Archive for the ‘Educational’ Category

Message Delivery

Posted by heidi08 On February - 27 - 2015Comments Off

Indiana University researcher reports that isolated wetlands matter a great deal – just not the things that make and maintain them.

Isolated wetlands have significant impact on water quality

Geographically isolated wetlands play an outsized role in providing clean water and other environmental benefits even though they may lack the regulatory protections of other wetlands, according to an article by Indiana University researchers and colleagues.

 Given those benefits, the authors argue, decision-makers should assume that isolated wetlands are critical for protecting aquatic systems, and the burden of proof should be on those who argue on a case-by-case basis that individual wetlands need not be protected.

 ”Geographically isolated wetlands provide important benefits such as sediment and carbon retention, nutrient transformation and water-quality improvement, all of which are critical for maintaining water quality,” said lead author John M. Marton, assistant scientist at the IU Bloomington School of Public and Environmental Affairs. “We demonstrate that continued loss of these wetlands would likely cause serious harm to North American waters.”

 Yes it’s true, wetlands are really important, especially when they’re in unconnected areas that aren’t attached to other wetlands.  Our top notch researchers think they’re so important that people should be prevented from ripping out those wetlands. And the government should play a roll in making them.

We don’t have the foggiest idea of how those wetlands get there, but we know they’re important.

Yes, webs are important but spiders don’t matter at all, nests are invaluable but we aren’t sure what makes them. and eggs are vital but who cares about chickens?


Oh alright, maybe you’re getting the football very close to the end zone and it’s up to some other researcher or environmental attorney to get it over the line. Certainly this lays a certain foundation. And I would know JUST where to look for argument if I were trying to save beaver in Indiana.

Citing research literature, the authors say geographically isolated wetlands are highly effective “biogeochemical reactors” that improve water quality. They often retain water longer than protected waters, such as streams and wetlands that are directly connected to navigable water. And they have a higher ratio of perimeter to area, allowing more opportunities for reactions to take place.


This morning a quick update from beaver friend Lisa Owens Viani, the founder of RATS, who guest posted this article on 10,000 birds. Apparently the raptor-killing fiends of the world have come up with the excellent idea to name their new rat poison “HAWK”, because you know, hawks kill rats too, get it?

22Hawk.22-2-400x280It takes a lot of nerve—or something that can’t be printed here—to name your rat poison after the animals that so effectively and efficiently control rodents but that are also being poisoned—as “non target” animals—by your product. The label on Motomco/Bell Lab’s rodenticide “Hawk” even sports a drawing of a hawk getting ready to pounce. But “Hawk”’s active ingredient, a deadly second-generation anticoagulant, bromadialone, has been implicated in the deaths of Red-tailed Hawks, Red-shouldered Hawks, Cooper’s Hawks, and other raptors: American Kestrels, Barn Owls, Golden Eagles, Great Horned Owls, and Turkey Vultures. These birds are being poisoned after eating rodents that have been poisoned by products like “Hawk.”

You can read the entire article here. I told Lisa not to worry because this was such a tone deaf marketing decision they could easily turn it to their advantage. Instead of writing outraged letters or presenting them with a cease and desist letter. send the most flowery thank you card you can find, and say how much you appreciate their help in  linking rat poison to hawks, reminding every single buyer who the real victims of their products are. That kind of branding is invaluable. It’s hard work doing it yourself and billboards are very expensive.

Ask when their similar products of OWL or BOBCAT will go on the market, and say you appreciate their help in this matter. If you thank them sincerely enough, I said, that label will disappear.


Magical beaver day

Posted by heidi08 On February - 26 - 2015Comments Off

Yesterday we had arranged a meeting between two Watershed Stewards Program Americorp interns and the city engineer of Martinez to talk about planting willow in the beaver habitat. It all became possible after my presentation at the San Francisco water board in December. Rebecca and Corie took Amtrak out from Oakland and we gave them a tour of the planting areas and beaver dam before taking them to the meeting. On the way we came across the most darling little beaver chews from our 2014 kit that we presented as souvenirs (along with hats, which were much appreciated, as you can see).

