Landscapes of Food and Fear–field ecology short course planned

Jeanine, Keith, Jim, Phil, Justin, Joel, and Mary in front of White House. photo by Kaitlyn Gaynor

On March 13-15 2015, Joel Brown (University of Illinois, Chicago), Jim Estes (UC Santa Cruz), and Justin Brashares and Mary Power (UC Berkeley) and five graduate students from the Power and the Brashares labs got together at Angelo to discuss behavioral, evolutionary, and community ecology, and our shared interest in animal foraging and food webs. Joel and Mary discussed plans (that they first started hatching over 10 years ago) for a future short field course on “Landscapes of Food and Fear”. Animals (and plants and microbes) must forage for resources that are scattered around a shifting, heterogeneous environment. As food availability varies, so too do hazards from predators and environmental stresses that foragers experience (e.g. temperature, wind). Foraging by any organism involves trading off the gains to be made by collecting food against the costs of doing so—“how to find lunch without becoming lunch”, as yet another food web ecologist, Mark Hay of Georgia Tech puts it. Food gradients and the ability of animals to harvest resources can be studied experimentally, but how do we assess the perception of risks held by creatures very different from ourselves?

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Joel Brown and Phil Georgakakos, perched on a boulder in the middle of Ten Mile Creek, discuss ecology, food, and fear. photo by M. Power

Joel causes a ring necked snake, if not fear, then serious concern as he borrows him for a brief interaction. Standing left to right: Jim Estes, Jeanine Porzio, Kaitlyn Gaynor, Keith Bouma-Gregson, Justin Brashares, and Phil Georgakakos.

Joel, an evolutionary behavioral ecologist, has come up with a way to measure “the landscape of fear” for a wide range of animals. He reasoned that foragers should deplete food patches more thoroughly in areas they consider safe, where they could spend more time, and more of that time eating versus being vigilant. In patches they perceived as more dangerous, they might give up earlier, leaving behind more food. If food densities at various sites were initially similar before foraging occurred, the “Giving Up Density” (GUD) of food at a site after an animal quite foraging there might indicate how risky it considered that particular landscape position to be. Joel has devised ingenious experimental food patches tailored for particular types of animals (for example, squirrels get trays of sand mixed with fixed number of hidden nuts). standardized These patches can then be deployed along gradients of safety (e.g., for a squirrel, at the foot of a tree versus far from it). Joel and others have found that GUDs are good indices of how different species perceive their “Landscape of Fear”, and that you can learn a lot about how different species make the food-safety tradeoff that is relevant to their ecology, evolution, and potential futures on our changing planet.

Profs Joel Brown and Justin Brashares (ESPM, UCB) at Ten Mile Creek

Walk through the August 2014 Angelo burn, Jim Estes in the lead.

Joel and Justin on the hogback above the South Fork Eel-Ten Mile Creek confluence

Phil holding a southern alligator lizard

Joel and a Pacific tree toad

 

Some time in late spring 2017 or 2018 we hope to host Joel for a Landscape of Food and Fear workshop at Angelo–stay tuned. Part of the fun for participants will be to devise Joel-inspired “food patches” with simple materials that can show how diverse creatures (grasshoppers, ground squirrels, garter snakes, butterflies, deer) perceive hazard and opportunity along gradients and across thresholds in their environments. Making successful food patches for a given species requires 1) that you attempt to “get inside the head” of your focal organism, and 2) that you enjoy the arts and crafts of ingenious field gear innovation that is a big part of successful experimental field ecology.   Both are great fun.

Janine, Katlyn, Phil, and Keith at Ten Mile Creek

 

 

A new crayfish invading the Eel?

the camera case is 12.5 cm long

Ventral view: the camera case is 12.5 cm long

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dorsal (back) view

On March 14 2015, Mary Power and Phil Georgakakos found a new crayfish in the South Fork Eel River, just north of the Angelo Coast Range Reserve on the eastern edge of the first pool below confluence of the South Fork Eel with Ten Mile Creek (~ long/lat). Phil tentatively identified this as the non-native (invasive) red swamp crayfish, Procambarus clarkii (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Procambarus_clarkii). Crayfish experts quickly weighed in, thanks to communications from Sarah Kupferberg, supporting Phil’s identification. We found just the head and claws of this specimen—One expert expressed the hope that this had been eaten and tossed into the river. Although a human picnic seems unlikely, given the remote site, we can only hope~! We would be interested to hear if others see this strange, intensely red, rather delicate-looking crayfish—no “signal” white spots on its large claws.

