Back to School

Hi all,

As you may have noticed, I’ve been updating this blog less frequently than before. The reason is that I’ve taken up more work with the UP, and have had less time to work on this blog. But that doesn’t mean I’ll stop updating the blog. Instead, I’ll be looking for more photographers to get great pics of animals, while I will post about animals at FAU.

For now, I’ll leave you with this cute summer picture from May.

Photo by Christina Stanley

When she saw this squirrel, the photographer said, “Oh my god! It’s a squirrel eating a french fry!”

See you all later this semester.


The Tortoises May Die

By Chris Persaud

Map of the gopher tortoise status in the southeast United States, as researched by FAU Biology student and lab partner Joshua Scholl. Picture courtesy of the University Press.

According to the latest issue of the UP, there is (another) dispute between those who want to build on FAU’s preserve, and those who want to protect the burrowing owls. FAU wants to build more housing–called Innovation Village Apartments II–in a part of the preserve they said they would not. Biology student and lab partner Joshua Scholl says that the gopher tortoises would die out if the apartments are built. As mentioned in a previous post, the gopher tortoise helps support a whole lot of species, including FAU’s mascot, the burrowing owls. If the gopher tortoises die out, says the article, the species relying on them will “suffer the consequences.”

Mark Brandenburg, who does environmental consulting for FAU, says the tortoises will be fine if Innovation Village Apartments II goes up. Then again, Brandenburg’s firm, Miller Legg, is in the business of relocating animals on land meant for construction.

If you want to judge for yourself, then read the article.


Update Update

by Chris Persaud

Hey all,

Just a heads up that, during the summer months, FAU Animals will be having major updates every other Thursday (after the first official summer edition of the UP hits the racks ) until the Fall semester starts.  But there may still be other updates on other days.

Thanks for reading.

P.S., if you have any pictures of–or info about–animals on FAU, then send them over to fauanimals@gmail.com


BioBlitz Part2: More Cool Pics

by Chris persaud

This is an example of the cool, freaky stuff in the FAU Preserve. Click to enlarge. Go ahead. Do it. Photo by Brett Bartek

Last week, I posted a small handful of pictures from the second annual BioBlitz at FAU.  They mostly consisted of pictures of creepy insects and reptiles.  This week, the freaky factor is increased, and so is the cool bug/reptile factor.  Last week’s pictures were taken with what appeared to be run-of-the-mill digital cameras, but these pics were taken with–as SEEDS FAU Vice President Joshua Scholl put it–“an awesome, expensive camera.”  You can see every reptile’s scale, every bit spider fur, and all the gross parts of insects’ unseemly abdomens.  But don’t just take my words for it, check out part 2 of the BioBlitz 2011 photo gallery for yourself.  Just make sure to wait 30 minutes after eating before doing so.

Oh, and watch out for the camouflaged spider.

All photos by Brett Bartek.

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BioBlitz 2011: Part 1: Creepy Crawlies

By Chris Persaud

For 24 hours straight, SEEDS @ FAU President Nicholas Mazzoli and a rotating schedule of other SEEDS members hiked the trails of FAU’s Preserve, gathering scientific data–and taking cool pictures of–the gross, interesting, cute, and awesome creatures roaming around up there for the second annual BioBlitz.  For all the justice words can do for the event, the pictures taken by the members of SEEDS do a much better job of illustrating it.  While FAU Animals does not have all the pictures yet, we do have photos of the freaky insects living there.  Check ’em out in the BIoBlitz 2011 Creepy Crawly Photo Gallery.

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All photos courtesy of Joshua Scholl.


Testing on Animals: Right or Wrong?

FAU students protesting animal testing. Photo by Christine Capozzielo of the University Press

According to FAU protestors, Scripps Florida–the research institute near FAU’s Jupiter campus–performs experiments on animals.  During the protest pictured above, one protester said that said that animal testing is “cruel.”

These protests aren’t anything new.  As the Sun-Sentinel reported in June 2009, FAU students protested Scripps for doing experiments on animals.