Desktop3Then we sat down to what we expected to be a challenging meeting. Historically it has not been simple to negotiate with the city to put trees in the beaver habitat. (Take from that what you will-it’s almost like they don’t want the beavers to stay!) But we were hopeful that having some professionals in uniform might make it easier. We talked a little about the areas we wanted to plant, and then discussed the ideas I had encountered regarding fascines at the beaver conference, which prompted our interns to talk about their recent projects at Baxter and Strawberry Creek where they had used fascines of both willow and dogwood.

We talked about timing and their experience, and then the city engineer said he would handle things with the council and with Fish and Game and we could get the project moving within two weeks.(!) They would do the planting and get the willow cuttings, and encourage some colleagues to help out on the day. We promised to reward everyone with hats if they did!  And then the meeting was over. Approximately 15 glorious minutes after it started.

No, really.

Jon and I were in varied states of amazement. To say that was not the reception we’d been expecting is a significant understatement. But I swear it really happened. And we are on board to get willow in the ground before the middle of March. Riley will help arrange for them to harvest it from wildcat canyon in Berkeley, and they will make the fascines and plant them. (Just pray that it rains SOMETIME along the way.) And thank you to Riley for sending these hardworking city-soothers our way. This video will teach you about what facines are, and this one could show you the magical way they work in less than 3 weeks! Our fascines will be buried in the unrocky bank.

Still don’t believe it? The day needs more incredulity, so I’m going to show you the very best beaver news out of Canada that was ever filmed. I can’t find a date on this story, and can’t embed it so you will need to perform the onerous labor of clicking on it and watching an ad, but trust me, even if you never trusted me before and never will again,  it’s worth it.

CaptureStarving beavers kept alive by couple after dam destroyed

Don’t you LOVE these people? Someone give them a bag of sweet potatoes right away!

Fnally I got a delightful email from Rusty in Napa yesterday because the beaver pond in Tulocay creek was visited by a whopping 5 pairs of hooded mergansers that evening. He was surprised how people shy they were in such an urban setting. But very kindly shared these photos. The beautiful one is the boy, and the rusty hairdo is the female. Enjoy.

HM napa

Hooded Merganser at Tulocay Creek – Rusty Cohn

hmpairs Napa

Hooded Merganser pairs – Rusty Cohn


Beavers, Saltwater and Salmon

Posted by heidi08 On February - 16 - 2015Comments Off

If it’s February, it’s time for dispersers! This story is from Burien Washington.

IMG_6445-500x375Meet ‘Valentino,’ a Beaver rescued at Three Tree Point on Valentine’s Day

One local resident quipped, “It takes a village to heal a beaver.” For several hours on Valentine’s Day afternoon, nearby neighbors gathered around a large beaver that was beached, likely injured, at one of the public access points just north of Three Tree Point.

 Big questions circulated:

imagejpeg_0-3-357x500 -How did this fresh water-inhabiting mammal end up on the salt water shoreline?
-Where did it come from?
-Was it sick, injured, in shock, in pain?
-Would it survive?

 Some imagined that it had been a stowaway on a barge and somehow got dumped into the Sound. Others thought it had been washed down one of the local streams. No one remembered having ever seen a beaver in this area.

We know the answers to those questions, right? That beavers disperse at this time of year to find their own habitat, and that these fresh water animals often use salt water passages to get around. Three tree point is an easy 1 mile  swim across Puget sound to or from Vashon island. And there’s a lake and stream nearby as well. I’m sure he was fairly docile to pick up. Beavers usually are. (Unless you’re from Belarus.)

Two great ‘finally’s this morning, the first some new research out of Australia examining the fact that wetlands actually sequester carbon. (I believe the word your looking for here in response is “Duh!”) And the second a story I’ve been waiting for since Maria Finn contacted me way back in October. Apparently it’s been so long in the making that all sign of Worth A Dam’s contribution has been eroded from the story but trust me, we’re in there!

Leave it to Beavers

Once considered a pesky rodent, the animals are busy saving California’s salmon populations.

