Original Post: But I’m only telling you ‘cuz you got an honest face. Can I trust you?
Not out loud! Just nod your head. Good. Like that. Now, can I trust you? OK.
Write this down: Friday, December 6th is WinterPaloozaPosterFestFeast. C’mon, don’t look so surprised, pal, you knew it was coming. It happens every year at this time. And this year it’s gonna blow them argyle socks right off yer feet. You want Genetics? The WHOLE flippin’ Genetics class is doing a project that they’ll present in a poster. That’s them down there, right below.
Oh, I get, you’re one of them there physics types, I can tell by that look in yer eyes. There’ll be tons of physics posters. And math. And so many animal phys posters you won’t be able to swing a dead cat without hittin’ one. And for the coop degracey, we got more than a baker’s dozen of posters in two – that’s right two – flavors of ecology: Landscape Ecology and Agroecology.
Now, can I count on you?
Yes, yes, yes, there’ll be chow – lots of pizza, drinks, desserts. Word on the street is there may even be some vindyloo. The grub’ll be ready at noon and posters’ll be startin’ at 12:30. Where? In Dickinson – all over the building.
You in? Great! Now go spread the word.”
Update (12/6): Terrific job today, everyone – lots of great science was enjoyed by all.
There’s a lot of science that we talk about on the Bennington science blog, but a group of students is working this term on communicating science to people other than scientists. Below are their podcasts on a wide array of different scientific topics. Stay tuned for their future efforts, which include interviewing scientists on the Bennington faculty!
Jeffrey Matthews on Space Radiation:
Mieke Vrijmoet & Robin Hrynyszyn on the environmental effects of development:
Hilary Whitney & Dane Whitman on Consciousness:
Klemente Gilbert-Espada on the Google File System:
Rachel Johnson on a new type of “green” energy:
The “Forests” class — a field-oriented class introducting concepts of ecology and evolution (taught by faculty member Kerry Woods) — recently remeasured two study plots established in 2004 in campus forests.
Class members posing with their trees. Left to right: Emily Sanders, Dane Whitman, Nick Atherton, Kevser Kedici, Syvlia Madaras, Kily Dalrymple. Photo by Reily Gordon.
Remeasurements will allow estimation of biomass accumulation and turn-over — in other words, whether these forests are overall carbon sinks or sources. (the stand pictured here is a plantation of native red pine planted in the 1960s by former faculty member Bob Woodworth and his students).
It’s generally thought that New England’s forests are ‘carbon sinks’ because they are relatively young, post-agricultural ecosystems and so still growing — but we do not know how generally or how long that can be expected to be true, so we will keep monitoring the roughly 200 acres of forest on the Bennington College campus.
Old-growth forest at the Dukes Research Natural Area (U.S. Forest Service) in northern Michigan — source of the data-set used in published analyses.
Faculty member Kerry Woods participated in a multi-author study assessing the effects of climate change on forest understory communities in North America and Europe. Using multi-decade data-sets from 29 research sites analyses show that a general trend of compositional change reflecting increases in warm-adapted species may be moderated where forest canopies have become denser. This work was published online (before print) in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Science in a paper titled “Microclimate moderates plant responses to macroclimate warming” (doi: 10.1073/pnas.1311190110). Woods contributed one of five data-sets from North America; his long-term studies in old-growth forests of northern Michigan have supported several other publications. Another of the North American data-sets is from Peter White of the University of North Carolina — a Bennington alum from 1971.
This research has been reported by the BBC, on Belgian national news (including a video clip of lead author Pieter de Frenne of University of Ghent — in Dutch), and in press releases from Oxford University and several other universities.
Each year, the introductory ecology and evolution class participates in a multi-year study assessing how the history of agricultural usage and abandonment has affected ecosystem patterns over our local lanscape – once almost entirely cleared and now over 80% forested. In addition to conducting quantitative vegetation sampling, we ‘read’ stories told by stone walls, soil properties, and remnant trees like this white oak, whose growth form indicates that it was well-established when this site was still an open pasture.
Class excursions also explore the rich diversity of habitats and communities found within a short van-trip from the College, including sub-alpine forests near the summits of surrounding mountain ranges (here, Mt. Greylock in the Taconic Mts., the highest point in
Ecology class in the lab – at the summit of Mt. Greylock
Photo: Jo Ann Watson
from the Hogwarts faculty…
Do you like fit phosphines?
Just add some phenyl rings.
And for fitter phosphines
Fatten those phenyls with isopropyl things.
Because the fittest phosphines
Are the fattest phosphines -
The gist of my truthful tale,
“Why fattest phosphines flourish,
While famished phenyls fail.”
This talk will describe my research on the electrochemistry of severely congested phosphines. If you prefer an Aseussian version of the abstract, see the article link at The Journal of the American Chemical Society, which published the work earlier this year.
As always, delicious and thematically appropriate snacks will be served.
Genelle Rankin (junior) is studying central neuronal responses to alarm odors (pheromones) in cockroaches. Insects have modular yet complex central nervous systems that enable scientists to investigate both the function and evolution of the nervous system.
Emily Mikucki on the job as a conservation educator at Disney World
Since graduating last spring, Emily Mikucki has been working as a conservation educator at the ‘Animal Kingdom’ park at Disney World. She reports that she gets to “interact with guests through the Wilderness Explorers Program [to] help them learn about wildlife, animal behaviors and conservation.” Emily’s work at Bennington focused, from the beginning, on the ecology and conservation of her favorite group of organisms — insects and, more specifically, butterflies and moths (the Order Lepidoptera). Not surprisingly, she reports that her favorite part of the work at Disney World “is informing guests (primarily kids and families) about the different insects we have, and their morphologies and behaviors, and helping to build young biologists and entomologists.” She also studied Spanish at Bennington, and spent several summers and FWTs doing conservation work in natural areas and conservation programs in Latin America. This has also helped her in her job at Disney World, where she is part of the language program (“it’s says español on my name tag”).
Please join us for our next Science Workshop with Dr. David Bond, visiting faculty member in Anthropology for the 2013-14 academic year. David is currently teaching two courses at Bennington, Nature in the Americas and The Anthropology of Science and & Technology. As usual, the talk will be in Dickinson 225 and thematic snacks will be provided.
The Environment as Disastrous History of the Present
The environment is remarkably new. Over the course of the past century, the ‘environment’ shifted from erudite shorthand for ‘context’ to a proper noun worthy of its own governing agency in nearly every nation on earth (whether that domain is called ‘environment,’ ‘medio ambiente,’ mazingira,’ ‘lingkungan,’ or ‘huanjing’). The environment has arrived as an official means of knowing and governing the quality of life. But where, exactly, did this defendable environment come from? Through ongoing fieldwork at the intersection of pollution problems and environmental regulations across the Americas, my research suggests that toxic disasters (quite a few of the hydrocarbon variety) play a key role in the formation and reformation of the defendable environment. This paper recaps a few of these calamitous events and describes how the official response to them put in place new understandings of the ordinary conditions of life. Whether in coal smog or lead gasoline or acid rain or hydro-chlorinated pesticides or shoddy drilling practice or even global climate change, oil spills of one sort or another have been at the forefront of making the conditions of life visible, factual, and governable. This paper presents such disasters as an unfolding history of the present that keeps remaking nearly everything the state knows about the conditions of life. Disasters, then, are not aberrant events in industrial modernity but part and parcel of how the environment becomes knowable and governable in the present.