KAYAPO COURAGE: “The Amazon tribe has beaten back ranchers and gold miners and famously stopped a dam. Now its leaders must fight again or risk losing a way of life.” ~ Chip Brown. photography by Martin Schoeller - full story & gallery via National Geographic (January 2014)
“YNHIRE expresses his identity as a warrior with a headdress of parrot feathers.”
“BEPRO wears the beads and cotton-wrapped earrings that boys receive as part of their naming ceremony.”
“ROPNI, an internationally known chief, is one of the few Kayapo who still wear the mahogany lip plate.”
“PHNH-OTI has an inverted V shaved into her scalp, a ceremonial female practice.”
“BEPRAN-TI wears an impressive display of feathers for his betrothal ceremony, a Kayapo rite of passage.”
“MEKARON-TI, the great chief, speaks Portuguese and is a powerful advocate for his people.”
From Microscopic to Multicellular: Six Stories of Life that We See from Space
Life. It’s the one thing that, so far, makes Earth unique among the thousands of other planets we’ve discovered. Since the fall of 1997, NASA satellites have continuously and globally observed all plant life at the surface of the land and ocean. During the week of Nov. 13-17, we are sharing stories and videos about how this view of life from space is furthering knowledge of our home planet and the search for life on other worlds.
Earth is the only planet with life, as far as we know. From bacteria in the crevices of the deepest oceans to monkeys swinging between trees, Earth hosts life in all different sizes, shapes and colors. Scientists often study Earth from the ground, but some also look to our satellites to understand how life waxes and wanes on our planet.
Over the years, scientists have used this aerial view to study changes in animal habitats, track disease outbreaks, monitor forests and even help discover a new species. While this list is far from comprehensive, these visual stories of bacteria, plants, land animals, sea creatures and birds show what a view from space can reveal.
1. Monitoring the single-celled powerhouses of the sea
Known as the grass of the ocean, phytoplankton are one of the most abundant types of life in the ocean. Usually single-celled, these plant-like organisms are the base of the marine food chain. They are also responsible for the only long-term transfer of carbon dioxide from Earth’s atmosphere to the ocean.
Even small changes in phytoplankton populations can affect carbon dioxide concentrations in the atmosphere, which could ultimately affect Earth’s global surface temperatures. Scientists have been observing global phytoplankton populations continuously since 1997 starting with the Sea-Viewing Wide Field-of View Sensor (SeaWiFS). They continue to study the small life-forms by satellite, ships and aircrafts.
2. Predicting cholera bacteria outbreaks
Found on the surface of zooplankton and in contaminated water, the bacteria that cause the infectious disease cholera — Vibrio cholerae — affect millions of people every year with severe diarrhea, sometimes leading to death. While our satellite sensors can’t detect the actual bacteria, scientists use various satellite data to look for the environmental conditions that the bacteria thrive in.
Specifically, microbiologist Rita Colwell at the University of Maryland, College Park, and West Virginia University hydrologist Antar Jutla studied data showing air and ocean temperature, salinity, precipitation, and chlorophyllconcentrations, the latter a marker for zooplankton. Anticipating where the bacteria will bloom helps researchers to mitigate outbreaks.
Recently, Colwell and Jutla have been able to estimate cholera risk after major events, such as severe storms, by looking at satellite precipitation data, air temperature, and population maps. The two maps above show the team’s predicted cholera risk in Haiti two weeks after Hurricane Matthew hit over October 1-2, 2016 and the actual reported cholera cases in October 2016.
3. Viewing life on land
From helping preserve forests for chimpanzees to predicting deer population patterns, scientists use our satellites to study wildlife across the world. Satellites can also see the impacts of perhaps the most relatable animal to us: humans. Every day, we impact our planet in many ways including driving cars, constructing buildings and farming – all of which we can see with satellites.
Our Black Marble image provides a unique view of human activity. Looking at trends in our lights at night, scientists can study how cities develop over time, how lighting and activity changes during certain seasons and holidays, and even aid emergency responders during power outages caused by natural disasters.
4. Tracking bird populations
Scientists use our satellite data to study birds in a variety of ways, from understanding their migratory patterns, to spotting potential nests, to tracking populations. In a rather creative application, scientists used satellite imagery to track Antarctica’s emperor penguin populations by looking for their guano – or excrement.
