Category Archives: Environment

Science Cafe Raleigh: Rain Forests – Going, Going, Gone?

Happy New Year! We are excited to be starting a new year of science cafes. Our January Science Café (description below) will be held on Tuesday 1/18 at Tir Na Nog on South Blount Street. Our speaker for the evening will be Dr. Meg Lowman, Director of the Nature Research Center (a new wing of the Museum of Natural Sciences currently under construction). Dr. Lowman is a world famous canopy researcher. To learn more about her and her work please see the information listed below (be sure to look at her website). We will have a fun and informative discussion about the amazing (and sometimes strange) diversity of life that can be found in the earth’s rainforests as well as how researchers have figured out ways to study sometimes elusive plants and animals. We will talk about the importance of what is being discovered in the rainforests and how these discoveries can affect our way of life. I hope that many of you can come.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

6:30-8:30 p.m. with discussion beginning at 7:00 followed by Q&A
Tir Na Nog, 218 South Blount Street, Raleigh, 833-7795

Every child grows up with a sense of awe about tropical forests — extraordinary creatures including poison dart frogs, sloths, orchids and jaguars representing a veritable treasure-trove of biodiversity. But scientists estimate that more than half of Africa’s rain forests are gone, with at least 40 percent losses in Asia and Latin America and 95 percent in Madagascar. Even with new technologies, measuring tropical deforestation is not easy, and illegal logging is epidemic in many parts of the world. What is the prognosis for the future of tropical rain forests? And how will human beings fare if these vital ecosystems disappear? What essential services do tropical forests provide for the planet, and how can we conserve them for our children?

About our speaker:

Dr. Meg Lowman ( is Director of the Nature Research Center, North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences and a research professor at NC State University. Over the past three decades, “Canopy Meg” has earned an international reputation as a pioneer in forest canopy ecology, tropical rain forest conservation, and for designing canopy access tools including ropes, hot-air balloons, walkways and construction cranes. Equipped with degrees in biology, ecology and botany, Lowman developed her childhood interest of building tree forts into mapping canopy biodiversity worldwide and spearheading the construction of canopy walkways in tropical forests for conservation. She uses science education to influence government policy and encourage environmental stewardship. Her book, “Life in the Treetops,” earned a cover review in the New York Times Sunday Book Review.


My readers are most likely to know Andrew Bleiman as my SciBling from the Zooillogix blog, a witty and fun blog about animals and curious things they do. You may not be aware that he also runs a blog called Zooborns which highlights the animal babies.

Recently, Andrew teamed up with photographer Chris Eastland and produced two books of Zooborns – one, ZooBorns for a little bit bigger children, and the other, ZooBorns!: Zoo Babies from Around the World, for very little kids. Let’s say the first is for kids who can read on their own, and the latter for kids who need to be read to.

When the books arrived the other day, we read them together, the whole family. Actually, “reading” may be an overstatement. We were loudly oooooohing and aaaaaaahing at each page. Those baby animals are sooooo cute!

Of course, that’s the point! Hook ’em young with charismatic megafauna! Or even better – with irresistible babies of animals not usually deemed ‘charismatic’. Perhaps they will want to learn more when they grow up – the information provided in the books is a great hook to get them to want to learn more. Or they will grow up being aware of conservation efforts. Or they will keep us elders hostage by constantly nagging us to keep those species around for a couple of decades more so they can go and see them when they grow up!

On that last point, the books can help you a little bit as 10% of proceeds from the sale of every book goes to support the AZA’s (Association of Zoos and Aquariums) Conservation Endowment Fund.

Holidays are coming soon. If you were wondering what presents to get the small and big children in your family, now you know – a bunch of copies of ZooBorns! books!

Look Up! The Billion-Bug Highway You Can’t See (video)

The Majestic Plastic Bag – A Mockumentary (video)

How Do Underwater Oil Plumes Form? (video)

At the Museum: bonobos and bioluminescence

Two great lectures at the North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences:

1. Museum hosts presentation on ‘Bioluminescence Below the Bahamas’

RALEIGH ― Join Duke University biologist Sonke Johnsen for a detailed look into the world of marine bioluminescence and its use as an adaptation to help organisms hide, hunt and communicate. Johnsen’s multimedia presentation, “Deep Light: Bioluminescence and Vision 2,000 Feet below the Bahamas,” takes place at the North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences on Thursday, August 12 at 7pm. Free.

Johnsen is associate professor of biology and director of The Johnsen Lab at Duke, which studies bioluminescence ― an organism’s ability to produce its own light ― and other aspects of visual ecology. He recently participated in an inaugural survey of deep-sea floor bioluminescence and continues to collaborate with Edith Widder, bioluminescence expert and a former curator of GLOW: Living Lights, the first-ever museum exhibit to explore the phenomenon of bioluminescence. Now showing at the Museum of Natural Sciences, this exhibit reveals the world of light-producing terrestrial organisms, from fireflies to foxfire fungus, before traveling to the mid-ocean, where an estimated 90 percent of animals produce light. GLOW runs through September 12.

Adult tickets to GLOW are available at a discounted rate on these evenings, with tickets sold from 5 to 6:30pm. For more information, visit


2. Vanessa Woods to discuss “Bonobo Handshake” at Museum of Natural Sciences

In the midst of the war-torn Congo, there exists a peaceful society in which females are in charge, war is nonexistent, and sex is as common and friendly as a handshake. Welcome to the world of bonobos, a rare ape with whom we share 98.7 percent of our DNA. On Thursday, August 19 at 6:30pm, join author and Duke University scientist Vanessa Woods for a detailed discussion of her new book, “Bonobo Handshake,” at the NC Museum of Natural Sciences in downtown Raleigh. Free.

“For thousands of years, we have wondered what makes us human,” says Woods. “To find the answer, we study our closest living relatives, chimpanzees and more recently, bonobos. Neither species is easy to study, but bonobos are particularly difficult, being the world’s most endangered ape in the world’s most dangerous country. But this makes them all the more important, and bonobos could not only unlock the secret of what makes us human, but also teach us how being a little less human could go a long way.” Woods will be signing copies of her book in the Museum Store prior to her lecture.

Woods is an internationally published author and journalist and is the main Australian/ New Zealand feature writer for the Discovery Channel. She graduated with a Masters of Science Communication from the Centre for the Public Awareness of Science at the Australian National University and has written for various publications including BBC Wildlife, New Scientist, and Travel Africa. In 2003, Woods won the Australasian Science award for journalism. In 2007, her children’s book on space was named an Acclaimed Book by the UK Royal Society and shortlisted for the Royal Society’s Junior Science Book Prize.

BP Slick Covers Dolphins and Whales (video)

Hat-tip: everybody seems to link/embed this today….

President Maddow’s Fake Oval Office Address on BP Oil Spill & Energy (video)

In response to President Obama’s Oval Office Address on BP Oil Spill & Energy:

Deepwater Horizon oil spill interrupted bluefin tuna spawning

According to a new paper showing temporal and spatial patterns of migratory routes and spawning grounds of bluefin tuna, they were in the Gulf of Mexico spawning at the moment the oil well exploded and all that oil started gushing out (and then dispersed with toxic chemicals).
Nobody is fishing there now, and no professional media or amateur reporting or photography are allowed, but I am assuming some of the radiotransmitters in some of the individuals may still be operational and that data from the area, during the spill, will become available in the future.

