Environmental reporter Josephine Marcotty writes about our place in nature through her coverage of the outdoors, wildlife, pollution and sustainability.

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Donations to defend climate science

Posted by: Josephine Marcotty Updated: September 26, 2011 - 11:41 AM


John Abraham, one of Minnesota's most famous climate scientists,  has started a legal defense fund for his colleagues who become the target of climage change deniers.

The fund is designed to help scientists like Pennsylvania State University's Michael Mann cope with the legal fees that stack up in fighting attempts by those who dispute their findings to gain access to their emails and other correspondence through lawsuits and Freedom of Information Act requests.

Mother Jones' Blue Marble blog has followed the issue.




John Abraham. Star Tribune photo.


Mann's personal legal fees are expected to run $10,000, which led Scott Mandia, a professor of physical sciences at New York's Suffolk Community College, and  Abraham, a professor of engineering at the University of St. Thomas, to launch the defense fund.

Mann, who developed the famous iconic hockey stick graphic showing the increase in global temperatures,  has long been a target of climate deniers.  Last month, he was cleared of yet another  allegation of misconduct in his climate research, this time by the National Science Foundation. 

Abraham said last week that so far they have raised $10,000. "We are working on setting up a more sustainable mechanism so that persons can donate to a long-term legal-defense fund that will support not only Dr. Mann but also other scientists who are targeted by these organizations," Abraham said in an email last week.

Abraham has always been at the forefront of the climate change fracas. In 2009 he sparked an internet sensation when he took apart the arguments of a famous climate change denier, Lord Christopher Monckton, who gave a talk at Bethel University in Arden Hills. Last year Abraham launched a "ready response team" website to quickly connect the news media to about 50 national experts on everything from polar bears to flooding in Pakistan to the influence of sun spots on the Earth's temperature.







Where will a wolf strike?

Posted by: Josephine Marcotty Updated: June 2, 2011 - 11:16 AM

 Future risk can be predicted from the past. That's true of traffic accidents, disease -- and now wolf attacks.  Researchers at the University of Wisconsin and the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources have created a new tool to help manage conflicts between wolves and people. They call it a risk map.





  Credit: Adrian Treves, University of Wisconsin. atreves@wisc.edu.

Using data on past wolf attacks on livestock and pets, they were able to accurately predict where almost all subsequent attacks would occur. They also found that almost all of them occurred in only 10 percent of the area where Wisconsin's 700-plus wolves roam. In short, only a few wolf packs are likely to be problems, they found.

Strategies to resolve human wolf conflicts will be critical next year when wolves in Minnesota, Wisconsin and Michigan are taken off the endangered species list. That means people can kill wolves who threaten their property. Historically, people have viewed all wolves as equally predatory.

"Around the world it is common for people to kill wildlife indiscriminately when they perceive them as threats," they said in the article  published this week in the journal BioScience. "To date, people have been largely unable tor unwilling to discriminate between individual culprits and nonculprits when addressing problems with wild animals. As a result, indiscriminate killing has been perceived as cost effective."

In fact, it often doesn't work, they said.For example, decades of government-financed, lethal coyote control have not succeeded in reducing sheep losses, they said.

Targeting intervention in problem areas, and problem wolves, will be a far more effective strategy, they said.

Minimizing conflicts between humans and wolves serves a dual purpose - it conserves biodiversity and, more importantly, the carnivores who are the top of the food chain and which perform a critical role in maintaining ecological balance around the world. And it would protect  human life and livelihood.

To build the map the researchers first tracked 211 wolf attacks on livestock between 1999 to 2006. Using that data, they were able to predict with 88 percent accuracy where attacks would occur in 2007 and 2009. They also incorporated wolf demographics, land-use and types of vegetation into their model.

The sites where attacks occurred most often were in open areas like pasture or grassland, where livestock were close to a known wolf pack range.  But there were wide open areas without forest that were virtually devoid of livestock.

"Our map suggests bringing livestock into these areas would generate a high risk of wolf attack," they said. But at the same time, open areas with a lot of livestock did not necessarily equate with a higher risk of predation, they said.

Risk maps like theirs could be used all over the world to predict conflicts with animals from bears to lynx to tigers to elephants. Many of these animals are increasingly living in less glamorous landscapes like Wisconsin, rather than wilderness.

Preventing attacks is by far the best solution, they said,  one that would safeguard rare animals. 

"However, a key prerequisite  is for ... the public to relinquish the outdated view that all predators are problems," they said.

A bear in Woodbury

Posted by: Josephine Marcotty Updated: May 19, 2011 - 9:54 AM



A bear has been sited "bounding through Woodbury,"  according to a report posted today by the Woodbury Bulletin.





According to a police report, a Woodbury woman called at 5:18 a.m. to report that she saw it moving northbound through a wetland area west of Woodbury Lakes and east of the vacant State Farm Insurance Co. building property. The bear was last seen moving northwest in a wooded area north of a swamp, the news site reported.

Police couldn't find it. But a man walking his dog  also reported seeing it. The man told police the bear had traveled across Hudson Road from the swampy area south of Woodbury Lakes.

Police said the bear might have wandered away down a large storm water culvert under Interstate 94, which an officer said appeared large enough to conceal a bear. The culvert also was in the bear’s general direction of travel. Let's hope he finds his way under the highway.  Bears and suburbs just aren't a good combination. 



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