By: Rochelle Durand
Summary. A recent study in Seattle, Washington found alarming levels of toxic chemicals called PFAS in samples of mothers’ breast milk. Researchers from Indiana University, University of Washington Children's Research Institute, and the organization ‘Toxic-Free Future’ followed 50 women in the Seattle area and measured the parts per trillion of nine different PFAS in their breast milk. They found PFA levels ranging from 52 parts per trillion, up to 500 parts per trillion. The median contamination levels among the 50 participants were 152 parts per trillion. For reference, in 2016, the Environmental Protection Agency set the PFA level for drinking water at 70 parts per trillion. Per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances, or PFAS, are a group of man-made chemicals that can not break down on their own and can accumulate in the human body with negative health effects. These substances gained the nickname “forever chemical” due to their persistence in the environment and the human body. PFAS were invented in the 1940s and are best known for their water, fire, oil, and temperature resistance. They can be found everywhere, from non-stick appliances, rain jackets, food wrappers, and fire-fighting foams. PFAS can make its way into the human body through multiple pathways. This includes the air we breathe, the water we drink, the food we consume, and household furnishings such as couches and carpets. It is now believed that over 98% of Americans have some level of PFAS in their blood. Once in the bloodstream, PFAS can travel to tissues and can make its way into the placenta and breastmilk of expecting mothers. From there, PFAS are passed down from the mother to the child. As more women are exposed to PFAS, more toxins are passed down to their children. Exposure to these toxic chemicals can cause adverse health effects for humans and animals, including decreased immune response, thyroid effects, increased risk of kidney and testicular cancer, and increased cholesterol levels. Members from Toxic-Free Future and researchers from the study are now raising concern over the rising levels of toxins in breast milk, advocating for a state-wide ban or regulation on PFAS. Newer PFAs are being found in higher concentrations, showing that changing the type PFAS did not solve the problem. Even older PFA chemicals that are no longer being produced are still being found in breast milk samples in high amounts, proving that the whole class of PFAS needs to be addressed, not only certain kinds.
Why we should care? PFAS are found around us in everyday products. They can be passed down to our children since they cannot be naturally broken down, causing health effects that can last for generations.
I found this article interesting because not only did it include in-depth information on PFAS, but it also included an interview with one of the mothers who took part in the study, Vera Harrington. Harrington discusses her anxieties surrounding PFAS, and how avoiding them seems “out of her control”. She explains what products she will no longer be used in preparation for the arrival of her second child; including carpet cleaning treatments and a stain-resistant rocker that she bought for her first child. In addition to the interview with Harrington, the article provides useful infographics displaying the findings from the Seattle-based study, showing the different types of PFAS that were observed and the ppt (parts per trillion) recorded. The article also discusses the ways big corporations such as McDonald’s are taking action to remove PFAS from their products and other ways that organizations such as Toxic-Free Future are advocating for new legislation.
Science in Action.
Dr. Sheela Sathyanarayana is an Associate Professor of Pediatrics and Adjunct Professor in the Department of Environmental & Occupational Health Sciences at the University of Washington.
Dr. Sathyanarayana’s research focuses on PVC and BPA chemical exposures and their effects on the endocrine system as well as reproductive development. A majority of her research examines the relationship between toxic chemicals found in our environment and their effect on pregnancy outcomes and early childhood development. Recently, Sathyanarayana’s research has expanded to PFAS and their effects on the human body and the reproductive system. Her goals are to use science to influence policymaking and to protect children’s health. In the past, she has served as the chair of the US Environmental Protection Agency’s Children’s Health Protection Advisory Committee. She currently is a medical director at the University of Washington who provides health consultations through the Pediatric Environmental Health Specialty Unit to help parents better understand the dangers of toxic chemicals in their home environments. Her work is relevant to PFAS because just like other man-made chemicals such as PVC and BPA, they can have detrimental effects on the endocrine system in both babies and adults, and can accumulate in the body for long amounts of time.
By: Jackson Gifford
Summary. Per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances, better known as PFAS, are chemicals used in the manufacturing process of various products that we interact with on a regular basis. From water-resistant clothing, to food packaging, to even the food that we eat, PFAS have become a part of our daily lives without much notice. While PFAS have great use to manufacturers, they are dangerous to humans due to their inability to be broken down biologically. It has been found that PFAS will accumulate in the human body over time. Their increase in use has caused larger amounts of the chemicals to appear in the human body, and their concentration has been correlated to low infant birth weights and cancer, among other things. While the chemicals were thought to exist mostly in water and food sources, it has recently become more commonly detected in the air that we breathe indoors. This has been linked to PFAS’s use in carpets, floor wax, and more common indoor items that are used in private and public spaces. This has caused great concern in the health of children, who could be exposed to an onslaught of dangerous chemicals without their knowledge. This issue continues to develop by the day as new research is published and more chemicals are identified as dangerous. While the information about PFAS is relatively new, the EPA formed a council this year to address the concerns of scientists and citizens, which it hopes will be able to curb the use of PFAS by manufacturers in the coming years.
Why we should care? PFAS are a new kind of contaminant that are not thoroughly studied. As new research shows the dangerous effects of the chemicals, we need to eliminate their use in production as soon as possible.
I found this article interesting because it shows how much we still do not know about PFAS. In the article, there is an entirely new compound that is identified as dangerous to humans that was initially thought to be safe. I think that there is still so much to be understood about PFAS chemicals, where we are most susceptible to them, and how our bodies interact with them. There are so many effects that humans have on their environment that are still unknown, and the new case of PFAS shows how in the dark we still are. This article does a great job of emphasizing the unknowns of the chemicals and why we need to be aware of them.
Science in Action.
Maya Erin Morales-McDevitt is a Graduate Student at the University of Rhode Island.
