|Biodiversity and conservation
Biodiversity and general ecology issues
Saturday, August 05, 2006
Tsunami and Peace Boost Illegal Indonesia Logging
: "The rebels of Aceh are trading their guns for chain saws and cashing in on a logging binge that is jeopardizing the future of the world's third largest tropical forest reserves.
It's a cruel conjunction of good news and bad news: The rebellion is over, but peace has opened previously inaccessible virgin forests to illegal logging. Meanwhile, 130,000 homes destroyed by the tsunami of December 2004 need replacing, and demand for timber is almost insatiable. ..
Indonesia, whose tropical forest reserves are the world's largest after the Amazon and the Congo basin, has lost around 40 percent of its canopy to loggers in the last 50 years. At this rate of deforestation -- an area the size of New Jersey lost each year -- lowland trees of Sumatra and the neighboring island of Borneo will disappear by 2010, according to Friends of the Earth and the World Wildlife Fund or WWF.
Aceh was largely protected during a decades-long separatist insurgency, with logging primarily limited to rebels and rogue elements within the military. But last year's peace deal opened up previously inaccessible virgin forests." 11:20:34 AM
Wednesday, February 08, 2006
Evangelical Leaders Join Global Warming Initiative:
Surprising to me, and hopeful. " [A] television spot links images of drought, starvation and Hurricane
Katrina to global warming. In it, the Rev. Joel Hunter, pastor of a
megachurch in Longwood, Fla., says: "As Christians, our faith in Jesus
Christ compels us to love our neighbors and to be stewards of God's
creation. The good news is that with God's help, we can stop global
warming, for our kids, our world and for the Lord." The
advertisements are to be shown in Arkansas, Florida, Kansas, New
Mexico, North Carolina, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee and
The Evangelical Climate Initiative, at a cost of
several hundred thousand dollars, is being supported by individuals and
foundations, including the Pew Charitable Trusts, the Hewlett
Foundation and the Rockefeller Brothers Foundation." 10:51:45 AM
Tuesday, January 24, 2006
Sensors watch Barrier Reef coral: Cairns, Australia: "The Australian Institute of Marine Science (Aims) is working with James Cook University on a project called Digital Skins. Smart sensors, developed originally for use in nuclear power stations, are placed in the ocean and also in water catchments on the mainland. They are able to communicate with each other to monitor events such as coral bleaching as they happen. ..
Each sensor in the skin has its own numerical address and operating system. Using a global position system, the sensors know exactly where they are. Parameters such as salinity, temperature and nutrient levels are measured.
Communicating with the sensors is a challenge, particularly for those sensors located out on the reef. Using a technique that was discovered by the British during World War II, microwave signals are sent along the surface of the ocean. Initial tests have seen data sent as far as 70km (43.5 miles) in one hop.
The final link in the chain is grid computing. All these sensors create terabytes of data every day. High-speed links allow the various institutions to share their computing power. " 12:42:57 PM
Tuesday, October 25, 2005
Craig Venter update:
Nice summary of Venter's latest work by Steve Jurvetson
. "Craig Venter set sail around the world to shotgun sequence the millions of viruses and bacteria in every spoonful of sea water. From the first five ocean samples, this team grew the number of known genes on the planet by 10x and the number of genes involved in solar energy conversion by 100x. The ocean microorganisms have evolved over a longer period of time and have pathways that are more efficient than photosynthesis.
Another discovery: every 200 miles across the open ocean, the microbial genes are up to 85% different. The oceans are not homogenous masses. They consist of myriad uncharted regions of ecological diversity… and the world’s largest digital database.
From the collection of digital genomes, we are learning to decode and reprogram the information systems of biology. Like computer hackers, we can leverage a prior library of evolved code, assemblers and subsystems. Many of the radical applications lie outside of medicine.
