Tag Archives: ESI

My First Day at SXSW Eco with Foodies and Filmmakers

Commander Ben at SXSW Eco 2012

After checking in at SXSW Eco at the fantastic UT Austin AT&T Conference Center, I headed over to Rm. 103 to attend a talk titled Fighting Food Insecurity with Urban Agriculture in Austin…and guess who I got to meet? Ms. Addie Broyles, a food writer for the Austin American-Statesman!

Food in Austin

Ms. Addie Broyles and Commander Ben at SXSW Eco

It was neat to get to meet her because I have heard my Mom (the foodie in the family 🙂 ) talk a lot about her. Even though my blog isn’t about food, Ms. Broyles said she was looking forward to checking it out because she too has a budding filmmaker at home…her five year old son! 🙂

Clean energy

Ms. Griffin Gardner and Commander Ben at SXSW Eco

Next I walked over to Rm 204 to attend the Filmmakers Clean Energy Confab. I took my seat in the second row and that’s when someone in the front row turned around and said, “I know you, you’re famous!” It was Ms. Griffin Gardner, UT Austin Media Coordinator, who remembered taking a picture of me at the UT Austin Environmental Science Institute (ESI) Hot Science – Cool Talks event. I’m not sure if I’m really famous, but Ms. Gardner made my day!

Making great films for good

Mr. Steve Vogelpohl and Commander Ben at SXSW Eco

Next, as I headed out to lunch, I ran into Mr. Stephen Vogelpohl who recognized me from the Lights. Camera. Help. Focus on Good Film Festival. Mr. Vogelpohl is with Social Good TV. We talked about future projects we’re both working on, and he encouraged me to continue making great films for good.

Green army on the march

Today is the big day! As I mentioned in my earlier posts, I’ll join Ms. Jessica Strickland, Invasive Species Program Manager at the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center; Dr. Damon Waitt, Director Native Plant Information Network; and an elite team from the Wildflower Center and the Green Army to map invasive species as part of the conference events.

Let’s find the Giant Reed (Arundo donax), Elephant Ear (Colocasia esculenta), and all the invasive plants that may be along Waller Creek in Austin, Texas!

I hope to see you there!

Your friend,
Ben

P.S. Tomorrow’s the last day to vote! Please vote for my SXSWedu presentation, “What Invasive Species Taught Me About Dyslexia”. I’ll talk about my great experiences with the Wildflower Center and Learning Ally too. Thanks!

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Filed under Addie Broyles, AT&T Conference Center, Austin, Austin American Statesman, Clean energy, Clean energy, Damon Waitt, Elephant Ear, Environmental, Environmental Science Institute, ESI, Focus on Good, Giant Reed, Green Army, Griffin Gardner, Hot Science - Cool Talks, Jessica Strickland, Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center, Lights Camera Help Annual Nonprofit Film Festival, Lights. Camera. Help., PanelPicker, Social Good TV, Steve Vogelpohl, SXSW, SXSW Eco, SXSWedu, University of Texas, Urban Agriculture, UT Austin, Waller Creek, What Invasive Species Taught Me About Dyslexia, Wildflower Center

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

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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Filed under black swan, Deep Sea Invasion, Dr. David Orr, Early detection, Environmental, Environmental Science Institute, ESI, Global Invasive Species, Hot Science - Cool Talks, Invasive Species, Japanese tsunami, killer alga, Monoculture, Nova, PBS, Rapid response, tsunami debris, University of Texas, Wakame, Wakame

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

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

Dr. Britney 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.

Dr. Schmidt is a research scientist at The University of Texas Institute for Geophysics. Her talk, “Life on Europa? Exploring Jupiter’s Icy Moon”, is part of the awesome Hot Science – Cool Talks series, presented by the Environmental Science Institute.

This is part seven of Commander Ben’s interview series with Dr. Schmidt.

Watch the entire video series about possible life on Europa with Dr. Schmidt.

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Filed under Astrobiology, Astronomy, Dr. Britney Schmidt, Environmental Science Institute, Europa, Extraterrestrial life, Galilean moons, Geophysicist, Jupiter, University of Texas, University of Texas Institute for Geophysics, UT Institute for Geophysics