Posts Tagged ‘ocean’

There is a new resource for educators introducing students to coastal ecosystems, wetlands and watersheds. This new resource is CA Outdoor EDU and it was created by Ian Bernstein, an Environmental Studies graduate from UC Santa Cruz whose passion is education and environmental stewardship.

The CA Outdoor EDU website is brand new and resources will be added on a continuing basis. Visit CA Outdoor EDU and you’ll discover activities about the following topics: ocean tides, intertidal zonation, tide pool ecology, plant ecology and nature studies. You may be especially interested in the handouts for the plant ecology and nature study activities because both involve observation, drawing and writing.

Today we have the opportunity to learn more about this website and its creator.

Please join me in welcoming Ian Bernstein!

Ian, why did you choose to major in Environmental Studies?

I always knew I wanted to get into something involving the environment and didn’t know what I wanted to do at first. I started taking environmental studies classes on ecology and the environment and environmental literacy and fell in love.

You have lead environmental programs for California State Parks, Ballona Wetlands and are now at the Los Angeles Natural History Museum. What have you learned about creating programs for the public?

Creating programs for the public you have to know your target audience and also be aware of how you approach any subject so that you can speak not only to your target but also anyone that happens to wander in and want to take part.

Sometimes parents, grandparents or guardians find themselves in the position of having to lead a group of young naturalists in an activity at summer camp or scout camp. What advice do you have for individuals who suddenly find themselves in the position of being a front-line interpreter?

Open ended questions are the best way to encourage scientific discovery and fuel creative exploration of the outdoors. Simply asking questions that ask them how and why will make all the difference.

I see you are also a photographer and an avid traveler. How have your photography and travel experiences informed your environmental education programs?

I have been all over the world and seen so many sights — but the most stunning thing I have found isn’t the number of places, but the quality of time I have spent in those places enjoying what was around me instead of trying to make sense of it. This has definitely helped me develop my nature experience and in turn my approach to how to best facilitate this in formal and non-formal school situations.

What are your plans for CA Outdoor EDU? What kind of a resource do you want to create?

I hope to create a resource that helps people to have a nature experience. This can happen anywhere from seeing an ant on the sidewalk in downtown Los Angeles to walking through the redwood forests of northern California in Santa Cruz.


Do you have questions for Ian about CA Outdoor EDU and how you can use it in your classroom or program?

You are invited to ask Ian questions.
Please type your questions or comments in the Comment box below.

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Two years ago we learned from U.S. Coastguard licensed Captain Suzan Wallace during National Environmental Education Week. The 2011 theme for EE Week was Ocean Connections and back then she shared with us how she brought the ocean into her classroom.

Well, Captain Wallace is retired now and is enjoying retirement to its fullest. I am happy to report that she set sail yesterday and is sharing her journey via a video feed on the Ustream.tv channel she created. Please join me in congratulating Captain Wallace on her retirement and on embarking on her next big adventure!

What do video feeds from the ocean look like?

Visit Captain Wallace’s video log on the Ustream page, Voyages of the Sparrow.


Read the 2011 EE Week interview with Captain Wallace

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When Rumphius arrived in Ambon in 1654, he walked into a world very different from his home in Hesse, Germany.

It is safe to say many things piqued his curiosity. Today we take a look at Rumphius, the naturalist.

Before we get too far ahead in this story, we need to remember that Rumphius did not travel to Indonesia to write about its natural history. He went to the East Indies in 1652 on a five-year contract to work as a soldier for the Dutch East Indies Company to protect their interests in the spice trade. He had his hands full and could not dedicate himself to documenting the many interesting things he observed.

It is estimated that Rumphius began to collect botanical and zoological specimens in 1657 (Beekman, 2011). No longer a soldier and now working in the civil service branch of the Dutch East Indies Company, Rumphius worked on personal projects in his spare time (Beekman, 2011). His focused work on the herbal is thought to have begun three years later in 1660 (Beekman, 2011).

