Archive for the ‘Educational’ Category

Proteins and prototypes

Posted by heidi08 On June - 16 - 2016Comments Off on Proteins and prototypes
Methought I heard a voice cry, “Sleep no more!
Macbeth does murder sleep”.
Act II: Scene 2

Day three of operation habituation and we saw a beaver mud the dam and swim into his same ‘chewing thoughtfully’ spot for a munch – this time facing us. I have realized something important though. After careful analysis it is clear that the beavers aren’t habituating to ‘us’ so much as we are habituating to the fact that these are different beavers that play by different rules. Cautious and wary in every way, which I think is good for them. They require protection, and quiet – trains not withstanding.

I take comfort from the fact that we are still “In Beaver World” as Enos Mills would say – just a dam different beaver world!

Good news yesterday as we learned that the Alhambra Valley Band will still be playing the opening for the festival, and our grant was recommended by the city manger to receive 1000 dollars towards the mural. The council voted last night and I’m going to assume we’re good to go. (I had asked for two thousand but, hey I’m pretty happy to think that the city of Martinez will be paying for Mario Alfaro to paint beavers after forcing him to paint over them before.)

A final bit of beaver news this morning involves the successful protein analysis of the oldest giant beaver skull on record. Apparently this beaver ate his wheaties.
Previously, researchers studying ancient proteins rely on fossils that were dug up for that purpose. However, the new study, published in the journal Proceedings of the Royal Society B, used a giant beaver skull that was collected in 1845 and has been housed at the New York State Museum.
For the study, researchers extracted proteins from the skull of the giant beaver belonging to the species Castoroides ohioensis. Using mass spectrometry analysis, the researchers search for proteins, chains of amino acids assembled from instructions encoded in DNA that perform a wide variety of functions in living organisms.

For the study, researchers extracted proteins from the skull of the giant beaver belonging to the species Castoroides ohioensis. Using mass spectrometry analysis, the researchers search for proteins, chains of amino acids assembled from instructions encoded in DNA that perform a wide variety of functions in living organisms.

The researchers then detected many samples of collagen 1 in the protein they extracted. Collagen 1 is the most common protein in bone. The researchers also found post-translational modifications, chemical changes on the surface of the protein that are not defined by DNA.

I think one of the reasons this study is making a splash is that it bolsters the arguments about why we need carefully maintain specimens. As science pushes forward. we are finding that old bones release new secrets and we need to be ready. I’m not really sure why collagen 1 was present in the beaver skulls, but it is the most common protein in the human body an if you want to read up on this you can go here and explain folding and secretion to me.
Not being an expert on the subject, I was mostly interested that the original skull had been ‘shellacked’ for preservation, and since the shellac contains proteins too, they did a sample from inside the nasal cavity of that skull where nothing was painted.

Silly specimen keepers! If they had ever watched the ‘antique road show’ they would have know that the original finish is always more valuable!

Beaver Easter came late this year…

Posted by heidi08 On May - 16 - 2016Comments Off on Beaver Easter came late this year…

CaptureFor some reason the Handel version of this verse was playing in my head all morning. From the black pre-dawn sky where we stumbled down the dark alley to the dam, to the first initial trills of bird song as the steely darkness was haloed in a sherbet dawn, through explosion of bird chorus that followed, muffling the train whistles, all the way until I saw this:

A Beaver! What is that sudden lightness I feel between my shoulders? Am I falling upwards? Could it be the final easing of that dread harness of grim resolution in the face of overwhelming loss?  Was the sunrise always this splintered by all this moisture? Is it possible that it really was darkest just before the dawn?

Maybe you’ve never sat up through a candlelit vigil waiting for Easter to dawn, but my teenage days remember these things. You know how it is, that person you like talks you into going even though you’re not sure you really believe this stuff. I vividly remembered that spooky darkness replaced by irrational sunrise and this merry welcome of the day with lots of hugging. (Oh! the hugging!)  I was raised catholic but there was a bible-study period in my teens where I briefly mistook a crush for faith.

But of course you know my true religion now.

