How high school and college students view climate change shine
through clearly in new video productions submitted in a contest
organized by the University of Washington School of Environmental
and Forest Sciences.
The school is a unit within the UW College of the Environment.
This is the second year for the contest, supported by the Denman
Endowment for Student Excellence in Forest Resources.
Contest rules describe climate change as an issue that unites
all the research interests within the school, topics that include
sustainable forest management, biofuels, wildlife conservation,
landscape ecology and plant microbiology.
“Much of the responsibility for finding sustainable solutions
will fall on the younger generations,” the rules state. “That’s
what inspired us to host this video competition — to spread
awareness and hear your voices on the issue.”
The first video on this page is the 2016 first-place winner in
the high school division. The second video is the 2016 first-place
winner in the college division. The third video is last year’s
first-place winner in the high school division.
Judging was conducted by a panel of climate scientists, artists
and filmmakers. First-place winners received $5,000; second-place,
$1,000; and third-place, $500.
Here are this year’s winning videos, with links to the top three
in each division:
High school students, 2016
Place: Yuna Shin, Henry M. Jackson High School,
Place: Suraj Buddhavarapu, Naveen Sahi, Allison Tran
and Vibha Vadlamani, Tesla STEM High School, Redmond.
Place: Luke Brodersen, Shorewood High School,
Other finalists: Julci Areza, Chloe Birney and
Tanaya Sardesai, Redmond High School in Redmond, and Aria Ching,
Jesselynn Noland, Emily Riley and Emily Weaver, Lynnwood High
School in Bothell.
College undergraduates, 2016
Place: Audrey Seda and Tommy Tang, Eastern Washington
University and University of Washington – Bothell.
Place: Ben Jensen, Charles Johnson and Anthony
Whitfield, University of Washington.
A little understanding of the metric system and knowledge of
common measurements can be helpful when it comes to these so-called
“conversion jokes.” A few involve English measurements, and it
never hurts to know random things — such as the name of a common
Although conversion jokes, created with an equal sign, have been
around for years, I just became aware of them. I’m offering a
collection of these jokes that have been circulating on the
Internet plus a few others collected along the way.
Because specific knowledge is required, these jokes remind me of
the so-called “intellectual jokes” that I wrote about in 2014. (See
Water Ways, Dec. 12, 2014.) One major difference is that I
don’t believe explanations are needed, because these jokes
are more related to puns than to specialized fields of science,
math or literature.
1 millionth of a salmon = 1 microfiche
2,000 mockingbirds = 2 kilomockingbirds
Half of a large intestine = 1 semicolon
1,000,000 aches = 1 megahurtz
4 nickels = 2 paradigms
453.6 graham crackers = 1 pound cake
Time between slipping on a peel and smacking the
pavement = 1 bananosecond
Half a pair of goggles = 1 demagogue
3 1/3 tridents = 1 decadent
2 wharves = 1 paradox
One million-million bulls = one terabull
Ratio of an igloo’s circumference to its diameter = 1
1000 cubic centimeters of wet socks = 1
2 untruths = 1 paralyze
365.25 days of drinking low-calorie beer = 1 lite
2,000 pounds of Chinese soup = Won ton
10 cards = 1 decacards
Time it takes to sail 220 yards at 1 nautical mile per
hour = Knotfurlong
The common murre, which can be spotted in Puget Sound especially
in winter, may be considered “nature’s laugh track,” according to
Bob Sundstrom, writing for “BirdNote,”
a two-minute radio show heard on public radio stations including
I wasn’t sure what he meant until I heard the call clearly, and
then I wanted to share this amusing sound with readers who missed
“The Common Murre’s guttural call carries well over the roar of
the waves, a natural laugh track, far richer than human laughter
canned for a sitcom,” says narrator Michael Stein in the following
For other amusing bird sounds, I pulled a YouTube video created
with the help of Nick Lund, who writes a blog called “The Birdlist.” This
video was posted on National Public Radio’s science program
Andy Jeffrey of
Earth Touch Network points out that the bald eagle’s
less-than-intimidating chirp may not be the strangest call, but it
may be the most surprising. For films and such, Hollywood producers
have dubbed in the screech of a red-tailed hawk to give the eagle a
more imposing sound.
