Monthly Archives: November 2014

The best of the best

One of the things I love about Twitter is the sheer volume of ridiculously helpful and inspiring resources it brings me every day. With tools like Tweetdeck and Tweetbot, I get the best globally-crowdsourced information on science, education, educational technology, world news, and music – the categories most aligned with my personal and professional interests – on my homepage every single day.

Today Twitter delivered the following gem to my virtual door: “The ‘All-Time’ Best Science Sites on the Web.” The name is a bit misleading because the author, Larry Ferlazzo, links to some great resources in subjects other than science.

My advice: find a snack, click on the link, and spend the next long while exploring.

Mr Ferlazzo, I’ve never met you, but you rock!

I usually love living in Tanzania, but today has been challenging…

Normally, I love living in Tanzania, surrounded by friendly people, amazing coasts, and almost unrivaled biodiversity. But a story recently published by The Guardian really saddens me.

The short and dirty version (and it’s a pretty dirty story, in my opinion) is that the Tanzanian government wants to sell a massive chunk of land near Serengeti National Park to the royal family of Dubai for their use as a personal hunting ground. The government claims the land will be a ‘wildlife corridor’, but President Kikwete’s representatives have told the Maasai – who have lived and died in the designated part of Tanzania for hundreds of years – that they must leave their land by the end of the year.

Tanzania is offering the Maasai $578,000 in total for the 370,000 acres (150,000 hectares) as compensation. That’s about one Pound Sterling per acre, split among the 40,000 people living there. And the government proposes to funnel the payment through ‘development projects’ instead of direct reimbursement! More bluntly: about US$14 per person for getting kicked off their land.

This same scheme was theoretically halted after large protests and a lot of international media attention last year, but the governing party seems intent on seeing it through. Considering the recent news of government officials’ knowing participation in, and even encouragement of, illegal poaching, I wouldn’t be surprised to see this plot become a staging ground for ivory exports on a massive scale.

If you haven’t heard about this issue before now, I’m hopeful that maybe the renewed public interest will put a halt to this process. But I doubt it.

iPads and Tablets in School


It’s been a long time since I posted here. November’s been busy, busy, busy at school and at home. But I decided that I have something worth sharing today, and if you’re a student or a teacher, it should have a positive impact on the time you spend at school.

Last night I came across, another blog here on WordPress, which I’ve decided to follow because of the wealth of information I found there.

The post that really caught my attention is the one called “iPad guides“, which has some fantastic ideas on using iPads to engage students in their own learning at a depth I rarely see in schools. The post includes a number of PDFs, which you can print for a class or library bulletin board. They’re visually appealing and easy to understand, which means they’re likely to actually be used by the intended audience – students and teachers. I’ve already posted 3 of them in my room, and this afternoon’s last-period grade 10 class will begin experimenting with a few of them. This should be fun and educational!

27 New Animal Species Discovered in Tanzania

You can add this to one of the reasons why Tanzania is such a special place.

Sanje Falls

Sanje Falls, Udzungwa National Park, in the Eastern Arc Mountains of Tanzania. Photo credit: author.

This article from Tanzania’s Daily News online paper outlines the discovery of 27 new species, most of which are reptiles and amphibians. The collaborative effort between the Tropical Biodiversity Section of the MUSE-Science Museum in Italy and the Tanzania Forest Conservation Group shows just how unique the Eastern Arc Mountains are – the Ulugurus, the Udzungwas, and the Usambaras. (They also have fantastic names!)

Not only do these tropical forests harbor a large number of endemic species, they are critically important in maintaining freshwater resources that people depend on for agriculture and domestic uses such as cooking, bathing, and drinking. This link exemplifies why the protection of habitats – and not just a focus on individual species – is so important. If we take a holistic, big-picture approach to resource conservation, many of the associated issues in development become more manageable: more people have more access to cleaner water, meaning that improved personal hygiene and sanitation lead to lower medical costs. Simultaneously, when coupled with sustainable management of soils, food security improves, leading to the economic growth of farmers’ livelihoods. Higher levels of biodiversity in protected areas often also mean an uptick in tourism and the revenue that generates for both local communities and national governments.

Udzungwa Forest

Udzungwa forest. Look closely, and you can see my son on the footbridge at the bottom of the photo.

The conservation of biodiversity in the context of a developing country like Tanzania is a tricky, complex process involving myriad factors, all of which are changing rapidly. If the answer were simple, the problems mentioned above would have been solved decades ago. I just hope that the people making those decisions can find a way to sort it out before we’ve lost it all forever – the forests, the species, and the livelihoods.