Category: News

“Godspeed, Los Polacos!” Documentary August 5th & 7th!

“Godspeed, Los Polacos!” Documentary August 5th & 7th!

A new documentary, “Godspeed, Los Polacos!”, just won the Best Adventure Film and Audience Choice awards at the Boulder International Film Festival. After claiming the first descent of the world’s deepest canyon, five university students from Krakow risk it all to fight for democracy.

Film subject and ECWG Fellow Piotr Chmielinski (who went on to claim the first source-to-sea descent of the Amazon River) will be in attendance. Piotr says: “This is a BIG SURPRISE for me and my friends from the Canoandes ’79 Expedition to receive these awards 40 years after we completed our expedition.” The movie has already won major awards at BANFF, the Boulder International Film Festival, and other festivals around the world.

There will be an advanced screening of the film in Arlington, VA, this coming August 5th and 7th. Tickets can be purchased through the Arlington Cinema & Drafthouse (2903 Columbia Pike, Arlington, VA.)
For tickets and more information:

Additional questions, please contact Piotr Chmielinski directly – pchmielinski@hpenviron.com

Lee Merriam Talbot – 1930 to 2021 – A tribute by Russell Merriam Talbot

Lee Merriam Talbot – 1930 to 2021 – A tribute by Russell Merriam Talbot

Lee Merriam Talbot – 1930 to 2021
A tribute by Russell Merriam Talbot
May 7, 2021

My father, Dr. Lee Merriam Talbot, died last week. He was a truly towering figure. I think of him as an amalgamation of the best aspects of John Muir, Ernest Hemingway, and James Bond. But I think he was humbler and, arguably, more influential than any of those characters.

He was a primary architect and author of, among other things, the Endangered Species Act (ESA), the Marine Mammal Protection Act (MMPA), the Convention on Trade of Endangered Species (CITES), and the World Heritage Convention. He was the Senior Scientist and Director of International Affairs of the Council on Environmental Quality (CEQ) in the West Wing of the White House for Presidents Nixon, Ford, and Carter. He was Director General of the World Conservation Union (IUCN). Most recently, he was teaching and advising graduate students at George Mason University as a professor of environmental science and policy through this current semester. Over the course of his careers, he wrote over 300 scientific, technical, and popular publications and advised on environmental issues in over 130 countries.

He also loved racing cars. His first professional race was in 1948 (when he was 18 years old) and his final race was in the autumn of 2017 (when he was 87 years old). For those 69 years, he enjoyed competing – and frequently winning – in a wide variety of vehicles and types of races, including dirt track sprint cars, dirt and ice rallying in production-based cars, and grand prix and road racing in formula cars, sports racers, production, and vintage race cars. For most of this career, his number of choice was #62. Pretty much the only type of racing he had no interest in was oval track racing, which he considered to be boring.

I don’t think he could have accomplished nearly as much as he did without his closest confidant and partner, my mother, Marty Talbot. Within six weeks of their first date in 1959, they had gotten married – in grand style, of course – and traveled to East Africa to conduct scientific research in the Serengeti / Maasai Mara ecosystem. Marty had recently co-founded the Student Conservation Association but decided that a life with Lee was more important than continued leadership there. For the 62 years since then, they supported each other, adventured together, and raised two boys together.

Of course, I knew him as just my dad. Although he was frequently out of town for work, he was a very engaged dad to both my brother and to me when he was around. We bicycled, skied, camped, backpacked, and traveled together. He was my Cub Scout leader when I was young. He arranged his schedule to have summers off while I was in elementary and middle school so that all of us could travel around the country, visiting relatives, friends, and National parks in a van that he let us ‘help’ him convert into a camper in 1983. As I got into rowing, he made a point of traveling to watch me race up and down the East Coast and even in England (twice!!!).

Therefore, it should be no surprise that, as a kid and young adult, I assumed that his life and work was pretty standard fare.

  • Don’t most people find themselves in small plane crashes and escape without a scratch?
  • Lots of people spend the better part of their first seven years of marriage living out of a Land Rover doing groundbreaking ecological research in East Africa, right?
  • It’s normal to regularly return from a long work trip in Asia late on a Friday night and then pack up the race car and tow it to a track early Saturday morning, isn’t it?
  • Most kids learn how to behave and be polite when foreign dignitaries come over for dinner, don’t they?
  • Being charged by a lioness while you’re alone on foot and needing to sever her vertebrae with a single shot as she is pouncing on you happens to most everyone at some point, right?

