By: Sarah Huskin
Summary: Between the mayhem our daily lives and the commotion that 2020 has presented, many Detroit citizens are unaware of the Detroit River spill that occurred this past November. The spill, likely due heavy storms and shoreline erosion from high tides, caused the collapse of limestone aggregate into the river. Revere Dock LLC currently owns the land of the spill site located on the shore of this essential tributary to five freshwater bodies in the region. Speculation in news articles seem to relay the same message that there’s been little to no accountability, and they have lacked concern. Many deadlines have been missed when the company was supposed to announce plans to clean up the mess and prevent others from occurring in the future. Now several agencies have been testing locations upstream, downstream and on-site for uranium, lead, chemicals and other heavy metals that have been released by the incident. A multitude of soil and water contamination tests, performed by several federal and local agencies, have concluded that the levels are safely below federal standards and poses “no current threat to human or environmental health”, according to main-stream-media articles. Several other problems with the property remain a risk, including an ever-widening sinkhole on the site, and the probable continual leaching of hazardous materials. The Michigan Department of Environment, Great Lakes and Energy (EGLE) used sonar to examine the extent of the collapse in order to find the size and shape that a barrier would need to surround it. Silt-curtains are a special type of barrier placed around debris in rivers to prevent fine sediments from contaminating the body of water. In the months following the spill, the EPA and other organizations have donated $2.5 million since November towards cleaner and safer water for the Detroit River. Local and federal government agencies including the EPA, EGLE, the Great Lakes Water Authority and others are reaching out to Michigan’s lawmakers. Stricter regulations, precautionary measures, and closer monitoring of industrial sites and manufactures are some general ideas that people are pushing for now, in order to prevent the pollution and contamination of Michigan’s Great Lakes.
Why we should care? Despite being considered an Area of Concern (AOC) under the Great Lakes Water Quality Agreement of 1987, the Detroit River has been contaminated by manufacturing sites for decades.
I was interested in this article because I’ve lived in the Detroit area for most of my life and can remember the times we drove downtown as a family. I always felt disgust towards the scenery that I-94 has to offer of Detroit. Chimney smoke-stack factories graze the horizon and steel scrapyards litter the landscape. For 23 years I have driven past this and as a child I thought it would have changed by this point in my life. It’s kind of hard to understand why people have known about the problem and ways to resolve them for a very long time and yet nothing has significantly changed within the last few decades. One thing about this topic that stands out to me is the fact this massive freshwater resource is being polluted, and a lot of people don’t even blink an eye because it happens every day, and to be frank, it doesn’t really make the best headline. I hope that if there is a single positive outcome of the 2019 river spill, it would be that more people hear about this, and wake up and see the reality I’ve driven past 1,000 times in my 23 years.
Science in Action.
Liesl Clark was appointed as the Director of Michigan Department of Environment, Great Lakes, and Energy by Michigan’s governor, Gretchen Whitmer in January of 2019.
Resources, Environmental policy, and agricultural policy have been the focus points throughout Clark’s career, finding herself taking up a variety of roles regarding them. When thinking about environmental disasters like the Detroit river spill, we can’t lose hope or give up or become enraged or angry. It’s important remember we have Liesl Clark and thousands of others like her that are working tirelessly, and never backing down in fighting for our future. People like this are good role models and are remarkable for their strength and willpower.
By: Brianna Childers
Summary: The market for alternative energy is becoming dominated by wind and solar energy in order to reduce carbon emissions. Alternative renewable energy is becoming more popular from the fact that the world needs to reduce the need for burning coal and gas generated electricity. Many substantial companies such as DTE Energy have been investing millions of dollars in renewable energy sources for years. DTE is now transforming its power generation by building wind turbines. In 2019, a new wind park was created in Gratiot and Isabella County with more than 60 wind turbines. The Pine River Wind Park is now one of the largest wind farms in Michigan and generates enough power for more than 54,000 homes. The new project by DTE will reduce 300,000 metric tons of carbon dioxide each year which is equivalent to removing about 63,000 cars off the road for a year according to officials. Last year, DTE committed more than $2 billion in renewable energy for the next five years. By 2020 the energy company expects to generate enough energy to power more than 800,000 homes.
One of the obvious benefits of wind power is that wind turbines do not produce carbon dioxide, particulates, acid gases etc. that could contaminate the atmosphere or groundwater. Other benefits of this energy are that wind turbines have a shorter planning period than nuclear power plants. Also, wind power projects are modular meaning that more wind turbines can be added to an area if necessary, to capture more energy. The biggest benefit however is that there is no fuel costs and air emissions. However, location is slightly tricky because the area needs to be windy in order to generate and capture the most amount of energy.
Why we should care? Anyone who is concerned about global warming or running out of renewable resources should consider learning more about clean energy such as wind power. Right now, wind power is one of the largest suppliers of alternative green energy in the world!
I found this article interesting because it mentions DTE, one of the biggest suppliers of energy in Michigan. DTE is my personal energy supplier in Detroit, therefore I was interested to read what they are doing to reduce carbon emissions. Global warming is becoming an enormous problem; therefore, I think that it is very important for larger companies to be taking steps to a cleaner future. Wind power is one of the most cost-effective ways to produce renewable energy and I am happy to see that this alternative energy is dominating the market along with solar energy. While researching this topic, I came across an article about possibly building offshore wind turbines which I also found very interesting as it may happen in the near future.
Science in Action.
Josh Paquette is a research scientist in the Wind Energy Technologies Department at Sandia National Laboratories.
