I. Background Information
We currently have 8 PhD-level scientists working with us (independent of our Board) from the USGS, the NPS, CalState LA, CalState Fullerton, the University of New Hampshire, etc. We have several Master's-level scientists on the project as well. Their experience spans climate change, volcanology, herpetology, hydrology, engineering, and more.
Our first project will involve cataloging a square kilometer of the Mojave Desert that features basalt volcanism, granitic rocks, perennial springs and seeps, desert bighorn sheep, bobcats and/or cougars, frogs, etc. We'll be using discipline-specific teams of 5-10 undergraduate and graduate students supervised by more senior scientists to collect the data in accordance with predetermined standards, and we have ~3 weeks blocked out to accomplish this first round. The time frame for this phase is March/April 2014.
Prior to collecting the data, we have 3 major tasks at hand. The first is to attend the American Geophysical Union Fall Meeting in San Francisco from December 9-13, where we have secured a booth. This will be when we conduct outreach directly within the scientific community. ~26,000 scientists from around the globe will attend the meeting, so this will be an excellent opportunity for us.
The second task is to create the data collection structure and architecture. We're currently attempting to engage with Google to potentially make use of Google Glass and Google tablets for field data collection efforts, and we've already begun the initial data architecture strategy talks.
The third task is to convene a Pre-Mojave Meeting, where we'll gather as many of our participating scientists in person (and the rest via conference call) for a 3 day planning session/literature review. This is where the interdisciplinary nature of the project will become apparent, as we need all of our scientists to work well together. This is the real challenge, as far as I'm concerned. The data collection phase is relatively straightforward, but managing groups of scientists who are used to more specialized tasks will take a bit of effort.
While we're waiting for our federal tax exempt status to become official, we're conducting a public fundraising effort. We wanted to take this approach to really engage the general public in what we're doing, since this is the sort of project that really is for everyone on the planet. This concerns all of us, and we want people who may not normally get excited about science to see the potential and wonder in Blueprint Earth. We have a team of professional educators from the K-12 levels who are tasked with designing curriculum-compliant Blueprint Earth activities for teachers to do in classrooms. Their work will begin in earnest after the initial data collection phase in the Spring. During the summer months, we'll begin constructing a publicly available online database of our data collection findings. It's akin to the Global Seed Vault or a DNA bank, but it will cover the entire target area.
We will have a second mini-field season in November of 2014 to fill in any gaps in our data set, and after that is when the panels of senior scientists and engineers (Environmental Architecture Panels) will convene. These panels are tasked with identifying the myriad systems at work in our target area. They're the ones who will be linking the pieces in the puzzle, and all with the idea of replicating the environment firmly in mind. Once the systems have been identified, the engineering will become the focal point of the project. Our engineers will work with the scientists to design a replica of the Mojave target area that will ideally be functional. We want to do this in a controlled setting, with the eventual goal of being able to use artificially-constructed environments like this one to create working environments on other planets, under water, or in space craft. This will also hopefully give us the ability to recreate environments for species that are endangered or have recently gone extinct.
II. Our Mission and Highlights About Us
Our mission is to map out each biosphere on earth so that preservation of extinct species is possible and that future space exploration can have sustainable, living ecosystems.
Our first step is to map the Mojave Dessert and because we are a new non-profit, we are using crowdfunding (Rockethub.com) to seed us our initial funds while we apply for NASA, NSF, and other grants.
Our Vice President has received a NASA grant, one of our Board Members was the VP of Finance for DirecTV and the Controller for the Los Angeles Olympic Committee, and another of our Board Members made the Forbes 30 Under 30 list for Science. We have a very exciting team of scientists in geology, biology, hydrology, etc,. slated to work with us already, so now would be a great time to get the public excited about this unique, cutting-edge effort.
When did this venture get started?
Pre-formal work began in June 2013, and the organization was officially incorporated on August 19, 2013.
What ultimately will be accomplished with the environmental mapping? How will this information be used? What need does this organization fulfill?
We will construct publicly accessible databases of information about every aspect of the targeted environments that may be used for research and educational purposes. This information will be used to increase understanding of environmental systems and the functioning of those systems. There are currently massive knowledge gaps about the effects different environmental components have on one another (e.g., how does the phosphorus level in these rocks impact the kangaroo rat that lives on them?). Blueprint Earth will create an interdisciplinary framework that will fill in those gaps.
How can your work help the planet?
Our work has potential applications for rehabilitating areas subject to desertification or deforestation, for recreating accurate environments for species that are endangered or have gone extinct, and for future terraforming projects both on this planet and in space. This is the connection between disparate projects such as DNA banks and the Global Seed Vault.
Is this a unique venture?
It is unique in its scale, its scope, its structure, its mission, and particularly in its interdisciplinary nature.
What was the inspiration for this organization? Are you and Lauren cofounders?
The inspiration came from my wife's work as a geologist and our life and travels around the world. The diversity of environments we encountered during our time living and working in Australia prompted us to formalize our idea. My wife, Jess Pelaez, and I are cofounders, and Lauren is a founding member of the Board of Directors.
What are your long-term plans for it?
We plan to catalog our first environment (in CA's Mojave Desert), process and analyze the data, replicate the target environment in a controlled setting (e.g., a warehouse), and then repeat the process in as many different environments as possible. This project is extremely long-term, and we expect each environment to require between 2-4 years of work. Should all go well, we would like to expand our capacities in the future to enable work on 2 or more environments simultaneously. We expect this project to outlive all of the founders.