By: Alex Hines
Summary: The Great Lakes exist in a fragile balance. The massive watershed they draw from is home to nearly 30 million people. Generally, water accumulates in the higher altitude waters of Lake Superior and Lake Michigan before flowing out through Huron, St. Clair, Erie, Ontario, and the St. Lawrence river out to the north Atlantic. This outflow has been in balance with the snow melt and rainfall recharge in the watershed for as long as people have lived in the area. Recently however, this has changed.
The effects of climate change are widespread and still being dissected and discovered. In the Great Lakes region, it’s clear that increased precipitation and average temperature has caused an overload in lake levels. In the October of 2019, water levels rose as much as 3 feet in Lake Michigan and Lake Huron, and more than 15 inches in the other 3 great lakes. This has wide ranging consequences, many of Michigan’s lakeside communities rely on their coastlines for tourism revenue, property development, and fishing. Large cities like Chicago, Milwaukee, and Toronto are losing ground on fighting rising water, threatening huge amounts of property.
If the water levels are to correct themselves, the watershed needs to experience a serious dry season, and if recent climate trends continue, that doesn't look to be likely any time soon.
Why we should care? The Great Lakes are a huge part of what makes the Michigan ecosystem so special. I feel that losing coastline on the lakes means losing a part of our state’s identity.
Example News Article:
This article was really educational in content, it contains lots of metrics and graphs that help visualize the problem. Interviews in the article were also varied and informative and came from people on many sides of this issue. Hearing from news sources, fire departments and climate scientists is extremely valuable. The article also provides a video link to a community already ravaged by rising water levels, in the Mississippi river valley, and draws parallels to the issues people living around Lake Erie have experienced. The article also puts snow and rainfall into context, providing real correlative climate data to support their analysis of the general problem.
Science in Action.
Dr. Richard B. Rood is Professor of Climate and Space Sciences and Engineering (Atmospheric, Oceanic, and Space Sciences) at the University of Michigan - Ann Arbor.
Dr. Rood’s primary research is in climate change problem solving. He regularly contributes numerical algorithms to go with his research and is a regular consultant to NOAA for their modeling services and works on their Next Generation Global Prediction System. He has published work on climate modeling and has public engagement experience on great lakes regional issues. I find a lot of value in his research particularly on weather and climate as it relates to my blog topic. Professor Rood is a leading authority on how precipitation has effected and will effect levels of recharge in the Great Lakes watershed. His predictive models may be used to find the required inflow and outflow needed to remedy the situation we currently find ourselves in, with constantly rising water levels in all the Great Lakes.
By: Anthony J. Provenzino
Summary: Phragmites (frag-MY-teez) is a genus containing four different species of tall, perennial grasses found in temperate and tropical wetlands throughout the world. Though evidence exists that certain varieties are native to North America (Americanus,) Phragmites is widely considered to be a disruptive invasive species.
Non-native Phragmites (Phragmites australis/Common Reed) plants have progressed to the Midwest from the east Atlantic coast over the span of a few centuries. It has become of growing concern to local ecosystems because of its tenacious and robust nature, and Michigan is particularly vulnerable to desecration due to the state’s, marshes, islands and sprawling coastlines. Phragmites growth spreads over large areas of shoreline, with some covering as much as .39 square miles of land. Phragmites is also noted for its reaching height, with stems that typically extend up to fifteen feet from the ground. Phragmites grows by way of a Rhizome root system. These horizontally protracting shoots grow underneath the soil and send stalks up at regular intervals. Under the optimal growing conditions these roots can advance at a rate of up to sixteen feet or more per year and may also re-sprout when broken. In addition to Rhizomes, Phragmites may also spread from windblown seeds, soil transfer or else carried by animals.
Phragmites’ ability to dominate makes it difficult for other (possibly more desirable) plant varieties to thrive. Its height blocks essential sunlight from hitting surrounding areas, and its massive root systems absorb the majority of available groundwater. Phragmites’ capacity for soaking up water is such that its growth poses a threat to Michigan’s treasured wetlands.
Though there are several bird breeds have been known to favor Phragmites reed-beds, there are negative impacts on many fish and colonial water birds which have seen their traditional environments threatened or else had food displaced.
Another damaging effect from rapid Phragmites growth is that on publicly utilized infrastructure. Drainage ways suffer clogs and therefore may facilitate harmful flooding in local communities. A lesser, but no less discussed consequence is the unsightly nature of the Phragmites plant which is seen by some as a debasement of Michigan scenery. Some argue that it’s powerful enough to lower property values, and that it ruins the rich shorelines of an otherwise picturesque state. Many people have also pointed out that Phragmites growth interferes with many recreational activities like hiking, swimming and boating- which benefit the communities that depend on the economic surplus brought about by tourism.
Many communities have been affected by the rapid spread of these overbearing grasses- animal, plant and human alike, and elimination efforts have been made in order to halt any further infestation, though success has been difficult to achieve. Such a relentless plant variety has rightly been deemed a significant threat to the natural resources found in Michigan, as well as the rest of the United States.
Why we should care? If adequate action is not taken, Phragmites plants may spread even further and cause irrevocable damage. The Midwest shares a responsibility to protect its unrivaled resources and prevent more damage.
Example News Article(s):
This article is particularly interesting in that it is a telling insight into how beneficial it is to combat Phragmites growth and just how many people have a vested interest in the subject.
What has been highlighted across this and most other material concerning the subject is the multitude of reasons and seemingly unanimous support in favor of taking back control of our surroundings. From conservationist whose greatest ambitions are to protect the makeup of our ecosystems, to the fishermen whose growing concern is for their food supply, and even to those who simply want an open, unobstructed view of the shoreline, the range of interest extends well across the entire region.
The fight against Phragmites is only exacerbated by the fact that it such a vigorous plant. It proves to be extremely difficult to prevent spreading, let alone eradicate entirely.
Science in Action.
Phyllis J. Higman is Senior Conservation Scientist at Michigan State University Michigan Natural Features Inventory Office.
Dr. Higman’s work relies heavily on up-to-date diagnostics and keeping detailed and accurate data, with special attention being paid to Michigan’s some 1700 islands. She and her team carefully assess the dynamics of the state’s ecosystems and the specialized species that occur there. Only after each organism and any contingencies have been considered, may plans of action be implemented. For instance, since the Phragmites plant is so resilient, conventional removal is not truly feasible. Simply mowing, pruning, even burning does not thwart Phragmites’s highly aggressive propensity for growth. Though when combined with a very carefully administered herbicide regimen, positive results have proven to be attainable. The nature of theses habitats and the biodiversity which occurs there make calculated and concise removal plans detrimental to the environment. One incorrectly assessed action may result in even further infestation, as well as running even higher risk to Michigan’s coveted natural resources.
By: Lee Simmons
Summary: During a Michigan winter it can be very dangerous to drive on the roads due to the ice and snow. Normally, city and state governments would use large trucks to spread rock salt which chemically lowers the melting point of the ice and snow, allowing it to melt into significantly less dangerous liquid water. This method does work, but it is rather ineffective and harmful to certain environments. Rock salt needs to be applied many times during the course of a winter and any time the snow melts, that salt gets dragged away in the runoff and ends up in our Great Lakes and other fresh waterways, slowly adding salinity to them. But what if I told you there was a better way?
About 55% of all sugar produced in the United States come from the sugar beet and Michigan is the fourth largest grower of the sugar beet in the country. A byproduct of growing and processing sugar beets into white sugar is beet juice. This byproduct would normally be disposed of but can actually be used rather effectively as a substitute to traditional road salts. When beet juice is mixed with a small of amount of salt and spread on the roads like usual, it has several improvements compared to just using rock salt. 1. The beet juice mixture is rather sticky, allowing it to stay on the roads for longer, meaning it doesn’t get dragged away if the snow melts, reducing the number of times it needs to be reapplied during the winter. 2. The mixture uses less salt, meaning that when it finally gets caught up in the runoff, it does not salinate our freshwater nearly as much. 3. This beet juice mixture can even help reduce the number of potholes in the roads. Pot holes are caused by the freezing and thawing of water that seeps into cracks in the roads, but since the mixture is a liquid, it will also seep into the cracks and keep the water in there from freezing, thereby helping to prevent potholes.
Why we should care? Our freshwater systems are one the most important ecological features we have here in Michigan, and this would help to protect them from being salinated, I believe that is reason enough to care about this topic.
Example News Article:
This article talks about how the Michigan senate passed the bill, some pros of the beet mixture, why it’s a viable solution to the salinization problem, but my favorite part is that it talks about how we need to be careful before we fully implement it. One of the senators who voted against the bill stated that while this solution does sound good in theory, he cautions that we should fully research all the implication that would come with this new policy and to make sure that we know of any potential impacts towards the environment and our delicate water systems.
Science in Action.
Sailesh Sigdel is a graduate student at North Dakota State University, School of Natural Resources, Department of Soil Science.
