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Amazing Science

Since the 1970s a Man Has Been Planting a Forest Larger than Central Park, One Tree at a Time

July 16, 2014

Christopher Jobson

Nestled in Northeast India next to the Brahmaputra River sits Majuli Island, a giant sandbar that happens to be the largest river island on Earth, home to some 150,000 people. It is also the location of the 1,360 acre Molai Forest, one of the most unusual woodlands in the world for the incredible fact that it was planted by a single man. Since 1979, forestry worker Jadav Payeng has dedicated his life to planting trees on the island, creating a forest that has surpassed the scale of New York’s Central Park.

While home to such a large population, rapidly increasing erosion over the last 100 years has reduced the land mass of Majuli Island to less than half. Spurred by the dire situation, Payeng transformed himself into a modern day Johnny Appleseed and singlehandedly planted thousands upon thousands of plants, including 300 hectares of bamboo.

Payeng’s work has been credited with significantly fortifying the island, while providing a habitat for several endangered animals which have returned to the area; a herd of nearly 100 elephants (which has now given birth to an additional ten), Bengal tigers, and a species of vulture that hasn’t been seen on the island in over 40 years. Gives you more than a little hope for the world, doesn’t it?

Filmmaker William Douglas McMaster recently wrote and directed this beautiful documentary short titled Forest Man from the perspective of Payeng’s friend, photographer Jitu Kalita. The project was funded in part last year through Kickstarter. The video is a bit longer than what we usually see here on Colossal, but completely worth your time. (via Gizmodo)

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Photography

Good Badlands: Dry Terrain of the American West Captured in a Brief Moment of Color by Guy Tal

June 12, 2014

Christopher Jobson

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The Badlands are a type of parched, sunbaked terrain characterized by jagged rock, cracked earth and, of course, minimal vegetation. It’s a harsh environment of lifeless wasteland but there is also good news to be found in the badlands. For the patient observer, like photographer Guy Tal, there is a delicate beauty that reveals itself only so often. “On rare years,” says Tal, describing his series of photos taken in the American West, “wildflowers burst into stunning display of color, transforming the desert into a veritable garden for just few precious days.” The reason, apparently, is that vegetation in the region has adapted to the climate. With just a tiny bit of moisture the desert can transform into a colorful garden of bright purple and yellow. You can see more photos on Tal’s website, or purchase his book More Than a Rock. (via Bored Panda)

Update: According to @happyhillers these are Scorpionweed and Beeplant flowers.

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Photography Science

Fantastic Fungi: The Startling Visual Diversity of Mushrooms Photographed by Steve Axford

May 12, 2014

Christopher Jobson

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Marasmius haematocephalus

To think any one of these lifeforms exists in our galaxy, let alone on our planet, simply boggles the mind. Photographer Steve Axford lives and works in the Northern Rivers area of New South Wales in Australia where he spends his time documenting the living world around him, often traveling to remote locations to seek out rare animals, plants, and even people. But it’s his work tracking down some of the world’s strangest and brilliantly diverse mushrooms and other fungi that has resulted in an audience of online followers who stalk his work on Flickr and SmugMug to see what he’s captured next.

Axford shares via email that most of the mushrooms seen here were photographed around his home and are sub-tropical fungi, but many were also taken in Victoria and Tasmania and are classified as temperate fungi. The temperate fungi are well-known and documented, but the tropical species are much less known and some may have never been photographed before. Mushrooms like the Hairy Mycena and the blue leratiomyces have most likely never been found on the Australian mainland before, and have certainly never been photographed in an artistic way as you’re seeing here.

It was painfully difficult not to include more of Axford’s photography here, so I urge you to explore further. All photos courtesy the photographer. (awkwardsituationist.tumblr)

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Panus fasciatus

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Leratiomyces sp. / Found in Booyong Reserve, Booyong, NSW

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Mycena chlorophos

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Cyptotrama aspratum or Gold tuft

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Schizophyllum commune

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Hairy mycena

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White Mycena

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Mauve splitting waxcap

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Marasmius sp. / Marasmius haematocephalus

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Photography Science

A Single Drop of Seawater, Magnified 25 Times

April 30, 2014

Christopher Jobson

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When a wave takes you by surprise at the beach and you accidentally swallow a nasty gulp of salt water, that nasty taste isn’t just salt. Photographer David Littschwager captured this amazing shot of a single drop of seawater magnified 25 times to reveal an entire ecosystem of crab larva, diatoms, bacteria, fish eggs, zooplankton, and even worms. Read more about what you probably don’t want to know at Dive Shield.

Marine Microfauna – part of the contents of one dip of a hand net. The magnification was 2x life size, meaning that the actual frame size was a half inch high, so depending on how big the image is on your screen you can calculate the magnification as you see it. To keep as much focus as possible the sample is in as little water as possible just covering the bottom of a 60mm petri dish. That takes about 15 drops of water, but you are only seeing a very small portion of the total sample.

