Sunday, October 31, 2010

Take a look at these extraordinary images!

Its so wonderful to be sent material that's ideal the 'homage to the seed' blog. These came from a lovely friend Terri who thought I'd like to see these images from an International Photomicrography competition. Found at its well worth a look at the entire collection of photographs!
Thank you Terri!

NB....the images I chose are mostly botany-related ... with several exceptions. Two are from the ocean and one I posted out of pure whimsy! You''ll see what I mean.

Small Worlds

The Nikon International Small World Photomicrography Competition recently announced its list of winners for 2010. The competition began in 1974 as a means to recognize and applaud the efforts of those involved with photography through the light microscope. Peering into the small worlds of animal, plants and minerals using many techniques and different instruments, this year's entries brought us images of crystalline formations, fluorescent body parts, cellular structures and more, valuable for both their beauty and insight. The lovely folks at Nikon were kind enough to share some of their images here with us, be sure to click the link above to see all the winners. (29 photos total)

This 5th Place image of a Strelitzia reginae (bird of paradise) seed magnified 10 times comes from Viktor Sykora of the Institute of Pathophysiology, First Medical Faculty, Charles University in Prague, Czech Republic. This image was made with a stereomicroscopy technique called darkfield illumination. (Courtesy of Nikon Small World) #

Magnified 100 times, a Mirabilis jalapa (four o'clock flower) stigma with pollen attached is seen. This 16th place image was made with epifluorescence and 3D reconstruction by Dr. Robert Markus Institute of Genetics, Biological Research Center of the Hungarian Academy of Sciences in Szeged, Hungary. (Courtesy of Nikon Small World) #

A radiolarian, a type of zooplankton, is seen magnified 250x in this image made by Raymond Sloss of the Northamptonshire Natural History Society in Northampton, UK. (Courtesy of Nikon Small World) #

This brightfield image shows part of the structure of living specimen of Martensia sp. (red seaweed), viewed at 40x magnification. This 6th Place image was made by Dr. John Huisman of Murdoch University, School of Biological Sciences and Biotechnology in Murdoch, Australia. (Courtesy of Nikon Small World) #

Patterns of light are seen in soap film, magnified 150 times in this 18th place image by Gerd Guenther from Dusseldorf, Germany. (Courtesy of Nikon Small World) #

A Bryozoa, a tiny aquatic filter-feeder is seen at 20x magnification. Image made by Jocelyn Cheng of the Rochester Institute of Technology in Rochester, New York. (Courtesy of Nikon Small World) #

Magnified 40 times, this is a view of a bee's abdomen with grains of pollen attached. Image made by Dr. Robert Markus of the Institute of Genetics, Biological Research Center of the Hungarian Academy of Sciences in Szeged, Hungary. (Courtesy of Nikon Small World) #

A single egg from a Hemiargus isola (Reakirt's blue butterfly) rests on Mimosa strigillosa (pink powderpuff) buds, viewed at 6x magnification. Image made by David Millard from Austin, Texas. (Courtesy of Nikon Small World) #

Biodiversity talks end with call for ‘urgent’ action

Optimum population trust news watch

The UN biodiversity meeting in Japan has agreed a 10-year plan aimed at preserving nature. Targets for protecting areas of land and sea were weaker than conservation scientists wanted, as was the overall target for slowing biodiversity loss. Most developing countries were pleased with measures aimed at ensuring they get a share in profits from products made from plants and other organisms. Nations have two years to draw up plans for funding the plan.
“This agreement reaffirms the fundamental need to conserve nature as the very foundation of our economy and our society,” said Jim Leape, director-general of WWF International. “Governments have sent a strong message that protecting the health of the planet has a place in international politics, and countries are ready to join forces to save life on Earth.”
The meeting settled on targets of protecting 17% of the world’s land surface, and 10% of the oceans, by 2020. These are regarded as too small by many conservation scientists, who point out that about 13% of the land is already protected - while the existing target for oceans is already 10%.
Many poorer countries say they do not have the resources to implement such targets. “The forest and the other biological resources we have serve the general interests of the global environment,” said Johansen Voker from Liberia’s Environmental Protection Agency. “So we expect assistance to be able to effectively conserve our environment for the common good of the world community.”
Developed nations agreed to establish mechanisms for raising finance to help them - which could amount to hundreds of billions of dollars per year by 2020. They are required to have a plan to raise such sums in place by 2012, when Brazil will host the second Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro.
This event was also reported (see below) at Short, Sharp Science, a blog form New Scientist worth a look! Click on new scientist link above!
Sujata Gupta, reporter
In the wee hours of Friday morning, delegates attending the United Nations Convention on Biodiversity in Nagoya, Japan, reached an ambitious agreement to save the world's ecosystems.
Representing almost 200 countries, the delegates pledged to protect 17 per cent of land and inland waters and 10 per cent of the oceans by 2020. Today, 13 per cent of land is protected but only 1 per cent of the oceans.
Those conservation measures fell under a 20-point plan calling for, among other things, habitat conservation, reductions in pollution and an end to "perverse subsidies" for environmentally destructive practices.
Until Friday morning, though, one point in particular threatened to derail the entire plan: the equitable sharing of biological resources between rich and poor countries.
 This interview (below) with UN goodwill ambassador for Biodiversity Edward Norton was also found at New Scientist :

Edward Norton: What's the first rule of Peace Club?

