Category Archives: Humor

Amusing Monday: Salish Sea photo contest shows diversity of local species

Nearly 900 photographs highlighting the diversity and biodiversity of our inland waterways were submitted to the “Salish Sea in Focus” photo contest, which just announced the winners yesterday.

“One Fish, Two Fish” by Nirupam Nigam of Hoquiam
First place in Fish category, “Salish Sea in Focus” photo contest

“We’re thrilled with the quality and diversity of the photos — not only the winners but throughout the whole contest,” said Justin Cox, communications director for The SeaDoc Society, which sponsored the contest. “They capture the Salish Sea beautifully, which is everything we hoped for when we envisioned ‘Salish Sea In Focus.’”

The Grand Prize in the contest was awarded to Bruce Kerwin of Bainbridge Island, whose photo shows the furled tentacles of a giant Pacific octopus at Sund Rock on Hood Canal. Other winners were named in five categories plus an additional award for photographers under age 18.

“Octopus tentacle in a spiral” by Bruce Kerwin of Bainbridge Island
Grand Prize winner, “Salish Sea in Focus” photo contest

The winners will be recognized during a reception and awards ceremony Oct. 4 at Pacific Science Center in Seattle. In addition, the top 130 images — taken by a total of 55 photographers — will be shown on the IMAX screen. In addition to photographers from Washington, entries were received from 10 other states in the U.S., along with Canada and two other countries.

The winning photos can be seen on SeaDoc’s photo contest website, while the 130 top photos are available on a separate webpage.

“T73A1” by Ken Rea of Friday Harbor
First place, Birds and Mammals category, “Salish Sea in Focus” photo contest

The winners in each of the categories follows below. Click on the photo for a larger image. The Grand Prize winner will receive $1,000, with $500 for first place, $250 for second place and $100 for third place.

Birds and mammals
First place,
“T73A1” by Ken Rea of Friday Harbor, showing a transient killer whale breaching; second place, “Look out, landing” by Eric Carr of Port Townsend, showing a pair of pigeon guillemots somewhat awkwardly dropping down toward the water for a landing; and third place, “Cleat Pillow” by Bruce Carpenter of Tacoma, showing a sleeping sea lion resting its head on a cleat used for docking boats in Westport.

Fish
First place,
“One Fish, Two Fish” by Nirupam Nigam of Hoquiam, showing “two lazy rockfish” at Sund Rock on Hood Canal; second place, “Lingcod eats octopus” by Jan Kocian of Freeland, showing the tentacles of an octopus hanging out of the mouth of a lingcod; and third place, “Painted greenling eats sculpin,” also by Jan Kocian, showing a battle between a potential predator and its prey.

“Caspian Tern Catch” by Faith Halko of Bainbridge Island // First place, Under 18 category, “Salish Sea in Focus” photo contest

Invertebrates, plants, kelp
First place,
“Nudibranch eating fish eggs” by Jeffrey Martel of Bainbridge Island, showing a colorful mollusk amidst transparent fish eggs; second place, “Purple world” by Gino Symus, showing an orange sea star among a cluster of purple ones; third place, “Red Curtain” by Nirupam Nigam of Hoquiam, showing a white-spotted rose anemone at Eagle Cove on San Juan Island.

People
First place,
“Fisherman” by Pat O’Hara of Port Angeles, showing a person with a fishing net at the mouth of the Dungeness River as the sun goes down; second place, “The Young Ones” by Robert Dash of Deer Harbor, showing a child looking up into a holding tank of small fish at Seattle Aquarium; third place, “Whose beach is it?” by Joan Miller of Seattle, showing crows and surfers sharing the beach at Tofino on Vancouver Island.

“Fisherman” by Pat O’Hara of Port Angeles
First place, People category, “Salish Sea in Focus” photo contest

Scapes
First place,
“Sunset” by Robert Dash of Deer Harbor, showing the yellow and orange swirls of clouds at Yellow Island in the San Juans; second place, “Tree of Life in Mud” by Christopher Teren of Friday Harbor, showing tide channels that look like a tree in the Skagit Bay mudflats; third place, “Northern Lights Over the Salish Sea,” also by Christopher Teren, showing aurora borealis as seen from the shoreline of Stuart Island in the San Juans.