The curious naturalist that he was, Rumphius observed and described insects, mammals, birds, marine life, and plants. At one time he was in possession of a large cabinet of curiosities containing specimens collected over many years. Unfortunately, he had to sell his collection to the Grand Duke of Tuscany in 1682 (Beekman, 2011). He did not sell his collection to make money, but to make his employer look good. The Dutch East Indies Company used Rumphius’ collection to cater to the Grand Duke whom the Company saw as a potential business opportunity.

Rumphius lived the latter years of his life as a “naturalist for the people.” In an open letter he writes to readers in the preface of The Ambonese Herbal, Rumphius refers to himself as a “lover of natural science” who offers his talents “to the common good” (Beekman, 2011). Rumphius was determined to introduce Europe to the plants and animals of the East​ Indies. He tells readers that if his work brings them pleasure, then it would be worth all the trouble and expense he endured to bring it to them.

Rumphius is considered to be one of the greatest naturalists of the 17th century. This is because of his observation skills, his first-hand accounts and his detailed written descriptions about what he saw while living in the “Water Indies” (Beekman, 2011). It is also because​ his significant works were created by one man.

During his lifetime, Rumphius wrote a small collection of scholarly articles. He also wrote a book about the history and politics of Ambon and his observations from the field (the Dutch East Indies Company did not make this book public). Rumphius’ most significant works were The Ambonese Curiosity Cabinet (D’Amboinsche Rariteitkamer) and The Ambonese Herbal (Het Amboinsche Kruidboek).

The Ambonese Curiosity Cabinet describes the marine life of the east Indies. It contain Rumphius’ descriptions of arthropods, shells and much more. A general description of its contents is included in the book’s very long original title. Here is the English translation taken from Beekman (1999):

The Ambonese Curiosity Cabinet, Containing a Description of all sorts of both soft as well as hard Shellfish, to wit rare Crabs, Crayfish, and suchlike Sea Creatures, as well as all sorts of Cockles and Shells, which one will find in the Ambonese Sea: Together with some Minerals, Stones, and kinds of Soil, that are found on the Ambonese and on some of the adjacent Islands. Divided into three Books, And supplied with the requisite Prints, drawn from life. Described by GEORGIUS EVERHARDUS RUMPHIUS, from Hanau, Merchant and Counselor on Amboina, also member of the Academiae Curiosorum Naturae, founded in the Holy Roman Empire, under the name PLINIUS INDICUS.”

This collection of three books was first published in 1705 (three years after Rumphius’ death) and includes the only known portrait of Rumphius drawn from life. It was drawn by his son sometime between October 1695 – July 1696 (Beekman, 1999). Translated, edited and annotated by Dutch scholar, E.M. Beekman (1939-2008), the English translation includes the original sixty plates paired with the modern scientific names of the species illustrated on each plate. Beekman (2003) describes this book as Rumphius’ most popular work because of the shell illustrations it contains. As for Rumphius’ greatest achievement? Beekman (2003) says it is The Ambonese Herbal.

Contained in the original twelve books of the herbal are descriptions of the trees, shrubs, herbs, wild plants and sea trees (coral) of eastern Indonesia.

We’ll take a closer look at the herbal next week.

Adopt a first-edition copy of The Ambonese Curiosity Cabinet

Vassar College has a first-edition copy of The Ambonese Curiosity Cabinet in their collection. This book is featured in Vassar’s Adopt-a-Book program. Through this program, the conservators in Vassar’s Archives and Special Collections Department seek donor support for the conservation of fragile and damaged items. To see images from this historic work and to learn more about the conservation effort surrounding Rumphius’ book, see the webpage for The Ambonese Curiosity Cabinet on the Adopt-a-Book website.

Wondering if there are botanical works in this program? Yes, there are. See here.

I contacted the Special Collections department and asked about the donation amount. I learned that they are seeking a donation that covers the entire conservation amount. So if you were thinking of making a smaller donation (like I was), this is not possible because they are not set up to receive small amounts that do not add up to the amount required for conservation.

Literature Cited

    Rumphius, Georgius Everhardus. 1999. The Ambonese Curiosity Cabinet. Translated, annotated, and with an introduction by E.M. Beekman. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press.

