From: Geoffrey Haines-Stiles
Date: Fri, 12 Dec 1997 09:05:08 -0500 (EST)
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Update #2, as of December 12th, 1997

If you're reading this, it's because you're subscribed to updates-lfrf,
currently the best way to hear the latest about PASSPORT TO KNOWLEDGE's
plans for Winter/Spring 1998.

Please expect updated video, print and online information, and a Journal
of Project Director Geoff Haines-Stiles' recent visit to Brazil and the
Amazon (specifically Manaus and Belem), early in the week of December

Yes, things have been quiet until now (after all LIVE FROM MARS program 5
only premiered on November 13th and the WEATHER WORLDS Online
Collaborative Activity continues!), but you can expect quite a lot of
information before this year ends, AND the initiation of the usual PTK
online discussion group, discuss-lfrf, AND the debut of the LFRF Web site
in the New Year -- most likely in February, in plenty of time to prepare
for what should be one of the most exciting and educational LIVE FROM...
projects yet.

As we finalize our instructional support materials, it's still NOT too
late for us to hear from you about what you most need in the Teacher's
Guide, online and TV components. We look forward to working with you.

Get ready for more cutting-edge REAL SCIENCE, REAL SCIENTISTS, REAL

Thanks for your interest in the rainforests of our planets, and how
PASSPORT TO KNOWLEDGE can help you bring key principles of life and earth
sciences into your home and classroom.


Geoff Haines-Stiles
Project Director, PASSPORT TO KNOWLEDGE & the LIVE FROM... specials
"electronic field trips to scientific frontiers"
Real Science, Real Scientists, Real Locations, Real Time
vox: 973.656.9403 * fax: 973.656.9813 * mobile: 908.305.7061
alt. e-mail: ptkghs@aol.com
Antarctica... Stratosphere... Hubble... Mars... Rainforest... the Arctic,

A Field Journal from PASSPORT TO KNOWLEDGE project director, Geoff Haines-Stiles

From: Geoffrey Haines-Stiles
Subject: A Field Journal from PASSPORT TO KNOWLEDGE project director, Geoff Haines-Stiles
Date: Fri, 17 Dec 1997 08:56:44 -0500 (EST)
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A Field Journal from PASSPORT TO KNOWLEDGE project director, Geoff

In the rainforest, north of Manaus, Brazil: 00:030 hours, Friday December
5th, 1997
I'd been prepared for the virgin rainforest to be different from the
fragments surrounded by ranchland I'd been reading about in all the research
papers and articles, but I'd not expected it to look, feel and even smell so
very different. I'm here at "Camp 41" -- 41 kilometers off the paved road
north from Manaus to Venezuela -- a small but permanent logistics station
for researchers from the Smithsonian and Brazil's INPA (the National
Research Institute for Research in Amazonia).

In the total darkness, I'd been wakened about half an hour after midnight by
a truly strange sound: it was like a woodpecker on steroids, or a howling
wind amplified by a jackhammer and played through the biggest and best rock
concert sound system available. It modulated up and down taking about 40
seconds each cycle, from a low roar to a tremulous higher quaver, drowning
out the insects, frogs and other night sounds of the forest. I looked at my
watch again. SL, one of the researchers and my invaluable guide to the
secrets of this rainforest, had told me to listen for howler monkeys at
dawn. With my city sense of schedule, I fiddled with the buttons of my watch
some more and got the dial to blink up at me again. 20 to one in the
morning... maybe this wasn't them? But I was increasingly sure those must be
howlers, the alpha male's neck pouch giving a biological wah-wah tremulo to
his voice as he called to his band high in the trees, somewhere off in the

I decided I'd better record this strange recital. It might not come back
again during my 36 hours in the field. Gingerly I checked my sneakers below
the hammock for -- what was it they'd warned me about? Scorpions? Snakes?
For things I now realized, in the middle of the dark night with everyone
sound asleep and this odd roar in the air above, I should< have asked about
more carefully the evening before. I unpacked the video camera from its sets
of plastic Ziplock bags (guess I'd been more careful to follow suggestions
for the camera than to protect my feet!) and made it back inside the
mosquito net that enveloped my hammock. Though SL had told me there were
very few mosquitoes here, and our mateiro/woodsmen guides chose not to rig
up theirs, I somehow felt safer against the unknown back behind the netting.

After a full 20 minutes of howling that would have done the "Scream 3"
soundtrack proud I pushed the ON button, pointed the camera and its
microphone up into the dark... and the monkeys promptly stopped. How did
they know, up in their tree-tops, that the tourist down on the ground had
just gotten ready to record their recital? This was the one and only time
cosmic coincidence worked against me this trip. Come dawn they howled some
more, and let me tape their voices. But I was beginning to feel an unusually
close connection between humans and the natural world, and the howlers'
almost telepathic sense of when to stop their concert seemed right in line.

