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Musical Bark: Endangerment Of The Pernambuco Tree

By Tara Graham
Dec 21
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Musical Bark

Musical Bark is a website produced by U.C. Berkeley undergraduate student Erica Smolin in my online research and web production course during the 2012 fall semester.


Pernambuco wood, which is native to the coast of Brazil in the Atlantic Forest, has been extracted from its natural habitat for nearly 400 years. When the Europeans colonized Brazil in the early 16th century, they found what became a valuable treasure for years to come. This treasure was pernambuco. The wood was first used for dyes, and it quickly became a major industry within Europe. As time went on, Europeans realized the wood itself could also be used to make instrument bows. The endangered plight of pernambuco today is a result of its overuse throughout the centuries, as only a small percentage of the original forest remains.

So, what are the solutions and where is this issue headed? I’ve sought out five people who have different roles within the music industry: a bowmaker, a teacher, a player, a luthier and a salesman. I asked each of them how they feel this issue is affecting their line of work, what their main concerns might be, what changes they would like to see, what their opinions are on substitute materials, as well as where they see the issue headed in the future.

So what does the future hold? Though some were more hopeful than others, each of the people I interviewed said an optimistic future is achievable with appropriate actions. This site serves to address ongoing concerns, while also shedding light on what can be done to avoid further endangerment of the pernambuco tree.

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The Narrative #Selfie


Lose the shirt off my back? Nah.

When life got dicey, I opened my closet doors, bypassed the blouses, and earned a (modest) payday by selling used hangers in 25-pack bundles.

More recently, I put my hustle into play at 500 Startups, the world’s most active venture capital fund and startup accelerator, where I led content, branding, marketing, operations, and corporate partnerships for business development and global programs.

Before transitioning into tech, I worked in higher education, teaching online research and media production classes across a variety of disciplines at the University of California, Berkeley. During that time, I also worked as the Director and Executive Producer of Digital Media Projects at the Blum Center for Developing Economies, where I co-founded and led The #GlobalPOV Project, a mixed-media approach to thinking about poverty, inequality, and undertaking poverty action.

In addition, I was the Director of Media at the Center for Middle Eastern Studies, where I had the opportunity to interview Bashar al-Assad in his presidential palace in Damascus, Syria, in late December of 2010. I asked Assad if he considered himself a dictator. He dodged the inquiry, but his actions in the immediate weeks, months, and years to follow answered the question . . . and then some. Sadly.

Before that, I was a practicing journalist and graduate fellow at the University of Southern California. During that time, I worked as a web reporter and photographer for KCET’s “SoCal Connected,”​ as an online editor for the London-based New Statesman magazine, and as the co-editor-in-chief of USC Annenberg’s award-winning digital news website. I got my start in journalism as a full-time associate editor (and employee #20!) at P✪PSUGAR, a Sequoia-backed content and commerce startup turned global media empire.

My freelance reporting has been featured in NBC, CBS, and ABC news broadcasts and in online publications, including The Huffington Post. I have also done manuscript editing for various authors with recognized commercial and university presses.

You can find me tap dancing in the dark corners of my imagination to a sold-out audience of — none. Like most everything else, it’s all for fun.

Let’s connect! Join me on Twitter or Instagram or LinkedIn.


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