31 January 2014

Your 365-Day Outlook

Have you ever seen the rain (and every other weather pattern) from space over the course of a year?

The European Organisation for the Exploitation of Meteorological Satellites has compiled images of 2013's entire set of weather patterns and made them into an amazing video. Check it out:

We tend to think of weather in terms of individual events, but the video reveals the mesmerizing interconnections in these systems. The effect is that the viewer can see Earth alive.

When it comes to weather, this video is truly the big picture.

29 January 2014

It Takes an Online Community

A new online group from the National Wildlife Federation helps with raising children of the digital age to love nature.

The NWF recently launched Wildlife Nation, which people can join to exchange ideas about connecting children with nature. Features of the site include information about wildlife, tips for outdoor activities, and a chance to engage with others who want to make sure children have access to the natural world.

It's good to see the Internet being used to foster more interaction with the environment instead of keeping kids inside. For more information about Wildlife Nation, read the NWF blog post about it here or visit the Web site here.

Just like anything else in raising children, getting outside is all about collective wisdom.

26 January 2014

See Change

Experience the difference.

Global warming is, by definition, a planetary issue. However, sometimes, big problems are better understood on the individual level.

A Web site called iSeeChange is producing reports of global warming through crowdsourcing, using the public to generate the content. Under this model, individuals can share the changes they are seeing as a result of global warming and contribute to the broader picture of the phenomenon. To learn more about how it works and see the reports that have been generated so far, click here.

A changing planet requires changing how we communicate the developments we see, and iSeeChange gives us one tool for doing that.

23 January 2014

The Virtues of a Foolish Heart

When a fool's errand becomes a life calling, the results can be great for individuals and the environment.

Morgan Heim, a journalist turned conservation photographer, made what she calls a "foolish" decision, and now, she encourages others to do the same kind of thing. Heim uprooted her life and her career path to take on an underdog photography project about a relatively unknown animal, the fishing cat, and she did so without a real plan. Watch as she discusses her foolishness below:

Under traditional thinking, what Heim did might indeed seem foolish, yet thanks to her work, the endangered fishing cat is getting worldwide attention, and we have a new model for finding fulfilling jobs. To learn more about Heim's foolishness, click here, and to view her photography, click here.

Fools may rush in, but sometimes, they come out with something special.

19 January 2014

Art as a Feather

Art is in the wing of the beholder or any other place you find feathers.

Artist Chris Maynard of Olympia, Washington, uses feathers as his medium. He photographs, arranges, or carves feathers into works of art, and true to their base material, his creations carry an avian theme, depicting birds and drawing attention to the beauty of feathers.

Maynard's interest in feather art began at around age 12 and is rooted in his love of birds. A member of Artists for Conservation, he uses his work to encourage people to protect birds and bird habitat. For more information and to see Maynard's feathers, go to his Web site by clicking here.

This is the kind of art that leaves birders and environmentalists flying high.

17 January 2014

A Pet is Worth a Thousand Pictures

Image is everything for pets waiting to be adopted.

Mother Nature Network reports on this story about an organization of artists who are helping animal shelters. HeARTs Speak connects animal organizations with artists who want to donate their talents like photography, design, and illustration.

One of the coolest results of the collaborations that take place through HeARTs Speak is that good photographs help animals' chances of being adopted. Of course, animal shelters rarely have the resources to pay for such great shots, so the pro bono pics are doubly meaningful. For more information about HeARTs Speak, click here.

Pictures have an inherent power, but the HeARTs Speak images carry the force of a good cause.

15 January 2014

Spokes on a Wheel

Remember the fun of riding bikes with friends? The University of Oregon and the city of Eugene do.

Community planning is crucial to creating bicycle-friendly towns and cities, but producing effective plans is easier when everyone contributes ideas and works toward the same goal. That's what makes the collaboration between the university, students, and the community so great in the Oregon case.

According to this news release from the university, a student group took the initiative to study ways of making a major street on campus safer for bikes. Based on its research, the group proposed an idea, and the university and the city are now working to help bring the plan to life. The proposal has even received a pledge of a $150,000 donation from the parents of a university student who was killed in a bicycle accident in 2008.