    Rumphius, Georgius Everhardus. 2003. Rumphius’ Orchids. Translated, annotated, and with an introduction by E.M. Beekman. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press.

    Rumphius, Georgius Everhardus. 2011. The Ambonese Herbal. Translated, annotated, and with an introduction by E.M. Beekman. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press.

All six volumes of The Ambonese Herbal are available at ArtPlantae Books.
Find out how you can view all six volumes this month.

Continue Rumphius’ story with…

Inside “The Ambonese Herbal”

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Please welcome scientific illustrators Catie Bursch and Lee Post from
Homer, Alaska to Classes Near You > Alaska!

Alaska Islands & Ocean Center

This visitor’s center was created through a partnership between the Alaska Maritime National Wildlife Refuge and the Kachemak Bay Research Reserve. Admission is free. Check website for hours, programs and to take a virtual tour of the Center.

    Drawing Nature: Scientific Illustration Workshop for Students
    January 24-26, 2012; 3:30 – 5:30 PM. An after-school program taught by Homer illustrators, Catie Bursch & Lee Post. This workshop is for students age 12-18. Free. Details

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"Mommy & Me" students meet a tunicate for the first time while exploring the bay. (© Mote Marine Laboratory)

Mote Marine Laboratory is an independent, non-profit organization founded in 1955 by Dr. Eugenie Clark, a marine biologist known as the “Shark Lady” for her lifelong fascination with sharks and other fishes. The one-woman enterprise outgrew the tiny shed that once served as the main laboratory. Today Mote has seven centers for marine science, education programs for all ages, and the public Mote Aquarium. Mote has a 10.5-acre campus in Sarasota, Florida and three additional scientific facilities in the state. Concentrating on nearshore marine research, Mote’s scientific centers include:

    Aquaculture – Sustainably growing fresh and saltwater fish for food production and for supporting fish populations in the wild.

    Coastal Ecology – Research on Florida’s coastal ecosystems, including rivers, bays and estuaries, to inform the conservation and management of these environments.

    Coral Reef Research – Research, conservation and restoration of coral reef ecosystems.

    Ecotoxicology – The study of natural and man-made environmental toxins, their movement through marine environments and their impact on humans and marine animals.

    Fisheries Enhancement – The preservation and enhancement of economically-important coastal fish and invertebrate populations.

    Marine Mammal and Sea Turtle Research – Research on the biology and environmental needs of marine mammals and sea turtles to inform conservation and management of these species in the wild.

    Shark Research – This center studies sharks, skates and rays from many different angles ranging from molecular biology to ecology and conservation.

Our guest today is Natalie Fisher. Natalie is a volunteer marine science educator at Mote who is on sabbatical from Brecons Beacons National Park in Great Britain where she helps to run its busiest attraction – the National Park Visitor Centre.

Natalie has stopped by today to discuss how she creates intellectual and emotional connections between her students and the ocean.

: Thank you, Natalie, for speaking with us. Tell us what you do at Mote Marine Laboratory in Florida.

NATALIE FISHER: Thanks for inviting me. My job is to get involved in almost every aspect of the work of Mote’s Education Division. I develop new curriculae, teach visiting school, scout, and home-school groups, do outreach work, help out with public programs and events, set up and breakdown classes, the works! I also align our school programs to state standards and, am excited to take the lead in writing a new interpretive plan for the Aquarium.

: Mote’s specialty is “nearshore marine research.” What does the phrase “nearshore” mean? Are there set boundaries that come with this area of study?

NF: A great deal of Mote’s research takes place in the shallow coastal waters of southwest Florida’s continental shelf, often near or within sight of the shoreline. For instance, Mote scientists have long-running research projects on the sharks, manatees, fishes, sea turtles and overall ecology of the waters along Florida’s Gulf coast. However, we don’t restrict our studies to that – several of our projects around the world have focused on species that travel far from shore. For example, Mote scientists have tracked whale sharks that migrate thousands of miles and spend much of their time in deep offshore waters.

