THEME SONG: “Home Again” by Micheal Kiwanuka

We watched the elephants for over two hours.  At the pivotal moment of river crossing, the video shows obvious communication: audible rumbling, vibrational signaling, and the matriarchal trumpet and crocodile warning that makes the group fall back.  Eventually, there is a final ceremonious crossing with the eley calves at the protective center. Wildlife herd behavior is an excellent display of coherence, in which subtle individual cues lead to a group behavioral dynamic that benefits all. The harmony in which they cross is beautiful to experience.

This type of “physiological synchronization” is cited among evolutionary anthropologists as a key factor in human health and survival as well. We are constantly communicating with one another in subdued ways through facial expressions, body language, even biochemically.   Social coherence, especially when individuals are emotionally in tune with one another, drives the cooperative actions of the group. When positively engaged it produces a symphonious relationship.

Edgy Science

Theme song: Motherf***ing Bike by Sausage.

Just back from the most engaging set of panels at Science Media Symposium in Boston:

1. Dan Kahan blew us all away when he talked about the science of Science Communication. He is a Professor of both Law AND Pysycology from Yale and presents with a startling intellectual charisma that cracks me up. His main point, based on a huge amount of social psychological data: people can comprehend scientific evidence but what they believe is an EXPRESSION of who they are. His advice for those who want to motivate people on a particular issue: disentangle the knowledge from what it is expressing. Check him out here.

2. Call Me Ishmael at 774.325.0403 & leave a voicemail about how a book has affected you. TED Ed Director Logan Smalley gets these voicemails and posts one every day on this website. He said he’s heard messages that have made him cry, laugh, & some that made him want to call the authorities.

SMS33. Janna Levin the astrophysicist captivated me with her talk on black holes. Her brilliance was tempered by a wit and light heartedness that has been missing all my life. Here is her TED talk, or if you’re like me, you may rather watch her on the Colbert Report.

4. I came for the wildlife media and Sanjayan’s newest project didn’t disappoint. A sneak peek at EARTH a New Wild and I can’t wait to watch more stories of successes of human behavior & nature. I fell in love with [emerging filmmaker Roshan Patel] Pride. His beautiful Asiatic lion footage accompanies a compelling look at an Indian community that idolizes the rare carnivores while relying upon them to protect their crops.

And so I leave you with a fantastic look at the popularity of light science. The I F***ing Love Science Facebook page has 18.3 million likes.

Frog Tracks

Song: Tuesday’s Child by Jesse Cook

When I’m lucky, tropical mornings show me the home range of a frog in prints on the window: its journey throughout the pane the night before.

My daily journeys are my life, and I think, what are my frog tracks? 

6 Travel Tips: Brain Calm

The buzz of the airport & plane: I love being in the midst of so many people during one slice of time- yet being in my own world with my own soundtrack. So I thought I’d share with you how I maintain a sensational brain gig during travel:

1. GABA mints. Really nice. And then put your headphones on.
2. Nutritional yeast— easy to pack. Just add hot water, a little sea salt & lemon crystals and drink like a broth. The B vitamins are critical for those that don’t eat meat & if you’re deficient you’ll get a sweet niacin flush.
3. Magnesium calm powder— just add to your water bottle.
4. Eye candy  In lieu of fashion magazines & porn— sign in to Instagram. I just use it as a voyeur. In one feed I can go from incredible National Geographic photos to yoga postures to sensual hairstyles (yes, there’s one that just shows hair), dance poses, a dog in Japan, back to splits.
5. In between flights, of course walk, walk, walk. And find the meditation room (Amsterdam has a wonderful one). There you need to do some inversions. You have to get your heart above your head for at least 7 minutes. It doesn’t have to be handstands. A 7 minute headstand is wonderful. Come down slowly & into childs pose. If you’re menstruating (or otherwise feel like a pussy), legs up the wall is still fantastic. You have to scootch your butt right up to the wall (so your lower back is ok) and swing your legs up. You’ll still feel it and it is so good to get the blood away from your legs after sitting for so long. Of course music is key (although it’s lovely to hear the variety of chanting in background). My go-to song is usually something from my wordless soundtrack. Gotta have yoga songs.
6. Psychobiotics: If you can get your hands on anything fermented it would be great. Tough to pack BUT there are some probiotic supplements that include some of the strains that encourage your brain to release serotonin, like any of the Bifidobacterium and also the L. helveticus & B longhum reduce cortisol levels. Even if you grab a yogurt every now and then it would be great.
You know I can’t have a travel list without including coconut oil. It doesn’t relate to this brain thread but it is the single best travel companion. As long as you double bag a big ole glob it’ll only soften & not melt. Put a handful into your mouth first thing in morning & eventually you’re swishing it around- it liquifies and “pulls” bad stuff out of mouth & teeth. Spit after 15 minutes. Many other things you can do w C oil!

Safe travels.

Wildlife on Screen

Theme song: Mercy by Dave Mathews

I love going to the Jackson Hole Wildlife Film Festival. As a preliminary judge, I watched over 70 hours of wildlife programming- which is just a drop- there were ~600 films entered this year. The festival is an interesting interaction of wildlife conservation experts*, filmmakers, and network executives.

At the heart of the panel discussions was the struggle to find the right formula for a successful film- one that will intrigue the audience while saving its wild stars. Below are three of the festival winners and how each exemplifies a positive trend in the wildlife filmmaking industry:

1. Battle for Elephants won for best conservation program. This powerful film incorporated a market survey conducted before the film to target its conservation impact. This brilliant research uncovered a disconnect between ivory and animal cruelty. The film has since been screened to decision makers at CITES and other hearings.

2. Africa: Kalahari won for best animal behavior. Incredible footage of black rhinos at night prove that we are still discovering nuances about wildlife. There is continuing dialogue about how scientists and filmmakers can collaborate to benefit wildlife.

3. Earthflight received a special consideration award for camera work. I was enamored by every shot- tiny cameras on the backs of habituated birds! Most inspiring is that advanced film technology allows for unobtrusive filming.

*A sobering account of wildlife statistics was delivered by Jane Goodall, Daphne Sheldrick, and the Joubert’s, among others.

Social Sniffing

Theme song: The Scent of Love by Michael Nyman.

This is my dog. He was a resident of the county animal shelter until he met my eyes. Testimony to how dogs have become so successful as a domesticated species. While dogs prefer to initiate information sharing via social sniffing*…they have figured out over thousands of years how to read our visual cues. And it seems the ones that gaze into our eyes are the ones best equipped for a life full of human interaction.

*A couple of years ago I did a short video explaining social sniffing in dogs. You can watch it here.

Think Like a Zebra (Part 2)

Emergency Dismount

Theme song: U2’s I Will Follow. Enjoy the 1980 throwback here.

In Think Like a Zebra the point is that it can take a real toll on your body to stress out about something that you have no control over. For example, zebras may hang out at a water hole with a lion nearby- but they’re not going to run from the predator until it is actually chasing them.

In the above video, you’ll see that when zebras do need to get moving, they do so in a pretty ordered fashion. That is, they follow one another along a known path. No sense wasting energy taking off in separate directions, over unknown ground. They have a plan.

It’s what I call an Emergency Dismount. When I was a girl, I took riding lessons from an old leathery faced woman named Mrs. Stephens. This little, soft spoken woman would have all of us kids riding our horses around the ring and then suddenly yell, “Emergency Dismount!” And we would all have to jump off our horses. A training exercise to teach us how to fall off. A plan.

I would ride through the fields on my horse with my arms raised high in delight- all because I knew how to fall off.

One way to ‘live in the moment’ is to have an Emergency Dismount.