Archive for July, 2011

Looking to Nature For Material Inspiration

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JOE PALCA, host: If you look at the material chalk and a precious pearl, chemically they’re pretty similar, but one is soft and the other is hard. One is cheap and the other gets made into jewelry. The difference is in the way the materials are structured, and in this – and in the case of the pearl, the way that the materials are assembled by a living organism building up the pearl layer by layer in just the right way. Or consider the way that tiny organism called diatoms can build complicated shells of glass and do it not with molten glass factory – in a factory clean room but in ocean water at regular temperatures.

What does nature know about building stuff that we don’t? Well, quite a bit. And can we learn their secrets? Well, I think my next guest thinks maybe we can. She’s Angela Belcher, the W.M. Keck Professor of Energy in the Department of Materials Science and Engineering and in the Department of Bioengineering at MIT, and her lab studies ways to use some of those natural tricks to build things humans want, like batteries or solar cells. She joins me from a studio on the MIT campus. Thanks for joining us today.

ANGELA BELCHER: Thank you for having me.

PALCA: So what got you started in this field?

BELCHER: Well, that was a great introduction. I did my Ph.D. on how abalones grow shells, and I was fascinated by the really exquisite structure of the abalone shell. As you mentioned, it’s made out of chalk, and we’re all familiar with chalk, and many of us are probably familiar with abalone shells. Well, if you take that shell structure and you look at it under high magnification, you basically fracture it, and you look at it, what you find is it’s made up of plates of calcium carbonate, plates of chalk that are structured in a way that’s quite a bit different than the way that chalk looks.

And if you look even closer, you find out, well, it’s not all inorganic material. It’s – there’s a biological component to it that the organism, the abalone, makes this mostly inorganic material but has about 2 percent by weight of protein. And this protein actually has a huge impact on this material. It has impact on the way this material looks, the beautiful lustrous structure of pearls or abalone shells, but it also has a big impact on the structure itself. It makes it a tough structure, and the mineral structure, the way the atoms are actually arranged in the structure of this material are quite a bit – can be quite a bit different than chalk. It can use one form or another. And, to me, that was really fascinating.

PALCA: We’re talking with Angela Belcher about using natural organisms to make incredible things. You can join us at 800-989-TALK. That’s 800-989-8255. I’m Joe Palca, and this is SCIENCE FRIDAY from NPR.

So what – I mean, OK, so you study these things, and you look – you described looking at them under the microscope. So now, you’ve got – the skill you need is a microscopy skill. You talked about putting down layers. You need a materials science skill. You need a chemical skill. How – what do you bring to the table if you want to study these organisms?

BELCHER: Well, you know, people have actually understood the structure of pearls and shells for quite a while, and it’s this combination of biology plus materials and biology plus the inorganic component that make it so valuable. And it’s – you can look at the shell and – like you said, you can look at it under the microscope but after the process has already taken place. What’s really interesting is actually the dynamic process: how the organism makes the calcium carbon there, how it makes the material because the organism has cells.

And these cells are pumping out proteins, and these proteins actually can grab on to ions and solutions, so ions in the ocean, and put them together basically in layers of ions in groups of – groups of ions and atoms. So they build up a structure exactly the way that they need the structure to be, the way that it’s actually the strongest and toughest structure so it can withstand things in the environment like otters and other kinds of things that would happen in this environment.

But the thing that’s interesting is that it has a DNA sequence. The abalone has a DNA sequence that codes for the ability to string amino acids together in the right order so that it can efficiently and effectively grab what it needs from its environment and starting to build it up atom by atom by atom. And by doing so produces this structure that has a lot of interesting materials. So, to me as a material scientist and as a biological engineer, you think, you know, what a great system.

The organism took what’s in its environment and built up a higher value structure. That structure is something very useful. And so you can look at it in an electron microscope under high magnification and look at the structure. But then, you can also say, well, you know, how did it make those proteins? How did it secrete those proteins, and why are they specific to be able to grow this particular kind of mineral? And then, you can look back even further and say, well, you know, they have this DNA sequence.

They have this sequence encoded in the genome that says this is how to build a great shell. This is how to build it. And so, for me, I look at that and I say, OK, if an organism can build a shell, what if we could get simpler organisms to build other things that are more useful to us. If we have a DNA sequence that codes for a protein sequence to start building materials that could be an electronic material or could be a material that is an interesting catalyst for other kinds of chemical reactions. Or what if you had a – you could build a solar cell.

