Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Spacecraft reaches edge of solar system

A NASA space probe dispatched 33 years ago for the first close-up studies of Jupiter and Saturn has entered the tail of the solar system, a place where the constant stream of charged particles flowing from the sun ebbs. This final phase of solar system exploration should last another four years, computer models show, though scientists overseeing the two Voyager spacecraft really don't know what to expect.

Voyager 1 is now about 10.8 billion miles from the sun, traveling in a region of space known as the heliosheath, a turbulent area between the sphere of space influenced by the sun and magnetic forces from interstellar space that lies beyond.

In June, Voyager 1 relayed data that showed it was no longer traveling amongst the outward flow of solar wind particles. Instead, the solar stream has turned a corner, literally, as it sweeps, like an exhaust, into the tail of the heliosheath.

Flying along at about 38,000 mph, Voyager 1 is continuing its beeline toward interstellar space. It is so far from Earth that radio signals, traveling at the speed of light, take 16 hours to reach the spacecraft.

Its twin, Voyager 2, is traveling at a more leisurely 35,000 mph and will leave the solar system in a southerly direction a few years after Voyager 1, traveling in a northerly path, becomes the first human-made object in interstellar space.

Scientists hope to have five years for studies beyond the solar system before Voyager 1's plutonium power source is depleted.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Time for South Beach diet for blue whales?

The filter-feeding strategy of blue whales, the largest animals on Earth, may explain their enormous size, according to a study that determined a single mouthful of food can contain 457,000 calories, or 240 times as much energy as they burn when grabbing that mouthful.

Blue and some other whale species eat by taking enormous mouthfuls of water and filtering out their meals, often tiny crustaceans called krill, using plates of baleen made of keratin, a protein found in hair, fingernails and feathers. A team of researchers led by Jeremy Goldbogen, who is now at the Scripps Institution of Oceanography, calculated the efficiency of eating this way.

Their math supports the long-standing assumption that baleen whales are much more efficient feeders than their smaller relatives, the toothed whales, which hunt down individual prey. The finding is detailed in the Journal of Experimental Biology.

Although the finding isn't a surprise, the baleen whales' efficiency is unprecedented in the animal kingdom, said study researcher Robert Shadwick, who studies animal biomechanics at the University of British Columbia.

"When they take a gulp of water, they are filling their mouths with the amount of water equal to their own body mass, so there is nothing that comes close to doing that," Shadwick told LiveScience.

These whales may eat an enormous quantity of food in a single gulp, but the effort is taxing. As the animals dive, they lunge into a school of krill and their mouths open to 80 degrees and inflate like a parachute as water gushes in. This creates a drag, slowing the whale. Whales can make up to six lunges in a dive, according to the researchers.

Monday, December 6, 2010

New rubber could cushion sneakers, spaceships

You might not run faster or jump higher with shoes soled in new super rubber, but they could save your knees and eventually power your iPod. Japanese scientists have created a new kind of carbon-based rubber that can withstand extreme temperatures. This new super rubber could be used in everything from electricity-generating sneaker soles to spaceships traveling to distant moons.

"These properties are totally new and unique and have not previously been shown by any materials," said Ming Xu, a scientist at the National Institute of Advanced Industrial Science and Technology in Japan.

Like foam earplugs or ordinary rubber, the new carbon nanotube rubber is part of a class of materials known as viscoelastic materials. These are materials that can be twisted, punched, rolled, kicked, stretched and bent—yet return to their original shape.

Under everyday conditions these materials work just fine; they protect delicate eardrums from loud noises and help keep cars on the road. But if you freeze materials like foam ear plugs or rubber with liquid nitrogen or expose them to high heat, like the Japanese researchers did with their new super rubber, these everyday materials will either shatter on contact or melt away.

The new material doesn't shatter or melt, even under temperatures far, far beyond what rubber could endure.

The same goes for extremely cold temperatures. "Any rubber or polymer in general will become brittle" under very cold conditions and could break, said Gogotsi, "but the nanotube rubber will keep bouncing."

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Electricity around the world: it’s not a perfect science

When it comes to the simple task of plugging an electrical appliance in to make it work, there is no global standard for voltage or wattage. And that’s not to mention the different plug shapes, plug holes, plug sizes and sockets that vary vastly from country to country. Most appliances bought overseas simply cannot be connected to the wall outlets at home. There are only two ways to solve this problem: you just cut off the original plug and replace it with the one that is standard in your country, or you buy an unhandy and ugly adapter.

While it is easy to buy a plug adapter or a new “local” plug for your “foreign” appliances, in many cases this only solves half the problem—because it doesn't address the possible voltage disparity.

A 240-volt electrical appliance designed for use in Europe will provide a nice fireworks display—complete with sparks and smoke—if plugged into a U.S. socket.

