The official Sharkwater photo book, written and photographed by Rob Stewart. 216 pagesof award winning exclusive photos from the 4 year 15 country odyssey, as well as the back story, the launch, and the making of Sharkwater.
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(NaturalNews) Wild monkeys living near Fukushima, Japan, have detectable levels of radioactive cesium in their bodies, along with lowered blood cell counts that may indicate a hampered immune system, according to a study conducted by researchers from the Nippon Veterinary and Life Science University in Tokyo and published in the journal Scientific Reports on July 24.
Via Ton Kraanen
This is a harder question to answer than you may imagine! Marine biology is the field of knowledge relating to marine organisms. But what is a marine biologist? To many, it means being a dolphin trainer but to others it means managing a marine wildlife sanctuary. There are many answers to this question and I would say that a marine biologist is someone who works in some way in studying, observing, protecting, or managing marine organisms, be they microbe, plant or animal. If you study marine fish populations you are a marine biologist. If you manage a marine wildlife preserve and are concerned with protection of marine organisms there, then you too are a marine biologist. You know you're a marine biologist if you have a notebook or computer that you record information often about marine organisms. But you may also be a marine biologist if you are collecting sponges, looking for bioactive drugs. You may be counting them, doing DNA sequencing of them, observing them in the laboratory or making theoretical models predicting their abundance once fishing is decreased. So marine biologists do many things, but what they have in common is working with marine organisms.
‘Blackfish’ Creators Challenge SeaWorld to Open DebatePosted on January 27, 2014 by Alisha Mims •
The Tasmanian tiger, or thylacine, native to Australia, was a remarkable animal that was the largest known carnivorous marsupial of modern times. The animals went extinct as recently as the 1930s, mostly due to the relentless efforts of bounty hunters.Because they went extinct so recently, specimens of the animal remain intact, pickled and preserved in museum jars. Some specimens that have been stuffed and displayed in museums may also still retain DNA. Projects to clone the thylacine are already well under way, and some of the animal's genes have already been successfully expressed in a mouse fetus after the genes were inserted into the mouse's genome.
Petition Seeks to Reform Secretive Federal Agency That Kills Millions of Wild Animals
WASHINGTON— The Center for Biological Diversity and allies petitioned the Obama administration today to reform the federal wildlife-killing agency known as “Wildlife Services,” which kills nearly 1.5 million coyotes, bears, otters, foxes, birds and other animals each year without any requirement to disclose its activities to the public. The secretive killing — which includes aerial gunning, traps and exploding poison caps — has gone on for decades with little public oversight or rules requiring the use of the best available science or techniques to reduce the deaths of nontarget animals.
Today's petition was filed with the U.S. Department of Agriculture, which oversees Wildlife Services.
“Wildlife Services is an out-of-control, rogue agency that shoots, snares and poisons more than a million native animals every year, many unintentionally — including at least 13 endangered species,” said Amy Atwood, a senior attorney at the Center for Biological Diversity and the primary author of the petition. “Despite calls for reform by members of Congress, scientists and the public, Wildlife Services is still operating without the kind of legally binding regulations that ensure transparency and accountability to the taxpaying American public, creating a free-for-all that should have been ended decades ago.”
The petition calls for the agency to:Develop regulations to ensure use of the best science when determining whether action should be taken against animals;Avoid killing nontarget animals, including endangered species;Ensure ethical treatment of targeted animals and exhaustion of nonlethal means; andRequire release of reliable information to the public about the animals it kills.
A response to the petition is required by law; any decision is subject to review by the courts.
“For far too long Wildlife Services has run roughshod over America’s wildlife,” said Camilla Fox, founder and executive director of Project Coyote. “We call on the USDA to clean house and bring Wildlife Services into the modern era of predator conservation and stewardship by adopting rules that justify their actions and that allow for public input and the integration of ethics, economics and science-based ecology.”
Under various names, Wildlife Services has killed millions of animals since the early part of the 20th century, targeting native carnivores like coyotes and foxes, prairie dogs, birds and many other species at the behest of agribusiness interests. The agency contributed to the decline of gray wolves, Mexican wolves, black-footed ferrets, prairie dogs, and other species during the first half of the 1900s, and continues to impede their recovery today.
“Wildlife Services has long ignored sound science in establishing its priorities, instead taking its cues from ranchers and other ‘cooperators,’ ” noted Carson Barylak, federal policy advisor at the Animal Welfare Institute. “The influence of these private interests has taken precedence over the ecological principles that should be guiding the agency’s decisions, and wildlife is suffering as a result.”
