Category Archives: Humor

Amusing Monday: Watching wildlife around the world

You can learn a lot about the birds and the bees — not to mention the bears and a whole lot of other creatures — by watching a live telecast among hundreds of webcams fixed on wildlife in every corner of the globe.

Each location has its own story and its own history, but many existing webcams are coming under the support and networking of Explore.org, an educational program funded by the Annenberg Foundation, with special attention from Charles Annenberg Weingarten.

One live cam is situated near an osprey nest on Hog Island (first video), an educational nature camp in Maine that has been associated with Audubon since 1936. Today, Hog Island Audubon Camp is operated by Project Puffin, which is part of National Audubon Society’s Science Division.

Staff at the camp are among the best at providing context for what we are seeing at the osprey nest, which can be viewed 24 hours a day. For example, here are yesterday’s notes, which you can access by clicking on “Pop comments” — a feature found on all Explore.org websites:

“Happy Sunday, Osprey Friends! Drum roll please! Our chicks have been named by Hog Island’s staff and instructors. May I present to you:

  • Halley, the female chick – banded as EU – is named after the osprey’s species name haliaetus
  • Dion, the male chick – banded ES – is named after the genus of the Osprey (Pandion)

The recent adventures of this osprey family include an incident in which the mother, Rachel, was injured on July 9. She was seen flying off as another pair of ospreys approached, and there was also an eagle in the area. When Rachel returned, she was not able to stand, and it was clear that she had a problem with her left leg. She stayed in the nest, unable to eat or feed her chicks at first, but she has been recovering and doing much better day by day. Worried people from all over the country have posted hundreds of comments as they watch Rachel get back to her daily duties.

Another great osprey cam is located at Dunrovin Guest Ranch along the Bitterroot River near Missoula in Western Montana. I can’t begin to discuss dozens of other live cams at nesting sites, but you can go to Explore.org’s website and click on “birds” at the top of the page.

As for bees, one can become hypnotized by watching the strange vibrations of honey bees in a hive in the town of Waal in Bavaria, Germany. An infrared camera shows the activities of the bees inside the hive (second video) , while a second camera captures the comings and goings of these fascinating insects. (Fullscreen, of course, is the only way to watch these videos.)

We must not forget the bears of Brooks Falls in Katmai National Park in Alaska, which is watched on computer and cell-phone screens by thousands of people each day. I don’t think there is a more popular wildlife cam on the web. Besides the main view at the falls (third video), there are other cameras on the river and even one under the water to catch a glimpse of salmon passing by. Go to Brooks Falls Brown Bears.

The Brooks Falls bears are so popular because you can almost always see these large animals doing their best to catch salmon, and the scene is constantly changing.

It is a different situation if you want to catch a view of orcas. The serene view at Cracroft Point in Johnstone Strait in British Columbia is said to be one of the most common foraging areas for the Northern Resident killer whales. Boats move through this area fairly frequently, and if you watch long enough you might see whales. Notes from OrcaLab about the whales’ location may be helpful.

If you don’t see something worth watching in one of the coastal cameras, you can click on the highlight videos on Explore.org. The cameras are maintained by OrcaLab, a research station on Hanson Island founded by Paul Spong.

One thing I should mention about all these live cams: If nothing is happening at the moment, you can usually put your curser on the timeline and scroll backward until something interesting comes into the picture. Sometimes, however, such scrolling will take you to a highlight video, so it’s important to know when you are seeing a live view and when you are not.

From Explore.org, click on “Oceans” and you might be amazed at the number of live shots you can see. At the time I am writing this, a diver is giving a lesson about sea life to a group of students visiting the Aquarium of the Pacific in Long Beach, Calif.

One of my favorite wildlife cams is one operated independently for years at Pete’s Pond in Mashatu Game Reserve in Botswana. The webcam currently is offline, although a note on the Wild Earth website says it will return under the direction of Africam, which is associated with Explore.org.

Meanwhile, I’ve been enjoying a somewhat similar Africam webcam at Tembe Elephant Park situated along the ancient “Ivory Route” between Mozambique and Zululand in Northern Tongaland. If you scroll back through the recording, you are likely to see a number of interesting wildlife. I’m always amazed that we can watch incredible wildlife in real time on the opposite side of the globe.

While not always about wildlife, many of the national parks have live webcams of various views — often very scenic — that provide current or nearly current conditions as you would see them if you were there. In Olympic National Park, for example, the view from Hurricane Ridge is magnificent — if the clouds don’t get in the way. Turning to Mount Rainier National Park, I can get into a peaceful frame of mind just looking at the area around Paradise or Longmire. For a list of all available webcams at national parks and monuments, check out the list compiled by John William Uhler.

