Monthly Archives: October 2013

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Abiotic Factors at IST

IST science garden - south side

IST science garden – south side

We’ve spent the past few lessons working in the garden outside the science building, and you should have collected enough data at this point to reliably determine a correlation – or lack thereof – between 2 different abiotic factors in that space. Below you’ll find a PDF map I created of the garden space. Please note that this version is an unfinished draft. I will complete the final version while I’m in Jordan next week for the Model UN conference. You can download a PDF version of the garden map here. And of course, please make sure you’re following the instructions in the Google doc I shared with all of you!

Good luck, and remember that you must upload a PDF version of your full lab by midnight on Tuesday 29 October 2013! The class ID at Turnitin.com is 6700442, and the password is ‘science’.

Poaching in East Africa

One of my favorite things about living in Tanzania is the amazing diversity of ecosystems in this country – the grassy plains of the Serengeti, mist-shrouded slopes of volcanic mountains like Kili and Meru, vibrant coral reefs of Mafia and Mnemba islands, the waterfalls and forests of the southern highlands, and the semi-wooded savanna of the Selous all come to mind.

Mikumi savanna.  Image credit: Brad Kremer

Mikumi savanna.
Image credit: Mr Kremer

Habitat diversity like this gives rise to an incredible level of biodiversity, with a large number of endemic species found across Tanzania: Zanzibar red colobus monkeys, Pemba flying fox, the kipunji monkey of the Udzungwa Mountains, Ancistrorhynchus refractus orchids from the Kitulo plateau, plus several native chameleons such as the Usambara two-horned chameleon (pictured below) and the Uluguru one-horned chameleon. Follow this link for a more complete look at Tanzania’s Living National Treasures.

West Usambara two-horned chameleon.  image credit: http://mitschis-chamaeleons.de/

West Usambara two-horned chameleon.
image credit: http://mitschis-chamaeleons.de/

Sadly, Tanzania’s diversity is threatened by a rapidly-growing and highly-lucrative practice – poaching. Most poachers don’t kill or capture animals because they’re inherently evil people; instead, most of them do it because it’s the easiest way for them to earn enough money to feed their families. Food on the table trumps a pretty landscape pretty much every time.

But how does poaching impact Tanzania? What are the effects on the food webs in our beautiful national parks? What are the economic and social pressures on communities near these reserves to either actively participate in poaching or turn a blind eye to it? How does poaching’s links to organized crime influence local and national politics? These are the questions you should address in your next assignment – People and Poaching in East Africa: a One World Analysis.

Below, once again, is the UN document outlining the links between poaching, organized crime, and the illicit drug trade in East Africa. It’s a little dense but still pretty fascinating to read, if you ask me.

Here’s another presentation on elephant poaching, which links east Africa with the Philippines and other parts of Asia.

And lastly, check out this AFP article about a hunting group in Texas, USA, which wants to sell a permit to kill one endangered black rhino in Namibia as part of an effort to save the species. What do you think of this approach?

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The struggle to tame Africa’s beast of a megacity

At the bottom of the post I’ve linked to a really interesting article from Reuters about some of the difficulties and opportunities associated with population growth in Nigeria. Here’s a quick summary:

  • Lagos is already 21 million people
  • Lagos adds 4,000 new people every day
  • Nigeria’s population will be 400 million people within 30 years, making it the 4th largest country on Earth
Lagos, Nigeria.  Image: REUTERS/Akintunde Akinleye

Lagos, Nigeria.
Image: REUTERS/Akintunde Akinleye

According to several sources, including the United Nations, Dar es Salaam is one of the 10 fastest-growing cities on Earth, which means that many of these same issues in Nigeria are either already relevant here, or they will be soon.

Click here for the full article. The article serves as a great case study for the start of Topic 3 – Human Populations, Carrying Capacity, and Resource Use.

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Renewable Energy Options for Africa

This article from ESI, “The Online Power Journal of Africa,” discusses the pros and cons of renewable energy sources across the continent. It’s a nice summary of the points made in ESS Topic 3.3 – Energy Resources. It’s also particularly relevant for us here in Tanzania, considering the seasonal difficulties TanEsCo has meeting demand for its hydroelectricity, not to mention the massive oil and natural gas deposits recently discovered offshore near Kilwa Kisiwani.

Kidatu Dam in Tanzania. Image source: www.waterpowermagazine.com

Kidatu Dam in Tanzania. Image source: http://www.waterpowermagazine.com

For continued reading and/or research into energy issues and developments in East Africa, follow this ESI eNews regional site for East Africa.

Photosynthesis and Respiration

Welcome back from the October break! I know you’re all excited to be back in class after a week of sleeping in and lazing around with your friends and families. Hopefully, the following lab experiment will ease everyone back into the routine of school…

The processes of photosynthesis and respiration are essentially inverse reactions. Photosynthesis uses carbon dioxide and water as reactants to produce glucose and oxygen gas. Respiration uses glucose and oxygen gas as reactants to produce carbon dioxide and water. The only difference is that photosynthesis requires an input of light energy to drive the reaction, energy which is stored in the C-H bonds of the glucose molecules produced.

Here you will find the instructions for Lab 31C Photosynthesis-Respiration (CO2 and O2), which I originally planned for the day we return from the break. Unfortunately, most of the science department order has not yet arrived, including our new oxygen sensors, which means we don’t have enough equipment for everyone to get to do the lab. But thanks to modern technology, we can still run the lab virtually! Open the document and read the questions and extensions after the procedure and data tables. These should help guide your thinking with the photosynthesis/respiration labs you’re designing on your own.

Photosynthesis-respiration lab setup. Screen capture image from Vernier Loggerpro.

Photosynthesis-respiration lab setup. Screen capture image from Vernier LoggerPro software.

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The Future of Food – Fake Meat?

Infographic from screen capture, The Gates Notes

Infographic from screen capture, The Gates Notes

Follow the link below to read about Bill Gates’ take on future developments in food production, specifically concerning the global increase in meat consumption over the past couple of decades. Here’s what the illustrious Mr Gates has to say about the issue on his personal blog, The Gates Notes:

Meat consumption worldwide has doubled in the last 20 years, and it is expected to double again by 2050. This is happening in large part because economies are growing and people can afford more meat. That’s all good news. But raising meat takes a great deal of land and water and has a substantial environmental impact. Put simply, there’s no way to produce enough meat for 9 billion people. Yet we can’t ask everyone to become vegetarians. We need more options for producing meat without depleting our resources.

Mr Gates’ comments align perfectly with some of the issues that we’ll study in ESS Topic 3.5 – Food Resources. This issue is particularly relevant to us here in Tanzania as well, especially considering that, according to the UN,  Dar es Salaam is one of the world’s fastest growing cities.

Image Credit: www.bbc.co.uk

Image Credit: http://www.bbc.co.uk

Click here to read the full article at The Gates Notes.

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