Friday, June 4, 2010

Earth Tech – Hooking Up with the Environment

Don't know about you, but my e-mail inbox is usually stuffed with stuff, some spam and some stuff that's really cool and seems worth passing on. Here are a few tidbits about the ways technology is helping protect the environment and make it easier – and healthier to enjoy the outdoors. If you find environmental tech-tidbits that you think are cool, leave a comment on my blog with a link to the source. I'll check it out and post it here.

Weed Watchers

Cell phone users not content to text and chat can put their minutes to work for the National Park Service. Resource managers working in national parks have a new tool to monitor and control invasive weeds. The Center for Embedded Networked Sensing at the University of California, Los Angeles, and the Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area, have hooked up to create a mobile application to help locate and eradicate harmful, non-native plants found in environmentally sensitive public areas.


“What’s Invasive” can be downloaded to iPhone or Android handsets, enabling park visitors to snap photos, log the location and automatically send files to the “What’s Invasive” server. The App identifies a hit list of the worst offenders — six highly invasive weeds that need to be eradicated. There are currently 664 registered app users who have contributed 2,734 observations of invasive weeds in 12 active parks.

CENS plans to partner with National Park Service officials nationwide. And, rangers and botonists can create a park-specific weed list. Once uploaded to the CENS server, the end user can then enter their park location, download the list, and go for a stroll. Testing of the app is under way in California ’s Channel Islands National Park and Rock Creek Park in Washington , D.C. , among others.

Source: miller-mccune.com

Wine on the Line

Benziger Family Winery in Sonoma has launched a dual-platform smartphone App that can be download to iPhone and Android phones at http://road.ie/benziger, with a Blackberry version coming soon. The aim of the App is to connect Benziger Family Winery’s portfolio of award-winning, certified sustainable, organic, and Biodynamic®wines with an expanding audience of smartphone users.

Benziger Family Winery App users can tap a few buttons to see the current view of the vineyards, hear the winemakers discuss the current vintage or purchase wine for delivery. This application also simplifies making reservations for tours and tastings, contacting Benziger Family Winery with feedback or requests and serves as a direct window into winemaking practices, special offers and events.

Source: Benziger Family Winery

Food Blog Gets Cookin’

A new blog providing a steady stream of current information about the creation and consumption of food has been launched by the University of California. Topics addressed in the blog include nutrition, gardening for food, food safety, obesity, pesticide-residue issues, local food, farmers markets, slow food, home food handling, organic food, food production, food policy and more. It is all geared to the general public.

Source: ucanr.org/food

Sonar Scarecrows

As the power of the ocean is increasingly tapped for energy and transport, scientists fear marine species may be increasingly harmed. Wind energy projects, with an array of gizmos and cables, are being developed around the world and experts predict baleen whales could become casualities.

Bruce Mate, director of Oregon State University’s Marine Mammal Institute and internationally recognized whale expert notes the animals don’t have the kind of sonar capabilities that dolphins and large toothed whales have, and the visibility isn’t good in the waters where these new technologies may be deployed. Mate and his colleagues are working on a low-power acoustic device to deter migrating gray whales from cruising in a particular section of their normal path off the coast of Oregon.

If successful, the device would add only one one-hundredth of 1 percent to their migration distance, pushing the whales about 500 to 750 meters off their normal route. But it could have far-reaching implications for directing whales out of dangerous situations, ranging from an accidental foray into too-shallow water or into the heart of an oil spill.

The first wave-energy project off the Oregon coast has already been approved, and, as Mate points out, almost all of the proposed projects fall within the whales’ migration paths.

“Right now there are no mitigation tools in place for whales if they are faced with an environmental issue. If you think about the present migration, which allows 80 percent of the population to pass by the West Coast of the United States, it’s apparent that the entire population could be at risk for a major calamity, like the Exxon Valdez oil spill,” Mate argued. “The equipment that we’re testing here could provide a means for deflecting these animals away from these calamities.”

The Oregon State scientists’ device emits a low-pitched one-second “whoop” sound three times per minute, six hours per day. According to Mate, the sound will probably not even be audible to the whales unless they swim within 500 to 750 meters of the device, but it should be loud enough to subtly change their paths.

If successful, Mate’s acoustic deterrent device could ease environmental concerns about the wave parks of the future and direct whales away from unsafe waters, be they ship routes or oil spill sites.

Source: miller-mcchttp://www.miller-mccune.com/