Watching James Bond movies seemed like a slightly modified version of regular life (with certain obvious differences).

His passing, well into his 91st year, was both inevitable and inconceivable. I intellectually know that no one can live forever, but I also know that my father was not an ordinary person.

While making an early ascent of the East Face of Mt Whitney in 1949, his partners and he had to make an unplanned bivouac high on the wall. Everyone at his college thought they had perished. They emerged chilly but unscathed the next day.

He broke his back in the early 1950s when he was a hand-to-hand combat instructor in the U.S. Marines. Military doctors told him he’d never walk again. He disagreed.

During an early running of the Malaysian Grand Prix, his car flipped into a ditch. His legs were wedged in the car, his head was pinned between the car and the ground, and his body sagged into the ditch. Helmets and other safety features were not required, and multiple drivers died during the race. Naturally, he had researched the efficacy of quality helmets and chose to wear the best one he could get. His helmet kept the weight of the car off his head and bystanders helped roll the car off him. He walked away. This is just one of the countless occasions he was in spectacular auto racing wrecks – many of which I witnessed and none of which left him worse for wear.

As referenced above, he survived an airplane crash. While conducting an aerial survey for the government of British Hong Kong in the early 1960s, his plane experienced mechanical problems and crash landed in a harbor, hitting rocks and pinwheeling through the cold, frothing water. He swam to safety, later describing in vivid detail the difficulty of determining which direction was up, while escaping the still-tumbling wreckage.

He and my mom went on backcountry trips into their 80s. One time, maybe about 10 years ago, they were descending a steep pass in the Sierras when a foothold broke and dad tumbled over a hundred feet down a cliff. My mom performed first aid to stop the bleeding, stabilize him, and then helped him hike out to safety. After spending a couple days at the hospital in Bishop, he was released looking like someone who had been attacked by a grizzly bear. Within a month, the scars had healed, and he was back at work. They returned the following summer for more big-mountain scrambling.

Medical issues simply did not stick with him. He refused to even mention his prostate cancer in public in the late 1990s, perhaps because of the social stigma around cancer at the time or perhaps because the brachytherapy treatment he chose was successful and did not impact his quality of life. In the mid-1980s, a doctor noticed an abnormality in his hemoglobin and diagnosed him with primary myelofibrosis, a bone marrow cancer with a life expectancy of five to ten years. Of course, he ignored it and continued living his life to its fullest. Over thirty years later, in 2018 while working in a remote region of Laos, the condition became critical, soon requiring regular blood transfusions, eventually one every week or so. We later learned that he had been functioning for years with half the red blood cell counts of normal men. In early 2019, he found a stage two clinical trial out of Mt Sinai in New York for a new treatment of the disease. His body responded well to the experimental medication and reversed his dependence on transfusions. He went for over a year without needing a single transfusion. In late March of this year, his use of the medication was put on hold due to another, minor medical condition. Unfortunately, the weeks that followed witnessed a rapid drop in his red blood cell counts and resulting complications. With no medication keeping the myelofibrosis in check, he declined quickly and required almost daily blood transfusions.

He passed peacefully at his home last Tuesday while surrounded by his wife of 62 years, Marty, and his sons, Lawrence and Rusty.

To my knowledge, my dad was never that into poetry, but when I was young, he introduced me to a poem that seems to have been his guiding light and has certainly become mine. The poem is “IF” by Rudyard Kipling and it ends with the following:

“If you can fill the unforgiving minute
With sixty seconds’ worth of distance run,
Yours is the Earth and everything that’s in it,
And—which is more—you’ll be a Man, my son!”

We are planning to have a celebration of his life sometime in the coming months.

