Today was just as informative as the other days in class but we learned more about what one organization in particular is doing about environmental conservation. Norman Gershenz, CEO and co-founder of is a graduate student form SF State and came to talk to us about his organization, the impact that its had, and what we can do to help the cause.

Norman talked about how he founded the non-profit organization and how he changed a lot of Zoos and Aquariums to start working on educating the public about environmental conservation and more importantly to start working on ways to donate to create more wildlife sanctuaries. To date has raised more than $3.9 million thanks to the efforts of 150 institutions, 2,700 schools, and millions of children and adults. This money is used to protect wildlife in ways that I personally have never heard about.

The goal, as Norman talked about, is to save ecosystems. Not just saving specific species, but save the ecosystem so that thousands of other species can be protected. I’ve heard it from other people, seeing as I’m friends with someone who works for a non-profit marine biology institution called MSI, that Zoos and Aquariums don’t always do the best job of educating the public about environmental conservation. The first time I heard about this I didn’t believe it, but the more I hear about it the more I start to realize that these “attractions” don’t do as much as they could to aid in the protection of wildlife. So it is nice to see that there is an organization out there that helps Zoos and Aquariums to utilize their reach with the public to raise money and awareness for conservation.

One great way that the program brings in money is through adopting acres or coral reefs around the world. You can adopt sites around the world from Brazil to Costa Rica to Indonesia and help save acres of wildlife. For just $25 you can save half an acre of wildlife, which is pretty amazing. They also have quarter machines around several Zoos and Aquariums, which help to save 90 square feet of wildlife. This has really inspired me to help any way that I can, and has made me more aware of how I should help donate more when I visit these locations. Adopting these locations is something I would do even with no income coming in. For $100 to save 2 acres of Coral Reef, that’s chump change for the effect you can have on the environment (a positive effect for once).


California Bans Sale of Shark Fins

We’ve been studying how we (humans) have been affecting the environment and one example of this is the sale of shark fins for shark fin soup. Shark fin soup is a part of my culture. I grew up eating it at many banquets and I love it; however when I found out how harmful this dish was to our environment and the sharks, I realized why we shouldn’t be serving it anywhere. Most places my family goes to have stopped serving it many many years ago and its been 10 or more years since I’ve had it. For those who don’t know the soup is seen as a sign of respect to your guests. The fishing process for the soup is very inhumane. Many fishermen will cut the fins off the shark then toss them back in the ocean, a horrible way for a shark to die.

Recently California passed a bill to ban Shark Fins in the state of California. Once signed by Governor Brown, California will join Hawaii, Oregon and Washington as states that officially ban the sale of shark fins. Although I am Chinese American and was accustomed to eating this traditional dish, I’m 100% for this ban and feel that those Chinese Americans that are opposed to the bill should take a look at the picture below, because anyone who sees this image and doesn’t get sick just looking at it isn’t human.

I’m half Chinese and Mexican, so big parties and banquets are the norm in my culture, but seeing as we’ve had banquets that don’t have Shark Fin soup for many years, I see no reason why more families can’t follow suit. While some politicians in California claim this is a racial attack on Chinese Americans and their culture, Christopher Chin the executive director of San Francisco-based Center for Oceanic Awareness, Research and Education, wrote in an e-mail that politicians explaining the impact that this is having. In the email he says:

“Sharks are one of our oceans’ top predators, keeping the entire ecosystem in check, but shark populations have declined dramatically over the last few decades as a result of human greed and lack of understanding,” wrote Chin, who is Chinese-American.

Lack of Understanding is the key word here. My culture is all about traditions, beliefs in luck both bad and good, and going against these traditions won’t be well received at all. Just take New Years for instance. I’ve been practicing the same traditions for New Years since I was a kid. Having new clothes and wearing red on that day is something that is in-grained in me, and I do it every year. However, in my opinion New Years and serving shark fin soup as a sign of respect are completely different. I don’t wear the same color red every year but it’s really the symbol that matters. So if you substitute chicken for shark fin in the soup, should it really matter that much?

