The book received a mention in a recent New Scientist article about the Blaschka glass collection: ““If ever there was a time to compare the plentiful past with an ocean in jeopardy, that time would be now,” says author Drew Harvell, who was instrumental in bringing Cornell’s Blaschka collection out of storage and into the Corning Museum of Glass in New York state. “We hope to find out whether they are surviving in the sea as magnificently as they do in glass,” she says.”
A recent review in Library Journal said: “The author makes an eloquent plea for marine biodiversity conservation. VERDICT: General readers, as well as those who enjoyed J.E.N. Veron’s A Reef in Time: The Great Barrier Reef from Beginning to End and Richard Ellis’s The Empty Ocean, will appreciate this volume.”
Discover Magazine ran a profile of Drew Harvell, available online to magazine subscribers, as well as a beautiful slideshow of the Blaschka glass creatures.
The book was reviewed this week in Hakai Magazine. Julie Schwietert Collazo called the book “an SOS call for a change in human behavior.”
NPR’s Science Fridayran a piece on their blog about the Blaschka collection, mentioning the current exhibit at the Corning Museum of Glass as well as A Sea of Glass: “Today, the marine models are enduring examples of a successful union between science and art, and Harvell uses them as teaching aids at Cornell. For her, they’re a source of inspiration at a crucial time for ocean conservation. As she writes in A Sea of Glass, “My vision is that these masterpieces of glass art motivate wonder and appreciation for our ocean world.””
And to cap off the outstanding reception to A Sea of Glass, Eve M. Kahn mentioned the book in an article she wrote for the New York Timesantiques column earlier this month.
This post was originally featured on the UC Santa Cruz News Center, and has been reblogged with the permission of the author.
by Tim Stephens
In his new book, Serendipity: An Ecologist’s Quest to Understand Nature (UC Press, May 2016), marine ecologist James Estes recounts the simple twists of fate that sent him to the Aleutian Islands in 1970 to study the distribution and abundance of sea otters. It was the start of a remarkable journey of discovery that led to profound insights about the complexity of ecological interactions and the importance of predators in natural ecosystems.
Now a professor of ecology and evolutionary biology at UC Santa Cruz, Estes has returned to the Aleutian Islands nearly every year after that first visit, developing a deep knowledge of the area’s natural history and witnessing dramatic changes in its ecosystems. InSerendipity, he starts with his research on sea otters and kelp forests, shows how one question led to another, and explains the broader principles of ecology illuminated by his findings.
“I try to not only tell the story of the science, but also give an explanation of how it came about and highlight why it’s important to the science of ecology,” Estes said.
His research showed that sea otters are a “keystone species” that maintains kelp forest ecosystems by controlling populations of kelp-grazing sea urchins. Sea otters had been hunted to near extinction for the fur trade, and the recovery of their populations was uneven and fragmented across the Aleutian Archipelago. This enabled Estes to compare coastal ecosystems around islands with and without sea otters, and he found that there were no kelp forests without sea otters.
His findings have become a classic example of how apex predators shape ecosystems. Estes continued to build on his early observations over the following decades, carefully documenting the interactions among sea otters, sea urchins, and other elements of kelp forest ecosystems. He conducted long-term studies tracking the changes at sites where sea otters recolonized an island and expanded their numbers, and at other sites where once thriving populations underwent sudden declines.
The unexpected collapse of sea otter populations in parts of the Aleutian Archipelago in the 1990s led the research in new directions. Estes concluded that the likely cause of the decline was predation by killer whales. But why had killer whales begun preying on sea otters? It appeared to be part of a broader “megafaunal collapse” that included several species of seals and sea lions.
Estes and others proposed that industrial whaling had forced a dietary shift in killer whales that had previously preyed on large whales. As the great whales became scarce, the killer whales turned to smaller marine mammals, including seals, sea lions, and sea otters, all of which underwent marked population declines. This remains a controversial hypothesis, and Estes devotes a chapter of the book to the ongoing debate.
In recent years, he has led international teams of scientists investigating how a broad range of ecosystems have been disrupted by the decline of large predators and other “apex consumers” at the top of the food chain.
“Natural ecosystems are strongly influenced by these big predators,” Estes said. “The top predators have really important roles in the way ecosystems are structured and how they operate, and the loss of these animals as part of the erosion of biodiversity is an issue of global significance.”
The book’s title, Serendipity, reflects the unpredictable and often surprising course of his research career, Estes said. “So much of the process of science has to do with fortuitous events, the people you meet, and the ideas that surface during informal conversations.”
A crucial encounter for Estes was a brief conversation in 1971 with the pioneering ecologist Robert Paine during a visit Paine made to Amchitka Island, where Estes was based. Estes had been observing a thriving sea otter population around Amchitka Island, diving in the kelp forests, and trying to come up with an idea for a Ph.D. thesis. Inspired by Paine, he organized a trip to another island in the Aleutian archipelago where the sea otter population had never recovered.
