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!


March 2, 2012

Skype Interview with Dan Domingues, Actor in The Great Immensity

The next interviewee in our Skype Interview Series is Dan Domingues, a Civilians Associate Artist and an actor in The Great Immensity at Kansas City Repertory Theatre! He’s been with the project since its first reading at Princeton (that The Civilians did through a cross-disciplinary residency in the Princeton Environmental Institute and the Atelier). Hear his insights into the development of the show, and how working with this material has affected his commitment to the environment!

DAN DOMINGUES

Interview conducted by Alix Lambert. Alix Lambert is an artist, author and filmmaker. She is an Associate Artist of The Civilians and is conducting this ongoing series of interviews for The Great Immensity. Please click HERE for more of her interviews in this series!


February 21, 2012

What have you or your community done in the past year to respond to the environmental crisis?

We want to hear from you! Please leave us a comment about the things that you or your community have been doing to respond to the environmental crisis. Did you start a recycling program at your or your children’s school? Did you participate in a trash pick-up on your block or start a conversation about cleaner energy at your neighborhood association meeting? Have you found an environmental blog that you read to keep updated on news or policy? Share your ideas, lend some inspiration, and let us in on what’s been working for you!


February 16, 2012

CSI: Invasive Species

This is a marvelous development in protecting and conserving biodiversity from the Percolator blog of the Chronicle for Higher Education.

Some new research by British scientists suggests that an investigative tool used to help cops find criminals can also help locate the sources of invasive species. (Invasive species are generally considered the second largest cause of biodiversity loss, right after habitat destruction.  Think Asian carp, Nile perch, Real Housewives.  (Just kidding about the last one.)  Anyway:

The tool, known as geographic profiling, has also been used to find patterns in the foraging of animals and the spread of infectious disease.

In criminology, geographic profiling won’t magically point to a serial criminal’s hideout. But it can help determine the probability of where a criminal may live.  To see if it would work on invasive species, the team used a series of computer simulations to compare it with other mathematical methods.

The researchers applied geographic profiling to historical data on 53 species that have invaded Britain: daddy-long-legs spiders, Pacific oysters, Norway spruce trees, and giant hogweed — a noxious weed that can get up to a dozen feet tall and can cause blistering and blindness.

This plant is a giant hogweed, whose spread may be thwarted with geographical profiling. It causes blistering and blindness. It is pretty sinister, come to think of it. Get it off the streets!

In criminology, geographic profiling has two rules of thumb: 1) The probability of a crime decreases with distance from the criminal’s “anchor point,”, like a home or office.  2) There’s a “buffer zone” of lower activity around the criminal’s base. The zone is set partly by the rules of plane geometry and partly because criminals avoid activity near their homes, lest they be discovered.

Turns out invasive species’ spread patterns have similar mathematical properties to criminal-activity patterns: the farther the invasive species are from their source, the more opportunities they have to prosper.  And in some species, the “buffer zone” has even more makes a great deal of sense: for instance, trees from seeds that fall in the shade of the trees’ parents may not do as well as the seeds that make it out to sunnier places.

We can just see the scientists putting on their shades and uttering invasive species one-liners.


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.

 

 


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