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October 7, 2017

Post hurricane Irma in Daytona Beach, Florida. Six red mangrove trees washed up along a 5 mile stretch of beach. The trees were likely uprooted in the intracoastal waterway and entered the ocean through Ponce Inlet, about 10 miles south. It would be interesting to quantify the disturbance from this event on the state’s mangrove forests and if urban mangroves ( like those in Daytona Beach) are more vulnerable to such disturbances…

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June 21, 2017

As part of my research, I was tasked with finding the most and least urban mangroves in Puerto Rico. The definition of urban could certainly be debated, but in this case, I was interested in those sites that had the highest population density, the greatest coverage of developed land, and the least coverage of vegetated land and open water. These were all measured within 0.5km around equally spaced points in every mangrove of Puerto Rico. They were then combined into an “urban index”, which was scaled from 0 to 100 to show the relative urbannes of each site, with 100 being the most urban and 0 being the least urban. The results are shown below by watershed.

MangrovesPRUrbanIndex

MangrovesPRUrbanIndexMap

As you can see, and not surprisingly, the San Juan area has the most urban mangroves. But it also has some of the most pristine mangroves, given that the largest mangrove forest on the island is right next door in Piñones. Other watersheds with both highly urban and more pristine mangroves can be found in Ponce and around Levittown. These are ideal places to study urban mangroves, because control sites can be established in the same watershed, thus reducing the potential effects of changing  environmental conditions in different estuarine systems.


May 8, 2017

Success! After seemingly endless grant and funding proposals, I finally received a positive response. IDEA WILD will be granting me equipment for my research, including ARBIMON recorders, which I already have experience with and are incredible ecological tools, and a small handheld GPS. I am very grateful to IDEA WILD, which has a rich history of funding small conservation projects across the world. My proposal includes a promise to donate my equipment to the San Juan Bay Estuary Program, where I hope they will continue to be used long after I finish my degree. Thanks, IDEA WILD!


Jan 21, 2017

L.R. Holdridge reached out and touched me across the scientific ether. I have been sampling historic herbarium samples of mangroves from my study area, the San Juan Bay Estuary, and was floored to see that some of them were collected in the 1930’s by non other than the pioneer and godfather of global life-zone classification, Leslie Ransellaer Holdridge. He also happens to be the founder of La Selva Biological Station in Costa Rica, by far the most productive tropical field station in the world, and as it happens, the place I am currently studying as part of an OTS graduate program. Sometimes there are coincidences in life that should be written about on a blog. At least I know the samples were likely handled with care….

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Sep 10, 2016

Although the US has yet to see a major shift in climate policy, its refreshing to see President Obama claim his efforts to curb climate change as his most important legacy.


Aug 9, 2016

Ever wonder where the best place in the world would be to study urban mangroves? I would say you need to find a city with the biggest possible range of “urbanness”. Make measurements in mangroves in the middle of the city, and then repeat along a gradient towards the most pristine mangroves that are still within the same system….If urbanness is represented as an index value which includes population density, the amount of built-up or impervious land/the amount of vegetated land, and the amount of open water, then the following cities would be ideal urban mangrove research cities. 100 in the urban index is the most urban mangroves and 1 is the least urban mangroves. The mangroves you seek are in Recife, Brazil…

GlobalMangroveCitiesSmallSize

Recife2


Jan 11, 2016

With the passing of David Bowie, a major influence in western music and in my more malleable college days…., I was reminded of another leader in a far different realm. Commander Chris Hadfield of the Canadian Space Agency and NASA has been an inspiration in space and submersible exploration and habitation. He is also quite likely the most expressive inhabitant of the ISS and is somewhat famous for his videos beamed down to Earth. This includes the first ever music video shot in space, with a version of “Space Oddity”, by David Bowie, who called it, “quite possible the most poignant version of the song ever created”.


