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Jane Marks  

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Arturo Contreras  

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Splashing water  

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Environmental Recording 1:03:02 - 1:04:47 Play 1:03:02 - More
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Cuatro Cienegas biological reserve  

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NPR/NGS Radio Expeditions
23 Jul 2001

    Geography
  • Mexico
    Coahuila
    Latitude/Longitude
  • 26.98369   -102.04739
    Channels
  • Stereo
    Sampling Rate
  • 48kHz
    Bit Depth
  • 16-bit
    Recorders
    Microphones
    Accessories
    Equipment Note
  • Subjects 4-5 are decoded MS stereo

NPR/NGS
RADIO EXPEDITIONS
Show: Cuatro Cienegas
Log of DAT #: 2 (July 23, 2001)
Engineer: Shawn Fox
Date: August 6, 2001
SC: Shawn Fox ¿ JG: Jessica Goldstein ¿ J: Jane, the scientist ¿ JB: John Burnett ¿ A: Arturo
0:00 - 2:54 Blank tape
3:05 amb - faint walking, cicadas - "which one's this called" - "mojorado"
3:51 JG, "Now, be quiet everybody¿"
4:06 Cicadas, general same level background nature noise - not really distinguishable
5:00 Guy talking, then Shawn grumbling b/c nobody can stay quiet¿
5:00 - 9:00 Talking about where to go, arranging hydrophones, etc.
9:01 - 11:03 Chatting with Jane, more arranging.
11:03 - 11:24 Silence
11:46 My name's Jane Marks and I'm a professor of biology at Northern Arizona University and we are presently standing in waist-deep water in Mojoral Oeste, which is one of the bigger pozas in the Cuatro Cienegas Basin.
12:05 JB: How many years have you worked in Cuatro Cienegas? J: About four years¿
12:15 JB: It's about two o'clock in late July. What have you learned as a scientist? J; As of two o'clock today I've learned that we've done two major things¿ H: I mean¿where do you like to be at this hour of the day?
12:37 J: The reason we're standing waist-deep in water is because I've learned the hard way that the best place to be at 2 o'clock in the afternoon in the middle of the Chihuahuan Desert is in the water. It's quite hot here but it's quite comfortable when you're in the water. .. 12:51 We're standing here beside one of our big experiments that we've set up where we're looking at the effects of exotic species on the native species. 12:59 And there's one exotic species here that we're particularly concerned about which is - its scientific name is hemi chromus guthatus (sp?) and it's an African cyclid fish. And we're worried that it's potentially competing with some of the native fish and so we've got an experiment set up where we're standing by about 30 meter sq. enclosure, some of which just have the native fish in them, some of which have the native and the exotic fish, and so we're going to compare growth rates of the native fish in the presence and the absence of the exotic fish to see if the exotic fish is having any negative consequences on the growth and reproduction and success of the native endemic cyclid.
13:48 So, this cage¿If you look inside this cage you see that it's a four-sided cage and the bottom is just open to the natural substrate, and you can see some fish swimming around and - there's one right there - one of the native fish¿and then probably tucked away underneath the lilies are some of the exotic fish. And so we weighed and measured our native fish and our exotic fish before, when the experiment began and then afterwards, after about three months, we'll harvest the experiment, which means that we'll take out the native and the exotic fish and weigh and measure them and we'll see if the growth rates of fish in this enclosure that has exotic fish are as high as they are when you don't have any exotic fish. 14:40
14:40 JB: Why is it important to know how native and non-native fish co-habitate?
14:48 - 15:48 J: Well, one of the main threats to aquatic biodiversity is the introduction of ¿exotic species - species which don't naturally live in this habitat have been introduced by people and if they out compete or prey upon the native fish they can drive them to extinction. But it's not that easy to get rid of exotic fish once they're in a habitat so you really want to understand first whether they're going to have a negative effect before you develop a management strategy to eradicate them. The best thing that could happen is that we could find out that they really aren't having very many harmful effects on the native fish. We could just leave them alone or try to capture them at - reduce their populations but not go to the full-blown effort of trying to eradicate them. So it's important that we find out first whether or not they're going to cause any damage in order to develop a management plan that makes sense.