Paquette’s research includes understanding the dynamics of wind at different elevations in order to capture greater energy source. His research also includes addressing the structural and system dynamics of wind turbines. New materials and manufacturing processes are needed in order to address the emerging issues of scalability, transportation, and recycling as these turbines continue to get larger. Lastly, Paquette mentions that we need to focus on making renewable energy cost effective by designing and operating wind power plants to support and foster grid reliability and resiliency. Paquette’s research is relevant to my topic because for a wind plant to be successful, is must be cost effective, controllable, and placed in the right location.
By: Max Gouin
Summary: On February 27th, the Environmental Rules Review Committee voted to establish a draft of regulations that would implement enforceable standards on the levels of toxic fluorochemicals, known as PFAS, found in Michigan’s public water supplies. PFAS has been found at varying levels in different water systems, serving more than 1.9 million Michiganders. With these new regulations in place, around 2,700 water supplies in the state would establish sampling for PFAS chemicals, public notification, and laboratory certification of public supplies serving more than twenty-five people. Michigan state officials began drafting maximum contaminant levels for seven PFAS compounds in order to establish safe levels across the state. These new maximum contaminant levels are measured at parts per trillion (ppt) and include PFNA at 6 ppt, PFOA at 8 ppt, PFOS at 16 ppt, PFHxS at 51 ppt, GenX at 370 ppt, PFBS at 420 ppt, and PFHxA at 400,000 ppt. The Michigan Department of Environment, Great Lakes and Energy (EGLE) hopes to have these new standards in place by the end of April.
If these new rules are adopted, this will be the first time that Michigan has developed its own drinking water standards. Water regulations are usually put in place by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) at a Federal level and adopted by individual states. In this case, many states feel that the EPA is not moving at a fast enough pace for such an important issue. On February 20th, the EPA announced a preliminary determination stating that the agency planned to regulate just two of the harmful PFAS chemicals found in drinking water, PFOS and PFOA. Even if the EPA decides to move forward with these rule making, the process is expected to take several more years. Michigan Governor, Gretchen Whitmer, said “We can no longer wait for the federal government to act, which is why I directed EGLE to establish PFAS drinking water standards to protect Michiganders. Moving forward with the rulemaking process moves us one step closer toward building public confidence and achieving real solutions that ensure every Michigander can safely bathe their kids and give them a glass of water at the dinner table."
Why we should care? The harmful PFAS chemicals found in the drinking water of more than a million Michiganders can have detrimental effects on their health.
This news article, written by Garret Ellison, provides an in-depth view of the issues surrounding the PFAS chemicals contaminating Michigan’s public waters. I found this particular article interesting because it was one of the few I found that went in depth on all aspects of the topic. Many of the others I had read only described Governor Whitmer’s views. Ellison first describes the reasoning behind the new regulations, along with the groups involved in making these regulations. He then lists the harmful affects of the chemicals along with Michigan’s reasoning for moving forward at a state level, instead of following the lead of the EPA. Overall, I felt that this article was the most informative.
Science in Action.
Steve Silver is the executive director of the Michigan PFAS Action Response Team (MPART).
Silver and his team traveled the state testing the water systems of communities, schools, child care providers, and tribunal lands for any amount of these dangerous chemicals. While 90% of the water systems showed no levels of PFAS contamination, roughly 7% had shown levels below 10 parts per trillion (ppt). While a majority of Michigan’s communities had clean water, 3% of the water tested had PFAS levels between 10 ppt and 70 ppt. Two locations in the state, the city of Parchment and Robinson Elementary School, had dangerously high levels of PFOA and PFOS. These test levels exceeded the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (USEPA) safety standards at over 70 ppt. Steve Silver said, “This first-in-the-nation study of all public water systems in the state resulted in 3,500 people in Parchment and Robinson Township being protected from high levels of previously unknown PFAS contamination in their drinking water last year”. Without the research of Steve Silver and MPART, many more of Michigan’s residents would have their health negatively affected by these contaminants. Research has shown that PFAS contamination severely affects infants and older children. By conducting these tests and finding dangerously high levels of PFAS at Robinson Elementary School, the health of hundreds of children were protected.
By: Todd Honeycutt
Summary: PFAS, or perfluoroalkyl substances, are chemicals that can take up to a thousand years before they break down and can lead to such health issues as testicular cancer, kidney cancer, thyroid issues, and many other heath issues. PFAS have been used as the non-stick coating of Teflon pots and pans and flame retardant for military use. But PFAS have also been found in biosolids, or a mix of human and industrial waste, which gets used as cheap fertilizer. PFAS have originally been found in drinking water, potentially from industrial and/or fertilizer runoff. Now, recent studies have shown around the world that produce and livestock are also becoming contaminated with PFAS. The PFAS are being absorbed by vegetation from contaminated soil which is then eaten by livestock. Then, with every bite of contaminated feed, these chemicals accumulate inside the livestock which people then consume in more concentrated quantities than the livestock. PFAS are now also being found in dairy milk from contaminated cows. While it is known that PFAS are a health hazard, the federal government has not currently taking any steps to form policy on limiting the levels of PFAS found in food, leaving it up to the states. Some states have started more food testing and created thresholds for PFAS levels that are safe for consumption, although studies have shown that the current limit is much higher than what should be allowed. This brings us to Michigan, where the Michigan Department of Agriculture and Rural Development (MDARD) has stated that they will not be directly testing any agricultural products such as meat or dairy. They plan to do a broader testing for PFAS and are only focusing directly testing on livestock and farms that have possibly used water or biosolids that have higher levels of PFAS in them. Their reasoning for this is that they want to find a means of testing that would not cause any permanent damage to farmers. There are a few examples of when farmers had cows tested for PFAS levels, cows with high levels were to be exterminated or farms had to be closed temporarily and causing some to go out of business. Public health is extremely important, and the public relies on the government to make sure foods and beverages do not cause us harm. But until further studies are done to find out what, if any, levels of PFAS are safe for human consumption, the federal government will not step in to disrupt the supply chain of common goods or affect any businesses that are apart of this issue. It is up to the people of Michigan to let their legislators know that we want to know what is being found in our water, in our food, and in our milk.
