Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Wednesday Search Challenge (6/4/14): Finding something in the UC system

Lionfish,  Bonaire (Sept, 2013)
AS YOU KNOW already, I'm a SCUBA diver, partial to warm oceans full of brilliant fish and transcendent corals.  

I'm also a Californian and a graduate of the University of California (UC) system.  In fact, it was when I was an undergraduate student at UC Irvine (southern California) that I learned how to use SCUBA, back in the days of Mike Nelson on Sea Hunt, K-valves and double-hose regulators.  My first real dive was in SoCal waters, probably 60F with limited visibilty.  I came back to the gym still in my thick wet suit chilled to the bone.  Luckily, a wet suit also holds warm water from the shower really well, and I recovered enough to go diving again the next day.  And the next.  

A couple of decades later, I'm still at it.  

Some of you might remember last year's Search Challenge about the Parrotfish.  

This is kind of an update on that Challenge.  You might remember that was a difficult research question that needed a lot of care and attention to detail.  

Today's challenge isn't quite like that, but it WILL stretch your ability to search in a new way.  

As an alum of the UC system, I'm really interested in what marine research is going on within the ten campuses of the UC.  None are very far from the Pacific, and I believe they all have some kind of marine biology research program.  

Can you help me out with these Challenges? 

1.  Can you find a talk (or seminar) that will be given somewhere in the UC schools during this week (between June 1 - 7, 2014) on some aspect of corals?  
2.  Remember my affinity for Parrotfish?  Is anyone in the UC system doing research on Parrotfish?  (Can you list their name(s) and what the gist of their research is?  Made-up example:  Dr. Smith at UCSD is studying feeding behavior of Bonarian Parrotfish.)  
3.  Suppose I decide to give up this crazy computer science lifestyle at Google and become a marine biologist. Which of the ten UC campuses has the best marine biology research program that I should join?   (Be sure to say why you believe that, given what you found in search.) 

As always, be sure to tell us HOW you solved these particular Challenges.  We're not racing, so take your time.  

HINT:  There are 10 schools in the UC system.  You should NOT be repeating a query 10 times for each school.  (This is true in general: Anytime you find yourself manually doing something repeatedly, stop and ask "is there a better, more automated way to do this?" Usually the answer is yes.)   

I'll give some discussion about these challenges tomorrow, and another big hint (unless people have figured out the Google-fu needed to pull this one off).  

Search on! 

Dan diving on a wall in Bonaire (Sept, 2013)


  1. Hello Dr. Russell and everyone. This challenge is very interesting and very hard. I don't have a clue about how to solve it.

    Also I have to say that before today I never before thought about these kind of searches. It will be a very useful knowledge when you give the answer, Dr. Russell.

    I'll go to think about the challenge and then try again.

    1. Tried [ intext:coral intext:"university of California" ] in order to find the data for all UC System. Results were not good. I thought that this could work, because all Universities has that name in common.

      Found some data about question 2 and 3 just that I'll need to post after because information is in another device.

    2. That's a reasonable approach, but there's a better way. Check out my post today (Thursday)

  2. Anne and I are also struggling. We are going to call it a day and try again tomorrow. We have tried several strategies all to no avail.

  3. Interesting. I didn't think would be that tough. Can people who are having a tough time with this describe WHY they're having difficulty? (I'd love to know.) Thanks.

    1. In my case tried for example

      [UC corals conference|seminar june] Search tools past month]

      Then I thought about using | with the different UC System Url's. I think that is not the answer.

      Tried Google Scholar to find the researches.

      The hardest part is to search manually in all the campus of UC. I need to find that tool.

    2. Dan, I can see exactly what led Anne and me astray. Instead of starting with a simple search as Paul Lilley did we started out more like Ramon doing a site search within and got no answers. It became very frustrating so we stopped searching. Another lesson learned. Start with a very simple search and see what you can learn from that search. Not sure we would have thought of doing a search on Jeremy Jackson after doing the simple search that Paul did. Think we were too focused on finding a general listing that would show talks at all UC campuses.

      Going back to work on the second question. For the third question we are finding no definitive answer. We have gotten some results that say UC Berkeley, others say UCSB and others that say UCSD. Our question is how do you define best? We are also going to try to work on this some more this am.

