Science Matters

To put it simply, science matters—especially as global climate change and habitat loss continue to escalate.

But the alarming gag orders, recently issued to our natural resource science partners in Washington, put U.S. environmental leadership and the very well being of our planet in jeopardy.

Point Blue is trusted by our federal partners to manage millions of bird and other ecological observations to achieve our common climate-smart conservation goals.  We pledge to continue stewarding this valuable information collaboratively and transparently.

Central Sierra Project Leader Alissa Fogg. Photo by Ryan DiGaudioCentral Sierra Project Leader Alissa Fogg. Photo by Ryan DiGaudio

In these challenging times, Point Blue’s collaborative science, grounded in 52 years of conservation expertise, will continue to be a beacon of hope.

With your support, we and our many public and private partners will:

  • Enhance the benefits nature provides to humans—including clean air, fresh water, fisheries, carbon sequestration, flood control and recreation;
  • Expand climate-smart restoration from mountain meadows and rangelands to coastal streams and tidal wetlands;
  • Sustain healthy populations of birds, whales and other wildlife; and,
  • Train the next generation of conservation leaders in nature-based solutions.

Thank you for standing with Point Blue Conservation Science to secure a healthy future for wildlife and people!

-Ellie Cohen, President & CEO


Dear Funders, It’s Not Business as Usual

Dear Funders, It’s Not Business as Usual

Take risks, give big and don’t wait.

from the Tides Foundation, January 11, 2017

….“Funders, the signs we’ve seen so far indicate that you are still playing by the old rules. You are talking a lot in your e-news, but we’ve seen no visible changes in your funding or ways of operating. Most nonprofit leaders are hearing from you, but your messages lack the responsiveness and urgency that this situation demands. It’s not enough to huddle with your teams on new strategic plans. It won’t work to promise that you will revisit requests in Q2, when the political landscape is clearer. Q2 may be too late and moreover, how do you know it will get clearer? So far, the arc of reality since November almost guarantees that instead of getting clearer, everything will just get messier.

Funders, you need to speed up, not slow down timelines. Give more, not less. Expand general operating and rapid response support, don’t restrict funding to narrow offensive strategies. We need you to drive change in this new reality with new partnerships, new ways of operating, and unprecedented agility that supports the people and organizations working to uphold decades of social and environmental work. This defensive work may not be as sexy as flashy offensive plays, but it’s vital to holding the line.

Let’s put aside the usual ways of operating that involve annual grant cycles, five-year strategic plans, and project-based funding. Instead, let’s collaborate more. Let’s package less. Let’s show each other our scribbles on whiteboards and try to figure out what these defensive plays are, and how they can best uphold our position until the time is right to push for our next big wins. Let’s put our muscle behind big causes, not branded campaigns or narrow project plans in limited geographies. Let’s pull in allies across sectors, companies, governments, universities, and citizens of our nation and across the world. Let’s be true partners.

You like to talk about risk. Now let’s see you put that talk into action at your own organizations and in how you engage with the people and work that you fund. The world needs the entire nonprofit sector — the changemakers as well as the funders — to adapt, respond, and act, now more than ever.”….

‘Nature-based solutions’ is the latest green jargon that means more than you might think

It may sound vague, but the term represents real and vital concepts.

11 January 2017 Nature Editorial

The latest attempt to brand green practices is better than it sounds….Nature-based solutions may sound artificial and unusable at first, but then so, probably, did the now-widespread, accepted and useful ‘sustainable development’ and even ‘biodiversity’ when they were first written and spoken aloud — and both terms emerged into policy debate more recently than you might expect.

Still, if NBS seems poorly defined and vague, that is because it currently is — and this is where scientists come in. As specialists in conservation and sustainability point out in the journal Science of the Total Environment (C. Nesshöver et al. Sci. Tot. Environ. 579, 1215–1227; 2017), NBS will require the research community, its supporters and funders to answer a series of questions. The answers will entail identifying the specific problems for which a nature-based solution is needed, and monitoring the outcomes. Words, after all, can only take us so far.

Nature 541, 133–134 (12 January 2017) doi:10.1038/541133b

Giant iceberg, 5,000 square kilometers, set to calve from Larsen C Ice Shelf, Antarctica

British Antarctic Survey ScienceDaily 06 Jan 2017   see full article here

A huge iceberg looks set to break away from the Larsen C ice shelf on the Antarctic Peninsula. Satellite observations from December 2016 show a growing crack in the ice shelf which suggests that an iceberg with an area of up to 5,000 square kilometers [size of Delaware] is likely to calve soon……..An ice shelf is a floating extension of land-based glaciers which flow into the ocean. Because they already float in the ocean, their melting does not directly contribute to sea-level rise. However, ice shelves act as buttresses holding back glaciers flowing down to the coast. Larsen A and B ice shelves, which were situated further north on the Antarctic Peninsula, collapsed in 1995 and 2002, respectively. This resulted in the dramatic acceleration of glaciers behind them, with larger volumes of ice entering the ocean and contributing to sea-level rise….

The crack through Larsen C ice shelf is visible as a dark line from bottom right to top left of this satellite image. Image captured on 26 October 2016.
Credit: Image courtesy of British Antarctic Survey…
More from Washington Post:
The crack in this Antarctic ice shelf just grew by 11 miles. A dramatic break could be imminent.
An enormous rift in one of Antarctica’s largest ice shelves grew dramatically over the past month, and a chunk nearly the size of Delaware could break away as soon as later this winter, British scientists reported this week. Washington Post.  Jan 08

Climate change could trigger strong sea level rise

International research team presents findings from frozen ‘climate archive’ of Antarctica

Jan 5 2017  Univ of Bonn  ScienceDaily see full article here

About 15,000 years ago, the ocean around Antarctica has seen an abrupt sea level rise of several meters. It could happen again. An international team of scientists with the participation of the University of Bonn is now reporting its findings in the magazine Scientific Reports.