According to the agency’s own figures, which likely underestimate the total death toll, the agency has killed more than 22 million native animals since 1996, representing 476 different species. The past five years have been some of the most active for the agency, with more than 1.5 million native animals killed per year. The agency reports that it kills an average of nearly 4,000 nontarget native animals annually, including at least 13 endangered species, such as Louisiana black bears, Mexican gray wolves, wood storks, Hawaiian stilts, island foxes and roseate terns.
“Wildlife Services has contributed to the endangerment of several species, such as wolves and grizzly bears, that play pivotal roles in the food chain and have been the subject of extensive recovery efforts,” said Atwood. “The agency is a major threat to North American wildlife and must be reined in and held accountable.”
Wildlife Services employees routinely engage in unlawful or inhumane activities, refusing to fire or discipline agency employees who are known to break the law or cause animal suffering. The agency is also notoriously secretive, shielding most of its activities from scrutiny, and routinely covering up a substantial portion of its animal killings.
Lead petitioners include Center for Biological Diversity, Project Coyote and the Animal Welfare Institute. The Animal Legal Defense Fund signed on as a supporting petitioner.
Download a copy of the petition here.
The Center for Biological Diversity is a national, nonprofit conservation organization with more than 625,000 members and online activists dedicated to the protection of endangered species and wild places.
Project Coyote (ProjectCoyote.org) is a national non-profit organization promoting compassionate conservation and coexistence between people and wildlife through education, science, and advocacy. Join our community on Facebook and Twitter.
The Animal Welfare Institute (www.awionline.org) is a non-profit charitable organization founded in 1951 and dedicated to reducing animal suffering caused by people. AWI engages policymakers, scientists, industry, and the public to achieve better treatment of animals everywhere—in the laboratory, on the farm, in commerce, at home, and in the wild. Follow us on Facebook and Twitter for updates and other important animal protection news.
SAN FRANCISCO — THOSE of us who live in the United States are fortunate; generally we don’t have to give a lot of thought to the safety of our tap water. This makes our collective experience with water very different from that of hundreds of millions of people across the globe who lack access to clean water.
But twice this year the water supply for a major American city was interrupted for days by water pollution. In January, a chemical used in the processing of coal leaked from a ruptured storage tank into the Elk River, contaminating the water supply for about 300,000 people in and around Charleston, W.Va., the state’s capital and largest city. Then, last weekend, the water supply for over 400,000 people in Toledo, Ohio, was declared unsafe because of the presence of microcystin, a toxin released by algae blooms in nearby Lake Erie, the source of the city’s water.
While the circumstances in each situation are different, there are notable similarities. In each case, the pollution could not be adequately treated by the local water plants. Sudden “do not drink” (and, in some cases, “do not bathe”) warnings resulted. And in each case, activities in or near the communities caused, or partially caused, the problem. In Charleston, it was an upstream industrial spill; in Toledo, polluted runoff, including from agriculture, along the Great Lakes stoked the slimy, fluorescent algae blooms that sent residents flocking to supermarkets for bottled water.
Those events offer two important reminders about water in the United States.
Most of us will never visit the Arctic Circle — and the residents of this northernmost region are perfectly happy with that. We're not talking about Eskimos; we're talking about the animals that call the Arctic home. Though the subzero temperatures and rugged boreal forests may seem bleak and unforgiving, many species thrive in the frigid tundra of the Arctic Circle.
Help scientists classify over 30 years of tropical cyclone satellite imagery.The climatology of tropical cyclones is limited by uncertainties in the historical record. Patterns in storms imagery are best recognized by the human eye, so we need your help analyzing these storms.A Better Cyclone Center
Cyclone Center has recorded over 210,000 classifications from citizen scientists around the world since its launch in September 2012. But we’re not resting on our laurels; the site has undergone significant changes that we think will make your experience classifying storms even more rewarding. Highlights of the new site include:
1. Targeted storm choices. Choose your favorite storm to classify from a list of four storms that we’d like you to focus on. These storms will change frequently as you help us complete each one. Featured in the early sets of storms will be at least one storm from the historic 2005 Atlantic hurricane season, including Hurricanes Katrina and Wilma. Or, if you’re feeling adventurous, click the “Classify a random storm” button and get a mystery storm!
Squid, octopus, and cuttlefish are considered masters of disguise in the ocean. But how do they do it? A recent study by Goodwin and Tublitz tested a new technique to study cuttlefish camouflage using image analysis software.
