(computer clicking) (upbeat music) – [Narrator] Ecological
reserves providing access to two very different California landscapes, a program to provide real-world
research opportunities to computer science students, the Mediterranean climate ecosystem, and what makes it so special, but first, the StarCAVE, all on this
edition of On Beyond. (upbeat music) – [Robotic Woman] Welcome
to Inside Science TV. – [Computer] Saved. – End program. – [Narrator] The Holodeck
seen here in the hit TV show Star Trek allows crew
members to enter and explore virtual worlds. Now, Jurgen Schulze, an expert
in science visualizations, along with his colleagues,
has created a new, totally immersive, 3D virtual reality room called the StarCAVE. – The StarCAVE is a virtual reality system which consists of 15
screens all around the user. It’s completely 360-degree immersive, and it can generate 3D
images anywhere in the space that the user looks at. The user wears 3D glasses
and a tracking system so that the computer
knows where the user is, and you’re using a 3D input device to control the environment. – [Narrator] The StarCAVE
creates environments scientists once could only imagine. Users can walk around virtual buildings to improve their design, or explore molecules to
unlock their secrets. The room displays 68 million pixels, and while your video
game system is just one graphics processor, StarCAVE uses 34, making it over 30 times more powerful than the PlayStation 3 or the Xbox 360. – We’re currently working
on making the technology of the StarCAVE more
available to a larger market, and one way to do this is to
utilize 3D television screens to offer systems that allow people at home to do virtual reality
in their living room. – [Narrator] Turning science
fiction into science fact. I’m Josh Lebowitz reporting. – [Robotic Woman] Inside Science TV. If you enjoyed this edition, follow us on Facebook,
Twitter, or YouTube. Two new science stories every week, powered by the American
Institute of Physics. (upbeat music) – [Narrator] University of
California Natural Reserve System is a network of protected
wildlands across California. The system provides
places to educate students and the public about the natural world, and for scientists to conduct
research in wild landscapes. Each reserve offers access
to a unique environment. Two of the reserves,
administered by UC Riverside, the James San Jacinto Mountains Reserve and the Sweeney Granite
Mountains Desert Research Center demonstrate just how
different these sites can be. The James San Jacinto Mountains Reserve is located about a mile high
just west of Palm Springs. The area hosts plants
characteristic of several regions, including the Sierra Nevada,
the coast, and the desert. It is embedded within much
larger natural and scenic areas administered by the US Forest Service. The James Reserve staff also manages the Oasis de los Osos. Located in a desert pass between Riverside and the Coachella valley,
this 160-acre reserve is fed by a perennial stream. Though the James Reserve is
relatively small at 29 acres, it hosts an impressive
variety of plants and animals. These include 18 species of reptiles such as this western rattlesnake, mammals such as deer and mountain lions, and 125 species of birds. The principle facility at the James is the Trailfinder Lodge, which has classrooms and
visitor accommodation. The James Reserve was
crucial in pioneering the use of remote sensing technology
for environmental research and teaching. Its wireless network
covers the whole property. Local habitat conditions are tracked by micro weather stations and webcams. This camera, for example, is stationed over a manzanita bush. It automatically records any pollinators that visit the heart-shaped flowers. The entire reserve is off the grid. All of the electricity
needed to run the sensors, lights, computers, and other electronics comes from solar panels. The network allows anyone
with internet service to eavesdrop on reserve wildlife. Nest box cameras, for example,
offer views of hungry chicks begging for food inside the nest. There’s even a microphone set up to listen to the forest around the clock. The proximity of the James
Reserve to the UC Riverside campus, its comfortable housing,
and its habitat diversity make it an excellent site
for introducing students to the natural world. (soft music) The Sweeney Granite Mountains
Desert Research Center is located within the five million acres of the Mojave Desert. The region is still undeveloped and wild compared to most other parts
of Southern California. The reserve is roughly
14 square miles in size, making it the second largest
in the Natural Reserve System. About 10% is owned by the university. The remainder is operated
under an agreement with the National Parks
Service as part of the 1.5-million-acre Mojave National Preserve. The staff also administer
a satellite reserve in the Sacramento Mountains. This area is known for its dense stands of teddy bear cholla. The Granite Mountains were once part of an ancient chain of volcanoes. Weathering along the
rock joints and fractures has produced white pinnacles, precariously-balanced boulders,
and maze-like corridors. Rugged upland canyons support water-loving cottonwoods and willows, but
also dry-adapted live oaks, yuccas, and cacti. Its steep inclines evolve
into broad bajadas, or sloping sediment aprons. These are dominated by
creosote and burrobush. The Granite Mountains are
situated at the juncture of three deserts: the Mojave, the Sonoran, and the Great Basin. As a result, the reserve is
home to an unusually diverse mixture of plants and animals. Reptiles at the reserve