Amusing Monday: Mysterious shipworms brought back for study

The vessel, though her masts be firm,
Beneath her copper bears a worm….

Far from New England’s blustering shore,
New England’s worm her hulk shall bore,
And sink her in the Indian seas,
Twine, wine, and hides, and China teas.

Selected lines from “Though All the Fates,” Henry David Thoreau

Tall-masted wooden ships of a bygone era were often plagued by shipworms, which could turn a ship’s hull into something resembling swiss cheese. Many shipwrecks were blamed on structural weakness caused by shipworms, of which there are an amazing variety of species.

Shipworms are not actually worms but long, skinny clams. It turns out that the slimy mollusks are well known among residents of the Philippines, where the elongated clams are hunted in unusual places and eaten with delight. Stories of strange freshwater shipworms in the Philippines have been tracked down by researchers, who are making new discoveries about these ancient creatures.

In a research paper published last month, an international team of scientists reported on a shipworm that eats rocks. Like the shipworms that eat wood, this newly described species uses the shell at the end of its body for burrowing. The difference is that the rock-boring clam seems to grind up and digest rocks while excreting sandy fragments.

Wood-boring shipworms have come under recent attention for their ability to digest wood with the assistance of symbiotic bacteria. Some researchers hope the bacteria will be useful in discovering new antibiotics or in the development of new sources of organic-based fuels.

What benefit the rock-boring species might be getting by eating rocks has not yet been identified. Perhaps they use the ground-up rocks to digest plankton that they suck from the water. Perhaps they are extracting some unknown nutrients from the rocks.

Lithoredo abatanica, rock-eating shipworm
Photo: Dan Distel, Northeastern University

In search of the mystical rock-eating clam, the researchers traveled to the Abatan River near Bohol, Philippines, an area with mudstone cliffs, according to Reuben Shipway, lead author of the paper published in Proceedings of the Royal Society.

“We actually got a really good tip-off from one of the locals, who must have been quite bemused by what we were doing,” said Shipway, quoted in a news release by Laura Castañón of Northeastern University. “They said, ‘Look in the rocks on the bottom of the river and you’ll be able to find these animals.’”

Genetic studies of the bacteria from the rock-eating clams are underway, according to Daniel Distel of Northeastern University, another member of the research team, called Philippine Mollusk Symbiont International Collaborative Biodiversity Group.

“It’s already looking very, very interesting,” Distel told science writer Veronica Greenwood of the New York Times. “What we can say is that the bacteria we find in the gills are not related to the bacteria we’ve found in any other shipworm to date.”

The researchers have provisionally named the clam by giving it a new genus and species, Lithoredo Abatanica, although it is known to the locals as “antingaw” and is believed to help mothers with lactation.

The rock-eating clam is gathered and eaten by local residents, who typically cut it down the middle, turn it inside out and rinse it well to remove the sand, according to Kristy Hamilton, writing for IFL Science.

“It is best eaten raw dipped in a pickling sauce known as kinilaw (vinegar, onions, ginger and a bit of salt),” Warlita Manug Armildez of Bohol was quoted as saying. “It has a slippery but slightly crunchy texture, but if left in the vinegar for too long it becomes soft. It has a fishy seafood taste, a bit like sea cucumber, before dipping in the sauce.”

The taste for shipworms was credited with the discovery of another interesting species a couple years ago. Scientists knew about a giant shipworm from its pipelike skeletal remains, but they had no recent living specimens.

A television show in the Philippines, called “Kapuso Mo Jessico Soho,” featured a group of people who ate the long creature for its curative powers as well as its taste. A researcher at the University of the Philippines saw the show and reported it to others studying a variety of shipworm clams and their symbiotic bacteria.

After confirming the existence of the giant clam, the researchers traveled to the Sultan Kudarat province and met up with researchers from Sultan Kudarat State University. Leading the team was Marvin Altamia, a UP researcher affiliated with the Philippine Mollusk Symbiont International Cooperative Biodiversity Group.

They found their giant research subjects in a lagoon of rotting wood and other decaying matter. The long clams were not growing on the wood but rather were buried in the black muck, according to the account told by Jo Florendo B. Lantoc, a writer for the University of the Philippines.

“The animal easily fell into notoriety as a science fiction horror creature feature,” Lantoc wrote. “The black slimy body resembles that of a worm from hell. Its ‘head’ is all mouth with two ‘beaks’ for lips, and its tail ends with a pair of siphons and stalk-looking ‘pallets.’”