“We believe that Scripps and FAU must be more open about what is happening, which animals are or will be vivisected, and what measures Scripps has taken to change its record of animal abuse,” FAU student Brandon Block said. “We also would like FAU to host a series of debates concerning animal experimentation, infectious disease storage, and biotechnology. Thus far there has been too much high dollar cheerleading for Scripps. We intend to spark a debate. If FAU wants truly to be a place of academic integrity then it must support a vetting process of Scripps with its students, faculty, staff, and the surrounding community.”

One opposing viewpoint comes from FAU student Alena Rodriguez.  As reported in a post on Scienceblogs.com:

Hello! My name is Alena Rodriguez, and I’m a junior at FAU. I’m working toward a BS degree in biology with a minor in psychology. I developed a passion for life sciences early in high school and have been studying for a career in biology ever since. My goal is to become a research biologist.During my time at FAU, I have taken advanced science courses, excelled in my academic labs, tutored my peers, and held an executive position for the Chemistry Club of FAU. There was only one thing missing; I had yet to be in a real lab. Luckily, I heard about the URM-NSF program, which is now providing me with the opportunity to do just that! I look forward to participating in this program in hopes that it will provide me with the training and knowledge to be a successful graduate student, and, ultimately, an influential scientist.

Specifically, I am interested in molecular, cellular, and developmental biology, as well as biochemistry. I hope to someday be a part of the growing research that aims to find treatments and cures for cancer and other diseases. I am also inspired by biotechnology because its discoveries improve human health.

In addition, she said this:

Actually, I’m an undergrad researcher aiming to work at Scripps! I currently test on animals and think that it is perfectly fine. In fact, it is the one of the only ways that we, scientists, can test drugs in order to treat human diseases. I’m sure someone in your family or even a friend you know has suffered from a disease or pathology that was treated (or cured) by medicines THAT ONLY CAME INTO EXISTENCE BECAUSE OF ANIMAL TESTING.

Plus, scientists overwhelmingly agree that animal testing is necessary, as the Los Angeles Times reports:

The vast majority — 91.7% — said they agreed or strongly agreed with the statement that “Animal research is essential to the advancement of biomedical science.”  About 70% of those polled said they conduct experiments on animals.

If you’ve got your own opinion on animal testing, feel free to leave a comment.

Hello! My name is Alena Rodriguez, and I’m a junior at FAU. I’m working toward a BS degree in biology with a minor in psychology. I developed a passion for life sciences early in high school and have been studying for a career in biology ever since. My goal is to become a research biologist.During my time at FAU, I have taken advanced science courses, excelled in my academic labs, tutored my peers, and held an executive position for the Chemistry Club of FAU. There was only one thing missing; I had yet to be in a real lab. Luckily, I heard about the URM-NSF program, which is now providing me with the opportunity to do just that! I look forward to participating in this program in hopes that it will provide me with the training and knowledge to be a successful graduate student, and, ultimately, an influential scientist. 

Specifically, I am interested in molecular, cellular, and developmental biology, as well as biochemistry. I hope to someday be a part of the growing research that aims to find treatments and cures for cancer and other diseases. I am also inspired by biotechnology because its discoveries improve human health.


Breaking the Law

By Chris Persaud

FAU alumni Rachel Kijewski and Brandon Block are risking arrest to stop construction in Briger Forest. Photo by Todd Dripps

Despite police warnings, some FAU alumni up near the Jupiter campus have set up camp in Briger Forest, and they aren’t leaving until the Scripps Florida Research Institute decides against construction in the forest — or until they’re arrested.

The protesting alumni say that animals like gopher tortoises and the U.S.’s own screeching bald eagle will be put in harm’s way if construction is allowed in the 683-acre forest.

High awareness

FAU alumni live in trees to prevent their destruction

By Jordan Robrish

Contributor

NEWS

For more than six weeks, environmental activists living strapped to slash pines in a forest across from the Jupiter campus have faced the elements — and police — while protesting the construction of a research facility that, according to them, would kill endangered plants and animals.

“I want to protect the Briger Forest from destruction,” said 25-year-old Brandon Block, a member of environmental group Everglades Earth First, and one of four FAU alumni who had been living in the forest. “I have been living at peace with nature up in the trees feeling like a bird in a nest.”

