Category Archives: black swan

Black Swan Events Explored at Hot Science – Cool Talks

Oh no! Black Swan (Cygnus atratus)
Photo credit: Calvin Teo on wikipedia

This Fall 2012 kicks off another great semester of “Hot Science. Cool Talks.” presentations with Dr. David W. Orr’s “Black Swans & the U.S. Future: Creating Sustainable & Resilient Societies” on Friday, September 14, at 7:00 p.m. in UT Austin’s Student Activity Center. However, you’ll want to arrive early, as the fun pre-lecture events start at 5:45 p.m.

A professor of Environmental Studies and Politics at Oberlin College, Dr. Orr will talk about “Black Swans” as infrequent and unpredictable events that drive change in human and natural systems. This summer, I wondered if
invasive species could trigger a black swan event, such as with the Mediterranean Sea and Oregon incidents.

The “Hot Science. Cool Talks.” presentations are fantastic for kids of all ages, but especially for middle and high school students. (I should add elementary students too since as young Commander Ben, I was able to meet Dr. John Grotzinger at a presentation in 2005. Dr. Grotzinger is now a project scientist for the Mars Science Laboratory that is part of the Curiosity Mars rover.)

Invasive Hunter Academy coming to Hot Science – Cool Talks

I’m sorry that I’ll miss this Friday’s presentation, but I’ll be at the “Lights. Camera. Help.” Focus on Good Film Festival! My Native Plant Avengers video about Texas wildflowers banding together to fight invasive species was selected to be shown at the festival.

However, I’m excited to announce that I’ll be bringing my Invasive Hunter Academy to the prelecture fun for the “Last Call at the Oasis: Will There be Enough Water for the 21st Century?” presentation by Dr. Jay Famiglietti on October 26, 2012.

I’ll bring fun activities to help kids learn about invasive species, and I’ll have special information about the Giant Reed, an invasive species that threatens our water and riparian ecosystems, for this special event.

Thanks Mr. Geoff Hensgen, Outreach coordinator, and Dr. Jay Banner, Director of the UT Austin Environmental Science Institute, for inviting me to join your wonderful event!

I hope to see you there!

Your friend,
Ben

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Can Invasive Species Trigger Black Swan Events in Nature?

I’m looking forward to the upcoming Fall 2012 series of Hot Science – Cool Talks.

During the first presentation, Black Swans & the U.S. Future: Creating Sustainable & Resilient Societies, Dr. David W. Orr will talk about how sudden and unpredictable events drive change in human and natural systems.

I’m especially interested to learn if the introductions of invasive species to an ecosystem may represent black swan events in nature.

Deep Sea Invasion

I remember watching a rerun of the PBS Nova episode, Deep Sea Invasion, which showed how a bright green seaweed (Caulerpa taxifolia) that was used to decorate salt water aquariums escaped into the Mediterranean sea and created a choking monoculture wherever it went.

The dense carpet of seaweed represented a great change in the ecosystem since it overwhelmed native species and deprived native marine animals of food since the seaweed has a toxin that the creatures cannot eat.

In 2000, scientists found this invasive seaweed growing in the waters outside of San Diego, California, probably accidentally released by an aquarium owner, but due to early detection and rapid response, scientists were able to contain this killer alga with plastic and eradicate it with chlorine.

Like the Wakame (Undaria pinnatifida) seaweed shown in First wave of tsunami debris brings dock loaded with invasive species to the US West Coast, Caulerpa taxifolia is also in the Global Invasive Species database lists as one of the world’s 100 worst invasive species.

I can’t wait to attend the next Hot Science – Cool Talks and learn more about black swan events from Dr. Orr and the Environmental Science Institute at UT Austin.

Your friend,
Ben

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