Friday, July 20, 2007

Wolves, Ecosystem Research & the Semantic Web

In Boise, Idaho last night I attended a public meeting to hear the public present testimony about the U.S Fish & Wildlife Proposed Revision Regulating Gray Wolves in the Northern Rocky Mountains. During the hearing I thought about all of the other similar environmental issue public hearings I have attended over the years and how ecosystem research can be organized into a more usable form as we start to apply technology being developed for the Semantic Web. I believe people want to know that reputable science can be explained by scientists, understood by citizens, and that it is used for ecosystem management and decision making processes.

This wolf meeting was posted in the Federal Register, Vol. 72, No. 129/ Friday, July 6, 2007, and would revise earlier wolf management rules in the following ways.

1. "... to modify the definition of ‘‘unacceptable impacts’’ to wild ungulate populations so that States and Tribes with Service-approved post-delisting wolf management plans can better address the impacts of a biologically recovered wolf population on ungulate populations and herds while wolves remain listed.

2. "...allow private citizens in States or on Tribal lands with approved post-delisting wolf management plans to take wolves that are in the act of attacking their stock animals or dogs."

Many people who testified in Boise lamented the short amount of public notice that was given. Similar meetings were also held in Helena, Montana, July 18 and Cody, Wyoming, July 17. (The Federal Register text also suggests several ways citizens can comment about this proposal and provides hand delivery, mail and e-mail address)

I was struck by the number of comments decrying the limited amount of scientific knowledge that exists about ecosystems upon which decisions regarding wild animals like wolves and elk are being based today. Many also complained that too often decisions are based on emotion, politics and economy rather than science, and this is especially true when State governments are given control.

One person testifying also thought we should consider the recent news about a number of federal officials and scientists in America who have admitted they have been "ordered" to censor and edit scientific findings in the last several years. One glaring example is that overwhelming scientific evidence has concluded for several years that humans are effecting global warming, but we now know that citizens have been confused because of political, economic and media manipulation and interpretation of the science. Is it possible that this is also happening with scientific information about ecosystems which include elk and wolf populations?

I assume that quite a bit of ecosystem science surrounding elk and wolf habitat has been produced by Federal and State agencies, Universities, environmental organizations, and even private businesses and industry groups. However, I don't know of an efficient and effective way for any of us to find detailed scientific information about complex ecosystem issues that might include Elk and wolves, and would certainly also involve a multitude of other species and a complex web of interrelationships that are important.

I should note that the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service is following legal federal policies in the Federal Register notice and is inviting independent "Peer Review" comments ... "to ensure that our final rule is based on scientifically sound data, assumptions, and analyses."

Assuming that the names and affiliations of individuals and/or organizations that have been invited to be peer reviewers will be identified to the public, it also seems reasonable that their own research and publications and those studies they reference in support or non-support of the proposed rule changes would also be identified. It also seems reasonable that the location and accessibility of all of the data bases of information and specific scientific ecosystem studies related to Elk and wolf habitat that exist for Federal and State agencies, Universities, environmental organizations, businesses and industries could also be identified and published at the same time.

My understanding is that the development of the Semantic Web and publishing on the Internet will greatly aid scientists and the public alike in being able to find detailed and reputable scientific information about general and specific topics. Tim Berners-Lee, inventor of the World Wide Web, and director of the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C), predicted in Nature Web debates, in 2001 that the semantic web “will likely profoundly change the very nature of how scientific knowledge is produced and shared, in ways that we can now barely imagine.”

One example of how the Semantic Web is already beginning to function was reported in in a November 22, 2005 article titled, "W3C Launches Group Linking Medical Industry with Semantic Web."

A very good statement explaining why the Semantic Web is impotrant and how it can be expected to benefit the entire life science community is found in a draft article Tim Clark submitted in February 13, 2006 for discussion to the W3C Knowledge Ecosystem Task Force.
"Problem Statement
Scientific knowledge discovery, publication and discourse can be understood as a knowledge ecosystem containing numerous lifecycle processes. Currently, information in this ecosystem is produced, moves within and is exchanged across public, corporate, private, institutional, and collaboration ownership spaces in the form of millions of semantically uncharacterized digital resources.