The bacteria were analyzed and found to metabolize hydrogen sulfide that was in abundance in the marsh. Somehow during evolution, the shipworms had switched from eating wood to eating nothing except for the gases emerging from the oxygen-free swamp. It developed a calcium tube for protection and oversize gills for gas absorption.

From studies of the giant shipworm, scientists were able to add to the stepping-stone theory of evolution, which describes how one symbiotic creature can quickly displace another during a forced transition to a new environment. Check out the paper in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

Another take on the story was offered by KSL-TV in Salt Lake city.

Closer to home, another interesting story about shipworms involves a search along the West Coast to see whether invasive species, such as shipworms, may have arrived with debris from the Japanese tsunami that followed the 2011 earthquake in Japan. The story is about University of Oregon researcher Nancy Treneman, who developed special skills for finding interesting creatures among the debris that landed on the beach. Read the engaging article by Washington state writer Sarah Gilman in Hakai Magazine.

Amusing Monday: Animations find new ways to talk about climate crisis

I’m always looking for new ways to visualize the causes and effects of excessive greenhouse gases and what is happening to the Earth’s climate. A clever new animation depicts the carbon cycle as a clickety-clackety machine that moves the carbon from place to place.

The video, produced by Smithsonian’s National Museum of Natural History, shows how carbon takes on different forms as it moves from the air into plants and animals, becomes embedded deep in the ground and then is turned into fuel at a pace that upsets the natural cycle. (Don’t forget to go full-screen.)

“Humans have thrown the carbon cycle out of adjustment, with increasingly severe consequences for climate, oceans and ecosystems,” states the description below the YouTube video.

I’ve reviewed dozens of climate-change videos. Some are so simplistic that they provide only a stark vision of the problem without a picture of the science. A video posted by Nina Ree-Lindstad, for example, is designed for 8- to 12-year-olds, and it is meant to be viewed with a teacher who can stop and explain things along the way.

Other videos focus focus on one aspect of climate change, such as the effect of clouds or the findings of the International Panel on Climate Change. Others find new ways of relating to people, such as comparing climate change to a game of Tetris.

Some animations appeal to our emotional side and basically ignore the science. I like the video produced by The Energy and Resources Institute (TERI) — the second video on this page. A 10-minute production, by Live and Learn Environmental Education in Australia, tells the story of climate change from the viewpoint of an older flying fox explaining the issues to his son.

The last video on this page, below, is another production by the Smithsonian, showing how the Earth’s population has changed through time, creating an environmental crisis and making it imperative to protect the Earth’s remaining natural resources.

Amusing Monday: Rare beauty, adventure shown in national parks photos

Auburn photographer Scott Eliot was named this year’s winner in the “Night Skies” category of the “Share the Experience” photo contest for this stunning image of stars over Mount Rainier.

Night Skies winner: Mount Rainier by Scott Eliot.

The annual contest, sponsored by the National Park Foundation, invites amateur photographers to submit their favorite views, moments and adventures from America’s national parks and public lands. See all the winning photos on the NPF Blog.

As Scott described it when posting his photo to the contest website last year: “The early morning hours of late July begins to bring the Milky Way into alignment with Mt. Rainier from a vantage point along the Silver Forest Trail on the Sunrise Plateau of Mt. Rainier National Park in Washington state.

“A mid-summers new moon and clear skies were the only occasion necessary to spend a peaceful night out alone for some astrophotography composing the Milky Way with Mt. Rainier, before the Pacific Northwest weather changed its mind.,” he continued.

“The stillness at 2 a.m. was broken only by the sound of the rushing White River far below in the Glacier Basin as I composed and captured this image. I did have the company of climbers traversing the mountain most of the early hours, which you can find in the image, making their way to the mountain summit with a constant chain of lights.”

Grand Prize winner: Backcountry snowboarder by Ching Fu

The Grand Prize winner in the contest is Ching Fu of Asheville, North Carolina, who captured this photo of a backcountry snowboarder in Bridger-Teton National Forest.

“After a couple hours of skinning uphill, we came out to this ridge to get a better view of where we wanted to ride back down,” he wrote. “This was the scene in front of us. The pristine snow-covered slopes, the sea of trees, the mountains, and particularly the lighting just stopped me in my tracks.”

The Grand Prize winner will receive $10,000, and the winning image will be featured on the America the Beautiful Pass, which will get you into national parks and federal recreational lands throughout the country. In 2015, Cameron Teller of Seattle, a former Kitsap County resident, claimed the top honors, as I described in Water Ways, May 4, 2015.

