Julia Whitty

Julia Whitty

Environmental Correspondent

Julia is an award-winning author of fiction and nonfiction (Deep Blue Home, The Fragile Edge, A Tortoise for the Queen of Tonga), and a former documentary filmmaker. She also blogs at Deep Blue Home.

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Julia is a writer and former documentary filmmaker and the author of The Fragile Edge: Diving & Other Adventures in the South Pacific, winner of a PEN USA Literary Award, the John Burroughs Medal, the Kiriyama Prize, the Northern California Books Awards, and finalist for the Dayton Literary Peace Prize, and Deep Blue Home: An Intimate Ecology of Our Wild Ocean. Her short story collection A Tortoise for the Queen of Tonga won an O. Henry and was a finalist for the PEN Hemingway Award. She also blogs at Deep Blue Home.

Reptiles Mysteriously Declining Alongside Amphibians

| Mon Apr. 16, 2007 6:36 PM EDT

The catastrophic declines in frog and salamander populations may be spreading to reptiles. New Scientist reports that scientists reviewed data on ground-dwelling reptiles and amphibians collected over the past 35 years at La Selva Biological Station in Costa Rica, finding a 75-percent decline in both reptiles and amphibians in native forest since 1970. The numbers of both increased in abandoned cacao plantations, by 4% annually for amphibians, and 2.7% per year for reptiles. Fungal diseases or pesticide contamination, blamed for amphibians' decline elsewhere, are unlikely to be behind the declines at La Selva, since they would affect abandoned plantations as well as native forest. The researchers suggest the cause may be a warmer, wetter climate that stunts tree growth, and reduces the leaf litter, where reptiles and amphibians live. --Julia Whitty

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Plans To Restore Key Climate Sensor

| Mon Apr. 16, 2007 6:13 PM EDT

You may not know that our ability to observe climate and atmospheric change has been declining in recent years. Just when we need it most. Another victim of too much money going to the wrong wars from the other NASA: the National Anti-Science Administration. Now NOAA and NASA (the real one) announce their plan to restore a key climate sensor designed to give researchers a more precise picture of the structure of the Earth's ozone layer. The NPOESS (National Polar-orbiting Operational Environmental Satellite System Preparatory Project) will include the OMPS Limb sensor (Ozone Mapping and Profiler Suite), set to launch in 2009. Restoring the OMPS Limb sensor addresses one of the recommendations of the recently released National Research Council's "Earth Science Applications from Space: National Imperative for the Next Decade and Beyond." In other words, it means we're stepping into the future with at least one eye squinting partially open. --Julia Whitty

Climate Change Brews An Extinction Paradox

| Mon Apr. 16, 2007 5:38 PM EDT

Climate change could trigger boom-and-bust population cycles making animal species more vulnerable to extinction. Environmental conditions that produce abundant supplies of food and stimulate population booms set the stage for population crashes that occur when several good years in a row are followed by a bad year. "It's almost paradoxical, because you'd think a large population would be better off, but it turns out they're more vulnerable to a drop in resources," says Christopher C. Wilmers of the University of California, Santa Cruz, as reported by EurekAlert. Wilmers' powerful new mathematical model evaluates how climate and resources interact with populations, finding that dramatic population fluctuations make species more vulnerable to extinction due to disease, inbreeding, and other causes, with each crash reducing the genetic diversity of a species, lowering its ability to adapt and making it more prone to extinction. --Julia Whitty

Giant Storm Slams The East

| Sun Apr. 15, 2007 4:08 PM EDT

A friend from the Berkshires in western Massachusetts emails me Sunday morning to say the snow is piling up outside and it's sleeting sideways. I'm supposed to be en route to New York City but the biggest nor'easter in 20 years has cancelled 300 flights to the right coast. Guess I'm staying in California. I love big weather and it would be fun to be in this, but more than likely I'd be stuck in some airport for days. In New York, Mayor Bloomberg called a press conference Saturday to warn of the coming storm. Jesse Ferrell of AccuWeather points out this is a likely first for an "unnamed" storm except possibly major blizzards. Ferrell also points out that AccuWeather meteorologist Dale Mohler was quoted by Bloomberg.com as saying "The storm will really set in Sunday afternoon. By April 16, the system may be as strong as a Category 1 hurricane, with winds above 74 miles per hour and stretch from Maine to Florida and as far west as the Mississippi River." Wow. A new species of storm. Who says all we're doing is cause the sixth great extinction? We're breeding new meteorological monsters. --Julia Whitty

Congolese Forests Falling In Exchange for Beer And Soap

| Wed Apr. 11, 2007 8:59 PM EDT

The world's second largest forest, and one of the oldest on Earth, is being traded for bars of soap and bottles of beer. A Greenpeace report exposes international logging companies for creating social chaos and environmental havoc in the Democratic Republic of Congo in the wake of the logging. The report also nails the World Bank, largest "donor" to the DRC, for utterly failing to stop the destruction, despite a moratorium on new logging. In fact since 2002 more than 37 million acres of rainforest have been leased to the logging industry, an area the size of Illinois, including areas vital to biodiversity. You think it doesn't matter to you? Wrong. We all need these big leafy green places at the equator. --Julia Whitty

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