In an unexpected twist to California’s drought saga, it turns out that beavers, once reviled as a nuisance, could help ease the water woes that sometimes pit the state’s environmentalists and fishermen against its farmers.

 In California, where commercial and recreational salmon fishing brings in $1.5 billion a year, and agriculture earns $42.6 billion annually, farmers and fishermen have long warred over freshwater from the Klamath and Sacramento rivers. Dams built for reservoirs on these rivers have cut off many salmon from their breeding areas, which has severely depleted the populations. Typically, up to 80 percent of the diverted water is used by agriculture, much of it sent to the arid Central Valley region where moisture-demanding crops like almonds are now being intensively farmed.

Beavers, which were almost hunted to extinction in California during the 1800s, can help restore this watery habitat, especially in drought conditions. Fishery experts once believed the animals’ dams blocked salmon from returning to their streams, so it was common practice to rip them out. But, consistent with previous studies, research led by Michael M. Pollock, an ecosystems analyst with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, shows the opposite: Wild salmon are adept at crossing the beavers’ blockages.

In addition, the dams often reduce the downstream transport of egg-suffocating silt to the gravel where salmon spawn, and create deeper, cooler water for juvenile fish and adult salmon and steelhead. The resulting wetlands also attract more insects for salmon to eat. In ongoing research that covered six years, Pollock and his colleagues showed that river restoration projects that featured beaver dams more than doubled their production of salmon.

 Can the animals help bring back the Coho salmon? “Absolutely,” Pollock says. “They may be the only thing that can.”

Hurray for Pollock! And hurray for beavers! Now let’s get this story picked up in more places and keep repeating the message until even Trout Unlimited stops ripping out dams! Maria said her original article was intended for the Guardian, but I guess there was beaver saturation with all the reporting in Devon so they never wanted to follow through. Of course SATURATION is the point. Ahem. And the point that California should care about.

But don’t worry, there are still the usual nay-sayers.


Photo: Márcio Cabral de Moura

But California Department of Fish and Wildlife environmental scientist

Matthew Meshriy says North America’s largest rodent is still often unwelcome in the state’s agricultural areas, particularly the Central Valley, where their dams can interfere with the complicated water infrastructure vital to farms. “If we had a more natural system and grew things appropriate to the land and at an intensity level that was sustainable for the long term,” says Meshriy, ”then a beaver could be a powerful part of it. But that’s not the case here.”

 Despite such resistance, beavers are enjoying a comeback in California, even building dams in downtown San Jose, Martinez, and Napa. And interest is increasing elsewhere: Pollock has been hosting standing-room-only workshops on the benefits of beavers in salmon watersheds all along the West Coast.

 “Fishermen welcome beaver dams much more than the human-built dams on salmon streams,” says Zeke Grader, executive director of the Pacific Coast Federation of Fishermen’s Associations. “If beavers are allowed to do their jobs, they’ll help the fishermen keep salmon on the plates.”

It would be wonderful if more fishermen in California knew enough to thank beavers. When we’re done with the pacific conversion, and the midwest conversion, then we can start working on the atlantic. Those anglers have a LONG way to go!

Talking about beavers

Posted by heidi08 On February - 15 - 2015Comments Off

Beaver-in-Knapdale_eating-c-Steve-Gardner-660x496Knapdale scientists to discuss beaver studies

People interested in hearing about studies of Knapdale’s famous beavers are being invited to attend an event in Argyll next week.

The beavers were released in May 2009 by the Scottish Wildlife Trust and the Royal Zoological Society of Scotland on land managed by Forestry Commission Scotland as part of the five-year Scottish Beaver Trial.

And a series of independent scientific research projects were carried out into the effects of the beavers on the area during the trial, which finished in May of last year.

Dr Martin Gaywood, of Scottish Natural Heritage, who managed the independent scientific monitoring of the trial, said: “We’re keen to bring local people up-to-date on the studies that have been carried out over the last five years.

