Lauren Williams

Author's posts

A hunt for the invasive dark unicorn snail shows UCI students how climate change is altering Crystal Cove tide pools

  • Lauren Pandori a UCI PhD candidate points out California mussels in the tide pools at Crystal Cove State Park in Newport Beach on Thursday, Feb. 15, 2018 as part of a study how climate change impacts tidal pools. (Photo by Leonard Ortiz, Orange County Register/SCNG).

    Lauren Pandori a UCI PhD candidate points out California mussels in the tide pools at Crystal Cove State Park in Newport Beach on Thursday, Feb. 15, 2018 as part of a study how climate change impacts tidal pools. (Photo by Leonard Ortiz, Orange County Register/SCNG).

  • Ritika Singh, Ecology and Evolutionary Biology student, uses a one square-foot frame divided into quadrants to take a survey of the number mussels, barnacles and others species on the tide pools at Crystal Cove State Park in Newport Beach on Thursday, Feb. 15, 2018 as part of a study how climate change impacts tidal pools. (Photo by Leonard Ortiz, Orange County Register/SCNG)

    Ritika Singh, Ecology and Evolutionary Biology student, uses a one square-foot frame divided into quadrants to take a survey of the number mussels, barnacles and others species on the tide pools at Crystal Cove State Park in Newport Beach on Thursday, Feb. 15, 2018 as part of a study how climate change impacts tidal pools. (Photo by Leonard Ortiz, Orange County Register/SCNG)

  • Ecology and Evolutionary Biology assistant professor Cascade Sorte examines mussels in the tide pools at Crystal Cove State Park in Newport Beach on Thursday, Feb. 15, 2018 as part of a study how climate change impacts tidal pools. (Photo by Leonard Ortiz, Orange County Register/SCNG)

    Ecology and Evolutionary Biology assistant professor Cascade Sorte examines mussels in the tide pools at Crystal Cove State Park in Newport Beach on Thursday, Feb. 15, 2018 as part of a study how climate change impacts tidal pools. (Photo by Leonard Ortiz, Orange County Register/SCNG)

  • Ritika Singh, Ecology and Evolutionary Biology student, shows a whelk, a snail that eats barnacles and mussel, she found in the tide pools at Crystal Cove State Park as part of a study how climate change impacts tidal pools. (Photo by Leonard Ortiz, Orange County Register/SCNG)

    Ritika Singh, Ecology and Evolutionary Biology student, shows a whelk, a snail that eats barnacles and mussel, she found in the tide pools at Crystal Cove State Park as part of a study how climate change impacts tidal pools. (Photo by Leonard Ortiz, Orange County Register/SCNG)

  • UCI Ecology and Evolutionary Biology PhD student Piper Wallingford, left, and undergrad Ritika Singh, conduct survey of the number of mussels and other species in the tide pools at Crystal Cove State Park as part of a study how climate change impacts tidal pools. (Photo by Leonard Ortiz, Orange County Register/SCNG)

    UCI Ecology and Evolutionary Biology PhD student Piper Wallingford, left, and undergrad Ritika Singh, conduct survey of the number of mussels and other species in the tide pools at Crystal Cove State Park as part of a study how climate change impacts tidal pools. (Photo by Leonard Ortiz, Orange County Register/SCNG)

  • UCI Ecology and Evolutionary Biology PhD student Piper Wallingford records the number of of mussels and other species she counted within a square-foot frame in the tide pools at Crystal Cove State Park in Newport Beach on Thursday, Feb. 15, 2018 as part of a study how climate change impacts tidal pools. (Photo by Leonard Ortiz, Orange County Register/SCNG)

    UCI Ecology and Evolutionary Biology PhD student Piper Wallingford records the number of of mussels and other species she counted within a square-foot frame in the tide pools at Crystal Cove State Park in Newport Beach on Thursday, Feb. 15, 2018 as part of a study how climate change impacts tidal pools. (Photo by Leonard Ortiz, Orange County Register/SCNG)

  • UCI Ecology and Evolutionary Biology PhD student Piper Wallingford displays her chart of the number of of mussels and other species she counted in the tide pools at Crystal Cove State Park in Newport Beach on Thursday, Feb. 15, 2018 as part of a study how climate change impacts tidal pools. (Photo by Leonard Ortiz, Orange County Register/SCNG)

    UCI Ecology and Evolutionary Biology PhD student Piper Wallingford displays her chart of the number of of mussels and other species she counted in the tide pools at Crystal Cove State Park in Newport Beach on Thursday, Feb. 15, 2018 as part of a study how climate change impacts tidal pools. (Photo by Leonard Ortiz, Orange County Register/SCNG)

  • Lauren Pandori a UCI PhD candidate counts mussels at Crystal Cove State Park in Newport Beach on Thursday, Feb. 15, 2018 as part of a study how climate change impacts tidal pools. (Photo by Leonard Ortiz, Orange County Register/SCNG).

    Lauren Pandori a UCI PhD candidate counts mussels at Crystal Cove State Park in Newport Beach on Thursday, Feb. 15, 2018 as part of a study how climate change impacts tidal pools. (Photo by Leonard Ortiz, Orange County Register/SCNG).

  • Researchers from the UCI Ecology and Evolutionary Biology department conduct survey of the number of mussels and other species in the tide pools at Crystal Cove State Park as part of a study how climate change impacts tidal pools. Pictured, clockwise from bottom, PhD student Piper Wallingford, Ritika Singh, and assistant professor Cascade Sorte. (Photo by Leonard Ortiz, Orange County Register/SCNG)

    Researchers from the UCI Ecology and Evolutionary Biology department conduct survey of the number of mussels and other species in the tide pools at Crystal Cove State Park as part of a study how climate change impacts tidal pools. Pictured, clockwise from bottom, PhD student Piper Wallingford, Ritika Singh, and assistant professor Cascade Sorte. (Photo by Leonard Ortiz, Orange County Register/SCNG)

  • Researchers from the UCI Ecology and Evolutionary Biology department conduct survey of the number of mussels and other species in the tide pools at Crystal Cove State Park as part of a study how climate change impacts tidal pools. Pictured, from left, student Ritika Singh, assistant professor Cascade Sorte and PhD student Piper Wallingford. (Photo by Leonard Ortiz, Orange County Register/SCNG)

    Researchers from the UCI Ecology and Evolutionary Biology department conduct survey of the number of mussels and other species in the tide pools at Crystal Cove State Park as part of a study how climate change impacts tidal pools. Pictured, from left, student Ritika Singh, assistant professor Cascade Sorte and PhD student Piper Wallingford. (Photo by Leonard Ortiz, Orange County Register/SCNG)

  • UCI Ecology and Evolutionary Biology PhD student Piper Wallingford stretches out at transect line, used to take a survey of the variety of mussels, barnacles and others species on the tide pools at Crystal Cove State Park in Newport Beach on Thursday, Feb. 15, 2018 as part of a study how climate change impacts tidal pools. (Photo by Leonard Ortiz, Orange County Register/SCNG)

    UCI Ecology and Evolutionary Biology PhD student Piper Wallingford stretches out at transect line, used to take a survey of the variety of mussels, barnacles and others species on the tide pools at Crystal Cove State Park in Newport Beach on Thursday, Feb. 15, 2018 as part of a study how climate change impacts tidal pools. (Photo by Leonard Ortiz, Orange County Register/SCNG)

  • UCI Ecology and Evolutionary Biology PhD student Piper Wallingford uses a one square-foot frame divided into quadrants to take a survey of the variety of mussels, barnacles and others species on the tide pool rocks at Crystal Cove State Park in Newport Beach on Thursday, Feb. 15, 2018 as part of a study how climate change impacts tidal pools. (Photo by Leonard Ortiz, Orange County Register/SCNG)

    UCI Ecology and Evolutionary Biology PhD student Piper Wallingford uses a one square-foot frame divided into quadrants to take a survey of the variety of mussels, barnacles and others species on the tide pool rocks at Crystal Cove State Park in Newport Beach on Thursday, Feb. 15, 2018 as part of a study how climate change impacts tidal pools. (Photo by Leonard Ortiz, Orange County Register/SCNG)

of

Expand

 

Much of climate change research is focused on the big problems. Models forecast how quickly polar ice caps are melting in the Arctic and whether rising sea levels might drown entire islands in the South Pacific.

But two doctoral students working in the Sorte Lab at UC Irvine are searching for smaller signs of climate change in the tide pools of Orange County beaches. These subtle, incremental adjustments to the environment are hard to track, but Lauren Pandori and Piper Wallingford know just what to look for.

They’re looking for unicorns.

On a recent Thursday afternoon at a certain stretch of Crystal Cove frequented by sunbathers and vacationers, Pandori and Wallingford crouch over measuring tape stretched across a jagged outcropping, keeping their eyes peeled for the dark unicorn snail.

“I think ‘If I were a snail where would I hide?'” said Pandori, 25. “It’s very calming work.”

‘Climate evader’

The dark unicorn snail is what’s known as a climate evader, according to Dr. Cascade Sorte. Sorte is a professor of evolutionary biology and ecology and oversees the Sorte Lab, where students research how species react to climate change.

“All of these organisms have coping mechanisms,” Sorte said. “The question is: Is it enough? Will they win or will climate change win?”

In the case of the unicorn snail, scientists suspect a changing climate may have driven the carnivorous mollusk from its native habitat in Baja California up the coast. The purple-and-green-hued snail was only found as far north as San Diego County back in the 1970s. Now it’s traveled all the way to Laguna Beach.

Here’s one problem with that: Unicorn snails compete with whelks, smaller snails native to Orange County beaches, to feed on mussels. Whelks are now under threat of being squeezed out by the dwindling food supply.

The end result? A drastic change to the numbers and types of creatures that normally make up the ecosystem of Crystal Cove tide pools.

Dime-sized predators

Since they haven’t spotted any unicorn snails in their 30-minute once-over of this stretch of beach, the students switch gears to hunt for whelks and download temperature data from coin-size thermometers bolted to the rocks.

Pandori spots a whelk smaller than a dime inching toward a mussel, its tooth out and ready to bore into the shell and feast. She picks it up, marks its location on the measuring tape and places the creature back in the same spot to resume its slow advance on its prey.