The lack of a single voltage, frequency and globally standardized plugs results in extra costs for manufacturers and increase the burden on the environment.

Read the full article.

Monday, November 29, 2010

1,000 mph car ‘on track’ to break record

British officials say they’re set to break the world land speed record in 2012 with a car that can reach 1,000 mph. Construction on the Bloodhound vehicle's rear should begin in January.

"We've got companies all over the world wanting to sponsor the car," project director Richard Noble of Bloodhound SSC Engineering Adventure told BBC News. "We've actually got more people who want to financially back this thing than we've got space for them."

To snag the world record, the Bloodhound will need to beat out the current record of 763 mph set by the Thrust SuperSonic Car in 1997.

The British car will be powered by a hybrid rocket and a jet engine from a Eurofighter-Typhoon, according to Bloodhound SSC.

Once built and ready to go, the car is expected to race across what is now a dried-up lake bed in Northern Cape Province, South Africa.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

When snakes fly

The worst nightmare of ophidiophobes—people with a phobia of snakes—may have just been realized. Scientists have captured footage of “flying” snakes, explaining how five related snake species stay airborne for up to 79 feet. The acrobatic arboreal snakes, all in the genus Chrysopelea, use what's known as gliding flight to sail from tree to tree in their Southeast and South Asia habitats.

The new research, presented by the American Physical Society Division of Fluid Dynamics, explains how the snakes accomplish their seemingly improbable feat.

“The snake isn’t defying gravity or doing something out of the blue,” project leader Jake Socha told Discovery News. “It's the magnitude of the forces that are somewhat surprising. Given that this is a snake, and its cross-sectional body shape is more like a blunt shape than a typical streamlined wing, we wouldn’t have expected such good aerodynamic performance.”

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Chocolate supply threatened by cocoa crisis

Chocolate was once the drink of Mayan and Aztec kings. Now a cocoa shortage may make chocolate an exclusive luxury again. Chocolate could become as rare as caviar, said John Mason of the Ghana-based Nature Conservation Research Council. That means chocolate treats may become unaffordable for the average person.

The price of cocoa, the raw ingredient for chocolate, has been skyrocketing in international markets. Demand for chocolate, especially for dark chocolate which uses more cocoa, has helped fuel price increases.

But unfair trade and environmental problems have resulted in supply not keeping pace with demand. West Africa leads the world in cocoa production. But the profits don't come back to many of the farmers there, and that is one of the main causes of the shortage.

In the Ivory Coast, cocoa farmers often earn less than $1 a day, and in many cases the land they farm has lost its fertility, said Tony Lass, chairman of the Cocoa Research Association in the UK Independent. Ivory Coast farmers are leaving behind unprofitable, failing cocoa orchards for the cities.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Glowing squid found in Indian Ocean’s depths

A new large species of squid has been found among 70 types gathered during an exploration of the depths of the Indian Ocean, according to the International Union for the Conservation of Nature.

The 27-inche-long species is part of the "chiroteuthid" family. Its light-emitting organs attract prey in the darkness thousands of feet down, close to the craggy seabed, the IUCN said. The six-week "Seamounts cruise" last year trawled about 7,000 samples of life forms in the southern Indian Ocean from depths of up to 3,936 feet.

“For 10 days now, 21 scientists armed with microscopes have been working through intimidating rows of jars containing fishes, squids, zooplankton and other interesting creatures,” said Alex Rogers, marine biologist at the Zoological Society of London.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

World’s oldest dinosaur embryos found in South Africa

Paleontologists recently identified the world's oldest known dinosaur embryos, according to researchers. The embryos, found in their still well-preserved eggs, date to the early Jurassic Period 190 million years ago. Researchers say they are the oldest known embryos for any land-dwelling vertebrate. They belong to Massospondylus, a member of a group of dinosaurs called prosauropods that were ancestors to the giant, plant-eating sauropods. Sauropods are the iconic four-legged dinosaurs known for their long necks and long tails.

Professor Robert Reisz of the University of Toronto Mississauga and his colleagues made the discovery while analyzing the fossilized eggs, originally found in South Africa. Reisz’s research assistant, Diane Scott, prepared the delicate fossils under high-powered microscopes and compiled the illustrations.

The embryos are so remarkably well preserved that they permitted a complete reconstruction of the skeleton and detailed interpretations of the anatomy.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Yellowstone tourism records continue

Snow may be on the horizon, but tourists taking advantage of mild fall weather are adding to the already record number of people who have visited Yellowstone National Park this year. The park had a record number of visitors in October. That's on top of the record number of visitors to Yellowstone in June, July, August and September.

Tourism in Yellowstone so far this year is up more than 10 percent compared to this time last year. More than 3.5 million people have visited the park this year, already topping the record 3.3 million who visited Yellowstone all last year.

More than 189,000 people visited the park in October. That broke a 22-year-old record. Park officials say unusually mild weather and less road construction compared to autumns past may be encouraging people to visit Yellowstone.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Penguin 'condos' built along Galapagos Islands

“Condo” developers have built beachfront homes along the world-famous coastline of the Galapagos Islands—but it’s all for a good cause. Built into the volcanic shoreline, the condos are actually tiny breeding caves for Galapagos penguins—a species listed as endangered.

The 120 caves were recently dug by researchers with the University of Washington in the hopes of giving the penguins a fighting chance against predators and the beating sun. The local penguin population has also seen older nests disappear due to erosion and volcanic activity on the islands off Ecuador made famous by Charles Darwin.

“Our whole goal is to increase the population of Galapagos penguins, and the way to do that is to make sure that when conditions are good, when they’re not food challenged, that all of them will be able to breed,” lead researcher Dee Boersma said.

Boersma began studying the species 40 years ago and has seen the population decline steadily—fewer than 2,000 might be all that are left.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Behold: 1,200 new species discovered in the Amazon

From bald parrots to translucent frogs—the Amazon is getting even more exotic. The World Wildlife Federation recently released a report revealing that a new species was discovered every three days from 1999-2009.

Joining the jungle are 637 plants, 257 fish, 216 amphibians, 55 reptiles, 16 birds and 39 mammals. One of the most visually bizarre is the so called “Glass Frog,” with skin so thin and delicate that you can see its heart beat. The phrase “blind as a bat,” is so last century; a new species of blind ants have been discovered dating back 120 million years. And taking flower power to a whole new level (literally), tiny predatory flowers were discovered that lure insects to their death with a murderous fragrance. Spider haters beware; the WWF report also introduces a new species of brightly colored tarantulas that can propel excrement at enemies up to one meter away.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Endangered butterfly spreads its wings in England

A butterfly that is endangered in Britain has recently made some unexpected gains, conservationists said. The wet and cold British weather means the rare Duke of Burgundy butterfly normally reproduces once a year and is confined to the country's southern coast.

But conservationists have found evidence that the brown-and-orange butterfly has reproduced twice this year. Matthew Oates, a conservation adviser with the National Trust, said a second brood of the declining species has only been recorded three times since 1893. Oates said warmer temperatures in Britain—closer to those found in southern Europe, where the Duke of Burgundy is also found—have allowed the butterfly to flourish. The butterfly has been spotted in the county of Gloucestershire, much farther north than its usual habitat.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Astronomers discover the granddaddy of all galaxy clusters

The most massive conglomeration of galaxies ever spotted in the early universe has been found, astronomers say. This behemoth galaxy cluster contains about 800 trillion suns packed inside hundreds of galaxies.

And it's not even finished growing. The newfound cluster, called SPT-CL J0546-5345, is about 7 billion light-years from Earth, meaning that its light has taken that long to reach us. Thus, astronomers are seeing this clump as it was 7 billion years ago. By now, it likely will have quadrupled in size, researchers said. The galaxy cluster was spotted by a new, huge 33-foot telescope at the South Pole, where the observatory benefits from an exceptionally clear, dry and stable atmosphere that enables extremely crisp high-resolution photos.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Microscopic wonders from a "Small World"

Can you imagine anything trickier than cutting the heart out of a mosquito? How about making an award-winning picture of that heart? A graduate student from Vanderbilt University has managed to pull off both of those tricks.

The image of the mosquito's tublar heart, supported by thin webs of muscles, was judged the first-place winner in this year's Nikon Small World photomicrophay competition--one of the world's most prestigious contests for aesthetically pleasing pictures of microscopic subjects. "We weren't really sure how well it was going to work," said photographer Jonas King, who worked on the project with his professor. "We were both just amazed at how cool it looked."

Friday, October 8, 2010

New planet discovered: Could humans live there?

Scientists have discovered an earth-like planet found in a region where temperatures could sustain life. If confirmed, the exoplanet, named Gliese 581g, would be the first Earth-like world residing in a star's habitable zone. Found in the “Goldilocks zone”—not too hot, not too cold to sustain life—researchers said it is highly probable that life exists on the planet. “My own personal feeling is that the chances of life on this planet are 100 percent," said Steven Vogt, a professor of astronomy and astrophysics at the University of California, Santa Cruz. "I have almost no doubt about it." Reaching the planet, however, would be no easy task. Gliese 581g is 20 light-years from Earth—that’s about 120 trillion miles away!

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Check out the amazing photos from our 2010 trips!

Voting is now open for the Discovery Student Adventures 2010 Photo Contest. We’ve posted the best pictures from last summer’s travel season on our Facebook page. Now it’s up to you to the pick your favorites in 5 different categories. We’ll choose our winners based on your selections, but you’ve got to be a Discovery Student Adventures Facebook fan to vote. To cast your vote, simply click on the “Wall” tab on our Facebook page and click on the posts Adventure, Iconic Landmark/Landscape, Cultural Interaction, Service Learning, or Student/Teacher. Voting will run through Thursday, September 30, and we’ll announce the winners on our Facebook page Friday, October 1. Best of luck to our photo finalists!

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

New volcano probes: Journey to the center of the Earth?

Super-heat-resistant radio transmitters could soon be dropped into volcanoes to provide early warnings of eruptions. Conventional electronics are made with silicon, but such technology fails to function at about 660 degrees F. The new electronics are made of silicon carbide, and can theoretically withstand up to 1,650 degrees F, the kind of heat found inside jet engines. The researchers are now working to integrate components made from the silicon-carbon compound into devices about the size of an iPhone. Scientists could drop such gadgets into the depths of the earth to help measure subtle changes in the levels of key volcanic gases, such as carbon dioxide and sulfur dioxide. They could then wirelessly feed back real-time data to the surface, providing vital details regarding volcanic activity and potential eruptions.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Does the Loch Ness Monster have English relatives?

The hunt is on for a new lake monster -- not at Scotland's Loch Ness, home of the fabled "Nessie," but this time in nearby England. Ever since 2006, when the first report emerged from England's biggest lake of a 20-foot-long creature in Lake Windermere, a new lake monster legend has gained strength on the sightings of something dubbed "Bow-Nessie." Lake Windermere, located in the northern part of England, is bordered by two towns, Ambleside and Bownesson-Windermere -- hence the clever monster nickname Bow-Nessie. Monster hunters are now using sonar to try to find the elusive animal that reportedly lurks in the 220-foot-deep lake.

Monday, September 13, 2010

2010 Photo Contest: Win up to $1,500 in travel vouchers!

Did you shoot amazing photos on your Discovery Student Adventures journey last summer? Share them with us and you could be rewarded with travel money to use toward a 2011 journey with Discovery Student Adventures. We will award 5 travel vouchers in 5 categories worth $500 each, plus a $1,000 to the best overall photo. That means our grand prize winner will receive travel money totaling $1,500. Send us as many pictures as you want through September 20. Click here to enter.

Friday, September 10, 2010

Mars not "dead" afterall?

If new results from the now-defunct Mars Phoenix mission are any indication, the red planet is not dead yet. Data from the Mars Phoenix lander indicate that water has been weathering the planet's surface throughout its history, even into recent geological times. The data also suggest that geologically recent volcanic eruptions have replenished the planet's carbon-dioxide atmosphere in what could be an ongoing activity. The evidence comes in the form of intricate measurements the lander took of the planet's atmosphere--specifically, the relative abundance of different forms of carbon and oxygen in atmospheric CO2.

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Green gym generates electricity from bikers

With row after row of exercise machines, most gyms burn far more electrical power than calories. But by equipping stationary bikes and elliptical machines with generators, a San Diego gym has become as healthy for the Earth as it is for its patrons. The gym, named the Greenasium, uses a special bike called the visCycle. The visCycle generates enough electricity to offset the box fan that the Greenasium uses to cool down the room. That fan constitutes most of the gym's electricity use, as there is no air conditioning. When more than one person uses a visCycle or similarly equipped elliptical, the cardio machines put out enough power to offset the music, computer and lights as well.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Twins boost China's panda baby boom

The birth of twin pandas at a research center brought the number of the endangered species born in captivity this year in China to a record 25. The twins, both weighing about 5.5 ounces, were born September 6 at the Wolong Giant Panda Protection and Research Center in the southwestern province of Sichuan. The as-yet-unnamed cubs were the first for their 8-year-old mother Youyou, the report said. The bears are the sixth set of twins born to captive pandas this year—a sign of the growing success of China’s extensive breeding program, which relies heavily on artificial insemination, Chinese researchers say.

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Human-like brain found in worm

Brain structures directly related to the human brain have been identified in a marine ragworm, according to a paper published in the latest issue of the journal Cell. The discovery means that the origins of the human brain can now be traced back at least 600 million years, when we last shared a common ancestor with this species, Platynereis dumerilii, a relative of the common earthworm. “This worm lives in self-made tubes, explores its environment actively for food, and shows signs of learning behavior,” lead author Raju Tomer told Discovery News.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Seeing the moon in a whole new light

International Observe the Moon Night is September 18, 2010. The goal of this event is to engage the local public and amateur astronomers to raise awareness of NASA's involvement in lunar research and exploration. Share the excitement of future exploration and host your own International Observe the Moon Night!