At the Venter Institute, Craig Venter and Hamilton Smith are leading the Minimal Genome Project. They take the Mycoplasma genitalium from the human urogenital tract, and strip out 200 unnecessary genes, thereby creating the simplest synthetic organism that can self-replicate (at about 300 genes). They plan to layer new functionality on to this artificial genome – to make a solar cell or to generate hydrogen from water using the sun’s energy for photonic hydrolysis – by splicing cassettes of novel genes discovered in the oceans for energy conversion from sunlight. ..
The limiting factor is our understanding of these complex systems, but our pace of learning has been compounding exponentially. We will learn more about genetics and the origins of disease in the next 10 years than we have in all of human history. " Also see Venter's latest company, Synthetic Genomics
. 7:47:25 PM
Monday, September 19, 2005
Paper Says Edible Meat Can be Grown in a Lab on Industrial Scale:
"In a paper in the June 29  issue of Tissue Engineering
, a team of scientists, including University of Maryland doctoral student Jason Matheny, propose two new techniques of tissue engineering that may one day lead to affordable production of in vitro
- lab grown -- meat for human consumption. It is the first peer-reviewed discussion of the prospects for industrial production of cultured meat.
"There would be a lot of benefits from cultured meat," says Matheny, who studies agricultural economics and public health. "For one thing, you could control the nutrients. For example, most meats are high in the fatty acid Omega 6, which can cause high cholesterol and other health problems. With in vitro meat, you could replace that with Omega 3, which is a healthy fat. "Cultured meat could also reduce the pollution that results from raising livestock, and you wouldn't need the drugs that are used on animals raised for meat." ..
"cultured meat could appeal to people concerned about food safety, the environment, and animal welfare, and people who want to tailor food to their individual tastes," says Matheny. The paper even suggests that meat makers may one day sit next to bread makers on the kitchen counter. "The benefits could be enormous," Matheny says. "The demand for meat is increasing world wide -- China 's meat demand is doubling every ten years. Poultry consumption in India has doubled in the last five years. ..
Matheny saw so many advantages in the idea that he joined several other scientists in starting a nonprofit, New Harvest, to advance the technology. One of these scientists, Henk Haagsman, Professor of Meat Science at Utrecht University, received a grant from the Dutch government to produce cultured meat, as part of a national initiative to reduce the environmental impact of food production."
Added implication: "Writing in this month’s Physics World, British physicist Alan Calvert calculated that the animals eaten by people produce 21 percent of the carbon dioxide that can be attributed to human activity." 10:32:02 PM
Saturday, August 27, 2005
Wildlife trade on the web: "Internet shoppers in search of the exotic have sparked a booming trade that is threatening the existence of many endangered species, according to a report released Tuesday by the International Fund for Animal Welfare. .. “Trade on the Internet is easy, cheap and anonymous,” said IFAW UK director Phyllis Campbell-McRae. .. The report “Caught in the web - wildlife trade on the Internet” found in just one week 146 live primates, 5,527 elephant products, 526 turtle and tortoiseshells, 2,630 reptile products and 239 wild cat products for sale." 8:33:51 AM
Monday, August 15, 2005
Are We Prepared for Avian Flu?: An interview with "Laurie Garrett, the only reporter to win all three of journalism's big "P" awards (the Peabody, the Polk and the Pulitzer) .. resigned from Newsday earlier this year [citing] a deteriorating climate for journalism .. Today, Garrett is Senior Fellow for Global Health at the Council on Foreign Relations. Her story "The Next Pandemic?" was published in the July/August issue of Foreign Affairs ..
"Avian influenza comes from aquatic birds, including migratory ducks, geese and herons. The loss of these birds' migratory routes in China has brought them into direct contact with humans in farms and parks. In this way, influenza is spread from migrating birds to domestic birds, then to pigs and ultimately to humans. This chain of events involves veterinary science, ecology and medicine, the triumvirate studied by the science of conservation medicine." One general issue: we lack "respectful mutual lines of communication between those protecting human health, those protecting animal health and those dealing with ecology."
