Biology Schmiology

The highlights of tonight’s public hearing on San Pedro’s Bridge to Breakwater project came about halfway through when a man whose name I didn’t get (but when the transcript comes out, I’ll update this), who identified himself as a biology professor, attacked the proposal for the ideas it never considered.

When you read his ideas, you’ll accuse me of embellishing the record or just straight out lying. The teaser: how do giant bald eagle statues and hired pinnipeds sound?

His scientific contribution to the meeting: People in Monterey don’t go to visit Cannery Row and the shops there, they go for the otters at the aquarium (they are cute, I went to see them, I can’t argue. Okay, can’t argue much. Wait, yeah I can). And in San Francisco, they visit Pier 39 for the seals there. So why can’t we bring the otters and seals to San Pedro? And why haven’t we talked about what to do with the mud on the channel floor? If the floor is covered with clams the otters (or did he say seals?) will come to eat them. And if you build a large concrete bald eagle – one bigger than the normal male eagle, the female eagles will be attracted to it. And then because it’s not a real male, and now there’s all these females around, the real males will come for the females and soon our sky will be filled with our great American symbol.

You think I’m making this up, don’t you. I’ll link to the transcript once it’s available. But because I learned about pinnipeds working down at the Cabrillo Marine Aquarium, and because I paid attention during California history lessons, I cannot help but respond to his absurd ideas with a few quick facts. We used to have otters. We hunted them out (Spanairds, pelts, read Island of the Blue Dolphins, we did the same thing to abalone). And at Pier 39, we have SEA LIONS. Not seals. Sea Lions have external ear flaps and . . . . jeez, a host of other characteristics that make them very, very easily distinguishable. Especially to a biologist.

And this guy teaches at colleges? Five of them?

So, forget the restaurants, bring in the otters, and save San Pedro.

(btw: the seal/sea lion thing is a common, but goofy mistake. Next time you’re at Seal Beach and on the pier there, check out the statute called “Seal.” It too is a Sea Lion. Perhaps our biologist was taking some artistic license as well)

5 Replies to “Biology Schmiology”

  1. Well written (and intentioned) post. Bravo.
    What if we designed a bronze plaque that said Sea Lion for the Seal Beach seal statue? We could go at night and attach it. Ah, that will never happen. But keep fighting the good fight. Intelligence should be prized, should be adored, should be where all humans focus, but, well, they don’t.

    Stu Mark
    Redondo Beach

  2. It bugs the crap out of me when people get seals and sea lions confused (or tell me they’re the same thing) though I do know that I’ve slipped up and called a sea lion a seal (we were looking at elephant seals … so I think it was just that I’d been using the word a lot that day).

    Maybe the fellow was really nervous.

    Of course if he was worried about the slip, maybe he could have just substituted pinnipeds to cover his ass.

    It’s sad that a CMA docent would make that mistake … they kinda drum it into us.

    The weird thing is that San Pedro is known as a whale watching town, as it’s home to the CMA whale watching docent program … hell, they call themselves ‘A Whale of a Town.’ Why not capitalize on that?

    As far as I know about otters, they prefer sea urchins, which live in kelp forests … not really something you’d see in the shipping channels. Also, there is a breeding pair of Bald Eagles on Catalina … and they suffer from very high levels of environmental contaminants (so high that their eggs need to be removed to hatch in an incubator). There’s a movement afoot to abandon the program to help those eagles and focus on the other Channel Islands in order to both have a more successful breeding program (as the areas are cleaner) and to help the endangered Island Fox.

  3. oh, i can pretty much bet that he’s not talking the 5 claremonts (for starters, they generally have better faculty than that – aside from that unhinged woman who staged her own hate-crime), and there is no 5-college science program (Mudd and Pomona have their own, and the other three share Joint Science).

    As a CMCer, I feared the 5 college inference.

    Cybele – were you a CMA docent? Me too. Don’t think Mr. Bad Biologist was, though.

    The Catalina eagle population, last I heard, was doing rather well after years and years of DDT issues. Not a huge uptick, but working along. And the fox will always be on the edge as long as the bison and other imports remain. Of course, the bison are an attraction now too . . . Speaking of which, I should get my Avalon post posted . . .

    But yes, San Pedro is a “whale of a town” and a lot of our local culture is whale watching focused. It’s just hard to special order them. Though if you want to seem them up close, you can always visit the Marine Mammal Care Center where the sick ones are being nursed back to health.

  4. CD – I’m a whale-watch docent for the CMA. (Which explains all my whale watch posts.) I’m planning on coming back this year for re-certification. Classes start up in a few weeks. I’m also planning to be more involved with the whale census this year.

    As for the poor Catalina eagles, they’re still plagued by the DDT problems and there’s a move afoot to re-allocate the resources that are used for those particular eagles towards a more cost-effective program a bit further north. It’s a strange balance because the Catalina eagles are great because so many people see them, but the money to support the reintroduction is finite and I think they’ve decided that the money is best spent elsewhere.

    The article I read was in the NY Times (Eagles of Santa Catalina may lose support system).

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