Earth Week 2014 Thursday: National Parks Week!

Even though you may have missed the free National Parks admission last weekend, you can still take advantage of National Parks week (April 20-27).

Okay, so that video was a little cheesy. But it tells us that there are 401 US National Parks to explore, and it reminds us to go wild! Also, Junior Ranger Day is April 26th! Don’t think you have a park near you? Check out the Sierra Club’s list.

National Parks Conservation Association (NPCA) created a “find a park” tool where you can do just that – and not just one near you, but across the country. And if you can’t visit any time soon, you can buy a print from the See America project! Check out one of my favorites below:

See America: Joshua Tree National Park (print by Adam S. Doyle)

There are other ways to explore National Parks this week, as I outlined in my Virtual Explorations post from November. You can explore natural sites from around the world on Google Maps or peruse the US National Parks from space in a NASA Flickr photo set. You can also explore and learn more through another NASA photo gallery.

Hells Canyon National Recreation Area (from above) – NASA Earth Observatory Photo Gallery

I’m feeling nostalgic this week, because instead of hiking through canyons or hugging trees, I have been inside working on homework and other assignments. But this summer, I am going on a road trip. More details to follow, but until then, feel free to explore my past National Parks blog posts!

Earth Week 2104 Wednesday: The Canopy Project

Aside from promoting the “green cities” theme for Earth Day this year, the Earth Day Network is also behind The Canopy Project campaign. You can watch the promotional video below (with a short advertisement about Jaden Smith’s movie “After Earth”).

Here are some of the most important points from the initiative:

  • The Canopy Project plants trees that help communities – especially the world’s impoverished communities – sustain themselves and their local economies.”
  • “Over the past three years, The Canopy Project, has planted over 1.5 million trees in 18 countries.”
  • In the US, projects to restore urban canopies have been completed in New York, San Francisco, Los Angeles, St. Louis, Atlanta, Baltimore, Cleveland, Flint, and Chicago.”
  • “Our tree plantings are supported by sponsors and individual donations and carried out in partnership with nonprofit tree planting organizations throughout the world. We work in partnership with the United Nations Environment Programme’s Billion Trees Campaign. Each tree planted is counted toward A Billion Acts of Green”

As mentioned in the above commentary, efforts to plant trees and reverse the effects of climate change have been happening all over the world. In Italy, residents are preserving local wetlands and forests on a major floodplain. In Japan, the Netherlands, Spain, Sweden Uganda and the United States, activists are planting trees everywhere, even in urban areas.

So, if you didn’t know, planting a tree is a great step to help the Earth. They reverse land degradation (by helping mitigate erosion), provide food and income, and filter the air so we can breathe. Planting trees has been at the forefront of conservation since the beginning – so go out there and plant one!

Earth Week 2014 Tuesday: Happy Earth Day!

Happy Earth Day everyone! This year’s theme is “Green Cities.”

Earth Day Network describes the theme:

As the world’s population migrates to cities, and as the bleak reality of climate change becomes increasingly clear, the need to create sustainable communities is more important than ever. Earth Day 2014 will seek to do just that through its global theme: Green Cities. With smart investments in sustainable technology, forward-thinking public policy, and an educated and active public, we can transform our cities and forge a sustainable future. Nothing is more powerful than the collective action of a billion people.

This idea is not new to this blog! But it is important to notice the last sentence: Nothing is more powerful than the collective action of a billion people. If we can work together, especially in cities, we can make a difference.

The Earth Day Network has showcased a few cities that have made a difference recently! Other actions can be seen here.

  • Somerville, Massachusetts has created space for urban agriculture, a movement started by their mayor.
  • Adelaide, Australia introduced the first solar-powered bus!
  • Kansas will be installing a community solar project owned by customers which provides tax incentives for residents.
  • Oberlin, Ohio will be opening a “Green Arts District” downtown which will feature LEED certified buildings. The town is also sourcing food locally and building a green belt around the city to preserve natural forests. Oberlin is already operating on 90% renewable resources and hopes to become “carbon positive” – sequestering more carbon than it produces. Way to go, Oberlin!

Downtown Oberlin, Ohio

Thorough the EDN website, participants can participate in word-wide Earth Day events, read and share success stories, help cities go green through online activism (sometimes the best kind if you don’t have much time to dedicate!), or learn about local campaigns across the globe.

