Monthly Archives: January 2014


Tanzania’s Poaching Out of Control

There’s a serious problem with elephant poaching in Tanzania, and it seems to be getting worse by the day. The series of articles below outline some of what’s happening in this beautiful country and just how devastating the Asian demand for ivory is to Tanzania’s natural resources.

Confiscated ivory. Screen capture from

Confiscated ivory. Image source: Screen capture from

We can consider elephants as natural capital, a resource base which may be replenished given enough time for growth. However, it would appear that current rates of destruction from ivory poaching far outstrip elephants’ natural replacement rate, meaning that overall populations in Tanzania will continue to decline.

Have a read through the following articles, all of which were sent to me by my fellow science teacher, Matt Erdosy, while we wee in classes today. The first one describes the armed robbery of a tourist bus in the Ngorogoro Conservation Area (NCA) in northern Tanzania – a bold move on the poachers’ part, showing that they’re not too concerned about police enforcement here.

The second article details the other end of the ivory trade – the retailers in New York and other large cities who pass along ivory to the final consumers. This article in particular discusses the regulatory shortcomings of laws in the consumer countries.

The final few articles delve into some of the internal politics influencing the failure to effectively police ivory and rhino poaching in Tanzania, including a petition to return a government minister to his role combatting poaching.

At the current rate of killing, there may be no more elephants in Tanzania within a decade. That means no elephants on safari anywhere – not in Serengeti, not in Mikumi, or Selous, Ruaha, Katavi, or Tarangire. Nowhere!

West African Lions Nearly Extinct

Abundance of Panthera leo in West Africa. Image: Screen shot from

Abundance of Panthera leo in West Africa. Image: Screen shot from

A former Peace Corps colleague just posted this Huffington Post article outlining the precarious state of Panthera leo senegalensis, the West African Lion, which is genetically distinct from the big cats we have here in Tanzania. According to researchers, there are only about 400 lions left in all of West Africa. That puts their population at about half of the critically endangered mountain gorillas in Rwanda, Uganda, and the Democratic Republic of Congo. The odds of this predator surviving are extraordinarily slim.

I am particularly saddened by this news because, when I lived near Niokola-Koba National Park in Senegal, lions’ roars were occasionally heard at night outside the village where I worked. That classic African experience is about to disappear forever.


Earth WInd Map

Thanks to Mr Cody Taggart for sending this cool Earth wind map of current wind patterns all over Earth. Rotate the globe to any location to see what’s blowing there.

Earth wind map screen capture:

Earth wind map screen capture:


Welcome back! Happy 2014! The Octet Rule!

Welcome back to IST and our soon-to-be fun-filled chemistry unit! In this post, I’ve linked to several helpful tools for understanding the way electrons are arranged around the nuclei of atoms, and how those arrangements impact ionic charges as well as bonding patterns among elements.

This PDF presentation from explains the use of Lewis-dot diagrams to show valence electrons. It’s simple, clear, and easy to follow.

The video tutorial below clearly explains how valence electrons determine ionic charges and, therefore, bonding patterns. It’s based on the Octet rule, which is one of the most important concepts you’ll need to know from this unit.

This interactive animation from Oklahoma State University builds on the previous video to show the relative energies of electron shells around atomic nuclei. If you play around with it for a little while, you should start to see some pretty clear patterns emerge.

The Crash Course Science video below explains a lot about the movement and arrangement of electrons in atoms. Most of the video is relevant to our unit, but some of it won’t be covered until next year’s chemistry sequence. Nevertheless, it’s worth a watch and quite entertaining.

One last video. This one’s mostly for entertainment value, but it is in fact scientifically accurate.