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Oysters To Serve As Biological Sensors In San Diego Estuaries And More Local News

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Oysters could help researchers learn about some of the region's most extreme coastal habitats. San Diego scientists are launching an effort to understand local estuaries. Plus, The San Diego-based Bumble Bee Foods filed for bankruptcy last week. Now, a Taiwan-based firm is planning to buy the tuna fish company’s assets. And, embattled Republican Congressman Duncan Hunter, who faces federal corruption charges, is set to appear in court Monday. What we can expect at the hearing.

Show transcript

Speaker 1: 00:00 It's Monday, November 25th I'm Deb Welsh and you're listening to San Diego news matters from KPBS coming up facing federal corruption charges. Republican Congressman Duncan Hunter is set to appear in court today and to oysters. Could help researchers learn about some of the region's most extreme coastal habitats. We could actually use these sensors in the future to learn more about the environment. So actually use the oysters to tell us something about the environment that more coming up right after the break.

Speaker 2: 00:33 Embattled Republican Congressman Duncan Hunter who faces federal corruption charges is set to appear in court today. KPB as reporter Prius Schreder has more representative Dunkin Hunter is scheduled to stand trial in January on charges that he used more than $250,000 in campaign funds for personal expenses. Today's hearing will focus on a dispute regarding Hunter's trial lawyer. Paul thinks prosecutor's safe thinks should be disqualified due to a conflict of interest. Hunter is pleaded not guilty to all counts. His wife has pleaded guilty to one corruption count and has agreed to cooperate with investigators. Priya, either K PBS news, San Diego based bumblebee foods filed for bankruptcy. Sarah [inaudible] says now a Taiwan based company is planning to buy its assets. Bumblebee foods filed for chapter 11 bankruptcy last week and they have announced an agreement to sell the company to a Taiwanese firm for more than $900 million. This comes more than two years after bumblebee pleaded guilty to price fixing tuna mural COPEC is a lecturer at San Diego state university and the cofounder of bottom line marketing. He says that bubble B's legal battles have contributed to its bankruptcy.

Speaker 3: 01:47 They have $650 million of debt on the books. So with all of that, plus a whole slew of class action lawsuits and individual lawsuits on the horizon, they can't continue to operate even though their revenues are over $1 billion.

Speaker 2: 02:01 For now. The 120 year old company's headquarters still sit in downtown San Diego adjacent to pet go park. Sarah cutsie, Yannis KPBS news. The city council set a goal last year to add special housing units for the homeless and disabled throughout San Diego by 2021 it doesn't look like that goal will be met. I knew source investigative reporter Cody Delaney explains

Speaker 4: 02:25 the October, 2018 resolution which the city council passed unanimously set a goal for 140 permanent supportive housing units in each of the nine council districts. These units have onsite services to help residents with daily living needs. No one expected council members to put on hardhats and build these units themselves. It was about finding land in their districts and coordinating with developers. Councilman Chris ward, who represents downtown started the conversation. This is definitely a city wide challenge that requires citywide solutions and I new source of public records shows that so far these units have been built and only three council districts. Some council members, including Barbara Bree, haven't made any progress, but in her district, which includes the university, city and the Hoya. She says it's not a level playing field.

Speaker 1: 03:15 We can only build them if the land is free. No developer, even a nonprofit developer can afford to pay for land, pay for labor, pay for materials, and make any of these units work.

Speaker 4: 03:30 This rate, it appears unlikely. The council meet the housing goal by 2021 for KPBS. I'm I news source investigative reporter Cody Delaney.

Speaker 5: 03:39 I knew source is an independently funded nonprofit partner of KPBS. A pair of Australian platypuses are the newest exhibit at the San Diego zoo. Safari park, KPBS reporter Eric Anderson says the animals are the only Platypus is on display outside of their native country. The male and female have actually been living in San Diego for just over a month. The Australian government donated the pair of unusual animals to the San Diego zoo after more than a decade of negotiations. Chelsea Martin is the council general at the Australian embassy

Speaker 6: 04:14 as the world's only Island continent. We were surrounded by water for millions of years, which meant that our plants and animals have been able to evolve in an incredibly distinctive way.

