2023 Science Without Borders® Q&A Session

Are you interested in participating in the 2023 Science Without Borders® Challenge, but you have questions about the contest? Are you unsure where to begin?

Join us on January 19th at 9 am Eastern Time (ET) for our Science Without Borders® Challenge Q&A Session!

On this Zoom call, we will go over the contest rules, how to enter the contest, more information about the theme, how to interpret the grading rubric, and provide tips for creating a beautiful and impactful piece of artwork that may help you to win the contest. At the same time, we will answer any questions that participants may have about the contest. This is a great opportunity for students and teachers to hear directly from the contest judges about what we are looking for.

Measuring reef health from space

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With compelling evidence that we have lost half of the world’s tropical coral reefs over the last few decades, there is an urgent need to understand their overall health. Without this basic information to use as a baseline, it is near impossible to mount a response to the so-called global reef crisis. The most straightforward method we have for monitoring reefs is conducting SCUBA diver surveys. However, this type of field work is logistically and financially challenging to execute on large scales, so developing a new method to monitor reefs remotely is key.

In attempt to find a solution, Anna Bakker combines the fields of remote sensing, computer science, and ecology to measure reef health from space. Recently, Anna published a paper in Coral Reefs, which utilized the Living Oceans Foundation’s Global Reef Expedition field dataset to build a model that can predict coral cover and other metrics of coral reef health using open-source satellite data.

The Sixth Extinction

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Throughout the history of the planet, there has been an evolution and flux of species. From the first microorganisms found in the ocean billions of years ago, to the evolution of land-based plants, invertebrate and vertebrate animals, reptiles, mammals, and to the millions of species we now know of today. Historically, the earth has experienced five mass extinction events. These have been linked to some sort of natural disturbance where three-quarters of all species were lost over a short geological period. Glaciation events, volcanic eruptions, and asteroid impacts are theorized to be the cause of these five mass extinctions.

Recently, some scientists hypothesized that the earth is undergoing a sixth extinction event linked to the evolution of human civilization. This theory suggests that over the course of human history, people have caused the extinction of species on a massive scale. As humans became more civilized, we began altering the environment to fit our needs. We altered the land for agricultural uses; as our tools became more advanced, we were able to hunt more efficiently on land and in water; we built cities, and have extracted resources from the earth in ways never done before. These alterations and interactions with the environment have led to the loss of habitats, overexploitation of animals, and caused irreversible loss of the earth’s organisms.

Announcing our Educator’s Guide for the IMAX film, Ocean Odyssey

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One of the most spectacular mammals in the ocean, a humpback whale, emerges from the deep blue ocean to take a breath. Only seconds later, we see its calf surface too. This mother and calf pair are traveling from the Great Barrier Reef, Australia where, for the past couple of months, they have been taking shelter in protected coastal waters, while the calf grows bigger and stronger so it can endure the migration back to Antarctica. This is how Ocean Odyssey, an IMAX® giant screen film, begins unraveling this pairs remarkable journey that depicts how the ocean on life and land are intricately connected.

We started on our own Ocean Odyssey journey with K2 Studios, the film company who produced it. K2 studios specializes in making educational films for IMAX®, Giant Screen, and other specialty theaters located in museums, science centers, zoos, and aquariums around the world. Teachers who bring students on field trips to these educational centers hope to engage students in exploratory and impactful learning outside of the classroom. Often a part of this experience includes watching educational documentaries. When K2 Studios creates a film, they also aim to provide additional learning resources for students so that they can expand on educational experiences that they had on their field trip. That is where we come into the story…

Connecting Students to Nature

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The sun is blazing intensely in a cloudless sky, and the lack of a breeze makes the sulfur, rotten egg-like smell even more intense. It feels like 95°F (35°C) and I am sweating profusely as I trudge through the mangroves, one of my favorite marine ecosystems. It feels like home to me.

