Thursday, December 31, 2020

The Jellies in Our Lives

Environmental & Science Education, STEM, Pollution, Medicine, Agriculture, Wildlife, Nature

Ed Hessler

Microplastics, medical drugs and food?  What in the wide, wide ocean do these have to do with jellyfish?

A BBC video (4 m 30s) shows how scientists are using jellyfish to help solve three problems--removing microplastics from the oceans, developing new medicines and providing a sustainable source of food.

Wednesday, December 30, 2020

Rocky Mountain Locusts in US History

Environmental & Science Education, History, History of Science, STEM, Society, Nature, Wildlife, Extinction

The cloud was hailing grasshoppers. The cloud was grasshoppers...The rasping whirring of their wings filled the whole air and they hit the ground and house with the noise of a hailstorm. Laura tried to beat them off. Their claws clung to her skin and her dress...Laura had to step on grasshoppers and they smashed squirming and slimy under her feet...In the plum thickets on plumpits hung to the leafless branches.--On the Banks of Plum Creek, Laura Ingalls Wilder

Ed Hessler

I finished a biography of Laura Ingalls Wilder (Prairie Fires by Caroline Fraser). It more than satisfies my criteria for a great biography: a map, excellent index, deeply and impeccably researched, photographs, unsentimental, probing, beautifully written and, in addition it is also a major contribution to environmental history. 

I've never read any of Wilder's "juveniles," as children's literature was first called but have thumbed though several of the Little House series, some slowly and others quickly.

In June 1875, according to Fraser, Laura's father "was gloating over a "bumper crop of wheat,,,as the family sat down to dinner...they heard...their neighbor Olena Nelson...screaming, 'The grasshoppers are coming! The grasshoppers are coming!" This was another Wilder family life-changing event, one filled with disaster, calamity, debt and often hunger. Wilder's father eventually sold his horses "leaving the money with his wife." He walked the 200 miles from Plum Creek to SE MN to work.

However hard it is to believe, in just 27 years (1902) the Rocky Mountain Locust would be extinct. I want to say a few things about that and the insect based on a recent issue of  The Kansas School Naturalist (KSN). It was written by by Jeffrey Lockwood (University of Wyoming) who wrote Locust: The Devastating Rise and Mysterious Disappearance of the Insect that Shaped the Frontier 

This issue of KSN is not yet available on-line so you may want to check the KSN home page to see whether it has been posted. I think KSN is a treasure. If you are interested request a copy and if it is in stock, a copy will be sent.  The scope of this 13 page publication is impressive as is the response. Gleanings from the KSN publication follow.

Locust Biology
-Life cycle and development
-What is a locust
-What causes phase change?
-Where are locusts found?

Rocky Mountain Swarms
-Where did warms originate?
-How high did they fly?
-How far did the locust spread?
-What was the largest swarm?
-What was it like when a swarm arrived?

History of The Rocky Mountain Locust
-Who studied this locust scientifically?
-Where can you still see them?
-Had the locust always been a pest?
-How serious was their damage?
-Did outbreaks follow a regular pattern?

Knowledge is Power
-Biogeography of the Rocky Mountain locust
-The hazards of misidentification
-Debunking locust myths
-The importance of natural enemies
-Foundations of integration pest management

Pioneer Ingenuity
-Bounty systems
-Cultural control approaches
-What about insecticides?
-Mechanical inventions
-A radical and practical solution

The Extinction
-Was the locust really gone?
-The alfalfa theory
-The bison theories
-The Indian theory
-The bottleneck theory

The Locust and Culture
-The need to do something
-How the locust changed US agriculture
-The role of religion
-The Mormons vs. the locusts
-The role of government

How the Locust Shaped History
-How did ecosystems change without the locust?
-How the locust helped form the USDA
-Understanding natural disasters
-The locust in American literature
-A locust opera

Lessons From the Rocky Mountain Locust
-The importance of sanctuaries
-The (im)balance of nature
-Even abundant species are not safe
-How should we value a locust?
-What if?

