Prolific breeders with the ability to release up to 2 million eggs per year, the lionfish population has increased exponentially in just a few decades. They feed on marine animals that keep coral reefs healthy, as well as their eggs and offspring. Devouring the marine life in their environment is something a lionfish does really, really well. With the help of her father, Lauren captured a few to take home to observe. She was aware of the lionfish invasion and decided to see in what conditions the lionfish could survive. She called her experiment Understanding the Limits of Lionfish Invasion. The hypothesis was that lionfish needed a certain amount of salinity in their environment. Scientists measure water salinity by the amount of salt found in 1000 grams of water. So if there is one gram of salt in 1000 grams of water, the amount of salinity would be expressed as 1 part per thousand, or 1ppt.

The salinity of the area where Lauren found the lionfish is part of the Jupiter inlet that connects to the Atlantic Ocean and averaged the same ocean salinity of 35 parts per thousand. For two weeks, Lauren observed the lionfish’s food intake and stress levels as she reduced the salinity of the water. She believed that because of their natural ocean habitat, it would be unable to survive with a salinity of less than 13 parts per thousand. However, when that level was reached, there was no change in their behavior. She continued to lower the levels until she reached a salinity of 6 ppt. The lionfish survived. Lauren had discovered that lionfish can survive in freshwater.

Her experiment got the attention of researchers at Florida International University and North Carolina State University. Due to the rules of the science fair, Lauren didn’t take the salinity any lower out of fear that the fish would die. Other researchers took the salinity to zero, discovering that the lionfish could tolerate a minimum of 5 parts per 1000 – generally the lowest salinity of most freshwater bodies.

The discovery is significant because scientists have not thought to look for the dangerous predator in freshwater areas until now. This completely human-made threat of the lionfish to ecosystems and commercial fishing is now much greater than previous believed. They can be a threat in the freshwaters where fish nurseries are kept and feed on the eggs and juvenile fish. They could also be feeding on any number of freshwater species not previously known to be in danger. Not to mention, there are no natural predators for the lionfish in any of these areas.

In response, the state of Florida has banned the import of live lionfish into the area as of August 1, 2014. They have also expanded the areas where people can legally spear the lionfish with a permit. Harvesting of the fish is also being allowed as part of the effort to reduce the population. Researchers have also put out an alert to be on the lookout for the fish in previously unexamined waters.

Lauren’s research has since been peer reviewed three times. The results of the expanded study by Dr. Craig Layman, Chancellor’s Faculty Excellence Fellow at North Carolina State University, and Zachary Jud, a graduate student at Florida International University, was published this year in the journal Environmental Biology of Fishes. Lauren’s research was cited and credited with the initial discovery. Not bad for a 12-year-old whose research project earned her third place in a sixth grade science fair.

Excerpt from the expanded study: “The ability of lionfish to survive at low salinities may play an important role in shaping the eventual spatial extent of the invasion in the Western Hemisphere. While lionfish have spread rapidly throughout the Caribbean, Gulf of Mexico, and Northwest Atlantic, they have yet to colonize the coast of South America, south of the Amazon-Orinoco plume (AOP). The AOP has been proposed as a potential barrier to southward dispersal of lionfish (Côté et al. 2013a); however, our findings support the prediction of Luiz et al. (2013) that lionfish will eventually cross the AOP and spread along the Atlantic coast of South America… However, without increased efforts to identify lionfish in other invaded estuaries and document their effect on native estuarine organisms, we may fail to fully recognize the potential impacts of the lionfish invasion on these ecosystems. (Acknowledgement: This project was made possible by a close partnership with the Loxahatchee River District. Lauren Arrington (King’s Academy, West Palm Beach, FL) conducted preliminary laboratory experiments that helped give rise to our experimental design…)."

Editor's note: Many thanks to Linda Norrington for bringing this material to our attention.

Breaking News: Geography grad student Erin Wetherley contacted the editor on July 23 to point out that "there's a second act to the lionfish story": the sixth grader may have stolen credit for a marine biologist's research - see the story here and futher clarification here.

