Wednesday, January 30, 2008

New Adhesive will let you climb up the wall

First there was Velcro (R), now there is Gecko!

Seriously, the wonders and joys of biomimicry are at it again.

The new adhesive is first to mimic quick catch and rapid release traits of a gecko's foot

A gecko sits atop a glass surface in this image from the NIRT laboratory. Credit and Larger Version

The National Science Foundation has released a press release all about this wonderful and potentially very useful technology. Check it out!

Saturday, January 26, 2008

Science News Stories

It's a bit a bit of a smorgasborg, but here are 3 interesting links.

1. The Mississippi River is a little under the weather. Why? Way too much cabon dioxide and it's all being dumped into the Gulf of Mexico. Too much CO2 in the ocean throws off the pH and affects the living organisms there -- all of them from the microscopic plankton and algae to complex organism like coral reefs. Just like terrestial systems, too much CO2 in the air, throw off plant life and everything else in the food chain lives off the plants.

2. Understanding science, especially about your body and nutrition can help you become healthier. So this article reminds us all to mind our eating habits. Too much meat and fast food eating can have negative consequences on not only your weight, but affects heart health and diabetes risk too.

3. Finally, there's nothing like an industrious teen. Check out this article about this kid who made a fully-functional bicycle from wood. It's neat.

Monday, January 14, 2008

Interactive Science Lesson - Cancer

Okay, it's not urban ecology, but it is an important matter -- your health. Cancer is a comm0n disease that affects every living creature (yes, any kind of animal or plant can get cancer) and every tissue (any part of your body can get cancer). Not all cancers are fatal, but it can really bring you down. One important thing to understand about cancer is that it is based on a completely natural biological process - Mitosis. Any student who has taken high school biology or higher has heard it. Quick and dirty: Mitosis is the way a cell divides & reproduces. It's how we get new skin cells and other tissue cells to keep our bodies going. But with cancer, the cells don't stop reproducing and things just get all our of hand.

Children's Hospital Boston has a great interactive website about how cancer grows and spreads.
It's a perfect way to introduce a science lesson about cancer or supplement a mitosis or disease physiology lesson.

Sunday, January 13, 2008

Teens, Sex, and Technology

My intended audience for this site are teens and families. Though the main purpose is to share urban ecology and urban wildlife science, I sometimes feel compelled to share information I think would be generally useful for young people. I post about human behavior sometimes, usually in the context of 'what we can do to have a lesser impact on nature'. But I also care about young people being safe and ready for adulthood. I have worked with and mentored many young people (middle school and high school age) and I am very concerned about their perception of sex and the quality of sex education they receive. I know too many teen girls and boys who are parents and/or who have had to treat a STI.

It is for this reason that I am sharing the following links with you all. Please visit them and share with others, especially the young people in your lives.

Fresh Focus Video Contest: Why Is Sex So Interesting and Sex Ed So Boring?
There are 10 Sex Ed Video Contest short films. These shorts were produced by young people. They film their Sex ed experiences and how inadequate the lessons were and what they wished their parents, teachers, and other adults had taught them about sex. Great conversation starters and sex education tools for young people. Check out their videos and vote for your favorites. You have until January 16th to vote. Winners will be announced January 22nd. I'm partial to Video 9 I must admit. My cousin, a film school student and new intern for Spike Lee, produced it and her younger sister is the main character in the . I am so proud and I am shamelessly asking you to vote for it. But many of the others are great, too.

Sex::Tech Conference Focus on Youth
This organization seems to be a great online resource with real talk answers about sex and technology aimed at young people. They are even sponsoring a conference on STD/HIV Prevention for Teens in San Francisco.

Stay informed. Stay Safe. Let's all work together to help young people become healthy adults.

Saturday, January 12, 2008

Cool New Science Discoveries

Discovery #1: Photosynthesis...not just for plants and algae anymore.
Well, something like that. A new discovery has found that a species of clam can actually gulp air and covert it to protein. Yes, using microbes that live in its gut, the clam can covert the Nitrogen in the air and make protein. Proteins are to animals what carbohydrates are the plants -- the main building blocks for tissue growth. Plant tissues are mostly made of carbon and Animal tissues are mostly made of Nitrogen. For both plants and the shipworm, they can take inert, non-active carbon and nitrogen in the air and create building blocks. Check out the full story.

Discovery #2: Skating on thin, short-lived ice.
Particularly in the northern US and Canada, ice skating on the river and lakes are apart of local traditions. But with recent concern over climate change, a team of scientists looked into records of lake and river freezes over the lst 150 years. The deep freeze season is getting shorter. Lakes and rivers are freezing later and the thaw comes sooner each year. This means a short ice skating season. Plus, there is a record of air temperatures increasing a little more than 1 degree Celsius over the last 100 year. I know it doesn't seem like much, but it adds up. Check out the full story.

Monday, January 07, 2008

Book Review: Little Lost Bat

Each year the Animal Behavior Society selects an Outstanding Children's Book that accurately presents animal behavior and behavior ecology in literature for children in grades 3-5.
The following title was one of the finalist for the 2007 Award. This book was my personal favorite. I even cried at the end.

Animal Behavior for Kids: Children’s Book Award Book Review

Title: Little Lost Bat
Author: Sandra Markle
Illustrated by Alan Marks
Published by Charlesbridge, Watertown, MA

The author and illustrator create a touching and accurate image of the birth and care of an infant Mexican free-tailed bat. The story depicts realistic accounts of the ups and downs of the life of a young bat – the struggle to stay warm, clinging to the safety of the cave ceiling, and the daily ritual of locating its mother by call among the other thousands of bat calls. The students were most impressed with the description of the birth of the baby bat, noting how the mother curls her body into a hammock shape while hanging upside-down. Students were able to relate the care and attention the mother bat provided her baby to the care and attention their own mothers provide to them and their siblings. The story also tells of loss and survival and how caring and affection exist among all animals, not just humans. I, like many of the students, would recommend this book to friends.

Wednesday, January 02, 2008

Urban Wildlife Watch - Earthworms

During hot summer days, my younger sibling often tryies to rescue poor little earthworms trying to cross the hot sidewalk. It's as if the little guys started out early that morning, when the day was fresh and cool and still moist with dew at the edge of the walk. They were inching their way ever so steadfast across the walk. Creep. creep. creep.
And then, the sun began to rise higher in the sky, and the dew evaporated. The side walk warmed. A few passer-bys squished a worm here. there. A robin snagged a few plumped snacks.
The sun is high in the sky. And the poor worm is getting ever so dry and parched. And by 2 pm, the hottest part of the day, the little guy is dry. Withered away and stuck to piping hot concrete. Only inches away from the soil on the other side of the walk.

Poor little worms, my sibling would remark. But, you may also notice more earthworms when you're doing yard work, tilling soil, planting grass or trees or shrubs. Their thick, juicy, moist bodies peak through the soil here and there. You may have also noticed more earthworms following a rain shower. has posted this great little reader about why
Earthworms come out when it rains.

Enjoy looking out for Earthworms -- the oft overlooked urban wildlife.

Tuesday, January 01, 2008


Guess what I just learned about...ScienceTV, an online video-sharing website for people interested in science. It was just recently launched, but it includes channels and categories of science topics and target groups.
It's been a while since I've thougt again about creating a show, but this seems like such a great time to get back in the saddle.

I'll start getting my stuff together.
Wish me luck and I look forward to sharing my Urban Science Adventures with you.

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