Dec 20, 2015

The Paris Climate Conference recently finished with lots of fanfare surrounding its success and the commitment many nations have made to begin reducing their emissions. In following the results of the conference, I began to wonder what this might mean for the world’s mangrove forests.  Although much of the focus of COP21 was centered on emissions and the transition away from fossil fuels, there were also talks on reforestation, which has the potential to capture and store significant amounts of atmospheric carbon. Much of this potential lies in vast expanses of tropical forests, such as those in South America, Africa, and the Indo-Pacific. Indeed, these forests and the nations that harbor them will continue to be critical to buffering global climate change. Mangroves, however, are surprisingly absent from the discussion. While this is not entirely surprising, considering mangroves represent only 0.7% of tropical forest area and only 1% of forest carbon sequestration, other numbers paint a different picture of the role of mangroves in the context of global climate change. Mangrove deforestation is occurring at alarming rates, 35% lost from 1980 to 2000, exceeding the loss of tropical rain forests and coral reefs. It is estimated that this loss of mangroves could account for up to 10% of global carbon emissions due to deforestation. Further, considering these systems are capable of rapid accretion due to their high productivity, they are able to adapt to rising sea levels that present significant challenges to small island nations, who were a big part of COP21. For me, this means mangroves will play an important role in the future of changing climate and rising seas.


Nov 19, 2015

“…And so they invented the scientific journal, as a way of synchronizing the argument across the community of natural sciences…”
–Clay Shirky

I spend a surprisingly large portion of my life reading scientific material that has been made available through the scientific community. Sometimes, however, I do not have access to publications, and am required to pay a fee, which means I will likely never read that article. That’s unfortunate, because that one article could contain key information to my own scientific questions. This leaves me as a staunch advocate of open source publications, that are provided free of charge to all readers. It also leaves me as a suspicious onlooker of the information monopoly held by a small collection of publishers.

The TED radio hour touched on this recently and I found the history of open source scientific publication goes back to the origins of the scientific journal.

Open Source World: TED Radio Hour


Nov 11, 2015

As a student of urban ecology, one of the greatest challenges I see within my own research and within the scientific community as a whole, is a great lack of consensus on the definition of “urbanness”. We often describe sites as being urban, per-urban, non-urban, ex-urban, or rural, yet our individual perceptions of these terms may be vastly different than those who wrote them. As a result, it becomes very difficult to understand the influences of urban environments on urban ecology when we cannot validly compare one study to another. Results from a city of two million people, for example, are likely not comparable to one of five hundred thousand, yet we would probably describe both as being urban. Similarly, a city of two million people in an industrialized nation will likely be very different from the same sized city in a developing nation, presenting the additional challenge of describing cities using more than one metric. Fortunately, there are those who have come before me and have already sounded the bugle. Hopefully the right people are listening:

MacGregor-Fors, I. 2011. Misconceptions or misunderstandings? On the standardization of basic terms and definitions in urban ecology. Landscape and Urban Planning 100:347-349.

McDonnell, M, and A Hahs. 2008. The use of gradient analysis studies in advancing our understanding of the ecology of urbanizing landscapes: current status and future directions. Landscape Ecology 23:1143-1155.

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August 25, 2015

I am a huge fan of the creative progeny that result when art and science hook up, so I was highly stimulated when I saw the artwork of Giuseppe Penone. Mr. Penone uses growth rings on large tree trunks to reveal how they looked when they were younger. Young branches meet the knots and stumps of the older trunk and the window that the artist creates is both physical, being a rectangular carving in the trunk, and temporal, as the inside of the carving is almost like looking back in time. Some of his pieces are enormous and I cannot imagine the time, dedication, and frustration required, which makes me feel better when I ask myself why I never think of things like this.

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August 11, 2015

Having lived in Louisiana and spent a long time thinking about its incredible coast, and even producing podcasts devoted to it, there is a special place in my science heart for deltas. Scientists have long recognized that a lack of sediment in the lower Mississippi, due to hundreds of dams upstream, are a primary culprit in Louisiana’s disappearing coast. So its nice to read about dam removal projects elsewhere in the country, which are not only revitalizing coastal deltas, but restoring historic fish breeding runs as well.

