Matthew Bettelheim

Matthew Bettelheim is a wildlife biologist, science writer, and natural historian in the San Francisco Bay Area.

Count Your Blossoms at the Antioch Dunes (2016)

Throughout April and May this year, biologists at the Antioch Dunes National Wildlife Refuge will be conducting plant surveys for the endangered Antioch Dunes evening primrose (Oenothera deltoides howellii) and Contra Costa wallflower (Erysimum capitatum angustatum).

ADEPrimrose_IMG_9664_smThese two plants are exclusively found at the Antioch Dunes National Wildlife Refuge in Antioch, California, where years of sand mining at the Antioch Dunes has pushed these plants (and the Lange’s metalmark butterfly) nearer to extinction. That’s why refuge staff need your help counting plants to inventory the refuge’s populations. Plants counts are scheduled for the following dates:

  • Wednesday, April 26th – 8:30 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. (Contra Costa wallflowers)
  • Thursday, April 27th – 8:30 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. (Contra Costa wallflowers)
  • Wednesday, May 24th – 8:30 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. (Antioch Dunes evening primrose)
  • Thursday, May 25th – 8:30 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. (Antioch Dunes evening primrose)

Newcomers and veterans alike are welcome to participate, but participants must be 18 years or older. Volunteers are cautioned to wear layered clothing in anticipation of the unpredictable cold, wind, or listless heat; sturdy shoes/boots and long pants (jeans) for uneven terrain and spiky weed seeds; knee-pads; sun-protection (e.g. sunblock, sunglasses, hat) and plenty of water; and your lunch.

If you are interested in volunteering for the April/May plant counts, please contact Susan Euing (by email at susan_euing@yahoo.com or by phone at (510) 521-9717). If you leave a message, please leave your name, phone number and email address, and Susan will contact you as soon as possible to confirm.

Of course, I would be remiss if I didn’t mention that writing about the Lange’s metalmark butterfly and the Antioch Dunes for Bay Nature magazine in 2005 was the genesis behind my children’s book, Sardis and Stamm. You can read more about the book – and order a copy for your shelves – here:

http://www.sardisandstamm.wordpress.com/

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Book Review: The Rorschach Coloring Book

The Rorschach Coloring Book, by Deus C. Wateyesee, Feaux•Afield Guides (www.feauxafieldguides.com), 2017, 41 pages, $11.95

Following on the footsteps of The Synesthesia Activity Book, last year’s break-out adult coloring book, Feaux•Afield Guides is back with the next best thing in trendy coloring book for the boutique clinical neurology market niche, The Rorschach Coloring Book. Therapy is expensive, and coloring is therapeutic, so why not shrink yourself in the comfort of your own home with soothing psychodiagnostic plates that allow you to color away your inner demons?

As you advance in the book, the inkblots vary from calming rabbits and ducks to the more neurotic, like spilt dime bags of cocaine or crime-scene blood splatters (not pictured here). But be it bunny ears or bloodstains, each inkblot will help you tap into your id through the tip of a crayon. Staying inside the lines has never been so crucial – who wants a misdiagnosis when you scan and email the completed pages to the friendly therapist diagnostic hotline, a free service offered with your purchase of each book.

The coloring plates, which range from easy to difficult, will test your mental patience and take the traditional color-between-the-lines to new pathological levels. And because everyone remembers that in kindergarten currency, a black crayon is as prized as a cigarette in a prison yard, The Rorschach Coloring Book even comes with a complete set of black crayons to ensure you can wax poetic while you discover your disorders.

 

{APRIL FOOLS DAY POST 2017}

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Vintage Views: California

It isn’t often that a portrait featuring people, rather than wildlife or scenery, becomes so emblematic of a place that it catches my eye. But such is the case in this 1938 cover of a fishmonger placing dungeness crabs into a steaming cauldron at Fisherman’s Wharf along the northern waterfront of San Francisco. The monger’s aplomb and pride, the fastidious order of his stall, and the pleasure evident in the couple who have taken pause amidst the noontime bustle of tailored men and tempted gulls crowding the market to snap a photo – this cinematic moment is nostalgia’s real McCoy.

This market moment marks another in the growing number of vintage images of California accumulated in association with the Vintage Views: Mount Diablo project I’ve undertaken with my wife (see Sarah Anne Photography). One by one, I have been carefully digitizing these assorted California ephemera to immortalize them on a more permanent medium.

Now, through the (bio)accumulation Etsy storefront, you can own your own Fisherman’s Wharf cover art, as well as other vintage views of California, as 12X18 inch wall art mounted on either Styrene suitable for matting and framing or infused directly into a sheet of aluminum metal to capture a sense of modern minimalism.

