Monday, January 28, 2013

Environmental policy and Obama's inauguration in Washington, D.C.

Editor's Note: This post was written by Christina Bovinette, Research Assistant and Project Manager at Little River Research & Design.  

Ecohydrologist Lily Hwang talks with a visitor at Disasters
and Environment: Science, Preparedness, and Resilience
Last week Lily and I attended the National Council for Science and the Environment’s 13th National Conference: Disasters and Environment: Science, Preparedness, and Resilience in Washington, D.C.

At most conferences we interact with geoscience educators, but this conference was concerned foremost with making science relevant to environmental policy, so we rubbed elbows with lawyers, public health experts, and representatives of governmental agencies such as the EPA.

This was an exciting environment for us because this new audience evoked further potential in our Emriver models. For example, some envisioned the models’ capacity to show the processes of deforestation and waterborne disease; others reaffirmed the models’ value in education and outreach. A Peace Corps volunteer pointed out that leaders of smaller countries, who have little understanding of how their local actions affect the broader water system of their region, would learn from the models. These suggestions showed me the connection between geoscience and policy, and that Emriver models can influence decision-makers in the US and around the world.

After the conference, I was fortunate enough to join thousands in welcoming President Obama back to office at his inauguration. I could not help but be swept up by the spirit of hope and admiration of the crowd. And, of course, I felt this energy all the more when, in his inaugural address, Obama called for better environmental policy and fuel alternatives, and spent more time speaking of this than any other issue. 

For now, my faith has been restored in this Administration’s ability to challenge the threat of climate change, and I hope his Administration’s actions match Obama's aggressive speech.

No matter how things go in Washington, Little River Research & Design will continue to counter environmental degradation through its services in river science, conservation, and education, and I'm glad to be a part of that!

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Are fluvial geomorphologists made or born?

I lost my Mom a year ago.

Going through her papers today I found this; eight-year-old me writing my best friend Corby Wiggins; in 1966.  We lived in Hope, Arkansas

My Dad was taking me to camp on the Red River southwest of Hope.  I wondered if the river might "wash our bridge down if it rises."

I've spent the last 20 or so years of my life working on that question!

The Red River southwest of Hope, Arkansas.
Dear Corby,
My Father is going to buy a
camper this friday and we
are going to Red River to camp.
I wish you could come to and
maybe you can! and down by the
river the[re] is a island of pure
sand and on it you can have
loads of fun.  and on it also are
little pools of water cool and
clear and good to swim in and
there is a good spot down by the
river thats great for fishing.  and
hiking but the place I like the best
is the island we might build a
bridge across the narrow creek that runs
between it but if we did the river
might wash it down when is rises
but it would be fun to build it
anyway.  good-by for now.

your friend

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

First Em3 dual-tilt system ships!

Today we shipped our first dual-tilt Emriver Em3 system to the University of West Georgia Department of Geosciences.

As we began its design three years ago, we envisioned our Em3 as the perfect teaching and research model for university settings.  Large enough to accommodate a dozen students, big enough for serious research, but also portable and storable. 

We also worked to design a modular system for museums and environmental educators.

Part of that modular system is a dual-tilt base that allows independent adjustment of both pitch (long profile) and roll, an original feature of our larger Em4 model.  This movement allows for more advanced research and demonstrations.

The Em3’s 85-pound box can be moved from its static “horse” supports to this dual-tilt system in seconds.

The static Em3 system took hundreds of design hours.  We added several hundred hours to develop this dual-tilt system. 

It’s simple, elegant, incredibly robust and adaptable.   

You’ll see the Em3 dual-tilt system, digitally powered,  doing amazing things in museums in the next few years.   You saw it first here.

Thanks to my amazing LRRD colleagues for their knowledge, support, faith in me, and hard work.  

Friday, January 11, 2013

2013 resolution: Face up to the climate cliff

Photo courtesy Sara Shipley Hiles
Note: This post is by Sara Shipley Hiles, an assistant professor of journalism at the University of Missouri.  She is also a freelance journalist and longtime environmental reporter and member of the Society of Environmental Journalists.  While at the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, she wrote a series of stories about extensive development of floodplains that were underwater in the Great Flood of 1993.  Her academic research looks at media coverage of climate change.

While we’re all making New Year’s resolutions about eating less and exercising more, let me suggest something more important we can add to our collective to-do list for 2013. This one’s big. It will take courage. It will take political will and compromise. It will take personal commitment.

I’m not talking about gun control, or even the fiscal cliff. I’m talking about facing the climate cliff. Climate change is the biggest long-term threat facing our economy and our society, yet we find plenty of ways to avoid facing it, despite mounting evidence.
Graphic source: National Climate Data Center's State of the Climate 2012 report.  Click graphic to expand.
2012 was the hottest year on record for Missouri and 18 other states, and the continental United States as a whole, according to a recent report from the National Climatic Data Center. The ninth straight year of record-breaking heat was also an historic year for extreme weather, from severe drought to super-storm Sandy.

Yet what dominates the news cycle? Not climate change. An annual analysis of climate change coverage conducted by The Daily Climate, a nonprofit journalism site, found the number of stories on climate change dropped 2 percent last year, the third year of decline.

Media Matters, a progressive media research center, found that climate change coverage on network TV remained low last year, despite the weather extremes. The report singled out Sunday shows for spending just 8 minutes on climate change, down from more than an hour in 2009, and not quoting a single scientist on climate change in four years.

I don’t blame my fellow environmental journalists, many of whom have fallen victim to newsroom cuts. We are pushing hard to cover what we see as the Story of the Century. And some publications have actually increased climate coverage, but even they can fall prey to industry pressures.

News broke today that The New York Times, which far outpaced four other national papers with its climate reporting last year, will dismantle its environment desk.
This is particularly disappointing. The Times managing editor for news Dean Baquet told InsideClimate News the move wouldn’t change the newspaper’s commitment to covering the environment or climate change.

I hope so, but I’m worried. Climate change needs to be on the national agenda, as much as the latest disaster. And yet climate change wasn’t mentioned once during last year’s presidential debates. Environmental groups are protesting “climate silence.”

It’s not just about saving polar bears, as some cynics would say. Just last year alone, The United States saw 11 weather-related disasters pass the $1-billion cost mark. While scientists are loath to attribute individual events to climate change, a warming world tilts the system toward chaos – very expensive chaos. (For a helpful analogy, see the clever video explaining how greenhouse gases are the “steroids” of weather, much like steroids in baseball.)

The World Bank released a report warning that the world must take steps to avoid warming 4 degrees, as is predicted by the end of the century without radical policy change. The report threatened devastating consequences, including the inundation of coastal cities, higher rates of starvation, increased water scarcity and more high-intensity tropical storms.

Graphic source: National Climatic Data Center's State of the Climate 2012 report
If these events come to pass, we will be very sorry we didn’t address climate change when we had the chance.

So let’s do something that’s good for us this year. Eat more kale, and don’t be afraid to talk about climate change.

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

New Emriver community on Google+

Emriver user Matt Kuchta has started the Emriver Working Group on Google+.  The group aims to be a place where Emriver users can share ideas, tips and inspiration for teaching and research with our geomodels.

Kuchta's blog already hosts some creative Emriver hacks and tips, and lots of other cool stuff, including movies like this one.

Thanks Matt!