This scientist’s research is called “Effect of Seeding Time and Inter-seed Cover Crops on Sugarbeet Yield and Quality.” This research is directly related to the prospect of using sugarbeets as a road salt alternative, because if every state that has harsh winters switches to using the beet juice mixture, we would need to maintain production of those sugar beets and they would need to be a good quality. This research addresses potential issues we could have with demand for the beets in addition to showing how we could potentially increase production if we need to meet growing demands for beet juice.
By: Olivia Franklin
Summary: Summer 2019 was not the best for Michigan cherry growers due to the arrival of spotted wing drosophila (SWD), an invasive Asian fruit fly, that like to lay their larvae inside the soft flesh of cherries. SWD can also cause American brown rot, a fast growing fungus, on cherries. Numbers of SWD peaked in July. Harvesters must spray their cherry crops in order to get rid of these pests which is costly, both in terms of money and the environment. Heavy rains in May and June and a cool, late spring also caused problems for Michigan cherry growers. Late spring delayed the start of cherry season and hail storms damaged cherries, making them unsellable. Heavy rains also allowed a fungus to thrive that turns cherry leaves yellow and unable to nourish itself. Arguably the biggest reason for despair in the Michigan cherry industry is that profits are down due to a high number of tart cherry imports from Turkey. Turkey is bringing in such a large amount of tart cherry products at prices lower than production that Michigan cherry crops are starting to be phased out. Growers were told mid-harvest that processors had all the cherries they would need for the season. Many growers ended up having to dump much of their crops, losing lots of money. Cherry growers are pointing their fingers at the Cherry Industry Administrative Board for allowing overproduction and at the government for allowing these foreign imports that are destroying the Michigan cherry industry. However, cherry growers are pushing for change. Processors are gaining evidence that Turkish imports are a threat to the Michigan cherry industry in order to implement a high tariff on cherries from Turkey.
Why we should care? Michigan cherry industry could be lost completely if change doesn’t occur within the government. Traverse City could lose its title of “Cherry Capital of the World”. Pesticide use could also be a concern.
Example News Article:
I find this article interesting because this is a problem that I had no idea existed and, as a person who lives in Michigan, it’s even more important because this is an issue happening near and around me. Cherry growers care so much about their industry and are willing to do whatever it takes to save it. Processors are spending a lot of money to prove that Turkish imports are damaging the U.S. cherry industry. The Trump administration has implemented many antidumping duty orders, but it hasn’t been enough to solve this issue. The cherry industry needs help. This article emphasizes the importance of supporting local business and the importance of voting.
Science in Action.
Nikki Rothwell is a Horticulturist, Michigan State University Extension Specialist and Northwest Michigan Horticulture Research Center Coordinator.
Rothwell has conducted research on spotted wing drosophila (SWD), examining the correlation between temperature/humidity and trap numbers. Higher temperatures and humidity levels result in higher numbers of SWD. She notes that cherry growers may think that successful
spray programs would be the reason for a decreasing amount of SWD in fields, but it largely relies on weather conditions. This is relevant to my topic because SWD are known for infesting ripening cherry crops. Rothwell’s research provides some insight as to why this is happening and also ways to navigate this issue. This issue is complex and solutions are still being searched for, but Nikki encourages tart cherry growers to diversify crops and to employ efficacious insecticides before the infestation of SWD becomes too great.
By: Tyler Dudenas
Summary: Detroit has faced a big problem in recent years in which they are unable to consistently bring in investors and developers to help fill the massive amount of vacant lots that litter the city. In an effort to increase to populate these urban eye sores, Detroit was offering prices for them at a cut cost for non profit organizations. This allowed Timothy Paule, Nicole Lindsey, and Keith Crispen to start their very own non profit organization, Detroit Hives, in an effort to not only help revitalize the city of Detroit, but also to spread awareness about bees. Located on Detroit’s east side, Detroit Hives has managed to take in nine vacant lots for their new honey making and bee saving operation. Vacant lots plague Detroit with over 90,000 spread across the city. These lots are an eye sore, and can be dangerous to children. On top of that, vacant lots are frankly an eye sore and finding a way to make use of them can do wonders for the community.
Although 9 out of 90,000 may not seem like a big contribution, the workers in Detroit Hives do make a difference, as they are able to educate the public, continue to fill up lots, and even allow for gardens to grow in their lot as well which allows for more green instead of abandoned lots. With expansion on their mind, we soon may see more and more bee lots popping up across the city.
While the areas directly surrounding Wayne State’s campus are usually nice, Detroit still needs much improvement as many people live under the poverty line. Allowing non profit organizations to come and try to breathe fresh air into the city is great. It allows for fresh honey to be sold and knowing it is local makes it feel a lot better because it allows us to help people around the city to continue to try to make a difference and improve our city. I think it is imperative that we continue to push for the development of these vacant lots through local non profit organizations, so we can continue to improve the city from within. I love to think about what the communities of Detroit might look like if we continue to push for more community enrichment through these lots. With 90,000 vacant lots, we aren’t lacking in sites to try to build on, so we should encourage small organizations like Detroit Hives for trying to better our communities
Why we should care? We should care about this topic because it is not only in regards to environmental health and improvement, but it also hits home as it takes us into the lives of people from Detroit, the city of our College.
Example News Article:
I thought this was a great article because it shows small changes that can be done to help better the city of Detroit. This is just a group of three people and they are making waves on plenty of news sites because it is so encouraging to see locals from Detroit take a step towards making their community beautiful. Detroit Hives is also interested in expanding the amount of lots they have as well. It is just amazing that a small group of people can have a great influence on the city and also inspire others to be a good influence as well.
Science in Action.
Eugenia South, MD, MSHP is an Assistant Professor of Emergency Medicine at the Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania.
In this article by South, it was found that turning vacant urban lots into a green lot can have a big effect on mental health. The study found that there is over a 40% drop in feelings of depression and over a 60% drop for self reported poor mental health. This is extremely great news in regards to the blog topic, as we learned that Detroit Hives is not only turning abandoned lots into bee farms, but it also is allowing their lots to be transformed into gardens as well. If Detroit continues to see more bee farms and gardens taking place instead of vacant lots, there might be a big change in mental health among community members that are close to these lots. Starting a bee farm might seem a minuscule change in the community, but in truth it also brings beauty, education, and improved mental health as well.
By: Adriana Silva
Summary: Geo-engineering was viewed as a risky and foolish way to slow climate change in the past. But now carbon emissions are climbing and geo-engineering technologies are becoming more well known as a possible last resort. There are two types of geo-engineering, carbon dioxide removal (CDR) and solar geo-engineering also known as solar radiation management (SRM). Carbon geo-engineering seeks to remove carbon dioxide from the atmosphere which addresses the main factor of climate change. This process breaks the emission to concentration, to temperatures to impacts chain by decreasing the amount of CO2 in the air that keeps the chain going. CO2 can be extracted from the air through man made devices, or more natural ways such as carbon-absorbing plants like trees. The harvested CO2 can be used as fuel, and the emissions caused by that can be absorbed again by new plants. Net emissions could be zero. This process can also be used in the ocean through algae blooms. The goal of solar geo-engineering is to reflect fractions of sunlight back into space or to increase the amount of solar radiation that slips back into to space to keep the planet cooled. The process of solar geo-engineering would consist of planes loaded with sulfate particles ascending 65,000 feet into the air and spraying their loads into the stratosphere all over the world. This process would start at about 4,000 flights a year and double each following year to keep the process from losing effectiveness. The thickening sheet of particles would challenge climate change by acting as a volcanic eruption does, deflecting solar radiation from flooding into the atmosphere. This spraying is thought to be “remarkably inexpensive” at a little over $2 billion a year. This may seem like an easy fix but this process does have drawbacks. The sulfate pumped into the air may not stay in the sky for more than a couple of years, so planes would have to keep spraying practically forever or else the earth will begin to warm at a rate two times faster than before. Another issue with this process is our weather system could undermine changes due to the altered amount of solar radiation, which could disrupt rain fall and crop growth. Solar radiation is the quickest, most effective, and cheapest. Carbon dioxide removal is said to remove more CO2 that the atmosphere holds creating “negative emissions”. Both processes are expected to be substantial but still need to be explored more deeply.
Why we should care? Carbon emissions are reaching an all time high and if we do not do anything to try to slow the process soon, it could be too late when a solution is finally implemented.
Example News Article:
This article grabbed my attention due to the title “ The very Optimistic New Argument for Dimming the Sky.” It starts off by putting the reader in the year 2055 when climate change has fully set in. Month-long heat waves are killing infants and elderly, food shortages are happening on every state. The world is finally cutting back on carbon emissions, but not fast enough the earth is still warming rapidly. The article starts off making you feel as if you have to do something about climate change, or else that fake scenario could become real. The article then begins to explain what solar geo-engineering is and how it would work. The article then talks about a paper written by David Keith, he believes that the optimism on geo-engineering should be enough for the establishment of a new international research program. When Keith’s paper was published, it received criticism that researchers are moving to fast and “overselling” this concept. It was also a concern that talking optimistically about geo-engineering discourage the public from actually making emission cuts. Just this bit of information from the article interested me because it put you in that situation right off of the bat, which then allowed you to think about the concept of solar geo-engineering as a possible solution for our future while reading this article.
Science in Action.
