Archive | November, 2016

Moth Eaten

I don’t know about you but the fact that the sun sets so early has been confusing my internal clock. I’ve been taking longer to adjust, so several days ago when I got home from work in the dark and clicked on the light switch in the

Moths come in different shapes and sizes

Moths come in different shapes and sizes. Photo Credit: Makena Crowe

kitchen, it took me several minutes to realize something wasn’t right. There was a fluttering and a movement that I don’t normally see inside my house. . . Moths. The kitchen had moths fluttering around, walking on cabinets and sitting on the walls and fridge. I was horrified. I love animals, insects, moths. . . but I really do not like it when they are in my house. And I especially do not like to be surprised.

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Film Review: Before the Flood

“Before the Flood” is more than just another film on climate change. Leonardo DiCaprio guides the viewers through his own personal experience as UN Ambassador of Peace discovering the science behind climate change and its impact on everyday people across the globe. For me, having studied Environmental Science in college the drama of climate change was so commonly talked about that watching this film did not have the sense of novelty that many of the viewers would feel. However, because of my familiarity with the topic I can say that “Before the Flood” addresses many of the issues with climate change that others have avoided and as a whole it provides the most complete and positive collection of science, policy and personal stories I have seen outside of in-class/in-depth discussions between climate scientists.

Oroville Lake in California Before and After

Oroville Lake in California Before and After

Climate change is complicated, and that is one of the first things we learned as Environmental Scientists. Our world is a huge web of cause and effects that we really don’t fully understand. From food chains that exist in our own backyards to the ocean currents and El Nino, our world is so incredibly beautiful, fragile and complex that scientists are still discovering things! And this is true of climate change, there are many factors that can directly speed up climate change. But just because there are so many factors in this incredibly complex system does not mean that humans have no impact on the environment. It also does not mean that we won’t be able to change anything for better (or worse). “Before the Flood” presents this idea by following Leonardo DiCaprio’s travels through Florida, Sumatra, Greenland, Canada, Paris and many other important areas in the world to climate change. For me as a scientist, it was especially powerful to see him visit Greenland and talk with the scientists who work there about the receding ice sheets. It was so extreme of a difference in just five years and was such a first hand glimpse of the changing climate.

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Anthropophagy: The Science of Man-Eaters

While attending an event in Agoura Hills,

Grayson Kent and Marilyn Fordney pictured with Kodo the Colombian tegu. Photo by Alex Havasi.

California, I sat next to Karen Kent and we began conversing. I learned that she has a son, Grayson Kent, who has had a passion for reptiles since he was a little boy. His parents encouraged this interest and eventually he graduated from UC Santa Barbara as a paleontologist. Kathy invited us to attend one of his upcoming presentations for the Southwestern Herpetologists Society – Los Angeles Chapter meeting. Little did we know that it would be the most interesting, entertaining, and educational presentation that we have attended with lots of fun and interaction with exotic reptilians. The title of his presentation was “Anthropophagy: The Science of Man-Eaters.”

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A lavender albino reticulated python around Jared McGowan’s neck. Photo by Alex Havasi.

There were over 30 members and guests attending and you could hear a pin drop during Grayson’s lecture. Before he got started, everyone walked around and interacted with the various exotic reptiles and snakes. This was definitely a

Jackson Bloszies with his savannah monitor. Photo by Alex Havasi.

Jackson Bloszies with his savannah monitor. Photo by Alex Havasi.

reptile friendly group of people who love these creatures. My husband, Alex Havasi, briskly walked the room to take photographs of each creature with their owners and guests handling and petting them.

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Surprising Nocturnal Animals

In the growing dark of the evening, there was a rustling in the bushes and a small black shadow scampered across the path. We slowed down. Were our eyes playing tricks on us? What was that? We were almost home from an evening stroll when we stopped, surprised. The motion  detecting light of a neighbor’s house flashed on and the yellow glow illuminated our little black shadow. It was still black but in the fluffy blackness a thin white stripe gleamed. It was a skunk! 

 

Skunks are known by their unique markings

Skunks are known by their unique markings.

We froze. It froze. We began slowly to back away keeping our eyes on the black furry skunk. For such a small animal, we treated it with a great amount of respect and personal space, backing away quietly and quickly without making any sudden movements. Perhaps you’ve had a similar encounter with this shy nocturnal creature. They are small, roughly the size of a small cat or dog and usually solitary and prefer to dig for grubs and worms in the dark of night. 

 Geology of the Santa Monica Mountains

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Hiking through the Santa Monica Mountains

The Santa Monica Mountains Education Consortium and the Resource Conservation District of the Santa Monica Mountains worked together to prepare a field trip about the geology of the Santa Monica Mountains. On October 18, about 35 interested individuals met at 9:30 AM at King Gillette Ranch. Stephen Vodantis greeted everyone and introduced the guest speaker retired Professor William “Bill” Selby.

Professor Selby gave a brief overview of what to expect during the field trip and introduced us to a number of well-written books that would be excellent follow-up reading material on geology as well as other wildlife topics. We then boarded the bus for the daylong event.

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Learning about the rocks of Santa Monica Mountains

We discovered that the Santa Monica Mountain range is one of the youngest in the world and encompasses 344 square miles. It seems that each rock, crevice, and layer tells a story packed with millions of years of history. Professor Selby discussed climate and temperature changes, how that affects erosion, and how various land mass form. The field trip included a bit of hiking where he talked about the various types of plants and trees and explained why some mountains facing certain directions are almost barren while other mountains are full of plants. Everyone learned a great deal of the technical terminology associated with geology. Various types of rocks were passed around during the bus ride as well as at several stops along the way. Sometimes he would quiz the group and at other times explain the composition of each rock. It was all so interesting and exciting to learn. Continue Reading →