Chytrid Hack

Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute in Front Royal

Yesterday, I spent the day outside the city at the Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute, located on a 3,200 acre campus in Front Royal, Virginia.  What a lovely drive (against DC traffic) to engage in an all-day Chytrid Hack Design Session, co-hosted by Alex Dehgan’s new Conservation X Labs and the Smithsonian folks. What a gorgeous campus.
Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute in Front Royal
Frog image from Amphibian Ark websiteWhy a Chytrid Hack? Chytridiomycosis is a unique and deadly disease, wiping out over 100 amphibian species in the last few years, threatening up to a third to half of all remaining amphibian species. The chytrid fungi infects the skin and leads to cardiac arrest. Amphibian chytrid has only been recently discovered, and in now in more than in 36 U.S. states and 40 countries. Fungal pathogens, such as chytrid, represent an increasing threat to wildlife. Conservation X Labs brought us all together Friday to talk about open innovation opportunities to crowd source solutions through citizen science, hackathons, or prizes and challenge competitions.

Chytrid Hack: Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute

Chytrid Hack: Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute

Representatives came from around the US: USAID, EPA, Gates Foundation, Global Green Growth Initiative, Arpa-E, Woodrow Wilson International Center, Archipelago Consulting, Singularity University, James Madison University, University of South Florida, Ampibian Survival Institute, Wildlife Conservation Society, Penn State, University of Colorado, and more. We spent the day sorting through issues and barriers, then worked in teams to craft a set of options for going forward.

IMG_6637

I learned more than I ever thought I needed to know about frogs in one day. I have a new appreciation for the complexity of the issues around biodiversity and conservation. The Smithsonian Institute is committed to conservation of endangered species. We even had an opportunity to see species that are extinct in the wild, including the Micronesian Kingfisher, Guam Rail, and two mating Bali Mynah.

Micronesian Kingfisher

Micronesian Kingfisher: extinct in the wild.

Bali Mynah

Mating Bali Mynah: extinct in the wild

What an awesome day to engage with leaders in the field who are looking for open source solutions. Thanks Alex for inviting me!

Resources:

Collins, J.P. 2013. History, novelty, and emergence of an infectious amphibian disease. PNAS 110 (23): 9193-9194

Rosenblum, E. et al. 2013. Complex history of the amphibian-killing chytrid fungus revealed with genome resequencing data. PNAS 110 (23): 9385-9390

Rosenblum, E. et. al. 2010. The Deadly Chytrid Fungus: A Story of an Emerging Pathogen. PLOS Pathogens 6:1 (e1000550).

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NYC Data Hive

Last week, a team from my office ventured to the bustling tech incubator, otherwise known as New York City, to meet with leading female thinkers in the data/tech space. We want to better understand what might draw more women to the  space data table. Among others, we met with Dawn Barber, co-founder of NY Tech Meetup; Hilary Mason, founder of Fast Forward Labs; Sasha Laundy, founder of Women Who Code; Vanessa Hurst, co-founder of Girl Develop It and Write Speak Code; and Rachel Sklar, media darling and mover shaker behind TheLi.st and #ChangeTheRatio.

NYC Skyline

NYC Skyline at 53rd and Broadway

While we were chatting with Sasha, she mentioned the work she’s doing with Max Shron at Polynumeral, their new data strategy consultancy. Now here’s the cool thing. I had just ordered Max Shron’s book, “Thinking with Data: How to Turn Information into Insights” for my dissertation research. I’m in the data analytics phase, and I’ve been looking at different methods and platforms for teasing insights from a mountain of data I’ve assembled on my topic. I love it when work and research collide like this.

I haven’t finished his book yet, but I offer a few tidbits. Before treasure hunting with data, scope out what you want. Most of us do the reverse. We throw analytic tools and processes at the data and wonder what we’ll find. “Starting with data, without first doing a lot of thinking, …is a short road to simple questions and unsurprising results. We don’t want unsurprising — we want knowledge” (Shron 2014: 1). I totally agree. My dissertation is all about knowledge creation. In fact, I’m looking at “Knowledge Alchemy through Collaborative Chaos.” Max states that our search for knowledge is sometimes filtered through a mental model of our own creation, while other times an algorithm can put the puzzle pieces together for us. “What concerns us in working with data is how to get as good a connection as possible between the observations we collect and the processes that shape our world (Shron 2014: 31).

