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Bioneers 24th Annual Conference: Turning Vision Into Action

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Bioneers 24th Annual Conference: Turning Vision Into Action

Bioneers

The National Bioneers Conference, established in 1990, is the original whole-systems forum of innovation and collaboration for social, cultural and environmental resilience. Serving the sustainability, environmentalism and social justice communities, BioCon speakers and presenters have included Bill McKibben, Jane Goodall, Gloria Steinem, Philippe Cousteau, Michael Pollan, Vandana Shiva and Paul Hawken, among many other luminaries. The conference also prides itself on introducing audiences to some of the most innovative voices yet to be discovered.

During this annual three-day event—Oct. 18-20 at the Marin Center in San Rafael, CA—visionaries and change-makers will propose, debate and initiate solutions to global bio-cultural and socio-ecological issues. The theme of this year’s conference is Turning Vision Into Action. It opens on Friday with Jason McLennan, visionary founder of the Living Building Challenge, chronicling the transformative influence of “green building” on designers, builders, communities and educational systems. Whole-systems thinking continues with presentations and panels covering Women as Democracy Builders, Recognizing the Rights of Nature, Building Community Resilience, Creating Peace Through Understanding and more—including new interactive networking sessions for attendees and presenters.

Bioneers Founder and CEO and award-winning author Kenny Ausubel explains the appeal of diversity in conference programming, “Most people are passionately interested in one or two topics or issues. These become points of entry because the beauty of the conference is that then you find out how they’re connected to everything else.” It is indeed an integrated whole-systems approach for Turning Vision Into Action.

Weekend programming begins with acclaimed biologist, innovation consultant and author Janine Benyus presenting The Biomimicry Network Effect: What Will We Solve Together? Permaculture expert Darren Doherty will speak about Re-booting Agriculture for the Next 10,000 Years. Actor, activist and filmmaker Danny Glover will dive into social justice with his keynote talk on Reimagining Citizenship, Democracy and Nature. Beloved Bioneers Elder Joanna Macy will receive the Bioneers Lifetime Achievement Award. Macy will deliver a keynote address on Sunday, Oct. 20.

The National Bioneers Conference is the home of the acclaimed Bioneers Indigenous Forum, which features exciting workshops and discussions on major issues, struggles and successes in Indian Country and in indigenous communities globally. Co-produced by Bioneers, The Cultural Conservancy and Indigenous Environmental Network provides a space for in-depth explorations of “Indigeneity” and “Re-Indigenization” in a format that encourages all of us to re-indigenize ourselves and examine the history of colonization within our own roots. The event focuses on educating the global community about key issues and the resiliency First Peoples are developing to address cultural survival, human rights, land and biodiversity preservation.

The Cultural Conservancy Executive Director, Melissa Nelson (Anishinaabe/Métis); Indigenous Environmental Network Executive Director, Tom Goldtooth (Dakota/Diné); and Bioneers Indigeneity Program Director, Cara Romero, host this networking space and sanctuary for Indigenous participants.

Now in its 24th year, BioCon offers business leaders, community leaders, civic leaders, educators, activists, students and all global citizens access to inspiring keynotes, provocative panels and workshops, and networking sessions with others who are committed to progressive action in restoring people and planet.

For more information or to register, click here.

Visit EcoWatch’s BIODIVERSITY page for more related news on this topic.

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A net-casting ogre-faced spider. CBG Photography Group, Centre for Biodiversity Genomics / CC BY-SA 3.0

Just in time for Halloween, scientists at Cornell University have published some frightening research, especially if you're an insect!

The ghoulishly named ogre-faced spider can "hear" with its legs and use that ability to catch insects flying behind it, the study published in Current Biology Thursday concluded.

"Spiders are sensitive to airborne sound," Cornell professor emeritus Dr. Charles Walcott, who was not involved with the study, told the Cornell Chronicle. "That's the big message really."

The net-casting, ogre-faced spider (Deinopis spinosa) has a unique hunting strategy, as study coauthor Cornell University postdoctoral researcher Jay Stafstrom explained in a video.

They hunt only at night using a special kind of web: an A-shaped frame made from non-sticky silk that supports a fuzzy rectangle that they hold with their front forelegs and use to trap prey.

They do this in two ways. In a maneuver called a "forward strike," they pounce down on prey moving beneath them on the ground. This is enabled by their large eyes — the biggest of any spider. These eyes give them 2,000 times the night vision that we have, Science explained.

But the spiders can also perform a move called the "backward strike," Stafstrom explained, in which they reach their legs behind them and catch insects flying through the air.

"So here comes a flying bug and somehow the spider gets information on the sound direction and its distance. The spiders time the 200-millisecond leap if the fly is within its capture zone – much like an over-the-shoulder catch. The spider gets its prey. They're accurate," coauthor Ronald Hoy, the D & D Joslovitz Merksamer Professor in the Department of Neurobiology and Behavior in the College of Arts and Sciences, told the Cornell Chronicle.

What the researchers wanted to understand was how the spiders could tell what was moving behind them when they have no ears.

It isn't a question of peripheral vision. In a 2016 study, the same team blindfolded the spiders and sent them out to hunt, Science explained. This prevented the spiders from making their forward strikes, but they were still able to catch prey using the backwards strike. The researchers thought the spiders were "hearing" their prey with the sensors on the tips of their legs. All spiders have these sensors, but scientists had previously thought they were only able to detect vibrations through surfaces, not sounds in the air.

To test how well the ogre-faced spiders could actually hear, the researchers conducted a two-part experiment.

First, they inserted electrodes into removed spider legs and into the brains of intact spiders. They put the spiders and the legs into a vibration-proof booth and played sounds from two meters (approximately 6.5 feet) away. The spiders and the legs responded to sounds from 100 hertz to 10,000 hertz.

Next, they played the five sounds that had triggered the biggest response to 25 spiders in the wild and 51 spiders in the lab. More than half the spiders did the "backward strike" move when they heard sounds that have a lower frequency similar to insect wing beats. When the higher frequency sounds were played, the spiders did not move. This suggests the higher frequencies may mimic the sounds of predators like birds.

University of Cincinnati spider behavioral ecologist George Uetz told Science that the results were a "surprise" that indicated science has much to learn about spiders as a whole. Because all spiders have these receptors on their legs, it is possible that all spiders can hear. This theory was first put forward by Walcott 60 years ago, but was dismissed at the time, according to the Cornell Chronicle. But studies of other spiders have turned up further evidence since. A 2016 study found that a kind of jumping spider can pick up sonic vibrations in the air.

"We don't know diddly about spiders," Uetz told Science. "They are much more complex than people ever thought they were."

Learning more provides scientists with an opportunity to study their sensory abilities in order to improve technology like bio-sensors, directional microphones and visual processing algorithms, Stafstrom told CNN.

Hoy agreed.

"The point is any understudied, underappreciated group has fascinating lives, even a yucky spider, and we can learn something from it," he told CNN.

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