Dr. Frank Keutsch is Stonington Professor of Engineering and Atmospheric Science and Professor of Chemistry and Chemical Biology at Harvard University.
Dr. Keutsch’s research focuses on finding a material that is more suitable for stratospheric SRM (solar radiation management.) More in depth, his project proposes studies that address risks and effects on the stratospheric ozone and temperature, impacts on tropospheric chemistry, composition and radiation. Those are only a few of the risks he bases his studies off of. His goal is to discover all of the risks associated with SRM so he is able to evaluate the effectiveness and risks of different SRM strategies. He then rules out materials that have unsuitable properties, any materials that pass the laboratory stage must then go through a field test where the risks the material causes on the environment are evaluated. Overall Keutsch’s research is in favor of one day implementing SRM once a proper material to do so is discovered. I believe this ties in with solar geo-engineering perfectly; this scientists goal is to improve stratospheric SRM so we are able to safely use it one day.
By: Brendan Alvis
Summary: The Saharan desert is the largest source of mineral dust on Earth. “The arid regions of North Africa are estimated to emit about 800 Tg yr−1 of soil dust each year, 70% of the global total and six times more than the next largest source, Asia (Huneeus et al. 2011).” This is equivalent to 8 x 10^11 kg/year of dust. The destination of this dust can be discerned based on air and ocean circulation trends in the Atlantic. Because of the area of high pressure sitting in the north central Atlantic, the prevailing winds, known more commonly as trade winds, move from the west coast of Africa straight across to the Caribbean. As a result, the tropical Atlantic, Amazon, and Caribbean can be thought of as the primary repositories of Saharan dust.
What are some of the effects of this massive amount of sediment being transported? Firstly, the mineral matter can be an excellent source of nutrients for phytoplankton and other aquatic organisms as well as a soil fertilizer in the Americas. Surges in dust transportation have been associated with algal blooms across the Atlantic. It also has been found that Saharan dust can have negative impacts on coral reefs, although the exact mechanism is debated. Other relevant impacts include negative effects on human health/air quality as well as altering marine biogeochemical processes. Finally, the dust can have atmospheric impacts. High dust concentration and the associated meteorologic conditions associated with Saharan dust transportation can moderate tropical cyclones and hurricanes by lowering the ocean temperature. “These changes, in turn, could be linked to the suggested negative correlation between Atlantic dustiness and hurricane activity. Cloud microphysics could also be affected by African dust, which can serve as both condensation (Twohy et al. 2009) and freezing nuclei (Cziczo et al. 2013; Heymsfield et al. 2009).” The levels of particulate in the atmosphere can impact levels of albedo, or reflectivity and alter levels of radiation and subsequent temperature of the air. It seems that something as simple as dust can have large impacts far from their origin.
Why we should care? The Sahara produces massive amounts of dust and mineral matter that is transported and deposited by global circulation. This can impact: soil fertilization, marine biogeochemical processes, air quality, and climate and weather worldwide.
Example News Article:
This article discusses a Saharan dust plume that was headed towards Florida and its moderating effects on the atmospheric conditions/ tropical storm development in the area. I found it particularly interesting that they could estimate the exact location of the source of the majority of the dust. This ended up being the dried up lake bed of Lake Chad, now known as the Bodélé Depression in the southern Sahara. Also, it was interesting that the layer of dust-laden air spread from 5,000 feet all the way up to 20,000 feet.
Science in Action.
Dr. Joseph M. Prospero is Professor Emeritus at University of Miami-Rosenstiel School of Marine and Atmospheric Science.
Dr. Prospero's research focuses on the chemistry and chemical processes associated with the transport of aerosols into the ocean. Specifically, he was a large contributor to the discovery of wind-delivered iron as a limiting factor of marine ecosystems. He studies the source of dust, the properties of dust, and the effects of climate on dust using modeling. Interestingly, he is now studying the long range transport of microorganisms such as bacteria and fungi by the trade winds.
By: Mackenzie Bates
Summary: In March 2011, the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant in Ōkuma, Japan suffered three meltdowns on par with Chernobyl after being rocked by a magnitude 9.0 earthquake and flooded by the subsequent tsunami, whose tallest wave reached 13-14 meters (43-46 feet) tall. Eight years later, scientists are finding remnants of the disaster as far north as the Bering Sea, near Alaska. Fortunately, the amount of contaminants such as the fission product cesium-137 found in the tested seawater are harmlessly low, recent tests show.
Both the incidents at Fukushima and at Chernobyl are the only catastrophes that have been rated a 7 on the International Nuclear Event Scale, the highest and most catastrophic rating. However, the Fukushima plant released just a fraction of the harmful radioactive isotopes that were released by Chernobyl twenty-five years earlier (10-20% as much), thanks in part to the concrete containment vessels used at the Fukushima plant.
Contaminated water from the Fukushima plant was released into the Pacific Ocean following the disaster, allowing around 18,000 terabecquerels of Cs-137 to enter the ocean initially. This Cs-137 has not significantly decayed (as it has a half-life of around thirty years), but it has since spread north from the site of the incident.
The waters of the Bering Sea, though, and the organisms living in them, are considered to be near-perfectly safe. For reference, drinking water with Cs-137 levels that are three thousand times as high as the amounts found in the Bering Sea would still be considered safe for humans to consume, according to the EPA. However, residents of the area want seawater testing to continue so that if any adverse effects of the radiation are discovered, they can be properly monitored.
Why we should care? This topic is important because we need to understand the drawbacks of nuclear power if we want to continue using it going forward. We especially need to be realistic about the effects it could have in the environment.
Example News Article:
This article by Yereth Rosen is interesting because it phrases the results of this testing in a way that is pedestrian enough for everyone to understand, which is important for a topic like this that can directly affect ecosystems and everything (including people) that lives in them. People tend to panic at the mention of anything nuclear, so Rosen reiterates a few times in a few different ways that the radiation being seen in the Bering Sea in 2019 is not dangerous. It also often compares Fukushima to Chernobyl, which is a good frame of reference as far as disasters go, though Chernobyl had worse immediate and long-term effects due to the different structures of the two plants.
Science in Action.
Dr. Gay Sheffield is a Sea Grant Marine Advisory Program agent and associate professor at the University of Alaska Fairbanks.
A study of the waters of the Bering Sea was conducted through Sea Grant Alaska and led by Gay Sheffield. The Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute tested the waters every year from 2014 to 2018 (except 2016) for levels of Cs-137 and Cs-134, finding that levels of Cs-137 had increased from 1.8 becquerels per cubic meter (Bq/m3) on April 2, 2017 to 2.4 Bq/m3 on August 3, 2018; meaning that levels of Cs-137 are now only slightly higher than they were before the incident. The tests for Cs-134 have found that in every year of the study, none was detected.
Sheffield spoke on the results of these tests to several news outlets, including Reuters above.
The information presented sets the tone for the discussion of the contamination of the Bering Sea and Bering Strait. Given that 7,400 Bq/m3 of Cs-137 is still considered safe for drinking water, 2.4 Bq/m3 utterly pales in comparison. The safety of these areas is not in peril from the Fukushima disaster, but residents of nearby areas are still concerned—as anyone would be if seawater contaminated by radiation lapped at their shores.
By: Mariam Elalem
Summary: On October 25th of 2018, one of the most dangerous storms hit the US lands on the islands of Saipan and Tinian. This typhoon caused the death of two people and destroyed thousands of homes. Climate scientists called it the Super Typhoon Yutu due to its immense power and the large number of losses it caused to the islands. The residents of Saipan and Tinian lived for months without power and a limited access to fresh water and other important resources.
Typhoons, hurricanes, and generally tropical cyclones are storms of extreme high intensity winds (73 miles per hour or more), they also bring intense weather like thunderstorms and heavy rainfall. The notable difference between them is the ocean basin where they originate. Due to climate change, these cyclonic super storms are increasing in intensity and frequency. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change predicts that climate change will lead to higher rainfall, greater intensity and greater proportion of category 4-5 storms. These changes are mainly caused by climate change and the warming temperature, which drives the cyclonic storm activity. Increasing sea levels caused by global warming also contribute to intensifying the effects of these storms.
The process that leads to the formation of tropical cyclones is rather simple. It starts with a slight atmospheric disturbance in or near a tropical ocean. When water temperatures are, around 80 degrees Fahrenheit, and atmospheric conditions with moisture and uniform winds, a tropical storm starts evolving. In the Atlantic, the process first reaches a tropical depression, and as it intensifies the system upgrades to a tropical storm, and when the wind rises over 74 mph it becomes a hurricane.
In other words, the warmer the temperatures, the more heat energy available and the higher the frequency of tropical cyclones developing. As humans continue to release greenhouse gasses, the effects and the frequency of those cyclone activity will keep continuously intensifying.
Citations: ALYSSA FREDERICK, PH.D. CANDIDATE; STEVEN MANA`OAKAMAI JOHNSON, PH.D. STUDENT, UCS SCIENCE NETWORK, UCS | DECEMBER 17, 2018, 4:25 PM EST
Why we should care? This topic showcases the effects of climate change in the real world. It also addresses how the continuous release of harmful greenhouse gases is leading to a chain reaction of environmental issues.