Whaling – Politics, Science & Ethics

The new forum at PRI World Science:

Listen to a story by reporter Eric Niiler, followed by our interview with Stephen Palumbi.
Our guest in the Science Forum is marine biologist Stephen Palumbi of Stanford University. He uses genetics to study whale populations.
The International Whaling Commission is considering legalizing commercial whaling by some countries, but at a very limited scale. Palumbi says that the current proposal would fail to protect endangered whale species.
You can ask Palumbi your own questions. Join the conversation. It’s just to the right.
* Do you think all whaling should be banned? Why?
* What role can lay citizens play in conserving whales?
* How can modern genetic techniques be used to crack down on whale smuggling?

Save the Panda (video)

Amateur Video Of Gulf Oil Slick – Worse Than BP Admits


Beautiful Antarctica feature on BoingBoing

Maggie Koerth-Baker, who I finally met in person at AAAS meeting, just designed an amazing feature on BoingBoing – the Antarctica:

It’s about the Antarctic Geospatial Information Center, a group of researchers based at the University of Minnesota who do the information processing and visualization that makes other research on the Frozen Continent possible. The story features some great details about life in Antarctica and tons of photos taken by the AGIC crew.
Quick fun fact: Do you know how researchers use satellite images to find packs of penguins? Turns out, they look for huge smears of brownish-red penguin poop across the white landscape.

It is wide – scroll the page left and right, not just up and down. Look at the amazing pictures, and read the long comment thread at the bottom.

Environmentally friendly chico bags

We bought a couple of these recently and use them for all our grocery shopping. They are environmentally friendly, strong chico bags, tiny when wrapped up (and easy to wrap up) and large when opened up:
chico bag.jpg
Conflict of Interest: this is Bride of Coturnix’s store (look around for other items). Every item sold puts money in our joint account. Which is good for me as I am owing tons in taxes…..

Science Cafe Raleigh: Clash of the Titans; Energy, Environment, and the Economy

Our April Science Café (description below) will be held on Tuesday 4/20 at the Irregardless Cafe on Morgan Street. Our café speaker for that night is Rogelio Sullivan, Associate Director of the Advanced Transportation Energy Center and also of the Future Renewable Electric Energy Delivery and Management Systems Center (FREEDM) at NCSU. Come and learn how our country is dealing with our ever-increasing energy consumption, and of ways that we may be able to reduce our dependence on foreign oil using a combination of innovative alternative energy cars and changes in our daily transportation habits.
Clash of the Titans; Energy, Environment, and the Economy
Tuesday, April 20, 2010
Time: 6:30 – 8:30 pm with discussions beginning at 7:00 followed by Q&A
Location: The Irregardless Café, 901 W. Morgan Street, Raleigh 833-8898
There are approximately 250 million cars on U.S. roads today, fueled primarily by imported oil, and demand is growing. The electric utilities are in the midst of a “Smart Grid” revolution, driven by new technology, increased demand, and need for higher reliability and security. The U.S. government, along with the auto and electric utility industries, are currently striving for electrification of the transportation sector by way of plug-in hybrid and all-electric vehicles. All-electric vehicles can provide significant oil savings, improved air quality, reduced energy costs to consumers, increased energy diversity, and support for the electric grid. But are U.S. drivers ready to go all electric?
About the Speaker:
Rogelio Sullivan is the Associate Director of the Advanced Transportation Energy Center and also of the Future Renewable Electric Energy Delivery and Management Systems Center (FREEDM) at NCSU. The two research centers are working in partnership with industry to develop technologies that can effectively create the “energy internet”; which will support widespread utilization of renewable energy, plug in electric vehicles, and greater consumer participation in the energy marketplace. Mr. Sullivan is an engineer with more than 20 years of research and development management experience in advanced transportation systems such as hybrids, batteries, lightweight materials, advanced combustion engines, and vehicle auxiliary systems.
PS. Please RSVP if you can come – it is very helpful for restaurant preparations if my estimate for them is as accurate as possible:

Cooling the Planet with Geoengineering

At World Science – listen to the podcast and join the online discussion:

Our guest in this Science Forum is economist Scott Barrett of Columbia University’s Earth Institute. Chat with Barrett about the science and politics of geoengineering, the emerging field of science aimed at cooling the planet.
Barrett is an expert on international environmental agreements. He is currently studying the politics and economics of geoengineering. He says countries are more likely to geoengineer climate than reduce their carbon emissions. Read his paper on The Incredible Economics of Geoengineering.
Barrett is the author of Environment and Statecraft: The Strategy of Environmental Treaty-Making. (Here’s a review of the book.) Barrett also blogs for Yale Global Online.
Bring your own questions and comments for Scott Barrett. He’s here in the forum through April 19th. The conversation is just to the right.

Primate Palooza at Duke – meet the bonobos

From Duke: Bonobo Rescue Leader to Headline Primate Palooza:

DURHAM, N.C. — Internationally renowned conservationist Claudine André will visit Duke University April 14-18 as part of the “Primate Palooza,” an effort to raise awareness for our primate relatives.
André founded and runs the world’s only sanctuary and release program for orphaned bonobos in the Democratic Republic of Congo. Bonobos, like chimpanzees, are our closest living relative and are highly endangered. However, unlike chimpanzees and humans, bonobos are the only ape that has found a way to maintain peace in their groups.
When bonobos have a disagreement with each other they tend to hug or share food instead of having a fight. Bonobos have never been observed to kill each other and females cooperate to prevent males from bullying smaller bonobos. Ironically, this peaceful ape only lives in one country, the Democratic Republic of Congo, which has been torn apart by almost a decade of war that has killed more than five million people.
André was given an orphan bonobo called Mikeno when she was caring for abandoned animals at the Kinshasa zoo during the war. She collected food from local restaurants to feed Mikeno and other starving animals while starting kindness clubs to teach Congolese children about animals. Further north, soldiers were shooting bonobos for food, and before long, she was flooded with bonobo orphans.
“I wanted a paradise for my bonobos,” Claudine says. “Somewhere they would always be fed and taken care of. Somewhere they could always see the sky.”
She established Lola ya Bonobo in 2001 in a forest just outside Kinshasa, the capital city of Congo. Since the sanctuary has opened her non-profit “friends of bonobos” has funded the visits of tens of thousands of children to the bonobo sanctuary.
In 2009, André enlisted the help of Duke students and faculty in the Evolutionary Anthropology Department to aid her efforts to release bonobos orphaned by the illegal pet and bush meat trade back into the wild.
“Having Claudine here at Duke is a wonderful opportunity to share with students and the general public the difference a single individual can make,” says Duke researcher Brian Hare. “Claudine has done more for bonobo conservation than anyone else in the world. If you want to meet a conservation heroine this is your chance.”
Duke’s Primate Palooza will run from April 14th – 17th. The main events open to the public are as follows:
Primate Symposium: Why you need to know you are a primate
5-8 p.m., Wednesday, April 14
Duke faculty studying primates will discuss how knowing you’re a primate can improve your life. Keynote speaker Claudine André will speak about her work saving bonobos and defending the world’s last great tropical forest in the Congo Basin. A silent auction including Duke Men’s basketball, Duke Lemur Center, and Bonobo memorabilia will be held to benefit “Friends of Bonobos.”
Love Auditorium
Levine Research Science Center
308 Research Drive
Duke University
Durham, NC, 27708
Public Parking available in Bryan Center on Science Drive a short walk from Center
Contact: Kara Schroepfer,, 919-943-3482
A night with Claudine André and the bonobos of Congo
6:30 – 7:30 p.m., Thursday, April 15
Durham Museum of Life and Science
433 Murray Avenue, Durham, NC 27704
Contact: Darcy Lewandowski,, (919) 220 -5429 x372

I cannot make it to the talk on Wednesday, but I’ll probably go to the Museum event on Thursday. Go if you can – this is likely to be awesome.