The Oregon plan proves yet again that riding bikes is better when friends are around.

12 January 2014

An Idea Forged in Fire

Only you can stop thinking about forest fires in the old way.

Smokey Bear famously encouraged us to prevent forest fires. We took the slogan to heart, but perhaps we overdid it. While it's true that we need to take care not to start them, the idea that all wildfires are completely negative for the environment needs revision.

Recent scientific research, including this study by Oregon State University, has shown that wildfires are yet another important life force in ecosystems. Among other things, fire helps contain invasive species and functions as a starter for new life processes. This means that total fire suppression prevents the natural cycle from playing out.

We had the best of intentions in preventing forest fires, but this idea about the key environmental role of such fires needs to ... well ... catch fire.

10 January 2014

Free Bird

This birding app goes cheap, cheap!

The various digital birding apps available provide great resources for both professional birders and people who are simply trying to figure out what bird they just saw. With its latest app, known as Merlin, the Cornell Lab of Ornithology has the latter group in mind.

Merlin is a free app. Drawing from the eBird database, it guides people through the identification process and makes suggestions based on factors like size and when and where the bird was seen. Watch the video below to get an idea of how it works:

Merlin doesn't include all the bird species in North America, and it is only available through Apple's App Store for now, but an Android version is coming, and Merlin looks like a great, free option for those who are getting started with bird identification. For more information, click here.

With Merlin, the next time you hear a cheep, you've got a no-cost, handy way of figuring out what made it.

08 January 2014

The Digital Environment

Kids and their newfangled technology these days!

While it seems counterintuitive, digital technology can actually help children connect with the environment. The National Wildlife Federation recently produced a report showing that although technology can keep children inside too much, when it is used in connection with outdoor experiences, it can leave children with a better understanding of the environment.

To encourage technology use that has the best possible impact on children's relationship with nature, NWF created a list of suggestions based on its study. These tips included creating tech-themed adventures and recording the experiences with portable devices.

For further encouragement, the NWF is currently running a winter photography contest connected with its Be Out There campaign. For more information on the technology study and the photo contest, click here.

Who would've thought cyberspace would lead us to nature?

06 January 2014

Window Watching

Our windows are killers, and they need to be watched.

Millions of birds are killed each year when they collide with the windows on our buildings. With numbers like that, it's important to learn as much as we can and address the problem. That's why the University of Alberta is investigating bird-window collisions, and we can help.

The university's Birds and Windows Project collects data on window-caused bird deaths, and the data comes from citizen science, which means that by tracking and reporting these deaths at our homes, we can hopefully help find solutions to the problem. For more information about how to participate, click here.

Don't let those windows out of your sight.

04 January 2014

The Year of Living Plasticlessly

Just because plastic lasts just about forever doesn't mean it can't die.

For the sake of environmental and human health, the age of plastic needs to end. With a new year getting started, now is as good of a time as any to start phasing out plastics. To get things going, the Natural Resources Defense Council is providing 10 suggestions for reducing the amount of plastic in our lives.

The stainless steel straws are interesting, and so are the bamboo utensils, but my favorite ideas are giving alternative gifts and adopting a "no-buy" goal.

Living without plastic--now, that's something that should last forever. Let's have forever begin in 2014.

02 January 2014

Social Media Go Wild

Your next friend on Facebook might have four legs or maybe fins.

Science is embracing social media more, and one of the most interest developments is Wild Me, which is a platform for linking the public to wildlife and scientists. People can use Wild Me to friend a specific animal on Facebook and receive scientific information about it. Right now, Wild Me connects only with Facebook, but the plan is to expand it to other social media. Check out the video describing it below:

This idea has great potential for citizen science, connecting people with the environment, and helping them understand scientific information. Because it is in its early phases, the project is seeking help with funding, so if you'd like to help or just learn more about it, click here.

It's good to see the interactions of the Web including the whole web of life.