Heading to New Orleans: Ecologically Sensitive Lighting Design

Landscape architects, mark your calendars.  I’ll be part of a joint presentation on Ecologically Sensitive Lighting Design that was just accepted to the American Society of Landscape Architects annual meeting in New Orleans this fall.  I teamed up with lighting designer Linnaea Tillett and lighting engineer Nancy Clanton, two of the top landscape lighting experts in the country on the session proposal.  We will use a case study format to explore approaches to landscape lighting (and not lighting…) that incorporate the psychology of place-making, consideration for nature, and technical advances in the field.

Boulder City Hall lighting design by Clanton and Associates.

Boulder City Hall lighting design by Clanton and Associates.

Upcoming Event: Illuminating Engineering Society Mission Section

I’ll be speaking at Antioch University in Santa Barbara on February 19th at noon, in an event organized by Trish Odenthal of the Illuminating Engineering Society Mission Section. The hour and a half event includes lunch and is good for continuing education credit for AIA Health and NCQLP.  Registration is $30, or $15 with no lunch. Click through the image to register.

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I Stand with Linda Sue Beck: The Attack on Science at Malheur National Wildlife Refuge

Linda Sue Beck. It is at her desk that Ammon Bundy, leader of the group of armed anti-government religious fanatics occupying Malheur National Wildlife Refuge, has set up shop. As a federal biologist, like my father was for decades, she works to steward the resources that are held in common trust for all Americans. My stomach turned as the report came through the radio today — approaching a week into the occupation of the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge — and I heard the descriptions of the Bundys picking through her belongings and ridiculing her work.

“She’s not here working for the people,” Ammon’s brother Ryan is quoted as saying. “She’s not benefiting America. She’s part of what’s destroying America.”

The occupiers of the refuge poke fun at Beck, her research on fish, and the normal trappings of a research station, including a dried bird in a storage area. They incredulously claim that the bird is “what they’re going to kill people over.” Presumably “they” is the federal government, and they mean to convey that Nature — the birds, the fish, the land — has no use or value.

These sentiments run counter to American history of conservation and scientific land management. The wildlife refuge system was started because the visionary Teddy Roosevelt could see that the continent risked losing its iconic wildlife if every species and every place was fair game to be hunted. Malheur was one of the first wildlife refuges, established in 1908, and became part of the growing field of scientific wildlife management that came to fruition in the United States.

Cartoonist Ding Darling illustrated the need for scientific game management in the early decades of the 1900s.

Cartoonist Ding Darling illustrated the need for scientific game management in the early decades of the 1900s. (c) Ding Darling Foundation.

Science and the National Wildlife Refuges are intertwined, with an entire model of species conservation and management emerging from regulated hunting and fishing with wildlife refuges at its core. National Wildlife Refuges are places where pathbreaking scientific research has taken place that has led to the great breakthroughs of wildlife management: research on the impacts of lead shot and its replacement by steel shot, the effects of DDT and its subsequent ban, and of course the impacts of harvest on fish and game populations. I know; refuge names were etched into my adolescent vocabulary as my father’s research sites. Patuxent. Missisquoi. Moosehorn. National Wildlife Refuges are secular shrines to wildlife science and scientific management. Do politics and consensus play a role in their management? Certainly, but the National Wildlife Refuges and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service are built on the bulwark of the science of wildlife and fisheries sciences.

The armed takeover of Malheur National Wildlife Refuge is, therefore, not just an attack on a federal property. It cuts deeper than that. It is an attack on the modern science-based approach to land management and it is an attack on the value and worth of science and scientists in the United States. This should not come as a surprise. The armed occupiers are extremist Mormons — one of them identified himself as “Captain Moroni” (a figure from the Book of Mormon) and Ammon Bundy describes his actions as the result of consultation with “the Lord.” The occupiers are photographed kneeling in prayer at the refuge. In Linda Sue Beck’s office. Attacks on science from those with extremist religious views are now an unfortunate part of the American political landscape.

Swirling around the Bundys is a maelstrom of conservative malcontents that trace their roots back to the “wise use” movement of the 1980s with its decidedly anti-intellectual and anti-scientific take on the management of public lands. Set aside the ownership of the land — Bundy and the self-styled “patriot” militias of the West fundamentally question the scientific basis for land management.

