The 2011 Goldman Environmental Prize Winners were announced last week. The winners—they could be your neighbor or a friend’s daughter or a colleague’s father—are doing amazing work around the world to make their communities better, safer places. Or as the Prize’s website states:

Grassroots environmental heroes too often go unrecognized. Yet their efforts to protect the world’s natural resources are increasingly critical to the well-being of the planet we all share.

The winners include:

Be prepared to be inspired!


In this funny, poignant, thought-provoking TED talk, Brene Brown discusses vulnerability from a researcher’s point of view.

Vodpod videos no longer available.
A lot of folks have been moved and inspired by Brown’s work, including Garr Reynolds, presentation guru, who wrote a response, relating the themes of Brown’s talk to our goals when giving presentations: “connection, engagement, authenticity, and passion.”

Robots & Autism

There’s been a bit of coverage in the last few days about “Kaspar the Friendly Robot” helping children with autism. The American Psychological Association picked up the AP report:

Eden Sawczenko used to recoil when other little girls held her hand and turned stiff when they hugged her. This year, the 4-year-old autistic girl began playing with a robot that teaches about emotions and physical contact – and now she hugs everyone.

And Eden’s progress is attributed to Kaspar, a robot designed by researchers at the University of Hertfordshire as part of the AuRoRa Project, whose goal is to study “if and how robots can become a ‘toy’ that might serve an educational or therapeutic role for children with autism.” Looks like they’re making progress!

Following on the open access and marine themes of the past few weeks, the Census of Marine Life is a terrific open access resource.

screenshot of Census of Marine Life website
The census, carried out over ten years, was an impressively massive effort involving:

2,700 scientists
80+ nations
540 expeditions
US$ 650 million
2,600+ scientific publications
6,000+ potential new species
28 million distribution records and counting

Much of the census research is freely available in different forms on the site, including research articles published in PLoS ONE. The site is a treasure trove that yields new and fascinating information with each visit.

In a TEDTalk earlier this year, artist Dianna Cohen, co-founder of Plastic Pollution Coalition, challenges us to add refuse to the reduce, reuse, recycle mantra:

Vodpod videos no longer available.

Many of you probably know about the Great Pacific Garbage Patch or gyre, but you may not know that up to 11 plastic garbage gyres have been found in the world’s oceans. The folks at 5Gyres are committed to eliminating the five largest subtropical garbage patches. And Cohen argues that the only way to achieve this is to stop generating the tons and tons of single-use plastic that we consume each day. The solution starts with consumers; the solution starts with each of us.

What will you refuse today?

AU and Open Access

Be sure to check out Antioch University’s open access dissertations this week. And if you’re on the New England campus, be sure to ask Environmental Studies faculty member Jim Gruber about his upcoming article in the open access journal Conservation and Society.

Jim sporting his new OA t-shirt.
Jim sporting the OA t-shirt he won during last year’s Open Access Week.

As a student trying to get this week’s assignments done, open access may seem only tangentially related to you and your education. Actually, it’s vitally important. And here are a few reasons why from the folks at The Right to Research Coalition:

  • The current system puts students from smaller schools at a disadvantage: due to the staggering price of journal subscriptions, not even the largest, most well-funded institutions can provide their students with the complete scholarly record. Students at smaller or less well-funded colleges and universities must make do with their fraction of access their library can afford. Students at community colleges, who are a significant portion of students in higher education, suffer even more severely.
  • Researching beyond the degree: many students, especially on the graduate level, pursue degrees in order to become qualified researchers. Whether they become professors, doctors, lawyers, or entrepreneurs, they will continuously rely on access to research in order to make an impact in their respective field. Yet, students’ access to journals expires along with their library card at graduation. If they take a job at another university, that institution may have a very different level of access than what they need, and if they take a job outside of the university setting, they will no longer have the library to provide them any access to journals.

These are just a few of the reasons; there are more worth considering. Take a few minutes today to learn why open access is important to you. Stop by the library, read the OA handouts, and enter our raffle to win gift certificates to Donna’s or Hannaford.