On an overcast day in April, Stuart Weiss
stood in the rolling hills of a Bay Area nature preserve and hefted a bag of nitrogen-based fertilizer onto his
The heavy sack, the Menlo Park ecologist told a small crowd gathered around him, symbolized the release of more and more nitrogen into the Earth's air, land and water - and the insidious environmental changes the potent fertilizer is causing around the globe.
"I call it the biggest global change that nobody has ever heard of," said Weiss
, who conducted research showing that nitrogen from vehicle exhaust on a nearby freeway led to the demise of a threatened butterfly population in Redwood City.
"The planet has never seen this much nitrogen at any time."
...Weiss, a Stanford University-trained scientist, focuses his efforts on researching nitrogen's effects on ecosystems.But he also is an advocate for more regulation.
Toward that end, Weiss
eschews science-speak in addressing the public and offers up memorable sound bites and photo ops, like his
bag of fertilizer.He
refers to the demise of the bay checkerspot butterfly in Redwood City as "a drive-by extinction."
Reaching policymakers and the public with an easy-to-grasp message has been a challenge, Holland said.
"The scientific evidence for this being a problem is really accumulating," she