According to Wired, "Paired with AI and VR, Google Earth will change the world". But just after its tenth birthday, Google Earth is already changing the world even without AI or VR, simply by giving scientists tools to map the world's problems (NYT). Google Earth Engine has become an emerging tool in environmental monitoring, conservation, water resources, regional planning, epidemiology, forestry, agriculture, climate science, and many other fields:
In 2007, not long after taking the job at Google, Askay flew to Brazil, helping an indigenous tribe, the Surui, map deforestation in their area of the Amazon, and this gave rise to a wider project called Google Earth Engine. With Earth Engine, outside developers and companies [and scientists] can use Google’s enormous network of data centers to run sweeping calculations on the company’s satellite imagery and other environmental data, a digital catalog that dates back more than 40 years.[more inside]
Raimondi had recently found himself undergoing an unexpected and not entirely desirable career shift: He had been thrust into the role of sea star detective. Though he is a marine biologist who divides his time between analyzing data and conducting research trips along the Pacific Coast, Raimondi is not entirely ill suited to the part. There is a private-investigator quality to his round, inquiring face, active eyes, and urgent, impatient voice.
It's common to frame ecology as a science that gets practiced in wild, untraveled areas. But cities have an ecology all their own, and the design of a given city contributes to the diversity of animals that make their homes there. Rats are particularly good at navigating cities, but other species might have a tougher time getting around.
The Flow Hive, the 12 million dollar Indiegogo campaign is a brand new way of keeping bees. But did we need a brand new way? And if we did, is this the right one? Erik Knutzen, co-author with his wife Kelly Coyne of the Urban Homestead and Making It calls the Flow Hive, “A solution in search of a problem.” Bees are in trouble, but the FlowHive only solves problems for the beekeeper, not the bees. [more inside]
The Nautilus and her Corps of Exploration are mapping and exploring ocean features from the Gulf Coast up to British Columbia. Yesterday, they found a whale. You can watch live to see what they find next!
Chris Crowe has a girlfriend. She stands a leggy 5 feet tall, weighs a trim 11 pounds, and sports a set of wings like you’ve never seen. Walnut the white-naped crane is the most genetically distinct endangered crane on the block — which means she needs to have been making babies, like, yesterday. Walnut was raised by humans at a zoo, and as a result, she recognizes and trusts humans — and is deeply hostile to other cranes. How hostile? She killed the two male cranes that her former keepers attempted to pair with her. "I like to jokingly tell people that Walnut ‘allegedly’ killed two male cranes," Crowe says. "It’s not like she was tried and convicted. We don’t know her side of the story."
"In July 1960, Jane Goodall boarded a boat, and after a few hours motoring over the warm, deep waters of Lake Tanganyika, she stepped onto the pebbly beach at Gombe. Last summer, almost exactly 54 years later, Jane Goodall was standing on the same beach. The vast lake was still warm, the beach beneath her clear plastic sandals still pebbly. But nearly everything else in sight was different."
If other horses are the equivalent of feral dogs, then the Przewalski’s horse is a wolf. In its native Mongolia, where it goes by the name takhi, it is known as the father of horses. Mongolians regard the takhi as spiritual, holy animals, and for millennia they largely left them alone... The trouble all began in the late 19th century, when the Western world finally took note of the takhi. Nikolai Przewalski, a Polish-born explorer serving as a colonel in the Russian army, “discovered” the horses during an 1878 expedition to the Mongolian-Chinese frontier. Naturally, Przewalski named the horse after himself, and when he returned to the West, word quickly spread among zoos, adventurers, and curio collectors about the mysterious wild horses.