Example News Article:
I found this article on NPR’s website, and it discusses the recent hurricane Dorain and how category 5 hurricanes are becoming far more frequent than they are supposed to be. The article is in the form of an interview with meteorologist Jeff Berardelli. He explained why category 5 hurricanes like Dorain are occurring more often in recent years than they used to.Meteorologist Beradrelli explains that every year we set new records for ocean heat content, and although global temperature may constantly change every year, the ocean’s temperature does not. It only keeps increasing due to the fact that 93% of excess heat trapped because of greenhouse gases stays stored in the ocean, and in a way to release this heat we face a high intensity hurricanes multiple times a year.
I found this article interesting because it presents the information in the form of a case study where the two scientists researching the topic start their article by presenting a real-life example, which is a recent event or a natural disaster that happened in 2018. For the rest of the article, they progressively break down the science behind the occurrence of those tropical cyclones. The other interesting part of the article is how it connects the different aspects and the reasons behind tropical cyclones, where one of the paragraphs strictly focused on how the release of greenhouse gases and the rise of sea levels contribute to worsening the intensity of these tropical storms.
Science in Action.
Steven Mana'oakamai Johnson is a Ph.D. graduate student from the University of Oregon, majoring in geography and focusing his research on environmental sciences, and marine resource management.
Johnson’s area of research includes how humans interact with oceans and marine life and how industrial human activities are impacting oceans, ocean resources, and marine life. This field of research is relevant to my blog topic because it explains the correlation between human activities and the harm they cause to the oceans and ocean temperature. This change in ocean temperature increases the intensity and frequency of hurricanes and other tropical cyclones thus leading to major losses for land and communities in coastal areas. Johnson's research also tends to look into solutions and ways we could shape our activities to protect the marine life and to prevent the occurrence of such destructive natural disasters.
By: Hannah LaFleur
Summary: With the oceans warming, from climate change, it is causing coral to die through the process of coral bleaching. This process is where the algae in the coral can no longer survive with the warm ocean temperatures. When the algae either leaves the coral or dies the coral becomes white at first and then fully dies if the water stays warm long enough. This is devastating for many coral reefs around the world. In the northern end of the Great Barrier reef, almost 80% of it is completely bleached from a bleaching event that took place in 2016. When that amount of a reef dies the whole ecosystem that relied on it either die as well or is forced to move elsewhere. Many fish count on the reef for shelter, protection, and food. Since the fish are forced to move or die this is also harming the fishing industry in these areas. The main areas fished in before suddenly don’t have the same amounts, so people are having to move to new areas or find new ways of life. Along with that, the reefs also help to regulate the ocean ecosystem as a whole, it’s the little part needed to lead up to the big parts. It also provides a natural barrier to the shoreline behind it. So, without it, more damage is happening on land as well. As you can see the coral reefs provide many things for the oceans with maintaining the balance of everything around it, where if they all were bleached mass extinction of many other species would likely happen as well.
Why we should care? With the reefs dying it is causing more damage to shorelines because there is no longer the natural barrier. It also is putting a big decline for the fishing industry with the fish either moving on or dying with no longer having the reef habitat.
Example News Article:
This article went into depth about what the process of coral bleaching is, why it’s happening, and the devastation results of the coral in the south pacific. They explain how there are four-step to coral bleaching which is healthy, fluorescing, bleaching, and dead. They show 360° footage from different periods which captures the corals in the neon colors that eventually turn white. The last pictures of the dead coral you see now surrounding marine life and truly shows the collapse of an ecosystem. Another interesting point brought up in the article was the relation between the bleaching events and El Niño. Although this can’t be the only factor because bleaching events have happened on the off years of El Niño, it just happens to be extreme events for the on years.
Science in Action.
Dr. Forest Rohwer is a marine microbial ecologist at San Diego State University.
Dr. Forest Rohwer’s research is coinciding exactly with the coral bleaching epidemic. He really focuses on looking at what makes up the coral in order to better understand why the bleaching is happening. He further looks into the diversity of coral reefs with them holding different fungi, bacteria, viruses, and etc. He uses these to understand what is positively and negatively affecting the coral itself and basically what it can withhold. After this, he brings in the human impact and looking at the stress we have put on the coral reefs. Overall, Rohwer truly breaks down the effects each factor has on the coral reefs and what it can withhold before the bleaching event takes place.
By: Madalyn Wesner
Summary: Coral is currently under attack by plastic pollution. It is dying by the masses due to plastic bags, bottles, straws, and many other single-use every-day plastic items. Coral is a branch or mound that is made up of thousands of tiny polyps and is very much alive. They tend to form together and make some of the largest underwater structures in the world called Coral Reefs. The three biggest reefs in the world are the New Caledonia Barrier Reef, the Mesoamerican Barrier Reef, and the Florida Reef. Each of which are taking serious damage. Pollutants such as plastic bags are a major source and carriers for harmful bacteria. The plastic bags get caught on the coral and damage it. The plastics create open wounds and then expose them to the harmful bacteria causing them to get “sick” and eventually die out. Another source of harmful plastic is fishing gear. Fishing gear tends to be more solid than the plastic bags, and can cause significantly more physical damage to the reefs.
Polluting the reefs not only negatively effects the coral but it also negatively impacts marine life and humans as well. The animals that feed off of and live on these coral reefs are ingesting the thousands of different plastics. When humans eventually eat these animals, they are also consuming the plastic that was inside the animals.
How do we help? We help by cutting out single-use plastic items. Instead of using plastic grocery bags try to use a reusable one. Replace plastic straws with reusable metal ones. Replace plastic water bottles with refillable ones. If everyone in U.S. alone could make a conscious effort to try to make the switch to these three items, it could positively impact the reefs and the ocean as a whole. It is not too late to save them, but Reefs cannot be replaced once they are gone and to lose Coral Reefs would mean to lose a significant ecosystem.
Why we should care? I think we should care about the Coral Reefs because by damaging them we are damaging ourselves. Killing the reefs will kill a major human food source and a major contributor to marine life.
Example News Article:
I found this article interesting because it talks not only about the effects plastic has on coral reefs, but also carbon dioxide emissions and rising temperatures. Global warming is the cause of coral bleaching. Coral bleaching is when corals release their algae due to a rise in temperature. Losing that algae causes them to die. Another point I found interesting is the fact that corals die under high stress. When temperatures change drastically in short periods of time the coral cannot handle the change and they die. The article also mentions the fact that most of the coral that thrives is out in the middle of the ocean away from humans. People have more of an impact than they know and creating awareness is the first step to fixing the problem.
Science in Action.
Dr. Eric Hochberg is a Reef Ecologist with a focus on the interaction between light and the function of tropical and subtropical shallow water ecosystems, or coral reefs. He is currently working on a NASA- funded research project called Coral Reef Airborne Laboratory (CORAL).
Dr. Eric Hochberg uses new technologies to study the habits of coral reefs. He uses these new technologies to understand the process by which coral reefs die. Finding the root cause is the way to fixing and or saving the reefs. I believe his research is relevant to my blog topic because he is researching what things have a negative effect on the coral reefs. My blog talks about the negative impacts plastics have on them, and his research is all about finding what kills coral. He has written many scholarly articles on his findings and how he found them. His use of technology could be the next big step in saving such a significant ecosystem.
By: Rachel Cozzi
Summary: The pollution of the ocean and carelessness of humans are the driving forces in suffering and harm of marine life, including; sea turtles, whales, and dolphins. When the topic of ocean pollution and sea turtles comes up, many first think of the straws and plastic bags that the turtles are accidentally, and fatally, ingesting. Although smaller plastic pollution, such as straws and bags, are extremely harmful, fishing nets are also strangling and smothering the reptiles by the hundreds of thousands every single year. Other fishing equipment, such as ropes and hooks, also entangle and impale the animals as well. Both Loggerhead and Leatherback turtles have the greatest risk of injury due to the nature and location of where they feed. The largest source of plastic pollution in the ocean is discarded fishing nets, known as “ghost nets”, which make up almost half of the total plastic ocean pollution. As a whole, the ocean is very difficult to moderate as there are no concrete laws when it comes to dumping, so many fishermen leave their old equipment behind. If individuals want to make a difference in the well-being of sea turtles, then along with using a reusable straw and bag, they should also be researching brands and seeing if they are contributing to the deaths of sea turtles and other marine life, as well as ocean pollution. It is imperative to purchase seafood only from sustainable companies that aim to minimize their environmental impact on the oceans, or simply not purchase any seafood at all.
Why we should care? Wildlife is being strangled and smothered by the thousands due to human carelessness. All living beings deserve respect and it is unacceptable that they are dying due to the selfishness of humans.
Example News Article:
I found this article interesting as it pertained to the topic of ocean conservation, but the article was comprised of an interview with Harvard graduate and marine biologist, Dr. Ayana Elizabeth Johnson. Dr. Johnson is an extremely accomplished marine biologist who has dedicated her life to ocean conservation. Since it was an interview and not an article written by a journalist, it seemed like an unbiased, authentic, and informative article. What initially drew me to the article was the title “Why Saving the Ocean is as Vital as Protecting Rainforests” as it seems to be a commonality that the idea of saving the rainforest is of greater importance than saving the ocean when it comes to climate change and the health of the Earth as a whole, but both the rainforests and ocean are of equal importance.