Maya Erin Morales-McDevitt is the woman responsible for heading the research that the University of Rhode Island published this year. Not only is this the study cited in The Guardian, but also in countless other news articles covering this topic. Her research revolutionized our understanding of how we interact with PFAS in the air, and how dangerous they actually are. Morales-McDevitt and her colleagues were able to identify completely new compounds that are dangerous to humans, and determined how PFAS particles are able to be transported through the air. This work alone will forever change the way scientists look at PFAS, and will surely change the ways in which they act to diminish their presence.
By: Bob Deem
Summary. In 1967, 134 sailors were killed when a fire broke out aboard the USS Forestal aircraft carrier off the coast of North Vietnam. After that incident, the US Navy began requiring all of its vessels to carry a new firefighting agent called Aqueous Film Forming Foam (AFFF, or "A Triple-F"). The revolutionary compound had been developed in conjunction with chemical company 3M and patented by the Navy in 1966. The use of AFFF was soon adopted as industry standard across the Department of Defense, the Federal Aviation Administration, and fire departments around the world. AFFF contains a class of chemicals called per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS), which was poorly understood at the time of its development. These chemicals have since been linked to a host of health conditions like cancer, immune disorders, reproductive and hormonal dysfunction. Worse, they are incredibly persistent in the environment, as they are immune to almost any kind degradation. PFAS chemicals released during firefighting activities, both real-world and far more often in training, make their way into groundwater either through seepage, runoff, or direct release into oceans, lakes, and streams. Because they do not degrade over time, they quickly build up and become harmful to humans in concentrations as low as 70 parts per trillion (ppt). Not only do PFAS chemicals accumulate in the environment, they are equally persistent in the human body, making exposure to even tiny amounts dangerous over time. In 2000, 3M announced that it would no longer manufacture AFFF containing PFOS, a type of PFAS chemical, after research indicated that there was no level of exposure that could be considered “safe” for humans. By this time, however, many more chemical manufacturers were manufacturing PFAS-based firefighting agents with a new 6 carbon-chain formulation that they claimed was safer for the environment than the old 8 carbon-chain AFFF. However, in the twenty years since, the new formulation has proven to be every bit as dangerous to health, more difficult to clean up, and better able to slip through filtration systems.
Why should we care? PFAS-based firefighting agents are used across the US and around the world. Every year, thousands of gallons of these toxic chemicals are discharged and make their way into our drinking water.
The linked article discusses the release of PFOS and PFOA containing firefighting agents into Lake St. Clair from Selfridge Air National Guard Base, right here in our own back yard! Subsequent testing has revealed local drinking water contamination in excess of 4,000 parts per trillion, against a lifetime exposure limit of only 70 parts per trillion established by the Environmental Protection Agency. The Michigan Environmental Council sets the limit at 16 parts per trillion for PFOS and just 8 parts per trillion for PFOA. As a former military crash rescue firefighter, the issue of PFAS contamination from military firefighting operations is a subject that is important to me.
Science in Action.
Dr. Jennifer Field is a Professor, Department of Environmental and Molecular Toxicology at Oregon State University.
Professor Field's research focuses on the development and application of methods to measure and track micropollutants in natural and man-made water systems. Her current work includes developing the application of chromatography/mass spectrometry to measure illicit drugs in municipal waste water as an alternative indicator of community drug use. A great deal of her early work focused on contamination of groundwater by fluorinated surfactants (PFAS) in firefighting foam. Professor Fields has published or co-published dozens of peer-reviewed scientific articles on the subject of groundwater contamination by per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances, from all sources, including military use of aqueous film forming foams.
By: Robin Bresolin
Summary. Wildfires are a major issue affecting people and ecosystems around the world, especially in the Western states. For most people not living in these states, the issue can be obscure and is not the first thing to come to mind when thinking about climate change and it’s negative impacts. By 2015, the fire season had grown two-and-a-half months longer than it had in the 1970s and is continuing to grow. Today even more acres are burning and the amount of fires are only going to grow. Wildfires in the west are an issue that needs more attention, because the fires are burning more than 3 million acres of land, destroying ecosystems and people’s homes. Some causes of wildfires out west include the droughts and heatwaves due to climate change, which is actually lengthening the time period of the fire season. In fact, 95% of the causes of wildfires are believed to be from climate change. Some scientists are skeptical of that percentage, but the logic that backs the number up is found at the bottom of lakes. For instance, researchers at Montana University drill deep into lakes to pull out ash and charcoal from ancient wildfires, called core samples. The core samples contain record proof of wildfires dating back in time and patterns which prove the connection that more fire results from a warmer climate. Contrary to the negative effects of wildfires from climate change, historic wildfires used to actually be part of a natural and healthy forest life cycle. Although the average person assumes the topic of wildfires to be bad for the environment, consistent trends in past fires prove that fires are essential to ecosystems. Since the beginning of time, wildfires have always been around and used to burn at a healthier rate that was more regulated. They open up land, rejuvenate growth, and help support certain species that live on the burned landscape. In today’s world, wildfires are inevitable, which is why methods to regulate and control fires are important for not only human life, but climate change as well. Simple precautions like installing indoor air filters, cleaning up flammable items around home, and developing houses in less fire-prone areas are methods that help adapt to living with wildfires. So although wildfires can be good for a natural forest life cycle, there can only be so many until a negative impact is left. Wildfires can easily grow out of control and leave devastating effects to a populated area and ecosystem, which shows the power that climate change can leave due to rising temperatures.
Why we should care? Wildfires are only going to increase in size and quantity as climate change continues. It's important to understand the dangers wildfires can cause to not only humans, but also ecosystems.