“That was probably the most exciting moment in my career, when I first went to an island that lacked sea otters and stuck my head in the water, and I saw how incredibly different it was,” Estes said. “That was such a powerful experience, probably the most defining moment of my life, and it happened in less than a second.”
Estes, who joined the UCSC faculty in 1978, was elected to the National Academy of Sciences in 2014. He is also a fellow of the California Academy of Sciences and has received the Western Society of Naturalists’ Lifetime Achievement Award, a Pew Marine Conservation Fellowship, and the C. Hart Merriam Award of the American Society of Mammalogists.
Over 150 years ago, the father-son glassmaking team of Leopold and Rudolf Blaschka created a glass menagerie of over 800 marine invertebrate models, documenting life in oceans untouched by climate change and human impacts. They were captivated by sea slugs, octopus, squid, anemones, and even soft corals, and they spun their likeness into exquisite glass replicas. As described in A Sea of Glass, my quest to find what living representatives remain of the Blaschka’s subjects was surprisingly successful, even though their variety and numbers have dwindled since they were first captured in glass. Sadly, their losses are accelerating beyond expectation due to climate-related impacts such as ocean acidification and warming seas, particularly for coral reefs. The devastation this year is shocking. According to a new report in the journal Science, coral reefs around the globe have been devastated by the world’s largest bleaching event. Only 7 percent of all Great Barrier Reefs are unaffected, and in the northern GBR, 80 percent of reefs are severely affected. Over half the live coral has died on these severely affected reefs, once the most vibrant on the GBR. This means vast tracts of reef are no longer good habitat for all the extraordinary biodiversity and fisheries wealth that once lived there.
The loss of the corals that make these reefs is the big story, but it also translates into the loss of habitat for the beautiful invertebrates the Blaschkas so admired: countless sea anemones, nudibranchs, squid, and octopus are now homeless refugees. My colleague, Dr Terry Hughes, who directs the Australian Research Council Center of Coral Reef Excellence reports, “This dwarfs previous bleaching events by a long mark . . . the northern GBR won’t get back to what it was, certainly not in my lifetime.”
Things are even worse in other places, like the tiny country of Kiribati where Dr Julia Baum of The University of Victoria estimates that 80 percent of the coral cover died. Those of us who study infectious disease know its not over yet; the remaining live, but severely stressed corals in both the GBR and Kiribati will still be susceptible to waves of lethal infectious disease yet to come.
Even before this disastrous year, coldwater corals that the Blaschkas once captured in glass, like the stunning precious red coral (Corallium rubrum) and the golden cup coral (Astroides calycularis) from the Mediterranean, have experienced multiple mass mortalities due to heat stress.
There is much that can be done to reverse the impacts of climate change; it is the grand challenge of our time, and our reward for success will be an ocean full of nature’s masterpieces. Otherwise, in fifty years it may be that all we’ll have left is our sea in glass.
Drew Harvell is Professor of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology at Cornell University and Curator of the Blaschka Marine Invertebrate Collection. Her research on the sustainability of marine ecosystems has taken her from the reefs of Mexico, Indonesia, and Hawaii to the cold waters of the Pacific Northwest. She is a Fellow of the Ecological Society of America and the Atkinson Center for a Sustainable Future, a winner of the Society of American Naturalist Jasper Loftus-Hills Award, and a lead author of the oceans chapter in the recent U.S. Climate Change Assessment. She has published over 120 articles in journals such as Science, Nature, and Ecology and is coeditor of The Ecology and Evolution of Inducible Defenses.
Frequently compared to John Muir, David Brower was the first executive director of the Sierra Club, founded Friends of the Earth, and helped secure passage of the Wilderness Act, among other key achievements. Tapping his passion for wilderness and for the mountains he scaled in his youth, he was a central figure in the creation of the Point Reyes National Seashore and of the North Cascades and Redwood national parks. In addition, Brower worked tirelessly in successful efforts to keep dams from being built in Dinosaur National Monument and the Grand Canyon.
The late 1960s and early 1970s saw a dramatic blossoming of the environmental movement with the creation of Friends of the Earth, the Natural Resources Defense Council, the Sierra Club Legal Defense Fund, Greenpeace, Environmental Action, and the Environmental Defense Fund, among others.
Senator Gaylord Nelson of Wisconsin sensed the public’s growing concern for the environment and proposed a national environmental teach-in (borrowing language from Vietnam protests) that was soon dubbed Earth Day. Nelson recruited Denis Hayes, then an undergraduate at Stanford, to sign up supporters and organize rallies and demonstrations and other activities. The first Earth Day was celebrated on April 22, 1970, and was the largest such outpouring of concern to that date.