But according to Rachel Kijewski, another one of the tree-sitters on March 21, Palm Beach Gardens Police confiscated and destroyed tree-sitters’ equipment, burned the trees where some protesters were living and arrested some of them, including Block, on counts of trespassing.

Courtney Claar, 23, was also among the activists arrested.

“I definitely feel today that there was an increase in the amount of repression of this protest that’s going on,” Claar told the Palm Beach Post.

Claar said that group members had been collectively warned that the space they were inhabiting was a no-trespassing area, but said that March 21 marked the first significant police presence inside the forest.

The remaining protesters have immerged deeper into the forest in an attempt to avoid police and keep construction from moving in, Kijewski said.

The tree-sitters are protesting the expansion and construction of a 70-acre facility. The city and the Scripps Florida Research Institute want to build a biotech laboratory on the land in the Briger Forest, just south of Donald Ross Road.

The environmentalists believe if construction into the 683-acre forest proceeds, many threatened and endangered species of plants and animals like the hand fern, cabbage palm, gopher tortoises and screeching bald eagle, the national emblem, will lose their habitat and die.

Scripps is the largest not-for-profit biomedical research firm in the world. They are involved in conducting research to help cure diseases such as Parkinson’s, cancer and the HIV/AIDS, according to its website.

Scripps already has a permanent facility next to FAU’s Jupiter campus. It employs more than 300 scientists, technicians and administrators.

The planned expansion into the forest calls for an additional 1.6-million-square-foot Scripps Research and Development Biotech facility, surrounded by over 2,700 homes. Once the project is completed, Scripps is planning a partnership with FAU, environmentalists said.

According to the environmental group, Scripps had already planned to build their new facility on a patch of land in Lake Worth known as Mecca Farms.

The Palm Beach County Commission agreed to buy 1,919 acres of land for $60 million in 2004. The commission then spent $40 million to plan, pull permits and begin construction, while spending an additional $51 million on a water pipeline to service Mecca Farms.

However, the proposed Scripps facility on Mecca Farms was never built due to mounting pressure from citizens and environmental groups such as Everglades Earth First.

Kathleen Ryan, an executive assistant for Scripps, declined to comment for this story.

The environmental activists said they will continue to live in the forest. They plan on continuing to protest until they achieve what they seek or until police finally detain all of them.


Walk With The Animals

By Chris Persaud

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On the warm spring morn of April 8, kids and adults alike will have the once-in-a-year chance to come face-to-face with bats, burrowing owls, bugs, tortoises, armadillos and other unique animals in FAU’s own little forest-like ecological preserve.  And they can eat some free food while listening to some sweet music too!

So, what exactly is going down at the preserve? Why, it’s the second annual greenery-trekking, animal-info-gathering BioBlitz. BioBlitz is hosted by SEEDS @ FAU, a local chapter of an Ecological Society of America program whose mission is to educate students on environmental issues and encourage them to get involved in those issues. It spans 24 hours, from 9 a.m. on April 8 to 9 a.m. on April 9.  The event starts at Lot 5 (behind the stadium site).

A free t-shirt with buttons from BioBlitz2010

Folks in elementary, middle and high school can learn about gopher tortoises, creepy-crawly insects and invasive plant species, and help identify nifty animal skeletons on informative tours of the preserve. After the tours, they’ll get to go on a treasure hunt for different animal buttons or T-shirts, which they can keep as souvenirs.

FAU students with iPhones will have the option of doing something a bit more hands-on at BioBlitz.  SEEDS @ FAU President Nicolas Mazzoli has developed an iPhone app called Ecocritique that FAU students can download and use at the event.

Ecocritique users will use the app to note which animals are roaming and living on the preserve. The information is put on a map that is accessible online or via Ecocritique. The animal info will then be sent to the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and the Discovery Channel’s Life series. It helps those who are curious to know what sorts of animals exist in FAU’s preserve at the flick of a finger.

An estimated 150 people showed at last year’s BioBlitz, and its organizers estimate at least 250 this time around. The numbers are boosted by FAU students who will be going to BioBlitz as part of their classes.

This snake is called a Black Racer. Photo Courtesy of Joshua Scholl

Free food is provided via donation from Whole Foods, and live music is provided by DJ Ozzie. Free T-shirts proclaiming “protect the burrow” will also be given out.

