Month: May 2006

Snakes in NY

What fun, we saw three snakes hiking at the Turkey Mountain Nature Preserve in Westchester County, NY (the highest point in Westchester county, the information plaque claims that on a clear day, you can see the Manhattan skyline to the south). They were at different parts of the trail and we nearly stepped on them each time. They seemed in no hurry to escape and we got within a foot each time. Unfortunately, no camera except the cellphone, which is worse than no camera at all!

There were a couple of really sluggish rat snakes

Rat snake

And there was a rather more active garter.

Memo to self: Take the camera wherever you go, this means you!

Fishing Major threat to Turtles

Well, not the least bit surprising, sea turtles have always been very difficult to track, and we’re finally getting verification that, gasp, turtles’ lives cannot be described in simple juvenile = open sea, adult = coast behavior.

BBC NEWS | Science/Nature | Fishing ‘major threat’ to turtles

Until now scientists have believed that young turtles live in the open ocean, but change to a coastal habitat when they reach a certain size.

But researchers working in Cape Verde found that most adults nesting there retain their open water behaviour, with the attendant risk posed by longline boats.

“The bottom line is that we thought juveniles experienced this risk out in the open ocean with longline fisheries,” said Brendan Godley from the University of Exeter.

“We thought that if you got them past that, then unless they’re being taken by inshore fisheries, you’re OK,” he told the BBC News website.

“But now you’ve got adults exposed to longline fisheries, which is very worrying.”

Flashblock Firefox extension – Browsing heaven

Flash on demand, get rid of those blinking parts of websites, only use flash for the good parts. – flashblock: index

Flashblock is an extension for the Mozilla, Firefox, and Netscape browsers that takes a pessimistic approach to dealing with Macromedia Flash content on a webpage and blocks ALL Flash content from loading. It then leaves placeholders on the webpage that allow you to click to download and then view the Flash content.

Bill to exempt factory farms from pollution laws

pigSmell manure?

FEED – May 2006

Congress may exempt factory farms from pollution laws Large agribusiness companies are pushing their friends in Congress to exempt factory farms from the pollution reporting and cleanup provisions in key pollution laws. The Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation and Liability Act (CERCLA, also known as Superfund) and the Emergency Planning and Community Right to Know Act (EPCRA) provide an essential safety net for protecting water supplies from livestock pollution and for providing warnings of toxic air emissions from factory farms. Over 140 representatives are supporting a bill, H.R. 4341, that would give this sweetheart deal to factory farms. The bill may soon be attached to a “must-pass” spending bill in an effort to speed this ill-conceived measure through Congress. Please call your representative and urge him or her to oppose this dangerous legislation. To learn more, read the Sierra Club’s fact sheet (pdf) on this issue.

Factory farms tend to be located in rural areas next to communities that do not have the power to stop them/mobilize against them. This provision will further stack the deck against these communities. Anyone who thinks manure, pesticide runoff, ammonia, etc are not hazardous to the ecosystem and to human health needs to live next to one of these “farms”. I am hazarding a really wild guess that Congressman Hall (the sponsor) does not have to deal with issues such as these.

Coral Reefs do not recover from warming induced bleaching

BBC NEWS | Science/Nature | Warming set to ‘devastate’ coral

Bleaching in 1998 occurred in all reef regions of the world; 16% of the world’s reefs were lost in that one year, alone. But the western Indian Ocean suffered most because of an interaction between El Nino and another periodic climate phenomenon called the Indian Ocean dipole.

In the seven years since, the damaged reefs have been largely unable to reseed. Many simply collapsed into rubble and became covered in algae.

This collapse removed food and shelter from predators for a large and diverse amount of marine life. The survey showed four fish species could already be locally extinct, and six species are at critically low levels.

The survey also revealed that the diversity of fish species in the heavily impacted sites had plummeted by about 50%.