Mote summer campers learn about the importance of Turtle Exclusion Devices in fishing nets. (Courtesty Mote Marine Laboratory)

: Mote offers a range of learning opportunities. They offer classes for children as young as two-years old, conduct summer day camps, lead field trips satisfying Florida’s state standards, create overnight adventures for young children and teens, create custom programs for organizations, visit classrooms to deliver interactive marine science programs, and even offer live multimedia programs utilizing current technology. When working with preschool-age children, what do you want them to know about the ocean after exploring Sarasota Bay?

NF: First and foremost that being in the water is a positive experience. Secondly, that it’s fun to learn with other children. At this age, our classes are as much about learning and practicing social, motor and language skills as they are about learning about the ocean.

Thirdly, all our programs each teach one broad concept (or theme, to borrow from interpretation) which we’d like our students to remember – for example that an estuary is the ocean’s nursery. In the preschool classes we’ll reinforce that message through songs, stories, crafts and role-plays, but the experiential part of the lesson is often the most important in terms of making a connection.

Whatever the theme of the individual class or series of classes, the goal of the education division is to foster stewardship of the ocean, so all our programs have this at their heart.

Mote High School interns work on their research projects. (© Mote Marine Laboratory)

: How does Mote make the ocean a “cool” topic for teenagers?

NF: By making it relevant. We use technology where it’s appropriate and we emphasize that the work they’re doing in class involves many of the tools and techniques that Mote scientists use for their research.

We’re currently developing an iPod Touch app for students to use during their visits. Students will be able to use the app during their program to add data they collect to an existing database, then use that information at school to compare their results to real data collected by students from earlier Mote programs, other schools or other sites.

We draw from current scientific studies in our classes — a cutting-edge approach that goes far beyond textbooks. The science we’re talking about is happening right now, right here at Mote. We simulate real research techniques as closely as we can, making our classes interactive and realistic for our students.

We also run an internship for high-schoolers, through which they get to experience working in different areas of the Laboratory and Aquarium (and earn community service hours towards college scholarships). Our interns learn how their school science lessons have real-world applications by conducting their own research projects.

: Mote’s area of focus is nearshore marine science. Explain how you connect children and adults to the ocean existing beyond the bay and the exhibits in the Aquarium.

NF: Many of the animals we study and interpret (describe and discuss with students) help us to make that connection. For example, loggerhead sea turtles may nest on our beaches here in Sarasota, but they migrate throughout the Gulf of Mexico and beyond. We can tell their story by introducing students to Mote’s resident loggerheads. Students can learn about the human hazards faced by ocean animals through learning about our sea turtle, dolphin and whale hospital patients. All visitors to Mote Aquarium can meet our resident sea turtles, dolphins and manatees (our resident animals were deemed non-releasable by government officials). Summer-campers can also experience Mote’s science through our Center for Tropical Research in the Florida Keys, and the public can discover Mote’s coral reef research in the Florida Keys Eco-Discovery Center.

We emphasize the connectivity of the ocean, its currents and the migratory patterns of many of its animals to figuratively carry our visitors beyond the shallow waters of Sarasota Bay, into the Gulf of Mexico and beyond.

: The amount of time you spend with children and adults is very brief. What is the primary message Mote aims to deliver to students, regardless of their age?

NF: That marine life has inherent value which makes it worth studying and conserving.

: Many classrooms are miles away from the nearest ocean. If a teacher cannot take students to Mote on a field trip, how might a teacher engage students in a conversation about an environment they will never see, hear, smell, or feel?

NF: We run a series of interactive programs which aim to do just that. It’s important that our young people learn that their science studies have a practical application, and that they develop a sense of global citizenship, and there’s no better way to do both than by studying the ocean that connects us all. We use video-conferencing technology to engage with schools all over the USA and beyond through our award-winning SeaTrek programs.

SeaTrek, which was created by Mote’s Center for Digital Learning, offers students of all grade levels the opportunity to connect to the ocean through us here at Mote. The students learn scientific principles and processes through exciting and engaging programming delivered “live from inside the shark tank” (thanks to a little digital “magic”) directly into their classroom.