“We’re seeing changes in [tide pool] communities already,” said Wallingford, 29, who has scuba-dived and scoured rocks in search of the dark unicorn snail. “If we think of what a pristine community is, it’s not going to be what we’re used to today.”

Wallingford’s research is focused on the expansion of the dark unicorn snail from Baja and whether these bigger snails could push out species like the California mussel. They might be under threat just by way of being the snails’ chosen food supply.

“They’re so important to the ecosystem,” Pandori said of the California mussel. “One of the main reasons why we have so many different animals in intertidal areas is because of mussels.”

Mussels are considered a keystone or foundation species — the cornerstone of a rich and tiny universe contained to these small saltwater pools. If the mussels disappear, so could barnacles, sea anemones, mollusks and a whole host of other species. According to research performed at Cal Poly Pomona, since the 1980s mussel coverage on rocks has dropped by 31.2 percent throughout California.

The extent to which they could decline is at the heart of Pandori’s research. She is trying to find out whether small cracks in the rocks can act as refuges where mussels can better weather the changing climate. From these slivers of space they may be able to produce better adapted offspring.

“When people model what future ecosystems look like as a result of climate change they usually do it at really big scales,” Pandori said. “There’s so much that goes on in these smaller habitats that I think needs to be accounted for.”

Permanent link to this article: https://www.ocregister.com/2018/02/23/a-hunt-for-the-invasive-dark-unicorn-snail-shows-uci-students-how-climate-change-is-altering-crystal-cove-tide-pools/

UC Riverside study looks at wasps, roaches, zombie venom and… Parkinson’s

A rare wasp that uses its venom to control the mental activity of a cockroach — sending the bug into a zombie-like state — might hold the key to understanding what happens in the brains of people with Parkinson’s Disease, a recent study found.

A team of researchers, including undergraduate and graduate students at UC Riverside, studied the venom of jewel wasps, a creature that is native to the South Pacific. As part of its reproductive cycle, a jewel wasp will sting a cockroach, using its venom to turn the crawling scavenger into something akin to a zombie. The roach’s physical functions are frozen and controlled by the wasp, even though the roach remains alive for much of the wasp’s reproductive process.

The part of the study that looks specifically at how the cockroach brain responds to the wasp venom is expected to be published in the upcoming print issue of the journal Biochemistry and was published online Jan. 19.

“We can understand how the brain’s circuitry is altered to produce this reduction in movement,” said Michael E. Adams, a UC Riverside entomologist and neuroscientist who oversaw the study.

“We may have new ideas on how to reverse it.”

The bug’s reduced reactions to stimulation in some ways resembles the effects of Parkinson’s Disease, which is characterized by slower movement, rigid limbs and difficulty maintaining balance.

“(Parkinson’s) patients have trouble initiating movements and following through on movements,” Adams said.

“Once movements are initiated, they don’t function because of dopamine deficits” in the brain, he added.

Jewel wasps rely on cockroaches to host and feed their offspring. To breed, the wasp injects the roach with a special neurotoxin twice, once near the roach’s front legs and again directly into the roach’s brain. Within a matter of seconds the cockroach becomes less sensitive to stimulation and loses its ability to flee, though it remains alive.

“The animal is not paralyzed,” Adams said. “Its locomotive behavior is just altered. It doesn’t respond like it normally does to stimuli, (such as) air currents.”

The wasp then leads the cockroach into a burrow it has previously dug, implants the roach with a single egg, and seals off the seemingly hypnotized bug inside the burrow. Over the next week or so the wasp egg hatches inside the roach and feasts on the unsuspecting bug’s organs. After the roach dies, the young wasp emerges from the roach’s carcass.

The scientists at UC Riverside studied the wasp venom and found a molecule called “ampulexin,” which is unique to the jewel wasp and, the researchers believe, a possible key to the venom’s effect.

To suss out whether ampulexin is an active agent, the researchers injected two separate groups of roaches, some got natural wasp venom and others were shot up with a venom created only of ampulexin.

They then used electric stimulation to determine which roach group was most zombie-like. It turned out that roaches injected with natural jewel wasp venom were rendered more immobile, and for longer periods, than the roaches who were injected with ampulexin-only venom.

The effects of the natural venom, however, weren’t permanent. Within a week or so, the roaches — which weren’t being inhabited and consumed by wasp eggs — recovered.

That recovery, Adams said, gives researchers reason to hope that studying the venom might help humans battle Parkinson’s.

“It’s reversible,” Adams said of the effects of the venom. “That’s another fascinating aspect of this.”

Scientists plan to study components in the venom other than the ampulexins. They also plan to study what happens inside the roach that, once injected with wasp venom, makes the roach lose control of its physical movements.

“Once we understand that, we may be able to wake (the roach) back up again,” Adams said.

Permanent link to this article: https://www.ocregister.com/2018/02/14/uc-riverside-study-looks-at-wasps-roaches-zombie-venom-and-parkinsons/

After you die, you’re usually not environmentally friendly. Here’s an alternative.

When Jackie Wilson dies, she’ll leave this world as she lived in it.

In her 76 years, the retired family doctor has hiked 125 miles of the Appalachian trial. She has sailed and ridden horses; camped and kayaked.

Four years ago, after she’d complained of blurred vision out of one eye, Wilson was told she had a rare and incurable form of Stage 4 lung cancer. The cancer, she also was told, had spread to her eyes, bones and liver.

It was then that Wilson decided her exit from this world would be in keeping with her values — causing as little harm to the earth as possible.

“I drive an electric car. I eat organic. That’s the kind of person I am,” said Wilson, who alternates between living in Southern California and New Jersey.

“When I heard they embalm you with formaldehyde, and put you in a cement vault, and then they bury you in the ground on this manicured lawn with all kinds of toxic herbicides and weed killers — I decided I couldn’t be buried in that kind of situation.”

Wilson is part of a growing world of people who are shunning conventional burials and even cremation — disillusioned by the environmental impacts — in favor of burials that are super earth-friendly, low-tech and cheaper.

For Wilson, the plan is simple: A hole will be dug. Her body will be placed in the hole. And the earth will be put back over her body.

Nature will take her from there.

XXX

Burial — at least, the kind of burial still favored by nearly half of all Americans — is something of an environmental disaster.

The non-profit Green Burial Council estimates 64,500 tons of steel, 1.6 million tons of concrete and nearly 830,000 gallons of formaldehyde are buried in the U.S. each year. That’s when taking into account a few key burial items —  embalming fluid, burial vaults and caskets. These numbers do not include the wood that is used to bury the dead or the heavy machinery used to dig graves or the fertilizers needed to keep the grave green for a few centuries.

Cremation, in turn, once viewed as the greener choice, increasingly is being shunned for similar reasons. The gases used (and created) by the process are carbon intensive, and the mercury that becomes air when dental fillings are burned is nothing less than toxic.

Enter so-called green burials. Some are as simple as Wilson’s bury-the-body-in-a-hand-dug-hole plan. Others include simple pine boxes. Almost all involve using no machinery or chemicals or heat.

“As baby boomers are aging up, it’s going to become more and more popular,” said Caitlin Doughty, a Los Angeles-based mortician and self described “funeral industry rabble-rouser.” Doughty’s Undertaking LA, in Los Angeles, is one of three Southern California businesses designated as environmentally friendly by the Green Burial Council.

“I think there are a lot of families with environmental bents to their lives, people who consider themselves eco-conscious and know cremation isn’t the best thing for the planet,” Doughty said.  “Cremation is not the magic pill for an environmentally friendly death.”

Because more people like Wilson are choosing a more environmentally friendly farewell, the Green Burial Council has grown from one cemetery in 2005 to more than 400 green cemeteries and affiliated businesses, including companies that sell green burial services and related products, such as plant-based embalming fluid.

“It’s really the people that chose this (form of burial) that drive it,” said Kate Kalanick, the council’s executive director. “Although we’ve consistently grown since 2005, the awareness and public interest went up exponentially in the last three years.”

Still, for now, choices in Southern California are limited.

When Wilson looked for a green cemetery locally she found few options and eventually bought a plot in New Jersey. If she dies on the West Coast, her body will be put on ice and flown to Steelmantown Cemetery where her grave will be hand dug and marked only by a simple stone, if anything at all.

Ed Bixby, who owns and operates Wilson’s future resting spot, Steelmantown, entered the funeral business by happenstance.

Before running Steelmantown, in Southern New Jersey, Bixby worked as a real estate broker and developer. But when he learned that the cemetery where his brother was buried had fallen into disrepair he decided to buy it. He kept the maple and oak trees and installed walking trails.

“I wasn’t looking at it as a business opportunity. I was looking at it as ‘someone needs to be responsible for this place.’ I was looking for a new life for it,” Bixby said.

“I learned about the natural burial movement myself,” he added. “I wasn’t an environmentalist, but of course I care about the environment. I wasn’t a cemeterian, but of course I care about doing the right thing.

“I fit the bill and didn’t know it.”

Though the cost of real estate in Southern California is expensive, and available open space is dwindling, enthusiasm for green burials in California is growing.

In October Gov. Jerry Brown signed into law a bill that would allow for water-based cremation in California starting in 2020. The process uses less power and does not emit toxins into the atmosphere.

In July, Bixby acquired a green burial site with ocean views in Northern California.

Steve Morgan, the chief executive of land management company Wildlands Inc., is looking for open space in Southern California where he can open a green cemetery.

Morgan has been in land management for nearly 30 years but was led to green funerals in 2016. He now has three properties in various stages of the permitting process in Northern California, including Napa Valley, where land could otherwise be used commercially for grape cultivation.

“You’re taking these landscapes that are very large and putting a permanent easement on (them),” Morgan said. “You’re helping preserve that landscape from being converted into something else.”

It’s a concept that’s increasingly resonating with Baby Boomers and Generation Xers, and is appealing to people across political lines.

“One of my favorite things about the green burial population is it brings together strange bedfellows,” Doughty said. “Hippies and libertarians love it.”

Maria Mendez, 54, and her husband Vito Micale, 58, of North Hollywood, are already planning for their green funerals. After a conversation with their 23-year-old son and a string of friends’ funerals, the couple worked out a green death plan with Shari Wolf, one of two green-certified funeral service providers in Los Angeles County.

