Engineers and Environment

Application to identify trees

Posted by Susan Sharma on June 23, 2011

Blog


"Scientists have developed the first mobile app to identify plants by simply photographing a leaf. The free iPhone and iPad app, called Leafsnap, instantly searches a growing library of leaf images amassed by the Smithsonian Institution. In seconds, it returns a likely species name, high-resolution photographs and information on the tree's flowers, fruit, seeds and bark. ...
Leafsnap debuted in May, covering all the trees in New York's Central Park and Washington's Rock Creek Park. It has been downloaded more than 150,000 times in the first month, and its creators expect it to continue to grow as it expands to Android phones.

Smithsonian research botanist John Kress, who created the app with engineers from Columbia University and the University of Maryland, said it was originally conceived in 2003 as a high-tech aid for scientists to discover new species in unknown habitats. The project evolved, though, with the emergence of smartphones to become a new way for citizens to contribute to research.
..Leafsnap cost about $2.5 million to develop, funded primarily by a grant from the National Science Foundation. It will cost another $1 million to expand it within the next 18 months to cover all the trees of the United States, involving about 800 species.

Full Story on - San Jose Mercury News

nature/wildlife films

Sarang - The Peacock,review

Posted by Bhavesh on June 21, 2011

Blog
How many times have we felt 'virtual proximity' to nature,just by watching a movie or a program on Discovery/Net Geo (for India,usually the credit goes to Tigers).Our problem is (Media included) we do not think of other animals,forget birds.For us,Tigers rule the rule books.

Fortunately,I got a copy of 'Sarang-The Peacock',last week.It's a wonderful account of Peacocks and their life made by Susan Sharma.Watching it is like a musical journey,too calm and soothing (thanks to the excellent music score).

Peacocks have always fascinated us,rains can't be imagined without a dancing peacock,making that 'eye catching' pattern.The whole 'web of life' including humans,snakes,squirrels and peachicks (new born peacock) is encircled in this beautiful narration.

Must watch for every Indian, at least we must know about our 'national bird'.Thanks Susan for this beautiful account.I am on my way to search out for peacocks in fields nearby. 

General

David Rankin Watercolors of India

Posted by David Rankin on June 13, 2011

Blog
David Rankin's Ganges Himalayas Watercolor Expedition - Although I am primarily a Wildlife Artist who focuses on the Wildlife of India... my most recent efforts are centered on the sensitive regions of the Ganges Himalayas. And I am gradually posting my Artist Journal pages on Facebook from my artistic efforts from Haridwar... up into the high altitude glacial regions of Gangotri... Kedarnath... and Badrinath.

You can review this journal at...
https://www.facebook.com/media/set/?set=a.467659279302.251769.773694302&l=3ae5840ff7

Man Animal Conflict

Elephant kills man in Mysore

Posted by Susan Sharma on June 11, 2011

Blog

"Do Elephants View Humans As Direct Threats?
We are constantly learning more about how intelligent elephants are, about their incredible memory, their tight family structure, and their intricate language. In fact, just a couple days ago we learned about a study showing how very alike humans and elephants are. Considering that this species is always surprising us with their smarts, the conflict between elephants and humans may go even deeper than habitat loss. Gay Bradshaw, an elephant behavior expert, tells Live Science that with humans killing elephants, the aggression could be stemming from this violent interaction.

Bradshaw says elephants are simply reacting as people would when under siege. People are shooting, spearing, poisoning the big animals: "From a psychologist's perspective, that's trauma. If you look at elephants and people, that's the same thing we see with people under siege and genocide."

Bradshaw likens the conflict between humans and elephants to colonialism, with the people taking over the elephants' indigenous culture, and with "elephants fighting to keep their culture and their society as they are pushed into smaller places and killed outright."

It's easy to brush this theory off, saying that Bradshaw is anthropomorphizing elephants and that attacks such as what occurred in Mysore is the result of four males getting separated from the herd and lost in the scary streets of a strange city. However, if we pause for a moment and consider the amazing things we know about elephants, the idea that wild elephants view humans as a direct threat more than ever isn't such a stretch."


Read full article at 

http://tinyurl.com/5rpko4l
[Open in new window]


Wildlife , Forest Laws

Protected areas vs. poverty and resource profit

Posted by Dr.Susan Sharma on June 04, 2011

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(This blog was posted by 'tarientree' on 11 Oct 2010 15:11 in the discussion forum of 'connecttoearth')

I am living in a well developed country and I think most of you, as you are having access to internet, do as well. We can think about protecting areas and wish there are more such all over the globe. But do we really know and can we even comprehend, how it is, when there is war in the country? Or if we would be so poor, that we must get our food out of the bush? I read about Africa and national parks there. Nationalvparks in countries in war are sometimes almost empty of game, because people go hunting for their food supply. Parkbrangers get killed or corrupted. I do not mean the ivory or trophy hunters, allthough they are a major problem as well. If they would have a better perspective, they would do otherwise.

I think, protecting nature habitats is only effectively achievable, if the people around and in this area have everything to live and therefore can be made sensible for sustainable handling of their land through education. But even this is very hard to achieve, because the well developed countries (Europe, USA, meanwhile parts of China, etc.) take their resources where ever they can get them - and this would be in the underdeveloped countries. The people there get nothing than total nature destruction and health problems, they do not see a cent the incredible earnings the foreigners get.

The mentality of rich and well developed countries like USA can best be seen in Alaska. A national park should be a strongly protected area, right? But oil drilling is allowed! So what is this protected area for then? It is only valid as long it does not concur with capital interests, this means, if the area has no resources or is uneconomic, only then it can be well protected.