15:48 JB: So - this exotic is a cyclid that comes from Africa?¿
15:46 J: This exotic species - its name is hemichromus - and it is native to Africa. It's valuable in the aquarium trade. It's a beautiful fish actually - it's bright red. And we think it was introduced because somebody thought perhaps that they could grow it in the pond here and then sell it in the aquarium trade, but we don't know and probably never will know why this fish from Africa ended up in the middle of Mexico.
16:23 JB: And is it squeezing out the native fish?
18:27 J: We don't know. We've only discovered it¿in the basin six years ago and the last couple years since we've started working here we've discovered it's spread throughout the basin. But whether or not it's effective the native fish, or not, we're not quite sure - that's part of what we're studying.
16:46 JB: So¿it's only been in these pools for seven years?
16:55 J: It was first documented seven years ago so it's hard to tell exactly the date that it came but people have been studying these pools fairly extensively in that time period so we're pretty sure the spread that we're seeing is happening right now¿If it had been spreading earlier we would have detected it earlier. But its population density certainly has risen in the past six or seven years.
17:24 JB: So the term "aquarium to desert" becomes even more accurate¿What do you like about coming here?
17:48 - 18:38 J: A number of things. First of all, the aesthetic beauty of the site. It's one of the most beautiful places I've ever been and when I'm snorkeling in the water I feel like I've got the best job in the entire world. It's very beautiful¿water's crystal clear. You can see beautiful plants, beautiful animals. Scientifically, it's very interesting because there are so many endemic fish here, and endemic snails, which means that they don't live anywhere else in the world. So understanding the ecological community here is of great scientific interest. And then it's also of great conservation importance because there are so many unique species here, so it's a wonderful blend for me of a site that aesthetically beautiful, scientifically interesting, and relevant for conservation.
18:41 JB: and it's fun to come to¿ (J& JB laugh)
18:54 J: I worked for a while for the United States Agency for International Development so I had the opportunity to work throughout Africa and Latin America and many many places¿It's not coincidence that I decided to establish a research program here because there was no other site for me that blended my interests in conservation and development and biology and a place that I just really enjoyed coming to. And we spend a lot of hours here, in the water - so you've got to find a sight that you enjoy being in.
19:28 JB: So why ¿ should someone who is listening to this¿care about these aquatic habitats¿here in the Chihuahuan Desert of Mexico.
19:50 J: That's a good question and a fair question. I think that we as people have inherited a world heritage so there are sites and species that are spectacular to all of us whether we live in Iowa, whether we live in Tanzania, and this site actually has been designated a Ramsar Site, (sp?) which is a wetlands of international importance. So I think that many people around the world¿have an appreciation for our world heritage - for the beauty that nature gives us and the diversity of species and that when we find a jewel like CC is that it's really important for the whole world that we preserve it.
20:41 J: How many Ramsar sites? My guess is about 200. Essentially countries that are signatory to the Ramsar convention¿like Kyoto...designate their top 3 or 4 wetlands in their countries as Ramsar sites. So essentially every country that signs on to this convention makes a thoughtful decision about what really are their most valuable wetlands and then protects them as Ramsar sites¿.CC is one of three or four in Mexico.
21:26 JB: ¿ Just how rare is it to have these pools of water in the desert?
21:34 J: It's extremely rare to have pools of water in a desert environment like this. What's particularly rare is that in addition to the oasis that we find here, there are so many different species of fish and snail and other invertebrates, so the diversity in CC is very high compared to other freshwater habitats. And then on top of that many of the species are endemic, which means that they don't live anywhere else in the world, and that's particularly rare¿ Everybody's heard of sites like the Galapagos that have really unique biotas and CC really rivals that site in that it's got a number of very high species diversity - a lot of species which don't live anywhere else - in a really small area. The protected area's less than 1000 sq km ¿so you've got an unusually high number of species, and unique species¿which makes it even more unique than many sites.
22:40 JB: ¿What would you compare the kind of island nature of these habitats to elsewhere in the world?¿
23:05 - 24:00 J: I think the most striking comparison, and perhaps the most accurate, is with the Galapagos Islands because it really does have that type of diversity. But also other sites¿it's similar¿to some of the tropical rain forests¿and coral reefs, actually¿And this is similar to that in that the water is so clear¿pristine spectacular reefs and ¿that you don't as often see in freshwater habitats.
