I'm really excited to join the team at Cascade Forest Conservancy as their office manager (I even got a cool hat!). This great organisation works to protect and sustain forests, streams, wildlife, and communities in the heart of the Cascades through conservation, education, and advocacy. Their mission and values really fit in with what I'm aiming to achieve in my own studies and research, and I'm delighted I can do my part to help the organisation, and the Cascades, thrive!
I also recently starting working as an animal area assistant in the North America area of the Oregon Zoo. I'm working with the keepers of the black bears, beavers, cougars, river otters, and bobcats. I help with diet prep, and do a lot of work cleaning up after the bears and the otters, and making enrichment items for everyone. I'm having a blast, and getting to know the bears has been really useful for my own research. They have such fun personalities!
Speaking of research, I'm back to school next month. I'm doing post-bacc studies in biology, in preparation for graduate school studies in wildlife management. It's a bit daunting to be staring down the barrel of several semesters of maths classes, but nothing worth doing is ever easy!
My girl bears in their public viewing areas at the Oregon Zoo, Dale (l) and Nora (r).
I know, gross, right? Anchovies are given a bad rap for being smelly, disgusting, and slimy. There is one guy that loves this rather unpopular food item, though - the Humboldt Penguin.
Traditionally, Humboldt Penguins live off the coast of Peru and Chile. They are what I like to call the "beach birds". Approximately 15-19" tall and 9lbs as full blown adults, these penguins feast on the fish, squid, and crustaceans found in the ocean waters around their homes. Their wings have been adapted to act like flippers, helping them to "fly" through the water at up to 30mph, with a dive depth of 500 feet. They have webbed feet to help with swimming, but also have claws to help them climb out of the water onto slippery rocks. Two layers of feathers protect them - a top layer to repel wind and water, and a bottom downy layer to keep them warm. They go through a phase called "catastrophic moulting". Unlike most birds who moult a few feathers at a time, penguins will shed all their feathers at once. They can look a bit like an exploding over-stuffed pillow. During this moulting period, they are not protected against water, so they will stay on land.
In the wild they live on average about 20 years. However, of the 17 species of penguin, the Humboldt is the most threatened due to over-fishing of their prey species, entanglement in fishing nets, catastrophic weather, and commercial removal of guano (penguin poo which becomes solidified mounds with the penguins then nest in, which also makes great fertilizer).
You may be asking yourself now, what is the point of the anchovies? The Humboldt Penguin numbers are dwindling, and a large problem is a lack of sustainable fishing practices in the areas where they live. One small thing we can do to help the penguin is to start eating anchovies more regularly. Basic economics will tell us that demand drives up cost. If the monetary value of these fish goes up, it will cause sustainable management of fisheries to become a priority, and workers in these areas will need to be paid higher wages. This will lessen the over-fishing, leaving more fish in the ocean for species like the Humboldt Penguin to chow down on. However, if you just can not bring yourself to eat anchovies, you can still do your part by choosing to eat only sustainable fish, squid and crustaceans, helping to conserve wild resources.
If you want to learn more about the Humboldt Penguin, visit:
It’s #WildlifeWednesday. Today, though, I’m not going to talk about a specific animal. Instead, I’m going to contemplate the future for wildlife and the environment now that the election is over.
