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MARINE : Google Earth presents fish-eye view of coral reefs

From ENN It is estimated that coral reefs cover around 284,000 square kilometers providing a habitat for thousands of species to live. And unless you’ve snorkeled in some of these underwater habitats, or perhaps have seen a Planet Earth documentary, most of us have never experienced these natural wonders.

But thanks to Google Earth, you can now visit up-close and personal some of the world’s most imperiled ecosystems. The Google team is currently working with scientists to provide 360 degree panoramas, similar to Google street-view, to give armchair ecologists a chance to experience the most biodiverse ecosystems under the waves.

“Only 1% of humanity has ever dived on a coral reef and by making the experience easily accessible the survey will help alert millions of people around the world to the plight of coral reefs,” says Ove Hoegh-Guldberg with the University of Queensland. Hoegh-Guldberg heads the Catlin Seaview Survey which brings cameras mounted to a manned vehicle to photograph the reefs. Last year the team did around 30 surveys in the Great Barrier Reef region, while this year they have expanded to the Caribbean.

The technology has other potential beyond education and appreciation. Researchers hope to employ citizen scientists to identify marine species via images, helping to catalogue biodiversity on embattled reefs. Much like the way the public can upload pictures onto Google Earth and Google Maps, there will be a feature to create public interaction in helping with the project.

Coral reefs are threatened by pollution, coastal development, on-land deforestation, and overfishing. However the largest threat to coral reefs is burning fossil fuels, which is pushing marine temperatures up and causing to ocean acidification.

“Our results show that even under the most moderate climate change projections from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, most corals will struggle to survive and reefs will rapidly decalcify,” says Hoegh-Guldberg, who is running a longterm project in Australia that measures how corals respond to rising temperatures and acidification in controlled conditions.

In addition, global warming poses a major threat to these massive living structures and the improved Google Earth application will allow us to explore the state of coral reefs around the world, seeing their distribution and concerns facing their future existence.

@NAEE_UK believes children should learn about coral reefs / marine environments

MARINE: Bad news for Caribbean coral

Comprehensive survey of the Caribbean’s reefs is expected to act as a warning of problems besetting the world’s coral. The Guardian reports

A major survey of the coral reefs of the Caribbean is expected to reveal the extent to which one of the world’s biggest and most important reserves of coral has been degraded by climate change, pollution, overfishing and degradation.

The Catlin scientific survey will undertake the most comprehensive survey yet of the state of the region’s reefs, starting in Belize and moving on to Mexico, Anguilla, Barbuda, St Lucia, Turks & Caicos, Florida and Bermuda.

The Catlin scientists said the state of the regions’ reefs would act as an early warning of problems besetting all of the world’s coral. As much as 80% of Caribbean coral is reckoned to have been lost in recent years, but the survey should give a more accurate picture of where the losses have had most effect and on the causes.

Loss of reefs is also a serious economic problem in the Caribbean, where large populations depend on fishing and tourism. Coral reefs provide a vital home for marine creatures, acting as a nursery for fish and a food resource for higher food chain predators such as sharks and whales.

Stephen Catlin, chief executive of the Catlin Group, said: “It is not only important that scientists have access to this valuable data, but companies such as ours must understand the impact that significant changes to our environment will have on local economies.”

Globally, coral reefs are under threat. The future of the Great Barrier Reef in Australia is in doubt as mining and energy companies want to forge a shipping lane through it to form a more direct link with their export markets.

Warming seas owing to climate change can lead to coral being “bleached” – a state where the tiny polyps that build the reefs die off. The US government’s National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration predicts increasing frequency and severity of mass bleaching events as global warming takes effect.

Richard Vevers, director of the project, told the Guardian that one important role of the new survey would be to describe a new “baseline” to establish how far such problems have taken their toll to date, which will enable future scientists to judge how degradation – or conservation – progresses.

He said the team of scientists would also probe the underlying reasons for such degradation, with a view to informing conservation efforts.