I found this article interesting because the disaster of wildfires is not something that is commonly talked about in Michigan or at least where I grew up. It’s important for more people to be aware of the devastating impacts wildfires have on ecosystems and humans living in that affected area. In order to promote more awareness about the importance of reducing climate change, the actual consequences must be brought to light. This is another reason why this article stood out to me. Since wildfires aren’t as common in the midwest, not as many people may know about the issue, including myself. I was disturbed to learn more about the rapidly increasing wildfires out west due to rising temperatures. This past July, northern Ontario experienced a ton of wildfires and the haze from the smoke actually drifted all the way to my home. It’s sad to see forests burning to the ground and increasing air pollution. It was also beneficial to learn about easy precautions to take in your everyday life to help prevent wildfires and reduce global temperatures. Overall, wildfires are yet another consequence of climate change, and making small changes in your everyday life goes a long way.
Science in Action.
Dr. Phil Higuera is a Professor of fire ecology at the University of Montana.
Professor Higuera is a director of the fire ecology and paleoecology labs at Montana University. His studies include how fire activity varies with climate change in the present versus the past, and how forest ecosystems respond to these changes. Higuera’s work is relevant to the climate change link to wildfires because he claims fire has always been a natural part of forest life cycles but discovered how human-influenced climate change has altered our ecosystems. One of these alterations is that due to the rapidly changing climate after a fire burns, the same type of forest doesn’t grow back in its place. Higuera’s findings are completely relevant because he gives an example that shows the disturbing effects of wildfires due to climate change.
By: Michelle Kim
Summary. or the first time in history, it was recorded that Siberian wildfires have reached the North Pole. The Sakha Republic in Siberia is known to be one of the coldest areas in the world. This year in Siberia, it has been recorded to have higher temperatures, droughts, and various amounts of forest fires covering larger areas (3.4m hectares (8.4m acres) being burned in the region). There are Smoke blankets that spread across the sky for about 2,000 miles from east to west and 2,500 miles north to south, covering most of Russia. The smoke has been recorded to have traveled more than 1,864 miles to reach the North Pole. The fire has burned at least 14m hectares of land which has been recorded as the second-worst fire in the century. Wildfires are known to be common in Siberia, but since early spring, these fires have increased and started to spread faster across larger areas of forests. Firefighters and paratroopers from the Russian military are doing their best trying to calm the fires, but only around half has been covered since the fires are too strong and dangerous. Throughout several articles, it mentions how the cause of how these wildfires got so bad was from our mistakes such as greenhouse gas emissions. Not only are these greenhouse gas emission are at fault, but according to Agence France-Pressethe, Russian authorizes are also to blame. They are aware that these fires are constant, but nothing is done about it since there is a law prevents them from intervening if the cost of intervention is greater than the cost of the damage they cause, or if they do not affect inhabited areas. These fires are terrifying news to climate experts because it reports that global heating temperatures are getting higher more quickly than imagined.
Why we should care? We should care about what is happening because it ties into global warming and climate change. More than 1,200 towns and villages have been impacted by the fires and the smoke puts our health at risk.
I found this article interesting to read about because it shows an inside perspective of the fire from various sources. The article talks about how badly the fire has impacted Russia along with pictures and videos. They described the fire to be covering the skies with black smoke and orange tints from the fire. You can see from the photos and videos exactly what they are talking about. It was crazy to see the fire through a POV (point of view) of a news reporter or a civilian because you can see first hand on how big the fires are and how much it has covered the skies. Seeing live videos made me realize that it is very real and scary to experience if I was in that position.
Science in Action.
Dr. Jessica McCarty is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Geography at Miami University in Ohio.
Dr. Jessica McCarty is an expert in geology. She studies interests regarding Geospatial technologies, methodologies including Earth observations, GIS, and data mining, Agriculture & food security, Land-use/land-cover change, Wildland, prescribed fire, Air quality, Black carbon emissions, Climate change, adaptation, Natural resources, and forestry. She has been in several publications including research about the Siberian forest fires. She has studied the patterns of forest fires in Russia along with other ecologists and how it has affected the world around it, which ties into the relevancy of my blog topic. It ties in because in my blog, it talks about how the fire affects climate change and the impacts it has created. Ecologists such as Jessica McCarty are important because they help us find the problems that affect our environment and can guide us to help preventing them from being incredibly damaging.
By: Cameron Cornellier
Summary. California is the origin for many of the large wildfires that have been dominating headlines in the past few years. While the impact of these wildfires on the ecosystems where they occur can be devastating, new research is always being done to completely understand the effects of the fires. One of the newer wildfires, known as Caldor Fire, has been burning in California since August of 2021 and has had larger ramifications than simply burning through forests. The smoke and ash from the Caldor Fire has blown into the Lake Tahoe basin, which has polluted Lake Tahoe. The lake, which is famous due to its clarity, has become murkier due to particles of ash and ember that have fallen into the lake a result of the fires. As a popular tourist attraction, losing the famously clear water could potentially harm business around the lake. Additionally, the biological effects on the lake from the smoke is not fully understood, and the lake is being used as a case study to further understand how smoke, ash, and other particles impact the lake. Many endangered species call Lake Tahoe home, and the particle pollution in the lake could cause the natural ecosystem to become altered. Sunlight is being blocked by the smoke that hangs above the lake, which could kill plant life that needs photosynthesis to survive. Unfortunately, harm to Lake Tahoe will not stop after the forest fires are extinguished as rain in the region will cause ash-filled runoff into the lake, further filling it with particles. As more wildfires occur due to the changing of the climate, the problem that is occurring in the Lake Tahoe basin could happen to other lakes of the world. By understanding the effects that ash and smoke have on a body of water, we can prepare ourselves better when wildfires occur in other parts of the world.
Why we should care? As the climate of the world gets hotter, more wildfires will occur. By understanding how wildfires alter the ecosystem of a lake, we can better prepare ourselves in the future.