Under age 18
First place,
“Caspian Tern Catch” by Faith Halko of Bainbridge Island, showing a Caspian tern with a fish in its mouth over Hawley Cove Park on Bainbridge Island; second place, “Barnacle on a log” by Krystal Luchterhand of Orcas Island, showing a barnacle on a log near West Sound, Orcas Island; third place, “Heron at Sunset” by Nathan Bawaan of Seattle, showing a great blue heron before an orange sunset at Union Bay Natural Area near Lake Washington.

Three award-winning photographers who live in the Salish Sea region were placed in charge of judging the photographs. As described on the “Our Judges” page, they are:

  • Amy Gulick, a founding fellow of the International League of Conservation Photographers and columnist for “Outdoor Photographer” magazine whose images and stories have been featured in “Sierra,” “Audubon,” and “National Wildlife” magazines.
  • Cristina Mittermeier, a marine biologist who turned National Geographic photographer and was named by Outdoor Magazine as one of the world’s 40 most influential outdoor photographers.
  • Kevin Schafer, a natural history photographer who has written more than 10 books and was awarded the 2000 National Outdoor Book Award and was named the 2007 Outstanding Nature Photographer of the Year by the North American Nature Photography Association.

Amusing Monday: Value of water featured in art contest for students

More than 1,300 students entered this year’s Water Resources Art and Poetry Contest, sponsored by New York City’s water utility, known as the Department of Environmental Protection. Some 60 winners were named as “Water Champions” by a panel of judges.

Art by Lily H., grades 6–7.
Photo: New York City DEQ Art and Poetry Contest

“For more than three decades, DEP’s annual Art and Poetry Contest has given young New Yorkers a wonderful opportunity to use their artistic abilities to learn about and express the importance of protecting our environment and water resources,” DEP Commissioner Vincent Sapienza said in a press release announcing the contest winners. “Nearly half the State of New York relies on the city’s water supply system, so this is a terrific way for students in both New York City and beyond to celebrate our shared natural resources.”

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Amusing Monday: Tying gentrification to climate change with humor

“The North Pole,” a seven-part online political comedy, provides some amusing social connections between climate change and the gentrification of aging neighborhoods.

Set in North Oakland, Calif., the story revolves around close friends who have grown up in the area and find themselves struggling against landlords, corporate greed and ultimately their own social consciences. The setting could just as easily have been Seattle or any other city in which low-income housing is being displaced by condos and cute corner malls.

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Amusing Monday: Ten new species, each with unique stories to tell

An international team of taxonomists has chosen the “Top 10 New Species of 2018” from among some 18,000 new species named last year.

They range from the large — a majestic tree that is critically endangered — to the small — a microscopic single-celled organism discovered in an aquarium with no obvious connection to any known species.

They include a fish that has survived in the deepest, darkest part of the Pacific Ocean — at record depth — with credit for its discovery going to a team of scientists led by a University of Washington researcher.

The list of new species also includes a rare great ape — an orangutan that has been identified as a separate species — as well as a prehistoric marsupial lion identified from fossils found in Australia.

The 11th annual list is compiled by the International Institute for Species Exploration at the College of Environmental Science and Forestry at the State University of New York.

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Amusing Monday: Duck paintings help support wetland conservation

Artists possess the creative power to portray a simple bird — say a male mallard duck — in a multitude of ways, something I never really appreciated until I reviewed hundreds of duck portraits in the Federal Duck Stamp Contest.

The acrylic painting of mallard ducks by Bob Hautman of Delano, Minn., took first place in the Federal Duck Stamp Contest. // Photo: USFWS

Judges in the annual contest seem to prefer a super-realistic style. Each year, the winning entry is used to create a federal duck stamp, which are the stamps that waterfowl hunters must carry while hunting. They are also purchased by many people who care about conservation.

Details in the duck portraits are important, but it is also interesting to observe the landscapes that the artists place in the backgrounds and foregrounds of their pictures. Take a look at the Flickr page where 215 entries are shown in the latest contest sponsored by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. Eligible species for this year’s contest were the mallard, gadwall, cinnamon teal, blue-winged teal and harlequin duck.

