JHU Press Blog

Changes in Stream Fish Community Structure

by krm | Wednesday, May 10, 2017 - 2:08 AM

How much?

The United States has upwards of 1000 species of native stream fishes that occur in combinations of interacting species called “communities.” Stream fish communities are dynamic: the community in a given body of water may vary over time relative to presence or absence of given species, relative abundances of species, demographic structure of the constituent species and more. Historically, the underlying assumption about community dynamics was that communities were in equilibrium such that mature communities tended to have a predictable composition with respect to species present and their relative abundances. Later, community structure was thought to be driven by responses to disturbance and, as such, the expectation for community dynamics shifted from equilibrium to non-equilibrium. But some authors proposed models suggesting that, although communities do not remain in a strict equilibrium, they tend to display “loose equilibrium” in which community composition varies around some central condition. In our book, Stream Fish Community Dynamics: A Critical Synthesis , we have used our own research (or that of our graduate students) over a 40-year period, to describe community dynamics of streams in the central United States and to examine underlying...Read More

Between medicine, business and politics: Silicosis, a promising 21st century scourge from the remote past

by krm | Monday, May 8, 2017 - 6:00 AM

In October 2006, two Chinese victims of silicosis paid a visit to the village of Shakarpur, 80 kilometers from Baroda, an Indian city in the state of Gujarat where regional NGOs had organized a meeting devoted to this disease. The event was a memorable one. Two victims of the new and wild forms of industrialization in the emerging countries were meeting local “traditional” workers having contracted silicosis by polishing agates. It also symbolized how silicosis has become a global burden, and leads to new forms of mobilization against occupational and environmental hazards caused by so-called “industrial diseases”.

Silicosis (the progressive scarring of lungs due to inhalation of crystalline silica dust over a long period of time) is by no way an out-of-date disease, a pathology from the remote past when America, Europe, and Australia depended on coal to deliver energy to their factories and heating to their citizens. On the contrary, silicosis is, if one dare say, one of the most promising social and environmental diseases of the 21 st century. It can only progress at fast pace, in relationship with the industrialization of emerging countries.

A forgotten trade: the coal man...Read More

How Many Manatees is Enough?

by krm | Friday, May 5, 2017 - 6:00 AM

In Florida, there is a sense among biologists and managers who work with manatees that they remain in a precarious position. But those of us who work on manatee conservation are often asked: just how many manatees is enough? It turns out that the answer is difficult to pin down because different human stakeholders have different perspectives and values on issues such as this. For context, I am drafting this blog on Earth Day, 2017, and am more mindful than usual of the diminished status of coastal habitat in Florida. By Earth Day, 2030, there will likely be almost 30% more people in the state than in 2015. What will manatee habitat look like then? I believe that diminished habitat quality and extent represent the greatest threat to manatees now and into the future.

Why is habitat so important for the species’ future? Ecologists might well respond that there will be enough manatees when there are as many individuals as the environment can sustain (a number called carrying capacity). Fair enough…but carrying capacity for a particular location is not a constant; it can be reduced locally due to habitat modification or loss. Thus, to...Read More

Behind the Book: The Draining of the Fens

by krm | Monday, May 1, 2017 - 6:00 AM

My recent book, The Draining of the Fens , is about the drive to transform a vast wetland in eastern England into arable farmland during the seventeenth century. Today, England’s Fens are among the most fertile farmland in all of northern Europe, but the region’s transformation came at a high cost for its inhabitants, and it still requires a great deal of energy and effort to keep them dry. Although the drainage took place centuries ago, as I wrote the book I was continually struck by the number of ways in which the issues and debates of that time remain deeply relevant today.

One such issue is the unpredictable impact of climate change on human societies. The Fens had been comparatively fertile and prosperous during most of the Middle Ages, but seem to have deteriorated rapidly during the sixteenth century. We now believe this was due primarily to the effects of climate change during the Little Ice Age, but crown officials under Queen Elizabeth I did not recognize the wider climatic changes they were experiencing. They came to believe instead that Fens was somehow a broken landscape and that its inhabitants had failed to manage it properly, and this...Read More

Behind the Book: The Snake and the Salamander

by krm | Tuesday, April 25, 2017 - 6:00 AM

I have always been fascinated with nature, and at the same time, I have always loved art. The two for me have gone hand in hand as far back as I can remember. Growing up I was constantly out looking for turtles and snakes, or I was fishing. If I wasn’t out doing that I was painting or drawing. A day painting turtles or salamanders in my view….is a day well spent! For me, painting and carving give me the opportunity to share my interests, observations, and passion with others. My work is my interpretation of what I observe in the natural world. I try to capture colors I see and highlight the particular aspects of an animal that stands out to me. Often times a camera can’t quite capture what you are seeing, but painting can allow an artist to express his or her own experience.