--The scientific name is Melanoplus spretus, respectively calling attention to their black armored exoskeleton and that the locust is scorned.

--Unlike grasshoppers locusts have a swarming phase--they are solitary and gregarious. In the latter phase their behavior changes. See Wiki. Locusts currently occur on every inhabited continent except North America.

--Locust swarms originated in well-drained river valleys of the Rocky Mountains. Finding this refuge required considerable detective work.    

--During an outbreak more than  half of the U.S. and most of the Canadian prairies could be affected. The 1875 warm was a large one--110 miles wide moving northward continuously for five days (198,000 square miles and an estimated 3 l/2 trillion locusts

--The US Entomological Commission was charged with reporting on he depredations of the Rocky Mountain locust and practical means of preventing it recurrence or guarding against invasions. Of the three members, Charles Valentine Riley would become the most influential economic entomologist of the 19th century.

--There are 487 specimens of the RM locust in insect collections across the nation. Other places include the glaciers of the Rocky Mountains which has several ice fields named for them. As the ice melts due to global warming locusts are being washed out, not just a few but in enormous, rotting piles.

--Locusts swarmed long before European settlement--archealological evidence indicates swarms occurred at least 5000 years before the present.

--Outbreaks  were not cyclic-- essentially randomly driven by irregularities of weather. The outbreaks could last 1-3 years before subsiding.

--Pioneers were quite ingenious in their attempts in dealing with them although the solutions were ineffective. Bounty systems, cultural control approaches (flooding, plowing, harrowing, ditching which served as pitfall traps), a range of chemicals, mechanical inventions to mash, harvest them, even a flamethrower, even culinary uses. One of the mechanical devices invented is shown on the cover of the publication. It was called the "hopperdozer."

--Their eventual extinction was the subject of a variety of hypotheses but only one has come to be thought as the likely reason. During locust recessions, RM locusts were restricted to what is called the Permanent Zone. It served as an ecological bottleneck. These mountain valleys were being converted to agriculture. The plowing, irrigation, grazing, harrowing, flooding, and trampling occurred when the insect was most vulnerable. The Rocky Mountain locust succumbed to unwitting habitat destruction!  

--Lockwood's book on the Rocky Mountain locusts is the basis of his libretto for Locust: The Opera. This chamber opera premiered in 2018. 

Many thanks to Dr. Lockwood and the Kansas School Naturalist.

Wilder's life included locusts, recessions, dust and politics that influence the US forever. So it was natural to read next a book about the Dust Bowl, The Worst Hard Time by Timothy Egan. Two great books--two great environmental histories--and two I'm very glad I read.

Tuesday, December 29, 2020

Reversing Invasive Plant Degradation in Gorongosa National Park, Mozambique

Environmental & Science Education
Edward Hessler

The full paper is behind a firewall but the abstract summarizes an interesting story about the effects of rewilding in Gorongosa National Park, Mozambique.

During the 1977-92 Mozambican civil war the large mammal populations collapsed which "exacerbated woody encroachment by the invasive shrub Mimosa pigra—considered one of the world’s 100 worst invasive species—and that one decade of concerted trophic rewilding restored this invasion to pre-war baseline levels. ... 

"Our results," the authors "provide mechanistic evidence that trophic rewilding has rapidly revived a key ecosystem function (biotic resistance to a notorious woody invader), underscoring the potential for restoring ecological health in degraded protected areas."

The paper by Jennifer Guyton and ten others was published in Nature Ecology & Evolution, 13 January 2020. If you have a Windows Media Player, the supplements section includes two videos. One shows Waterbuck, a large antelope, foraging on Mimosa pigra in a floodplain.  The other shows Oribi, a small antelope, foraging on the same plant in a floodplain.

Guyton is a graduate student in the Pringle Lab at Princeton University. 

Monday, December 28, 2020


Environmental & Science Education
Edward Hessler

Reporting for STAT, Sharon Begley summarizes findings from a recent study in Nature Medicine (see link in Begley's story) on the idea of the "'ageotype,' a combination of molecular and other changes that are specific to one physiological system. These changes can be measured when the individual is healthy and relatively young...perhaps helping physicians to pinpoint the most important thing to target to extend healthy life."