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Amusing Monday: Wildlife cameras keep advancing in technology

There’s nothing like spending some relaxing time in a natural environment. It does a body good — mentally and physically — to go into new or familiar surroundings while basking in the full-bodied sights and sounds of a forest, a stream or a marine shoreline.

We are fortunate in the Puget Sound region to have easy and free (or low-cost) access to all sorts of natural places. If we are lucky, we may catch a glimpse of wildlife and incorporate the sighting into our memory of that place.

What we don’t normally see, however, are the natural behaviors of wildlife away from people, because the presence of humans often changes what they are doing — nor would we want to impose on their lives any more than we already do.

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Amusing Monday: ‘Raw water’ craze strikes a nerve with comedians

While world health officials are trying to bring clean drinking water to sickly communities around the globe, there appears to be an upstart movement promoting so-called “raw water,” which is said to be considerably better for your health than pure clean water.

Raw water, by definition, is left untreated and reported to contain living organisms that provide health benefits. One brand, aptly named Live Water, is selling for more than $6 a gallon. You are advised to drink it within a month to prevent it from turning green, presumably from the growth of organisms.

The movement, which seems to encourage people to go out in search of natural springs, grew rapidly in California with the help of a guru-like character who changed his name from Chris Sanborn to Mukhande Singh. The whole story has been just too good of a setup for comedians to ignore.

There are some very amusing lines in the videos shown on this page, but I thought I should begin with a video that actually puts the issue into a serious context. Reporter Gabrielle Karol of KOIN-TV in Portland produced an investigative report two weeks ago. She found that the source of “Live Water” is a bottling and distribution plant in Oregon.

The raw water craze is a concept that can be shaped to any comedic style — from (in order of videos on this page) Jordan Klepper, Desi Lydic of The Daily Show and Steven Colbert.

The fifth video shows a costumed Jeff Holiday, appearing as Hemlock Moonwolf. Jeff is a YouTube regular who describes himself as a “humble neuroscience student using his free time to debunk bad science, discuss current issues with logic and have a good time.”

Even NPR’s “Wait Wait … Don’t Tell Me” radio show got in on the humor with a limerick:

I head to the spring with a straw,
Sip a glacier that’s fresh off the thaw.
No fluoride or filter
Will throw me off kilter.
I only drink water that’s ___.

Guest participant Andrea Chabot: “Raw? … What?”

Host Peter Sagal: “Move over, kombucha and turmeric powder; there’s a new reason to hate millennial hipsters. It’s called raw water. Unfiltered, untreated, unsterilized water. Who hasn’t had a glass of water and thought, this is nice, but it needs more E. coli?

“You see, these risk-taking, hip millennials do not want boring, safe tap water. No, they want to know that every sip might be their last. Apparently, they say taste is a big factor here. One person said, quote, “it has a vaguely mild sweetness, a nice smooth mouthfeel, nothing that overwhelms the flavor profile,” unquote. Not to worry — I want to assure you that person was immediately slapped in the face.”

Tamar Haspel, who writes the blog “Unearthed” for the Washington Post, says, “I think the biggest reason that people are willing to pay $6 a gallon for water that comes straight to them from deep in the earth’s bowels is that they are suspicious of the water that comes straight to them from the kitchen faucet. It’s the chemicals and the drug residues and leached lead and the duck poop…”

She goes on to discuses what can be found in raw water and the potential health benefits or lack thereof.

If I can offer one final video, check out at the bottom by ZDoggMD, who is a physician and “purveyor of the finest medical satire.” He puts a personal spin on the issue before relating the raw water movement to the Dunning-Kruger effect, a psychological term defined as “a cognitive bias in which people of low ability have illusory superiority and mistakenly assess their cognitive ability as greater than it is (Wikipedia).”

Whoa there, Dr. Zogg. That’s getting a little deep, but I do like the line he offers on his website: “Drinking raw water? Let’s party like it’s 1699!”

ZDoggMD admits that he actually grew up drinking raw water, like many people in Kitsap County who drink untreated water from a private well or a small water system. Well water meets the definition of “raw,” I guess, but water that comes from a deep underground supply is unlikely to have much of the algae, viruses and bacteria that some people seem to crave.

