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New Mono Lake alkali fly research out today!

Monday, November 20th, 2017 by Arya, Communications Director
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Last summer Floris van Breugel, who studies alkali flies at Mono Lake, stayed at the Mono Basin Field Station and gave a fascinating talk about his research at the Mono Lake Committee. Using a combination of high speed videography, force measurements, scanning electron microscopy, and manipulations of water chemistry he is working toward understanding what makes these flies so unique—research which, on top of being really neat, has implications in the world of multi-factorial data sets and their application to machine learning.

And today, the research paper, “Superhydrophobic diving flies (Ephydra hians) and the hypersaline water of Mono Lake,” by Floris van Breugel and Michael H. Dickinson came out! You can find the paper abstract here.

And this mesmerizing video, posted by National Geographic upon the paper’s release, is a must-see:

Van Breugel is a postdoctoral scholar at the University of Washington, funded by a joint Moore-Sloan Data Science fellowship at the eScience Institute, and a Sackler Scholarship in biophysics. You can find more on his research here.

Mono Lake’s alkali flies are just about the coolest flies ever. We call them scuba-diving flies because they trap a bubble of air around themselves when they walk under water so they can breathe while eating algae off of tufa towers. You can actually see them doing this if you visit Mono Lake in the summer. Plus, the flies (specifically their pupae) are a major food source for millions of migratory birds that stop at Mono Lake. You can find more neat info on the flies here.

Huell Howser, legendary enthusiastic California adventurer, really got a kick out of the flies. Congratulations Floris, and we hope to see you back at Mono Lake again soon!

The million-grebe question

Wednesday, November 15th, 2017 by Robbie, Restoration Field Technician
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More than 90% of all Eared Grebes in North America stop at either Mono Lake or Great Salt Lake to feed on brine shrimp before continuing their migration to wintering grounds in the southern United States and Mexico. Each year more than a million Eared Grebes depend on Mono Lake’s abundant supply of brine shrimp in order to successfully complete their southbound migration.

Aerial surveys are conducted each fall to estimate the peak population of Eared Grebes stopping at Mono Lake during their migration. Photo by Jess Horn.

Efforts to quantify the number of Eared Grebes at Mono Lake started in the 1980s, but it wasn’t until 1996 that a reliable methodology was developed. By flying over the lake in mid-October (when grebes were assumed to be at peak abundance) and using aerial photography, researchers were able to more accurately estimate numbers. Dr. Sean Boyd, a Research Scientist with Environment & Climate Change Canada, has coordinated grebe surveys at Mono Lake since 1996, which have provided invaluable data for understanding the Eared Grebe fall migration through Mono Lake as well as the overall health of the species in North America. Recognizing the value of this research, and our ability to help by being the local, on-the-ground coordinator of flights and volunteer photographers, the Mono Lake Committee began assisting Dr. Boyd with the Eared Grebe surveys in 2008. (more…)

Refreshing ‘Ologists: Water law plus geology with Craig Jones

Sunday, October 8th, 2017 by Molly, Mono Lake Intern
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This Wednesday, October 11 at 4:00pm is our last Refreshments with Refreshing ‘Ologists presentation of the year. Join us in the Mono Lake Committee gallery to hear from Craig Jones, a geologist at the University of Colorado, about the relationship between water law and geology at Mono Lake and how both have had significant effects on how the lake has evolved over time.

Geologist Craig Jones will talk about how the Sierra Nevada west of Mono Lake affect the climate in the Mono Basin. Photo by Ava Stavros.

Years ago, to acquire water exports from the Mono Basin, Los Angeles used California water laws that first emerged in the goldfields of the western Sierra. These laws allowed for (more…)

Refreshing ‘Ologists: How trout affect bird species at high-elevation lakes with Mary Clapp

Sunday, September 10th, 2017 by Molly, Mono Lake Intern
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Join us on Wednesday, September 13 at 4:00pm in the Mono Lake Committee gallery for this week’s Refreshments with Refreshing ‘Ologists presentation. UC Davis researcher Mary Clapp will be here to discuss her ongoing research on the impacts of introduced trout on the native bird community in the high-elevation lake basins of the Sierra Nevada. Her work focuses on the connection between water and land by using acoustic recorders to remotely capture lakeside activity by birds and bats.

Researcher Mary Clapp is studying high-elevation lakes like this one to see if trout introduction is affecting the bird communities. Photo by Nora Livingston.

Introduced trout prey on native aquatic insects like mayflies and stoneflies, thus depleting the abundance and diversity of those insects in fish-containing lakes. These insects have a winged adult life-stage, at which point they become available to terrestrial predators (birds and bats) as a valuable food source.

Mary is testing the hypothesis that trout are therefore in competition with birds for this insect food, and that as a result, bird activity is greater at fishless lakes where aquatic insect emergences remain abundant. She will discuss a few different approaches to analyzing acoustic data, the benefits and limits of the technology, and how it compares with traditional survey methods. Her talk is entitled “Investigating the Impacts of Introduced Trout on the Native Bird at High-Elevation Lakes.”

If you’re interested, join us in the gallery at 4:00pm on Wednesday for this free presentation and free snacks!

Today’s Refreshing ‘Ologists: Sierra Nevada red fox in Yosemite with Mike McDonald

Wednesday, September 6th, 2017 by Molly, Mono Lake Intern
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Today at 4:00pm, join us in the Mono Lake Committee gallery to hear National Park Service researcher Mike McDonald speak about the Sierra Nevada red fox.

