Top Stories

Oil Platform Effect on Fish

Fishes residing near oil platforms in southern California have similar contaminant levels as fishes in nearby natural sites, according to two recent reports by the U.S. Geological Survey, which were conducted to assist the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) in understanding potential consequences of offshore energy development. Since the underwater portion of many offshore oil and gas platforms often provides a habitat to a large number of fishes and invertebrates, some stakeholders have called for ocean managers to consider a "rigs-to-reefs" option during the decommissioning phase of a platform. This option would maintain some of the submerged structure to function as an artificial reef after oil and gas production has ended. The findings of this study address questions regarding how the industrial legacy of this kind of artificial reef may affect local fish populations. >> Read the Full Article

Sumatran Rhino found in Kalimantan after 20 years of being unseen

The Sumatran rhino has not been seen in the state of Kalimantan, Borneo, for more than two decades, but recent evidence has been found to suggest that this threatened species still occurs in the Indonesian state. Now considered to be one of the world’s most threatened mammals with just 200 to 275 individuals remaining in the wild, the Critically Endangered Sumatran rhino once roamed across the Himalayan foothills and east to southern China, Myanmar, Thailand, Cambodia, Lao PDR, Vietnam and Peninsular Malaysia. >> Read the Full Article

Synthetic Biology

A new paper says a discussion on the benefits and risks of synthetic biology to conservation is necessary. The potential exists to re-creating extinct species and to create genetically modified super-species. An upcoming conference at Clare College in Cambridge, England, will examine the nexus of synthetic biology and conservation What effects will the rapidly growing field of synthetic biology have on the conservation of nature? The ecological and ethical challenges stemming from this question will require a new and continuing dialogue between members of the synthetic biology and biodiversity conservation communities, according to authors of a new paper. According to the paper, the field of synthetic biology—a discipline that utilizes chemically synthesized DNA to create organisms that address human needs—is developing rapidly, with billions of dollars being invested annually. Many extol the virtues of synthetic biology as providing potential solutions to human health problems, food security, and energy needs. Advocates also see in synthetic biology tools for combating climate change and water deficits. Critics warn that genetically modified organisms could pose a danger to native species and natural ecosystems. >> Read the Full Article

Not All Ice Melts

Global warming means melting of polar ice and rising seas. Well not always it seems. Melting may not be the destroyer of all ice. Melting ice shelves may actually spur the growth of sea ice in Antarctica. While Arctic sea ice has dwindled, the extent of Antarctic sea ice has expanded by nearly 2 percent per decade since 1985. As the oceans have warmed in the same time period, deep ocean currents have carried heat to the deep waters surrounding Antarctica. The warmth may be melting the base of ice shelves which then crack and break off. On the surface it will look like the Antarctica ice is expanding. >> Read the Full Article

Ontario Almost Totally off Coal Generation

Ontario is on the verge of becoming the first industrial region in North America to eliminate all coal-fired electrical generation. Here’s how Canada's most populous province did it — and what the U.S. and others can learn from it. By most measures of environmental policy and progress, Ontario, Canada ranks well. Over the last half-century, Canada’s most populous province required cities and industries to treat every gallon of wastewater, dramatically reduced the level of sulfur and other pollutants that caused acid rain, and convinced the big and politically powerful pulp and paper industry to install state-of-the-art emissions control equipment. >> Read the Full Article

Sea Lion Keeps the Beat

A California sea lion named Ronan is now being known as the first non-human mammal that can keep the beat while rocking out to music. Scientists at the Long Marine Laboratory at the University of California, Santa Cruz have trained Ronan to bob her head in time with rhythmic sounds. Not only has she learned how to keep with the tempos, but she can transfer this skill to music she hasn't heard before. >> Read the Full Article

Agricultural NOx

NOx. such as nitric oxide, comes from many sources. It is a misconception that it is only the result of combustion devices. There are natural sources such as thunderstorms and ordinary plant life. Changes in agricultural practices could reduce soil emissions of the greenhouse gas nitrous oxide and the atmospheric pollutant nitric oxide, according to a new study by scientists at the University of California, Davis. "Agriculture is the main source of nitrous oxide globally, so this study is a starting point to help us understand how to manage and control it," said UC Davis professor of soil biogeochemistry William Horwath, whose lab conducted the study. >> Read the Full Article

The Next Great Urban Vehicle

Many of the frustrations that come from living in big cities are ultimately tied to our vehicles. Dirty and dusty air, foggy skies, crowded streets, fights over parking spots and traffic jams can all damper our moods. For many, other methods of personal transportation, such as bicycles and Segways, have become preferred solutions. Taking easy transportation into a new direction, Israeli-native Amir Ziad invented a personal transportation vehicle called muvE that picks up where the Segway and the electric scooter left off. >> Read the Full Article

Urea may have competition - Human urine

Human urine is superior to urea, a common nitrogen-rich mineral fertiliser, according to the results of a study carried out in a farmer’s field outside Nepal's capital city. Researchers who tested the effects of applying different combinations of urine, compost and urea on sweet pepper, Capsicum annuum, found that urine synergises best with compost. Urine for the study was sourced from mobile public toilets in the city and compost prepared from cattle manure. >> Read the Full Article

Extreme Algal Bloom

An algal bloom is a rapid increase or accumulation in the population of algae (typically microscopic) in an aquatic system. Algal blooms may occur in freshwater as well as marine environments. Typically, only one or a small number of phytoplankton species are involved, and some blooms may be recognized by discoloration of the water resulting from the high density of pigmented cells. Algal bloom concentrations may reach millions of cells per milliliter. Algal blooms are often green, but they can also be other colors such as yellow-brown or red, depending on the species of algae. A 2011 record-breaking algae bloom in Lake Erie was triggered by long-term agricultural practices coupled with extreme precipitation, followed by weak lake circulation and warm temperatures, scientists have discovered. The Carnegie researchers also predict that, unless agricultural policies change, the lake will continue to experience extreme blooms. >> Read the Full Article