Science in Action.
Dr. Ayana Elizabeth Johnson is a marine biologist, and founder and CEO of Ocean Collectiv, a consulting firm for conservation solutions grounded in social justice.
Dr. Johnson has completed extensive research on the ocean and the importance of sustainability in the ocean. She has researched a variety of topics, from coral bleaching and marine bycatch, to research on the ocean and its inhabitants in specific locations, such as Bonaire. Her article on marine bycatch highlighted how many sea creatures are being caught in the crossfire and needlessly murdered due to commercial fishing and although she did not specifically list sea turtles, they unfortunately are frequently injured and killed. In the United States alone, around 250,000 sea turtles are accidentally captured, injured or killed every year by fishermen. Dr. Johnson has completed research pertaining to the overfishing of Caribbean coral reefs, and has tested traps that certain fish/sea life have the ability to escape from, depending on their body shape. Sea turtles are both harmed by the fishermen, and their fishing nets that get dumped into the ocean when they are finished utilizing them.
By: Tyler Travis
Summary: Cougars have been native to Michigan for many years, but were trapped, hunted, and mostly eliminated from Michigan around the beginning of the 1900’s. However, they are starting to make a comeback. Since 2008, there have been a reported 43 cougar sightings in Michigan, mostly in the upper peninsula. Considering we have only reported 43, only one could imagine how many more are looming throughout the state. These species are only increasing in Michigan and could be a very serious threat and problem in the future. The Department of Natural Resources will continue to trap these cats and try to eliminate them from northern Michigan. However, with no real estimate on how many cougars there are, or where they are located, it could be a rising problem for several years. It is entirely possible that some of these cougars were released or escaped pets from pet owners. However, many of them most likely migrated here from North and South Dakota, approximately 900 miles away from here. So far in 2019, there have been five confirmed cougar sightings. This number is expected to increase until the Department of Natural Resources can find an efficient and effective way to remove the cats from Michigan. Cougars often live in rural, remote areas that offer a lot of cover and have a large amount of prey. The cougars main source of prey is deer which is why they are completely capable of thriving in Michigan and growing their herd. They can also cover large distances very quickly which makes trapping them and tracking them very challenging. I am afraid the cougar problem may get much worse before it gets better.
We we should care? The expansion of cougars back into Michigan poses several potential environmental problems. If not contained properly, these cougars could prey on a number of species and disrupting their niches. Cougars may also kill livestock, pets and can even pose a threat to humans.
Example of News Article:
As a deer hunter, I find this topic very interesting. If the cougar population gets too high, there could be a very serious threat to the deer population. Although whitetail deer are very plentiful in Michigan, if the cougars get out of hand, they could drastically decrease the population. I found it very interesting that these cats could have migrated over 900 miles from the Western Hemisphere over to Michigan. I am very concerned because if we’re not even sure how many cougars there are in the state, I don’t know how we could expect to get them out. We also need to act on this problem quickly, as the cats will continuing increasing because they are not preyed upon.
Science in Action.
Dr. Patrick Rusz is the Director of Wildlife Programs for the Wildlife Conservancy.
Dr. Patrick Rusz has documented cougar tracks, droppings, and cougar-killed deer in the Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore area since 2001. They found evidence of cougar existence which resulted in the first time a government agency had clearly acknowledged the presence of cougars in Michigan. This was very important because it got the ball rolling and starting conversation about the potential problems with cougar existence. Dr. Rusz and his team at the Wildlife Conservancy have been very helpful and have created awareness among researchers, the Department of Natural Resources, and citizens who could be threatened from these cats. Since Dr. Rusz found evidence proving cougar existence in Michigan, there has been more research and focus on controlling the cougar outbreak.
By: Lauren Clegg
Summary: There has been a drastic salmon shortage this season leading to extreme weight loss for many grizzly bears. This is an issue in the British Columbia area of Canada and in Alaska. This year is said to be the worst salmon season in over fifty years. One reason for the lack of salmon is climate change, which increased water temperatures to levels that made the water uninhabitable for salmon. Alaska had a heat wave this past summer where water temperatures reached eighty-one degrees, causing the salmon to die due to heat stress. Another reason the salmon population is so low is due to open-net fish farms. This type of fish farming can spread diseases and pollute the water, which can potentially kill salmon. This lack of salmon is forcing grizzly bears to travel great distances for their food. Bears now have to spend a lot of their energy swimming or walking to these new areas in hopes of finding something to eat. This constant travel makes the bears lose more weight which does not help their situation. Although the situation may seem dire for the bears, people are trying to help. A guardian watchman for the Mamalilkulla First Nation arranged a salmon drop along shorelines where grizzlies frequent. The drop was successful, but the group has only done one drop of five hundred fish, which is not nearly enough to help all bears gain enough weight for their winter hibernation. Its predicted that many grizzlies will not live through the winter due to how thin they are. There is also a fear that if female grizzlies hibernate leaner than usual their lack of body fat will affect how many cubs they can have. Also, if the female grizzly has cubs while she is underweight, the cubs could have serious health issues or die shortly after birth. The death of a great deal of grizzlies this winter might bump grizzlies from the threatened species list to the endangered species list. This is concerning to think about because if we eventually lose enough grizzly bears it could disrupt ecosystems and cause chain reactions which could greatly alter many plant and animal lives.
Why we should care? The misfortune of the bears and the lack of salmon were caused by global warming, which is something we should all care about. The impact on ecosystems due to a lack of salmon is also concerning.
Example News Article:
I found this article interesting because it’s a topic that is not talked about much on the news, so it’s sad to see that this is happening. I’m glad people are trying to help by doing the salmon drop, but it’s heartbreaking to know that a lot of grizzlies will not live through the winter. I also was unaware that salmon die of high heats, which I found interesting. This article shows real time destruction caused by climate change which I found interesting sense most articles I’ve seen about climate change talk about potential effects of climate change or ways to prevent it.
Science in Action.
Dr. David Huff is NOAA Fisheries, Estuaries and Ocean Ecology Program Manager in the Fish Ecology Division.
Dr. Huff and his team work toward understanding the migratory behavior of fish as well as ecosystem processes that affect the fish growth and survival rates. In this particular study Dr. Huff and his team studied fish up the cost from Oregon to Washington. Instead of the expected fish breeds like salmon and plankton the team found mackerel and pacific pompano which are both warm water fish. The mackerel fish is also a predator of young salmon. I think Dr. Huff and his team’s research is important to understanding the lack of salmon this season. Their findings of warm water fish help us understand why there may not be as many salmon as usual. Their research shows that salmon could be dying not only from high water temperature, but new predators as well.
By: Rahima Tufail
Summary: The Amazon rainforest is the world’s largest rainforest. It is home to millions of people, and millions of species of flora and fauna. This rainforest helps regulate the earth’s temperature, and cools the planet by absorbing millions of tons of carbon annually. During the dry season of July to October, the Amazon experiences forest fires. They can be caused natural events, like lightning, or are manmade. Fire activity changes every year. The number of 2019 fires is the highest since 2010. Furthermore in 2019 there was an increase of the number of large fires near major roads. This was believed to be caused by people clearing out land for things like farming, or logging more so than caused by drought. 2019 has also had an increase in deforestation compared to 2018 according to Brazil’s National Institute for Space Research. A major cause of deforestation in Brazil is cattle ranching. Cattle ranchers burn the rainforest land in order to make room for pasture. Farmers also start fires in the dry season- when the plants and trees are easier to burn- after a part of the forest gets cleared. The ash of the vegetation is used as fertilizer for crops to be grown, like soybeans. These fires destroy habitats, ecosystems, and homes of the indigenous people who live in the rainforest. The fires release smoke, carbon dioxide and toxic carbon monoxide into the air that spread beyond the Amazon and into the atmosphere. The President of Brazil, Jair Bolsonaro, is blamed for encouraging land clearing activities, as well as slashing funding for environmental protection. The budget cuts left on Brazil’s environmental agency make it very difficult for them to cover the costs of resources to monitor and protect the rainforest, as well as to fine and catch those who start fires illegally.
Why we should care? The Amazon rainforest has a huge role in slowing down global warming by absorbing tons of carbon dioxide. When trees and plants burn, the carbon dioxide stored in them is immediately released into the atmosphere.
Example News Article:
This news article gives a rundown on important information related to the Amazon fires. It gives graphical representation of data, such as total number of fires since 1998 to show that previous years in the 2000’s have had higher number of fires. This articles also brings up how politics plays a role in these fires, stating that Brazil’s president refused aid to combat the fires, and supports clearing of trees. President Bolsonaro took office of January 2019, and the amount of land cleared in July of 2019 was almost 278% higher than amount of land cleared in July of 2018. Deliberate deforestation is seen as the cause of the increase of fires. The land is cleared by logging and also by cutting trees then setting the wood on fire. This article shows how burning of the Amazon is not just a Brazilian issue, but a global one since the smoke affects nearby countries, and the release of the tons of carbon dioxide contributes to global warming.
