Top Stories

Gladiator Games: In Nature's Showdowns, Biodiversity Shields Weaker Competitors
May 15, 2017 01:18 PM - Yale School of Forestry & Environmental Studies

If you pit a pair of gladiators, one strong and one weak, against each other 10 times the outcome will likely be the same every time: the stronger competitor will defeat the weak. But if you add into the field additional competitors of varying strength levels, even the weakest competitors might be able to survive — if only because they’re able to find a quiet corner to hide.

Producing fertilizer from air could be five times as efficient
May 15, 2017 01:15 PM - Eindhoven University of Technology

African farmers who are able to produce their own fertilizer from only air. Bhaskar S. Patil brings this prospect closer with a revolutionary reactor that coverts nitrogen from the atmosphere into NOx, the raw material for fertilizer. His method, in theory, is up to five times as efficient as existing processes, enabling farms to have a small-scale installation without the need for a big investment. He receives his doctorate on 10 May at Eindhoven University of Technology (TU/e).
The production of one of the key raw materials for fertilizer, ammonia (NH3) or nitrogen oxide (NOx), is a very energy-intensive process that is responsible for about 2% of all global CO2 emissions. However, it is hardly possible any longer to cut the energy consumption via current production processes since the theoretically minimal feasible energy consumption has already been more or less reached.

Researchers uncover potential risks of common MS treatment
May 15, 2017 01:06 PM - The University of British Columbia

In one of the most comprehensive studies to date, UBC researchers have identified potential adverse reactions of a commonly used multiple sclerosis drug.

Understanding changes in extreme precipitation
May 15, 2017 11:55 AM - ETH Zurich

Most climate scientists agree that heavy rainfall will become even more extreme and frequent in a warmer climate. This is because warm air can hold more moisture than cold air, resulting in heavier rainfall.

However, the involved mechanisms are complex and the increase in extreme precipitation varies in space, as noted by Stephan Pfahl, climate scientist at ETH Zurich and lead author of a paper just published in the journal Nature Climate Change: “The level of atmospheric moisture is just one factor influencing the distribution and intensity of extreme precipitation. Other factors also play a key role – especially when it comes to regional variability.”

Diesel vehicles produce 50 per cent more nitrogen oxide than originally thought
May 15, 2017 11:41 AM - University of York

A study, published in Nature, has shown that laboratory tests of nitrogen oxide emissions from diesel vehicles significantly underestimate the real-world emissions by as much as 50 per cent.

The research, led by the International Council on Clean Transportation and Environmental Health Analytics, LLC., in collaboration with scientists at the University of York’s Stockholm Environment Institute (SEI); University of Colorado; and the International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis, examined 11 major vehicle markets representing more than 80% of new diesel vehicle sales in 2015. 

How Satellite Data Led to A Breakthrough for Lake Erie Toxic Algal Blooms
May 15, 2017 11:23 AM - Carnegie Institution for Science

With the growing frequency and magnitude of toxic freshwater algal blooms becoming an increasingly worrisome public health concern, Carnegie scientists Jeff Ho and Anna Michalak, along with colleagues, have made new advances in understanding the drivers behind Lake Erie blooms and their implications for lake restoration. The work is published in two related studies.

Using data from NASA’s Landsat 5 instrument, the researchers generated new estimates of historical algal blooms in Lake Erie, more than doubling the number of years previously available for scientists to investigate, from 14 to 32. (This first study was published in Remote Sensing of Environment.) Exploring this new historical record, they discovered that decadal-scale cumulative phosphorous loading—that is the runoff that enters the waterway—helps to predict bloom size in addition to the effects from same-year phosphorus inputs. The work suggests that it may take up to a decade to reap the benefits of recently proposed nutrient loading reductions. (This second study was published in the Journal of Great Lakes Research.)

Genome sequence of fuel-producing alga announced
May 15, 2017 10:38 AM - Kathleen Phillips via Texas A&M AgriLife Communications

The report, in Genome Announcements, comes after almost seven years of research, according to Dr. Tim Devarenne, AgriLife Research biochemist and principal investigator in College Station. In addition to sequencing the genome, other genetic facts emerged that ultimately could help his team and others studying this green microalga further research toward producing algae and plants as a renewable fuel source.

"This alga is colony-forming, which means that a lot of individual cells grow to form a colony. These cells make lots of hydrocarbons and then export them into an extracellular matrix for storage," Devarenne said. "And these hydrocarbons can be converted into fuels -- gasoline, kerosene and diesel, for example, the same way that one converts petroleum into these fuels."

Invention Produces Cleaner Water with Less Energy and No Filter
May 15, 2017 10:14 AM - Princeton University School of Engineering and Applied Science

The same technology that adds fizz to soda can now be used to remove particles from dirty water. Researchers at Princeton University have found a technique for using carbon dioxide in a low-cost water treatment system that eliminates the need for costly and complex filters.

The system injects CO2 gas into a stream of water as a method of filtering out particles. The gas, which mixes with the water in a system of channels, temporarily changes the water's chemistry. The chemical changes cause the contaminating particles to move to one side of the channel depending on their electrical charge. By taking advantage of this migration, the researchers are able to split the water stream and filter out suspended particles. 

Not just your typical garden-variety UAlberta volunteer
May 15, 2017 08:18 AM - University of Alberta

When asked why she loves to garden, Shirley Ross quotes the late Lois Hole, Alberta’s most beloved green thumb.

"Caring is the soul of gardening . . . We take risks and place our trust in factors beyond our control. Yet in the end, we are almost always rewarded with a beautiful harvest."

Research finds spike in dust storms in American Southwest driven by ocean changes
May 15, 2017 08:18 AM - NOAA

People living in the American Southwest have experienced a dramatic increase in windblown dust storms in the last two decades, likely driven by large-scale changes in sea surface temperature in the Pacific Ocean drying the region’s soil, according to new NOAA-led research.

With the increase in dust storms, scientists have also documented a spike in Valley fever, an infectious disease caught by inhaling a soil-dwelling fungus found primarily in the Southwest.

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