From the Community: waste and the environment

Turning wasteful Styrofoam packaging into biodegradable, mushroom-based materials, the current news on Hungary’s alumina sludge disaster, Frito Lay changes back to original chip bag packaging after consumer complaints about the “eco-friendly” bags and cities wasting water and using new technology to turn wastewater into energy.

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Gulf seafood safety and the government’s response

Since oil began leaking from a rig in the Gulf of Mexico last April, concerns regarding the safety of the region’s seafood abounded. Now, more than two months after the leak was sealed, public officials, federal scientists and even President Obama have all been saying that seafood from the Gulf region is safe to eat. So why aren’t consumers digging in? Several local leaders from the region impacted by the oil spill addressed this topic last week during the most recent hearing of the National Commission on the British Petroleum Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill and Offshore Drilling in Washington, D.C.

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Field Talk: Local spearfishing stories tell of fish depletion in Chile

Historically, spearfishing involved a diver, a harpoon (or spear or trident) and access to an abundant source of fish. However, it has evolved over the centuries—especially within the last few decades—to include boats, masks, snorkeling gear, scuba tanks, wet suits and even spearguns. The modernization of equipment means divers are able to stay underwater for hours and fire mechanically propelled spears at faster rates than a person is able to throw. The result, in theory, is a more fruitful catch.

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From the Community: the wisdom of birds, felines and spores

Tim Birkhead explains what song bird research can contribute to human health, Surprising Science describes the evolution of a feline’s roar (or meow), a Geophysical Research Letters study assesses the world’s dwindling groundwater supply, Nature News interviews Gabriela Chavarria—the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s top science adviser—and Chris Palmer’s book reveals faking in nature videos. Here are stories in ecology from the last week in September.

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Injecting humor into climate change: Interview with cartoonist Neil Wagner
Sep24

Injecting humor into climate change: Interview with cartoonist Neil Wagner

Many science communicators suggest that the key to effectively translating climate change research is to keep the message concise, accurate and interesting, all in one tight package. Perhaps the most streamlined of platforms to communicate this science is a comic strip in which the cartoonist has just a few panels to neatly and accurately convey the findings, the alternative viewpoint and the gravity of the issue at hand. Oh, and it should be funny too.

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Science in a “culture of news-grazers”

When was the last time you sat down after dinner to watch the local news? How about the last time you forwarded or received a link to a news story? Odds are, with the prevalence of social networking, blogs and email, you probably sent or received news in some form during your lunch break this afternoon. In fact, just by reading this post you are providing evidence that consumers tend to prefer cherry picking news throughout the day, rather than replenishing their news supply all at once.

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Spontaneous fermentation: the role of microorganisms in beer

Benjamin Franklin, one of the Founding Fathers of the United States, was once quoted as saying: “In wine there is wisdom, in beer there is Freedom, in water there is bacteria.” While there is certainly some truth to this quote, especially considering water quality in the 1700s, it should be noted that beer’s long history is also fraught with microorganisms—both helpful and harmful in the eyes of the brewer.

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Putting ecology back in school

Currently, U.S. students can graduate high school without taking a course that covers ecological science or that encourages ecological literacy—the ability to understand the interconnectedness of life on Earth. By not being exposed to this material, students’ career paths can be dramatically impacted. On a basic level, they may not consider the advantages of exploring ecology as an option for post-secondary education. But sometimes, they may never understand the complex dynamics of natural and built environments, including the role of humans in an ecosystem.

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