Speaking of local campaigns.. the University of Montana and Missoula area has an Earth Week calendar filled with community-oriented events! Earth Day features sustainable workshops and displays on UM’s campus. The rest of the week is filled with seminars and demonstrations and ends with Earth Service Day on Saturday the 26th. On the service day, Missoula residents can learn about climate change, attend a recycling workshop, make fences wildlife friendly, stencil storm drains (to prevent dumping), and participate in a giant recycling garage sale!

For Earth Day, I hope your city or university has a discussion about making like more sustainable. And if you can’t make it, be sure to walk to campus or take a shorter shower. As Earth Day Network says, “nothing is more powerful than the collective action of a billion people.”

Earth Week 2014 Monday: Green Internet

Happy Earth Week! In celebration of Earth Day tomorrow, I am dedicating each post this week to an environmental issue or an explanation of something related to Earth Day.

Today’s topic is a green/sustainable internet. I came across this issue when a Greenpeace petition popped up on my Twitter feed about greening the internet.

Greenpeace’s “Clicking Clean” white paper/fact sheet issued in April 2014 gives explains that internet data centers, like those of Pinterest, Twitter, Tumblr and LinkedIn are using fossil fuels to power their data centers and therefore contributing to greenhouse gas emissions.

Everything that you pin on Pinterest, tweet on Twitter, post on Tumblr and share on LinkedIn is somewhere on a server somewhere. Did you ever think about that? Everything on the internet is backed up on a server somewhere – so can you imagine how many servers exist?

Also according to the “Clicking Clean” findings, some major cloud companies, including Apple, Facebook and Google, have committed to a renewable energy goal. These three companies are constantly mentioned as the three who are committed to making the most difference and showing signs of early change. However, they cite Amazon as the company with the “dirtiest” servers.

Below: Greenpeace made a “scorecard” chart for each company.

There is a website called CleanBits which provides a list of carbon neutral web hosts. A green-internet blog supports efforts such as these and believes that the rapidly expanding internet needs to mitigate itself to help.

A Computer Society paper by Conte and Mao was published in 2013 that states some of the same findings: information technology (aka internet stuffs) is responsible for 4 percent of the world’s energy usage, and with more internet in more places (and more of the internet being used) this is only going get worse).

What’s the take-away? That we are using too much internet. This sounds familiar – doesn’t it? We are using too much of everything, and sometimes it doesn’t seem like it can be fixed very easily. I would argue that this problem can be helped with alternative energy, and lucky for us, alternative energy is on the rise.

Stay tuned for tomorrow’s post on Earth Day 2014!

University of Montana Graduate Student Research Conference – April 2014

Last week, I got the chance to present a poster in the University of Montana Graduate Student Research Conference - an interdisciplinary meeting of different graduate programs. My poster focused on blogging and graduate students, using Environmental Explorations as a case study.

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In the morning, I attended oral presentations by students in the College of Forestry and Conservation and the theatre department. The theatre students had the most lively oral sessions! One student is going to be in a play in a few weeks, so she researched and implemented different acting techniques and made a research project out of it. My favorite part is when she demonstrated her research through reciting a few of her lines.

During lunch there was a panel discussion about the role of graduate studies in the 21st century. UM President Royce Engstrom attended and entertained questions about budget cuts, travel funding and graduate student activities. It was very helpful to have the president of the University listening to our ideas and talking with each of us about our concerns.

My badge for the conference

My badge for the conference

After lunch was the poster session. My posted, titled “How Blogging Helps Graduate Students,” explored how graduate students could use blogging to convey important ideas not necessarily related to their field of study, and how a blog can help with web presence after graduation, which is important in 2014 and beyond. You can view my abstract here.

Me at my poster, holding my iPad to show participants my blog in real-time.

Me at my poster, holding my iPad to show participants my blog in real-time.

As with any creative research project, there was no “data” per se, but I used my blog as a case study to explain how first my graduate director was impressed with my blog when I came to graduate school: this is one of the ways that my blog has helped me thus far. Secondly, I talked about how, during graduate school, students can use it as a way to talk about issues that interest them or about their creative process. Lastly, I talked about how important it is to create an internet brand for yourself so that you and your work is “searchable” on the internet.

