Forest thinning

My goodness, I’ve been going back through my old data sets from the 2006 and 2007 season when we studied the effects of forest thinning on many aspects of the ecology, including the invertebrates, which, to me, suggests moths. Look at these graphs, for example. Each of them considers a single group, or genus, of moths as they respond to thinning across the years. The leftmost points are from the control stand–never thinned. The next point, moving right, is a collection made from a stand thinned the previous year. The highest points are collections made four years after the thinning. And the last point, way off to the right, is a collection made sixteen years after thinning. Look at the pattern.screen-shot-2017-01-09-at-8-16-10-pm




Can you see the trend in all of these groups? The upshot is that they all show reduced numbers after one year of thinning, then they all show increasing numbers after four years. Then, by sixteen years after thinning, the numbers fall to near the original set. The bottom graph shows the overall biodiversity of ALL moths in this study. But the wonder of wonders is that, while the biodiversity is about the same after sixteen years, the community has greatly changed. That is, many of the original species are gone, but have been replaced by a new set. So biodiversity is not affected, but the community structure is very, very different. All this to be published in the next year. One of my 2017 goals. Questions? Ask.

Butterfly and Moth Biodiversity

Do you have any idea how many moth species live in the Pikes Peak Region? Take a guess. A hundred? A thousand? Ten thousand? Well, it turns out, if you have data like I have, a reasonable estimate can be made. I used the Clench equation, taken from Harry K. Clench’s paper* on estimating butterfly biodiversity on reserves. It is useful after a few years (or hours) of data points are available. If you want the answer, you can skip the math and go to the case study, below. But in case you’re interested…

The equation shows that the eventual number of species (Se) in a locality can be estimated as a function of a constant, K, and the number of hours spent in the field (N).


As K approaches zero, N + K approaches N, and Se = S. In this equation, S represents the number of species taken at any given time and N represents the number of years (or hours) afield. Simplified, the equation looks like this:


Data that show a positive curve will not apply, of course. This can result if the first expedition is poor but the second is extraordinary. But as more data accumulate, a negative curve is generated, and any two points roughly on the curve can be used to estimate the asymptote, which is equivalent to Se.

Let us assume that after two years, 62 species have been cataloged (2, 62), and that after an additional 2 years, a total of 81 have been recorded (4, 81). Using these to create a system of equations allows us to calculate K, and then Se, as follows.

2Se = (2)(62) + 62K

4Se = (4)(81) + 81K

multiplying the first equation by –2 yields this pair:

– 4Se = –248 – 124K

4Se =   324 + 81K

eliminating the Se term,

0 = 76 – 43K

– 76 = –43K

K = 1.77

Substituting into the original equation yields an estimate of

Se = 124 + 110 = 234 species


screen-shot-2017-01-14-at-1-20-43-pm*Clench, H. K. 1979 How to make regional lists of butterflies: some thoughts. Journ. Lepid Soc 33(4) 216-231


Getting Down Funky with Religion in America: A Clarification

Things have gotten so crazy around here, with all the religious posturing and fundamental extremist stuff that I think it’s high time we had a “Come to Jesus” moment to clarify what religion is and isn’t. Maybe we can affect an overhaul of the whole design. I mean, with my background in observation and getting old, I can set the whole thing straight. Give me a chance.

Clarifying The Old Testament
Part 1: Before there were Jews

When I was a kid, I watched my grandfather nod off time and again while reading the Old Testament. I thought it was because he was old and tired, but later I realized that it truly is a deeply boring book, like a double dose of Nyquil. No one can read it for more than a few minutes at a time without drifting into stage three. It’s just not good writing, and the plot, oh my god. In modern times it wouldn’t survive the editor’s pen, and it would never find a publisher. It’s proof that a bestseller doesn’t require good writing.

So let me summarize it for you, and let me apologize ahead of time if I use offensive language. To some of you it might sound anti-Semitic, but let me stress that there are many places in this text where God himself appears anti-Semitic. But I’m not, and he’s not. He’s like your angry dad–he’s not against you, he’s just drunk. Later, he’s always sorry.

I’m also not anti-Egyptian. But that Pharaoh story, I mean, what a simpleton. This was their ruler? On the other hand, Donald Trump as President of the United States?

The Old Testament is a historic record, in a sense, but it’s also a story that’s supposed to teach people to be better or something. It is the rambling, disconnected story of the Hebrews, or Jews, a small tribe that rose to prominence by heeding God’s laws, slid into disfavor by committing the most god-awful sins, like marrying outside of their tribe, and made amends by discarding those wives and slaughtering enormous numbers of cattle and rams and sheep as burnt offerings to produce a “sweet savour” for God’s nostrils. God’s nose is obviously different from mine. Have you smelled burning hair? Then they came back into God’s grace and rebuilt Jerusalem as a walled city, then blew out again by buying food on the Sabbath and committing other outrages, and finally found themselves dispersed among the hundreds of “lands” that surrounded them. But they were trying. I know, I’m leaving out some details. This is a broad brush version. The point is, they were trying. Keep going. Continue reading “Getting Down Funky with Religion in America: A Clarification”

Waking Up at the May Museum

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Dedicated to the May family.

When I was eight years old, I suffered a short career in Cub Scouts, less than a year, weathering one bit of idiocy after another. The camping trip, washed out by a downpour, the picnic in the park spoiled by the nutcase who forgot to bring the drinks, the hike up the canyon ruined by falling on sharp rocks that cut my shins and made them bleed–everything conspired to destroy my faith in scouting.

The last straw, my final and most deflating experience with the organization, but also the most wondrous event in my life, was the field trip to the May Museum of Natural History. There, my patience stretched to—and beyond—the breaking point. Continue reading “Waking Up at the May Museum”