The ATLAS Institute //Firefighters and Climate Change

btu_900w_DSC07621_72Today we are joined in the studio with Mark Gross of the Alliance for Technology, Learning and Society institute at CU and Alicia Gibb Director of The Blow Things Up Lab, one of the spaces part of the ATLAS department.
ATLAS was formed in 1997 as a university wide initiative to integrate information technology into social endeavour.

ATLAS events: http://atlas.colorado.edu/wordpress/?page_id=99

BTU Lab: http://www.btulab.com/about

 

Snowy frigid weather here in February may put wildfires way on the back burner for many of us here in Colorado. But as fire managers have been telling us, wildfire season has become a year-round phenomenon.

In the last decade or so wildfires have been getting more intense, and more dangerous, and more frequent.  No one knows this better than the firefighters themselves. Climate change—making the region hotter and drier—has a lot to do with it. But so does fire management—namely, fire suppression over recent decades. And humans living in houses in the so-called wildland-urban interface is another culprit. A new documentary that will be screened in Boulder this week documents the changes taking place with wildfires and the impact they’re having. The film is called “Unacceptable Risk: Firefighters on the Front Lines of Climate Change.” One of the film’s creators, journalist Dan Glick, joins us in the studio. Dan was also the science editor of the National Climate Assessment that came out last year. Our other guest is Don Whittemore, a long-time firefighter. He was incident commander on the massive Fourmile Canyon Fire of September 2010.

More about the film can be found at unacceptableriskfilm.org.

Hosts: Kendra Krueger and Susan Moran
Executive Producer, Producer and Engineer: Kendra Krueger
Additional Contributions: Beth Bennett and Jane Palmer

 

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Ancestors in Our Genome

9780199978038We speak with Eugene Harris, Professor in the Department of Biological Sciences and Geology at Queensborough Community College – part of  the City University of New York – about his new book,  Ancestors in Our Genome. In this feature, we discussed the methods used by molecular anthropologists to determine human evolution from our primate ancestors and several fascinating examples of the application of these techniques, including a discussion of the rise of lactose digestion in northern Europeans.

Hosts: Joel Parker and Beth Bennett
Producer and Engineer: Joel Parker
Additional Contributions: Kendra Krueger
Executive Producer: Kendra Krueger

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War of the Whales: A True Story

War of the Whales: A True StoryWar of the Whales: A True Story (starts at 3:35): In the early hours of March 15th, of the year 2000, a Cuvier beaked whale washed ashore a mere 100 feet from Ken Balcomb’s house on the island of Abaco in the Bahamas. It was, for the whale, a fortuitous coincidence: Balcomb was a marine mammal researcher who was uniquely placed to rescue the creature. But that day 17 more whales of various species washed up on nearby islands and some of them weren’t quite so fortunate. The event was the largest mass stranding in recent history but what might have caused it was a total mystery. To Balcomb, it was a mystery that cried out for a solution.

So begins the book “War of the Whales: A true story.” It’s a book that has been described by critics as a tense, page turning eco-thriller, even though it is a work of non-fiction. How On Earth’s Jane Palmer talks with author Joshua Horwitz about what happened after Ken Balcomb’s discovery, and the attempts to solve the mystery.

Hosts: Beth Bartel, Jane Palmer
Producer: Beth Bartel
Engineer: Maeve Conran
Additional Contributions: Beth Bennett
Executive Producer: Kendra Krueger

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Arctic Frontiers // Wind Forecasting

Sami and reindeer in Finnmark, Norway. Photo credit: Thomas Nilsen/The Barents Observer

Sami and reindeer in Finnmark, Norway. Photo credit: Thomas Nilsen/The Barents Observer

Arctic Dispatch (starts at 2:18): There is no question that the Arctic is thawing faster than anywhere on the planet, except the western Antarctic Peninsula. But there are still so many unknowns regarding how things are actually changing in different places, and to what effect. How On Earth’s Susan Moran recently attended the Arctic Frontiers conference in Tromso, Norway. Among the scientists who discussed research on how the receding and thinning ice in the Arctic will likely affect different species was  George Hunt, a research professor of biology at the University of Washington. Aili Keskitalo, an indigenous Sami from Finnmark, Norway and president of the Sami Parliament, discussed how energy projects, including windmill parks, are negatively affecting reindeer and Sami culture. Hunt and Keskitalo discussed these issues with Moran.

