Talk with the Animals

Posted on September 26, 2015 by Liesl Ulrich-Verderber
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Introduction

We may think we have the upper-hand when it comes to communication, but as it turns out, animals speak their own languages. In this circle we will explore the many fascinating ways the animal kingdom has learned to communicate, sometimes even with us! There are 4 articles in this circle. Each about a different animal, and each more fascinating than the next!

Communicating with WILD Dolphins

Posted on April 19, 2015 by ewcadmin

After 28 years studying the same family of wild spotted dolphins in the Bahamas, Denise Herzing knows three generations of dolphin kin: toddlers to grandmothers.

She knows so many things about their lives and communication methods that she can tell us what they have to share with us.

Image: Three generations of spotted dolphins
Source: PLANET WHALE

They have a social structure not so different from ours: they have names for each other, they must resolve conflicts, coordinate their shared efforts, nurture the next generation, and many other human-like complexities.

The spotted dolphins will even babysit the calves of the neighborhood bottlenose dolphins and vice versa.

Here’s an amazing TED Talk with Denise Herzing, who brings these animals’ lives into familiar focus for us:

Via: TED 1

Intriguing stuff!.. Sometimes I wonder if one day we will look back at how we now define “intelligence” and shake our heads in embarrassment.

Image: spotted dolphin
source: YAKALIDAH

Play is perhaps the most telling behavior.

Engaging in play demonstrates an elective search for joy. We used to think animals were all instinct and automated purpose, but inviting the divers into dolphin games means we have to rethink all that. Keep in mind those were wild dolphins. They were free to swim off at any time, but they were interested in a new system that could include fun!

This made me rethink how I organize the world into “them and us.” That line is a little more blurry now!

Communicating with wild dolphins: Why should we care?

This is just one tiny example of the knowledge and innovation the negative 24-hour news cycle is failing to celebrate. And when this sort of wonder gets lost in the chaos, we are all a little more lost ourselves.

We’ve lost the heroes and mentoring we used to get from learning about the innovators on the nightly news.

Here’s just a small sample of that:

After writing over 1000 carefully fact-checked articles about innovation and insight, we’ve noticed some patterns we could all learn from and use in our own lives!

There are three elements that seem to be common to people of great success:

  • They tend to persevere way past the point when others would move on.
  • They are at ease with risk-taking and constantly employ a “nothing ventured, nothing gained” mentality.
  • They think to combine things that no one else has put together.

As with all the thought-leaders we feature here at Ever Widening Circles, they take us to places we could not have gone without them.

Image: Collage of EWC article photos

If you’d like to learn more about other inspiring thought-leaders or things we should be celebrating, scroll down to the bottom of this page for some other articles that I can recommend.

Better yet, go on your own little adventure with our “Surprise Me” button.

Here’s a tip: once you land somewhere with the button, dive in, even if you think you won’t be interested. We write every article to feature a point of wonder or insight that will transform almost every one of us in some unexpected way.

Here you go

Surprise Me!

Now have a great day, and check back in on us tomorrow.

We write one carefully fact-checked article each day to prove this is still an amazing world.

~ Dr. Lynda

 


 

Koko Turns 44!

Posted on October 16, 2015 by Liesl Ulrich-Verderber

Sometimes we just need a little reminder from our childhood to remember that it’s still an amazing world!

Image: KoKo the gorilla with a kitten
Source: PBS NATURE

For some, this reminder comes in the form of a beloved Disney movie, cartoon superhero, or fluffy Muppet, but for me, it has long been the story of Koko the Gorilla.

For those who didn’t see it on Facebook or floating around the internet, yesterday was Koko’s 44th birthday.

If you don’t know or remember Koko: she is a female lowland gorilla who became famous in 1999 for starring in a PBS documentary made about her remarkable use of American Sign language. With the guidance of her trainer, Penny Patterson, she has mastered the use of more than 2000 words and has cleverly made up her own signs for compound words to expand her connection with her human friends. With this form of language, she has conveyed her emotions and other abstract thoughts.

As a child, I somehow (probably by whining during a PBS pledge drive) convinced my parents to purchase the PBS documentary A Conversation With Koko, and it was my favorite movie–yes, I thought documentaries were movies. I played it until the VHS started to fade.

Yesterday, on Koko’s birthday, I watched it again and found myself transported back to a childhood where it made sense that animals could learn to communicate. That they had feelings and thoughts. That they loved and could form bonds with other animals.