  4. To answer question one I had to find out which campuses are part of the UC group. I have found a list of the campuses that make up the University of California
    My next step of finding a seminar, talk, lecture on coral at one or more of these campuses, without searching each campus website is proving difficult. I am spending a lot of time here getting poor results.

    Regarding research I was again turned to Fusion Table Public Data [research marine biology university california] which led me to {Biological Oceanography and Marine Biology}. I found one researcher Russell Schmitt that is currently doing research of reef fish which would include the parrotfish (I assume). It looks promising at least but not complete and I’ve only spent a few minutes on this question so far.

    The final question regarding which Marine Biology School. I have seen for example evaluations based on student enrollment but I think that would only be one of many factors I would consider.
    Again I have only spent a couple minutes on this.

    So question one is where I am at and have been for some time. Have we understood the question correctly. Find a current seminar at one or more of the campuses regarding coral but don’t search each campus one by one.

    1. Ok I think I may be on to something but just need to work with it a bit more. I got thinking that what we need is a Calendar of Events for UC. Oh just a minute we are searching for a Calendar. I wonder if Google Calendar has the ability to import public calendars. I found one for the UCSB (Santa Barbara) and sure enough it was easy to import it. No seminars showed up as needed but this tool my be our ticket. I have never used it before but I will see what I find.

    2. This is a good idea as well, although searching Google Calendars is fairly borked. You CAN import calendars, but searching for them? We don't do a good job of that.

  5. Question 1:
    Talk on degradation of ocean ecosystems including coral reefs at the Bren School of Environmental Science and Management at UC Santa Barbara
    to get here, I queried [seminars "university of california" coral] and found a seminar archive here: which did not have any info, but I knew that Scripps was associated with UCSD. queried [jeremy jackson scripps ucsb] and the first hit was the listing for the June 2 talk (different date than the archive listing).

    Question 2:
    Scripps Master’s student Clinton Edwards, his advisor Jennifer Smith, and their colleagues at the Center for Marine Biodiversity and Conservation at Scripps (UCSB), along with scientists from several international institutions, have pieced together the first global synthesis on the state of plant-eating fish at coral reef sites around the world.
    I could not get a site search to turn anything up regarding parrotfish, so I put in ["university of california" parrotfish] and got this as the first hit: which a quick glance revealed to include parrotfish.

    Question 3:
    here's my take on the "best" Marine Biology program in the UC system: UC-Berkeley. US New and World Report search for best Biological Science program specializing in Ecology/Evolutionary Biology (no marine biology option).

    1. Good answers.

      I disagree with you about Berkeley, but this is a question about which we can disagree! Berkeley is a great school, but their marine bio focus isn't quite what mine is (and they don't quite have the marine bio resources some of the other campuses do).

  6. Here's an interesting current news story about a study/experiment regarding coral reefs in the Florida Keys.

  7. This comment has been removed by the author.

  8. I tried the same ways, and found nothing. Then wondered if the schools urls were unified so tried [coral site:*], hoping the wildcard would match Irvine, Merced, etc. No way (the urls are _not_ unified). Then looked for events in different uc schools but even if I could find a '' page (the talk is not happening Berkeley!), I couldn't find a list of events for the whole UC. Then wondered if I could search google public calendars. When on my calendar page I tried to search for coral on other calendars but it gave no result.I even tried [coral] but it seems not to work this way :) At last I tried in google news, hoping the event would appear in some rss feed. No. We'll see tomorrow

  9. Brute force may be useful :
    ["coral" ~lecture inurl:(berkeley OR ucdavis OR uci OR UCLA OR ucmerced OR ucr OR ucsd OR ucsf OR ucsc OR ucsb) site:edu] (the different abbreviations come from the UC page which has links to the different schools, that all end with .edu) I also tried ~talk and ~seminar and finally got : '' with this event: 2. Ocean Apocalypse Now - BREN Community Colloquium Monday, June 2 / 11:30-12:30 / Bren Hall 1414 (free) in UC Santa Barbara. The presentation says: "Coral reefs are dying, fisheries are collapsing, and formerly productive coastal seas are turning into anoxic dead zones dominated by jellyfish, microbes, and disease. Global climate change exacerbates these problems…". May be the answer but I'm not quite satisfied by the "elegance" of the solution. Tomorrow for the rest.

