This spring the Elkhorn Slough Coastal Training Program is once again sponsoring the California Red-Legged Frog Workshop 2014 for the 14th year running with presenters Norman Scott and Trish Tatarian. The workshop, slated for May 15, 2014 at the Elkhorn Slough National Estuarine Research Reserve in Watsonville, CA, will provide a comprehensive review of the species’ natural history and conservation efforts with both classroom lecture and a field training session. Among the topics covered are species identification, natural history, habitat requirements, management practices, habitat assessments, pond designs, equipment demonstrations, tadpole identification, and survey methodology, including a night-time training practicum in the field.
Space is limited, so act now! This year’s registration deadline is April 23th.
One of the pluses the Elkhorn Slough Coastal Training Program provides is free online access to workshop materials and related peer-reviewed papers. Make sure to check it out here!
This spring the Alameda County Conservation Partnership, together with the Los Vaqueros Reservoir & Watershed and the San Francisco Bay National Estuarine Research Reserve Coastal Training Program, is once again sponsoring the Workshop on the Biology and Management of the California Red-Legged Frog 2014 for the 10th year running with presenters Greg Tatarian and Trish Tatarian. The workshop, slated for April 23 and 24, 2014 at the Martinelli Center in Livermore, CA, will provide a comprehensive review of the species’ natural history and conservation efforts with both classroom lecture and a field training session within the Los Vaqueros watershed. Among the topics covered are species identification, natural history, habitat requirements, management practices, habitat assessments, pond designs, equipment demonstrations, tadpole identification, and survey methodology, including a night-time training practicum in the field.
Space is limited, so act now! This year’s registration deadline is March 31st.
Lost Animals: Extinction and the Photographic Record, by Errol Fuller, Princeton University Press (http://press.princeton.edu), 2014, 240 pages, $29.95
With countless books about species extinction under his belt – titles like Extinct Birds, Dodo: From Extinction to Icon, and The Great Auk: The Extinction of the Original Penguin – artist and writer Errol Fuller has long had his finger on the pulse of vanishing species. With Lost Animals: Extinction and the Photographic Record, Fuller takes a new look at extinction through the lens of the camera, exploring what in many cases has become the only visual proof of life known for these species.
Rather than recording the natural history of these lost species, Fuller instead examines the history of these species as recorded on film, be it the oft-paraded photograph of Martha, the Cincinnati Zoo’s last passenger pigeon, or the tragicomical series of photographs depicting the juvenile ivory-billed woodpecker known as ‘Sonny Boy’ perching like a pet atop a gentleman’s head and shoulders. Where a physical type specimen or stuffed museum mount captures the body of these creatures, these photographs capture their souls – the animus of animals in life, animated in spite of captivity or isolation, naive to the likelihood they might be the last of their kind.
Lost Animals could stand alone as a coffee table book, a poignant photographic memento ’mori’ of humankind’s foibles and hubris in our capacity as sometimes-stewards of the land. But in reaching beyond the photographs to tell their stories, Fuller gets lost himself in a muddle of awkward sentence constructions, fuzzy logic, and passive voice. Looking at sentences mired in passive voice such as ”…but most zoologists believe that by the time of the coming of Europeans they were…” (p 174) or “Hopes are expressed that birds may still survive…” (p 151), or clunky prose such as “Two years passed, and 21 birds of the species flew into a lighthouse,” the final result comes across unpolished.
Understandably, there is no shortage of uncertainty surrounding these species and the photographic record. But Fuller vacillates instead of authoritatively wrestling fact from fiction, seemingly unwilling to make a clear statement to any effect. Instead of asserting “The photographer is unknown,” he writes: “It has not proved possible to find details of when or how it was taken” (p 149). And several times Fuller makes baseless claims, editorializing unnecessarily about the lastness of a photograph’s subject. For example, he writes that the Kaua ‘i ‘O’o (Moho braccatus) featured in a 1975 photograph “may even have survived for long enough to become the very last” (p 147), a nebulous claim given how little was known about the species at that time, not to mention the fact that a pair of Kaua ‘i ‘O’o was sighted six years later and the last bird was seen in 1985. Or the waffling “…later in the year only a single individual seemed to be present” followed immediately by the groundless concession, “Either this bird, or perhaps another that was living nearby, was captured…” Pushing prose charged with reckless uncertainty, Fuller seems a fickle arbiter of lastness.
And for a book that professes to examine the photographic record, Fuller’s formula is erratic at best. While for most species he recounts the story behind the handful of photos that comprise a species’ “photographic record,” in some cases his pen wanders of course. For the three photographs known of the ‘O’u (Psittirostra psittacea) Hawaiian honeycreeper, not a single one is described in any more detail than the one or two sentences that make up the captions.
That being said, nowhere else will you find so haunting a gallery of ghosts. Whether it’s appropriate to canonize them as angels or deem them the demons of our follies, only time will tell. But by recording these spirits’ celluloid souls between the pages of Lost Animals, perhaps we’ll better remember what we’ve already lost.
In celebration of Darwin Day, I thought it would be fun to revisit a story I originally wrote for Inkling Magazine in 2007 about Darwin fish, “Evolution’s Bumper Sticker War Against Intelligent Design“:
“In a modern world where religion often finds itself at odds with science, it’s worth keeping in mind that Charles Darwin, the father of evolution, was God’s man. After he returned from his five year voyage aboard the HMS Beagle, the Anglican naturalist struggled to reconcile his faith with his theory of evolution by natural selection. As can be expected in a world where the fittest survive, evolution won out over creationism. Today we remember Darwin’s legacy by way of a small plastic fish. A fish with legs…” [Continue Reading]
This feature article was quick to inspire Inkling Magazine‘s Your Chance to Be an Intelligent Designer contest, where readers submitted ideas for a new fish to join the pantheon of pisces that adorn dusty bumpers around the world. Overseeing the competition were judges Prophet Bobby Henderson of the Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster, Nona Williams, co-owner of Ring of Fire Enterprises, and science blogger PZ Myers.
My own contribution to the contest was The Steve Fish, inspired by the National Center for Science Education’s Project Steve, “a tongue-in-cheek parody of a long-standing creationist tradition of amassing lists of “scientists who doubt evolution” or “scientists who dissent from Darwinism.”
But hands down, the best entry in my esteem was the Teapot Fish contributed by Patrick Quigley, in honor of the late Bertrand Russell and his famous Celestial Teapot metaphor.
I can’t recall who actually won, but in honor of the late Charles Darwin (February 12, 1809 to April 19, 1882), let’s raise a cup of tea to remember the champion of science and reason.