Wind turbines, Photo credit: National Renewable Energy Laboratory

Wind turbines, Photo credit: National Renewable Energy Laboratory

Wind forecasting (starts at 10:40): The wind industry in the U.S. faces several hurdles, including a technical one: discovering how the wind is going to blow near the mountains. For power systems to be reliable, operators must know when to expect the blustery gusts or when to expect a still breezeless calm day.  That means they need accurate wind forecasts.  The Department of Energy has just given a substantial grant to a coalition of organizations in Colorado to help improve wind energy forecasting in mountain and valley regions. Julie Lundquist, a professor of atmospheric and oceanic sciences at the University of Colorado, discusses the current and planned research with co-host Jane Palmer.

Hosts: Susan Moran, Jane Palmer
Producer: Susan Moran
Engineer: Kendra Krueger
Executive Producer: Kendra Krueger

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Other Rocky Planets are Common!

Kepler444 We talk with astronomer Travis Metcalfe about finding the oldest known planetary system in the Galaxy, and what it means about the formation of planets, the possibilities of extraterrestrial life, and how does one actually find planets around other stars? Headlines include switches in the man-made biological organisms that could possibly be used for bioterrorism, and the finding that chronic malaria infection in migrant great reed warblers  damages telomeres, shortening life in both the adult bird and its offspring.

Hosts: Joel Parker and Beth Bennett
Producer: Beth Bennett
Engineer Beth Bennett with help from Kendra Kruger
Additional Contributions: Jane Palmer, Shelly Schlender
Executive Producer: Kendra Krueger

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Moonshine // Parkinson’s Network Exercise

Former_moonshiner_John_Bowman_explaining_the_workings_of_a_moonshine_still_American_Folklife_Center

Former moonshiner explaining a still at American Folklore Center (courtesy wikimedia)

The Science of Moonshine  (starts 3:55) We talk with a Boulder scientist who has a home still for making high-proof brandy from backyard apples.  It’s illegal to make your own liquor, even if you only sip it with friends and never sell it.  So our moonshiner remains anonymous.

 

 

Gary Sobel leading class

Gary Sobel leading warm up session for Parkinson’s Network Exercise Class (courtesy Shelley Schlender)

Parkinson’s Network Exercise Class (starts 7:35) Gary Sobel leads an exercise class for people with Parkinson’s Disease.  He talks about his own experience with exercise, and movement disorder specialist Heather Ene, MD, PMR/Neurology, shares the reasons physicians have moved from asking Parkinson’s patients to avoid exercise, to encouraging exercise.

Hosts: Kendra Krueger, Beth Bennett
Producer, Engineer: Shelley Schlender
Executive Producer: Kendra Krueger

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The Rightful Place of Science: Disasters and Climate Change

Pielke bookThe rightful place of science (starts at 6:22): In 2014, the world certainly saw more than a few costly weather disasters.  Flooding in India and Pakistan in September killed more than 600 people and resulted in economic losses of more than $18 billion.  Super Typhoon Rammasum, which hit the Philippines, China and Vietnam in July caused more than 200 deaths and losses of $6.5 billion. And, closer to home, in August, rainfall and flooding in Detroit, Baltimore and Long Island damaged homes and cities leading to economic losses of about $2 billion.

At the same time, the United Nations Weather Agency states that 2014 was the warmest year on record. So, the question is: Are these natural disasters related to the warming climate?  And are natural disasters becoming more costly because of climate change?

These are questions that Roger Pielke Jr., an environmental sciences professor at the University of Colorado, addresses in his new book “The Rightful Place of Science: Disasters and Climate Change.”  He talks with HOE’s Jane Palmer about his book and why he believes it is important to maintain scientific integrity while engaging in the climate debate.

