Environment Forum

On Antarctic safaris, remember to bring a microscope

Many people hope to come back from a wildlife safari with close-up pictures of lions or elephants – this picture below is my best attempt from a search for the largest land animals in Antarctica.

If you look hard you can see a reddish blob at the tip of the thumb — it’s Antarctica’s most aggressive land predator, an eight-legged mite known as Rhagidia.

Pete Convey, a biologist at the British Antarctic Survey (that’s his thumb), says that such tiny creatures evolved in Antarctica over tens of millions of years — they can freeze their bodies in winter in an extreme form of hibernation.

Penguins, seals and whales are the best known animals in Antarctica, but none live year-round on land, where the biggest creature is a flightless midge whose name is ”Belgica antarctica” and who’s about 0.5 cm long.

Global warming could mean problems for some of these tiny creatures if it keeps going — the Antarctic Peninsula where Pete showed us the creatures has warmed by about 3 Celsius (5.4 Fahrenheit) over the past 50 years, the fastest rate in the southern hemisphere.

Imagining Bucky and Geo-Engineering

Stuart Gaffin is a climate researcher at Columbia University and a regular contributor with his blog “Exhausted Earth”. ThomsonReuters is not responsible for the content – the views are the author’s alone.

fuller.jpgA retrospective exhibit about the life and inventions of R. Buckminster Fuller (a.k.a. Bucky) is about to open at the Whitney Museum of American Art in New York City . Fuller was truly one-of-a-kind-an iconoclastic architect, inventor, engineer, and philosopher.

I still have vivid memories of a public talk he gave at Columbia University in the late 1970′s. He died in 1983. He is best known as the leading proponent, if not inventor, of the geodesic dome, the sturdy spherical structure, composed of triangular elements, that closely approximates a sphere.