Tag Archives: environment

Global Biodiversity Forecasting and Response System to Embrace Information, Networking Technologies

At the Global Biodiversity Informatics Conference (GBIC) held in Copenhagen, Denmark earlier this month, experts from around the globe agreed on key priorities for using information technologies and social networks to help understand life on Earth.

The focus of the work is on “how biodiversity can continue to sustain human lives and livelihoods.”

Information networks support and permeate nearly every aspect of our daily lives in areas such as banking, commerce and entertainment. We still do not have this kind of rich, globally-interconnected system for understanding and monitoring life on Earth. We know a lot about species, genetics, and ecology, but we can’t easily put this information together into a working knowledge system. This conference has given us a roadmap toward this goal.”

“Over the last quarter century, thousands of talented people have been working hard to bring essential biodiversity data onto the web. Much has already been achieved or is under development. GBIC has reinforced how important these activities are, and at the same time has outlined a path for us to build from where we are and deliver a rich globally-connected system for understanding and monitoring multiple aspects of biodiversity.”

— Donald Hobern, Executive Director, the Global Biodiversity Information Facility (GBIF)

The overarching goal is to support collaborative biodiversity observation on a global level so that short-term changes and longer-term trends can be identified and appropriate responses can be enabled.

Next steps include developing an “outlook document” that will prioritize biodiversity informatics in order to create forecasting and response capabilities like those used in forecasting the weather and detecting earthquakes.

How is technology changing your life for the better?

Learn more at http://www.eurekalert.org/pub_releases/2012-07/gbif-bgc070612.php

© Tony Leininger and IT for Good 2012. See sidebar for full copyright notice.


Online Tech to Connect Arizona State’s ‘Global Classroom’ to Europe

An educational pilot project at ASU is laying the groundwork for international undergraduate educational collaboration.

Working together with Leuphana University in Germany, Arizona State University has initiated a pilot project that paves the way for international educational collaboration.

The “global classroom” program will use virtual conferencing technology along with online exercises and interactions to test traditional educational roles, put forward new ideas about educational methods, and explore and redefine the ways education is shaped by location.

“…all knowledge has context. So we asked, ‘what if as we teach about sustainability, conservation biology, science, humanities and culture, we have students from Europe, South America, China, and the U.S. all talking together?’ There would be differing views and the sharing of those views might allow students to develop solutions to challenges that none could have conceived of individually. And so was born the concept of a global classroom.”

— Robert Page, vice provost and dean, College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, ASU

Potential partners located in Germany, Holland, and Israel are observing the progress of ASU’s Global Classroom, and if the approach is successful, ASU may move forward with creating innovative educational links between the U.S. and China.

How is technology changing your life for the better?

Learn more at http://www.eurekalert.org/pub_releases/2012-07/asu-ots070312.php

© Tony Leininger and IT for Good 2012. See sidebar for full copyright notice.

WhaleWatch Aims to Reduce Number of Whales Entangled and Hit

In their annual round-trip migrations along the North American coast, Gray whales come into contact with numerous threats. (Image: Helen Bailey)

Researchers are working to identify seasonal and geographical whale migration trends in hopes that the data will help policymakers provide better protection for Gray whales and endangered whale species.

WhaleWatch is a collaboration between University of Maryland, Oregon State University, and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s National Marine Fisheries Service.

A first step in reducing these threats to whales is to have a better understanding of where the whales go. We will be analyzing the largest satellite tracking dataset for large North Pacific whales and combining it with satellite-derived environmental data to provide us with key information on where and when the whales are found and why.”

— Dr. Helen Bailey WhaleWatch project leader, Center for Environmental Science, University of Maryland

While Gray whales are most often hit by ships or entangled in nets, satellite-monitored tags were also attached to three endangered species — blue whales, fin whales and humpback whales — for the study.

Data from the tags and whale migration models will help researchers to pinpoint high-risk areas off the West Coast of the United States so policymakers can develop effective conservation policies.

Currently in the first of three years of development, plans for WhaleWatch include its availability on the NOAA web site.

How is technology changing your life for the better?

Learn more at http://www.eurekalert.org/pub_releases/2012-05/uomc-ws052212.php

© Tony Leininger and IT for Good 2012. See sidebar for full copyright notice.

“Map of Life” Project Aspires to Understand and Save World’s Biodiversity

A new, web-based “Map of Life” is being developed by a team of researchers from Yale University and the University of Colorado Boulder. The purpose of the online tool is to show how living plants and animals are distributed around the planet.

A small but powerful next step is to provide a means for anyone, anywhere on the globe to use their mobile devices to instantly pull up animal and plant distributions and even get a realistic assessment on the odds of encountering a particular species of wildlife,”

—Robert Guralnick, Associate Professor and curator of invertebrate zoology, Museum of Natural History, University of Colorado

The team has compiled various types of data about life on Earth that has been collected during the past 200 years. In addition to professional scientists, potential users include wildlife and land managers, organizations that focus on conservation efforts, and the general public.