Monday, August 23, 2010

Man to attempt skydive from 23 miles up

A daredevil will soon attempt to break the world record for the highest skydive—set 50 years ago—and be the first human to freefall faster than the speed of sound, and from near the edge of space. Austrian skydiver Felix Baumgartner is slated to attempt a jump from some 120,000 feet above the ground later this year. To attain this stratospheric height, Baumgartner will take a three-hour trip in a pressurized capsule raised aloft by a giant helium balloon. The record-setting skydive should help inform escape plans for astronauts and space tourists alike by extending the "safety zone" where making a bailout is still in the cards.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Scientists discover new monkey species near Ecuador

A scientific expedition to the Colombian Amazon has revealed a new species of titi monkey. The cat-size creature is critically endangered because of rapid habitat loss and its small population. Research from 30 years ago hinted that a previously unknown primate species might be living in Colombia's Caquetá region, near the Ecuadorian and Peruvian border, but violence and insurgent fighting kept the area off limits for decades.

It was only recently that scientists of the National University of Colombia proved the rumors true when they discovered the new species.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Robot fish check water quality off the coast of Spain

In the wake of the oil-gushing environmental disaster in the Gulf of Mexico, these peculiar fish may soon be very, very popular around the world. Scientists are building a school of robot fish to be let loose off the northern Spanish port of Gijon next year to check on the quality of the water. Modeled to resemble carp and costing about $29,000 each to make, the fish are lifelike in appearance and swimming behavior so they will not alarm their fellow marine inhabitants.

The robots, the first of their kind, are equipped with tiny chemical sensors capable of detecting pollutants in the water. These let the fish hone in on the sources of hazardous pollutants, such as leaks from vessels or undersea pipelines, and transmit the data via wireless technology to expedite clean-up efforts.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Summer Travel in Full Swing

Live vicariously through our student travelers, and check out their latest blogs. Summer travel is in full swing. Students and Teachers alike are having the times of their lives from the rainforests of Costa Rica, the heart of the of the Mediterranean, to the Andean Highlands of Ecuador.

Like what you're seeing? Bring new meaning to 'summer vacation' by going on a Discovery Student Adventure next summer! Check out the fantastic destinations we're offering in summer 2011.

Friday, July 9, 2010

July 9th: Temple of Zeus

Talk about a time warp. In just two days, Discovery students and teachers have traveled back in time 2,800 years to explore Greek history, scouted locations to do their part to protect the future of endangered sea turtles, and learned firsthand that the ancient Greeks probably don't get nearly enough credit for their ingenious inventions.

It's a journey that keeps picking up speed as the days pass!

Yesterday, we visited the ancient town of Olympia, home of the first Olympic games in 776 B.C. We got a guided tour of this historic monument, walking through its ruins and we even included a spontaneous sprint-to-the-finish-line run (check out the cool video)!

We also saw the ruins of the Temple of Zeus, as well as a 3rd century athletic museum. And we are just getting warmed up.

Follow their adventures at

Friday, June 18, 2010

Could The Mighty Mississippi Fight The Gulf Oil Spill?

Shifting some of the Mississippi River's flow from its southernmost branch, the Atchafalaya River, to the main river body could create a strong current of fresh water that would act as a barrier against the oil. This invisible boom of sorts would keep the oil out of sensitive marshes for several weeks, according to the National Audubon Society.

Do you have any clever ideas to alleviate the environmental damage being done by the oil spill?

Friday, June 11, 2010

World marks marine pioneer Jacques Cousteau's 100th birthday

Ocean explorer Jacques Cousteau, who captured the earliest images of life deep beneath the sea, would have turned 100 years old June 11.

Sailing around the world on his iconic ship Calypso, Cousteau captivated audiences as he explored the unknown ocean and inspired future generations of ocean explorers.

Although Cousteau died in 1997, the anniversary of his birth attracted worldwide attention and served as a reminded the importance of protecting our world’s oceans—an especially important message in the wake of the oil rig disaster in the Gulf of Mexico.

Monday, June 7, 2010

And They're Off!

Discovery Student Adventures’ 2010 travel season arrives.
Costa Rica, here they come! Our first group of travelers is jetting away on June 8 for an action-packed eight-day adventure in paradise. And one thing’s for certain: their whirlwind journey will not offer much down time! We’ll keep our students and teachers on their toes as they rappel down a stunning waterfall, fly through the jungle on a zip line, visit with a primitive Bribri tribe in the rainforest, explore a spectacular wildlife refuge, and a whole lot more!

Bring the adventure to life! Follow our 2010 Travel Blog as our travelers experience life-altering journeys. You’ll get daily accounts of their activities, thrilling pictures and awe-inspiring videos. And remember, we’ll have EVERY Discovery Student Adventure covered.

Friday, May 28, 2010

Flood of Frogs Invades Greece

Here’s a slippery sight you certainly don’t expect to see in Greece: A horde of frogs recently forced the closure of a key highway in the northern part of the country.

Police said “millions” of the amphibians covered the road near Thessaloniki. Has the “home of the Gods” turned into the “home of the frogs?” Not likely. It is believed the jumpy critters were probably leaving a nearby lake in search of food.

