Students for a Smarter Planet ..leaders with conscience
endangered species
October 3rd, 2015

We’ve been hearing a great deal in the media about the startling losses in the bee population across the globe.  Bees may be unwelcome guests at your outdoor celebrations; but, they serve a vital role in the planet’s ecosystems.

There’s some recent research due out for publication that I stumbled across and found extremely interesting.  I admit to being more than a little apprehensive around any flying or buzzing things that cross my path – but, I am a true advocate for the bees.  We need them — and knowing more about their psychology and adaptive habits may give you some ideas relating to human behavior, too!  Just the title of this article from the Chinese Academy of Sciences website made me want to know more…

Asian Honey Bees Are Paranoid about Losing Their Leader,

Prone to Despair – and Closet Anarchists


So whether you are a botanist, an herbalist or a ‘closet anarchist’ yourself, your work could impact the bees and other life on Earth.  Think about that the next time you observe a furry, striped little guy (or gal!) winging past you…


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In our world of seemingly endless acronyms, I stumbled upon this one – and once you see the tongue-twister it represents, you’ll understand why a shorter name was called for…

CRISPRs (clustered regularly interspaced short palindromic repeats) are segments of prokaryotic DNA containing short repetitions of base sequences.  [Prokaryotic DNA are single-celled organisms that lack a membrane-bound nucleus (karyon), mitochondria, or any other membrane-bound organelles]   Researchers hope to use CRISPR to adjust human genes to eliminate diseases, create hardier plants, wipe out pathogens and much more besides.

DNA research making use of CRISPR has been ongoing since the late 1980′s. Please note: while I have NO training in micro-biology or anything approaching a minimal understanding of the subtleties of this field, I am a strong believer that in order for technology to be well used to benefit humankind, those who categorize themselves as experts should be mindful of the potential harmful consequences of their work…  I encourage you to form your own opinion based on the article I’ve linked below [it's a very long piece, but worth more than a skim given the seriousness of the topic].

There are links to a variety of materials within the article that give several points of view – as well as some kickin’ charts.  Give those some attention as well.  They’ll appeal to those who prefer a graphical representation of the growth of CRISPR research.

Once you’ve digested all the material, THEN ask yourself what your role might be in the pursuit of genetic modification…are you pro or con?


Illustration by Sébastien Thibault

CRISPR, the disruptor


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June 27th, 2015

…red fish, blue fish”.  If you’re not familiar with this cant, it’s lifted from the children’s book of the same name written by Dr. Seuss.

1fish etc

While we’ve managed to eradicate any number of our finny friends, the oceans, lakes and streams still abound with amazing life.  And there’s a new app, created by students at the University of Minnesota, that’s designed to help catalog their local ‘denizens of the deep’.  The aim: to provide valuable data for managing fisheries’ resources.

Sharing your fish tales


And visit their website iFishForever, to learn more about this joint effort bringing together the talents at University of Minnesota, the Great Lakes Fishery Commission, the Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources, the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources and The App Door!

iFish Forever


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June 8th, 2015

We’ve all seen news stories about the atrocities being committed on defenseless animals in the wild.  There is a program that has been “launched” using drones to thwart poachers that seek to illegally obtain the tusks of the elephant and horns of the rhino.

blog elephants

Elephants in Kenya, near the Tanzania border in 2014. AOPA file photo.

Air Shepherd, an initiative backed by the Lindbergh Foundation, is a not-for-profit that aims to preserve the environment through the use of technology.

The Air Shepherd system uses unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) with infrared cameras and GPS.  These are designed to tackle after dark-poaching between the hours of 6:30 and 8:30 pm, a period which sees the poachers make their move after surveying animal positions during daylight.  Once the curtain of darkness is lowered, the hunters move in and kill the animals, quickly making off with their horns and tusks.

The pilot phase in southern Africa over the last two years saw more than 350 missions and logged 1,000 hours of flying time over a region where as many as 19 rhinos were normally poached each month.  During the testing period, not a single rhino was killed in an area where the drones were operating.

Please read more detail about this life-saving technology here.

What a great use of drone and “big data” technology!  Do you have any expertise that could literally save some of our planet’s inhabitants?

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Although most of us are, at all times, peripherally aware of the food shortages around the world, there are those who are constantly addressing the needs of the hungry.  Charities, governments, and individuals make concerted efforts to alleviate the challenge of feeding the globe’s inhabitants.  Here are a few links to stimulate your thoughts on what you may be able to contribute through your own work…

Permaculture is a philosophy of working with, rather than against nature; of protracted and thoughtful observation rather than protracted and thoughtless labor; and of looking at plants and animals in all their functions, rather than treating any area as a single product system. —Bill Mollison


From The GuardianPermaculture in Malawi: using food forests to prevent floods and hunger


From The African Moringa and Permaculture project: Food Forests, an idea pioneered by permaculture, draw upon the examples provided by natural native forests and carefully incorporate non-aggressive exotic varieties.



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