Explaining why biodiversity matters (Image: Sipa Press/Rex Features)
Explaining why biodiversity matters (Image: Sipa Press/Rex Features)
The Hollywood actor, long an active conservationist and fundraiser, is a United Nations goodwill ambassador on biodiversity
You became a United Nations goodwill ambassador for biodiversity in July – how did you become interested in biodiversity and conservation?
I have been interested in these issues all my life, largely because my father worked professionally in the conservation movement for most of my growing up – he was the head of public policy for the Wilderness Society [a US conservation organisation]. He founded the Grand Canyon Trust and was one of the founders of the Rails to Trails Conservancy [which works to convert disused railway routes to walking and cycling trails]. Later he initiated the [US-based] Nature Conservancy's China country programme.
So I have always been steeped in these issues through his work. And with my brother and sister, my dad was always taking us on adventures to wild places, to places of beauty, hiking, scuba diving and river rafting. He always immersed us in the intellectual and emotional values of conservation.
What does being goodwill ambassador mean to you personally?
It's a compliment to be asked, but mostly I think of it as an opportunity to engage in another way. The fact that the issue of biodiversity loss is probably less front-and-centre than, say, climate change – even though they are interrelated – made me feel there was an opportunity to assist in highlighting it.
The UN has said we have reached a crisis point with biodiversity, and you have talked about getting the message out to "street level" and that biodiversity is not just an abstract concept for an "environmental elite": how can we change this?
If you are going to look for an opportunity in a terrible circumstance like the Gulf oil spill, one thing that it illuminates is the way that ecosystem collapse and biodiversity loss has a direct negative impact on our lives. We can talk about loss of species but people don't necessarily have the context to understand that; they don't necessarily feel the connection.
Events like the oil spill can help people at least have a clearer understanding of the way biodiversity connects to our daily lives. We have to acknowledge that taking certain actions and making changes to confront an issue sometimes means the political sphere has to be engaged. It's unfortunate but true that sometimes negative consequences can drive change. Of course we all want to highlight positive stories, but highlighting negative impacts has an important role too.
You mean like highlighting the ecosystem effects of an event like the Gulf oil spill?
The spill is making that pretty apparent on its own! I like to highlight other lines of connection people might not have thought of, such as the role bees and butterflies and other pollinators play in most of our food crops. There's no synthetic or industrial way to pollinate all the plants we rely on. If you illuminate or articulate some of these connections it can help people get beyond a view of animals having only an emotional value.
The biodiversity meeting in Nagoya, Japan, is on right now: you've spoken out about the US being one of the few countries not to sign up to the Convention on Biological Diversity. What difference would it make if the US signed?
The US can't have its cake and eat it too. You can't assert that your leadership and example are meaningful on some issues and not on others.
When the US won't participate it sends a message to the rest of the world that the whole thing is gestural and not really meaningful. I think the US's formal participation would and will help authenticate the commitments and make them more substantive. The situation is not dissimilar to the impacts many people observed resulting from the US failing to sign the Kyoto protocol.
You're on the board for the Maasai Wilderness Conservation Trust, and president of its US branch. Can you tell me a bit about your own environmental and conservation interests?
I have been involved with different organisations for years as a financial supporter or on their boards. But I started to feel that in some places large non-governmental organisations are not effective in bringing their resources to bear unless there are strong local conservation partners. Local advocacy and local implementation is a component in this issue.
So I started working with the Maasai Wilderness Conservation Trust, which works with a specific Maasai community in the Chyulu hills in southern Kenya. That's where Ernest Hemingway wrote the Green Hills of Africa and The Snows of Kilimanjaro. We work with a Maasai community that owns vast tracts of wilderness between three national parks – nearly 2 million acres [800,000 hectares] of land. Even when you set up national parks, animals migrate: the health of the watersheds outside these parks is vital to life in them. It's all interconnected. An ecosystem doesn't recognise the boundaries of a park. So a lot of the health of this particular ecosystem relies on the way the Maasai use their natural resources.
The Maasai Wilderness Conservation Trust's core mission is to partner with the Maasai and to figure out many different ways they can create sustainable economic benefits by managing their land wisely. For example, the development of ecotourism, or getting lease payments for setting aside certain zones as conservancy.
You've recently set up your own social networking website for fundraising, Crowdrise. Tell me about that?
Whether you are running the London Marathon for a charity or you just want to ask people in your life to support a cause you care about, Crowdrise gives you tools to do that effectively. It's also meant to be fun.
Crowdrise has a virtual points system, like frequent-flyer miles. When people see what you are doing and they like it, they can award you points, which are redeemable against products. It sets up competitive fun.
UN secretary general Ban Ki-moon said he hoped you'd move the world from Fight Club to Peace Club when he appointed you as goodwill ambassador: what's the first rule of Peace Club?
[Laughs] I think Crowdrise's slogan is a good one. Which is: 
"If you don't give back, no one will like you."