Rather than viewing aging as systemic, our body parts (systems) age at different rates. You might be a cardio-ager or an immune ager or a metabolic ager or a liver ager or....

As you would guess, this study has some limitations as initial studies often do. It was based on a small sample (106 people) as well as a short follow-up so more studies are required before anti-aging interventions, e.g., exercise or diet or intermittent fasting or medications can be recommended that might work. 

On the other hand the array of measurements taken on patients over two to four years is very impressive. It is a hint of things to come. "Through blood and saliva and urine tests, genetic analyses, microbiome inspections of their nose and gut, and more the scientists measure 10343 genes, 306 blood proteins, 722 metabolites, and 6909  microbes, among other things" (my emphasis). These allowed the team to group participants into four different ageotypes: liver, kidney, metabolic, and immune. 

There were surprises in the study, e.g., some measurements that increased with age, fell for some participants while "some that fell with age in most people rose in a few." Begley points out that while "healthy habits can increase both lifespan and healthspan is not exactly news. But the ageotype approach might let people target their dominant aging pathway."

Begley's story may be read here. She mentions the Buck Institute for Research on Aging but it is not linked. Here it is.

Sunday, December 27, 2020

Birthday Boys of Science

Environmental & Science Education, STEM, History of Science

Ed Hessler

Garrison Keillor's The Writer's Almanac is one of the great pleasures in my life. The research done there does lifting that I'd have to do (but don't). Two significant events in science are noted today, both of whom are major figures in the scientific revolution--one by looking up and doing the maths; the other by looking around him and thinking about the meaning of what he observed.. Scientific evolutionaries both who changed our view of the earth below and the sky above.


It’s the birthday of astronomer Johannes Kepler, in W├╝rttemberg, Germany (1571). He was the first to discover that planets move in an elliptical path around the sun.

Kepler said, “The diversity of the phenomena of nature is so great, and the treasures hidden in the heavens so rich, precisely in order that the human mind shall never be lacking in fresh nourishment.”

It was on this day in 1831 that Charles Darwin  set sail from England on the HMS Beagle. (A minnow of a boat!) Darwin’s biology professor had recommended that he go on the upcoming voyage touring the Galapagos Islands and South America, but his father was against the dangerous trip. Darwin went anyway, and he explored the rainforests and was amazed by the plants and animals that he found. He returned to England, and he thought about what he had seen and developed his theory of evolution. In his book On the Origin of Species (1859), he wrote: “Probably all organic beings which have ever lived on this earth have descended from some one primordial form, into which life was first breathed. There is grandeur in this view of life that … from so simple a beginning endless forms most beautiful and most wonderful have been, and are being evolved.” (added)


Here is the link to today's The Writer's Almanac from which this was taken to which I tip my hat (once again and gladly) and say "thank you".

Nordmann Fir Christmas Trees

Environmental & Science Education, STEM, Society, Nature

Ed Hessler

There are multiple ways we use and benefit from the natural world. Here is one of which I was unaware.

Each year in the Caucasus Mountains of the Republic of Georgia the seeds of the soft needled and beautifully shaped Nordmann fir are harvested for the growing of Christmas trees. The cones are handpicked from trees that may be 50m (~165 feet) by villagers, some of whom use safety harnesses and ropes while others climb freely and at some risk from injuries and even death. For the featured harvester ropes/harnesses are required by the firm for which he collects seeds. He tells the story of a friend who died from a fall.

This video from the BBC (4m 02s) shows one of them at work which is very labor intensive.  

Nordmann firs are grown in the U. S. Here is a very nice description (with photos) from Michigan State University. And a short (1m 29s) video from Michigan State University.

Saturday, December 26, 2020

Octopuses Punch Fish

Environmental & Science Education, Behavior, STEM, Wildlife

Ed Hessler

Octopuses are full of surprises. Here is a BBC film (47s) of them punching fish in the Red Sea (also observed elsewhere). They do hunt prey together so another. 