Oscar and the Fox Creek Slime Mold

Photo by Mary Power

Photo by Mary Power

doesn’t smell like scrambled eggs…

Oscar and the giant slime mold

Oscar Chang and I encountered this bright yellow spongy mass on a mossy rotten log on the south (left looking downstream) bank of Fox Creek, about 50 m up from the confluence with South Fork, in early June 2013, when we were helping Hiromi Uno install her mayfly-trout experiment. The vivid slime mold color got our attention! Slime molds, considered protists like ameoba even though they are societies rather than single celled organisms, deserve our attention. Some very clever Japanese scientists have made them seek food through mazes, and found out that foraging slime molds could eventually optimize traffic patterns through some major cities of the world—check out slime mold foraging here:  http://www.scientificamerican.com/article/brainless-slime-molds.

Beetle that mimics appearance and movement of yellow jacket…

July 2014 was perhaps the most intense yellow jacket season we’ve ever experienced at Angelo. On July 17, 2014, Casey Huckins and Mary Power spotted a “yellow jacket” in a funnel web’s spider web on the road cut banks along the east side of Wilderness Lodge Road, between Skunk Creek and Elder Creek.

from BugGuide.net

from BugGuide.net

On closer inspection, the insect turned out to be a beetle–it had hard wing covers (elytra). This mimic looked and moved very much like a yellow jacket, close enough to fool us, almost. The closest match I (Mary) could find was Typocerus zebra, Zebra longhorn beetle, Cerambycidae, subfamily Lepturinae. I’m not sure whether they’re native here or not; the species in the photos occur in Tennessee and Texas. Joyce Gross was interested in whether this genus is expanding into

TexasEnt.net

TexasEnt.net

northwestern California, or has been introduced. Next time you see a solitary yellow jacket, look for the split of the elytra down the back.  If anyone knows more about this beetle, we’d be interested.   If you see a bunch of yellow jackets, though, run! (or rather, walk away, quickly) as you may have disturbed a nest.  Always smart to carry benadryl tablets (sold at Geigers in Laytonville), and an Epipen if you think you may be allergic~mep

Hauling batteries and hanging from trees: Angelo gets a wireless upgrade

Out with the old, in with the new.  Reserve Steward, Peter, CZO members, Collin and

Wireless relay in a redwood on top of a ridge.

Wireless relay in a redwood on top of a ridge.

Chris, have been working with our locally owned service provider, 101Netlink, to replace the aging network infrastructure.  Our equipment of choice is telecom-grade Ubiquiti wireless radios (UBNT Rocket M2, NanoBeam M2, and NanoStation M2).

The reserve’s rugged topography and tall trees make it extremely challenging to get internet connectivity.  With over 700 realtime sensors deployed, this is a critical component to the research infrastructure.

We use trees as towers and power our equipment with solar systems.   This can provide challenges, such as lugging two 70lbs deep cycle solar batteries up a mountainside.  It also is a great excuse to climb a redwood!

 

 

California Academy of Sciences Planetarium show features Angelo

Angelo is featured on the upcoming Morrison Planetarium show “Habitat Earth” at the California Academy of Sciences, opening to the public on January 16 2015.  The theme developed by writer Ryan Wyatt is one of networks, from the transportation trade networks routing ships through San Francisco Bay, to the food web networks that feed the life beneathe the waves and link it, via nutrients and salmon, to river food webs, and in turn to the “wood wide web” (in David Read’s wonderful phrase) of roots and mycorrhizae underlying the forests that cool the rivers and influence their life-supporting hydrological cycles.  The hydrologic cycle, following drops of water from fractured rocks up through trees to the atmosphere is interwoven in his story.  Bill Dietrich, Todd Dawson, Mary Power, Collin Bode, and Peter Steel all helped Director Tom Kennedy, Ryan Wyatt, and film makers Jeroen Lapre, Mike Schmitt, and Matt Blackwell  during their Angelo visits.  We greatly enjoyed their visits and our interactions.

NASA climate forecasts–our drought continues

Thanks to Inez Fung for sending these links for those of us wanting updates on the longer-term, larger scale forecasts for precipitation and temperature over the coming year…

NOAA just issued a report on US weather/climate of 2014 –  you can find your favorite extremes.   Wunderground has a blog summary of the report.

The near-term outlook is here – you can click on the one-month or 3-month outlook for temperature and precip.  In any case the drought continues

Sea surface temperature in the equatorial pacific and El Nino outlook is here.  The bottom of the page has a lengthy discussion.

Hiromi Uno wins AAAS Pacific Division award and grant

Hiromi Uno was chosen as the AAAS, Pacific Division’s Alan E. Leviton Student Research Awardee for 2014.  She received a $750 grant from the American Association for the Advancement of Science Pacific Division and free registration for two of their annual meetings, for her work reporting on migratory mayflies and their importance in linking tributary, mainstem, and ocean food webs.  Her work was presented in a Symposium organized by Prof. Kurt Anderson on Conservation and Ecology in River Networks, at AAAS meetings in Riverside CA, June 2014.