It’s no secret that Donald Trump is to be our next president, backed by a Republican-led house and senate. During this election, much has been said about immigration, sexual assault, criminal behaviour, race, creed, sexuality, abortion, and so on. I was concerned to see climate change and the environment not getting a very big nod in the debates. Neither side addressed these issues in any meaningful way during their platforms, but it seems that climate change is a fallacy to many republicans. Conserving our ever dwindling natural resources doesn’t appear to be high on their priority list. On the more conservative side, they fail to admit that humans play any part in the current woes befalling the environment. In some cases it goes as far as sheer blanket denial that there is any problem whatsoever. This is quite something, given the republican party under Theodore Roosevelt drove the conservation movement. “After becoming president in 1901, Roosevelt used his authority to protect wildlife and public lands by creating the United States Forest Service (USFS) and establishing 150 national forests, 51 federal bird reserves, 4 national game preserves, 5 national parks, and 18 national monuments by enabling the 1906 American Antiquities Act. During his presidency,Theodore Roosevelt protected approximately 230 million acres of public land.”*
These days, we think of the conservative republican party as the party of endless money, big business, and extreme Christian values. Some of them, or those they are related to, have even bragged about sport killing of endangered species, posting pictures on social media of themselves standing over dead animals such as elephants and lions. This in a time when people are crying out for governments to stand up and take notice to do something about these senseless atrocities against our animal friends. The killing of Cecil the Lion caused a ripple of outrage across the world, while the ivory trade continues to be a hot point around the globe. If this modern breed of conservative is now in charge, with no buffer from their more liberal counterparts, what hope is there for the future of our environment and wildlife?
The Oregon Zoo’s motto is a better future for wildlife, but what if this now needs to change to read the only future for wildlife? So many species are on the precipice, and without support of powerful entities who actually believe in climate change and habitat destruction, what hope is there of pulling them back from the cliff edge? Each species plays a vital role in the ecosystem. For example, polar bears need the ice sheets to catch seals. When they are done eating the rich fatty blubber from the seals, what is left behind feeds other creatures like the artic fox. Without the polar bears to catch the seals, food for the foxes would be scarce, and they would dwindle in population as well. Everything is intertwined.
When drilling for oil in the arctic, despite having plenty of non-oil based energy sources to draw from, becomes more important than saving the melting ice caps, where do we turn? When sport hunting of species with dwindling numbers is celebrated with no recourse for the criminals killing these poor creatures, what can be done?
In short – I don’t know. It’s still early days. The election was only yesterday, and as we learned from Brexit, it will take some time to get to grips with the fall out and realities of our new world order. As with any minority group that will likely be affected by this new world order, the environment and its wildlife will also need our help and our voices. We may not be able to do much over the next four years, but we can take small steps to try and ease the burden, in the hopes that maybe in four years there will be something left to build from.
Keep fighting. Keep recycling, visiting the zoo (they donate a percentage of every ticket to conservation projects, and have active species survival plans), try to reduce your own emissions where you can, remember to shut off lights behind you, avoid products from companies who don’t use sustainable palm oil, volunteer if you have time. If you feel comfortable, do some research and use your voice to write your senator or representative and let them know you are worried about climate change. Sign petitions when you see them. If you have a spare $5, donate it to an endangered animal of your choice. Little things done by many people will make a difference, even if we can’t stop the big things from happening.
A list of handy sites which you might find useful information on:
Sustainable Palm Oil: http://www.orangutans-sos.org/orangutans/crisis?gclid=CNm6rNidndACFQgpaQodKKkEBQ
World Wildlife Fund: http://www.worldwildlife.org/
Polar Bears International: http://www.polarbearsinternational.org/
Environmental Protection Agency: https://www3.epa.gov/
Department of Fish and Wildlife: https://www.fws.gov/
Oregon Zoo: http://www.oregonzoo.org/
IUCN Red List of Endangered Species: http://www.iucnredlist.org/
This list is by no means exhaustive. Google can point you toward many more, but I hope this will be a jumping off point to get you started.
I missed #wildlifewednesday due to a variety of reasons, so I'm posting it on Thursday.
Today I want to share a few brief facts on one of the animals closest to my heart - the polar bear.
Polar bears are the largest land predators in the world. They live in the arctic, where they traverse the expanses of the ice to hunt for their favourite delicacy - seals.
Due to global warming and ever increasing ice sheets in the arctic, polar bears are shrinking in population. They are now considered a "vulnerable" species, yet it is likely their status will soon become more critical.
