Thursday, October 29, 2015

New Conservation Biology Book for Africa

Posted by Richard Primack

There is a great need for a conservation biology textbook focusing on Africa. Meg Boeni, a BU Kilachand Honors College student and journalism major, and Johnny Wilson, a University of Pretoria post-doc based in North Carolina, will join me in producing a free on-line version of a Primer of Conservation Biology, revised and adapted for Africa. This edition will contain abundant African examples contributed by researchers living and working in the region. The goal will be to have this available for course use by April 2016.

Richard Primack, Meg Boeni and Johnny Wilson at working meeting at Boston University. 

Friday, October 23, 2015

Thoreau in Yellowstone

New research project seeks to replicate Concord work in Wyoming

Posted by Richard Primack

In September I traveled to Wyoming to meet with ecologists Corrina Riginos and Geneva Chong who plan to monitor the effects of climate change on the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem. Their project will be similar to our work with Thoreau and Concord, building on past observations made by the noted naturalist Frank Craighead. 

Figure 1. Geneva, Corinna, and me in the foothills of the Tetons.

After a visit to Teton National Park, we had a two-day field trip to Yellowstone National Park. This was particularly exciting for me as examples from Yellowstone have been featured in editions of my conservation biology textbooks. After two days in the park, I concluded that Yellowstone features world-class large mammals, geothermal features, and mountain scenery in a safe and accessible setting. The highlight of the trip was watching a pack of ten wolves playing in a field. The enormous number of tourists was surprising, and this was not even the height of the season. 

Figure 2. Bison grazing in the Lamar Valley of Yellowstone. Note that there is minimal regeneration of tree seedlings.

I came to understand that the bison, wolves, elk, and bear are all extensively managed by park officials, so that Yellowstone is not a true wilderness. The simple story that wolves were re-introduced to the park, controlled elk numbers, and allowed the vegetation and ecosystem processes to return to their natural balance, is an over-simplification of a complicated story. 

Figure 3. Tourists at Prism Lake, with bright orange bacterial streaks growing in association with hot mineral water. These bacteria contribute enzymes that are important in the high temperature reactions used in the biotechnology industry.

Friday, October 9, 2015

A visual art project at Walden Pond

Posted by Lucy Zipf

On a beautiful September Sunday at Walden Pond, Richard and Dan Primack and I met Amy Howden-Chapman, a New Zealand artist who has recently relocated to Connecticut. Amy produces visual art pieces that detail anthropogenic change in our world in a manner that she describes as “more poetic and less documentary based.”

Amy interviewing Richard at historic Walden Pond

Amy’s current project examines the effects of a warming climate on Walden Pond and its surroundings, which she read about in Richard’s book Walden Warming. The goal is to encourage viewers to see examples of climate change in the plants and animals of their immediate environment, not just in far-away images of melting glaciers and hungry polar bears.

Amy and Richard at the site of Thoreau's cabin

We spent several hours walking along the trails surrounding the pond and talking about the changes we have already observed and that we expect to see in the coming years. We focused especially on invasive plant species and their competitive advantages over native species.

We look forward to seeing Amy’s project. Her completed works are available on her website: