Lil Girl Released to the Sea.

Yesterday we attended the release of a loggerhead sea turtle named Lil Girl. Lil Girl had been a resident of Gulf Specimen Marine Lab since she failed as a test subject on a turtle exclusion device. She was one of several hatchlings who were taken from Florida, transferred to Galveston Texas where she was raised by NOAA until she was the perfect age and size to stand in as a Kemp’s Ridley sea turtle in experiments on mandatory equipment used by shrimp fishermen that allow turtles to be excluded instead of drowned.

Turtle exclusion devices are, in my opinion, the very best of humanity in action. Instead of simply railing at the evil of humans who accidentally kill turtles as by-catch a constructive solution was researched, developed and then tested. The problem is solved in a rational and practical way that still allows humans to eat shrimp. This wonderful and incredibly valuable work is still on going at NOAA’s Fisheries Service Sea Turtle Facility which Dick got a tour of during our Galvaston trip.

Lil Girl was originally raised in this facility. After she flunked the TED test she got sent to Gulf Specimen Marine Lab to be used as a teaching animal until she reached adult size. As a young adult capable of breeding, and therefore extremely valuable to the wild loggerhead population, Lil Girl was deemed ready to go this December.

Lil Girl was a long time favourite at GSML. She arrived as a tiny turtle in 2008 at 13.6 inches long (32cm) and weighing 12.5 lbs (5.7kg) and at the time of her release she had gown to an astonishing 27.7 inches  (70.4cm) and 81.6 lb (37kg). Every year when we arrived back at GSML we looked forward to seeing Lil Girl again and see how much she had grown. An estimated 180,000 people have come to GSML and have seen Lil Girl. She has been a wonderful Ambassador for her species. The picture above is Lil Girl in 2014 and then two years later in 2016 and you can see how her shell is not only bigger but grew longer as she grew. Dr. Robbin N. Trindell of the Florida Wildlife Services decided it was time for Lil Girl to have her chance to make it on her own out in the big wild ocean. Dr. Trindell was on hand for the release and to reassure the public this was the right thing to do.

Lil Girl arrived in the GSML truck and staff gathered to say goodbye. More than one was in tears because Lil Girl had become something of everyone’s favourite pet at GSML. The guest of honour seemed to be very nonchalant and relaxed about the entire thing.

There was a thunderstorm in the area at release time and the big moment was delayed while this small twister passed by and eventually formed a small water spout over the bay before the weather cleared and the sun came out. To everyone’s delight a group of three dolphins swam by, coming close to shore to check out the fuss as the water spout moved out of sight.

Members of the public took advantage of the delay to get one last close up look at Lil Girl.

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Very special guest of honour was little Kai Rudloe with his Mom April. Will Kai Rudloe grow up to come the third generation of Rudloes to work in a third generation at Gulf Specimen Marine Laboratory? Only time will tell but he did get a great start today.

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So Lil Girl was removed from the vehicle and loaded up into the transfer sling for her walk down to the beach. More than one staff member was fighting tears.

It was hard to let her go. And she didn’t seem all that keen to be off herself. Unlike Allie who was straining to be free again at her release, Lil Girl looked all around and blinked her eyes obviously very puzzled about what was going on. She has always been in the care of humans and she trusts us completely and something was up she didn’t understand. In the end, she needed some shoving by Cypress Rudloe before she finally headed off into the great ocean she had never seen or swam in before.

 

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This fabulous picture was taken by Nic Christie, a professional photographer who does a lot of great work for GSML. It is not our picture though I sure wish it was! A great place to see more of his work is on the GSML Facebook Page.

When the waves began hitting her in the face, her bewilderment passed and she seemed to know what to do. She finally moved into the water and swam off. She paused briefly to lift up her head and take a breath and then she was gone.

As she swam off I found myself humming the old Cat Stevens song

Oh baby baby it’s a wild world
It’s hard to get by just upon a smile
Oh baby baby it’s a wild world
And I’ll always remember you like a child, girl

I’ll always remember you like a child, girl
You know I’ve seen a lot of what the world can do
And it’s breaking my heart in two
‘Cause I never want to see you sad girl
Don’t be a bad girl
But if you want to leave take good care
Hope you make a lot of nice friends out there
But just remember there’s a lot of bad and beware
Beware

Part of me is afraid you got only a few miles from shore and some shark, a creature you never knew, swam up and ate you or you’ll go seeking people you knew who fed you and get hurt by a boat or hooked on a fishing dock. Being a reptile, and therefore mostly programmed by instinct and not so much by learning, you should be all right. There are records of turtles like you turning up, healthy and fine, years after release and having adapted well. I take the presence of dolphins as good sign. Good luck Lil Girl. I hope you get to make baby loggerheads and swim the sea for many years.

