Category Archives: Geoff Hensgen

Trash and Treasure at the Lake Travis Underwater and Shoreline Cleanup

Volunteer divers hauling up trash from Lake Travis (Is that part of a house?)

Volunteer divers hauling up trash from Lake Travis (Is that part of a house?)

I had a chance to be part of the Lake Travis Underwater and Shoreline Cleanup event earlier this month, and you’d be surprised what the cleanup volunteers found!

Ms. Sarah Richards, Executive Director, and Mr. Geoff Hensgen, Program Director, of the Colorado River Alliance invited me to be part of the press boat for the event, and what an exciting honor it was!

Commander Ben and Sarah Richards on the marina dock getting ready to board the press boat.

Commander Ben and Sarah Richards on the marina dock getting ready to board the press boat.

Divers near Starnes Island

One of the many boats with divers near Starnes Island for the Lake Travis underwater cleanup

One of the many boats with divers near Starnes Island for the Lake Travis underwater cleanup

Our press boat left early in the morning from a nearby marina and traveled to Starnes Island on Lake Travis, where scuba divers were hauling up trash from underwater and storing the trash in orange nylon bags. It was surprisingly cool in the morning. We had rain and colder weather (for September in Texas!) leading up to the event, and volunteers said it was one of the cooler cleanups that they remembered being part of.

Volunteers met for the clean up at different spots around Lake Travis, including shoreline clean up sites near Pace Bend and Tom Hughes Parks and dive locations near Arkansas Park and Cypress Creek Cove. Approximately 1000 shoreline volunteers and scuba divers took part in this event. Wow!

The divers could see about 15 feet below the surface of the water, and with the low water levels because of the Texas drought, they were able to find trash at depths that would normally be harder to see in.

Map of the 2014 Lake Travis Underwater and Shoreline Cleanup locations (Map credit: Colorado River Alliance)

Map of the 2014 Lake Travis Underwater and Shoreline Cleanup locations (Map credit: Colorado River Alliance)

At the intersection of a inlet to Sandy Creek Park from Lake Travis, Starnes Island is only accessible by boat, and it was a critical clean up site since many party boats dock near this island and throw their trash overboard (ugh!). The scuba divers brought up bags and bags of trash, and boats would bring the trash over to the Lake Travis Marina where it was collected and hauled away for proper disposal.

Lake Travis Cleanup press boat crew outside of the Hudson Bend collection site

Lake Travis Cleanup press boat crew outside of the Hudson Bend collection site

I talked with Ms. Shaun Marie Auckland, Conservation Coordinator for Travis County Parks, who said Travis County became involved in 1994 to provide volunteers with access to the parks and to help scuba divers dispose of trash with trash barges.

Packed volunteer event at the Oasis

The Lake Travis Cleanup volunteer party at the Oasis was packed!

The Lake Travis Cleanup volunteer party at the Oasis was packed!

After the clean up, the volunteers celebrated with food, drinks, and door prizes at the Oasis restaurant overlooking Lake Travis. There were many educational booths for kids of all ages about Lake Travis, the aquatic food chain, water quality, and more.

Some of the Colorado River Alliance educational materials

Some of the Colorado River Alliance educational materials

Colorado River Alliance volunteers talking about the ecological water food web

Colorado River Alliance volunteers talking about the ecological water food web

Commander Ben and Colorado River Alliance education volunteers give a thumbs up to this year's Lake Travis Cleanup event

Commander Ben and Colorado River Alliance education volunteers give a thumbs up to this year’s Lake Travis Cleanup event

I enjoyed hamburgers, chips, and iced tea with volunteers at the party after the event, and I sat with volunteers who were cleaning up around the low water crossing below Mansfield Dam.

From volunteer Dean Woodley, I learned that the concrete structures on the Sometimes Islands were part of the materials that were used to build Mansfield Dam. The blocks were likely the base of tall pulleys that were used to haul material down to the dam. (I wonder if they were like Archimedes’ pulleys that I’m learning about in my World History high school class.)

