In 1926, the U.S. National Forest Service began a natural vegetation survey of California. The initial purpose was to provide data in support of statewide land use and fire protection policy development. Part of this was photo documentation of the different regions of California.
When Hirsuta, a small architecture firm run by UCLA Professor Jason Payne, took the task of renovating an old Utah schoolhouse, they noticed that the south side had been nearly weathered away from exposure to the elements while the north side remained untouched. Payne thought they could use this to their advantage:
“We’re looking at the way the weather is curling the paneling and we thought we should do that, but more and with more intent and control. The thought is if it took 100 years to get to there, we know it will happen and so we could substitute a building material that could get it to that state in 20 years.”
“The United States is the world’s largest table olive and olive oil market. Traditionally olives have been harvested by pickers wearing gloves and they stripped down the branch into a twenty-pound bucket they wear around their waist. Unfortunately the cost is becoming prohibitive and labor availability is decreasing sharply. What we’re really hoping is the mechanical harvesting will be cheaper, be more reliable than trying to find an uneven labor force and it will allow us to sustain an industry that has a nice long history in California.” – Louise Ferguson, UC Davis Extension Specialist
Summer in the city can be especially hot and sticky, because urban heat islands exacerbate the warm weather. Researchers at Berkeley Lab are testing materials that battle that effect, making pavements cooler and safer.
The properties of urban roofs and pavements, as well as human activity, contribute to the formation of summer urban heat islands:
- Urban surface properties. Roofs and pavements can constitute about 60% of the surface area of a U.S. city. These surfaces are typically dark in color and thus absorb at least 80% of sunlight, causing them to get warmer than lighter colored surfaces.1 These warm roofs and pavements then emit heat and make the outside air warmer.
- Human activity. Air conditioning, manufacturing, transportation, and other human activities discharge heat into our urban environments.
Urban heat islands can negatively affect the urban community and the environment.
- Increased energy use. Warm temperatures in cities increase the need for air conditioning (A/C) to cool buildings. This elevated demand can strain the electrical grid on a hot summer afternoon, making it more susceptible to brown-outs and black-outs.
- Impaired air quality. Warmer air accelerates the formation of smog (ozone) from airborne pollutants like nitrogen oxides and volatile organic compounds. Elevated demand for cooling energy in the form of A/C use can also increase the emission of air pollutants and greenhouse gases from fossil-fuel power plants.
- Illness. Higher air temperatures and lower air quality can aggravate heat-related and respiratory illnesses, and also reduce productivity.
A recent survey done by Oceana says that fish found at the market are not always correctly labeled. So, scientists are working on a genetic sequence technique called fish barcoding that can positively identify fish species.
Marine biologist Ron Burton of UCSD’s Scripps Institution of Oceanography says it’s important for the public to make sure they’re getting what they think they’re getting:
“In a market like red snapper, we can be seeing red snapper at many fish markets and that would lead somebody to believe that the fish is very common, when in fact what’s being sold is a diversity of species – some of which are common, some of which aren’t. And so it can lead to a false impression about the abundance of species to the public.”
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In response to global climate change, Jill Bible at the UC Davis Bodega Marine Lab shows us how her research with the Olympia Oyster is aimed at restoring this species along the west coast.
“My research will help us determine what populations of oysters are particularly vulnerable or particularly robust to future changes and will help us determine how to best restore the populations given some of the changes coming down the pipe for oceans.” – Jill Bible
UC Santa Barbara researchers have launched the California Phenology Project. Scientists, docents, staff, teachers and citizen researchers will track the life stages of selected plant species at eight UC natural reserves.
Nowadays, observing nature’s seasonal events is a serious science. Called phenology, the study of recurring biological changes and their responses to the environment can answer a host of pressing ecological questions. Chief among these: How is climate change affecting natural communities?
To keep tabs on natural schedules in California, researchers at UC Santa Barbara have launched the California Phenology Project. Led by professor of ecology and evolutionary biology Susan Mazer, graduate student Brian Haggerty, and postdoctoral fellow Elizabeth Mathews, the project is observing plants at eight UC Natural Reserves and seven national parks, totaling more than 100 monitoring sites.
At the Bodega Marine Lab, Eric Sanford studies sea stars and mussels to determine how climate change will affect ecosystems along the California coast.
“Our results suggest that if during the summertime there are more warm events, which is what’s predicted by climate models to occur along the California coast, then this can have a really big effect on these marine ecosystems. What we found is that sea stars are actually really sensitive to small changes in temperature, so if the sea stars experience these moderately warm low tides, they get really stressed out and they consume fewer mussels and end up growing a lot less.” – Eric Sanford, UC Davis Bodega Marine Lab
“Once we have a plant and a production yield that promises commercial levels within the near future, I think we will be able to attract the interest of the big tobacco companies. Growing tobacco for cigarette consumption is a dwindling industry and we believe that converting tobacco into a bioenergy crop will also generate a new market for tobacco farmers.”
— Christer Jansson