While Big Data is the buzzword of choice these days in the IT world, I learned on my trip to NYC what a truly small data world we live in. The connections between us shape our observations of the world around us. So great to make new connections with awesome and inspiring leaders, and plug into the vibrant NYC data hive.

Source: Shron, Max. Thinking with Data: How to Turn Information into Insights.  Sebastopol, CA: O’Reilly Media, Inc, 2014.

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Filed under collaboration, data, OpenNASA, space, technology

Holy Meteor Smokes! Electric-Blue Sky Invasion

Noctilucent Clouds in Sandbukta, Norway. Photo: Morten Ross

Bright Noctilucent Clouds in Sandbukta, Norway. Photo: Morten Ross

This gorgeous image of noctilucent clouds, captured on July 4th by Morten Ross of Norway, is a result of “meteor smoke” — tiny ice crystals seeded into Earth’s highest clouds that form 50 miles above Earth’s surface at the very edge of space. When sunlight hits these clouds, according to SpaceWeather.com, the ice crystals glow electric blue…as you can see in the image above.

Scientists are learning more about noctilucent clouds in recent years. Space dust, or meteor smoke, is comprised of microscopic specks of dust caused by meteoroids (think:  inner solar system litter) that hit Earth’s surface and burn up — leaving a haze of tiny particles around Earth’s outer edges. Specks of meteor smoke serve as the office water cooler — attracting water molecules to gather together and assemble themselves into ice crystals, in a process called nucleation.

These electric blue clouds are visible not only from Earth’s surface, but also from above. The crew of Space Station’s Expedition 31 captured the top down image of noctilucent clouds on July 13, 2012.

Noctilucent Clouds from Space Station. Image: NASA Expedition 31

Noctilucent Clouds from Space Station. Image: NASA Expedition 31

These clouds normally live in the Arctic Circle, but have migrated south due to the spread of green house gases, according to James Russell of Hampton University, principal investigator of NASA’s Aeronomy of Ice in the Mesosphere (AIM) mission.

"Geophysical Light Bulb" over Arctic. Credit: AIM

“Geophysical Light Bulb” over Arctic. Credit: AIM

If you happen to see an invasion of electric-blue and white tendrils taking over the sky, you may want to send them back home — but get out your camera first. You can upload your images to SpaceWeather’s cloud gallery.

 

 

 

 

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Filed under Earth, Fragile Oasis, NASA

Happy Birthday USA!

White House image with Barbara Jordan quote: "What the people want is very simple. They want an America as good as its promise."Barbara Jordan was one of my professors at the LBJ School at the University of Texas. She was the first African American elected to the Texas Senate and the first southern black female elected to the US House of Representatives, where she served on the House Judiciary Committee.

Barbara Jordan was a commanding presence.

She filled any room she entered. She chose each word thoughtfully, offering insight and wisdom. She was an early role model for me, and I felt fortunate to spend time with her both inside and outside the classroom. I was both terrified and in awe of her, which I think she found quite amusing. I’ll share one extremely embarrassing story. On one occasion, she asked me take her to the restroom, which required maneuvering her wheelchair into narrow stalls — this was in the 1980’s before ADA-compliant standards. Horror upon horrors, I wedged her in the restroom and had to get help to free her. I was mortified. She just shook her head, and said, “Oh, Beth, Beth, Beck…” which only works if you can hear the authoritative enunciation with which she spoke. She actually used my name as a phrase quite often. I believe I was comic diversion for her. Thankfully, she was willing to put up with my knack for making a mess of things — perhaps because of my  insatiable curiosity and inability to accept traditional thinking. She saw promise in me, and invested her time and talent into a spunky 20-something who fervently believed in the American political system — flaws and all.

Note:  The following week after the wheelchair incident, the women’s restroom at LBJ School was remodeled for wheelchair access. I guess you could say its my LBJ School legacy….

