Danielle Williams: On Deforestation and Climate Change


Over the last couple weeks you’ve
been hearing from Danielle
, an employee in National Geographic’s Research, Conservation, and
Exploration division, member of the National Geographic Green Initiatives Subcomittee, and fellow with the HSBC/Earthwatch Institute Climate Change Program. During this Tuesday celebration of physical geography and environments, Danielle
employs her newfound field-knowledge and skills to break down the science of deforestation and its impacts on climate
change for the rest of us “laymen.”

November 16, 2008


My Understanding of the Science Behind this
Research Project, and Its Global Importance


With a few rainy fall days of great “citizen science” and a
lot of discussions under our bright orange vests (rather than belts), our team
completed our fellowship as part of the HSBC/Earthwatch Climate Partnership.
There is a great deal to do, now that we have been empowered by our experience.
That being said, however, I feel that the last week has allowed me time to
really process and simplify the science behind this project in a “big picture”
kind of way, and I’d like to share my perspective on it to help others
visualize its importance on a global scale. My caveat: I am not a scientist,
but only hope to somewhat accurately describe this piece of the much bigger
climate change puzzle.

Our team of ten local citizens was one of many more to come who are
participating in a long-term forest research project headed by Dr. Geoffrey
Parker that began with a question: “How does forest management influence stem
(woody plants) and carbon dynamics in forests of different developmental
stages?” That’s a standard scientific research question for you, so let me put
it in another way: “Why are forests important to the service of our planet,
when it comes to the delicate balance of greenhouse gases (GHGs) in our
atmosphere that affect our long-term climate?”

Dr. Parker told us that in most of the eastern United States, the “original”
forests have been cut down at least once, if not twice over the last couple
hundred years. You can imagine that just in the Chesapeake Bay region alone there are thousands of acres of fractured and
mature (120+ years old) forests next to newer, intermediate age plots, next to
more recently logged plots, etc. In terms of what this project is studying,
that means we are taking a look at a variety of species of trees over several
plots of forested land that fall within these different categories of age and

As part of our fieldwork, our team was helping to set the baseline data for the
long term project by taking measurements of each tree’s diameter (at 1.3m from
the trunk), canopy class (relative height compared to the rest of the canopy
around the tree) and damage class (missing major branches, standing dead,
etc.). Added to this, it’s also important to separate the leaf litter (bags of
leaves, twigs and whatever else was collected within a subplot) by its species
type and weigh it to most accurately measure each plot’s biomass – with lots of
math equations processed by the scientists, of course!

Read a more detailed
description of the science behind deforestation and its impacts on climate
change at Danielle’s
Earthwatch Blog

Continue reading “Danielle Williams: On Deforestation and Climate Change”

Soultravelers3 Explore World Cultures through World Travel

As they describe themselves on their website, soultravelers3 is a family of two parents and 6-year-old daughter from Santa Cruz, California, who embarked on “an epic odyssey: open-ended, years long slow trip around the world as a family adventure, unschool, spiritual journey and lifestyle” beginning in September, 2006. Frequent commenters on the My Wonderful World blog, I asked soultravelers3 to share details about ways travel contributes to the family’s geographic learning. Their response follows.

As we enter our third year of our open ended world tour, I can say
that our travel experiences have had an astonishing contribution to our family’s
geographic learning! Our main motivation behind this world tour was to educate
our child in the best way possible as a global citizen of the 21st century, and
the benefits from our travel have just been stunning and way beyond our very
high expectations.

We have the luxury to travel very slowly which allows us to
immerse deeply into the places and cultures where we stay. This will be our
third year wintering in a tiny 15th century white village in Andalusia, Spain,
where my
daughter studies at the local school in her second language and where she takes
flamenco lessons from one of the local masters. We love experiencing the many
festivals, the food, the customs and traditions. It has a rich history during
both the 800 years in which Jews, Christians and Muslims lived together in
peace and also during the horrific reconquest. We live in a farming community
so we watch them grow food, listen to the goats and roosters and listen to the
beautiful Andalusian horses and donkeys clomp by on the cobble streets. We have
grown very fond of our village and its warm people. It will always hold a
special place in our hearts.

We travel for 7 months following the weather and have used every
mode of transportation from camels to trolley cars, although our main
transportation is a small RV which we park for long periods and walk or use
mass transit. We have been to 4 continents, 28 countries and traveled over
60,000 miles, mostly by land or water. Seeing so much of this wonderful earth
we live on, how can we not be thoroughly affected? We are constantly learning
and we always seem to meet fantastic people who are willing to share their
world with us.


A good example of a profound geographical learning for us was our
journey into Africa to visit Morocco and the Sahara desert.  We met an open-hearted
city girl from Brazil who spoke 6 languages. She came to the Sahara

and ended up marrying a Berber Nomad whose family had lived in this mystical
place for generations. Our 6-year-old daughter rode in on a camel to those
bright orange Merzouga dunes of the Sahara
give a violin concert to 60 Berber kids who lived there, without running water,
and who had never seen a violin. They were clapping and singing French songs to
her arrival and she was carrying a Santa Claus-sized sack full of healthy
snacks we brought to share afterwards. They shared no language in common, but
all of them shared the language of music, joyfulness and goodwill.