There s/he was building a dam in front of me. As if to prove that I wasn’t the only one happy for the dam’s return, a mother mallard with 1-2-3-4-5-6-7-8-9 babies suddenly appeared, the ducklings zipping so quickly that hardly my eyes or the camera lens could keep up. Like fleas or rolling peppercorns, their rapidly expanding circles were pierced by a swimming turtle before they banded together like a seed pod explosion in rewind and followed mom back down stream.

The tide will be excellent for another day or two, you should go. I’m hoping Jon can be persuaded to make the journey again. Tomorrow we present at the Parks, Recreation, Marina and Cultural Commission to get permission for festival IX. Then it’s last minute details to take care of before Portland.

It all seems like perfect timing. Like destiny. If you believe in that sort of thing.

Busy as a you know what!

Posted by heidi08 On April - 26 - 2016Comments Off on Busy as a you know what!

We are FINALLY paintbrush-ready on the mural project. Mario will come today to start priming, but tomorrow there are supposed to be thunderstorms so more delays are imminent. I’m just happy the city was able to finish all the contracts, waivers and ryders necessary to undertake the dangerous painting of a two foot wall of concrete. Hurray for beavers not giving up!

about timeThe timing works out well enough because on Wednesday I’m back to the SF Waterboard to talk more about urban beavers! New folks heard my talk was so good they wanted it too so I’ll be with strangers on a different floor than last time. I think I’m ready, but it’s a little harrowing going to that tall building and through security on yet another rainy day!

waterboardsAnd it never rains but it pours, because I just got the event flyer for Portland, which looks amazing. The final PDF will have working links and go out soon. But I thought you deserved a preview. In between events I’ll be talking to Kiwanis and watching our Mural unfold. And then it’s time to start getting ready for the festival! Isn’t that exciting?

portland flyer

Helping the Helpers

Posted by heidi08 On April - 22 - 2016Comments Off on Helping the Helpers

Tomorrow is Earthday Birthday celebration at the John Muir Historic  site and the AWARD WINNING nonprofit Worth A Dam will be on hand to answer beaver questions and do a fun beaver activity with the children.  Here is a noble volunteer demonstrating said activity.IMG_0768IMG_0770

 

Now usually our activities are run by a handful of loyals who form the backbone of Worth A Dam. But this year  two of our core members are literally out of state, and FRO has gotten so busy being an artist that we only get her for the festival, so I got a little panicky and started asking for help. I asked Deidre of Oakland who runs the silent auction at the festival. And she was doing another event in the morning but was happy to come in the afternoon. Then I thought of these charming girls and their hardy grandma. They have been beaver supporters since the very beginning, know everything about them, and even asked about doing a children’s booth at the next festival. Here they are on the footbridge after watching Jari Osborne’s “Leave it to beaver’ documentary on PBS. They will be helping in the morning with their intrpid grandma!

Not fully staffed yet, I thought I’d reach out to Caitlin McCombs of Mountain House.  She was very interested in learning about how to help and agreed to come all day! She even had the courage to be exited about it! So I felt pretty confident we could carry the day off well.

It never rains but it pours, they say. Yesterday I got an unexpected message from someone I never met who’s a student at UCB ‘naturalist’ program named Leslie. She lives in town, works for the city, and wondered if she could help in preparation for a presentation she’s giving in May that needs a service component. Surprisingly, she is coming to help us unload and staying all day tomorrow.

Well, okay then.

I figure if we end up with more volunteers than actual children, I’ll talk April and Alana to being undercover agents and get them to recruit.  Or just pretend their doing the activity and having ENORMOUS fun and make other kids come investigate. So it will all work I’m sure.

Or, we can leave it all to their capable hands and Jon and I can just drive to Reno. :-)

Just to keep us all on our toes, there was another dramatic story of a beaver attack yesterday. This one from Latvia. It hasn’t received multiple reports yet, but I’m waiting.

Beaver attacks Latvian man, who couldn’t be helped because police thought his report was a prank call

Inna Plavoka, editor at the local Seychas daily newspaper, told Latvian Radio 4 that the man, who was referred to only as Sergei, was walking outside late at night when a beaver ran up out of the bushes and bit him in the leg. Knocked to the ground, he tried to get up and run away, only to be bitten again.

The beaver then stood guard, refusing to let him get up. In the words of the Latvian Public Broadcasting report: “The beaver was in effect holding Sergei hostage.”

Sergei attempted to call police for help, but was hung up on because they believed he was making a prank call. So he then tried a friend, who also believed him to be joking, until Sergei finally convinced him he was in peril.

Then the beaver was holding him HOSTAGE and he couldn’t get away. His friend sped to the police to get help and was pulled over for speeding. When he told them what he was doing they thought he was drunk and asked him to submit to a breathalyzer.

I think I’m drunk just because I’m typing this BS.

So a beaver, leapt in the to attack a TWO MEN, bit one twice, and then HELD that man hostage?  And the police didn’t believe it because it was unbelievable? And the article reports its true but only manages the first name of Sergie? I find myself unable to offer a comment on this claim. I’m going to have to rely on my good friend Monty to help.

Those Nobel Prizes are a SMOKESCREEN

Posted by heidi08 On April - 20 - 2016Comments Off on Those Nobel Prizes are a SMOKESCREEN

Beavers Returning to Sweden’s Capital Can Be a Dam Nuisance

Walking along the Swedish capital’s famous shores and canals, you can see its presence in the gnawed trunks of large willows, surrounded by fresh wood chips, and the stumps of damaged trees cut down with chainsaws.

The Eurasian beaver is back.

Though the furry urbanites had an ideal base to explore the city, it took decades for them to get established in Stockholm.

“From the late ’90s to 2011, we didn’t see very [many] beavers … about three or four a year in the whole Stockholm area,” says Tommy Tuvunger, who, as Stockholm’s viltvårdare, or game warden, is tasked with keeping tabs on the city’s wild residents. 

In the last four years, “the population has exploded.” 

But the beaver boom has a negative side: The rodents have done extensive damage to the city’s trees.These teeth-carved trees are a safety risk, especially in a city with so much green space. 

“People are going there with small children, walking dogs, jogging,” Tuvunger says, adding that a gust of wind could bring a weakened tree down on someone.

In addition, there have been two reports of beavers biting people in Stockholm—one of which occurred after a man took a picture of the animal with his phone.

In their efforts to keep the public safe, Tuvunger and his colleagues have shot about 10 beavers over three years. (See “Killing Wildlife: The Pros and Cons of Culling Animals.”)

“Keeping a very low profile, we use silencers, so the public don’t know what were are doing,” he says.

 Surprised GirlThat’s right. Arguably the smartest country on  the entire planet, that takes it upon themselves to hand out awards for the most brilliant scientific minds across the globe, kills beavers for chewing trees with a SILENCER because they can’t possibly discourage chewing by wrapping them and they don’t want to upset the public.

It’s not surprising that Stockholm’s beavers have bounced back, the experts say.

“Beavers are like all rodents—they are really good at reproducing. If they have a good environment and good opportunities, they do well,” Jennersten says.

If the sight of Castor fiber swimming around in central Stockholm is the ultimate proof of success, Hartman is heartened by this latest chapter in its comeback story.

I’m tempted to hate the author of this story very much, but when I read those sentences back to myself it occurs to me that he might be deliberately not getting in the way of the Swedes making themselves look bad. Not because he agrees with them – but because Mr. Owen assumes the public won’t. You know, kind of like that famous Sarah Palin interview.

Anyway, this was an annoying way to start the day, which is already  annoying because of the unecessary mural delays and the first reviews coming back on the urban beaver chapter – one of which edited MY section with a red pen and said it was “Poorly worded“.

Hrmph. Poorly worded!

Lets cheer ourselves with some good news, shall we?

Poplars popular with Seine River beavers

 The beaver is one of the few species on Earth that modifies the environment to suit its needs. Unfortunately, the beaver’s needs sometimes bring them into conflict with people — especially in cities.

Beavers cut down trees for one reason — survival. They use large branches to build dams across streams. This creates a beaver pond, where the water becomes deep enough for the beaver to survive the winter.  They use some branches and mud to build a lodge. The lodge has a central chamber where they are safe from predators.

