butterfly magic

YEP. How is this possible?

From Oregon Metro today, Zoo releases 850 endangered butterflies into wild

Precious excerpts:

Once common along the Oregon coast, the Oregon silverspot was reduced to four Oregon populations by the 1990s. The species was listed as threatened by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service in 1980 – one of two Oregon butterflies listed as threatened or endangered under the U.S. Endangered Species Act.

“They face a lot of obstacles,” Andersen said. “Development, motor vehicles, bad weather, pesticides, invasive species, natural predators like spiders.…”

In addition to releasing pupae, the Oregon Zoo raises and plants thousands of early blue violets, on which the Oregon silverspot depends, into butterfly habitat.

“When the caterpillars hatch, they’re tiny – just about the size of Abe Lincoln’s nose on a penny,” Andersen said. “But they will eat more than 300 nickel-sized violet leaves before they’re ready to pupate.”

Last summer, before the final batch of 2012 pupae were sent to their new beachfront homes, Oregon Zoo photographer Michael Durham captured what is believed to be the first time-lapse video of a silverspot caterpillar transforming into a chrysalis.

“What he captured was nothing short of magical,” Andersen said. “When a caterpillar pupates, all of its molecules literally liquefy, and it reformulates as a butterfly. Sometimes you need to have a meltdown in order to change your life.”

The African Clawed Frog is Queen

“Frog Once Used in Pregnancy Tests Spread Deadly Fungus”


A species of frog that was used from the 1930s to the 1950s in human pregnancy tests is a carrier of a deadly amphibian disease that is now threatening hundreds of other species of frogs and salamanders.

… The pathogen the frogs are spreading is a fungus called Batrachochytrium dendrobatidis, or Bd. It has led to the recent decline or extinction of 200 frog species worldwide, the researchers report. Researchers in 2004 found Bd in a museum specimen of an African clawed frog that dated to 1934. But the frog itself appears to be unaffected by the fungus.

“Evolution has run its course,” Dr. Vredenburg said. “The species probably at some point suffered, but the survivors have figured out ways to survive.”

For other species, the pathogen is “the worst disease in vertebrate history,” Dr. Vredenburg said. The disease infects the skin of frogs and salamanders and causes it to thicken 40 times greater than normal, Dr. Vredenburg said. Within a couple of weeks, the disease causes an electrolyte imbalance and the amphibians die of heart attacks, he said.

…Thousands of African clawed frogs were shipped from South Africa to labs and hospitals around the world before the middle of the 20th century. In those days, some pregnancy tests involved injecting a woman’s urine into a female frog. If the frog began ovulating within about 10 hours, there was a high likelihood that the woman was pregnant.

The frogs are no longer imported to the United States for pregnancy testing, though they are still used for scientific research.

African Clawed Frog female

Goodbye cows, hello tube meat.

These days, very little would make me happier than to get on the train that asks Americans to reconceive their relationship to beef, by removing the cow at the end of the line. Just NOW on the NYT site, “Engineering the $325,000 Burger.”

The idea of creating meat in a laboratory — actual animal tissue, not a substitute made from soybeans or other protein sources — has been around for decades. The arguments in favor of it are many, covering both animal welfare and environmental issues.
…Yet growing meat in the laboratory has proved difficult and devilishly expensive. Dr. Post, who knows as much about the subject as anybody, has repeatedly postponed the hamburger cook-off, which was originally expected to take place in November. His burger consists of about 20,000 thin strips of cultured muscle tissue. Dr. Post, who has conducted some informal taste tests, said that even without any fat, the tissue “tastes reasonably good.” For the London event he plans to add only salt and pepper.

But the meat is produced with materials — including fetal calf serum, used as a medium in which to grow the cells — that eventually would have to be replaced by similar materials of non-animal origin. And the burger was created at phenomenal cost — 250,000 euros, or about $325,000, provided by a donor who so far has remained anonymous. Large-scale manufacturing of cultured meat that could sit side-by-side with conventional meat in a supermarket and compete with it in price is at the very least a long way off.“This is still an early-stage technology,” said Neil Stephens, a social scientist at Cardiff University in Wales who has long studied the development of what is also sometimes referred to as “shmeat.” “There’s still a huge number of things they need to learn.”