Speaker 5: 04:24 It's been more than 60 years since Platypus is were on display in the United States. Eric Anderson KPBS news,

Speaker 2: 04:32 the American civil liberties union is suing the federal government for allegedly violating the first amendment by tracking and interrogating journalists at the us Mexico border for the California report, KQ EDIS. Michelle Wiley explains the suit was filed on behalf of five photo journalists who say they were quote, tracked, detained, and interrogated by the department of Homeland security or DHS in 2018 and 2019 they say reporters were subjected to secondary screenings at the border being compelled to reveal information and sources and in some cases forced to show border patrol officials their photos and notes. Aisha bender, he is an attorney with the ACLU because if journalists can't be free to travel to hotspots around the world or to report on issues that are maybe embarrassing to the government without fear that they'll be singled out for excessive questioning when they return. That's going to really chill them. One of the reporters in the lawsuit has previously worked with KQD. DHS did not immediately respond to a request for comment for the California report. I'm Michelle Wiley. San Diego researchers will Wade into a couple of local estuaries to deliver biological sentinels oysters equipped with sensors that will monitor the bodies of water. KPBS environment reporter Eric Anderson says the scientists hope to understand a habitat that can undergo dramatic changes in a matter of hours.

Speaker 5: 05:59 That's the easy part. Luke Miller holds up an oyster the size of two fists to the rural routine. The San Diego state university researcher is handling the mollusks in a lab on the Scripps institution of oceanography campus. It says, TJ for Miller and Gabriela Callbox are in the midst of attaching magnets to each of the oysters shells. Cover the sensor, but leave the number three. This call, buck is removing the slick coding on the shell of the wild caught oysters. That'll give the glue that holds the sensors a chance to get a strong grip. When the oyster opens its shell to breathe or feed the magnets on. Each shell will separate the sensors attached, measure how much the shell opens and how frequently it happens.

Speaker 1: 06:50 But kind of reading it's giving. There is the, the measurement between this magnet and the sensor. So if I move the sensor around, we can see that reading kinda changes. So right now it's around three 90 but as I move the sensor, it increases

Speaker 5: 07:04 being able to record how often the oyster opens a shell is valuable, especially if researchers could compare the behavior to local water conditions. They want to see how a biological creature reacts to the stress of living in an extreme environment. Scripps institution of oceanography researcher Sarah Giddings says the oysters could help researchers understand how they cope.

Speaker 1: 07:27 An asteroid is a perfect environment to do this study because estuaries are where you have the meeting of the ocean with often river flow or in some cases if no river flow, there's excess heating. What that means is that you have very strong gradients that are much stronger than you see in the open ocean.

Speaker 5: 07:46 Getting says estuaries can lose access to salt water, they can heat up, they can be inundated with nutrients and dissolved oxygen levels in the water can crash in a matter of hours.

Speaker 1: 07:58 And the key thing that we're going to do is make the link to the physical parameters. So the velocity, so the currents that they're feeling, the salinity, the temperature, and importantly the dissolved oxygen that they're experiencing.

Speaker 5: 08:13 Getting's hopes to expand and refine the project. Right now, data recorded by the sensors has to be gathered by hand. Researchers actually go into the field to collect data chips from a small computer that floats above a rope and anchor that holds the oysters. If that information can be transmitted in real time, scientists could record conditions and reactions as they happen.

Speaker 1: 08:36 If we do see a direct response to their environment that we could actually use these sensors in the future to learn more about the environment. So actually use the oysters to tell us something about the environment and start to think about other organisms and other locations where we could deploy them,

Speaker 5: 08:55 are releasing

Speaker 2: 08:56 the oysters in the Los Penasquitos lagoon and the Tijuana river estuary. The mollusks have zip ties glued onto their shelves so they can be attached to a float or anchor that'll give scientists data from the surface and from the estuary floor. Miller says oysters can thrive there, but they also struggle in extreme conditions. And so in those cases, they will tend to just close themselves up, completely seal themselves off from the external environment and it out. Basically wait a couple of hours. Every once in a while they'll open up a little bit and test, draw on a little bit of water, see what it tastes like in some sense, whether there's any oxygen in it. The oysters are photographed before they're released to see how they'll do this winter. And Miller says he expects all of them to come back alive. We've taken these oysters from the original asteroids. I grew up and we're going to put them back in the same estuaries. And so, um, unless conditions get particularly bad during, uh, during the spring and winter and spring periods, especially if the oxygen drops particularly low, we expect that they'll survive just fine. The oysters are being deployed soon in the Tijuana river estuary and there'll be collected this spring. When that happens, scientists will put together datasets that help them understand just how the living creatures were affected by the changes in the local estuaries. Eric Anderson, K PBS news. That's it for San Diego news matters today. Consider supporting this podcast by becoming a KPBS member today. Just go to kpbs.org/membership.

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San Diego News Matters

KPBS' daily news podcast covering local politics, education, health, environment, the border and more. New episodes are ready weekday mornings so you can listen on your morning commute.