SCIENCE NEWS: New Delta Lead Scientist’s outlook on Delta science; Nursing salmon on flooded farms; Critical zone science comes of age; Overlooked sea louse may be a big problem for salmon; and more …

From “Wicked” to “Complex”: A New Lead Scientist’s Outlook on Growing Our Understanding of Delta Science

Dr. Laurel Larsen writes, “My first exposure to the story of water in California came through a viewing of the 1974 Jack Nicholson film “Chinatown” as part of my Water Resources Development and Management class at the University of Colorado, Boulder in 2003. I was captivated by the fictionalized noir dramatization of the events that led to southern California’s water wars, and I delved into Marc Reisner’s Cadillac Desert to learn more. I felt compelled by some of the same features that had driven me to pursue dissertation research in the Florida Everglades—recognition of the high-stakes nature of water management decisions in this complex, multi-actor environment, and the inkling that there was more to the story of water than was conveyed in the popular media. First in the Everglades and now in California, I aspired to be a part of the team of scientists peering into and unraveling that complexity, such that water management decisions could be made with improved awareness of likely outcomes. … ”  Click here to read this commentary.

Nursing salmon on flooded farms

In 2012 a team of salmon researchers tried a wild idea: putting pinky-sized Chinook on a rice field in the Yolo Bypass, a vast engineered floodplain designed to protect the city of Sacramento from inundation. The team found that rearing fish on farms works better than they had ever dreamed. Salmon in this managed floodplain grew so fast — averaging more than one millimeter per day — that they outpaced young Chinook elsewhere in the region. Now, after nearly a decade of testing fish in fields, a new paper in San Francisco Estuary and Watershed Science outlines lessons learned as well as next steps in managing floodplains for salmon.  “There’s some urgency,” says lead author Ted Sommer, a native fish expert at the state Department of Water Resources, which manages the Yolo Bypass as a floodway. “There’s been a long-term decline in Chinook salmon.” … ”  Read more from Estuary News here: Nursing salmon on flooded farms

Crawdads: Naturalized Californians

Peter Moyle writes, “Crayfish, crawdads, crawfish: whatever you call them, they are everywhere in California’s waters and are as tasty as their lobster relatives. They are especially familiar to anglers who peer into the maw of a bass or pikeminnow or flush their stomachs to see what prey caused the bulging belly. Crawdads are familiar to kids wading in streams, who dare each other to catch one without being pinched. River otters love them as food too. I have watched otters dive in Putah Creek and repeatedly come up with one. With each capture, the otter rolls on its back and crunches the crayfish down. The otters appear to be smiling with satisfaction, smacking their lips. People eating crayfish have the same general appearance. ... ”  Read more from the California Water Blog here:  Crawdads: Naturalized Californians

A New Habitat Conservation Plan for the Calaveras River

The Calaveras River is a unique tributary of the San Joaquin River in California’s Central Valley that plays important roles for both people and fish. The Calaveras is the major water supply for the city of Stockton and provides water for agricultural and residential use in San Joaquin and Calaveras counties. The river is also home to a population of resident rainbow trout, some of which may migrate to the ocean as steelhead (a life-history form considered threatened under the Endangered Species Act). Water operations on the Calaveras River are important for delivering irrigation and drinking water, but sometimes these activities can harm or otherwise negatively impact fish. Water districts need to regularly apply for permits from environmental agencies to demonstrate how they will address or minimize harms to fish as part of their operations. … ”  Read more from FishBio here:  A New Habitat Conservation Plan for the Calaveras River

Upper Newport Bay Ecological Reserve and Back Bay

When you learn there’s a popular piece of property on the Southern California coast taking up more than 750 acres, you wouldn’t be faulted for imagining a marina, a golf course, a resort – or all three.  But one piece of land and (mostly) water is important and popular for what hasn’t been built there. The Upper Newport Bay Ecological Reserve showcases the beautiful California coast, unspoiled and filled with wildlife, plants and fabulous scenery.  The reserve is one of 749 properties carefully managed by the California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW). Located in the heart of Newport Beach, in Orange County, the reserve is completely surrounded by some of the most highly valued real estate in the country. The University of California, Irvine, isn’t far away – neither is John Wayne Airport. But that’s all forgotten when exploring the reserve on foot, by boat or paddleboard, or with binoculars. … ”  Read more from the Department of Fish and Wildlife here:  Upper Newport Bay Ecological Reserve and Back Bay

OpenET: Transforming water management in the U.S. West with NASA data

Building upon more than two decades of research, a new web-based platform called OpenET will soon be putting NASA data in the hands of farmers, water managers and conservation groups to accelerate improvements and innovations in water management. OpenET uses publicly available data and open source models to provide satellite-based information on evapotranspiration (the “ET” in OpenET) in areas as small as a quarter of an acre and at daily, monthly and yearly intervals. … ”  Read more from SciTech daily here: OpenET: Transforming water management in the U.S. West with NASA data