Engineering the $325,000 Burger,  Henry Fountain, New York Times

Shmeat is an unfortunate moniker – a portmanteau of shit n meat.

I dream of ways to reimagine America without our beloved cow/cowboy, and start shifting the paradigms now to embrace the tube meat when it’s ready for prime-time.

Virtual fencing, and the new aesthetic

This just in from Venue, an online mag produced by StudioX.

(10 gallon) hats off to Studio-x for mixing urban and non-urban considerations of architecture.
I’ve been ruminating (yes) about how to better interface with and represent ecocritical investigations on remote public lands, and have the work BE more salient to an urban public.
I sometimes (often) get blank looks if I talk about the fact that we all own the USA’s public land.
So much real and symbolic action takes place on this vast area (over 95,000 square miles) of high plains and high desert*.


In response to the interview about virtual fences, I’m thinking about

– at what point in the interview Anderson (and interviewer) mentions animal welfare – not until midway or later in article, certainly framed as secondary or even an after thought

– how easy it is to privilege convenience and human progress, continuing to make animal welfare second to your priorities (if that)

– looking at Anderson’s enthusiasm about technology controlling our literal actions (and not even in the future, right now, how that’s leading us)

– cows are ‘handed’ (left and right) as we are. They can recall where virtual fences were (because they experienced unpleasant feedback to approaching theses zones)

– question: to surveille the animals via drones and electronics performs what in relation to control of human biopower?

– can one *really* fence off poisonous plants (a single one?)?

– can the drone birds be sent to frighten off wolves and lions and bears (oh my)?

– can songs be sung for other purposes across that landscape, like Anderson does in the cows’ ear pieces?

– the ‘new aesthetic’ privileges a remote sensing of the world, acknowledging the ever-decreasing direct apprehension we have or are interested in having (what are we doing with all that time we gain?)

–  the ‘new aesthetic’ takes non-critical pleasure in surveillance, distance, and the production of accidental wonders. how does this operate with real animals (and real meat and money) at the end of the line?

– the positive impacts of the virtual fencing are great: ease of moving livestock  away from riparian areas and depleted landscapes, away from predators, away from wild herds, removal of hard fencing helps wildlife’s mobility.

– remote sensing from drones (robo birds) can tell you a detailed story of the current conditions of the landscape:


Christie Leece (my collaborator on Gila 2.0) and I are trying to figure out next steps — hopefully in Arizona.



On a related note, basal ganglia controlled (like the robo rat in the Anderson article) in mice is featured on Radiolab:
Damn It, Basal Ganglia


*The North American Deserts includes all the deserts located on the continent. It is also the term for a large U.S. Level 1 ecoregion (EPA)[1] of the North American Cordillera, in theDeserts and xeric shrublands biome (WWF). The continent’s deserts are largely between the Rocky Mountains and Sierra Madre Oriental on the east, and the rain shadow creatingSierra NevadaTransverse, and Peninsular Ranges on the west. The North American xeric region of over 95,751 sq mi (247,990 km2) includes: 3 major deserts; numerous smaller deserts; and large non-desert arid regions; in the western United States and in northeast, central, and northwest Mexico.

Are domestic cats an anthropogenic force (of destruction, and is that redundant)?

From the NY Times today

Fluffies that spend part of the day outdoors and the unnamed strays and ferals that never leave it — kill a median of 2.4 billion birds and 12.3 billion mammals a year, most of them native mammals like shrews, chipmunks and voles rather than introduced pests like the Norway rat.

The estimated kill rates are two to four times higher than mortality figures previously bandied about, and position the domestic cat as one of the single greatest human-linked threats to wildlife in the nation. More birds and mammals die at the mouths of cats, the report said, than from automobile strikes, pesticides and poisons, collisions with skyscrapers and windmills and other so-called anthropogenic causes.