As we head into the 4th of July, I’m thankful for the opportunity to serve our country for almost three decades in the federal government. Even today, I still believe my job is to provide public good — a uniquely public sector responsibility.  Open government, which may be a trendy phrase, is what I’ve always believed our government exists for —  much to the credit of LJB School professor Barbara Jordan and her contribution to public service. Even after leaving office, she poured into future change-makers, like me. How many other public servants are paying it forward because she invested in us….

“What the people want is very simple. They want an America as good as its promise.” ~Barbara Jordan

She’s right. What people want IS an America as good as it’s promise. We’re working to make that happen every day at NASA through open innovation programs like Space Apps and LAUNCH. I’m fortunate to play a role in Open NASA movement. We have much to celebrate.

Thank you Barbara Jordan. Thank you USA.

Happy Birthday!!

USA Flags

 

 

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Happy May Day!

Spring Flowers

Spring flowers

Spring flowers

Spring flowers

Spring flowers

Spring flowers

Spring flowers

Spring flowers

Spring flowers

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Space Apps 2014: It’s a Wrap!

Space Apps Go Beyond

The 2014 International Space Apps Challenge took place last weekend. Over 8000 humans in 95 locations around our planet joined together to leverage NASA data to solve global challenges. So many stories, so little time. Below is a collection of tweets that help characterize the international flavor and collective enthusiasm generated through NASA’s International Space Apps Challenges. Images tell the story better than words can.  I planned to only share five-ten images. Scroll down and you’ll see that I didn’t quite keep to that number.

Find yourselves in these images. I’ll bet you’re in one (or more) of them. 

Local hosts prepared for months to welcome participants: cool venues, name tags, goodies, tools, and hardware.

Space Apps Toronto

Space Apps Skopje

Space Apps Valencia

Space Apps Baltimore

Space Apps Certificates

Space Apps Kathmandu

Space Apps Toronto

Space Apps Sinaloa Cookies

Space Apps Toyko

Space Apps Nairobi

Space Apps fuel

Space Apps

We had Google hangouts and talks by space pioneers: astronaut Doug Wheelock from NYC, former astronaut Don Thomas in Baltimore, European Space Agency (ESA) astronauts Paolo Nespoli from Brazil and Luca Parmitano from Rome, and space tourist “astronaut” Mandla Maseko in Dakar, Senegal; Lome, Togo, and Pretoria, South Africa.

Space Apps Google hangout

Space Apps London

Space Apps Afronaut Talk

Space Apps South Africa

Space Apps South Africa

Space Apps Rome

The participants formed teams around challenges in five mission priorities: asteroids, Earth watch, human spaceflight, robotics, and space technology. Teams created over 600 projects. The most popular challenges were: Where on Earth, Exomars Rover is My Robot, Asteroid Prospector, Space Wearables, Alert-Alert, Growing Food for A Martian Table, Cool It, and SpaceT

Space Apps Let Hacking Begin

Space Apps Bolivia

Space Apps Mexico City

Space Apps Auckland

Space Apps Porto Alegre, Brazil

Space Apps Doha

Space Apps Bangalore

Space Apps Winnipeg

pace Apps Glasgow

Space Apps Auckland

Space Apps Sinaloa

Space Apps Doha

Space Apps Brazil

Space Apps KSC

Space Apps London

Teams worked together to code software, build software, design mission profiles, and learn how to innovate in a collaborative environment. The solutions were creative, unique, and inspiring — all created in a compressed weekend of long days and short nights.

Space Apps Reno

Space Apps Toronto

Space Apps Paris

Space Apps Lome

Space Apps Chicago

Space Apps Istanbul

Space Apps Cork

Space Apps Rover

Space Apps Kansas City: Yorbit app

Space Apps South Africa hardware

Space Apps Exeter

Space Apps Nigeria

Space Apps Toronto hardware

Space Apps Lego

And, my personal favorite….

Space Apps Bolivia

Some of the locations took some time to look up into the skies. And that’s what space is all about, after all. Looking beyond the horizon and wondering, what if….

Space Apps Pittsburgh

Space Apps London

Space Apps Cyprus

Space Apps London

Space Apps Bordeaux

Space Apps Chile

Teams have to pitch their projects to local judges on the final day. Two of the local winners can go forward from each location to global judging, as well as a People’s Choice nominee.

Space Apps Kathmandu

Space Apps Benin

Space Apps South Africa

Here are some of the winning teams.

Space Apps Istanbul

Space Apps Goldcoast

At Space Apps Toronto, I had the privilege of serving as a judge. What an incredible experience.

Space Apps Toronto Winner

Space Apps Toronto Winner

Space Apps Toronto Winner

Space Apps Toronto Winner

Who can resist a Judges Selfie???

Space Apps Toronto Judges Selfie

And, it’s a WRAP!

Space Apps Toronto: It's a Wrap

Screen Shot 2014-04-17 at 8.12.26 PM

Space Apps South Africa

Space Apps KSC

Space Apps Sinaloa

Space Apps Toronto

Space Apps London

What overflows my heart is NASA’s boundLESSness — beyond borders and cultures. When NASA calls, global citizens, of all walks of life, answer. What an amazing thing to behold! I’m humbled by the opportunity and privilege to serve the public through programs like Space Apps.

Thank you ALL for an OUT-of-this-WORLD experience!!

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Filed under Africa, collaboration, Earth, innovation, International Space Apps, NASA

LAUNCH: Practice of Knowledge-Creation

Tangled fibers represent threads of future knowledge.

Tangled fibers represent threads of new knowledge-in-the-making.

I’ve been digging into a practice-based approach for my research on how innovation (new knowledge-creation) emerges from collaboration. I’m defining practice as collective action, transaction, and interaction.  From this viewpoint, knowledge is created in the context of interactive participation – the practice of activity. I’ll call it: “Social Ecology of Knowing through Collaborative Innovation Practices,” at least for now.

From a scholarly perspective, a practice-based approach offers a new epistemology where the “world appears to be relationally constituted, as a seamless web of heterogeneous elements kept together and perpetuated by active processes of ordering and sense making” (Nicolini, Gheranrdi, Yanow 2003: 27).

In other words, the practice of collaboration represents infinite opportunities to innovate our thinking. Interactive collaborative processes create new outcomes, new practices, new relationships, as well as new ways to approach the relationships, practices, and outcomes  – as we’ve experienced with LAUNCH.  Though, not all collaborative undertakings have positive outcomes. New knowledge creation isn’t necessarily pretty. The practice of strategy renewal and technological innovation is most often in response to uncertainty, stagnation, tension, disruption, conflict. Let’s face it. We get creative when we can’t get where we want to go. If someone or something stands in the way, we get busy figuring a way around, under, over, or through our barrier. Collectively, we have so many more options available than we do alone, as we’ve learned through the LAUNCH experience.

LAUNCH has become an innovative knowledge-creation community of practice – the Collective Genius for a Better World.

Our LAUNCH team came together to collaboratively search for game-changing sustainability solutions for life on and off our planet. What we discovered along the way was that the innovations weren’t the only outcome. The collective genius of the folks we brought together to solve these problems – the LAUNCH team, LAUNCH council, and LAUNCH innovators – was an innovation itself, along with the LAUNCH processes we created to search and select the LAUNCH innovators.

We discovered, in the “practice” of LAUNCH, that the world of innovation is always in the making.

Innovation emerges from the broken pieces of what was once status quo. At the impasse, we devise new ways forward. The key: allow ourselves to embrace the brokenness, approach it with fresh eyes and unexpected voices, and engage in bricolage – the making do with available material, mental, social, and cultural resources.

In the confusion, new clarity is born.

In Broken Images

He is quick, thinking in clear images;
I am slow, thinking in broken images.

He becomes dull, trusting in his clear images;
I become sharp, mistrusting my broken images.

Trusting his images, he assumes their relevance;
Mistrusting my images, I question their relevance.

Assuming their relevance, he assumes the fact;
Questioning their relevance, I question the fact.

When the fact fails him, he questions his senses;
When the fact fails me, I approve my senses.

He continues quick and dull in his clear images;
I continue slow and sharp in my broken images.

He in a new confusion of his understanding;
I in a new understanding of my confusion.

Robert Graves

Reference:

Davide Nicolini, Silvia Gheranrdi, Dvora Yanow. Knowing in Organizations: A Practice-Based Approach.  Armonk, New York: M.E. Sharpe, 2003.

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Filed under innovation, LAUNCH, VT PhD