Commander Ben and volunteer Dean Woodley at the Lake Travis Cleanup Volunteer Party at the Oasis restaurant

Commander Ben and volunteer Dean Woodley at the Lake Travis Cleanup Volunteer Party at the Oasis restaurant

Commander Ben and Finley the Fish overlooking the Sometimes Islands on Lake Travis

Commander Ben and Finley the Fish overlooking the Sometimes Islands on Lake Travis

During the volunteer party, the event organizers showed some of the unusual items the volunteers brought in, including sunglasses and a pink flamingo. I heard that someone also found an iPhone (not working – no surprise), and at a past event, they even found an old car motor.

Some of the unusual underwater Lake Travis Cleanup items found (is that a catfish skeleton?)

Some of the unusual underwater Lake Travis Cleanup items found (is that a catfish skeleton?)

Some of the unique objects found by Lake Travis Cleanup volunteers

Some of the unique objects found by Lake Travis Cleanup volunteers

For this year’s event, they announced the winner of the most unusual clean up item: a plastic bottle with a note in it. The note was a reward for a missing wedding ring. Hope someone found it!

TV coverage of the event

Getting ready to hop back on the press boat from Starnes Island with KVUE cameraman J.P.

Getting ready to hop back on the press boat from Starnes Island with KVUE cameraman J.P.

As part of our press boat, I met J.P., a friendly cameraman from KVUE who shared his experiences filming many events around Austin. I also saw the KTBC camera crew covering the event during the after party at the Oasis.

Sarah Richards being interviewed by KVUE about the Lake Travis Cleanup event

Sarah Richards being interviewed by KVUE about the Lake Travis Cleanup event

Science activities for primary and middle schoolers

Bringing the River to Our Schools mobile museum (Image credit: Colorado River Alliance)

Bringing the River to Our Schools mobile museum (Image credit: Colorado River Alliance)

During the school year, the Colorado River Alliance has educational activities for primary and middle schoolers. Kids in grades 3-5 can take field trips to LCRA building near Red Bud Island on Lady Bird Lake for hands-on activities to learn about water, wetlands, geography, and more.

The Colorado River Alliance also created the Bringing the River to Our Schools mobile museum to give 7th graders a high quality STEM experience and to educate the next generation of water stewards.

These are great programs for young naturalists and remind me of my science classes. I loved learning about biology in my freshman year in high school. This year, I’m learning about chemistry, and we’re going over the structure of the atom in class right now.

Celebrating 20 years of Lake Travis Cleanup volunteers

Lake Travis Underwater and Shoreline Cleanup celebrates 20 years!

Lake Travis Underwater and Shoreline Cleanup celebrates 20 years!

The Lake Travis Underwater and Shoreline Cleanup started in 1994, and on September 14, 2014, celebrated 20 years of helping to clean Lake Travis, a vital water supply for the people and animals of Central Texas. Next year, the 21st annual event will be on September 13, 2015.

This year’s successful volunteer event was organized by the Colorado River Alliance, Keep Austin Beautiful, and Travis County Parks.

Commander Ben and Geoff Hensgen at the Lake Travis Cleanup volunteer party

Commander Ben and Geoff Hensgen at the Lake Travis Cleanup volunteer party

Thanks again Ms. Richards and Mr. Hensgen for inviting me to be part of your wonderful event. How great it was to see so many enthusiastic volunteers, both above and below the water, helping to keep our native ecosystem clean!

Your friend,
Ben

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Filed under Colorado River Alliance, Geoff Hensgen, Lake Travis, Lake Travis Underwater and Shoreline Cleanup

Commander Ben Receives 2013 Outstanding Invasive Species Volunteer Award

Commander Ben displays his 2013 Outstanding Terrestrial Invasive Species Volunteer of the Year Award in front of admiring Giant Reed invasive plants.

Commander Ben displays his 2013 Outstanding Terrestrial Invasive Species Volunteer of the Year Award in front of admiring Giant Reeds

I have some wonderful news to share with you!  I recently received the 2013 Outstanding Terrestrial Invasive Species Volunteer of the Year Award from the National Invasive Species Council (NISC).