 Beavers also eat the trees’ inner bark. They stockpile branches in a food cache at the bottom of the pond. While beaver eat many aquatic plants during summer, their main winter food is the inner bark of trees. Their favourites are aspen, poplar, cottonwood, willow, birch and alder. Beaver do not hibernate, so the pond must be deep enough for them to swim from the lodge to their food cache beneath the ice.

My advice to anyone living near the river is to wrap the bases of the trees that you treasure. A few dollars of mesh can protect your $140 tree. Hardware cloth (with a square mesh) is tough enough to deter beavers.

Don’t wrap every tree. Wrap some of the larger trees and newly planted trees of all sizes. Leave the rest for the beavers. After all, the beaver is a Canadian icon.

This year, let’s celebrate the beavers that share our urban rivers. Take pictures of the amazing river engineer that we commemorate on the “tail” of our nickel. Post them on the Save Our Seine Facebook page. Volunteer to wrap some trees or join the SOS team as a 2016 River Keeper (job posting on the SOS Web site).

Did you know that Winnipeg was smarter than Stockholm? Fantastic article and fantastic idea for encouraging folks to appreciate urban beavers. Now a final piece of better news to cheer those of us waiting impatiently for better days. Jon  took these photos yesterday down stream. Sure starting to look familiar isn’t it?

IMG_0862 IMG_0865

Dam kind words

Posted by heidi08 On April - 17 - 2016Comments Off on Dam kind words

David Scholz of the Martinez Tribune gave Worth A Dam and beavers a very nice article yesterday. The John Muir Earth day celebration is quickly approaching, and we will be there with volunteer help making the RIGHT kind of beaver hats with the kids.

‘Worth A Dam’ to be honored by Muir Association

MARTINEZ, Calif. – More than eight years after one woman spearheaded an effort to address the plight of one fury creature from demise in Alhambra Creek, that effort subsequently generated national interest and has given more attention to the health and welfare of beavers everywhere.

Worth A Dam founder Heidi Perryman. (HEIDI TAING / Courtesy)

Worth A Dam founder Heidi Perryman. (HEIDI TAING / Courtesy)

This Earth Day, April 23, at the John Muir National Historic Site in Martinez, Heidi Perryman and the organization Worth A Dam will be honored with the Environmental Education Award from the John Muir Association.

TRIBUNE: When was your organization founded and how many members are currently part of it?

PERRYMAN: Worth A Dam was founded in March of 2008. And our core membership is eight. But we have several folks that play an important role and are helpful to our projects.

TRIBUNE: What was your reaction to receiving the honor?

PERRYMAN: Delighted that Worth A Dam could be recognized for showing how and why cities can learn to live with beavers. California needs more “water savers,” not less!

TRIBUNE: How has the perception of beavers changed through the years as a result of the attention your group has given to their plight?

PERRYMAN: The national publicity of the Martinez Beavers showed countless other cities about beaver benefits and how conflicts could be managed. Back when Martinez was first facing this issue there were three websites on the entire Internet about humane solutions.
That was part of the motivation for our website, which had very broad readership. With our help it is much easier to find information about why to live with beavers and how you can.

TRIBUNE: How might the health of beavers be a barometer for the health of the Martinez area creek system?

PERRYMAN: Beavers are one of the hardiest species in the creek. They can manage in places where plenty of other species can’t. The amazing thing is they improve those places to make it more habitable for others.

Founded in 2008 by Perryman, Worth A Dam is a nonprofit, educational organization dedicated to the value, importance and contributions of beavers in the ecosystem. Perryman, through Worth A Dam, focuses her educational approach on the fact that co-existing with beavers ensures the strength of the overall ecosystems of creeks and surrounding areas. Worth A Dam’s co-existence model has been adopted by the California Department of Fish and Wildlife and, most recently, Napa has adopted the model. Perryman has co-authored numerous published articles regarding beavers. Worth A Dam founded the Martinez Beaver Festival, now in its eighth year, with a wide breadth of wildlife and conservation groups, which helps raise awareness of protecting wildlife and preserving healthy environments and ecosystems.