Four things everyone needs to know about sharks (video)

A shark conservation documentary and lesson plan, made by David Shiffman of Southern Fried Science.

The Ecological and Economic Importance of Sharks, Threats They Face, and How You Can Help (CANCELLED)

From the NC Museum of Life Sciences:

Program Type: Science Talk
Date: Mar. 9, 7 pm – Mar. 9, 8 pm
Location: Museum of Natural Sciences – Auditorium
Fee: $6 General Public, $4 Members, $3 Students
The Ecological and Economic Importance of Sharks, Threats They Face, and How You Can Help
Lecture, slide show & video presentation by marine biologist David Shiffman
David Shiffman and friendShiffman graduated with distinction in Biology from Duke and is now a Masters in Marine Biology candidate at the College of Charleston in South Carolina. His research focuses on the feeding behavior and conservation of sandbar sharks. Shiffman is also a prolific writer for Southern Fried Science, one of the most widely read marine biology blogs on the internet.
Seating is limited. Reserve your seat now for this multimedia presentation by visiting or calling the Museum Box Office at 919.733.7450 x212. Fee: $6 for general public (discounts for Museum Members and Students).
The Museum’s current special exhibit, “Megalodon: Largest Shark that Ever Lived,” will be open from 5 to 7pm prior to the presentation. At 60 feet long and weighing nearly 100 tons, Carcharodon megalodon was the most powerful fish that ever lived and a dominant marine predator. While the Megalodon vanished 2 million years ago, its fascinating story continues to inspire lessons for contemporary science and shark conservation. “Megalodon” runs through May 9, 2010. Fee: $7 Adults; $5 Seniors/Students; $4 Children (5-11); free to Members.

Avatar in the Amazon (video)

If there were ever a place that came close to the magical world of Pandora in James Cameron’s new film Avatar, it would probably be the Amazon. There may not be butterflies that look like flying squid, but in the Amazon can you eat giant worms and lemon flavored ants for dinner in a forest that is home to both the jaguar and the pink dolphin. Reporter Melaina Spitzer joined a group of indigenous leaders from the Amazon in Ecuador’s capital Quito, to see Avatar on the big screen in 3D.

I heard the story on PRI’s The World this afternoon. Glad to see there is also a video. Interesting….

Creation: A Conversation with Darwin’s Descendant

This week on PRI/BBC World Science:

This month, the movie Creation opened in theaters across the United States.
The film chronicles the life and work of Charles Darwin.
The movie is directed by Jon Amiel. Paul Bettany stars as Darwin. Jennfer Connelly plays Darwin’s wife, Emma.
Creation is based on a biography written by Charles Darwin’s great great grandson, Randal Keynes.
Keynes is a conservation biologist who lives in London.
The World’s science correspondent, Rhitu Chatterjee, spoke with Keynes about his famous ancestor and the experience of seeing his book turned into a movie.
Listen to that interview here: Download MP3.
Now it’s your turn to chat with Randal Keynes. Join the conversation — it’s just to the right.
* Did Keynes’s famous pedigree prompt his decision to become a conservation biologist?
* What is it like for Keynes to see the species Darwin studied — in the Galapagos, for instance — threatened with extinction?
* Have you seen the movie Creation? Did it change your view of Darwin as a man?

Ecology, conservation, and restoration of oyster reefs in North Carolina

On Tuesday I went to the monthly pizza lunch at Sigma Xi, featuring a guest lecture by Dr. David B. Eggleston, Professor of Marine, Earth and Atmospheric Science at North Carolina State University and the Director of Center for Marine Sciences and Technology (CMAST).
I posted a brief summary of the talk on the Science In The Triangle blog.

Sigma Xi Pizza Lunch – conserving and restoring North Carolina coastal ecosystems

Our first 2010 American Scientist pizza lunch is scheduled for noon, Tuesday, Jan. 26. at Sigma Xi in Research Triangle Park. No doubt you’ve heard about the many forces degrading coastlines. This time we’ll hear from someone intimately involved with the challenges of conserving and restoring North Carolina coastal ecosystems, especially oyster reefs. That would be David Eggelston, a marine biologist and director of the Center for Marine Science and Technology at N.C. State University.
American Scientist Pizza Lunch is free and open to science journalists and science communicators of all stripes. Feel free to forward this message to anyone who might want to attend. RSVPs are required (for an accurate slice count) to cclabbyATamsciDOTorg
Directions to Sigma Xi:
Regarding scheduling: As you’ve noticed, pizza lunch talk dates haven’t been held on consistent dates this year. While we’ve aimed for the third Tuesday of each month, we work within some constraints, including the availability of meeting space, our speakers’ schedules and, most important to a few of us, the production schedule of our magazine. So you can plan in advance, here are the Pizza Lunch talk dates for coming months: Feb. 18, March 30 and April 20.
And remember, if you have to miss, you can always catch up by downloading podcasts of the talks at:

Big Question: Feast or famine? (video)

The Story of Cap & Trade (video)

The Astonishing Existence of Life on the Deep Sea Floor

Next Sigma Xi pizza lunch science talk:

Pizza lunch returns at noon, Tuesday, Dec. 15 with a talk by marine biologist Craig R. McClain, assistant director of science for the National Evolutionary Synthesis Center in Durham. McClain conducts deep-sea research and has participated in expeditions to the Antarctic and to remote regions of the Pacific and Atlantic. Expect him to dive into puzzling realms with his talk: An Empire Lacking Food: The Astonishing Existence of Life on the Deep Sea Floor.
American Scientist Pizza Lunch is free and open to science journalists and science communicators of all stripes. Feel free to forward this message to anyone who might want to attend. RSVPs are required (for a reliable slice count) to
Directions to Sigma Xi:

The Story of Stuff (video)

Forum: Preventing Future Bhopals

It was 25 years ago yesterday that thousands dies in the Bhopal disaster.
Yesterday, Rhitu Chatterjee did the story about it (listen or read the transcript) on PRI The World.
Also yesterday, Rhittu and Elsa Youngsteadt interviewed Henrik Selin of Boston University about the topic (download the MP3 of the podcast here) and you can ask questions and join the discussion in the forums. Dr. Selin will be checking in and responding from now until next Thursday, December 10th.

