Top Stories

Recent Supreme Court Decision May Affect Environmental Standing

A recent decision by the United States Supreme Court has raised questions about the scope of plaintiffs' standing to bring suit in federal court, a critical issue for environmental litigants. Federal courts have long recognized that certain types of environmental harms can form the basis of standing under Article III of the United States Constitution, which requires plaintiffs to establish an "actual or imminent" injury that is "fairly traceable" to the challenged conduct and "likely to be redressed" by a favorable decision. >> Read the Full Article

Quinoa Farming in Bolivia has significant impacts

Bolivian scientists have warned that growing international demand for quinoa is endangering local farming practices and the environment, as well as denying access to local consumers. Their caution follows the UN's kick off last month (20 February) of a year-long series of cultural, artistic and academic activities — along with scientific research — to celebrate 2013 as the International Year of Quinoa. Quinoa (Chenopodium quinoa), a grain-like crop cultivated in the Andes for 7,000 years, has remarkable nutritional value and adapts well to a variety of growing environments. >> Read the Full Article

Phantom Rain Clouds

Climate models are far from perfect. But then again the prediction of weather is a far from perfect science. It seems counterintuitive that clouds over the Southern Ocean, which circles Antarctica, would cause rain in Zambia or the tropical island of Java. But new research finds that one of the most persistent biases in global climate models – a phantom band of rainfall just south of the equator that does not occur in reality – is caused by poor simulation of the cloud cover thousands of miles farther to the south. >> Read the Full Article

Photographers Threatening the Already-Maligned Slender Loris

Caught in a beam of torchlight, the eyes of the slender loris reflect back a striking glow. In an effort to better understand these shy, nocturnal primates, a team of researchers set out to the Western Ghats of India. The resulting paper: Moolah, Misfortune or Spinsterhood? The Plight of the Slender Loris (Loris lydekkerianus) in Southern India was published in the Journal of Threatened Taxa in January of 2013. Forest walks and interviews with the Kani people, who live in close proximity to the lorises, supported evidence of a surprising new threat to the lorises: photographers. >> Read the Full Article

Origins of Life

The origin of life is a scientific problem which is not yet solved. There are plenty of ideas, but few established facts. It is generally agreed that all life today evolved by common descent from a single primitive life form. We do not know how this early form came about, but scientists think it was a natural process which took place perhaps 3.9 billion years ago. Researchers in the Evolutionary Bioinformatics Laboratory at the University of Illinois in collaboration with German scientists have been using bioinformatics techniques to probe the world of proteins for answers to questions about the origins of life. Proteins are formed from chains of amino acids and fold into three-dimensional structures that determine their function. According to crop sciences professor Gustavo Caetano-Anollés, very little is known about the evolutionary drivers for this folding. >> Read the Full Article

Sleeping Less May Lead to Weight Gain

Health professionals have always emphasized the importance of sleep, but why? Research has shown that a lack of sleep can lead to weight gain, but the reasons why have remained somewhat unclear. However, according to a new study led by the University of Colorado Boulder, staying awake longer requires more energy and therefore more food intake during the next day which can lead to weight gain. >> Read the Full Article

Victory for Freshwater Turtles and Tortoises at CITES

Several freshwater turtle and tortoise species are to be afforded greater protection as a result of successful conservation talks at the CITES meeting in Bangkok, Thailand. At the meeting of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES), proposals were put forward to restrict trade in 44 Asian turtle and tortoise species, as well as three North American pond turtle species. >> Read the Full Article

Sustainable Air Travel Takes Off

Last Thursday, KLM Royal Dutch Airlines Flight 642 completed the seven hour and 17 minute flight from New York's JFK Airport to Amsterdam Airport Schiphol using sustainable biofuels. Flight KL642, operated by a Boeing 777-200, will fly every Thursday fueled by recycled cooking oil as part of the Dutch carrier's goal to have one percent of its flights operate on biofuels by 2015. For five years, KLM has experimented with various forms of biofuels in order to try to reduce its carbon footprint. First was the attempt to fuel 12 Fokker-50 planes with algae-based biofuel. Bio-kerosene was an experiment a year later, and as many as 200 short hop flights are now powered by a 50-50 blend of kerosene and recycled cooking oil. >> Read the Full Article

Martian Water Channels

Water on Mars exists today almost exclusively as water ice. The Martian polar ice caps consist primarily of water ice, and further ice is contained in Martian surface rocks at more temperate latitudes (permafrost). A small amount of water vapor is present in the atmosphere. There are no bodies of liquid water on the Martian surface today. Despite this, research suggests that in the past there was liquid water flowing on the surface, creating large areas similar to Earth's oceans. NASA's Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter has provided images allowing scientists for the first time to create a 3-D reconstruction of ancient water channels below the Martian surface. The spacecraft took numerous images during the past few years that showed channels attributed to catastrophic flooding in the last 500 million years. During this period, Mars had been otherwise considered cold and dry. These channels are essential to understanding the extent to which recent hydrologic activity prevailed during such arid conditions. They also help scientists determine whether the floods could have induced episodes of climate change. >> Read the Full Article

Honeybees Get the Caffeine Buzz

Most of us rely on a cup of coffee to jump start our day. For us, that jolt of caffeine wards off drowsiness and restores alertness. Not only does caffeine help to wake us up, but it also can affect our memory. So how does caffeine affect other species in the animal kingdom? Does anything else share our addiction to morning caffeine? Well according to new research, it seems that honeybees also get their buzz from drinking caffeine-laced nectar. >> Read the Full Article