In theory, wolves are keeping elk away from the bottoms, allowing willow saplings to regrow, completely altering the stream-bank ecology. Kind of like this elk casually grazing along the (willow-free) Firehole River. 2005:08:23 11:35:14
Oh, geez, it's been almost another week since I posted.
While I don't usually link to the Chicago Tribune because their links expire so quickly, this is too funny not to post: it took just 18 minutes for White Sox World Series tickets to sell out. The article seems mostly to feature tales of frustrated geeks who believed their technical prowess would somehow give them an edge in the online sales. And not one quote from anyone who succeeded in legitimately buying a seat. Guess those folks are lying low.
Last week we had a big teleconference, and I convinced our collaboration to just pick one of my optics design proposals already and go with it. One can look at this is a couple of ways. 1) Now I'm officially responsible for designing something that needs to get built with zillions of dollars of NASA's money. Oh great. Or, 2) Now I'm only in charge of one-and-a-half designs instead of four, which means I have time to start worrying about my upcoming oral exams instead. Oh great.
The New York Times has an article on Yellowstone's changing ecosystem, which I can appreciate, having recently been there. Turns out, reintroducing wolves is driving marked ecological changes in Yellowstone country. The gist of the article is that returning an apex predator to the area has all kinds of cascade effects. Grazing herds (namely, elk) are redistributed to higher and safer areas, which allows saplings to survive, yielding lowland tree regrowth, thus more stable and cooler streams, thus more and larger fish, beaver, and songbirds. More downed carcasses provide food for more bears and other scavengers, but the competition for space drives down the coyote population, meaning more rodents, and thus more foxes and raptors. Ecologists emphasize that it's too early to tell what the long-term effects of the reintroduction will be, or to what extent changing weather patterns could also explain these changes. Nevertheless, at first blush this suggests a distinct trend back towards the Yellowstone of Hayden or Roosevelt, if not precisely the one that Colter saw.
So what's up with this elk I saw? Turns out, wolves are really quite averse to the company of humans, and the Firehole River runs right along one of the main park roads. If elk are more afraid of the wolf packs than of the tourists (pretty reasonable, actually), this could set up a very weird wildlife management dynamic.
Now you all know that bicycles are my primary mode of travel over intra-urban distances. Here in Minneapolis that's generally encouraged, although I do draw puzzled looks in mid-winter. Back in Chicago no prodding seems necessary; I'm told the summer Critical Mass rides are drawing upwards of 3,000 riders now. But over in Israel, getting everywhere by bike was considered positively eccentric, something only the poorest laborers resort to. The other day, Ha'aretz reported (in part by omission) just what I'd suspected to be true: Israel is still firmly in the biking is a surprisingly fun pastime stage, and it hasn't yet occurred to the population at large that one can actually go places with the things. Which is odd, considering the outrageous cost of owning and operating a car over there.