The NISC was created in 1999 and is co-chaired by the U.S. Secretaries of Interior, Agriculture, and Commerce.  NISC provides coordination of federal invasive species actions and works with other federal and non-federal groups to address invasive species issues at the national level.

I am so honored to receive this award but it wouldn’t have been possible without the support of so many fantastic people:

  • First, I want to thank my Mom and Dad who always support me in everything I do.  They’re the best!
  • I would also like to thank the National Invasive Species Council; Ms. Lori Williams, NISC Executive Director; and the entire National Invasive Species Awareness Week (NISAW) team.  They were just great for inviting me to be a presenter at NISAW in 2012.
  • Next, I want to thank the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center; Dr. Damon Waitt, Wildflower Center’s senior director; and Ms. Jessica Strickland, Wildflower Center’s invasive species program manager.

    They taught me a lot about invasive species and have always been such a great support to me in my efforts to help educate others about invasives.  They have also been very kind to invite me to be a presenter at numerous events at the Wildflower Center, including to the 2011 Texas Invasive Plant and Pest Conference.

    And congratulations to the Wildflower Center, Dr. Waitt, and Ms. Strickland too for receiving the 2013 Outstanding Achievement in Terrestrial Invasive Species Outreach and Education Award from the NISC.
  • Also, I would like to thank the Environmental Science Institute at the University of Texas; Dr. Jay Banner, Director; and Mr. Geoffrey Hensgen, Outreach Coordinator.

    I started attending their Hot Science – Cool Talks lectures when I was only about six years old!  They have been instrumental in developing my love of science, and they have been so supportive of giving me the amazing honor of being able to be part of the Hot Science – Cool Talks community by giving me the opportunity to interview many of the speakers and to also be a presenter at the pre-lecture activities, including bringing my Invasive Hunter Academy to Hot Science – Cool Talks
  • Additionally, I want to give many thanks to Science Under the Stars; Brackenridge Field Laboratory at the University of Texas; and Ms. Laura Dugan, doctoral researcher, who gave me a chance to help out with their research on the invasive Jewel Cichlid.

    My very first Commander Ben video, “Who will fell this titan?, won first prize at the Science Under the Stars 2011 Film Festival. In a way, that’s where my Commander Ben adventures first started!
  • And I could never forget to thank Master Chris Abramson, my Taekwondo instructor, who is such an amazing teacher and mentor.  Everything that I have learned from him has not only helped me battle invasives ;-), but has helped me in life.  He has taught me the five most important tenants of what it means to be a man: Courtesy, Integrity, Self-Control, Perseverance, and Indomitable Spirit!

Many thanks to everyone!

2013 National Invasive Species Awareness Week

NISAW_logo

Unfortunately, the budget problems in Washington DC and the government sequester, cancelled the formal awards banquet that was part of the 2013 National Invasive Species Awareness Week (NISAW) activities, but here’s what Ms. Lori Faeth, the Deputy Assistant Secretary for Policy and International Affairs at the Department of the Interior, was going to say about my 2013 Outstanding Terrestrial Invasive Species Volunteer Award:

“The winner of the 2013 NISAW Award for Outstanding Terrestrial Invasive Species Volunteer is Ben Shrader, founder of the Invasive Hunter Academy in Texas. Ben has given invasive species presentations at the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center in Texas and at National Invasive Species Awareness Week in Washington, DC. ‘Commander Ben’ has led efforts to engage students in invasive species issues through his Invasive Hunter Academy, using interactive methods to teach about invasive species and their effect on native ecosystems. He has used a wide variety of media to create a public discussion on invasive species and has produced a series of video interviews with scientists to publicize invasive species issues and research. Ben has also focused his efforts on conducting invasive species research, helping in the studying of the effect of the Jeweled Cichlid on native ecosystems at the University of Texas at Austin.”

Thanks Ms. Faeth for your kind words!

What’s next in the fight against invasives?

As always, I will continue my battle against invasive species! If you would like to be part of the fight against invasives, join me and my Invasive Hunter Academy and learn how to become an Invasive Hunter at the following upcoming events:

Hope to see you there!