more images from the studio...

Its been a very busy time of late and when I posted last week I left a note saying that there might not be much happening here for a bit. Tonight I found some photos I'd wanted to add to this blog... so I'm popping in briefly to post them . There are more to come.... soon!

Please email if you wish to get in touch... comments all come through my email as well... so it's very simple to make the connection. Also my website has a contact page.

in the studio recently after a collecting expedition in the gardens

tiny works from a month ago - seeds from Western Australia

iron oxide on muslin on board with seeds

seeds and pods waiting to be drawn

The amazing ball of fluff is a species that hails from africa. The pods were bursting open on the tree and the balls of what was rather like fairy floss were floating and landing nearby.  It was quite a sight... very itchy though! The rest are from Australia. NB the bowl has seeds woven around the edge... and contains quandong seeds. the studio... I keep all kinds of seeds in the cabinet on the left!

the wall hanging on the left was given to me by textile artist Nicki Laws who uses natural dyes made from botanical
material from around her property on the Darling Downs.

working with iron oxide pigment

Thursday, October 21, 2010


things are 
really, really 
round here 
for a while
I'm not far away
I will be back!

... I might not be
posting at either 
 blog in the next while ...
you can contact me by email
if you wish and I
will be back with things to 
post at a later date.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

its never too late for the Homage to the Seed Mail Art show ...

all the way from Canada

Montreal in fact....

Trillium sp?
This package of 4 excellent photographs mounted on high quality water colour postcards arrived in the mail and I was given them today when I spent the day at the Botanic gardens where this Mail Art show was held.

I am so utterly delighted to receive them as I am hoping to show all the Mail Art cards again before the year is out. These will be proudly archived for future showings. Do please visit   Nathalie   if you wish to see her wonderful photography. She paints as well and is  Graphic designer who's work has crossed into science publications, various genres, public issues and such.
Over the past year I have very much enjoyed visiting her blog to see the wonderful shots from her daily life in and around Montreal and beyond.

Asclepias syriaca

Achillea millefolium

NB I do apologise for not managing to scan these images and instead photographing them with a less than wonderful camera to post here!!

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

a field of sunflower seeds...

Thanks to Priya of the lovely weblog The Plum Tree I am able to share this story from The Tate Modern's Turbine hall in London. She'd found an article published in London today about this extraordinary art show just opening.

this is one of Priya's wonderful seed pod drawings from her blog found here.

The story involves eminent Chinese artist Ai Weiwei pictured below...

ai weiwei sunflower seeds turbine hall
artist Ai Weiwei with his sunflower seeds

You will find a series of articles here on this artist at the UK's Guardian website which cover this artist's story over time - particularly the personal cost to him of speaking out about the Government of his country..

Read here:  

Ai Weiwei: 'I have to speak for people who are afraid'

This autumn, Ai Weiwei, China's most outspoken artist, will take over Tate Modern's Turbine Hall. He talks about how his art and politics are indistinguishable

NB click above on title to see more images.

 Turbine Hall update: A close-up photograph of some of the seeds
A close-up photograph of some of the seeds, each kiln-fired twice: once before being hand-painted, once again after. Each is unique

 Turbine Hall: Ai Weiwei
Ai Weiwei poses with a handful of seeds at a press view

 Turbine Hall: Aerial view of the 'Sunflower Seeds' in Turbine Hall
Sunflower seeds are an omnipresent Chinese snack, but also were a common food during the harsh years of the Cultural Revolution. Some may also think of sweatshop-powered globalisation
 Turbine Hall: 'Sunflower Seeds' at The Tate Modern
Tate Modern staff  lay out the seeds

'You can trudge over them, walk or skip or dance on these seeds, all of them Made in China. Or scoop up handfuls and let them run through your fingers, in the knowledge that someone, an old lady or a small-town teenager in Jingdezhen, has delicately picked up each one and anointed it with a small brush. Every seed is painted by hand. The town that once made porcelain for the imperial court has been saved from bankruptcy by making sunflower seeds.' 

Many thanks to Priya for sending this story to me at the Homage to the Seed blog!

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