Why we should care? PFAS have been linked to many very serious health issues including testicular/kidney cancers, and thyroid issues and more precedence should be taken to prevent citizens from ingesting these chemicals.
This article talks about the complexity of the situation at hand. While the responsibility of the EPA should be to report the findings of PFAS found in milk and animals on the farm, this could ultimately cause the farm to be shut down. The EPA does not want to any farmers out of business, so they are finding other means to test for PFAS as to not single out a farm for having livestock contaminated with PFAS. While it seems obvious that getting these chemicals out of the food and beverages meant for human consumption, it still comes at a cost to certain peoples’ livelihoods.
Science in Action.
Kay Fritz is a Toxicologist for Michigan Department of Agriculture and Rural Development (MDARD).
Part of the Michigan Department of Agriculture and Rural Development position is to “safeguard the public’s food supply”. This means that they are responsible for testing the food in Michigan for potential contaminants that could be harmful to public health. One pollutant that has been becoming increasingly prevalent in many areas around the world is in the form of PFAS. This research is very relevant as the public needs to be aware of food potentially being contaminated with PFAS, how they are becoming contaminated, and how this can be prevented. With MDARD also being a government agency, they will also have more sway when it comes to creating state policies to ensure the health of the public.
By: Jala Daniels
Summary: My topic is about how global warming is affecting Antarctica and Greenland. Over the years Greenland and Antarctica have been rapidly losing their ice population. This has been happening naturally, but it has been sped up as a result of global warming. Global warming is the release of greenhouse gases, mainly because of human activity that causes the world to become warmer. Places that are made mostly of ice, such as Antarctica and Greenland are getting hit hard by global warming. This is a big issue because certain animals may go extinct if this issue isn’t controlled and sea levels are going to drastically rise as a result of the ice losses. Global warming is causing this issue, but the ice is melting at such a fast pace because the more ice that melts, the more of the dark sea is uncovered, and the sea actually absorbs sunlight and heat, making the surrounding ice melt even quicker. Without the snow and ice covering Greenland and Antarctica, the ice will just keep melting faster and faster.
Why we should care? We should care about this issue because animal populations are being hit hard by the loss of ice in Greenland and Antarctica. Also, this is our planet and we should be protecting it, not harming it.
I found these two articles interesting because they didn’t just talk about the effects that the melting ice have on the animals in Greenland and Antarctica, but it talked about how it would affect humans. I’ve heard people who don’t care about animals disregard the effect of global warming in Antarctica/Greenland because they don’t think it will affect them, but this article let’s people know that it will affect them. I also like that these articles break things down so that common people can understand. The articles are very easy to understand without being a scientist so it can possibly reach a larger audience.
Science in Action.
Dr. Nick Golledge is an Associate Professor in the Antarctic Research Centre at the Victoria University of Wellington.
Dr. Golledge is studying how ice sheets in Antarctica react to different greenhouse gases that are released because of global warming/ climate change. I believe this is relevant to my blog because I’m writing about accelerated ice loss in Greenland and Antarctica, and his research is estimating how long it will take for Antarctica’s ice to be mostly gone if the
world continues to live the way we are now. This is also helpful because he is estimating how much the world needs to lower their greenhouse gas emissions to slow down the effects of global warming in the Antarctic.
By: Alexandria Schurig
Summary: In Florida every four years new predictions are made on how much the sea level is going to rise. In 2019, the new set of predictions came with quite a shock. The sea levels rising is nothing new, however, they are now expected to rise at an even faster rate than before. Most scientist state that the levels are expected to rise anywhere from 17 to 31 inches in just 40 years, by the year 2060. This puts Florida’s lower laying areas at great risk for becoming covered in water. These areas have already seen an increase in yearly flooding which is only going to get worse, sometimes flooding can last up to 3 months. In places like Miami and Key West government officials are discussing ways to take these new numbers into account and prepare for the future. They know there is no way to avoid the water and that they must accommodate. In the Keys plans of raising roadways have been discussed as to avoid having them flood, but this is an expensive project for areas where not a lot of people live. It would cost about $128 million just to raise the roadways to the predicted levels of 2045, and a total of $181 million to meet the 2060 predictions. The scientists who study and release these numbers play an important role, cities use them to decide how to build their new buildings while placing the most important in areas of less risk. Communities in Florida have come together to recognize that this is a real problem that isn’t going away. They must come together to fight this ongoing battle and find solutions, like affordable housing, that work for all members of society no matter the social class.
Why we should care? Everyone should care about the rising sea levels in Florida because people are at risk of losing their homes. Also, there is potential that we could lose beautiful destinations like the Keys.
I found this particular article interesting because it explains how much protecting these areas is really going to cost. Florida, while not being the only state that needs help, needs the most support at a cost of about $75 billion. The article gets the perspective of a man who lives in Delray Beach who explains that water is no longer just a problem when it rains. It has become an everyday issue that needs solutions quickly. The main reason this article peaked my interest is because a lot of these towns can’t afford to do all of the work as its very expensive. It was purposed in the article that the fossil fuel companies should cover the cost of anything related to the seas levels rising and climate issues. Considering these companies are some of the main contributors to this crisis I don’t think that is a bad idea
Science in Action.