This article is interesting because it describes the scientific process that is being done on the water of Lake Tahoe in detail. By using marbles to filter the ash particles from the water, the researchers can determine the quantity and size of the particles. I think the article does a good job describing the entire situation as well as describing the research that is being done on the lake. It also touches on the League to Save Lake Tahoe, which is a group of people who focus on maintaining the clarity and cleanliness of the lake. I feel like they are an important group to bring up due to their prior understanding on how the ecosystem of the lake functions and it will be interesting to see what conclusions they come to after the experiments on the lake are finished.
Science in Action.
Dr. Sudeep Chandra is the Director of the Ozmen Institute for Global Studies, as well as the Director of the Global Water Center at the University of Nevada, Reno.
Sudeep Chandra is leading the team that is collecting the samples of ash falling into Lake Tahoe. He studies the restoration of declining aquatic ecosystems as well as the conservation of aquatic ecosystems, which would explain why he is leading the research on the Lake Tahoe wildfires. He also has experience working with the management of native and non-native species of animals, which is relevant to the aquatic ecosystem of the Lake Tahoe basin. Another key point of his research background is that he has an understanding on how water quality is altered when land changing events like mining, new human urbanization, and wildfires occur.
By: Matthew Vassilakos
Summary. In 2018 a man, searching for mammoth tusks in the permafrost of Siberia, found a cave lion cub that was almost perfectly preserved. This is believed to be one of the best-preserved specimens of any animal from the last Ice Age. This cub nicknamed Sparta is believed to be almost 28,000 years old. It was the second cub found in this location but the other, found 15 months before, is around 43,000 years old. They were initially thought to be siblings due to the similar appearance and location of discovery. It was only once the cubs were brought to the lab and radiocarbon dating was used that it was discovered the two cubs differed in age by around 15,000 years. These cubs were both estimated to be between one and two months based on their teeth, however when compared to modern African lion cubs the teeth of the cave lion cubs were developing slower. The researchers also could look at the hair of the cub because it was so well preserved. It was a greyish to light brown, this shows they had fur better adapted for the cold, white winters of northern Eurasia. It is likely that the cave lion cubs were buried quickly, a mudslide was suggested as a possible explanation for why they were preserved so well. Amazingly Sparta even has some of her mother’s milk still preserved inside of her. This allowed scientists to accurately determine what a fully grown cave lion’s diet could have looked like without finding an adult with food still in its stomach. Researchers from Russia, United States, France, Sweden, United Kingdom and Japan all collaborated on studies trying to figure out all they could from the two cave lion cubs that were found in this location.
Why we should care? We should care about this because we can learn about these animals, how they lived and what caused them to go extinct. We can use this knowledge to help protect the species still with us today.
I enjoyed this article because it was very informative about the cave lion cubs. However, the best part of the article was the included video. The video showed a lot of the process of how the cave lion cub was found and extracted from the permafrost. You can see how the how it was “mined” out of the cave and how ice was broken off the body to reveal the cave lion cub that anyone who has seen the lion king could recognize. It also provided interesting insights that the person who found the cub was not even looking for it, showing sometimes people accidentally stumble upon important scientific discoveries without even trying to.
Science in Action.
Dr. Love Dalén is a Professor in Evolutionary Genetics at the Department of Bioinformatics and Genetics, Swedish Museum of Natural History.
Professor Dalén works using DNA technology to study the evolution of different species, past and present. He also looks at how environmental changes in the past effect the distribution and abundance of species today on Earth. He studies animals ranging from rhinos and mammoths to cave lions and lemmings. He looks at genetic variation, population structure and population size have changed over time, especially as a result of climate during the Late Pleistocene (Last Ice Age). His work is relevant to the cave lion cubs because he was one of the leading researchers looking at the cubs and determining how they lived. He has done the same with other animals, as mentioned above. The work Professor Dalén does can help us to protect the animals we still have by looking at the ones we have lost.
By: Collin Houston
Summary. Bdelloid rotifers are microscopic, multicellular creatures with very complex anatomies. They are able to survive in very harsh climates with excess acidity, fight off starvation, low oxygen, dehydration, and they are one of the most radiation-resistant animals. They were found in northeastern Siberia about 11 feet below the surface in permafrost that is around 14 degrees Fahrenheit. A new study showed that Bdelloid can also come back to life after being frozen for thousands of years in deep freeze, and are one of the few tiny creatures, including tardigrades, that are able to survive such unforgiving conditions. This study also shows that these micro-animals can survive very long durations in suspended animation as well. Since they are so resistant Dr. Meselson said “They’re the world’s most resistant animal to just about any form of torture,”. Bdelloid rotifers have been studied since the invention of microscopes. In 1702, Antonie van Leeuwenhoek described them as “little round animalcules” after examining some in gutter water from his house. Despite being only a dozen microns wide they have brains, guts, muscles, and reproductive systems. However, scientists are still unsure how Bdelloid rotifers are able to protect themselves from unsurvivable conditions and patch up their broken DNA. They have also been able to diversify to more than 450 species through assexual reproduction alone which is not favorable for evolution. These animals have also been sent to space to see how well they could survive in those conditions. The goal in studying and doing tests on Bdelloid rotifers is to unlock their super-resilient biological strategies in order to help preserve other animal cells, tissues, and organs on earth as well as other space which is the main reason they have been sent to outer space. According to Dr. Meselson “They’re probably the only animals we know that could do pretty well in outer space”.
Why we should care? We should care about this topic because Bdelloid rotifers could unlock the ability for humans and living things to survive harsher climates as well as preserve other species of animals for the future.
I found this article interesting because of the possibilities that the Bdelloid rotifers can unlock for all living things. Unlocking their ability to survive suspended animation could allow us to save many living things that are dying due to an illness, and bring them back when a cure is discovered. It’s also interesting how a living thing could survive the harsh living conditions that the Bdelloid rotifers have been through. Like what exactly makes this thing so resilient to conditions that for almost every living thing are unsurvivable. To think that the possibility of something that many considered to be only out of science fiction to be possible is fascinating to me, and that it can help to save many people and living things is almost unbelievable.