“These photos are a window into the incredible experiences that await us at national parks and public lands across the country,” Will Shafroth, president of the National Park Foundation, said in a news release. “This annual contest is a great example of how committed partners help inspire people to get out and explore these diverse places of beauty that belong to all of us.”

Adventure & Recreation winner: Olympic National Park by Ashley Kerkemeyer

This year, about 1,400 photographers submitted more than 8,000 photos. And, for the first time in the contest’s history, the top three prize winners and the “fan favorite” were all photos taken in the same state — Wyoming.

“Perhaps that’s fitting,” wrote Suzanne Rowan Kelleher, contributor to Forbes magazine, “given that Wyoming is home to the first national park (Yellowstone), the first national monument (Devils Tower) and the first national forest (Shoshone) as well as 25 national historic landmarks and 11 nationally recognized areas, trails and monuments.”

Olympic National Park also makes an appearance in this year’s photo contest, with a photograph by Ashley Kerkemeyer, whose camera captured her 6-year-old daughter, Lillie, in a laid-back position enjoying the outdoors.

“In 2017, my husband and I decided to sell our house, quit our jobs, buy an RV and travel around the country with our two daughters, Lillie and Lennon, before they started school,” wrote Ashley, who is from Meridian, Idaho. “This photo is of my oldest daughter and was taken a few months into our travels while we were in Olympic National Park.

“While this photo doesn’t display the best composition/lighting that a great photo should have, I love it despite its flaws because it represents her to a T,” she added. “She’s a happy, kind, free spirited kid who is happiest when she’s outside. When she’s in nature she seems connected to it, and I can see her come alive — which makes my heart happy!”

Second place: Bison by Joe Neely

Second-place in the contest went to Joe Neely of Phoenix, Arizona, who spent a week in Yellowstone National Park to fulfill his vision of capturing an image of a bison coming out of a fog.

“I had tried multiple times around various areas during prior visits, near the geysers, during sunsets and even while on paid park tour, but I had no luck” he wrote. “But this photo happened in the most unlikely of places, up on the northern range near a pull-out where we had to stop because the snow flurry and fog was becoming too dense to see. I chose this image because, at first glance, it seems like an intense stare down with a frozen beast. But really it is just a powerful image that captures the harsh winter conditions that these Yellowstone bison endure as a way of life.”

The photo at the bottom of this page is the third-place winner taken by Adam Jewell of Conshoshocken, Penn., at Schwabacher Landing in Grand Teton National Park. This vantage point lies on the Snake River east of Grand Teton near Jackson Hole.

“When I drove down the road, the pair of moose were walking on the bank opposite the parking area,” Adam wrote. “When the moose popped out of the woods in the water in front of the Teton Mountains, I grabbed a camera and took a few shots. It was a case of being in the right place in the right time.

“It’s not too difficult to find a beautiful landscape to photograph in the national parks,” he said. “If you wander around long enough with a telephoto lens, chances are you’ll get some nice photos of whatever wildlife is native to the area. When you get really lucky, the two combine in one scene at sunrise or sunset, you happen to have a camera with you and you get an image that shows all the elements of that particular ecosystem.

The 2019 Share the Experience photo contest is now open. For rules, prizes and submission information, go to the contest’s official webpage, sharetheexperience.org.

Third-place: Moose by Adam Jewell

Amusing Monday: A new hydrothermal vent field discovered off West Coast

The location of an unknown hydrothermal vent system was predicted by researchers studying maps of the seafloor along the Gorda Ridge off the West Coast. Following those leads, a group of underwater explorers looked for and found the shimmering cauldron of superheated water.

The discovery, during this year’s Nautilus Expedition, took place about a week ago in an area about 75 miles offshore of the border between California and Oregon.

As operators dimmed the lights from their remotely operated vehicles, the sounds of excited scientists filled the mother ship’s control room, where observers watched a video screen providing glorious views of the emerging flow (first video on this page).

“It’s like an artist’s rendition of another planet,” tweeted volcanologist Shannon Kobs Nawotniak of Idaho State University, where her team figured out where to look for the vents using high-resolution sonar bathymetry. Researchers named it the Apollo Vent Field in honor of the 50th anniversary of the moon landing this year.

Check out more photos and videos on the Nautilus website, and learn more about the project in “The Alien Landscapes of the Apollo Vent Field.”

The out-of-this-world reference to another planet was not an accident, as NASA researchers are contemplating deep-sea explorations of other worlds. For example, space scientists would like to send an unmanned craft to Europa, the sixth moon of Jupiter, where they would drill down through ice up to five miles thick to reach a volcanically active ocean. On the ocean floor of Europa, they might find hydrothermal vents with the right warmth and minerals to support life — possibly similar to the microorganisms that began life on Earth.