Who knows (yet) what it means but scientists have said "it could be out of spite" or "of keeping the fish in line."

With eight "fists" it is hard to call the punch. Circular jab? Naw! has to be a roundhouse.

Friday, December 25, 2020

Friday Poem

Greetings from St. Paul on December 25. day 360 of 2020 (98.36% of the year). The year is fading quickly. And the winter solstice is just a few days behind us--the shortest day of the year. 

The days will lengthen and are already but slowly at first. The seconds and minutes will become something  noticeable in a few weeks. Today there are 43 more seconds of light since the winter solstice.

To celebrate this yearly astronomical event, Astronomy Picture of the Day (APOD) has 12 images of sunrises throughout the year, including the winter and summer solstices and the spring and fall equinoxes with a clear explanations.

Quotation. But the further you get from the laboratory work, the more complicated and less clearly scientific the key issues become. ... And the closer you get to the finish line, the more notable the bureaucratic and political element becomes.--Ross Douthat (StarTribune/The New York Times) writing about a common statement, "follow the science." As Greta Thunberg said: "Listen to the science." There is a difference. 

It is National Pumpkin Pie day.

Today's poem is by Robert Frost.


Thursday, December 24, 2020

Doing Better, Much Better Next Time

Environmental & Science Education
Edward Hessler

Epidemiologists are still stunned bymanagement  the COVID-19 pandemic. Sharon Begley, writing for STAT, quotes one, Stephen Morse (Columbia University) who told her, “'I’m still getting over my shock at how badly this was handled' who helped create an international network to detect and monitor disease outbreaks. 'After all the work and all the exercises everyone did, it’s heartbreaking to see how badly the ball was dropped.'”

Eleven experts were asked by STAT how to avoid another major screw-up to COVID-19 (and other threats in the future) again. I include only the major headings. For the discussion following each, please read Begley's (always fine) reporting. Some of them are likely to be of more interest to you than others, e.g., for me being smarter about social  distancing and doing a better job in minority and low income communities are two that I looked at immediatel but in the end all of them were of interest and I started at the top and went down the list..

--Prioritize early warnings.
--Pay attention to small numbers.
--Act fast.
--But act fast strategically.
--Do a way better job in minority and high-poverty communities.
--Don't hide the truth or pretend to have more knowledge than you have.
--Do social distancing smarter.
--Take mild cases seriously.
--Beef up the Strategic National Stockpile.
--Don't expect patients to figure out isolation on their own.
--Get serious about staying on top of the virus.
--Stay humble, be flexible.
--Resist magical thinking.
--Communicate better.

Make no doubt about it: There will be a next time or next times.  

We also need a president and an administration with belief in science, not one who rejects almost all heard or told and one with some humility in the face of the unknown and having to make decisions under conditions of uncertainty. 

It was Victor Hugo who wrote that "Science says the first word on everything but the last word on nothing." 

The quote is from his Intellectual Biography. For context it was preceded by "Science to-day has no more said the last thing about comets than has the science of yesterday." This acknowledges empirical science, one based on evidence which changes as more is known, as instruments improve, etc.  It is the policy makers who must use the best evidence available and listen to scientific advice, incorporate it as they make life-changing decisions not belittle knowlege of knowledge-makers most of whom are intellectually humble.

Wednesday, December 23, 2020

Cartoonist Chaarlie Mackesy: 'Don't Give Up, the Storm Ends"

Environmental & Science Education, STEM, Health, Medicine, Society, Art and Environment

Ed Hessler

British cartoonist Charlie Mackesy dedicated some lovely drawings to the people on the front lines in the ongoing battle against Covid-19.

A lovely message of hope and thanks. 

It may be seen in this BBC video (2m 34s).

Tuesday, December 22, 2020

Reasons Why Scientists Communicate Their Research Fiindings.

