Caviar, the snack of czars. The word symbolizes luxury food at its most expensive.
Caviar– and the money to be made from selling it—was behind a two-year undercover investigation and sting by conservation agencies. That operation ended on March 13 -14 with more than 100 citations and arrests of suspects from Missouri. In addition, eight men of eastern European descent, seven from out of state, were federally indicted for interstate trafficking of poached wildlife products. The wildlife in question is the paddlefish, native to Missouri and surrounding states.
About 85 Missouri Department of Conservation (MDC) agents worked with about 40 agents from the U. S. Fish and Wildlife Service, with cooperation of local law enforcement from Benton County, MO and conservation agents from sixteen other states.
The story rivals any good suspense novel where money is the motive.
The earth’s population is growing, estimated to top 10 billion during this century. The earth’s supply of water is constant. Already, 70% of the world’s fresh water is used for agriculture.
Because the same amount of water will be needed to support agriculture for 2.7 billion more people by 2050, water is increasingly being viewed as a finite natural resource that must be carefully managed. It is estimated that by 2025, two-thirds of the world’s population could be living under the stress of water scarcity.
The United Nations has designated 2013 as the International Year of Water Cooperation, and March 22 as World Water Day.
The Danforth Plant Science Center will devote the next two of its Conversations programs to water topics. On March 21, the topic will be “Water Availability and the Impact on Global Agriculture.”
Speakers will be Dr. Roberto Lenton, Executive Director of the Robert B. Daugherty Water for Food Institute at the University of Nebraska Lincoln, and Michael Doane, Vice President of Sustainable Agriculture Policy at Monsanto Company. The format will be a discussion moderated by Dr. Jim Davis, Professor Emeritus of Political Science at Washington University.
The frogs are alright.
Locally, and across the state of Missouri, frogs and toad populations have remained stable for at least 6 years.
This less-than-startling news is actually very good news, in view of a worldwide decline in frog and toad numbers, with about 500 of the approximately 6000 known species considered critically endangered.
Chitrid fungus deadly, habitat destruction deadlier
Some of the amphibian decline can be traced to the deadly chytrid fungus that is currently decimating frog and toad populations in Central and South America. This fungus has been traced to the South African clawed frog, used in pregnancy testing in the mid 1900’s. That species was resistant to the fungus, but was a ‘typhoid Mary’ type of carrier. The fungus is spread by contact and in the water. It does not do well in very warm temperatures.
American bullfrog: This very large frog –3-6 inches in body length—must live in permanent water, as it takes 1½ years to progress from egg to completed tadpole metamorphosis. Eggs are laid in the summer. Listen to the bullfrog’s call.
Photo courtesy of Missouri Department of Conservation
The chytrid fungus came to Missouri in the 1960’s, so the 24 species of frogs and toads in the state are either naturally resistant, like the American bullfrog, or have survived the crisis, according to Missouri Department of Conservation’s herpetologist Jeff Briggler.
According to Briggler and St. Louis Zoo naturalist instructor Mike Dawson, by far the greater danger to amphibians is habitat destruction. Since amphibians breed in water, wetland destruction is the destroyer of populations. Weather may play a role. Introduction of a new fungus or bacterium may cause a frog or toad pandemic.
William Pickard believes in long range planning—at least 70 years into the future. He foresees the economic end to earth’s fossil fuel supply before the end of this century, and hopes to promote a smooth transition to an energy future fueled by renewables. But he is wary of what has been called the Achilles’ heel of renewable energy—intermittency.
This retired Washington University professor of electrical and systems engineering fears that in their retirements his grandchildren will have a drastically reduced standard of living if the world does not develop and implement technology to assure a constant supply of electricity.
William F. Pickard, Ph.D. Professor of electrical and systems engineering at Washington University School of Engineering (retired)
Pickard recently co-edited a special volume of the Proceedings of the IEEE (Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers) entitled “The Intermittency Challenge: Massive Energy Storage in a Sustainable Future.” In this volume the authors discuss various strategies for coping with the fact that the sun only shines during the day, and the “Wind bloweth where it listeth” (John 3:8, King James Bible).
Sun and wind can provide plenty of energy to support a modern industrial world. Gregory Wilson, Director of the National Center for Photovoltaics, calculates that even with the less-than-constant sun of St. Louis, and using today’s solar panels, a field 7% the size of the United States landmass could power the entire planet. Of course many areas on earth have nearly constant daily sunshine. And many areas are prone to windy conditions.
Unfortunately sun and wind electricity cannot be stored on a large scale at present. Without storage, and without backup generators burning fossil fuels, it could be cold and dark at night—with no television to entertain and the possibility that a visit to the emergency room might not even allow an X-ray.
A male turkey struts his stuff to attract a mate. Hear him gobble. Note his red, white and blue head. Hikers in turkey season should wear some orange rather than red for obvious reasons.
Photo courtesy of Missouri Department of Conservation
Legend has it that the turkey was founding father Benjamin Franklin’s preference for our national bird. In a letter to his daughter, he derided the bald eagle as “of bad moral Character”, and praised the turkey as “withal a true original Native of America… He is besides, though a little vain & silly, a Bird of Courage, and would not hesitate to attack a Grenadier of the British Guards who should presume to invade his Farm Yard with a red Coat on.”
He was certainly right about the native part, as turkeys originated in North America. And during the spring mating season, the males are perhaps a little vain and silly.
But the courageous part, according to resource scientist Jason Isabelle of the Missouri Department of Conservation, was probably wishful thinking on Franklin’s part. Turkeys are “incredibly cautious.” They are not fighters—their instinct is flight. That flight instinct is what makes them so challenging to hunt, because if they sense any threat they will just run or fly away. Since they can move on the ground at about 12 mph, they make it hard for the hunter to get off a shot. They can also fly for short distances, mainly to the trees where they roost at night.