Now with the ban in California, though restaurants still have till the end of 2013 to completely dissolve their Shark Fin inventory, Hong Kong now has to look at changing their policy as well. It is believed that Hong Kong provides half of the worlds supply of Shark Fins. China has already tried to limit the sale by running campaigns against the sale of shark fin soup from celebrities such as Yao Ming. However no policy is currently in place to prevent or limit the sale of shark fin and if the reports are anywhere close to being correct, it’s far too popular to have any sort of regulation anytime soon.

The only thing I can do is never eat it again, and encourage family members in Hong Kong to do the same, but like I said, it’s not that hard since I haven’t had it in years. Though I will always remember the incredible taste of shark fin soup, the image I showed above will continue to haunt me and I’ll never be able to eat that again.

Read more about this here:

Franciscan Manzanita Could be Designated as an Endangered Species

One of the first things I remember from this class was the first lecture where we were told about a plant that was believed to be extinct and was later found again in the Presidio. I can’t imagine what it was like for scientists or botanists a few years back when they found out this extinct plant was no longer extinct. Now in 2011the U.S Fish and Wildlife Service is proposing that the Franciscan Manzanita should be listed under the Endangered Species Act. In an article written last week, the writer gives a brief history of the plant, which was thought to be extinct after a cemetery was built bulldozing the entire plant life in that area.  He later goes on to explain that designating the Franciscan Manzanita as an endangered species would mean that anyone who tamers with the plant could face fines and criminal prosecution.

There is currently a 60-day public comment period going on for the proposed designation, but to me this should be a no brainer. I know it’s just a plant and I assume there were more plants that were sent to extinction due to human expansion, but when have a chance to save one we shouldn’t hesitate to do so. I also learned in the article that the Wild Equity Institute had sued Interior Secretary Ken Salazar for failing to protect the last remaining specimen in the wild. If that is the case that he was not doing enough to save the plant in the wild, than he should face consequences. We are talking about an extinct species that had reappeared in the Presidio, I’m not sure why anyone would want to dismiss this as anything but amazing.

I had never heard of this Manzanita until the first lecture but I hope that by this time next year this plant will be under the protection of the Endangered Species Act and at least try to help this plant survive in the wild.
Full Article:

Night Life at the Cal Academy

Night Life at the Cal Academy is a great chance for adults to enjoy what the Academy of Science has to offer, and best of all you don’t have to deal with the all the kids getting in your way. While you enjoy drinks you can walk around the entire facility attempting to learn something from the exhibits there. It does feel like a club scene but every now and then you’ll have people actually enjoying the exhibits and learning about the various wildlife they have on display. While I already know a good amount about evolution and certain wildlife species, it’s always amazing to see them up close and personal.

I think that is something that is lost on so many people who go to Night Life. I think it’s great that the Cal Academy hosts this event. It’s a great source of revenue and it opens up more people to the Cal Academy. There are tons of people who go to this event and I wonder how many of them realize how amazing it is to be able to see examples of evolution and adaptation right in front of them. In class we’ve been discussing evolution and Darwin.  We go through what Darwin discovered on the Galapagos Islands, gradual evolution, adaptation and natural selection. Walking around the Cal Academy you get to see how different species evolved or adapted to their environment in order to survive.

As I go through the exhibits and see all of these species that evolved to survive I wonder if other people really understand the scope of what they are seeing. Do they get the same feeling from seeing these animals as Darwin did when he first discovered the Galapagos? Probably not, but maybe we should all get that feeling of astonishment and amazement when we come across frogs shaped like rocks, bugs shaped like leaves or lizards that change the color of their skin to match their surroundings. Even as everyone was waiting in line to buy drink tickets there was a display that showed an early hominid Paranthropus Boisei Carnium. This shows how we evolved into what we are today, yet it’s so easy to miss this historic finding as we all wait in line for wine tasting tickets.

All this evidence of evolution is right in front of us and while some might take it for granted, I’m always amazed by the exhibits at the Cal Academy.  I might not get as excited as Darwin did, but I always enjoy seeing how so many species evolved and adapted to survive, and then later got caught and placed in a glass case for all of us to see.