Tag: Vera Agostini

Adapting the Science of Adaptation – The Importance of Seeing Through Others’ Eyes

Helping people and nature adapt to climate change is a hot topic in conservation.

But the science behind planning such adaptation — particularly for human communities — isn’t as clean as the rhetoric, and you can’t do it simply in a lab or on paper. Whether we’re talking about major developed world cities or small coastal villages, we have to run our theories by what we call the “test of people” — so they lead to strategies that work. That test often involves understanding how the world looks through the eyes of the people we are trying to help. Nothing like a good reality check.

Case in point: My recent trip to the Grenadines, where I was attending an “action planning meeting” with community members, my colleagues from The Nature Conservancy’s ‘At The Water’s Edge’ project team, and our local partners. Our aim: to identify specific actions that can be taken to help reduce the communities’ vulnerability to coastal hazards (i.e., flooding from sea level rise and storm surge). As conservationists, we hope nature might be a part of the equation — what we call “nature-based adaptation.”

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The Future of Oceanography: Where are the People?

For a marine scientist, there is nothing like being on a boat.  Your senses become alive, your creativity peaks. As you gaze over the side of a boat, the ocean mysteries you have been trying to solve suddenly come into focus.

But being on a boat is expensive.  A recent article in the journal Science, “A Sea Change for Oceanography” by Eli Kintisch, clearly spells this out.  Kintisch tells us that shrinking budgets and increasing costs are driving a change in how people study our oceans.  A growing array of high tech devices that remotely collect information are being deployed and less days on sophisticated boats are spent at sea.  The article suggests that this shift from field data collection programs to remote data collection programs is a change from “small” to “big” oceanography.

But what should “big” oceanography really be? Should the ability to connect to society’s needs be a part of “big” oceanography? If the answer is yes, I would say oceanography is failing.  The good news is: there is still opportunity to redirect course.

Why has a field critical in describing the fabric of anything that has do to with oceans (how we use them, how we depend on them) failed in demonstrating its relevance beyond primary science? Perhaps it’s because oceans are still viewed—by oceanographers and the public—as one of the last great frontiers. Kintisch calls attention this in the Science article, concluding with a call for support of ocean studies “…comparable to [funding for] research in outer space…”

Indeed oceanic exploration has always generated tremendous media attention and public interest. But the ocean is much more than a last frontier.  Our decisions around assigning priorities and allocating resources, the stories we share about the ocean should reflect this.

When the field started the ocean was mostly un-explored (and large sections of the ocean still are).  The last frontier should and will continue to provide inspiration for years to come.  But what about all the people that we now know live and depend on the ocean? Who solves their mysteries and the integral part that the ocean plays in solving their riddles?

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Oceans and Climate Change: Protecting the “Invisible”

Coral bleaching, increasing storms, the loss of polar bears: many impacts of climate change are already vivid in our minds. We naturally worry about the things we can see. Huge waves and the loss of big fish and colorful corals get our attention.

But what about things we can’t see, like the tiny creatures called plankton? They are also poised for dramatic changes.

A recent dive in the sapphire waters of the Caribbean offers a close encounter with plankton. While most of my dive buddies hurry to reach the bottom, I linger as I usually do, pondering the “blue” and looking out for the visible and the invisible.

Suddenly, clouds of tiny filaments come sharply into focus. It’s blue-green algae–Trichodesmium–a type of phytoplankton that plays an important role in these nutrient-poor waters. They essentially break gaseous nitrogen’s tough triple bond and convert it into a form other phytoplankton can feed on.

What would these waters look like without them?

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This Week on Cool Green Science: Change & The Eastern U.S. Forest

Too many deer. Logging one tree to save another. Beavers versus old growth. Welcome to forest conservation in the Anthropocene. Beginning Monday, July 21, join us for a provocative 5-part series exploring the full complexity facing forest conservation in the eastern United States.

Featured Content

Osprey Cam: Watch Our Wild Neighbors
Watch the ospreys live 24/7 as they nest and raise their young -- and learn more about these fascinating birds from our scientist.

What is Cool Green Science?

noun 1. Blog where Nature Conservancy scientists, science writers and external experts discuss and debate how conservation can meet the challenges of a 9 billion + planet.

2. Blog with astonishing photos, videos and dispatches of Nature Conservancy science in the field.

3. Home of Weird Nature, The Cooler, Quick Study, Traveling Naturalist and other amazing features.

Cool Green Science is managed by Matt Miller, the Conservancy's deputy director for science communications, and edited by Bob Lalasz, its director of science communications. Email us your feedback.

Innovative Science

Investing in Seagrass
Marine scientists and fishers alike know that grass beds are valuable as nursery habitat. A new Conservancy-funded study puts a number to it.

Drones Aid Bird Conservation
How can California conservationists accurately count thousands of cranes? Enter a new tool in bird monitoring: the drone.

Creating a Climate-Smart Agriculture
Can farmers globally both adapt to and mitigate the impacts of climate change? A new paper answers with a definitive yes. But it won't be easy.

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