When Dave Brower heard of the plan for Earth Day, he got in touch with his old friend and collaborator Ian Ballantine of Ballantine Books, who is sometimes credited with pioneering inexpensive paperback books. Brower and Ballantine had cooperated on publishing projects when Brower was still at the Sierra Club, most notably producing a line of calendars illustrated with beautiful nature photographs that were an instant success. Brower suggested that Ballantine and Friends of the Earth collaborate on a book to complement and inform Earth Day. It would have to happen fast. Ballantine agreed. Brower recruited a Cal student named Garrett DeBell, who assembled previously published material and solicited original pieces from here and there.
The contents were an eclectic mix. One piece on “The Historical Roots of Our Ecological Crisis” blamed Christianity for the problem. Paul Ehrlich decried the population explosion. Ken Brower, Dave’s eldest son, reminded readers of the importance of wilderness. Garrett Hardin of UC Santa Barbara explained his theory of “The Tragedy of the Commons.” There was a short piece titled “Ecopornography, or How to Spot an Ecological Phony,” criticizing misleading advertisements being run by oil companies and strip miners.
DeBell somehow put a manuscript together in around three weeks, and Ballantine produced bound books in another three or so weeks. It was titled The Environmental Handbook and it took off, selling more than a million copies in a few months.
Earth Day was off to a good start.
About guest blogger and author of David Brower: The Making of the Environmental Movement, Tom Turner:Tomhas worked at the Sierra Club, Friends of the Earth, the Sierra Club Legal Defense Fund, and Earthjustice. He is the author of Wild by Law; Sierra Club: 100 Years of Protecting Nature; Justice on Earth; Roadless Rules; and hundreds of articles and op-eds on the environment.
What caught Drew Harvell’s eye first was a glass octopus. Inspired by the incredible glass marine sculptures of Leopold and Rudolf Blaschka, she soon set off to search for their living counterparts. In her new book A Sea of Glass, she tells the story of this journey of a lifetime while exploring unusual biology of these ancient animals and showing us that our ocean ecosystems—like the Blaschkas’ works of art—are as fragile as glass.
In honor of Earth Day, check out a slideshow of incredible Blaschka creations below, and learn more about Drew’s book here.
Additionally, click here to save 30% on new and bestselling science titles.
Common Octopus (Photo: Gary Hodges)
Sea Pansy (Photo: Gary Hodges)
From Left to Right: Siphonophores: Apolemia uvaria (Photo: Kent Loeffler) and Rosacea cymbiformis (Photo:Gray Hodges)
From Left to Right: mauve stinger (Photo: Drew Harvell), mauve stinger glass (Photo: Corning Museum of Glass), stinger watercolor (Photo: Corning Museum of Glass)
tentacle tubeworm (Photo: C. Smith)
From Left to Right: Doto Glass (Photo: C. Smith), Doto live (Photo: Reyn Yoshioka)
University of California Press is exhibiting at the 2016 ASEH Annual Conference! The meeting convenes March 30 – April 3, 2016 in Seattle, WA. This year’s theme is Environmental History and Its Publics.
Please visit us in the exhibit hall at the Westin Seattle Hotel (Grand 3, Level 4) for the following offers:
40% conference discount on all orders
Request exam copies to consider for course adoption
Enter for a chance to win $100 worth of books by subscribing to UC Press eNews
Please see our flyer at our booth for our latest releases. Acquisitions staff will be available for your publishing questions.
Follow ASEH’s Facebook, @ASEH_Resources, and hashtag #ASEH2016 for current meeting news. Catch up on our recent blog posts on Ecology, Evolution, and the Environment here.
University of California Press offers hearty congratulations to three of our authors that were the recipients of 2016 PROSE Awards from the Association of American Publishers last week in Washington D.C.
The entire UC Press team is honored to have published these two important works in their respective disciplinary fields, and offers hearty congratulations to Aldon D. Morris, David R. Schiel, and Michael S. Foster. Additionally, profuse thanks to the AAP for recognizing excellence in university press publishing over the past 40 years.
About the PROSE Awards:
The PROSE Awards annually recognize the very best in professional and scholarly publishing by bringing attention to distinguished books, journals, and electronic content in 54 categories.
Judged by peer publishers, librarians, and medical professionals since 1976, the PROSE Awards are extraordinary for their breadth and depth.
The R. R. Hawkins Award has been presented to the most outstanding work among each year’s entries its inception in 1976. Hawkins winners have included Wiley Interdisciplinary Reviews (WIREs) (John Wiley & Sons), Atlas of the Transatlantic Slave Trade (Yale University Press), The Diffusion Handbook(McGraw-Hill) and Alan Turing: His Work and Impact (Elsevier). The 2016 R.R. Hawkins Award was presented to University of California Press for The Scholar Denied: W.E.B. Du Bois and the Birth of Modern Sociology by Aldon D. Morris.