Alternative energy sources and the US power grid

From Sigma Xi and SCONC:

American Scientist Pizza Lunch convenes again at noon, Tuesday, Nov. 24 at Sigma Xi’s headquarters in Research Triangle Park.
The speaker will be Alex Huang, a professor of electrical and computer engineering at NC State University. Prof. Huang is directly engaged with trying to reduce this country’s dependence on carbon-emitting fossil fuels. He directs a national research center working on a redesign of the nation’s power grid to better integrate alternative energy sources and new storage methods.
American Scientist Pizza Lunch is free and open to science journalists and science communicators of all stripes. Feel free to forward this message to anyone who might want to attend. RSVPs are required (for a reliable slice count) to
Directions to Sigma Xi:

Josh Jones Studied Whales and Dolphins in The Garbage Patch (video)

Plastic in the Pacific Gyre can be microscopic and never biodegrade (video)

Why does plastic accumulate in the North Pacific Gyre? (video)

New jobs in North Carolina at CREE, producing LED lights

Yesterday, North Carolinians woke up to some very unpleasant news that Dell decided to close its computer manufacturing plant in Winston-Salem, Forsyth Co, NC by the end of this year and lay off its entire workforce of 905 employees.
While I may not like it, I can understand the economics of shutting down a textile mill or a furniture plant. It’s a new world we are living in. But Dell? Computers?! If the leading computer manufacturer is suffering during the recession, what can anyone else hope for? Is there any industry that can still compete and grow?
And it seems that the answer may, perhaps, be Yes – the green industry.
Ginny Skalski, a good friend and local uber-social-networking-maven recently got a job with CREE as their social media person. And she invited me and Ashley Sue Allen to attend yesterday’s press conference:
My first surprise was the size of the Cree campus in RTP – it is enormous. I was not aware until yesterday that this is a 20 years old company and how big it was.
As a blogger, I was, forwardthinkingly (is that a word?) of them, seated up front with the media, sitting right next to state Rep. McKissick of Durham and not needing a telephoto lens or zoom to take this picture of Governor Beverly Purdue who was sitting just a few feet in front of me:
What was the press conference about? The announcement by Cree of almost 600 new job openings, about half of them to be filled by the end of the year, some in RTP and most in their plant in Mecklenburg County. As Cree’s CEO Chuck Swoboda said, Cree started at home – by replacing all the incandescent and fluorescent lightbulbs with their own LED lights in all of their own buildings. I have to say that I did not notice any difference in lighting – the room was bright and warmly lit and welcoming:
Governor Purdue greeted the good news by saying that she also started at home – making her own house energy-efficient and outfitted by LED lights….which she also did not notice when they were installed: the light looks just like the incandescent light (and much more pleasant than the metallic fluorescent light).
She also connected the news to the importance of education. Cree was started by a group of students at NCSU 20 years ago and she stressed how such inventions, as well as jobs in such companies, require a strong educational system in the State.
Cree set up a little demo in the back of the room where we could see (and have demonstrated) the difference between incandescent, fluorescent and LED light as well as get information about the energy savings, longevity of the lights, ease of installing them into the existing sockets, and environmental impact:
In the end, before I left, Ginny showed me some cool colors that LEDs come from. I have used the infrared LEDs in my research many years ago, and was interested to learn about the advancements in technology since then, as well as other uses for LEDs apart from home and business lighting, e.g., in research, medicine and defense.
Read more coverage of the event in News & Observer and Triangle Business Journal. You can see a little bit of me in this picture, all the way in the back, while the mainstream media journalists were interviewing Governor Purdue.

Continue reading

Talkin’ Trash

I know everyone in the sci-blogosphere is swooning over Carl Sagan. But as a kid I never cared much about him – I usually fell asleep halfway through each episode of ‘Cosmos’. But I would not miss for anything an episode of ‘The Underwater Odyssey of Commander Cousteau’ with Jacques-Yves Cousteau. That was breathtaking. And what he and the crew of Calypso did was truly ground-breaking, both in terms of scientific discoveries and in terms of under-water filming. And those discoveries and breakthroughs were shared with us, the audience, in an intimate and immediate manner.
That was a long time ago. The techniques of under-water filming pioneered by the crew are now probably considered to be ‘nothing special’. And I bet half the crew of Calypso were cameramen and sound engineers and lighting engineers and video mixers and other TV and movie professionals.
Can’t do that any more. Or rarely, with a huge cost, only on a very limited number of voyages on very large ships.
But what one can do, even on vessels much smaller than Calypso, is to have an embedded reporter. Not an old-timey one, but a modern reporter: someone who can search the Web for information, who can write, and blog, and tweet, and take and post photographs, and record and post audio podcasts, and record and post videos, all without help from any professional engineers, using small portable digital equipment and, most importantly, doing it in nearly Real Time, not after the ship docks after the voyage.
One of those new-style embedded reporters on a research ship is Lindsey Hoshaw. I was alerted to her by a tweet by Jay Rosen on Saturday. How did she get to do that?
She is a Stanford graduate in environmental journalism who was interested in the Pacific Garbage Patch and she put her proposal on and asked people to help her raise the necessary funds:

I’ve been offered a space aboard the ship as the only journalist to chronicle this voyage. My enthusiasm for this project is only surpassed by the amazing opportunity I’ve been offered by The New York Times to publish an article and accompanying photos of my journey.
The Times has never written extensively about the Garbage Patch and my multimedia slideshow and article will be the first of its kind for the newspaper’s website.
As a recent graduate of Stanford University’s communications program, I have a background in environmental journalism. I have produced podcasts, audio slideshows and videos about environmental issues in the Bay Area and I have been studying the Garbage Patch for the past three years.

From their side the New York Times did not promise they’ll carry the story, but appear quite inclined to do so if the quality of her work is good:

LINDSEY HOSHAW, a freelance journalist in Palo Alto, Calif., hopes to sell a multimedia slide show and maybe an article to The Times about the Great Pacific Garbage Patch, a mass of floating plastic trash caught in swirling currents in a stretch of ocean twice the size of Texas.
But first, she has to get there. To help finance a $10,000 reporting trip aboard a research vessel, Hoshaw has turned to Spot.Us, a Web site where reporters appeal for donations to pay for their projects. If she can raise $6,000 before the September departure date — so far, only about $1,600 has come in — she will take out a loan for the rest, she said.
The Times has told Hoshaw that it might pay about $700 for the pictures, more if it also buys a story.
To some, this is exploitation — the mighty New York Times forcing a struggling journalist to beg with a virtual tin cup. But Hoshaw does not think so. To her, it is an opportunity she cannot pass up — a story she has long dreamed of, and a chance for a byline in The Times. To David Cohn, the founder of the nonprofit Spot.Us, it is a way for the public to commission journalism that it wants. For The Times, it is another step into a new world unthinkable even a few years ago.

She got on the ship today! You can follow Lindsey Hoshaw’s trip on Twitter (which she wisely separated from her personal account) and on her brand new blog.
You can follow her voyage on the Facebook page as well, where she also wrote:

What does this all mean both for Spot.Us and for the potential future of journalism? We would never claim to have answers, but we do have theories.
Every pitch on Spot.Us is defacto a collaboration. At the very least it is between the reporter and the community of supporters.
But often news organizations get involved. Sometimes we get TWO news organizations involved. In the future – I hope we can get THREE news organizations to collaborate around a single pitch.
We are producing a custom CMS that is based around the idea that “collaboration is queen.” It is the acknowledgment that no single news organization can do everything and that it is okay to “link to the rest.” It requires a new level of transparency and honesty in our reporting.