We can’t leave the topic of funny bird sounds without taking
time to listen to the lyre bird, known for its ability to mimic all
sorts of sounds. And who better to sneak with us through the
underbrush and explain this odd bird than the BBC’s David
Attenborough. Check out the video.
While all of these bird sounds are amusing, who would you say is
the most amusing bird? The question is open to debate, but I always
get a kick out of the thievery of the various species of sea gull.
The compilation video below offers a sampling of this clever bird’s
antics. As you’ll see, a few other clever birds also are
An international team of taxonomists has chosen the “Top 10 New
Species of 2016” from among some 18,000 new species named in
They include a hominin in the same genus as humans and an ape
nicknamed “Laia” that might provide clues to the origin of humans,
according to information provided by the College of Environmental
Science and Forestry at the State University of New York, which
compiles the list each year.
The list also includes a newly identified giant Galapagos
tortoise, two fish, a beetle named after a fictional bear, and two
plants — a carnivorous sundew considered endangered as soon as it
was discovered and a tree hiding in plain sight, states a news
release from ESF.
The annual list of the top 10 new species was established in
2008 to call attention to the fact that thousands of new species
are being discovered each year, while other species are going
extinct at least as fast.
“The rate of description of species is effectively unchanged
since before World War II,” said Quintin Wheeler, ESF president.
“The result is that species are disappearing at a rate at least
equal to that of their discovery.
“We can only win this race to explore biodiversity if we pick up
the pace,” he said. “In so doing we gather irreplaceable evidence
of our origins, discover clues to more efficient and sustainable
ways to meet human needs and arm ourselves with fundamental
knowledge essential for wide-scale conservation success.”
The top-10 list, compiled by the International Institute for
Species Exploration, is a colorful sampling of the new species
being named by taxonomists. The list comes out each year around
Mary 23 — the birthday of Carolus Linnaeus, an 18th century
botanist considered the father of modern taxonomy.
Descriptions of the “Top 10 New Species of 2016” are taken from
information provided by ESF, which permitted use of the
photographs. Additional information and photos can be found by
following the links below.
A research team working in the Galapagos Archipelago of Ecuador
has discovered that two species of giant tortoises — not just one —
co-exist on the island of Santa Cruz. The discovery comes 185 years
after Charles Darwin noted that slight variations in the shells of
tortoises could distinguish which island they were from, which is
among the evidence Darwin used in his theory of evolution.
This particiular giant sundew, a carnivorous plant, is the
largest sundew ever found in the New World. It is believed to be
the first species of plant discovered through a photograph on
Facebook. It is considered critically endangered, since it is known
to live in only one place in the world, the top pf a 5,000-foot
mountain in Brazil.
Fossil remains of at least 15 individuals makes this the largest
collection of a single species of hominin ever found on the African
continent. Once the age of the bones is determined, the finding
will have implications for the branch of the family tree containing
This tiny amphibious crustacean, discovered in a South American
cave, represents a new subfamily, genus and species of isopod with
a behavior never seen before in its family group: It builds
shelters of mud.
This two-inch anglerfish — with its odd fishing-pole-like
structure dangling in front — was discovered in the Gulf of Mexico
by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration while
assessing natural resource damages from the Deepwater Horizon oil
spill in 2010. The dangling structure, called an esca, is home to
symbiotic bacteria that produce light in the darkness of the deep
ocean and is presumably used to catch prey.
The ruby red seadragon, related to sea horses, is only the third
known species of sea dragon. At 10 inches long and living in
relatively shallow water off the West Coast of Australia, it is
notable for having escaped notice so long. The ruby seadragon was
first identified while testing museum specimens for genetics, then
the hunt was on for a living sample.
The scientific name of this tiny beetle, just 1/25th of an inch
long, comes from the fictional Paddington Bear, a lovable character
in children’s books who showed up at Paddington Station in London
with a sign that read, “Please look after this bear.” The
researchers hope the name for the new beetle will call attention to
the plight of the “threatened” Andean spectacled bear, which
inspired the Paddington books. The beetle is found in pools of
water that accumulate in the hollows of plants in Peru, where the
bear also is found.