So how can we effectively protect nature? The answer is wide spread and not achievable in short-term, if even ever:

* Leaving fossile energy beyond and invest in renewable energy, especially in "free" solar energy so that destroying natural habitats and exploiting of Third World countries is no longer economically of any interest..

    * Elect politicians with natures interest and not economic interest (this means, if they promise you work and good development, it is pure economical thinking). So if you are egoistic (which is natural) you would first choose your own convenience and only then followed by nature preservation, right?

    * Sensible consumption behaviour (organic, MSC, FSC, etc.)
    * Stop rich countries exploitation in countries, where the population is poor and only a very view are rich through sale of their resources (China, USA, Europe, Russia --> Africa, Eastern Europe, South-America)
    * Why need gold and diamonds on your neck or arm? For status? Get rid of this thinking - it is only a material, which makes other people rich, when you buy it.
    * Ask where your sorted out computer, TV or mobile-phone is recycled or trashed. (Does it end up in Africa to be pulled apart for gold and copper by children?)

There is so much more which would be necessary, but most of it would mean, that global economy and globalization need to be completely renewed. The current behaviour of mankind means complete destruction of nature and leaving some small isles of protected areas for a while.

Any other

CARCINOGEN

Posted by Tulip Das on May 28, 2011

Blog

Climate change and Global Warmimg

Why Rivers Flood – and How to Reduce Risk

Posted by Susan Sharma on May 24, 2011

Blog

.............very high amounts of rain, snowmelt, or both lead to floods. All the land that drains downhill into rivers—or into the streams and tributaries that eventually join the river—is called a watershed. When that watershed receives a lot of rain, the river will rise higher than its banks and spread out into the floodplain, which is the name for low lying areas along a river.

But what most people don’t realize is that floods are not some departure from the way a river is “supposed” to behave – witness the common description in the press of a river “bursting from its banks” during a flood, like a convict breaking out of jail. The river and floodplain are actually one single highway for moving water downstream (and not just water, but also sediment, which is why the Missouri River is nicknamed the “Big Muddy.”) It’s just that the floodplain part of this highway is dry much or most of the time...............

....on average, natural rivers will spread out onto their floodplains anywhere from once a year to once every 3 years....Floodplains themselves are part of the solution............
Strategic designation of such floodways, with policies that compensate people who live within them, can be critical to reducing the damage of massive floods. We also need to make these floodways more “flood-proof.” For example, there may be ways to develop crops that are more tolerant of floodwater. ......Read more at

http://www.nature.org/ourinitiatives/habitats/riverslakes/why-rivers-flood-andhow-to-reduce-risk.xml

or at

http://tinyurl.com/4y6as9s
[Open in new window]

Man Animal Conflict

Conflict taking toll on both humans and animals

Posted by Susan Sharma on May 17, 2011

Blog

"Man-animal (anthropogenic) conflict in India is taking a heavy toll on habitat

and thereby the survival of wildlife. Habitat fragmentation is leading to

isolation of animals, inbreeding, and causing local extinction of such

species. If wildlife are restricted in their movements and in their sociology

(mating patterns and territoriality) it will lead to inbreeding, further

weakening the genetic pool. This applies to all endangered birds, reptiles,

insects, and mammals.

In early 2010 there was an official alert that 1000 tigers were reduced to

skin and bone since the last census of 2008. The 2008 census said there

1411 tigers remaining. Only 50 percent are females. Of these there are

many which are old and frail, and are not breeding any more. Many other

males are of the same bloodline so mating is impossible. Genetic

inbreeding amongst felines is one of the greatest threats to tiger numbers.

Taking all this into account, only 1/3rd of the 1000 odd tiger population in

India are fit to breed."-Malini Shankar

Read More at

http://www.indiatogether.org/2011/feb/env-manimal.htm

Urban Wildlife

Parakeets Swarm in London

Posted by Susan Sharma on May 17, 2011

Blog

The once-exotic bird is becoming a notorious pest as it enjoys a population

explosion in many London suburbs.

"There is wide agreement that the Adams and Eves behind the current

population boom did not fly here from Asia or Africa but escaped from

British pet cages or were intentionally released by their owners. The great

mystery is what allowed the parakeets to procreate with such phenomenal

success just in the past decade."

Read more at the link
http://www.nytimes.com/2011/05/14/science/earth/14parakeet.html?_r=3
or
http://tinyurl.com/5us2w4y

Climate change and Global Warmimg

National Institute of Himalayan Glaciology

Posted by Susan Sharma on May 06, 2011

Blog

"Most glaciers are melting, they are retreating; some glaciers, like the Siachen glacier, are advancing. But overall one can say incontrovertibly that the debris on our glaciers is very high, the snow balance is very low. We have to be very cautious because of the water security, particularly in north India, which depends on the health of the Himalayan glaciers," says Jairam Ramesh, Minister for Environment, India.

The new National Institute of Himalayan Glaciology is based in Dehradun, in Uttarakhand, and will monitor glacial changes and compare results with those from glaciers in Pakistan, Nepal and Bhutan.

India has launched the Indian Network on Comprehensive Climate Change Assessment (INCCA)," the Minister said. It will bring together 125 research institutions throughout India, work with international bodies and operate as a "sort of Indian IPCC," he added. The body will publish its own climate assessment in November, 2011, with reports on the Himalayas, India's long coastline, the Western Ghat highlands, and the north-eastern region close to the borders with Bangladesh, Burma, China and Nepal.




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