The team will use satellite data as well as direct observations to assess the reefs. As part of the survey, they will develop software that marine scientists can apply to other reefs around the world. A new camera has been constructed to assist their efforts.

Vevers said: “The Caribbean was chosen to launch the global mission because it is at the frontline of risk. Over the last 50 years 80% of the corals have been lost due mainly coastal development and pollution. They now are also threatened by invasive species, global warming and the early effects of ocean acidification — it’s the perfect storm.”‘

NAEE_UK believes we need to discuss climate change

World Heritage Committee meets in Cambodia

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The 37th session of the World Heritage Committee, being held in the Kingdom of Cambodia, in Phnom Penh and Siem Reap-Angkor, from 16th to 27th June 2013.

 

 

 

 

 

Montessori, a bold life breaking boundaries

Grave of Maria Montessori in Noordwijk, The Ne...

Grave of Maria Montessori in Noordwijk, The Netherlands (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Italian educationist Maria Montessori (1870-1952)

Italian educationist Maria Montessori (1870-1952) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Montessori education

Montessori education (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Today on Montessori’s birthday – we recall a force for good, where children can and do interact with their environment. Was this the birth of  environmental education – NAEEUK?

Maria Montessori (August 31, 1870 – May 6, 1952) was an Italian physician and educator, a noted humanitarian and devout Catholic best known for the philosophy of education that bears her name. Her educational method is in use today in public and private schools throughout the world.

In this first classroom, Montessori observed behaviors in these young children which formed the foundation of her educational method. She noted episodes of deep attention and concentration, multiple repetitions of activity, and a sensitivity to order in the environment. Given free choice of activity, the children showed more interest in practical activities and Montessori’s materials than in toys provided for them, and were surprisingly unmotivated by sweets and other rewards. Over time, she saw a spontaneous self-discipline emerge.[26]

Based on her observations, Montessori implemented a number of practices that became hallmarks of her educational philosophy and method. She replaced the heavy furniture with child-sized tables and chairs light enough for the children to move, and placed child-sized materials on low, accessible shelves. She expanded the range of practical activities such as sweeping and personal care to include a wide variety of exercises for care of the environment and the self, including flower arranging, hand washing, gymnastics, care of pets, and cooking. She continued to adapt and refine the materials she had developed earlier, altering or removing exercises which were chosen less frequently by the children. Also based on her observations, Montessori experimented with allowing children free choice of the materials, uninterrupted work, and freedom of movement and activity within the limits set by the environment. She began to see independence as the aim of education, and the role of the teacher as an observer and director of children’s innate psychological development. 

Source : http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Maria_Montessori

Links : http://mariamontessori.com/mm/ | https://twitter.com/#!/mariamontessori | http://www.facebook.com/mariamontessori

Darwin’s tree of life brought into the future

A new project aims to bring Charles Darwin’s masterclass on evolution into this century. Carl Zimmer of The New York Times reports 

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A tree of life connects species 

In 1837, Charles Darwin opened a notebook and drew a simple tree. Each branch represented aspecies. In that doodle, he captured his newfound realization that species were related, havingevolved from a common ancestor. Across the top of the page he wrote, “I think.”

Two decades later Darwin presented a detailed account of the tree of life in “On the Origin ofSpecies.” And much of evolutionary biology since then has been dedicated to illuminating parts ofthe tree. Using DNA, fossils and other clues, scientists have worked out the relationships of manygroups of organisms, making rough sketches of the entire tree of life.

“Animals and fungi are in one part of the tree, and plants are far away in another part,” said LauraA. Katz, an evolutionary biologist at Smith College in Northampton, Massachusetts.

 

 A tree of life connects species

Scientists want to create a single tree of life out of thousands. An updated model, and Darwin’s effort. Cambridge University Library; Iplant Collaborative,top

 

Now Dr. Katz and her colleagues are doing somethingnew: they are drawing a tree of life that includes everyknown species - a tree with about two million branches.

