Theatened Florida bats, new research


This video from the USA says about itself:

13 February 2014

Rehabilitating a Florida Bonneted Bat and getting it to temporarily adjust to new food. Apparently, rehab is boring… Florida Bonneted bats are a federally endangered species that only exist in Southern Florida and known population estmates only in the hundreds. Personnel in the video are rabies vaccinated. Never attempt to handle a bat or other wildlife. Video shot by Dustin Smith.

From Associated Press:

Singing bats; scientists lift veil on endangered FL species

By JENNY STALETOVICH, Miami Herald | June 20, 2015 | Updated: June 20, 2015 12:19am

MIAMI (AP) — The mysterious Florida bonneted bat, a creature so elusive that biologists know of only one roost in the wild, is actually a chatterbox, far easier to hear than see.

And for that information we can thank citizen scientists. Over the past year, they recorded thousands of calls, erected bat boxes and scoured the county to paint a new picture of the under-appreciated bats and lift the veil on one of the state’s most critically endangered species.

Props also go to chance, for putting the bats within earshot of a cutting-edge bat researcher having a glass of wine in her backyard.

“Who would have thought?” said volunteer Alfonso Perez, an attorney helping create a nonprofit to support more research. “If we just sit back and smell the roses, there’s a lot of things going on.”

All the attention has generated some star treatment for the bats: their own Facebook page, parties and a corporate sponsor. Much of that can be credited to biologist Kirsten Bohn, an expert in bat songs, who began organizing outings — part party and part expedition — to collect data on the enigmatic bat, which has dwindled to a South Florida population numbering in the hundreds.

With their iPads and smart phones programmed to pick up high-frequency chirps, volunteers trained by Bohn located the first roost ever documented in Southeast Florida near the Gables Granada Golf Course in September. Her team also recorded more than 20,000 calls, providing a trove of new data that shows the pug-nosed bats feed and sing like no other bat in the United States, in a range much larger than previously suspected.

Earlier this month, Zoo Miami wildlife veterinarian Frank Ridgely released the first bat raised from infancy. If all goes well, a tracker attached to the bat could let Ridgely observe its behavior in the wild.

All this new research could ultimately help federal wildlife managers now considering conservation plans for the bat. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, which added the bat to the endangered species list in 2013 — the first bat in 25 years — is expected to propose a critical habitat by the end of the year and ask for input from the public and experts.

Habitat protocols could help avoid potential problems like the scene now playing out at the Granada course, where Coral Gables launched extensive restoration work last month that includes trimming trees and removing grass without contacting federal officials. The city’s chief of landscaping, Brook Dannemiller, said the project manager checked with state officials, who signed off on the project, leading the city to believe the work would cause no harm.

But Bohn, who alerted federal agents, worries that bats with pups could roost in the trees. Stripping the grass could also affect the bugs they eat. On Friday, Service spokesman Ken Warren said the agency is looking into the matter.

If the bats are to survive, Ridgely said more aggressive steps must be taken to protect them, including surveying parks throughout the county that could take the place of lost habitat.

“The forest is never coming back in most of Miami-Dade County,” he said.

Conservation of bats has become more urgent in recent years with the spread of White Nose Syndrome, a fatal fungus, and a rise in wind turbines. Up to two million bats die each year, threatening a critical link in America’s food production. Some bats pollinate plants — imagine a world without mangoes, avocados and guava. Others, including the bonneted bat, consume massive amounts of insects that farmers, and mosquito control districts, would otherwise battle.

Florida’s bonneted bats, which are not known to contract White Nose and risk little injury from turbines, face bigger risks from pesticides and habitat loss. Because they are large and fly high, the bats need plenty of room to maneuver. Their perilously low numbers could indicate just how little open space remains in South Florida.

“Bonneted bats are like a bullet or a jet airplane,” Ridgely said. “They are built for speed and go in a straight line.”

That behavior also makes them hard to study. Try spotting a bullet 30 to 40 feet high in the air. In the dark.

Bohn knew little about Florida’s bonneted bats, officially Eumops floridanus, when she arrived in Florida after studying in Texas and traveling largely in South America to record free-tailed bats for her research on communication. In 2014, she helped author a pioneering study that used mathematical equations to first document bat singing.