If you are able to make a donation in his memory, there are two items that we think he would particularly appreciate:

  • The Defenders of Wildlife (www.defenders.org) is one of the organizations that he strongly supported.
  • Jennifer Lewis and her associates at Que Sera Sera Films have traveled the world to make a film about the achievements of Lee and Marty. They are nearing completion of filming and have received backing from many NGOs, including Defenders of Wildlife, the Rachael Carson Council, Flora and Fauna International, and the Center for Biological Diversity. Tax deductible contributions to assist in the completion of the endeavor can be made here: https://fiscal.thegotham.org/project.cfm/1000/There-are-Still-Wizards/
2020 Exploration and Field Research Grant Recipients

2020 Exploration and Field Research Grant Recipients

Lindsay Barranco (M.S.), University of Maryland, Entomology, “Evaluating native bee abundance, diversity and nesting preferences in small-scale wildflower strips”, Maryland
Ground nesting bees are important pollinators and 70% of bee species worldwide nest within the ground, yet little is known about bee nesting preference. This project will measure the abundance, diversity and nesting preferences of ground solitary bees within wildflower strips, bare soil, and turf grass, and “scratched” bare ground areas within these substrates, and evaluate how management practices (i.e., weekly turfgrass mowing), impacts nesting preference. The abundance, diversity and nesting preference by use of emergence traps, pan traps and net sweeping will be compared. Emergence traps have the unique benefit of capturing ground nesting bees upon emergence or nest building. There exists a small body of research that has identified ground nesting bee preference via emergence traps in agricultural lands, prairies and forests but none in the mid-Atlantic area that look at bare ground, wildflowers and turf grass, or the creation of scratched bare areas within or the impacts of grass management. This research will contribute to this body of research by identifying how land use can be augmented for native bee nesting in order to increase pollinator habitat.

Hannah Clipp (Ph.D.), West Virginia University, Forestry and Natural Resources, “Optimizing wildlife openings for game birds and overall avian diversity”, West Virginia
In forested landscapes, wildlife openings created and maintained by land managers provide habitat and food resources for disturbance-dependent, early-successional game species, such as wild turkey, ruffed grouse, and American woodcock. Though managers tend to focus on game birds, wildlife openings can also benefit a myriad of bird species and guilds, including species of conservation concern, depending on local habitat features and landscape-level factors. Yet little effort has been made to investigate how to optimize wildlife openings to attract a full spectrum of bird species throughout spring and summer. The purpose of this study is to examine the use of wildlife openings by game birds, breeding songbirds, and post-breeding songbirds in response to site- and landscape-level wildlife opening attributes. In the spring and summer of 2019, preliminary data included species-specific and community-wide point count surveys, game cameras, autonomous recording units, and mist-netting surveys to sample bird communities in 65 wildlife openings within the Monongahela National Forest in eastern West Virginia. Data collection and statistical analyses are ongoing, but the final results will be used to assist land managers in designing and maintaining wildlife openings that simultaneously support target game bird populations and promote a diverse suite of songbirds.

Alexandra Fireman (M.S.), University of Maryland, Chesapeake Biological Laboratory, “On the shell of the turtle: Identifying dietary patterns of the Caribbean hawksbill sea turtle”, Antigua, Maryland
The hawksbill sea turtle is critically endangered, and the extinction of this keystone species could cause severe disruption to their vulnerable coral reef habitats. Understanding the hawksbill’s ecology is critical for effective conservation. However, as a long-lived species, hawksbills can be difficult to study in their oceanic habitats. While elusive in the water, during the nesting season, females crawl onto beaches, providing an accessible opportunity for study of the species. This research plans to use this nesting period to learn about both their reproductive lives on land and their in-water lives. This will be achieved by using 1) diet markers in turtle tissue, 2) satellite tracking data to gain insights into their foraging habitats, and 3) long-term reproductive data to understand individual success. The research will focus on a consistently monitored population of nesting hawksbills in Long Island, Antigua. This work will allow for identification of marine areas that produce reproductively successful female hawksbills. Understanding where the most successful hawksbills live, and their diet allows for targeted conservation of their habitat. This project will have direct conservation impacts for the Long Island hawksbill population but can also serve as a model for the Caribbean and even global populations of hawksbills.

