Carcass of a Blue Whale, Balaenoptera musculus Credit: analog chainsawWhen zoologists speak about superlatives among animals, blue whales (Balaenoptera musculus) often play a key role at the high end of the scale of organisms. With good reason, too: they are not only the largest baleen whales, but also the largest mammals ever to have lived […]
Joseph Grinell (center) and team, in 1908Last time, I wrote briefly about the history of grizzly bears in California and how there are no grizzlies in California anymore (an irony, given the animal's image on many of our state's symbols). The story of the grizzly's demise in California is the same narrative for many other […]
This fall, fishing was banned or sharply limited in 18 percent of California's ocean waters from Half Moon Bay to Santa Barbara under a landmark state plan. But that was only the first part. Now, scientists need to see how fast sea life recovers. QUEST finds out: how do you count the fish in the […]
This fall, fishing was banned or sharply limited in 18 percent of California's ocean waters from Half Moon Bay to Santa Barbara under a landmark state plan. But that was only the first part. Now, scientists need to see how fast sea life recovers. QUEST finds out: how do you count the fish in the sea?
Grizzly bears are iconic Californian mammals — they're on our state flag; many creeks, hills and passes are named after them; and they're the mascot of many UC schools — but you won't ever see one out in your backyard or anywhere else in California. Unlike black bears, which are relatively common in the state, […]
Did we get our backbones from animals like this?Lately I have been reading a book by Jeffrey Schwartz called Sudden Origins. In it Dr. Schwartz talks about the idea that species are not made gradually but instead just suddenly appear (in geological time anyway). Reading the book was a bit like panning for gold. It […]
If you're like me, when you’re doing the dinner dishes you normally aren't thinking about the fate of the delta smelt, the little native fish that is one of several in steep decline and facing extinction. And yet for millions of Bay Area residents the two things–dishwashing and delta smelt–are connected. In fact, choices we […]
Coral reefs, often referred to as underwater rainforests, are the most diverse aquatic ecosystem on the planet. Often mistaken as underwater plants, coral are actually animals related to anemones and jellyfish. A reef can be made up of many different types of coral colonies and be thousands of years old. Each branch or part of […]
Would a gene doper get an asterisk?The last few blogs I have been talking about people adding genes to their DNA to make them better athletes. The reason they're considering this sort of gene doping instead of just taking a designer steroid or two is that a DNA change will supposedly be more permanent, safer, […]
Photo Credit: John CalambokidisChances are, if you've ever been swimming, you understand that it's hard to dive deep. But marine mammals do it all the time — and they dive to depths beyond our imagination. Sperm whales, beaked whales, elephant seals all have an amazing ability for deep-diving, and along with that, fascinating specializations to […]
QUEST radio takes a trip to Point Reyes, where a tug of war is underway over the management of an estuary. What is most ecologically healthy for the estuary– the preservation of pristine wilderness, or the sustainable stewardship of land and water through farming?
At Point Reyes National Seashore, environmental ideology has run into hard science, with a tug-of-war for management of an estuary coming down to the question of what is the most ecologically healthy thing to do. On its face, it's a legal battle between the National Park Service, which owns the land, and an oyster farmer, […]
Image from Wikipedia, originally from socialfiction.orgI'm in mourning: In early September, Alex the African grey parrot mysteriously died. I never met Alex personally, but I've heard him speak. Yes, he spoke. He also counted. And he could tell you which of a pair of keys was the bigger one, or the yellow one. He was […]
What is soft, furry, clean, and curious and actually makes a decent pet? A rabbit. Yep, rabbits are one of the few species that we take on our Oakland Zoo ZooMobile outings and feel it is ok to choose as pets, with proper care and preparations, of course (not so much for the hedgehogs). While […]
For more than 100 years, south San Francisco Bay has been a center for industrial salt production. Now federal and state biologists are working on a 40-year, $1 billion project to restore the ponds to healthy wetlands for fish, wildlife and public recreation.
The human brain was once a black box, but scientists are finding ways to peer inside and explore some of our most complicated thought processes. Using MRI scanners in innovative ways, Stanford scientists are learning how children's brains process words when they read.
The human brain was once a black box, but scientists are finding ways to peer inside and explore some of our most complicated thought processes. Using MRI scanners in innovative ways, Stanford scientists are learning how children's brains process words when they read. You may view the "Watching the Brain at Work" TV story online, […]
The lush forested areas of central and western Africa are commonly referred to as "the bush." The diverse forms of wildlife found in the bush–including great apes, elephants, and forest antelope–have long served as a primary food source for the inhabitants of the region. This bushmeat is an important food and trade item for poor […]
Someday genes may "pump you up." Lots of athletes are using performance enhancing drugs to, well, enhance their performance. Examples include steroids to increase strength and EPO to increase endurance. Of course these methods have their drawbacks (even beyond the murky ethical ones). They're dangerous and the penalties can be pretty severe if the athlete […]