include the threatened desert tortoise, the coachwhip snake, and the long-nosed leopard lizard. Resident mammals include ring-tailed cats, which prowl rocky areas at dawn and dusk, and desert bighorn sheep. In previous centuries, water concentrated around the
base of the mountain range attracted a large population
of Native Americans. The mountains are dotted
with ancient habitation sites and rock art. Most reserve facilities are nestled into the broad wash known as Granite Cove. The Allanson Center and Library is the reserve’s central hub. Built in 1992, it was
constructed largely by volunteers using donated and recycled materials. The center includes a
laboratory, specimen collections, and visitor accommodations. Researches who use the
reserve range from biologists, to earth scientists, to artists. Many work on the reserve itself, while others use it as a base
while commuting to sand dunes, lava flows, and other features
in the surrounding desert. The nearest town is located
about two hours away. This makes reserve housing,
telecommunications, and other amenities
critical for scientists working in this vast and wild region. As with all of the sites in
the Natural Reserve System, the Sweeney Granite Mountains Reserve is protected for the longterm. This policy attracts scientists who know that their research plots and
equipment won’t be disturbed. For teachers, the
Granite Mountains Reserve is a wonderful place to bring students. It regularly hosts both high
school and college classes from around the world. Over 30,000 students have
visited the reserve’s Kenneth S. Norris camp facility alone. A few UC classes have
been coming to the reserve for decades. For students, the chance to leave the city and explore the wilderness can
be a transforming experience. Holding a live snake
for the very first time, or seeing a wild kangaroo rat close up, helps them appreciate the
wonders of the natural world. That’s the story of two
very different reserves. One nestled beneath the
shade of mountain forests, the other a remote outpost
amid a parched desert. Despite their many differences, they share one important factor. Both are united by the mission of the Natural Reserve System: to
contribute to the understanding and wise stewardship of the Earth. (upbeat music) – [Teacher] This is S number
and this is the P number. So S, P. – I immigrated from Iran five years ago. I always wanted to immigrate
because in my country, there isn’t enough room for
women to grow as an individual, to study and to do research. – Usually, when you do a clinical trial, you have randomized. – [Sara] In one of our classes, our professor started
talking about ERSP program, and told us that it’s a
great research opportunity. – So that’s why most of the drugs cannot pass the clinical trials. – ERSP is a team-based
scaffolded research experience for early undergraduates
in computer science. The idea was to find some faculty mentors who were willing to let
groups of undergraduates into their lab, who would be
supported not only by them but also through this central, structured, mentoring team to help give
these early undergraduates a little more support that they needed as they were getting involved in research. – So if I do X4, what’s gonna happen? – My project deals with
making a game out of a very complicated computational problem called software verification. Our professors and our advisors
built this game on Facebook, and it was not very
accessible because you had to have a Facebook account to play it, and it was built for a computer, and so what my team and I did was that we first built it on a mobile phone, and the second thing that we added was to introduce a multiplayer mode on it, and so you can basically
challenge your friends to play the game with you. – Just do the comparative study. Single player vs. multiplayer. – Software verification is
basically trying to make sure that the softwares that are
being produced are bulletproof. Everything that you do is
kind of guided by software, so if you’re driving a car
and you’re in an accident, the airbag should pop out. Now that is something that’s
been coded into the car to do, and so we need to make sure
that it works perfectly fine, and if it doesn’t, either it’s gonna pop out
even when it doesn’t need to, or it won’t pop out when it does need to. – You can have smaller things
that’s like, pedestrians. – The project that I’m
working on is building reinforcement learning
environments in order to evaluate and benchmark
reinforcement learning algorithms. So the agent is a car, and basically, the agent drives the car
to try to reach a target while avoiding obstacles. So then for these lanes,
would they be physical blocks? Our environment adds obstacles
that the car has to avoid and normally, in everyday life, you have a lot of these constraints. You have to drive while
stopping at stop signs, while not crashing into other cars, and while a reinforcement
learning algorithm today might be really good at
just steering the car to get to a target, it’s
not so good at doing this while also abiding by the constraints. – And people have tried to investigate in the context of microbiome. – Our research is more
bioinformatic-related, and it is one of the
most interesting things that I think I could have done. What we are doing right
now is that we are looking for fundamental growth of nature. We are working on microbiome. Microbiome is what lives within
us, on nature, everywhere. There are a great amount
of microbiome data available to everyone, and up to now, people have been looking
at this information in different ways, usually