 Environmental & Science Education, STEM, Nature of Science

Ed Hessler

Science isn't infallible, but the premise of scientific research is that it's among the best available ways of trying to understand a complicated world.--John Besley, Michigan State University

I don't know whether you have ever wondered why scientists spend time communicating with others about their work.

In a recent survey of 516 U.S. academic scientists and 573 Canadian researchers, they ranked their reasons on a scale from 1-7. At the top of the lists, the most highly valued reason for sharing the findings of their research with decision-makers so policies could be based on scientific evidence.

Here are the rankings from top to bottom: ensuring policy makers use scientific evidence, ensuring our culture values science, ensuring adequate funding for research, helping people use science to make better personal decisions, fulfilling a duty to society, and asked only of U. S. scientists, strengthening my own professional reputation.

A few of these are also goals of recent reforms in science education such as the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS)--the use of scientific evidence, the cultural value of science, and using science in both personal and social decision making.

These data are from John Besley, a professor of public relations at Michigan State University, who has written a short essay in The Conversation, about this research. The opening epigraph is from this essay and the essay includes a very nice graph which displays the data.

Of course there are many goals which could have been explored, e.g., their intentions on influencing policy makers to adopt specific actions--new laws, regulations, their interest in learning from those they communicate with--this might influence what they choose to research, and the reason(s) for their rankings. 

Among Besley's team is improving scientists's communicatons through encouraging "scientists to collaborate with communication experts withing their" their academic institutions.

Monday, December 21, 2020

Geese Migration

Environmental & Science Education, STEM, Nature, Wildlife, Biodiversity

Ed Hessler

This short video (2 m) from CBS Sunday Morning was taken at Lake Byron, South Dakota. The music is natural; the chattering of the birds. The season says migrate, head south.



Nature at work.

Sunday, December 20, 2020

Best Science Images of 2020: Selected by Scientific Journal Nature

Environmental & Science Education, Art and Environment

Ed Hessler

Nature, a British science journal, presents the best science images of 2020

Striking shots.

Take a leisurely scroll through this exhibition.

Saturday, December 19, 2020

And the Winners of the Annual Agar Art Contest....

Environmental & Science Education, STEM, Microbiology, Art and Environment

Ed Hessler

The American Society for Microbiology (ASM) holds an annual art contest. This year it expanded the type of art to any kind of art so long as it adhered to the overall theme "Microbes Are Beautiful." In the past the art had to be based in agar (aka agar-agar). If you need a short refresher--few of us have experience with it--see the Wiki entry.

"Overall," ASM writes, "we got 189 submissions from 203 different submitters, representing 29 countries around the globe. Each of the pieces of art was incredible on its own, which made picking winners difficult. After a rigorous, 2-round judging process, we chose the top 3 in each category, along with People's Choice awards determined by voting on our Facebook page."

And here they are.

Lovely and amazing. 


Friday, December 18, 2020

Friday Poem

Environmental & Science Education, Poetry, Art and Environment 

Ed Hessler

Good morning, on the 18th day of December 2020.  Some of the numbers for the 353rd day of the year: 11 months 18 days, 50 weeks 3 days, 508,320 minutes meaning that 96.45% of the year gone.

Sunrise is at 7:46 am and sunset is at 4:32 pm which gives us 8h 46m 18s of sunlight so far filtered by a gray, featureless sky.

It is Bake Cookies Day. 

Today's Quote: It is rooted in science, I trust science, and the alternative and what I have seen and experienced is far worse.--Nurse Sandra Lindsay was the first person in the United States to be vaccinated against COVID (The New York Times)

Today's poem is by Jim Harrison.

Thursday, December 17, 2020

Minnesota's Landscape Heritage by John Tester: 2nd Revision

Environmental & Science Education, STEM, Nature, Earth Science, Geology, Wildlife

Ed Hessler

I was very pleased to learn that John Tester's Minnesota's Landscape Heritage has been updated and will be released December 29 (University of Minnesota Press). A classic in my opinion.

It has been 25 years since it was first released. I've always liked the title. First it is accurate and second it describes what we inherited from the natural world. It provided a clear-eyed sense of the various natural fabrics of this state. Whole. Accessible. The kind of book you wanted to take a look at after visiting other parts of the state. What is/was it like there?