Your friend,
Ben

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Filed under 2011 Texas Invasive Plant Conference, 2013 Outstanding Terrestrial Invasive Species Volunteer of the Year Award, Brackenridge Field Lab, Damon Waitt, Department of the Interior, Environmental Science Institute, Geoff Hensgen, Hot Science - Cool Talks, Invasive Hunter, Invasive Hunter Academy, Invasive Species, Invasive Species Award, Jay Banner, Jessica Strickland, Jewel Cichlid, Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center, Laura Dugan, Lori Faeth, Lori Williams, National Invasive Species Awareness Week, National Invasive Species Council, NISAW, NISC, Science Under the Stars, Taekwondo, University of Texas, UT Austin, Wildflower Center

Invasive Hunter Academy Thrives at UT Austin’s Hot Science – Cool Talks

Commander Ben talks with high school students about invasive species at Hot Science – Cool Talks
Photo credit: UT Austin Environmental Science Institute

The UT Austin Environmental Science Institute (ESI) has a great Hot Science – Cool Talks series that brings scientists from UT Austin and across the country to talk about their neat science research. Kids of all ages are invited to attend.

Mr. Geoff Hensgen, ESI Outreach Coordinator, invited me to bring my Invasive Hunter Academy to their most recent event with Dr. Jay Famiglietti, “Last Call at the Oasis: Will There be Enough Water for the 21st Century?

I was excited to, but I wanted to add more information for high school students, since I knew they enjoyed coming to the Hot Science presentations. So I researched about some of the water problems caused by invasive species.

Invasive Hunter Academy Grows

I really liked the new info that I added to the Invasive Hunter Academy. I still have the three fun original steps to becoming an invasive hunter:

  • Know your enemy – Match up pictures of native and invasive plants
  • Know your action moves – Practice the three cool taekwondo moves to take down invasive plants
  • Create your action scene – Build a great diorama to take home

For Dr. Famiglietti’s Cool Talks event, I created a new presentation for young adults with some great information about my nemesis, the Giant Reed. I talked about:

Recorded locations of the Giant Reed around Austin
Source: Texas Invasives website

(1) What invasive species are and specifically the problems of the Giant Reed (Arundo donax). I showed how easy it is to find sightings of the Giant Reed and other invasive species that citizen scientists reported around the state by using the Texas Invasives database.

Giant Reed along the Rio Grande River near Big Bend National Park
Credit: Mr. John Goolsby, USDA

(2) The EPA is considering using the Giant Reed for biofuel because it grows fast and doesn’t impact the food industry. That’s great for a biofuel plant, but the Giant Reed can easily escape into the native ecosystem and take over as an invasive species.

Scientists are concerned that the spread of the Giant Reed to could create an economic and environmental disaster, and for that reason it should not be used as a biofuel.

Giant Reed along the Rio Grande River
Photo Credit: Center for Invasive Species Research

(3) Especially for Dr. Famiglietti’s freshwater talk, I added information about how the Giant Reed is a threat to the survival of the Rio Grande River because it:

  • Reduces the available water supply
  • Chokes waterways
  • Inhibits with power generation
  • Interferes with agricultural irrigation
  • Degrades water quality
  • Threatens the of health of native plants and animals by creating a dense monoculture and crowding out native plants

QR Codes Help Presentations Jump to the Web

I added QR codes to make it easier for people to access the websites that I talk about in my poster presentation. I first added QR codes when I brought the academy to the Wildflower Center as part of Nature Nights this summer.

I saw people use their iPhones and Android phones to scan the QR codes to access my website, so I wanted to add more codes for my Hot Science presentation to help bring people to where they could get more information on the web, like to learn more about the Giant Reed.

High School Students Graduate to the Academy

One of the Invasive Hunter Academy tables before the start of Hot Science – Cool Talks at UT Austin

The audience was older than my other academy presentations. There were many students from eighth graders to high school and college students. That was neat!

