Biodiversity Informatics - Research Thread

I’m working on a map of radio-ecology / sustainability / impact investing and molecular bio-prospecting building off Leo’s investigations in that area and my recent reading on the history of the Atomic Energy Commission and radio-isotopes. It’s hard to keep all the sources straight as I make the map, so I’m going to use this thread as a placeholder for links and observations as I pull this together. This is what I have so far - work in progress…

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What led me to start this tread was noticing that the MacArthur Foundation has been funding taxonomic indexing and citizen science documentation of biodiversity. They are also the folks who are central to ed-tech “open education resources” and playlist education for lifelong learning aka training the machine. MacArthur is insurance money and based in Chicago. On a hunch I did a search of MacArthur and Argonne National Lab - also based in Chicago and a US DOE operation closely tied to bioinformatics, too. This guy’s obituary came up - Arthur Sussman.

“Arthur M. Sussman, former General Counsel at the University of Chicago and former MacArthur Vice President passed away on August 10, 2016 in Chicago.”

“…then General Counsel and Vice President for Administration and Argonne National Laboratory at the University of Chicago for 22 years (1979-2001).”

"As Vice President at the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation (2001-2011), Sussman helped to shape the Foundation’s grantmaking in support of human rights and international justice, biodiversity preservation, and arts and culture in Chicago. "

This is the press release for their funding of the “Encyclopedia of Life” in 2009. I have a feeling that the creation of biodiversity informatics will be linked to financialization of natural asset classes and that “citizen science” data capture may be folded into future pay for success deals - picture those nature apps as a “future of work” task assignment.

So for years I worked at a public botanic garden where the founders corresponded with Linnaeus, creator of taxonomic systems in the 18th century. We are about to see the imposition of standards include molecular level monitoring I think. For a time around 1738 Linnaeus worked for a director of the Dutch East India Company who was a plant collector. I think the image below kind of sums up the dominating tendencies of man over nature. From this slide deck.

The MacArthur Foundation provided the seed funding for the World Resources Institute in 1982 - the are the primary think tank laying the ground work for the Climate emergency. See the composition of their board.

This is the 1982 MacArthur grant reference.

At the time of its founding Yale alumnus and Rhodes Scholar James Gustave Speth was director. @leo Speth was born in Orangeburg, SC about an hour east of the AEC Savannah River Ecology Preserve. Speth had already founded the Natural Resources Defense Council and was closely involved with the Clinton administration’s environmental policies and later the UN environmental program and sustainability measures. Later in his career in “forestry” and environmental law he landed at the University of Vermont Law School. James Gustave Speth - Wikipedia

RFK Jr. was lead attorney at the Natural Resources Defense Council, founded by Speth, from 1986 to 2017.
Robert F. Kennedy Jr. - Wikipedia.
Robert F. Kennedy, Jr. | Climate One

Hopping back to MacArthur - as we consider vast amounts of data aggregation on the environment under the umbrella of “sustainability” it’s important to remember that it is all used for simulation and modeling - the digital twin “world.” MacArthur was an early promoter of Second Life in 2009 even creating its own digital island and promoting virtual philanthropy. More on that here: PhilanTopic: MacArthur Island Launches in Second Life
MacArthur Island Launches in Second Life - PhilanTopic | PND | Candid

So im not sure if it would be to off topic, but radiogenetics abasically same thing.

Hugo De Vries, Dutch Botanists. Heres some text from what I am working on, my source is primarily Luis Campos, Radium and the Secret of Life. Italisaized are quotes from his book. I get you the pdf if interested.