There was a brief review and interview with the three collaborators who did the revision in the Star Tribune (November 20) by Bob Timmons. The writers for this revision are Susan Galatowitsch (Department of Fisheries, Wildlife, and Conservation Biology, UMM). Rebecca Montgomery (Department of Forest Resources, UMN), and John Moriarty (Three Rivers Park District).

The writers tell us how they met Dr. Tester, how they have used the book and what resonates with each of them after working on the second edition. Things have changed for the better; losses to be sure but gains.. There have been environmental successes! Tester was at work on the revision and had a firm idea of what should be revised. Galatowitsch put it this way: "'He was sharp and opinionated all he way to end of his life.'"

The Timmons column may be read here.

Wednesday, December 16, 2020

Life After COVID-19: Wuhan, China

Environmental & Science Education, STEM, Health, Medicine, Society, Culture

Ed Hessler

Wuhan, China hasn't had a locally transmitted COVID-19 case for months. However life has changed for its citizens forever.

In this BBC video report (8m 25s) what has changed and what life is like for ordinary people living in the epicenter of the pandemic.

In the end or as close to one as we will likely get, life will change here, too, perhaps not in the same ways but changes will occur.

Tuesday, December 15, 2020

Earth's Scars

Environmental & Science Education, STEM, Earth Science, Geology, Society

Edward Hessler

“One of the penalties of an ecological education is that one lives alone in a world of wounds. Much of the damage inflicted on land is quite invisible to laymen. An ecologist must either harden his shell and make believe that the consequences of science are none of his business, or he must be the doctor who sees the marks of death in a community that believes itself well and does not want to be told otherwise.”--Aldo Leopold, A Sand County Almanac

The wounds to the planet from mining shown in these striking photographs from the BBC are hardly invisible. Some can even be seen from space. Earth is rich in things we have found useful and like, covet is not too strong a word, and many are available only by mining.

In this report by Richard Fisher and Javier Hirschfield "look at the myriad ways that mining has transformed the surface of the Earth – whether it’s the striking, unnatural hues of 'tailings ponds' or the open-cast landscapes that look like the fingerprints of humanity itself. If the ancient ores and minerals we covet are the condensed past, then sadly what is in store is a scarred future."

"A world of wounds."

Our present. Our future?

Monday, December 14, 2020

A Doctor's Personal Story on Being a Non-Adherent Patient.

Environmental & Science Education, STEM, Health, Medicine

Ed Hessler

The aim of this post is to link you to a post, one that has the sense of a diary entry, by a doctor who when she was a kid was a "non-adherent patient."

These are patients who both trouble physicians with a form of behavior that just doesn't seem reasonable. What they do is not in their best self-interest which is usually considered to be motivating.

First what is a non-adherent patient? Not too long ago the term was non-compliant. It refers to patients who refuse to take prescribed medicines. And about the replacement of the term non-compliant with non-adherent patient the reasoning is explained by the author, Dr. Jessica Stuart.

"Over the past several years, there has been a purposeful shift in language away from the term “noncompliant” toward the term “nonadherent.” Merriam-Webster defines comply as "to conform, submit, or adapt" whereas to adhere is "to give support or maintain loyalty.e Compliance connotes passive subservience while adherence means actively giving support to something. In this way, proponents argue, nonadherent invokes a greater degree of agency among patients."

Dr. Stuart describes her experience when she was 13 years-old, diagnosed with non-Hodgkins lymphoma. She took 11 medicatons daily and this led to a cascade of other effects, each to be lessened or prevented by other meds in that chain.  She stopped.

Stuart discusses her reasons as well as decision to take only certain ones--the chemotherapeutics. She describes herself as a Type-A person, driven to succeed so this is not what you might expect from such a patient. She examines as best she can recall her motivations and possibilities. This act of defiance didn't last long. She was discovered and she and her Dad had a "sit-down." She got back on her meds and recovered, lymphoma free now for 13 years.

