Monthly Archives: April 2009

Laurie Garrett on Flu pandemics, past and future

Courtesy of TED, we have some useful media bringing typically well-informed perspectives on the flu now unfolding. Let’s start of with a Q&A with Laurie Garrett, author of “The Coming Plague: Newly Emerging Diseases in a World Out of Balance”:

TED took 20 minutes with Laurie Garrett this afternoon to follow up on her TEDTalk from 2007, posted today, about pandemic flu. Garrett is the author of The Coming Plague, and a fellow on the Council for Foreign Relations who studied global health and emerging diseases. (As you can imagine, she is very busy this week.) We asked Garrett: What has changed since the last pandemic panic, 2007’s avian flu? What does she worry about now? And really, should we not wash our hands?

Read her responses on the TED website.

TED has also posted video of a lecture Garrett gave in 2007:

In 2007, as the world worried about a possible avian flu epidemic, Laurie Garrett, author of “The Coming Plague,” gave this powerful talk to a small TED University audience. Her insights from past pandemics are suddenly more relevant than ever.

This might be depressing to watch…

… but probably worth watching as we head towards another Earth Day next week!

This episode of Nature airs this sunday, April 19, 2009 at 8 PM. on PBS (check local listings).

In the meantime, if you want to get an early start on your weekend depression, here’s an extended clip:

There’s even a web exclusive about Gibbon matchmaking!

Islands in the Sky – at tonights Valley Cafe Sci!

Its time for another Café Scientifique tonight here in Fresno. And this time we have Robin Vijayan, a Fulbright scholar visiting my lab for his graduate research (he actually roped me in as a coadviser for his Ph.D. for some odd reason!) telling us about “Islands in the Sky: Science and conservation in the montane forests of India” – well, southern India, to be exact.

We meet, as usual, at the wonderful Lucy’s Lair Ethiopian restaurant in north Fresno, from 6:30 – 8:30 PM. Perhaps I’ll see you there!

Alan Rodgers – Arrangements for Funeral and Commemoration

Alan%20Rodgers.jpgThis year continued its downward spiral, for me and many wildlife conservationist friends in India and Africa, when we learnt of the passing of Dr. Alan Rodgers last tuesday. He was, without a doubt, the most influential teacher in my life, ever since I first encountered him, as a raw city-bred ecology enthusiast (that being me, not him!) and most unlikely pick for the first ever class of the M.Sc. program in Wildlife Science at the Wildlife Institute of India. The memories of those wonderful years learning the science, art, and craft of studying and managing wildlife in the tropics from Alan remain strong, and that training has stood me in really good stead for over two decades. I’m still in shock from learning about Alan’s death, especially since I wasn’t fully aware of the extent of his illness. It will take me a bit more time to come to grips with his being no more, and to collect my thoughts into a coherent remembrance. Meanwhile, I would like to share the following letter which came via email on behalf of Alan’s family – and hope it reaches more of us whose lives he touched and transformed. I also hope some of you will be able to contribute something towards a proper memorial, and more importantly, to help his family deal with the heavy burden of medical expenses incurred while he was in intensive care in South Africa (see details below). And if you are able to travel to Kenya for the funeral and commemoration services, my thoughts go with you, and with his family. I’ll write more soon – meanwhile, here’s the letter, below the fold:

Dear Friends of Alan,

By now the news of Alan’s sad passing on Tuesday has percolated through his vast network of friends around the world. All of us are devastated by the news. We have been receiving numerous messages from friends asking where to send their condolences, and how to contribute in other ways. We have discussed this matter with Mercy at length over the past couple of days. Mercy – who left South Africa for Nairobi yesterday, accompanying Alan to his final resting place– has asked us to send out the following message to you.

Please send condolences to Mercy Njoroge

Alan was a larger than life person, who has had a rich and fulfilling life and many of you have great stories to tell. Mercy will collate all the messages she receives and share it with other members of the family.

Although Alan had medical cover, he was required to pay a portion of the bills. As he was in the Intensive Care Unit for nearly two months, the bills chargeable to his account are extremely hefty (in excess of US$ 35,000), and are placing a big financial strain on the family. Any financial contributions from friends to help defray these costs would be most appreciated. [For banking details to send contributions, please contact Mercy Njoroge].

The burial will be on Wednesday afternoon at the Langata Cemetery, close to the Kenya Wildlife Services Office and the Nairobi National Park. We will send out a message providing further details once the arrangements have been finalized. An obituary is being placed in the Kenyan newspapers this weekend.

We realize that many of you would like to attend the ceremony, but will be unable to at such short notice. Accordingly, a Memorial Service will be held on July 4th in Nairobi and all friends and close colleagues are invited. We hope to use the occasion to celebrate Alan’s amazing life, and because we are celebrating Alan, we plan to make this a joyous event (hopefully peppered with the telling of some of Alan’s less ribald jokes!!!!!!).

A number of other options are being considered to commemorate Alan, including publication of a special edition of the Arc Journal, and setting up a scholarship fund for East Africa students interested in pursuing a career in Biodiversity Conservation. Nike Doggart from the Tanzanian Forest Conservation Group is preparing an article celebrating Alan’s amazing life, to be published in the next issue of the Arc journal. He would like to have this reproduced in an international paper, such as the Guardian. We would benefit from your contributions.

Alan has worked tirelessly to promote conservation in East Africa and India. A full list of his accomplishments would be a long one indeed. Neil Burgess, Phil Clark and PR Sinha have helped us to put together a short list, which tells an amazing story: what a mark he has left on the world.