On Rebooting the News #24 this morning (I am assuming that all my readers listen to the show religiously every Monday), Jay and Dave talked about her as well:

On September 8, Lindsey Hoshaw set sail for The Great Pacific Garbage Patch, a huge pool of debris out in the middle of the Pacific that’s been known about for a while but rarely reported on or photographed. Her trip has been funded by users who think it’s an important venture. That happened at, the crowd-funding site for investigative journalism created by David Cohn, who used to work with Jay on NewAssignment.Net. (Background: See Lindsey’s original pitch in July 2009 and Jay’s original post for NewAssignment.Net back in 2006.) The New York Times has agreed to run her account and photos if they are up to Times standards. Meanwhile you can follow along on Twitter by adding thegarbagegirl.
That’s the re-booted system of news at work, already at work!
Dave: we’ve had reporters there before. Anyone who sailed by the Garbage Patch could have been our correspondent on the scene. We just have to teach them to do it.
Jay: it’s unlikely we’d be able to fund a reporter and a photographer and a videographer, which is why it’s important for journalists to be able to do multiple things.

Now you may say “Hmmm, that sounds familiar….didn’t I hear something about this before?” And yes, you did.
Another research vessel just returned from the Pacific Gyre where the crew studied the Garbage Patch. That was the Seaplex expedition, led by Miriam Goldstein, a well-known ocean blogger from the Oyster’s Garter blog. Miriam too, separated her personal Twitter account from the expedition account (I don’t actually know who from the crew tweeted from the official account). And she also blogged about it on the official Seaplex blog. So that crew also had an ’embedded reporter’ of sorts – Miriam herself.

But take another look at the crew. Notice something? Miriam was not the only experienced blogger there. Or even the most experienced as a reporter. There were three other people there whose main purpose was to record and report from the trip – the Project Kaisei people, who also used their own Twitter account. One of them is Annie Crawley, founder of DiveImagination who also tweeted from the voyage.

So it seems all these trips have young journalists embedded as reporters, or as parts of the scientific crew, using all the modern communication technologies to report from the voyages in real time as well as to prepare more robust reports afterwards.
Oh, did I say that’s all? No, Lindsey Hoshaw is not the only person with reporting and blogging experience on that ship. There is also Bonnie Monteleone on board. Bonnie is a blogger on The Plastic Ocean (associated with the organization of the same name (hat-tip to North Carolina Sierra Club Blog):

UNCW’s Bonnie Monteleone and Jennifer O’Keefe, Director of Keep America Beautiful- New Hanover County, will represent North Carolina’s passion for the ocean by going out into the Atlantic Gyre, followed by Monteleone joining Algalita Marine Research Foundation into the North Pacific Gyre. They will be taking samples to quantify pelagic plastics found on the oceans surface, collecting surface feeding fish to necropsy for ingested plastics and bringing national awareness to the issues of man made debris entering our oceans. Most of this research is personally funded and why they need your help.

So Bonnie, who is both a student at UNC-Wilmington and staff in the Department of Chemistry & Biochemistry there, will be able to do a direct comparison between the Atlantic and Pacific Garbage Patches. And write and post videos from both expeditions.
Ah, what a tangled web! And the distinctions are getting blurry – who is a scientist, who is crew, who is journalist? Everyone is a little bit of everything these days. The journalists are surrounded by scientists – a constant source of information – and scientists are surrounded by journalists – a constant source of questions. They both also help with the daily ship routines (there is no space on small ships for freeloaders – hoist the sails!). And they all report from the voyage, each in his or her own way, some focusing more on the science, others more on the human connection, both at least some on the personal experience.
Now, if you’ve ever been to one of the ScienceOnline conferences (e.g., last year, or the year before….), you know that Ocean Bloggers are a jolly bunch – they come to the conference and what do they do for three days non-stop? They sing Sea Shanties! But they also do the best, most creative and most informative sessions! They are totally at the cutting edge of the new online technologies and many of them are awesome writers.
Karen, Craig, Kevin, Miriam, Mark, Jennifer, Rick, Allie, Christie, James, Jason, Sheril, Andrew and David and many others are all amazing bloggers! And very active on Twitter, FriendFeed, Facebook and elsewhere online (it is entirely possible that Karen tweets more times per day than I do!).
And I know that most of them are planning to come to ScienceOnline2010. I have learned that the best thing to do with the Ocean Bloggers is to give them an one-hour time slot and let them loose. They don’t need no guidance from me – they are much more creative than I am and ‘get’ the spirit of the Unconference better than most. They’ll plot something in secret and surprise us all right there and then.
Also, what I did as soon as I saw Jay’s original tweet was start following Lindsey Hoshaw on Twitter. She followed me back so we could exchange Direct Messages….and, she’ll also try to come to ScienceOnline2010. Now I just need to catch Bonnie (she is in Wilmington, an hour’s drive from here – perhaps she can carpool with Anne-Marie) and Annie Crawley and all the ’embedded reporters’ and bloggers from all of this summer’s Garbage Patch voyages will be there. So perhaps they can all get together and tell us all about it – compare notes. Each one of them came to this with a different background, with different skills and experiences, with different goals. What did they learn about modern journalism out at sea?
Or perhaps they can put all of their stuff together – all the tweets, blog posts, photographs, podcasts, videos and polished articles (or at least links to polished articles if they are published in corporate media, e.g., New York Times) can, perhaps, be placed in a single online spot which we can then all link to and boost the Google rank so people who search for the ‘Garbage Patch’ find it up high in their searches. Perhaps they can plot how to do it at their session. Or, knowing them, they can do it quicker and use the conference to unveil the site to the world.
Remember what Lindsey Hoshaw wrote (above):

What does this all mean both for Spot.Us and for the potential future of journalism? We would never claim to have answers, but we do have theories. Every pitch on Spot.Us is defacto a collaboration. At the very least it is between the reporter and the community of supporters. But often news organizations get involved. Sometimes we get TWO news organizations involved. In the future – I hope we can get THREE news organizations to collaborate around a single pitch. We are producing a custom CMS that is based around the idea that “collaboration is queen.” It is the acknowledgment that no single news organization can do everything and that it is okay to “link to the rest.” It requires a new level of transparency and honesty in our reporting.

Today, we are all Jacques-Yves Cousteau. And all of the filming crew.
Last year some of the ocean bloggers were involved in the session with the title “Hey! You Can’t Say That!”. Perhaps next year they can call the session “Oh, You Bet I Can Talk Trash!” or “Blogging Garbage” or, like this post, “Talking Trash”….
Whatever they decide to do, I am looking forward to the result, and to their session. And the Sea Shanties the evening after it.

