The Lizard Log

The Langkilde Lab in Action

What am I standing on?

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Today I thought it would be fun to share with you something a little different.  I recently visited Berkeley, California, and while there I stumbled across a fantastic example of applied ecology.  After a long day of planes, trains, and (unfortunately no) automobiles, I took a refreshing walk to McLaughlin Eastshore State Park—as far west as you can go in Berkeley before falling into the San Francisco Bay. Awesome—finally some nature and a chance to recharge. Like any good ecologist, I poked around for a while, and watched egrets and gulls around the mudflats as the sun set over the bay.  Naively thinking to myself, “Gee, how swell that the city kept this natural area so nicely preserved!”

Eastshore State Park, CA. Photo credit: L Swierk

Eastshore State Park, CA. Photo credit: L Swierk

Looking back over the Berkeley Meadow to Berkeley. Photo credit: L Swierk

Looking back over the Berkeley Meadow to Berkeley. Photo credit: L Swierk

Except… I was entirely wrong. Maybe I should’ve been clued in by the odd shape of the shoreline on the map, and how darn close it was to an old-timey train. After an hour of pleasant investigating, I wandered up to this sign, entitled “What are you standing on?”:

Landfill. Well. A little additional research turned up some information that this was essentially an old hazardous materials dumping site. Did this change the enjoyment I felt from my wildlife-watching and wandering? Heck no. I grinned and felt nerdishly overjoyed at this feat of reclamation. Had I never been told, I would never have guessed. What an awesome success story—they fooled an ecologist!

Black turnstone (left) and least sandpiper (right). Photo credit: Wikipedia

Black turnstone (left) and least sandpiper (right). Photo credit: Wikipedia

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