Science in Action.
Dr. Mathew S. Meselson is a Professor of Molecular and Cellular Biology at Harvard University.
Dr. Meselson is a genius who has made contributions to the areas of DNA replication, repair and recombination as well as isolation of the first restriction enzyme. Most recently he has worked with Bdelloid rotifers and done research on them. He has done a lot of other work which is too long to list all of his work. However, his research in cellular biology was revolutionary. So I think that yes all of his past work with DNA and RNA are relevant to the blog post because the secret of Bdelloid rotifers hide within its DNA and cells and he has done this kind of research all of his life, and he is very respected and accomplished in this field.
By: Riley St.Ledger
Summary. The Trans-Alaskan pipeline is one of the world's largest oil pipelines, spanning about 800 miles from Prudhoe Bay in North Alaska to Valdez in the South. The pipeline carries almost 2 million barrels of oil across Alaska every day. But recent thawing of permafrost has threatened some supports holding the pipeline, putting the structural integrity in complete danger. A slope with an 810 foot long section of pipeline has already started to slip because of melting permafrost, causing the braces of the section to bend. Possible rupturing of the pipeline could result in a huge oil spill in a remote landscape, making it extremely difficult to clean up. Plus, any spill could release thousands of gallons of oil, which could only accelerate the thawing permafrost even more. Implications of the thawing permafrost can give people an idea about the effect climate change is having on pipeline safety, and on the landscape in Alaska. Permafrost is ground that has been frozen for at least two years, and it makes up nearly 85% of Alaska. In recent decades, the permafrost temperatures have warmed about 3.5 degrees Fahrenheit, causing increased thawing. To hopefully combat this melting, the Alaska Department of Natural Resources is installing 100 thermosyphons, tubes that will suck heat out of the permafrost, to try and prevent further damage to the pipeline's structure, and keep frozen slope from slipping any further. But, there are still concerns with these cooling tubes. They haven't been used once a slope has already begun to slide, and the permafrost is already in the process of thawing. Plus, the thermosyphons will help keep the permafrost from melting around the oil pipeline, which is only adding to the extraction of more fossil fuels that are causing the melting in the first place. Besides the pipeline, roads and bridges and other infrastructure will also deteriorate faster than expected because of the thawing permafrost. This is a large problem that will continue to affect many aspects of life in Alaska.
Why we should care? This is an important topic because of the problems climate change is causing in Alaska, as well as in the Arctic. These places are heating twice as fast was the rest of the globe because of global warming, and are facing more problems quicker.
This article caught my attention because of how dangerous this situation could be. The Trans Alaskan pipeline stretches across the entirety of Alaska and has carried 20 billion gallons of oil since it was first established. The constant melting of permafrost in the future could cause multiple leaks, and increase the amount of oil spills occurring. The spills are already difficult to clean up, and of course are dangerous to the environment. There are solutions to the melting, so hopefully once those are in place there will be a decrease in thawing, and a positive change on the environment.
Science in Action.
Dr. Miriam Jones is a Research Geologist for Florence Bascom Geoscience Center.
Dr. Jones uses proxies to interpret climate and landscape change over timescales. Her current focuses are responses to abrupt permafrost thaw, sea level rise, sea ice retreat, and land use change. She has done research about the Alaskan permafrost and the abrupt thawing, which will release greenhouse gases and contribute to climate change even more. The climate change that is causing this melting is also increasing global climate change, which amplifies the dangers that permafrost melting really causes. This is relevant information to know about the permafrost melting, because of the added dangers that weren't covered in the main articles on this topic.
By: Ben Feld
Summary. Climate change is having a serious impact on all different places around the World, Oceans, Temperate lands, but none have been as effected as harshly as the north pole and Arctic circle. The Arctic circle was once considered a carbon sink, now due to snow ice and permafrost melting, it now releases more carbon than it absorbs from the atmosphere. The Arctic is warming at two times the rate of the rest of the world and this is not good. According to the Artic institute, permafrost covers almost a quarter of all land in the northern hemisphere. Permafrost refers to parts of the world where it is so cold the ground is always frozen, this happens in parts of Russia, Svalbard, Greenland, Northern Canada, and Alaska. Recently with the global increase of temperatures these lands have started to warm up and have lost their permafrost status. There are four million people living in permafrost areas whose homes and infrastructure will be effected by the melting. This permafrost holds 1,700 tons of organic material in it meaning once it is melted it will all decompose and end up in the atmosphere. Because of the mass amounts of organic material when permafrost melting starts happening more rapidly it will only continue to get worse as a negative feedback loop is created. Permafrost is also melting around coastlines which in addition to the lack of new ocean ice forming has led to receding shorelines, this has already effected small islands and coastal homes in Russia and Alaska. Of course, we cannot forget the frozen bacteria and viruses the world hasn’t seen in over one hundred years that are now being released by the melting permafrost. In addition Native peoples are also having their natural homes destroyed by the melting of permafrost.
Why we should care? The amount of carbon trapped in the permafrost is equivalent to about four times the amount humans have already released in 200 years.
This article was very interesting because it shows almost all the effects of melting permafrost I mentioned on the environment. As we can see a massive crater has opened up because of the melting of permafrost. Inside the crater was methane, a greenhouse gas with incredible reflecting power, four times that of carbon dioxide. The crater was 30 meters deep, or about 90 feet, that is a lot of methane that could have been released by it. This also shows how these craters can open up seemingly randomly and destroy whatever is on top of them, houses, train tracks, roads. I would hope this giant sinkhole helped people realize permafrost melting is a serious issue.
Science in Action.
Dr. Vladimir E. Romanovsky is a Professor of Geophysics at the Geophysical Institute at University of Alaska Fairbanks.
