Maps can show the world…as it really is

 Maps are boring, right? But you’ve never seen maps like this before, ones that can animate the increasing world’s population. Globalization, migration, poverty, diseases, all in the map above. Countries in the world  grow or shrink over time depending on what parts of the are population hot spots. The shows the world’s population from 1950 to 2100 (using estimates from the UN). The population around 2100 is expected to level out around 10 billion people, according to UN estimates.

The map animation is made using an algorithm that distorts the map to display where most of the people in the world actually are.IT really puts into perspective different global events, and uses maps in ways people have never imagined.Dr. Benjamin D. Hennig at the University of Sheffield created this animation using animations from a website called World Mapper (

World Mapper distorts the traditional world map to display things like world leaders in car exports, cases of malaria, CO2 emissions, and plenty more. Check out the different ones they have, here.  Worldmapper has been used different university studies and by presenters who want to their audience a sense for how the world is on a map, in relation to a specific issue. Here is an animation, for example, of the world’s countries that emitted CO2 between 2006 and 2009 (on right).

You can gauge just from looking at it, which countries are the biggest and smallest in the world. Notice how the United States, China, India, and most of Europe are emitted heavily.

You can also see a slight shift in CO2 emissions on the left side of the world that suggests decreased emissions. China and most of Asia increase their emissions.

Check out more maps on World Mapper. Get educated…while being interested.


Global Volcanism Project

Call it the inner child, but I have always had a fascination with things that go “BOOM!” Of course, when we began to learn about volcanoes in class, my ears perked up and I looked forward to finding out about their development and the predictability of their eruptions.

This site, sponsored by the Smithsonian creates a world-wide map of all the volcanoes, but above water and under water and gives significant information about their most recent explosions, their size, their history, etc. They even have interactive maps in which you can click on any volcano in the world and find out just about everything known up to date.

It was also interesting to find out that most volcanoes don’t have the resources and funding available to predict the future eruptions and monitor the seismic activity. It takes a lot of money and apparently we don’t have enough funding to keep track of every volcano. Clearly this means there is a lot of danger for anyone around an unmonitored volcano at any time.

The site provides information on literally everything you might need to know about volcanoes but it also admits the things we do not know about volcanoes and unpredictability that is associated with them. This is a great resource for anyone interested in volcanic activity across the world as it is constantly updated with new peer-reviewed articles about eruptions and predictions. I would suggest this to any curious GIS-er or civilian scientist looking for volcanic information..


-Patrick Jones

Australia announces world’s largest MPA


This past Tuesday, Australia announced its proposal of the largest ever Marine Protected Area. The park will encompass 999,000 square kilometers (roughly 380,000 square miles) of the Coral Sea near Papua New Guinea. Possibly the most interesting aspect of this designation is that over 500,000 square kilometers will be allocated as “No Take Areas” where no fishing of any sort is allowed.  This leaves roughly 500,000 square kilometers where fishing and recreation will be heavily regulated. Many environmentalists are outraged calling for a greater proportion of the MPA to be a No Take Area, but the government is trying to balance the interests of their fishing industry as well. The environmentalists stress that No Take areas are crucial in keeping many species from becoming endangered, as they represent their feeding and breeding grounds.

            The site is part of Australia’s larger effort to make all of their waters protected. What might be more accurate is saying that Australia plans to heavily regulate all of their waters, considering the absence of No Take Areas. Yet the government is determined to protect and uphold the many treasures that can be found in the waters off its Coast. The MPA proposed has 20 isolate reefs, deep sea plains and canyons, as well as spectacular biodiversity.

Overall, while this park is clearly a step in  the right direction for protecting marine and aquatic life there is the overall feeling that more could be done, but because of our reliance on fisheries it has become an interesting predicament for governments to handle.



Global Warming Happening A lot Faster Than You Think

This article talks about the prediction of scientists that the Earth’s average temperature will increase by 11 degrees farenheit by 2100. While all of us will be long gone by then, we will feel the changes gradually. The IEA, International Energy Agency, is responsible for this new prediction in global temperatures.

The IEA believes that human activity is responsible for this change with the burning of fossil fuels releasing greenhouse gases into the atmosphere. They believe that unless we are able to curb our consumption of fossil fuels, the Earth is in store for a “spell catastrophe”. The use of electric powered machines and an increase in the reliance in other forms of renewable energy will enable us to avoid some of this 11 degree increase.

The author blames the Republican party for the inexistence of a global climate treaty. Because they vehemently deny global warming, the United States does not stand a united front against global warming. The United States, being a leading nation, has the power to influence smaller countries in acknowledging this problem. Unless the world is able to come together in order to solve global warming, we will witness drastic climate changes in the next 100 years.

