• Pope Francis and the Amazon Rainforest

    In response to Pope Francis’ Amazon-themed speech to Brazilian bishops, World Wildlife Fund’s Dekila Chungyalpa, Director of WWF’s Sacred Earth program, issued the following statement: "We're grateful that Pope Francis is adding his influential voice to the growing number of faith leaders around the world who are recognizing the importance of protecting our planet from environmental harm. And we're especially thankful he's urging young people to be problem solvers on behalf of the entire planet and all of God's creations." "Pope Francis' compassionate speech today asking bishops to respect the environment in which we live and to continue to protect the Amazon will reach millions and carry historic importance." "WWF applauds Pope Francis' uplifting World Youth Day message calling for 'respect and protection of the entire creation which God has entrusted to man, not so that it indiscriminately exploited, but rather made into a garden." >> Read the Full Article
  • CO2 Sequestration advances

    Sequestration of CO2 has been discussed as one way to reduce the impact of burning fossil fuels on climate change by removing CO2 from industrial and power generation emissions and storing it indefinitely underground. This technology has been demonstrated in the laboratory and in pilot studies, but not in large scale tests. That is now changing. An injection of carbon dioxide, or CO2, has begun at a site in southeastern Washington to test deep geologic storage. Battelle researchers based at Pacific Northwest National Laboratory are injecting 1,000 tons of CO2 one-half mile underground to see if the greenhouse gas can be stored safely and permanently in ancient basalt flows. Boise Inc. teamed with Battelle, which operates PNNL for the U.S. Department of Energy, and Praxair, Inc. to conduct the CO2 injection phase of the pilot project. Injection is occurring on Boise property in deep basalt — the same massive ancient lava flows that underlie major portions of Washington, Oregon and Idaho. The joint research is conducted under the Big Sky Carbon Sequestration Partnership, which is led by Montana State University and funded by DOE and a consortium of industrial partners. It is one of seven regional partnerships throughout the United States aimed at finding safe and economical ways to permanently store the nation's greenhouse gas emissions. >> Read the Full Article
  • Pesticides Found in Sierra Nevada Frogs

    Even though DDT was banned in the United States in 1972, it’s byproduct, DDE, is still one of the most widely detected compounds in our natural environment. And this compound along with several other pesticides and fungicides are being detected in innocent wildlife. A recent study conducted by the USGS California Water Science Center and the USGS Western Ecological Research Center shows that frogs in the Sierra Nevada mountain habitats have concentrations of these pesticides within their tissues. "Our results show that current-use pesticides, particularly fungicides, are accumulating in the bodies of Pacific chorus frogs in the Sierra Nevada," says Kelly Smalling, a research hydrologist with the U.S. Geological Survey and lead author of the study. "This is the first time we’ve detected many of these compounds, including fungicides, in the Sierra Nevada. The data generated by this study support past research on the potential of pesticides to be transported by wind or rain from the Central Valley to the Sierras." >> Read the Full Article
  • Cheetah Don't Overheat During Hunts

    Study finds that contrary to popular opinion, cheetah don't overheat during hunts. But their body temperature rises after successful hunts due to stress that another predator may seize their prey. In a 4,500 hectare cheetah rehabilitation camp in the middle of Namibia, researchers observe the large, spotted carnivores as they readjust to wild life. This week one such researcher, physiologist Robyn Hetem from the University of the Witwatersrand Medical School, used her observations to disprove a theory about cheetah that has been treated as common knowledge for decades, that a cheetah's running speed causes its body to overheat while hunting. >> Read the Full Article
  • Mussel Strength: Byssus Threads May Hold the Key to Better Glues and Biomedical Interfaces

    With a name like 'mussel' one would expect that these bivalves must have one strong muscle to help them attach to rocks in order to prevent the risk of being torn by crashing waves and currents. But what helps these mussels stay attached to their home base is actually a collection of fine filaments known as byssus threads. And the secret to the strength of these byssus threads has now been unraveled by MIT research scientist Zhao Qin and professor of civil and environmental engineering Markus Buehler. Researchers found that the byssus threads are composed of a well-designed combination of soft, stretchy material on one end and much stiffer material on the other. Both materials, despite their different mechanical properties, are made of a protein closely related to collagen, a main constituent of skin, bone, cartilage and tendons. >> Read the Full Article
  • Tar-sands Infractions in Canada Get Swept Under the Rug

    A report released yesterday finds that enforcement of environmental infractions by companies in the Alberta oil sands are 17 times lower than similar infractions reported to the United State's Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) The report, authored by the environmental nonprofit Global Forest Watch, looked at more than 15 years of data on recorded environmental mishaps by oil sand's companies, tracking the follow-up actions taken and the final verdict on fines. >> Read the Full Article
  • Oil palm genome mapped, could boost yields, reduce pressure on rainforests

    A team of Malaysian and American researchers have mapped the genome of the oil palm, the oilseed that is widely used as a cooking oil and in cosmetics, cleaning products, and processed foods. The genome sequencing, which was published today in the journal Nature, identified the gene responsible for regulating the crop's oil yield. The results could be used to boost palm oil yields, thus potentially reducing the need to clear wildlife-rich rainforests and carbon-dense peat swamps for plantations. The gene, dubbed the "Shell gene", controls "how the thickness of its shell correlates to fruit size and oil yield," according to Rajinder Singh, first author of the paper and a scientist at the Malaysian Palm Oil Board (MPOB), a government agency. >> Read the Full Article
  • Computer model gives early warning of crop failure

    An international team of researchers has developed a computer model to predict global crop failures several months before harvest. Since 2008, widespread drought in crop-exporting regions has resulted in large increases in food prices on global commodity markets. With climatic extremes also expected to become more common, being able to predict global crop failures could help developing nations that are reliant on food imports — making them more resilient to spikes in food prices. >> Read the Full Article
  • Range Hoods May Minimize Kitchen Pollution

    When I think of indoor air pollution, I immediately put the blame on cigarette smoke or household cleaning products. But according to a new study, we now should watch out for the hazardous levels of nitrogen dioxide and carbon monoxide that come from us cooking in our kitchens. Scientist Brett Singer and his team of Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (Berkeley Lab) indoor air researchers have found that a significant portion of residences in California exceed outdoor air quality standards for several pollutants on a weekly basis as a result of cooking with gas burners. >> Read the Full Article
  • Gravity-powered lamp to enter field tests

    A cheap new light that could provide an alternative to kerosene and solar lamps in rural areas will enter field testing in Africa and Asia this year. The device, a gravity-powered LED lamp called 'GravityLight', works by attaching a weighted bag below it from a cord. As the bag slowly descends, gears convert the weight into energy — providing users with up to 30 minutes of light, depending on the weight of the bag. There are also settings to provide brighter light for a shorter period. >> Read the Full Article