How beavers became North America’s best firefighter

The American West is ablaze with fires fueled by climate change and a century of misguided fire suppression. In California, wildfire has blackened more than three million acres; in Oregon, a once-in-a-generation crisis has forced half a million people to flee their homes. All the while, one of our most valuable firefighting allies has remained overlooked: The beaver.  A new study concludes that, by building dams, forming ponds, and digging canals, beavers irrigate vast stream corridors and create fireproof refuges in which plants and animals can shelter. In some cases, the rodents’ engineering can even stop fire in its tracks. … ”  Read more from National Geographic here:  How beavers became North America’s best firefighter

Moving into the Hyporheic Zone

Not all streams flow continuously: some don’t flow for much of the year, some don’t have surface water in parts of their channels, some change these characteristics throughout time, and some are patchy in all these regards! Streams that don’t always flow are called intermittent, often only flowing during rainy seasons or right after heavy rainfall. Even when they appear dry, however, there might be a surprising amount of water close beneath the surface in what’s called the hyporheic zone, the area between surface waters and groundwater.  ... ”  Read more from EnviroBites here:  Moving into the Hyporheic Zone

Critical zone science comes of age

It’s time for a critical zone coming out party.  The critical zone—Earth’s thin living skin, which spans from the top of the canopy to the bottom of the groundwater—is still unfamiliar to many scientists.  More than a concept, it’s an interdisciplinary endeavor that draws on multiple fields to piece together the complicated interactions between water, air, life, rock, and soil that support terrestrial life. By understanding and modeling these relationships and how they evolve, scientists can predict how human activities threaten these necessary, life-sustaining systems. … ”  Read more from EOS here: Critical zone science comes of age

California not as drought-prone as you might think, says NOAA

” If asked where in the United States is most vulnerable to drought, you might point to those states in the West currently suffering under hot and dry conditions and raging wildfires. However, according to a new NOAA-funded assessment, what makes a state vulnerable is driven by more than just a lack of rain: it’s a combination of how susceptible a state is to drought and whether it’s prepared for impacts. And the most and least vulnerable states could surprise you. ... ”  Continue reading at NOAA here:  The U.S. drought vulnerability rankings are in: How does your state compare?

Overlooked sea louse may be a big problem for salmon

Sea lice attach to the skin of fish, and feed on their mucus, tissues, and blood. These parasites are one of the major threats to both wild and farmed salmon. To date, however, most research on sea lice has focused on just one species, Lepeophtheirus salmonis.  L. salmonis is a salmon-infesting specialist that plagues aquaculture operations, which explains why it’s drawn the most attention. But it is not the only louse that hurts salmon—Caligus clemensi is a generalist that attacks salmon as well as other fish. “One of the things that is still unclear in the world of salmon lice is how these two species co-infect different Pacific salmon species,” says Cole Brookson, a biologist at the University of Alberta. … ”  Read more from Hakai Magazine here: Overlooked sea louse may be a big problem for salmon

Stanford researchers identify ‘landfalling droughts’ that originate over ocean

Meteorologists track hurricanes over the oceans, forecasting where and when landfall might occur so residents can prepare for disaster before it strikes. What if they could do the same thing for droughts?  Stanford scientists have now shown that may be possible in some instances – the researchers have identified a new kind of “landfalling drought” that can potentially be predicted before it impacts people and ecosystems on land. They found that these droughts, which form over the ocean and then migrate landward, can cause larger and drier conditions than droughts that occur solely over the land. Of all the droughts affecting land areas worldwide from 1981 to 2018, roughly one in six were landfalling droughts, according to the study published Sept. 21 in Water Resources Research. … ”  Read more from Stanford here:  Stanford researchers identify ‘landfalling droughts’ that originate over ocean

The moon is rusting, and researchers want to know why

“Mars has long been known for its rust. Iron on its surface, combined with water and oxygen from the ancient past, give the Red Planet its hue. But scientists were recently surprised to find evidence that our airless Moon has rust on it as well.  A new paper in Science Advances reviews data from the Indian Space Research Organization’s Chandrayaan-1 orbiter, which discovered water ice and mapped out a variety of minerals while surveying the Moon’s surface in 2008. Lead author Shuai Li of the University of Hawaii has studied that water extensively in data from Chandrayaan-1’s Moon Mineralogy Mapper instrument, or M3, which was built by NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Southern California. Water interacts with rock to produce a diversity of minerals, and M3 detected spectra – or light reflected off surfaces – that revealed the Moon’s poles had a very different composition than the rest of it. ... ”  Read more from NASA JPL here:  The moon is rusting, and researchers want to know why

Maven’s XKCD Comic Pick of the Week …

Image Credit: Air Under Our Feet 3D visualization of pores on micrometer scale soil using X-ray Computed Tomography before it undergoes several freeze-thaw cycles. Unconnected Pores in purple, connected in pink, cropped soil in gray scale, and underlying pore network model in white and orange.  Photo by Pacific Northwest National Labs.


About Science News and Reports: This weekly feature, posted every Thursday, is a collection of the latest scientific research and reports with a focus on relevant issues to the Delta and to California water, although other issues such as climate change are sometimes included. Do you have an item to be included here? Submissions of relevant research and other materials is welcome. Email Maven

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