Unfortunately, the ill-informed reporters sent to cover the slow-motion catastrophe in Oregon fall into the rhetorical trap of the Bundys and their anti-scientific talk-radio enablers. When the occupiers blithely talk of putting the land “to use” again (as if scientific research, recreation, hunting, fishing, education, and all manner of public access were not “use”), the CNN reporter mindlessly repeats the trope, implying that the occupiers have a legitimate demand in wanting to work the land, as if it were some sort of de Tocquevillian tragedy that one of the most productive migratory bird stopover sites on the Pacific flyway was not being overrun with cattle by the ranchers from Utah. No, Malheur National Wildlife Refuge does not need to be worked, and CNN should have reporters that know better than to take the claim at face value.

So I stand with Linda Sue Beck and all of the federal scientists who serve to research, protect, and manage our federal lands. I stand with the scientists, who are under siege, by anti-intellectual know-nothings in the halls of Congress, by vapid inciters on talk radio, and now by armed religious extremists in their very offices. It is time for America to stand up as well.

Travis Longcore, Ph.D.
January 9, 2016

Optics and Photonics News Covers Environmental Impacts of Lighting

Optics and Photonics News Covers Environmental Impacts of Lighting

The message that lights can have environmental consequences becomes more and more mainstream. Optics and Photonics News this month has an article by freelance writer Jeff Hecht, with whom I’ve spoked for other stories before. His article is a multi-page spread and emphasizes both spectrum and intensity and their potential impacts, as well as the potential to mitigate those impacts by customizing both. Here’s my pull quote:

Longcore’s ideal would be very low blue to reduce wildlife impact, with only enough blue added to raise color temperature to 2700 K if necessary for good color rendering.

I actually think that most outdoor lighting can do without blue light and might put an “absolutely” before the “necessary” in the quote. Manufacturers are starting to deliver LEDs that cut out nearly all the blue light, have a reasonable color rendering index, and can be dimmed without an efficiency penalty.

Expert quote on exciting new light pollution research

Australian zoologist Kylie Robert and colleagues have published an exciting new paper on the disruption of breeding patterns and melatonin levels in a free-ranging native mammal. I had the chance to comment on the significance of this research for Science News and am delighted that Dr. Robert will also be presenting at the Annual General Meeting of the International Dark-Sky Association on November 15 in Phoenix. To my knowledge, this paper is one of the first showing these kinds of effects, such as lowered blood melatonin levels, in the field and joins recent work by Davide Dominoni, who showed impacts from night lighting on the physiology of wild birds.

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A framework to assess evolutionary responses to anthropogenic light and sound

A framework to assess evolutionary responses to anthropogenic light and sound

John P. Swaddle*, Clinton D. Francis*, Jesse R. Barber, Caren B. Cooper, Christopher C.M. Kyba, Davide M. Dominoni, Graeme Shannon, Erik Aschehoug, Sarah E. Goodwin, Akito Y. Kawahara, David Luther, Kamiel Spoelstra, Margaret Voss, Travis Longcore

Highlights

  • Anthropogenic light and sound are an important component of global change.
  • These stimuli often co-occur and may function synergistically.
  • The selection pressure of light and noise may drive the rate of evolutionary change.
  • We propose a framework to explore the ultimate consequences of noise and light exposure.

DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.tree.2015.06.009

Trends in Ecology and Evolution

Human activities have caused a near-ubiquitous and evolutionarily-unprecedented increase in environmental sound levels and artificial night lighting. These stimuli reorganize communities by interfering with species-specific perception of time-cues, habitat features, and auditory and visual signals. Rapid evolutionary changes could occur in response to light and noise, given their magnitude, geographical extent, and degree to which they represent unprecedented environmental conditions. We present a framework for investigating anthropogenic light and noise as agents of selection, and as drivers of other evolutionary processes, to influence a range of behavioral and physiological traits such as phenological characters and sensory and signaling systems. In this context, opportunities abound for understanding contemporary and rapid evolution in response to human-caused environmental change.