Counting emperor penguins from the ground perspective is challenging because they breed in some of the most remote and cold places in the world, and in colonies too large to easily count manually. With their black and white coats, emperor penguins are also difficult to count from an aerial view as they sometimes blend in with shadows on the ice. Instead, Phil Trathan and his colleagues at the British Antarctic Survey looked through Landsat imagery for brown stains on the sea ice. By looking for penguin droppings, Trathan said his team identified 54 emperor penguin colonies along the Antarctic coast.
5. Parsing out plant life
Just as we see plants grow and wilt on the ground, satellites observe the changes from space. Flourishing vegetation can indicate a lively ecosystem while changes in greenery can sometimes reveal natural disasters, droughts or even agricultural practices. While satellites can observe plant life in our backyards, scientists can also use them to provide a global picture.
Using data from satellites including SeaWiFS, and instruments including the NASA/NOAA Visible Infrared Imaging Radiometer Suite and the Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer, scientists have the most complete view of global biology to date, covering all of the plant life on land and at the surface of the ocean.
They may look like rocks or plants on the seafloor, but corals are very much living animals. Receiving sustenance from photosynthetic plankton living within their calcium carbonate structures, coral reefs provide food and shelter for many kinds of marine life, protect shorelines from storms and waves, serve as a source for potential medicines, and operate as some of the most diverse ecosystems on the planet.
However, coral reefs are vulnerable to the warming of the ocean and human activity. Our satellites measure the surface temperature of ocean waters. These measurements have revealed rising water temperatures surrounding coral reef systems around the world, which causes a phenomenon known as “coral bleaching.” To add to the satellite data, scientists use measurements gathered by scuba divers as well as instruments flown on planes.
During the week of Nov. 13-17, check out our stories and videos about how this view of life from space is furthering knowledge of our home planet and the search for life on other worlds. Follow at www.nasa.gov/Earth.
I used to believe
I had been preserved by something.
Now I think I am
the preserving spirit—with my leafy fragrance, sound of wings
in the canopy, blood
draining swiftly from the head
as I look up, neither host nor guest. Exile
speaking for one reason only,
and the reason is love.
Kathy Fagan, from “Forest,” Blackbird (vol. 16, no. 1, Spring 2017)
These ants are part of a ‘protest’ calling for better protection of the Amazon Rainforest in Cologne Zoo in Germany. Almost 500,000 ants were recruited by the World Wildlife Fund to carry signs saying ‘Help,’ ‘Merkel Help,’ ’Stand Up,’ and ‘Save the Amazon’ around a huge tank. Although the protest is human made it is also a valid statement from the ants themselves. Many ants make their homes in the Amazon and without protection they may find themselves in trouble soon.
The natural beauty of Petrified Forest National Park in Arizona is undeniable.The colorful landscape, open skies and unique formations make for excellent hiking and photography. But that beauty is all a bonus on top of the important scientific mission of the park. The fossil record at the Petrified Forest preserves everything from fossil pollen to some of the earliest dinosaurs, and allows for the reconstruction of several ancient environments through time. Photo by Hallie Larsen, National Park Service.
My prom is taking place across from a giant forest preserve. I’m going to meet Scrappy there, in the middle of the night, with me all decked out in makeup and a fancy dress, and kick his ass with a pack of coyotes that I’ve become the leader of. I’ll leave him bleeding in the woods and then storm the prom with my coyotes. It’ll be great.
you bite off a piece of golden thread and weave the strand through the pieces of your heart with a needle - to hold yourself together. then you listen to sad and angry and beautiful music (hozier and classic rock and soft indie can do wonders) and you write about everything that makes the world stop and also what starts it spinning again. you get coffee with your best friends. you call your mom or dad or brother or grandma and ask them how their day’s been. you go on a hike and paint (badly) and bike to a forest preserve where you take a nap for an hour and don’t care about how dirty you get from lying on the ground because you are one with the earth. and one by one, those fractures will seal themselves shut but you will always have a scar (but that’s okay - like with a broken leg, you can learn to dance with a limp and to use it to sense when rain is coming.)