Alan started his career in 1965 as a Game Warden in the Selous Game Reserve in Tanzania. He has some amazing stories to tell about that time, like the one of the lion and the virgin, and the hilarious antics of the Morogoro Rugby team, or his escapades flying in the Game Department aircraft. He later worked for the University of Dar Es Salaam, for many years in India (starting in 1984) with the Wildlife Institute of India as a UNDP-FAO consultant, and then with UNDP/ FAO –GEF in East Africa and more recently as the UNDP-GEF Technical Advisor for Biodiversity in East Africa, and as a Senior Adviser to ICRAF and UNDP in East Africa.

– As a scientist, Alan Rodgers published prolifically.. We have attached a rough publications list for him, which speaks by itself of his extraordinary breadth and detail of knowledge, ranging from primates to big mammals, to rangelands and forests in both East Africa and India, as well as conservation issues in general. The list needs to be cleaned up, and people could add other papers they know about but which are not mentioned. There are some very, very good papers in virtually inaccessible journals such as the Tanganyika Notes and Records, and it would be good if some of these could be scanned and placed on the web (particularly the paper on elephant control and ivory).

– He was one of the pioneers of the application of remote sensing to discover patches of forest that were unknown to conservationists and biologists during the mid 1980s

– He took a people centric view to conservation– and played a major role in nesting conservation in the development agenda.

In East Africa   

– He was one of the world experts on miombo ecology

– He Set up the Tanzania Forest Working Group – which has played a major role in coordinating forest conservation in Tanzania.

– He was a Founding member of the Tanzania Forest Conservation Group – now Tanzania’s foremost forest conservation organization, playing a major role in supporting REDD in the country.

– He did seminal research in the Eastern Arc Forests, which led to the creation of the Amani NR, Udzungwa NP and the Kilombero NR; he discovered a number of species new to science, including the Sanje Mangabey

– He was a tireless provider of time and information to generations of young researchers

– He provided tireless support to Zanzibar government – leading to the declaration of the Jozani NP

– He set up the course in wildlife management at the Zoology Department of the University of Dar es Salaam

– He realised that the Coastal Forests had a biodiversity importance in their own right at a time when most other biologists only had eyes for the Eastern Arc forests. When he worked at the GEF/ UNDP he put a lot of energy into effecting more conservation action in these forests.

– He gave a vast amount of his time editing people’s papers etc. while sitting in airport departure lounges on the way to his many meetings. He was an unceasing demander of quality, and I believe that through this he raised the standard of conservation and biological work in East Africa (he certainly raised the standard of the Coastal Forest book)

– He was a vast store of knowledge on wildlife, biodiversity and conservation issues, and therefore a good resource for researchers to tap into, particularly as he was willing to share obscure but important papers from his personal library

– He collected quite a large number of plants specimens in the Selous, Udzungwas (Sanje), Ulugurus (Kimboza) as well as various Coastal Forests including a number of undescribed species. Phil Clark remembers seeing an unidentified Cynometra with very large leaflets in the UDSM herbarium; it would be nice if that was one day named after him if it turns out to be a new species.

In India

– He worked for many years at the Wildlife Institute of India in the 1980s, as a UNDP-FAO Expert and was instrumental in laying a very strong foundation for this important institution. After the first regular faculty recruitment when a group of 15 young scientists joined the Institute, he took upon himself to train and guide all of them in the art, science and practice of wildlife management.

– The field techniques tour in Sariska, which he started in 1986 has been institutionalized over the years and now forms one of the most important training programmes undertaken by the Institute.

– He was the key architect in developing ‘wildlife science’ in India and his contribution in starting the M.Sc. in Wildlife Science at the Wildlife Institute of India is a very significant one. This programme has produced a vast array of competent biologists, who are now significantly contributing to the cause of wildlife conservation, across the globe.

– His monumental work: a ‘Biogeographical Classification of India’ is now the most cited and used document in the field of wildlife conservation in India.

– He co-wrote, with HS Panwar, the voluminous ‘Planning a Protected Area Network in India”—which has pride of place on his bookshelf in Nairobi.

Alan cared about people: he was incredibly kind and generous to his friends, and to those who were less fortunate than he was. There was a distinct personal quality about him that made him approachable and fun to be with despite his larger than life reputation and the high position that he reached. I think he was good at spotting committed and talented people, and he did what he could to encourage and support them on in their careers. There must be many people who have a lot to thank him for.

Warm regards to All,

Nik Sekhran, Veronica Muthui and Sultana Bashir of UNDP

Alan was our close friend, our confidante, our mentor……………………..

PS: Alan had numerous friends — we have tried our best to put together this email list. We realize that there be cross postings and also that we may have inadvertently left close friends out. We would be grateful if you could forward this message to friends not on this list.

Scientists Worldwide Admit Global Warming is a Hoax

Ah well – the jig is up… but it was good while it lasted, right? Although I was (as usual – just like with the housing market) too late in jumping on the bandwagon to make any profit from all those research grants where I could have just made stuff up! But now you know, how the “science” of global warming really works, don’t you? So can I at least have that bail-out bonus now that the secret is out?

A press release from the committee (IPCC) quotes a chagrined Rajendra Pachauri, the UN climate panel’s chair, who claims that he was the victim of a “cunning deception spanning decades”:

“I am deeply ashamed for having unwittingly perpetuated such a massive fraud on the governments of the world,” said Mr. Pachauri.

“It turns out that all that data from satellites and radiosondes, surface temperature readings, borehole analysis, measurements of rising sea levels, melting glaciers and permafrost, phenological data, and proxy reconstructions of paleoclimatic conditions were all fabricated out of thin air by my former friend, Al Gore. Now that I think about it, I suppose that we should have instituting some sort of peer-review process before publishing such alarming conclusions. Once again, I’m very sorry.”

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