Dr. Jayantha Obeysekera is Director of Florida International University’s Sea Level Solutions Center.
Dr. Obeysekera's research is relevant to the blog topic because the students and faculty at Florida International University are constantly looking for solutions to the rising sea levels. They are always monitoring sea levels and thinking of solutions as things change. This is allowing differences to happen sooner. I also think it’s very important that they are training students in how to predict the sea and come up ways to protect people and infrastructure. This means when its their time to be the ones leading the charge against climate change, they’ll have plenty ideas of what is effective and what to do. Hopefully this means in the future we will be better prepared to handle the always changing sea levels.
By: Matthew Terryn
Summary: Most people know about the tradition of Groundhog Day on February 2nd. The tradition is, if a groundhog emerges from hibernation on Feb. 2 and sees its own shadow, then it will retreat into hibernation and we will have another six weeks of winter. However, Punxsutawney Phil is no phenologist and doesn’t have a great track record for predicting spring. Phenology is the study of periodic plant and animal life cycles and how they vary seasonally and inter-annually. The way that phenologists mark the annual arrival of spring is when plants begin the process of growing very tiny leaves, known as “leaf-outs.” Different plants have different bloom times; some bloom during the early part of spring and others can be extended to the middle or end of spring. All of the different data from the “leaf-outs” is taken into consideration for observing the beginning of spring. The season’s arrival has been increasingly early in the past few years. In the Southeast U.S., cases of early spring arrival in North Carolina, South Carolina, and Florida have been up to 3 weeks ahead of schedule in 2020 and decreasing in variability the further northwest you go. This is the earliest known spring arrival in 39 years of recorded data. The premature arrival of spring is correlating to the global temperature rise in recent years. The data observed could be causation from our current global climate crisis. This vast spring variation in the Southeast U.S. is something we should continue to monitor for data purposes in the future.
The topic of early spring in the Southeast United States should be of concern for a lot of people for many different reasons. For those involved in agriculture, an early spring would mean altered hibernation time for plants and animals. If a plant blooms too early, this could potentially mean pollination time for the plant and the pollinators responsible for transferring pollen might not line up, which could do a number to someone’s income for that year’s growing season. Another issue that goes along with an early spring is produce being damaged due to the varying and unpredictable temperature fluctuations so early on in the year. Plants and animals rely on seasonal cues in the spring and fall for when hibernation starts and ends. If these patterns continue to change, then migration locations could change as well, affecting entire habitats and
Why we should care?
What drew me to this topic first was my curiosity about seasonal change and the science behind it has always fascinated me. I think my fascination on this topic stems from the aesthetics of the seasons changing but that is enough to inspire me to learn more about how it works. Another reason I found this topic interesting is because of the correlation between the date of spring increasing in variability and the current climate crisis we are in now. I don’t think that it is just a coincidence that the data lines up this way. There is a lot of interesting science that is involved in a topic like this one. It has to do with climatology because of the way the temperature changes with each coming season and global warming impact. The seasons changing in general has to do with astronomy and the way that our Earth is tilting when it revolves around the sun. Phenology is the study of animal and plant life cycles and how they are influenced by seasonal change. Botany is present because of the seasonal impact of breeding and pollinating creating genetic variability for stronger species to thrive in the future. So many different fields of science are involved with this topic
Science in Action.
Dr. Theresa Crimmins is the Director for the USA National Phenology Network.
Theresa Crimmins contributes to many scholarly articles that correlate to the topic of my blog. She is very accomplished and has many letters and
articles published in multiple scientific journals. A notable letter she is cited on is about warming experiments on plants to estimate their response to the fluctuations in temperature caused by global climate change. Her research in plant reactions to climate directly relates to the impacts of an early spring in the SE U.S.. She also contributes to this topic as the director of USA-National Phenology Network, overseeing and contributing to the scientific and non-scientific community.
By: Amanda Lydon
Summary: The rise of greenhouse gases is a major concern amongst climate scientists. One of our biggest contributors to greenhouse gases is livestock, which releases more methane into the atmosphere than all cars, trucks, and automobiles combined. Right now, the population is growing at an exponential rate, which means the rate of food and livestock produced must also go up and is causing more emissions to be released into the atmosphere now more than ever.
Along with growing emission levels caused by livestock, there is an issue of deforestation to clear land to raise livestock which also affects climate change because less carbon dioxide can be absorbed, leaving it to stay in the atmosphere contributing more to the issue. With these issues came the idea of promoting more “meat consciousness” among consumers. People don’t have to completely cut meat out of their diet, but rather choose to purchase and consume it once to twice a week, or do days such as meatless Mondays. Scientists believe if people begin to do this, the demand for meat will fall, meaning less cows will have to be produced as livestock so less methane will be sent into the atmosphere. Having to raise less livestock also means not as much land will have to be taken up for the animals as well leaving the trees and forest that once before had to be cleared more plentiful and able to intake more of our atmospheric carbon dioxide.
Why we should care? With growing concerns of climate change, it is important that everyone contributes in any way they can, even if it is a small one such as skipping out on a steak and opting out for a salad instead.
