Monday, September 29, 2008

Go Green with Sandbag Homes

Recently, a company in South Africa won a humanitarian award for their improved earthbag construction method. The company reports that an energy efficient moderate-sized, multi-level home can be built for $6900. Two other construction methods that have gained some notarity world-wide is adobee and strawbale construction. All three construction methods are considered sustainable construction methods but each has its problems. Doesn't everything? For this weeks blog:

1. What is green building?
2. Breifly describe why each of these 3 construction methods are energy efficient?
3. For each construction method describe one problem associated with its construction?
4. Suggest one possible method for alleviating each of these problems.
5. Choose one of the construction methods above and explain why it would be sustainalbe for a particular culture, and then choose one construction method and explain why it would not be sustainable for that culture.

1. House Wins Humanitarian Award (podcast)-
2. What Makes a Building Green -
5. Adobe Construction (video) -
7. Sandbag Construction (video) -

Monday, September 22, 2008

Saving Our Oceans

A number of island nations, such as the Kiribati of the Pheonix Islands are establishing marine reserves in the hopes of conserving coral reefs around the globe. According to the article "Saving Our Oceans" in the September 2008 issue of Smithsonian magazine, over 1/3 of the world's coral reefs face extinction. I encouare you to read the article, use the internet to explore another marine reserve and to answer the following questions:

Discovery Questions:
1. Name and describe the physical and biolocial components of another reef ecosystem around the world? For one point extra, turn in an ecosystem map of a coral reef habitat.
2. What human activites do scientists contribute to the decline of coral reefs?
3. Why are sharks considered keystone species of many reefs, according to the article?
4. How do environmental scientists monitor the health of coral reefs?
5. What are the economic complexities around the establishment of a marine reserve, as explained in the article and your research?
6. What is the role of the Endangered Species Act and conservation organisations in preserving our oceans?

Our Imperiled Oceans -
World's Coral Reefs Face New Threats -
Map Reveals Extensive Damage to World's Oceans -

Thursday, March 13, 2008

Super Eruptions and Climate

Over the winter break I had the opportunity to go on a geology tour and visit a volcano. One of the features I witnessed, was the intrusion of dikes into the monzogranite formation of the area. Coming back to school and starting the geology unit for AP Environmental Science got me thinking about the importance of volcanoes and how they effect the environment. While they can be destructive, are there any benefits to the environment? The blog this week asks students to explore short-term and long-term benefits to the environment of volcanic eruptions.

1. What are the characteristics of a volcanic explosion?
2. What are some of the most destructive volcanic explosions in the history of the planet?
3. What is the relationship between volcanoes and climate change throughout history?
4. What are some of the short-term and long-term benefits of a volcanic explosion to the environment? Look at climate, soil, biodiversity, and human agriculture.
5. How did the Toba super eruption effect the evolutionary history of humans?

Mystery of the Megavolcano -
* Pay particular attention to the links at the bottom right of this page.
The Genographic Project -
* Pay particular attention to human migrations during the time period of the Toba eruption.
USGS Volcano Hazards Monitoring Program -
* Pay particular attention to the Volcano Monitoring link.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Wolves in Yellowstone

Was flying to Chicago this weekend and read on the plane about this conservation group in Minnesota that was monitoring and preserving wolves. It was a good piece of luck, considering I had just showed the National Geographic movie Wolves: A Legend Returns to Yellowstone. The movie discusses the reintegration of a wolf pack into Yellowstone park and also discusses conservation management techniques and radio telemetry used to monitor the wolves. Searching blogs and discussion groups on the internet shows that it is still a topic of heated debate between local ranchers, environmentalists, park officials, and eco-tourism businesses.

1. Discuss one pro and one con of reintroducing wolves into Yellowstone from one of the following perspectives (rancher, environmentalists, park ranger, eco-tourism owner).
2. Discuss the steps environmentalists take to ensure the successful reintroduction of wolves.
3. Explain how radio telementry can be used to monitor wolves.
4. Discuss what data can be obtained from such a monitoring system.
5. What dangers to the wolves face (human, climate, predators, other wolves)?

Track Wild Wolves -
Wolves of Yellowstone -
Yellowstone Bearman -
Wolf Ecotourism Fact Sheet -

Wednesday, January 23, 2008


A recent podcast reports an increase in overfishing, mainly due to the U.S. and Europe's desire to eat more fish. This got me wondering how many other countries are jumping on the "eating fish is healthier" bandwagon and contributing to the rapid decline of global fisheries. A quick search of Google News found an article summarizing a series of studies that local taboos in most developing countries have stymied overfishing of local reefs. In this light, then...

1. List one developed country and one developing country that are to some extent contributing to the decline of global fisheries. Describe the difference between these two countries in terms of their GDP. What is their import/export of global fish stocks?
2. Describe one cultural practice in a developed country that is contributing to the decline of global fisheries and one cultural practice in a developing country that is helping to prevent the decline of global fisheries.
3. Describe two types of technology that are being used in commercial fishing and for each type of technology describe one environmental problem that arises from its use.
4. What is one legislative law that regulates global fisheries, and explain under what circumstances this law is suspended and/or reinstated.

A Dire Prediction for the Future of Sea Life -
Local Taboos Stop Overfishing -
Until the Fish are All Gone -
Scientists Use Satellites to Track Fish -
Fishery Conservation and Management Act -
Overfishing Presentation -

Thursday, December 6, 2007

Greening of Golf

I was recently flying back from San Diego over the Thanksgiving holidays and came across an article on the Greening of Golf. For decades, the only concern of a golf course superintendent was to keep it green. Now superintendents are going green, using a number of techniques to prevent groundwater contamination and protect biodiversity. Watch the short video clip and check out the other resources included here. Hearing about some of the good these courses are doing for the environment made my holiday. You can also participate in building a map of green golf courses by logging into our APES Google Map.

1. Use the Internet to research the location of 3 golf courses, then geomark them on Google Maps.
2. Describe 2 common practices by golf course superintendents that could lead to soil or groundwater contamination.
3. For the practices mentioned in #2, describe 2 soil and/or water tests that should be taken regularly by golf courses to prevent soil or groundwater contamination.
4. Describe 2 health effects from groundwater contamination of excess nitrates.
5. Describe 1 negative effect golf courses have on the environment and provide 1 example of a golf course that is altering its practices in order to mitigate the negative effects of golf courses on the environment.

Greening Golf Video
The Greening of Golf
Greening Up Golf Courses
Greening of the Golf Course Greens
Audubon Cooperative Sanctuary Program for Golf Courses (ACSP)
Green Golf Course KMZ Layer on Google Page Creator

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Let's Switch to Biofuels

But will it save America? It seems simple: growning plants and extracting energy from their cellulose. According to a recent article in Wired, though, its not that simple and at present relatively costly. Too costly for us to switch from oil to biofuels. Some energy companies are extracting biofuels from corn and sugarcane, but they produce only about 30% more energy than it takes to process them. This certainly isn't enough to satisfy our addiction to oil, which required about 1 billion gallons of oil a year. This weeks blog asks students to explore the issue of extracting energy from our earth's biomass.

1. Briefly discuss 3 sources for biofuels.
2. Describe 2 advantages and 2 disadvantages of using biofuels.
3. Describe the process of extracting energy from the Earth's biomass.
4. Discuss how they are using genetic engineering and directed evolution to improve the process and make it economically viable.
5. What changes would we need to make to our agricultural and industrial infrastructures in order to deploy biofuels?
One Molecule Could Cure Our Addiction from Oil - Wired
Alternative Energy News - Biofules
The False Hope of Biofuels