American Scientist’s Pizza Lunch speaker: Thomas J. Meyer on alternative energy sources

From Sigma Xi:

Greetings everyone. Here’s hoping that summer treated you kindly and that you are ready to dive back into American Scientist magazine’s annual Pizza Lunch speaker series. We begin this year at noon, Thursday, Sept. 24 at Sigma Xi, the Scientific Research Society here in Research Triangle Park.
Come hear UNC-Chapel Hill chemist Thomas J. Meyer discuss efforts to develop alternative energy sources that are safer than greenhouse gas emitting fuels. Meyer leads a new research center that this year landed $17.8 million in federal funding to try to develop solar fuels and next-generation photovoltaic technology. The center’s vision is that solar fuels one day could use the sun’s energy to make fuels from water and carbon dioxide for heating, transportation and energy storage. The center also expects that next-generation photovoltaics could generate electricity by inexpensive “solar shingles” on the roofs of buildings.
American Scientist Pizza Lunch is free and open to science journalists and science communicators of all stripes. Feel free to forward this message to anyone who might want to attend. RSVPs are required (for a reliable slice count) to
Directions to Sigma Xi:

Put down the duckie (at least don’t throw it into the ocean)!

Miriam Goldstein of the Oyster’s Garter and Double X blogs (follow her on Twitter) is embarking on a sea-faring expedition!
SEAPLEX is a Scripps Institution of Oceanography at UC San Diego project studying plastics – yes, including the rubber duckies – accumulating in the oceans, specifically in the North Pacific Gyre. Miriam is leading the team of PhD students and volunteers who will be studying various aspects of the plastics in the sea and their environmental impact.
Though the life at sea is hard and busy and they will not have much time (or access) to do so, they will try to keep us all updated via blog and Twitter, so start following them now.

An Innovative Use of Twitter: monitoring fish catch! Now published.

A few months ago, I posted about a very innovative way of using Twitter in science – monitoring fish catch by commercial fishermen.
The first phase of the study is now complete and the results are published in the journal Marine and Coastal Fisheries: Dynamics, Management, and Ecosystem Science 2009; 1: 143-154: Description and Initial Evaluation of a Text Message Based Reporting Method for Marine Recreational Anglers (PDF) by M. Scott Baker Jr. and Ian Oeschger. It is relatively short and easy to read, so I recommend you take a look.
The next phase will continue with the program, with refinements, and will also include records of fish catch from fishing tournaments. Also, I hope to see this study presented at ScienceOnline’10 next January as an example of the forward-looking use of modern online technologies for collection of scientific data by citizen scientists.

A Letter on Ocean Acidification

Sally-Christine Rodgers and Randy Repass do a TON for ocean conservation around the world, including supporting students and getting the right folks involved on the ground. They wrote this letter and asked a bunch of us bloggers to spread it around the Web:
We are both lifelong boaters. What we have learned from sailing across the Pacific over the past 6 years, and especially from scientists focused on marine conservation, is startling. Whether you spend time on the water or not, Ocean Acidification affects all of us and is something we believe you will want to know about.
What would you do if you knew that many species of fish and other marine life in the ocean will be gone within 30 years if levels of C02 continue increasing at their present rate? We believe you would take action to stop this from happening, because informed people make informed choices. This letter is about what we can and must do together now to help solve a very serious but little-known problem, Ocean Acidification.
Ocean Acidification is primarily caused by the burning of fossil fuels. When carbon dioxide in the atmosphere ends up in the ocean it changes the pH, making the sea acidic and less hospitable to life. Over time, C02 reduces calcium carbonate, which prevents creatures from forming shells and building reefs. In fact, existing shells will start to dissolve. Oysters and mussels will not be able to build shells. Crabs and lobsters? Your great-grandchildren may wonder what they tasted like.
Carbon dioxide concentrated in the oceans is making seawater acidic. Many of the zooplankton, small animals at the base of the food web, have skeletons that won’t form in these conditions, and sea-life further up the food chain – fish, mammals and seabirds that rely on zooplankton for food will also perish. No food – no life. One billion people rely on seafood for their primary source of protein. Many scientific reports document that worldwide, humans are already consuming more food than is being produced. The implications are obvious.
The issue of Ocean Acidification is causing irreversible loss to species and habitats, and acidification trends are happening up to ten times faster than projected. We want you to know what this means, how it affects all of us, and what we can do about it.
Today, the atmospheric concentration of C02 is about 387 parts per million (ppm) and increasing at 2 ppm per year. If left unaddressed, by 2040 it is projected to be over 450 ppm, and marine scientists believe the collapse of many ocean ecosystems will be irreversible. Acidification has other physiological effects on marine life as well, including changes in reproduction, growth rates, and even respiration in fish.
Tropical and coldwater corals are among the oldest and largest living structures on earth; the richest in terms of biodiversity, they provide spawning areas, nursery habitat and feeding grounds for a quarter of all species in the sea. Coral reefs are at risk! As C02 concentrations increase, corals, shellfish and other species that make shells will not be able to build their skeletons and will likely become extinct.
The good news is we can fix this problem. But, as you guessed, it will be difficult. Ocean Acidification is caused by increased C02 in the atmosphere. Solving one will solve the other. The House of Representatives has acted, passing HR 2454, the Waxman-Markey “American Clean Energy and Security Act”, but it was severely weakened. Now the Senate has announced that it will move similar legislation this fall. We need the Senate to join the House in its leadership, but to demand far greater emissions reductions than were able to pass the House.
“The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change concluded that in order to stabilize C02 in the atmosphere at 350 ppm by 2050, global carbon emissions need to be cut 85% below 2000 levels.”That’s a very tall order! And the way our political system works (or doesn’t) makes its tougher. It will take all of us to step up and take responsibility to make this happen.
Here is what you can do: Contact your Senator now using ont of these techniques listed in order of effectiveness.
1. Visit your Senator at their local office. It is easy to make an appointment. Tell them your concerns about C02 and the oceans, and to move strong climate legislation immediately that will reduce our greenhouse gas concentrations to levels that will not threaten our oceans. The experience is rewarding. (Alternatively, drop a letter off at their local office.)
2. Call your Senator and leave a message urging action be taken to reduce C02 , address Ocean Acidification, and move strong climate legislation immediately that will reduce our greenhouse gas concentrations to levels that will not threaten our oceans.
3. Click on this link to send an email, which will go directly to your Senator based on your address:
You may use the letter provided, but it is more effective to edit it, and in your own words urge them to move strong climate legislation immediately that will reduce our greenhouse gas concentrations to levels that will not threaten our oceans.
Ocean Acidification is an issue we can do something about. We need a groundswell of informed citizens to get Congress to have the backbone to stand up to the entrenched interests of coal, oil, and gas and not compromise on the reduction of C02. We also need real leadership to aggressively create jobs using sustainable technologies. The choice is ours. We can solve this or not. What we do know is that the future facing our children, grandchildren and indeed all of humankind depends on our decision.
Please join us in sharing this letter with others. We appreciate your taking the time to contact your Senators; it is easy to do and effective.
Thank you for your support.
Randy Repass
West Marine
Sally-Christine Rodgers
Board Member
A more complete report on ocean acidification here:

