Is science creative?

This post begins with a short story: A couple of months ago I was looking for a venue with a desk and a view for a writing retreat. I rang up the Bundanon Trust on the banks of the Shoalhaven River. The Trust was set up in 1993 when the Australian artist Arthur Boyd gifted…

Women whose research will change the world

One of my favourite things about being an academic is watching postgraduate students grow into intelligent, critical and capable researchers. At the moment, I am lucky to be part of a supervisory team for two excellent students who have been on the receiving end of multiple awards and accolades, while also holding down jobs and carrying…

Tobler’s First Law of Geography

Tobler’s First Law of Geography states: “Everything is related to everything else, but near things are more related than distant things” (Tobler, 1970). This is a feature of most phenomena because the world is spatially structured. When you think about it, this makes a lot of sense. But don’t think about it too much, or else you will start to interpret everything in relation to this Law (an affliction I have had for several years now, and one that I have passed on to many of the students I teach).

I was reminded of this Law when I recently completed a map of the countries I have visited. Low and behold, the distribution of those countries was spatially structured. This makes sense because some of them I will have visited by travelling over the border from the neighbouring country; I dropped in because I was in the area. For the same reason, I have never visited the Chagos Islands in the middle of the Indian Ocean, or Antarctica. Never seemed to find myself in the area (although I have definitely wanted to!). There are lots of spatially structured processes and patterns in the world: disease, competition, rainfall, gossip, predation, fashion, the way light penetrates the ocean. Tobler’s Law is everywhere when you look for it. Have a go at your own map here and see whether your travel behaviour is also spatially structured.

shamylto’s Travel Map

shamylto has been to: Australia, Barbados, Belgium, Belize, Bonaire, Saint Eustatius and Saba, Brazil, Canada, Cocos Islands, Cyprus, Egypt, Fiji, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Indonesia, Ireland, Isle of Man, Israel, Italy, Jersey, Jordan, Kenya, Luxembourg, Malaysia, Netherlands, Netherlands Antilles, New Caledonia, New Zealand, Philippines, Portugal, Reunion, Saint Barthélemy, Saudi Arabia, Seychelles, Singapore, Spain, Switzerland, Tanzania, Thailand, Turkey, United Arab Emirates, United Kingdom, United States, Vatican. Get your own travel map from Matador Network.

Mangrove removal in Belize

I attended a workshop on mapping tools hosted by Google in Sydney as part of the World Parks Congress this week.

They introduced me to Google Earth Engine, which hosts more than 3.6 million images from 40 years of Landsat data (which can be downloaded for free). I found it a useful tool for observing coastal change in different areas of the world.

In the spirit of the World Parks Congress, here is a time lapse showing yearly Landsat satellite images from 1984 to 2012 of the Belize coastline. The Belize Barrier Reef system was put on the list of World Heritage in Danger in 2009 due to excessive mangrove removal associated with coastal development.


Great Barrier Reef reports

Two recent reports on the health of the Great Barrier Reef have outlined the pressure it is under due to climate change and other anthropogenic influences. The Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority’s five-yearly outlook report found that the reef’s overall health is poor, and getting worse. But federal environment minister Greg Hunt said he is confident the reef…