I enjoy bringing the original academy activities to kids all ages, but now I especially enjoy talking to the older students and teaching them about invasive species. (In these pictures, I still have my hand in a cast from when it got broken during a taekwondo sparring match. :-()

Commander Ben motions to how high (and higher!) the Giant Reed invasive plant can grow
Photo credit: UT Austin Environmental Science Institute

They found my posters very helpful, because a lot of students were there with their science classes, and they had notebooks that they were writing in for extra credit. I talked with them about the problems with the Giant Reed, and they took copious notes. I hope they all got great grades! 🙂

Invasive Hunter graduate shows off her “I’m an Invasive Hunter” sticker and Wildflower Center brochure
Photo credit: UT Austin Environmental Science Institute

They really liked my “I’m an invasive hunter'” stickers and went to my website on their phones to watch my videos too. They put the stickers on their shirts and books, and one of the high school freshman put it on his forehead. (Not recommended.)

Battles with Invasive Species Videos

Commander Ben before the start of the Hot Science – Cool Talks prelecture fun with the Native Plant Avengers video playing in the background

Mr. Hensgen is just the best! I want to thank him for inviting me to be part of the prelecture fun and the interview with Dr. Famiglietti. He gave me the best table because it was near the entrance to the auditorium, and he gave me a projector to play my Battles with Invasive Species videos on the wall during the event.

During the event, I played two videos:

One Freshman high school girl came back another time for two reasons: she was interested to learn more about invasive species and she had also left her iPod. 🙂

It was also great to talk again with Dr. Jay Banner, Director of the UT Austin Environmental Science Institute. I saw him being filmed for the Longhorn Network during the event. Thanks, Dr. Banner, for mentioning me during your prelecture slides!

Last Call at the Oasis

Dr. Jay Famiglietti’s Last Call at the Oasis presentation at Hot Science – Cool Talks

I also had a great time chatting with Dr. Famiglietti before his talk. I wished him good luck, but he didn’t need it because he did a great job!

I found one of the reserved chairs in the auditorium. (Thanks Mr. Hensgen!) and I noticed that they were much, much more comfortable than the regular chairs. (They were the same as the other chairs, but since they were reserved, they were extra comfy!)

Dr. Famiglietti talked about the making of his video, Last Call at the Oasis. It was released on DVD on November 8th, so be sure to check it out!

At the end of his talk, he showed a funny video with Jack Black about their drinkable, treated sewage water, porcelain springs.

Learn More about Invasive Species

Ms. Jessica Strickland and Commander Ben mapping invasive species at SXSWEco

My thanks to Ms. Jessica Strickland for all her help teaching me more about invasive species on the Texas Invasives website and at SXSW Eco. (I learned about the EPA considering to use the Giant Reed as biofuel from the Texas Invasives iWire newsletter. If you don’t already receive this monthly email newsletter, be sure to subscribe to iWire today.) I also learned about the Rio Grande River’s problem with the Giant Reed from presentations during the 2011 Texas Invasive Plant and Pest Conference.

I also want to thank Ms. Alice Nance, Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center Education Manager. She gave me a lot of goodies to pass out during the prelecture fun. I had Wildflower Center brochures with discount coupons and Plant Hero badges and certificates. (Kids had a lot of fun with Plant Heroes too when I brought the Invasive Hunter Academy to Nature Nights at the Wildflower Center this summer.)

Next Hot Science – Cool Talks presentation

Commander Ben and Dr. Jay Famiglietti at Hot Science - Cool Talks

Commander Ben and Dr. Jay Famiglietti wrap up Hot Science – Cool Talks on a humorous note

Thank you again Dr. Banner, Mr. Hensgen, and Dr. Famiglietti for everything! 🙂 If you missed the event, watch my video interview series with Dr. Famiglietti and check out the webcast replay of Dr Famiglietti’s presentation. (It was ESI’s 80th Hot Science – Cool Talks event!)

I had a fantastic time, and I can’t wait until the next Hot Science – Cool Talks event on November 30, “The War on Cancer: 41 Years after Nixon’s Declaration“, with Dr. Mark Clanton.

Hope to see you there!

