Research: How much is a healthy estuary worth?


No surprise: A whole heck of a lot.

Take the Aghanashini River estuary (classified above based on World View 3 multispectral imagery). Using a benefits transfer assessment with established global ecosystem service values, my collaborators and I have assessed the annual ecosystem service benefits at more than $250 million.


I presented these preliminary figures at an expert workshop last month; we’re now finalizing an ecosystem service valuation paper which we hope will see academic publication soon.

Of course, valuation of ecosystem services has its downsides. Many have reasonably asked whether environmental resources can truly be valued in monetary terms. One response is that such a monetary calculation is but one of many ways of considering the value of the environment. But they are important for policy and politics. And while many environmental goods may be in reality priceless, without a baseline value, too many policy makers may assign a zero value.

Is it a slippery slope? Yes. So we tread carefully.

Many thanks to Sharolyn Anderson, Paul Sutton and Michael Dyer for a lot of hard work and putting up with my only basic knowledge of remote sensing. Thanks also to the DigitalGlobe Foundation for providing the imagery as a grant.

Tags: , , , , , ,

This crab ripped off its pants for the camera…


Twitter informs me there’s something called #NationalSendaNudeDay. Am I doing this right?

(Maybe the Post Office and/or Hotmail are desperate to justify their existence.)

Anyway… here is a recently molted crab we found during an early morning intertidal zone hike with students adventure travelers during our seminar adventure tour in the Andamans near Wandoor in 2015.

The one on the right is basically nude. A nude crab. And on the left… crab pants.

For a bit of background on why a crab would take off its pants, let’s turn to NOAA:

Crabs (and other crustaceans) cannot grow in a linear fashion like most animals. Because they have a hard outer shell (the exoskeleton) that does not grow, they must shed their shells, a process called molting. Just as we outgrow our clothing, crabs outgrow their shells. Prior to molting, a crab reabsorbs some of the calcium carbonate from the old exoskeleton, then secretes enzymes to separate the old shell from the underlying skin (or epidermis). Then, the epidermis secretes a new, soft, paper-like shell beneath the old one. This process can take several weeks.

A day before molting, the crab starts to absorb seawater, and begins to swell up like a balloon. This helps to expand the old shell and causes it to come apart at a special seam that runs around the body. The carapace then opens up like a lid. The crab extracts itself from its old shell by pushing and compressing all of its appendages repeatedly. First it backs out, then pulls out its hind legs, then its front legs, and finally comes completely out of the old shell. This process takes about 15 minutes.

Note: It pulls this off while leaving the original shell more or less intact. That’d be like getting out of a wedding saari without actually undoing any fold or wrap and leaving the hole thing standing. Could you do that, Ishani?

Tags: , , , , , , , ,

Friends and friends of friends in SF Bay: Help! I need a place to live!

You’ve found what amounts to a personal ad wherein I ask for help in finding an apartment in the apparently cutthroat San Francisco Bay Area housing market.

However, I’m reasonably certain that good apartments are filled through word-of-mouth beyond the Craigslist free-for-all. So if you or someone you know or someone who knows someone you know is a good landlord looking for a good tenant, please pass along my contact info (right-hand side of the page).

A bit about me: I grew up in small-town Illinois and worked in St. Louis and elsewhere as a journalist. For five of the last seven years, I’ve been a scholar, teacher, volunteer and dive bum in India. Right now, I conduct/oversee social science research for multiple environmental NGOs; I also help manage a nascent permaculture farm/garden project. I’ll be starting a PhD in the Geography Department at UC-Berkeley in August 2016. In student mode, I’m pretty quiet and nerdy; I like statistics and maps. When not studying, I scuba dive, plant trees and occasionally sip bourbon. I’m also a mild cycling activist.

My CV has a more official version of me.

What I’m looking for: a small but individual apartment, studio, carriage house, in-law flat, yurt, Swiss tent, tree house, etc., in the area from El Cerrito in the north to Oakland in the south. I’m looking to move in during the first or second week of August. I would also be excited to trade permaculture work, gardening, urban farming, etc. in exchange for a discount on rent. At first, it will just be me on a grad student’s income, but my wife (a molecular ecologist and elephant geneticist) will likely join me in early 2017.

If this reads a bit like a dating advert, it’s because the process of finding an apartment in such a hyper-competitive area is fraught with nervousness, excitement, cold sweats, self doubt and uncertainty, not unlike young love.

Tags: , , , , , , ,

Dear mothers: Thanks, so, so much.

Mother, god mother and grand mother (right to left)

My mothers

I stand on the shoulders of many people, especially various mothers. Above, 17-year-old me looks like a dope with three women who have been instrumental in making me who I am. I will never give enough voice to my gratitude to Deborah Jadhav, my mother; Mary Rader, my godmother; and Mohini Jadhav, my grandmother/dadi (next to me, right to left above).

So dopey I was.

Tags: , , , ,