All posts by Mark Shepherd

About Mark Shepherd

I work in the environmental movement helping to protect the air we breathe, the water we drink, the land that sustains us and the natural and biological resources we depend on.

Crazy Ants: The New Ant Invasion

Nostalgic Days

Do you miss the days when all you had to worry about when cutting the grass was a few painful blisters from those persistent fire ants? No?  Well just wait a bit and you might.  The new wave of ant invasion now spreading throughout Texas and the Southeast arrived sometime in the last two decades and, like the fire ant, has a thing for nesting in electrical boxes, drywall, and basically any other space they feel comfortable crawling into. Please welcome the crazy ants.

Tawny raspberry crazy ants (Nylanderia fulva)
Tawny raspberry crazy ants (Nylanderia fulva)

Continue reading Crazy Ants: The New Ant Invasion

Vaquita Capture Program Ends

Vaquita Rescue Program Setback
Vaquita (Phocoena sinus), a small porpoise endemic to the northern Gulf of Mexico. Illustration by Justin Shepherd
Vaquita (Phocoena sinus) Illustration by Justin Shepherd

A  rescue program to save the vaquita, the world’s most endangered cetation (whales, dolphins and porpoises), has not started off well.  Earlier this year, I reported that there were only an estimated 30 vaquitas left in the world. That number may now be down to 15 or less.   The ambitious program to save vaquitas experienced a setback when a captured female died.

Continue reading Vaquita Capture Program Ends

The Most Painful Stings

Fire Ants (solenopsis invicta)

Painful stings leave an impression. Everyone who has ever been stung has a story to tell.  Some of the stories of painful stings include common characters, such as honey bees (Apis melifera).  Being stung by a bee is fairly common, but unless you are allergic to them, your story is comparable to a common children’s tale: most people have read it, but can only vaguely remember how the story goes.  Continue reading The Most Painful Stings

Are Insect Populations Declining?

On a recent trip to research insect populations, I visited a small sliver of the Chihuahua desert that runs through the extreme southeast corner of Arizona, I encountered hundreds of eager hover flies.  I say eager, because the flies followed and buzzed around me relentlessly.  While I couldn’t identify any single individual fly, I am certain that a few of them followed me for more than half a mile as I trekked through the dry, rock strewn, dusty desert.  I am not a dancer, but all of the swatting, arm waving, and stumbling probably made me look like I move like Mic Jagger.  Relief came when wind from an approaching thunderstorm forced the flies to land or be blown away. Continue reading Are Insect Populations Declining?

Vaquita: The World’s Rarest Marine Mammal Is In Trouble

Vaquita (Phocoena sinus), a small porpoise endemic to the northern Gulf of Mexico, Illustration by Justin Shepherd www.markshepherdjournal.com
Vaquita (Phocoena sinus), a small porpoise endemic to the northern Gulf of Mexico. Illustration by Justin Shepherd

Another species of marine mammal is on the verge of extinction.  The Vaquita (Phocoena sinus), a small porpoise endemic to the northern Gulf of Mexico, is reportedly just 30 individuals away from being lost forever.  The name vaquita is Spanish for “little cow,” and it looks somewhat like a panda mixed with a dolphin.   Because individuals suffer high mortality when trapped in illegal gill nets used by fishermen, the vaquita populations have plummeted since 1997.  Mexico has spent millions trying to stop the illegal practice of using gill nets, but to date has not been able to prevent it completely. Continue reading Vaquita: The World’s Rarest Marine Mammal Is In Trouble

Killing Poachers

Wild greater one-horned rhinoceros (Rhinoceros unicornis) standing by a forest track in Kaziranga National Park, Assam, India. Park wardens on bicycles in the background. Photo by Jeremy Richards; markshepherdjournal.com
Wild greater one-horned rhinoceros (Rhinoceros unicornis) standing by a forest track in Kaziranga National Park, Assam, India. Park wardens on bicycles in the background. Photo by JeremyRichards