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Red lionfish near Gilli Banta Island. The invasiveness of the red lionfish is an extreme problem, and relatively little information is still known about the animal. The NOAA has research foci in place to better understand the fish and the implications surround its invasive nature. Some of these include investigating biotechnical solutions for control of the population, and understanding how the larvae are dispersed. Another important area of study is what controls the population in its native area. Researchers hope to discover what moderates lionfish populations in the Indo-Pacific and apply this information to control the invasive populations, without introducing additional invasive species. NOAA also plans to further its "Lionfish as Food" campaign, since human hunting of the fish is the only form of control known as of September 2013. The NOAA also encourages people to report lionfish sightings, to help track lionfish population dispersal (Wikipedia: Pterois)
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Effects of fluctuating salinity on the survival of caged lionfish (Pterois spp.) at a downstream (2.4 km from ocean), b midstream (6.2 km from ocean), and c upstream (7.0 km from ocean) sites in the Loxahatchee River estuary. Salinity varied over time as a product of freshwater inflow (long term) and tidal incursion of marine water (twice daily). Estimated time of lionfish death is indicated in the bar across the top of each panel. Note that scale on the x-axis differs among panels. The period of heavy precipitation is indicated by a thick black bar at the top of each panel. Asterisks in (a) represent data gaps due to equipment malfunction (from the journal article)
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Kaplan-Meier survival curve for lionfish exposed to salinities of 4 ‰. No mortality was observed at salinities ≥5 ‰, the approximate survival salinity minimum (SSmin) for lionfish. After 3 h at 4 ‰, two individuals experienced a complete loss of equilibrium (our predetermined endpoint for SSmin determination), combined with a lack of response to tactile stimulation, and a reduction in the frequency of opercular movements. These two individuals were included in the Kaplan-Meier curve, since their condition was an immediate precursor to death. All fish were dead after 94 h (Ibid.)

July 14, 2014 - Hunger for Vegetable Oil Means Trouble for Africa's Great Apes

The following is a Featured Research article, dated July 10 and with the title above:

The vegetable oil found in your popcorn or soap might not be ape friendly, and the situation appears likely to get even worse, according to an analysis in the Cell Press journal Current Biology on July 10. The growing demand for vegetable oil has already led to the conversion of Southeast Asian forest into oil palm plantations, bringing trouble for orangutans in particular. If guidelines are not put in place very soon, researchers say the spread of those large-scale industrial plantations from Asia into Africa will be bad news for great apes there as well.

"The first step is to get this issue on the forefront of public awareness and on the agenda of companies active in Africa and governments, both in and outside of Africa," says Serge Wich of Liverpool John Moores University. "Public awareness is key, as consumers have influence through their purchasing behavior."

Oil palm concessions that have already been given to companies for production in Africa show almost 60% overlap with the distribution of great ape species, the new analysis finds. Of the area suitable for growing oil palm in Africa, there is a 42% overlap with great ape habitat.

Palm oil is found in a large number of products, from popcorn to candy to soap to cosmetics, making growth of the tropical trees a very lucrative industry. But, at least for Wich, the downsides associated with oil palm demand have been particularly apparent. "Working in Indonesia during the past two decades has given me first-hand experience of the extremely rapid oil palm development, for which large areas of forest have been cleared," he says. "Now that companies are looking to Africa, we wanted to determine how large the potential threat to African ape species is."

The new analysis shows that the oil palm industry presents a significant threat to apes all across Africa. The problem could be particularly acute in some countries, including Gabon, Congo, and The Democratic Republic of Congo, which is the only home to the peaceful chimpanzee relatives known as bonobos. In each of those nations, approximately 80% of the area suitable for oil palm growth overlaps with ape habitat.

"There is an urgent need to develop guidelines for the expansion of oil palm in Africa to minimize the negative effects on apes and other wildlife," Wich and colleagues write. "There is also a need for research to support land use decisions to reconcile economic development, great ape conservation, and the avoidance of carbon emissions."

For people looking to do something about the palm oil problem themselves, now is the time to start, the researchers say. "The general public should try to push the companies they buy goods from to use sustainable oil palm," Wich says, noting that some products now carry a GreenPalm logo. "If consumers do buy a product with palm oil in it and no label, they should email, call, or otherwise contact the company to ask them to start using sustainable palm oil and tell them they will not continue to buy their product until it is labeled to indicate this."

Editor's note: Also see the June 7, 2014 article, "The Dark Side of Doughnuts." Many thanks to Linda Norrington for suggesting this material.

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Chimps feed on oil palm fruit. Source:, op. cit.; photo credit: Henry Camara-Bossou
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African Ape Distribution and Suitable Oil Palm Areas. This figure shows the overlap of African ape distribution with protected areas and areas suitable for oil palm, for each individual species (A–C) and for the combined distribution of the four species (D). The locations of oil palm concessions are based on their shapes’ centroid. From the Cell Press Article
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Oil Palm Threat to Suitable Environmental Conditions for African Great Ape Species. In all countries where great ape species predominantly inhabit rainforests, a large proportion of land containing sustainable environmental conditions (SEC) for these species overlaps with suitable oil palm areas (Figure 3; Table S5). This is the case for Sierra Leone (48.8%), Liberia (81.7%), Côte d’Ivoire (59.6%), and Ghana (87.9%) in West Africa, and for all Central African countries containing great apes (49.5%). For some of the countries, such as Liberia and Republic of the Congo, more than three-quarters of great ape SEC overlaps with suitable oil palm areas. In East Africa and countries at the range limits of ape species in West Africa, suitable oil palm areas cover much smaller proportions of SEC (<0.01%). Ibid.
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