• What has Curiosity Rover taught us about the Martian atmosphere?

    NASA's Curiosity Rover has been exploring Mars for almost a year now. It has been acquiring detailed data on the current atmosphere. A pair of new papers report measurements of the Martian atmosphere's composition by NASA's Curiosity rover, providing evidence about loss of much of Mars' original atmosphere. Curiosity's Sample Analysis at Mars (SAM) suite of laboratory instruments inside the rover has measured the abundances of different gases and different isotopes in several samples of Martian atmosphere. Isotopes are variants of the same chemical element with different atomic weights due to having different numbers of neutrons, such as the most common carbon isotope, carbon-12, and a heavier stable isotope, carbon-13. >> Read the Full Article
  • Oceanic Iron content more variable than thought

    The supply of dissolved iron to oceans around continental shelves has been found to be more variable by region than previously believed – with implications for future climate prediction. Iron is key to the removal of carbon dioxide from the Earth's atmosphere as it promotes the growth of microscopic marine plants (phytoplankton), which mop up the greenhouse gas and lock it away in the ocean. A new study, led by researchers based at the National Oceanography Centre Southampton, has found that the amount of dissolved iron released into the ocean from continental margins displays variability not currently captured by ocean-climate prediction models. This could alter predictions of future climate change because iron, a key micronutrient, plays an important role in the global carbon cycle. >> Read the Full Article
  • The Many Benefits of Crop Rotation

    Crop rotation is a common farming practice where different series of crops are planted in the same area each sequential season. Planting different crops on the same piece of land has been used since Roman times and has been proven to improve plant nutrition, benefit soil health, and control the spread of disease. A new study to be published in Nature's 'The ISME Journal' reveals just how profound crop rotation's effect is on enriching soil with bacteria, fungi and protozoa. >> Read the Full Article
  • Scientists build app to automatically identify species based on their calls

    New technology makes it possible to automatically identify species by their vocalizations. The software and hardware system, detailed in the current issue of the journal PeerJ, has been used at sites in Puerto Rico and Costa Rica to identify frogs, insects, birds, and monkeys. Many of the animals identified by the system are typically difficult to spot in their natural environment, but audio recordings of their calls reveal not only their presence but also their activity patterns. The platform, which is called the Automated Remote Biodiversity Monitoring Network (ARBIMON), could potentially allow scientists to monitor species in remote sites without having a physical presence on the ground, according to the study's lead author Mitchell Aide of the University of Puerto Rico. >> Read the Full Article
  • Renewable Energy Sources On the Rise

    Each year the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory (LLNL) releases energy flow charts in an effort to track the United States' consumption of energy resources. So what seems to be the trend from the past couple of years? Well, renewable energy is on the upswing. Compared to 2011, Americans used more natural gas, solar panels and wind turbines and less coal to generate electricity in 2012, according to the LLNL charts. >> Read the Full Article
  • Love Longhorn Cattle? How about a longhorn dinosaur?

    Rodeo riders love longhorn cattle. What would they think about a longhorn dinosaur? A remarkable new species of horned dinosaur has been unearthed in Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument, southern Utah. The huge plant-eater inhabited Laramidia, a landmass formed when a shallow sea flooded the central region of North America, isolating western and eastern portions for millions of years during the Late Cretaceous Period. The newly discovered dinosaur, belonging to the same family as the famous Triceratops, was announced today in the British scientific journal, Proceedings of the Royal Society B. The study, funded in large part by the Bureau of Land Management and the National Science Foundation, was led by Scott Sampson, when he was the Chief Curator at the Natural History Museum of Utah at the University of Utah. Sampson is now the Vice President of Research and Collections at the Denver Museum of Nature & Science. Additional authors include Eric Lund (Ohio University; previously a University of Utah graduate student), Mark Loewen (Natural History Museum of Utah and Dept. of Geology and Geophysics, University of Utah), Andrew Farke (Raymond Alf Museum), and Katherine Clayton (Natural History Museum of Utah). >> Read the Full Article
  • Madagascar's rate of speciation slowing down

    While Madagascar is famous for its incredible diversity of plants and animals, a new study suggests that the island's rate of speciation has slowed to a crawl. The research, published last week in the Proceedings of the Royal Society B by Daniel Scantlebury of the University of Rochester, is based on analysis of evolutionary records of seven groups of reptiles and amphibians. It finds a decrease in the rate of new species formation since Madagascar split from the super-continent Gondwana some 90 million years ago. >> Read the Full Article
  • Oil Sheens in Gulf of Mexico Traced Back to Deepwater Horizon Site

    When the US Coast Guard was informed of oil sheens in the Gulf of Mexico in July 2012, there was concern over where this oil was coming from. In order to determine the source of the sheen, a research team assembled to use recently patented technology in order to fingerprint the chemical makeup of the sheens, compare them to potential sources, and estimate the location of the source based on the extend the gasoline-like compounds evaporated from the sheens. "The results demonstrate a recently developed geochemical analytical method and may have real-world implications in environmental management strategies for future contamination incidents," says Deborah Aruguete, program director in NSF's Division of Earth Sciences, which co-funded the research. Because every oil sample contains chemical clues pointing to the reservoir it came from, scientists can compare it to other samples to determine if they share a common source. After analyzing 14 sheen samples skimmed from the Gulf of Mexico, the researchers confirmed that the sheens contained oil from the Macondo well. However, the samples also contained trace amounts of olefins, industrial chemicals used in drilling operations. >> Read the Full Article
  • Green Buildings Will Sustain the Future Health of Billions

    By 2050, the world's population is expected to hit nine billion. And, by that year, scientists have projected that 80 percent of the world's population will live in urban environments. In the United States alone, research indicates that people spend 90 percent of their time indoors, as noted in a TriplePundit article. Unfortunately, buildings can have concentrations of some pollutants that are two to five times higher than typical outdoor concentrations, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). These pollutants can come in the form of aging infrastructure, portable air conditioners, poor ventilation or other forms. >> Read the Full Article
  • Satellite monitoring of ice sheets

    Data from satellites have been used a lot recently to monitor the loss of ice from ice sheets in Antarctica and Greenland. Having these data is relatively recent, however. It would be better if the data existed for a longer period so more accurate predictions of future rates of ice loss or accretion could be made. The length of the satellite record for the Greenland and Antarctic ice sheets is currently too short to tell if the recently reported speed-up of ice loss will be sustained in the future or if it results from natural processes, according to a new study led by Dr Bert Wouters from the University of Bristol. The findings, published in Nature Geoscience, underscore the need for continuous satellite monitoring of the ice sheets to better identify and predict melting and the corresponding sea-level rise. >> Read the Full Article