Tag Archive | "Carl Safina"

Innovation Lab to Immerse Students in Science

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By Claire Walla

The jobs of tomorrow might not be here today, but a new program at the Ross School is aiming to help high school students prepare for them.

That’s the concept behind the school’s new science academy, Innovation Lab @Ross, which was announced this month and is now accepting applications for the coming academic year.

According to David Morgan, who is returning to Ross after 10 years teaching undergraduate science courses at The New School, the program is being developed for those students who have already demonstrated an early passion for scientific innovation. Primary fields of study will include mathematics, engineering, media and technology; though within those realms Morgan said instruction and lab work will ultimately be attuned to students’ particular interests.

“The idea is that students will come with an interest in one of these fields,” he said. They might not be absolutely sure precisely what they want to pursue, he added, “but they’ve identified that this [path] is what they want.”

Ross has also announced a scholarship for local students hoping to be part of the Innovation Lab.  The deadline for the award is Tuesday, June 12, and information can be found at www.ross.org/scholarship.

Like the Ross tennis academy, the innovation lab students will take the same core courses as students in the regular school for the first half of the day. During the second half of the day, however, instead of playing tennis, students in the Innovation Lab will have hours to devote to science, focusing on “in-depth projects, independent research and labs that are two- to three-hour blocks,” Morgan explained.

“There’s a huge desire in today’s world for students to be connected to these fields,” added Patty Lein, Ross’ Director of Academics and Professional Development (also former chair of the science department). “A lot of professors are jazzed about the idea of bringing that innovative thinking into Ross; these students will be leaders in the field at some point.”

Morgan further impressed that the Innovation Lab would not only foster an environment where scientific exploration would be supported, it would give students a certain business sense, teaching them how to bring their ideas into the marketplace. The idea is for students to learn how to write grants, and even apply for science grants during their time at Ross.

“What we need to do is give students the skills to do independent research and be able to work with a mentor,” Morgan explained.

The Innovation Lab will tap into a list of well-established science researchers who will be available to consult with students throughout their time at Ross. These mentors include professors Morgan himself already has working relationships with, as well as professors from around the world.

These resources include mathematics professor Dr. Ralph Abraham of the University of California — Santa Cruz; professor of neuroscience Dr. Antonio Damasio of the University of Southern California; Dr. Kurt W. Fischer of the Harvard Graduate School of Education, mathematics professor Dr. Victor Katz of the University of the District of Columbia; and researcher Dr. Hideaki Koizumi of Tokyo, Japan, among others.

Of course, local scientists, like famed environmentalist Carl Safina, have agreed to participate on a consulting basis as well.

Ross is currently accepting ninth and tenth grade applicants ($49,850 base fee for day students, $66,150 for boarding students) with what both Morgan and Lein referred to as a demonstrated passion for science.

“The most important thing is an indication that the student is passionate and curious about something,” Morgan said. Although a track record of high achievement and good test scores will be considered as well, Morgan emphasized, “We want students whose eyes light up when they find out that they’ll get to spend part of their day with free time [to research, or conduct lab work].”

Morgan said the focus of the program is still evolving, and will continue to morph based on students’ interests. However, he anticipates putting a lot of energy into robotics and engineering, as well as 3D design and fabrication. (The school will be purchasing a 3D printer and scanner, which will allow students to create a digital prototype of a part — a robot claw, for instance — and the “printer” will essentially create it.)

“It’s a pioneering program,” Lein continued. “We want the voice of the first student body to help design the program’s next steps.”

Morgan agreed, adding that he’s excited to see how the program evolves over time.

“My greatest hope is that three years from now there will be students doing what I can’t even imagine now,” he stated. “My job is to make sure I can make that possible.”

Carl Safina Revisits an Environmental Crisis

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Carl Safina

by Courtney M. Holbrook

After the explosion of the Deepwater Horizon drilling rig in the Gulf of Mexico on April 20, 2010 and the subsequent oil spill that affected the coastal U.S. for months, fears of an environmental disaster spread across the country in almost apocalyptic proportions.
Politicians, members of the media and people everywhere wondered whether oil giant British Petroleum, from whose well the spill emanated, had initiated a disaster that would destroy flora, fauna and individual lives with no hope of repair.