 

Metal Print
Metal prints are presented as a stand-alone image infused (printed) directly into a sheet of aluminum, providing a luminescent quality. The finished metal print includes a float-mount hanger affixed to the back of the image, floating the print ½ inch off the wall.
Price: $100

Styrene Mount Print
Styrene prints are mounted on white 2mm warp-resistant Styrene known for durability and strength. Styrene prints are ready to be matted and framed, or can be displayed on an easel.
Price: $45

To see all of the vintage wall art available to date, visit: https://www.etsy.com/shop/bioaccumulation

 

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The 2017 Jepson Herbarium Workshops

The Friends of the Jepson Herbarium recently announced the program for The Jepson Herbarium Workshop’s 2017 series on botanical and ecological subjects. These programs are open to the general public and consist of basic, introductory one- to four-day basic botany workshops and more technical one- to five-day weekend workshops.

The basic botany series includes “Introductory Plant Morphology for the Botanically-Curious” and the not-to-miss “Fifty Families in the Field: San Francisco Bay Area,” an excellent workshop I had the pleasure of taking in 2007 with instructor Linda Beidleman (co-author of Plants of the San Francisco Bay Region: Mendocino to Monterey) (and, in the past, the late ever-entertaining Richard Beidleman, the author of California’s Frontier Naturalists which was reviewed with great enthusiasm here). Among this year’s technical weekend workshop series are such select, wonkish offerings as “Northern California Seaweeds,” “Butterflies: Biology, Behavior, and Identification,” “Exploring the Yolla Bolly-Middle Eel Wilderness,” “Climate Change in California: Past, Present, and Future,” and “Insect-Induced Plant Galls of California.

The workshops run throughout the year, but class sizes are limited and waiting lists back up quickly. Sign up soon.

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Game Review: Evolution

evolution_box_rt_2nd_edition_1024x1024Evolution (2nd Edition), by North Star Games (http://www.northstargames.com), 2015 [ages 12+, 30-minute play time, 2-6 players] $54.99.

In the game of life, survival is key. And that’s not so different in the board game Evolution, the breakthrough Kickstarter success story in its second edition by North Star Games whose very DNA mimics our dog-eat-dog world.

As the game begins, each player takes charge of a new “species.” During each player’s turn, the species in their hand can be enhanced by playing or trading trait cards. Trading in a card to level up a species’ body size or population size makes them harder to be attacked or driven to extinction, but doing so comes with the added burden of needing additional food to sustain them. Playing a trait card confers that species with unique abilities that help them collect extra food (e.g. “scavenger,” “long neck,” and “fat tissue”), fend off attacks (e.g. “climbing,” “hard shell,” and “warning call”),  or attack other species (e.g. “ambush,” “pack hunting,” or “carnivore”). Each species is limited to three unique traits, but these cards can be swapped throughout the game to “evolve” in response to the competition as new species come and go.

In lieu of leveling-up the prehensile proto-llama or feathered faux-ferret you’ve created, each player also has the option of instead adding a new species to their hand to create various amalgams. And with every new species spawned (and their numbers grow), the food begins to dwindle as the watering hole gets that much more crowded. Because Evolution‘s game mechanics allow enough plasticity to repeatedly reboot or rebrand any number of species combos, the game play continues to change as different species thrive or fade to extinction. With a swap of one trait card you can transmorgify your seed-gathering arboreal pocket mouse into a blood-thirsty carnivorous arboreal pocket mouse who, because strength lies in numbers, may be the downfall of an opponent’s saber-toothed salamander.

Especially for those with a science background, it’s hard not to try and imagine real life examples of the pseudo-species you’ve created in the petri dish that is your “hand” of species. Whatever hand you’re dealt, you had better hope it has teeth because when the food runs out, no one is safe.  As players fight to evolve or eliminate the competition, they may have to cannibalize their own creations to become the last pygmy manatee standing in a playing field truly red in tooth and claw (or, if you play your cards right, hoof and trunk).

Evolution’s game play is so carefully crafted and expertly executed, it appears to have been lifted straight from the pages of Biology 101. Inhabiting a unique niche among board games as both tool and toy, Evolution has no equal. Imagine a lesson plan so addictive and so illustrative, the act of learning – a journey of enlightenment about species interactions, competition, and survival – unfolds unconsciously. One can only imagine the trajectory scientific progress might have taken if the Beagle’s own Charles Darwin and Captain FitzRoy had sat down to tinker with this board game in the captain’s parlor during their long voyage at sea instead of frolicking after a few fickle finches.

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