Emeritus Faculty Association #120 December 2006

Next Meeting:
Friday, December 1, at 10.30 in the Javits room, 2nd floor library. David Conover, Dean of the Marine Sciences Research Center, will discuss the crisis in the world's fisheries created by over-fishing. Professor Connover is Dean and Director of the Maine Sciences research Center here on campus. He obtained his PhD from U. Mass in 1982. His research interests involve the ecology and evolutionary biology of fishes and fisheries science. He seeks to understand the adaptive significance of reproductive, behavioral, physiological, or life history traits in fishes and to extend this knowledge to fundamental problems in resource management. Species currently under investigation include the Atlantic silverside (Menidia menidia), the bluefish (Pomatomus saltatrix), and the striped bass (Morone saxatilis). He is the author of numerous papers in the Journals Sciience, Eclology, and Evolution as well as various fisheries journals. He was interviewed on NPR's Morning Edition in July 2002. More details are available at .http://www.msrc.sunysb.edu/people/conover.htm

Last Meeting, Friday November 3
Nancy Tasi made her annual announcement about flu shots. Some doctors' offices are once again short of supplies. Mather Hospital has published a revised schedule for its walk-in clinic: Tu., 21, Wed., 29 November and Mon., 4 December, with hours: 2-6 p.m. The Department of Health Services has announced dates for clinics in: Ridge, 8 Nov., 10am to Noon at Leisure Village, 402 Bridgewater (744-0334); Shoreham, 8 Nov, 1:30-3pm at Brookhaven Town Community Center, Defense Hill Rd. & 25A (744-2601); Huntington, 13 Nov, 10am-3pm at Senior Nutrition Site, 423 Park Ave. (351-3253): and Commack, 16 Nov, 10am-Noon at Suffolk YJCC, 74 Hauppauge Rd. (462-9800). Various grocery store pharmacies (Pathmark, etc.) and drug stores are also offering shots. Call them for dates and locations. The cost is covered by Medicare.
Judy Wishnia recalled her recent trip to Albany where she learned of the opening of a beautiful new Emeritus Center at the Albany campus. David Smith reminded the group that our own room (N4007) is comfortably furnished and the computer has now been set up with a wireless link, no login required. He urged members to make use of this facility and sign the visitor book.

Member Elof Carlson introduced the guest speaker from his old department of Ecology and Evolution, Distinguished Professor Jeffrey Levinton. Jeffrey presented a highly entertaining and informative talk on how evolution is influenced by human activity, Of course there are many examples of how humans have influenced evolution, probably the most famous being the change that took place in the color of moths in an English factory town with the introduction, and then later the cessation, of black factory smoke. Another example is today's hospitals having constantly to find different anti-bacteria disinfectants as new resistant strains of bacteria emerge. Evidence of rapid evolution was also famously found in a study of finches in the Galapagos, but there have been few as rapid as the one described here by Jeffrey and his students from a small cove of the mid Hudson.
By way of introduction Jeffrey started by showing some of his beautiful slides of the area which he described as his "first love." He also noted the rich historical legacy, as recounted for example in T.C. Boyle's novel World's End.This is the area where a chain was drawn across the river to prevent Lord North from sailing his troops upstream. Here later a foundry produced a superior type of cannon that helped win civil war battles such as Gettysberg. Finally, it was the location chosen in the 1950's for a Nike missile site, and where today's environment movement took root in the late l960's. At Foundry Cove, on the East side of the river just north of West Point, a factory was set up to produce the nickel cadmium batteries that guided the missiles. That usage from 1953 to l979 resulted in 180 metric tons of nickel cadmium waste being deposited in a one square kilometer area partially cut off from the river by a railway embankment. This made it by far the most Cadmium polluted place on the planet. Of course, because of tidal action much of the cadmium also washed out into the river proper. At first Jeffrey and his colleagues examined the cove in the early 1980's to see what effects the cadmium had on the organisms, and found few differences. They next decided to concentrate on a worm-like invertebrate, the oligochaete Limnodrilus hoffmeisteri, found in fresh waters throughout the northern hemisphere. They collected two groups of subjects, one from a clean environment and one from Foundry Cove, and placed them in restricted environments. They tound that while they both survived in a non-polluted area, when introduced into the cove those collected from outside died, strongly suggesting that the worms from the Cove had genetically evolved. The study was repeated after extensive mitigation was done on the cove. From the dates involved and laboratory experiments on reproduction of the worms, it could be calculated that immunity to cadmium was gained in about three generations, and was lost in about three to five generations. The research is to appear in the Journal of Estuaries.

Websites of the month:
Your editor was wondering how to gracefully transition from worms to our next subject, the decline of fisheries (other than fish eat worms). Then, on the very day of our meeting the journal Science had the decency to publish a survey study led by an individual by the name of Boris Worm on "Impacts of Biodiversity Loss on Ocean Ecosystem Services." This study forecasts a total collapse of all fisheries by 2050. An abstract is available at http://www.sciencemag.org/cgi/content/abstract/sci;314/5800/787. In fact this article forms a great introduction to our next speaker and the importance of his primary research. To access the full text of the article itself you need to be a member of the American Association for the Advancement of Science. But failing this, you can do your bit for the planet by carrying with you on your food-shopping visits the following "Eco-Best & Eco-Worst Seafood Choices Guide" http://www.oceansalive.org/eat.cfm?subnav=bestandworst&linkID=31. Since this guide also covers incidence of heavy metals pollution in the various fish, you may also benefit yourself.