“Traditionally, my whole family has been embalmed and buried in a cemetery,” Mendez said. “I didn’t want the ground to have any of the chemicals involved in the embalming. Why would I preserve my body after it’s gone?”

The couple isn’t especially environmentally conscious, or spend much of their time outdoors. But they value environmental preservation.

“We’re not over the top,” Mendez said, “but this was important.”

For Wilson, part of the appeal of her final resting place in New Jersey are the trails, which are used by hikers and horses, and the natural landscape. A former equestrian herself, Wilson’s plot, near a lake, is surrounded by wild blueberry bushes, holly, pine, ferns and moss.

“It makes me feel satisfied,” Wilson said. “I’m less anxious.”

“I don’t have to go down a path I don’t believe in.”

Permanent link to this article: https://www.ocregister.com/2018/02/06/the-lease-environmentally-friendly-thing-happens-after-you-die-heres-an-alternative/

Chatsworth house winds up with 1,000 guinea pigs after taking in survivors

  • Guinea pigs at the Los Angeles Guinea Pig Rescue in Chatsworth, CA, Monday, Jan. 29, 2018. (Hans Gutknecht, Los Angeles Daily News/SCNG)

    Guinea pigs at the Los Angeles Guinea Pig Rescue in Chatsworth, CA, Monday, Jan. 29, 2018. (Hans Gutknecht, Los Angeles Daily News/SCNG)

  • Los Angeles Guinea Pig Rescue founder Saskia Chiesa at the Chatsworth rescue Monday, Jan. 29, 2018. . (Hans Gutknecht, Los Angeles Daily News/SCNG)

    Los Angeles Guinea Pig Rescue founder Saskia Chiesa at the Chatsworth rescue Monday, Jan. 29, 2018. . (Hans Gutknecht, Los Angeles Daily News/SCNG)

  • Guinea pigs at the Los Angeles Guinea Pig Rescue in Chatsworth, CA, Monday, Jan. 29, 2018. (Hans Gutknecht, Los Angeles Daily News/SCNG)

    Guinea pigs at the Los Angeles Guinea Pig Rescue in Chatsworth, CA, Monday, Jan. 29, 2018. (Hans Gutknecht, Los Angeles Daily News/SCNG)

  • Guinea pigs at the Los Angeles Guinea Pig Rescue in Chatsworth, CA, Monday, Jan. 29, 2018. (Hans Gutknecht, Los Angeles Daily News/SCNG)

    Guinea pigs at the Los Angeles Guinea Pig Rescue in Chatsworth, CA, Monday, Jan. 29, 2018. (Hans Gutknecht, Los Angeles Daily News/SCNG)

  • Guinea pigs at the Los Angeles Guinea Pig Rescue in Chatsworth, CA, Monday, Jan. 29, 2018. (Hans Gutknecht, Los Angeles Daily News/SCNG)

    Guinea pigs at the Los Angeles Guinea Pig Rescue in Chatsworth, CA, Monday, Jan. 29, 2018. (Hans Gutknecht, Los Angeles Daily News/SCNG)

  • Guinea pigs at the Los Angeles Guinea Pig Rescue in Chatsworth, CA, Monday, Jan. 29, 2018. (Hans Gutknecht, Los Angeles Daily News/SCNG)

    Guinea pigs at the Los Angeles Guinea Pig Rescue in Chatsworth, CA, Monday, Jan. 29, 2018. (Hans Gutknecht, Los Angeles Daily News/SCNG)

  • Guinea pigs at the Los Angeles Guinea Pig Rescue in Chatsworth, CA, Monday, Jan. 29, 2018. (Hans Gutknecht, Los Angeles Daily News/SCNG)

    Guinea pigs at the Los Angeles Guinea Pig Rescue in Chatsworth, CA, Monday, Jan. 29, 2018. (Hans Gutknecht, Los Angeles Daily News/SCNG)

  • Los Angeles Guinea Pig Rescue founder Saskia Chiesa at the Chatsworth rescue Monday, Jan. 29, 2018. . (Hans Gutknecht, Los Angeles Daily News/SCNG)

    Los Angeles Guinea Pig Rescue founder Saskia Chiesa at the Chatsworth rescue Monday, Jan. 29, 2018. . (Hans Gutknecht, Los Angeles Daily News/SCNG)

  • Guinea pigs at the Los Angeles Guinea Pig Rescue in Chatsworth, CA, Monday, Jan. 29, 2018. (Hans Gutknecht, Los Angeles Daily News/SCNG)

    Guinea pigs at the Los Angeles Guinea Pig Rescue in Chatsworth, CA, Monday, Jan. 29, 2018. (Hans Gutknecht, Los Angeles Daily News/SCNG)

  • Los Angeles Guinea Pig Rescue founder Saskia Chiesa at the Chatsworth rescue Monday, Jan. 29, 2018. . (Hans Gutknecht, Los Angeles Daily News/SCNG)

    Los Angeles Guinea Pig Rescue founder Saskia Chiesa at the Chatsworth rescue Monday, Jan. 29, 2018. . (Hans Gutknecht, Los Angeles Daily News/SCNG)

  • Guinea pigs at the Los Angeles Guinea Pig Rescue in Chatsworth, CA, Monday, Jan. 29, 2018. (Hans Gutknecht, Los Angeles Daily News/SCNG)

    Guinea pigs at the Los Angeles Guinea Pig Rescue in Chatsworth, CA, Monday, Jan. 29, 2018. (Hans Gutknecht, Los Angeles Daily News/SCNG)

  • Los Angeles Guinea Pig Rescue founder Saskia Chiesa at the Chatsworth rescue Monday, Jan. 29, 2018. . (Hans Gutknecht, Los Angeles Daily News/SCNG)

    Los Angeles Guinea Pig Rescue founder Saskia Chiesa at the Chatsworth rescue Monday, Jan. 29, 2018. . (Hans Gutknecht, Los Angeles Daily News/SCNG)

  • Guinea pigs at the Los Angeles Guinea Pig Rescue in Chatsworth, CA, Monday, Jan. 29, 2018. (Hans Gutknecht, Los Angeles Daily News/SCNG)

    Guinea pigs at the Los Angeles Guinea Pig Rescue in Chatsworth, CA, Monday, Jan. 29, 2018. (Hans Gutknecht, Los Angeles Daily News/SCNG)

  • Guinea pigs at the Los Angeles Guinea Pig Rescue in Chatsworth, CA, Monday, Jan. 29, 2018. (Hans Gutknecht, Los Angeles Daily News/SCNG)

    Guinea pigs at the Los Angeles Guinea Pig Rescue in Chatsworth, CA, Monday, Jan. 29, 2018. (Hans Gutknecht, Los Angeles Daily News/SCNG)

  • Guinea pigs at the Los Angeles Guinea Pig Rescue in Chatsworth, CA, Monday, Jan. 29, 2018. (Hans Gutknecht, Los Angeles Daily News/SCNG)

    Guinea pigs at the Los Angeles Guinea Pig Rescue in Chatsworth, CA, Monday, Jan. 29, 2018. (Hans Gutknecht, Los Angeles Daily News/SCNG)

  • Los Angeles Guinea Pig Rescue founder Saskia Chiesa at the Chatsworth rescue Monday, Jan. 29, 2018. . (Hans Gutknecht, Los Angeles Daily News/SCNG)

    Los Angeles Guinea Pig Rescue founder Saskia Chiesa at the Chatsworth rescue Monday, Jan. 29, 2018. . (Hans Gutknecht, Los Angeles Daily News/SCNG)

  • Guinea pigs at the Los Angeles Guinea Pig Rescue in Chatsworth, CA, Monday, Jan. 29, 2018. (Hans Gutknecht, Los Angeles Daily News/SCNG)

    Guinea pigs at the Los Angeles Guinea Pig Rescue in Chatsworth, CA, Monday, Jan. 29, 2018. (Hans Gutknecht, Los Angeles Daily News/SCNG)

of

Expand

Even from the road outside Saskia Chiesa’s ranch style, in Chatsworth, you can hear high pitch squeals and squeaks of excitement.

The two-acre estate is home to 13 horses, a goose, a tom turkey named Canela (“cinnamon” in Spanish), and a couple hundred guinea pigs.

Exactly how many guinea pigs Chiesa has now, and how many she was hoping to host, is an unresolved question.

Chiesa runs the Los Angeles Guinea Pig Rescue. Until three months ago, she housed and cared for a maximum of 125 guinea pigs.

But in October, Chiesa was called on to rescue guinea pigs from a home in Eureka, where more than 700 of the creatures — which can grow as big as 2.5 pounds — were wandering in plastic kiddie pools, the kitchen and a living room.

As one of the few guinea pig-centric rescues in the region, Chiesa volunteered to transport the survivors back to her place. She didn’t get them all. Some went to rescues in Arizona and San Diego. But when the Eureka crew got to Chatsworth, her guinea pig population instantly ballooned to about 450.

That number, too, was in flux. Many of Chiesa’s new guinea pigs were females and pregnant. Soon, she had a guinea pig population boom on her hands.

“They were having babies every single day,” she said.

At one point, Chiesa estimates she that her Chatsworth rescue was home to nearly 1,000 guinea pigs.

“We definitely broke the record last year.”

Chiesa also rescues thoroughbred horses that are unable to race, rehabilitating them for adoption. But to make room for the rodent influx she had to clear out four stalls, though many of the skittish creatures now roam a large enclosure where they spend their non-sleep time hiding in colorful plastic huts and crawling through tubes.

“We had to kick three of the horses out,” Chiesa said. “(That) put a strain on our thoroughbred rescue.”

To accommodate the new arrivals, Chiesa had to hire a full-time and part time staffer and buy a second industrial refrigerator. When she adds in the extra costs of food and vet bills, she estimates the guinea pig boom is going to run her about $50,000. (Adoption rates are $35 for a single guinea pig; $50 for two.)

Chiesa’s Chatsworth rescue is one of three in the state that is focused on caring for abandoned and neglected guinea pigs. The others are in Orange County and another in San Diego. In addition to founding the Los Angeles Guinea Pig Rescue, Chiesa is chief executive of a global logistics company with a warehouse in Van Nuys.

Her passion for guinea pigs started when she was a young woman in Holland.