Well, to be honest when I heard we won my first thought was ‘Sheesh! About dam time’.  And if we’re being honest, Fish and Wildlife has never done anything I wanted except grudgingly send a stack of depredation permits to a FOIA request, not to mention that two articles hardly count as ‘numerous’ but the festival is in its NINTH year so some things he exaggerated and undersold some others, right?

Honestly, this article makes Worth A Dam sound so influential and the recognition of beaver importance so universal that I’m proud to be a part of it all! It makes us seem way more successful than we actually have been.  Of course people are still killing beavers ignorantly and lying about their being no other way all the time. But I take comfort from the thought that –  if we haven’t been able to make things as easy for the ‘good guys’ as we’d like –   we’ve at least made things a little harder for the ‘bad guys’.

And that’s something!

New multi necklace, and this one with a secret message just for California that makes me very happy.IMG_0852IMG_0854

 

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Words with Beaver Friends

Posted by heidi08 On April - 3 - 2016Comments Off on Words with Beaver Friends

12936767_10209561614975959_1889504955645627844_nAlexandria Costello is a masters student st Portland University studying the geomorphic influences of beavers in urban streams. She just came to the geology conference in San Francisco to present a poster session. Then went to Napa to meet Robin and Rusty and walk the beaver habitat. She posted this on Facebook and I asked for a closer look to share. Can I just say how much I love the idea that folks are talking about “urban beavers” at a conference?

urban beaverOh my goodness. I’m intrigued already. Aren’t you? It’s a funny thing to think about the educated, generous, ecologically-minded city of Portland learning anything at all from a stubborn ol’ refinery town like Martinez, isn’t it?

puppetsposterRecognize those puppets? I am so proud of us sometimes. I especially like the part where she says cities in Oregon should invest in similar programs around the state to help people learn about the benefits of beaver. You know like the city of Martinez invested in us with all the funding and sponsoring they did of our message and effort. Haaaaaaaaaa Ha Ha Ha.

Sorry, I just suddenly thought of this comic for some reason and needed to post. I’ll allow Alex to continue.

urban 2

I’m so impressed with this presentation, and with Alex for putting it together. Everyone had a grand time in Napa, and I am so pleased they connected. Apparently even WS is the best behaved it will EVER be in Oregon, under the steadying hand of Jimmy Taylor. I’m so grateful to have contributed to the story with our playful puppets.

While we’re on the topic of the successes of friends, I heard the other day that Wyoming beaver believer Amy Cummings, and Washington advocate Joe Cannon of the Lands Council are headed for an Idaho event sponsored by our beaver friends at Watershed Guardians. The event is cleverly called A Reverse Rendezvous, and is held on the day the trapping season ends. (History lesson: The original rendezvous were gatherings of trappers where massive furs and goods changed hands, and where you could connect with a new company or glean some insights of areas that were trapped out.  There was lots of bragging, drinking and whoring too, I’ll wager. Probably more than a few fights or fatalities, as minimally socialized loners found themselves in a sudden crowd where impulse control was required.)

Anyway, this reverse one is going to be way better.

In the summer of 1826, the American Fur Company set up a small camp in the Powder River basin in western Wyoming to buy furs from various trapping companies and free trappers.  There were gifts, story telling, contests and music.  All to celebrate beaver that had been killed.    We’re going to do something similar but opposite at the Reverse Rendezvous.  On April 15th, 2016, we’ll be doing something similar, but with a twist.  We’ll be celebrating the beaver that WEREN’T killed.  Come join us!

Our story tellers are Amy Chadwick and Joe Cannon.  Amy is an environmental consultant specializing in rehabilitating damaged ecosystems.  Joe  Cannon is  part of the most successful beaver re-introduction program in history.   We are excited  and pleased to have them both.

I’m so jealous I won’t be on hand to hear all the stories. Maybe someone will be taping? Worth A Dam wishes you the hardiest of successes.

Meanwhile, I’m hard at work with an idea for this years festival. Over the years I’ve probably gathered every wonderful graphic, historical image or photo of beavers, now I just need to find some old scrabble games!

pendant 2