Hosts: Kendra Krueger, Jane Palmer
Producer, Engineer: Kendra Krueger
Executive Producer: Kendra Krueger
Additional Contributions: Beth Bennett, Jane Palmer, Joel Parker

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Coral Climate Clues // Tropical Carbon Sink

On today’s show we offer three feature interviews, including a short opening interview.

martini

Credit: Russell Kane, Creative Commons

Alcohol and weight gain (starts at 3:34): Science journalist Jill Adams shares the latest science on the connection between alcohol and weight gain. The science is murky, as she states in her recent column in the Washington Post.

 

Scientists drilling a coral sample from Jarvis Island. Photo credit: Julia Cole

Scientists drilling a coral sample from Jarvis Island. Photo credit: Julia Cole

Climate Clues in Coral (starts at 9:02): Despite certain appearances and rumors to the contrary, global warming has not been on holiday for the past decade. But increases in temperature at the Earth’s surface have slowed down, prompting scientists to work hard to figure out why. It seems that a lot of heat that has been building up in our planet’s climate system due to greenhouse gas emissions has winded up deep in the Pacific Ocean. Why? Diane Thompson, a post-doctoral scientist at NCAR and lead author on a new study, discusses with HOE’s Tom Yulsman how a sample of coral from a remote atoll in the tropical Pacific revealed some important answers.

Tropical forest in the Serra do Mar Paranaense in Brazil. Photo credit: Deyvid Setti e Eloy Olindo Setti via Wikimedia Commons

Tropical forest in the Serra do Mar Paranaense in Brazil. Photo credit: Deyvid Setti e Eloy Olindo Setti via Wikimedia Commons

Tropic forests love CO2 (starts at 16:04) It’s been known for some time that tropical forests are not only rich in biodiversity, but they also absorb a lot of carbon dioxide that humans spew into the atmosphere.  But just how much greenhouse gases—namely CO2–these forests take up, say, compared with temperate and boreal forests, has been eluding researchers.  Britton Stephens, an atmospheric scientist at NCAR, discusses with HOE’s Susan Moran a new study he co-authored. It suggests that tropical forests may be absorbing far more CO2 than many scientists had previously thought.

Hosts: Susan Moran, Tom Yulsman
Producer: Susan Moran
Engineer: Shelley Schlender
Executive Producer: Kendra Krueger

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Red Meat & Mice // Loren Cordain – The Paleo Diet

Ajit Varki UC-San Diego

Ajit Varki UC-San Diego

“Sugar” in Red Meat – Cancer in Mice? (starts at 6:10) We talk with Ajit Varki, a researcher at the University of California in San Diego whose latest mouse studies  reveal a potential inflammatory compound in red meat — a “sugar” called sialic acid.  (For more, listen to our extended version of this interview)

 

 

Loren Cordain  Founder of the Paleo Diet movement

Loren Cordain Founder of the Paleo Diet movement

Paleo Diet – Avoid Grains and Beans (starts at 9:10) We talk with Colorado State University scientist Loren Cordain, founder of the Paleo Diet movement. He and his colleagues have study humans and the influence of diet. For health and athletic performance, Loren recommends avoiding modern foods that are high in grains, sugar, salt, legumes and additives.  Instead, he says, eat like our paleo ancestors – fruits and vegetables and fats and meat.    (For a fee, you can subscribe to Loren’s latest podcasts at his website.  Fro free, you can listen to older podcasts.  Find out more at thepaleodiet.com.

Today’s show also includes a look back at some of our favorite science stories from 2014.

Hosts: Shelley Schlender, Susan Moran
Producer, Engineer: Shelley Schlender
Executive Producers: Jane Palmer, Kendra Krueger

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Red Meat Sugar Glycans and Inflammation – Extended Version

Ajit Varke UC-San DiegoI’m Shelley Schlender for How on Earth.  Up next is an extended interview with University of California in San Diego scientist Ajit Varki  about his team’s new mouse study that indicates that a “sugar” in red meat, called sialic acid, can trigger inflammation when fed to mice.  This sugar is intriguing because it’s a molecule that two million years ago, our human bodies made on their own.  It differs from the current sialic acid made in our bodies by just one atom of oxygen.  Yet the mouse studies indicate that might be enough to cause an immune system reaction in the lab mice.  More research and human studies will be needed, to determine whether or not a similar reaction occurs in susceptible humans.  Now here’s Ajit Varki.

 

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