“I was never allowed pets,” she said. “At 18, I saw a guinea pig in a pet store. I picked it up and it was instant love.”

From there, wherever Chiesa lived – Holland, London, California – she had guinea pigs. In 1999, Chiesa started the Los Angeles Guinea Pig Rescue in Santa Monica. In 2011, she moved to Chatsworth and expanded the effort.

“What I… love about them is they’re so funny.”

Some guinea pigs, like Valerie and Suzanne, are playful and vocal ambassadors. They greet visitors, even from Chiesa’s garage. Others stand up to beg for food or track visitors’ every step. Most will trot off if given a piece of lettuce.

It was a chance encounter that led Chiesa to her life as a animal advocate. While sitting on the train in London’s underground she saw a silky long haired guinea pig being ushered around by a man who she would later come to call “the guinea pig guru.” He claimed to own more than 100 guinea pigs.

When she started a rescue of her own, she called the guru for guidance. Today, the role is reversed, and would-be rescuers call her with questions about guinea pig care and feeding.

She sees her advocacy as more than mere happenstance.

“There are no coincidences,” Chiesa said. “What are the chances?”

Permanent link to this article: https://www.ocregister.com/2018/01/30/chatsworth-house-winds-up-with-1000-guinea-pigs-after-taking-in-survivors/

Southern California expected to get unseasonably hot and dry conditions over the weekend

Southern Californians should prepare for unseasonably warm temperatures and gusts of hot, dry wind beginning this weekend and leading into next week – conditions that could fuel any wildfire that breaks out in the region, fire and weather officials said.

Starting Saturday, Jan. 27, warm Santa Ana winds are expected to course through, with coastal regions seeing gusts of between 20 and 30 mph. Inland regions are expected to see gusts of 40-50 mph, said Dan Gregoria, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service.

“Those offshore Santa Ana winds really dry out the atmosphere,” Gregoria said. “It’s going to be dry and really warm with some strong wind gusts for the inland areas.”

Temperatures will pick up starting Saturday with Riverside seeing a high of 75 degrees, then an uptick to 83 on Sunday and getting even warmer on Monday. Anaheim will see a high of 79 degrees on Saturday and 87 on Sunday and Monday.

Along the coast, temperatures will be slightly cooler. Newport Beach should see 72 degrees on Saturday and 80 on Sunday. In the South Bay, at Los Angeles International Airport and in Torrance, the temperature will reach the low 80s on Sunday.

“From (Thursday), that’s a 15-20 degree jump, a really big warm-up,”  Gregoria said.

Pleasantly sunny, yes, but this weather will bring low humidity, making for ideal – and troubling – wildfire conditions.

“The brush is still dry out there, and we haven’t had enough precipitation for there to be any greening in the hills,” said Capt. Larry Kurtz of the Orange County Fire Authority. “Last year, we had tremendous rains and what it did was it helped our drought situation. It also grew a huge grass crop in the hills.

“This grass crop is one of the first things to dry out when the rain stops,” he added. “We have a huge amount of light-flash fuels in the hills. It’s what we call in the fire business ‘receptive fuel bed’ – it doesn’t take much for them to catch fire.”

Southern California is enduring what should be one of the wettest months of the year but instead has seen very little precipitation – extending the fire season.

“Unfortunately, there is no rain in sight, even though it cools a little midweek the dominant feature is the ridge of high pressure,” Gregoria said. “Not a good weather pattern for the state.”

Permanent link to this article: https://www.ocregister.com/2018/01/26/southern-california-expected-to-get-unseasonably-hot-and-dry-conditions-over-the-weekend/

OC Labor Federation ousts its executive director over #metoo sexual-misconduct allegations

Delegates for the Orange County Labor Federation voted unanimously to fire its executive director in response to allegations of sexual misconduct, effective immediately, the group announced Friday.

Julio Perez served as the executive director of the labor council of the AFL-CIO that represents some 90 unions for teachers, grocery clerks, hotel employees, nurses and sanitation workers and others.

On Thursday, the federation’s delegates voted to fire Perez in response to an investigation launched in October. Allegations against Perez included inappropriate “sexual activity in the workplace”  and comments, and threats of retaliation.

“There is no place for sexual harassment in the labor movement,” said Jennifer Beuthin, the investigation’s designated liaison, in a statement. “(This) vote is consistent with the values union members fight for every day.”

The labor group hired an independent attorney to conduct the investigation. The lawyer reported that there were credible findings from multiple women. The allegations first came to light as part of the #metoo movement on social media with women alleging they were harassed while working as interns or employees with the Democratic Party of Orange County or at the Labor Federation.

The alleged incidents at the Labor Federation took place in 2014.

“I’m just glad it’s resolved, and there’s closure,” said Fran Sdao, chairwoman of the Democratic Party of Orange County. “Hopefully, they’re providing support to the women who were subject to his harassment.”

The Democratic Party of Orange County faced separate allegations about a former employee as part of the same movement and handled the matter separately. The Democratic Party of Orange County does not have formal ties with the Labor Federation.

In a brief conversation with a reporter, Perez declined to comment on the vote, saying he had not yet been notified of the decision.

The federation’s president is leading the effort to find a replacement for Perez.

Permanent link to this article: https://www.ocregister.com/2018/01/26/oc-labor-federation-ousts-its-executive-director-over-metoo-sexual-misconduct-allegations/

Solar tariff figures to hurt, not kill, an industry that’s helping Southern California in a big way

The Trump administration’s push to levy a 30 percent tariff on foreign-made solar panels could stall — but probably not wipe out — one of the fastest-growing industries in Southern California.

The tougher trade rule also has the potential to bump up electricity prices for local utility customers, and it adds a hurdle to the state’s goal of getting half of all its energy from renewable sources by 2030.

Solar dealers and others who track the industry say Southern California — probably the nation’s leading market for solar panels — said Tuesday that the solar business has already slowed in the past year, a result of uncertainty related to President Donald Trump’s oft-stated intent to toughen trade policy with, among others, China.

“We would definitely say this isn’t good news,” said Josh Buwell-Charkow, campaign director for the trade group California Solar Energy Industries Association. “This isn’t good for the state for seeking energy independence and lowering costs.”

The solar business has grown exponentially in recent years, in part because of cheaper panels made in China and other countries and assembled in the United States. Much of that growth has come from customers in the sunnier parts of California. Overall, solar installations statewide grew tenfold from 2013 through 2017.

Buwell-Charkow, like others in the industry, hopes the state will cut permitting costs for solar as a way to offset the new economics likely to come with the tariff.

“In California, we’re half the ballgame in the country,” he said. “There are things the state and local governments can do to counteract this.”

The new rules also could hurt employment. The solar business in California has provided a stark rebuttal to the argument that environmental regulations cost jobs. A study from the Berkeley Labor Center at the University of California said between 2012 and 2015 some 80,000 jobs were created in the San Joaquin Valley related to the construction of renewable energy infrastructure.

Though that statistic was related to all kinds of alternative energy, the solar business itself has been a strong job multiplier in Southern California in recent years.

Employers in that sector said Tuesday that the new tariff figures to slow that growth.

“This is a severe slap in the face to the state of California at the hand of this administration,” said Daniel Sullivan, whose company, Sullivan Solar Power, has offices in Irvine, Riverside and San Diego and employs up to 150 workers.

“What this does, it burdens the state of California with more costs that will ultimately be passed on to ratepayers because the Trump administration is unfairly discriminating against renewable energy.”

The push also figures to reduce demand, at least until traditional energy prices rise. The new tariff is expected to boost the cost of a residential solar panel by an average of $650, while commercial installations could jump by as much as $13,000, said Kelly Knutsen, the director of technology advancement for California Solar Energy Industries Association, which represents 500 installers, retailers and manufacturers.

California makes up half the market for solar panels and energy in the United States. Southern California, in turn, makes up half of the California market, Knutsen said.

“As the cost of solar has come down dramatically, we’ve also seen a dramatic increase in solar installations,” Knutsen said. “It’s really been booming.”

That boom paused last year, he said, as the industry and consumers waited for possible changes from the Trump administration, which campaigned, in part, on toughening trade rules with China. Solar system sales last year were about the same as they were in 2016, Knutsen said.

Still, many in the industry believe that the cost bump will slow, but not kill, solar growth.

Deep Patel, chief executive of Placentia-based GigaWatt, said most residential consumers who buy foreign solar panels will continue to do so, lured in part by the name brands and sleeker aesthetics.

“People want brands. People have LG refrigerators and cellphones. They’re just the premium brand on the market,” said Patel, who testified against the tariff at three public meetings on the subject.

“There are shoppers that say ‘I don’t care about U.S.-made. I want the best,’ ” Patel said. “It’s the Mercedes-Benz of the solar industry. And then you have the other consumers that want the Honda Civic. They just want to get from point A to point B. They just want the best value. That consumer would shop for the U.S.-assembled panel or a generic imported panel.”

About 70 percent of Patel’s business is made up of foreign-made solar cells assembled in Riverside that would not be impacted by the tariff. He said his customers probably will pay more for higher-end panels.

“Long-term, we need the costs to go down,” Patel said. “We could have been focused here helping customers and hiring more people. Whenever there’s this massive uncertainty, it’s not good for business.”

Not everyone sees a solar slowdown resulting from higher tariffs.

Greg Autry, a professor of entrepreneurship at USC who researches the role of government on emerging industries, believes the tariff will be only a short-term problem for the solar business in California.

“In the short run you’ll obviously see some price increases on panels,” said Autry, co-author of the book “Death by China,” which focuses on Chinese cyberattacks on U.S. businesses.

“This is a market where the cost has dropped an order of magnitude over the last decade. I think the trend towards solar, particularly in Southern California, is clear.”

Permanent link to this article: https://www.ocregister.com/2018/01/24/solar-tariff-figures-to-hurt-not-kill-an-industry-thats-helping-so-cal-in-a-big-way/

A proposal to ban a potentially lethal chemical might change – or close – 2 oil refineries in Southern California

A potentially lethal chemical used at two Southern California oil refineries could be banned by regulators, a policy that refinery operators say could shutter their plants, cost hundreds of jobs and cause a spike in local gas and airfare prices.