How do cuttlefish camouflage?
Cuttlefish, like other cephalopods, have chromatophores. Chromatophores are pigmented organs controlled by muscles that expand and contract to change the size of each cell. More specifically, chromatophores are neuromuscular organs that respond to electric impulses, much like our brains.
A group of researchers, including Dr. Roger Hanlon from the Marine Biological Labs in Woods Hole, Massachusetts, created a video to demonstrate the neuromuscular function of squid chromatophores in response to music played from an iPod (Wardill et al. 2012). The video also links to a TED talk demonstrating the same concept applied to a cockroach leg.
Together, these cells create fantastic patterns to mimic a variety of backgrounds. For more information and examples of cuttlefish camouflage, check out this 2008 video interview of Dr. Hanlon (New York Times). As Dr. Hanlon indicates in the interview, there is a lot we don’t know about cephalopod camouflage. Furthermore, the techniques to answer many research questions have not been developed.
About the project
The authors, Goodwin and Tublitz, tested a new method for measuring chromatophore activity in European cuttlefish. This method would help develop answers to questions about how chromatophores work and why chromatophores of different color behave differently. Researchers developed computer software to analyze images of chromatophores and compared computer results to techniques used in prior studies
The researchers received cuttlefish eggs from The Smithsonian Aquarium (Washington, DC) and raised them to adulthood. They proceeded to extract samples of fin tissue from six of the cuttlefish, without killing them. To induce changes in chromatophore shapes and sizes, each tissue sample was washed with artificial sea water for 1.5 minutes, followed by a 5-minute application of a neuropeptide solution, and another 3-minute artificial sea water wash. Throughout this, images were collected at 40 frames per second.
Pictures of the tissues were then assessed in image analysis software. Chromatophores were first manually separated into color categories (black, red-brown, and yellow). Red-brown and black were ultimately grouped together as “red-black” because the colors could not be distinguished from one another.
A comparison of red-black and yellow chromatophores, using pixel data, detected differences between the two color categories accurately by setting thresholds for red, green, and black color intensity in each category. These threshold values were then used in developing the new image analysis program.
The program was created to track chromatophores over several images by a process called segmentation (see Figure 1). Using this segmentation process, the computer can isolate each chromatophore in an image to assess its color category (red-black or yellow), and size. The program would then track the changes in that chromatophore over consecutive images to record changes in size.
SAN FRANCISCO — A storm of charged particles coursing through a volcanic ash cloud sparked the spectacular green lightning seen at Chile's Chaiten Volcano in 2008, a researcher said here Monday (Dec. 9) at the annual meeting of the American Geophysical Union.
The green lightning revealed an electrical dance normally hidden inside thunderclouds, Arthur Few, an atmospheric scientist at Rice University in Houston, said. "It probably occurs in all thunderstorms, but you never see it," Few said. "Because of the structure of charges in a volcano cloud, it's on the outside of the cloud."
Two spectacular photographs, snapped when Chaiten erupted in May 2008, recently caught Few's eye when he was investigating volcanic lighting. The volcano looms over the Andes about 800 miles (1,285 kilometers) south of Santiago, Chile, and erupted on May 2 of that year after lying dormant for hundreds of years. A retired professor, Few said he was driven to explain the phenomenon simply out of curiosity.
A comet that gained an earthly following because of its bright tail visible from space was initially declared dead after essentially grazing the sun. Now, there is a silver of hope that Comet ISON may have survived.
New images, basically faint smudges on a screen, being analyzed Friday showed a streak of light moving away from the sun that some said could indicate it wasn't game over just yet.
"It certainly appears as if there is an object there that is emitting material," said Alan Fitzsimmons, an astronomer at Queens University in Belfast, Northern Ireland.
Basically a dirty snowball from the fringes of the solar system, scientists had pronounced Comet ISON dead when it came within 1 million miles (1.6 million kilometers) of the sun Thursday.
Some sky gazers speculated early on that it might become the comet of the century because of its brightness, although expectations dimmed over time. But it wouldn't be all bad news if the 4.5-billion-year-old space rock broke up into pieces, because some scientists say they might be able to study them and learn more about comets.
The European Space Agency, which had declared ISON's death on Twitter late Thursday, was backtracking early Friday, saying the comet "continues to surprise."
Comet ISON was first spotted by a Russian telescope in September last year, and became something of celestial flash in the pan this week for its vivid tail -- visible by the naked eye -- and compelling backstory of impending doom.