Initially, Dr. Carl Safina, a world-renowned ecologist and marine conservationist and co-founder of the Blue Ocean Institute, pondered similar theories. Could the spill be the disaster to shock all others?

“Before the spill ended, we didn’t know the dimensions of the event,” Safina said. “So, there was a lot of panic. It was such a chaotic time.”

After the spill, Random House asked Safina, the author of well-received books such as “The View from Lazy Point: A Natural Year in an Unnatural World” and “Eye of the Albatross: Visions of Hope and Survival,” to write about his experiences in the Gulf. That chronicle became “A Sea in Flames,” which was released on the anniversary of the explosion. On Saturday, July 23 at 6 p.m., Safina, who lives in Amagansett, reads from “A Sea in Flames” at Canio’s Books in Sag Harbor.

“A Sea in Flames” discusses the facts behind the spill, and the problems concerning the clean-up process and BP’s corporate response. In the end, Safina argues that ecological pollution and the release of fossil fuels through daily life into the atmosphere continue to cause more damage to the ocean than that caused by the oil spill. These toxic fuels, he says, release “carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. The oils we’re burning aren’t diluting, they’re actually concentrating in the atmosphere. This is an environmental catastrophe that will cause — has already begun to cause — overwhelming problems.”

It is this ultimate conclusion that drives “A Sea in Flames” — the mismanagement of a “cutting corners culture” and lackadaisical attitude to ecological preservation that characterized the spill will lead us to even greater future problems than the spill itself, according to Safina.

The three-part structure of the book follows Safina’s personal realizations of the truths of the spill. The first part concerns the causes of the explosion. As has been well documented, BP has been accused of not taking proper safety precautions to prevent the disaster, causing more than 53,000 barrels of oil a day to gush out until it was stopped on July 15, 2010.

The second part of the book discusses what happened when the oil was flowing, and the emotional consequences of this event. Safina notes there were tremendous “psychological effects on the fishermen and people living [on the Gulf].” He also discusses the efforts he says BP took to prevent journalists from following the event.

After the stoppage comes the perspective — answering the question of what toll the disaster took on the Gulf of Mexico and the men and women who live off its oceans. As of now, some of the worst predictions have not happened. Indeed, fishermen who feared their livelihoods would be dashed forever have returned to the Gulf.

For Safina, writing “A Sea in Flames” was a harsher experience. Unlike the process with his previous works, where the discussion of environmental hazards and life on the ocean took an almost reflective tone, this book is angry.

Some of the “enraged” tone came from the difference in the book’s theme. “A Sea in Flames” deals with a disaster of technology, where a man-made structure caused biological damage. His previous books have dealt more with man’s immediate effects on biology.

Anger also came from the carelessness Safina saw from BP and other officials. Less concern was shown for the victims of the spill, he says, than for monetary downturns BP faced. That constant emotional intensity took its toll.

“It’s an enraged book, and that’s a very different tone for me,” Safina said. “And it was very hard to be so angry for several months in a row. It was a relief to know there was a deadline in sight.”

Though the deadline has come and gone, Safina will continue to remember the lessons of the spill and the conservation issues facing Americans today. He believes another spill is “absolutely inevitable.” Although he cannot say whether safety has improved in the equipment, he believes the mass hunger for oil in America continues to lead us down dangerous paths to find it.

“All the easy places are tapped out now,” Safina said. “We’re having to go into more difficult places with deeper water, harsher conditions.”

Now, Safina is taking a break from books. Instead, he is working on his television documentary series for PBS entitled “Saving the Ocean with Carl Safina.” After an intense year of writing, the PBS series provides a welcome respite. But no matter the medium,

Safina intends to continue his quest to save the oceans from mankind’s harmful practices.
“When it comes to oil, our own addiction to it will hurt the ocean,” he said. “Hopefully, next time we’ll spend less time cleaning off birds and more time changing our habits and addictions.”