And trying to save it from development.
Scientists and citizen-scientists will gather Sunday, June 1 in the western highlands of the Oakland park to conduct a "bioblitz"--or a tally of the biodiversity of animals and plants living there.
"The Oakland Zoo is planning to bulldoze and build upon 56 acres of the most sensitive habitat, which will demolish pristine stands of maritime chaparral and native grasses, destroy over 50 mature trees including heritage oaks, and fence out wildlife that depends on this land to survive," said Constance Taylor of www.wildoakland.org in a news release issued today.
"Rare maritime chaparral and native grasslands alongside coastal scrub and oak woodlands comprise interconnected ecosystems with spectacular diversity: Hundreds of species of lichen, moss, and fungi (including a 100+ year-old giant puffball “fairy ring”), fields of wildflowers and many other California native plants, from ground cover to shrubs and trees," she said.
"These habitats sustain a multitude of wildlife species—insects, reptiles (including the federal and state protected Alameda whipsnake), resident and migratory birds, and an array of mammals—from the lowly dusky-footed woodrat (a California Species of Special Concern) to the top of the food chain, our native mountain lion."
And insects? "Yes, we are definitely looking for bugs," said bioblitz leader/entomologist Eddie Dunbar, founder and president of the Insect Sciences Museum of California (ISMC). "The same evening we will be sheetlighting for nightflying insects. Moths will be out, of course. However, it has been suggested that there may be a vernal kind of riparian area. If so, we want to see what aquatics we can attract. Also, there would be sampling during the day for aquatics, if they are there. During the day we will sweep, beat, poot, and check underneath ground debris for insects. We want to make a case that this area deserves protection."
One of ISMC's many activities is to conduct surveys of Northern California insect ecosystems. Clients participate in field surveys, learning contemporary science techniques and using authentic science equipment. Survey findings are published into regionally specific web guides, searchable photographic databases, and geographically relevant science learning aids. Learning aids are developed, distributed and modeled by ISMC staff.
Entomology graduate and undergraduate students and enthusiasts at the University of California, Davis, are expected to be among those participating. Dunbar hopes that the participants will find many insects, including native bees. Anyone interested in helping out can email Eddie Dunbar at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Learn more about Knowland Park and the proposed zoo expansion at www.saveknowland.org
Monarchs and milkweed are in the news again.
As well they should be.
The declining monarch population, coupled with the decreasing scarcity of their host plant, the milkweed, is disturbing. The larvae of the monarch butterfly (Danaus plexippus) feed exclusively on milkweeds. No milkweed, no monarchs.
Butterfly expert Art Shapiro, distinguished professor of evolution and ecology at UC Davis, says the problem hasn't totally reached California yet. "The 'dearth of milkweed' problem is primarily an East/Midwest problem, due to increased use of Roundup since the introduction of 'Roundup-ready' GM crops. It's quite real. There is no such problem out here--at least yet--but there is a new milkweed pathogen that may cause one! Dave Rizzo (UC Davis Department of Plant Pathology) and I hope to publish on it shortly. No harm in planting milkweeds, but the problem isn't a California one, at least not yet."
Journalist-photographer Alessandra Bergamin, writing in the Feb. 18 edition of Bay Nature: Exploring Nature in the San Francisco Bay Area, says that "the number of monarchs overwintering in Mexico's Oyamel fir forest has reached an all-time low," quoting the World Wildlife Fund in Mexico. "The reports suggest that factors such as loss of habitat, climate change and use of insecticides have contributed to the decline."
The situation in California, however, looked better than bleak last year. A little better. "Monarch butterfly populations in California's coastal overwintering sites showed a slight — and surprising — rebound in 2013 after more than a decade of dwindling numbers," Bergamin wrote. "The 2013 Western Monarch Thanksgiving Count tallied 211,275 monarchs at 162 sites from Sonoma County to San Diego County, up from 144,812 the year before."
Over the past two decades, however, the Western monarch population has dramatically declined in California, she pointed out in her article, "Western Monarch Population Hanging On." The downward trend is expected to continue.
Meanwhile, the Xerces Society for Invertebrate Conservation, headquartered in Portland, Ore., has posted a seed finder resource so folks can find milkweed seed in their state and plant the seeds in their gardens, parks, landscapes, restoration areas and on farms.
Oakland parks supervisor Tora Rocha is taking it one step further. She is collecting the monarch caterpillars, rearing them, and releasing the adults in the Lakeside Gardens at Lake Merritt. Her newly formed Pollinator Posse has sparked the interest of volunteers, who range from school children to city council members. They all want to save the monarchs.