Michael E. Weber …”The changes that are currently taking place in a disturbing manner resemble those 14,700 years ago.” At that time, changes in atmospheric-oceanic circulation led to a stratification in the ocean with a cold layer at the surface and a warm layer below. Under such conditions, ice sheets melt more strongly than when the surrounding ocean is thoroughly mixed. This is exactly what is presently happening around the Antarctic….

Iceberg in the southeastern Weddell Sea region. Credit: Photo: Dr. Michael Weber

Global warming hiatus disproved — again

Posted: 04 Jan 2017 11:35 AM PST see full article here

A controversial paper published two years ago that concluded there was no detectable slowdown in ocean warming over the previous 15 years — widely known as the “global warming hiatus” — has now been confirmed using independent data in research led by researchers from …Berkeley…

Scientists calculated average ocean temperatures from 1999 to 2015, separately using ocean buoys and satellite data, and confirmed the uninterrupted warming trend reported by NOAA in 2015, based on that organization’s recalibration of sea surface temperature recordings from ships and buoys. The new results show that there was no global warming hiatus between 1998 and 2012….

Zeke Hausfather, Kevin Cowtan, David C. Clarke, Peter Jacobs, Mark Richardson, Robert Rohde. Assessing recent warming using instrumentally homogeneous sea surface temperature records. Science Advances, 2017; 3 (1): e1601207 DOI: 10.1126/sciadv.1601207

Big-billed birds spend more time snuggling in against the cold, study shows

January 4, 2017 British Ecological Society (BES) ScienceDaily see full article here

Bigger isn’t always better — at least not in the bird kingdom, with new Deakin University research finding that the larger a bird’s bill the longer they spend trying to snuggle it in against the cold….the study examined the “backrest” behaviour of birds — where they turn their heads to the back and tuck their beaks underneath their feathers when they are resting.

“While people have long assumed that birds exhibited this behaviour to protect themselves against the cold, no one had actually rigorously studied it. We found that they were indeed using backrest to try to keep warm, because they do it more when it gets colder,” Dr Symonds said.

But the surprising thing we discovered was that the birds with bigger bills used this behaviour more, and over noticeably longer periods. In fact, they continued to use the behaviour more even as the weather warmed.” The study looked at nine species of shorebirds ranging from the largest comparative beak size, 9.2cm, found on the red-necked avocet, to the smallest, 3.4cm, found on the masked lapwing….

Julia Ryeland, Michael A. Weston, Matthew R.E. Symonds. Bill size mediates behavioural thermoregulation in birds. Functional Ecology, 2016; DOI: 10.1111/1365-2435.12814

Climate change has mixed effects on migratory geese

Posted: 05 Jan 2017 05:27 AM PST Science Daily see full article here

Climate change improves the breeding chances of migratory geese in the Arctic — but puts mother geese at more risk of death, according to a new study.  Warmer conditions at breeding grounds in north-east Canada help light-bellied Brent geese produce more young… But in years when productivity is highest, the death rate among mothers also increases. The researchers believe this happens because mothers use extra energy laying eggs and face more risk from predators while sitting on their nests, which they make on the ground… warmer years mothers breed more successfully — so more of them remain sitting on nests or waiting on the ground until their offspring are ready to fly.

Light-bellied Brent geese are shown. Credit: Kendrew Colhoun
We tend to think of climate change as being all one way, but here we’ve got a population being affected in conflicting ways,” said Dr Ian Cleasby, of the Centre for Ecology and Conservation on the University of Exeter’s Penryn Campus in Cornwall.”This population is sensitive to changes in adult survival, so the increased breeding may not be enough to offset the loss of more adult females….we have to understand how animal populations will respond to the changing climate if we want to make decisions about protecting biodiversity.“…

Ian R. Cleasby, Thomas W. Bodey, Freydis Vigfusdottir, Jenni L. McDonald, Graham McElwaine, Kerry Mackie, Kendrew Colhoun, Stuart Bearhop. Climatic conditions produce contrasting influences on demographic traits in a long distance Arctic migrant. Journal of Animal Ecology, 2016; DOI: 10.1111/1365-2656.12623

Big data shows how what we buy affects endangered species globally

Maps show species threat ‘hotspots’ to make connection between consumers, impacts

January 4, 2017  ScienceDaily Norwegian University of Science and Technology

The things we consume, from iPhones to cars to IKEA furniture, have costs that go well beyond their purchase price. What if the soybeans used to make that tofu you ate last night were grown in fields that were hewn out of tropical rainforests? Or if that tee-shirt you bought came from an industrial area that had been carved out of high-value habitat in Malaysia?… [They] developed a technique that allows them to identify threats to wildlife caused by the global supply chains that fuel our consumption. They’ve used this technique to create a series of world maps that show the species threat hotspots across the globe for individual countries….

…For terrestrial species, the researchers found that US consumption caused species threat hotspots in Southeast Asia and Madagascar, but also in southern Europe, the Sahel, the east and west coasts of southern Mexico, throughout Central America and Central Asia and into southern Canada. Perhaps one of the biggest surprises was that US consumption also caused species threat hotspots in southern Spain and Portugal….

Daniel Moran and Keiichiro Kanemoto. Identifying species threat hotspots from global supply chains. Nature Ecology & Evolution, 04 January 2017 DOI: 10.1038/s41559-016-0023