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Genetic Engineering to the Rescue Against Invasive Species?
Monday, 11 August 2014 12:12

By Katie Langin – National Geographic Daily News – July 17, 2014

Invasive species wreak havoc worldwide, disrupting native ecosystems and inflicting more than $120 billion in damages annually in the U.S. alone. Many economically—and environmentally—damaging species, such as those mosquitoes, snakes, and carp, defy removal with existing technology. But there is good news. "Gene drives"—which could trigger a precipitous decline in invasive species by tinkering with their genetic machinery—have arrived as a fast-maturing technology, an international team of scientists announced on Thursday. "Once an invasive species arrives in a new habitat and is driving native species extinct, we don't necessarily have a lot of solutions to that. Gene drive technology could potentially cause local extinction [of the invasive species] and restore the original ecosystem," says Kevin Esvelt, a genetic engineer at Harvard University and an author of tandem papers published this week in Science and eLife. For full story click here.

Wetlands essential for migrating mallards, MU researchers find
Monday, 04 August 2014 13:31

By Eleanor Hasenbeck – The Maneater – July 29, 2014

A recent study involving MU researchers found that wetland sanctuaries, including many Missouri wetlands, are seeing plenty of use from migratory waterfowl. Researchers captured 20 female mallards in their breeding grounds in Saskatchewan, Canada, and 20 more in their wintering grounds in northern Arkansas. They attached satellite harnesses to the ducks and let them fly, tracking their flight patterns for about two years. Data was collected from 2010 to 2012 and band analysis was completed earlier this year. The study is the first of its kind, in that satellite technology allowed researchers to track birds across their entire North American migration route. The satellite technology showed how the waterfowl used wetland sanctuaries with unprecedented accuracy. Researchers were able to see the ducks’ exact position, within 18 meters, on a computer screen as they made their way north and south. For full story, click here.

Water Samples Teeming with Information
Monday, 07 July 2014 00:02

By Julian Turan – Science Daily – June 30, 2014

Setting effective conservation policies requires near real-time knowledge of environmental conditions. Scientists with Stanford's Center for Ocean Solutions propose using genetic techniques as a low-cost, quick way to collect such data. Environmental policy must respond to ever-changing conditions on the ground and in the water, but doing so requires a constant flow of information about the living world. In a paper published in Science this week, scientists from Stanford's Center for Ocean Solutions, the University of Washington and the University of Copenhagen propose employing emerging environmental DNA (eDNA) sampling techniques that could make assessing the biodiversity of marine ecosystems – from single-cell critters to great white sharks – as easy as taking a water sample. For full story, click here.

West Antarctic Ice Sheet's Collapse Triggers Sea Level Warning
Monday, 19 May 2014 14:08

By Alan Boyle – NBC News – May 13, 2014 – Video

Two teams of scientists say the long-feared collapse of the West Antarctic Ice Sheet has begun, kicking off what they say will be a centuries-long, "unstoppable" process that could raise sea levels by as much as 15 feet. "There's been a lot of speculation about the stability of marine ice sheets, and many scientists suspected that this kind of behavior is under way," Ian Joughin, a glaciologist at the University of Washington in Seattle, said in a news release about one of the studies published Monday. "This study provides a more qualitative idea of the rates at which the collapse could take place." The findings from Joughin and his colleagues, appearing in the journal Science, indicate that in some places, Antarctica's Thwaites Glacier is losing tens of feet, or several meters, of ice elevation every year. For full story and to view video, click here.

Report Shows Declining Trend in Prairie Pothole Wetlands
Monday, 07 July 2014 00:02

U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service – July 1, 2014

The Status and Trends of Prairie Wetlands in the United States 1997 to 2009 was released on 30 June, 2014.  This report estimates that 6,427,350 acres of wetlands remained in the Prairie Pothole Region in 2009, which represents 5.8 % of the total wetland area found in the conterminous U.S. in 2009. Between 1997 and 2009, the average annual rate of change was an estimated loss of 6,200 acres and an estimated 40 % of emergent wetland area was lost or converted to deepwater lake systems or open-water ponds. To read news release, click here. To download report, click here or go directly here.

Can Floodplain Forest Restoration Reduce the Gulf’s Dead Zone?
Monday, 09 June 2014 15:09

By John Shuey – The Nature Conservancy Cool Green Science – June 2, 2014 – Video

The “dead zone” in the Gulf of Mexico remains a major environmental issue – particularly for those who depend upon the Gulf for their livelihoods. The “dead zone” disrupts the Gulf’s valuable fishery, threatening both commercial and recreational fisheries valued at almost $1 billion. The cause of the dead zone is nitrogen pollution, which has created an oxygen-free area, now the size of the state of Connecticut. Indiana has been identified as one of the states contributing the most excess nitrogen to the Gulf of Mexico, and these nutrients come from a variety of sources, both urban and rural. A new study by the University of Notre Dame is showing that restored floodplain forests along the Wabash River in Indiana can help decrease the amount of nitrogen reaching the Gulf. For full blog post and to view video, click here.

Space shuttle metals fell into Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge
Monday, 19 May 2014 13:58

By Lindsey Konkel – Environmental Health News – May 15, 2014

Billows of fire and smoke filled the air above Florida’s Kennedy Space Center as the countdown clock reached zero. Flanked by two rocket boosters and strapped to the back of a giant rust-colored fuel tank, the space shuttle blasted off. Within seconds, the spacecraft disappeared from sight. In just over 8 minutes, it reached outer space. But NASA’s launches left more than a legacy of space exploration. Before leaving Earth's atmosphere, each shuttle spewed thousands of pounds of metals and other chemicals into the air. Some contaminants fell into a federal wildlife refuge surrounding the base that is home to alligators, sea turtles and other endangered animals. “People think of a shuttle launch as a short-term, finite event, but each launch expels a huge amount of debris into the atmosphere with the potential for long-term effects on the surrounding ecosystem,” said John Bowden, an environmental chemist at Hollings Marine Laboratory in Charleston, S.C. For full story, click here.

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