The process in which I work on an illustration has several stages. Artists typically tend to have their own process, this is just what works for me. The first step I take is to research the species. I will read about the appearance, anatomy, habits, and habitat. I like...Read More

Selling water for profit in the 17th century

by krm | Thursday, April 20, 2017 - 6:00 AM

Few things are as precious and important in our lives as water. What other material substance has been classified as a human right? Does the universal daily need for water mean, however, that it must always be in public hands, or should private companies be allowed to control access to it and make profits from selling it? Would private enterprise somehow commodify a human right and create a profit-controlled gateway to a basic necessity? Although the instinct to keep water in public hands has been strong, some societies have been willing to privatize their water utilities. Thames Water in London, for example, is a private company supplying the metropolis. Created in 1989, it serves millions of people in southeast England every day. Even in urban areas where the provision of piped water is in public hands, for-profit companies supply any increasing quantity of water people drink in bottles for sale.

For-profit water companies are not, however, only a new phenomenon, the product of Thatcherite liberal economic policies that created Thames Water, or an earlier 19 th century era of laissez-faire capitalism when many private water companies supplied cities. Indeed, for-profit water companies have a...Read More

Victorian Journal Hits Golden Milestone

by bjs | Wednesday, April 19, 2017 - 6:00 AM

Newspapers and other periodicals played an important role in the life of Victorian Britain, Ireland, and the British Empire. For the past 50 years, the journal Victorian Periodicals Review (VPR) has published research on the editorial and publishing history of those periodicals. Alexis Easley , editor of VPR and Associate Professor of English at the University of St. Thomas in Minnesota, joined us for a Q&A after the publication of the 50th volume's first issue .

What does it mean to you to be editor at the time of this important milestone?

It is both humbling and deeply gratifying. Over the past 50 years, the journal has gone from being a photocopied newsletter to a major international journal. The rapid expansion of digital archives of newspapers and periodicals in recent years has led to immense growth in our scholarly community. It is thrilling to be part of this scholarly network — and to take part in the collective project of illuminating the fascinating history of the Victorian press.

The new issue includes a memorial to Michael Wolff , the journal's founding editor. How bittersweet is...Read More

From Here to There: Amazon Sales Rank

by krm | Wednesday, April 19, 2017 - 6:00 AM

Numbers, numbers, everywhere, nor any figures to cite.

In my last post, I talked about Amazon buy buttons and the inner workings of a book’s availability. In my experience, availability is usually the number one concern for authors and publishers. Once the book is available and being sold, authors tend to track their sales rankings, sometimes obsessively.

The algorithms behind Amazon’s best-seller rank have confounded authors and publishers for years. Before I delve into what I have gleaned, it is good perspective to remember that everything on an Amazon book detail page is marketing – from the description to the reviews to the rankings. The whole goal of the page is to get you to buy the book. Publishers put forth the best marketing copy, cover design, endorsements and reviews with the hope of driving sales. Amazon then layers in additional marketing with the use of algorithms, keywords, special offers, and rankings.

There are around 14-15 million books on Amazon. I have been unable to find a credible source for an accurate count, but Bowker reports 38 million books in its database. At least 700,000 new books...Read More

Stuttering and “Retraining” Left-Handed Children in Mid-Century U.S.

by krm | Tuesday, April 18, 2017 - 12:19 PM

My history of Tourette syndrome ( A Cursing Brain , 1999) involved observing pediatric patients at a university clinic. I noticed that the patient population seemed to have an unusually high proportion of left-handers. Being left-handed myself, I wondered whether and why this might be so. Popular literature often asserts that left-handers are more creative and, in contradiction, more often afflicted with learning disorders such as autism, schizophrenia, attention disorders, retardation, and stuttering. My search for the possible connection between left-handers, learning disabilities, and creativity is examined in my forthcoming book, On the Other Hand: Left Hand, Right Brain, Mental Disorder, and History (Johns Hopkins University Press, 2017). Here, I want to explore whether left-handers are at greater risk of stuttering.

In the early-twentieth-century United States many educators and physicians believed that left-handers more often exhibited mental and cognitive disabilities. To reduce this risk they advocated “retraining” left-handers to become right-handed. The methods employed were often tortuous, including corporal punishment, tying a child’s left hand to immobilize it, and humiliation of children resisters. Psychoanalyst Abram Blau, chief psychiatrist of the New York City Board of Education, summed up the views of advocates of retraining in...Read More

How to beat a conservationist at their own game

by krm | Tuesday, April 18, 2017 - 6:00 AM

I want to address my Republican and conservative friends for a second — really anyone that is sick and tired of all this talk about climate change. I’d like to let you in on a little secret: a surefire way to piss off the tree-hugging conservationists that annoy you so much.

Before I tell you how to do that, let’s talk about The Carbon Code: How You Can Become a Climate Change Hero .

This is a book about self-reliance, accountability, and setting a good example. It’s a road map to the tools and technologies that will save you money and allow you to keep your family safe. Because you may not believe that climate change is real, that we’re the cause, or that it’s dangerous . . . but the United States military does. So does Exxon Mobile, and other big oil giants. The Carbon Code is a conservative take on climate change, focused on how individuals — and their choices — matter.

You’ve probably heard climate advocates pushing for policies like carbon taxes, clean energy grids, divestment from petroleum companies, and so on. It can seem like you have nothing in...Read More