Archive for January, 2015

Check out my post on The Ethogram (which is the Animal Behavior blog of U.C. Davis) on Hagfish at: http://theethogram.com/2015/01/26/creature-feature-hagfish/

Read Full Post »

A couple of days ago, I awoke to a beautiful and foggy day in the central valley of California. Thick valley fog lay low, shrouding buildings and trees and blanketing the marshes and agricultural fields around Davis. As I was walking across campus on my way to teach Vertebrate Anatomy, I heard a sound above me that I do not hear on campus very often at all. It was the sound of geese flying high overhead. They came into view through the fog; a flock of about 200 Snow Geese wheeling and drifting through the fog. They wavered back and forth for a minute and then drifted out of my view back into the fog. A few minutes later, a smaller group flew past, and a bit after that, a flock of about 30 Northern Pintail flew by. All these waterfowl seemed to be a bit disoriented by the low, thick fog. They, presumably, were trying to find wetlands in which to settle for the day, but instead of spotting suitable habitat from high up and far away as they would on a clear day, they had to move around low and slow almost by feel trying to find a good place to rest. In their search, they took a wrong turn and ended up over the town and university of Davis which is not really the best waterfowl habitat. It was a fun treat for me to see and hear these birds, and I hope they figure out that heading a bit to the east and landing the Yolo Bypass is really a much better place to hang out. Good luck to them!

Read Full Post »

A change is coming to a grocery store near you! Soon you will not have the option of paper or plastic at the checkout counter. This is because, last September, Governor Brown signed a state-wide ban on single-use plastic bags. This is the first state-wide ban in the country.

The ban will come into effect in two major stages. The first will only effect large stores and will begin 1-July-2015. The second stage will apply to all stores of any kind or size and will take effect 1-July-2016.

At present, it is estimated that something like 13 million plastic bags are handed out each year. All that plastic is then thrown away, if we are lucky. If we are lucky a plastic bag is thrown into the trash and ends up in a landfill. It will not brake down there for decades, at least, but it will stay put. If we are unlucky, the bag will miss the trash can and end up floating on the wind or water and end up in our streams, rivers, and eventually, our oceans. There it will again not break down for decades and instead spend its time floating around collecting toxins, many of which bind to the surface of plastics. They are then often eaten by marine animals, and so deliver that toxic payload to that animal or the animal that eats it. In this way, the toxins that the plastic carries, and the plastic itself, is accumulated up the food chain and eventually may be eaten by you or me. So, this ban is not just about saving the oceans, though it would be a great law even if that were the case, but it is about protecting our health as well.

I, for one, am happy to see California leading the way on this issue. Of course, the plastic bag industry is pretty unhappy about this ban, but if you are contributing to the decline in health of the environment then you are going to be held to account in one way or another. This way we all get to be healthier during the process.

So, don’t forget your reusable bags next time you head out shopping! Come July, you are really going to need them.

Read Full Post »