Biodiversity 3: Mastering the Water Cycle

Spring 2021, Wednesdays, February 3rd – April 21st

12 weekly classes with our staff scientist, Jim Laurie, held at 1pm and 7pm ET on Zoom.

The Excitement and Inspiration of Science for the Curious to the Serious and everyone in-between. A fully interactive online adventure with discussions, experiments and explorations for independent thinkers of any age, suitable for high school and college students, as well as inquiring minds of all levels, from beginner to PhD!


To join Jim’s class, register here!

Photo by Wendy Corniquet

Course Description

How did nature create the great ecosystems that have supported our many diverse human communities? Water is one essential factor for all forms of life. Our human body mass is about two-thirds water. We live on a rare planet that has large quantities of water in all three states. There is water vapor in the atmosphere, huge oceans of liquid water and more on the continents, and significant solid ice in the form of glaciers in the mountains and at the poles. Can we think about a “fourth phase” of water, the water that is in biological cells? This water used in biological processes is the key to living systems on Earth, and may well be the key to its cooling. It is a marvel to see how biological cells can organize so many processes on such small spatial and temporal scales.

We are so familiar with water that we often take its unique properties for granted. We share water with all forms of life and with each fellow human, but we don’t often notice this connectivity. Do we share the same water that whales swim in or that the dinosaurs drank? Where did Earth’s water come from? Was it always here, or did it arrive from comets or meteors? And how can learning more about water’s remarkable characteristics and history help us restore our lands and oceans?

As we face the reality of our planetary health, our task is to rehydrate the continents and rebuild the small water cycles that once cooled the Earth. Nature’s growing biodiversity took the much warmer planet that existed 50 million years ago and created Ice Ages from it in more recent times. Learning how to recreate this cooling process may be critical to our own survival.

We will read a chapter or two each week from books by some great writers and scientists, beginning with the three books listed below.

  1. Water in Plain Sight: Hope for a Thirsty World by Judith Schwartz – Chelsea Green (2019)
  2. Water: A Natural History by Alice Outwater – Basic Books (1996)
  3. Water for the Recovery of the Climate: A New Water Paradigm by Michal Kravčík, J. Pokorný, J. Kohutiar, M. Kováč, E. Tóth (94 page PDF can be downloaded for free at

As the course develops, class members may want to share other sources or make recommendations.

Biodiversity 3: Mastering the Water Cycle is a 12-week course of exploration and discovery. There will be weekly classes of two hours on Wednesdays beginning on February 3rd, 2021. In order to accommodate the participants’ schedules, the classes will be given twice at 1 pm & 7 pm ET by Zoom. If you have a conflict, you can switch times for that day. It is open to anyone with curiosity and a desire to figure things out.

This course builds on knowledge from previous courses, but there are no prerequisites. There will be several members in this course who have participated in our previous conferences and courses and they will be there to help you explore and catch up in your learning. There is a lot of discussion and sharing among class members, and new students should feel free to ask questions and get involved. You will find that you are in the company of curious and generous people looking for ways to build a better future. We do encourage you to come to a class or two and see for yourself. Hopefully, you will make new friends as you learn about nature’s processes and decide to become a part of our team of budding planetary restorers.

Here are some typical questions that this course might focus on:

  1. What is the small water cycle and why is it important to reversing global warming?
  2. How does nature clean contaminated water and then use it to enliven even the driest of habitats?
  3. Why are wetlands so important? What species are critical to rehydrating
    continents and averting the water crisis?
  4. How does the small water cycle improve agriculture and regenerate the soils we
    have lost? Can we still be profitable and productive in our effort to feed humanity
    and all species?
  5. How can we restore hundreds of ocean dead zones to healthy systems full of
    fish and shellfish? What species are critical to rebuild the ocean food webs?
  6. What is the microbiome inside our bodies? How does it help the immune system
    to keep us healthy? What can we learn from the similarities between human physiology and planetary physiology?
  7. How can we reverse the “Deserts on the March” and bring back rich grasslands
    with herds of grazing animals?
  8. What is the role of mycorrhizal fungi? Why are they critical to the fate of civilizations?
  9. How do trees, fungi, and microbes communicate in a forest to make better decisions about the use of resources and improving forest health?
  10. How do we restore the urban landscape to feed us, clean water, and nurture wildlife?
  11. How can we create a healthy planet in our lifetime? What do we want the world to look when Halley’s Comet returns in 2061?

To join, register here!