Saturday, June 15, 2013

National Geographic invites the whole world to take part in the Great Nature Project

Nature is getting ready for its close-up!

13 June 2013 | News story
IUCN Member, the National Geographic Society, is urging everyone to go outside to explore nature, whether in their own backyard, a local park or anywhere that nature thrives.
From 21-29 September 2013, National Geographic invites the whole world to take part in the Great Nature Project, an unprecedented attempt to document and appreciate Earth’s biodiversity.

Great Nature Project participants — anyone with a camera or camera phone — are asked to take photos of any plants, animals, or other living things they come across and share them with the world by uploading them to Twitter, Instagram or Flickr, using the tag #GreatNature.
Participants can also submit photos to the Great Nature Project on iNaturalist or Project Noah, which are online citizen science platforms.
The uploaded, tagged photos will be aggregated on, where visitors to the website can view the images and take advantage of opportunities to learn more about biodiversity through educational and scientific resources.
The website launches in July 2013, but participants can register online now to become part of the September celebration.

Also from National Geographic Magazine: The Svarlbard Seed vault
Photo: A conservationist holds two vials of peas at the Svalbard Global Seed Vault.

Give Peas a Chance

Photograph by Jim Richardson, National Geographic
A conservationist cradles two vials of peas destined for deposit in the Svalbard Global Seed Vault. The remarkable facility set on a rugged Arctic island off Norway is the ultimate global safety net for food security. It's able to protect up to 2.25 billion seeds from even "doomsday" scenarios like asteroid impacts and nuclear war.
But crop varieties are already vanishing at an astonishing pace for more mundane reasons, from shifting local weather patterns to disuse by farmers adopting new hybrids. The vault represents a chance to save as many as possible.
"I'd say doomsday is happening everyday for crop varieties," said Cary Fowler, executive director of the Global Crop Diversity Trust, which helps manage the facility. "Lots of people think that this vault is waiting for doomsday before we use it. But it's really a backup plan for seeds and crops. We are losing seed diversity every day and this is the insurance policy for that."
Even a seemingly simple crop, such as wheat, may have 200,000 different varieties. And each variety has a suite of individual traits that determine how it fares in high or low temperatures, during droughts, or against certain diseases or pests.
"Even conservative projections of changing climate now indicate that by mid-century huge areas of some countries, in Africa for example, will be experiencing climates that are unlike any that have existed since the beginning of agriculture in those countries," Fowler explained.
"How will they become adapted to future climates? One way they can is by tapping into this rich storehouse of diversity and breeding new crops with traits that allow them to succeed in those climates. It's essential to future food security," Fowler said.
—Brian Handwerk
Published July 2, 2012

Banking Seeds for Doomsday

This is an excellent article worth reading about this Seed Vault ... here is an excerpt from the original article:
The “Doomsday Seed Vault”—so called because it is protecting agriculture systems worldwide from disasters natural or manmade—has now secured over 740,000 samples or “accessions” on Norway’s remote Svalbard archipelago, the Global Crop Diversity Trust said in a recent news release to mark the fourth anniversary of the project.
The Trust maintains the seed vault, in partnership with the Norwegian government and the Nordic Genetic Resources Center, as a back-up to the living crop diversity collections housed in “genebanks” around the world.
“Rare wheat collected from the ‘Roof of the World’ in the Pamir Mountains in Tajikistan; amaranth, with its exotic blood-red stalks that are used in a ‘Day of the Dead’ drink; barley that helped spawn the craft beer revolution; and once- forgotten forage crops that could sustain livestock in these climate-stressed times are among the 24,948 seed samples arriving [last week] for the fourth birthday of the Svalbard Global Seed Vault (SGSV),” the Trust said.
“The incredible range and importance of the seeds that have been sent here this week for safekeeping provide vivid examples of why we need to carefully collect and preserve our planet’s crop diversity,” said Cary Fowler, executive director of the Global Crop Diversity Trust. “Our crop diversity is constantly under threat, from dramatic dangers such as fires, political unrest, war and tornadoes, as well as the mundane, such as failing refrigeration systems and budget cuts. But these seeds are the future of our food supply, as they carry genetic treasure such as heat resistance, drought tolerance, or disease and pest resistance.”
Among the contributors for the fourth anniversary are the United States Department of Agriculture’s Agricultural Research Service (USDA-ARS) National Plant Germplasm System (NPGS), the International Center for Agricultural Research in the Dry Areas (ICARDA) in Syria, the International Center for Tropical Agriculture in Colombia (known by its Spanish acronym CIAT), and the national crop genebanks of Tajikistan and Armenia. Both CIAT and ICARDA are part of the CGIAR Consortium of International Agricultural Research Centers, which is the largest single contributor of seeds to the vault.