Science in Action.
Dr. Douglas Morton is Chief of the Biospheric Sciences Laboratory at NASA.
Dr. Morton’s research focuses on Amazonian fire dynamics. His work focuses on disturbances, which are natural or unnatural processes that are important to how ecosystems change, like fires or logging. Fires in the Amazon can be caused by disturbances like land clearing and deforestation. Dr. Morton uses satellite records to look at the history of an ecosystem disturbance to understand the interaction between the climate, geography, and human activities and the disturbance rates.
The satellites also can measure the condition of vegetation. This allows him to measure the increase in carbon absorption in areas that were disturbed as they begin to regrow. The Amazon rainforest stores a lot of carbon and cools our planet, so seeing how well the rainforest can absorb carbon again is crucial to understanding how the rainforest can bounce back after a fire.
Using the NASA satellites to track the timing and location of fires, he notes that the 2019 dry season fires seem to be caused by land clearing rather than drought. The satellites also show in 2019 the Brazilian Amazon fires have increased in number and intensity since 2010.
By: Hassan Beydoun
Summary: On October 13th, the combination of temperatures pushing 100 degrees Fahrenheit and strong winds, caused the pine-tree dense mountains of Lebanon to burst in flames. The conditions also fostered the spreading of this fire, which found its way to residential areas such as Chouf and Khroub. These wildfires quickly claimed the title of the worst fires to hit Lebanon in decades. Officials say that over one hundred fires started with in a twenty-four hour time period. Nearly three million trees were lost in Lebanon due to fires in 2019 so far, evening out tree rehabilitation efforts over the past 15 years Surrounding countries like Cyprus and Greece sent over supplies and helicopters, for Lebanese fire equipment was outdated and the maintenance was underfunded. The fires claimed the life of one firefighter who died of suffocation in the city of Aley, and hospitalized nearly a hundred people. Some were quick to blame forest management for their inability to maintain the rich Mediterranean biome forests, for these conditions can fuel any fire that starts. Or the government's reluctance to repair and keep up with maintenance of helicopters used to contain fires, as well as other fire fighting equipment. Others blame climate change because it is very uncommon for such record breaking temperatures to be present in mid October. Regardless, citizens call on the Lebanese government to put plans into place, invest in a better fire fighting system, and better maintain the forests because scientists expect global temperatures to only rise from here.
Why we should care? I believe that as temperatures continue to increase worldwide, so will the risks of fires. By tackling the same problems that are causing more fires, we can also address things like rising sea levels.
Example News Article:
I find this particular article interesting because it emphasizes the fires in Lebanon are a part of a global trend. In 2019, the fire season claimed forests in Brazil, the Congo Basin in Africa, Siberia, Lebanon, the United States of America, Australia, Portugal, Russia, Spain, Sweden, Poland, France, Italy, Greece, Bolivia, etc.These fires burned over 4 million acres, and some are still burning today. This article acknowledges the connection between global warming and the increase in warmer and drier conditions, with the increased frequency and severity of wildfires today. Additionally, it recognizes that lack of money that contributed to the spread of the fires in Lebanon. This is important because it shows that a lot of the time, its countries that can't afford the costs of climate change that are paying the price of a developed country footprint.
Science in Action.
Dr. George Mitri is an Associate Professor in the Department of Environmental Sciences at the University of Balamand in Tripoli, Lebanon.
George Mitri and his colleagues looked to develop the capacity of the Lebanese to assess and manage wildfire risk in Lebanon’s wildland-urban interface (WUI) in light of future climate change and human development in wildland areas. I believe this is an important step in dealing with fires in Lebanon. This is because it focuses on the connection between future climate change, and continued human development, and what both of those things mean when it comes to wildfires. Rising temperatures, a key indicator of climate change, evaporated moisture out of the ground, making vegetation even more flammable. Additionally, snow cover is melting sooner than ever before, making the time frame for fires to start that much longer. In fact, wildfire season is three and a half months longer than it was decades ago. All While shifting climate patterns are causing drought prone areas more successful at avoiding rainy patterns. These climate facts are crucial when attempting to combat and plan for future fires. Although Lebanon itself can not do much to mitigate climate change on a global scale, it can prepare its citizens to recognize and deal with a future full of flames.
By: Olivia Peleg
Summary: There are often wildfires in California because it has good natural conditions for the flames to begin, but some of the fires may have been man made. The Pacific Gas and Electric company, or PG&E could be the cause of two fires that broke out not 20 miles from San Francisco and Lafayette. The company reportedly cut off power to 2.5 million people and failed to notify at least 23,000 with 500 of them being customers with medical conditions. PG&E did not cut off power to the San Francisco/ Lafayette area because it wasn’t designated as high risk. This left thousands of people without power during one of the worst fire storm in California’s history, and it could take days for staff to inspect the thousands of miles of infrastructure after the wind and fires cease. PG&E then sent out a suggestion to use the time that the power gets turned on to prepare for more power outages, because there were more precautionary power shut-offs to come.
Many of the locals mention how they are scarred from the fire that happened in 2017 that caused great devastation. They discuss having PTSD symptoms with the knowledge that there is another record-breaking fire, and many people who have lived in the area for 50+ years say they have witnessed many fires in the years, but none as bad as this.
PG&E are refusing to take the blame for this flaming outbreak, but they do say they are conducting an internal investigation. Later, PG&E give a statement that their results are inconclusive, so they still refrain from taking the blame for the start of the fire.
Why we should care? We should care about this topic because of how many people this affects. PG&E supplies power to more than just the areas affected by the wind/fire storms, but to stay on the safe side, companies with shut off the electricity to more people than is necessary.
Example News Article:
I found this particular article interesting because it talked about PG&E and how they are trying to work on fixing the problem, and I liked how they talked about the customers of the company who were victimized. The article didn’t just talk about the fire and the wind being an issue, it discussed another issue of the fire winds that I probably would not have thought of had I not have chosen this topic to research. It definitely brings light to an issue that now needs to be resolved in areas that are more prone to wildfires. This gives us as human beings the opportunity to push for different forms of energy that are safer for the environment that we live in.
Science in Action.
Dr. Mike Flannigan is a Professor in the Department of Renewable Resources at the University of Alberta.
Flannigan, along with his colleagues, researched the impact of climate change on fire weather severity. He found that at the rate forests are burning now, there will be a 74% - 188% increase in wildfires within the next century. This data that he collected is good for the argument of fighting climate change and pushing for more safe and sustainable energy sources. Flannigan does much of his research in Canada and estimates that fire season length in Canada is expected to increase by 22%. And this isn’t even an environment known for its wildfires! This suggests that there will be astounding increases in fire seasons in places like California.
Summary: After many controversial decades, in March of 2019, the company that owns Detroit’s incinerator announced that it would be shutting down permanently due to financial and extensive repairs costing more than 140 million dollars. This facility has been raising concerns in the community for years because of the odor and noises it gives off along with violations of state permits. Michigan Department of Environmental Quality records show that the incinerator exceeded pollution emissions standards more than 750 times within the last five years along with being penalized nearly 50 times for odor that forced neighbors to stay inside. There have been reports that the Detroit incinerator emits nitrogen oxides, sulfur dioxide, carbon monoxide, and lead into the atmosphere. This has led to increased rates of asthma in the community surrounding the incinerator for years. The community is happy to finally have cleaner air for their children to grow up in.
This facility provided power to Detroit’s downtown and midtown areas through a steam loop. The power is now coming from Detroit Thermal through natural gas. The city transferred the trash contract to another company and the rates were locked in through the remainder of the contract (expires in 2021) therefore there will be no added costs for taxpayers. The next step for this site will include environmental and soil testing. This more than likely will result in remediation.
Now that the incinerator is closed, the city of Detroit will have the ability to influence what comes next for the property. The community is hopeful for the future after the city said they would not implement a new waste incinerator and started taking legal action to make this stay true.
Why we should care? Since the incinerator is one of the worst polluters in Detroit, this permanent shut down will help improve the overall health of Detroit’s community.
Example News Article:
This article discusses the abrupt shut down of Detroit’s Incinerator. It came as a surprise to the community of Detroit that their controversial neighbor would be leaving forever. I found the amount of violations they broke interesting. I can’t believe that even though there are regulations for places like this to protect the health of the community they still decide to break them. It makes you wonder if the people in charge lived in the community and had family members that inhaled the air everyday if they would have made different decisions with what they release into the air.
Science in Action.
Dr. Joe Schwarcz is the Director for the Office for Science and Society at McGill University.
Dr. Joe Schwarcz is well known for his public lectures on various scientific topics. He has won numerous awards for teaching chemistry and interpreting science. Dr. Joe Schwarcz wrote an article about pollution from incinerators. This article is relevant to this topic because he gives pros and cons to incinerator use. Most articles that are found relating to incinerator use are on the negative impacts they have on the environment and the community health. As mentioned in the article it is hard to decide what the correct opinion is because although incinerators produce greenhouse gases, landfills produce methane which could be argued is worse. The article just goes to show that there isn’t an easy answer when it comes to eliminating or storing trash.
