I was reading this article on CNN, and was amazed at the ending quote by Stefano Schiaparelli, a mollusk specialist at Italy’s National Antarctic Museum in Genoa. I realized that mollusk researchers are not always the most loquacious, but really, a new brick? That’s the most painful thing I’ve heard in awhile.
Anyway, the article on the International Polar Year (IPY) was fascinating. Apparently the whole thing is part of a massive study being done in Antarctica and environs this year by many countries in a variety of areas. The goal of the study is to track possible negative environmental impacts on the Antarctic caused by pollution. I am perfectly content with this type of study. However, I’m a little unclear as to why the studies could not be done for the purpose of simply expanding scientific knowledge. Is there simply more funding available for environmental concerns after the whole Nobel Prize hoopla? Is it a fad? What’s the real motivation here, and will it skew the research that is done?
To find out a little more, I wikipediaed the study, the International Polar Year program. But there was really very little information about what was going on, what specific research targets were for this particular IPY (2007-2009), and who was carrying out various studies. However, it did make clear that the IPY would focus on both polar regions, not just the Antarctic. The website gave more information: 200 projects, 60 nations; physical, biological, and social research topics, an extreme outflow of information and studies. Four ‘urgencies’ were identified as key to the IPY: changing snow and ice, global linkages, neighbors in the north, and discovery. So it seems that environmental change is the basis for the first two, people are the third, and scientific knowledge expansion is dead last. I was gratified to see from the framework documents, however, that some anthropological study of the polar regions was also to be included. The framework document, if you’re interested in a little more background, is here.
Lastly, the original article did have some other fun things to say – mainly, giant fields of sea lilies. Ahh. Sea lilies. That sounds beautiful. SO I checked them out. Maybe not so beautiful. You decide. Anyway, I think the name ‘feather-star’ is less misleading. And crinoid, the name from your fossily childhood, says very little about beauty. But still – a whole field of them, stretching for miles, waving their little feeder arms gently, wiggly-woggly. They can have such a wide range of color and variation too, they are almost like a flower. Almost.