In the study, scientists used the calls of several species, including free-tailed bats, Carolina chickadees, orangutans and pilot whales. For a human sample, they recorded a reading of Hamlet. It turns out the clicks and chirps that can sound like change jingling in your pocket are more like a chorus of songbirds.

Bats, the study found, don’t just chirp to get their bearings or find food, they also sing to flirt, fend off other males and call to their young. They sing from their nests and they sing when they fly. Like humans, they may have a language.

To hear most bats, calls need to be amplified using a microphone. But the bigger, lower frequency bonneted bat can usually be heard by most people, though not all. “Too many Mötley Crüe concerts,” said Ridgely, who can’t hear the calls without a microphone.

To study the bonneted bats, Bohn, who recently left Florida International University for Johns Hopkins University, first erected recorders on the Granada golf course. Amazed at the volume of calls, she began installing song meters around the county in large open areas where bats might forage — at Fairchild Tropical Botanic Garden, the Deering Estate and along the Ludlam Trail. The bats historically lived in pine rockland, where the sparse pine canopy let them cruise unimpeded. But with most rockland now gone — less than 2 percent of the historic range outside Everglades National Park remains — the bats adapted to become urban bats foraging in whatever open space they could find, like the parking lot around Zoo Miami.

Among Florida researchers, the Granada Golf Course was a well-known feeding ground. For Bohn, a move to the neighborhood in 2012 was serendipitous.

Within weeks, Bohn heard their songs, began recording them and recruited grad student Giselle Hosein. When neighbors read about their work in the Miami Herald, they contacted Bohn, who formed the Bat Squad to help collect data. At their first bat night at the golf course, Bacardi — the brand’s logo includes a bat — provided free rum as hundreds wandered around the darkened course or sat in lawn chairs gazing into the night sky.

“This is so up my alley,” said Ken Willis, who attended another bat night in May. “We know so little about them and they’re here. The bats. The foxes. They were here before us and they’re here amongst us.”

In the past year, Bohn and volunteer grad students analyzed about 25,000 calls and logged the comings and goings of bats from the roost — first reported in the 1980s but not confirmed until Bohn and Ridgely studied it — in the eaves of a house a block away on Alhambra Circle.

The data helped paint a new picture of the urban bats. Bohn found the bats call at a much lower frequency and over bigger distances than Brazilian free-tailed bats, another species plentiful in South Florida. That discovery alone, Bohn wrote in a memo to federal officials, could make a critical difference in how bats are surveyed, because it makes them far easier to identify if microphones are set at the right frequency and correctly placed.

“Basically using acoustic monitoring is the best way to go,” Bohn said. “You can have a Eumops flying by and I’ll pick that bugger up.”

Bohn picked up their calls “all over (southern) Miami-Dade County, but in very low numbers,” she said, suggesting the long-lived bats travel farther to forage than previously suspected.

Bohn also found the bats roosting and feeding in Coral Gables were sensitive to temperature, emerging from their roosts only on warm nights. Surveying during colder months, she said, could give inaccurate information.

Without funding, Bohn was unable to complete more thorough research. “I could write a 20-page paper, but I’m doing this on a volunteer basis,” she said.

In an email from Honduras Saturday, she was optimistic that volunteers would carry on, organizing bat watches and installing boxes to provide more data so she could continue her research.

So far, Bohn’s acoustic findings could help define hotspots like the Granada Golf Course, said U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service biologist Paula Halupa. But Halupa said findings on roosting patterns would need more research.

“If we can focus on areas where we know they’re at and the surrounding areas, we can minimize the risks to the species,” she said. “So it’s all good stuff.”

Halupa said she was not surprised by the extent of the bat’s range: “A lot of times people don’t find bats because they don’t take the time to look. It’s not easy work.”

The intense public interest came as a pleasant surprise.

“It’s awesome that people in their own backyards … can see this and have enough interest to collect data,” she said. “Our agencies are too small and too overwhelmed with day-to-day crises and we need to rely more on citizen scientists.”

 

 

 

Save Florida corals


This video from the USA says about itself:

Coral Restoration Foundation, Planting staghorn corals

5 October 2013

Ken Nedimyer talks about the Coral Restoration Foundation’s coral nursery and how they plant staghorn corals on the reefs of Key Largo, Florida.