By: Rob Mosesov
Summary. National parks are reserved ecological environments where very little to no human interaction is allowed. These sites may include natural landmarks or habitats such as Old Faithful, mountains, and forests; they may also include wildlife such as moose and bison. Not only are there national parks like Yellowstone, but there are also national parks in nations outside the U.S.. There are national parks in tropical countries such as Costa Rica that grant the opportunity to appreciate what nature has to offer, including beautiful rainforests and astonishing wildlife. National parks could help individuals who are not scientifically-inclined be more aware of how precious natural resources and/or habitats can be, and perhaps ecotourists could learn how to be more responsible ecotourists. America’s national parks include but certainly not limited to: Yellowstone- where Old Faithful is located, the Grand Canyon, Sleeping Bear Dunes, Yosemite National Park, and of course, the Indiana Dunes - which will be discussed shortly. Protected biomes are not limited to national parks (domestic or foreign), they also include protected reefs - which are perhaps just as important, if not more important for supporting Earth’s lifeforms; for the sake of this blog’s topic though, I will not delve into reefs. Ecotourism (i.e. visiting national parks) could not only be an experience to enjoy dazzling scenery, but also to do volunteer-work, such as supporting local schools or cleaning up natural habitats.
We we should care? Why people should care about this topic is because our planet has many habitats and organisms, and both of these things are dying! Without at least some preservation, the Earth as we know it would not be the same.
Example News Article:
The Indiana Dunes Park is a 15,000 acre park where people can now go visit. There have been thousands of visitors so far since the beginning of this year, with more than 42,000 visitors in July alone! These dunes are over 10,000 years old and some can be a whopping 200 feet tall; to put this height into perspective, it’s the height of a 20-floor building- or if you’re a sci-fi movie buff like I am, that’s taller than some versions of Godzilla! The Indiana Dunes Park is the first Indiana national park to be nationally acknowledged as such.
Science in Action.
Suzy Sanders is a Plant Ecologist with the National Parks Service.
Suzy Sanders has worked with the National Park Service for the last fifteen years. She is in charge of vegetation and forest monitoring of over 400 locations. Before she joined the National Park Service, she acquired a biology degree specializing in certain plant shortages. Why her work is relevant to national parks is because, for one, she works for a federal agency that conserves national parks and/or other protected biomes. Although dune parks are famous for having sand dunes, they often possess at least some photosynthetic organisms (i.e. plants); so that’s also what makes dunes relevant to a botanist’s work . Who knows, there might even be biologists analyzing plants in national parks (including dunes) as you’re reading this!
By: Supriya Gupta
Summary: On October 8th, the U.S. Fisheries and Wildlife Service announced that the Kirkland’s Warbler would no longer be protected by the Endangered Species Act. Michigan Department of Natural Resources Director Dan Eichinger says that “The Kirtland’s warbler was one of the first species in the United States to be put on the federal list of endangered and threatened species, and today’s action by the U.S. Department of the Interior marks the latest chapter in a remarkable wildlife success story”. The USFWS and the U.S. Forest Service have been actively working to bring breeding pair numbers up for these songbirds. Kirtland’s Warblers require natural disturbance to have quality breeding habitat in the jack pine forests of Michigan, Ontario, and Wisconsin. Due to the suppression of wildfires however, these historical disturbances were limited. Through collaborative efforts, timber harvesting and reforestation were done in a way to mimic natural succession. Brown-headed cowbirds also posed a threat to the formerly endangered species. A brood parasite, brown-headed cowbirds lay eggs in warbler nests and when their young hatch, they would outcompete the warbler hatchlings. The impact of these nest predators was controlled as well, allowing a chance for the Kirtland’s Warbler population to rebound. How are the Kirtland’s Warblers doing today? Kirtland’s Warblers went from just 167 breeding pairs in 1974 to ~2000 pairs, double the recovery goal.
We we should care? The Kirtland’s Warbler’s story shows that if they can double their recovery goal, so can other endangered species, so long as we work together!
Example News Article:
I really like this article because it explains the (former) situation of the Kirkland’s Warbler very nicely, in a way that even people with limited knowledge about conservation and ecology can understand. What I really like is how the article relates this to Michigan. Of course, the Kirkland’s Warbler is only found in three places, Ontario, Michigan, and Wisconsin, but this article relates this news to Michiganders. It gives us a sense of pride that the recovery of one of our native songbirds was so wildly successful, and I hope it inspires the people of Michigan to support and help in the conservation of other native species.
Science in Action.
Dr. Nathan Cooper is a Postdoctoral Fellow at the Smithsonian Institution and a Research Associate at Georgetown University, but was a Postdoctoral Researcher at the Smithsonian Migratory Bird Center from 2014-2017, where he studied Kirtland’s Warblers.
Dr. Nathan Cooper and a team of scientists at the Smithsonian Migratory Bird Center were funded by the USFWS to track Kirtland’s Warblers across a full annual cycle (a full year). From this data, they were able to study many things about this formerly endangered species. They could take a look at how winter habitat quality and body conditions affects when these birds begin their migration, how long their journey takes, when they arrive on breeding grounds, and ultimately reproductive success. Understanding how certain factors could affect Kirtland’s Warbler reproduction is very important in order to take the species off the Endangered Species list. It would allow us to see what we could change/do in order to protect them.
By: Delbert Robinson
Summary: Mosquitoes are at it again; actually, they never stopped. Woe to humans that live in perpetual warm climate zones. They can carry EEE or triple E virus, scientifically known as the Eastern Equine Encephalitis which is deadly to horses and humans alike by causing brain infections (encephalitis). The West Nile, H1N1, and Malaria are just a few more weapons in this insect’s arsenal.
Ironically, the EEE virus is only spread by certain kinds of female mosquitoes and is an arthropod-borne or Arbor virus. From 2009 to 2018 there were 30 human deaths attributed to EEE and somewhere between 9 and 12 in 2019, depending on the source of information, and apparently climbing. Five have died in Michigan according to the Center for Disease Control (CDC).
2019 is the worst year for EEE in decades, hence why they want to bring out the big guns with aerial pesticide spraying that could have long lasting consequences for all, but a quick fix until the saving grace of falls frost. The mosquitoes get the virus from birds and passes it to humans and horses, two species that are the most susceptible to the disease. The virus was first identified in horses in 1933, yet 2019 is the first I have ever heard about EEE and no, I don’t live under a rock. Proponents for aerial spraying in Michigan state that they will stagger the spraying to minimize harm to other insects like bees and butterflies, also giving counties the option to spray or not to spray. A lot are choosing not to spray even with assurance from toxicologists. I believe it’s a case of fool me once with most local counties. The symptoms can mimic the flu which makes it even more dangerous. There are 4 different versions of the EEE virus globally, but only one is endemic to North America
We we should care? The form of pesticide being proposed is harmful to Bees and Butterflies. The solution from the hired contractor is to spray only from dusk ‘til dawn when bees and butterflies are sleeping.
Example News Article:
This article interested me because it is a home town publication and was well written and informative. It answered every question about EEE, particularly expounding the spraying program in Michigan. It made me aware of when the virus was discovered, what the virus is, its symptoms and how the world is trying to combat it. This article was all I needed to be informed about EEE and its current issues. It was hard not to plagiarize the author due to such a well written informative article. The hyperlinks are all to reputable sources. What really stood about this article is the author statement of there is no treatment or cure for EEE.
Science in Action.
Dr. Thomas Unnasch is a Distinguished Health Professor in the College of Public Health at the University of South Florida.
Dr. Unnasch's research has focused upon vector-borne diseases and the human filarial infections. His research also addresses the EEE virus surviving the seasons via hibernating snakes and solutions to combat the deadly virus. This is the first research of it kind proving wild caught snakes carry the virus in their blood .
This article printed in 2012 is relevant to this issue because it discusses the year-round potential of the spreading of the EEE virus. The carrier being snakes is a scary subject due to the fact that humans found refuge in colder climates. The research stating that snakes can carry the virus through hibernation, means other hibernating animals could possibly do the same.
By: Nicole Macki
Summary: The Trump Administration in the United States has made the plans to build a wall on the border of Mexico and the United States stretching roughly 2000 miles and standing at 55 ft tall. This border wall is going to cause serious damage to the ecosystems around it if it is built. The area that surrounds this border is populated by 15,00 native species of plants and animals including the bighorn sheep and cougars who are at risk for extinction due to the wall disrupting seasonal migration and pollution taking over plant species and that many animals feed on. The types of ecosystems that surround the area that the wall will be built on are forests, grasslands and salt marshes, which will be torn up and destroyed as the wall is being built. Along with this wall will come many more human amenities such as street lights and stands for officers which will also do damage to the natural ecosystems. Biologists have made this known to the Trump Administration but they still have decided to move forward with pursuing these plans. Research has also shown that this is going to change fire regimes and cause erosion of soil which could cause flash flooding. So why would people want this wall? It is due to the desire to minimize drug trade and illegal immigration from Mexican citizens. But is it worth it?
Why we should care? As this wall is built, resources will be cut away from animals. Where are these animals going to go for drinking water when the ponds and streams dry up? How will these animals find mates? How will these animals migrate?