This year’s Nautilus expedition involved a project known as SUBSEA, for Systematic Underwater Biogeochemical Science and Exploration Analog. The project, which ended about a week ago, is a partnership between the National Aeronautics and Space Administration, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and various academic research centers.

The Exploration Vessel (EV) Nautilus is a research platform equipped with two ROVs: the Hercules and the Argus. They are owned by Ocean Exploration Trust, founded in 2008 by Robert Ballad to explore the oceans.

Background on the SUBSEA mission is provided in a 26-minute video featuring lead scientists Darlene Lim of NASA’s Ames Research Center and Christopher German of Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution (second video).

Gulf of California

On an entirely separate expedition in February, scientists aboard the Research Vessel (RV) Falkor from Schmidt Ocean Institute discovered colorful towers of minerals up to 75 feet tall in the Gulf of California. These towers, along with a variety of sea creatures clinging to them, were not there during a previous expedition a decade ago.

“Astonishing is not strong enough of a word,” said Mandy Joye, a marine biologist at the University of Georgia who led the team that discovered the vents.

Check out the story “Deep-Sea Explorers Find Trippy, Rainbow-Colored Wonderland” by reporter Stephanie Pappas and the slideshow “Sea Life Thrives at Otherworldly Hydrothermal Vent System,” both in the online magazine “Live Science.”

Schmidt Ocean Institute, based in Palo Alto, Calif., is part of the Eric and Wendy Schmidt Network of Philanthropies. The institute owns the RV Falcone and supports its crew for teams of researchers from various institutions.

Coast of Oregon

The current expedition of the RV Falkor, led by Carolyn Ruppel of the U.S. Geological Survey, is studying methane seeps off the Oregon Coast. The cruise will add to ongoing knowledge about the hundreds of methane seeps that might become a significant contributor of greenhouse gas emissions.

Live video from the ROV SuBastian is available during operational periods. Click at the top of the “Live from RV Falkor” page to connect to the feed when it is available.

As I post this blog, the live feed is accessible (video below).

Amusing Monday: World Reef Day calls attention to coral catastrophe

On the first day of June, ocean advocates around the world celebrated the very first World Reef Day. The event got me to thinking a little more about the role of corals in the most productive ecosystems around the world, as well as the coral reefs located in our own backyards here in the Pacific Northwest.

“Our goal was to stimulate a global conversation about reef conservation and the simple things we can do in our own lives to make huge changes,” said Theresa Van Greunen of Aqua-Aston Hospitality, one of the sponsors of World Reef Day.

The event was launched with a special focus on Hawaii, but the issue of conserving critical coral habitats has worldwide appeal, with 5.5 million people pledging to use reef-friendly sunscreen and reduce their usage of single-use plastics that can harm the marine ecosystem, according to a news release from sponsor Raw Elements and another from sponsor Hawaiian Airlines. While there were elements of fun in this new event, I guess it does not fit my normal criteria for “amusing,” so we’ll have to settle for educational.

Corals are marine invertebrates that live in compact colonies that can grow into extensive reef systems under the right environmental conditions. The individuals in the colonies are soft-bodied organisms called polyps. Reefs begin when a free-floating larva attaches itself to a rock and begins cloning itself over and over into thousands of identical animals.

For genetic diversity, male and female corals release their gametes all at once as an annual event, apparently timed to the lunar cycle and water temperature, as described on a webpage by NOAA’s National Ocean Service and in a video below. The resulting embryo, called a planula, can float for weeks but eventually settles down to start a new colony if conditions are right.

Some coral reefs, such as the Great Barrier Reef in Australia, take shape over thousands of years. Although coral reefs cover less than 1 percent of the ocean floor, they are rich ecosystems, supporting 25 percent of all marine creatures, according to an interesting summary in the National Geographic video “Coral Reefs 101,” below.

Although we think of corals as growing in far-off places, the Pacific Northwest is home to all sorts of colorful corals. In fact, deep-water explorations within the Pacific Coast National Marine Sanctuary off
Washington’s shoreline have found a reef-forming coral, Lophelia pertusa, previously believed to exist only in the Atlantic Ocean, as described in a report by the environmental group Oceana.

To dive deeper into the corals off the Washington Coast, check out the 2007 cruise report the NOAA ship McArthur II: “Observations of Deep Coral and Sponge Assemblages in Olympic Coast National Marine Sanctuary, Washington” (PDF 3.4 mb). If nothing else, it’s worth a look for the pictures of Washington state coral.