From Wildlife Extra:

1,600 Corals planted at Florida Keys Plantapalooza

To celebrate World Oceans Day divers from the Florida Keys-based Coral Restoration Foundation has planted 1,600 corals in the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary. Some 70 divers sowed corals at six Upper Keys sites including Molasses Reef, Carysfort Reef, Grecian Rocks, Little Conch Reef, Snapper Ledge and Pickles Reef.

“It’s really important to get the corals out there in large amounts, but it’s also important because we’re involving a lot of the community,” said Kayla Ripple, the Coral Restoration Foundation’s coral nursery programme manager.

Staghorn corals are threatened, but Coral Restoration Foundation has had good success in cultivating and planting new staghorns where the species has died.

The small coral fragments were grown in a designated nursery about three miles from the Keys. The infant corals, about three inches long, are hung on a framework of PVC pipe resembling a tree to develop. After nine months, the staghorns typically reach the size of a dinner plate and are transported to offshore reefs where they are affixed to the sea floor with epoxy.

Since Coral Reef Foundation’s launch in 2000 the organisation has planted some 31,500 corals on upper and middle Keys reefs, however this is the organisation’s most prolific output in a single day.

British fake mobile phone towers to spy on the people


This 10 June 2015 Sky News TV video from Britain is about fake mobile phone towers for spying.

It looks like the British government is following the ‘good’ examples of the Rupert Murdoch empire and the United States FBI ..

From daily The Independent in Britain:

Fake mobile phone towers found to be ‘actively listening in’ on calls in UK

The London Metropolitan Police have refused to say who is controlling them or what is being done with the information they are gathering

Paul Gallagher

Wednesday 10 June 2015

More than 20 “intrusive” fake mobile phone towers that eavesdrop on public conversations have been found active in the UK, the first time the technology has been detected in the country.

The IMSI catchers, also known as Stingrays,

What a shame that such criminal devices are named after such beautiful fish

have been found to be operating in London, but the Metropolitan Police have refused to say who is controlling them or what is being done with the information they are gathering.

IMSI stands for International Mobile Subscriber Identity – a unique number that identifies users on their phone network.

The controversial surveillance technology, used by police forces around the world, is supposedly for catching criminals’ communicating by intercepting information on its way to the network.

It tricks mobile phones into thinking the Stingrays are phone masts, so that handsets connect to the tower and all the data flowing through them is collected – but the masts are unable to distinguish between criminals and everyone else.

A Sky News investigation located the masts using technology made by GSMK Cryptophone, a German security company, and found more than 20 of the rogue towers in three weeks.

Met Commissioner Sir Bernard Hogan-Howe would not confirm or deny that his force was using the technology, telling the channel that “the only people who benefit are the other side, and I see no reason in giving away that sort of thing”.

He said: “If people imagine that we’ve got the resources to do as much intrusion as they worry about, I would reassure them that it’s impossible.”

Stingrays are frequently used in the US by police to monitor suspects, though the use of them is inevitably subject to heated debate as they can eavesdrop on anyone’s calls, even without a warrant. The American Civil Liberties Union has called the towers “incredibly invasive”.

Scotland Yard was said to have bought some of the IMSI towers in 2009 and began using them last November, according to reports, although it is the first time evidence has been found that they are operational. Keith Bristow, the director-general of the National Crime Agency, said: “Some of what we would like to talk about to get the debate informed and logical, we can’t, because it would defeat the purpose of having the tactics in the first place. Frankly, some of what we need to do is intrusive, it is uncomfortable, and the important thing is we set that out openly and recognise there are difficult choices to be made.”

Read more: Snowden: Britain spied on Argentina over Falklands

Secret court: GCHQ spying on UK citizens unlawful

GCHQ’s launches ‘spook first’ training programme

Privacy group launches ‘Did GCHQ spy on you?’ campaign

Eric King, deputy director of Privacy International, said it was time police forces stopped pretending the IMSI towers didn’t exist, so the public could understand the legal framework behind them. He said: “This spying tool has featured in everything from The Wire to Zero Dark Thirty. Companies are selling them on the grey market to anyone who can pay. The only thing we don’t know is what the police are doing to protect people from their use by criminals, and when they use them, what legal frameworks ensures they’re properly used?