Dawei Han (Ph.D.), University of Maryland, Biology, “Sound localization and hearing sensitivity of the barking gecko (Ptenopus garraulus)”, South Africa
Localization of sound sources is a fundamental task of the auditory system. In mammals, the two ears are unconnected pressure receivers, and sound direction is computed from binaural interactions in the brain. Directional hearing is different in lizards and frogs because the two eardrums interact acoustically through connected middle ear cavities, leading to strongly directional eardrum vibration. Therefore, these animals should have a high capacity to differentiate between nearby sound sources. This prediction has been hard to test in lizards, since most are ambush, or sit-and-wait predators and typically do not vocalize. This study will take advantage of the behavior of a highly vocal lizard species, the barking gecko (Ptenopus garrulus) to test their ability to localize sound. The hypothesis is that female geckos will orient towards male vocalizations during the breeding season by walking in a zig-zag pattern, which has been documented frequently in animals with coupled ears. Auditory brainstem responses will be measured to compare hearing sensitivity of barking geckos to other vocal lizard species. Behavioral evidence for sound localization in extant lizards will provide insight into the early evolution of hearing and sound localization in ancestral land vertebrates, which possessed similarly coupled ears.
Rebecca Hill (Ph.D.), University of Maryland Baltimore County, Biological Sciences, “Vocal development in Grasshopper Sparrows”, Kansas, Maryland
Vocal development is a relatively well studied process in model songbirds such as zebra finches and canaries. This study will focus principally on vocal development in a less studied North American species of conservation concern, the grasshopper sparrow (Ammodramus savannarum). Grasshopper sparrows appear to show a different pattern of learning than most model songbird species, exhibiting an improvisational rather than imitative process for establishing their adult song repertoire. Furthermore, preliminary data suggests the timing of crystallization (or fixation of the adult repertoire) appears to occur along different trajectories depending on song type A methodology to quantify the timing of crystallization using recordings of grasshopper sparrows throughout the song learning period will be developed. In addition, a series of experiments will be conducted that is intended to manipulate the timing of the crystallization process in a subset of these birds using both natural steroid hormones and steroid-mimicking endocrine disruptors in pesticides to understand how song variation and song aberration may occur in the field. Should the effects of endocrine disrupters in pesticides be linked to abnormal song production and decreased ability to find mates and reproduce would provide reasoning to limit pesticide use containing endocrine disrupters near habitats of grasshopper sparrows. This could lead to more reproductive success in an endangered species and ultimately an increase in a population that has been greatly declining for decades.

Victoria Lockwood (Ph.D.), George Washington University, Center for the Advanced Study of Human Paleobiology, “Arboreal support diameter choice: Biomechanics, ergonomics, and comparative anatomy”, Tanzania, Washington, DC
This project will assess to what extent locomotor behavior can be inferred from hand bone morphology. The extent that morphology implies function has led to debate, particularly about the evolution of bipedalism. Using a chimpanzee referential model, the investigation will focus on these questions: 1) Is the way chimpanzees use arboreal spaces reflected in their hand skeletal morphology? 2) If so, can this relationship be used to retrodict the arboreal locomotor capabilities of extinct hominins? Some primate species display a preference for certain sized diameters during arboreal locomotion. A detailed analysis of the hand-support interaction is needed to interpret these behavioral decisions. A primate optimal diameter equation will be applied to chimpanzee behavioral observations (Gombe National Park, Tanzania), to assess how individuals use arboreal supports, which will then be tested against skeletal hand morphology. Previously collected modern human data and ergonomic equations will be used to identify high-pressure areas of the chimpanzee hand. The morphology of these areas will be compared to the whole hand. This will allow an interpretation whether, and how, early hominins used their hands to exploit arboreal resources.

Kinsey Tedford (Ph.D.), University of Virginia, Environmental Sciences, “Restoring and sustaining Virginia’s oyster reefs: spatial drivers of oyster populations across multiple spatial scales”, Virginia
Restoration of oyster reefs has the potential to improve the conservation status of depleted oyster populations while enhancing water quality, shoreline protection, biodiversity, and fisheries production. However, oyster restoration has experienced mixed success and lacked clear conclusions on the relative importance of oyster recruitment and survival. This study includes a series of large-scale field experiments to examine the relative importance of abiotic and biotic factors in determining the success of Eastern oyster on restored reefs in coastal Virginia. Specifically, the experiments will test how landscape setting, broad-scale environmental variables, and within- habitat complexities interact to structure oyster recruitment and survival, and their associated communities. The density and size of oysters recruiting to ceramic plates on restored reefs that span 22 km will be measured. Manipulative field experiments involving predator- exclusion cages to assess how the survival of juvenile and adult oysters varies across a landscape with strong differences in hydrodynamic conditions will be conducted. The results from this study will broaden the knowledge of coastal ecology and improve oyster conservation by providing insight on how environmental and geospatial variables mediate the success of restoration actions.