The slide was photographed aboard the NOAA Ship Oscar Elton Sette off Kona, September 20, 2006.

 

 



History Photography Science

Artist Rachel Sussman Photographs the Oldest Living Things in the World before They Vanish

April 14, 2014

Christopher Jobson

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La Llareta (up to 3,000 years old; Atacama Desert, Chile)

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Spruce Gran Picea #0909 – 11A07 (9,550 years old; Fulufjället, Sweden)

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Welwitschia Mirabilis #0707-22411 (2,000 years old; Namib-Naukluft Desert, Namibia)

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Antarctic Moss #0212-7B33 (5,500 years old; Elephant Island, Antarctica)

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Jōmon Sugi, Japanese Cedar #0704-002 (2,180-7,000 years old; Yakushima, Japan

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Underground Forest #0707-10333 (13,000 years old; Pretoria South Africa) DECEASED

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Since 2004, Brooklyn-based contemporary artist Rachel Sussman has researched, collaborated with biologists, and braved some of the world’s harshest climates from Antarctica to the Mojave Desert in order to photograph the oldest continuously living organisms on Earth. This includes plants like Pando, the “Trembling Giant,” a colony of aspens in Utah with a massive underground root system estimated to be around 80,000 years old. Or the dense Llareta plants in South America that grow 1.5 centimeters annually and live over 3,000 years. This is the realm of life where time is measured in millennia, and where despite such astonishing longevity, ecosystems are now threatened due to climate change and human encroachment.

Sussman’s photographs have now been gathered together for the first time in The Oldest Living Things in the World, a new book published by the University of Chicago Press. Sitting at the intersection of art, science, and travelogue, the book details her adventures in tracking down each subject and relays the valuable scientific work done by scientists to understand them. It includes 124 photographs, 30 essays, infographics and forewords by Hans-Ulrich Obrist and Carl Zimmer.

You can learn more about Sussman’s project in her 2010 TED Talk. (via Hyperallergic)

Update: Rachel Sussman was just named a 2014 Guggenheim Fellow.

 

 



Photography

Smithsonian Magazine Announces 11th Annual Photo Contest Finalists

April 8, 2014

Christopher Jobson

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Vo Anh Kiet (Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam). Finalist: Travel. Terraced fields during harvest season. Mu Cang Chay, Vietnam, September 2012.

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Carol Lynne Fowler (Seeley Lake, Montana). Finalist: Americana. A champion bronco bucks a champion rider at the Helmville Rodeo. Helmville, Montana, September 2013.

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Sergio Carbajo Rodriguez (La Garriga, Spain). Finalist: Travel. Portrait of a young Suri boy going with his father to take care of the cattle. Ethiopia, August 2013.

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Graham McGeorge (Jacksonville, Florida). Finalist: Natural World. McGeorge spent a quiet 6 hours trying to get the perfect image of this eastern screech owl out of its nest. Okefenokee Swamp, Georgia, April 2013.

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Christopher Doherty (North Palm Beach, Florida). Finalist: Natural World. Breath at sunset, captures a sea turtle at a dive site called Black Rock. Kāʻanapali, Hawaiʻi, August 2013.

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Karen Lunney (Brisbane, Australia). Finalist: Natural World. During their annual migration, wildebeests are forced to find new river crossings in the Serengeti-Mara region. “The animals were being taken by the unfamiliar currents of deep water and had to struggle to get close to the far bank. There were few rocks on which to land and the initial orderly progression soon became a desperate struggle of clambering,” says Lunney. Mara River, Masai Mara National Reserve, Kenya, September 2013.

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Nidal Adnan Kibria (Dhaka, Bangladesh). Finalist: Travel. Action Hero. As part of a show called “Well of Death,” a biker performs a stunt at a village fair to celebrate Rath Jatra, a Hindu festival. Dhamrai, Bangladesh, June 2012.

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Vincent Cheng (Burnaby, Canada). Finalist: Travel. A group of locals playing billiards by Namtso Lake. Tibet, China, June 2013.

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Dina Bova (Petach Tikva, Israel). Finalist: Altered Images. “Babylon—Made in Italy is inspired by the story of the Babylon tower, the painting by Pieter Bruegel and by a trip to the beautiful Cinque Terre in Italy,” says Bova. Cinque Terre, Italy, October 2013.

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Aspen Wang (Hong Kong, Hong Kong). Finalist: Natural World. Penguins on Ice. “Although my photo hardly does justice to describing the tenuous balance in Antarctica’s ecosystem, it has served to crystallize in my memory one of the last stretches of untamed and inarticulate lands on earth,” says Wang. Antarctica, December 29, 2010.

Smithsonian Magazine just announced the finalists of their 11th Annual Photo Contest. This year’s competition saw a whopping 50,000 submissions, from which 60 finalists were selected in 6 categories including: Natural, Travel, People, Americana, Altered, and Mobile. The contest is now open for a Readers’ Choice vote which runs from today through May 6, 2014. Vote here. All photos courtesy Smithsonian Magazine and the respective photographers.