Changes in Stream Fish Community Structure

by krm | Wednesday, May 10, 2017 - 2:08 AM

How much?

The United States has upwards of 1000 species of native stream fishes that occur in combinations of interacting species called “communities.” Stream fish communities are dynamic: the community in a given body of water may vary over time relative to presence or absence of given species, relative abundances of species, demographic structure of the constituent species and more. Historically, the underlying assumption about community dynamics was that communities were in equilibrium such that mature communities tended to have a predictable composition with respect to species present and their relative abundances. Later, community structure was thought to be driven by responses to disturbance and, as such, the expectation for community dynamics shifted from equilibrium to non-equilibrium. But some authors proposed models suggesting that, although communities do not remain in a strict equilibrium, they tend to display “loose equilibrium” in which community composition varies around some central condition. In our book, Stream Fish Community Dynamics: A Critical Synthesis , we have used our own research (or that of our graduate students) over a 40-year period, to describe community dynamics of streams in the central United States and to examine underlying...Read More

Between medicine, business and politics: Silicosis, a promising 21st century scourge from the remote past

by krm | Monday, May 8, 2017 - 6:00 AM

In October 2006, two Chinese victims of silicosis paid a visit to the village of Shakarpur, 80 kilometers from Baroda, an Indian city in the state of Gujarat where regional NGOs had organized a meeting devoted to this disease. The event was a memorable one. Two victims of the new and wild forms of industrialization in the emerging countries were meeting local “traditional” workers having contracted silicosis by polishing agates. It also symbolized how silicosis has become a global burden, and leads to new forms of mobilization against occupational and environmental hazards caused by so-called “industrial diseases”.

Silicosis (the progressive scarring of lungs due to inhalation of crystalline silica dust over a long period of time) is by no way an out-of-date disease, a pathology from the remote past when America, Europe, and Australia depended on coal to deliver energy to their factories and heating to their citizens. On the contrary, silicosis is, if one dare say, one of the most promising social and environmental diseases of the 21 st century. It can only progress at fast pace, in relationship with the industrialization of emerging countries.

A forgotten trade: the coal man...Read More

How Many Manatees is Enough?

by krm | Friday, May 5, 2017 - 6:00 AM

In Florida, there is a sense among biologists and managers who work with manatees that they remain in a precarious position. But those of us who work on manatee conservation are often asked: just how many manatees is enough? It turns out that the answer is difficult to pin down because different human stakeholders have different perspectives and values on issues such as this. For context, I am drafting this blog on Earth Day, 2017, and am more mindful than usual of the diminished status of coastal habitat in Florida. By Earth Day, 2030, there will likely be almost 30% more people in the state than in 2015. What will manatee habitat look like then? I believe that diminished habitat quality and extent represent the greatest threat to manatees now and into the future.

Why is habitat so important for the species’ future? Ecologists might well respond that there will be enough manatees when there are as many individuals as the environment can sustain (a number called carrying capacity). Fair enough…but carrying capacity for a particular location is not a constant; it can be reduced locally due to habitat modification or loss. Thus, to...Read More

Behind the Book: The Draining of the Fens

by krm | Monday, May 1, 2017 - 6:00 AM

My recent book, The Draining of the Fens , is about the drive to transform a vast wetland in eastern England into arable farmland during the seventeenth century. Today, England’s Fens are among the most fertile farmland in all of northern Europe, but the region’s transformation came at a high cost for its inhabitants, and it still requires a great deal of energy and effort to keep them dry. Although the drainage took place centuries ago, as I wrote the book I was continually struck by the number of ways in which the issues and debates of that time remain deeply relevant today.

One such issue is the unpredictable impact of climate change on human societies. The Fens had been comparatively fertile and prosperous during most of the Middle Ages, but seem to have deteriorated rapidly during the sixteenth century. We now believe this was due primarily to the effects of climate change during the Little Ice Age, but crown officials under Queen Elizabeth I did not recognize the wider climatic changes they were experiencing. They came to believe instead that Fens was somehow a broken landscape and that its inhabitants had failed to manage it properly, and this...Read More

Behind the Book: The Snake and the Salamander

by krm | Tuesday, April 25, 2017 - 6:00 AM

I have always been fascinated with nature, and at the same time, I have always loved art. The two for me have gone hand in hand as far back as I can remember. Growing up I was constantly out looking for turtles and snakes, or I was fishing. If I wasn’t out doing that I was painting or drawing. A day painting turtles or salamanders in my view….is a day well spent! For me, painting and carving give me the opportunity to share my interests, observations, and passion with others. My work is my interpretation of what I observe in the natural world. I try to capture colors I see and highlight the particular aspects of an animal that stands out to me. Often times a camera can’t quite capture what you are seeing, but painting can allow an artist to express his or her own experience.

The process in which I work on an illustration has several stages. Artists typically tend to have their own process, this is just what works for me. The first step I take is to research the species. I will read about the appearance, anatomy, habits, and habitat. I like...Read More