Norway seed bank pictures

December 27, 2007 Coloful houses lie near the mountains in Longyearbyen, a village on the island of Spitsbergen, part of Norway's Svalbard archipelago. 

Thursday, June 6, 2013


The weekend just passed I attended an excellent conference in Noosa which ran from Friday through to Sunday evening bringing people from regional, interstate and overseas destinations:

Text from website:

Balance-Unbalance is a major International Conference designed to use art as a catalyst to explore intersections between nature, science, technology and society as we move into an era of both unprecedented ecological threats and transdisciplinary possibilities. 
Programs, Abstracts, full papers and flyers here.


The program can be read here.

Photo: Can't make the whole Balance-Unbalance conference next weekend but want to experience some of our great presenters?  Check out the Pecha Kucha Night program for the evening of 31 May.  Tickets for the evening event, for the one day on Friday or the whole conference are now available.

Friday night was a Petchakucha session with 12 presenters.

I plan to write reflections on the conference and link various speakers so will return to link to that asap.

Conference Theme: Future Nature, Future Culture[s]

The 2013 conference theme: “Future Nature, Future Culture[s]” aims to challenge our expectations of Earth, provoke our understanding of nature and inspire our actions for a sustainable future.

What we will be calling nature in 20, 50 or 100 years? How we will live in the future? What do we foresee for the future of human kind? How could creativity help us shape a society of understanding and interconnectedness? What role could transdisciplinary thought and action play in reimaging a sustainable future? Will there be a future with peaceful knowledgeable societies and a rich variety of cultures? What can first nation knowledge teach us about our future? There are infinite questions and limited answers, but we have the opportunity to use our intelligence and creativity to make positive changes.

Visit the conference website to read more and Conference Facebook Page here to read posting before and after the event.

On Saturday morning I gave a 30 min artist talk introducing the 'homage to the seed' project which brought good exchanges and ongoing connections.

One of the participants I wished I'd heard speak was writer Maya Ward. I've posted up here book here which I'll look forward to reading.

The Comfort of Water

A River Pilgrimage

Maya Ward

This is the joyful yet heartbreaking true story of four friends who walk a 21- day pilgrimage from the sea to the source of Melbourne’s Yarra River. There is no path for most of the way, but offers of campsites and boats, and free access to private lands, illustrates the generosity shown to pilgrims even in modern times. Maya Ward’s lyrical exploration of her river as it winds through the city and the wild is a revelation, a testament to the fact that the greatest of worlds are often at our doorstep. Its author understands the power of the natural world to transform lives, and writes about the connection between a river and the self with humility, humour, and a clear-headed wisdom.
The telling of her own journey and that of her fellow walkers is seamlessly woven together with ecological and cultural history, the revelation of the pilgrim’s path and the unknowable depth of Aboriginal myth. Through trekking this Wurundjeri Songline, this ancient, ever-renewing river, she discovers rich possibilities of belonging, and shares how a river can nourish the passion and resilience required to transform our world.
Text and image found here:

At the end of this kind of event one can easily look back of over the program and regret not getting to various sessions. But the fact is the three days were intense, breaks were active conversational sessions, evenings busy and downtime not really to be found.

The opportunity to go to the Floating Land Festival was a welcome one... at Boreen Point the location was quiet and the rain holding of meant Saturday night's Opening Ceremony was excellent and the outdoor dinner at the waterfront most pleasant.

Photo: The Floating Land
Image by LisaSista Photography 2013

Image by Lisa Delanou found here. Floating Land is on till Sunday June 9th : Read more.
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