In addition to these structured means of outreach, we make education-focused materials and resources available through our YouTube channel (www.youtube.com/seatrek), where educators can watch samples of our programming and our new “Science Minutes” slots – short video clips (also available for purchase on DVD) teaching a range of science topics that can be integrated into their own lessons.

We also have traveling exhibits that tour schools and community centers across the country. Sanctuary Reef, Discovery Reef and Sea Monsters allow students to interact with and learn about marine ecosystems in a hands-on way without leaving school.

: All fantastic learning opportunities! Thank you, Natalie, for sharing Mote’s programs and online resources with us.

Did you know?

A class enjoys an award-winning SeaTrek program. (© Mote Marine Laboratory)

  • You can download Mote’s education schedule for 2011? Visit their Marine Science Education page.
  • Information about SeaTrek programs and Mote’s traveling exhibits can be viewed at www.mote.org/seatrek?
  • SeaTrek received the 2009-2010 Pinnacle Award from the nonprofit Center for Interactive Learning and Collaboration. The award honors videoconferencing programs rated highest by teachers. This is the third consecutive year SeaTrek has won the prestigious award for outstanding performance by a content provider.

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Creating learning experiences about the ocean is easy to do if you live near an ocean, can point to it, or lead students to an exhibit where they can see and touch marine life. But what do you do if the ocean is hundreds of miles away? How can you make the ocean relevant to students who may never see or hear waves crash against a rocky coastline?

Today we will address these questions with Captain Suzan Wallace.

Captain Suzan Wallace is a US Coast Guard licensed Captain, a science illustrator, and national board certified visual arts educator with 23 years in the public schools. She’s been teaching sailing and connecting young & old folks to the ocean in creative and exciting ways for over 30 years. Captain Wallace finds ways to integrate the arts into every environmental education program.

Please welcome Captain Suzan Wallace!

ARTPLANTAE: Captain Wallace, thank you for participating in this EE Week discussion about making Ocean Connections. What set in motion your passion for the ocean?

CAPTAIN WALLACE: Thank you for inviting me to share my passion for Environmental Education and the Maritime Arts.

First, I owe my love of water environments to my parents, who raised me on and around the Great Lakes. In between their busy lives as public school educator/coach and nurse, they found time to sail, dive and cruise with us five kids. It was on those precious summer voyages to distant islands that helped grow my love of the inland sea. However, I was also witness to the dramatic effect people and cities have on watersheds…and watching in horror as my hometown Cuyahoga River started on fire due to the amount of pollution the local industries were pouring into it. This single incident fueled my passion for protecting the environment from human carelessness. As a child, I wrote a letter to President Nixon, telling him of the incident and he wrote me back, asking that I become an environmental witness and watchdog for conservation issues. The sailing lifestyle allowed for this intimate relationship with the sea environment to grow within me…..and “we protect the things we love”.

AP: How long have you been working as a scientific illustrator? What type of marine illustration work have you created?

CAPT. WALLACE: I have always felt my science illustration skills grew from my habit of visualizing concepts within all my school reports and class assignments as a youngster. This filtered down into every job I had growing up. Working in a greenhouse gave me the opportunity to illustrate plant informational signage and conservation reports. Upon graduation from college, I started a Marine Graphics business, working with yacht owners, marina operators and folks in “green” industries. Eventually I noticed a steady decline in seafaring arts traditions and began focusing my efforts on more educational outlets. Revitalizing these traditions through the Maritime Art forms of Scrimshaw Graphics/Carving, Illustrated Captain’s Logs and Marlinspike, we were able to help preserve and inspire marine environmental issues in activities with schools, camps, festivals, university and museum venues.

AP: You have experiences with the ocean many teachers do not have. How do you draw from your experiences to teach your students about the ocean?