In what could be one of the last public meetings on the issue, representatives from the South Coast Air Quality Management District, the Torrance and Wilmington refineries and the public are expected to meet Saturday to discuss the proposed change. The two refineries are believed to be the only petroleum processing plants in the state that use the chemical in question, modified hydrofluoric acid (MHF).

“This is a milestone…. There’s some likelihood that the AQMD’s direction will come out of this meeting,” said Mike Karlovich, a spokesman for PBF Energy which owns the Torrance refinery.

Modified hydrofluoric acid is a chemical compound used in the oil refining process to help meet air quality standards that call for blended forms of gasoline. The acid must be kept under high pressure to keep it in liquid form, as it boils at 67 degrees. When released, the acid can create a low hanging, pervasive toxic aerosol cloud that does not dissipate. Contact with the vapor can be fatal.

While the likelihood of a leak and gas plume are low, the results could be catastrophic.

“It’s what we would characterize as very low probability but very high-risk event,” said Philip Fine, deputy executive officer for planning and rule development at the Air Quality Management District. “If it did occur you could have an extraordinary impact to surrounding communities.”

Regulators are considering whether to ban MHF and switch to sulfuric acid, which has a boiling temperature of about 700 degrees.

Refinery operators say the switch is unnecessary and exorbitantly expensive, costing hundreds of millions of dollars. They also argue that the existing system is safe.

“Ultimately we have our workers and contractors here. They’re inside the plant,” Karlovich said. “It’s in our interest to have the safest systems possible.”

Community outcry over the use of modified hydrofluoric acid began after a 2015 explosion at what was then the ExxonMobil Refinery in Torrance, which is now owned by PBF. During that explosion a massive piece of flying equipment barely missed tanks that held the acid, according to a federal investigation into the explosion.

Since then, residents have protested the use of MHF and related safety measures, holding demonstrations and petitioning air quality regulators to step in.

“It almost caused a catastrophic loss of life and jobs and everything else that would have come with a release,” said Steve Goldsmith, a former Torrance resident who called a meeting with area neighbors and friends, eventually forming the Torrance Refinery Action Alliance.

“This industry has had a lot of near misses, this could be a Bhopal event,” Goldsmith said, referencing a chemical release in India in 1984 that killed up to 20,000 people and is considered the worst industrial accident in history.

Since the 2015 incident in Torrance, Goldsmith has moved further away from the refinery, in part, out of concerns about a potential release. He still lives in the South Bay.

“There were a number of factors, but getting out of the cancer envelope and getting out of harm’s way was one factor,” he said, explaining his relocation.

Resident and engineer Sally Hayati attended the group’s initial meeting after the 2015 explosion and has remained involved because her daughters and grandchildren live close to the refinery.

“They have to show how far away from the refinery a bad accident can affect people. As it spreads out it goes in a plume,” Hayati said. “I thought, ‘My God, that’s the safe version of it?'”

Business leaders and environmental groups have since weighed in.

The Natural Resources Defense Council sent letters to state legislators urging them to pass measures banning MHF in oil refining.

“I’m not aware there’s any way you could assure the community that nothing bad is going to happen if you still use modified HF,” said David Pettit, a senior attorney with the non-profit’s Southern California Air Program.

“If the stuff gets out in the atmosphere it’s not like you can build a wall. I just don’t see any way of ensuring that. I guess you can think of it as a ‘black swan event.’

“I worked on the Deepwater Horizon event,” Pettit added. “The Department of the Interior, they calculated the odds and it was minuscule. And yet it did happen.”

Business and labor interests don’t agree. The Orange County Business Council has joined a coalition that includes labor organizations that oppose changes to the rules. They say the proposed new rules could force the two refineries to close, a move that they argue would cost some 2,000 jobs and boost the prices of, among other things, tickets to fly out of Los Angeles International Airport.

They note that Southern California has relatively few sources of gasoline, and that the refineries provide a consistent, efficient supply.

“California is a fuel island,” said Lucy Dunn, president and chief executive the Orange County Business Council.

“Unlike other states we don’t have a lot of pipelines that… bring oil. We have very few refineries in California. If one breaks down, fuel prices can spike while (a refinery) is undergoing repairs.”

But regulators aren’t buying it, saying the rule change should not force the refineries to close and that other avenues for fuel exist.

“Refineries, believe it or not, curb production all the time during planned turn-arounds and maintenance,” Fine said. “The market has a way to adjust for changes in production. … That happens all the time.”

Though the language of the proposed rule hasn’t yet been finalized, regulators have suggested an eight-year timeline for phasing out the use of MHF.

Related Stories

How Torrance and other California refineries can be made safer

Torrance leaders, activists butt heads over whether refinery fire is cause for concern

Court order sought to require refineries to advise public about accidental chemical releases

AQMD proposes ban on toxic hydrofluoric acid at South Bay refineries

Permanent link to this article: https://www.ocregister.com/2018/01/16/a-proposal-to-ban-a-potentially-lethal-chemical-might-change-or-close-2-oil-refineries-in-southern-california-2/

Can exposure to the ocean change the bacteria in your gut? A citizen science project studies surfers to find out

Cliff Kapono has walked many beaches of the world, searching.

Often, the long-time surfer has looked for a great swell. He’s scanned waves off Morocco and Ireland; off Hawaii and Southern California.

But Kapono, 30, a doctoral candidate in chemistry at UC San Diego, has searched in some of those same places for something other than waves. He’s hunted for something so small he couldn’t possibly see it with the naked eye, yet so powerful it could turn a grain of sand into a mini-metropolis.

What Kapono sought — and still seeks — is bacteria. Specifically, he’s looking for bacteria that’s inside the guts and on the skin of surfers. He wants to look at as much surfer-held bacteria, from as many surfers as possible, to test his theory that long-term exposure to the ocean can change surfers at a molecular level.

All Kapono needs for his effort, known as the Surfer Biome Project, are some swabs off surfer’s boards and skin — and a tiny bit of their poop.

Say hello to our little friends

Kapono is part of a growing world of scientists studying human-based bacteria, much as geneticists from around the world have collectively studied the human genome for much of this century. The goal, with DNA and with gut bugs, is to learn more about the building blocks of humanity.

But the subject of the current wave of research — bacteria — has an image problem.

Salmonella, E. coli and listeria are household name bacteria that are widely (and rightfully) feared. Some of the diseases caused by bacteria — botulism, anthrax, tetanus — are notorious killers. Fear of bacteria, in fact, is part of why the developed world has created a range of products, including antibacterial soaps and cleansers, to ward off and, if possible, eradicate pathogenic bacteria.

But that part of the effort — to wipe out bacteria — might be misguided.

A growing body of research suggests bacteria are crucial to human health. Not only do bacterial microorganisms break down complex fibers and help humans turn food into nutrition, but our microbial gut bugs also are starting to be seen as windows offering new views of pervasive and mystifying illnesses and conditions, including Parkinson’s Disease, diabetes and autism. Bacteria even can show us more about mood disorders, such as anxiety and depression.

“All over your body you have microbes. (And) you’re interfacing and interacting, whether you like it or not, with your microbes,”  said Daniel McDonald, manager of the non-profit American Gut, a citizen-science project at UC San Diego that is studying human microbes using volunteer donors. Kapono’s surfer project is a subset of the larger American Gut project, the largest known crowd-sourced science experiment.

Though microbes live on or in humans, they are independent, living organisms with their own genetic makeup. “These organisms,” McDonald said, of microbes, “are not you.”

Sometimes, microbes work against their human host, McDonald added, and sometimes they work  to assist it.

Microbes are so important that many scientists consider the human gut — where most bacteria reside — akin to a second brain.

Samples that biochemist Cliff Kapono has collected by rubbing cotton-tipped swabs over the heads, mouths, navels and other parts of surfers’ bodies, as well as their boards, La Jolla, Calif., March 17, 2017. Researchers are studying the effects of antibiotic-resistant genes in the oceans. (Ariana Drehsler/The New York Times)
Samples that biochemist Cliff Kapono has collected by rubbing cotton-tipped swabs over the heads, mouths, navels and other parts of surfers’ bodies, as well as their boards, La Jolla, Calif., March 17, 2017. Researchers are studying the effects of antibiotic-resistant genes in the oceans. (Ariana Drehsler/The New York Times)

In fact, all of the microscopic bugs that live in and on the human body weigh as much as a typical brain. It’s estimated that a human body has roughly an equal number of bacteria as he or she has cells. And the variety of bacterial organisms is such that the bacteria that live between your canine teeth often are distinct from the bacteria that live between your molars.

Bacterial research is a burgeoning area of both scientific inquiry and consumer marketing.

Since 2008, the number of scientific papers released annually that are focused on the human microbiome — the name for the bacteria, yeast, fungi, protozoa and virsuses that live on and in the human body — have grown by 35 percent, said Richard Lin, chief executive of Bay Area startup Thryve. Lin’s company sells supplements — probiotics — purported to be custom-tailored to a customer’s bacterial ecosystem.

“I think the general consumer, and the market, is starting to see an upward trend,” Lin said. “But I would say the mass consumer still doesn’t understand the human microbiome.”

There are several reasons why science is looking harder at the human microbiome. One is money: it’s getting cheaper to track the genetics of microbes. The DNA testing that cost $100 million in 2001 now costs about $1,000.  And McDonald says the American Gut project is able to process samples nearly at cost, for $99.

Also, other advances in molecular technologies and computational techniques, make it easier for scientists to process genetic information once they get it.

“The combination of being able to take a look at organisms without having to grow them, combined with being able to do really cheap DNA sequencing, is why this field has been able to take off,” McDonald said.

An extra special gift

The body part that hosts the most bacterial data is the colon. It’s estimated that a single teaspoon of fecal matter carries enough genetic information to be stored on a metric ton of DVDs.

It’s why Kapono and McDonald and others involved in various elements of the American Gut project regularly ask donors to give the gift of poop. Since launching in 2012, American Gut researchers have processed more than 10,000 stool samples.

It’s not an easy sell. While some American Gut participants have physical conditions that mean they regularly let doctors draw blood or test their stools, many others don’t, and the topic can turn them squeamish.

“Some people are not excited,” McDonald said. “There’s no good way around that.”

Despite the ick factor, researchers with the American Gut project have received samples from as far away as Australia and Vietnam as well as from Los Angeles, Riverside and Orange counties.

