Digital resources to strengthen the quality and quantity of geography education in classrooms the world over.
Curated by Seth Dixon
Some of the most beautiful things in the world can be the most susceptible to sweeping environmental transformations.
The Chinese government claims that this project is ecological in nature and that pastoralism will degrade the grasslands; however, this is stamping out cultural groups that have been resistant to assimilation.
"When wolves were reintroduced to Yellowstone National Park in the United States after being absent nearly 70 years, the most remarkable 'trophic cascade' occurred. What is a trophic cascade and how exactly do wolves change rivers?"
When a complex system gets one aspect of it changed, there are many other changes that occur, some of which are nearly impossible to envision beforehand. Here is some Oregon State research on the changes in Yellowstone's ecosystems and physical environments since the introduction of wolves.
"The Sahel’s ability to produce food is not keeping pace with its growing population, and global warming will only exacerbate the imbalance, according to a new study. Among the 22 countries making up the arid region in northern Africa, the population grew to 471 million in 2010 from 367 million in 2000, a jump of nearly 30%. As the population grew rapidly, the production of crops remained essentially unchanged. Using satellite images to calculate annual crop production in the conflict-ridden Sahel belt, south of the Sahara desert, the researchers then compared output with population growth and food and fuel consumption."
What would Earth be like if all humans suddenly disappeared? This question posed on the YouTube series Earth Unplugged, has many intriguing ecological and biogeographic ramifications that are worth considering to explore how systems are interconnected.
"A new study adds to growing evidence that the risk of fracking contaminating drinking water wells is to due to problems with the lining of the gas wells, not the high-pressure fracturing of deep shale to release natural gas. In a new study, scientists examined isotopes of helium and two other noble gases to identify the source of methane found in drinking water wells in the Marcellus Shale of Pennsylvania and the Barnett Shale of Texas, areas where a lot of fracking has taken place. The pattern of isotopes suggested that the stray gas had leaked out of the well casing near the surface, rather than escaping from the fracked deep shale, according to a story in The Dallas Morning News. The findings will be published online this week in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences."
"A herd of hippopotamuses once owned by the late Colombian drug baron Pablo Escobar has been taking over the countryside near his former ranch - and no-one quite knows what to do with them."
An important idea in biogeography is the concept of invasive species. An invasive species is an organism that is not indigenous to an area but causes great economic or environmental harm to the new area as it quickly adapts and alters the ecosystem. Colombia's hippopotamus herd certainly qualifies as an interesting example to share with students of unintended ecological consequences that occur through human and environmental interactions. For further explorations into invasive species, see this National Geographic lesson plan.
There is a beauty and magnificent in nature, both is the microscopic and delicate as well as the grand and powerful. The biosphere's diversity is a great part of it's allure that keeps geographers exploring for to understand the mysteries on our planet. The incredible image at the end of this project really is truly stunning.
At 4,841 years old, this ancient bristlecone pine is the oldest known non-clonal organism on Earth. Located in the White Mountains of California, in Inyo National Forest, Methuselah's exact location is kept a close secret in order to protect it from the public. (An older specimen named Prometheus, which was about 4,900 years old, was cut down by a researcher in 1964 with the U.S. Forest Service's permission.) Today you can visit the grove where Methuselah hides, but you'll have to guess at which tree it is. Could this one be it?
Part I, island biogeography in a World Regional context...click here to watch part II, why island biogeography matters in places that aren't on islands. All links archived at: http://geographyeducation.org/2013/12/06/island-biogeography/
Island biogeography operates on different principles than we see on the continents. Soem extraordinary creatures such as the komodo dragon and thylacine can be found in isolated places removed interactions with more generalist species. Alfred Russel Wallace made some extraordinary discoveries combining biology and spatial thinking.
Island biogeography is pertinent today since habitat fragmentation (from urbanization and argicultural land uses) has rendered 'islands' out of the wilderness that isn't being used by humanity. Some animals such as the cougar are locally extinct from their historic ranges (extirpation).
This paper-puppet animation celebrates the life of Alfred Russel Wallace, who is co-credited with Charles Darwin for the theory of natural selection. Read the story here: http://nyti.ms/1fhBbGw
"Hydraulic fracturing, or 'fracking', is the process of drilling and injecting fluid into the ground at a high pressure in order to fracture shale rocks to release natural gas inside."
This website, Dangers of Fracking, is clearly not produced by the oil industry. What I enjoy about this resource is that as you scroll down, it adds more context to the environmental issues and geographic factors. This type of website promotes holistic thinking and an interdisciplinary approach to complex problems. Why am I leery of the fracking companies and what they say? This is why.
This is a project sponsored by OCEARCH (Ocean Reseach) that helps to track the journeys of individual sharks to better understand their migratory patterns. This data also helps to establish maps of the spatial extend of Shark habitat. This is in essence another fantastic practical application of GPS technology.