When Dams Come Down, Salmon and Sand Can Prosperimage

 July 31, 2015

The expansion of agriculture, largely to feed the growing demand for livestock, is a major contributor to the deforestation of tropical landscapes, where much of the planet’s biodiversity is also being lost. This has led to what many call the sixth great extinction as part of the Anthropocene (see post from July 15, 2015). A new study shows how agriculture and reforestation could coexist more sustainably, an important step for a future of 10 billion people with an appetite for meat.

Latawiec, AE, BBN Strassburg, PHS Brancalion, RR Rodrigues, and T Gardner. 2015. Creating space for large-scale restoration in tropical agricultural landscapes. Frontiers in Ecology and the Environment 13:211-218.Capture


July 24, 2015

Recently, I made a mini-research project on the urban mangroves of the Daytona Beach area in Florida, which includes portions of the Canaveral National Seashore. I measured the leaf morphology of three species of mangroves along an urban gradient and found that one of these characteristics was related to the population density of each study site. Further measurements will hopefully clarify the results.

FloridaResults FloridaStudySites


July  15, 2015

The Ecomodernist Manifesto…

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The concept of the Anthropocene is extremely powerful: that we as humans have had such a profound impact on the world, on its earth, atmosphere, and oceans, that our time here deserves its own geological nomenclature. Geological names are typically given according to the characteristics of the planet during their corresponding time periods. Officially, for instance, we are living in the Holocene, a period defined by a major change in global climate that has resulted in the retreat of glaciers and the establishment of entirely new ecosystems, as well as of human civilization. Before that was the Pleistocene, a period of repeated glaciation in which up to %30 of the planet was covered in ice. Now, geologists are proposing a new epoch, entitled the Anthropocene.  The reasoning for this switch, they argue, is found in changes in atmospheric composition (now being far more concentrated in CO2), biodiversity (high extinction rate), and geomorphology through erosion. It is an alarming concept that humans could so drastically change the planet so as to justify a change in its geological  record, and for that reason it is a controversial subject. In any case, the Ecomodernist Manifesto argues that it doesnt have to be so doom and gloom, and that through inovation,  we could make the Anthropocene an epoch to be proud of…


July 10, 2015

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Justin M. Krebs, Susan S. Bell, & Carole C. McIvor. “Assessing the Link Between Coastal Urbanization and the Quality of Nekton Habitat in Mangrove Tidal Tributaries”. (2013)

Justin M. Krebs, Carole C. McIvor, & Susan S. Bell. “Nekton Community Structure Varies in Response to Coastal Urbanization Near Mangrove Tidal Tributaries”. (2013)

Two articles documenting the relationship between the land use index (LUI) and the nekton ecology of mangroves. The authors conclude that coastal development seems to be negatively correlated with nekton community structure, in that urban mangroves are species poor and contain significantly fewer individuals of economically important fish species. This suggests that the poor habitat quality of urban mangroves is resulting in poor fish community assemblages in these systems. Individual fish physiology and reproduction, however, seem to tell a mixed story. Individuals from some of the species were in better physical condition in urban mangrove systems, and reproductive output is a balance between fecundity and offspring size between urban and non-urban systems. This study is the only investigation of urban mangroves that quantifies the urban envrionment and makes direct correlations between an urban index and metrics of urban ecology. Such studies are much needed as coastal environments face increasing pressure from urbanization and sea level rise.


Lugo, ACaptureriel E., Ernesto Medina,andKathleen McGinley. “Issues and Challenges of Mangrove conservationin the Anthropocene.” (2014).

An excellent review of the current state of mangroves, especially in the neo-tropics, and the challenges they will face in the human dominated future.  Complete with in-depth descriptions of mangrove eco-physiology and expected adaptations for coasts that are rapidly urbanizing, eutrophying, warming, and flooding.  A great resource for myself and anyone else interested in tropical coastal management.