Darwin’s Paradox

“Darwin's Paradox” asks how productive and diverse ecosystems like coral reefs thrive in the ocean equivalent of a desert with few nutrients.

The answer is sponges. Sponges are key components of coral reefs worldwide. They provide nutrients to reef organisms in what scientists call the “sponge loop.” In 2013 scientists discovered that sponges living on coral reefs are part of a highly efficient recycling loop for dissolved organic matter (DOM) shed by algae and corals.  

“The largest source of energy and nutrients produced on the reef consist of things you cannot see,” said Jasper M. de Goeij, a marine biologist at the University of Amsterdam. “And no one else but sponges can make use of that source.”

As sponges pump huge amounts of water through their bodies, they absorb DOM, converting it into cellular waste that becomes food for reef consumers. Coral reef ecosystems could not thrive without sponges.

Art, Natural Science and History Meet to Transform Knowledge into Action

In 1861 artist Frederic Church traveled to the Arctic to create art of the icy world and the above image is what he saw.

Ever want to touch an iceberg? Ice Watch harvested free-floating icebergs from Greenland bringing them to the streets of London where people could see, feel and experience these giants melting.

Art reveals visuals of environmental history and heightens the understanding of our climate crisis. Spanning 200 years Vanishing Ice presents “the importance of alpine and polar landscapes in Western art, it seeks to inspire a personal connection to these regions along with an active commitment to their preservation.”

Science: The Ultimate Reality Therapy!

​Here at Shape of Life, we’re scientists and all about communicating science. In this time of the pandemic, we wish everyone knew that science is not an opinion. Dr. de Menocal, the Director of the Center for Climate and Life at Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory at Columbia University, said in an article, “The laws of nature don’t care whether we believe in them or not. …. We have to remember the big lesson from this pandemic: science saves lives.”  We hope this crisis underscores the value of science – without it, we can’t make well-informed decisions.

Covid-19 and Wildlife

Diseases transmitted from animals to humans, like coronaviruses, mainly originate in wildlife-their emergence often involves interactions between wildlife, livestock, and people in areas with major habitat loss. 75% of emerging infectious diseases originate in wildlife and have quadrupled in the past 50 years.

Check out Jane Goodall’s explanation of the correlation between the destruction of wildlife habitat and the diseases impacting our lives on Science Friday.

Mandatory Climate Change Education

Last year Italy became the first country to make climate change education compulsory in schools; in January New Zealand introduced climate change curriculum. But around the globe many students taking part in the growing global youth climate movement say they are being failed by their schools. We aim to help teachers with more resources featured on our website. Let’s do a better job!