The Sierra Nevada red fox, a species that was thought to be gone from Yosemite, was re-discovered in the park in 2014. Researcher Mike McDonald is trying to find out why. Photo courtesy of the US Forest Service.

Mike will be presenting about Yosemite National Park’s effort this past winter to investigate the Sierra Nevada red fox, which was re-discovered in the park in 2014. If you are interested in these charismatic critters, come by the Mono Lake Committee today at 4:00pm for free snacks and this free lecture.

The Refreshing ‘Ologist talks aren’t over yet! We have one more talk scheduled for next Wednesday, September 13 with Mary Clapp, whose presentation is called “Learning by Ear: Investigating the Impacts of Introduced Trout on the Native Bird Community at High-Elevation Lakes.”

Refreshing ‘Ologists: Aquatic restoration & management with Colleen Kamoroff

Sunday, August 20th, 2017 by Molly, Mono Lake Intern
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Our refreshing ‘ologist for this week is researching techniques in parks to be used for monitoring and managing aquatic wildlife. Join us this Wednesday, August 23 at 4:00pm in the Mono Lake Committee gallery to hear about how scientist Colleen Kamoroff uses eDNA in water samples to learn more about an area and the species that occupy it.

A frog in the aquatic habitat Colleen is working to study and manage. Photo courtesy of Colleen Kamoroff.

DNA obtained from filtered water samples is often referred to as aquatic environmental DNA or eDNA. eDNA is a promising tool for monitoring (more…)

Refreshing ‘Ologists: Songbirds of Yosemite with Michelle Desrosiers

Thursday, August 10th, 2017 by Molly, Mono Lake Intern
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If you have ever wondered about how songbirds are studied and why, you should come to the Mono Lake Committee this Wednesday, August 16 at 4:00pm to hear from this week’s Refreshing ‘Ologist, Michelle Desrosiers.

This week’s Refreshing ‘Ologist Michelle Desrosiers studies songbirds in Yosemite. Photo courtesy of Chris McCreedy.

Scientists in the park have been monitoring the status of songbirds as well as collecting information about their natural history to better inform conservation and management decisions. Songbirds serve as indicators of functioning ecosystem processes due to their position in the food chain, their diverse habitat requirements as a taxonomic group, and their accessibility to study.

In Yosemite scientists use songbirds to (more…)

Saddlebag Lake Reservoir spills

Tuesday, August 8th, 2017 by Greg, Information & Restoration Specialist
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Water courses down the Saddlebag Lake Reservoir spillway, possibly for the first time ever. Photo by Bartshe Miller.

For the first time since at least as far back as 1983, Saddlebag Lake Reservoir on Lee Vining Creek is spilling. This is a rare event—and possibly a first—for the highest lake you can drive to in California.

Saddlebag Dam, at 10,090′ elevation, was built in 1921 to enlarge an existing alpine lake for hydropower generation purposes. The dam was raised and a spillway was added in 1925. The reservoir is oversized compared to the volume of water produced in its watershed, and given the agreement between Southern California Edison (SCE) and the Los Angeles Department of Water & Power (DWP), which requires it to be very low every spring. It is unclear if it has ever spilled before now. Last week it was inches away from its spillway, at the end of the day on Monday it was very full at 9,400 acre-feet of water, and on Tuesday it spilled! (more…)

Refreshing ‘Ologists: Restoring carbon in Tuolumne Meadows with Lydia Baldwin

Saturday, August 5th, 2017 by Molly, Mono Lake Intern
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Ever wonder about the carbon storing potential of Tuolumne Meadows? If you have, you’re not so different from our researcher for this week’s Refreshments with Refreshing ‘Ologists. Come listen to Lydia Baldwin present her research in Tuolumne Meadows on Wednesday August 9 at 4:00pm to learn more!

Tuolumne Meadows in spring 2015. Photo by Elin Ljung.

Wet meadows throughout the Sierra Nevada that were historically disturbed are currently losing both soil-water holding capacity and the ability to store carbon. These wetlands formerly functioned as sinks of carbon dioxide, but now they could act as significant contributors of CO2 into the atmosphere. Furthermore, the maintenance and addition of carbon to soil can also enhance its capacity to hold water. This refreshing ‘ologist is testing whether the reestablishment of a sedge-dominated community at Tuolumne Meadows, a high-elevation wet meadow in Yosemite National Park, will restore the meadow to a carbon-accumulating ecosystem.

Join us to hear Lydia explain how she monitors gross primary production and plant respiration to create a model of growing season carbon dynamics to determine if these treatments increase the meadow’s carbon storage. Be ready to learn and ready to eat because admission and snacks are both free!

Refreshing ‘Ologists: Carnivore management & research with Jonathan Fusaro

Saturday, July 29th, 2017 by Molly, Mono Lake Intern
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If you’re interested in how carnivores are being managed in the Eastern Sierra, join us this coming Wednesday, August 2 at 4:00pm in the Mono Lake Committee gallery.

Coyotes, like this one scampering through Mono Lake’s shallows, are one of the many carnivores in the Eastern Sierra. Photo courtesy of Justin Hite.

California Department of Fish & Wildlife (DFW) environmental scientist Jonathan Fusaro will explain carnivore research and management, as well as what DFW’s Bishop field office is doing for research and management of carnivores locally. Jonathan studied black bear populations for his master’s degree in wildland resources from the University of Utah. Now Jonathan works closely with researchers to manage black bears and is heavily involved with the Eastern Sierra Black Bear Project.

If you want to find out more about the management and research of carnivores, come to the Committee gallery this Wednesday afternoon. Admission and snacks are free. Hope to see you there!

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