Primnoa pacifica, a soft deep-water coral, was found within Olympic Coast National Marine Sanctuary. // Photo: NOAA

“Even Puget Sound contains hydrocorals scattered throughout its various inlets and islands,” according to the Oceana report. “These corals are living habitats that provide structure on the seafloor for other marine life. Biogenic habitat provides feeding areas, shelter from predators, and nursery for juveniles.

“Trawling in the Pacific Northwest has taken its toll,” the report adds, “both on the fish and their habitat. Targeting flatfish, whiting and rockfish, trawlers have flattened many of the corals, sponges and other living seafloor animals before scientists even knew they were there.”

For the full Oceana report, download “Deep Sea Corals: Out of sight, but no longer out of mind” (PDF 2.7 mb).

Another interesting research project involves the discovery of corals along the seamounts northwest of the Hawaiian Islands, where corals were not supposed to grow. Low carbonate levels had been expected to inhibit coral growth, while pH levels were thought to dissolve coral skeletons. See the news release from Florida State University.

While new discoveries help with our understanding of coral, researchers are desperately concerned about the future of coral reefs, which are dying at an extraordinary rate because of global warming. When local conditions are combined with thermal stress, about 75 percent of the world’s coral reefs are at risk of collapse, according to a report from the World Resources Institute.

Peter Harris, a North Kitsap native recognized worldwide for his expertise in marine ecology, told me last year that coral bleaching, caused by warming waters, is one of the top three concerns for the world’s oceans — even above ocean acidification.

“The world is past the tipping point for coral reefs,” according to Peter, who directs GRID-Arendal, a nonprofit foundation that gathers and synthesizes scientific information to help decision-makers. “We are past the point where the corals are under stress,” he told me. “They will keep dying off.” See Water Ways, June 6, 2018.

Reducing greenhouse gas emissions to slow down the warming would surely help, even as other researchers work on developing more resilient strains of coral that might survive the worsening conditions and eventually repopulate the oceans. HBO’s Vice News has produced an informative 14-minute program on this issue. See the video “Scientists are breeding super coral,” above.

Other general information:

By the way, this past Saturday — a week after World Reef Day — World Oceans Day was commemorated. Launched worldwide in 2002, the event recognizes the importance of and the declining state of our oceans.

Amusing Monday: ‘Science Guy’ flips out during climate demo

“I think we’ve all broken Bill Nye — and I, for one, am absolutely on board with his gritty new reboot,” says comedian John Oliver after “the Science Guy” launches into a profanity-laced demonstration of climate change, in which he literally watches the globe go up in flames.

“I didn’t mind explaining photosynthesis to you when you were 12,” Nye tells Oliver’s HBO audience after firing up his blowtorch. “But you’re adults now, and this is an actual crisis! Got it?”

Nye appeared yesterday on CNN’s Reliable Sources, where moderator Brian Stelter asked him about his blowup. The CNN piece, shown in the first video, goes straight to Bill’s line, “The planet’s on f—— fire! You’re not children anymore!…”

“The writers had this premise,” Nye tells Stelter, “and my performance was heartfelt. But keep in mind, you guys, that I’ve been trying to get people interested in addressing climate change since long about 1993.”

Stelter asks Nye how he hopes to get through to climate-change deniers.

“Climate change deniers, to me, are like astrology people or haunted-house people…,” Nye says. “It takes a couple years for people to change their minds.”

I was amused by the full interview on “Reliable Sources,” which includes Nye’s reaction to the recent sighting of UFOs by Navy pilots.

But the original 20-minute segment about climate change on HBO’s “Last Week Tonight with John Oliver” is well-crafted, offering Oliver’s typical humorous take on a serious topic. The second video demonstrates how Oliver likes to feed his audience tidbits of real science and politics while sarcastically poking fun at those who seem to ignore the serious problems of our time.

Here’s to hoping that John Oliver, Bill Nye and others will continue their amusing ways to help people learn about climate change.

Amusing Monday: SeaDoc followers go wild with new video series

“Salish Sea Wild” is a new video series by the SeaDoc Society designed to transport the viewer right up close to the living creatures that occupy the underwater and terrestrial realms of the Salish Sea.

The videos portray the beauty of our inland waterways as well as the excitement and occasional amusement of diving down into the ecologically rich waters that many people know only from the surface. The host for the series is wildlife veterinarian Joe Gaydos, science director for SeaDoc.

“Amid the wealth of biodiversity in our backyard, we’ll discover trees that eat fish, fish that mimic plants, plants that grow two feet a day, and animals that bloom like flowers,” Joe says in an introductory video (the first on this page). “We’ll focus on scientists working to preserve and restore the Salish Sea and to save its iconic species like salmon and our beloved orcas.”