PALCA: Angela Belcher, you’re going to have to give us all the various things that you are now working on to make, but we’re going to have to wait and do that after the break. We’re talking with Angela Belcher. She’s a professor of energy in the Department of Materials Science at MIT, and her lab studies ways to use some natural tricks to make some interesting things. We’ll be right back.



This is SCIENCE FRIDAY. I’m Joe Palca. We’re talking this hour about making materials inspired by nature. I’m talking with Angela Belcher. She’s the W.M. Keck Professor of Energy in the Department of Materials Science and Engineering and in the Department of Bioengineering at MIT.

And, Angela Belcher, you were just about to enumerate some of – I mean, assuming that making a better abalone shell is only one of your goals, what else you might be able to get these organisms to do that would be of interest to us?

BELCHER: Well, that’s a great point. So we look at abalone shells, and you say, well, abalone have done a fantastic job of making these kinds of structures that I’m personally not interested in building on those structures. And abalones had about 50 million years to get good at making abalone shells, and so they have a really good head start. What we started thinking about was, well, what if – so there’s only a couple of elements in the ocean that organisms have started building hard materials out of.

And as mentioned before, calcium carbonate or calcium phosphate, like our bones. There’s some iron structures, iron oxide. And as was mentioned earlier, diatoms made out of silica. What we decided to do was what if organisms could work with a much larger part of the periodic table? What if we could give them most of the periodic table to work with? And if we could find a DNA sequence that coded for a protein sequence that could grab onto those atoms or those elements and start building them up into useful structures, what would we want to make, and how could biology facilitate that?

And so that’s what we’ve been doing pretty much the last five or six years, is trying to make useful devices and useful materials that can have an impact on society. And we’ve looked at materials for batteries, for energy storage. Can you find a biological sequence that can assemble batteries to make good batteries that are made from environmentally-friendly materials that can be made with solution-based processing and assemble themselves? We’ve…

PALCA: No, go ahead.


BELCHER: We’ve been doing the same thing with solar cells. And we had a paper out this year on trying to increase and being able to increase the efficiency of a particular kind of solar cell by using a virus – that’s a simple virus, that’s a bacterial virus that has no effect on humans – giving it the ability to grab onto carbon nanotubes and at the same time to be able to build titania, to build – to incorporate into already existing solar cells. So those are two examples that we’ve been working on.

PALCA: Well, let’s take a call now and go to Benjamin. Benjamin, you’re on the air. Benjamin from Girard, Illinois, welcome to SCIENCE FRIDAY. You’re on the air.

BENJAMIN: Thank you very much. Thank you for having such a fascinating topic today. I wanted to ask Angela if – in her work, if she’s seen an overlap in the legacy and work that Buckminster Fuller had done in his creation of, like, the geodesic dome, and if she also saw any overlap in her field into like sacred geometry or the golden mean or the number phi, which seems to be recurrent in all these natural structures.

PALCA: OK, Girard(ph), thanks for that. What about that idea?

BELCHER: Well, in terms of the interesting architecture, that’s one of the things that we’ve focused on. And we’ve used materials, carbon-based materials like Buckyballs or carbon nanotubes which have – we didn’t look at them as much for the geometry but because of their really fantastic electronic properties. We’ve been working with getting organisms to pick them up and organize them into units that are actually useful for us. And that’s one of the things that we’ve done with our solar cells.

So, you know, if you look at patterns in biology, I think you’ll see a lot of really interesting geometric patterns which go to make materials that are functional. And so I agree with that 100 percent.

I don’t know – I don’t really know much about the numbers that you were talking about exactly, but I do know that we really care about numbers of atoms in structures. We’re interested in materials that conform with only a small cluster of atoms in a really defined location and defined space to form materials that could subsume in the larger structures.

So this is interesting to us because we work on nanostructure materials and small nanostructure materials. And by controlling which atoms are on the surface or in which layers, it really changes the properties of a material. It can make a material a better catalyst. It could make a material – one particular kind of semiconductor versus another to have very useful properties. So I definitely see a correlation and an overlap in that. We think of it from the collection and putting atoms together in a very specific way to try to get a particular kind of function we want out.

PALCA: But I’m curious now, do you – when you’re getting these organisms to do their interesting things, are you changing what they have to feed on? Or are you trying to change them as well?

BELCHER: We’re actually trying to change them. So we mostly use a virus. It’s a bacteria virus called M13 bacteriophage, which is a virus that…

PALCA: A very catchy name.