Your friend,
Ben

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Filed under 2011 Texas Invasive Plant Conference, Android, Arundo donax, Bastard Cabbage, Battles with Invasive Species, Big Bend National Park, Biofuel, Center for Invasive Species Research, Dr. Jay Famiglietti, Environmental, Environmental Protection Agency, Environmental Science Institute, EPA, ESI, Extra credit, Geoff Hensgen, Giant Reed, High school, Hot Science - Cool Talks, Invasive Hunter, Invasive Hunter Academy, Invasive Plants, Invasive Species, iPhone, iWire Texas Invasives Newsletter, Jay Banner, Jessica Strickland, Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center, Last Call at the Oasis, Lights. Camera. Help., Monoculture, Ms. Alice Nance, Native ecosystem, Native Plant Avengers, Nature Nights, Plant Heroes, Porcelain springs, QR codes, Rio Grande River, Science class, Tae Kwon Do, Taekwondo, Texas, Texas Invasives, U.S. Botanic Garden, University of Texas, UT Austin, water, water conservation, water hydrology, water supply, Wildflower Center

Last Call at the Oasis: Interview series with Dr. Jay Famiglietti

I had a great opportunity to talk with Dr. Jay Famiglietti about the water concerns that we face across the United States, about his work with the GRACE satellite mission, and about the 2012 film featuring him, Last Call at the Oasis. (It’s coming out tomorrow, November 6, 2012, on DVD and BlueRay!)

Dr. Famiglietti visited UT Austin on October 26, 2012, to give his “Last Call at the Oasis: Will There be Enough Water for the 21st Century?” talk as part of the awesome Hot Science – Cool Talks series, presented by the UT Austin Environmental Science Institute. Dr. Famiglietti is a Professor of Hydrology with the Earth System Sciences Department at the University of California – Irvine.

I published my video interview with Dr. Famiglietti in five parts with cool graphics from NASA and the United States Geological Survey (USGS). Click on the videos below to learn more about our water crisis that we face and ways that we, especially kids, can conserve water.

(1) Why the GRACE satellite mission is so cool

The GRACE (Gravity Recovery and Climate Experiment) satellites launched in March 2002. Learn about the valuable data these twin satellites provide along with insight that hydrologic modeling brings with Dr. Famiglietti.

(2) Dramatic Water Depletion in California and the United States

California’s Central Valley and the High Plains Aquifer in the central United States show high rates of water depletion. Dr. Jay Famiglietti talks about these areas of concern and ways that we could improve measuring our water supply.

(3) Quest for More Freshwater

If we found a way to have unlimited fresh water, would there be a population boom?What technological breakthrough do we need to transform sea water to fresh water easily and affordably? Learn about the water, energy, and food nexus with Dr. Famiglietti.

(4) What Can Kids Do to Save Water?

Saving water begins with becoming aware of your water use. Learn about Dr. Famiglietti’s easy tips to help kids save water. You’ll find that saving energy also helps save water too.

(5) Last Call at the Oasis with Dr. Jay Famiglietti

Dr. Famiglietti talks about the declining snowfall on the Sierra Nevada Mountains and the DVD and BlueRay release of his “Last Call at the Oasis” movie. You’ll also be surprised to learn about his favorite water sport.

My injured hand from taekwondo sparring has slowed me down 😦 , but I’m almost done with my post about the great time that I had during the Dr. Famiglietti’s Hot Science – Cool Talks event and the prelecture fun! 🙂

Thanks for the great interview, Dr. Famiglietti, and my wonderful thanks too to Dr. Jay Banner, Director of the UT Austin Environmental Science Institute (ESI); and Mr. Geoff Hensgen, ESI Outreach Coordinator, for the time to talk with Dr. Famiglietti!