Writing for The Guardian, Charles Eisenstein argues that regenerative agriculture is crucial to an effective response to climate change, which in his view includes both technological and philosophical shifts: [more inside]
That's right - it's time for Mammal March Madness! "Battle outcome is a function of the two species' attributes within the battle environment. Attributes considered in calculating battle outcome include temperament, weaponry, armor, body mass, fight style, and other fun facts that are relevant to the outcome. These are one on one- head to head combat situations- um except for the mythical mammals that have multiple heads. Some random error has been introduced into calculating battle outcome & the amount of that error is scaled to the disparity in rankings between combatants. Early rounds, the battle occurs in the better-ranked species' habitat (home court advantage). BUT once we get to the ELITE EIGHT, battle location will be random: forest, semi-arid desert, intertidal zone, or snowy tundra." Action kicks off on March 9 with the wildcard match up between the pygmy jerboa and the bumblebee bat (Kitti's Hognosed Bat). You can follow the action on twitter using the hashtag #2015MMM or on the blog Mammals Suck. In the meantime, start filling out your brackets - common names or binomial nomenclature.
The Ecological Society of America will mark its 100th anniversary in 2015, and to celebrate, the ESA is asking people to weigh in with their ideas about the biggest ecological innovations over the past century. Brian McGill at Dynamic Ecology presents a thoughtful summary of the most important concepts and methods over 100 years of ecological research, and many other ecologists are weighing in as well. [more inside]
In this paper, we examine a first-year torque and angular acceleration problem to address a possible use of the forelimbs of Tyrannosaurus rex. A 1/40th-scale model is brought to the classroom to introduce the students to the quandary: given that the forelimbs of T. rex were too short to reach its mouth, what function did the forelimbs serve? This issue crosses several scientific disciplines including paleontology, ecology, and physics, making it a great starting point for thinking “outside the box..." Lipkin and Carpenter have suggested that the forelimbs were used to hold a struggling victim (which had not been dispatched with the first bite) while the final, lethal bite was applied. If that is the case, then the forelimbs must be capable of large angular accelerations α in order to grab the animal attempting to escape. The concepts of the typical first-year physics course are sufficient to test this hypothesis... Naturally, student love solving any problem related to Tyrannosaurus rex.
The folks at the Duke Lemur Center are helpfully offering you the opportunity to figure out: what kind of lemur are you? [more inside]
A genet in Hluhluwe-iMfolozi Park in South Africa has been photographed by camera traps for several weeks running, riding around on the backs of cape buffalo and rhinoceros . Researchers agree: this is weird! (via.) [more inside]
Halfway through my three-week, 417-mile journey down the “most endangered” river in America, the water began flowing backward and the mud started talking. It spoke in baritone gurgles, like Barry White trapped in a bong. You know what this is, John? No, Barry White mud. This is QUICKSAND.
New GM technique injects mosquitoes with a gene that results in mostly male offspring, eventually leading to a population crash. Previous efforts to tackle the disease, that kills more than 1 million people each year – most of whom are African children – have included bed nets to protect people and insecticides to kill the mosquito species most responsible for the transmission of malaria (Anopheles gambiae). The new technique by a team at Imperial College London involves injecting mosquitoes with a gene that causes the vast majority of their offspring to be male, leading to an eventual dramatic decline in population within six generations as females disappear. “You have a short-term benefit because males don’t bite humans [and transmit malaria],” Andrea Crisanti, one of the authors of the new research, which was published in the journal Nature Communications on Tuesday, told the Guardian. “But in the long term you will eventually eradicate or substantially reduce mosquitoes. This could make a substantial contribution to eradicating malaria, combined with other tools such as insecticides.”
These new mosquitoes are now set to be used in Brazil, having been approved for use by the Brazilian government with a factory for their production now opened.[more inside]
With growing fascination for the large land vertebratomorphs that are so startlingly diverse on Tatooine, I secured Imperial funding for an expedition to Tatooine, to survey the exotic megafauna and search for fossils of Tyrannodraconis that might further illuminate their evolution. My ensuing report summarizes my trilogy of investigations and discoveries from this “holiday in the suns." [more inside]
Study says Earth on brink of mass extinction event The new study focused on the rate, not the number, of species disappearing from Earth. It calculated a "death rate" of how many species become extinct each year out of 1 million species. [more inside]
Last November, after five years of remarkable negotiations that unfolded far from the Delta, representatives from the U.S. and Mexico agreed to a complex, multi-part water deal that will give them desperately needed flexibility for weathering the drought. More surprisingly, the two nations will join the team of environmental organizations to release a flood of more than 105,000 acre-feet of water – 3.8 million big-rig tankers' worth – into the Delta's ancient floodplain, and chase it with a smaller, permanent annual flow to sustain the ecosystem.For High Country News, Matt Jenkins describes the most ambitious water sharing plan ever created between Mexico and the United States (single page print version). For much more about this project and the water issues surrounding it, there's Eli Rabett's roundup of John Fleck's blogposts about this. (Or read the tl;dr version by Alex Harrowell.)