An ape nicknamed “Laia” lived about 11.6 million years ago in
what is now Spain, climbing trees and eating fruit. She lived
before the lineage containing humans and great apes diverged from a
sister branch that contains the gibbons. Her discovery raises the
prospect that early humans could be more closely related to gibbons
than to the great apes.
Found near the main road in Monts de Cristal National Park, in
Gabon, this new tree species had been overlooked for years in
inventories of local trees, which tended to focus on larger
specimens. The tree grows to only about 20 feet high and is so
different from related members of the Annonaceae family of
flowering plants that it was given its own genus.
This new damselfly, called the sparklewing, is among an
extraordinary number of new damselflies discovered in Africa, with
60 species reported in one publication alone. Most of the new
species are so colorful and distinct that they can be identified
solely from photographs. The name Umma Gumma was taken from the
1969 Pink Floyd album, “Ummagumma,” which is British slang for
Baby river otters appear to be reluctant swimmers when they
enter the water for the very first time. As you can see in the
first video, the mother otter pulls, pushes and practically
wrestles her offspring to begin a swim lesson at Columbus Zoo in
The second video, from Oregon Zoo in Portland, features otter
keeper Becca VanBeek, who provides us some details about the life
of a young otter. Shown is a baby otter named Molalla. The mom
seems a bit rough with her baby, but she’s just trying to teach a
diving and breathing pattern.
If we want to be formal about it, what should we call a baby
otter? A baby walrus is called a calf, and a baby sea lion is
called a pup. So a baby otter is called a ______? If you said pup,
you are right.
Now for the parents. If a male walrus is called a bull and a
male sea lion is also called a bull, what is a male otter called?
The answer is boar, but please don’t ask me who comes up with this
stuff. Correspondingly, female walruses and female sea lions are
called cows, while female otters are called sows.
Thirteen kinds of otters exist in the world. Some, such as the
sea cat of South America, are so endangered that almost nothing is
known about them Read about all 13 on the h2g2 website.
In the Northwest, many people confuse the sea otter with the
river otter. Both are related to the weasel, and both have webbed
feet and two layers of fur to maintain their body temperature in
cold water. But there are many differences:
River otters spend more time on land than water. Sea otters
almost never climb up on land.
River otters live in freshwater and marine estuaries. Sea
otters live in seawater, including the ocean.
River otters generally grow to 20-25 pounds, sea otters to
River otters swim with their bellies down and expose little of
their back. Sea otters generally swim belly-up and float high in
the water because of air trapped in their fur.
River otters have rounded webbed paws, front and back. Sea
otters’ rear paws are elongated like flippers with webbing going to
the end of the toes.
Below is one of the two live cameras in the sea otter exhibit at
Seattle Aquarium. The cameras are in operation from 9 a.m. to 6
p.m. Visit the aquarium’s Otter Cams webpage
to see both cams and read about the otters.
Monterey Bay Aquarium also has a live otter cam, which is in
operation from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. Visit the aquarium’s
Sea Otter page for feeding times, when the otters are
introduced to the audience and a live discussion takes place with
Every year at this time, a unique group of people who share an
odd sense of humor venture to Austin, Texas, for the annual O.
Henry Pun-Off competition. It has been five years since I’ve
reported on this event — probably because the contest attracts so
many people who believe they are punny, but they’re not.
English poet and essayist Samuel Johnson, who lived during the
Revolutionary War, once described puns as “the lowest form of
Puns remind me of the little girl who had a little curl right in
the middle of her forehead. When they are good, they are very, very
good. But when they are bad, they are horrid. (See the blog
for the full poem.)
I’ll tell you more about the O.Henry Pun-Off in a moment, and
you can check out the videos on this page. But first let me share a
few water-related puns that have been circulating on the Internet
for years and are worth repeating, I think.
If we don’t conserve water, we could go from one ex-stream to
All the waterfowl kept their eyes closed except for one. He was
a Peking Duck.