“In an urban space, thousands of people’s mobile phones would be swept up in that dragnet. What they do with that data, we don’t know. We know police have been using them for years, but this is the first time that it’s been shown that they’re being deployed in the UK.”

Tim Johnston, a barrister who specialises in surveillance law, told Sky News: “Because it’s neither confirmed nor denied, we simply don’t know on what basis they [IMSI catchers] are being used – if they are being used. We don’t know how they’re being overseen. We don’t know the statutory basis that’s being relied on, as a consequence we don’t know who – if anyone – is overseeing that use.”

From daily News Line in Britain:

Thursday, 11 June 2015

UK AN OUT-OF-CONTROL POLICE STATE!

THE revelation by Sky News of the ‘Stingray’ programme, where fake mobile phone towers are set up to capture people’s mobile calls without their knowledge, and that the same process can be used to plant material on their phones without their permission, is yet another confirmation that the UK is an out-of-control police state.

Here the ruling class feels so insecure that there are no limits on its spying and repressive actions against ordinary people, carried out under the guise of combatting the ‘toleration’ of terrorism, extremism and crime that Cameron and May are alleging.

In fact, this secret police state spying is a criminal activity that is being carried out by the capitalist state on behalf of a frightened ruling class against the working class and the middle class, the majority of the people.

Asked directly about the use of Stingrays, Bernard Hogan-Howe, the Met Police Commissioner, said: ‘We’re not going to talk about it, because the only people who benefit are the other side, and I see no reason in giving away that sort of thing.’ The ‘other side’ are the millions who are being spied on. Workers will reject his arrogant, outside the law, rationalisations.

Keith Bristow, the director-general of the National Crime Agency, said: ‘Frankly, some of what we need to do is intrusive, it is uncomfortable, and the important thing is we set that out openly and recognise there are difficult choices to be made.’ He wants the state to have the right to spy on who it likes, as it likes, when it likes, without being brought to account.

The fake mobile phone towers, IMSI (International Mobile Subscriber Identity) catchers (Stingrays), mimic mobile phone masts with the aim of tricking phones into logging on so that they can be used in any way that the state wishes. ‘With IMSI catchers, it’s very difficult for them to be used in a targeted manner,’ Eric King, deputy director of Privacy International, commented. ‘In an urban space, thousands of people’s mobile phones would be swept up in the dragnet. What they do with that data, we don’t know.’

In November, The Times reported that the Metropolitan Police Service, the UK’s largest police force, was using Stingray technology, citing anonymous sources. According to The Guardian, the Metropolitan Police paid £143,455 for the surveillance equipment in 2009. Despite repeated Freedom of Information requests, the Met police will neither confirm nor deny that the force uses IMSI catchers.

The capitalist state is now able to remove an individual’s passport, to keep them out of the country, on the basis of ‘suspicion’. It is also able to relocate suspects to different parts of the country, a form of internment, on the basis of ‘suspicion’.

The same state is now putting questionnaires in front of Muslim schoolchildren, full of trick questions, to see if they qualify as ‘potential terrorists’ and, under the slogan that the UK is ‘too tolerant’, developing the capacity to spy on everybody, and jail people, after secret trials based on the state’s suspicions and ‘secret’ evidence that will never be made public.

With anti-union laws and strike bans ahead, along with an endless list of austerity measures, those who need watching as potential enemies of the state will number many millions. This will include a government, if Osborne has his way, and brings in new legislation, that makes deficit budgeting illegal.

However, the more that the state’s open dictatorship is built up, the greater will be the explosion of popular anger.

UK intelligence agencies should keep mass surveillance powers, report says: here.

About the USA, from daily The Guardian in Britain, 10 April 2015:

Stingray spying: FBI’s secret deal with police hides phone dragnet from courts

Non-disclosure agreement in Florida reveals chain of secrecy across US

Federal authorities maintain ‘totalitarian’ control over local law enforcement

Read the document: seeking case dismissals at the request of the FBI

ACLU challenges ‘stingray surveillance’ that allows police to track cellphones. Civil liberties activists asking federal court to disallow evidence obtained by technology that mimics a genuine cellphone tower: here.