Science Cafe Raleigh – Energy for the Future

The Science Café for July (description below) will be held on July 21st at Tir Na Nog. This is the season when our utility bills begin to skyrocket. Our costly electric bills often bring into focus the high demand our community has for energy, as well as questions about where electricity will be coming from in the future as North Carolina’s population grows. This will be the subject of our next cafe. We will be meeting Dr. David McNelis from UNC-Chapel Hill’s Institute for the Environment. Dr. McNelis will give us information about options that we have for energy production in our future. What are the safest and most viable options that we have to choose from? Are there renewable energy sources that can meet our needs in North Carolina? Here is a link to a collection of articles from the New York Times that may help you begin thinking about this complex and very important topic. (
Energy for the Future
Tuesday July 21, 2009
6:30-8:30 p.m. with discussion beginning at 7:00 followed by Q&A
Tir Na Nog 218 South Blount Street, Raleigh, 833-7795
What does our energy future look like? As new options become available, how soon will we see a difference in transportation and in the supply and use of electricity in our homes and businesses? What are some realistic expectations we should have for the reduction of carbon emissions from energy use? Come to our café and join in on a discussion of energy sources for the future.
About the Speaker:
Professor David N McNelis has over 45 years of environmental sciences and engineering experience in federal government, university and industry settings. He served in research and research management positions with the U.S. Army, the U.S. Public Health Service and the Environmental Protection Agency; with the Department of Energy’s prime contractor for the Nevada Test Site; with the University of Nevada, Las Vegas; and now serves as the Director of the Center for Sustainable Energy, Environment and Economic Development in the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill’s Institute for the Environment and as President of Nuclear Fuel Cycle Technologies, LLC. Currently he specializes in conventional, alternative and nuclear energy systems and technologies and the nuclear fuel cycle (including partitioning, transmutation, repository capacity and nuclear non proliferation).
This café is sponsored by Progress Energy.
RSVP to kateyDOTahmannATncdenrDOTgov

The Clade

Introducing The Clade. It has now been launched and you can read all about it and see the first contributions (and perhaps decide to join in and contribute yourself):

The Clade will bring together environmentally concerned writers, artists, photographers, videographers and podcasters who want to go beyond “environmentalism as usual.” Environmentalism encompasses wilderness protection and human social justice, women’s rights and artistic freedom, online organizing and solitary contemplation. We intend to reclaim environmental journalism from the Hearsts and Knight-Ridders of the world, to open-source the business of environmental reporting.
Who contributes to The Clade? You do. Sign up as a contributor: when we launch, you can share your observations, reporting, links to valuable websites, crossposts of your enviro entries on your personal blog, or other environmental information. You need not be an expert journalist, essayist or biologist. All you need is passion for the planet, a bit of familiarity with HTML, and the ability to construct a grammatically correct sentence.
A clade is a group of individuals and their common ancestor.
It’s a useful concept in evolutionary biology. Evolutionary biology is all about degrees of kinship, and describing which groups share which common ancestors is the same as determining their degrees of kinship.
Think of it as a family. All life on this planet, past and present, is related. Sharks, mosses, yeast, lobsters, sponges and you: kin.
It’s not one big happy family here on Earth, to be sure. One family member in particular has been getting out of line, claiming more and more of Earth’s household for its own use. Even when we’re confronted with the unsustainablity of our ways and decide to reform them, we ignore our other family members. We worry about fixing the climate because we want to stay comfortable, not because billions of our relatives will die, thousands of species going extinct. In terms of sheer numbers of threatened species, we have brought about what may be the worst extinction crisis the Earth has ever faced.
We humans like to think of ourselves as distinct from the rest of the living world, but we’re all in this together.
If you want to know more, get in touch with us at The Clade. And please spread the word to anyone you think may be interested.

Waves of Ocean Literacy

Periodic Tables and the Museum of Life and Science Present:
April 14, 2009 | 7:00 P.M.
Waves of Ocean Literacy
Speaker: Cynthia Cudaback, NC State University
If the Earth is a body, the ocean is its blood, circulating over most of the surface, moderating temperature and sustaining life. Cynthia Cudaback provides college and high school students with the tools they need to be informed stewards of the ocean, and its importance to the long-term sustainability of our planet. Her talk will focus on the success of marine education efforts, and opportunities for improvement.
Join us tomorrow night for a discussion about conserving the planet’s liquid resources.
Periodic Tables is a monthly gathering where curious adults can meet in a casual setting to discuss the latest science in plain English. At Periodic Tables, you will chat with your neighbors and local experts about interesting and relevant science happenings right here in the Triangle and beyond. No lengthy PowerPoint presentations, no drawn-out seminars, no confusing jargon. Simply smart and relevant science in a relaxed atmosphere. Eating and drinking is encouraged, and there is no such thing as a stupid question.
Come out and join us on the second Tuesday of every month for a lively conversation at Broad Street Café. Come early to enjoy the fantastic appetizers, wood-fired pizza, burgers and salads that complement their 15 beers on tap and full liquor bar.
Want instant reminders about Periodic Tables? Become our fan on Facebook (
For more information on Periodic Tables and our future topics please visit our website at

Next Science Cafe Raleigh: Think Globally – Eat Locally

Tuesday, April 21, 2009
6:30-8:30 pm with discussion beginning at 7:00 followed by Q&A
Location: The Irregardless Café, 901 W. Morgan Street, Raleigh 833-8898
Think Globally – Eat Locally
How much do you know about the food you eat? Were pesticides applied? Do you know where it was grown and how far it traveled to get to you? How much did its transportation contribute to global warming?
What can we do to bring about the revival of locally produced foods and all the benefits they bring – better taste, nutrition, stronger local economies and relationships with local farmers, reduced fossil fuel dependency, and improved land and animal stewardship?
At this Science Cafe we will discuss how to grow our own, how to eat seasonally, and where to buy so that you can leverage your dollars for change. We will also learn about organizations and restaurants supporting this work, farmers looking for membership clients, and Statewide Action Plans that are in the works.
About the Speaker:
Dr. Jeana Myers is a soil scientist at the NCDA&CS soil testing lab in Raleigh, with a lifelong passion for local food systems. Her undergraduate degree in International Agriculture Development in 1979 led to a Peace Corps mission in Zaire, Africa as an extension agent trainer. After returning to the US she received a masters degree in Crop Science and a PhD in Soil Science at NC State then settled in Raleigh with her husband, Will Hooker, who teaches permaculture in the horticulture department. They traveled with their 1½ year old son for 10 months around the world in 2000, visiting over 100 permaculture and organic farm sites in 11 countries. Over the years they have cultivated a mini city farm on 1/5 of an acre in the middle of Raleigh, with gardens, fruit trees, chickens and ponds. She consulted others who wanted to grow more food with her Beautiful Food Gardens business. Promoting the delights and necessity of a strong local food system is her on-going life’s work.

An Innovative Use of Twitter: monitoring fish catch!