Dutch botanist Hugo De Vries, catalyzed a major shift in biology with his theory of mutation, positing that new species could emerge within a single generation. The idea came about in response to the problems of Darwinian natural/sexual selection, where changes lead to new species were selected through ‘survival of the fittest’ or ‘mate choice’. The purely Darwinian model required a longer timespan than life had actually evolved under. De vries argued that organisms could go through “mutating periods” involving sudden major shifts. He believed his favorite subject, the evening primrose, was undergoing one of these “mutating periods”. His work inspired the concept of experimental evolutionary biology. Campos writes:

its publication marked “an epoch, not only in the history of botany, but of all biological science,” according to one prominent reviewer— “and the mutation- theory itself is, in all probability, the most important contribution to evolutionary thought since the publication of Darwin’s ‘Origin.’” As another contemporary noted, “Whether de Vries’ theories are correct or not, wholly or partly, is of far less importance to agriculture than the stimulus he has given to the experimental study of plant variation.” (bold added)

So this is significant as agricultural interested are at the heart of some of this early genetics/radiation/mutation work. Carnegie plays a big role.

De Vries became quite popular and went on speaking tours throughout Northamerica. On June 11, 1904 he spoke at the dedication ceremony for the department of genetics of the Carnegie Foundation at Cold Spring Harbor:

In an address entitled “The Aim of Experimental Evolution,” de Vries thrilled his audience by suggesting that “the rays of Roentgen and Curie” might be successfully used to induce mutation, grant humanity control over evolution, and lead to the production of new and useful varieties— all extraordinarily popular topics at the turn of the century.

De Vries’ biggest fan in the United States, Daniel MacDougal, began working at the NYC botanical gardens in 1899 and conducted some of the first research looking to expand De Vries notion of large scale intentional mutations in plants. After failing with various salt, mineral mixtures, MacDougal finally succeeded in inducing mutations through radium, and Campos cites him as:

MacDougal was arguably the first to make the evolutionary link between the transmutation of radium and the transmutation of a species experimentally explicit.

Campos also described MacDougal as emblematic of a shift in academic biology, where researchers were “becoming increasingly professionalized, interventionist, and experimentalized and making use of new technologies, equipment, and funding sources”.

After several years at the botanical laboratories in NYC MacDougal became the director of botanical studies for the Carnegie Foundation around 1906.

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Fascinatingly with Carnigie, one of the main contributions I am reading about MacDougal, is the invention of the dendograph, an recording device for tree growth. Daniel T. MacDougal (1865-1958) | Carnegie's Department of Plant Biology

Carnegie Institute money put Cold Spring Harbor lab on the map for biology and genetics research in the early 1900s.

One of the often cited results out of Cold Springs is the development of ‘hybrid’ corn. George Shulls, Princeton professor who worked out of Cold Springs in the early 1900s, is taught as the ‘father’ of ‘hybrid’ corn which became the basis for industrial agriculture corn breeding. He went on to found the journal Genetics.

Jean-Pierre Berlan, former director of research in economics at the National Institute of Agronomic Research in Montpellier France, argues in an essay that Shulls 'discovery’ was merely an extension of cloning and isolation practices already in practice, and actually solved the economic problems of corn property rights.

Shull’s ‘Composition of a field of maize’ is a masterpiece: it sent generations of biologists astray chasing the mysteries of heterosis; it established Shull’s priority on the exploitation of the elusive heterosis (the worldwide paradigm of breeding), and on its implementation with his revolutionary breeding technique, ‘hybrid corn’. It turned reality upside down: his breeding technique appeared as a consequence of his theory of heterosis although his theory was actually an ad hoc construction to justify his extending the early nineteenth century isolation/cloning method to maize; it hid the extravagance of his breeding method and its inability to increase yield behind the ‘magic of heterosis’; it highlighted isolation methods to stamp out the isolation/cloning method; it solved the twin overdominant problems of an industrial capitalist agriculture, industrial uniformity and breeders’ property rights, and created the present monopolistic seed industry; and last, it insured that Shull would not have to share his ‘monument’ with anyone.

edit added bold

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The molecular approach to life, UN-sanctioned equal access to genetic material, and uplifting of Indigenous voices I feel will lead all of nature onto the blockchain for tokenization. Considering what you just said above, I see this article as a set up for a future “sharing economy” of genetic material managed by IoT and satellites / drones. Indigenous Maize: Who Owns the Rights to Mexico’s ‘Wonder’ Plant? - Yale E360

Compare Shull’s patent approach with Raul’s discussion of the four-season floating gardens of Mexico City.

