We’ve all heard that coral reefs are under threat from climate change. We’ve seen the devastating photos of coral bleaching: rising ocean temperatures cause these catastrophic events. As if a warming ocean wasn’t enough, the corals are facing another hazard. Over the last 200 years, humans have released about two trillion tons of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere; about of a quarter of that has entered the ocean. All this carbon dioxide is slowly making the ocean more acidic – called ocean acidification.
There’s a whole universe of life in the ocean we can’t see – thousands of tiny animals make up the zooplankton. Animals we commonly see in tidepools, and sometimes on our plates, begin their lives drifting in plankton. Planktonic larval stage in life gives species a way to disperse. The larvae develop while adrift at sea, often going through many stages before reaching adult body form.
With all the wacko news lately, I wasn’t sure what the vibe was going to be at the National Science Teachers Conference in Atlanta.
What I discovered was that even a downpour from the ceiling at the convention center couldn't dampen the mood. In fact, as we were ushered from the exhibit hall floor for a 3.5 hour wait while they fixed the air conditioning leak-- I saw more smiles and laughter and new friendships being forged than anything else.
We talk a lot about adaptation here at Shape of Life. Science teachers certainly illustrate this concept. Over the course of 4 days we were able to talk with lots of teachers and most shared that they feel it’s an even more important time to 'hang tough' for science education. And, believe me, based upon the energy we experienced, we have no doubt science education will prevail.
Scientists use a tree with branches to represent the common ancestry and evolutionary relationships of earth’s different kinds of organisms. In 1859 Charles Darwin sketched a Tree of Life in his book, “The Origin of Species”. He was explaining how a genus of related species might have originated from a common ancestor. This was the beginning of using a tree as a model for evolution. Since then there have been thousands of Tree of Life drawings as our knowledge has increased.
In 1992 a friend of ours, the artist Ray Troll, created his own gorgeous and quirky version. Since then he has created trees for various animal groups, which we think are delightful and engaging. So, when our friend, biologist Chuck Baxter, was turning 90, we decided to ask Ray to create a new animal Tree of Life for him and for the Shape of Life. Ray agreed, saying “It was a great honor to be asked to do something for Chuck Baxter on such a momentous occasion!”