A friend told me he dug a hole in my backyard and filled it
with water. I thought he meant well.
For plumbers, a flush beats a full house.
The building inspector said whoever installed the water pipes
was plumb loco.
There was a big paddle sale at the boat store. It was quite an
The soundtrack for the killer whale movie was orcastrated.
To spot a glacier, you have to have good ice sight.
What keeps a dock floating above water? Pier pressure.
I used to be a tap dancer until I fell into the sink.
The O. Henry Pun-Off features two types of competitions. In
“Punniest of Show,” competitors, sometimes in elaborate costumes,
arrive with prepared puns strung together in a story focused on a
theme. They have a minute and a half to tell their stories with as
many good puns as possible.
In “Punslingers,” two contestants are given a theme as they go
on stage. Their goal is to take turns making up puns, going back
and forth without repeating any of them. The first punslinger who
fails to toss out a pun within a short time is eliminated, while
the winner goes on to another round.
The first three videos are the top winners in the “Punniest of
Show.” The first features Southpaw Jones, who took second place in
the contest. I guess I liked his story the best, because he was
quick and talked about all sorts of birds that I could recognize.
He edited the original video to count the birds in his talk. (Be
sure to go full-screen.)
The second video features Jerzy Gwiazdowski, the first-place
winner who takes us across Europe and the Middle East with his word
play. The third-place winner, Michael Kohl, has some fun with
For an example of “Punslingers,” I’m featuring a semi-final
round in which Janani Krishna-Jha goes up against Jerzy Gwiazdowski
on the topic of “hair.”
John Pollock, a former speechwriter for President Bill Clinton,
talks about the anatomy of puns and what it is like to compete in
the O. Henry contest in his book “The Pun Also Rises.” Read or
listen to a 2011 interview with
National Public Radio, which includes an interesting excerpt
from the book.
In celebration of national Endangered Species Day on May 20,
students from across the country were invited to create artwork
about species that could be headed for extinction. Although the
number of entries was somewhat limited, I have been much impressed
with more than a few of these pieces.
The Saving Endangered Species Youth Art Contest is sponsored by
the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Endangered Species Coalition,
Association of Zoos and Aquariums, and International Child Art
Foundation. The contest was established to encourage students to
learn about threatened and endangered species and to express their
understanding and feelings through art.
Judges included Wyland, the well known marine life artist; Jack
Hanna, host of television shows featuring wild animals; David
Littschwager, a freelance photographer and contributor to National
Geographic magazine; Susan Middleton, a photographer and author who
has produced several books of nature photography; and Alice
Tangerini, botanical illustrator for the Smithsonian Institution.
Entries were submitted in February and March.
The painting of Southern Resident Killer Whales was created by
17-year-old Christopher Chen of Oak Grove, Calif. The artwork was
named a semifinalist in the endangered species art contest. Of
course, those of us who live in the Puget Sound area are at least
somewhat familiar with the three pods of Southern Resident orcas, a
population listed as endangered under the Endangered Species Act.
See NOAA’s Species
in the Spotlight.
Seven-year-old Rachel Yang of Belmont, Calif., was named the
winner among a much younger group of students, those in the
kindergarten-to-second-grade division. Her picture of yelloweye
rockfish should also spark interest for Puget Sound residents, as
these fish are listed as threatened in the Puget Sound region. See
“Rockfish in Puget Sound/Georgia Basin.”
The picture of Atlantic salmon, third on this page, by Katrina
Sharonin, 12, took first place among the sixth through eight
graders. I thought the hourglass was an important element,
something to show that the species may be running out of time.
Although we think of Atlantic salmon as farmed fish on the West
Coast, remnant populations of wild Atlantic salmon can still be
found in central and eastern Maine. Once abundant along the East
Coast, Atlantic salmon are now one of the most endangered species
in the U.S. See NOAA’s
Species in the Spotlight. By the way, Katrina is another
student from Belmont, Calif., which had a large number of excellent
Elizabeth Kiernicki, 17, of Pingree Grove, Ill., was the
first-place winner among the students in grades 9 through 12 with
her picture of the northern spotted owl. The spotted owl, listed as
threatened, was once found in forests from Southwest British
Columbia through Western Washington and Western Oregon and as far
south as San Francisco Bay. Now, remnant populations are in decline
in scattered areas, primarily remaining segments of old-growth
forests, while a significant population survives on the Olympic
Peninsula. See U.S. Fish
and Wildlife Service webpage.