BELCHER: It’s a virus that infects just bacteria. And it’s – have single-stranded DNA, and it’s surrounded by proteins that its DNA codes for. And what we do is we go into its DNA sequence and we use, basically, enzymes, molecular enzymes, and we cut up the DNA and we replace it with a random DNA sequence. And using modern molecular biology, a technique – this is pretty straightforward to do. And you can basically create a library. If you do that a billion times, you go in and take a DNA sequence and put in a small random DNA sequence in – but do that a billion different times, what you can do is get these viruses all genetically identical, but they differ from each other based on a small DNA sequence, which corresponds to a small peptide or a small protein sequence.

And now, what you can do is you can have a billion different of these bacterial viruses and just a couple of drops of solution in the lab. And you take those billion possibilities, and we don’t know which one is going to be the best for a solar cell. We don’t know which one of those can be best for a battery. And we say, OK, let’s take all billion at once and let’s take a little pipette and let’s drop it onto some battery material and try to force it to interact with that material. The idea goes back to just like an abalone grabs calcium and carbonate as a solution and organizes them into a nice material. Let’s have the virus grab – if you’re doing, say, it’s iron phosphate, say, making a battery – grab the iron and phosphate and start using it and structuring it in a way that would be advantageous for us.

And so let’s take a billion possibilities. And maybe only 100 out of a billion will have any affinity for our battery, electrical material. So let’s get rid of the rest. Let’s take that 100 and let’s say, OK, now, let’s make it harder for it to interact. Let’s get down to 10, and eventually, let’s get down to one. So let’s get down to one sequence out of a billion that can grow a battery electrode or that can grow material for a solar cell. Why don’t we do a billion years – why do a billion experiments at a time? Because we don’t have millions of years of evolution to look for the sequence at work. So let’s try a billion experiments a time and start narrowing it down.

PALCA: It sounded a bit like evolution there, but it sounds like using it in a slightly different way. But let’s take a call now and go to Carl in Oshkosh, Wisconsin. Carl, you’re on the air with SCIENCE FRIDAY.

CARL: Yeah. Greetings. First off, I love SCIENCE FRIDAY. Second of all, I was curious with the idea of trying to manipulate the cells and bacteria or the vector – the organisms to try to latch onto other larger molecules, heavier metals and such like that. Is there a possibility of thought of trying to do that, maybe lock onto, like, nuclear waste, for instance, like in Nakashino(ph) power plant or various other things?


CARL: And I’m going to take my answer off the air.

PALCA: OK. Thanks, Carl. Go ahead, Angela.

BELCHER: Thanks for that question. And, you know, that’s a – people have been thinking about that more in the last couple of years, is can you use natural biological molecules to do things like latch on to molecules that you want to be able to sequester and be able to store and get rid of, like that example. And that’s something we’ve been really interested in. we’ve looked at it for trying to remove waste from water, for example, to try to pull it out into – to chelate it. And that’s actually an area that we’re getting more interested going into again because we’ve started developing new platforms where we think it could be – we could work on a larger scale of trying to remove materials or toxins from the environment. That’s a great question, thank you.

PALCA: I’ve read that you’ve also done some work about trying to take carbon dioxide out of the atmosphere.

BELCHER: That’s right. We do have a program on carbon capture and storage. And the idea came about again from how abalones can store carbon and calcium carbonate. And we have a project where we’ve been working on engineering organisms, including yeast, to try to pull CO2 out of a mock, waste from a power plant, and convert it into useful materials that you could use as building materials.

PALCA: So is this approach something that other scientists have jumped on board with? And are you a bit of an iconoclast in this area?

BELCHER: Well, I think that people have been interested in using biology to make materials for a while. And I think that the – I – the way that we do it has been repeated by other groups around the world successfully. And people have come up with their own different innovative ideas of doing it, maybe not just with bacteriophage, but maybe other kinds of viruses or with protein components by themselves or DNA. But they all take into account the idea that biology gives you beautiful structure. It gives you really nice chemical functionality and chemical handles that you can use to grab on to things and bring them together. It uses the idea of solution-based processing and self-assembly and clean manufacturing. So I’m pretty proud of what my group has done in terms of, you know, developing the technology and then using it to actually make real devices that you can hold in your hand. But there’s been a great increase in interest in it in the last couple of years.

PALCA: Care to predict when the first one will come on the market?

BELCHER: When the first…

PALCA: The first marketable device.