On avian flu response specifically: "I think the CDC is doing a lot. But what I keep trying to get across to people is that flu starts in Asia. We're a lot better off if we can stop it in Asia than if we wait until it is here and try to figure out some means to minimize the damage. And that means a whole lot more multinational agreements, and this is difficult at a time when our Congress is full of members saying really terrible things about China [and Vietnam]..
In a recent study published in Nature, a team at Oxford University did a computer model just simply asking if it is possible to stop pandemic flu. And the good news is their answer is yes, it is possible, but the bad news is it can be stopped only if you identify it when there are just 30 human cases. Well, we're not going to spot those first 30 human cases before it spreads to hundreds or thousands of people unless we have a much better infrastructure of public health, vigilance and surveillance in poor countries like Vietnam, Cambodia and Laos, and in countries with more money but completely lacking in sophisticated public health infrastructure, like China." " 2:04:44 PM
Friday, August 12, 2005
"The Project Puffin seabird camera is now beaming live-streaming video from Matinicus Rock—Maine’s largest colony of Atlantic Puffins and Razorbills. Matinicus Rock is located 22 miles south of Rockland, Maine. .. The robotic camera was funded by grants from MBNA Foundation
and the Disney Wildlife Conservation Fund
. The video signal is beamed by microwave 25 miles to Rockland .. When the [visitor] Center opens, visitors will be able to operate the camera. The camera is an invention of Daniel Zatz of SeeMore Wildlife Systems
of Homer, Alaska.
The camera is set to move every two minutes on an auto tour of 20 preset locations that show seabird habitat on Matinicus Rock. The auto tour includes the murre attraction program that is using decoys to encourage Common Murres to nest on the island.. The camera turns on automatically at 5AM and runs until 9PM- at which time viewers will be able to see the light sending its powerful beams. .. The auto tour also includes two minutes of observation within an underground puffin burrow. Using infrared lighting, viewers will be able to see the growing chick and its parents. This is the first underground video of nesting puffins to be shown on the Internet. " 11:17:36 AM
Monday, May 23, 2005
: A new theme and a new website. "Foresight’s new mission is to ensure the beneficial implementation of nanotechnology." It's a good change; I've been a member for 4 years and had advocated more of a focus on environmental issues and benefits. Nice to see that of their six nanotech 'challenges'
, #1 is clean energy, #2 is water quality and supply, and #4 is agriculture. 8:38:40 AM
Tuesday, February 22, 2005
How E2 works: July 2002: "Automakers said the new limits on emissions that state lawmakers were considering would hurt the economy and prevent consumers from buying sport-utility vehicles. Environmentalists said they would help curb global warming. Into the fray stepped Environmental Entrepreneurs, insisting that business and environmental interests are not at odds.
Last week's passage of the Assembly bill limiting greenhouse-gas emissions -- the first of its kind in the country -- was just what Nicole Lederer and Bob Epstein envisioned for Environmental Entrepreneurs, a 2-year-old group of business leaders who support environmental causes.
E2, as the group is known, presented undecided Assembly members with business leaders -- mostly Silicon Valley financiers and tech executives -- who supported the bill. That gave politicians a defense against the charge that they were anti-business. ``They were essential to the passage of the bill,'' said Anne Baker, a staff member for Assemblywoman Fran Pavley, D-Woodland Hills, who created the bill. ``They wrote Op-Eds, they wrote to legislators, they came here and met with members of the state Assembly on a regular basis. They were relentless.'' ..
Rick deGolia, chief executive of Fonelet Technology, a San Francisco start-up, appreciates the approach E2 takes, particularly how it makes presentations, called "ecosalons,'' to members about environmental issues. "They're professional, sophisticated, mature,'' said deGolia, who hosted one on the oceans last year at his home. "They're helpful to me to gain expert knowledge from people who are really dedicating their lives to environmental issues and presenting them in a way that's very valuable to business leaders.''