CAPT. WALLACE: Interestingly, all towns across America have water flowing through them….those “watersheds” all flow to the OCEAN. So whatever is happening to the water in your town, is also happening on a grander scale, to the OCEANS. Growing up inland in the midwest, “up a creek”, I was able to put together how water all flows down stream and eventually to the ocean. So the devastating effects on my river by industry, set an example for me on the human impact. Over the past 30 years I have lived on the Atlantic and Gulf coasts and have been witness to how humans make impact. When the children ask “real” questions, I can give them eyewitness accounts of what is happening, or refer them to fellow sailors across the world who are eyewitnesses to what is happening!

AP: Since many teachers cannot draw upon the same experiences that comes with spending years at sea, how can teachers create visual learning experiences for students that go beyond creating marine life out of construction paper and spending large amounts of money buying activities and visuals at a biological supply house?

CAPT. WALLACE: It is important as a natural science illustrator to document, understand and convey “real” knowledge about a species. The animal kingdom is a part of every school curriculum, and it only makes sense to seize the opportunity to investigate not just what an animal looks like, but to understand their habitat and how they interact within it. One particular project we do is called Tesselling Biomes, where the students have to create an animal sculpture (paper pulp clay) and place it within it’s natural habitat contained within a 3D box (poster board) created by tessellating shapes. Bringing home the metaphor of all things are connected….the web of life.

I also introduce the plight of the sea turtle by retelling an actual expedition experience we had on an island off the Carolina coast. As I tell the story, I am sculpting (modeling oil clay) a baby sea turtle in my hands, of course to size, and then place it in a tray of sand to represent a “boil”….then my students try it. The interesting part is that the story is really about a baby sea turtle whose shell had a rare deformity in the shape of a cashew and no matter how hard he tried to get to the water, his congenital deformity caused him to turn in circles in the sand…..even falling down into a ghost crab hole…(yes he did make it to the water)..of course for the little ones, this is a lesson on perseverance.

AP: You have excellent suggestions about how to create several layers of learning when teaching about the world’s oceans. Let’s say, though, a school lacks an Internet connection and cannot provide learning opportunities complete with sound and video. When ocean experiences can only revolve around books and posters, how can teachers create lively experiences without actually connecting live to outside resources?

CAPT. WALLACE: There are MANY wonderful books about sea life, and as more authors are becoming “green”, there are so many more options. The Environmental Education Week website has a wonderful list of resource books. The accessibility of multi-media downloads is absolutely wonderful today, but in years past, I have used both video, photography and film making to help re-tell the story. One aspect of Art Education 101, is the concept of motivation….we actively plan how to motivate our students. The Arts have a secret weapon….it’s called “emotional impact”. We use stories, poems, visuals, music, paintings, sculptures to help us evoke a sense of wonder and compassion.

But I cannot say how important actual experience will turn the tide in teaching about a subject like the OCEANS. When I first moved to the Carolinas 23 years ago, I lived inland in farmland. So I signed up for a summer staff development opportunity called OPERATION Pathfinder that was supported by Sea Grant. There are numerous workshops/grants that offer inland teachers these opportunities.

AP: The world has been watching events unfold in Japan as a result of the large earthquake and resulting tsunami. Have you ever experienced the effects of a tsunami during any of your travels? Is there anything the public should know about tsunamis that they have not yet been told? Or, is there anything about tsunamis that the public simply doesn’t get because of their limited experience with them?

CAPT. WALLACE: I have not actually been witness to a true tsunami, (have experienced many huge waves & hurricane tides). I take great interest in the comparison of those that use the ocean as a resource and those whose lives revolve around it. I am fascinated by documented maritime gypsy cultures that have an intuitive sense of the ocean and take action for safety well ahead of the tsunami’s impact. I believe, these cultures are “in touch” with the Oceans, and it saddens me that so many land-based cultures have lost this sensitivity.

In order to share the experience of a tsunami, I would have students build a sand castle (or other man-made material) structure and simulate a wave event in a sand box or pile.

AP: Recently I browsed through a sixth-grade earth science textbook. References to the ocean were made in discussions about plate tectonics, currents, water density, ecosystems, and food webs. There are no doubt an endless number of stories that could be told about our oceans. What do you think K-12 students should be learning about the ocean that they are not learning from standard classroom textbooks?