The comet was two-thirds of a mile wide as it got within 1 million miles (1.6 million kilometers) of the sun, which in space terms basically means grazing it.
Click headline to read more--
Via Chuck Sherwood, Senior Associate, TeleDimensions, Inc
Despite their rich fossil record with thousands of genera found throughout the world, the taxonomy and phylogeny of trilobites have many uncertainties. The systematic division of trilobites into nine distinct orders is represented by a widely held view that will inevitably change as new data emerge. Except possibly for the members of order Phacopida, all trilobite orders appeared prior to the end of the Cambrian. Most scientists believe that order redlichiida, and more specifically its suborder Redlichiina, contains a common ancestor of all other orders, with the possible exception of the Agnostina. While many potential phylogenies are found in the literature, most have suborder Redlichiina giving rise to orders Corynexochida and Ptychopariida during the Lower Cambrian, and the Lichida descending from either the Redlichiida or Corynexochida in the Middle Cambrian. Order Ptychopariida is the most problematic order for trilobite classification. In the 1959 Treatise on Invertebrate Paleontology, what are now members of orders Ptychopariida, Asaphida, Proetida, and Harpetida were grouped together as order Ptychopariida; subclass Librostoma was erected in 1990 to encompass all of these orders, based on their shared ancestral character of a natant (unattached) hypostome. The most recently recognized of the nine trilobite orders, Harpetida, was erected in 2002.
As might be expected for a group of animals comprising 1,500+ genera and 17,000+ species the morphology and description of trilobites can be complex. "Trilobite" (meaning "three-lobed") is named for the three longitudinal lobes: a central axial lobe, and two symmetrical pleural lobes that flank the axis (Fig 1). The trilobite body is divided into three major sections, a cephalon (head) with eyes, mouth parts and antennae, a thorax of multiple similar segments (that in some species allowed enrollment), and a pygidium (tail), see Fig 2. When describing differences between different taxa of trilobites, the presence, size, and shape of the cephalic features are often mentioned and shown in Figs 3 & 4.
When trilobites are found, only the exoskeleton is preserved (often in an incomplete state) in all but a handful of locations. A few locations (Lagerstatten) preserve identifiable soft body parts (legs, gills, musculature & digestive tract) and enigmatic traces of other structures (e.g. fine details of eye structure) as well as the exoskeleton.
Trilobites range in length from 1 mm to 72 cm (1/25 inch to 28 inches), with a typical size range of 3 to 10 cm (1 to 4 inches). The world's largest trilobite, Isotelus rex, was found in 1998 by Canadian scientists in Ordovician rocks on the shores of Hudson Bay.
Scientists have warned that the US is pumping out 50 per cent more methane than it publishes in government estimates, effectively cancelling out efforts to cut CO2 emissions.
The study is one of the most comprehensive attempts to monitor greenhouse gases ever carried out, based on more than 13,000 measurements between 2007 and 2008.
It estimates that the US poured nearly 50 million tons of methane into the air during the period – compared to the 32 million tons estimated by the US Environmental Protection Administration (EPA), or the 29 million tons registered by the European Commission.
The gas is 21 times more effective at trapping heat in the atmosphere than CO2, and scientists said the new figures meant methane contributed as much to global warming as all the emissions from the US’s cars, trucks and planes in a six-month period.
“Something is very much off in the inventories,” said study co-author Anna Michalak, an Earth scientist at the Carnegie Institution for Science in Stanford, California. “The total US impact on the world's energy budget is different than we thought, and it's worse.”
Unlike previous studies, which estimate methane emissions at source – outside livestock farms, oil refineries and fracking operations – the new research measured the gas once it had reached altitude, with sensors on planes and tall towers.
Scientists published their findings in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Science.
Outside experts praised the study, with Robert Howarth at Cornell University calling it “very compelling and quite important. This is the most comprehensive study yet.”
Britton Stephens of the National Centre for Atmospheric Research in Boulder, Colorado, said: “The atmosphere is this great integrator that records the sum of all emissions. The great thing about it is it doesn't lie, it doesn't make mistakes.”
Stephens added that methane leaks may have cancelled out the benefits felt from recent pushes to switch from coal to natural gas.
Michalak said their methods meant it is hard to say what is putting more methane into the air. But she said by looking at concentrations — especially within Texas, Oklahoma and Kansas — the scientists have a good idea: Cows, oil and gas.