For those that have never seen it, here is a brief trailer for this exquisite documentary…

Via: kokoflix 1

Here’s the backstory!…

Via: kokoflix 2

 

Though I am sitting at a desk now, and not an animal rehabber or researcher like I wanted to be when I was a child, Koko’s story has continued to inspire me. I hope that we can share this documentary, and others like it, with children who are still dreaming and believing anything is possible in the hopes that they too become inspired to think about their place in the wider world.

Without creatures like Koko, we can all too easily forget about the richness of life on this planet!

Here’s a remarkable video to remind us of possibility through the eyes of Robin Williams and Koko…

Via: kokoflix 3

Now take a look at part of Koko’s remarkable emotional life:

Via: kokoflix 4

You can visit Koko and help The Gorilla Foundation at Gorilla.org, there is so much there to inspire possibility at any age. Want to see a few more of their extraordinary videos and learn about Koko’s life? Check out their KokoFlix Blog.

For more articles like this, check out our Circle called “Talk with the Animals.”  Here at everwideningcircles.com, we’ve created a new navigation option where you can follow a train of thought through articles that have a thread of commonality. It’s great fun and a breath of fresh air after what the TV and negative news cycle have to offer.

Here is a collage of the kinds of articles you’ll find starting at our homepage:

Image: Collage with Interesting photos

It really is still an amazing world. Have a great day and stop by tomorrow to see what we have for you here!

-Liesl
“Laughter is the shortest distance between two people.”-Victor Borge

Liesl can be found on Instagram @Liesl.UV

 


 

Why Should We Care About the Waggle Dance?

Posted on November 4, 2015 by Dr. Lynda

Today we’re going to look at “the waggle dance,” and before you scoff, roll your eyes, and leave the page: no, we are not talking about a trending new dance craze! (Not yet, anyway!)

The remarkable journey we’ll take you on today starts with the fact that it is harvest season when we are publishing this article, and we owe almost everything we are eating this time of year to the most intrepid pollinators on the planet: bees.

Image: Bumble Bee dangling from a flower

So where does the “waggle dance” fit into our enjoying crisp apples, thick squash and plump tomatoes? Well, it is actually a real dance, with specific steps performed by bees to communicate to their friends where the best nectar sources are. And this is not just a fun fact. The waggle is directly or indirectly responsible for 80% of our food on earth, for without the waggle dance much of life on the planet could not exist.

I had no idea bees were that critical to the world’s food supply.

Almost as remarkable as the dance itself, is the fact that we humans have been able to figure out exactly what each variation of the dance means, but we’ll have more on that in a moment.

 

Image: Bee dance
Source AHUMBLEHUM.COM

 

Why should we care about the Bees’ Waggle Dance?

The answer is twofold. First, the waggle dance reminds us that in the natural world there is no end to the things going on right under our noses that are critical to our existence. Ever since I did the research for this article I look at every bee like a precious wonder. Second, the dance demonstrates that knowledge is power. You may know that honey bees are in peril all around the world, but the more we know, the more we can turn the ship around on the health of bee populations.

So now that we’ve sprung that bit of negative detail on you, we are going to have some fun lifting you up to a new level of appreciation for these great little gems of the natural world. And I can’t wait to show you how some clever scientists have sorted this dance thing out!

First, a quick video to get us up to speed:

Okay, now that we are all on the same page about the “what?,” let’s get to “why?” and “how?” This video by Georgia Tech’s College of Computing tells the whole story in their video The Waggle Dance of the Honey Bee:

Why We Should Care More

The waggle dance is incredible, but what’s the bigger picture?

CNN’s Marla Spivak wrote an excellent article called What will happen if the bees disappear? Here’s a quote:

“The bees need you.

Honeybee colonies are dying at frightening rates. Since 2007, an average of 30% of all colonies have died every winter in the United States. This loss is about twice as high as what U.S. beekeepers consider economically tolerable. In the winter of 2012-13, 29% of all colonies died in Canada and 20% died in Europe.

Wild bee species, particularly bumblebees, are also in peril…..

Fifty years ago, bees lived healthy lives in our cities and rural areas because they had plenty of flowers to feed on, fewer insecticides contaminating their floral food and fewer exotic diseases and pests. Wild bees nested successfully in undisturbed soil and twigs. Now, bees have trouble finding pollen and nectar sources because of the extensive use of herbicides that kill off so many flowering plants among crops and in ditches, roadsides and lawns.

Flowers can be contaminated with insecticides that can kill bees directly or lead to chronic, debilitating effects on their health.” 3

You can view the whole article by clicking here, but the most troubling bit states that just 100 species of plants provide 90% of the global food supply, and 71 of them rely on bee pollination for their existence. 4 After you get familiar with this subject you may never feel like swatting another bee again, and you’ll likely want to get involved in some way (check out our “Get Involved” section at the bottom for ways to help!).