BELCHER: Yeah. So I was fortunate to be a founder of a company called Siluria Technologies that’s in San Francisco. And they’ve taken the – some of the biological technologies that we developed in the lab, some of the platform. And, you know, taken it into a startup company, which has just done a really fantastic job of combining the biological technologies that we developed with chemical combinatorial chemistry. So adding, basically, a way of adding lots of different elements and lots of different chemistries into the system. So it’s kind of taking the power of biology and the power of combinatorial chemistry and then combining that with rapid throughput screening to look for new materials, catalytic materials that can be used in the chemical industry and in the fuel industry.

And, you know, I hate to put a prediction on the time to commercialization, but I can tell you that they’re going very rapidly. And it’s the, you know, taking the different powerful techniques and combining it together in a very unique way that enable them to develop new catalysts for some pretty important chemical reactions, one of which is called the oxidative coupling of methane, which is taking a methane, which is just a carbon with single carbon and adding more carbons to it in a way that is much higher valued, to build materials up from methane into materials that could be specialty chemicals and plastics and even fuel.

PALCA: All right. Well, we’ll be watching for that. Thanks very much, Angela Belcher. She’s the W.M. Keck professor of energy in the Department of Material Science and Engineering and the Department of Bioengineering at MIT. This is SCIENCE FRIDAY and I’m Joe Palca.

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Nature’s expert witnesses: plants tell of environmental pollution

This practice of sampling and analyzing tissue from trees and other plants to determine the presence of contaminants in soil and groundwater holds promise because it gives engineers a quick, accurate and inexpensive way to measure the extent of environmental pollutants without having to dig into the ground.

Cover image of August 2011 issue of the journal Environmental Science Technology. Image by Rebecca Frisbee and Gavin Jewell/Missouri ST.

As Dr. Joel Burken, professor of civil and environmental engineering at Missouri University of Science and Technology, explains in the August cover article of the journal Environmental Science Technology, this new approach “is rapid, fast, inexpensive and causes little or no discernible damage to personal or ecological systems.”

Burken, an expert in the emerging field of “phytoforensics,” is the principal author of the journal’s August feature story, which describes how these new approaches are being used for monitoring contaminants. The August issue will be released on Monday, Aug. 1.

“The water and wood of a tree is partly a reflection of groundwater chemistry,” write Burken and his co-authors in the article, titled Phytoforensics, Dendrochemistry, and Phytoscreening: New Green Tools for Delineating Contaminants from Past and Present.

Because of this molecular makeup, researchers are using trees and other plants as “bioindicators” to map pollutants in the environment, write Burken and his co-authors, Dr. Don Vroblesky, a research scientist with the U.S. Geological Survey Water Science Center in Columbia, S.C., and Dr. Jean Christophe Balouet, an environmental forensics expert and principal scientist at Environment International in Paris, France. For example, Burken and his colleagues have tested their phytoforensics method at more than 35 sites in six countries and nine states, including five communities in Missouri.

Trees act as nature’s solar-driven sump pumps, actively transporting water from the ground by using the energy of the sun and the air around them, Burken says. Through a process known as “evaportranspiration,” a tree’s extensive root system absorbs all the water and nutrients it needs. At the same time, the tree absorbs trace amounts of chemicals in the water and soil and transports those chemicals to the trunk, branches and leaves.

ST graduate student Matt Limmer uses the SPME, or solid-phase microextraction fiber, to extract a sample from a tree in Rolla’s Schuman Park.

In their EST article, Burken, Vroblesky and Balouet describe how recent advances in plant-monitoring technology have fared in determining contamination levels in soils and groundwater. Among the most recent advances is a more sensitive method of putting sampling devices in trees designed by Burken and his students at Missouri ST. One of the devices is called a solid-phase microextraction fiber, or SPME. The SPME is a thin filament – smaller than a pencil lead – that can detect traces of chemicals at minute levels, down to part per trillion or parts per quadrillion.

In the article, Burken, Vroblesky and Balouet also discuss advances in determining pollution levels over time by analyzing the chemistry of a tree’s growth rings, a method known as “dendrochemistry.” This method can look back in time, giving a history of subsurface contaminantion. Other sampling methods show potential for using leaves, bark and needles of plants as “proxy recorders” of airborne contaminants. Methods to study presence of pollutants on these surfaces can be used to pinpoint a local source of airborne pollution as well as to investigate more widespread evidence of airborne contamination, including radioactive contaminants.

Finally, the authors discuss the potential use of these green approaches to monitoring in legal proceedings. Dendrochemistry, for example, may help lawyers trace the origin of contamination on property that has been owned over time by multiple parties.

