The Brain Scoop:
How to Protect the Rainforest

Wherein I interviewed expedition leader and rockstar Corine Vriesendorp about what it means to conserve and protect the Amazon rainforest, in light of the overwhelming global demands for natural resources. 

This is the final installment in our Amazon Adventures series. We set out with the goal to share some of the fantastic conservation work of The Field Museum’s Action Center, and I hope we came even remotely close to spreading their complex and dynamic mission. If I never get to visit the rainforest again, this trip and all of the untold opportunities it held for me – as a communicator, passionate science enthusiast, and lover of the natural world – will forever be a highlight of my life. 


Every Drop Counts; The Importance of Water and Partnership

June is the driest time of the year in the low desert of Arizona – far removed from the region’s steady winter rains and on the doorstep of the erratic, unpredictable monsoon season.   Tucson averages about a quarter inch for the entire month. Creeks and rivers dry up temporarily, compelling people to contemplate the value of water even more than normal.

I’m impressed by one community effort to understand the situation.  Since 1999, The Nature Conservancy of Arizona has led a network of individuals, organizations and agencies - including BLM - in a large effort they call Wet-Dry Mapping.  Each June, near the hottest day of the year, over 120 volunteers and professionals use GPS devices to map the wetted sections of over 300 miles of waterways in the region.

The methods are simple, but the results are incredibly valuable.  Beyond collecting the data, it’s a format that gets dozens of people walking together in the San Pedro Riparian National Conservation Area or elsewhere; they are thinking, talking and engaging on how important water is to our communities.

By Adam Milnor, BLM Arizona and My Public Land Tumblr Blogger

Dynamite Fishing.

We heard dynamite fishing was a problem here in Malapascua from the local dive centers, but we didn’t realize how much of a problem it really was until we did some diving.

This place is famous for its daily occurrence of Thresher Sharks, but we have found the other diving is great too for its macro life (my favourite!).

We noticed many of the dive sites here look like a war zone, with just rocks and rubble everywhere. But somehow, all these beautiful tiny species keep on living, even in the absence of coral gardens. We just thought to ourselves though, “Wow, this place is destroyed.”

Then we found out why, and unfortunately got the chance to EXPERIENCE it first hand. I am glad Jim, a DMT with the dive center we are exploring with, warned us this site was right next to a dynamite fishing zone, and we might hear a “boom.”

We didn’t just hear it, we FELT it! It was very scary, of course it wasn’t where we were diving, but it was close enough to make its presence known. No wonder the dive sites around here look like a disaster zone, and I am shocked that even the non fished species stick around with the stress of the sound and vibrations. Also, it is not surprising now that we fail to see any large schools of fish.

It is very sad that a place famous for its diving, is being devastated by this destructive fishing method.


Just experienced why we need environmental education

A patron came up yelling about how this “program” has been running for 50 years and these birds are “too stupid to survive.” He asked when it would be over and I tried to explain about reaching 575 pairs between NY and NJ, but he wouldn’t let me get that out. He started screaming about a shit load of things. Saying the government is only doing this to give “you people” jobs. When he got to rambling about the mastodon I interrupted him and said “excuse me sir, I don’t understand what the mastodon has anything to do with this species. If you want more information please read The Sixth Extinction.” And I left. I don’t understand why he’d even try to talk to me, was I just supposed to let him rant about why I shouldn’t have a job? I don’t know if he’ll even read the book, but at least I left him with an option to learn more.

Why save sharks?

‘Sharks play a crucial role in our oceans. Most sharks serve as top predators at the top of the marine food pyramid, and so play a critical role in ocean ecosystems. Directly or indirectly they regulate the natural balance of these ecosystems, at all levels, and are therefore an essential part of them. Sharks usually hunt old, weak or sick prey and help to keep the prey population in good condition, enabling these more naturally fit animals to reproduce and pass on their genes. The effects of removing sharks from ocean ecosystems, although complex and rather unpredictable, are very likely to be ecologically and economically damaging.’ - Projects Abroad Website

Floating Island Buoys Hope for Trumpeter Swans in Idaho

By Leith Edgar
U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Public Affairs Officer in Boise, Idaho

Start with a porous plastic base, add peat moss and wetland sod, and you have the southern Idaho recipe for floating waterfowl habitat. Add in some cables, hardware, and elbow grease and put the floating island where North America’s largest waterfowl species is likely to build a nest, and voila, a potential nest site for a pair of trumpeter swans (Cygnus buccinators). The recipe is necessary because the changes to trumpeter swan habitat have left the large birds with limited available nesting habitat.

Two biological technicians from the Shoshone-Bannock Tribes and Partners for Fish and Wildlife biologist Cary Myler work to construct the floating island. Photo by Leith Edgar / USFWS

U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s Partners for Fish and Wildlife Program biologist Cary Myler works with private landowners, Native American Tribes, state and federal agencies and non-governmental organizations to promote habitat enhancement projects for native species on private land.  Myler partnered with the Shoshone-Bannock Tribes on a project within the Fort Hall Reservation to deploy artificial islands to deliver real habitat for trumpeter swans.