Other semifinalists include Matthew Lei, 11, of Portland, Ore.,
with his portrait of a mother gray whale and her calf, and Michelle
Chang, 7, of Centrevile, Va., with her picture of a mother polar
bear and her cub waiting on a chunk for broken ice.
Endangered Species Day will be celebrated with events organized
by groups around the country. You can find registered events on the
Endangered Species Day,” although you may need to do an
Internet search for details.
It’s not hard to find information about the Endangered Species
Act or individual species with an Internet search engine, but the
U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service gives you a place to start with its
Species Day website.
Endangered Species Day was designated by
U.S. Senate resolution in 2006 to encourage teachers across the
country to spend at least 30 minutes “informing students about
threats to, and the restoration of, endangered species around the
world” and to encourage organizations and business to help produce
As far as I can tell, a
2012 Senate resolution was the last time that Congress
officially recognized Endangered Species Day, although it has
continued with the support of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife
I was quite impressed when I watched this video of a diver
cutting away a thick rope that had been slicing into the flesh of a
massive whale shark. The animal, spotted 300 miles southwest of
Cabo San Lucas, Mexico, remained calm throughout the operation.
Daniel Zapata, dive team leader aboard the Solmar V cruise ship,
said the divers knew it might be dangerous to cut the whale shark
free, but it was heartbreaking for them to watch while the animal
“We talked about it for some time between dives,” Zapata said in
question-and-answer interview with Joanna McNamara of Project
Aware. “When we saw the whale shark again, I knew I had to help. It
felt so good to cut this whale shark free. I found a thinner
section of the rope and cut through it. I unwrapped the rope from
each side of the whale shark and finally she was free.”
The action may have saved the life of the pregnant female and
her unborn offspring, according to observers.
This video was featured on the Smithsonian Channel as part of
the latest series “Secrets of Shark Island.” The “secret,”
according to promotional material, is that the Revillagigedo
Islands, some 200 miles from the Mexican coast, is home to one of
the greatest concentrations of fish in the world.
“This is the only natural juncture for miles in an otherwise
empty Pacific Ocean and a crucial area for migrating sharks and
other apex predators,” states the
Smithsonian Channel website. “Enter a world where whitetip
sharks, giant lobsters and moray eels share living quarters,
humpback whales breed, and mantas and tuna feast on bait in this
land of plenty.”
The Smithsonian Channel has been going a little crazy over
sharks the past few years. But it isn’t just about sharks. It’s
about the people who love them. Two years ago, we were introduced
to “Shark Girl” aka Madison Steward, who grew up around sharks on
Australia’s Great Barrier Reef and is as fearless as they come
around the sharp-toothed creatures. See second video on this
“Sharks are misunderstood like no other creature, to the point
where it is actually contributing to their slaughter,” Madison told
Gerri Miller of
Mother Nature Network. “I think it has a lot to do with media,
but also that people cannot go and see them for themselves and
learn the truth.
“Sharks are NOT what you think,” she continued, “and myself and
many other people spend hours in the water with large sharks and
feed them at ease on regular occasions. They are the apex
predators, and nature doesn’t make animals like this for no reason.
They are essential in our oceans. In previous years, the decimation
of the shark population has caused the surrounding ecosystem to
collapse. They are truly the ‘boss’ of our oceans.”
The third video is something of a personal manifesto from
Madison Stewart, spoken in a voice-over as she swims in an
awe-inspiring underwater world with ethereal music playing in the
The U.S. Postal Service today released an image of the “pane” of
National Park stamps that will become available for purchase on
June 2. (Click image below to enlarge.) People may mistakenly call
this group of stamps a “sheet,” but a sheet is actually much larger
— usually nine panes as they come off a printing press.