While Burken, Vroblesky and Balouet believe phytoforensics are important and valuable tools for determining the presence of pollution, they also point out that their use may be limited in some instances. For example, a tree’s root system may be too shallow to detect groundwater contamination well below the surface, and some chemicals (such as the explosive trinitrotoluene, or TNT) may biodegrade rapidly in a tree’s root system and therefore not be easily detected above the surface. Also, it’s important to sample several plants in an area in order to obtain the most accurate understanding of potential contamination, the authors say.

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Nature’s primes

Prime numbers are found hidden in nature, but humans have made spectacular use of them, writes mathematician Marcus du Sautoy.

Ever since humans evolved on this planet we have been trying to make sense of the world around us.

We have attempted to explain why the world looks and behaves the way it does, to predict what the future holds. And in our search for answers we have uncovered a code that makes sense of the huge complexity that confronts us – mathematics.

By translating nature into the code of numbers we have revealed hidden structures and patterns that control our environment.

But not only that. By tapping into nature’s code we have been able to change our surroundings, have built extraordinary cities, and developed amazing technology that has resulted in the modern world.

Buzzing quietly beneath the planet we inhabit is an unseen world of numbers, patterns and geometry. Mathematics is the code that makes sense of our universe.

In the forests of Tennessee this summer, part of this code literally bursts from the ground. Nashville is usually home to the sound of blue grass and honky tonk.

But every 13 years, the banjos and basses get drowned out for six weeks by the chorus of an insect that has fascinated me ever since I became a mathematician. Only found in the eastern areas of North America, this cicadas survival depends on exploiting the strange properties of some of the most fundamental numbers in mathematics – the primes, numbers that are only divisible by themselves and one.

The cicadas appear periodically but only emerge after a prime number of years. In the case of the brood appearing around Nashville this year, 13 years. The forests have been quiet for 12 years since the last invasion of these mathematical bugs in 1998 and the locals won’t be disturbed by them again until 2024.

This choice of a 13-year cycle doesn’t seem too arbitrary. There are another two broods across north America that also have this 13-year life cycle, appearing in different regions and different years. In addition there are another 12 broods that appear every 17 years.

Continue reading the main story

Start Quote

Primes are the atoms of the arithmetic – the hydrogen and oxygen of the world of numbers”

End Quote
Marcus du Sautoy

You could just dismiss these numbers as random. But it’s very curious that there are no cicadas with 12, 14, 15, 16 or 18-year life cycles. However look at these cicadas through the mathematician’s eyes and a pattern begins to emerge.

Because 13 and 17 are both indivisible this gives the cicadas an evolutionary advantage as primes are helpful in avoiding other animals with periodic behaviour. Suppose for example that a predator appears every six years in the forest. Then a cicada with an eight or nine-year life cycle will coincide with the predator much more often than a cicada with a seven-year prime life cycle.

These insects are tapping into the code of mathematics for their survival. The cicadas unwittingly discovered the primes using evolutionary tactics but humans have understood that these numbers not just the key to survival but are the very building blocks of the code of mathematics.

Every number is built by multiplying primes together and from numbers you get mathematics and from mathematics you get the whole of science.

But humans haven’t been content simply with observing the importance of these numbers to nature. By understanding the fundamental character of these numbers and exploring their properties humans have literally put them at the heart of the codes that currently protect the world’s cyber-secrets.

Continue reading the main story

The Code Challenge

  • A treasure hunt is running alongside the show
  • There are three visual clues in each episode as well as other clues
  • The prize is a specially commissioned mathematical sculpture

The cryptography that keeps our credit cards secure when we shop online exploits the same numbers that protect the cicadas in North America – the primes.

Every time you send your credit card number to a website your are depending on primes to keep your details secret. To encode your credit card number your computer receives a public number N from the website, which it uses to perform a calculation with your credit card number.

This scrambles your details so that the encoded message can be sent across the internet. But to decode the message the website uses the primes which divide N to undo the calculation. Although N is public, the primes which divide N are the secret keys which unlock the secret.

The reason this is so secure is that although it is easy to multiply two prime numbers together it is almost impossible to pull them apart. For example no one has been able to find the two primes which divide the following 617-digit number:














The primes are the atoms of the arithmetic. The hydrogen and oxygen of the world of numbers.

But despite their fundamental character they also represent one of the greatest enigmas in mathematics. Because as you count through the universe of numbers it is almost impossible to spot a pattern that will help you to predict where the next prime will be found.