After two and a half years of putting the J.A.M.I.N. program on hold, I am quickly reminded how much I missed not only teaching and interacting with students face-to-face, but also being in the mangroves. The same feelings happen to me every time I venture into this amazing ecosystem: feelings of curiosity, awe, and respect, mixed with a sense of calm tranquility. And it is these same kinds of feelings we hope to foster in our students while they participate in our program…

2023 Science Without Borders® Q&A Session – November 30th

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Are you interested in participating in the 2023 Science Without Borders® Challenge, but you have questions about the contest? Are you unsure where to begin? Join us on November 30, 2022, 7 pm Eastern Time (ET) for the first of two Science Without Borders® Challenge Q&A sessions. On this Zoom call, we will go over the contest rules, how to enter the contest, more information about the theme, how to interpret the grading rubric, and provide tips for creating a beautiful and impactful piece of artwork that may help you to win the contest. At the same time, we will answer any questions that participants may have about the contest.

Time Out for Turtles – Part 2

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I meet my colleagues at Alligator Head Foundation (AHF) at 7am to gather materials that will help us to monitor sea turtle nests. Despite the early morning hour, there is a contagious enthusiasm in all who are going to search for sea turtle nests. We pile into two vehicles and drive to the beach.

We drive down a gravel road getting the first glimpse of the Jamaican turquoise blue water glimmering in the sunlight. Gathering our supplies, we walk across a wooden plank straddling a small ravine that leads to a small sandy beach in a quiet little cove, which is a perfect location for sea turtles to lay their eggs.

Francine Cousins, a conservation officer at Alligator Head Foundation looks for turtle tracks that could lead us to a nest. The weekend’s tides have washed away the evidence, so she grabs a thin rounded stick and looks for disturbed areas of sand. When she finds one, she gently begins poking her stick through the sand, feeling for areas where the sand easily gives way. She methodically and repeatedly pokes the sand until she strikes gold. She finds an area where the stick easily slides through the sand. Alligator Head Foundation’s employees, Floyd and Kymani anxiously, but carefully, begin removing the sand until a tiny round white egg, the size of a golf ball, appears…

Welcome, Saskia! KSLOF welcomes a master’s student to study our Mangrove Education & Restoration Program

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Six months ago, I was certain that I would be travelling to Indonesia to research mangrove crabs for my master’s thesis. The project was funded, and I was prepared to leave for Indonesia when suddenly, I received information that local fishermen could not catch enough crabs for me to conduct research. At such a late date, this was incredibly stressful news!

Around this time, I began to wonder if I could picture myself in the biological sciences or if I should make a step towards the field of social science. During my travels around the world, I was always interested (and often shocked) to observe the interaction between humans and nature. A few years ago, I travelled to southeast Asia to study whale shark populations. While studying these majestic creatures, I noticed the interactions occurring between tourists and the whale sharks. I had moments where I was frustrated, angry, and emotional, seeing whale sharks startle tourists who would fearfully kick and hit the whale sharks. Not only did I get angry at the tourists but at the local people working in this industry; however, after getting to know the locals and seeing their dismal economic situation, I began to think differently. I wanted to understand local people and their problems. I realized that in order to make a difference, you need to incorporate social sciences into environmental science, so that both can find a way to live in harmony.

We be J.A.M.I.N. Again!

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I see the twinkle of anticipation in my colleagues’ eyes as they hold up their phones waiting to record me filling my lungs to say, “Gooooood moooorning, Port Antonio High School!” My colleagues at Alligator Head Foundation beam and I grin back at them and wink. We have all waited two and a half years for this moment. This long-awaited welcome officially marks the start of the Jamaica Awareness of Mangroves in Nature (J.A.M.I.N.) and it feels good to be J.A.M.I.N. again.

The last time I was in Jamaica implementing J.A.M.I.N. was in early February 2020, before COVID-19 was declared a global pandemic. When the pandemic hit, none of us imagined that it would be years until we could implement the program again. It crushed me when we had to cancel the remainder of the 2020-21 academic year and then again, the following year. Now, we renew program again with more enthusiasm than ever.

Our partners at the Alligator Head Foundation and the University of the West Indies Discovery Bay Marine Lab are by my side aiding me in implementing the program. I couldn’t be more overjoyed to be working with them again. We fell right back into routine with each other as if no time had passed at all.