Corn genetics….@leo

“Barbara McClintock (June 16, 1902 – September 2, 1992) was an American scientist and cytogeneticist who was awarded the 1983 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine. McClintock received her PhD in botany from Cornell University in 1927. There she started her career as the leader of the development of maize cytogenetics, the focus of her research for the rest of her life. From the late 1920s, McClintock studied chromosomes and how they change during reproduction in maize. She developed the technique for visualizing maize chromosomes and used microscopic analysis to demonstrate many fundamental genetic ideas. One of those ideas was the notion of genetic recombination by crossing-over during meiosis—a mechanism by which chromosomes exchange information. She produced the first genetic map for maize, linking regions of the chromosome to physical traits. She demonstrated the role of the telomere and centromere, regions of the chromosome that are important in the conservation of genetic information. She was recognized as among the best in the field, awarded prestigious fellowships, and elected a member of the National Academy of Sciences in 1944.

“During the 1940s and 1950s, McClintock discovered transposition and used it to demonstrate that genes are responsible for turning physical characteristics on and off. She developed theories to explain the suppression and expression of genetic information from one generation of maize plants to the next. Due to skepticism of her research and its implications, she stopped publishing her data in 1953. Later, she made an extensive study of the cytogenetics and ethnobotany of maize races from South America…” Barbara McClintock - Wikipedia

Listen to the audio on McClintock by Jo Handelsman, who cites McClintock’s discovery of ‘jumping genes’ which she identified with “mosaic” leaf characteristics—we’re induced to call them viruses and there is a long list of plant viruses labeled “mosaic”. Neither Wikipedia nor the audio mention that McClintock was irradiating her specimens with X-rays. UV is often mentioned and was common practice in historical context, but I searched hard to find the X-ray citations, which may have actually been her preferred method.

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Here’s a World Resources Institute collaboration to bring Forest Resiliency Bonds [FRBs] to market, and a question:

If private investors buy stakes in government forestry resource management, can wildfire catastrophe bonds be far behind?

Wildfire burnings this year as of August 13, 2022, with Alaska at #1 with 3 times its average:

“Over the last 10 years Alaska’s average acres burned in a full year is 1.1 million. This year they are at 3.1 million, more than the other 49 states combined. There has been a major increase in Alaska acres burned after mid-August in only 2 of the last 18 years. And it has been fairly quiet there, fire wise, for the last four weeks.

So far this year, fires in the other 49 states have blackened about 2.8 million acres, 12 percent below the to-date 10-year average of 3.2 million. The 49 states typically burn 6.2 million in a full year, so if this year turns out like the average of the last 10, we’re about half done…”

Before reading on, consider the military uses of forest fires: (17 minutes)

Here’s a 3-way partnership “pay-for-success” investment bond (FRB) from World Resources Institute, Blue Forest Conservation, and Encourage Capital which launched the implementation of a ‘forest restoration’ project in Tahoe National Forest in 2018 to prevent destructive wildfires and improve air and water quality.

“Encourage Capital has become a leader in financing ecosystem-based carbon offset projects that develop carbon credits for the California carbon market. Our EKO Green Carbon Fund [GCF] invests in projects that rely on changes in forest management practices that are designed to preserve more carbon.” Encourage Capital - A new kind of investment firm that seeks to make profitable investments that solve critical social and environmental issues. | Environmental Markets. “One of the most important investments by the GCF is an investment in the development of a project with the White Mountain Apache Tribe (WMAT)… The WMAT IFM project is the GCF’s largest investment and is expected to produce over 3,500,000 California Carbon Offsets, making it one the largest forest carbon projects in the U.S.” Encourage Capital - A new kind of investment firm that seeks to make profitable investments that solve critical social and environmental issues. | Environmental Markets.

As Wildfires Scorch U.S. Forests, Forest Resilience Bond Blazes a New Trail

September 18, 2017

“In 2015, wildfire burned over 10 million acres of land across the United States for the first time in recorded history. This was no anomaly: 9 of the 10 worst fire seasons have all occurred since 2000. 2017 is on pace to join the list with nearly 8.5 million acres burned as of September 17. Wildfires have been particularly vicious in the western U.S., choking Seattle with smoke, ravaging the renowned Columbia River Gorge, and threatening Los Angeles with the largest fire in the city’s history.