Our Italy/Greece travelers begin their 15-day adventure on July 5. We’re happy to spread the word that there’s no longer any reason steer clear of this beautiful country. Last we heard, the frogs had cleared the scene and traffic was flowing smoothly.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

May 18, 2010

Today marks the 30th anniversary of the eruption of Washington State's Mt. St. Helens. Seismologists, scientists who study earthquakes, recorded significant activity in the months prior to the eruption.

The lateral blast was recorded at a velocity of over 300 mph, and damaged enough trees to build 300,000 two-bedroom homes. The ash cloud resulting from the eruption spread across the U.S. in only three days, and spanned the globe in 15. For more facts, visit

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

May 3-7 is Teacher Appreciation Week!

Want to know the secret behind a great student? That’s easy, a great teacher! As we recognize National Teacher Day today, it’s the perfect time to salute the teachers who made a difference in our lives. Think about it. Besides our parents, teachers were among the most influential people in our lives growing up. One thing is for certain: Discovery Student Adventures would be lost without our forward-thinking, creative teachers who dream of opening the eyes of their students to the world. A big tip of the hat to all of our teachers!

Did one of your favorite teachers take you on an eye-opening field trip? If so, where did you go?

Sunday, May 2, 2010

Check out our new updated look!

Here it is! Check out Discovery Student Adventures' new website. Cool new photos, feel-the-experience videos and eye-popping details about our incredible adventures. Don't you just love the new look?! Take a few minutes and explore the world of Discovery-from your computer. It's the next best thing to actually traveling with us.
We've got tons of exciting things going on with our 2010 travel season just around the corner ... and we're already gearing up for an incredible summer in 2011 with 14 destinations to choose from.

Check our website frequently and see what we're up to -- the Discovery Student Adventures' blog will keep you posted!

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Explore the Wildlife Down Under

On the Australia Discovery Student Adventure, your itinerary will take you on a headfirst dive into local biology. Australia is rich in diverse specimens, making for exciting encounters on your Discovery Student Adventure.

Some destinations are made all the more great by that which dwells there – the fauna. Australia is one of the places best known for the wide variety of creatures that call it home, from the iconic koala and kangaroo to the more intimidating crocodile. All Australian animals are fascinating. If you’re lucky, you’ll have the excitement of coming across a few local critters on your adventure. Here are a few interesting points about the wild inhabitants of Australia:

  • The flying fox is a large fruit bat that you can find roosting in the trees of Queensland — it truly looks like its name describes. In Australia, its closest genetic relative is actually the human. We have more than 95% of the same genetic makeup!

  • The saltwater crocodile, with its very impressive smile, has blood with an amazing resistance to infection. Even if wounded and in stagnant waters, the crocodile can fight off infection, thanks to the incredible antibiotic properties of its blood. This quality has made crocodiles figure prominently in recent HIV and other medical research.

  • Koalas smell like cough drops from spending their lives in eucalyptus trees.

  • Kangaroos can become impregnated and delay the pregnancy for months until environmental conditions are more favorable, essentially keeping the fetus in stasis.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

The Pace in South Africa

The South Africa Discovery Student Adventure trip ends with a memorable stay in the bush at Kruger National Park where you’ll experience some amazing encounters!

There is a definite rhythm to Africa. It marches to a beat that’s held steady through thousands of years of history, so that when you move away from the frenetic pace that comes with any urban setting, you feel it through the land itself. South Africa’s northeast corner, home to the famous Kruger National Park, holds that rhythm throughout the bush and all the inhabitants that call it home — I would argue the insect life could rival the best metronome!

One of the best ways to experience the rhythm of the bushveld is to take a morning walk with the rangers. The walk takes you out through the bush to experience it firsthand, and if you’re lucky, you’ll experience it with lion cubs!
The rangers head a lion breeding project that aims to introduce healthy lions into the Kruger ecosystem to counteract the existing population’s instances of tuberculosis, so when the program has lion cubs (up to the age of about 5 months) in house, they take them out for their daily exercise and bush experience. Walking with cubs while seeing and learning about the bush is exciting and, for most of us city dwellers, a bit surreal. The cubs were quite the characters, as our pilot students could attest , but Prince the Yellow Labrador is also quite memorable. Prince has helped raised many lion cubs with his ranger owner and he has the scars to prove it — not scars incurred in dangerous encounters, but from wrestling and playing with oversized kittens who are still learning how to use their sharp claws and teeth and who have no idea they outweigh their “pride leader.” The “mini pride” walks through the bush each morning, playing and exploring; rangers don’t need to worry about cubs wandering off into the bush or running away from them — where Prince goes, the cubs go. Walking with lions made for a very memorable morning with the most unique traffic. Lions may be king, but even kings (or Princes) do not hurry an elephant!