using really complex mathematical relationships, but what we are doing is that
we’re using those same data, but we are applying a very, very simple mathematical rules to come
up with clear hypothesis that can give us universal
rules that would exist anywhere between two microbes. As of right now, we have found multiple really interesting relationships that are related to food poisoning, and how it can be inhibited, hopefully, and we have the ability
to take that into lab and confirm our hypothesis, which is something that did not
exist usually in this field. – So in addition to the faculty mentor from the research team, they’re mentored by a
central mentoring team, including myself as the current director, and a graduate student assistant. We provide more of the
day-to-day, hands-on, just standard mentoring that
early research students need. – I think it’s very
important for undergraduates to have an idea of how to
do all the presentation and posters and stuff, and
also all the technical details like code or the different
mathematical formulas they need to know about,
because regardless of whether you go to the industry
or you stay in academia, you will need to own a
product end-to-end someday. – [Christine] It was important
to me to target ERSP at students from underrepresented groups, as those students generally
have less experience before college, and then on top of that, because they’re in the minority, they might feel less comfortable
approaching professors to try to get these
research opportunities, so they’re kind of doubly-hindered in their ability to get
involved in research. – I would say that the biggest benefit is the amount of
confidence that it gave me in my own skills and
the way I present myself to other people, and so before
I was a part of this program, it felt like I was a part
of this huge university and I was just a student here, and I didn’t know where I stood, but after being a part of the program, I realized how important
it is to challenge yourself and I realized that the
things that I was doing, even if it was just
writing a piece of code that somebody has already written, how it’s benefiting me
and my understanding. – ERSP has been expanded to
three other universities. One university has already
implemented a year of ERSP, so that’s UC Santa Barbara, and they said they’ve
been really surprised with how well the program works. This idea of engaging
sophomores in research is a little bit out there. People take a little bit
to warm up to the idea that sophomores could really
do something meaningful in a research project, and I think they’ve been
pleasantly surprised by how much the students
have been able to do, and how well the structure
of the program works. The initial funding for
ERSP came from the NSF, that was our launch
funding, our pilot funding, and since the program’s been
running now for five years, that funding is finished. I’ve been fortunate that the
department has been supportive of kind of bridging the
efforts and keeping it going, but what’s going to be
really important for the program’s future is finding
a way to financially support it as we move forward. – I get it, that makes a lot of sense, I love it, that’s great. The thing that I really like
the most about being involved in this program is to
see the students blossom. They spend a year doing research, and they get to learn, and
they get to explore the ideas, and at the end of it, they
come out with confidence, with pride, and with
excitement about research, and I think that’s really a wonderful, wonderful thing to see. – When we started back in September, I had no idea that we’d be presenting something like this today. I am a totally different person
in terms of my knowledge, in terms of the things that I can do. I could not believe
that we could accomplish this much within a year. I now have more hope to
continue doing research in future, and it gave me
the confidence to go on. It’s been something that
I always wanted to do, but I knew, over there,
my chances are pretty low, almost zero, so all these years, my family and I, we’ve
been trying to find a way to come out and find
the opportunity to grow. It’s been hard, but it’s worth it, and I think I’ve been reaching
what I’ve been looking for all those years. (inspirational music) (upbeat music) – [Narrator] The Mediterranean
Basin is a storied region, home to miles of sun-warmed
beaches, fabulous wines, and bustling cities. It’s been a cultural crossroads since the dawn of civilization. What first attracted people to the basin, then convinced them to stay,
was surely the mild weather. Here, the four seasons
are compressed into two. Hot summers bring clear, dry skies, cool, but not frigid, winters
deliver life-giving rain. This Mediterranean climate
offers a long growing season and comfortable living temperatures. The results? Rich crop harvests and
tremendous natural bounty. The temperate conditions
of the Mediterranean can also be found in a
handful of other places. Much of California and
Northern Baja California, the central coast of Chile, Southwest and parts of South Australia, and the Cape Region of South Africa. Thanks to their similar climates, these regions have much in common. Understanding what features they share, what problems they face, and
what is unique about each, is helping people preserve
these landscapes for the future. All five of the
Mediterranean climate regions experience relatively even
temperatures throughout the year and receive the majority
of their precipitation as rainfall over just a few months. These warm, mostly frost-free regions are powerhouse producers
of lemons, strawberries, avocados, tomatoes, and