One major caveat is that the group of people who contribute their stools (and less invasive microbe swabs) are volunteers, so the data is not yet representative of all humanity. Donors pay to donate and when the testing is over, they receive a map of their internal microbiome. Bottom line: The gut bugs studied so far come from the part of the world that has at least some disposable income.

Individual bug maps are not (yet) medically critical information. The science that might someday tell an individual what microbes to take, and which ones to avoid, is in its infancy.

Still, American Gut researchers aren’t the only people thinking about microbes. In fact, many people increasingly are interested in what’s inside them, and some are venturing into risky, do-it-yourself techniques to get answers. Online tutorials offer step-by-step instructions for potentially dangerous procedures such as at-home fecal transplants in the hopes of cultivating a more diverse microbiome, even though researchers are unsure of exactly how certain strains of bacteria benefit health.

“As much as I’m excited about this field, and I love it when others are excited too, I find it important to continue to urge caution,”  McDonald said. “I encourage people to be careful. This is a new area of research (and) there are a lot of questions we’re working on answering. … I don’t want to see people get harmed.”

Scientists are reaching out to more diverse populations, people living with a variety of conditions, extreme athletes and populations outside the U.S., in their quest to understand how (and why) gut bugs differ from place to place.

Ocean creatures

Cliff Kapono, a biochemist heading up the Surfer Biome Project, in the lab at the University of San Diego. (Ariana Drehsler/The New York Times)
Cliff Kapono, a biochemist heading up the Surfer Biome Project, in the lab at the University of San Diego. (Ariana Drehsler/The New York Times)

For all the study of bacteria that occupy the human gut, there is still much that is unknown. Scientists can’t explain the mechanics of how certain bacterial strains can affect mood, or why they notice an imbalance in the bacterial makeup of people with certain ailments.

“We don’t really understand, at a basic level, how or why consuming these organisms may be beneficial or may not do anything at all,” McDonald said.

After months of traveling the world and processing microbeal data he collected from surfers, Kapono has made one advance in the overall understanding of microbes: Early indications show that at a basic, molecular level, the ocean is changing surfers. Specifically, the tiny microbes that live on the skin of many surfers is also shared by sharks, otters and sea urchins — all animals with which we share the ocean.

For Kapono, a native Hawaiian, that link is both a revelation and an affirmation of what his culture has long believed — that humans and nature are intertwined, and that both can change each other.  

Microbes “give us really empirical evidence” that people nature are connected, Kapono said.

“You don’t have to talk about myths and legends.”

 

Permanent link to this article: https://www.ocregister.com/2018/01/10/gut-bugs-citizen-science-showing-how-the-ocean-changes-surfers/

Southern California’s first storm of the rain season is coming – finally

The first storm in months is expected to bring a significant amount of rain early next week, and its arrival can’t come soon enough for a parched Southern California.

Starting Monday, Los Angeles, Orange, San Bernardino and Riverside counties could see more than an inch of rain – the first rain of note in many places since the rain year began in October.

It is to start arriving around 10 a.m. Monday, strengthening throughout the day and linger through Tuesday. Wednesday morning could see scattered showers.

This winter’s weather has followed traditional La Nina conditions, with storms getting deflected to the Pacific Northwest and Alaska where the winter has been wetter than normal.

Because storms have been deflected, the state’s snow pack is low, too.

“We’re finally getting enough energy that a trough of low pressure is able to move through the ridge of high pressure that’s been dominating,” said Derek Schroeter, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in San Diego.

Long Beach and downtown Los Angeles are expected to receive about one and a quarter inches of rain. Riverside and Orange County near greater Huntington Beach should see about an inch. The San Clemente area could see just less than an inch, while the Santa Ana mountains are expected to receive up to two inches, Schroeter said.

The lack of rain since October help fuel Southern California’s historic, destructive wildfire season. And the dry brush was robust – last year’s wet winter had encouraged vegetation growth.

On Wednesday, the State Water Resources Control Board announced its first snow survey results this water year, calling the light snow pack “disappointing.” The snow pack in the Sierra Nevada region plays a critical role in the state’s water infrastructure, providing Southern California with much of its water.

The dry conditions returned not long after a historic drought lingered over California for four years, and Californians were urged to conserve and fined for wasting water. It’s too soon to tell whether this is the beginning of another record-busting drought, or it’s just been drier than normal.

“It’s still too early to speculate if a drought may be declared,” said Andrew DiLuccia, a spokesman for the water board.

There is reason to hope that another drought is not on the way.

“That drought from 2012 to 2016 – some studies have pointed to that drought to be the driest on record,” said Schroeter, the meteorologist. “Usually extremes don’t fall on top of each other like that. … For a wet year to be followed by a dry year is normal.”

Permanent link to this article: https://www.ocregister.com/2018/01/05/southern-californias-first-storm-of-the-rain-season-is-coming-finally/

It’s going to be warm, then cool down for New Year’s Eve

As 2017 draws to a close, unseasonably warm temperatures are expected to heat up Southern California before temperatures drop on New Year’s Eve.

A ridge of high pressure, anchored over California, has redirected any storms away from the Golden State toward Washington – leaving California drier than normal, said Derek Schroeter, a National Weather Service meteorologist.

  • A man catches his breath while working out on stairs on the Esplanade in Redondo Beach. An exceptionally warm Winter has kept South Bay residents active. Photo by Robert Casillas, Daily Breeze/SCNG

    A man catches his breath while working out on stairs on the Esplanade in Redondo Beach. An exceptionally warm Winter has kept South Bay residents active. Photo by Robert Casillas, Daily Breeze/SCNG

  • Beach goers play atop a sand berm north of the pier in Seal Beach, California, on Thursday, Dec 28, 2017. (Photo by Jeff Gritchen, Orange County Register/SCNG)

    Beach goers play atop a sand berm north of the pier in Seal Beach, California, on Thursday, Dec 28, 2017. (Photo by Jeff Gritchen, Orange County Register/SCNG)

  • Under a nearly cloudless sky, the warm sun beats down on the beach and the Seal Beach pier on Thursday, December 28, 2017. (Photo by Scott Varley, Press-Telegram/SCNG)

    Under a nearly cloudless sky, the warm sun beats down on the beach and the Seal Beach pier on Thursday, December 28, 2017. (Photo by Scott Varley, Press-Telegram/SCNG)

  • A hot and dry December means more time to surf under the warm sun at the Seal Beach pier on Thursday, December 28, 2017. (Photo by Scott Varley, Press-Telegram/SCNG)

    A hot and dry December means more time to surf under the warm sun at the Seal Beach pier on Thursday, December 28, 2017. (Photo by Scott Varley, Press-Telegram/SCNG)

  • Walkers and cyclists travel the bike path at Torrance Beach. An exceptionally warm Winter has kept South Bay residents active. Photo by Robert Casillas, Daily Breeze/SCNG

    Walkers and cyclists travel the bike path at Torrance Beach. An exceptionally warm Winter has kept South Bay residents active. Photo by Robert Casillas, Daily Breeze/SCNG

  • Surfers walk atop a sand berm north of the pier in Seal Beach, California, on Thursday, Dec 28, 2017. (Photo by Jeff Gritchen, Orange County Register/SCNG)

    Surfers walk atop a sand berm north of the pier in Seal Beach, California, on Thursday, Dec 28, 2017. (Photo by Jeff Gritchen, Orange County Register/SCNG)

of

Expand

“This year the winter weather pattern has set up in a traditional La Nina fashion over California,” he said. “It’s been fairly wet over the Northwest and the Rockies.”

The extended dry season, with little to no measurable rain across much of Southern California, has lengthened the fire season.

“We haven’t had any significant rain since last winter, so vegetation is stressed; until we get significant rain, fire danger will be an issue,” Schroeter said. “We’re running very well-below-normal pretty much across southwestern California.”

Temperatures in Riverside are expected to reach 84 on Friday, before dropping more than 10 degrees on Saturday; a high of 72 was forecast for New Year’s Eve. So far this rain year, which started Oct. 1, precipitation is at only at .03 inches – when 2.45 inches is typical by now.

Redlands will see a high of 82 degrees on Friday, dipping five and 10 degrees respectively over the weekend.

On the coast, Newport Beach will get to 71 on Friday before sliding to 67 and 64 degrees on Saturday and Sunday.

Long Beach will be just a tad warmer on those three days, hitting 77 on Friday. So far, Long Beach has caught just .07 inches of rain this season, which averages 3.26 inches this time of year.

Downtown Los Angeles is expected to see a high of 82 on Friday, and then drop to 73 on Sunday. Only .11 inches have been recorded at Los Angeles International Airport so far; the average is 3.26 inches.

Rain, though, could be coming out way.

Maybe.

January is one of the state’s wetter months, Schroeter said, though no SoCal-bound storms are on the immediate horizon.

Permanent link to this article: https://www.ocregister.com/2017/12/28/its-going-to-be-warm-then-cool-down-for-new-years-eve/

Motorcyclist killed in crash on Ortega Highway I.D.’d as off-duty border patrol agent

A motorcyclist killed in a crash on Ortega Highway has been identified as an off-duty border patrol agent who lived in Lake Elsinore.

Alex Franco, 35, was killed when a motorcycle he was riding and a pickup truck collided at about 1:15 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 23, according to the Orange County coroner’s office. Franco died at the scene.

Franco was an eight-year veteran of the border patrol, which he joined in February of 2009.

“On behalf of the San Diego Sector and the entire Border Patrol family, our sincerest condolences and prayers are with the family and friends of Agent Franco during this very difficult time,” said Ralph DeSio, a spokesman for U.S. Customs and Border Protection.

Franco was driving eastbound on Ortega Highway on a 2018 Triumph when his motorcycle drifted into the westbound lane, colliding with a 2010 Nissan pickup truck, according to a California Highway Patrol report from CHP Officer Rafael Reynoso.

It was unclear whether speed was a factor in the crash.

The 52-year-old driver of the truck was not arrested at the scene.