  10. I began by searching for [ university california system ] the search engine results page (SERP) had The parts of UC which I hoped would help me understand the structure of their web addresses. Unfortunately, the different campuses aren't a subset of the system.

    But it did have sections for their Agriculture and Natural Resources and Research centers. No luck there either.

    After much search term wrangling I searched for [ events seminar "corals" "June * 2014" ] limited to the past month using the search tools and a couple clicks later to:

    The Oceans Today, from Environment to Narrative: A Conversation with Authors Iain McCalman, Stephen and Anthony Palumbi
    "June 2, 2014 5:00 pm
    Please join us for a conversation with authors Iain McCalman, Stephen and Anthony Palumbi to celebrate the publication of their recent books: The Reef: A Passionate History: The Great Barrier Reef from Captain Cook to Climate Change (Iain McCalman) and The Extreme Life of the Sea (Stephen Palumbi and Anthony Palumbi)"

    1. Can't get more coral-ly than then Great Barrier Reef.

    For the next question I searched [ "UC" research parrotfish ] limited to 2013-2014. Studying of parrotfish can be very broad and I had quite a few hits where parrotfish are being studied so I'm going with:

    2. Douglas J. McCauley at UC Santa Barbara How is ecosystem connectivity shaped by community body size distributions?

    Still working on #3.

  11. I just realized my mistake in my answer above. Stanford is not in the University of California system. Back to searching.

    1. But you were close! Good catch on the error, though.

  12. What a difference a day makes! Anne and I just did question #2 and got answers very easily. We are sure we did these same queries yesterday and got no results. Today many results. One difference is the atmosphere in which we are working. Yesterday Anne and I were in our library and it was SO busy. It was loud and we were being constantly needing to stop to assist patrons. This morning it is very quiet and serene. Much easier for us to concentrate. There are several researches in the UC system doing work on parrotfishes. This seems to fit the bill: Clinton Edwards is the lead researcher. The research is about the impact of fishing on fishes, including the parrotfish, which are known to protect the health of coral reefs.

    1. So much for being serene and quiet! That should say there are several researcher not researches!

    2. That's a good answer for the seminar question. How did you find it?

    3. To get our research answer we used the KISS method and searched for "university of california" research parrotfish and the first result that came up for us was: There were some other promising results but they were earlier, so we went for this one.
      The first question is driving us batty! We really feel like we should be using the site limiter but not having any good results. But we just got this result (pay attention if you like cauliflower coral!): Then did a control F to search for coral and there it was Tues. June 10 - Department of Ecology, Evolution and Marine Biology Seminar "The effects of elevated ocean acidity and temperature on the physiological integrity of the larvae of the cauliflower coral, Pocillopora damicornis" Emily Rivest, EEMB, UCSB
      The funniest thing is we actually found this by doing something incorrectly! We used the site limiter with along with the search terms calendar seminar coral BUT I mistakenly left a space after the colon and uni...and got the result above tried doing the search the right way but that didn't lead to any meaningful results.

  13. This challenge is either very simple or very difficult. I tried using Google Calendars but I can’t find anyway to drop all UC systems seminars in my public calendars. I’m glad it was tried by
    Passager as well. Deadend nevertheless.

    Now Paul did a great job finding answers in ways most of us would approach these challenges. Paul you took it a step further than I did in regards to Jeremy Jackson. I found the list with his seminar for June 2 2014 but when I saw it was labelled TBA I jumped to the wrong conclusion thinking it was likely cancelled and I dropped it.

    After saying all of this I realize that I was searching for a tool like Ramón & the Debbie/Anne Librarian Team. I think the keyword search by Paul worked beautifully but I don’t think that would fit the bill according to our challenge. This is a Google-fu (I had to look that up) challenge & we’ve been challenged to find this Google-fu. We want a tool that will take related websites such as UC and the 10 campuses and pull the information from all these sites in one go, right? Keyword searches are something we do all the time. This challenge is different because we’ve never seen “the Google-fu needed to pull this one off”. I don’t think we have found the illusive Google-fu, yet.

    1. Rosemary totally agree with you. This one is just stumping us! Rosemary love our name! We can always tell how tough a challenge is by how many answers there are. Not too many of us answering this one. Really looking forward to the solution.


