Harold Fendrick
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July 18, 2014
Good to see it get a new roof. Excellent advertizing for Knox as well.
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Courtesy photo
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Nature Friendly: UCSC professor teaches science with reptiles and amphibians
by Carol Carson
Jul 17, 2014 | 1049 views | 0 0 comments | 23 23 recommendations | email to a friend | print
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We will be celebrating the recent ascension of the red-legged frog to California’s official state amphibian on our next Watershed Walk with Dr. Gage Dayton of UC Santa Cruz, an expert on reptiles and amphibians.

Finding fame as the titular hero of a story by Mark Twain, "The Celebrated Jumping Frog of Calaveras County,” the red-legged frog is only found in California and was large enough to have provided plentiful grub for Gold Rush miners.

But in recent times, when the appetite for frog legs grew ravenous and the amphibians' population dwindled, entrepreneurs began importing an even larger specimen from the South called Bull.

It’s a sad tale, but true, that whenever humans start messing around with nature, things can get a lot worse. The red-legged frog became almost extinct because, as it turned out, the bull frog’s favorite meal was him. It is now protected under the Federal Endangered Species Act.

Since his childhood in Southern California, Gage Dayton has been enthralled with the thrill of the chase for the underappreciated and understudied group of organisms, the reptiles and the amphibians.

He learned how to catch fence lizards, but he also learned how to hold them with respect. And he still does it today as the administrative director of the UCSC Natural Reserve System and professor of ecology and evolutionary biology.

The University of California Natural Reserve System is a unique assemblage of 36 protected wildland sites throughout California. The five natural reserve sites that are administered by UC Santa Cruz are spread along 60 miles of the Central Coast: Año Nuevo Island Reserve (25 acres), Landels-Hill Big Creek Reserve (4,200 acres), Fort Ord Natural Reserve (606 acres), Younger Lagoon Reserve (26 acres), and the UCSC Campus Natural Reserve (400 acres).

It was last year on a perfect spring morning that our watershed walkers met Dayton and stepped into his world of the unseen or unobserved.

As one participant said, “The reptile walk at Quail (Hollow) Ranch captivated my seven-year-old grandson, while educating and entertaining my husband and me (mid-60s). Gage engaged our group by gently allowing us to capture and to handle frogs, snakes, lizards and salamanders, and by allowing time for questions and photography.

“Although my grandson had felt fear of snakes, by the end of the walk he had found one and handled it. When I asked him later about seeing snakes in the wild, he repeated the guide's rule to me: Always know what kind of animal it is before you pick it up. I hope he will now respect these interesting creatures, and never harm them out of indiscriminate fear.”

When Layton takes his UCSC students out in the field, he is teaching them how to be scientists.

“They need to be well-versed in many fields, understand standardized methodology, be able to analyze data, think about patterns and appropriate questions and how to answer those questions,” the professor said.

“Ecology and evolutionary biology are two of the most popular majors at the University. With a strong faculty and strong field programs we can give our students opportunity to get hands-on experiences.”

How do you teach someone to be a scientist? Observation is first. Once they become good observers they can start to see patterns and begin to hypothesize.

As John Muir said, “When we try to pick out anything by itself, we find it hitched to everything else in the universe.”

How can we help our reptiles and amphibians? Dayton cautions against leaving your dogs and cats outside and using pesticides which harm the natives and the invertebrates they eat.

We’ll look in the pond first and search for animals like the Pond Turtle,” he says with the joy of the explorer. “We’ll look for reptiles under logs or basking in the trail. We’ll probably see the western fence lizard and the southern alligator lizard.”

But not the legendary California crocodile who many think crawled out of the pond one night and headed for the San Lorenzo River to seek a mate. No word yet.

Dayton and I will be leading the amphibian and reptile safari at 10:30 a.m. on Saturday, July 26, at the Quail Hollow Ranch County Park.

The walk is free and sponsored by a grant from the San Lorenzo Water District. For more information, contact me at carson@carolcarson.com.

- Carol Carson is a writer and Certified California State Master Naturalist.

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From Left, Jay and Dave had a banner day catching salmon outside Moss Landing on a recent trip. Courtesy of Mike Baxter
From Left, Jay and Dave had a banner day catching salmon outside Moss Landing on a recent trip. Courtesy of Mike Baxter
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Your Health: Pertussis epidemic present danger to infants, unimmunized
by Terry Hollenbeck, M.D.
Jul 17, 2014 | 556 views | 0 0 comments | 2 2 recommendations | email to a friend | print
According to a recent public health alert, California is experiencing an epidemic of pertussis, with over 5,000 cases reported this year.

Santa Cruz County has had at least 60 known cases (twice the number as last year) and probably many more cases, which have not been reported or have yet to be diagnosed.

Pertussis, also called whooping cough, is a highly contagious infection of the lower respiratory tract, involving the lungs. It usually manifests as a mild persistent cough, but can advance to a severe cough. Often in children, this cough is followed by a high-pitched intake of breath that sounds like “whoop” – thus the name “whooping cough.”

Pertussis is caused by a germ which is a bacteria and not a virus. It is passed from an infected person who sneezes or coughs and therefore spreads infected tiny droplets into the lungs of anyone who may be nearby.

Once in the lungs, the germs can cause an infection, thereby creating inflammation and narrowing of the lung's breathing tubes. This produces the cough and the characteristic whooping sound.

Infants are particularly vulnerable because they are not fully immune to whooping cough until they’ve received at least 3 immunization shots.

This leaves those 6 months and younger at greatest risk for catching the infection.

The pertussis vaccine one receives as a child wears off in 5 to 10 years, leaving most teenagers and adults susceptible to the infection during an outbreak.

Also, more parents are choosing not to vaccinate their children, thus lowering the number of immunized individuals. This, coupled with the fact that newer vaccines are less potent than the older ones, has increased transmission of pertussis.

The diagnosis of pertussis is often delayed or missed in infants because early symptoms are often mild and the serious cough may not begin for days or even weeks later.

A severe infection in infants can be fatal, although this is thankfully rare. Three infant deaths due to pertussis have been reported in California since the beginning of the year.

One must consider pertussis for anyone with a cough lasting more than 2 weeks, especially when the person generally feels well, coughs worse at night, and has prolonged coughing spells.

The vaccine for pertussis is combined with the tetanus and diphtheria vaccines which are routinely given to children in their first years of life, and to adults every 10 years.

Besides infants, those who especially need the vaccine protection are pregnant women in their third trimester because they will soon have contact with their unprotected infant.

Mothers have been found to be the greatest source of transmitting whooping cough to the newborn. Infants can also be protected by vaccinating those people who have close contact with them.

This “family” protection has been highly successful in protecting susceptible infants.

Tests are available to diagnose pertussis. The decision whether or not to test should be left to your doctor.

Antibiotics can be effective especially when given soon after symptoms begin. After several weeks of symptoms, they are much less effective.

Family members can also be prescribed preventative antibiotics. Remember that pertussis is caused by bacteria and can usually be treated with an antibiotic, but if you just have a bad cough from something like routine bronchitis, which is caused by a virus, antibiotics are not effective.

Your doctor will be able to determine the proper diagnosis and treatment.

Bottom line: I recommend to immunize your children and keep immunizations up to date for yourselves.

- Terry Hollenbeck, M.D., is an urgent-care physician at Palo Alto Medical Foundation Santa Cruz in Scotts Valley. Readers can view his previous columns on his website, valleydoctor.wordpress.com, or email him at valleydoctor@sbcglobal.net. Information in this column is not intended to replace advice from your own health care professional. For any medical concern, consult your own doctor.

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