Amusing Monday: Young artists inspired by endangered species

I’m hoping you will enjoy another dose of kids’ art, this time related to endangered species. An art contest was recently completed in concert with the 13th annual Endangered Species Day, which was this past Friday.

“Hawksbill Sea Turtle” by grand prize winner Brandon Xie, a fourth-grader in Lexington, Mass.
Image: Endangered Species Coalition

More than 1,500 students from around the United States entered this year’s “Saving Endangered Species Youth Art Contest,” according to organizers. The goal of the contest is to encourage public appreciation for imperiled wildlife and to increase support for saving endangered species.

“The artwork created by this generation of young people is clearly demonstrating how they think deeply about the plight of endangered species,” said Leda Huta, executive director of the Endangered Species Coalition, which sponsors the contest. “It is clear that they recognize not just our role in impacting wildlife and plants, but also our opportunities to bring them back from the brink of extinction. Each work of art is an inspiration to all of us to do more, to save more,” she said in a statement.

“Humpback Whale” by first-place winner Erin Dong, a ninth grader from Santa Clara, Calif.
Image: Endangered Species Coalition

The grand prize winner is Brandon Xie, a fourth-grader in Lexington, Mass. He received his award last week in Washington, D.C., during a reception of the Association of Zoos and Aquariums. His prize will include art supplies and a lesson from a professional wildlife artist.

The first-place winner in the art contest is Erin Dong, a ninth grader from Santa Clara, Calif. Top winners in the various grade categories:

  • Kindergarten-second grade: Sean Lam, a first-grader in Great Neck, N.Y.
  • Grades 3-5: : Kyle Xu, a third-grader in East Brunswick, N.J.
  • Grades 6-8: Maggie Wu, a sixth-grader in Great Neck, N.Y.
  • Grades 9-12: Colin Phillips, an 11th-grader in Ikemos, Mich.

See all the winners on the Endangered Species Coalition website.

“Blue-tailed Skink” by kindergarten-second grade winner Sean Lam, a first-grader in Great Neck, N.Y.
Image: Endangered Species Coalition

Contest winners were selected by a panel of prestigious artists, photographers and conservationists, who first narrowed down the entries to 40 semi-finalists (10 for each category). The artwork can be viewed by following links on the Endangered Species Coalition website.

Judges included Wyland, a renowned marine life artist; Jack Hanna, host of Jack Hanna’s Into the Wild; David Littschwager, a freelance photographer and contributor to National Geographic Magazine; Susan Middletown, a photographer whose work has been published in four books; and Alice Tangerini, botanical illustrator for the Smithsonian Institution.

The Endangered Species Coalition recently celebrated the successful recovery of 12 listed species. The 12 species and their descriptions can be found on the ESC blog:

  • Bald eagle
  • American alligator
  • Green sea turtle
  • Piping plover
  • Peregrine falcon
  • Channel Island fox
  • Humpback whale
  • Puerto Rican parrot
  • Robbins’ Cinquefoil
  • Whooping crane
  • Brown pelican
  • California condor

Students reflect on impact of marine debris in annual art contest

NOAA’s annual Marine Debris Art Contest continues to attract creative students able to spread the message about how loose trash can escape into the ocean and harm sea creatures.

Zilan C., a Michigan second-grader, was one of 13 winners in this year’s Marine Debris Art Contest.
Image: Courtesy of NOAA

“The ocean is the ocean animals’ home, not a trash can,” writes Zilan C., a Michigan second-grader who drew the first picture on this page. “Everyone should keep the debris out of the ocean and save the ocean animals’ home!”

“Plastics, rubber, paper and other lost or discarded items enter the ocean and lakes everyday,” said Yufei F., a Michigan fifth grader who created the second piece. “Everyone can do our part in reducing and preventing marine debris. We can also join in cleaning the beach and clean our streets. When everyone takes action, we can keep our ocean clean.”

Yufei F., a Michigan fifth grader, is another winner in the Marine Debris Art Contest.
Image: Courtesy of NOAA

More than 450 entries were submitted to the national contest this year. The 13 winning entries will become part of a 2019 Marine Debris Calendar, with artwork adorning the cover and representing each month. The calendar will be available for download later this year.