Another part of my poster was some logistics about making a blog – like what platform works best and how often to post. I obviously said WordPress is the best blog platform, but I also talked about Tumblr and Blogger.

Overall, I was happy with the positive feedback! People who came to my poster agreed with me about the need for students to blog about their work, and many people, as I anticipated, wanted some help with their blog. I hope that I was able to give sound advice!

The highlight of the day: President Engstrom (or Royce, as he said to call him), scanned my QR code and read my blog from his phone. Very cool!

I continue to learn, more and more, that my blog has been a great tool for me both professionally and personally, and I intend to continue using it for a long time!

Judging an Undergraduate Research Conference – UMCUR April 2014

Last week, I had the opportunity to judge the University of Montana’s Undergraduate Research Conference (UMCUR).

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I was assigned to judge a section of social science oral presentations. The topics in my session were about LGBTQ self-esteem, drunk driving in Montana and current research on depression.

Each student was presenting on their research they had been working on through their undergraduate career. In most cases, this presentation was based on their senior project/capstone project through the honors college. Some students had their own original research and some were working with data from the labs of other social scientists or their research mentor.

Through the training, I learned that I was to judge the presentations based on the how clear the information was presented and the merit of the research. As part of the conference, 5 oral presentation students would win an outstanding achievement award.

UMCURbadge

They were experimenting with online (GoogleDocs) judging forms, so I scanned the QR code and filled out the forms on my iPad.

Overall, I was very impressed! I have only presented orally at a research conference as a graduate student, and I found it difficult to prepare for because I had only presented posters up to that point!

I am glad I had the chance to do this through the University – UM gives graduate students a lot of opportunities to be involved.

Spring Break Part 2: Canyonlands National Park

As mentioned in Spring Break Part 1, my friends and I headed down to Moab, Utah for a “road less traveled” spring break experience! The first couple of days, we wandered around BLM lands and Arches National Park, but the last day we drove to Canyonlands National Park.

View of the park geography through Mesa Arch

View of the park geography through Mesa Arch

Since this park is so big, and we only had one day, we chose to tackle the “Island in the Sky” portion. As you can see from the map below, that is only about 1/3 of the park area, and we still didn’t even see the whole thing!

Map of Canyonlands – we went to the top portion, “Island in the Sky”

“Island in the Sky” is made up mostly of rock formations, a few arches and gaping canyons below: the short hikes are mostly looking down on the canyon.

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Sitting on the edge of the world! My parent’s didn’t like this one – Don’t try this at home! (but try it at Canyonlands instead!)

According to the National Park Service, the geography of Canyonlands was formed millions of years ago through rock deposits, uplift and erosion:

Canyonlands is part of a region called the “Colorado Plateau,” an area that stands high above the surrounding country. About 20 million years ago, movement in the Earth’s crust began to alter the landscape of North America, building modern landforms like the Rocky Mountains, Nevada’s Basin and Range, and the Colorado Plateau. Some geologists believe that the plateau has risen as much as 10,000 feet since the uplift began.

These movements also created cracks where melted rock rose from deep inside the Earth. In some places, it cooled before reaching the surface, creating pockets of harder, igneous rock within the surrounding sedimentary layers. Eventually, erosion exposed these harder deposits, creating the isolated mountain ranges visible from Canyonlands: the La Sals, Henrys and Abajos.

As I mentioned, we hiked around the top of the formations and looked down toward the White Rim Road (named aptly for its appearance of driving around the white-rimmed canyon). Below, you can see the white rim.

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One other aspect to note about this park is the sheer size. Arches was awesome, but it didn’t have sprawling canyons and deep crevices. These pictures don’t even do the park justice, so I suggest you visit!

Me doing yoga.. on the edge of the world (again)

Me doing yoga.. on the edge of the world (again) – notice the white rim of the canyon below

All in all, if you get a chance to visit Moab – take it! The views are spectacular and you can’t get an idea of the massive landscape until you see it through your own eyes.

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Before I sign off on this post, I wanted to stress “don’t do this at home” – and even if you do it an Canyonlands, be careful. There was nothing below me besides the rock I was standing on, and even that is risky!