Check out the image gallery and video for a look at the cool critters and fun times from last year’s event.

If you’re interested in volunteering for this year’s BioBlitz, send an e-mail to SEEDSFAU@gmail.com.

All information in this post courtesy of SEEDS@FAU President Nicholas Mazzoli, Vice President Joshua Scholl, and lab/field assistant Leonardo Calle Jr.  Photos courtesy of Scholl.  Video courtesy of SEEDS@FAU.

 

 


Stray Cats > Burrowing Owls?

By Chris Persaud

 

Photo by Elizabeth Whitton of the University Press

An interesting article from the Sun Sentinel in 1992 shows FAU’s efforts to protect its stray cats.  Evidently, cat lovers successfully reached a compromise with then-president Anthony CATanese (coincidence? probably) regarding the stray cats on campus: The “cat lovers” promised they would capture and put the cats up for adoption, and FAU would not evict the cats themselves.

Biology professor Sheila Mahoney lamented the fact that FAU agreed to let the cats stay on campus for so long, due to evidence that they prey on Burrowing Owls.

According to the article, FAU said it would form a Committee on the Environment to “look into other means of protecting FAU’s burrowing owls, which live in underground dens on the 880-acre campus.”

A search of FAU’s website for the term “Committee on the Environment” yields only one result: a 196-page report on “global climate change.” And in that document, the term only appears once — on page 11. And there it’s only in this sentence that says nothing of FAU or its efforts to protect any on-campus animal species:

“The report was approved by its lead USGCRP Agency, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, the other USGCRP agencies, and the Committee on the Environment and Natural Resources on behalf of the National Science and Technology Council.”

In addition, as mentioned in a previous post, the burrowing owl population has declined 83 to 93 percent since the Royal Palm Chapter of the Audubon Society declared FAU an owl sanctuary.

What is the policy on stray cats now?

Did this committee ever form?

Given the Burrowing Owl’s population decline despite FAU’s owl sanctuary status, why is FAU still considered an owl sanctuary?

Stay tuned to FAU Animals to find the answers to these burning questions.


Sea Turtles From Jupiter

By Chris Persaud

One of many rescued sea turtles that can be seen at the Marinelife Center in the observation tanks in the courtyard. Photo: Liz Dzuro of University Press

This week, our focus is not on the Boca campus, but further up north, in Jupiter.  If you live, or have classes, at the Jupiter campus, then you may be interested in these hard-shelled turtles of the sea at Juno Beach. What’s more, the timing of this University Press article could not be better, as nesting season for these turtles started this month.

SEA TURTLES

Loggerhead Marinelife Center

14200 U.S. 1

Juno Beach, FL 33408

(561) 627-8280

If you’re going to be spending a bunch of time on Juno Beach, there are a couple of things you should know about a very prominent figure in that area: the sea turtle.

SEA TURTLES FUN FACTS

Nesting season starts March 1 in Palm Beach County.

Juno Beach is recognized as the most active nesting area in the world.

All species of sea turtles are listed as endangered.

Five species of sea turtles nest on Juno Beach: Leatherback, Loggerhead, Green, Hawksbill and Kemp’s Ridley.

Leatherback turtles start nesting first in March. They are named for their smooth rubbery shell and can weigh up to 1,500 pounds.

Lights along A1A are turned off during nesting season so that the turtles coming ashore can nest and the hatchlings returning to sea don’t become disoriented by the bright lights.

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BY THE WAY

It’s pretty much illegal to approach or disturb or touch a nesting or newly hatched sea turtle in any way.

But, if you just so happen to be on the beach at night for whatever reason and see a nesting turtle, don’t freak out or shine any lights on it. As long as you can handle just sitting in the dark and watching it from a safe distance, it shouldn’t be too much of a problem.

If you can wait until summer, the Marinelife Center has “Turtle Walks” a couple of nights per week starting in June. Groups of up to 40 people accompany an “experienced Loggerhead Marinelife Center scout” to the beach at night to naturally observe a turtle laying her eggs.

Go to www.marinelife.org/experiences for more details.

to report an injured, dead or harassed sea turtle call: (888) 404-3922