I found this article interesting because it talked about how much land would be left over if we did reduce the amount of livestock we were raising which was said to be about the size of the continent of India. The article also went on to say what we could do with this large amount of land that is available that would be environmentally beneficial. The ideas of more efficient food
production like growing high protein lentils, and plating new forests to help absorb more carbon dioxide were ideas that were proposed. Overall I think this topic was very interesting because I think the idea of going vegan or at least vegetarian is becoming increasingly more popular and promoted in mainstream media, even if it isn’t with the intention of helping the planet. It is amazing to think how big of a difference we can make while committing to an action that really seems so irrelevant to the issue of climate change.
Science in Action.
By: Mark Miller
Summary: It’s no secret that Australia has been dealing with wildfires for a long time. Their particularly dry climate and terrain makes for the easy spreading of wildfires if they cannot get controlled. Australia has a wildfire season every year that typically starts during the last few months of the year. Wildfires in Australia are never easy to combat and aren’t something they can brush off to the side, but last year’s wildfire season was particularly bad. During the massive bush fires that ravaged through Australia during mid to late 2019 and into early 2020, 46 million acres of land burned, almost 6,000 buildings were destroyed and there were over 30 deaths. Another important thing to consider when assessing the damage is the harm to wildlife. As such, many species of animals were greatly affected by last year’s fires. Perhaps the most unfortunate species to be affected were Australia’s koala bears, which are arguably the most recognized and well-known animal from the country. It’s estimated that about 25,000 koala bears were killed during the fires, with most burning to death or dying from complications caused by the fires, like dehydration, starvation and burns. Given the massive number of koalas that died at once, the species is unfortunately facing complete extinction. The widespread dying of Australia’s koalas hasn’t been taken lightly by any means, with numerous charitable foundations and every day citizens donating money or stepping in to assist with rehabilitation of the surviving bears.
Why we should care? The koala bear population is facing near complete extinction, given the amount of them that died during the 2019 fire season. Koala bears are beloved animals by many and seeing them fall into complete extinction would be a heartbreak for a significant amount of people. Also, people should care about this because koalas need human help, or they will not survive.
I found this particular article interesting because it outlines just how serious these issues regarding koala bears are. The article, from CNN, describes how close Australia’s koala bear population is to extinction, and breaks down the main reasons why. An important tidbit from the article is how drought, bushfires, and man-made causes have attributed to nearly two-thirds of the koala bear population dying. The first two are natural causes and are hard to avoid, but man-made causes of koalas dying should be swiftly eliminated. Also, not only do I think it’s an interesting article, I think it’s an important one because hopefully it will inspire people to assist with helping to stop the extinction of koala bears.
Science in Action.
Dr. Dan Lunney is an Adjunct Professor at the University of Sydney, Australia.
Dr. Lunney’s research is relevant to my topic because he has researched and written on how Australia’s wildfires have had an impact on koala populations in numerous parts of Australia. In one of his published articles, he states that the “reduction of the size and severity of large catastrophic fires improved the probability of survival for the population”. Here, he was referring to the population of koalas in question in his studies. This research is vital because he is clearly stating that wildfires are partly to blame for the near extinction of koala bears. Hopefully, his research is taken seriously by people who are in a position to enact changes.
By: Keara McLaughlin
Summary: With stay-at-home orders implemented in many states to combat the COVID-19 Pandemic, the power industry is working in a critical capacity to make sure that the “lights stay on” while keeping the workers safe. Nuclear power is proving to be a critical contributor to life during this time for a number of reasons. The first being the fact that the day-to-day work of power production in a nuclear reactor is far less than that of other sources of energy. Coal and gas power need constant fuel replenishing and emit substantial amounts of greenhouse gasses whereas nuclear power fuel only needs to be replenished every 12-18 months and emits zero greenhouse gases. During a pandemic that requires people to limit contact with one another, power that requires less transportation of fuel, and other human to human contact is critical to keeping people safe. Because of the significantly lower day to day hands on operation required for a nuclear plant, the nuclear power industry has the advantage of being able to close mines, and limit personnel contact both in mines and in reactors without the stress of lacking fuel and power supply.
Nuclear technology and usage of the powerplants has a large impact on the medical needs during this pandemic. Nuclear derived testing kits and equipment have been provided by the International Atomic Energy Agency. Many nuclear reactors work to produce medical isotopes that are proving to be beneficial to the treatment and diagnosis of COVID-19 and other illnesses.
Beyond security of power, and direct medical applications, nuclear reactors are being used to produce Cobalt 60 for mass medical equipment sterilization. In many places, irradiation facilities typically used for reactor equipment, are also being used to destroy the coronavirus along with other bacterium and viruses on medical equipment that must be reused due to shortages.
Nuclear power and the reactors themselves have always been a beneficial and critical part of society, but during a pandemic as severe and unknown as COVID-19, leaning towards the advantages of nuclear power is proving to be extremely beneficial to the medical community and those simply requiring power, all while keeping their employees and communities safe through taking proper precautions and limiting unnecessary person to person contact
Why we should care? Nuclear power has been a heavily debated topic over the years, but in the midst of a pandemic, it has proven to be a clean, safe and secure saving grace that should be regarded higher well beyond the COVID-19 pandemic.
I found this article to be interesting because it outlines why nuclear power is becoming a critical force in the power industry during the COVID-19 Pandemic. The article clearly articulates the advances that nuclear reactors are helping to make regarding the diagnostic and sterilization techniques as well as what they are doing to protect their employees. It is clearly conveyed in this article that nuclear power has many applications that are often overlooked in the debate of the pros and cons. In an emergency such as this pandemic, the stressors of lack of fuel and protecting employees by limiting contact has a far less significant impact on the security of power output. The advantages of nuclear power are clarified in this article and serve to show that nuclear power has a significant place in society for power production and medical advancements far beyond a pandemic.