Dr. Romanovsky studies all things relating to the arctic, from human activities to groundwater and different soil influences. He has even researched how to find methane deposits on Mars and has done studies with satellites. He does mainly specialize in things relating to the artic and has written over 50 papers relating to the arctic. He is also a member of many scientific organizations researching climate change especially the effects on the arctic. He is a chair member on a member of the US Polar Research Board, the Vice President of the International Permafrost Association, and is also a member of the American Geophysical Union. Dr. Romanovsky has been committed to studying permafrost and has been doing it for 20 years and is considered an expert on the subject, he is relevant to permafrost and will seemingly be studying it until it runs out.
By: Amanda Turner
Summary. On June 20, 2020, Verkhoyansk, Russia experienced the highest temperature ever recorded in the Arctic Circle. Reaching 38deg Celsius (100deg Fahrenheit), temperatures are continuing to reach dangerous levels, which is leading to the permafrost melting, the collapsing of infrastructures, fuel spills, and an increased amount of methane being released into the atmosphere. These high temperatures are becoming common for Siberia, with the monthly average temperature in some areas reaching more than 10deg Celsius (50deg Fahrenheit) higher than the previous average. For many, though, the increased temperatures do not come as a surprise as the prevalence of climate change is becoming evident throughout the world. A group of scientists from the Met Office found that the heatwave was 600 times more likely than it was in 1900, and this sudden switch is all due to climate change. Wildfires are burning is Siberian forests, tree-eating moths are swarming the land, and the permafrost is melting. The National Resources Defense Council defines Permafrost as any ground that has been frozen for at least two years, but this can range up to hundreds of thousands of years. Alongside, the NRDC lists that some impacts of melting permafrost as the emission of greenhouse gases, collapsing infrastructures, altered landscapes, and a possible increased risk of disease. Fifty-six megatons of carbon dioxide were released as the result of wildfires in Siberian forests in June alone and 150,000 barrels of diesel were leaked into a river which is now endangering a nature reserve near the Arctic Ocean. Additionally, one of the coldest cities on Earth, Yakutsk in Siberia, is fearing losing their homes as the permafrost melts; many homes and buildings will only stay standing if the permafrost in in-tact. Some damage has already been done in this city, with some buildings having already fallen and many already having damage to their infrastructure. Many communities in Siberia are losing their homes, and the rest of the world will soon experience the effects of the melting permafrost.
Why we should care? The increased temperatures and the melting permafrost are dangerous to cities and other populations in Siberia, even putting nature reserves at risk. The results of the melting permafrost will affect the entire world.
This article highlights the dangers of the melting permafrost, specifically the methane and carbon emissions. It goes into detail on exactly why the melting permafrost is dangerous in relation to emissions, and it breaks down the process on how microbes release carbon dioxide and methane into the atmosphere. Scientists in the article explain the difference between the effects of the melting wetlands and the melting limestone in Siberia; the thawing limestone’s emissions of hydrocarbons and gas hydrates are more dangerous and abundant than the emissions of the thawing wetland. With the thawing of the limestone, more microbes can access it and release more carbon dioxide and methane into the air. With the increased emissions of carbon and methane, climate change will only get worse, and the rest of the world will witness the effects.
Science in Action.
Dr. Dim Coumou is a Climate Scientist and Associate Professor at Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam.
Dim Coumou primarily researches global warming and how it influences extreme weather events. He coordinates Climate Data Science Research at Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam and Royal Netherlands Meteorological Institute, and he has expertise in several areas including climate change, climate models, and extreme weather. The melting of the permafrost and the increased temperatures of the Arctic Circle both fall under his areas of expertise. Most scientists predict that climate change is a large factor in the heat wave, and the melting permafrost is an example of extreme weather, especially for the Arctic. Dim believes that this heat wave, and melting permafrost, would have never occurred in a preindustrial society. The effects that the melting permafrost have on the environment will continue to affect the planet and will contribute heavily to climate change.
By: Madalynn Matson
Summary. Hurricane Ida, bringing wind speeds of up to 150mph, brought destruction to all in it’s path. The storm is one of the largest ever recorded, leaving behind damaged houses, severe flooding, and devastation. While many were affected by the storm, many communities were hit harder than others, as is the case for many Indigenous people. The Houma Nation is the largest of fifteen Native tribes that Ida passed over, with upwards of 19,000 people living along the Gulf Coast. Despite its size, it isn’t recognized by the federal government, causing the nation to struggle with access to education, funds, and recovery aid. They also receive next to no help from the state government, forcing them to rely on outside donations. After Katrina, a study revealed that not many people even knew about the existence of Native communities in Louisiana. This, in addition to the general lack of media attention to Indigenous populations, reduces their aid and leaves many overlooked. After all, many don’t even realize these communities (a) exist and (b) are facing this much damage. Another pressing issue is the rapid coastal erosion in Mississippi and Louisiana. Rising sea levels are one of the main causes of the area’s alarming depletion of land. The buffer that had once slowed down the storm’s wind and water has been destroyed, allowing the hurricane to hit the area harder than ever. The road to recovery is expected to be a long one due to this level of damage. With climate change showing no signs of slowing down, coastal erosion continuing at rapid rates, and a lack of help from the government, many are worried for what is to come.
Why we should care? When talking about climate change, many refer to it as something that “could” or “will” happen. The Houma Nation is one of the many examples showing that it is already happening.
In this article, the Houma Nation’s chief, August Creppel, speaks about the devastation that hit his community. Houma is located on the Gulf coast, and is spread across six perishes. The nation received some of the worst damage from Ida, affecting over nineteen thousand Natives in that community alone. Many are unable to return, and if they do they are greeted with more rubble than home. Power and internet have been unstable, if available at all, and aid is incredibly difficult to come by for the state-recognized tribe. In addition to Ida, record temperatures plagued the country. The heat alone is dangerous and difficult to deal with, but coupled with hurricane recovery, no air conditioning, and no water, is entirely deadly. The article offers a new perspective on just how bad Ida has been.