Farm Fountain

Based in a system of aquaponics, the Farm Fountain presents a unique combination of art and science. It is a system that grows edible plants and fish indoors in an aesthetically pleasing and sustainable manner. The way that it works is the waste filled water from a fish tank is pumped up to the top of the structure and then filtered back down through several 2-liter bottles with edible plants growing in them. The plants then absorb the water and nutrients from the fish waste and the excess water then trickles down back into the fish tank where the process starts over again.


Some of the examples of farm fountain structures can be seen on the farm fountain website. In these examples the structures are used to grow lettuce, cilantro, mint, basil, tomatoes, chives, parsley, and many other garden herbs and vegetables. The fish tank can include fish like tilapia, which can be eaten along with the vegetables. The system offers a great way to grow your own food at home in a cool and sustainable manner. The structures can be set up to use solar power to power the grow lights so that the entire process is sustainable.


This concept applies to our course because earlier in the year we discussed the concept of virtual water and how far food travels before it reaches your plate. With the farm fountain all of your food can be grown right at home. This site gives instructions on how to build your own farm fountain and offers suggestions on what vegetables to grow.


Taking a Closer Look: The Last Ice Area
“I’m melting…I’m melting!!!” (Wicked Witch of the West, Wizard of Oz). This article takes a closer look on how the extreme melting of polar ice caps in the arctic have over-arching effects on several animal species, people and will have long term consequences for our environment.

It has become apparent that this cycle of melting is moving in a clear direction “an ice-free arctic.” There have been projections that the Arctic will experience its first ice-free winter in 2015; what will this mean for the animals and people who depend on this ice environment for survival?

The three major species that will be affected are polar bears, seals and walruses. Polar bears, who have a unique way of hunting seals and fish through gaps and holes in the ice need the sea ice for survival. Without it, polar bears have been driven to dire straits, swimming upwards of 500 miles to find icy hunting grounds, and others resorting to cannibalism for survival.

In terms of other species, it is predicted that the arctic habitat will overlap with that of the grizzly bears by 2040—creating additional threats for animals like walruses and seals. Forced into the Last Ice Area, this small number of remaining various species are clustered extremely close, raising competition levels and making it nearly impossible to find adequate food needed in order to carry on and reproduce.

For the people of the arctic, though warm temperatures might seem as a nice change to many of us, this actually is not the case. These warmer temperatures are in fact destroying their environment, livelihood and economies. With a warmer climate, as “ice melts, shore lines are becoming increasingly unstable, threatening entire towns with rapid erosion and rising sea levels.” Ice trails, important for crossing the ice in the past are disappearing, and as the arctic animals dwindle in population, so thus do the economies of these arctic towns, who depend on these species for the success of their market and general sustenance. As animal species are being forced to move closer and closer inward towards the coast due to the destruction of their icy habitats, this results in “more dangerous interactions between humans and animals.”

This article relates to many of the topics we have discussed in class this semester, showing the very real effects that global warming is having on our environment, and demonstrates what the future holds if we do not take global warming seriously and begin to take substantial action to reduce global emissions. If we do not, ice caps, polar bears and other arctic animals may soon be a thing of the past. Stay up to date on earth’s happenings **Comment and WIN an IPAD!!**

The website,, is a great website to stay up-to date with science related content and articles. Based in Austin, Texas, the company began producing its content in 1991, and millions of people follow them today. Their promise is “to bring the ideas, strategies, and research results of scientists to people around the world, with the goal of illuminating pathways to a sustainable future.”

This website is a fast and easy way to get current news stories about what is going on. If you go to, the blog focuses on earth-related articles, weather, etc. You could follow this website and become very knowledgable in the area.

For example, recent blogs include titles like “A look back at the Weather of November 2011”, “Declining oxygen levels might threaten ocean health”, Pine island Glacier has cracked and will spawn giant iceberg”, and “Severe storms target southeastern US”. As you can see, these articles relate directly towards physically geography and contain many of the things e have studied throughout the semester. By spending a few minutes each day and reading this blog, you will remain up-to-date with all of science news and happenings. Since we will no longer be hearing the “in the news” stories, this website can provide us with the information we seek. Stay involved easier by following @earthskyscience on twitter or Earthsky on facebook.

Check out the website and comment on some of your favorite articles. You can scroll around to lots of different areas, they all are very interesting. If you go to the FAQ section, it provides you with blogs about answered questions from science. Some blogs include things like “why do tree leaves turn red in fall?” and “does the sun rise due east and set due west in at the equinox?”