Science in Action.
Dr. Hussein S. Khalil is the Director of Argonne National Laboratory’s Nuclear Engineering research program.
Dr. Hussein S. Khalil’s research focus’ are the optimization of fast-reactor core designs and the improvements of reactor physics, dynamics and fuel cycle analysis. He has been on the forefront of research on small modular reactors which are proving to be the future of nuclear reactors. His current work primarily focuses on the security and economics of nuclear power while expanding commercially.
His work relates to this topic because what has become clear during the COVID-19 Pandemic is the need for energy security. His work on fuel cycle analysis has been beneficial for many nuclear energy systems to optimize the fuel efficiency of the reactors. His current research is beneficial and relevant to this topic because the above article articulates the benefits of nuclear power and Dr. Khalil’s research is important to help grow nuclear power commercially.
By: Anna Eccleton
Summary: For years people have been fighting to get plastics banned. Several states have enforced laws that prohibit the use of plastic bags in stores, but currently that action is being put on hold. Plastic companies are claiming that it is unsanitary to be using reusable bags in this time of crisis and that they carry germs on them. Major coffeeshops, like Starbucks are no longer allowing customers to use their reusable cups. While this is all said to be temporary, many are worried that the policies that were put in place for plastics will not be reinstated. New York is one of these states who was just about to implement a policy on plastic bags. Another state affected was Maine. Maine was about to begin the plastic bag ban, but then pushed it back to next year.
According to Leslie Kaufman at Bloomberg.com, “researchers found the greatest spikes in demand for face masks and the thin film used in plastic wraps.” (Kaufman). More people are also drinking from plastic water bottles, because the idea of refilling them at a drinking fountain makes them nervous of the germs that could be on them. When the lockdown first was implemented, people rushed to stock up on cases of water. The thought of reusable bottles took a backseat to fear. Everyone must keep in mind, that while plastic companies are insisting this will not affect us in the long term, no one knows what the future holds. All of the work that we have done to limit the use of plastics has gone out the window.
Why we should care? I believe we should care about this topic because it affects us directly. Thinking about how many plastic bags are being use daily due to the rushes at the grocery stores blows my mind. The amount of people who go through a drive through and now have to use plastic cups instead of their own reusable ones also makes me think. While some say this is not going to significantly affect us and that after this is over we’ll go back to how we were, I don’t know if I believe that. No one knows how long this virus spread is going to last. It could be weeks, or even months.
Example News Article:
I found this article interesting because it explains both sides. It provides valid points to both sides of the argument. It does a good job of explaining the different bans being lifted, and the reasons behind it. It gives perspectives as to why we would be using more plastics during this time, but doesn’t necessarily encourage it.
Science in Action.
Dr. Amanda Mae Simanek is an Associate Professor of Epidemiology at the
School Of Public Health in the University of Milwaukee, Wisconsin.
Dr. Simanek studies public health and infectious diseases. She has been studying the coronavirus, and believes that the CDC has not yet studied the carrying of the disease by plastics.
By: Sophia Mekled
Summary: Our local sewage systems and toilets are getting backed up due to the shortage of toilet paper during this pandemic. People are turning to baby wipes, paper towel, napkins anything you can think of to substitute toilet paper. Though many people are following the guidelines that the government and public health officials have given us Americans, it is causing some issues. These guidelines include sterilizing household, and keeping yourself sanitized, but now we are facing a problem that many people are tossing their disinfectant wipes, paper towels, and other products that aren’t toilet paper down the toilet. What does this do? These products completely clog the sewage systems and toilet pipes. Flushable wipes may seem like they can be flushed, but they actually should not be. Most wet wipes are made from non-woven materials, unlike toilet paper, and this causes them to take a long time to breakdown in water and sometimes they don’t at all. In older residential sewers wipes get caught on misaligned pip joints and as more wipes are flushed, they accumulate catching all the waste until they eventually clog the sewer. Wipes that eventually make it to the water treatment facilities clog intake pumps which in this case would require costly fixes. Essentially toilet paper should be the only thing going down the toilet.
Why we should care? Fatbergs, a congealed mass in a sewage system formed by the combination of flushed non-biodegradable solid matter, such as wet wipes, and congealed grease or cooking fat, give us the opportunity to [re]consider what we flush down our drains and how it impacts our water infrastructure and the drinking water it is meant to supply us. This could potentially contaminate the water that we use in our homes. People need to dispose of wipes into the garbage. Not only wipes, but paper towel, napkins, and other paper products that are not toilet paper.
Example News Article:
I found that this article was interesting because it explained the topic very well and helps the readers understand the situation better. They stated in this article that in some county’s they already have to remove 300 tons of wipes from its sewage system every month. Imagine now in this crisis how many more tons will be collected since the decrease in toilet paper supply and the increase in wet wipe purchases. It is interesting to think how much just one person can affect an entire sewage system. There was another point in the article that they are actually now getting issues of people using too much toilet paper. I would think that since there is such a scarce amount of toilet paper people would be paying more attention to how much they use.
Science in Action.
Dr. Tracie Baker is an Assistant Professor at Wayne State University in the Institute of Environmental Health Science and Department of Pharmacology.