Your friend,
Ben

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Filed under California Central Valley, Desalinization, Dr. Jay Famiglietti, drought, Environmental Science Institute, ESI, freshwater, Geoff Hensgen, GRACE, Gravity Recovery and Climate Experiment, High Plains Aquifer, Hot Science - Cool Talks, Hydrologic modeling, Jay Banner, Last Call at the Oasis, NASA, Sierra Nevada Mountains, Tae Kwon Do, Taekwondo, Texas Drought, United States Geological Survey, University of Texas, USGS, UT Austin, water, water conservation, water hydrology

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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Filed under black swan, Curiosity Rover, Dr. David Orr, Dr. Jay Famiglietti, Dr. John Grotzinger, Environmental, Environmental Science Institute, ESI, Geoff Hensgen, Hot Science - Cool Talks, Invasive Hunter Academy, Invasive Species, Jay Banner, Lights Camera Help Annual Nonprofit Film Festival, Lights. Camera. Help., Mars Rover, Mars Science Laboratory, Native Plant Avengers, University of Texas, UT Austin

Life on Europa: Interview series with Dr. Britney Schmidt

You won’t believe what I got to do the other day…I had breakfast at the Bouldin Creek Cafe with Dr. Britney Schmidt, research scientist at The University of Texas Institute for Geophysics!

And not only did I have breakfast with her, she was very gracious to allow me to interview her about her fascinating research on the possibility of life in our solar system and her upcoming talk, “Life on Europa? Exploring Jupiter’s Icy Moon, which is part of the awesome Hot Science – Cool Talks series, presented by the Environmental Science Institute. (Don’t miss her talk on Friday, April 13, 2012!)

I published her interview in seven parts with cool planetary graphics from NASA/JPL-Caltech. Click on the videos below to learn more about the possibility of life on Europa, planetary science, and the amazing trajectory Dr. Schmidt took to become a planetary scientist.


(1) Life on Europa: Exploring Jupiter’s Icy Moon – Hot Science – Cool Talks Preview

Dr. Schmidt describes her upcoming presentation, “Life on Europa? Exploring Jupiter’s Icy Moon”, and talks about astrobiology, the study of the rise of life in habitable planetary systems.


(2) Does Icy Europa Hide Life?

What can learning about ice on Earth tell us about possible single or multicellular life on Europa? Dr. Schmidt talks about the trapped lakes under the surface of one of Jupiter’s moons that might harbor life.


(3) Would Scientists Freak Out if They Found Life on Europa?

If we discovered life on Europa, would we start a robotic space race to get there? Would scientists dance in the streets or would such a discovery cause great scientific or social revolutions? Dr. Schmidt shares her thoughts about what might happen after such a fantastical discovery.


(4) Incredible Tidal Forces Power Europa

Dr. Schmidt talks about the incredible tidal forces exerted by Jupiter and its Galilean moons that bring chaos to Europa, but also give it the energy and heat that may make it possible for Europa to sustain life.


(5) Does Earth Ice Hold the Key to Alien Life?

If we can find microbes living between ice crystals on Earth, can we find life on icy Europa too? Dr. Britney Schmidt describes Earth’s environments and creatures, such as ice loving cryophiles, that can help us understand the possibility of life elsewhere in the universe.


(6) Planetary Moon Smackdown: Triton versus Europa

Why does Dr. Schmidt find Triton so compelling? If you’re looking for a young surface, covered in methane, with a bizarre geology, look no further than Triton. Oh, and did we mention cryovolcanism too?


(7) From Heavy Metal Fan to Planetary Scientist (Geophysicist Dr. Britney Schmidt)

Dr. Schmidt looked to musicians as modern day poets and never pictured herself in a lab coat. Discover Dr. Schmidt’s remarkable journey after her class in planetary science, when she felt the gravitational pull to physics to pursue her passion for researching Europa.

Thanks, Dr. Schmidt; Dr. Jay Banner, Director of the Environmental Science Institute (ESI); and Mr. Geoff Hensgen, ESI Outreach Coordinator!

Commander Ben…signing off

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Filed under Astrobiology, Astronomy, Cryophiles, Cryovolcanism, Dr. Britney Schmidt, Environmental Science Institute, Europa, Extraterrestrial life, Galilean moons, Geoff Hensgen, Geophysicist, Jay Banner, Jupiter, Jupiter's Icy Moon, Neptune, Space race, Spacecraft, Triton, University of Texas, University of Texas Institute for Geophysics, UT Institute for Geophysics