GAIA Wildlife Conservation Event

by Sarah Kochav and Kamie Robinson

EVEN YEHUDA, Israel — On Tuesday, January 29th, Project GAIA held their biggest on-campus event of the year at Walworth Barbour American International School (WBAIS) to promote and spread awareness about environmental concerns. The evening began with GAIA schools showcasing their research, findings and equipment. Schools in attendance included Mevoot Yam Marine Biology School, Beit Ekstein, and Kfar Galim Youth Village and WBAIS. Presentation tables allowed students, parents and guests to view the research of each school. Of special interest to the students was feedback from one guest in particular, the keynote speaker of the event, the 2009 winner of the Nobel Prize in Chemistry, Professor Ada Yonath. As she circled the tables, students told her of their research and findings. Prof. Yonath enthusiastically asked questions. Coinciding with conversations and feedback was a bird box exhibition arranged by the National Arts Honor Society as well as 30 photographs by Israel's top nature photographers, courtesy of Dr. Yossi Leshem.

Student's bird boxes

Student's bird boxes

Ada Yonath visiting with students about their research

Ada Yonath visiting with students about their research

Dr. Eran Levin presenting on bats as biological pest control agents

Dr. Eran Levin presenting on bats as biological pest control agents

The evening event began with an address from Superintendent John Gates and GAIA Director Dr. Stuart Fleischer, who was accompanied on stage by Co-Directors Margret Ellwanger and Paul van Rijn. Together they thanked all sponsors including the Boeing International Corporation and TowerJazz – two companies that help make GAIA research projects possible. The presentation continued with an address from Ambassador Tomas Pojar of the Czech Republic, followed by Professor Ada Yonath's story of her childhood struggles through poverty and her passion for answering unanswered questions, and Dr. Eran Levin’s (Tel Aviv University and SPNI) presentation on “The Importance of Bats as Biological Pest Control Agents.”

Students from each participating school then presented their research.

Students from Mevot Yam are looking into exploitation of the sea and how it effects their community. They are raising awareness about effects of pollution, over fishing, and the use of sea life as ornaments and jewelry. An oceanography class was started to cater to students interest in learning more.

Students at Kfar Galim planned and built an eco-classroom in their eco-science garden on campus. Middle and high school students learned construction techniques building the room. Now they spend time there learning about ecosystem development and microorganism breakdown. They also began a compost to use as fertilizer on their organic garden.

Students from WBAIS are focusing their research on biological pest management. The school is in an agricultural area making them aware of pesticides often used by farmers involved in mass production. An alternative solution they are researching is using birds, particularly falcons and chickadees, as a pesticide. They are mentored by Dr. Yossi Lesham from Tel Aviv University and Dr. Motti Charter from Haifa University.

Students from Gymnazium Arabska presenting their research

Students from Gymnazium Arabska presenting their research

Two Czech Republic schools, Gymnazium Arabska and Gymnazium Boticska, joined by way of online media. Gymnazium Arabska presented their research and Gymnazium Boticska showed a prerecorded video.

The presentation was broadcast LIVE on Falcon TV through the official AIS Facebook Page, www.facebook.com/WBAISIsrael, and Ustream Channel, www.ustream.tv/channel/ais-faclon-tv, allowing an additional 66 people to tune in.