From NC Sea Grant:

….At nearly every fisheries management meeting he attends, Baker hears the same complaint: North Carolina’s recreational fishermen don’t have to account for their catch. Two years ago, during a regional meeting about snapper and grouper, Baker looked down at his hands and finally saw a possible answer: his mobile phone.
“I wondered if you could send a text message to a computer database somewhere instead of just texting from phone to phone,” he says. “And if you could do that, maybe that was something recreational fishermen could do to track their catches and fishing effort.”
Commercial fishermen and seafood dealers must submit extensive paperwork tracking what they bring in on a daily basis. But there is no such requirement in the recreational industry.
Baker first shared his text messaging idea with friend Ian Oeschger, a software developer. A self-described “nerdy person,” Oeschger was intrigued. He agreed to build a system to accept text messages from anglers and translate that information into data.
“When I think of an idea that seems juicy like that, I just can’t help myself,” Oeschger says.
With funding from a North Carolina Sea Grant minigrant, Baker and Oeschger designed a pilot project to test their idea. The pair asked six Wilmington-area charter boat captains to use pre-paid mobile phones to text their fishing reports to an online text messaging service called “Twitter” (
A free service, Twitter allows people to connect with each other through “micro-blogging,” or posting messages that are no more than 140 characters. Once used primarily by teenagers and Blackberry addicts, “tweeting” is entering the mainstream — NASA even has a Twitter account posting status updates for high profile projects like the Mars I-Rover.
For Baker and Oeschger, Twitter provided an ideal online “collection bin” for the anglers’ experimental texts. Oeschger then built a separate database to continually query Twitter for new updates and put data into useable form.
“Most of the work was figuring out, ‘What does the data need to do?’ and ‘What is the most concise way for fishermen to communicate?'” Oeschger explains.
To answer these questions, he and Baker designed a compact syntax for fishermen to text in their reports, thereby minimizing reporting time and allowing for more content to be submitted in a single text message. For example, N2 E4 FA8R BL3 WEx20 translates to: Two anglers fished (N2), They fished for four hours (E4), They released eight false albacore (FA8R), they kept three Bluefish (BL3), and they kept one 20-inch weakfish (WEx20).
During an 18-week period, the charter captains submitted 128 trip reports describing 1957 finfish catches – 1123 were kept, 834 released. The captains describe the system as convenient, cost efficient and timely.
In addition to more accurate data, the immediacy of text-message based reporting systems may help all fishermen feel a greater sense of ownership when it comes to management decisions, Baker points out. Extensive paperwork for commercial fishermen and third person reports from the recreational industry’s MRIP can take several weeks or months to process. During that time, fisheries may be opened and closed based on old data, something that affects livelihoods on both sides.
“By having fishermen report data in a fast and efficient manner, you make them a greater part of the management process.”

Wow! Read the entire text for more details. This strikes me as a really innovative and useful application of Twitter. Hopefully it will spawn other copy-cats by people who can put microblogging platforms to a good use in scientific, medical or environmental fields.

Global Warming: Is the Science Settled Enough for Policy?

July 24, 2008 presentation by Stephen Schneider for the Stanford University Office of Science Outreach’s Summer Science Lecture Series.
Professor Schneider discusses the local, regional, and international actions that are already beginning to address global warming and describe other actions that could be taken, if there were political will to substantially reduce the magnitude of the risks.
The Stanford Summer Science Lecture Series is a set of informal lectures about cutting edge research from four of Stanford’s most esteemed professors.

Science crowdsourcing – ecology

Help scientists track plant and animal cycles:

The USA-National Phenology Network (USA-NPN) — a University of Arizona, Tucson-based group of scientists and citizens that monitors the seasonal cycles of plants and animals — is calling for volunteers to help track the effect of climate change on the environment.
The group is launching a national program encouraging citizen volunteers to observe seasonal changes among plants and animals, like flowering, migration and egg-laying. They can then log in and record their observations online at the USA-NPN website.
“The program is designed for people interested in participating in climate change science, not just reading about it,” said Jake Weltzin, executive director of the USA-NPN and a scientist at the U.S. Geological Survey.
Phenology is the study of the climate’s influence on animal and plant life cycles. Climate change can affect these cyclical patterns and put certain species of plants and animals in danger.
Having a large volunteer base to help track these changes enables researchers to predict the effects of global climate change on plants, animals and ecosystems, said Mark D. Schwartz, chair of the USA-NPN board of directors. The data can be used to predict wildfires, droughts and pollen production.

If interested, go to USA National Phenology Network to sign up and participate:

The USA National Phenology Network brings together citizen scientists, government agencies, non-profit groups, educators and students of all ages to monitor the impacts of climate change on plants and animals in the United States. The network harnesses the power of people and the Internet to collect and share information, providing researchers with far more data than they could collect alone.
We are looking for volunteers to help us monitor some 200 plant species found across the United States. This effort will eventually expand to include animals and physical phenomena, such as bird migrations and ice out on ponds. Please explore our website to learn more about USA-NPN. Better yet, click “Participate” to join us!

Warm temperature affects sex ratio in mammals

Anne-Marie writes, in Hot Mommas Make Boys:

A study published in the latest edition of the Journal of Mammalogy reports the results of a 30 year study on a population of northern elephant seals (Mirounga angustirostris), which shows that the male:female pup ratio is significantly higher in years with warmer sea surface temperature and weaker atmospheric pressure differentials.
What is the mechanism behind this? Unlike reptiles, which actually have their biological sex determined by temperature, the sex of mammalian embryos is entirely dependent on their chromosomes. This is where the phenomenon differs between the two taxa: reptiles depend on environmental factors to determine sex, whereas in mammals it is the sex ratio of offspring that complete development that is affected. Sex ratios are adjusted by selectively resorbing or aborting embryos of a specific sex. But which sex gets the boot when times are hard?

Global warming? More and more male elephant seals fighting to death over fewer and fewer females? Yikes!

Hope, Hype and Communicating Climate Change


Tuesday, March 17
7 p.m.
“Hope, Hype and Communicating Climate Change” The Asheville SCONCs welcome nationally prominent science writer Rick Borchelt to speak on making climate change information intelligible to the lay public. This is the first in a series of three public education lectures on climate change to be held in April and June. Diana Wortham Theatre, Asheville.
Details Here (PDF) More Info: Pamela McCown, Education & Research Services, Inc.

Wet or Dry, it’s our Earth

Carnival of the Arid #2, the blog carnival about deserts, is up on Coyote Crossing.
Related to lack of water is, well, lack of water and how it affects people, leads to wars over water, etc. So for the World Water Day on March 22, the blogosphere will write about transboundary water. Send your entries to Daniel for this one-off carnival (or is this more properly called Synchroblogging?).

Daniel, welcome back to the blogosphere

Those of you who have been following the science blogosphere for a while may remember that excellent old blog Down to Earth which, sadly, went dormant back in 2006.
I am happy to announce that Daniel Collins has now started a new blog, focused on water, hydrology and other All Things Wet, at Cr!key Creek (with the cool sub-heading: “Water cycle meet Media cycle”). One to check out and bookmark!

Science Cafe, Durham: Re-Kindling Wood Energy


Tuesday, March 10
7 p.m.
Science Cafe, Durham: Re-Kindling Wood Energy
Duke professor Dan Richter does his bit at “Periodic Tables,” talking about Europe’s new alternative fuel — firewood. He says Advanced Wood Combustion, AWC, might provide North America with a clean, affordable, abundant, and decentralized stream of renewable energy. Broad Street Café, 1116 Broad Street.