Additional information is available at http://www.mappinglife.org/about.

How is technology changing your life for the better?

Learn more at http://www.eurekalert.org/pub_releases/2012-05/uoca-no051012.php

© Tony Leininger and IT for Good 2012. See sidebar for full copyright notice.

All the World’s Plants to Find a Digital Home Online

Botanical Illustration of a peony.
Leading botanical gardens are banding together to create a “full inventory of plant life.”

Four of the world’s top botanical gardens have signed a memorandum of understanding that solidifies their plans to develop World Flora, the first complete online catalog of the world’s plants, by the year 2020.

The participating institutions are The New York Botanical Garden; the Missouri Botanical Garden; The Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew; and the Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh.

In a shared announcement, the project’s leaders state that World Flora will help meet the need for a baseline survey of the world’s plants, and they shared their hope that its creation may help to halt the continuing loss of plant biodiversity due to extinction worldwide.

Thanks to advances in our botanical knowledge and in digital technology, an online World Flora is within our grasp. It is imperative that we create this resource, which will help us assess the value of all plant species to humankind and be effective stewards to ensure their survival.”

—Gregory Long, Chief Executive Officer and The William C. Steere Sr. President of The New York Botanical Garden

World Flora will build upon an earlier online work, The Plant List, developed by the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, and the Missouri Botanical Garden. The Plant List contains accepted names and synonyms for all known plant species.

World Flora is intended to be much more detailed and will also contain descriptions, images, and distribution information for every known plant.

Learn more at http://www.eurekalert.org/pub_releases/2012-04/tnyb-ppo042012.php

The New York Botanical Garden: http://www.nybg.org

Missouri Botanical Garden: http://www.missouribotanicalgarden.org

Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew: http://www.kew.org

Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh: http://www.rbge.org.uk

© Tony Leininger and IT for Good 2012. See sidebar for full copyright notice.

Interactive Classroom Links Teachers, Students in Arizona, Panama

The Desert to Rainforest project vision includes international education reform and global innovation.

Educators in Phoenix and Panama are taking part in a yearlong science education program, Desert to Rainforest, which is supported by the Smithsonian.

Students and teachers in both locations will use interactive video technology to learn about the ways Arizona’s deserts and Panama’s rainforests are alike and different.

An overarching goal of the project is to help develop critical thinking skills, science know-how, and cultural awareness.

The video component will enable us to build connections between students in Panama and here in Phoenix. I think this is a great addition to the project because it enables middle school students to learn not only about biodiversity but cultural diversity as well.”

—Lauren Coffey, student teacher, Mary Lou Fulton Teachers College, Arizona State University

A collaborative initiative launched in 2010, the Desert to Rainforest project encompasses the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute in Panama (STRI); ASU’s School of Life Sciences, College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, and Teachers College; Audubon Arizona; Phoenix Public School Districts; and the Ministry of Education in Panama. The project vision includes international education reform and global innovation.

Desert to Rainforest emphasizes the development of core curricula that celebrates life in these two rich ecosystems. The students living in each of these distinctively different environments will use their personal experiences to understand differences and similarities in the habitats in which they live, and they will bring new knowledge home to share with their families.”

—David Pearson, a research professor in ASU’s School of Life Sciences

Learn more at http://www.eurekalert.org/pub_releases/2012-04/asu-dtr041612.php

© Tony Leininger and IT for Good 2012. See sidebar for full copyright notice.

Searching for Better Ways to Mobilize Knowledge

Experts meeting at the United Nations University in Canada this week hope to help find ways to “better mobilize knowledge and maximize its usefulness.”

An international conference is being hosted this week by the Canada-based United Nations University – Institute for Water, Environment and Health. The focus of the 60 experts from 20 countries: “How to better mobilize knowledge and maximize its usefulness.”

Worldwide, billions of dollars are spent each year to help advance knowledge of interest for the public good. Too often, however, those who could benefit, including policy makers and the general public, never learn about much of the information.

Policymakers in developed and developing countries alike are hampered by the need to respond rapidly to pressing concerns, and rely on the actions of intermediaries to help them interpret complex information. Both in developed and developing countries, intermediaries broker knowledge into policy and practice. Working with civil society organisations, NGOs, the private sector and academia, these intermediaries help ensure that the best available knowledge is used to make effective policies.”

—Louise Shaxson, a Research Fellow at the UK’s Overseas Development Institute, and Vice-Chair of the Conference

The following are some of the challenges the attendees hope to address:

  • Practitioners in one sector unaware of relevant work going on elsewhere
  • International donors who find it difficult to assess the policy impact of their research funding
  • Policymakers who need access to authoritative resources for decision-making

The event program is online at http://bit.ly/InPyHQ and proceedings may be followed live online (for instructions: http://bit.ly/IVpw1r)

Learn more at http://www.eurekalert.org/pub_releases/2012-04/unu-fit041712.php

© Tony Leininger and IT for Good 2012. See sidebar for full copyright notice.