And with that lesson she notes these are her plans for working with similar patients. "I do know that during my training in internal medicine and beyond I plan to approach 'nonadherent' patients with humility and compassion. I feel sad when I think back to the liver transplant patient and how the judgment-laden thought, 'How could he not take these lifesaving medications?' crept into my mind, knowing the same question could have been asked of me as a cancer patient. I’ll do my best to turn that exasperation into empathy and transform the question into a statement for nonadherent patients: 'Being sick is really hard.'”

We'd all agree with that last statement.

Here is the essay.


Sunday, December 13, 2020

Birds in Winter: Survival

Environmental & Science Education, STEM, Biological Diversity, Nature

Ed Hessler

The Cornell Laboratory of Ornithology revisits a gorgeously illustrated feature from the Winter 2019 issue of Living Bird on how birds survive northern winter weather.

How Do Birds Survive the Winter may be read here.

Saturday, December 12, 2020

14 World Leaders (the Ocean Panel) Make a Commitment to the Future of the Ocean

Environmental & Science Education, STEM, Earth Sciences, Earth Systems

Ed Hessler

A subheading to a just published editorial--World leaders are waking up to the ocean’s role in a healthy planet--in the science journal Nature on "an unprecedented and welcome commitment to use marine ecosystems sustainably" notes that the (findings published in Nature)--the result of a collaboration between the Ocean Panel and the Nature journals--examines the potential for sustainable, equitable and profitable growth in the ocean economy and what it would take to achieve this. The editorial is available as a PDF, too.

It is richly linked and includes four major sections: the panel; food, minerals and metabolites; empowerment and stewardship; and action. Metabolites are substances formed in or necessary for metabolism and this begs for another definition. Metabolism the chemical processes that occur within a living organism in order to maintain life. Both definitions are from Oxford Languages via Google.

The initiative is a powerful one because it was led by 14 world leaders and are referred to as the Ocean Panel.

A well-illustrated statement by The Ocean in Humanity's Future & World Aquatic Scientific Societies may be seen here. Nature describes it as an immersive and it is, for you can dive right in and swim as you like, saving other parts to swim in for another day.

Friday, December 11, 2020

Friday Poem

Environmental & Science Education, Poetry, Art and Environment, Children

Ed Hessler

Good day from St. Paul, MN on Dec 11, the day of 2020.

Sunrise and sunset define the hours, minutes and seconds of daylight.

Quotation. This work is going to be in our generation's hands pretty soon. So if no one else is tonna do it, I'm gonna do it. Scientist, inventor, design engineer Gitanjali Rao, who is 15 years old, is TIME's frist ever Kid of the Year.   

Appropriately it is International Mountain Day. While this day is not what International Mountain Day celebrates,  Rao scales intellectual mountain peaks year round. 

Today's poem is by W. S. Di Piero.

And here is the lovely painting  on which this poem is based.

Thursday, December 10, 2020

Arecibo Telescope: Collapse

Environmental & Science Education, STEM, Astronomy, Cosmology, Technology

Ed Hessler

By now you know that Arecibo Observatory in Puerto Rico has collapsed. It had been shut down because of its deteriorating structural conditions. Scientists and engineers were trying to determine whether the structure could be repaired.

In operation for 57 years, it has been a primary technological tool in research about the cosmos and the Wiki entry includes contributions to our understanding of the Universe from research using this tool which greatly extended our senses.

The BBC has a short video (1m ll s) showing the moment the Arecibo Observatory collapsed.

Wednesday, December 9, 2020

7 ICU Nurses Talk About the Struggle Against Covid-19.

Environmental & Science Education, Health, Medicine

Ed Hessler

In a story in the Washington Post, reporters asked seven ICU nurses (who) "have been at this for almost a year" to tell "what it's been like to care for the sickest covid patients."  During that year "politicians argued about masks, superspreader weddings made the news, a presidential election came and went, and at least 281,000 Americans died." On the other hand, these nurses reported "for work day after day." 

A nurse from Iowa is one of them.