 “In Idaho many historic wetlands have been drained and converted to agriculture and the natural hydrology of our stream and wetland systems have been altered.  Many of the existing wetland areas that we still have are influenced by irrigation withdrawal, which has the potential to leave trumpeter swan nesting islands without surrounding water.  The island and surrounding water create a nesting habitat that is resilient against natural predators.  So today we installed an artificial island that is buoyant and will rise and drop with the water levels as irrigators use their irrigation water,” said Myler of the third such island that he’s worked with partners to construct in eastern Idaho.

The trumpeter swan is the largest waterfowl species native to North America, and weigh 21-30 pounds. Adults have a wingspan of more than 7 feet and stand about 4 feet high. Photo by Tom Koerner/USFWS

A lone male trumpeter swan was inhabiting the Flying Y Slough area of the reservation and Dan Christopherson, a wildlife biologist with the Fish and Wildlife Department of the Shoshone-Bannock Tribes, wanted to improve the odds that the bachelor would find a mate, form a pair bond and nest.

Okumaya devam et
No Birds For You! House Passes Provision to End All Migratory Bird Protections in the United States (UPDATED) | Andrew Wetzler's Blog | Switchboard, from NRDC
Spring is finally here, and with it the return of birds to backyards and playgrounds across America. So, naturally, it is also the perfect time for Congressional Republicans to completely suspend one of the main laws protecting them. First...


No, the Senate hasn’t voted on it yet. But this is a dangerous precedent. 

First of all, most people have no clue the law exists, let alone what it does: protect the vast majority of wild birds in the United States by making it illegal to buy, sell or possess live or dead birds, their eggs and nests. Our birds are already showing declining numbers due to a host of problems; this would make it even more difficult to protect the ones that are left. People are willing to protect the Endangered Species Act because they know about it; few people know that the MBTA is even more effective.

For those who complain about the MBTA, especially vultures who wish they could use the feathers and other parts in their collections or art, listen up: The law is there for a good damned reason. You remember hearing about the extinction of the Passenger Pigeon when the last individual died in 1914? 

You remember hearing how that species, just twenty years before, you could find flocks of them numbering in the millions? That drastic drop happened because there was no law in place to protect them. 

We almost lost a LOT of other species of bird at the same time. Not only were people hunting and eating all sorts of birds, but the feathered hat trade was HUGE. You know great egrets, these gorgeous birds?

Yeah, we almost lost those. People wanted the beautiful white plumes they grow. What they didn’t realize was that those plumes ONLY grow during mating and young-rearing season, so you would have hunters go in and kill one or both parents, after which all the babies would starve to death, and for the sake of a few feathers four, five, or more birds died all by the hand of one hunter. The egrets almost went extinct, and the ONLY thing that saved them was the MBTA.

You know what else the MBTA helps prevent when it’s applied properly, and what it could be further leveraged to prevent? Habitat loss, spraying of chemicals, over-hunting and poaching, and other stresses on already stressed species. Without it, conservationists will have one less tool to use to keep people from decimating wild bird populations for selfish means.

You want to see the MBTA revised so you can have your found blue jay feathers or that robin skull for your collection? Great–support revisions. But don’t celebrate this devastating move on the part of Congress. Contact your Senator–yes, even if you can’t vote–and contact President Obama. Tell them we need the MBTA. Tell them we need our birds protected. 

And reblog this–pass it on so others can help.
Chevrolet is using old batteries to save … bats?
As the bat population around the world is sharply declining, Chevrolet and NASCAR look to use old parts to help preserve the species.

“Besides helping save the furry flying creatures, the kids at NASCAR’s Pocono Raceway got some firsthand experience with Chevrolet’s new and improved, second-generation bat house design.”


with nearly seventy stories to his credit, david doubilet is one of national geographic’s most prolific living contributors. considered a master of water and light, his signature is the half and half image that relates the surface to the hidden world below. (and it’s worth noting these photos were taken with roll camera, prior to the digital age).

notes david, “that cartier-bresson moment that is hard to achieve on land is ten times harder to achieve underwater, because you’re swimming around with a large housing with arms 24 inches long and attached to the end of the arms are your strobes. sometimes you’re using six or seven strobes or large surface powered hmi movie lights.” 

using photography to lend a visual voice to the oceans and express their beauty, and in doing foster concern for their care, david explains that “we [as underwater photographers] are making pictures that have to astound, that have to open people’s eyes, that have to stop people. …we may be taking picture of a time and a place that in the next two generations might not exist anymore. and that’s frightening.”


The #mypubliclandsroadtrip in BLM Oregon Begins with the Cascade-Siskiyou National Monument

Located at the crossroads of the Cascade, Klamath, and Siskiyou mountain ranges, scientists have long recognized the outstanding ecological values of the Cascade-Siskiyou National Monument. The convergence of three geologically distinct mountain ranges resulted in an area with remarkable biological diversity. The Pacific Crest National Scenic Trail meanders 19 miles through the monument, offering challenging hikes with stunning views.

Photo by Bob Wick, BLM