I was here as a kind of intellectual tourist, to see the places and meet the
people who might be part of our upcoming educational activity. It had been a
whirlwind of airports, meetings, contacts, information -- and my mind was
reeling with sights and sounds. As the regular low rattles, croaks, and dry
throbs of the forest night re-established themselves, I tried to figure out
the best way to lie flat in my hammock (rather than slumbering bent like a
crescent-moon!), and thought back over the trip so far, and especially what
I'd seen and felt in the rainforest earlier that day.

December 1st: "Flying Down to Rio"
That was the name of an old Bob Hope movie, but on my flight out of Newark
they were showing Spielberg's Jurassic Park: THE LOST WORLD. Headsets were
free, so I allowed myself to set aside the guidebooks and magazine reprints
and relax. (I'd been up since o'clock one that morning, taking care of the
usual last minute e-mails and unleashing draft proposals for what we hope
will be next year's visits to the Arctic, a very different environment to
the one I was now flying above!)

The automatically-updated map showed we were now actually over the Amazon,
at some 35,000 feet. I thought back about how in the movie John Hammond had
finally gotten green religion and now sanctimoniously went public to argue
that his remaining dinosaurs should live out their lives untouched by
science and by commerce, set aside from humans on their island home. When
you're on a research trip to a new environment, everything becomes a symbol,
and you become super-aware of things you'd otherwise take for granted. So I
wondered whether seeing that movie on this flight would help me understand
the fascinating interplay of biodiversity and development which the
Smithsonian and INPA researchers were studying on the ground, centered on
that red dot on the blocky, computerized map, with the name I knew of only
from the tour books with their potted histories -- Manaus.

December 2nd: Manaus.
It had been another long day of travel, about three hours flying back up
from Rio to Manaus, again over the rainforest. I met over breakfast with
some friends in the film and TV business with whom I'd worked when I was
down here for the Earth Summit in 1992, and earlier, on the PBS CHILDHOOD
series. They thought using TV and the Internet to link students direct to
scientific frontiers sounded pretty neat, and that we'd find Brazilian
educators also interested. The hotel was full of teenage models, gathered
for some special summer vacation event. But though we were right on the
Copacabane beach-front, I had no time for a sun with the beautiful people.
Soon it was back to jet-fuel and canned air.

OK, I'd read about the planet's uneven heating by the sun (the reason the
tropics are hotter than the temperate regions is a matter of our planet's
geometry and orbit about the sun -- think about this for a hands-on activity
in the Teacher's Guide!) and I was soon to learn that patterns of
atmospheric circulation explained why rainforest and deserts encircle much
of the globe at particular latitudes -- though I'd not expected rainforests
to literally affect my ride through the sky. But as our pilot threaded his
way through towering thunder clouds, like a New York cabbie avoiding
potholes, I realized my bumpy trip was literally shaped by the same forces
of heat, humidity and the physics of weather, as the forest I'd come to see.
The hydrologic cycle was translated into turbulence: the forces that make
the rainforest, knocked us around. Not that this made me any more
comfortable: as I get older, I like flying less and less... though I must
say every Brazilian flight I took had wonderful food, especially those
sugary, chocolate-flecked, custardy desserts that always provided a
surprisingly sophisticated finale.

CG, field director of the collaborative U.S.-Brazilian research team, met me
at the airport. In fact, he's Canadian, and the small team of researchers --
including Aussies, Brits and Germans -- seems a model of the international
cooperation that characterizes contemporary science. Rio had been pretty
comfortable, but Manaus was as hot and humid as I'd expected. But CG said
this was actually unusually dry: El Nino, the ubiquitous explanation for
unusual weather across the entire planet, had apparently delayed the arrival
of serious, daily, almost continuous rain, and had played havoc with the
hydro-electric generating station that gives Manaus most of the power for
its burgeoning 2 million population, and resulted in 2 or 3 brownouts and
power failures each day. But even in this extended dry season, I soon hear
about the visit of the three U.S. Senators who got totally soaked out in the
forest just a few weeks back while on the same type of "get acquainted" tour
I hope to have. Did I really bring enough plastic bags, I wonder? Can you
ever have enough in the rainforest, even in the dry season?

Dumping luggage at the hotel, we set off on an evening of discussions, with
me frantically scribbling notes to try and get up to speed on the specifics
of the research, the people, the places, the scientific principles which
could be brought enlivened by the kind of educational experience PASSPORT TO
KNOWLEDGE has developed over the past few years.

