Oh, That Was You!?

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The Eternal Fishnu introduced Mrs. Hanamoku and I to these friends of his. We didn’t understand their place in the history of science at the time of this meeting.

Many of us in the Pacific Northwest are familiar with the term “apex predator” from the relatively recent re-introduction of wolves into our forests. Apex predators are relatively small in number in comparison to the population of its prey, but its presence or lack of presence results in a disproportionate effect on the environment. That is, not just obviously on the population of its prey, but cascading effects that are often surprising.

The intent of the re-introduction is beyond just merely the romantic notion of wolves once again roaming through the birch trees and howling in the distance. More so, the hope is to reinstate the natural regulation of the forest ecosystem that has gone somewhat out of whack due to cascading effects of the populations of the wolves’ prey going unchecked in a natural manner.

Anyway, the insight of the disproportionate and often surprising effect of apex predators is credited to the pioneering work of Robert Paine. He was a zoologist with the University of Washington who had this flash of inspiration for an experiment on biodiversity. The removal of a particular species can result in dramatic effects, whereas the removal of another particular one has little or no effect. He coined the term, keystone species, to describe the former.

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Pisaster. The keystone species of the U.S. Pacific Northwest tide pools.

That insight came to him during a little experiment he conducted off the Olympic Peninsula back in the 1960s. The tidal pools he visited were diverse in species. For some reason he wondered what would happen if he removed one of the species. I’m not sure if he started with starfish, but that’s the species he wrote about. It was probably the only species he could easily remove due to the relatively large size, easily seen bright colors, and relatively few number of them.

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A tide pool rock of impressive biological diversity – including the Rubber Ducky Buddha of Joliet.

Believe it or not, that starfish (pisaster) posing with the Eternal Fishnu is an apex predator. Well, at least an apex predator of the tide pools around the Oregon Coast where these photos were taken – the prey being mussels. These starfish played a starring role (pun intended) in Robert Paine’s insights of the disproportionate effect the apex predator. He coined such a species, keystone speciesAnd the sometimes surprising cascading effects resulting from the removal is referred to as trophic cascades.

A great example of trophic cascades are related to subsequent work he did with James Estes. A suprising trophic cascade starts with sea otters and ends with increased erosion of the U.S. West Coast:

Sea otters eat urchins which dine on the kelp of the kelp forests which act as a break of storm waves which mitigates erosion of the beach. So the eradication of sea otters due to hunting means the urchins run wild, decimating the kelp forests, which leave the shore unprotected.

In the case of Robert Paine’s seminal experiment, he hunted down and fling all the starfish around his experimental tide pool into the sea. Unchecked by the apex predator, the experimental tide pool was bullied into a monoculture of mussels.

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Filter-feeding mollusks somewhere in the middle of the food chain.

This wonderful short video, Some Animals are More Equal than Others: Keystone Species and Trophic Cascades, covers the groundbreaking work of Robert Paine and James Estes during the 1960s and 1970s.

Another video from The Royal Institution offers a very nice case study of tropic cascades, The Rules that Govern Life on Earth – with Sean B. Carroll.

Why did I stumble across this fascinating work of Robert Paine and James Estes? As with many things YouTube, one thing lead to another then another. But mostly, I was looking for inspiration, ideas, and paths towards how to author business models. As I’ve mentioned many times, I am a Business Intelligence Architect/Developer by day.

The set of correlations and transformations that make up trophic cascades are indeed the genes of a business model. Such mapped processes are what I’ve been working on with Map Rock for over a decade. An obvious business example is something like better quality leads to higher customer satisfaction, leading to return customers, leading to lower customer acquisition requirements, leading to higher profit. But for some reason, after all I’d studied, I didn’t know the term, trophic cascades.

A Buddhist thought before we leave. We must remember that Nature is resilient and that there isn’t only one “correct” way for things to be. For over three billion years Life on Earth has been periodically severely wounded. But she regenerates and comes back to full life.

Perhaps an additional disaster or a certain disaster a few years before or after, or more or less severe, more North or South, would have resulted in no humans at this time or even no multi-celled creatures. But from afar, seen as an entity in itself, She’ll still look more or less the same. Only from “within the weeds”, where our human minds are trained to exist, would things appear to be different.

Well, Mr. Pisaster, it was an honor to have met you!

 

Less than Two Months Until Bodhi Day 2019

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The Eternal Fishnu and the Rubber Ducky Buddha of Joliet enjoying a crisp Fall afternoon on a Cinderella pumpkin.

For 2019, Bodhi Day, December 8, falls on a Sunday. That’s good because I really don’t need to take vacation days off.

As for watching Venus rise in the morning sky, not this year. Venus will rise on Bodhi Day at about 9am. That’s too late to be visible, and it seems to be about that time anywhere in the world on December 8, 2019. Instead, it looks like Mercury and Mars will be visible in the pre-dawn hours of meditation.

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Rise times for December 8, 2019. This is from the site, timeanddate.com.

The Bodhi Season begins on December 1, 2019. Siddhartha Guatama meditated for seven days under the Bodhi Tree, before his full awakening on the morning of the eight day.

As I’ve done for the past two Bodhi Seasons, I will post a daily message from December 1 through December 8 to guide you along the Bodhi Season. These links point to those past series of messages, which should give you a good idea of what Bodhi Day is about and how to celebrate it:

Be sure to check out the links at the bottom of those two pages. That leads to the eight daily messages.

We still haven’t made our Bodhi Day arrangements yet. I happen to be very short of vacation days due to our visit with my step father and the 40th Anniversary of my first programming job.

We’ll probably just do a weekend getaway around the Minidoka area – such as Sun Valley. Last Bodhi Day, the Eternal Fishnu, Rubber Ducky Buddha of Joliet, and I performed a Buddhist service at Minidoka on our way to City of Rocks. We thought it would be nice to do that every year.

Sun Valley is also close to Craters of the Moon. We probably can’t get into the park during those hours, but there are many places near the park that would provide a great view of the early morning sky, solitude, no ranchers angry about hippy trespassers.

I apologize for this clip show blog. It’s a good way to fill in the simple reminder of Bodhi Day 2019 with lots of information from one place.

Please keep in mind that this post is based on the standardized Bodhi Day date of December 8. There is the lunar Bodhi Day, which is a bit of an it depends answer. So that you don’t need to read the post on the lunar Bodhi Day, I’ll say that for 2019, it is on January 2, 2020.