It is the unlikeliest of times to pull off a deal like this. Rather than hoarding all the water for themselves in this drought –– the river supplies some 35 million people –– the West's largest water agencies have pledged to send some all the way to the sea. That move is, to some extent, a long-overdue acknowledgment that the U.S. bears responsibility for the impacts its dams have caused beyond its borders. And after years of fruitless court fights in the U.S. by environmental groups, the Mexican government finally insisted that water for the Delta be a cornerstone of the broader deal.
Humans have co-evolved with the resident microbes that call us "home", known as the microbiota, consisting of trillions of cells that colonize our bodies. The microbiota carry out many beneficial functions, such as producing vitamins, aiding in digestion, and protecting against invading microbes, but disruption from antibiotics or delivery by Caesarian section may have consequences for human health. Recently, antibiotic use has been linked with obesity and asthma. Using both human studies and experimentally observed mice, we are beginning to understand how antibiotics may lead to the disappearance of microbes and to identify key microbes that impact our health.[more inside]
Linda Gormezano, a researcher with the American Museum of Natural History, studies polar bear ecology by collecting and analyzing polar bear feces. "One thing I didn’t mention is I don’t find the scat, my dog Quinoa finds it." via.
UN Climate Report: We Must Focus On 'Decarbonization', and It Won't Wreck the Economy - "The basic message is simple: We share a planet. Let's start acting like it." [more inside]
The Guardian has an article describing an upcoming study, funded by NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center and written by a team headed by Safa Motesharrei at the National Socio-Environmental Synthesis Center (SESYNC), discussing the prospect that "global industrial civilization could collapse in coming decades due to unsustainable resource exploitation and increasingly unequal wealth distribution". [more inside]
Network Theory Overview - "The idea: nature and the world of human technology are full of networks! People like to draw diagrams of networks. Mathematical physicists know that in principle these diagrams can be understood using category theory. But why should physicists have all the fun? This is the century of understanding living systems and adapting to life on a finite planet. Math isn't the main thing we need, but it's got to be part of the solution... so one thing we should do is develop a unified and powerful theory of networks." (via ;)
"First time I ever got beat up by a baby moose." -- Maine moose trapper/tagger Wes Livingston gets mauled by an ungrateful juvenile moose on video. [via 9MSN; TW: animal mauling; Livingston is ok] [more inside]
Do you think you could live in 33 square feet? What about a 33 square foot dumpster? Beginning this fall, Professor Dumpster will take up residence in the customized trash bin in order to spread awareness about sustainability and promote the model of "less is more."
The Bangka Belitung islands are a picture postcard tropical paradise, except where the tin is mined. Tin that is used in smartphone solders, and that is responsible for widespread ecological devastation. Following a Friends of the Earth campaign, all of the major manufacturers bar one have acknowledged their role in this destruction, and are seeking improved standards for tin mining. But if you truly want ethical consumer electronics, you'll have to wait for the Fairphone(Fairphone previously).
It seems eco-friendly cargo ships are slowly on the rise. Today i learned there is a full length documentary on Vimeo about one of these sailing vessels, the Tres Hombres; a bittersweet account of a voyage to transport supplies and aid to Haiti after the devastating earthquake: How Captain Longhair saved the World (HD, 42 min.).
Huge collection of books related to permaculture, natural building, food, energy etc. at United Diversity.
Oliver the green moray eel loves to be petted. With small children, a fish popsicle, and commentary about barracudas. (SLYT) [more inside]
Paolo Soleri Is The True Legend Of The Arizona Architecture Scene. print version. Soleri passed away last month at the age of 93. He is best known for the arcology, Arcosanti, in the Arizona desert. Remembering Life in Arcosanti, Paolo Soleri’s Futuristic Desert Utopia [more inside]
Explore different views into this global timelapse built from global, annual composites of Landsat satellite images. Watch change across the planet's surface beginning as early as 1984. See Vegas grow! Rainforests Shrink! Coastlines expand, and lakes vanish!