Four of the images on the 16 National Park stamps were provided
by the National Park Service. They are the oil-on-canvas painting
“Scenery in the Grand Tetons” by Albert Bierstadt (first row,
second from right); the chromolithograph-on-canvas “Grand Canyon of
Arizona from Hermit Rim Road” by Thomas Moran (second row, far
left); the three-masted, steel-hulled, square-rigged ship
Balclutha, which can be seen at San Francisco Maritime National
Historical Park (third row, far left); and the pastel-on-paper
“Administration Building, Frijoles Canyon” by Helmuth Naumer Sr.
(fourth row, far left).
Images on the other stamps are the work of independent
photographers, and the center of the pane comes from a 1-cent stamp
of Yosemite National Park issued in 1934.
To celebrate the National Park Service’s 100th anniversary, the
U.S. Postal Service has commissioned 16 new Forever stamps with
scenes from 16 different national parks.
The first-day issue ceremony will take place June 2 in New York
City as part of the World Stamp
Show NY-2016, an international event for stamp collectors held
once every 10 years. Related events are planned in or near the
national parks depicted on the stamps.
“These stamps celebrate the 100th anniversary of the National
Parks and depict the beauty and diversity of these national
treasures,” Postmaster General Megan J. Brennan said in a news
release. “They serve as an inspiration for Americans to visit,
learn and to write cherished memories of their trips to these
Jonathan B. Jarvis, director of the National Park Service,
added, “This set of stamps will take people on a journey to some of
the most amazing places in the world. We are thrilled that the 16
national park stamps issued in ’16 for the centennial depict the
variety of parks that collectively tell the story of our
The star-trail photo of Mount Rainier, the first stamp on this
page, was taken by Matt Dieterich of Pittsburgh, Penn., who worked
as an intern in the National Park Service’s
“This night was one I will never forget,” said Dieterich, quoted
in a news
release. “After working with visitors at the Mount Rainier
astronomy program on June 22, 2015, I noticed there was an aurora,
so I drove down to Reflection Lake to capture it. The location was
perfect as it contained a view of Mount Rainier and water for
“To create this star trails image, I took 200 photos in a
two-hour window between 2 a.m. and 4 a.m. with my Nikon D750 and
24mm lens set at F/1.4 and ISO 5000. Since the Earth is rotating,
each 8-sec. exposure shows stars at slightly different locations.
When the photos are combined into one image, the stars create a
circular pattern around the North Star, which is just out of view
at the top of the image.
“The pink aurora spread throughout the background sky.
Mountaineers can be seen with their white headlamps climbing Mount
Rainier on the right side of the volcano.”
The photo of Glacier Bay was taken by Tom Bean of Flagstaff,
Ariz. Glacier Bay National Park encompasses 3.3 million acres of
mountains, glaciers and coastlines in Alaska.
To see the full set of stamps, go to the National Park Service
page for Centennial
Stamps. The following list will take you to a description of
each stamp by the Postal Service. For a better image of the stamp,
click on “PDF” in the upper right corner of the page below the
The Dubai Fountain, located on the 30-acre Burj Lake in downtown
Dubai, is the largest choreographed fountain system in the
The amazing fountains combine music with the varying motion of
water and lights to create a three-dimensional moving sculpture.
The Dubai Fountain was created by WET Design, a
California-based company that dreamed up the Bellagio fountains in
The video above was shot with five high-definition cameras from
various angles. Be sure to watch it in full screen.
Some of the water jets in the Dubai Fountain can shoot water up
to 450 feet in the air, which is the height of a 45-story building,
according to a website
sponsored by the nearby Dubai Mall in the United Arab Emirates.
Two central arcs and five circles of varying sizes span out 900
feet. Up to 22,000 gallons of water can hang in the air at any
The fountain, completed in 2010, was said to cost $217 million,
according to various
The fountains perform twice each afternoon with evening shows
every half hour. Music ranges from contemporary Arabic to classical
to pop music.
One could look at these fountains as an exercise in
extravagance, like just about everything in Dubai, but I think I
would really enjoy seeing this massive water feature in action.