Permanent link to this article: https://www.ocregister.com/2017/12/24/motorcyclist-killed-in-crash-on-ortega-highway-i-d-d-as-off-duty-border-patrol-agent/

Driver flips parked vehicle in a late night crash in Garden Grove

  • A van was flipped over when a motorist struck the parked vehicle in southbound on Haster Street near Lampson Avenue in Garden Grove on Saturday, Dec. 23, 2017. No one was inside the van at the time of the crash but the driver of the sedan that struck the vehicle was taken to UC Irvine Medical Center for treatment. (Photo by Miles T. Madison, Contributing Photographer)

    A van was flipped over when a motorist struck the parked vehicle in southbound on Haster Street near Lampson Avenue in Garden Grove on Saturday, Dec. 23, 2017. No one was inside the van at the time of the crash but the driver of the sedan that struck the vehicle was taken to UC Irvine Medical Center for treatment. (Photo by Miles T. Madison, Contributing Photographer)

  • A firefighter with the Garden Grove Fire Department uses the jaws of life to extract a driver from his vehicle in Garden Grove on Saturday, Dec. 23, 2017 after the driver struck a parked vehicle and flipped it. The driver was taken to UC Irvine Medical Center for treatment. (Photo by Miles T. Madison, Contributing Photographer)

    A firefighter with the Garden Grove Fire Department uses the jaws of life to extract a driver from his vehicle in Garden Grove on Saturday, Dec. 23, 2017 after the driver struck a parked vehicle and flipped it. The driver was taken to UC Irvine Medical Center for treatment. (Photo by Miles T. Madison, Contributing Photographer)

  • Paramedics load a crash victim into an ambulance in Garden Grove on Saturday, Dec. 23, 2017. The victim’s car a parked vehicle and flipped it on Haster Street near Lampson Avenue. (Photo by Miles T. Madison, Contributing Photographer)

    Paramedics load a crash victim into an ambulance in Garden Grove on Saturday, Dec. 23, 2017. The victim’s car a parked vehicle and flipped it on Haster Street near Lampson Avenue. (Photo by Miles T. Madison, Contributing Photographer)

  • Garden Grove police investigate the scene where a sedan struck a parked van on Haster Street near Lampson Avenue in Garden Grove Saturday, Dec. 23, 2017. (Photo by Miles T. Madison, Contributing Photographer)

    Garden Grove police investigate the scene where a sedan struck a parked van on Haster Street near Lampson Avenue in Garden Grove Saturday, Dec. 23, 2017. (Photo by Miles T. Madison, Contributing Photographer)

  • Garden Grove police investigate the scene where the driver of this sedan struck a parked vehicle on Haster Street near Lampson Avenue in Garden Grove Saturday, Dec. 23, 2017. (Photo by Miles T. Madison, Contributing Photographer)

    Garden Grove police investigate the scene where the driver of this sedan struck a parked vehicle on Haster Street near Lampson Avenue in Garden Grove Saturday, Dec. 23, 2017. (Photo by Miles T. Madison, Contributing Photographer)

of

Expand

A driver was taken to the hospital after crashing and flipping a parked vehicle in Garden Grove, police said Sunday.

At 11:47 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 23, the motorist was driving a dark colored sedan southbound on Haster Street near Lampson Avenue when the car hit another vehicle parked at the curb, said Garden Grove police.

The force of the crash flipped the parked vehicle.  No one was inside the vehicle at the time of the crash.

The driver of the sedan was taken to UC Irvine Medical Center for treatment.

Police did not release the gender or age of the driver of the sedan and are continuing to investigate the cause of the crash.

 

Haster and Lampson

Permanent link to this article: https://www.ocregister.com/2017/12/24/driver-flips-parked-vehicle-in-a-late-night-crash-in-garden-grove/

This Orange County family has kept their Christmas tree alive for 34 years running

When they set foot on the Christmas tree lot in 1983, then young Gina and Joe Mistretta didn’t suspect their purchase would become a member of the family.

They also didn’t know that one small act of non-consumerism — keeping the same Christmas tree for nearly two generations — would make a not inconsequential dent in helping the environment.

  • The Mistretta’s living tree is adorned with ornaments from all over the world and from as far back as the 1940s, flickering LED lights and ornaments from vacations. (Photo by Matt Masin, Orange County Register, SCNG)

    The Mistretta’s living tree is adorned with ornaments from all over the world and from as far back as the 1940s, flickering LED lights and ornaments from vacations. (Photo by Matt Masin, Orange County Register, SCNG)

  • Joe Mistretta, Gina Mistretta and their youngest son Michael pose for a portrait next to the living Christmas tree they’ve had in their family since 1983 in Irvine on Wednesday, Dec. 13, 2017. (Photo by Matt Masin, Orange County Register, SCNG)

    Joe Mistretta, Gina Mistretta and their youngest son Michael pose for a portrait next to the living Christmas tree they’ve had in their family since 1983 in Irvine on Wednesday, Dec. 13, 2017. (Photo by Matt Masin, Orange County Register, SCNG)

  • The Mistretta’s living tree is adorned with ornaments from all over the world and from as far back as the 1940s, flickering LED lights and ornaments from vacations. (Photo by Matt Masin, Orange County Register, SCNG)

    The Mistretta’s living tree is adorned with ornaments from all over the world and from as far back as the 1940s, flickering LED lights and ornaments from vacations. (Photo by Matt Masin, Orange County Register, SCNG)

  • A vintage treetop star on the Mistretta family living tree. The mid-century ornament came from Gina Mistretta’s family back in New York, and was used on her family’s tree as a child. The delicate ornament doesn’t fully function, and extra precaution is taken with its placement. (Photo by Matt Masin, Orange County Register, SCNG)

    A vintage treetop star on the Mistretta family living tree. The mid-century ornament came from Gina Mistretta’s family back in New York, and was used on her family’s tree as a child. The delicate ornament doesn’t fully function, and extra precaution is taken with its placement. (Photo by Matt Masin, Orange County Register, SCNG)

  • The Mistretta family living Christmas tree they’ve had in their family since 1983, predating both of their children, in Irvine on Wednesday, Dec. 13, 2017. (Photo by Matt Masin, Orange County Register, SCNG)

    The Mistretta family living Christmas tree they’ve had in their family since 1983, predating both of their children, in Irvine on Wednesday, Dec. 13, 2017. (Photo by Matt Masin, Orange County Register, SCNG)

  • Gina Mistretta carried this manager display home from Italy on her lap while flying. (Photo by Matt Masin, Orange County Register, SCNG)

    Gina Mistretta carried this manager display home from Italy on her lap while flying. (Photo by Matt Masin, Orange County Register, SCNG)

  • The Mistretta’s living tree is adorned with ornaments from all over the world and from as far back as the 1940s, flickering LED lights and ornaments from vacations. (Photo by Matt Masin, Orange County Register, SCNG)

    The Mistretta’s living tree is adorned with ornaments from all over the world and from as far back as the 1940s, flickering LED lights and ornaments from vacations. (Photo by Matt Masin, Orange County Register, SCNG)

  • The Mistretta’s living tree is adorned with ornaments from all over the world and from as far back as the 1940s including this 1940s ribbon style ornament in Irvine on Wednesday, Dec. 13, 2017. (Photo by Matt Masin, Orange County Register, SCNG)

    The Mistretta’s living tree is adorned with ornaments from all over the world and from as far back as the 1940s including this 1940s ribbon style ornament in Irvine on Wednesday, Dec. 13, 2017. (Photo by Matt Masin, Orange County Register, SCNG)

  • The Mistretta family living Christmas tree they have been celebrating around since 1983 in Irvine on Wednesday, Dec. 13, 2017. (Photo by Matt Masin, Orange County Register, SCNG)

    The Mistretta family living Christmas tree they have been celebrating around since 1983 in Irvine on Wednesday, Dec. 13, 2017. (Photo by Matt Masin, Orange County Register, SCNG)

  • The Mistretta’s living tree is adorned with ornaments from all over the world and from as far back as the 1940s including this bird ornament in Irvine on Wednesday, Dec. 13, 2017. (Photo by Matt Masin, Orange County Register, SCNG)

    The Mistretta’s living tree is adorned with ornaments from all over the world and from as far back as the 1940s including this bird ornament in Irvine on Wednesday, Dec. 13, 2017. (Photo by Matt Masin, Orange County Register, SCNG)

of

Expand

At the time, it was just a two-foot tall potted Scotch pine with a price tag under $20. It was barely big enough to hold a single set of lights.

But when Christmas 1983 was over their little tree looked anything but dead.

“It was sad to throw it away,” Gina Mistretta said.

So the Mistrettas saved it for the next year. Then the next. And so on. Today, the tree is — well, a little older than 34, but they can’t say for sure. They do know it’s older older than their children.

“We figure out how long we’ve been married by how old the tree is,” Joe Mistretta joked.

Their small act, saving a tree that might’ve been destined for the landfill or a compost heap, had surprisingly big environmental impacts.

By a conservative measure, the Mistretta’s family tradition has captured at least 1,088 kilograms (or nearly 2,400 pounds) of carbon dioxide, said Cal State Fullerton professor John Bock, the director of the school’s Center for Sustainability.

That’s equal to not burning about 1,200 pounds of coal. Or, to put it in a couple other ways, it’s the same as switching 36 incandescent light bulbs to LED lights, or driving 2,668 fewer miles in an average gas-powered car, According to the Environmental Protection Agency.

And that doesn’t include the greenhouse gas emissions the Mistrettas didn’t generate by not having a fresh cut tree trucked down from Washington to Southern California 34 times.

By contrast, a natural tree bought each year for the same amount of time would generate about 374 pounds of carbon dioxide. A fake tree that is discarded every five years would use about 277 pounds of carbon dioxide over 34 years, Bock said.

What started as an effort to conserve a tiny bit of nature also turned into family lore.

Throughout the years they tended, trimmed and watered the Scotch pine, re-potting the ever growing tree several times. Every year, Joe saws the plant’s 10-inch diameter trunk just a bit, keeping it short enough to duck under the ceiling of their home and narrow enough to squeeze into a corner of the living room.

As the tree grew, so too did the Mistretta family.

In 1986, their son Joseph was born. In 1988, the family moved from La Habra to Irvine, their tree carefully strapped in the back of a moving van. In 1990, they had their second son, Michael. The boys, now 31 and 27, have never known another tree.

“I just hate coming down the street (after Christmas) and seeing people put out their tree,” said their youngest son, Michael, referring to the annual post-holiday garbage dump.