Rocha bans pesticides and herbicides from her pollinator gardens. “For the past fifteen years the gardens have had a pesticide-and herbicide-free policy,” Rocha told writer Constance Taylor of Wild Oakland, which offers free, Oakland-centered environmental education. “We also rely on volunteers contributing thousands of hours to keep our parks maintained--about 75% of the work is done by volunteers.”
Rocha says it's not enough to be a custodian of the land: it's important to be a steward of the land and protect the pollinators. She's created a video, posted on YouTube, that explains what she and the other Pollinator Posse members do.
Rocha and colleague Eddie Dunbar of the Insect Sciences Museum of California and a fellow Pollinator Posse member, recently visited UC Davis to share information with Shapiro and native pollinator specialist Robbin Thorp, emeritus professor of entomology.
Another person keen on butterflies is Sally Levinson of Berkeley, who writes a blog on butterflies and is publishing educational videos, including "Secret Lives of Monarchs" and "In the Company of Wild Butterflies." As a graduate student at UC Riverside, Levinson studied with major professor Bruce Hammock, now a distinguished professor of entomology at UC Davis. (He maintains a joint appointment with the Department of Entomology and Nematology and the UC Davis Comprehensive Cancer Center.)
As an aside, the Bohart Museum of Entomology at UC Davis offers a "Got Milkweed?" t-shirt spotlighting the monarch and its host plant. The work of doctoral candidate Fran Keller and Bohart volunteer/naturalist Greg Kareofelas, the t-shirt is available online or at the museum, located in Room 1122 of the Academic Surge building on Crocker Lane.
Want monarchs? Plant milkweed.
So, get ready for Bee-a-Thon 3!
The free multimedia event will begin online with a series of videos about honey bees and other members of the Microcosm, including videos created by Brady and clips from previous Bee-a-Thons.
UC Davis will be represented by Eric Mussen, Extension apiculturist with the UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology; and entomologist/artist Diane Ullman and artist Donna Billick, co-founders and co-directors of the UC Davis Art/Science Fusion Program. Mussen, a member of the department since 1976, is world-renowned for his honey bee expertise. Ullman is the associate dean of undergraduate academic programs in the UC Davis College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences and a professor of entomology.
Among the others to be interviewed will be Kim Flottum, longtime editor of Bee Culture magazine; Ria de Grassi, director of federal policy, California Farm Bureau; Eddie Dunbar, founder of the Insect Sciences Museum of California; Celeste Ets-Hokin, creator of the Pollinator Gardens at Lake Merritt, Oakland; and Mike Somers, state director of Pesticide Watch and the Pesticide Watch Education Fund.
The schedule includes:
- a pollination fundraising luncheon, with a honey-inspired menu, from noon to 1 p.m. at Monticello Seasonal Cuisine, 630 G St. (not broadcast).
- fruit presentations from 1 to 1:30 p.m. at the Davis Food Co-Op, 620 G St.; (not broadcast)
- a live broadcast from 2 to 4 p.m. on Davis Community Television public access Channel 15
- a radio/video feed from KDRT, 95.7 FM, from 4 to 6 p.m.
- BATMAP (Bee-a-Thon Monster After Party) billed as the world’s first Pollinator Party from 7 to 10 p.m. at the Davis Media Access, 1623 Fifth St., and featuring music by Eminent Bee. Admission is free, but guests must come adorned as an insect, spider or flower.
- a lounge chat from 10 p.m. to midnight at deVere’s Irish Pub, 217 E St.
Brady says the art-science event is designed to ignite a community about the full story about honey bees and other pollinators — "not just the science, but the art, the anthropology, the technology and design, the pop culture."
“The interdependence we have with insects — especially bees — is profound and complex and most people are only discussing half the story," said Brady, who holds a bachelor’s degree in biology from Hiram (Ohio) College. "The key word is biocomplexity — how human behavior fits into the global ecology. It’s also about how insects inspire and amaze our society. That will all be covered on the show.”
Brady described the Bee-a-Thon as timely; Time magazine just published a cover story on “beepocalpyse.”
We know Emmet Brady to be passionate about honey bees. And we know that the Bee-a-Thon will be educational, informative and entertaining.
When Brady talks about the "wonderful world of pollinators," he's thinking of the simple things we take for granted, the ABCs, if you will.
A honey bee on an Apple.
A honey bee on a Begonia.
A honey bee on a Cucumber.