What the history of American bison can tell us about elephants today

The other day, my father told me that China has placed a ban on buying and selling ivory. He was glad, but also had a question: The report he had seen said that around 37,000 elephants were killed every year. “How can that be?” he asked. “That’s a tremendous amount.”

I understood what he meant—it does seem like an impossibly huge number. I remember being boggled when I learned a similar statistic: 96 elephants are illegally killed each day. (I learned about it through a campaign called 96 Elephants, from Wildlife Conservation Society, the organization that also runs New York City’s zoos and aquariums.)

I think the most surprising thing about the statistic is that it seems like so many, it’s hard to comprehend. So I decided to do a little more digging into the numbers.

Continue reading


Now I work at the zoo

The title says it all… two months ago, I began my new job at Woodland Park Zoo in Seattle. My position title is Interpretive Content Developer–if you’re not familiar with what that means, I research the animals, develop the look and feel of exhibit areas, and create materials for visitors. A lot of that is sign writing, but I also help design interactives and digital media, as well as the general guest experience at exhibits.

I’m very excited about my new place, but there’s a lot to learn about the zoo and my position, so I haven’t been able to write as much on my blog. I am looking forward to sharing all the cool things about the animals!

Live: Watch an eaglet hatch! A historic moment

Last year, a mating pair of bald eagles (Haliaeetus leucocephalus) built a nest at the top of a tree in the US National Arboretum in Washington, DC. The pair, affectionately named Mr. President and The First Lady, successfully reared an eaglet, and this year they have returned to raise more!

As I write this, the eggs have not yet hatched. A couple of cameras viewing the nest are streaming live on the internet, so there’s a chance that you could see the big event happen! (When I was watching, The First Lady was just chilling out and napping).

The bald eagles Mr. President and The First Lady in their nest. Photo: Sue Greeley. © 2016 American Eagle Foundation, EAGLES.ORG.

It’s also worth noting that if important scientific research, investigative journalism, and political action had not taken place several decades ago, this great moment of eagle family reality TV may have never happened. Continue reading

Space travel posters from NASA for print and desktop

The NASA Jet Propulsion Lab at the California Institute of Technology has released a series of 14 posters for space travel! The designs are done in the Works Progress Administration (WPA) style of the 1940’s.

I also like that each poster includes a brief description of the location that accounts for the poster’s illustration. For example, at first I wasn’t that impressed by the design for Europa, because I didn’t understand what it was depicting. Then I read the description: Continue reading

Win-win: Help the planet and get less junk mail

Tell me if this is familiar: You move into a new apartment or house, and you’ve started to settle in, but something is up. There are ghosts in your house–I don’t mean supernatural ghosts, I mean the “previous tenant” ghosts that receive more mail than you do.

As I moved a couple months ago, I am currently dealing with this problem. While some of the mail I can write “Return to Sender – No Longer at This Address,” some of it is magazines or junk mail. Now that the holidays are approaching, it seems that the volume of mail-order catalogs has quadrupled.

As a possible solution, I discovered Continue reading

Game idea for NagaDemon

I think I’ve settled on the game idea I want to explore [see previous post about NagaDemon]. It’s inspired by the fact that the Seattle Public Utilities has relatively recently required that all food scraps be put in a compost/yard waste bin instead of the garbage. In fact, you can get a fine if they find food in the garbage (see this NPR story).

For myself and others, we have all had some hiccups getting used to the new system, so I thought a game would be a more engaging way to help people figure out what to do. (The Seattle Public Utilities apparently did have a recycling game from sometime around 2010, but I have never played it and all the links I can find for it are broken. My guess is that it was taken down because it doesn’t include the new compost rules). Continue reading

NagaDemon: Design a game in a month!

I’ve decided for the first time to try to do NAGADEMON – National Game Design Month, which is November. (Incidentally, it is also the National Novel Writing Month, but I’ll try that next year, perhaps?)

I’m going to take the NagaDemon opportunity to try the free digital game design tool Construct 2. I’ve played around with Scratch before, but never completed a game. What’s cool about these tools is that you are not required to learn how to write code. There are drop down menus or “puzzle-pieces” that help scaffold the computational thinking process. Also, if you did at some point want to get in and edit the code directly, you can do that as well.

Luckily, I have a team of friends in the Seattle, WA, area who are going to help the motivation process of completing a game! I will be posting here about my ideas, progress and feedback. If you are also doing the challenge and want someone to bounce ideas off, send me a message!

Let the games begin!
–The Science Slug

Pixar uses scientific data to create landscapes in upcoming film

I’m a big fan of Pixar because I think the studio consistently creates some of the most compelling and original stories in film today. However, now I have even more reasons to like them: In their most recent film about dinosaurs, the designers used used data from the United States Geological Survey (USGS) to help create stunning 3D landscapes.

More after the jump. Continue reading