 “There are some interesting and quite surprising results and this is a one-off opportunity to hear about them from the scientists themselves

Don’t you wish you could be there? I love that they’re taking the results straight to the public and starting the conversation. Of course I and Derek Gow and Paul and Louise Ramsey can’t be there because we’ll be in Oregon presenting at the Beaver Conference! In fact I actually present on the same day! Do you know what that means? They’re 8 hours ahead so for an entire 16 hours over the span of 6000 miles the people will be talking and learning about beavers.More if you count the days before and after! The planet will hum with beavers!

Isn’t that awesome?

Beavers causing headaches for Berrien Co. residents

Bad news for beavers in Berriens county Georgia, which is just a little above Florida. Our retired librarian friend BK says the region is very flat, with lots of beaver problems. Apparently when they rip out one beaver dam the road gets flooded. Say, I’ve got an idea for them! (Don’t rip it out)

Some of you might remember that Berrien county is the home of the beaver-kill tail contest that upset me so much I sent a pack of children’s beaver drawings to the commissioners many years ago. They were from our very first Earth Day event. I even had a friend of a friend in the state send them so it would look like they were coming from constituents. It did no good at all but it made me feel better. Apparently they are still up to their old tricks.

Also there must be PLENTY of alligators to keep their beavers in check!, Albany News, Weather, Sports

Too bad that culvert fence isn’t a trapezoid- or fenced on bottom, because you know beavers will be incorporating it into their dam soon.

Now I thought yesterday there needed to be a better graphic for a beaver conference. And I’m happy with this one.

the gathering

Beaver maybe’s are better than no’s

Posted by heidi08 On February - 14 - 2015Comments Off

I guess beaver ambivalence in Massachusetts is a step forward?

New ‘neighbor’ sparks worry, excitement in Ponkapoag

A new neighbor has moved into the Ponkapoag section of Canton, and it’s either a reason for celebration or a cause for alarm — or possibly both.

In an email to the Mass. Water Resources Authority, Kodzis wrote, “It seems some beavers have done some work to plug up the brook and it is now flooding. My concern is that the flooding will get to a level where the new sewer access manholes will be covered with water. There also seems to be some erosion of the new access road as the brook has been redirected. I think it deserves a walk-through since beavers can be very destructive.”

“It was a privilege to have found it,” he said, “but I also realize that it does bring its problems.”

Yes, unlike humans, pets, and freeways, which never cause concern, beavers can bring problems. They’re completely unique in that way. And since you live in Massachusetts there couldn’t possibly be a company an hour away called Beaver Solutions. Because obviously, beaver problems can never be solved.  I guess we should be pleased that you were at least happy to be the one who found ‘it’.  It could be worse. You could be him.

Mark Thomas, another Ponkapoag resident and owner of a wildlife removal business, Baystate Wildlife Management Inc., was more matter-of-fact in his assessment of beavers in the neighborhood.

 “Beavers are bad news,” said Thomas, who recently spotted the beaver in question near the brook. “It’s cute and cool in the beginning, but then it really becomes bad pretty quickly.”

 In addition to the flooding problems, Thomas said beavers “kill all the trees” in the area and are generally more disruptive than they are beneficial — at least when they are located too close to human development.

 Thomas said that beavers, if allowed to remain, would be one more wildlife problems in a neighborhood that is already dealing with more than its share, including a recent infiltration of coyotes.

Mark sounds like a real wildlife lover doesn’t he? Like the Jane friggin’ Goodall of  Ponkapoag. Beavers are bad news!  I’m sure he misspoke, though, when he said beaver were bad news. Since he makes his living with wildlife removal, they must be GOOD news right? I mean, no one hires a company to get rid of a problem that doesn’t exist, right? If there was no bad news you’d never make your boat payment, right?

According to MassWildlife, “By damming streams and forming shallow ponds, beavers create wetlands. These wetlands provide habitat for a tremendous diversity of plants, invertebrates, and wildlife, such as deer, bats, otter, herons, waterfowl, songbirds, raptors, salamanders, turtles, frogs, and fish.”

 The state agency suggests that humans also benefit from beavers, as these new wetlands help to control downstream flooding, improve water quality, and can also recharge groundwater.

