Tags >> Science
Jan 27


Posted by Bruce Robinson in water , speaker , Science , resources , public safety , policy , ocean , medicine , healthcare , food , fish , environment , education , author

Bruce Robinson

From courts to consumers, mercury levels in tuna and other seafood remains a hotly debated subject.


Jane M. Hightower, M.D., author of Diagnosis Mercury,  is a board certified internal medicine physician in San Francisco, California. She published a landmark study that brought the issue of mercury in seafood to national attention. She continues to publish scientific papers and give lectures on the subject.

Research on the risks and safe exposure levels for mercury is fragmentary and inconsistent, as are the recommended tolerances from different governmental watchdog bodies. You can see a comparison chart here. For a history of mercury and fish, click here.

 Of course, not all kinds of tuna carry the same levels of mercury and associated risk, nor are those concerns limited to tuna, as Hightower explains.



All of these concerns are dismissed by the Center for Consumer Freedom, an industry-funded advocacy group which has created an extensive website to debunk claims that mercury in fish is harmful to human health. You can access their fish/mercury safety calculator here.


David Martosko, the Center's Research Director, contends the question of warning labels on tuna cans should have been settled by the outcome of the original court case back in 2006.


Established with funding from tobacco giant Phillip Morris, the Center for Consumer Freedom has regularly unleashed broad attacks on a wide range of public advocacy groups, including the federal Centers for Disease Control, Mothers Against Drunk Driving, and People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals. A lengthy expose from ConsumerDeception.com is posted here. The Center for Media and Democracy has posted its analysis here , and the Center for Science in the Public Interest details its own battles with CCF here.




Jan 14

Pond turtle breeding

Posted by Bruce Robinson in wildlife , students , Sonoma , Science , resources , environment , conservation , animals , agriculture

Bruce Robinson


Hatching endangered pond turtle eggs in a biology lab not only aids understanding the unusual creatures, it may aid their survival as a species, too.


Nick Geist (right)  is a professor of Biology at Sonoma State University where he directs the North Bay Pond Turtle Project




Some people have questioned taking the eggs of an endangered species for a laboratory experiment, but Nick Geist says his students may actually have saved some eggs that would otherwise have perished.


Newly hatched turtles are small and vulnerable (above), until they grow and their shells harden. This may take two years or more in the wild, but the process is accelerated in laboratory conditions, where that state can be reached in about nine months.

Why invest so much effort into the lowly pond turtle? Geist suggests they are a surprisingly significant species.

Natural selection has enabled turtles to survive for millions of years. But some species, such as the endangered Western Pond Turtle,  may need human assistance just to get through the rest of this century.












Dec 11

Coho release

Posted by Bruce Robinson in wildlife , water , Sonoma , Science , Russian River , resources , ocean , Marin , government , fish , environment , conservation , animals

Bruce Robinson

The carefully coordinated release of some ready-to-spawn adult coho may mean that three years from now, Salmon Creek will once again contain its namesake.

Fish and Game biologist Bob Cooey carries a net containing two adult Coho salmon down to the water of Salmon Creek.  Cooey says the release site, a quiet bend in the lower part of Salmon Creek, a mile or so upstream from the stream's mouth into the ocean, is ideal habitat for the fish.

The hatchery raised salmon take a moment to orient in their new habitat as they are released from the net (above), then vigorously swim away (below). Thanks to Jim  Jim Coleman, a Research Coordinator at the Occidental Arts and Ecology Center's WATER Institute (jim@oaec.org) for taking and sharing these photos.



Dec 03

Brain Fitness

Posted by Bruce Robinson in seniors , Science , Ideas , healthcare , Health , education , disability , aging

Bruce Robinson

You can teach your old brain new tricks, no matter what your age, and doing so will keep that vital organ healthy longer.


Dr. Michael Merzenich    

Conventional wisdom long held that some loss of mental acuity was a natural, almost inevitable consequence of aging. But Dr. Merzenich says more recent research has superceded that belief.



Not surprisingly, different types of mental exercise strengthen different areas of the brain. You can find some fun tests of three kinds of brain function here.