24:06 JB: Where's the nearest freshwater body of water from here¿do you get anything comparable with this?¿ I guess there's nothing¿
24:36 J: You get natural rivers that flow through but I can't think of an open body of water like this anywhere near here. Cato Lake in Texas but¿(she & Host chat)
25:13 J: These aquatic habitats definitely stand out in the midst of a very dry terrestrial environment. There's not much other standing water, certainly not within many hundred of miles, to speak of.
25:27 JB: I guess just visually, sitting here in the water surrounded by cattails and lily pads and looking out at these stark barren mountains¿the contrast is exquisite.
25:50 - 26:35 J: I find it very striking because the terrestrial vegetation's limited b/c it's a very shrubby desert, and then you see these very beautiful deep blue, aquamarine aquatic habitats that are just teeming with life. That's a very stark contrast b/c the plant growth and other species growth is very water-limited in the desert, as you well know. And then you jump in the water and you see a higher diversity of fish than you see in most freshwater habitats around the world¿
27:00 JB: The farmers are one of the biggest concerns. How cognizant are they are the consequences of their interactions?
27:10 - 29:00 J: ¿Two of the main threats in the basin are water extraction and exotic species. And water extraction comes mostly in the form of moving water through man-made canals out of the basin for irrigated agriculture. And the, more and more it's become an issue that the public's aware of. It's only been a park since 1994 and I think since then the park staff has made great strides in general education of the value of the park¿in its own right ¿but the value of the park to the economy of the area. They're trying very hard to develop and manage an eco-tourism business which seems to be growing successfully, in that people that live here are realizing that there are economic rewards to having a site like this in their back yards¿Educating people as to the uniqueness of the site that's part of their heritage, and my impression is that in general¿Mexicans really are quite proud of their natural heritage and they really are exited to learn that they have a unique site in their backyard and that it's part of their natural history and their natural heritage. And so I think that many people are receptive to just that idea¿in combination that there is the potential for economic growth as spin-offs to the reserve¿there's always been concerns of a conflict btw. nature protection and economic growth¿At this site we at least have the potential to combine those two interests and not necessarily have them be at war with each other.
29:11 JB: The C.N.A. owns all the water below Mexican soil, right? ¿
29:22 A: (faint) talking about C.N.A. (difficult to understand) 29:56 - If you have a ranch, and that ranch has a pool or a spring, which borns and dies in your field, this is your spring¿ JB: I see - if the source of the water¿ so who owns¿ A: If goes from yours to the next, this is state water, not Mexican, state only.
30:24 JB: So who owns the aquifer that feeds CC? A: 30:30 - most are national waters and some are private waters.
30:34 JB: is there any thought to putting controls on the amt. of water that the ag users can pump in order to protect the habitat here?
30:50 A: (answer faint and heavily accented) There is a problem here in CC b/c you can't protect the water w/o causing social problems. People depends from the water for the cropping¿and they are cropping mainly to feed the cattle¿there's a big demand for food for cattle¿people here are cropping alfalfa to feed the animals¿not to eat the crops like corn or rice. They are feeding the animals¿and not our animals, but they are feeding the animal from Torrejón.
31:46 JB: So are pumping limits even on the table? Or that's not a discussion that you're expecting to have?
32:00 J: I'm not directly involved in working on the legal issues relevant to water extraction. There are groups here in Mexico, conservation groups¿both to clarify the legal situation surrounding who owns water, who owns rights¿(etc) - it's certainly on the table¿Water issues in Mexico are very difficult and complicated as you can imagine.
32:42 JB: So, Arturo, can one realistically think that there are going to be controls on water usage b/c of environmental concerns, or is that unrealistic?
33:02 A: (again, faint & heavily accented) I am sure the problem here in CC is that if you begin to control the water, the people need how to eat, how to ¿ the same people, their families, b/c this is not big city. We have not large industries or big commerce, but people here depends on the crops. 'Cause then you need to get money¿another way of life.
33:50 J: The conservation interests are certainly beginning to be on the table in terms of negotiating water, so if somebody wants to extract more water from the basin, it's harder for them to do so now b/c the park is here and there's a group btw. the park and NGOs. There's resistance to it and they're developing a powerful lobby. So the answer's yes, that there is the potential to stop further water development or control water development because of the park. Absolutely.