MassWildlife, for instance, suggests a number of nonlethal solutions to address human conflicts with beavers, including tolerance, fencing, dam removal, and water level control devices, or “beaver pipes,” which allows water to flow through a dam while remaining undetected by the beaver.

Talk about ending on a positive note! This is a reporter that really did his homework! Jay Turner talked to the doubtful, the opposition, and the advocates! And ended his thoughtful piece on a positive note. As a woman who has written about beaver news in almost 3000 columns, I can firmly attest that almost never happens. I’m a little hopeful for those beavers in Ponkapoag. Aren’t you?

As for Kodzis, the man who got to the bottom of this neighborhood mystery, he is still undecided about how he feels about beavers. Personally, he said they do not bother him “one way or the other,” although he acknowledges that their presence may impact some more than others.

Nevertheless, Kodzis finds it “amazing” that there is so much wildlife right in his backyard. “And if the beavers are going to be here,” he said, “then we have to learn how to live with them.”

How-to-live-with-beavesNow on another more pragmatic note, dentists have finally noticed that beaver teeth might turn out to be useful to human teeth!

Beavers Show Way to Improve Enamel

Beavers don’t brush their teeth, and they don’t drink fluoridated water, but a new study reports beavers do have protection against tooth decay built into the chemical structure of their teeth: iron.

This pigmented enamel, the researchers found, is both harder and more resistant to acid than regular enamel, including that treated with fluoride. This discovery is among others that could lead to a better understanding of human tooth decay, earlier detection of the disease and improving on current fluoride treatments.

Layers of well-ordered, carbonated hydroxylapatite “nanowires” are the core structure of enamel. The team led by Northwestern researcher Derk Joester, PhD, discovered in rodent teeth that it is the material surrounding the nanowires, where small amounts of an amorphous solid rich in iron and magnesium are located, that controls enamel’s acid resistance and mechanical properties.

Hmmm. It turns out a diet rich in iron is what makes beaver teeth stronger than human teeth. It also prevents tooth decay and happens to be what turns beaver teeth orange. Should we be expecting the classic Hollywood smile to be orange soon? The article ran with a nice, uncredited photo shown here. Based on that nose I’d say this was castor fiber. But I’m sure the enamel is the same.

5301452959_a064b64a7c_z Before I go let me wish all those beaver lovers out there a happy valentine’s day. There’s good evidence secondary dam is getting worked on so we’ll stop by under the stars to share our love with them. The primary dam is not getting worked on, so we may have to have an official renaming ceremony soon.

Great people do great things for beavers!

Posted by heidi08 On February - 10 - 2015Comments Off


Need something beavery to do tomorrow morning? There’s still time to sign up for Joe Wheaton’s webinar on Beavers and Climate Change. Offered in combination with the Grand Canyon Trust and Utah State University, you know I’ll be there and it will be a dam good time!

Beaver and Climate Change: Free Webinar

They are the West’s most savvy water engineers. Here on the Colorado Plateau, ground zero for climate change, we humans have a lot to learn from these furry creatures.

What Can Beaver Teach Us About Adapting to Climate Change and Building More Resilient Systems?

FREE WEBINAR February 11, 2015 10 -11 a.m. MST

 Utah State University fluvial geomorphologist Joe Wheaton studies rivers and the changes we humans – and beaver – bring to them. Joe and his colleagues observe, map, and document what happens when rivers are fortunate enough to have beaver, both here in the West and around the world.

 In this 1-hour webinar, Joe will share what he and others are learning from beaver, explain where and how their dams interact with climate change, and take your questions.

Go here to register, and pass it on!

Now it’s time for our awed thanks to our Martinez resident talent Amelia Hunter who has outdone herself yet again on the poster image for the 8th beaver festival. I don’t know  about you but that might be the cutest thing I’ve ever seen. Note mom’s tail. This is the first painted image of a beaver getting a tail ride on the entire internet. I’m expecting it to inspire a Canadian coin design next year.

 2015 oval

Original artwork by Amelia Hunter
New festival

“That change is too ‘changey’.”