We know primes go on for ever but finding a pattern in the primes is one of the biggest mysteries in mathematics. A million-dollar prize has been offered to anyone who can reveal the secret of these numbers.

Despite having cracked so much of nature’s code the primes are as much an enigma today as when the cicadas in the forests of Tennessee first tapped into them for their evolutionary survival.

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Alcoa Employees Join Expedition to Brazil and China as Earthwatch Fellows

NEW YORK, Jul 28, 2011 (BUSINESS WIRE) –
Alcoa Foundation announced today that it will sponsor 25
employees from the Company’s operations in Australia, Brazil, Canada,
China, Hungary, Iceland, Norway, Russia, Spain, Suriname and the United
States on Earthwatch Institute expeditions to Brazil and China. The
employees, who volunteered to become Earthwatch Fellows, will venture to
Rio Cachoeira Natural Reserve in Parana State, Brazil, and the
Gutianshan National Nature Reserve in Zhejiang Province, China, to
become sustainability leaders. This is Alcoa Foundation’s ninth year
supporting Earthwatch expeditions.

The Alcoa Earthwatch Fellows will work alongside professional scientists
to collect data that contributes to a global sustainable forestry
research project. They will tag and identify trees, measure their
diameters, and gather, classify and identify leaf samples. Fellows will
also participate in sessions to learn how critical environmental issues
relate to their lives and Alcoa’s approach to sustainability.

“As a mining, manufacturing and innovation company, environmental
sustainability is a priority at Alcoa,” said Paula Davis, President,
Alcoa Foundation. “The Earthwatch Institute fellowship is an investment
in helping our employees become environmental stewards and ambassadors.
This experience will prepare them to advocate for and create more
environmentally sustainable business practices and innovations where
they work and live.”

Alcoa Foundation is sponsoring three employee teams: two will go to
Brazil and one will go to China. The expeditions will be facilitated in
English, Mandarin and Portuguese. The expeditions run from July 31 until
September 23.

Follow the Alcoa Fellows Earthwatch Blog

Follow the 2011 Fellows through a blog on ,
where they will post videos, photos and stories about their experiences.
The Fellows will also create a sustainability plan to share their
knowledge and experiences from the field with their Alcoa colleagues and
their local communities upon their return.

Since 2003, 119 Alcoa employees have served as Earthwatch Fellows and
have ventured into the wilderness, forests and jungles all over the
world to study climate change, water issues and sustainability. They’ve
contributed almost 9,000 research hours to solving some of the biggest
sustainability challenges of our time.

The Earthwatch Institute fellowship builds on US $7 million in
environmentally focused grants that Alcoa Foundation announced earlier
this year. Since 2008, Alcoa has invested US $23 million in
environmental nonprofit organizations such as World Wildlife Fund, World
Resources Institute, Conservation International, Global ReLeaf and The
Nature Conservancy.

About Alcoa Foundation

Alcoa Foundation is one of the largest corporate foundations in the
U.S., with assets of approximately US$436 million. Founded more than 50
years ago, Alcoa Foundation has invested more than US$530 million since
1952. In 2010, Alcoa Foundation contributed nearly US$20 million to
nonprofit organizations throughout the world, focusing on promoting
environmental stewardship, enabling economic and social sustainability,
and preparing tomorrow’s leaders through education and learning. The
work of Alcoa Foundation is further enhanced by Alcoa’s thousands of
employee volunteers, who in 2010 gave more than 720,000 service
hours. Through the company’s signature Month of Service (October)
program, Alcoa employees share their energy, passion and purpose to make
a difference in our communities. In 2010, a record 49 percent of Alcoans
took part in nearly 1,000 Month of Service events across 24 countries,
reaching 59,000 children, serving 17,000 meals, planting 16,000 trees
and supporting 3,000 nonprofit organizations. For more information about
Alcoa Foundation, please visit .

About Earthwatch Institute

Founded in 1971, Earthwatch is an international environmental
organization whose mission is to engage people worldwide in scientific
field research and education to promote the understanding and action
necessary for a sustainable environment. Our vision is a world in which
we live within our means and in balance with nature. Earthwatch
currently supports 61 environmental research projects in 29 countries by
providing funds and paying volunteers who work alongside leading field
scientists and researchers. In the past 40 years, Earthwatch volunteers
have contributed over 10 million hours to essential fieldwork. For more
information about Earthwatch, please visit .


