Archive | May, 2016

8th Annual SAGE Student Research Conference

We were invited to attend this event at California State University Channel Islands to visit with the students, see their research projects, and receive an update about the Santa Rosa Island project that our foundation annually funds. It began with having breakfast on campus with the students and professors involved in this research program that has grown substantially in number of students from last year. Dr. Cause Hanna gave us a tote containing letters of appreciation that each student wrote to us. This correspondence relates the experience each one has received in the way of knowledge and research findings and how this will lead them to their future.

After breakfast, we headed for the Exhibition Hall at the Broome Library. There we visited many of the poster presentation displays and talked with a number of students to learn more about their research, findings, and future career goals.

Taylor Dirkins

Taylor Dirkins with his research on development

The first presentation we visited was titled “CI Rainbow Framework for Long-Term Real-Time Environmental Monitoring – Exploratory CI Park Development.” We met with Taylor Dinkins who talked about a wind speed sensor to be used for solar power development as well as under water sensors. The sensors measure soil moisture, temperatures, and there is a web application site. Continue Reading →

National Geographic LIVE! The Illusive Spinosaurus

National Geographic Live: Nizar Ibrahim.

We recently attended an interesting lecture at the University of California, Santa Barbara on a lovely Sunday afternoon (April 3); perfect for the driving up to Santa Barbara. The lecture which had fascinated us was given by paleontologist, Nizar Ibrahim and thrilled us with excitement and uncovered mysteries.  The great mystery of his lecture was in discovering the “Spinosaurus: Lost Giant of the Cretaceous.” It was one of the “Live!” National Geographic series that has been ongoing for several years at UCSB. Nizar has always had a fascination with animals since he was a child and this led him to his later love of prehistoric animals that roamed the earth.

He is not the only person to have been captured by this fascination. In fact, sometime between 1910 and 1914 a man named Ernst Freiherr Stromer von Reichenbach, a Bavarian aristocrat, found 45 different taxa of dinosaurs, crocodiles, turtles and fish somewhere in the Egyptian Sahara. Among Ernst’s finds were two partial skeletons of a new dinosaur, a gigantic predator with yard-long jaws bristling with interlocking conical teeth. It had six-foot sail-like spiny structures supporting its back and was thus called Spinosaurus aegyptiacus. The specimen found by Ernst was the most complete specimen and was considered to be the very best example of this “new” species. This species also captured Nizar’s attention many years later.

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Mountains of Difficulties for Lions of Los Angeles

mountain lion

Photo of Puma taken by camera he triggered.

This past week, we went to another presentation at the California Science Center. The topic drew a much larger audience than usual to attend a lecture given by a National Parks Service wildlife biologist, Jeff Sikich. He related the details of his latest project that researches the impact of urbanization and habitat fragmentation on mountain lions in the Santa Monica Mountains. In the 150 acres near the major hub of Los Angeles there are many animal species including the mountain lion. The mountain lion is the last large carnivore in this area and is also known as a Puma, Cougar, Catamount, Yellow Screamer, and the Ghost Cat! Mountain lion adults weigh about 150 lbs. which is ten times heavier than the bobcat’s 15 lbs. Another difference between these Los Angeles native cats is their tails! A mountain lion has a long tail which can be 3 feet long (roughly 1/3 of the lion’s length) while the bobcat sports a tail between 6.5″ to 12″ long.

Mountain Lions in Los Angeles.

Mountain Lions in Los Angeles.

In order for us to understand these amazing animals, research often involves catching the mountain lions and placing a GPS collar on them so they can be tracked. This tracking allows us to learn about the range of their territory and gives us clues into their behavior. But even before the GPS can begin it’s work more research is being done! During the capture, measurements are taken, blood is drawn for lab work, and if disease is observed then the animal is often treated. Such information gives us even greater insight into locations of where the animal travels, how long they stay in a given area, what they eat, and if they are breeding.

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Opossums are Awesome


You can spot opossums in your backyard at night.

Do you think opossums are awesome? Or do you shiver every time you hear the word opossum? Opossums are incredibly unique animals that often get a bad reputation for sneaking around late at night, smelling bad and pretending to be dead. However there are many reasons to respect this rather strange animal. . .

The opossum is the only native marsupial to North America–which means that it is like a kangaroo whose babies grow up inside a pouch before they are big enough to go out and explore the wild world! Unlike kangaroos opossums can have more than one baby at a time, in fact awesome mother opossums can have up to twelve babies each year!  That is a lot of babies to provide for. And mama opossums will teach their babies everything they know. Continue Reading →