34:26 JB: So if someone wanted to come into the Valley and put a catfish farm in, they would have¿ J: A difficult time doing that. That, right now, would be against the rules of the park and against the management plan. Absolutely.
34:40 A: (really, none of this makes any sense) Here in CC, the problem of young (?) water is not so big¿a big problem b/c¿(?) water is so abundant ..the people doesn't need to get the deep holes to get the water¿ The problem is in the other basins around CC - they need to dig deeper holes to get water. And in the other places, that activity - ¿make the problem worse.
35:46 JB: How does Montclova get its drinking water?
35:50 A: The water from CC ¿ Montclova has deep holes¿their own wells.
36:04 J: The main use of water from CC is that its extracted or taken out of the basin and used for growing alfalfa. So it's not - the quality of the water is such that it's wonderful for the animals and plants that live in the basin. It's not good for the drinking. As you can smell, it's very high in sulfates and carbonates, and it's not even good for a lot of different crops. And so it does happen to be good for alfalfa, which¿feeds cows that are being grown in Torrejon.
36:35 JB: And a lot of people who live in CC work in agriculture?
36:40 A: Yes. The people from the fields - from the ejidos¿ works for government or the commerce. Some ¿ industry¿employ 600 workers but that is the largest industry in CC.
37:12 JB: So what conservation victories have there been in the last two years, in regard to these pools?
37:20 J: The biggest victory was declaring it a nat'l park, so that gives you a legal basis¿to protect the area. Other victories include the acquisition of some of the park. I want to qualify that unlike in the US, in Mexico and many other countries in the rest of the world, most national parks are mostly on private property and are not gov't owned, so that limits rules and regulations that you can impose¿ A number of the conservation orgs have been working with int'l conservation organizations to acquire property that's now owned by these local conservation organizations. For example¿ [she gives example]¿
38:43 J, to answer JB question¿Protection from any kind of development, protection from direct extraction from any of these sites. Now nobody can dig a canal¿Protection from people fishing¿ protection from mostly some grazing cattle and horses - now they can¿remove any horses from the area, fence some of the pools where the riparian zones need to be restored¿
39:22 JB: all those things that you just mentioned are things going on in the entire basin¿even in the protected area. ¿ Ownership of the lands means they can leave it alone or do whatever they want, but Mexican protected land means commercial activity continues.
39:48 J: Right, commercial activity continues and there are rules and regulations¿difficult to enforce¿on private land. The establishment of the park¿has allowed there to be a development of a park staff¿they can do everything from environmental education of children and adults to providing some type of enforcement and outreach to the private landowners. Some of the violation of the rules were b/c people just didn't know the rules. And some of it was b/c people didn't appreciate ¿ or want to protect the area. ¿ Park can develop alternative economic options, where the park is actually earning money for local businesses¿ You get a lot of different benefits¿
41:05 JB: Is it to the point where you can call the economic activity in this basin "sustainable development"?¿
41:18 J: I feel that it has the potential to move towards sustainable development¿but there's always a fear of loving a site to death¿but I feel like the park staff is doing a tremendous job of managing the economic growth and trying to make ways to make some areas accessible to the public¿
42:02 JB: Is that starting to happen?¿ Is it starting to actually threaten the integrity of the sites?¿
42:22 A: This year we hope more people than last year ¿ The number is increasing year by year... The problem is that the CC hasn't the interest to support big number of visitors - to make more ¿ rooms. And we need more restaurants and more attractions¿ More pools¿The people that come to CC come to swim and not to see the natural life. The people in the natural area can visit CC, get tourist guide, and visit several other parts like an ecotourist¿ [talks about a day they had 2000 people in a pool]
43:48 JB: Has the increasing number of tourists affected the biology of the pools themselves?
44:14 J: The park's doing a very good job in that there are some pools that are accessible to the public and some that aren't, so a few pools get a lot of visitors and many pools don't get any¿ While increasing eco-tourism has its downside, park staff are really trying¿to be ahead of the curve¿and develop a management plan for this increasing eco-tourism¿
45:05 JB: Are many from Monterrey? A: Montclova, Monterrey,¿ In the last year, we have attended people from Korea, Japan, Germany. H: The day that you had 2,000 people in the pool, was that in Semana Santa? A: Yes.