Tracie Baker studied the large-scale sewer blockages that happen world why. They are caused by massive buildup of discarded fats, oils, and grease. Baker was a part of a team of Wayne State University researches to better understand the physical, chemical, and biological character of these fatbergs through real-time video, in-line sensor data and advanced physiochemical analysis of the blockages. What was studied is that they are often caused by people improperly disposing of non-biodegradable items in homes, restaurants, and in various industries and businesses. She said that, “Our study will help identify contaminants of interest in fatbergs by extracting and evaluating the concentrations of emerging contaminants including pesticides, pharmaceuticals, personal care, products and plastic,” said Baker. By researching these aspects and going through the results their goal was it to be helpful in seeing the potential risks correlated with blockages and then to furthermore inform prevention and mitigation efforts. I never thought about people actually studying and researching such situations like this, and thankfully there are because it helped me better understand what my topic was.
By: Zoey Trombley
Summary: Due to the shelter in place order that has been enacted in California the air quality there has been much cleaner. This has to do with the fact that many people are staying home from school and work, meaning that motor vehicle traffic and industrial activities are greatly reduced. Motor vehicles are responsible for about 30% of the fine particles that are found in soot and that accumulates in the air. However, since people have started staying home because of the coronavirus, motor vehicle activity at Bay Area bridges has been approximately 70% lower. Due to this decrease the amount of tiny particles that are found in soot have declined by approximately 20%.
The decrease in driving has also impacted the amount of nitrogen oxide, which is a chemical found in smog, and carbon dioxide found in the air. Within the Bay Area nitrogen oxide has been reduced by 40% and carbon dioxide has decreased by 20%. Counties all over the Bay Area are seeing increases in air quality. Each week air-quality sensors are measuring less and less particulate matter in the air. Within the last two weeks these sensors have shown the lowest averages of particulate matter of any week so far in 2020. Each county has seen a decrease in soot and smog, Oakland has had a 21% decrease, San Jose 36%, and San Francisco 41%.
Experts state that this is just a temporary increase in air-quality and that air pollutants will go back up when economic activity picks up again. However, for people with health issues such as asthma and the elderly, this momentarily clean air is highly beneficial. There is data showing that the number of Bay Area deaths from air pollution has reduced to about 10 a week since the coronavirus shutdown. While Covid-19 is in no way a good thing it has shown a future worth striving for when it comes to air-quality. Hopefully in the future we are able to see air-quality increase again as electric vehicles become more available and more air pollution laws are required for factories. This has given us more insight on why we need to change how the economy runs, so it can be more beneficial to the environment and our health.
Why we should care? The coronavirus has given us an opportunity to see what air-quality could look like in the future if we continue to work on implementing air pollutant regulations, higher availability of electronic vehicles, and changing the economy to run in a way that is more beneficial for the environment.
Example News Article:
For me the article “Coronavirus: Bay Area Air Quality is Improving as People Stay Home”, was interesting to me because it is amazing to see almost immediate environmental changes that happen when the economy is halted. It is no secret that how we live our lives is the main contributor to environmental issues, and when it comes to air-quality motor vehicle use and industrial activities are the two main pollutants to our air. It is incredible to see how quickly air-quality starts to improve when these two major economic activities are reduced. Our health is also directly related to air-quality, the article mentions since air-quality has improved so has respiratory related illnesses in different parts of the world such as China, Italy, and California. The coronavirus shut downs have given us a chance to see how changing our economic practices could help us remedy environmental issues, like air-quality. This temporary improvement in air-quality is a good example of why in the future we should change our economic practices to ones that are more beneficial to our health and the environment.
Science in Action.
Dr. Ronald C. Cohen is Director at Berkeley Atmospheric Center and Professor of Chemistry and of Earth and Planetary Sciences.
Professor Cohen does research on the chemical composition of the Earth’s atmosphere. He uses experimental and new modeling strategies to understand past atmospheric composition which will help to predict future chemical compositional changes. Currently his research is focusing on nitrogen oxides and water isotopes. Through his research he is trying to understand the atmospheric residence time of nitrogen oxides, the global impact nitrogen oxides have on oxidants, and how they impact the biosphere and aerosol properties.
Professor Cohen’s research is relevant to my blog topic because what he is studying is directly related to air-quality control. His research focuses on how certain chemicals alter the Earth’s atmosphere which can impact our air-quality. He also studies past atmospheric compositions which is important for predicting what the air-quality will look like in the future.
By: Amanda Quinn
Summary: Due to the recent outbreak of COVID-19 specifically in Wuhan, China, the residents were ordered to stay inside, only leave when necessary, and almost all work was stopped until the outbreak was contained. This included airplane industries, power plants, factories of all kinds, and more to shut down immediately and with that, stopping the majority of greenhouse gas emissions that are usually released into the atmosphere. Although COVID-19 is notoriously known for having an extremely high death rate, air pollution contributes to more than one million deaths in China each year. With the inability to pollute the Earth as much as usual since the majority of citizens are locked inside their homes, there has been an immense decrease in the amount of nitrogen dioxide in the air, one of the main greenhouse gases released when burning fossil fuels. This has helped the skies seem to look like they are clearing up and reports from people living in Shanghai, China they say “it's been some of the most pristine blue skies that they remember over the winter,” (NPR). These reports come from the fact that when comparing January-February of 2019’s levels of nitrogen dioxide to now the NO2 emissions were roughly between 250-400 m2. At the same time this year, they are between 50-125 m2 which is a drastic difference of almost more than 100 m2. From records of years before there has never been a difference this large in the air quality over Wuhan, China. Although this air quality clearing comes with a cost, it probably would not have ever happened on its own, making now the perfect time to maintain it where it is and not let it bounce back to where it was last year hopefully marking a turning point in climate change.