The underwater world has already been the source for some remarkable video for the series, but the producers say they will also head to the mountains to visit terrestrial creatures as well as those that thrive in the coastal upwellings of the Pacific Ocean — from bears to giant octopus, from seabirds to ancient rockfish, along with various plants and seaweed that support the intricate food web.

SeaDoc, based on Orcas Island, is a nonprofit organization affiliated with the University of California, Davis, and dedicated to science and education in and around the Salish Sea. Producing the video series along with SeaDoc is Bob Friel, award-winning writer and documentary filmmaker who lives on Orcas Island.

This ambitious video project was launched in January with a 12-minute video that compares steller sea lions to grizzly bears, with the crew of Salish Sea Wild encountering a bunch of frisky stellers in the icy waters off Hornby Island, which is not quite halfway up Vancouver Island’s inner coast in British Columbia.

I wanted to wait until a few more videos were produced before promoting it here, and we’re now at that point. The next video, 14 minutes long, takes viewers in a submarine to the bottom of the Salish Sea. A massive school of sand lance is one of the captivating clips in the video shot near the San Juan Islands. Joe’s excitement is contagious as he eagerly boards the submersible that dives deeper than a scuba diver can go.

In the next video, the SeaDoc research team heads to the coast to describe seabirds — including the endangered and mysterious marbled murrelets. It reminded me of the first time I met Joe Gaydos, who was at the time studying Western grebes off the Kitsap Peninsula. See Kitsap Sun, March 5, 2007.

If you are as eager as I am to see what comes next, you can sign up for notification of each new video on SeaDoc’s YouTube channel. The videos also can be viewed on www.SalishSeaWild.org and on SeaDoc’s Facebook page and Instagram feed.

The last video on this page includes some amusing outtakes from the ongoing adventures of Salish Sea Wild. Could Joe Gaydos be the next Jacques Cousteau? Check out “Zee Undersea World of Jeaux Gaydeaux.”

Finally, just for younger people, SeaDoc recently launched the Junior SeaDoctors program, designed to connect young adventurers with their wild surroundings. Read about killer whales, ocean circulation and stormwater on the home page of Junior SeaDoctors, where one can signup to join the club. The program includes a curriculum for teachers who wish to use the materials in their classroom to meet Next Generation Science Standards.

Amusing Monday: Student artists share views of rare species

A student art contest focused on endangered species produced some impressive paintings and drawings this year for the 14th annual Endangered Species Day, which was celebrated this past Friday.

The contest, called Saving Endangered Species Youth Art Contest, is sponsored by the Endangered Species Coalition. It gives the young artists and their audience a chance to understand species at risk of extinction. Some choose plants and animal that are well known; others go for the obscure.

Texas blind salamander by ©Sam Hess
Image: Endangered Species Coalition

The grand prize this year was awarded to Sam Hess, a first grader from Portland, Ore. He depicted a Texas blind salamander, a rare cave-dwelling species native to just one place, the San Marcos Pool of the Edwards Aquifer in Hays County, Texas. The salamander, which grows to about 5 inches, features blood-red gills for breathing oxygen from the water.

The art contest, for students K-12, is sponsored by the Endangered Species Coalition, including more than 450 conservation, scientific, education, religious, recreation, business and community organizations.

“We owe it to this generation of children to pass down healthy ecosystems brimming with wildlife,” said Leda Huta, the coalition’s executive director, in a news release. “Every year, their artwork demonstrates how deeply they feel for nature and all of its wondrous creatures – large and small.”

West Indian Manatee by ©Grace Ou
Image: Endangered Species Coalition

The second-place overall winner was a picture of a West Indian manatee by Grace Ou, an eighth grader in Lexington, Mass. The West Indian manatee, also known as American manatee, lives in shallow coastal areas of the West Indies — better known as the Caribbean. It is also common in South Florida waters during the summers. The Florida manatee is considered a subspecies of the West Indian Manatee.

The 2019 Saving Endangered Species Youth Art Contest received more than 1,100 entries from students around the United States, according to organizers. Besides the overall winners, awards were also given in four grade categories. Here are the first-place winners in those categories:

  • Grades K-2: Bruce Chan a kindergartner from Whippany, N.J.,
  • Grades 3-5: Sky Hana, a fifth grader from Des Plaines, Ill.,
  • Grades 6-8: Evan Zhang, an eighth grader from Sudbury, Mass., and
  • Grades 9-12: Krista Bueno, a 12th grader from Chantilly, Va., tied with Annette Yuan.
Gila chub by ©Sky Hana
Image: Endangered Species Coalition

View six of the winning entries on the contest website, with Annette Yuan’s picture of humpback whales on a Flickr page. I’m not sure how the judges manage to pick these winners, but I believe it is worth taking a look at all 10 semi-finalists in each category by linking from the semi-finalists webpage.