Watch a video of Mozart playing her violin for Berber children in Morroco.


Continue reading “Soultravelers3 Explore World Cultures through World Travel”

More from Guestblogger Danielle Williams: Earthwatch/HSBC “Sustainable Forest Management in a Changing Climate” Project

Last Tuesday, we introduced you to Danielle
, a member of National Geographic’s Green Initiatives Subcommittee
and fellow with HSBC and Earthwatch Institute’s Climate Change program. She’s been
out in the field (well, forest) in Edgewater, Maryland, as part of the
“Sustainable Forest Management in a Changing Climate” project. When we last
heard from Danielle, she was planning to embark on her trip. See what she’s
been up to since then!

Below are excerpts from Danielle’s Earthwatch blog on Monday, November
3, and Wednesday, November 5. To read the full text, as well as additional
entries from Danielle’s team members, visit the Earthwatch blog.

First, we got to know the scientists that we’ll be working
with this week, including Dr. Geoffrey (‘Jess’) Parker, head scientist in the
Forest Ecology lab at SERC, and other field staff.

Then, we learned about the local environment. Specifically,
we learned about the history of logging and forest management in the immediate
area, as well as the ways in which carbon is stored and released as part of the
natural cycle of forest ecosystems.

Next, we familiarized ourselves with the tree species common
to this area, including tulip poplar, white oak and hickory, and we learned how
to individually measure the “DBH” (diameter breast height) of a tree.
We also analyzed the difference between what is thought to be the only small
patch of old growth temperate forest in the area, as compared to the more
recently logged areas that are in recovery mode.

Our evening session was further proof that the initial
excitement and synergy amongst our team members was real! We did some
brainstorming and came up with a provisional list of recommendations.

Continue reading “More from Guestblogger Danielle Williams: Earthwatch/HSBC “Sustainable Forest Management in a Changing Climate” Project”

Oh, the Places We’ll Go

My Wonderful World is delighted to be joined today by
Jan Harp Domene, President of coalition partner the National Parent Teacher Association (PTA). Jan identifies the current election season as an opportunity to make the case for expanding geographic education offerings nationwide, and highlights the PTA’s efforts to get students involved in learning about civics and geopolitical issues.

In light of last Friday’s presidential debate on foreign
policy and the impending global economic crisis, I can’t think of a better time
to be talking about the world and the role we play in it. And by “we,” I mean everybody—not just the people
who want to be President next January. I
tell the young parents who join PTA that they are the future leaders of our
organization, but it’s also true that kids are the future leaders of our
country. They might grow up to be the President,
or they might be the head of their own company, or they might be a leader in
their own community. Whatever path they
take, kids today will almost certainly be more connected to the world outside
our borders than the generation that preceded them.

So how are we preparing our kids for this world that seems
to be getting smaller and smaller? In
addition to the basics like math, science, and reading, are we also teaching
them about civics and art and geography and language? Understanding other cultures, and even our
own evolving America,
is going to be increasingly important as time goes on. Consider this: there are already more than twice
as many people
in the world primarily speaking Mandarin as there are
primarily speaking English—with that gap likely to get bigger in the coming
decades. And what does it mean that in
2050 there will be more school-age Hispanic
than school-age non-Hispanic
white children in the United States? Regardless of where we live, the odds are increasing that we’re going to
be talking to people from all over the map. If we’re going to understand one another, a good place to start is knowing
where exactly on that map we’re all from. That’s why we’re so proud to be a
part of the My
Wonderful World coalition
along with
National Geographic and other leading organizations. Working together, we’ve
created an action
to help parents become advocates on behalf of geographic

Continue reading “Oh, the Places We’ll Go”

Tolisano Guestblog Part III: Maps to Show the Big Picture

We’re back with Silvia Tolisano, Technology Integration Facilitator at San José Episcopal Day School in Jacksonville, Florida, for the final of three posts about her Global Studies program. Silvia concludes with a  message on the power of maps to facilitate learning and build bridges between prior and newly constructed knowledge.

“Making connections” is a primary goal for educators.
Understanding is directly related to being able to connect new material, facts,
ideas, and concepts to previously learned knowledge.


Using maps is a great way of allowing these connections to
grow. Our Global Studies curriculum is taking advantage of many different ways
to incorporate maps into the program.

While studying China, fourth graders were
assigned a specific province. It was each group’s goal to research particular characteristics
of their province. Agriculture, animals, population and industries were some of
the characteristics they focused on.


A giant map of China was placed on the wall. Each group
received a large puzzle piece in the shape of their province, which they
decorated with information they had learned.


As the culminating project, the students presented the
research of their assigned province and added the puzzle piece to the big map.
Once the map was completed, the teachers and students discussed the importance
of each province in relationship to the country and world. Answers to questions,
like “What would happen if this province with its agricultural production did
not exist?” or “Why do these two neighboring provinces farm the same types of
crops?” suddenly became clearer to the students as they were able to make these


Throughout the school, maps were placed on walls and
bulletin boards to show students where the traveling teachers and bear were on
a daily basis.


Teachers printed out images from the photo stream on Flickr
(http://www.flickr.com) and created
connections to the geographical location on the map.

Continue reading “Tolisano Guestblog Part III: Maps to Show the Big Picture”