• Spotting Whales from Space!

    Counting individuals of a species is important in order to track wildlife trends. Absence or decline of a species could mean detrimental habitat modifications or that parts of the ecosystem are unbalanced. For marine populations though, trying to count and monitor these species is often a daunting and expensive task as finding these individuals in the vast ocean can be like looking for a needle in a haystack. Thankfully, scientists lead by the British Antarctic Survey (BAS) have demonstrated how new satellite technology can be used to count whales, and ultimately estimate their population size. >> Read the Full Article
  • Biodiversity conservationists get a little help with new online freshwater atlas

    An online repository of maps has been launched to make information on freshwater biodiversity available on a common platform for use by scientists, policymakers, conservationists and NGOs. The Global Freshwater Biodiversity Atlas will help developing countries identify biodiversity-rich areas for conservation. It was launched last month (29 January), as part of an EU-funded project called BioFresh, with the aim of putting together published maps and sharing them under a creative commons license. >> Read the Full Article
  • Urban Bees Start Using Plastic Waste to Build Hives

    Urban bees have started using bits of discarded plastic bags and plastic building materials to construct their nests, according to a new study of their behavior. It's an important discovery because it shows bees' resourcefulness and flexibility in adapting to a human-dominated world, says lead author Scott MacIvor of the University of Guelph. "Plastic waste pervades the global landscape," said MacIvor. "Although researchers have shown adverse impacts of the material on species and the ecosystem, few scientists have observed insects adapting to a plastic-rich environment." >> Read the Full Article
  • Climate migration in the face of climate change

    As climate change unfolds over the next century, plants and animals will need to adapt or shift locations to follow their ideal climate. A new study provides an innovative global map of where species are likely to succeed or fail in keeping up with a changing climate. The findings appear in the science journal Nature. >> Read the Full Article
  • Calculating your water footprint

    Water scarcity affects 2.7 billion people worldwide for at least a month each year and in the same way that each of us has a carbon footprint, Professor Arjen Hoekstra of the University of Twente in the Netherlands posits that every person also has a "water footprint". Our water footprint is calculated by counting the amount of fresh water that we each use daily and the amount of water required to produce the goods and services that we consume. Due in large part to our monthly water bill, we recognize our daily fresh water use more than we do the amount of water that it takes to produce other foods and products that we consume. We more commonly think about water consumption in terms daily showers dishwasher and sprinkler usage or dripping spigots. >> Read the Full Article
  • A Mexican "bee-rometer"

    Mexico is the fourth largest honey producer and fifth largest honey exporter in the world. A Smithsonian researcher and colleagues helped rural farmers in Mexico to quantify the genetically modified organism (GMO) soybean pollen in honey samples rejected for sale in Germany. Their results will appear Feb. 7 in the online journal, Scientific Reports. >> Read the Full Article
  • The first big bite!

    The first top predators to walk on land were not afraid to bite off more than they could chew, a University of Toronto, Mississauga study has found. Graduate student and lead author Kirstin Brink and U of T Biology Professor Robert Reisz suggest that Dimetrodon, a carnivore that walked on land between 298 million and 272 million years ago, was the first terrestrial vertebrate to develop serrated ziphodont teeth. According to the study published in Nature Communications, ziphodont teeth, with their serrated edges, produced a more-efficient bite and would have allowed Dimetrodon to eat prey much larger than itself. While most meat-eating dinosaurs possessed ziphodont teeth, fossil evidence suggests serrated teeth first evolved in Dimetrodon some 40 million years earlier than theropod dinosaurs. >> Read the Full Article
  • USGS Develops Tool to Help Track Oil Spills

    Each year, tons of oil can be spilled into the ocean. Whether it comes from an oil tank spill, a leak that occurs during offshore drilling, or even natural seeps that occur within the ocean, oil spills can cause grave environmental and economic damage to marine and coastal ecosystems. When an oil spill occurs, the oil that floats on water will usually spreads out rapidly across the water surface to form a thin layer called an oil slick. As the oil continues spreading, the layer becomes thinner and thinner, eventually turning into a thin layer called a sheen. Managing and predicting the spread and path of oil is often very difficult for first-responders and clean up crews, however, a newly developed computer model holds promise to helping scientists track a spill. U.S. Geological Survey scientists developed the model as a way of tracking the movement of sand and oil found along the Gulf of Mexico since the Deepwater Horizon oil spill. >> Read the Full Article
  • Global temperatures now available on Google Earth

    Climate researchers at the University of East Anglia have for the first time made the world's temperature records available on the Google Earth platform. The Climatic Research Unit Temperature Version 4 (CRUTEM4) land-surface air temperature dataset is one of the most widely used records of the climate system. The new Google Earth format allows users to scroll around the world, zoom in on 6,000 weather stations, and view monthly, seasonal and annual temperature data more easily than ever before. >> Read the Full Article
  • Flood insurance hike temporarily suspended

    As a follow on to last week's article about the agreement by the Senate to initiate debate to delay increases mandated by the Biggert-Waters Flood Insurance Reform Act of 2012, the Senate recently passed (67-32) the Menendez-Isakson Homeowner Flood Insurance Affordability Act which will delay the Biggert-Waters Act until such time as FEMA can complete an affordability study, provide solutions to mitigate their effect and scientifically certify accuracy of the maps used to determine insurance rates on specific properties. According to FEMA, key provisions of the Biggert-Waters act required "the NFIP (National Flood Insurance Program) to raise rates to reflect true flood risk, make the program more financially stable, and change how Flood Insurance Rate Map (FIRM) updates impact policyholders." These rate increases were to begin at the end of last year. The law was developed as a result of the inundation of insurance claims posted after Hurricane Katrina, which put the NFIP on the verge of bankruptcy. Further stress was added following Hurricane Sandy. >> Read the Full Article