“I think it is an amazing step forward for our communityif it can be pulled off,” said Robert P. Guralnick, an expert on evolutionary trees at the University of Colorado who is not part of the project.

Until recently, a complete tree of life would have beeninconceivable. To figure out how species are related,scientists inspect each possible way they could berelated. With each additional species, the total numberof possible trees explodes. There are more possible trees for just 25 species than there are stars.

But scientists have developed computer programs thatfind the most likely relationship among species without considering every possible arrangement. Thosecomputers can now analyze tens of thousands ofspecies at a time.

Yet these studies have thrown spotlights on only smallportions of the tree of life.

“Nobody has tried to put all these results together,” saidthe leader of the new effort, Karen Cranston, a biologistat the National Evolutionary Synthesis Center in Durham, North Carolina.

Last year, Dr. Cranston and other experts came up witha plan for a single tree of life. The National Science Foundation has awarded the team a three-year grant of$5.7 million. The project, the Open Tree of Life, hopes to publish a draft by August 2013. The scientists willgrab tens of thousands of evolutionary trees archived online, then graft the smaller trees into a single big one.

These trees represent just a tiny fraction of all known species. The rest are classified in the oldLinnaean system, in which they are assigned to a genus, a family, a kingdom, and so on. The teamwill use that data too. All the species in a genus, for example, will belong to branches descendingfrom the same common ancestor. The Linnaean system will give the tree only a rough picture ofthe true relationships among species.

“Parts of it will be quite good, and parts will be quite bad,” Dr. Cranston said.

The team will then set up an Internet portal where the entire community of evolutionary scientistscan upload new studies, which can then automatically revise the entire tree.

And the tree will grow. Each year scientists publish descriptions of 17,000 new species. Last yeara team estimated the total number of species to be 8.7 million, although others think it could easilybe 10 times that.

When scientists publish the details of a new species, they typically compare it with known speciesto determine its closest relatives. They will be able to upload this new information into the OpenTree of Life. Scientists who extract DNA from the environment from previously unknown species willbe able to add their information as well.

Animals and plants will take up only a tiny part of the tree. “Most biodiversity on earth is microbial,”said Dr. Katz.

Microbes pose a special challenge. The branches of the tree of life represent how organisms passtheir genes to their descendants. But microbes also transfer genes among one another. Thosetransfers can join branches separated by billions of years of evolution.

“In a lot of the tree of life, it’s not really treelike,” Dr. Cranston said.

She and her colleagues are exploring how they can build their database to include these genetransfers, and how best to visualize them.

“That’s an issue we intend to struggle with for the next three years,” Dr. Katz said.

Luke Harmon, an evolutionary biologist at the University of Idaho who is not involved in the project,looks forward to using the tree to explore the history of life. One major question evolutionarybiologists have long explored is why evolution runs at different speeds in different lineages.

 

A tree of life connects species

“We can use the tree to identify evolutionary ‘bangs’ and’whimpers’ through the history of life,” said Dr. Harmon said. It may also be possible to see how climate change has driven extinctions, and to make predictions for the future.

Stephen A. Smith, a team member from the University ofMichigan, hopes that the Open Tree of Life will allowscientists to tackle some major questions.

The tree may be able to guide the search for new drugs,for example. Scientists trying to treat infectious bacteria could search for the fungi that makeantibiotics that are effective against it. The relatives of those fungi might make even more effectivedrugs.

“These are questions we can ask now,” Dr. Smith said. “But we don’t have all the data together toanswer them yet.”

Roderic D. M. Page, a professor of taxonomy at the University of Glasgow, called the Open Tree ofLife team “first class,” but added: “Displaying large trees is a hard problem that has so far resistedsolution. We are still waiting for the equivalent of a Google Maps.”

Source : http://www.chinadaily.com.cn/sunday/2012-06/17/content_15507170.htm/The New York Times

 

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