To People, Place and Principles, add Pizza, delivered by Dominos to CG's
home. We continued chatting over a slice or two, and as CG's young family go
off to bed, I look around the house he and his vibrant youg wife have built
for themselves, at the end of a road fronting on rainforest. I admire the
painted lizard above the doorway, a tasteful reminder of the natural world
he studies and with which his kids have become familiar. After a few more
maps are drawn and additional names of scientists are listed to contact when
I return to the states, I look back at the wall: the single painted lizard
has been joined by a dozen companions. I realize it was nature, not human
design, that I was seeing. The lizards had emerged into the cooler air in
search of bugs for their dinners. If Manaus was this full of life, what must
the forest be like, I wondered, and requested an overnight out at one of the
forest camps.

December 3rd: the INPA research campus, Manaus
Today was even more full of meetings: young researchers, administrators, an
educational TV executive, computer jocks from Brazil, Japan and the Czech
Republic expert in remote sensing. My mind is teeming with new names and
pronunciations. Resolved, Portuguese language tapes before we return, to
help with the soft and liquid sounds I need to add to my repertoire.

The researchers are universally enthusiastic about their work, and eager to
share it with American students. But I'd not been prepared for the second
thing just about every one of them said: you know, it'd be great to find
some way of sharing this electronic field trip with Brazilian youngsters
too. Turns out Sao Paolo, the megalopolis south of Rio, is just as far from
Manaus as is Miami, FL, and Brazilian students are as likely to read
textbooks about the deserts of distant Africa as the forests that make up
half the land mass of their own country. Over a lunch of wonderfully tasty
fish from the Amazon -- far richer in flavor than the fish and chips of my
youth, almost meat-like in texture! -- I hear first hand about work in the
flooded forest, where trees have evolved to survive months of inundation. I
find out about the human logistics of research, how days of pretty arduous
circumstances in the field, fighting bugs and conditions so wet that pens
won't write on paper, are interspersed with days of data analysis back at
INPA, blessedly air-conditioned so the computers (and humans!) will work.
And I begin to put human facces and personalities on the research project
known as the "Biological Dynamics of Forest Fragments", which some describe
as the biggest controlled experiment on the workings of the natural world
ever attempted, fittingly situated in the planet's largest remaining
rainforest, the Amazon.

December 4th: in the forest, somewhere north of Manaus.
Somewhere on that leaf there are ants. I take my eye away from the
steamed-up viewfinder and I can see them. But the sweat which has turned my
khaki shirt dark pours down my brow, salty and stinging, and I can't focus.
Exasperated, I huff and puff, wish I'd memorized how to turn on macro-focus,
wish it was about 20 degrees cooler, wish for a cool plunge in a pool at the
end of this sticky day, and know there's just a hammock in a simple forest
camp ahead. So I record SL's comments in my mind and not on tape, about how
this particular plant provides houses for its own peculiar army of ant
guards -- I can see the tiny rounded shelters into and out of which the
soldiers are scurrying. Even in my physical discomfort, I'm amazed by
another compelling example of how life in the rainforest is a story of
coexistence and co-dependence. SL had earlier shown me a dry, rolled-up cone
of a leaf, and told me of birds who only eat insects found in such
"kitchens", as she called them. She told me of others whose beaks have grown
so specialized they only fit in flowers of a particular shape -- orchids, I
think. The flowers, in turn, have over aeons come to depend on just those
creatures to pollinate them and perpetuate their existence. It's Darwin come
to life -- evolution, adaptation, environment and existence -- all vibrant
and right before your eyes, in examples as small as ants, as colorful as the
toucans we saw in the trees along that bumpy track, as raw as the monkeys
who barged their noisy way through the treetops, leaving behind a snow of
falling leaves to mark their messy mealtime.

And the scientific focus of the Smithsonian-INPA research project is just as
clear: the forest fragments, left behind as carefullly-controlled test cases
of 1, 10 and 100 hectares after the forest around them was cleared for
cattle in the go-go days of the late 1970's, look, feel and sound different
from the virgin forest. The fragments are cluttered with scrubby growth on
the ground, vines and ferns and spiky plants, the classic jungle of movies.
But the untouched rainforest is surprisingly clear and clean. You can see
quite far back into the forest, for here the greatest fertility is up in the
canopy, not on the ground. I see the consequences of the fact that forest
fragments have a greater proportion of "edge" to undisturbed center (again,
think of some geometrical activities to bring math into the life science of
the rainforest), and increased light, decreased humidity, and higher
temperatures affect everything, plants, insects and all living creatures.