Called Ursus maritimus, or sea bear, Polar bears are excellent swimmers, and can swim for long distances from ice sheet to ice sheet on the hunt for food. Sadly, due to global warming and the ice sheets disappearing, the bears are being forced to swim further without rest, some as far as 250 miles or beyond. While they are sea bears, these distances push them to their limits, and many bears drown. Without the ice sheets they rely on, other bears are taking to populated land to hunt, only to meet another predator - humans. Mothers with young bears will often walk to keep their young out of the water, but this can result in long periods without food. When they are hungry on land, or have depleted body fat from swimming too far without food, their reduced mass and energy levels leaves them vulnerable to the icy arctic climate.
In a perfect world, these bears can live up to 30 years in the wild. However, the difficulties with their climate due to global warming and habitat reduction is causing this species to suffer.
I'll post more about the polar bear in future posts. In the mean time, if you want to learn more about polar bears, and find out what you might be able to do to help, visit polar bears international: http://www.polarbearsinternational.org/about-polar-bears/
If you're in/near Portland, the Oregon Zoo has welcomed a new bear into their family. Nora is the new cub from Ohio who is stealing the hearts of the Pacific North West residents.
This is the Saola - a critically endangered species from the Vietnam/Laos area.
This species is so rare, that it is often referred to as the "Asian unicorn". Saola is related to cattle, with an appearance similar to antelope. They stand approximately 3ft tall, and weigh around 220lbs. Their two horns can reach up to 20 inches in length.
It is unknown how many Saola remain in the wild, due to how seldom they are seen. However, their populations have been severely diminished due to illegal hunting, due to a growing market for wild game in Asia for food and medicine. They are also threatened by habitat loss caused by deforestation.
To learn more about Saola, and find out what you can do to help, visit the WWF page: http://www.worldwildlife.org/species/saola
As I find myself in the final sprint to my departure from the UK after 12 years, I have spent some time in reflection on the adventures I had and the friends I made. How does one sum up over a decade of life into what feels like only a few short words?
I have met some amazing people, and plenty of equally not amazing people. I have been to wonderful places, and terrible places. Everywhere I went and everyone I met had something unique to offer to the book that is my life to this point. While this chapter is closing, the memories will stay with me. I often feel like I put a lot of who I was, no, am on hold to have this particular adventure, but I don’t have any regrets. I have sat where King’s sat, walked the paths of Emperors, sung on stages where great people once performed (and still do!), driven on the wrong side of the road, eaten gelato in a piazza in Rome on a baking hot summer day, nearly been hit by a car on a Parisian road, been lost in Sherwood Forest in the fog, communed with the Gods in Egypt, met and sung with some of the great operatic Divas of the Golden Age of Opera, studied with some brilliant minds in both archaeology and opera, and imbibed in a lot of good wine and ale. So while I now return with optimism and hope for the future to the life I left behind 12 years ago, I take with me these experiences, knowing they made me a better person even if sometimes it didn’t feel like it.
There are too many memories to try and reflect on everything all in one place. I will likely write about each place in great detail once I get where I’m going. For the moment, though, all I can say is thank you to everyone I met along this journey who changed my life – both good and bad. It’s been real. Keep the kettle on – I’ll be back.
Instead of the usual HELLO WORLD post, I felt it was necessary to just say a few words about World Elephant Day.
So, I'm not going to say much on this first blog entry, as I've spent the better part of the afternoon setting up this website and it's getting time to wind down for the day. That being said, it is definitely worth mentioning the elephants, and encouraging everyone to read this great article by Anne Dillon, with Patricia Sims, "WHAT’S CHANGED FOR ELEPHANTS" - a look back over the years since World Elephant Day began five years ago. Progress has been made in some areas, but there is still so much work to be done to improve the situation. Prospects for the elephants are still dire, and more education is needed to continue to stop the ivory trade, trophy hunting, and using elephants as entertainment (to name a few of the bigger "culprits").
Have a read through the article - (link here)
I am an archaeologist, Oregon Zoo Guide, and wildlife biology student. Much of my time is spent at the zoo with the bears, or out on the nature trails of the Columbia Gorge.