        Nacema Blake, 212-836-2825

Copyright Business Wire 2011

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Additional news "Nature"

The Ministry of Natural Resources, Environment and Property Relations of the Orenburg region consider environmental rating of All-Russian Society for Nature Conservation in doubt.

“Environment rating, based on the dubious notion of this as a” community environmental monitoring “, is a specialist regional environmental services only bewilderment. Environmental ratings generally should be an objective comparison of different industries, regions and companies exposed to the production environment. Estimates made on the basis of information on the amount of natural resources, water pollution and air pollution, waste generation, areas of disturbed and deprived of their lands and natural vegetation, etc., “- told BakuToday Minister of Natural Resources Ecology and property of the Orenburg region Constantine Kostyuchenko. He noted that the Independent Environmental Rating Agency (AIE “NERA”) established by the International Socio-Ecological Union in the framework of works on creation of information base to promote the modernization of Russia’s economy has developed and successfully tested a fairly detailed methodology for rating environmental and economic performance of regions.

According to the 2009, the Orenburg region occupies 74th place among 83 analyzed subjects of the federation. At the same time on environmental and energy security of the operation of the regional economy to be in the Orenburg Region rankings for 49 place in ecological efficiency of production of gross regional product – a 39 point, on the energy efficiency of production of gross regional product of the region has 31 seats. Particular attention is paid to the Minister that in terms of reliability and completeness of environmental statistics was given is not the last – 15th place.

“Clearly, the Orenburg region is a region with a very complex environmental conditions, which is associated with a significant number of large industrial and mining enterprises, most of whom work at the strongly worn out and obsolete equipment. An important factor affecting the environmental parameters (primarily, the level of biodiversity and the integrity of the landscape), are the implications of the development of virgin lands “- the spokesman said.

Hoping to find out what motivated the drafters of environmental rating, “presented VOOP, experts examined the site of the regional Ministry of Environment All-Russian Society for Nature Conservation, having aimed to understand what ratings system and what sources used by the authors. Orenburg Region MEP Experts noted that the official website VOOP no information about methods calculation of rating indicators and indicators of themselves as a whole. The details of the report on the environmental situation in the Orenburg region, located on the site VOOP, according orenbursgkih specialists, suggests that the information for their compilation was taken from the media, the other is used unprofessional and wrong interpreted information from the official report on the environmental field.

“Based on these reports, it is impossible to draw any conclusions about the state of the environment in our area, not to mention the fact to account for such ratings. Accordingly, neither of which the objectivity of their information and the value of this environmental rating can be no question,” – concluded Constantine Kostyuchenko.

The argument for their point of view, he cited several examples. Thus, according to the rating VOOP, Karelia and the Orenburg region located at diametrically opposite positions on the list. According to the rating NERA they occupy two positions near 73 and 74 seats. Ivanovo region – the second clean (rated VOOP) in 81st place in the ranking of NERA. Bryansk oblast and Bashkortostan – ranking leaders of the NERA, set VOOP to “negative” part of the list.

Recall that the All-Russian Society for Nature Conservation (VOOP) has published an environmental rating of Russian regions in May 2011. According to environmental monitoring for the public in May 2011 for the worst with regard to environmental classified Orenburg region (a record – “-9″), and the Yamalo-Nenets Autonomous District, Kemerovo and Sverdlovsk Oblast (“-8″).

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Canon U.S.A. Offers Tips for Parents to Inspire Children to Become Future …

Canon U.S.A., Inc., a leader in digital imaging and title sponsor of the
Canon Envirothon, today released tips for parents to foster the spirit
of environmentalism in the next generation, and empower children to be
stewards of their environmental legacy. Canon’s green tips, timed with
the start of the 2011 Canon Envirothon, a yearlong environmental
education competition, place an emphasis on enjoying nature together as
a family, an activity that everyone can partake in this summer, and
throughout the year.

“For decades, Canon has been committed to maintaining a sustainable
environment and creating a better world for generations to come,” said
Joe Adachi, president and CEO, Canon U.S.A., “This summer, as we
commence the annual Canon Envirothon, we encourage our partners and
friends around the country to embrace the spirit of Kyosei, which
reminds us to promote harmonious relations among communities and create
a peaceful coexistence with the natural environment.”

Whether you live in an urban area, rural region or in the suburbs, here
is a list of tips to help you discover the great outdoors with your
family and friends:

Take advantage of the great outdoors: Whether you enjoy hiking,
swimming, bird watching, star gazing, horseback riding, camping or
just sitting under a tree and watching the world go by, national
recreation areas offer something for everyone. The national park
system has been called “America’s Best Idea.” You can visit most
national parks for free.