Michael D. Max, FN05

Michael D. Max, FN05

It is with deep sorrow and regret that I convey the news of the passing of Michael D. Max, FN05, ECWG’s Program Director for the past six years. He died of cancer on Sunday, May 31, 2020, days after celebrating his 78th birthday. Michael had a broad background including geology, geophysics, chemistry, acoustics, and information technology. He had received a B.Sc . (History, Geology) from the University of Wisconsin, Madison, an M.Sc. (Petroleum & Economic Geology) from the University of Wyoming, and a Ph.D. (Geology) from Trinity College, Dublin, Ireland.

Michael worked as a geologist/geophysicist for the Geological Survey of Ireland, for which he carried out detailed scientific mapping and established a nearshore exploratory unit involving scientific diving. Then he was at the Naval Research Laboratory, Washington, DC, working on shallow water acoustic propagation prediction. This is where I first met him. He also worked at the NATO’s Undersea Research Center in La Spezia, Italy where he conducted at-sea experiments and designed and carried out operational technology applications involving major research vessels.

Last year he regaled our Chapter with a presentation describing aeromagnetic surveys he conducted around Antarctica. From 1999 to 2011 he was CEO and Head of Research for Marine Desalination Systems LLC, a small innovative R&D company which established a hydrate research laboratory and explored industrial applications of hydrate chemistry as a government contractor under DARPA and ONR. At the time of his death, he was a principle and an active member of Hydrate Energy International, which is a consulting company specializing in unconventional natural gas, particularly natural gas hydrate (www.hydrate-energy.com).

Michael authored many scientific publications and three textbooks, a number of map sheets, and several GIS/relational database operational geographic digital maps. He assisted in the writing of the U.S. Gas Hydrate Research and Development Act of 2000. Michael was appointed by the Secretary of Energy to the Methane Hydrate Advisory Committee of the Department of Energy for 2014–2018, and was Co-Chair, Diving Committee of the Marine Technology Society. He was an Adjunct Professor in the School of Geological Sciences of University College, Dublin, Ireland, at which he was currently supervising a Post-Doctoral research student. Michael was involved with over 40 patents and patent applications.

Michael’s membership’s included the: Geological Society of America, Geological Society of London, American Geophysical Union, American Chemical Society, Explorers Club (Program Director, ECWG), Marine Technology Society (Vice-Chair and Co-Chair Diving Committee), Coast Guard Auxiliary (Vessel Inspector), Acoustical Society of America, the Union of Concerned Scientists, and American Association for the Advancement of Science, amongst others. He is survived by his wife, Eleanor, and daughter, Rachel, a graduate student in Hamburg, Germany. Services will be private.

Bruce F. Molnia, Ph.D.

Zoom Meeting Instructions

Zoom Meeting Instructions

Fellow Members,
Here are the necessary steps you will need to use Zoom to access our virtual presentation.

Steps:

  1. Download Zoom and create and account https://zoom.us/signup
    • Zoom is available for Mac, Windows, iOS, and Android  OS/devices. 
  2. Click “Join A Meeting”
    • The ECWG will provide this code.
  3. Once you have entered the code you will be granted access to the Zoom meeting and virtual presentation.

Instructions:

  • Welcome to the ECWG Virtual Presentation!
  • All members will be muted to ensure the speaker can give the best possible presentation. If you have questions for the speaker, please type them into the chat box.
  • A moderator will process through questions and relay them to the speaker.
  • The speaker will answer questions for 15-20 minutes at the end of their presentation.

Zoom Basics

For more help with Zoom and an introduction to the basics please watch this video:

Troubleshooting

  • Computer Audio Issues – if we can’t hear you, then call in with the phone number provided on the agenda.
  • Finding Menu at bottom of screen – Move your cursor toward bottom of screen to view menu icons.
  • Connectivity issues – use the next icon and stop your video feed.  Connections are sometimes problematic depending on your home internet service.