A call to action from E2 often means clicking ``Yes'' in response to an e-mail asking for permission to use the member's name and professional status in literature supporting a legislative goal. To rally behind Pavley's emissions bill in March, E2 gathered 86 names over e-mail and submitted them to legislators as evidence that the business community was in favor of tougher environmental policy.
E2 is a select group. It requires a minimum contribution of $1,000 to the NRDC to join; so far E2 has raised $1.8 million. Epstein also has started a pet project called E2 Venture Endowment -- a fund to support start-ups working on technology that helps the environment or makes another technology cleaner." 12:43:31 PM
Monday, January 31, 2005
Michael Crichton and Global Warming
: "How do people learn about global warming? That, more than the merits of any scientific argument, is the most interesting question posed by Michael Crichton's State of Fear." Excellent review of the popular argument on warming, from Brookings' David Sandalow. 9:55:44 AM
Sunday, December 19, 2004
BCFacts.org - The BC Government's Environmental Record
: Interesting model of environmental information service for a single state (in this case provincial) government. Outbound syndication spreads the newsfeeds to partner sites, and inbound syndication supplies info from partners and volunteers. 12:12:39 AM
Saturday, November 20, 2004
Monday, October 18, 2004
Tuesday, October 05, 2004
Sunday, August 15, 2004
Saturday, June 12, 2004
: A PDA program designed for recording conservation data in the field, even by non-literate users. 12:24:58 AM
Wednesday, March 10, 2004
Sorcerer II sails the world finding new species and new energy genes: "Using precise mathematical algorithms previously used to assemble sequence results from single species, the researchers were able to assemble whole genomes and major sections of genomes from the diverse microbial community found in the ocean. The paper describes a minimum of 1,800 new species identified in the Sargasso Sea. As well, there were 1,214,207 new genes identified by the researchers, which is a significant increase over the number currently in public databases. ..
One of the most important single discoveries from the Sargasso Sea environmental shotgun sequencing study is the 782 new rhodopsin-like photoreceptor genes. Only a few dozen photoreceptors have been characterized in microorganisms to date and less than 200 photoreceptors have been discovered from all species, including human where they are responsible for our vision. Therefore, this discovery represents a substantial increase in the total number of this family of proteins. One interpretation of this finding is that at least 50% of the new species discovered use some type of photobiology and could explain the diversity of species in such a low nutrient environment. Better understanding of these photoreceptor genes could be very important to IBEA researchers as they explore the mechanisms of photosynthesis as a means to efficiently and economically produce hydrogen as a fuel source. ..
Dr. Venter also announced the official launch of the Sorcerer II Expedition, a scientific expedition of discovery that will circumnavigate the globe under sail, surveying marine and terrestrial microbial populations. The Expedition has the potential to uncover tens of thousands of new microbial species and tens of millions of new genes. The voyage and sample collection are being funded by the J. Craig Venter Science Foundation and by the Discovery Channel Quest Program. The Sorcerer II Expedition is the subject of a Discovery Channel documentary film slated to air in 2005. In addition to the DOE Office of Science grant previously announced, the Expedition has received an important new grant from the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation for $4.25 million which will be used to sequence the DNA collected along the coast of North America." The site has pictures and flash presentations. 10:42:59 AM
Saturday, January 31, 2004
GBIF portal: "The purpose of the Global Biodiversity Information Facility (GBIF) is to make the world's primary data on biodiversity freely and universally available via the Internet. .. Technically, GBIF is evolving to be an interoperable network of biodiversity databases and information technology tools using web services and Grid technologies. In the near term, GBIF will provide a global metadata registry of the available biodiversity data with open interfaces. Anyone can then use it to construct thematic portals and specilised search facilities. Building on the contents of this registry, GBIF will provide its own central portal that enables simultaneous queries against biodiversity databases held by distributed, worldwide sources. In the long term, molecular, genetic, ecological and ecosystem level databases can be linked to the system. These will facilitate and enable data mining of unprecedented utility and scientific merit. " Related: MaNIS: "With support from the National Science Foundation, seventeen North American institutions and their collaborators are developing a network of distributed databases of mammal specimen data. "
Several related sources are indexed at http://www.learningsite.com/ 10:59:34 PM
Friday, December 05, 2003
Sunday, September 07, 2003
Wired 10.12: Supermicrobe Man
: Brief interview with Venter: "At the beach, a milliliter of surface water will typically contain 1 million bacteria and 10 million viruses. Think about that next time you fall off your surfboard and take a big swallow of seawater. In different parts of the ocean it varies. We're going to start the experiment with the Sargasso Sea [in the North Atlantic]. The Sargasso is nutrient-poor, so the number of species there and the density of life is much lower. Later, we plan to test whether we can take all the DNA from one of Yellowstone's volcanic pools and work out what's in there.