other high-value crops. Some, such as olives, originate
from Mediterranean climbs. Others, such as citrus and almonds, flourish in the relative
warmth and seasonal rain. Wine grapes, too, love hot, arid summers and snow-free winters. It’s no wonder that all five
Mediterranean climate regions have major wine industries. All of these lands are
on the Western coasts of continents and adjacent
to large bodies of water. The oceans and seas help to
moderate land temperatures. Less obvious are the atmospheric forces that divide the Mediterranean calendar into wet and dry seasons. Each of the five regions is located near a high-pressure cell that
hovers over an ocean. These cells move toward
the poles in summer, pushing storms away from land. Jet streams shift the cells
back towards the equator in winter, bringing
storms near land again. Mediterranean climate regions are also hot houses of biological diversity. Though these areas cover only
2.2% of Earth’s dry land, they harbor 16% of all
known plant species. Only tropical rainforests
rival their diversity. The Mediterranean
climate can be stressful. For plants, a lack of
water or cool temperatures limit growth for much of the year. Because Mediterranean-region organisms face similar conditions, many have evolved similar characteristics. Shrubby, evergreen plants are
widespread in all five areas. Their small, leathery leaves
keep water loss to a minimum, helping plants survive
long summers without rain. In the Mediterranean, maquis
flora includes cork oaks, olive trees, and heath. The matorral of Chile
is home to wine palms. Also found here is Quillaja,
the soap bark tree. The chaparral of California
includes live oaks, manzanitas, and chamise. The Fynbos of South
Africa features proteas, Pelargonium, the plants we
know as garden geraniums, and Ericas. Australian Kwongan includes
many types of Banksias, sundews, and Hakeas. Most Mediterranean
ecosystems have also evolved with periodic fires. Many plants in these systems have traits that are advantageous in
fire-prone environments, including root crowns that
re-sprout after a blaze, shedding seeds after a fire, and germination stimulated
by smoke or ash. The five Mediterranean climate regions also face a similar suite of problems. Invasive species may
pose the greatest threat. Exotic plants can turn into
landscape-devouring weeds when transplanted into new ecosystems. The fast-growing Monterey pine, imported to Chile as a source of lumber, has become the dominant
forest tree in coastal areas. The golden wattle,
Australia’s national tree, is marching its way across
South African Fynbos that has been prevented from burning, and black mustard, native
to the Mediterranean Basin, is engulfing entire hillsides
throughout California. People have had an even greater impact on Mediterranean landscapes
by flocking there to live. The qualities that made
the Mediterranean Basin so alluring to early people
have swelled human populations in all five Mediterranean climate regions. The migrants have built
some of the world’s most cosmopolitan cities: Cape Town, South Africa, Santiago, Chile, San Francisco, California, Rome, Italy, and Perth, Australia, but those cities have
come at a heavy price for the environment. Today, more than 40% of the world’s Mediterranean-type ecosystems
have been devoured by cites or converted to farmland. Little of the remaining
valuable open space has been protected. To put this in perspective, of all endangered tropical rainforest, half has been preserved from development. In Mediterranean areas, it is much worse. Of all the original
Mediterranean ecosystem habitat, only 1/8 of that habitat has been preserved from development. Populations in Mediterranean climate areas skyrocket further during vacation season. Their balmy weather draws
tourists like a magnet. While there are roughly 300
million permanent residents of the Mediterranean Basin, an estimated 220 million
tourists also visit each year. Amenities for vacationers, such
as resorts and golf courses, consume even more local
land and resources, but perhaps the most precious resource in Mediterranean climate
areas is freshwater. Many of these regions
already struggle to make water supplies stretch through
months of summer drought. To make matters worse,
global warming is expected to make Mediterranean
ecosystems hotter and drier in the future. That means drought, heat waves, and their associated threat, wildfire, are expected to become more
extreme from here on out. 4,000 years ago, the
combination of climate change and intensive farming
transformed the fertile crescent, cradle of civilization,
into a parched desert. Given climate change forecasts and current agricultural practices, today’s Mediterranean climate lands could face a similar fate. Understanding how these
areas are vulnerable is a first step towards
preventing that scenario. People are protecting
wildlands by setting aside parks and reserves, battling invasive species, conserving urban water use, and controlling erosion. Together, these and other
efforts might be enough to maintain the health
of Earth’s treasured Mediterranean climate landscapes. (upbeat music)

On Beyond: Undergraduate Computer Research Program Mediterranean Climate Natural Reserves
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2 thoughts on “On Beyond: Undergraduate Computer Research Program Mediterranean Climate Natural Reserves

  • March 16, 2020 at 9:15 pm


  • March 17, 2020 at 3:33 am

    If one of your programs could actually predict the weather 1 month from now I would be impressed.


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