Day 2 of the International Disability Rights Affirmation Conference

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Day 2 of the International Disability Rights Conference opened with a talk about L’Arche. The speaker was Melanie Saxon, Community Leader / Executive Director of L’Arche Jacksonville (FL). She shared some of L’Arche’s history and mission through the use of short videos  and her own words. I must admit I had never heard of them before and I am kind of ashamed of myself for that since they appear to do wonderful things.

Virtual Ability member Mook Wheeler has created a number of displays and exhibits on Healthinfo Island about l’Arche, Jean Vanier, and the concept of community for persons with disabilities. If you are in Second Life, please visit them.

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The second talk was Dr. Margaret Nosek, Professor of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation at Baylor College of Medicine (Houston, TX, US) and two co-presenters, Stephanie Silveira and Rachel Markley. She got some group chat going about how our avatars interact and how they affect us. Having an avatar to go to a conference or get out and about to a support group makes life much easier for people with disabilities because they don’t have to leave home. It is especially important for people in rural areas or those who are isolated. We discussed a lot about safety on line and finding a community in Second Life. Members really wanted to have support and SL allowed people to find it while not leaving home. People also often want to represent themselves accurately and in SL you have to work at finding wheelchairs and canes. Also in SL architecture means you don’t need to have ramps and such for accessibility but many people feel it is an important political and educational statement to have them built in. Overall a fascinating and amusing talk. I have actually published on this topic.

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Our second speaker has been “in world” since 1994 and the in world experience in the early days consisted of IM style chat rooms of the era. He also talked about Mike from NYC who would not share anything personal but provided widespread and great support in a Parkinson’s group. Seven years later Mike from New York turned out to be Michael J Fox! Our speaker then told a third story was about a platform where people could use emoticons. And the ones that loved it the most were people with mobius syndrome, people who were unable to show facial expressions. In his fourth story he talked about how people with autism and aspergers practiced in SL (Brigadoon Island) to work on RL situations. Scary in Real Life became manageable in Second Life eventually making Real Life more manageable.

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The final speaker of the day was Shayla the Super Geeko who spoke about Persons With Disabilities and what happened to them on September 11. Over 200 PWDs died that day. Most did not survive because they could not evacuate. She then extended the concept to PWDs during disasters in general. We had a lot of talk about how PWDs have to make their own plans to be sure they get out in a disaster because depending on others will not work.

And so it was overall a fun, interesting and eye opening two day conference. I am very happy I was able to play a small part in the organization of the conference by finding introducers. Well done everyone involved!

International Disability Rights Affirmation Conference Day 1

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I (meaning Natalie) spend time in the virtual word of Second Life doing a variety of things both serious and work related and just plain fun. Today I am attending and have the honor of being an introducer in the International Rights Disability Conference hosted in Second Life by Virtual Ability.

Virtual Ability is a great place designed to provide support and community for people with disabilities. Each year they host a conference designed to promote rights for people with disabilities and to encourage fuller participation of people with disabilities in their own community.

I have been providing very occasional and small consultative help to Virtual Ability almost since they started in Second Life. It has been astounding to me to see how this have taken off and grown from a tiny single plot in Second Life to an entire huge multi-sim island in Second Life with a large and vibrant community.

Entry into the virtual world  can be a bit intimidating and since different people come into Second Life with different aims and desires, there can be difficulties while newbies are adjusting. Virtual Ability provides a gentler and much more supportive environment for newbies.

idrc-conference_003In Second Life we get to pick what we look like and here you can see me, right foreground in my “professional” av. I am sitting with a cowboy, a geeko and turtle and another human. I have all kinds of other avatars for less serious events.

The conference covered a wide range of topics.