Scientists and health care providers increasingly rely on these resources to an extraordinary degree.

These digital resources can potentially be richly interconnected and contextualized in terms of one another. Establishing these interconnections is part of the process of creating, sharing, discussing, publishing and consuming new knowledge. However, such ecosystem process activities are not currently well-supported by digital models, because information interconnections across processes in the “knowledge ecosystem” currently lack a complete machine-accesible semantic characterization.

For example, there is currently no widely recognized machine-accessible semantic differentiation between a manuscript and a publication; or between an illustration and experimental image data; or between an experiment, its data, the data interpretation, and the hypothesis the experiment was designed to validate.

This problem exists across multiple scientific domains. We believe that solving the semantic characterization problem at the common level of knowledge processes, can facilitate not only the organization and exchange of knowledge within domains but across them. This will be particularly important in goal-oriented clinical research but can be expected to benefit the entire life science and health care community."
More recent information about how we can all start to contribute to and use the concepts of the Semantic Web is readily available. I referred to Noah Spivac's contribution in my blog post of November 16, 2006, titled, The Semantic Web -Minding the Planet, by Nova Spivack.

A July 3, 2007 article in Business 2.0 article titled, "What's next for the Internet"
Noah Spivac and his company Radar Networks and other big Internet companies are working to develop tools which will impose order on "one of the hottest buzzwords in computer science today: the Semantic Web." Another article on July 9, 2007 in Business Week titled, "A Web That Thinks Like You" also describes the Semantic Web software work that Radar Networks is developing "could help transform the net."

And finally, yesterday I found a Firefox Browser extension called Piggy Bank, that will let us publish Semantic Web data on our web sites now. The Wiki for Piggy Bank provides a download, installation instructions and several pages of instructions for users.

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

A Delighful Description of the Visible Universe

Anthony Doerr lives in Boise, Idaho and has written a delightful story about the Visible Universe as photographed by the Hubble Deep Field Telescope in 2003. Published in the July/August 2007 Issue of Orion Magazine the article is titled, Window of Possibility -"Why the Hubble Ultra Deep Field is the most incredible photograph ever taken."

Doerr's humerous numerical and comparative analysis should provide us with a much needed perspective of our importance and place in the universe. Please read the whole article. Below are a few quotes to whet your interest.

"Earth is a clump of iron and magnesium and nickel, smeared with a thin layer of organic matter, and sleeved in vapor. It whirls along in a nearly circular orbit around a minor star we call the sun."

"The sun comprises 99.9 percent of all the mass in the solar system. Which means Earth, Mars, Jupiter, Saturn, etc., all fit into that little 0.1 percent."

"But, truly, our sun is exceedingly minor. Almost incomprehensibly minor."

"We call our galaxy the Milky Way. There are at least 100 billion stars in it and our sun is one of those."

"There very well may be more galaxies in the universe than there are stars in the Milky Way."

What the Ultra Deep Field image ultimately offers is a singular glimpse at ourselves. Like Copernicus’s On the Revolutions of the Celestial Spheres, it resets our understanding of who and what we are."

"The Hubble Ultra Deep Field image should be in every classroom in the world. It should be on the president’s desk. It should probably be in every church, too."

Monday, July 09, 2007

Al Gore's holographic opening of live earth 7.7.7

I found an interesting article written by Cintra Wilson in on July 8, titled "Al's big day." Wilson makes an interesting point that I have also noticed whenever I have heard Al Gore talk about Global Warming. "The concerts themselves assiduously avoided any mention of political agenda,... -- it was just a smiley-face, rockin' good time: proud, happy, respectful and, above all, hopeful --..."

I am convinced that most people want to have the best information available on environmental issues and are tired and wary of the constant partisan politics that flood the popular news services. Hopefully this new found public energy Al Gore and many others are stimulating will lead to much better environmental decision making in the near future. Social, community and environmental networking tools are becoming increasingly sophisticated and available. Anyone can now start learning how to use these new tools if we want to become active citizen participants. I hope this blog provides some related interesting information that is helpful toward this new era.