Passports 102

Make copies of your passport both for travel and to leave at home where someone can find it easily on your behalf. These copies are crucial in replacing your passport in the event it is lost or stolen during overseas travel.

While counting down the days to your departure, save yourself grief by putting your passport away somewhere safe where you can easily find it on the exciting day you are ready to head to the airport! Not to make light of others’ stressful situations, but here are some of the more interesting passport disasters we have heard:

  • “My dog ate my passport.” Oddly enough, older passports (those soft cover passports) are irresistible to our canine friends. One student searched in vain for their passport, only to discover it in the doghouse, slightly worse for wear. A teacher’s Labrador opened her backpack, where her group’s passports were awaiting their China visas, and snacked on the passports when she wasn’t looking. So wherever you keep your passport, make sure you don’t disclose its location to Fido!

  • “My car ate my passport.” Who knew someone could top the old “My dog ate…” line? One family put their passports on the dash of their car and with a quick braking, found their travel plans halted as the passports fell down between the dashboard and the car frame. Luckily their mechanic was a close friend who could rush to assist in dismantling and retrieving so that they could still make their flight!

  • “My little sister/brother/son/daughter/grandchild decorated my passport.” While your little dear may have created something worthy of hanging on the family fridge, your passport isn’t worthy for passing through immigration once non-official marks are made inside.

Don’t leave your passport out within anyone’s temptation!

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Discovery Student Adventures at the Forefront of Traveler Health and Safety

Discovery Student Adventures is a member of the United States Tour Operators Association (USTOA). In December, USTOA held their 31st annual conference and marketplace in Banff, Alberta, Canada. The weather was incredibly cold at -22 F on Monday of the conference, and I heard the temperature had dropped to -33 F by Tuesday.

The Fairmont Banff Springs was our home from Sunday to Friday. Styled after a Scottish Baronial castle, The Fairmont Banff Springs is located in the heart of Banff National Park, a UNESCO World Heritage site.

A small group of California tour operators founded USTOA in 1972. These founding members recognized the need for a unified voice to protect the traveling public, as well as to represent the interests of tour operators. In 1975, USTOA became a national organization with headquarters in New York.

USTOA's motto is "Integrity in Tourism." Accordingly, the association has established some of the highest standards in the industry for their members to follow. Among USTOA's goals is to foster a high level of professionalism within the tour operator industry, a vision shared by all of us here at Discovery Student Adventures.
The first few days of the conference are reserved for the annual membership meeting and the active member board of directors meeting, which are open to all active members. The majority of the second day is set aside for various workshops designed to improve the knowledge of each individual company. Selected members share their experiences and best practices with all members. The last few days of the conference are set aside for various vendors to speak to active members and share their service offerings.

Crisis Management Planning
I was invited by USTOA to present in two educational conference sessions this year. The first session was titled “Preparedness through Crisis Management Planning.” In this session, I was asked to describe our extensive on-call support system and escalation process. The on-call support system is the process we have in place to support, manage, and ultimately resolve situations that may arise while a student is traveling on one of our programs. I was joined by Rakesh Dewan, director of Worldwide Operations of Tauck World Discovery, who also shared what his organization is doing. The next portion of my presentation was designed to help educate the members on how to take an emergency response template and transform that guide into an effective formal response plan.

Minimizing H1N1's Effect on Travelers
The second training session of the day focused on the current status of the H1N1 pandemic and how organizations can better prepare to minimize the pandemic’s effect on their travelers. The session started off with a very informative global update by Dr. Grant Tarling, chief medical officer for Princess Cruises International. Dr. Tarling leads a shipboard team of 60 doctors and 150 nurses on 30 cruise ships worldwide and is responsible for the medical and public health care provided to 1 million passengers and 20,000 crew members each year. Dr. Tarling highly recommends that everyone get the H1N1 vaccination, especially those under the age of 24. I have had both the H1N1 vaccination and the normal seasonal flu shot, as have my sons and wife.

After Dr. Tarling’s presentation, it was my turn to share our plans for controlling the number of influenza cases on our programs. I explained how each member could take specific steps to help an organization better control its chances of eliminating the virus on its programs. Based on the feedback we received at the conference, I believe these presentations were timely and of great value to the active members of USTOA.

Our Focus is Health and Safety for All Travelers
Now, you may ask, “Why would Discovery Student Adventures share its secrets of success with operators who potentially compete for the same customers?” The answer is very simple; our focus is the safety and health of all travelers, whether they are traveling with us or our competition. When we have learned by experience, we feel it is our responsibility to share that information with others in our industry to make international travel safer for all. In return, others become more open to share their successes, and ultimately we end up with a very strong network of experienced, credible operators working closely together for the betterment of all travelers. We believe we need to actively pursue calibration in the industry, and USTOA clearly shares that vision with us.