“Forests are three to four times as dense as they were a century ago, with excess vegetation increasing the risk of wildfire. As a result, 40 percent of the U.S. Forest Service’s 193 million acres of public forest and grasslands are at “high risk” of severe wildfires.

“Forest restoration—the strategic removal of brush and shrubs and selective thinning of trees—could help return forests to a healthier state. However, the agency is far short of the resources it would need to do to the job at the scale required. An ambitious new approach to financing is needed. One such approach, called the Forest Resilience Bond, will allow private investors to help close the gap between the need for forest restoration and the capital available for restoration projects.

“Forests restored to a more natural density face a lower risk of severe wildfire, which protects water quality and watershed resilience while avoiding devastating carbon emissions from wildfires. However, despite the financial, social, and environmental benefits that restoration would create, the USFS lacks the resources to implement treatments. That’s due to a vicious cycle known as “fire borrowing,” in which USFS pays to fight today’s fires out of the funds designed to prevent tomorrow’s. USFS now spends more than half of its budget just to put out fires. Left unchecked, fire suppression is expected to rise to two-thirds of the total budget by 2025, resulting in nearly $700 million less available each year for proactive restoration and other initiatives to promote forest health…

“In many cases, the multi-stakeholder value of forest restoration far exceeds its costs and would make a compelling economic case for investment—if such opportunities existed. Recognizing this potential, a new approach called the Forest Resilience Bond has been spearheaded by Blue Forest Conservation, the World Resources Institute, and Encourage Capital. This first-of-its-kind tool brings together the beneficiaries of forest restoration with an unlikely ally: private investors.

The Forest Resilience Bond

The Forest Resilience Bond (FRB) is an investment in forest health. It is a public-private partnership that enables private capital to finance much-needed forest restoration. Beneficiaries of the restoration work make cost-share and pay-for-success payments over time (up to 10 years) to provide investors competitive returns based on the project’s success.

Once investor capital is used to implement the restoration treatments, investors earn back their money from payments by the following beneficiaries:

  • USFS, paying for decreased risk of severe fire;
  • Electric utilities, paying for increased hydroelectricity generation, avoided sedimentation, and protected infrastructure;
  • Water utilities, paying for protected water quality and improved water volumes; and
  • State and local governments, paying for avoided fire suppression costs, avoided carbon emissions, protected communities, and job creation.

…$52 billion is invested in global environmental conservation annually, but research shows at least six times that sum is necessary to preserve the world’s ecosystems. The Forest Resilience Bond could help meet this challenge. In their inaugural report, “Fighting Fire with Finance: A Roadmap for Collective Action,” the FRB team details how conservation finance can be applied not just to forest restoration, but to other environmental contexts across the globe.


Blue Forest – This is our story.

“In 2015, a group of graduate students at UC Berkeley’s Haas School of Business identified a lack of financing as the primary barrier to adequate forest restoration in California and across the U.S… [T]he group developed an innovative financial model that would utilize sources of financing from private and philanthropic investors to fund forest restoration activities. With this model, then called the “Blue Forest Conservation Notes,” the group entered the Kellog-Morgan Stanley Sustainable Investment Challenge, a global competition for innovative finance vehicles that seek positive environmental or social impact and competitive financial returns. Out of 129 teams from around the world, the early version of the Forest Resilience Bond, won first place.

“After winning the competition, the founding members and the model began to draw attention and started developing a network, establishing important and valuable relationships with groups who believed in them and the FRB.

“One such group was the Rockefeller Foundation. In 2015, Blue Forest received an early-stage grant from the Foundation’s newly launched Zero Gap Portfolio and another from the Gordon & Betty Moore Foundation. Investments from CSAA Insurance and Calvert Impact Capital were also crucial to Blue Forest as they continued to build out the model and identify investors.