The 2018 calendar can be downloaded now from the website of NOAA’s Marine Debris Program. Entries for the annual art contest are submitted in the fall.

Organizers do not release the full names of the winners or even the name of the town they are from, but a first-grade student from Washington state, Lillie H., was listed among the winners this year.

A first-grader from Washington state, Lillie F., is another winner in the Marine Debris Art Contest.
Image: Courtesy of NOAA

“Marine debris impacts sea life and our ecosystems,” Lillie writes. “I will use less plastic material to help keep our waters clean.”

Perhaps my favorite picture of all time is still the one entered in 2013 by Minty Little, who was a seventh grader at Fairview Junior High School in Central Kitsap at the time. See Water Ways, March 18, 2013. (Minty’s school released her full name.) I guess the NOAA folks must like the picture too, because it remains the banner artwork for the website promoting the art contest.

All 13 winners can be seen in the Flickr slideshow below. Click on any image to see the artist’s quote about marine debris. For information about marine debris, including graphics and videos, go to the Discover Page of the Marine Debris Program.

2018 Art Contest Winners

Amusing Monday: Methane emissions from a moo-ving source

My wife Sue and I just returned from a two-week vacation that included a road trip through several western states. In addition to wildlife, we noticed thousands of little methane factories scattered across public and private lands.

I’m talking about cattle, of course, and their role in climate change. I have to admit that gaseous emissions from cows seems like a often-told joke. (Question: What do you call a cow fart? Answer: dairy-air.) But methane from cattle is a serious problem with worldwide effects. The millions of dollars in research being conducted to reduce bovine emissions is strong testimony to the level of concern.

Stories I have read on this topic often relate the amount of gases coming from a single cow to the effects of driving a car.

In fact, so much has been written about cow farts and climate change — mainly for the sake of humor — that I thought that the rear of the cow was the source of the biggest problems. It turns out that far more methane gets released from the other end, in the form of gaseous burps from the mouth.

A recent study, funded by NASA’s Carbon Monitoring System, concluded that the worldwide problem of methane from cattle is 11 percent worse than estimates reported in 2006 by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. The new study involved more precise estimates of methane production in a cow’s gut as well as that produced during manure management.

In the U.S. and Canada, methane production from total cattle operations was found to be 24 percent higher than previous estimates, largely because of open-air manure management. In Europe, more farmers are using methods that contain the methane, often using it for energy. The study was published in the journal “Carbon Balance and Management” and reviewed in “Popular Science.”

As greenhouse gases, methane is more potent than carbon dioxide, yet the amount released into the atmosphere is far less. The international goal is to reduce emissions of both gases to slow the average warming of the planet.

Researchers have found that feeding cattle different types of grains or silage can reduce the amount of methane produced by bacteria in the stomachs of cattle. Feedstocks effective in reducing methane include garlic and onions, but a major problem for dairy farmers is that those products can change the taste of the milk that cows produce.

One farm in Vermont began supplementing its cattle feed with cooked flax. The result was not only less methane coming from the cows, but the milk itself contained a higher level of beneficial omega 3 fatty acids.

Ongoing research is finding that a diet for cattle high in carbohydrates and/or fats can result in less methane production. Using ground or pellet forms of forage may reduce the time of passage through the cow, thus reducing methane production. See news release from the University of Nebraska – Lincoln.

A story published last week in the online “Feed Navigator” discusses the complexity of the issue. Changing feedstocks can affect cattle and their emissions in different ways. One must account for the effects of growing the feedstocks, handling the manure generated and the health for both the cattle eating the forage and the humans consuming the milk or meat, according to the article by Aerin Einstein-Curtis.

“We have it very tight where we follow the diets, and we know the diets produce a certain type of manure, with certain emissions, and this is what you get out of it,” said Michael Wattiaux, professor of dairy systems management at the University of Wisconsin, who was quoted in the article. “One thing that I could see in terms of practical recommendations is maybe you want to have the agronomist and soil scientist and nutritionist all in the same room at the same time.”