Top Stories

Lake Mead water levels continuing to drop

The historic four-year drought in California has been grabbing the headlines lately, but there's a much bigger problem facing the West: the now 14-year drought gripping the Colorado River basin.

One of the most stunning places to see its impact is at the nation's largest reservoir, Lake Mead, near Las Vegas. At about 40 percent of capacity, it's the lowest it's been since it was built in the 1930s.

>> Read the Full Article

Solar power and Native American rights clash in the Mojave Desert

In a remote corner of the Mojave Desert, 15 miles from Las Vegas, stands the expansive Ivanpah Solar Electric Generating System. Occupying 5 square miles, the facility seems to swallow up a stunning expanse of desert including animals, plants and now, spiritual and cultural resources.

Native elders filed a suit against the Department of the Interior, Bureau of Land Management, and the Department of Energy in 2010, for failure to properly consult with the tribes in regard to the development of six renewable projects.

Litigants Alfredo Figueroa (Yaqui/Chemehuevi), Phillip Smith (Chemehuevi), and Reverend Ron Van Fleet (Mojave) complain that the government and the companies involved have lent a deaf ear to their concerns, which has brought a new level of anxiety and spiritual pain to people who have long felt their voices muffled in the face of commercial development by others.

>> Read the Full Article

The color of light and our daily rhythms

Research by scientists at The University of Manchester has revealed that the colour of light has a major impact on how the brain clock measures time of day and on how the animals' physiology and behavior adjust accordingly. The study, for the first time, provides a neuronal mechanism for how our internal clock can measure changes in light colour that accompany dawn and dusk. 

In research publishing on April 17th in the Open Access journal PLOS Biology, the researchers looked at the change in light around dawn and dusk to analyze whether colour could be used to determine time of day. Besides the well-known changes in light intensity that occur as the sun rises and sets, the scientists found that during twilight light is reliably bluer than during the day.

>> Read the Full Article

Species loss linked to unstable production of grassland ecosystem

Losing plant species is directly linked to long-term declines in the stable productivity of grasslands, a new study has shown. The study demonstrates for the first time that for every decrease in plant biodiversity there is a proportional decrease in the stable production of plant biomass through time of grassland ecosystems. Over the long-term, factors such as rising levels of carbon dioxide, nitrogen, more frequent grazing, or drought, only affect ecosystem stability in as much as they affect biodiversity.

>> Read the Full Article

Think Different: Apple and conservation

Marking a precedent-setting conservation partnership, Apple and the Conservation Fund will purchase two large areas of working forest, the organizations announced on Thursday. The move is expected to conserve “more than 36,000 acres of working forestland in Maine and North Carolina, ensuring these forests stay forests and any timber on the land is harvested sustainably,” the partners said in a joint announcement.

This initial purchase of U.S. working forestland marks “the beginning of a worldwide effort, one that represents a new approach as it reassesses its impact on the world’s paper supply chain,” Lisa P. Jackson, Apple’s vice president of environmental initiatives, and Larry Selzer, president and CEO of the Conservation Fund, wrote in a Medium op-ed. Prior to joining Apple, Jackson led the U.S. EPA as President Barack Obama’s EPA Administrator from 2009 to 2013.

>> Read the Full Article

Study shows how climate affects biodiversity

A key question in the climate debate is how the occurrence and distribution of species is affected by climate change. But without information about natural variation in species abundance it is hard to answer. In a major study, published today in the leading scientific journal Current Biology, researchers can now for the first time give us a detailed picture of natural variation.

>> Read the Full Article

Bird populations decline years after Fukushima's nuclear catastrophe

This is the time of year when birds come out and really spread their wings, but since a disastrous day just before spring’s arrival four years ago, Japan’s Fukushima province has not been friendly to the feathered. And as several recent papers from University of South Carolina biologist Tim Mousseau and colleagues show, the avian situation there is just getting worse.

>> Read the Full Article

Human sweat conveys our emotional state!

Humans may be able to communicate positive emotions like happiness through the smell of our sweat, according to new research published in Psychological Science, a journal of the Association for Psychological Science. The research indicates that we produce chemical compounds, or chemosignals, when we experience happiness that are detectable by others who smell our sweat. 

While previous research has shown that negative emotions related to fear and disgust are communicated via detectable regularities in the chemical composition of sweat, few studies have examined whether the same communicative function holds for positive emotions.

>> Read the Full Article

New oil repellant materials could help clean up oil spills

University of Wisconsin-Madison researchers have announced a significant step forward in the development of materials that can ward off oil — a discovery that could lead to new protective coatings and better approaches to cleaning up oil spills. In a new paper in the journal Advanced Functional Materials, professor of chemical and biological engineering David Lynn and assistant scientist Uttam Manna describe new coatings that are extremely oil-repellant (or "superoleophobic") in underwater environments.

>> Read the Full Article

Japan's 'scientific whaling' fail

Japan's latest plans for 'scientific whaling' in the Southern Ocean have fallen at the first hurdle, writes Tony Press. The IWC's expert panel says Japan's proposal contains 'insufficient information' on which to judge its validity, in particular the need for the 'lethal sampling' of over 3,996 Minke whales that is central to the research plan.

>> Read the Full Article