Sunday Sketch: Whale Hearts

Unlike the urban legend that states a Blue whale (Balaenoptera musculus) heart is the size of a small car, their hearts are actually about 400 pounds (181 kilograms), or the size of a small golf cart. New research suggests that the proportion of heart size to body size can vary in mammals depending on their…

Colusa County Wildlife Refuge: Northern California’s Hidden Gem

Because I grew up in a small town in Northern California, nature and wildlife have always been a huge part of my day-to-day life. It has been my experience that people in rural areas learn to respect their roots and live in harmony with the Earth, taking care of the land that takes care of…

Beyond the Scientific Bubble: The Inequity Dilemma in Field Research

As animal behaviorists, we often conduct fieldwork in very different regions of the world. We might find ourselves carrying out studies in the cold Arctic tundra, lush tropical forests of Madagascar, or even in a parking lot in the California Central Valley. Most biologists will tell you their motivations stem from a need to understand…

Ecotourism: National Parks

This week, we conclude our series on ecotourism. This time, we are featuring opportunities that are a little closer to home. Whether they know it or not, many people in the United States engage in ecotourism in their own backyards. The National Park Service, founded in 1916 by President Woodrow Wilson, oversees 417 areas in…

Ecotourism: Reading Monkey Faces

When traveling, it’s common to run across non-human primates—such as spider monkeys, squirrel monkeys, capuchins, and rhesus macaques— either in a wild or captive setting. In some tropical tourist destinations, locals will carry these animals, eager to hand them over for a quick picture and a few dollars. In other places, tourists have the opportunity…

Ecotourism: Marine Adventures

One of the most popular places to spend a vacation is by the ocean. People are drawn to the water in search of both relaxation and adventure. Snorkeling, scuba diving, and surfing are all popular water-based sports. But today we’ll discuss two big marine ecotourism activities that are a bit more adventurous and slightly less…

Ecotourism: What Is It?

Let’s talk ecotourism. First, what is it? Ecotourism is defined as travel to natural areas that involves some level of conservation or education1. For the next month, we’ll be highlighting its pros and cons across a variety of countries and environments. Whether you realize it or not, you’ve probably participated in some form of ecotourism….

The True Magic of the Yeti

Whether you’ve seen him in the movie “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer” or glimpsed him as you flew by on the Matterhorn ride at Disneyland, you’ve likely heard of this week’s creature: the Abominable Snowman (otherwise known as the Yeti). Much like Rudolph, this fictional character has become a central figure in holiday celebrations in the…

Rudolph: The Evolution of a Cultural Icon

Reindeer are a central figure in many modern Christmas celebrations. In the United States, children grow up listening to the song “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer” on the radio, or watching him become Santa’s best buddy on TV. Yet as familiar as U.S. pop culture seems to be with reindeer, how much do we actually know…

5 Ways to be a Sensitive Animal

Animals, just like humans, can have personalities. Too bad, that unlike us, they can’t take online personality quizzes! Instead, scientists measure personality traits using behavioral assays.  For example, we can test the “shyness” of an individual cricket by putting him in a box in a new space and see how long it takes him to…

Like a Moth to Flame

How humans have accidentally hacked the light-loving instincts of animals (and how animal behavior can save them). Arguably one of humans’ most conspicuous behavioral traits is our unparalleled predilection for engineering the habitats we settle upon. As we shape the world around us, some species may be drawn towards our settlements – into what they…

Buggin’ Out

It’s a hot summer night in Davis, one of the rare few where the delta breeze fails to bring relief from the scorching daytime highs. Tossing and turning in bed, you decide the effort is futile and you might as well engage in a little nocturnal foraging bout. You drag yourself from bed, bleary-eyed, and…