"Dust blows from what was once the Aral Sea floor. Tragic mismanagement of a natural resource."
The collapse of the Aral Sea ecosystem is (arguably) the worst man-made environmental disaster of the 20th century and 21st century has seen the continuation of the desertification set in motion. Soviet mismanagement, water-intensive cotton production and population growth have all contributed the overtaxing of water resources in the Aral Sea basin, which has resulted in a the shrinking of the Aral Sea--it has lost more of the sea to an expanding desert than the territories of the Netherlands, Belgium and Luxembourg combined. The health problems arising from this issues are large for the entire Aral Sea basin, which encompasses 5 Central Asian countries and it has profoundly changed (for the worse) the local climates. Compare the differences with some historical images of the Aral Sea on Google Earth or on ArcGIS Online (also see this article from GeoCurrents)
De-extinction is a new term for to me but this week a TEDx conference hosted by National Geographic focused completely on this concept on the possibility of reviving formerly extinct species. Just because we think we can bring back a lost species, does that mean we should? What would be the benefits? Disadvantages?
I've read enough about passenger pigeons to know that beyond overhunting, the species went extinct as large swaths of North American forests became fragmented and modified. While we may be able to theoretically bring back a species, we cannot rewind the clock and bring all the essential ingredients to their former ecosystem that allowed them to thrive in the first place. De-extinction would NOT be repairing the world so that it was as if the extinction never happened, since other species in the ecosystem have adapted to their absence. Given the length of their absence, could these be considered "invasive species?"
App-ly Yourself to Tackle Today's Scientific Challenges
The United States Geologic Survey (USGS) scientists are encouraging app developers and earth scientists to design creative apps that will aid researchers in tackling the important questions. USGS datasets include biogeographical, vegetation and land cover change data. Submissions will be judged on their relevance to today’s scientific challenges, innovative use of the datasets, and overall ease of use of the application. Prizes will be awarded to the best overall app, the best student app, and the people’s choice. Do you have an idea?
PULL a spring, let it go, and it will snap back into shape. Pull it further and yet further and it will go on springing back until, quite suddenly, it won't....
This is an interesting article discussing the limits that the Earth's physical systems have and the importance not exceeding any tipping point that could destabilize the planet if we "overstrech the springs."
Jeffrey Gettleman, The Times’s Nairobi bureau chief, reports on how Kenya’s wildlife conservation corps is learning from a reformed poacher how to counter the growing threat to elephants.
In Somalia, former pirates are helping to patrol the coasts to prevent piracy. This idea of reforming and recruiting past criminals is also seen in Kenya as former poachers are trying to protect elephants that are essential to the local ecology as well as the tourism-driven economy. In addition to the attached video is this article which expands on these issues.
In an impoverished country, elephant poaching is a quick way to make big money. A pair of poachers explain how they track and kill elephants in one of Africa's top game reserves.
The illegal sale of ivory in places such as Asia drive the elephant poachers to prey on Elephants in protected game reserves and national parks. The Selous Game Reserve is larger than Switzerland and yet they only have 10 rangers to protect and patrol the wildlife.
The Smithsonian Museum of Natural History is a fabulous resource in Washington D.C., but now this museum available virtually. Teachers can now bring the museums to the classroom with these fantastic Smithsonian virtual tours.
Our modern society depends on greater connectivity between places. Regionalized economies, politics and transportation networks are increasingly integrated with far-flung places now more than ever before. Our biosphere and natural environments are exceptions to this pattern. Wilderness areas are 'islands' in an ocean of human controlled environments. We create transportation linkages that unite people economies and cities, but separate herds from there extended habitat.
We've all seen road kill on major highways. Species like deer, elk, and grizzly bears and other large-bodied animals need a wide range for numerous ecological reasons. These bridges are an attempt to ameliorate some of the problems that our roads pose for the non-human species that still call Earth home. From a purely economic standpoint, many argue that these bridges save society money given the accidents and property damage that can be avoided.
UPDATE: This is a hilarious/painful video of a woman who clearly doesn't understand these principles.
|Suggested by Alysha Mae|
According to a study published in the June 2003 issue of "Conservation Biology," there are 561 known butterfly species in the U.S. and Canada.
"Not only are these insects beautiful, they're important pollinators and vital to the health of their natural habitats. You can encourage these gentle creatures to visit your yard by using easy-to-make butterfly food and feeders."
Since Katrina, the cartoonish pace of vegetation growth in the Lower Ninth Ward of New Orleans resembles something out of a Chia Pet commercial.
The ecosystem is reclaiming parts of New Orleans that have been physically or economically abandoned. This is part elevation, climate and ecosystem; but it is also about urban land uses, disinvestment and socioeconomics.