  14. Question 1: YES

    SEARCH [seminar talk lecture presentation ocean california june 2014] points to which in turn points to which is The Bren School of Environmental Science and Management/University of California Santa Barbara

    Announces: A Community Colloquium "Ocean Apocolypse Now" Monday June 2 2014 11:30 - 12:30 Bren Hall 1414

    Abstract (in part)
    Overfishing, pollution, and climate change are massively degrading ocean ecosystems, with alarming implications for biodiversity and human well-being. CORAL reefs are dying, fisheries are collapsing, and formerly productive coastal seas are turning into anoxic dead zones dominated by jellyfish, microbes, and disease.

    And another one which may be pertinant at Scripps Institution of Oceanography:[0]=bundle_name%3AEvents

    Marine Biology Seminar: Yoan Eynaud, SIO
    06/06/2014- 12:15pm to 1:00pm Hubbs Hall 4500 ...

    Question 2: YES

    SEARCH [university california parrotfish] points to

    'Fishy lawnmowers' help save coral reefs' Andrew Brooks and others from the University of California Santa Barbara have found that certain fish may help coral reefs recover from cyclones and predators...Brooks explained: "In effect, the large numbers of parrotfish and surgeonfish are acting like thousands of fishy lawnmowers, keeping the algae cropped down to levels low enough that there is still space for new baby corals to settle onto the reef and begin to grow."


    Scripps Leads First Global Snapshot of Key Coral Reef Fishes / Beyond their natural beauty and tourist-attraction qualities, coral reefs offer economic value estimated at billions of dollars for societies around the world. Scripps Master’s student Clinton Edwards, his advisor Jennifer Smith, and their colleagues at the Center for Marine Biodiversity and Conservation at Scripps, along with scientists from several international institutions, have pieced together the first global synthesis on the state of plant-eating fish at coral reef sites around the world. These herbivorous fish populations are vital to coral reef health due to their role in consuming seaweed, making them known informally as the “lawnmowers” of the reef. Without the lawnmowers, seaweeds can overgrow and out-compete corals, drastically affecting the reef ecosystem.

    Question 3:
    Clearly UC San Diego with Scripps Institution of Oceanography. World reknowned. I think you'd be enroll in the Scientific Diving Program.

    "The Scientific Diving Program at the Scripps Institution of Oceanography at UC San Diego is the oldest and one of the largest research support programs of its kind in the United States.

    The program trains and supports the university's scientists, students, and technicians in the use of underwater techniques and technology necessary to safely conduct their research in underwater environments."

    Another Great Challenge


  15. an exploratory toe in the water ?? - later this month (not from the mammoth UC system UCOP)

    fwiw: this serves as a quasi clearinghouse for UC events/news - UC Newsroom/twitter
    searched [ocean lecture] scrolled to
    wrong coast & date, but this would have interesting (& a "Russell") Lynn M. Russell is a Professor of Atmospheric Chemistry at the Scripps Institution of Oceanography of the University of California, San Diego
    and this, in Canada: Fukushima

    on the upside, I did discover that 'gwrach' can mean 'wrasse' which covers the Scaridae and may shed some light on how the Parrotfishes
    'magically create' white beach sand… outside that, I am adrift in the doldrums/ITCZ regarding this challenge. Was prompted by Rosemary's
    link to have a literal look at Mission 31 and have included a few other items that may be of interest to the curious or other doldrum inhabitants…
    back to The Coral Island

    live view FIU
    other live, including interior
    Fabien, twitter
    Mission 31 fb
    how to grow a coral reef, from Fabien's fb

    re: parrot fish, corals & UCSB… Fishy lawnmower
    note the PLoS ONE (decade study) link.
    re: school selection - with all due respect to the UC system and all the other fine U.S. institutions; if you inexplicably wandered from the
    'Plex it might be worth expanding the parameters past the West Coast and heading down under to go down under… JCU, mate
    note the 'Ghost fish/Red Lionfish article/research
    Mark Ian McCormick
    Oona Lönnstedt - who would guess that would lead to Saskatoon, Saskatchewan

    …while waiting for the acceptance notice: The Coral Island online, HTML
    the above/below interface can still be dicey, watch the toes