CAPT. WALLACE: We live on an Ocean Planet! Humans are so terrestrial, they forget that the majority of our planet and life is water. It is the cycles of recycled water, the flow of water, the cleansing of water, the refreshing of water, the replenishment of water and the water that is found within us that is all connected. The smallest micro-organism to the largest organism on the planet, cohabitate in water! When we contaminate the water with all forms of human waste and by-product, we contaminate ourselves. I have always believed that to study planet Earth, is to understand the fragile design of checks and balances, and purification process. Planet Earth is a giant ecological Recycling Center!

AP: What advice do you have for young student teachers writing their first lesson plans about the ocean environment?

CAPT. WALLACE: Spend time by the water and watch her flow. I am a firm believer in life-experience. As I always say to my sailing students, “You will not become a sailor until you get up out of your reading chair and get out on the water and into the wind. Then you will begin to understand Nature’s awesome power, and be humbled”.

AP: Thank you, Captain Wallace. Will you be available to respond to questions during this week?

CAPT. WALLACE: Sure, I welcome any questions on the issues of the arts & the sea environment.

Virtual Voyaging

Captain Wallace connects her young students with the ocean in many exciting ways. She utilizes technology to create a learning environment in her classroom that is live and in living color. This summer, she will make such a presentation to scientific illustrators to show them new ways they can explore, interpret, and illustrate the world’s oceans in the 21st century.

Update – September 22, 2013

Captain Wallace has set sail! Follow her and the voyages of the Sparrow on her by watching her video feeds at Ustream.tv.

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Jeanne Baret was born in 1740 to very poor parents living in an agricultural community in France. Earning money only when their labor was needed, Baret’s parents often did not have food for their small family. Young Jeanne was destined for a life of poverty and near starvation. However one day, she crossed paths with botanist Philibert Commerson.

Commerson was a young, over-confident botanist who became interested in the medicinal value of plants after he was bit by a rapid dog and monks nursed him back to health with their herbal remedies. When Baret and Commerson crossed paths that fateful day in the field, Jeanne was in her 20s and was a knowledgeable herb woman. She answered Commerson’s questions about medicinal plants and taught him what he wanted to know. Over time, a relationship developed and this relationship set the stage for an adventure neither could have ever imagined.

In 1765, Commerson was chosen to travel with Commander Louis-Antoine de Bougainville on an expedition that was to last three years. Jeanne joined the expedition not as Jeanne, but as “Jean”, Commerson’s young male assistant. Baret went to great lengths to hide her identity and to pull her share of the workload on the Etoile, a storeship measuring 102 feet long and 33 feet wide occupied by 116 men. She collected plants, animals, and documented specimens the way a field assistant should, in spite of growing curiosity about young Jean’s less than male-like male features.

Author Glynis Ridley tells the story of Commerson, Baret, and the famous philosophers and naturalists of the Enlightenment Period in a well-researched and captivating saga based on the handwritten journals of people who traveled with the expedition and on the published accounts of 18th-century naval officers. Ridley transports readers back to the 1700’s and through engaging storytelling, provides readers with insight into the harsh living conditions of the 18th-century and the unfortunate laws defining women and their roles in society. Through her well-documented tale about Bougainville’s expedition, Ridley is able to recreate the tension generated by the spice trade and competing European countries as they raced to establish colonies across the globe.

The Discovery of Jeanne Baret is a lesson in world history, geography, oceanography, anthropology, and botany that is not to be missed.

Author Event with Glynis Ridley

We owe much of our understanding about biodiversity to early explorers. Learn more about botanist and herb woman, Jeanne Baret, in a live conversation with author Glynis Ridley on Saturday April 16, 2011. This live one-hour event will occur in the Discussion forum on ArtPlantae’s Facebook page at 11 am PST / 2 pm EST. You’re all invited!

UPDATE (4/21/11): Read interview with Glynis Ridley

ArtPlantae is an affiliate of IndieBound and a supporter of independent bookstores. It receives a small portion of each purchase made through IndieBound.org. Thank you for your show of support for ArtPlantae and local independent bookstores. Proceeds benefit the InterpretPlants™ program.

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