September 10, 2012
We Are Scientists
As environmentally conscious world citizens, “What can I do to help?” is a question that we frequently ask ourselves when the discussion of environmental issues comes up. The National Science Foundation has found a really cool answer- everyday people can work as scientists by helping to collect data for their projects.
Citizen Scientists are:
- Concerned volunteers who collect data and share their observations with full-time scientists.
- People who may or may not have any previous scientific training or background
- People who have a curiosity for learning and a willingness to complete relatively simple tasks (such as monitoring backyard rain gauges, taking pictures of local insects, etc.)
Citizen scientists are invaluable to the scientific community because they not only provide sheer numbers to aide in data collection, but also contribute new insights to on-going questions. A group of Foldit gamers helped generate models that assisted researchers in refining and determining the enzyme structure of an AIDS-like virus which then allowed the researchers to advance their work designing anti-AIDS drugs.
A few places to check out if you’re interested in becoming a citizen scientist are:
The USA National Phenology Network http://www.usanpn.org/
Project Budburst http://neoninc.org/budburst/
Projects Sponsored by the Cornell Lab of Ornithology http://www.birds.cornell.edu/Page.aspx?pid=708
As well as many others about sustainability, lady bugs, and the sky which are linked on the original National Science Foundation Article! A lot of these are great for kids or adults, and there are lots of options for what subject you can be working on and what kinds of activities you can do. Find something that you’re excited about, and get to it!
February 16, 2012
The beauty and fragility of reefs
There’s a wonderful blog post right now on NPR by Robert Krulwich, one-half of the amazing team that produces Radiolab (a show that makes science not just accessible but downright captivating). It talks about sculptors and weavers who’re drawing attention to the beauty and fragility of coral reefs.
This is one of many sculptures by Jason de Caires Taylor, who designs underwater “parks” to relieve tourism from the world’s endangered coral reefs. His sculptures are made out of pH-neutral cement that’s designed to host undersea life.
A new "White Reef" coral reef crochet by Dr. Axt.
Here’s a crocheted coral reef by an artist pseudonymed “Dr. Axt,” a member of The Institute for Figuring, which strives to create and appreciate the beauty in and of natural and mathematical forms.
Lots more photos and intriguing descriptions on the original blog post over at NPR.
February 8, 2012
Sticking up for natural history
The Natural History Network is “a group of educators, researchers, and writers who are passionate about the importance of natural history and natural history education in the development of healthy people, vibrant human communities, and integrated learning institutions.” Its mission: “to promote the value of natural history by discussing and disseminating ideas and techniques on its successful practice to educators, scientists, artists, writers, the media, and the public at large.”
They recorded a bunch of members speaking to why studying natural history is so important. University of Washington professor Julia Parrish talks about how environmental science is considered a “soft science”, for example, but how she believes natural history is just as if not more important than calculus, and why. And Government advisor Gary Machlis talking about how science is civics. And Gary Paul Nabhan (pictured above) talks about how understanding and engaging with natural history is an act of creativity.
And there are lots more. It’s called “Conversations” and it’s a great listen. Especially invigorating for teachers and artists who want to engage with science. Like me.
Fascinating, passionate, and a real shot in the arm.
January 19, 2012
Rethinking beauty: Solar energy
One common complaint about windmill farms and and solar panels is that they’re “ugly.” (I often wonder what these same people think about a factory chimney billowing black smoke from into the air.) Are people afraid of the unfamiliar? Or are they mostly just anesthetized to something they’ve seen their whole lives?
I’m always glad when somebody shows they can be beautiful. GOOD Magazine published these beautiful photos of a solar farm in Le Mées, France, which provides electricity for 9,000 families, built by an energy company called Efinity.
GOOD describes the rolling pastures as being somewhat Frank Gehry-esque, and while I’m not a big Gehry fan, I have to agree: this is pretty stunning.
January 5, 2012
Photographer Mitch Epstein won the third annual Prix Pictet, the recently established Geneva-based photo prize for excellence in environmental photography. The Prix theme in 2011 was “Growth.” (This year, it’s going to be “Power.”)
"Amos Coal Power Plant, Raymond City, West Virginia, 2004," Mitch Epstein
Epstein’s epic images of energy consumption in the United States are truly breathtaking, in all senses of the word.