Tuesday, December 8, 2020

Hunting and Fishing: A Young Inupiaq Woman Talks About Her Fears For This Way Of Life

Environmental; & Science Education, STEM, Climate Change, Global Change, Sustainability, Nature, Wildlife

Ed Hessler

A short video (2m 57s) from the BBC in which Inupiaq community member, Cassidy Kramer talks about one of her deep fears: losing her way of life as a hunter and being able to fish as the landscape around her, literally beneath her feet is changing as temperature rises and ice melts. 

 For information about the community of Kotzebue.

Monday, December 7, 2020

TIME Kid of the Year

Environmental & Science Education, STEM, Children

Ed Hessler

TIME has named its first ever Kid of the Year.

Gitanjali Rao is a Colorado teenager who invented a mobile device for detecting the presence of lead in drinking water.

Rao is not to pigeon-holed. I could describe her a scientist, an inventor, a design engineer and be right as well as not encapsulating her into a discipline.

The article by Time Staff includes an interview with Rao in which she describes impressive outreach efforts--innovation sessins--to other teen age students, a process she has found useful in devising solutions and inventions (including prevention of cyberbullying), what she reads and mentions that "during quarantine (she has baked) an ungodly amount," adding "It's not good, but it's baking. And, like, it's science too."

The process which she discusses is observe, brainstorm, research, build, and communicate. 

She is no stranger to recognition, awards and honors. Last year she was named to the Forbes 30 Under 30 list (age 12, she is now 15). 

The TIME article also describes the work of honorees--another impressive list of young people and work. Videos are included.

Rad is an inspiring young woman; all of them are..

Sunday, December 6, 2020

Evading Bat Sonar: Moths

Environmental & Science Education, STEM, Nature, Biodiversity, Biological Evolution

Ed Hessler

A strategy for evading bat sonar has been found in the scales on the wings of two different moths that effectively hides them from predation by bats.

Anthony King's short article in ChemistryWorld reports on research published in the  Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS). The two moths that were examined were the Chinese tusar (sic, is tasar) moth (Antheraea pernyi) and Dactyloceras lucing, a large African moth. Both species are earless. Instead, according to a description in the November 26 Nature Briefing they rely on a "dense array of tiny, thin scales that each resonate at a particular frequency (to) absorb" sound--"at least three octaves". 

It is the first known natural acoustic metamaterial." One possible use mentioned  by the authors could be "sound-absorbing wallpaper." The design of materials inspired by examples found in the natural world is known as biomimicry.

King's report is linked to the original paper if you are interested in the full details, techniques and illustrations. King writes about some of them. In addition, at the top of King's report are several  photographs, each with captions (be sure to turn this feature on).

Saturday, December 5, 2020

An Animal Crossing in Utah is Working.

Environmental & Science Education, STEM, Nature, Sustainability, Wildlife

Ed Hessler

It has been two years since an overpass for wildlife constructed in Utah was built. 

The crossing allows animals to avoid traffic on the highway below.

A "long list" of critters are using it, including deer, bears and moose.

This short video (1m 56 s) from the BBC shows the overpass in action. 

The Utah Division of Natural Resources first posted it on Facebook.

Friday, December 4, 2020

Friday Poem

Environmental & Science Education, Poetry, Art and Environment, Nature 

Ed Hessler

Good morning from St. Paul MN on December 4, 2020, the 339th day of the year (92.62% of 2020). The seconds have accumulated to 292, 289, 600.

Sunrise is at 7:34 am and sunset is at 4:31 pm, And now day length is less than 9 hours. Today  it is 8h 58m 15s long.

On this day are celebrated "little cakes" (cookies). It is National Cookie Day.

Today's quote: The restlessness of shorebirds, their kinship with the distance and swift seasons, the wistful signal of their voices down the long coastlines of the world make them, for me, the most affecting of wild creatures.”--Peter Matthiessen

Today's poem is by Alfred Corn

The scientific name of the bird, Tringa nebularia, is included in the poem.

For more information about this lovely shorebird see the Wiki entry.