45:52 - 46:20 J: I think the idea of diverting some of the water to pools is a good one¿so they can just enjoy the beach like anyone else would want to without threatening any of the habitat¿
46:30 try to get ambi
46:40 A: I wish to make a comment on the economics¿. B/c talking about the effects of the species on CC - if a species has been found in five sites, in one of them in just a few years, this species replace all the native species of the pool¿ We are trying to control these species by ¿ by now we have a¿ the population is not growing more¿we need ¿ more days, more time, to get better results¿for this control¿
47:55 JB: You said you don't know whether they're driving the natives out.
48:00 - 48:35 J: Arturo's right in that there is this one habitat where it's just loaded with hemicromus and there aren't any native species. Being a scientist I'm less prone - I'm willing to entertain other explanations for the native species going extinct in that certain location, but it's certainly compelling evidence - it's one of the pieces of evidence that drove us to do this experiment in the first place.
48:55 - 51:00 ambi - wind & cicadas¿49:18 just wind 49:30 - back to wind & cicadas. 49:49 - nice wind, water, waves 50:50 - also faint water sounds (:55 - somebody moving around boat).
51:00 - 56:30 Discussion of collecting more sound, doing promo.
56:38 Somebody jumping into the water! 56:52 - 57:16 - swimming; 57:17 deep breath
57:35 - 57:50 Good jump, sound of water, gasp for breath.
58:00 - 58:20 Swimming¿
58:58 Good swimming, some wind but good swimming until (59:15 - loud). 59:15 - 59:24, rhythmic kicking; 59:35 - bubble. Swimming until 59:45.
***
1:00:21 Collins: MS recording, back to the second lake that this tape started on. We're now going to try to record about 3 - 4 minutes of just that sound w/ the wind¿Right off the footpath, right before we jumped off the boat
1:01:00 ambi: wind, water (but mostly sounds like wind), 1:02:55 - more rustling, 1:03:04 - gets louder suddenly (but more as if volume turned up). 1:03:30 to 1:04:20 - much better - more & loud wind sounds, sounds like rustling reeds or something. 1:03:55, the bugs (cicadas?) start up) 1:04:20 - gust, loud again.
***
1:04:50 - 05:20 ambi - sounds of kids in a pool, someone humming in background, and children speaking in Spanish
1:05:24 SC: MS recording take two, this is the public pond that we came to at about 4. About 40 people, mostly kids, bouncing around having a good time.
1:05:40 - 09:30 ambi - more sounds of people playing. 1:06:18, child kicking, another kid in a sec says, "wow!" 1:07:03 - kid jumps in pool 1:07:13 - 15, petulant kid 1:07:28, more kicking, 1:07:45 chorus of kids going "a mi! a mi! mi!" as if someone's about to throw the ball. 1:09:10 - 1:09:30 - cute, girl talking to baby
1:11:04 - 11:13 ambi - brief but good water rushing
1:11:23 JG: At poza where open to the public. The area here is the water coming out of the poza going into the river. There's a b-day party going on on the other side of it.
1:11:40 - 15:58 1:12:20 - :40 nice water running sounds, 12:44 - start to hear the b-day party 1:13:00 somebody laughing, 1:13:30 - distant party sounds, nice water. 1:14:29 - start to hear rock music faintly in background
***
1:16:40 SC: We are still on tape number 2. We are at our third one¿ Espladitas. It's extremely large. The sun has just gone behind the mountain¿ So here is our generic walking along the side of the ? b/c there's really nothing else here.
1:17:28 - :57 :30, twig snaps, sound like people walking in water. 1:17:49 - wind gust while walking.
JG gives SC a hard time about all the recording¿
1:21:10 - 21:50 ambi - wind & somebody walking along in water, more wind but some voices
1:12:50 - 22: ambi - quieter wind and water sounds
1:22:22 ambi - kicking, but talking at the beginning. Swimming 22:38 - 43, approach, loud, swim away. Talking immediately after.
1:24:38 - 25:50 SC: Ok, this is the second pool. I'm trying to get these pomerands, maybe between wind. (Always seems to be chatter in the distance.)
1:24:29 - 25:50 Ambi - alking, wind, footsteps approaching, walking away, then steady; good around 1:25:00 - 25:30
1:28:20 ambi - good bird chirp, but just for that second.

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