Nearly one-quarter of the US methane emissions came from those three states, and the measurements were nearly 300 per cent higher than government estimates. Texas is known for its refineries and oil and gas drilling. Oklahoma is another major driller, while Kansas hosts some of the country’s largest livestock farms.
Cows seem to be spewing twice the methane that scientists previously thought, Michalak said.
While burps and flatulence are part of the methane emission from cattle, University of California Santa Barbara professor Ira Leifer said a bigger factor is manure.
“If you shovel it into an artificial lagoon you are creating the perfect production for methane, but it cuts down on the smell and your neighbours complain less,” he said.
A spokesperson for the government's EPA Alisha Johnson said her agency hasn't had time to go through the study yet, but hopes it will help “refine our estimates going forward”.
Tyr Pandora's insight:
By Jamie Davis
Considering its multidisciplinary status, many students adore taking up anthropology as a major. Few other career paths let them travel all over the world in order to meet fascinating peoples and dissect the hows and whys of their bodies, minds and cultures. Anyone familiar with the TED Talks lecture and demonstration series probably realizes that the site overflows with videos of interest to the anthropological community. Think of the following list as a mere sample! Be sure to explore the rest of TED for more intellectual, provocative pleasures.Zeresenay Alemseged looks for humanity’s roots: To this paleoanthropologist, the badlands of Ethiopia provide fascinating insight into humanity’s mysterious history. The 3.3 million-year-old skeleton of a toddler girl (nicknamed “Selam”) stands at the forefront of this lecture, highlighting the main points of Zeresenay Alemseged’s research. Beyond his inquiries into humanity’s history, the discoveries he makes also shed some light on how landscapes, climates and environments change over millennia.Amber Case: We are all cyborgs now: Pull back from studying the past and learn about one anthropologist’s thoughts regarding its future. Amber Case argues that staggering advances in mobile communication technology can be interpreted as veritable external hard drives for the mind. In this, most “plugged-in” people could consider themselves cyborgs, and as science marches on such connections could change the purely organic state of humanity forever.Aubrey de Grey says we can avoid aging: Because of his extensive research at Cambridge, Aubrey de Grey has discovered seven different classifications of aging. His somewhat controversial theories posit that this universal reality for all living things can be treated as a disease — if not outright reversed. While such procedures won’t grant immortality, they can extend one’s lifespan and help fight off many of the medical issues that come with growing older and feebler.Dean Ornish says your genes are not your fate: It’s common knowledge that regular exercise and painstakingly orchestrated, healthy diet promote longevity and a comparatively shorter medical record. But few people realize that sticking with such disciplined habits for years can actually yield results at the most basic biological level. UCSF clinical professor Dean Ornish spends a little over three minutes explaining the details of how this phenomenon works and application methods to improve one’s daily life.Wade Davis on the worldwide web of belief and ritual: Anthropologists and anthropology buffs alike must carefully dissect and research the thousands (if not millions) of cultural, creative and linguistic memes, religious traditions and biological phenomena inherent to people. Wade Davis has been fortunate enough to experience so many of them firsthand, and he uses this lecture to break down many barriers people tend to form. Many cultures share common values and traditions — even with those they never encountered — which showcases the true interconnectivity of humanity.Wade Davis on endangered cultures: Davis’ time with National Geographic has afforded him myriad enviable opportunities to encounter peoples and places all over the world, each with their own intriguing story to tell. However, one of the more tragic effects of globalization revolves around acculturation and uniqueness lost to repeated interpersonal exposure. Here, the explorer ruminates on some of the civilizations threatened by the encroachment of others, offering solutions to preserving their lives and ideas.Laurie Santos: A monkey economy as irrational as ours: Far beyond merely sharing DNA and common ancestors, humanity’s fellow primates also display many of the exact same behaviors. Though plenty of dedicated research, Laurie Santos of Yale’s Comparative Cognition Laboratory discovered that monkeys typically made similar choices as humans when it comes to economics. Watch this delightful and enlightening lecture instead of merely reading the transcript — it definitely provides some amazing visuals along with plenty points to contemplate.Ben Cameron: The true power of the performing arts: Anthropologists understand the integral role that dance, music and theatre play in the whole of human history. Here, the Doris Duke Foundation’s Ben Cameron gives a compelling lecture solidifying how they survive in an era of almost immediate entertainment and gratification. No matter how sophisticated science and technology become, there will always be an integral place for the performing arts in society.Louise Leakey digs for humanity’s origins: This lecture