The ecological gift

Searching for children’s STEM (Science Technology Engineering and Mathematics) based gifts isn’t hard. A google search will turn up items like building blocks, Lego, electronic/snap circuit sets, robotic kits, electronic toys, K’NEX, telescope, test-tube kits, science in a box kits etc. etc.

While these choices are great, why not instead buy something different – like the younger versions of the toys – tools, I mean tools- that ecologists use?

Despite much searching I couldn’t find any useful lists on the web to refer you to. So I’ve made my own based on my childhood, presents we have been given, suggestions given to me and from the experience of having four children of my own.

This list is sorted from least to more expensive; these gifts will keep on giving and fuel the ecologist in any child. Continue reading

Living in the line of fire

“Dense human settlements in eastern Australia are located in perhaps the biggest pile of flammable vegetation fuel on the planet.”

Prof. William Bond wrote this in a review of Flammable Australia. Fire Regimes, Biodiversity and Ecosystems in a Changing World. It was rather poignant that our correspondence regarding his book review was only a week after the Tasman Peninsula fires at Dunalley. The fires were burning 20 kms from our property, as the crow flies. The images below were taken from our house:

The Tasman Peninsula Fire, 4th January 2013. Images a,b,c and d show the progression of the fire with time shown. The arrow (image b) shows the height of the convection column. The height of this column demonstrates the strong winds and the direction the passage of embers which created spotting well in front of the firefront.

The Tasman Peninsula Fire, 4th January 2013. Images a,b,c and d show the progression of the fire with time shown. The arrow (image b) shows the height of the convection column. The height of this column demonstrates the strong winds and the direction the passage of embers which created spotting well in front of the firefront.

Fire wasn’t once the big topic it is now. Bond describes this in his review, citing that the subject, once in the ‘ghettos’ is now mainstream and now global: vegetation modelling; satellite imagery; historical accounts (we can include social media here); paleoecology; weather modelling; and fire behaviour science. Indeed with all these things fire ecology is bigger than it once was. But for me, the crux of the matter is in the words quoted above. Continue reading