What Does the End of Bees Mean?

If much of the world’s food supply links back to healthy bee populations, what does this mean for all of us?

Thanks to Whole Foods Market, we now have an excellent mental picture of what would happen if the bees were gone. The following is a photograph we call Before and After Bees., and shows what your market’s produce section looks like today, with the bee population waning (on top) versus without a bee population (on bottom):

Image: Market with current bee population's output versus no bee population's output
Very clearly shown here, the future with no bees is a terrifying prospect.
Source: WHOLEFOODSMARKET.COM

A Little Sunshine Before We End…

Have no fear! Scientists all over the world are taking steps to find solutions. And best of all,.. there are ordinary people, like you and I, doing some amazing things too! Organizations are sprouting up world-wide to advocate for bees and we’ll wrap this article up today with the National Honey Bee Day Waggle Dance, one of the best flash mob videos I’ve come across.

Take Action – Help Save the Bees!

If you’re concerned about the future of humanity’s food sources, the future of bees, or the future of the planet Earth, we found a few indispensable sources of information with ways to help out. First, check out Green Peace’s Bees in Crisis information page, which not only houses a ton of scientifically sound information, but the Ever Widening Circles staff really likes the positive outlook they used to present the information. Instead of “we’re all doomed unless…” tactics, Green Peace chose to celebrate the possibilities of helping to save the bees (although we do urge you to keep this in mind: one of every three bites of food you take you owe to the work of a bee!).

If you’re looking to actually get involved after learning more, check out Change.org‘s Save our bees and the food we eat takes a shot at Bayer Chemicals, makers of many products (most recognizably Bayer Aspirin), but also sheds light on how big companies may be damaging the ability for bees to reproduce, survive, and thrive. Click here to go to change.org and join 191,000 people already taking action.

Thanks for stopping by EWC today. I’m going to waggle-dance my way over to make some toast with real, raw honey, and I’ll appreciate it so much more now!

Stay open, curious and hopeful!

~ Dr. Lynda

 


 

Fireflies: A Synchronized Light Show

Posted on September 9, 2015 by Dr. Lynda

The sounds and smells of summer can bring powerful memories to mind: crickets chirping in perfect sync, screen doors slamming with a bounce, and the smells of cut grass and charcoal grills. But there is one unique visual that conjures a particular kind of wondrous memory: the dancing lights of fireflies at dusk. In Tennessee Fireflies are abundant, here’s a quick look at just how amazing summer truly is.

Image: fireflies in abundance
Source: BRAND DIGITAL

I can close my eyes at my desk right now and remember sultry summer evenings with cousins and friends, collecting for science after we heard the rumor that someone, somewhere, would pay us a penny per blinking bug.

Did a certain memory of these beautiful bugs pop into your mind and bring a smile to your face? Fireflies are somehow unifying in that way. No matter where or how we grew up, catching lightning bugs is a special activity that crosses all the social strata. If you have an open lot, park, or backyard and can find a jar with a matching lid, then you can enjoy a summer’s evening collecting these tiny wonders of nature at any age.

Take a look at this piece with Lee Cowan as our guide on the  CBS’s Sunday Morning show. Here’s a place in Tennessee that honors this delight of nature in a special way:

Lovely fun. Beautiful sentiments in that video. Thanks Lee!

And then the video sent my mind wandering: how much do we know about these special creatures? Not much when I stopped to think about it! So I went in search of a little science to round out our appreciation for this summer spectacle. Take a look at this:

I had no idea! Thanks to Science Friday for that bit of insight.

If you liked knowing a bit more about the backstory of fireflies, you might like visiting Science Friday. They have podcasts and videos that my teenagers enjoy without my nagging at them to find someplace insightful on the web! (Now that’s high praise!)

Thanks for stopping by everwideningcircles.com today. If you have a few more minutes to check out more positive content (we are aiming to be the polar opposite of the negative 24-hour news cycle) you can scroll down to the bottom of this page for three more article ideas, or head to our homepage.

Image: collage of EWC article photos

A few minutes on EWC every day and you will soon be assured that it is still an amazing world. (our motto)

WANT TO SEE MORE POSITIVE NEWS, FUN, OR INSIGHTS?

Head to our homepage to check out our latest articles, circles, and archives! Even better, subscribe below to receive the latest from EWC right to your inbox!

Or just scroll down to the bottom of this page where you’ll find a few more incredible articles like this one!

Meanwhile, stay open, curious and hopeful.

~ Dr. Lynda

 


 

Liesl Ulrich-Verderber is a camera toting traveler, a global story seeker, and an aspiring—but more often floundering—yogi. She can be found on Instagram @Liesl.UV