takes viewers on a journey to various points in East Africa, where anthropologists, archaeologists and paleontologists continue their exhaustive search for mankind’s progenitor. Homo erectus lay at the center of one giant historical, biological mystery. Its fossils lead to even more questions about the division between humans and other primates as well as how they evolved into today’s forms.Richard Dawkins on our “queer” universe: For anthropologists who enjoy contemplating the universe and the millions of psychological and philosophical questions that inhabit it, the renowned evolutionary biologist Richard Dawkins provides an amazingly insightful TED Talk. Perspective and preconception prevent people from fully exploring and comprehending the vastness of space, time and the science that keeps the species going. He argues that such patterns need breaking in the interest of progress.Stefana Broadbent: How the internet enables intimacy: Thanks to the internet and sophisticated mobile communication technologies, millions of people around the world can exchange ideas and insights with one another almost instantaneously. However, some complain that such methods prove largely impersonal — a mindset which Stefana Broadbent, a respected cognitive scientist, pooh-poohs. If anything, she argues, such interconnectivity and accessibility actually nurtures friendships, family ties and professional relationships.Elaine Morgan says we evolved from aquatic apes: Elaine Morgan sits at the front of the aquatic ape hypothesis, explaining that humanity’s evolution came about through them rather than the oft-touted terrestrial monkeys. She uses TED as a forum to discuss how she came to conceive of and support this plan, and how the scientific community reacted. For anthropologists seeking out some unconventional takes on some all-too-familiar subjects, this lecture will make for interesting viewing.Susan Savage-Rumbaugh on apes: The old psychological debate on nature versus nurture gets run through an anthropological filter in Susan Savage-Rumbaugh’s illuminating talk. Witness how bonobos easily adapt to human behaviors and cultures — even comprehending basic bits of language and learning how to write, carve stone tools and cut leather. Though not human, studying their abilities intently can easily shed a spot of light on how all primates operate.Nina Jablonski breaks the illusion of skin color: As respected as Darwin is in the biological and anthropological communities, Nina Jablonski disagrees with his theories of how race eventually burst into existence. Using maps by NASA’s TOMS 7 satellite, she makes connections between UV exposure and skin color. The main argument revolves around illustrating how the sun and atmosphere altered pigments in the skin of humanity’s ancestors, eventually altering genetic lines.Jane Goodall helps humans and animals live together: Long after her legendary stint amongst the chimpanzees of Tanzania, renowned primatologist Jane Goodall has returned to Gombe National Park on a humanitarian mission. Known as Take Care, this admirable initiative emphasizes sustainability issues benefiting human and animal alike. Participants have found numerous strategies that ensure both groups receive the resources necessary for survival, and the scientist discusses their most effective ones here.Jane Goodall on what separates us from the apes: In spite of myriad biological and psychological overlaps between humanity and its primate cousins and ancestors, there exists at least one significant difference. Peoples’ language skills, Goodall believes, forms the great dividing line because of sheer sophistication. Ever the philanthropist, she uses her pulpit to deliver a message of peace and justice.Mechai Viravaidya: How Mr. Condom made Thailand a better place: Anthropologists and anthropology students (and hobbyists!) interested in today’s persistently shifting cultural memes will likely find this video exceptionally intriguing. Mechai Viravaidya introduces viewers to Thailand’s historical efforts to bolster the nation out of poverty. His contribution — the one earning him the moniker “Mr. Condom” — involves intensive education in sexual health.Spencer Wells builds a family tree for humanity: Though ancient evidence for humanity’s origins is sparse — if even still in existence — scientists have pieced together a viable enough timeline for the species’ evolution. Geneticist Spencer Wells started the Genographic Project in order to study biological similarities in individuals from 17 countries worldwide, discovering some startling facts along the way. One of the major questions forming the initiative’s core involves whether or not everyone on the planet evolved from a single shared ancestor.Dan Dennett on dangerous memes: As anyone who studies the ins and outs of the human mind and body knows, memes are much broader entities than mere cat photos and viral videos. Oftentimes compared to viruses, many scientists argue that they spread and replicate themselves to the point they can almost be considered living entities. Considering they form the core of human perception, cognition and culture, Dan Dennett’s enlightening TED Talk makes for essential viewing.Chris Abani muses on humanity: A lifetime spent in war-torn Nigeria exposed Chris Abani to both the ugliest and most beautiful human acts. Through his stories, he reflects upon how the experiences of others serve as a provocative, effective conduit for self-reflection. Anthropologists will particularly appreciate the rumination on the cultural concept ofunbuntu.