November 2009


I’m leaving for a few weeks on vacation tomorrow night. I couldn’t be happier about this, and I’ll post all about my trip when I get back (at least, the science-y and library-related parts of it), but for now, I need to prepare. I anticipate being very busy playing catch-up when I return, and I’ve been posting here less than I’d like to. Therefore, I present to you a huge list of things I’ve been meaning to post about but never got around to. I might post in more detail on some of these topics later as I get a chance, but I encourage you to check out these links in my absence. In no particular order:

  • HOME is a stunningly beautiful 90-minute film from director Yann Arthus-Bertrand. It was released on June 5th simultaneously in over 50 different countries, and is freely available to watch on YouTube in HD. It covers the history of life on Earth, focusing heavily on human changes to the environment that have resulted in ecological collapses across the planet and global warming. The last 20 minutes or so provide a summary, but I highly recommend setting aside some time to watch the whole thing.
  • Another possibly global-warming related news item: The New York Times reports on the PNAS study about disappearing ice caps atop Mt. Kilimanjaro.
  • Toxic waste from a shipwreck off the coast of Madagascar is wreaking ecological havoc, according to the WWF.
  • Two female spectacled bears at the Leipzig Zoo are suffering from hair-loss. The Telegraph article isn’t very informative, but spectacled bears have a history of this problem in captivity. It’s limited to female bears and is thought to be stress-related. Incidentally, cross your fingers that I see a fully-furred spectacled bear while on vacation… they’re native to the Andean forests!
  • This collection of photographs of pollution in China has been heavily making the internet rounds. You’ve probably already seen it, but if not, you’ll be shocked. The photographs are so well-done they’re almost beautiful, but the content will make you cry.
  • Here’s some happy news, albeit a bit old: decades-long efforts by the French to clean up pollution in the Seine is finally paying off! After high levels of pollution in the middle of last century killed off all but four fish species in the river, France instituted large-scale efforts to clean up the waters, including a purification plant. Now, Atlantic salmon have returned to their historic breeding grounds up-river without any human interference. One of these was caught by an angler outside of Paris. There are now 32 species present in the river!
  • Have you heard about the Genome 10K project? “The Genome 10K project aims to assemble a genomic zoo—a collection of DNA sequences representing the genomes of 10,000 vertebrate species, approximately one for every vertebrate genus.” Thanks to the drastic reduction over the years of the cost to sequence a genome, this project is finally feasible, and collaborators are coming from all corners of the globe.
  • DNA is also going to ensure that we have delicious heritage apples for years to come, I hope.
  • The Bronx Zoo’s Wildlife Conservation Society recently opened a new LEED gold-certified Center for Global Conservation that looks to be very impressive.
  • Attention parents: Black bears in Yosemite prefer minivans.
  • The winners of the British Wildlife Photography Awards were announced last month. Here’s the Coast & Marine winner:
  • New York is seeing “coywolves”, coyote-wolf hybrids that are smaller than wolves and larger than coyotes. These are fertile hybrids, stronger than coyotes, but appearing in areas where wolves can’t cope with the human development.

  • There are more article I have bookmarked, but I’ll save those for another vacation. See you next month!

I made a post on MetaFilter yesterday, which is a rare occurrence for me. Since it’s library-related, I’ll cross-post it here.

Bobbie E. Burnett is suing her employers, the Free Library of Philadelphia, for discrimination. She’s been employed there for nearly 20 years, but transitioned to a female gender identity in 2001, at which point she says discrimination set in.

"Slurs hurled at Burnett by some staffers include ‘freak,’ ‘man in woman’s clothing’ and ‘nigger,’ according to the suit. On one occasion, when Burnett expressed wishes for a nice weekend to a coworker, the employee responded with, ‘Burn in hell,’ according to the lawsuit."

Last year, the Library of Congress lost a lawsuit against a trans person over a job offer. LoC "claimed at trial that transgender people are not covered under federal anti-discrimination laws". The American Library Association has an active GLBT Round Table, but it can still be difficult to find trans information in libraries. Many universities have special resource pages instructing library patrons in searching for GLBT info, because "transgender" isn’t a LoC Subject heading. Users need to search for "transsexuals" or "hermaphroditism" instead of "intersex".

What I didn’t put into the post is how deeply sad and disappointed the article made me. Normally, any time I come across a library or librarian-related news article, I either end up being depressed because I’m reading about massive budget cuts, lay-offs, or library closures, or I end up being proud and happy because I’m reading yet another in a long, long list of “librarians are awesome because _______” articles. Librarians are pretty well-known for protecting intellectual freedoms, lobbying for public access to information, and promoting diversity. To read about a library worker suffering so severely at the hands of her library colleagues was devastating to me.

After reading the article, I turned to the internet to mine for other links to include in the post. I was hoping to find a lot of fantastic trans-librarian stuff. Maybe some uplifting article about the long history of LGBT friendly library administration? A trans-librarian blog, with chronicles of supportive co-workers and naive patrons? Well, not exactly. As you can see, I ended the post with an article about another discrimination lawsuit against the Library of Congress, of all places, and the discovery (which was news to me), that “transgender” isn’t even an LoC subject heading.

If you have any recent “librarians are awesome and promote diversity” stories, please post them in the comments. I could use a bit of a pick-me-up.

Via LibraryStuff, a really cute Cops parody from the Seattle Public Library:

I originally heard about this on NPR, and it brightened my morning drive up a bit to hear about Sea World’s successful hatching of 82 endangered green sea turtle babies last month. As a lifelong San Diego resident, I’ve been to Sea World many, many times. They’re a for-profit organization and I never got the impression that the animals there were very happy, so I haven’t felt compelled to visit for many years, but I was delighted to hear about the turtle births.

According to the Associated Press reports, the turtles were all hatched on the park’s Shipwreck Beach without any human assistance or intervention. Thad Dirksen, curator of fishes remarked, “It’s unusual to have sea turtles hatch in a zoological environment. And this time marked the first time we’ve done so without assisting the eggs through incubation.” Indeed, hearing about sea turtle births anywhere is pretty exciting for me, since they’re adorable and all sea turtle species are endangered or threatened. But it’s especially fun to hear about a hatching this size, right in my own neighborhood. They should go on display before the end of the year, so I’ll try to go out and visit them.