Saturday, January 14, 2012

American exports

Fast links to two articles about North American crayfish causing problems elsewhere.

One is in National Geographic, and looks at Africa:

The 6-inch-long (15-centimeter-long) invader is already widely distributed in lakes and other bodies of water throughout Kenya, as well as in Rwanda, Uganda, Egypt, Zambia, the Seychelles, Mauritius, and South Africa.

Conservationists are now concerned the crayfish will reach the East African lakes of Malawi, Tanganyika, and Victoria, which are home to hundreds—and probably thousands—of species found nowhere else.

My understanding is that one solution to the invasion, fishing crayfish for food, may be a particularly tough sell in Africa. Apparently, many of the locals view eating crayfish in much the same way that North Americans view eating insects.

Another is in Scientific American:

Virile crayfish were first spotted in East London’s waterways in 2004, probably after being dumped into a pond from a home aquarium. Since then, they have colonized 17 kilometers of the River Lee and surrounding waterways. River Lee has no native white-clawed crayfish left—they were all wiped out by the signal crayfish invasion in the 1980s.

Friday, December 30, 2011

“500 meters a month”

500 meters a month is how fast invasive crayfish can spread through an ecosystem, according to a report in The Guardian.
The Environment Agency said virile crayfish (Orconectes virilis), which are non-native, prey on native wildlife and spread crayfish plague, a disease deadly to native white clawed crayfish. The north American predators have recently been seen in waterways in east London after first being found on the river Lea near Enfield in 2004.
They have since colonised more than 10 miles of the river and linked waterways, spreading into Hertfordshire.
The agency has fitted small radio transmitters on the backs of the unwelcome guests, with preliminary results showing that virile crayfish are moving upstream at a rate of 500 metres a month.
This is substantially faster than their cousin, the signal crayfish, which is also non-native.
The Environment Agency report shows not only the two crayfish pictured above, but also notes that Lousiana red swamp crayfish (Procambarus clarkii) and Turkish crayfish (Astacus leptodactylus) are also present in the London area.

Hat tip to Kevin Zelnio.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

The #SciFund challenge: Mid-way

Three weeks down; three weeks to go. We’re at the halfway point in the #SciFund challenge, and my project is 51% funded. I’m on target to meet my funding goal, so I’m cautiously optimistic. What has it all been like so far? I’m a raging inferno of emotions here. The moments when you see the Rocketbut email coming in announcing, “Your project has been fueled!” are great big highs – the amount does not matter. It’s just knowing that someone cared enough to help, and that you’re moving towards the goal, that make each one of those emails sweet. But when the days go by with no emails... it’s pretty damn depressing. Even when I know that most of the action is going to happen in the first and last weeks, and I know that it’s going to be hard to maintain momentum in the middle of the campaign (that is to say, right now), that intellectual knowledge doesn’t stop me from moping a bit when a day goes without the needle on the gauge budging. And the media coverage is also encouraging. There’s been so much that I just haven’t been able to keep track of it all (but fortunately, there’s a compilation here). But it’s almost as encouraging to read something like this in Forbes as it is to see a donation:
My son and I watched the Indiana Jones-like video from scientist, Zen Faulkes, and thought, “we should ‘fuel’ this project.”
Why, yes. Yes, you should. ;) I was also interviewed by Jennifer Welsh for her LiveScience article, which has been reprinted and reproduced on several other sites. My project also gets an mention in the Daily Mail article on SciFund. I’m a bit... miffed, I suppose, that they are characterising all the #SciFund projects as “wacky,” when we are all bona fide scientists with serious projects. Also, I wanted to point out a discussion that happened on Google Plus about trusting the #SciFund participants with your donations, and how you know those dollars make a difference. The highs are higher, and the lows are lower, than I ever expected. I just cannot maintain the same detached, “We’ll see how it goes” attitude that I take with normal grant submissions. There, I submit the manuscript, but have more more contact with the thing for months. Here, there’s almost daily contact, even when it’s not necessarily donations. P.S.—I’m working on a few new things related to my project that I hope you will see before the end of the week! Photo by ♥KatB Photography♥ on Flickr; used under a Creative Commons license.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

The #SciFund challenge launches!

The wait is over. The final version of Doctor Zen and the Amazon Crayfish Civilization is now ready for viewing at RocketHub! If you have three minutes, you have more than enough time to learn about my project in the #SciFund Challenge! Why can’t you watch the video here? Because I want you to go to RocketHub, and not only watch mine, but look at the other insanely cool projects that have come in from around the world. If you don’t want to support me, please consider supporting someone else. The #SciFund Challenge is an experiment in funding science. Over the next six weeks, I will be asking for your help in raising money for a research project. I’ll be talking more about the whys and wherefores in the next few days. Want to learn more? Or perhaps even... donate? You should go to RocketHub right now!

Monday, October 3, 2011

Cheering for crayfish

I was so pleased to work with the Science Cheerleaders at HESTEC Community Day promoting citizen science in general and a little about the Craywatch project in particular. The weather was cooler than normal - rain for the first time in a long time! - but there were still consistently good crowds to see the Science Cheerleaders’ show. I was able to surprise them when they learned that even though none of them had been to The University of Texas-Pan American (home of HESTEC) before, they had a connection with us. The cameraman on their popular YouTube video, Brandon Garcia, was a UTPA alumnus.
After each show, I talked a little bit about the Craywatch citizen science project that I have at the Science for Citizens website. I did it a little differently each time, but the last time I said something like, “You know what cheerleading has in common with science? You have to work hard at it to get good. I went to school a long time to become a professional scientist, and you might think you can’t do science if you don’t have fancy degrees. No! All you need is an inquiring mind and a willingness to learn. If you don’t like crayfish, there are hundreds of other real research projects that you can help with.” The Cheerleaders got asked to be part of a lot of photographs, and signed almost as many autographs.
This tiara’d women is Laura Eilers, the choreographer.
Ringleader Darlene Cavalier takes a picture.
Thanks so much to Darlene, Laura, Melissa, Heidi, Sammy Jo, Sandra, Ada (making her Science Cheerleading debut, if I remember right) for letting me be part of the act. Hooray for the Science Cheerleaders! Additional: The view from the cheering side.

Monday, August 29, 2011

Watch out for wandering crayfish!

This short video shot near Chicago was posted a few weeks ago on youtube, and it shows the remarkable ability of crayfish to traverse land in search of a new aquatic home. It's no wonder that crayfish are among the most successful aquatic invasive species in many parts of the world - their ability to invade new habitats by traversing through grasslands, fields and or other terrestrial areas makes them an ideal candidate for invasion. Can you imagine if all aquatic invaders had such an ability??!