It would have been inconceivable to [do this for] most scientists even five years ago; they would have said it's impossible in terms of the processing power. Now, we think the Sargasso Sea experiment of sequencing every organism in the ocean will take about a week.
We're building an extremely large, state-of-the-art sequencing center with a higher capacity than anything existing today. It will ultimately be capable of more than 100 million sequences a year. Keep in mind that 26 million gave us the human genome. We're going to be trying some new technologies that might allow us to get information on maybe 10,000 genomes an hour in the microbial world." 10:22:39 PM
Genome pioneer sets sights on Sargasso Sea: Craig Venter aims to sequence every bug in entire ecosystem.: "The Institute for Biological Energy Alternatives (IBEA), which Venter heads, has already begun sequencing every microbe in the Sargasso Sea, a region of the Atlantic Ocean between the Azores and the West Indies that is bounded by ocean currents. ..
The microbes' genes will also reveal how they make their living - what chemicals they feed off and produce, for example. Other studies of ocean bacteria have found new ways to turn sunlight into energy. Such research might bring about new technologies. .. One of the stated goals of the IBEA, a non-profit organization based in Rockville, Maryland, which was founded by Venter in April last year, is to develop sustainable energy sources, such as a microbe that produces hydrogen. The institute is also working on biological tools to mitigate global warming by removing carbon dioxide from the atmosphere.
The IBEA team has filtered seawater from different depths and sites, and sequenced the microbes collected en masse. The researchers are using the shotgun sequencing method - breaking the genome into small segments and assembling the fragments with computers. The sequence shards will need to be parcelled out into many different organisms. It's like trying to assemble thousands of individual jigsaws from a single box containing millions of pieces. ..Venter believes that the technique could be applied anywhere from the air to the human gut. "Based on the data we already have, we're predicting that this will become the number-one way for characterizing the environment," he says." 10:14:00 PM
Tuesday, July 15, 2003
Parks Watch - Strengthening Parks To Safeguard Biodiversity
: "ParksWatch is a watchdog and monitoring organization that works through partnerships with in-country NGOs and individuals to conduct on-the-ground evaluations of national parks and other tropical protected areas. Our information is used to analyze threats to parks' conservation viability, identify strategies for overcoming the identified threats, and help government agencies, NGOs and community groups succeed at the ultimate goal of strengthening parks in their role as the world’s primary instrument for the protection of biodiversity." THey compare themselves to Amnesty Intl for parks. 11:19:34 PM
Peru protected area map and partners
: Cordillera Azul National Park: Interesting collaboration among conservation organizations with interactive map and links to NASA, Field Museum, Conservation Intl, Moore, etc. 11:16:10 PM
Tuesday, May 06, 2003
VIA-SAT DATA SYSTEMS INC.