Example News Article:
The main reason I am so interested about this topic is because I didn’t know lot about it or that this was even an issue. The media has not done a lot of coverage on this topic. Not many people are at all aware that there is wildlife at danger due to this new Mexican border wall. A lot of our society are not aware of how much of an impact our buildings and structure have on the environment. A simple wall is going to upset several different type ecosystems and animal and plant species. I also chose this because of the political part of this topic. I believe it is very interesting that the simplicity of building a wall between two countries is anything but that.
Science in Action.
Dr. Paul Ehrlich is President of the Center for Conservation Biology and Bing Professor of Population Studies at Stanford University.
Paul Ehrlich's research aligns directly with this topic. He researches human evolutionary effects on the environment and how humans and animals can live together without cause so many different disruptions. He is also apart of the MMA and is very invested in several different research groups that study the effects that humans have on our environment. In this article in particular he looks at issues such as the types of plants and animals that are at risk for extinction such as the bighorn sheep they specifically covered. It also talks about the support solutions and the amount of scientist that are against this change. Also, he and his colleagues talk about why the ecosystems around the border are so important and why they need our help and also why it has become our responsibility to help.
By: Andre Alyass
Summary: The saguaro cactus is a key species in the Sonoran desert, as it provides a number of important services to the native people and species of the land. Its fruits and seeds are one of the main sources of food in the desert. Research shows that effects humans are having on the cactus and the effect climate change will very soon have on the cactus will pose a grave threat to the organism. On the Mexico and U.S border in the Sonoran desert, is the native land of the saguaro cactus. The cactus is a large species that can grow to 40 feet tall and also provide fruit and flowers that grows off it. Due to current administration authorizing a wall across the U.S and Mexican border, the saguaro cacti are being displaced and in some instances destroyed to make room for the border wall. The cacti are remarkable species that are able to survive and thrive in the desert. In addition, the local ecosystem and species rely on the cactus to survive and if they were to die out the entire ecosystem could collapse. The cactus has many practical uses and holds cultural importance with the indigenous people of the Sonoran desert. Native Americans used to and still do eat the fruit and use it for drinks and preserves. It still is used by the natives for an important source of food and building materials. With the border wall being built, the displacement of the cactus can have negative effects on the indigenous people and the natural environment of the Sonoran desert.
Why we should care? Saguaro Cacti should be preserved at all costs, they are the foundation species for their environment and without the cacti many organisms that rely on the plant for food, shelter and way of life would deteriorate.
Example News Article:
I found this particular article interesting because of the removal of the cactus to make room for something that seems to be a blunt solution to a problem that could be solved in dozens of different ways rather than building a wall. To remove saguaro cacti to make room for a wall that harms the environment where it is built at and displaces wildlife and the saguaro cactus is a foolish deed and the article highlights this. The article also highlights the importance of the cactus for its environment and its surrounding organisms.
Science in Action.
Dr. David Dettman is a Research Scientist and Manager of the University of Arizona's Environmental Isotope Laboratory.
Dr. Dettman explains how and why the saguaro are foundation species in the Sonoran desert. By holding so much water they are able to survive in these conditions. Dettman's goal of his research project is to study how the cacti react to variations and changes in their local climate. With climate change on the horizon, the saguaro cactus are bound to be affected. Dettman is studying how the cacti react to climate change by recording the oxygen, water and carbon isotopes in the spines of the cactus. This will reflect the amount of water and water stress the cactus has and recording this annually will reflect the cactus growth rate. This is relevant to my blog, because the saguaro cactus are a foundation species in the desert where many other species rely on them. In their environment they have relatively the same importance as a tree does, and if to understand how they are being affected by climate change is incredibly important.
By: Kaira Ocomen
Summary: Scientists have concluded that there are abundant levels of microplastic pollution found in snow as far away as from the Artic to the Alps. Scientists warn that contamination of the atmosphere demand a necessary search to the potential health risks to humans. Snow particles from the atmosphere and samples from ice floes on the ocean between Greenland and Svalbard have an average of microplastics of 1,760 per liter. In other European countries the average is 24,600 microplastic per liter. The main source of transportation is by wind, an important factor of contamination across the world. Researchers have concluded the effect of microplastic on human health, in an earlier study, that particles found were in cancerous human lung tissue. In a June study, the average person eats about 50,000 microplastics per year. How do we not notice the plastic? Plastic is broken down in every environment every year into small particles and fibers that are not biodegradable; we call this particle microplastics. They are found everywhere from the high mountains to the deep ocean and they can carry toxic chemicals and harmful microbes. Scientist Dr. Melanie Bergmann (from Alfred Wegener Institute for Polar and Marine Research in Germany) called for an urgent demand of research on the potential health risks to people. She found about 12,000 microplastic in the Artic sea. She also thinks that they travel from the ocean currents but mainly by wind. Scientists also found high concentrations of contamination in the snow, indicating contamination in the sky. Lastly, in a 1998 study, inhaled fibers found were present in cancerous human lungs and specimens. They concluded that these particles and fibers were contributing factors in the risk of lung cancer. The European Commission stated that these grounds are evidence that people need to exercise precaution and be concerned. Countries like China and France also conducted their own research and found their own air has microplastic contamination.
Why should we care? The problem of plastic can affect our health along with the health of animals. The effects of inhaling these contaminated airs can cause a potential risk of lung cancer from the fibers and particles.
Example News Article:
I found this article interesting because I was not aware of plastics in the atmosphere problem. It was a great topic to learn from because we do not know what is happening all around the world because we are too focused on our lives. The article opened my eyes and gave me another point of perspective because we always talk about our own problems or problems with the climate, but that we do not know there are other dangerous elements that are present also. The article mentions information that people have been conducting and analyzing for over a decade now, and we are just being made self-aware to this now because the world is in trouble. They had information about samples from ice samples, so it is not just a surface aspect; it is an all-around problem that is effecting the ocean and the animals that consume the water or breathe in the air.
Science in Action.
Dr. Melanie Bergmann is a marine ecologist at the Alfred Wegener Institute.
Dr. Bergmann and a team of experts report in the Science Advances on snow samples that confirm that there are high concentrations of microplastic contamination in the regions of Bavaria, Bernem Artic, and Alps. She states in the her article that the majority of microplastics in the snow comes from the air. She conducted on snow samples from Bavaria -154,000 particles per liter - and the Artic contained up to 14,400 particles per liter. The types of plastic also varied on location; in the Artic they found paint, acrylates, and nitrile rubber which is the host of application. These applications come from different areas like ships, cars, surface of buildings, and offshore oil rigs.
By: Courtney Sheikh
Summary: Microplastics are small plastic pieces that have to be less than five millimeters long and can be harmful to ocean and aquatic life. Plastic can take 500 to 1000 years to break down. Plastic like this can come from household products to big corporations and many more sources. It also comes from larger pieces breaking down into smaller and smaller fragments from abrasion and sunlight over time. Microplastics can be more dangerous than full pieces of plastic since it is easier for aquatic life to ingest, birds also can mistake microplastics for food. Fish and birds ingest microplastics which can cause digestive and reproductive problems. This is the same aquatic life that is often eaten by humans. Microbeads are a type of microplastics; they are really small pieces of a different kind of plastic that are added into health and beauty products, like toothpastes and face scrubs. These tiny particles are the ones that are being seen pass through water filtration systems. There are many people who depend on the Great Lakes for their water source and they can be in danger of drinking contaminated water. Microbeads are not new and have been around since the 1960s, but there was an act banning them from personal care and cosmetics products in the United States in 2015. Health effects that are in correlation with consuming microbeads are still unknown. There are lots of plastics in the lakes. Even though lakes will not have a garbage patch like there is in the ocean, they do get plastics that get washed up on shore frequently. The Great Lakes are surrounded by many bodies of land. Therefore, plastics can also affect tourism and animals that are near shore getting food. Microplastics and microbeads are a problem. One way we can help is by reducing, reusing, and recycling.
Why we should care? With microplastics there can be a negative impact on our food and fresh water supplies. At this point, we do not have the exact details on what can happen over a long period of microplastic consumption.
Example News Article:
This news article is very interesting simply because of the fact that this is in The Detroit News with research that is happening in a whole different state. This shows that with having a problem in waterways it does not just affect a small area but more so anyone that has access to the waterways. Microplastics have also been a problem we have been dealing with since the 1960s and do not have any research on how they affect us in water and food we consume. In this article it states there are lots of particles that come from washing machines that escape down the drain and make there way through the wastewater treatment plants. Not many know or even care about the amounts we pollute ourselves with just everyday usage of products.
Science in Action.
Phillip Schwabl is a research scientist and physician that specializes in intestinal diseases at the Medical University of Vienna.
Phillip Schawlb’s research is to examine human feces and see if there are microplastics to determine whether we involuntary ingest them. In his research there were 9 types out of 10 common microplastics detected in the stool. Future work of Phillip's is to determine what the impacts of microplastics are on the human intestinal tract. This is research that has not been done and we do not know the damage the plastics can do to our bodies, or if they do anything at all. These plastics are being ingested through our “clean” food and “fresh” water sources.