Well, this is bad news, there has been earlier indication that coral reefs were not necessarily doomed by higher ocean temperatures because this would just cause a shift in the coral species to varieties thriving at higher temperatures/exhibiting adaptive behaviors. Obviously, this did not happen fast enough to regenerate the reef.

The Onion on Conservation

This is so sad, though there is more than a kernel of truth to it. Individual efforts mostly make people feel better about themselves (hey, I recycle, makes me feel good!). It is the Onion and it does go too far. Of course individual efforts add up, and more importantly, force the important players like government and big industry to modify their behavior just a little bit (at least that is what I tell myself).

I’m Doing My Inconsequential Part For The Environment | The Onion – America’s Finest News Source

Every day, without fail, I meticulously organize my recyclables into five distinct categories, thereby subtracting an eyedropper’s worth of garbage from the countless tons of waste that ferment in our landfills. It only takes a few extra minutes, but just think of the impact it totally lacks. I also refuse to use anything but “Earth-friendly” paper products—some of which contain up to 10 percent recycled materials. For me, it’s worth shouldering the extra cost, but, unfortunately, only a scant few of us bother to do the same. And growing some of my own organic vegetables in my backyard garden also, to my immense gratification, reduces the use of toxic chemical-based pesticides and herbicides present in corporate farming techniques by as much as 0.0000000000000000000000000000000000000001 percent.

PCBs love to sorb to oil

News of possible interest only to me. It seems obvious that oil present in sediment enhances sorption and storage of PCBs than soot/black carbon. After all, it is a liquid phase and is present in higher amounts than black carbon. PCBs are so hydrophobic that almost any organic material has a higher affinity for PCBs than water/sediment. Carbon is a strong PCB adsorbent only for planar PCBs, and then only if it is itself graphitic, hence planar. In all other cases, oil should outcompete  carbon for PCBs. Glad they found experimental evidence. In all my (three) years of analyzing for PCBs, the oily samples are always the highest concentration ones.

Oil Is a Sedimentary Supersorbent for Polychlorinated Biphenyls

Oil Is a Sedimentary Supersorbent for Polychlorinated Biphenyls

Michiel T. O. Jonker and Arjan Barendregt

Institute for Risk Assessment Sciences, Utrecht University, P.O. Box 80176, 3508 TD Utrecht, The Netherlands

Received for review January 18, 2006

Revised manuscript received April 10, 2006

Accepted April 11, 2006


The often-observed enhanced sorption of hydrophobic organic chemicals (HOCs) to sediments is frequently attributed to the presence of soot and soot-like materials. However, sediments may contain other hydrophobic phases, such as weathered oil residues. Previous experiments have shown that these residues can be efficient sorbents for certain PAHs. In this study we investigated sorption of PCBs to sediments contaminated with different concentrations and types of oils, and from that derived oil-water distribution coefficients (Koil). Sorption of PCBs to both fresh and weathered oils was proportional to sorbate hydrophobicity, and no effects of PCB planarity were observed. Furthermore, the experiments demonstrated that different oils sorbed PCBs similarly and extensively (Koil up to 108.3 for PCB 169), and that weathering caused an almost 2-fold increase in sorption of the lower chlorinated PCBs. Koil values indicated that at the PCB equilibrium concentrations tested (pg-ng/L range), for many congeners weathered oil is a stronger sorbent than pure soot and soot-like materials. Due to attenuation of adsorption to the latter materials in sediments (caused by competitive adsorption with organic matter), sedimentary weathered oil will therefore, if present as a separate phase, defeat sedimentary soot, coal, and charcoal as PCB sorbent in most cases. Consequently, weathered oil probably is the ultimate sedimentary sorbent for PCBs and should be included in HOC fate models.

Federal Study Results in Invention of Wheel

Federal Study Finds Accord on Warming – New York Times

A scientific study commissioned by the Bush administration concluded yesterday that the lower atmosphere was indeed growing warmer and that there was “clear evidence of human influences on the climate system.”

Wait, we still need to study this more, we need to eliminate all uncertainty before we act, we need more proof, we need to be more certain :-;