United States Republican Jeb Bush, Mark Fiore animated cartoon


This satirical animated video from the USA says about itself:

Jeb Bush and Brotherly Love

28 May 2015

Jeb Bush has performed a valuable service with his recent missteps and flubs, he’s reminded the world of the baggage he willingly carries. I’m not tarring him with the same brush as George W. Bush just because they are brothers. Jeb has voluntarily staffed his foreign policy team with 17 people from his brother’s administration. (This is out of a foreign policy team of 21, mind you.) You can read more here.

JEB BUSH PUSHING LIMITS OF CAMPAIGN LAW ” Jeb Bush is under growing pressure to acknowledge what to some voters and a number of campaign finance lawyers seems obvious: He is running for president. The lawyers say Mr. Bush, a former Florida governor, is stretching the limits of election law by crisscrossing the country, hiring a political team and raising tens of millions of dollars at fund-raisers, all without declaring — except once, by mistake — that he is a candidate. Some election experts say Mr. Bush passed the legal threshold to be considered a candidate months ago, even if he has not formally acknowledged it. Federal law makes anyone who raises or spends $5,000 in an effort to become president a candidate and thus subject to the spending and disclosure restrictions. Some limited activities are allowed for candidates who are merely ‘testing the waters’ for a run.” [Eric Lichtblau and Nick Corasaniti, NYT]

JEB BUSH SHAKES UP CAMPAIGN TEAM “Jeb Bush shook up his staff on Monday a week before formally jumping into the 2016 Republican presidential fight, picking a veteran of party politics, Danny Diaz, as his campaign manager in what was seen as a surprise move. Diaz’ appointment was unexpected because Bush had believed to have penciled in another experienced political strategist, David Kochel, as his campaign manager when he hired him earlier this year.” [Reuters]

US PRESIDENTIAL hopeful Jeb Bush said yesterday that Washington should send thousands more troops to eastern Europe to face off against Russia: here.

2016 FAILURE TO LAUNCH The Washington Post examines how Jeb Bush has faltered in a GOP field he was supposed to lock down. [WaPo]

Yep, Jeb already lost the logo war.

HOWARD FINEMAN: THE BUSHES ARE BACK “In theory, the world’s oldest modern democracy should see a constant churn of names and faces in high places. In truth, political dynasties in America are common and, arguably, becoming more so at a time when Big Money — personal and corporate — means so much to the conduct of elections.” [HuffPost]

United States police racism, homophobia, pornography discoveries


This video from Florida in the USA says about itself:

Miami Beach cops under investigation for racism

14 May 2015

Two high-level former Miami Beach police officers sent hundreds of racist, pornographic and crude emails to fellow cops, spurring a criminal probe. State Attorney Katherine Fernandez Rundle, Miami Beach Police Chief Dan Oates and Miami Beach Mayor Philip Levine held a news conference on Thursday detailing the inappropriate messages.

From daily The Independent in Britain:

Miami Beach cops sent more than 200 racist, homophobic and pornographic emails, says senior officer

Probe launched amid concerns hundreds of criminal prosecutions could be jeopardised

Andrew Buncombe

Miami, Sunday 17 May 2015

Police in Miami have launched an inquiry after it was revealed that a handful of officers – some of them senior figures – allegedly sent hundreds of racist and pornographic emails, which included so-called jokes about President Barack Obama.

Reports said an internal investigation had revealed that the sending of the emails possibly jeopardised dozens of criminal cases in southern Florida in which the officers were witnesses.

Police Chief Daniel Oates said that two of the 16 officers were senior members of the Miami Beach Police Department and were alleged to be the main instigators. One has retired, and the other was fired on Thursday, he said. They were identified as former Major Angel Vazquez and former Captain Alex Carulo, CBS Miami reported.

“They were the primary purveyors of pornography and high volume of it. I was shocked and angry,” Mr Oates told a press conference.

Mr Vazquez has since retired, but could face a potential criminal charge for his alleged role in circulating an post-mortem photograph of Raymond Herisse who was shot by police in 2011 during the Memorial Day holiday, Mr Oates said.

Mr Oates said the probe revealed about 230 emails that were demeaning to African-Americans and women, or else pornographic in nature.

Many were depictions of crude racial jokes involving Mr Obama or black celebrities such as golfer Tiger Woods. One showed a woman with a black eye and the caption, “Domestic violence. Because sometimes, you have to tell her more than once.”