Enjoy public gardens: Public gardens include botanical gardens,
display gardens, sculpture gardens, arboreta and college campuses.
Many offer educational and recreational programs for visitors and also
conduct important scientific research. Public gardens offer people
young and old a pleasurable way to enjoy nature.

Do-it-yourself backyard zoo: Creating a wildlife-friendly yard
(or even a balcony) is easy to do and a fun activity for the whole
family. Take note of the wildlife that currently visits your yard and
research their habitat and needs. Install natural food, plants and
water sources your wildlife guests will need.

Canon Envirothon is one of North America’s largest high school
environmental education competition. The 2011 Canon Envirothon will take
place July 24 –July 29 at Mount Allison University in New Brunswick,
Canada. The program consists of winning teams from participating states
and Canadian provinces, competing for recognition and scholarships by
demonstrating their knowledge of environmental science and natural
resource management.

Canon U.S.A. is an ardent supporter of environmental and community
enrichment campaigns. For decades, Canon U.S.A. has supported a variety
of programs, including the Canon Envirothon, Yellowstone Park
Foundation, PBS/Nature Series and the Arbor Day Foundation. Canon works
in voluntary partnership with the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)
to design products that meet the high standards of its ENERGY STAR(R)
program. Similarly, Canon collaborates with the EPA’s WasteWise and
SmartWay Transportation Partnerships to reduce the impact of municipal
solid waste and transportation activities. As one of the first companies
to collect and recycle used copier toner cartridges, Canon U.S.A.’s
Generation Green initiative combines the Company’s latest
environmentally conscious printer products and solutions, promoting
paper saving technology, minimized product packaging and energy saving

About Canon U.S.A., Inc.

Canon U.S.A., Inc., is a leading provider of consumer,
business-to-business, and industrial digital imaging solutions. Its
parent company, Canon Inc.

/quotes/zigman/192225/quotes/nls/caj CAJ

, a top patent holder of
technology, ranked fourth overall in the U.S. in 2010+, with global
revenues of more than US $45 billion and is listed as number five in the
computer industry on Fortune Magazine’s World’s Most Admired Companies
2011 list. Canon U.S.A. is committed to the highest levels of customer
satisfaction and loyalty, providing 100 percent U.S.-based consumer
service and support for all of the products it distributes. At Canon, we
care because caring is essential to living together in harmony. Founded
upon a corporate philosophy of Kyosei — “all people, regardless
of race, religion or culture, harmoniously living and working together
into the future” — Canon U.S.A. supports a number of social, youth,
educational and other programs, including environmental and recycling
initiatives. Additional information about these programs can be found at .
To keep apprised of the latest news from Canon U.S.A., sign up for the
Company’s RSS news feed by visiting .

+Based on weekly patent counts issued by United States Patent and
Trademark Office.

All referenced product names, and other marks, are trademarks of their
respective owners.

SOURCE: Canon U.S.A., Inc.

        Canon U.S.A., Inc.
        Daniel Lorenzo, 516-328-5184
        Canon U.S.A. website:            or
        For sales information/customer support:

Copyright Business Wire 2011


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Families, performers honor Lady Bird’s love of nature

3:45 PM

By: Jeff Stensland

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Austin’s local wildflower sanctuary hosted its annual Tribute Day to its founder Lady Bird Johnson Sunday.

The former first lady inspired 50 federal laws her husband signed in July 1968, many of them pushed for the preservation of nature.

In honor of her great works, families enjoyed free admission to the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center.

It was the first time the Martinez family visited the nature preserve in South Austin. Dad Mario Martinez hopes the experience plants seeds in their young minds about the importance of the environment.

“There’s some time that it takes,â€� he said. “I think just having this out here for them to be introduced to it first.”

Lucas Miller is the singing zoologist. While his profession focuses on animals, he says flowers and trees play an important role.

“Every animal needs other living things around it to make life possible, and plants are one of those important things,” he said.

Miller’s also amazed at the changes one woman made in the 1960s.Lady Bird Johnson is credited with making it illegal to litter, limited billboards on highways and even protecting water resources.

“Ms. Johnson’s love of nature, the appreciation of what we have here and our own natural heritage I think is the thing that she really championed,” Miller said.

Back in 2007, Austin city leaders approved changing the name of Town Lake to Lady Bird Lake.

She’s also credited with helping raise $10 million to establish the Wildflower Center.

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