GLOBE is not just a sphere, or a reference to the Earth. It is also an acronym that stands for Global Learning and Observations to Benefit the Environment.

It is a global network sponsored by NASA and National Science Foundation and supported by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association and the US Department of State. The network is a community of educators, scientists, students and citizens striving to understand the Earth’s system and environment to promote sustainability on a local, regional and global scale.

GLOBE provides students, citizens, educators and scientists with access to state-of-the-art scientific investigations, where the re­sources are placed online for ease of access. With GLOBE education, students and educators have access to what scientists are working on and learn science by doing science. In this manner, they are not just enjoying what they are doing, but also learning about the scientific process through discovery.

Malta has been a member of GLOBE since 2007 thanks to an intergovernmental agreement between the US and Malta that has been reactivated considering the renewed interest in inquiry-based learning. Prof. Paul Pace from the University of Malta’s Faculty of Education is the country co-ordinator and his deputy is Francesco Debono, education officer, Education for Sustainable Development.

Pace and Debono recently returned from the GLOBE Europe and Eurasia regional meeting held in Cologne, Germany. During the meeting, measurement campaigns were introduced and the participants went through training of scientific protocols. Protocols are enquiry-based procedures promoting a collaborative approach to the study of scientific phenomena.

Plans to reactivate GLOBE in Malta include pilot testing in a group of primary, secondary and post-secondary schools providing an opportunity for educators and students to work with different experts in different fields.

What is so exciting about this endeavour is that it provides accessibility to science to everyone. When the protocols are chosen, the Faculty of Education together with the Directorate of Education, will provide teacher training as well as monitor and evaluate its implementation.

Citizens who are interested in science, most especially about environmental issues, can join as a GLOBE citizen. Citizens can be scientists requiring a minimum amount of resources, including a smartphone, access to the outdoors and to the ‘GLOBE observer’ application.

Once participants collect data using the app, it is then sent to GLOBE data and information system so that it can be used by scientists and students studying the Earth.

This collaboration provides many resources, from data collection to apps to human resources. As a result of this alliance, Malta can now better engage in science and be part of a community who is enthusiastic about the science of the Earth.

Did you know!

• April 22nd is Earth Day, which marks the anni­versary of the birth of the modern environmental movement in 1970.

• The Earth is mostly made up of three materials: iron, oxygen and silicon.

• The length of the day is not constant but changes about a millisecond over the course of the year, whereby the Earth rotates more slowly during winter and faster in summer.

• Earth is constantly being bombarded by more than 100 tons of dust and sand-sized particles. This happens on a daily basis.

For more trivia see:

Sound bites

• Jumping spiders are known to have great vision, but what about their hearing? A new Cornell University study shows that spiders can also hear at a distance. It was claimed that spiders were only able to detect nearby sounds, a study published online on October 13 in the journal Biology shows that researchers used metal microelectrodes on its brain to show that spiders can hear far-field sounds up to three metres. This happens to be 600 spider body lengths. Further tests showed how the long hairs on the spider’s legs and body generated a response in the same neurons that fired after hearing distant sounds. This provides evidence that these hairs are most probably detecting nanoscale air particles that become excited from a sound wave.

• Paulinella, a little amoebe, has committed a grand theft, according to researchers. This occurred around 100 million years ago where a lowly amoeba pulled off a heist and managed to get hold of genes from a bacterium to replace those it had lost. It engulfed the bacterium while keeping the cell alive and used its genes for photosynthesis, whereby plants and algae manage to convert carbon dioxide into oxygen and sugar through solar energy. This international study by German scientists and US scientists was published online in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

• Gastrodia kuroshimensis is a new species of plant that has been discovered on the subtropical Japanese island of Kuroshima. This is located off the southern coast of Kyushu in Kagoshima prefecture. This is a particularly special discovery as it derives its nutrtion not through photosynthesis but from host fungi, and produces flowers that never bloom. Cleistogamy which means ‘a closed marriage’ refers to plants that produce flowers where self-fertilisation occurs within closed buds. This is recognised as an important mechanism of self-pollination, even though cleistogamous also produce cross-pollinating flowers.

• For more soundbites listen to Radio Mocha on Radju Malta 2 every Monday at 1pm and Friday at 6pm

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