Science in Action.
Dr. Jennifer Francis is a Senior Scientist at the Woodwell Climate Research Center.
Dr. Francis, a senior scientist at the Woodwell Climate Research Center, specializes in studying rapid changes in the Arctic, and how these changes are impacting the rest of the world. Her work covers the warming of the Arctic itself, and how recent, severe storms are the result of these changes in the Arctic. Francis’ early works looked into how moisture and energy exchanges occur throughout both the atmosphere and the globe. This work led her research to the connection of arctic warming and weather patterns closer to the equator. Francis has been working to better communicate her findings to the general public.
By: Katherine Millican
The tropical storm named Hurricane Ida worked its way across the eastern United States since first making landfall in Louisiana on August 30th. Not only has this storm taken the lives of at least 80 people and caused millions of dollars worth of damage, it has also caused wildlife to head for the hills-literally. In the event of flooding, animals such as black bears, alligators, venomous and non venomous snakes, wild hogs, and deer will trek to higher ground to survive. Unfortunately, this higher ground is already occupied by our cities, homes, and highways, pushing these animals into the paths of unsuspecting residents and drivers. This is not only dangerous for the humans, but also for the animals who were unwillingly pushed out of their natural habitats. This will also mean that these animals will have a hard time finding the elements essential for their survival: food, fresh water, and shelter. The places they do look to find these things will most likely be occupied by people, many of whom have the unfortunate misconception that these animals are inherently dangerous. That is not to say that they AREN’T dangerous--by all means avoid crossing paths with free roaming bears and alligators whenever possible-- however, most of the time these animals are just acting out of fear for their own safety or for protection of their young. In any case, close contact with wild animals is unpredictable and should be avoided. And speaking of young, Hurricane Ida has come at the perfect time of year when black bear cubs are about 6-8 months old, as the birthing season for black bears is usually from January to early spring. The impact of the flooding and the forced interaction with humans could be extremely dangerous for the cubs, and as a result, detrimental to future black bear populations. The flood waters also bring fish, turtles, and other marine animals along in their currents, and often leave them out to dry when they recede. Although these areas can appear extremely morbid, they do come with a silver lining. The organic matter will be scavenged and provide important nutrients for animals in the ecosystem. Surviving fish and small aquatic animals can flourish in the waters with uncharacteristically low predator concentrations and rejuvenate the ecosystem in a relatively short period of time. The environment is pretty resilient, but if climate change continues to worsen, it will no longer be such a simple fix. All in all, the damage caused by Hurricane Ida and the effects it has on wildlife will be felt for many years to come.
Why we should care? The preservation of biodiversity will have lasting effects on the future of the planet as a whole. Even removing just one species from an ecosystem can have a butterfly effect on all the rest.
I found this article interesting because it discusses fish kills as after effects of hurricanes and what it means for the ecosystem. Fish kills are groups of deceased fish that were left stranded when flood waters recede. They can also be caused by large amounts of decomposing matter in the weeks after a storm being washed into the water system, depleting the oxygen levels and “suffocating” the fish. Although sad, the author also mentions that the fish carcass provide food for scavengers in the area like birds, racoons, and alligators, and the long term effects of these kills are a replenished ecosystem, due to low concentrations of aquatic predators and more available resources come spring. I liked learning about this because it is nice to know that these kind of ecosystems work in a cycle, where the deaths of one organism can provide nutrients for others leading to a replenished system.
Science in Action.
Dr. Francis Masse is a Senior Lecturer in the Department of Geography and Environmental Science at Northumbria University in Newcastle England.
Dr. Francis Masse has done research about political ecology and geology, and focuses on the interactions between humans and wildlife with a focus on wildlife crime and poaching. In 2016, Dr. Masse did a research study in Mozambique Africa on wildlife displacement and how it was affecting the residents and their livestock. In this case, it wasn’t natural causes such as flooding that was displacing the wildlife, it was the creation of a park that wildlife were being moved to that contained communities of people. This research is relevant to my topic because it focuses on human-wildlife interaction and the outcomes and potential dangers for both the people living there and for the animals themselves. In both this case and in the case of Hurricane Ida, it is unfortunate that in an effort to survive, the animals end up in potentially more dangerous situations that come from interacting with humans.
By: Loren Solomon
Summary. Around noon Sunday, August 29th Hurricane Ida made landfall as an extremely dangerous category 4 hurricane near Port Fourchon, Louisiana. At landfall it sustained winds measured to 150 mph, making Ida one of the worst storms to hit Louisiana. According to the New York Times on September 8, 2021, Ida caused long term damage to many cities, states, and neighboring areas, spanning from Louisiana, to the Gulf Coast, hitting neighboring countries such as Jamaica, Venezuela, Cuba, Columbia, and Cayman Islands, before moving north and effecting the east coast of the United states and Atlantic Canada. The storm caused catastrophic flooding and other damages, making it the sixth costliest tropical cyclone on record, with roughly $50.1 billion (USD) in damages. Aside from economic damage, it also caused heavy environmental damage, as the storm destroyed a fertilizer plant, which belched highly toxic anhydrous ammonia into the air, creating pollution. It also damaged two gas pipelines that leaked isobutane and propylene, flammable chemicals that are hazardous to human health. Furthermore, plastic plant Plaquemine, operated by Shintech, a subsidiary of the Japanese industrial giant Shin-Etsu lost power in the storm’s aftermath, and is emitting ethylene dichloride, yet another toxic substance, polluting those in Louisiana who were of those hit by the worst of the storm. Shell also reported that its refinery and chemical complex in Norco had released an unknown amount of hydrogen as the company shut down the plant ahead of the hurricane’s arrival, for it to later become flooded while emitting black smoke and flares. Other companies and plants have also stepped forward announcing news of chemical and oil leaks, as results of Hurricane Ida.