: "is a privately owned Canadian corporation operating in North Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada. It was established in June 1988 as a result of an employee privatization proposal to amalgamate various hydrometeorological data collection programs at B.C. Hydro." Has projects in Asia that do water system data collection. 3:48:12 PM
Tuesday, April 08, 2003
FAO GTOS :: TEMS database
: "TEMS, Terrestrial Ecosystem Monitoring Sites, is an international directory of sites (named T.Sites) and networks that carry out long-term terrestrial monitoring and research activities. The database provides information on the "who, what and where" that can be useful to both the scientific community and policy-makers." 10:17:09 PM
Tuesday, December 10, 2002
: "Like the use of vessels in oceanography or telescopes in astronomy, NEON will set in place observatories to "deploy" infrastructure for comprehensive, integrated measurements and analysis of ecological systems. In effect, by co-locating biological research infrastructure, NEON observatories will enable state-of-the-art investigations in field biology. " 11:32:54 AM
Friday, August 30, 2002
E7 W-Park Pilot Project
: ".. to assist in the conservation of one of Africa's largest fauna reserves by providing photo-voltaic systems to community facilities around the W Park, which is shared by the three western African countries of Benin, Burkina Faso, and Niger.. The project is set to start in the first semester of 2002 and scheduled for completion in the three countries by the end of 2002. Since the overall project will facilitate the preservation of one of the most precious biodiversity areas of West Africa, the e7 anticipates that the pilot project venture will encourage additional sustainable energy development of the W Park area." 9:28:28 PM
Wednesday, July 17, 2002
: "SõL assisted Remote Power Inc and the Center for Resource Solutions to produce a decision-making tool the for The Nature Conservancy (TNC) to evaluate how environmental conservation projects may benefit from using solar and renewable energy resources and technologies." Contact: email@example.com
, 1-720-489-3798 12:03:57 AM
Tuesday, July 16, 2002
Remote Power International: Performs installations of remote power systems in many international locations. Includes
- "Management of an ongoing project to promote renewable energy on the 1400 Nature Conservancy properties in US and Caribbean. The primary applications are photovoltaics for powering ranches, research facilities, visitor centers, eco-tourism facilities, .. in remote areas. Secondary applications are solar water heating for buildings and photovoltaics for water pumping, electric fences, instrumentation, weather data platform, to assist in conservation management. "
- An April 2002 remote data collection platform in the Palmyra Islands of the Central Pacific.
- Testing and monitoring of solar electric systems in PV rural electrification programs in Yemen, China, Sri Lanka, Indonesia and India, for NREL and SELF.
Global Guardianship Initiative
: "In 1999, CRS initiated a partnership with the Nature Conservancy (TNC) using renewable resources and appropriate technology to enhance conservation efforts and meet strategic conservation needs for TNC worldwide operations. " Current and future projects
bring renewable energy to staff inside and communities near protected areas. At present, there does not appear to be a communications component. Head of Intl Programs: firstname.lastname@example.org 11:21:39 PM
Friday, June 28, 2002
Eskom (South Africa) pursues electrification
: Eskom targets 300,000 homes for electrication this year, in addition to 336,000 last year. Also, they "launched a pilot project last year to find ways of reducing the cost of nongrid electrification while increasing the effect of these schemes. The project, called "a hybrid minigrid system" took place at the Hluleka Nature Reserve in Eastern Cape. It sought to integrate a number of different systems, notably energy, water purification and telecommunications. The project will make use of renewable solar energy, water heaters and liquid petroleum gas. The minister said the combination of energy carriers would result in increased energy efficiency. "This is what we expect from our nongrid operators in the whole country over time." " 1:32:37 PM
Tuesday, April 30, 2002
Tropical scientists find fewer species than expected
: "An 8-year National Science Foundation-funded study of New Guinean rainforest .. [estimate chanaged] from approximately 31 million species to between 4-6 million, is based on the finding that insects specialize their feeding not on individual species of plants, but on genera and even families of plants" 9:42:58 AM
Saturday, April 27, 2002