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We began with Caroline Pavis of Johnson and Johnson who talked about their HealthEVoices disability bloggers conference. Their next conference is in 2017 in Chicago and they hope to encourage interaction between various disability and health advocacy and support groups across a wide variety of people from those living with HIV to those with intellectual and emotional disabilities. She talked about the benefits of the conference and after we had a lively discussion about how Second Life, and other Virtual World media could be integrated into their setting.

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Our second set of speakers were from South Africa. This is one of the nice things about a Second Life conference. You can have people come from all over the world and yet all feel together.Theresa Lorenzo and Siphokazi Sompeta of the University of Cape Town, South Africa, spoke about their research on ways to make disability-inclusive services available in rural areas of South Africa, Botswana and Malawi. She described problems like lack of local transportation and lack of practical skills for dealing with people with disabilities. For example, they taught taxi drivers how to better transport people with disabilities. Ms. Sompeta described being in Second Life as like being in a spiritual world, a lovely and apt metaphor.

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I was introducer for the next session which was a panel of presenters from the Chronic Pain Anonymous group. styled after Alcoholics Anonymous but geared entirely to people who live with chronic pain due to many different health conditions, the group provides a supportive environment without advocating any specific treatment or protocols. Rather it helps people to live well and at peace with themselves even though they also live in chronic pain. By coincidence, I had attended a group session as a family member of someone living with chronic pain. So I got to experience the reality of the support available.

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The next speaker for today was Dr. Margaret Nosek and her colleagues. They presented on “Women with mobility impairments in community weight loss programs: Exploring new venues in virtual worlds.” Obesity and being overweight is really a problem for people with mobility impairments. Over 50% of people with mobility impairments are obese. Yet exercise, the major tool for effective weight loss is not something easily available to those with limited mobility. The talk centered on things that can be done.

The final speaker was Maggie Sheets with the Disability Policy Consortium of Massachusetts. She explained the importance of including people with disability in policy making.

So we had the conference and there were many side conversations and instant messages as well as group chat going on during the conference so it was fun and stimulating and I felt really connected. I also didn’t have to fight airports, a strange bed with a room full of strange scents that make me wheeze, worrying about food when I have so many allergies and all the usual stresses of going to a conference. It was a great experience.

The conference continues tomorrow.

Our First Review Now Available Online!

Igamberdiev, A.U. (2016). Book Review: Morphomechanics of Development. Lev V. Beloussov, Andrei Lipchinsky. Springer International Publ. BioSystems, In press. Web:  http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0303264716302532

The article is now available on line (though behind a paywall if you don’t have a university or similar library access. Here are our two favourite excerpts!

The title of the book is based on the belief of the authors that the fundamental phenomenon first described by them forms the basis for a profound explanation of the phenomenon of embryogenesis and represents a “right theory” of individual development of biological organisms. Thus the book provides an expanded explanation of this new theory of how embryos build themselves using the phenomenon of generation of differentiation waves. The background given for the theory combines simple physical principles with the most recent breakthroughs in genet- ics, biochemistry, and biophysics. Despite a huge amount of detail and experimental data, the book is accessible to a broad audience includ- ing not only embryologists but also biologists of different profiles, researchers working in many fields of science, teachers and students.

This book by Natalie and Richard Gordon represents an important development in the field of developmental biology and in the foundations of theoretical biology. Its clear presentation and style makes it a perfect complementary textbook for teaching embryogenesis and re- lated courses. It is strongly recommended to everybody who is interested in the problems of embryogenesis and, in general, in foundations of biological organization. In the end, after reading this book, we are convinced that the concept of differentiation waves explains the mystery of embryogenesis. Further elaboration and strengthening of the experimental basis of research related to the phenomenon of differentiation waves may provide new further evidence in support of this great concept.

The First Review of Embryogenesis Explained!

 

We got our first review! Andrei Igamberdiev has reviewed our book for BioSystems. He kindly sent us an advance copy. The full review will be submitted to BioSystems and hopefully published December or January. He especially noticed and commented on how we included the Russian literature related to embryogenesis. He also praised us because the book makes embryology accessible to non biologists which we were especially pleased to hear because that was our main reason for writing. We are delighted to have someone completely independent from us say such nice stuff!

Dear Richard,

I have read your book with great interest! You convinced me that the
concept of differentiation waves is a real basis of the phenomenon
of embryogenesis. Also your book contains a lot of important
information on different aspects of not only embryogenesis but of
the whole field of general and theoretical biology.

Yours,
Andrei