Water is the essence of life, the key to California’s history and its future. Today, water choices are complicated by ignorance about how water reaches faucets and farm fields and by our society’s unwillingness to step away from an historic attitude about water supply that might be characterized as: “Too much will never be enough.”
Must we choose massive twin tunnels beneath the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta or expensive new dams that will yield only a small percentage of their constructed reservoir capacities? Does it make sense to build ultra-expensive ocean desalination plants? “Fish versus farmers?” Really? Must we go there? Why pump from groundwater basins at rates we know are unsustainable and irresponsible? Can’t we admit that returning water to the environment is not a new “water demand,” but belated recognition that far too much has been taken away?
Incredible progress is being made in this state, where cities and large water districts are weaning themselves from imported water. And much more is possible. Every Californian should know that:
Through conservation and highly-treated wastewater, the Water Replenishment District of Southern California (which used to import 80 percent of its supply for 4 million customers) aims for 100 percent reliance on stormwater and recycling in the near future.
The City of Santa Monica plans to eliminate use of imported water sources by 2020.
Los Angeles intends to cut its imported water purchases in half by 2025.
Agricultural efficiencies could save 4 to 6 million acre-feet of water a year in the state (according to several published studies; equivalent to what is diverted from the Delta each year).
Thirsts can be quenched by wiser use of water within cities and on farms. Let’s use local water again and again…and again. Once is not enough. New urban development should be designed to add nothing to the overall community “thirst.” The 2014 Sustainable Groundwater Management Act set implementation goals in the year 2040; can’t that plodding approach be accelerated? Let’s push for irrigation and crop choices that reduce agricultural thirsts, because wiser farm production benefits the entire society.
The future we choose for California will continue to be shaped by decisions about water.
David Carle is a former park ranger and the author of California Natural History Guides about water, fire, air, and soil (UC Press), as well as other books in water history and management, including Drowning the Dream: California’s Water Choices at the Millennium and Water and the California Dream. His most recent UC Press book is Traveling the 38th Parallel: A Water Line around the World (2013).
The new, updated edition of Introduction to Water in California is available for purchase now. Order your copy here.
When Cathy Toft first sat down to begin writing Parrots of the Wild, she envisioned the book as an essential piece of literature that would give many people a newfound appreciation for parrots and their complex lives. As James Gilardi–a friend of Cathy’s as well as Executive Director of the World Parrot Trust–notes in the book’s forward, “there is a great deal more going on with parrots than first meets the eye.”
Parrots of the Wild goes under the colorful exteriors of parrots to examine everything from their cognitive abilities to foraging patterns and mating behaviors. Cathy Toft and co-author Tim Wright examine over 350 species of parrots through the lens of their own work and over 2,400 published academic studies. Additionally, a portion of the book’s proceeds go towards various parrot conservation efforts around the world.
Explore a selection of the beautiful parrot images showcased in this book:
Walk on a Southern California beach, and a sense of permanence may come to mind. The sand scrunches predictably underfoot, the coastal bluffs loom seemingly unchanged, and the sea brushes the shore with its same ageless rhythm. Yet the scene can quickly change. Waves from a single storm may erase that beach. Portions of the bluff may collapse without warning. A large earthquake might elevate the coast several feet in an instant. And if we flip back through just the last few million years, the coastal scene, far from appearing stable, looks like frenetic animation. The sea bobs up and down, earthquakes crackle without letup, tsunamis wash ashore, and islands lurch up from the sea.
Does it matter to know these things? I think yes. Probing Southern California’s geologic past can inform decisions we make today. The past tells us that earthquakes and tsunamis will strike the coast again, and although we cannot predict when or where, we can prepare. It also tells us that Southern California’s beaches are in constant flux, with sand arriving and leaving in vast quantities every year. But river dams and seawalls have choked off sand arrivals to the beaches, so now more sand leaves than arrives. Shrunken beaches give coastal bluffs less protection from wave attack. Today, miles of rock and concrete armor much of Southern California’s coast, but these only postpone the sea’s advance. And what of the sea itself? Here too, the past is clear. In recent geologic time, the sea has risen and fallen hundreds of feet as polar ice sheets have come and gone. By happenstance, much of human history has unfolded during a time of unusually stable sea level. That is changing. We presently face a probable sea rise of two to six feet over the next century.
These developments—shrinking beaches and rising seas—point to a looming coastal erosion crisis for Southern California. How will we handle it? Perhaps through a combination of managed retreat and beach replenishment (importing sand to depleted beaches). But the scale of such replenishment will necessarily be enormous. We will need to import enough sand onto our beaches to make up for ongoing losses from dams and seawalls and to keep up with the rising sea. I’m reminded of Alice in Wonderland, where the Red Queen explains to Alice, “You see, it takes all the running you can do to keep in the same place.”