Friday, January 22, 2010


Again the idea of co-evolution keeps entering my realm.  This time at my Brooklyn Botanical Garden Botany course Uli, my professor, introduced us to the ant plant.  Myrmecophyte plants, also commonly known as ant plants, native to south Asia are epiphytes.  Epiphytes may often be considered parasitic but they only use their host for physical support.  While the Myrmecophyte plant relies on trees for a home, the plant also is a host for a colony of ants. 

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Evolutionary Weaponry -- Venom

"If I spit, they will take my spit and frame it as great art." - Picasso

His modesty is commendable, but really humans are millions of years behind other animals in terms of the quality of their spit.

There are many animals in the world today that utilize a variety of venoms to incapacitate prey. Most notable of these are snakes, lizards, spiders, and jellyfish. Few people are aware of the venoms that some mammals have, such as moles and shrews. But if the evolution of venoms occurred in multiple kingdoms at different times, where did they all come from?

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Living in the Future

In 1972, Geoffrey Hoyle wrote a book called 2010: Living in the Future. It is sometimes spot on -- "vision phones" -- and sometimes not so much -- "in the year 2010 everyone wears a jumpsuit and shoes."

I find it interesting that so many futuristic predictions include uniformity of things like clothing and food production (here, food arrives in tubes and is automatically cooked), yet these particular items have actually trended the other way (at least, that's what I see around me in Brooklyn).

And while simplicity and sustainability are recognized with small, efficient homes and public transportation galore,  electric gadgets are abundant too, and it always seems to be assumed that we will find a way to fuel all of this with clean energy.

Go compare reality with Mr. Hoyle's predictions...

From Boing Boing.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Moss Gardening

I have started growing moss -- George Schenk inspired me.  His wonderfully conversational book Moss Gardening: Including Lichens, Liverworts and Other Miniatures is full of quirky stories mixed with technical details and beautiful images.  My edition is printed on a heavy glossy paper which gives it an enticing density and a satisfying "thunk" when being closed.

Go buy it, everyone.

But anyway -- here I'm growing an unidentified moss with delicate greenery on a slice of wood, under a thrift-store glass bowl (not shown). We'll see how long it lasts...

Open Source and Why it is Important

"Open source" is a computer term that is getting thrown around more and more these days and it is important to understand excatly what this concept is and how it affects everyone on, very literally, a global scale. As the residing tech expert on the blog I am taking it upon myself to try to enlighten those of a less tech-savvy nature. So lets start with the basics. What does open source mean exactly?

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Mapping New York's Shoreline

I can't wait to check out the current exhibit at the New York Public Library.  Mapping New York's Shoreline, 1609-2009 is full of maps, books, atlases, journals, photographs and more that explore the original shoreline dating back 400 years ago and how it has evolved because of urbanization. Perhaps this can provide some inspirational thoughts to New Yorkers on how we can restore our intertidal zones.

Monday, January 11, 2010

Viral Ancestry

The title might not make sense immediately, please bear with me...

The Matrix series may not have been as religious an experience for most of you as it was for me. A futuristic, apocalyptic, video-game like nightmare world were computers have taken over the world and harvest heat from human beings for power. Not to mention having the ability to fly, stop bullets, and take on any martial artist the world has to through at you. It's freakin' awesome, but I digress.

One of my favorite scenes in the series comes from the original film where the evil Agent Smith (picture right) has captured Morpheus, our heroic leader, and is giving him the typical villain monologue about why he wants to destroy humanity. The line he uses is classic:

"I'd like to share a revelation that I've had during my time here. It came to me when I tried to classify your species and I realized that you're not actually mammals. Every mammal on this planet instinctively develops a natural equilibrium with the surrounding environment but you humans do not. You move to an area and you multiply and multiply until every natural resource is consumed and the only way you can survive is to spread to another area. There is another organism on this planet that follows the same pattern. Do you know what it is? A virus."

Well as it turns out, it might be true (see I told you I would bring it around eventually). An amazing new form of viral research has arisen recently in which DNA researchers search for ancient viral DNA structures in the genomes of organisms alive today, including humans.

Friday, January 8, 2010

Go, go (green) gadgets!

Here is another interesting story regarding ecology and green development I found in the METRO newspaper that I pick up on my way to work:

House that works like a living tree
A researcher invented a synthetic tree (shaped like a house) that also can get rid of CO2. Klaus Lackner, from Columbia University, answers our questions.

How does your invention work?
The “leaves” are made from a plastic material that absorbs CO2 when it is dry and releases it again when it is moist. Standing in the wind, the sorbent material loads up with CO2, it is then transferred into a chamber, from which the air can be removed and moisture is introduced. The plastic releases CO2 into the chamber, which is pumped out and compressed to liquid CO2.

Where exactly can we install them?
Anywhere, because the air mixes well and everywhere has the same CO2.

Also -- Self-erasable paper! Read more in the same article, here.

Ecoterrorism -- Whale Wars

I wonder if they were on former President Bush's axis of evil?

"If a whale is hit by an exploding harpoon near Antarctica and the world doesn’t have a way to witness that, does it make a sound?" - ANDREW C. REVKIN

I thought that was one of the more eloquent quotes I've heard in recent years. Mr. Revkin was talking to whale activists about the recent clash over Japanese whale hunting in the antarctic, which resulted in the sinking of a $1.5 million vessel owned by the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society (SSCS). A video of the ordeal can be found below, taken from the deck of the Japanese whaling vessel the Shonan Maru 2.

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Urban Safari

The Urban Landscape Lab at Columbia Graduate School of Architecture, Planning, & Preservation (GSAPP) has developed a do-it-yourself tour complete with downloadable podcasts that introduces no. 7 subway riders to the diverse ecology along the urban transect.

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Say Cheese

Wonderful. I love when nature poses for the camera.

Monday, January 4, 2010

The Good Ole Days

I found it funny to run across this article at the NY Times website my first day in the office of 2010. Starting my fourth year at GEE it was interesting to read about Laura Francoeur, who has the exact same job that I was brought onto GEE for, albeit with more guns. I went to school for wildlife conservation, got my first job as an ornithologist, and still; nothing warms my heart more than knowing some portion of my tax money goes toward the killing of Canada geese every single day.