There is so much recent information on this website and I highly recommend it to anyone wishing to stay up-to date with what’s scientifically occurring around the world. Comment and Win an IPAD!!!!!!!!




** Restrictions may apply. No members of the ENVR 250 class can win the IPAD. In fact, nobody will win anything, except hopefully me when I get the most comments. Hopefully none of you are reading this part, but I had to put it in for legal issues**



Rapid loss of sea ice is leading a plummeting polar bear population. Why should we care?

1)    Polar Bears are at the top of the artic food chain.  If they become extinct then the food web will alter drastically.  Certain species, free of competition for food and/or no longer with a main predator, will flourish.  However, the environment, as a whole, will suffer.  Anthony Ives, a zoologist from the University of Wisconsin, has shown through experimentation that, in general, when a species becomes extinct, the community’s ability to tolerate environmental degradation lessens.

2)    So, the extinction of polar bears would prove bad for the overall artic biosphere.  Unfortunately, scientists estimate only 20,000 to 25,000 bears are currently living.  That number is expected to shrink to as low as 6,500 by 2050.

3)    And most importantly, polar bears are not only adorable but they manufacture 30% of the entire world’s supply of Coca-Cola.

Leading scientists hope that if the melting of sea ice is slowed significantly then the polar bear population will stabilize and even start to increase.  Unfortunately, slowing the melting of sea ice will require drastic measures.

Comment! What can be done to stop the melting of sea ice? How will dying polar bears affect the artic ecosystem? How much more efficient would polar bears be at manufacturing Coca-Cola products if they had opposable thumbs?

Milan’s Vertical Forest


 By: Roy Gilb


Bosco Verticale

Milan, Italy is one of the most polluted cities in Europe. One radical idea to mitigate this problem is creating the “greenest” building possible. The Bosco Verticale (Vertical Forest) looks like something out of a futuristic movie and will easily be the greenest building in Milan upon completion. The architectural masterpiece was designed by Stefan Boeri Architects as part of their BioMilano initiative to convert about 60 abandoned farms around the city into a greenbelt of environmentally-friendly buildings. The Bosco Verticale will have a green façade on every side with dense forest systems planted on each floor. These forests will serve as a microclimate for the building filtering out the polluting dust particles from the city. The fully-functioning and living bio-canopy will also absorb CO2, moderate extreme temperatures, lower noise pollution, and oxygenate the air all without electricity. On top of all those perks, the building will provide (somewhat) natural aesthetic beauty that is so often absent from cityscapes, and lower the living or working costs for the occupants.

Architecture PlansProjects such as the Bosco Verticale provide hope for the polluted cities in the world and the green movement, especially if sufficient funding and support is provided. This short article is pertinent to our class discussions of the atmosphere and biosphere. More specifically, the building provides an excellent example of how plants regulate a variety of processes on Earth.

Discovery News – What Can You Discover?

After browsing through several not-so-interesting geography websites, I stumbled upon the Discovery News site.  Associated with The Discovery Channel, this site immediately caught my eye with its incredible pictures and interesting headlines.  The site is conveniently divided into seven categories ranging between physical geography topics (Earth, Space, and Animals), more cultural geography (Human and History), and just random super cool stories (Tech & Gadgets, Adventure, and Autos).  The website is truly engaging because of its numerous videos, photo galleries, and vast array of exciting science articles.  Below are some of my favorite stories so far:  

1)      This incredible series of photographs explores the phenomenon of visual color warnings in plants and animals.  The story explains that certain colors, patterns, and visual characteristics can communicate danger. 

 2)      This video talks about a recent eruption of an underwater volcano.  It relates to the discussions we had about the lithosphere in class and the difficulty of predicting when volcanoes will erupt.  Scientists were however, successfully able to give an 8-year time frame in which the volcano would erupt.  Scientists said this site was easier to predict because the crust was thinner and there was a huge supply of magma.  The video also gives a cool look at the underwater site.

3)      In relation to Matthew Sturm’s article about the changes in tree distribution as a result of climate change, this article discusses the movement of seaweed as a result of global warming.  Scientists believe that a profound amount of Australian seaweed is actually moving south in order to find cooler environments. 

Seaweed provides an important habitat and food source for many underwater animals. Image by © Jeffrey L. Rotman/CORBIS

 4)      Last but not least, you can even take a look at the “Be as Manly as Bear Grylles Guide” because let’s be honest, who doesn’t love Bear Grylles?

Share which stories catch your eye!