We slog through some fragments: I'm a question machine, taping everything,
intrigued, sopping up information, as sweat pours out. Perhaps perspiration
and information are changing places? But then we get back in the 4-wheel
drive jeep and bump over another half hour of track to "camp 41". Even
hauling sleeping gear and food the last 500 meters by foot, it all feels so
very different. This forest is relatively cooler: it's still incredibly hot
and humid, but it's almost a relief to be here. It even smells different:
fresher, light flower scent on the barely moving air. I'd expected the
differences between fragments and undisturbed to be apparent in statistics,
in data about what species thrived or left -- but I'd not expected to be
able to detect the differences through the sensors of my city-bred brain and

To my suprize, Camp 41 actually had a pool, a small dam across a clean,
clear stream -- and in the middle of the rainforest as I plunged my head
under the surface, the water -- at first -- was almost shockingly cool! The
INPA-Smithsonian team runs courses here for young biologists from across the
continent. Usually there's a generator to re-charge batteries for the
laptops, though today it wouldn't work, and just one lantern lit the simple
but well-maintained camp site. You radio back to base twice a day to report
all's well, or call up supplies to be added to the next two-and-half hour
trip out, but it's really just a place to rest after 14 hour days of
sweating through the forest, studying dung-beetles, bats, frogs, trees,
ants. And it was here, after a refreshing drink prepared from exotic juices
by the mateiros, that an early night for all was interrupted by those
amazing howling sounds.

December 6-8th: back from the Amazon
After flying visits to Manaus itself (the ornate Opera House dates from days
when this was one of the richest cities in the world, the result of a
short-lived rubber boom before some Englishman stole seeds and started the
East Asian plantations), Belem (the fish market was amazing, full of river's
rich harvest) and Brasilia (more days of meetings amid an architecure
reminscent of New York's capital at Albany, but much grander) and back to
Rio, that's what stays with me, and what makes me want to go back and --
this time -- take teachers and students with me via TV, the Internet and
hands-on activities: the rainforest is just full of Life (yep, this time, no
matter what you say, the word deserves its initial cap.), Life in the raw,
nature evolved over millenia to take advantage of whatever opportunity
afforded to it to jump into a niche and survive.

A tiny tree, just as old in years as its mid-sized neighbor, waits for age
or a lighting strike to fell an emergent tree close by, re-arrange the
pattern of light trickling in miserly flecks down through the canopy,
altering the supply of energy available, and letting the new plant gobble up
the sun through photosynthesis, and sprint for the sky, to enjoy its epoch
in the light. As SL spoke about plants in this way, they seemed more alive
and understandable than I'd ever realized before. The charismatic Brazilian
expert on leaf-cutter ants had spoken of the communities of creatures he
studies in similar, very anthropomorphic and comprehensible terms: in many
ways, the ants' society sounded just as organized as our own, perhaps even
better tuned for survival in a world of constant change and challenge. Face
to face with the rainforest, the abstract principles which power all life on
Earth seem much closer than in any book or article.

December 8th: somewhere over the South Atlantic
Back on the plane, en route back home, I scribble notes to myself about all
the myriad logistics we'll have to master. As I fumble with passport and
tickets and receipts, in climate-controlled, air-conditioned comfort, I
realize I miss the rainforest, after even just a tourist's first encounter.
(American airline food also doesn't quite match up!) That place was full of
life, dripping with "life science", rich with examples, speaking directly
though in a strange, new language.

This time the movie is Carl Sagan's CONTACT (I'd worked with Carl as senior
producer on the COSMOS TV series, and had brought one of his last books,
"Demon-Haunted World" with me for airport-delay and late night reading) and
once again I know that cosmic congruence is at work: LIVE FROM THE
RAINFOREST can be a way for millions here on Earth to make contact with an
alien world most of us have never experienced... and it'll be a whole lot of
fun, along with a forest-full of learning.


Next LFRF Update, due Friday Dec. 19th: an overview of other locations to be
seen in the videos, a preview of some of the hands-on activities being
readied for the Teacher's Guide and Kit, and an outline of what the LIVE
FROM THE RAINFOREST Web site and online collaborative activity -- to debut
in February 1998 and run through May -- will include.

Also coming soon -- the discuss-lfrf mail list, letting teachers share ideas
with each other, and also provide suggestions to the PASSPORT TO KNOWLEDGE
development team.

Stay cool and connected... and please invite friends and colleagues who
might be interested in these topics to sign up to updates-lfrf for the
latest on what might be one of the most exciting LIVE FROM... projects yet.

Onwards and Upwards, to the frontiers of science education,

Geoff Haines-Stiles
Project Director, PASSPORT TO KNOWLEDGE & the LIVE FROM... specials
"electronic field trips to scientific frontiers"
Real Science, Real Scientists, Real Locations, Real Time
vox: 973.656.9403 * fax: 973.656.9813 * mobile: 908.305.7061
alt. e-mail: ptkghs@aol.com
Antarctica... Stratosphere... Hubble... Mars... Rainforest... the Arctic,
and more