One of the racially offensive emails depicted a board game called “Black Monopoly” in which every square says “go to jail.”

Miami-Dade government prosecutor Katherine Fernandez Rundle said about 540 cases in which the officers were witnesses are being reviewed to determine if they are tainted racially. Some charges could be dropped as a result, or prisoners could be freed from jail.

“These activities are a breach of trust. They are disgusting,” she said.

There has not yet been any public comment from the officers accused of sending the emails.

Mr Oates said the emails came to light in an unrelated 2013 internal affairs probe. Most of the messages spanned the years 2010 to mid-2012, and many of the officers involved apparently just received the offensive ones rather than forwarding them.

The case comes in the wake of another, similar scandal in the San Francisco Police Department involving officers exchanging racist and homophobic text messages.

It also comes amid a national debate about issues of race and law enforcement and the way some police treat black suspects.

A string of revelations by the Guardian newspaper have exposed widespread police torture by the Chicago Police Department (CPD) at a “black-site” detention facility known as Homan Square. Victims have described being detained illegally, without a lawyer, for hours or days, and being physically abused or sexually assaulted: here.

On Wednesday, an Illinois judge ordered the release of a Polaroid picture showing two Chicago police officers crouched, posing as hunters over an unidentified African-American man, who police have said was a “drug suspect.” Jerome Finnigan, the officer on the left, is holding a pair of antlers above the man, while the other officer, Timothy McDermott, holds the man’s head up. Both officers are posing with rifles and clearly instructed the man to stick his tongue out and roll his eyes back, creating the image of a deer that had been hunted and killed by the officers: here.

Bottlenose dolphins in Florida, new study


This video says about itself:

Bottlenose Dolphin (Tursiops truncatus)

* Family: Delphinidae,

* Genus: Tursiops,

* Class: Mammalia,

* Order: Cetacea,

* Type: Mammal,

* Diet: Carnivore,

* Average life span in the wild: 45 to 50 years,

* Size: 10 to 14 ft (3 to 4.2 m),

* Weight: 1,100 lbs (500 kg),

* Group name: Pod,

**Did you know? Bottlenose dolphins have been observed to breach up to 16 feet (4.9 meters) out of the water, landing with a splash on their back or side.

More info here.

From Wildlife Extra:

Florida dolphins use their own forms of social media to choose their friends

Just like human beings, dolphins form highly complex and dynamic social networks, according to a recent study by scientists at Harbor Branch Oceanographic Institute (HBOI) at Florida Atlantic University.

The researchers studied the interactions between some 200 bottlenose dolphins in the Indian River Lagoon (IRL), a 156-mile long estuary located on Florida’s east coast.

They discovered how the dolphins mingle and with whom they spend their time. They may not have Facebook or Twitter but they do have association patterns as well as movement behaviour and habitat preferences.

The IRL lagoon is long and narrow and composed of three distinct water bodies; Mosquito Lagoon, Banana River, and the Indian River. There are five inlets and one lock (Cape Canaveral lock) connecting the IRL to the Atlantic Ocean.

Researchers from HBOI have been conducting photo identification studies of IRL bottlenose dolphins since 1996, identifying more than 1,700 individual dolphins.

In their paper recently published in the journal Marine Mammal Science, the team found that individual dolphins exhibited both preference and avoidance behaviour – so just like humans, they have dolphins they like and associate with and ones they avoid.

The study also found that IRL dolphins clustered into groups of associated animals, or “communities,” that tended to occupy discrete core areas along the north-south axis of the lagoon system.

“One of the more unique aspects of our study was the discovery that the physical dimensions of the habitat, the long, narrow lagoon system itself, influenced the spatial and temporal dynamics of dolphin association patterns,” says Elizabeth Murdoch Titcomb, research biologist at HBOI who worked on the study.

“For example, communities that occupy the narrowest stretches of the Indian River Lagoon have the most compact social networks, similar to humans who live in small towns and have fewer people with whom to interact.”

In addition to providing a unique glimpse into dolphin societies, the study provides important insight and knowledge on how dolphins organise themselves, who they interact with and who they avoid, as well as when and where.

It also gives scientists and resource managers the roadmap needed to understand how dolphin populations perceive and use their environment, and how social networks will influence information transfer and potentially breeding behaviour and disease transmission.