Category Archives: Science

Updating our Views on Nature and How to Save it

What is nature? What does it mean to preserve, or save it? Science writer Emma Marris says one common definition of nature in North America is the way any given place was before European explorers arrived and began changing the landscape. Therefore, saving nature would mean returning the land to how it was before their arrival. But, she says that idea is flawed because there are countless examples of land management by indigenous people: relocating useful plants to new environments, creating systems to manage rainwater, and clearing land for crops. And, human impact on the environment goes back much more than a few hundred years. Marris notes that pretty much anywhere you look, there is evidence of major changes with the arrival of humans – in particular, the extinction of large land mammals like the woolly mammoth.

Today however, the planet is largely tailored entirely to human existence. Nearly 40% of the ice-free surface of the earth is agriculture. Domesticated livestock far outweighs wild animal life. Species have been moved around, in some cases wreaking havoc on ecosystem. And of course, there are growing impacts of climate change – even hitting places on the planet where humans have never lived.

Marris argues that in order to effectively conserve nature, we have to change our perception of what nature means. She says her old way of thinking, that nature was a pristine untouched and unchanged place didn’t match reality, because if left alone, all places will change. So, she came up with new definitions, including the idea of resource-intensive land management to keep certain culturally important lands as unchanged as possible, and also the idea of novel ecosystems where uncontrolled landscapes have transformed themselves.

With this updated understanding of what nature is, Marris proposes an updated take on conservation. She suggests dividing land into three different styles of management: restoration, innovation, and observation. In her exciting and hopeful talk at UC San Diego, Marris goes on to give concrete examples of how these strategies have worked, and might continue to work around the world.

Watch — The Future of Nature: Conservation in the Anthropocene with Emma Marris – Institute for Practical Ethics

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CARTA at 10

More than 20 years ago, a small group of La Jolla academics began periodic meetings for transdisciplinary discussions on explaining the origin of humans – anthropogeny – an effort which has blossomed into an international intellectual collaborative organized by UC San Diego and the Salk Institute as the Center for Academic Research and Training in Anthropogeny – CARTA.

At the formal opening of CARTA just over 10 years ago a group of CARTA leaders and advisors attempted to “define the agenda.” Since then, much additional relevant information has emerged, and an expanded group of experts now revisits the agenda by addressing the following questions on a broad array of selected topics: What do we know for certain? What do we think we know? What do we need to know? How do we proceed?

Effectively, this is a whirlwind tour of many, but not all, approaches to anthropogeny.

Browse more programs in CARTA 10th Anniversary: Revisiting the Agenda

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Climate Change


“When you talk about diversity of the soil, human beings we carry our soil with us. And we give that a very fancy term which is all the rage these days which is ‘microbiome.’ And as we see microbes diminishing in the soil, we are also seeing the same things happen in ourselves,” says Kelli Gray-Meisner, RDN.

Super blooms, extreme weather, fires, insects, and human health, these seemingly separate things impact each other – for better or worse. Join a panel of experts as they tease out the relationships being built and destroyed by climate change. They also share how we as individuals can work to limit negative impacts and create positive outcomes.

Watch — Climate Change: What it Means for Our Agriculture & Our Health – Future Thought Leaders Series Presented by the Berry Good Food Foundation

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California Seaweed

Kelp cutters once harvested tons of the nearshore kelp off the San Diego County coastline, producing additives for your ice cream, beer and pharmaceuticals.

And of course, anyone who has had a California Roll or a bowl of miso soup is familiar with the centuries-old use of Nori.

But now Scripps researchers are working to uncover other value from the ubiquitous red, green and brown algae that thrives in our waters, even exploring the use of seaweed to reduce methane produced by dairy cows – and perhaps even improving their health and productivity.

Join Scripps Oceanography’s Jennifer Smith and entrepreneur Brant Chlebowski as they tell the story of their collaboration on applied aquaculture research that has sparked the formation of the California Seaweed Company.

Watch — Food, Feed and Climate Change – Emerging Opportunities for Shore Based Seaweed Aquaculture

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Eavesdropping on Whales

Since ancient seafarers first heard the strange calls of whales, humans have been fascinated by their meaning – from Flipper’s clicks and trills to the long serenades of Humpbacks. Inhabiting the dark ocean depths, whales use sound in many different ways – from feeding to navigating to finding friends and family.

Join postdoctoral scholar Goldie Phillips for a captivating look into how scientists use whale calls to study whale populations.

Watch — Eavesdropping on Whales: How Whale Calls Inform Science

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