Next year, USTOA will hold their 32nd annual conference in New Orleans, and we look forward to attending and sharing what we will learn in 2010. I hope we can help all travel-related organizations enhance their health and safety practices, and gain new ideas from our peers as well to ensure the safety of every People to People Ambassador Program delegate. Let’s just hope it is a little warmer then it was this year!
With that, I wish you the most exciting and safe travels.

Mike Bowers, MBA
Senior Director Safety & Health
Discovery Student Adventures

Welcome to the Discovery Student Adventures blog!

We created this blog for you, the adventurous student or teacher. Here, you’ll find travel tips and information on upcoming Discovery Student Adventures trips. Preparing for your adventure? Want to make sure you reap all the benefits? Visit our blog often to read firsthand reports from our destinations and learn more about travel, Discovery curriculum, safety and health, and global education.

All of our contributors and guest bloggers write firsthand about their DSA experiences.

This resource is for you: the traveler. Please contact us and let us know what you’d like to read— we want you to get the most from your Discovery Student Adventure.

Get ready to pack your curiosity and GO!

Anson Lee
Managing Director

Monday, January 25, 2010

Sicily's Legs

On the Italy and Greece Discovery Student Adventure, students will encounter not only people and places, but also cultures, traditions, and symbols that are a part of the destination’s true character.

The symbol for Sicily, the Trinacria or Sicilian Triangle, is a symbol you will grow accustomed to as you explore Mt. Etna and the surrounding area. You will find it proudly displayed everywhere, from parliament banners to popular souvenirs, and eventually may become very curious about what it stands for — I know I did.

There are many interesting answers to the question, and thousands of interesting Google results, however this is my favorite: the three legs symbolize the continual cycle, or running, of nature. The three legs represent the three promontories of the island; the head in the center — now reduced to a more benign, maidenly figure — once was the head of Medusa. Medusa represented the more destructive side of Athena, the patron goddess of the isle, but seemed a bit too gruesome for more modern versions. The snakes that were Medusa’s hair, which now seem to be more stylized curls, grasp sheaves of wheat to represent the fertility of the island.

The symbol itself truly represents the fertile history and experiences that you can find on Sicily, as well as the rich vibrancy of the culture.

Land of the Trulli

The Italy and Greece Discovery Student Adventure explores some of the most famous locations in the world — the Acropolis in Athens, the Colosseum in Rome, the Vatican — however, some of the lesser known sites may prove to be travelers’ favorites, such as Alberobello in Italy…

Even if this didn’t happen to be one of the most charming villages I have ever seen, and it is, it would be on my list of all-time favorite places simply because it is incredibly fun to say — Alberobello, land of the trulli! Alberobello is on Italy’s east coast, and exploring its crooked streets dotted with trulli (dome-topped stone houses) makes a great way to stretch your legs on the DSA Italy & Greece trip after the overnight ferry from Patras, Greece. The trulli are simply so unique with their whitewashed walls, conical roofs, and symbolic caps (pinnacles) that you can’t help but feel transported to some kind of storybook land — I was enthralled. Many have additional symbols painted onto the curved roofs.

After asking locals and reading a book about trulli (a lucky gift from a local contact), I learned the symbols can be apotropaic (guarding against evil) and protective in function, and vary from very primitive symbols of vines and wheat, to religious symbology with representations of Jesus, Mary, or the Holy Trinity.

Those eight-foot freehand sketches in lime are the Italian equivalent to my grandfather’s horseshoe nailed over the barn door — a good luck charm when your livelihood depends on too many factors out of your control, as farmers’ work has over countless ages.

Here’s a great site for more information on the history of Alberobello, including the reason for such unique construction techniques, on the website listing Italy’s World Heritage sites:

Passports 101

Once you have selected your destination, it’s time to get ready! Besides all the fun things you can do (learn some of the language, research destinations, buy cool travel gear), there are a few very critical items for your to do list, and right at the top should be: Get my passport!

If you already have your passport, great! Get it out and check the following:
  • Expiration Date: The U.S. State Department advises that a U.S. passport should be valid six months beyond your proposed return date. Many countries require up to six months validity before allowing entrance or issuing a visa or visitor’s permit.

  • Your Name: Be sure your passport reflects your current legal name.

  • Blank Pages: If you’re a globetrotter and are running out of blank pages, make sure to add some. Many countries require two blank pages for entry (immigration officers need the space to affix approved permits and/or stamp entry/exit stamps).

  • If you need to get your passport: Get started now! Depending on your program, we may need your passport details up to three months prior to departure. If this is the first time you will be issued a passport, start the process by first finding your state-issued birth certificate. Go to to find the appropriate offices to contact about retrieving vital records in all U.S. states and territories.

Whether you’re getting a passport for the first time, renewing your passport, or adding blank pages, the place to start is the U.S. State Department’s travel site:

Get ready to pack your curiosity and GO!

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