Many are familiar with the worldwide effort to stop the illegal hunting of endangered wildlife.  Some nations have created wildlife refuges where hunting is limited, while other nations, such as Costa Rica, have banned hunting altogether.  Creating a refuge is challenging enough, but enforcing hunting limitations is far more difficult.  Even in the well protected reserves in Africa, poachers still manage to kill threatened elephant and rhinoceros. Continue reading Killing Poachers

Protecting Elephants

In October of 2016, in what was considered a surprising move, the United States, the European Union and several African nations voted against an all-out ban of the elephant ivory trade; markshepherdjournal.com
African Elephant in Kenya Photo by Kevin Lings

In October of 2016, in what was considered a surprising move, the United States, the European Union and several African nations voted against an all-out ban of the elephant ivory trade.  It was a surprising move in that there was strong support in favor of a ban from the countries hosting the two largest elephant ivory markets: the United States and China. Continue reading Protecting Elephants

Haleakala Flightless Moth

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Haleakala flightless moth (Thyrocopa apatela). Photo by Mark Shepherd

Many species in the Hawaiian islands are known to be endemic (found nowhere else).   An example is the Haleakala flightless moth. This moth is not just restricted to the Hawaiian Islands, but it can only be found on the windswept western slopes of the summit of Haleakala volcano.  Its scientific name is Thyrocopa apatela.  It is, however, more commonly known as the Haleakala flightless moth or the Haleakala grasshopper moth. Continue reading Haleakala Flightless Moth

The Still Mysterious Case of Missing Bees

Honey Bee (genus Apis) foraging in the field. Photo by Mark Shepherd
Honey Bee (genus Apis) foraging in the field. Photo by Mark Shepherd

We are just four months shy of the 10-year anniversary when David Hackenberg reported losing two-thirds of his bee hives to a phenomenon now known as Colony Collapse Disorder (CCD).   It was in October of 2006 that Mr Hackenberg, a Pennsylvania bee keeper, noticed that 2000 bee colonies he had transferred to Florida to pollinate crops were devoid of almost all adult bees, except the queen.  Continue reading The Still Mysterious Case of Missing Bees

Diversity among Some Environmental Organizations

A review of board members and executives at several large and well known environmental organizations finds little diversity in leadership positions.
African American Hiker Photo by Mark Shepherd

If the biological world exhibited a similar diversity in the number of species present that several environmental organizations do with regard to minorities in positions of leadership, it would be an extremely impoverished world.   I reviewed the online list of board members and executives at several large and well known environmental organizations, and was very surprised to find that there is very little diversity in leadership positions, and almost no African Americans.  There were only a few Hispanics, Asians, and at one prestigious environmental organization, there were no African Americans.  That’s right, not one! Continue reading Diversity among Some Environmental Organizations

Monk Parakeet Populations Growing

 

Three Monk Parakeets perched and interacting in a tangle of branches (Buenos Aires); markshepherdjournal.com
Three Monk Parakeets perched and interacting in a tangle of branches (Buenos Aires).
Photo by Rich Lindie

In 1939, nearly 77 years ago, the Carolina Parakeet (Conuropsis carolinensis) was declared extinct.  At the time, it was United States’ only known native parrot.  The cause for its extinction is not certain, but is frequently reported to be the result of deforestation.  Some experts, however, believe deforestation and hunting may have reduced the populations sufficiently to allow other factors, such as disease, to be the proximate cause of extinction.  Continue reading Monk Parakeet Populations Growing

Green Sea Turtle (Chelonia mydas)

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Photo by Willyam Bradberry

Green Sea Turtle (Chelonia mydas)

AKA: Pacific green turtle, black (sea) turtle

Green Sea Turtle (click on this link to watch)

While diving off the coast of Hawaii, I encountered multiple green sea turtles in the shallow areas around the shore.  Adult green sea turtles are primarily vegetarians and feed on sea grass and algae.  Juvenile turtles are reported to eat crabs and jellyfish, in addition to sea grass and algae. Continue reading Green Sea Turtle (Chelonia mydas)