Scientific American reports: "An isolated population of Arctic foxes that dines only on marine animals seems to be slowly succumbing to mercury poisoning." Though a definitive causal link is difficult to establish, an isolated population of arctic foxes on Russia's Mednyi Island is believed to be collapsing due to mercury contamination as a result of its seafood-heavy diet. Where does all that mercury in the environment come from anyway? Why, it's another biproduct of burning fossil fuels, of course, and predictably, rates of mercury pollution are only expected to increase. In some places in the US, even rainwater is showing high levels of contamination. [more inside]
Key to slowing/stalling/reversal of desertification and climate change? More cows (sort of). Holistic Management advocate and biologist Allan Savory, co-founder of the Savory Institute, discusses the counterintuitive tactic of allowing large herds of animals to free-roam marginal lands. [more inside]
John And Hank Green (previously), amusing youtube teachers of world history and biology have finished the first cycle of their educational series Crash Course (previously) and have wrapped up mini lessons on Literature and Ecology. Now they've just started two brand new series on U.S History and Chemistry (to come). Outtakes.
If you think you can magic us out of the progress trap with new ideas or new technologies, you are wasting your time. If you think that the usual “campaigning” behavior is going to work today where it didn’t work yesterday, you will be wasting your time. If you think the machine can be reformed, tamed, or defanged, you will be wasting your time. If you draw up a great big plan for a better world based on science and rational argument, you will be wasting your time. If you try to live in the past, you will be wasting your time. If you romanticize hunting and gathering or send bombs to computer store owners, you will be wasting your time. And so I ask myself: what, at this moment in history, would not be a waste of my time?
State of the Species: Will the unprecedented success of Homo sapiens lead to an unavoidable downfall? [Via]
Eric Maundu - who comes from Kenya, now lives in West Oakland and is trained in industrial robotics- transforms unused spaces into productive, small aquaponic farms. He has taken the agricultural craft one step further and made his gardens smart. He explores new frontiers of computer-controlled gardening. More information about this story. His company, Kijani Grows. Via faircompanies.com.
The vanishing groves: A chronicle of climates past and a portent of climates to come – the telling rings of the bristlecone pine.
Let's take another look at Chris Wayan's PLANETOCOPIA (previously): A series of detailed conceptions and paintings of vastly different Earths based on differing climates and land mass position. A planet designed to speed up East-West cvilization development! A life-bearing super hot world! An Earth with most of the seas missing! Forever Ice Age Earth! [more inside]
This month we've gone too far, we humans on Earth. "[H]umanity has exhausted nature’s budget for the year. We are now operating in overdraft." [more inside]
Eat the Invaders - Fighting invasive species one bite at a time.
"...by persisting in the false belief that coral reefs have a future, we grossly misallocate the funds needed to cope with the fallout from their collapse." In the New York Times, ecologist Roger Bradbury argues that it's too late to save a big chunk of the Earth's environment, and that we should instead spend our resources getting ready for the challenges we'll face once that part of the world is destroyed. Marine scientists offer varying opinions on how doomed the reefs are, ranging from "Yep, they're doomed" to "If we stopped increasing CO2 concentration in the atmosphere today, they would probably stick around in some more or less degraded form" to "it’s clear to me that corals as a group of living things will almost assuredly* construct glorious reefs in millenniums to come of unimaginable richness."
Bystanders are dwarfed as they stand watching a tremendous rush of water gushing through gaps in a dam in China, part of a carefully-choreographed operation to remove silt from the Yellow River
Pennsylvania has adopted what may be the most anti-democratic, anti-environmental law in the country, giving gas companies the right to drill anywhere, overturn local zoning laws, seize private property and muzzle physicians from disclosing specific health impacts from drilling fluids on patients. This American Life on fracking in Pennsylvania. Fracking: Anatomy of a Free Market Failure. Previously in Pennsylvania. [more inside]