Feb. 7, 2020
Dr. James A. Estes, PhD is a researcher, author, and professor of Ecology & Evolutionary Biology at the University of California, Santa Cruz. For the past 50 years, he has been studying the ecology of coastal marine communities and keystone species. He has authored nearly 200 scientific publications with a primary focus on sea otters and their impact on surrounding sea life. He currently oversees research projects in the Aleutian Islands, central California, the Channel Islands, and New Zealand.
In this interview, Dr. Estes describes the massive ecological shift that can be observed when reducing the numbers of a single critical species. He shares the moment he recognized the cascading effects resulting from diminished sea otter populations in the Aleutian Islands, which then spurred decades of research. He also discusses the effect humans have had on the balance of the Earth’s ecosystems with industries including the fur trade, whaling and agriculture.
[00:00:25] Dr. Estes: background and interest in ecology.
[00:06:31] Bob Paine; Aleutian Islands.
[00:15:54] Book: Serendipity: An Ecologist's Quest to Understand Nature, by James A. Estes.
[00:24:35] Bob Paine's foundational paper (1966): Paine, Robert T. "Food web complexity and species diversity." The American Naturalist 100.910 (1966): 65-75.
[00:31:48] Otters become victim to Killer Whales; Study: Estes, James A., et al. "Killer whale predation on sea otters linking oceanic and nearshore ecosystems." science 282.5388 (1998): 473-476.
[00:36:45] Megafaunal collapse hypothesis leading to the trophic cascade.
[00:37:40] Book: The Evolution of Everything: How New Ideas Emerge, by Matt Ridley.
[00:39:38] Study on whaling industry: Springer, Alan M., et al. "Sequential megafaunal collapse in the North Pacific Ocean: An ongoing legacy of industrial whaling?." Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences 100.21 (2003): 12223-12228.
[00:47:52] Book: The Serengeti Rules: The Quest to Discover How Life Works and Why It Matters, by Sean B. Carroll.
[00:48:14] Effects on the ecosystem when wildebeests repopulated.
[00:50:35] Bison in Yellowstone and their impact on their environment; Study: Geremia, Chris, et al. "Migrating bison engineer the green wave." Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences 116.51 (2019): 25707-25713.
[00:58:19] Short version of the documentary: Some Animals Are More Equal than Others: Keystone Species and Trophic Cascades (20 min).
[01:00:00] Curiosity Stream.
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