“Fast forward three years and Blue Forest successfully launched its first FRB project in 2018. The Yuba Project provides $4 million in private capital to finance critical restoration treatments across 15,000 acres of the Tahoe National Forest, working in partnership with World Resources Institute, the USDA Forest Service and various partners that provide research, evaluation, legal and implementation expertise. The Yuba Project’s first successful work season was completed in the fall of 2019.

“In 2020, Blue Forest gained tax exempt status becoming a 501c3 non-profit organization and elected its first Board of Directors.

Board of Directors

Chad Reed is a co-founder of Blue Forest Conservation and leads investor relations and ESG strategy for Hannon Armstrong (NYSE: HASI), a leading investor in climate change solutions… Chad started his career as an intelligence officer operating primarily in the Middle East. He holds degrees from the University of California at Berkeley, the Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies, and the George Washington University.

Nick Wobbrock is a co-founder and the COO of Blue Forest Conservation. He is a licensed civil engineer who developed drinking water and sanitation infrastructure in the US and internationally in Honduras and Malawi… Nick earned an MBA from the UC Berkeley Haas School of Business, an MS in Civil and Environmental Engineering from Stanford University, and a BS in Biological and Environmental Engineering from Cornell University.

Newsha K. Ajami, PhD is the Chief Strategy and Development Officer for Research at the Berkeley Lab Earth and Environmental Sciences Area (EESA) …Dr. Ajami is a Commissioner for the San Francisco Public Utilities Commission and previously served as a two-term gubernatorial appointee to the Bay Area Regional Water Quality Control Board. She is a member of the National Academies Board on Water Science and Technology…

Daniela Saltzman is the founder and CEO of Saltzman & Co., a communications advisory firm that enables companies to generate value from sustainable products and services…

The Yuba Project: “Tahoe National Forest and Blue Forest Conservation partnered to launch The Yuba Project…[as] the first FRB… to finance ecological restoration treatments across 15,000 acres of national forest. The State of California and the Yuba Water Agency are repaying investors at contracted rates as restoration work is completed…” The Yuba Project — Blue Forest Conservation

Fire in Tahoe National Forest grows to nearly 1,000 acres

September 5, 2018 – A fire burning in the Tahoe National Forest near Emigrant Gap has grown to nearly 1,000 acres. The North Fire erupted in the forest Monday. It continues to burn on both sides of the North Fork of the American River canyon near the North Fork Campground.

After downgrading the size of the fire to 500 acres — from a previous estimate of 750 acres — Tuesday morning, the fire grew to 999 acres, according to an update posted at 7:30 a.m. Wednesday… Containment is at 10 percent. There are no [additional] evacuations at this time.

The Placer County Sheriff’s Office has closed the following roads and campgrounds: Yuba Gap Road at I-80; Emigrant Gap Road at I-80; Crystal Lake Road at I-80; Onion Valley, North Fork, Tunnel Mills, Lodgepole, Silvertip, and Sunflower Campgrounds.,American%20River%20canyon%20near%20the%20North%20Fork%20Campground.

Two days earlier…

Published: 4:56 PM PDT September 3, 2018 :“According to the Placer County Sheriff’s Department, authorities have evacuated the North Fork Campground, the Onion Valley Campground and the Tunnel Mills Campground after the so-called North Fire ballooned in the area… Officials say the “aggressive” fire has consumed about 650 acres of land, so far, with “spotting” occurring. Due to the evacuations, traffic on I-80 area is becoming congested…” North Fire: Campgrounds in Tahoe National Forest evacuated |

The Sum of Its Parts: Wildfire in Multi-Peril Catastrophe Bonds

December 04, 2018

Water, wind, and wildfire. It’s been a devastating three months for the U.S. Total insured losses from Hurricanes Florence and Michael, and the Camp and Woolsey wildfires are estimated by RMS in the range US$18.6 billion to US$28 billion…

While California wildfires may seem far removed from Atlantic storms, for capital markets investors the fires may make the difference to how 2018 is remembered. Insurance Linked Securities (ILS) eyes are now trained on multi-peril aggregate catastrophe bonds. Bundling multiple perils under a single coverage makes good sense for the capital markets… The Sum of Its Parts: Wildfire in Multi-Peril Catastrophe Bonds | RMS