An example of 3-D I mentioned in my June 19th Blog entry can be seen in the YouTube video of the Al Gore Hologram opening the Live Earth 7.7.07 Concerts.

This YouTube video is shown in 2D, but at the Live Earth Concerts people saw the real hologram. I am interested in knowing if and how we can see holograms like these on our personal computers, and how they might be delivered on web sites in the future.

Does anyone reading this have any suggestions or links we can look at?

Saturday, July 07, 2007

Current TV & Alliance for Climate Protection Ecospot PSA contest

Inviting citizens to produce stories, graphics, and photographs about various community concepts has been common in the past. Video capture and editing has also become commonplace and many new opportunities are becoming available for individuals and groups to share their community storytelling skills using amazingly powerful and affordable new media technology.

The most recent example was reported by Earth today citing a press release by Current TV titled, Current and the Alliance for Climate Protection Give Viewers ':60 Seconds to Save the Earth'. "Starting today, a personal call to action from Cameron Diaz will begin airing on Current TV asking viewers to submit their own ecospots to now through September 12, 2007. "

The video tells the story and the ecospot web page provides a few examples and concepts to spur the imagination.

The tremendous growth in personal submissions to You Tube and similar video sharing sites, as well as the exponential increase in personal and Group Blogs and Video Blogs suggests that a time may have arrived where anyone can create valuable multimedia which might change the way a community views social, environmental and ecosystem issues. I will have more to say about this concept as I further explore new trends in social networking opportunities.

Friday, July 06, 2007

Live Earth Concerts 7.7.07 & Google Earth

It is already 7.7.07 in Australia and Live Earth - The Concerts for a Climate in Crisis - are about to begin. This one day hopefully will lead to years of new social networking on global climate issues and will change the way humans think about the real and total cost of greenhouse gases we are producing.

Today, Frank Taylor (Google Earth Blog) posted a Google Earth KMZ file of the locations for each of the concerts. I was curious about the places where the events would be held and after doing some research I added some additional links to more information and created another

KML file that I uploaded to the Google Earth Community - Environment and Conservation topic. Here is a link to the page where you can download the file and use it in Google Earth to fly to, and explore, these places on every continent, including a special event in Antarctica.

I saw Al Gore on the Larry King Live show last night and he commented that the Live Earth Concerts are only one event to raise Global Awareness to billions of people. He has a plan to work with The Alliance for Climate Protection to keep education, information and public involvement going strong for at least three more years. One of these efforts includes inviting climate related video submissions from the public that, when approved, could be available on Current TV.

I will write more about these plans as I find information about them.

Monday, July 02, 2007

Google Earth Outreach - Conservation Networking opportunities

On June 26, Frank Taylor wrote on his Google Earth Blog that "Today Google has announced a new initiative called Google Earth Outreach designed to help nonprofit organizations around the world leverage the power of Google Earth to illustrate and advocate for the important work that they do." You can find more information on the new Google Earth Outreach web page.

Frank also posted a You Tube video Google recorded of the announcement and noted "I especially enjoyed the part where Jane Goodall was speaking to us via satellite and especially when she shared the chimpanzee greeting to us all."

As I have mentioned in earlier posts, I believe Google Earth (and similar programs) will play an increasing role in helping conservation and environmental networking efforts in the future and we should be learning how to use the many features of this valuable, free and very popular application . The Google Earth Outreach page contains a Showcase, Case Studies, Tutorials, Help, and Google Earth Professional Grant Application to enhance these learning opportunities for anyone interested.

Another Google Earth post on June 27, notes a new article in Wired Magazine. Frank titles his post "Google Earth/Maps is Changing the Way We See the World," and notes that Author Evan Ratliff Wired who wrote the article Google Maps is Changing the Way We See the World should have also included Google Earth in the title. Frank provided the following summary. "This article is a good summary of how Google Maps and Google Earth have had a significant impact in many ways on individuals, organizations, governments, politics, the environment and many other perspectives. It covers topics such as censorship, KML standardization, StreetView privacy issues, mapping politics, and user-generated maps.