Why we should care? With the extremely large population in China and the need to provide for more people than any other country, they emit more greenhouse gases than what should be taken up by the atmosphere leaving the rest of it to wallow over the country in large, gloomy pollution clouds. An unintended benefit of the COVID-19 lockdown is that the NO2 emissions have plummeted from last year’s records making the skies noticeably more clear.
Example News Article:
I found this topic especially interesting because nitrogen dioxide emissions seem to be increasing at a higher rate every single year and there has yet to be a time when they have dramatically dipped as there is right now. It is common sense that since factories and plants have shut down and entire cities in China are on lockdown the emissions of greenhouse gases have slowed in result, but it is what happens after that is so intriguing. As expected, when pollution decreases air quality will become clearer and less contaminated which is exactly what is happening in Wuhan, China right now with the city having been on a tight lockdown with no air travel coming in or out and little to no road traffic due to people not needing to go to work in the meantime. This has reduced NO2 emissions dramatically showing a drop to upwards of 100 m2 of the greenhouse gas less than what was in the air at this same time last year.
Science in Action.
Dr. Fei Liu works for NASA as an air quality research scientist and for Universities Space Research Association (USRA).
Lauri Myllyvirta is the lead analyst for the Centre for Research on Energy and Clean Air.
- Dr. Liu has been researching the air quality in China and has written multiple research papers on the subject which is why she seems qualified and relevant to the topic I chose to research. She is also in the process of creating a new methodology that would contain carbon dioxide emissions from coal-fired power plants all while using satellite observations of emitted nitrogen dioxide.
- Lauri Myllyvirta has been an established air quality researcher for well over three and a half years now where he has lead both the Energy and Clean Air analytics and for the Global Air Pollution Unit which deems him a reliable source for understanding what it means that China’s air pollution is so low now out of nowhere. He has researched different ways in order to decrease climate change starting with minimizing our carbon dioxide emissions.
By: Taylor Demeere
Summary: The Venice Italian water ways have been the clearest they have been in 60 years, and that is because water transportation has taken a halt. Venice typically flourishes with tourists, meaning there is always some sort of transportation going on, mainly in the famous Venice canals. But because of the lack of tourists, and civilians remaining in isolation, the canals are seeing little water movement. This has caused sediment to settle to the bottom and calm, while typically boats are stirring up the sediment. With no traffic the canals have a chance to settle itself creating a clearer look to the water. The water has been so clear that citizens can actually see fish swimming at the bottom of the canal. Although water ways are not being “cleaned” and only cleared, there is a bright side to this. It has been rumored that it is highly likely that the air quality in Italy is improving day by day while there is less and less pollutants being released into the air. With humanity taking a pause on their day to day lives, wildlife creatures are taking back their natural habitats. Swans and dolphins have been spotted swimming around the port, meaning that they are feeling comfortable and unthreatened by humanity to finally flourish in their natural homes. Just because the water ways are not technically being cleaned and their quality remains the same, does not mean good has not come out of this situation. Good indeed has come from this situation in many ways. Animals swimming freely in their natural habitats, air quality improvements and an overall break on the harsh pollutants that humans release into the atmosphere every day.
Why we should care? Humans should be concerned about polluting the earth. Wildlife has been flourishing in canals, which means that they are feeling comfortable in their natural habitats. This should be a wake-up call for humans to stop pollution as much as possible and work towards a cleaner planet not for just humanity, but all wildlife creatures as well.
Example News Article:
This article was especially interesting because not only did it talk about the water ways being cleared but also the potential of cleaner air quality. Venice’s governor has mentioned that it is not confirmed but it is highly likely that the air quality has improved in Italy since pollutants have decreased a lot. The typically cloudy canals are now clear enough to see fish swimming at the bottom. Although this does not mean better water quality it does mean that wildlife is coming back to their habitats without human disruptions. The tourist industry came to a “screeching halt” in Italy causing transportation rates to drop. Another very interesting fact in the article was that colder temperatures also play a part in the clear water ways. At 57 degrees Fahrenheit there is little synthesis of organic compounds from carbon dioxide which does not begin until about 62 degrees Fahrenheit. Because of these events that make the water appear clearer, swans, dolphins and fish are now flourishing in the beautiful water ways of Venice, when they typically would not have.
Science in Action:
Dr. Pierpaolo Campostrini is Managing Director at Corila Consortium for managing scientific research of the Venice Lagoon System, Venice, Italy.
Pierpaolo Campostrini is an author of several scientific papers, reviewer and member of the Editorial board of scientific journals, editor of volumes on the safeguarding of Venice, and the lecturer for Venice International University. He was also tenured researcher of National Council Research and Contract professor at the University of Padua and Udine, acquiring international experience in large scientific projects. Campostrini was the manager of several research programs under the role of CORILAS director. He also participates in various European projects, and was even part of the “Group of Ten” for establishing a stakeholder platform related to the Integrated Maritime Policy. Campostrini’s research for this specific topic concluded that Venice’s waterways are not technically “cleaner”, but only clearer. This is because of less transportation due to no visitors, so boats are no longer traveling through the canals, causing the sediment to settle and creating a clearer look. Boat traffic typically brings sediment to the waters surface, so without boat traffic in place, the canals finally have a chance to settle and calm down, which leads to the attraction of more wildlife than per usual.
EVS 1500 is blogging everyday this month about an environmental issue we've seen in the news this year (2019/2020). Notably right now a lot of the focus is on environmental stories related to the pandemic. Check in everyday to see what story an individual student focuses on!
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.