1996

The foundation supported nine very diverse research projects, including tiny biospheres in space, savannas in Belize, and communicating with Dolphins in Hawaii. Total foundation support was $1,200

Studying the beginnings of a civilization that gave rise to astronomy
Category : Use of space technology to study the Earth’s environment / Astroarchaeology
Institution : Society for Syrian Archaeology / University of California Los Angeles, USA

What is enclosed by the modern state of Syria was once the heart of human civilization, the ‘Fertile Crescent’. The developments that arose there in astronomy, accountancy, administration, animal domestication and many other fields has been passed through to modern human societies.

Syrian archaeology is a relatively new field. Interrupted by two world wars, it resumed in the 1950′s. Of 4,000 ‘tells’ (mounds), only 50 have ever been investigated by international teams. They have yielded extraordinary insights into the past, frequently rewriting the history of important events.

The imminent construction of two hydroelectric dams in Syria threatens historic archaeological artifacts near the Euphrates and the Khabur river valleys. Sixty tells are likely to be flooded by the construction.

The Society for Syrian Archaeology at the University of California, Los Angeles, in collaboration with the Syrian Government (Ministry for Culture) and many other international bodies carried out an emergency salvage archaeology expedition on the sites. GPS and NASA satellite imagery were used to map the sites prior to the excavation work which occurred over the next three years as a major archaeological expedition.

Expedition to the End of an Era
Category : Effects of the space environment on the Earth’s environment
Institution : Planetary Society, USA

Sixty-five million years ago the dinosaurs went extinct, their reign of supremacy brought to an abrupt end. The prevailing hypothesis is that an extraterrestrial object, probably an asteroid, crashed into the Earth and radically altered the environment of the planet. The biosphere was altered in such a way as to make it uninhabitable for dinosaurs and other forms of life.

Evidence from the Yucatan peninsular of a vast 65 million year old crater impact supports this hypothesis. Work by Pope and Ocampo with the Planetary Society has gathered further evidence that supports the theory. 1996 saw the second in the Planetary Society’s K/T series expeditions which was followed by another expedition.

The Foundation provided a grant to assist in the 1996 Belize expedition work.

Communication with a non-human mind
Category : Exobiology
Institution : Sea World, Hawaii / Earthtrust, USA

Although no other animal on Earth is attributed with the tool-building ability of humans there are many animals that are now recognized as having the ability to communicate in complex ways.

Dolphins are one such animal. Research with dolphins at Sea Life World, Hawaii and organized with Earthtrust has demonstrated dolphin self-awareness and complex language. Moving on from the use of joysticks to touch sensitive computer screens the research team in Hawaii is developing methods for communicating with dolphins and understanding their language, how they communicate and fundamentals of dolphin cognition.

Developing techniques for unravelling language and cognition in a non-human mind may assist in understanding language of other communicating terrestrial species and eventually with extraterrestrial intelligences. The demonstration of cognition and language in another terrestrial species would also change our fundamental view of the world. Perhaps, like the Apollo views of Earth, it might ignite a new awareness and appreciation of our world. The research will also be used to assist in the conservation of dolphins.

Mapping the World’s Coral Reefs
Category : Use of space technology to study the Earth’s environment
Institution : Planetary Coral Reef Foundation, USA/UK

In 1995 a five year expedition was launched to study and map the world’s coral reefs by the Planetary Coral Reef Foundation. As well as the ocean going ship, the Heraclitus, the expedition used satellite imagery to generate a global algorithm for the protection and conservation of the worlds reefs. The expedition was used to develop training and education programs and assisted in our knowledge of human cultures, past, present and future through interaction with the many cultures along the expedition route.

Improving the accuracy of satellite tools for environmental study
Category : Use of the Earth’s environments to develop space technology
Institution : Canadian Space Agency, Canada

GPS systems are now used around the work for innumerable projects, expeditions and environmental fieldwork, but just how accurate are they? Although their accuracy tends to be generally assumed, it depends critically on a number of factors, not least the accuracy of the satellites. Using the 175′ rigged sailing ship, the HMS Rose, the expedition (‘GPS Accuracy study from data obtained during an Atlantic-crossing aboard a tall ship’) will work with the Canadian Space Agency to define their accuracy.

Throughout the crossing of the Atlantic Ocean from Canada to Bristol, England from April 22nd to May 22nd 1996, GPS measurements were made every 24 hours and compared with sextant and on-board navigation systems to provide three data points for each position. The data was used by the Canadian Space Agency to define GPS accuracy and thus to assist in developing more accurate units.

Studying the threatened wetlands of Belize
Category : Use of space technology to study the Earth’s environment
Institution : University of Edinburgh, Scotland

The savannas and wetlands of the northern area of Belize that border the River Booth are threatened by a conflict with human needs in the country.

The Booth River Wetland-Savanna Survey from the University of Edinburgh, Scotland used satellite imagery to undertake vegetation surveys of the Booth River region. The expedition examined carbon levels in the soils of the region to complement an existing program.

As well as providing biological inventories that will assist in monitoring and protecting the region, the expedition trained local scientists in Belize and scientists in the UK.

Satellite imagery (Landsat, AIRSAR) was used to compose an initial inventory of the vegetation communities in the region.

The expedition, which worked with organizations in Belize and Scotland had the approval of the Royal Geographical Society and the Royal Scottish Geographical Society.

Biospheres in Space
Category : Use of data gathered on space expeditions to understand the Earth’s biosphere
Institution : Paragon Corporation / University of Arizona, USA

The biosphere of Earth is uniquely balanced by the organisms that make it up. But what role does gravity have in defining this balance?

Small self-enclosed biospheres that have been studied in detail on Earth were taken aboard the Space Shuttle and the Russian Mir Space Station to study the effect of a microgravity environment on small closed loop ecosystems. Such research has direct applicable to designing closed loop life support systems and ecosystems in space.

These biospheres have a mixture of small plants and shrimps within them. They are enclosed and self-sustaining, reaching their own internal balance much like our planet on a much larger scale. They are an ideal model system for studying the effect of the space environment on artificial ecosystems.

The award was to contribute towards the data analysis of the contents of the biospheres upon their return to Earth. Data analysis was undertaken at the University of Arizona.

GPS helping an indigenous people
Category : Use of space technology to study the Earth’s environment
Institution : Various, UK and Guatemala

The people of the Bio-Itza Forest Reserve in Guatemala are an ancient Itza-Maya community dedicated to preserving their culture, language and lifestyle through preservation of their natural resources.

Located in the rugged and dense vegetation of their rainforests is the remains of an ancient Mayan ceremonial center – El Guineo.

The expedition in 1996 used GPS to map the archaeological remains of this site, that might otherwise be difficult due to the inaccessibility of the site and the distribution of the remains.

The work not only provided valuable information on a classic piece of Mayan archeology, but was also used to bring in eco- and archaeo-tourists to create a sustainable income for the indigenous community and thus to reduce their future interest in logging or burning the forest for short term economic gain.