The students were called on to depict a land or ocean-dwelling species that lives in or migrates through the United States and is listed as threatened or endangered or was previously on the Endangered Species List. The subjects must be vertebrates, invertebrates, flowering plants or non-flowering plants.

The contest encourages the artists to tell a story of hope, such as how people were able to rebuild an endangered population.

Spectacled eider by ©Krista Bueno
Image: Endangered Species Coalition

Judges for the contest included Andrew Zuckerman, wildlife photographer, filmmaker, and creative director; Robert Wyland, marine life artist; Jack Hanna, host of “Jack Hanna’s Into the Wild;” David Littschwager, freelance photographer and contributor to National Geographic magazine; Susan Middletown, a photographer who has collaborated with Littschwager and whose own work has been published in four books; and Alice Tangerini, botanical illustrator for the Smithsonian Institution.

Said Zuckerman, “Through the visual arts, I try to celebrate our vanishing species, and I am glad to be joined by these inspiring young artists. I hope these artists and their images will encourage action to protect rare and endangered species for future generations.”

Humpback whale by ©Annette Yuan
Image: Endangered Species Coalition

The Endangered Species Coalition likes to emphasize the successes of the Endangered Species Act, and a new blog post on Friday features a dozen success stories for species saved from extinction.

Meanwhile, the United Nations has issued a new global assessment that raises the prospect of a million species being pushed to extinction over the next few years as a result of human activities. Topping the list of threats are:

  1. Land and sea use, including development, logging and mining,
  2. Hunting and fishing that over-taxes the ability of populations to remain stable,
  3. Climate change, which is just beginning to have an ecological impact at both a large and local scale,
  4. Pollution, which includes 400 million tons of toxic chemicals and wastes being dumped in oceans and rivers every year, and
  5. Invasive species, which can drive out native species and disrupt carefully balanced food webs.

Robert Watson, chair of the Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services, said only by acting quickly to address the problem at every level can disaster be averted.

“The health of ecosystems on which we and all other species depend is deteriorating more rapidly than ever,” he said in a blog post that spells out the problem. “We are eroding the very foundations of our economies, livelihoods, food security, health and quality of life worldwide.”

Other information:

Amusing Monday: Young artists describe dangers of trash in the ocean

Student artists are helping people understand how ocean creatures are affected by human trash. At least that’s the goal of the annual Marine Debris Art Contest, now in its sixth year. The contest is sponsored by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Marine Debris Program.

Aaron K, Grade 5, Michigan

Hundreds of entries from all over the country were submitted by students, from kindergarteners to eighth graders. I’ve selected a few of my favorites for this page, but you can see all 13 winning entries on the contest website. The 13 winners will have their drawings featured in an upcoming calendar, with one picture on the cover and one for each month. After posting, the calendar can be downloaded from NOAA’s website. To enlarge the pictures on this page, click directly on the image.

Cindy P, Grade 7, Mississippi

The express goal of the art contest is for students to learn about the worldwide problem of marine debris and to use their power of artistic expression to raise awareness. Winners were chosen for their creativity, artistic presentation, relevance to theme, and how thoroughly the students explained how marine debris affects the ocean and what people can do to help.

“The resulting calendar, featuring the winning artwork, will help to remind us every day how important it is for us to be responsible stewards of the ocean,” states the homepage for the contest.

Anastasia K, Grade 4, Pennsylvania

I’ve been promoting the contest and showing off the student artwork in this blog since the beginning, when the top winner was Araminta “Minty” Little, a seventh grader at Fairview Junior High School in Central Kitsap. See Minty’s picture of an octopus clutching lost junk in Water Ways, March 18, 2013.

I do wish that contest organizers would take the time to obtain whatever permissions are necessary so that the student artists can be recognized with their full names, schools and hometowns. As it is, we get to see only their first names and last initials — unless the students or their teachers contact the local newspaper for publicity, which is how I found out about Minty six years ago.

Luke G, Grade 3, Ohio

To download calendars from previous years, use the pull-down menu on the webpage of NOAA’s Marine Debris Art Contest.

The NOAA Marine Debris Program’s mission is to investigate and prevent the adverse impacts of marine debris. The program includes regional marine debris efforts, research and outreach to local communities. The main webpage includes links to public information, scientific reports and a blog about marine debris.

Jennie C, Grade 8, Massachusetts