They’ve created tradition to go along with the tree. Every year, on the day after Thanksgiving, the family drags the tree from its resting place on the patio inside the house. While doing that, they make an effort to relocate the praying mantises that invariably make the tree their home during its annual stint outdoors.

The tree also plays its part in the family’s history. During the holidays, its branches are adorned with a clay gingerbread molded by their eldest, Joe, when he was in Kindergarten. Cardboard and glitter bird ornaments dating from the 1940s sit on other branches; same for a gondola bought on a family trip to Venice.

The tree’s quirks – its occasional tilt and its less-than-perfect shape – have made it all the more appealing.

“Some people need a perfect tree,” Gina Mistretta said. “That’s not us. We want something sentimental; colorful.”

The Mistrettas, now retired, have passed on their tradition to their eldest son Joe, who lives in the Bay Area. He and his girlfriend have their own two-foot tall potted tree, and plan to re-use it.

Michael, however, might eventually inherit the tree that started it all. Scotch pines typically live 150 to 300 years, and the Mistrettas have no plan to dump theirs.

“You’ll spread our ashes in it,” Joe Mistretta joked.

Permanent link to this article: https://www.ocregister.com/2017/12/19/theyve-kept-their-christmas-tree-so-long-34-years-its-part-of-the-family/

Person extracted from overturned vehicle in Newport Beach early Sunday

One person had to be extracted from an overturned vehicle after two vehicles crashed in Newport Beach early Sunday morning, Dec. 17.

The crash was reported at 7:12 a.m. at the intersection of Bison Avenue and MacArthur Boulevard, according to Newport Beach firefighters.

One person was extracted from an overturned vehicle, treated by paramedics and transported to an area hospital in an unknown condition.

 

 

Permanent link to this article: http://www.ocregister.com/2017/12/17/person-extracted-from-overturned-vehicle-early-sunday-morning/

Live-in boyfriend arrested on suspicion of Santa Ana woman’s death

A woman who was killed in a Santa Ana apartment above the 4th Street shopping district on Saturday was identified by police Sunday, Dec. 17.

Shannon Pearce Likens, 38, was discovered bleeding and unconscious by police officers at 11:33 a.m. Saturday at 316 W. 4th Street, police said. Paramedics declared her dead at 11:55 a.m. after both police and paramedics tried to save Likens’ life.

At 11:33 a.m. Saturday police received a call about a woman screaming in the 300 block of West Fourth Street in Santa Ana, in an apartment above businesses across from the federal courthouse. (Photo by Mindy Schauer, Orange County Register/SCNG)
At 11:33 a.m. Saturday police received a call about a woman screaming in the 300 block of West Fourth Street in Santa Ana, in an apartment above businesses across from the federal courthouse. (Photo by Mindy Schauer, Orange County Register/SCNG)

Neighbors told police they saw Liken’s live-in boyfriend Prentis John Hill leave the scene.

Police arrested Hill, 39, at 7 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 16, when he went to the emergency room of College Hospital in Costa Mesa seeking treatment. Hill was arrested on suspicion of killing Likens.

No further information was released Sunday.

Permanent link to this article: http://www.ocregister.com/2017/12/17/live-in-boyfriend-arrested-on-suspicion-of-santa-ana-womans-death/

Fire danger high Sunday because of strong winds and dry conditions

Gusts of wind reaching up to 55 miles per hour are expected across Southern California through Sunday night, prompting the National Weather Service to issue fire danger warnings.

The strongest winds are expected below the Cajon Pass in San Bernardino County and in the coastal foothills of the Santa Ana mountains, said National Weather Service meteorologist Derek Schroeter.

Early Sunday gusts of 63 miles per hour were recorded at Freemont Canyon north of Irvine Lake while 58 mile per hour gusts were recorded at Pleasants Peak in Limestone Canyon Regional Park.

The fire danger warning remains in effect until 8 p.m. Sunday, Dec. 17.

The strong wind conditions combined with unseasonably dry conditions create challenging conditions for fighting fires and Southern California residents are asked to be especially mindful when using motorized tools outside. Motorists hauling trailers are urged to be vigilant about not dragging chains and homeowners should not perform landscape work that requires chainsaws or motorized tools.

Much of Southern California has received virtually no rain since the beginning of the rain year which started Oct. 1, meaning chaparral and brush that is normally green by this time of year remains brown and dry – easy tinder for fires.

Southern California has received less than 5 percent the normal level of precipitation for the rain year, Schroeter said.

John Wayne Airport has recorded no measurable rain, while Long Beach has received .07 inches. Riverside has measured only .03 inches of rain, the second driest start to the rain year after a record set in 1929.

“This La Nina is panning out to be the traditional type of La Nina,” Schroeter said. “We’ve had this persistent ridge over the west coast and a trough over the east coast for the last few months.”

That ridge is deflecting storms from the Pacific Ocean north to British Columbia.

The extended dry period may be coming to an end.

The latest climate models show rain on the horizon toward the end of December and beginning of January.

Permanent link to this article: http://www.ocregister.com/2017/12/17/fire-danger-high-sunday-because-of-strong-winds-and-dry-conditions/

Woman killed in apartment on 4th Street shopping area in Santa Ana

 

  • Law enforcement gather outside the Santa Ana apartment building where a woman was killed. Santa Ana police are looking for the assailant, said Santa Ana Cpl. Anthony Bertagna.(Photo by Mindy Schauer, Orange County Register/SCNG)

    Law enforcement gather outside the Santa Ana apartment building where a woman was killed. Santa Ana police are looking for the assailant, said Santa Ana Cpl. Anthony Bertagna.(Photo by Mindy Schauer, Orange County Register/SCNG)

  • The alley behind an apartment building where a women was killedin Santa Ana appears calm as police search for a suspect on Saturday, Dec 16, 2017.(Photo by Mindy Schauer, Orange County Register/SCNG)

    The alley behind an apartment building where a women was killedin Santa Ana appears calm as police search for a suspect on Saturday, Dec 16, 2017.(Photo by Mindy Schauer, Orange County Register/SCNG)

  • Law enforcement gather outside the Santa Ana apartment building where a woman was killed. Santa Ana police are looking for the assailant, said Santa Ana Cpl. Anthony Bertagna.(Photo by Mindy Schauer, Orange County Register/SCNG)

    Law enforcement gather outside the Santa Ana apartment building where a woman was killed. Santa Ana police are looking for the assailant, said Santa Ana Cpl. Anthony Bertagna.(Photo by Mindy Schauer, Orange County Register/SCNG)

of

Expand

A woman was killed in an apartment on Fourth Street in Santa Ana on Saturday morning, police said.

At 11:33 a.m. Saturday police received a call about a woman screaming in the 300 block of West Fourth Street in Santa Ana, in an apartment above businesses across from the federal courthouse.

When officers arrived they found a woman had been killed, said Santa Ana Cpl. Anthony Bertagna. The woman appeared to be in her 30s. It was not immediately known how she was killed.

Santa Ana police said they think they know who the assailant is and are looking for him. Police have not released the suspect’s identity and described him only as an adult man. Officers were reviewing video footage of the area to track down the woman’s attacker.

Fourth Street, also known as Calle Cuatro, is a popular shopping and dining destination in Santa Ana, hosting stores that sell large quinceanera dresses and hip dining destinations.

Shoppers and business owners along the busy street appeared stunned, saying such violence is uncommon for the area especially during the day time.

Teresa Saldivar said Saturday’s killing was the first she remembered in the 32 years that her jewelry shop has been open on Fourth Street.

“Never have we ever had a problem like this,” Saldivar said.

Mary Carnova came from Anaheim to do some Christmas shopping when she stumbled across the crime scene.

“We were surprised because we’ve never seen anything like this, especially here,” Carnova said. “It’s usually so peaceful. Especially here.”

The killing is the second in Santa Ana in less than 24 hours.

On Friday night, a man who had been shot was found unconscious behind the wheel of a crashed pick-up truck. He later died.

At 10:42 p.m., Friday Santa Ana police received calls of a shooting followed by calls of a crash in the area of Bristol Street and McFadden Avenue, said Santa Ana police.

Officers arrived at the 1300 block of South Bristol Street and discovered a man unconscious behind the steering wheel of a truck that crashed on the greenbelt divider of Bristol Street. It appeared that the man had been shot while driving the pick-up truck, said Santa Ana Cpl. Anthony Bertagna.

Paramedics declared the man dead at the scene at 11:06 p.m Friday.

 

Permanent link to this article: http://www.ocregister.com/2017/12/16/female-killed-on-4th-street-in-santa-ana-2nd-homicide-in-less-than-24-hours/

Man who was shot and killed found at crash scene in Santa Ana

A man who had been shot was found unconscious behind the wheel of a crashed pick-up truck, police said Saturday, Dec. 16.

At 10:42 p.m. Friday Santa Ana police received calls of a shooting followed by calls of a crash in the area of Bristol Street and McFadden Avenue, said Santa Ana police.

Officers arrived at the 1300 block of South Bristol Street and discovered a man unconscious behind the steering wheel of a truck that crashed on the greenbelt divider of Bristol Street. It appeared that the man had been shot while driving the pick-up truck, said Santa Ana Cpl. Anthony Bertagna.

Paramedics declared the man dead at the scene at 11:06 p.m Friday.

Police are continuing to search for the shooter. Police withheld the name of the victim pending the notification of his family.

Permanent link to this article: http://www.ocregister.com/2017/12/16/man-who-was-shot-and-killed-found-at-crash-scene-in-santa-ana/

Man hospitalized after police pursuit, crash in Yorba Linda

A man who tried to evade police is at a local hospital after the vehicle he was driving crashed early Saturday, Dec. 16, authorities said.

The brief chase began just before 4 a.m. Saturday when deputies received a call of a man involved in criminal activity, said Orange County Sheriff’s Department Lt. Steve Gil.

As he fled the scene he wrecked a vehicle he was driving near the intersection of Yorba Linda Boulevard and Imperial Highway, Gil said.

The man was taken to an area hospital, where he is in critical condition.

His identity has not been released.

Permanent link to this article: http://www.ocregister.com/2017/12/16/man-hospitalized-after-police-pursuit-crash-in-yorba-linda/