Tahoe National Forest Loyalton fire now 44,000 acres

August 18, 2020 Tahoe National Forest Loyalton fire now 44,000 acres - MOTHER LODE TRAILS

MAFFS tackle largest wildfires in California history

Oct. 30, 2020 MAFFS tackle largest wildfires in California history > National Guard > Guard News - The National Guard

“California’s 2020 fires were unprecedented — and not just because they covered more than 4 million acres. The Creek Fire, which burned east of Fresno in the western Sierra Nevada, flamed with such frenzy that it produced a cloud resembling an atomic bomb blast, with smoke reaching the stratosphere. That fire and others, like the huge, lightning-sparked North Complex fires in the Sierras north of Sacramento, didn’t burn in the usual patchy fashion of wildfires, leaving lightly singed spots mixed with more intensely burned islands. They torched much of the acreage within their boundaries, killing even large trees that would have withstood smaller blazes… today’s fires tend to include large patches of fierce crown fires, in which flames engulf the entire forest canopy. These intense fires kill trees across broad areas, and the scorched expanses are too large for nearby surviving trees to reseed… foresters may need to replant saplings after severe burns such as those California experienced this year — and that need has been growing as megafires become more common. The acreage that must be replanted annually is now several times more than it was in the 1970s…”

Forest Service: All California national forests to close as wildfires ravage state

Aug 30, 2021 – Lake Tahoe Nevada State Parks is [also] closing all its management units due to hazardous air quality from the Caldor Fire. MSN

Considering that X-Rays seemed to replace radium as the choice irradiation method around that time with Muller it would seem likely she was doing that.

She worked at Cold Spring for 26 years! Also first recipient of the genius grant from the MacArthur Foundation @AMcD.

" 1981, McClintock became the first recipient of a MacArthur Foundation Grant, now known informally as the “genius” grant, which was awarded for her lifetime. "

Claude Shannon’s PhD dissertation was on creating and “algebra for Mendelian populations” and was conducted at Cold Spring as well, published a year before Barbara began working there.

Thanks for passing this along I dont think I had heard of blue forest. A Partner is the Natural Capital Project out of Stanford, who built the INVEST platform for ecosystem/biodiversity services

For anyone reading whose not familiar. The general model of ‘investing in nature’ revolves around a measurement of the economic value of an ecosystem (from things like tourism, pollinators, rivers, clean air, ect). So investors are paid a profit, form the government or private foundations based on the measurable benefit the program created in terms of ecosystem services and related economics.

@AMcD another piece, which from a quick search I dont think is in the map yet. is the UNs SEEA-EA System of Environmental Economic Accounting for Ecosystem Accounting is an international standard recently set by the UN office of statistics for the accounting of ecosystem services.

In addition ARIES for SEEA is the AI engine for using SEEA.

Using ARIES technology, the ARIES for SEEA Explorer application allows users anywhere in the world to produce rapid, standardized, scalable and customizable ecosystem accounts for their area of interest that are consistent with the SEEA Ecosystem Accounting framework. ARIES for SEEA is available on the UN Global Platform, a cloud-service platform supporting international collaboration in the development of official statistics using new data sources and innovative methods.

Spatial Finance

Ecosystem accounting takes a spatial approach

The SEEA EA takes a spatial approach to accounting, as the benefits a society receives from ecosystems depend on where those assets are in the landscape in relation to the beneficiaries. In contrast, the SEEA Central Framework looks at individual environmental assets (resources), such as water or energy resources.

This spatial focus identifies the location and size of ecosystem assets, the ecosystem services provided, and the location of beneficiaries (households, businesses and governments). For example, the beneficiaries of water filtration ecosystem services are likely located downstream of the ecosystem asset that provides that benefit (see figure 2).

As a result, ecosystem accounts are commonly presented using maps, bringing together geographical, environmental, ecological, and economic information in one place, as well as tables

The Swiss Re papers on “underwriting nature” use the same language of spacial Finance