Posted by heidi08 On February - 9 - 2015Comments Off

Looks like Ohio has decided to return to its natural shape so our opinion of them won’t need to be adjusted any time soon. Remember that cool story from Yellow Springs where people were advocating for beaver benefits and wanting to coexist? Well apparently Hamlet was right.

         virtue cannot
so inoculate our old stock but we shall relish of it.
Act 3 Scene 1

Or in other words, that council-driven  leopard rarely changes its spots.

Council nixes grant for wetland

At their Jan. 20 meeting, Village Council delivered a setback to a group of local environmentalists who sought to develop a management plan for a wetlands on the Glass Farm. The group requested Council’s approval for a federal grant application that would provide funding to help manage the wetland, increase species diversity and also find solutions for flood control and other neighbors’ concerns.

 “Yellow Springs could become a model” for how to balance the needs of wildlife and humans in wetlands development, according to Nadia Malarkey, a member of the newly reconstituted Environmental Commission, which sought Council approval for the grant.

 But the majority of Council worried that the group was moving too quickly, and that a grant would lock Village government into a project it has not fully embraced, and which may have unintended consequences.

 “I don’t think this is a bad idea …” said Village Manager Patti Bates, who recommended against the grant application at this time. “I’m concerned that we’re rushing into this without proper preparation.”

And how much preparation does YS usually take before killing beavers and destroying wetlands? Oh that’s right. None.  You were THIS CLOSE to getting this right. It is so frustrating to see how remarkable efforts can still be tossed aside.

The grant would have provided funding for developing a management plan for the area and to purchase fencing that would protect trees, create new flow-devices if necessary to control flooding and remove invasive species, according to the proposal. Overall, the grant-funded activities would enhance efforts to allow beavers and humans to share the area, according to EC member Duard Headley.

However, several Council members feared the grant would pave the way to a commitment to the wetland that they had not signed on for when they approved funding the original “beaver deceiver” flow-through device.

I’m sorry for the derailing of this particular wetlands train bound for glory, but I’ve not run  out of hope yet – and you shouldn’t either. These are a smart group of people doing the right thing for the right reasons.

The resulting wetland has led to a significant increase in new species in the area, according to Hennessy, who presented a slideshow of photos of the area taken by neighbor Scott Stolsenberg. The photos show great blue herons, red-winged blackbirds, indigo buntings, great egrets, red-shouldered hawks, grey catbirds, cedar waxwings, green frogs, snapping turtles and other wildlife that live near water.

 “Beavers are a keystone species that create an environment that ____supports other species,” Hennessy said. “Most of these species would not be here without the wetlands.”

 Several neighbors who support the wetlands spoke in support of the project.

 “The change in the last three years has been amazing. It’s like a second Glen,” said Lew Trelawny-Cassity, who said he and his young children enjoy watching the birds and animals. “This is a great place for families. It impacts the neighborhood in a positive way.”

As alarming as change for the better is – it is for the better. Eventually even the city council will see the writing on the wall and have the sense to steal credit for the idea instead of looking stupid and out of touch by preventig it.

Ours did.

I worked yesterday using my ‘negative space beavers’ to put together a short film. I decided to use the audio from Ellen Wohl’s excellent interview on Santa Fe Radio a few years ago. I think it works rather well.

I also talked to Michael Howie of Fur Bearer Defender Radio and Jari Osborne of the beaver documentary about getting my poem recorded in resonant tones so I can make a video. We’ll see but I’m expecting great things.

Finally a bonus prize this morning, because a friend from Florida sent a photo of a mystery bug that research showed was really surprising. I thought you’d be interested.Picture1

The Scarlet Bodied Wasp Moth, Cosmosoma myrodora , is a moth species that mimics wasps as a means of survival. Since the harmless moth resembles a stinging wasp, many predators will give leave it alone. Here’s the amazing part: the adult male moth extracts toxins known as ‘pyrrolizidine alkaloids’ from Dogfennel Eupatorium (Eupatorium capillifolium) and showers these toxins over the female prior to mating. This is the only insect known to transfer a chemical defense in this way.”