Why we should care? We should care about the pollution brought on by natural disasters such as Hurricane Ida, as they directly affect climate change and the environment as a whole. Warmer oceans provide the energy to intensify these types of storms.
I found this particular article fascinating, as it was updated to have information from when the storm first hit, as well as after the fact, to provide the best evidence and information regarding pollution caused by Hurricane Ida. Additionally, the article contains a plethora of examples in which Ida has damaged the environment, leaving cities in ruin of flooding and the physical damages that come with a severe storm, while also highlighting the very hazardous effects that come from pollution run off due to oil leaks and chemical spills etc… Furthermore, I chose this source as the article was well constructed and encouraged others to put forth change.
Science in Action.
Dr. Gavin A. Schmidt is a Climatologist at NASA, as well as a Climate modeler and Director of the NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies in New York.
Dr. Gavin A. Schmidt is certified in many areas of environmental science, more specifically in the study of climate. Climate is affected by many different variables, including tiny, uncontrollable shifts in our oceans to the massive amounts of greenhouse gases humans are adding to the atmosphere. As the director of NASA’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies, Dr. Gavin A. Schmidt develops detailed climate models that illustrate the effects of each of these factors. In doing so, he studies the past, present and future climate, as well as the many impacts and drivers of climate change, including solar irradiance, atmospheric chemistry, aerosols, and greenhouse gases.
By: Mikaela Owen
Summary. Hurricane Ida has been named the 7th most costly hurricane in the US since 2000, and it is living up to that billion dollar number. The tremendous amounts of water caused incredible damage to people's homes, schools, and public places alike creating a mass amount of unsalvageable waste. Just days after the hurricane hit Louisiana, the rains continued across the East at a record rate of 3 inches in New York in just an hour. When a surplus of water is coming down in areas not acclimated for this type of weather, it overflows the small rivers and streams causing detrimental flooding damage and flash floods. In fact, one of the largest causes of death from Hurricane Ida was due to cars becoming swept away or stranded in overflooded roads. Another high death toll was due to basement apartments in the city flooding with water at such an alarming rate; the residents did not have time to escape. While states like Louisiana can plan for storms like Ida due to their history of tropical hurricanes, Ida has brought a new threshold of danger we were not expecting. While the levees did their job for the most part, many are still left without power and may be for another month. Indeed, as of September 13th, roughly 100,000 people in Louisiana remain without power. Unfortunately, as we can expect, higher impact storms like Ida are largely due to the ongoing climate crisis. Now more than ever do we need to take action in improving our infrastructure and stepping up to find solutions to reduce our climate impact. If we do not take certain measures now, storms like Ida can become more frequent, and the damage can be much more severe.
Why we should care? This topic is something we all should care about as hurricanes have large impacts on all different aspects. Everything is connected, and tropical storms may only get worse if we don't change our ways.
This article provides a detailed outline on multiple effects of the flooding caused by Hurricane Ida. One being how overcrowded cities like New York and illegal housing are a continuous issue poverty stricken citizens face. I cannot fathom being in a hurricane-like situation and waking up to the cries of my neighbors who I cannot help, or potentially living in a dangerous apartment like theirs. I also think this article does a good job at showing multiple government leaders recognizing climate change and it's impacts that we face today. With the governors of New York and New Jersey and President Biden making comments on how extreme storms like this could become a new normal given the effects of climate change, I hope it's a wake up call to those in that area and anywhere for that matter to start making changes for the better. An interesting effect of Ida that the article also brings to light is the tornadoes that hit in Maryland and New Jersey. Landing quickly and leaving much damage, these too provided mass devastation to citizens in those states along with flooded streets and homes.
Science in Action.
Dr. Owen Kelley is a Hurricane Research Scientist at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center.
Dr. Owen Kelley is fluent in multiple of NASA's software programs and uses his skills to conduct research on tropical cyclones and their functioning systems. By using different technologies such as Global Precipitation Measurement or (GPM), Kelley uses NASA's data to show precipitation impacts on various areas as well as lightening detection, steering currents, and infrared observations of storms. This data helps citizens and scientists to get a better picture of the impact tropical storms have on certain areas, and how we can better prepare for future storms. In correlation to Hurricane Ida, data like this can show how much precipitation happened and where, and what areas of the southeast coast were hit with the most impact.
By: Lindsey Hazelton
Summary. Right from the initial sight of Hurricane Ida, it was destined to be powerful. This is because the water temperatures in the Gulf of Mexico were hotter than usual, leaving the air hotter and moister as well. Hurricane Ida had perfect conditions to form, using the warm water as its foundation. This presents climate change in action. According to Kerry Emanuel, an atmospheric scientist, people are going to have to get used to these kinds of storms as the Earth continues to warm up. In the United Nation’s last climate report, it is stated that fossil fuels as well as many other human activities are what have led to more powerful hurricanes. On top of this, the Gulf of Mexico has spots where the water is three to five degrees Fahrenheit warmer than usual, says the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. The hurricane traveled over these warmer parts which allowed it to grow bigger and bigger. As the hurricane traveled further inland, the surface temperature of the sea became hotter which also led to an increase in its size. Hurricane Idea was said to make landfall on Sunday, August 29th. On the Thursday before, Hurricane Idea was not yet named and was also only considered a tropical depression. It was upgraded to a hurricane due to the winds reaching up to 75MPH. It kept gaining power and by Saturday night was considered a category 2 hurricane. The winds had reached up to 105MPH. The storm made landfall the next day, which was predicted, bringing winds that reached up to 150MPH and seven feet of storm surge. Due to climate change, there is more of a difference between the amount of heat in the ocean and amount of moisture the atmosphere can hold. This contributes to quicker energy transfer and evaporation. This allows storms to develop quicker and makes them even more fierce. Not only that, but the amount of water that hurricanes bring will increase as climate change gets worse. The air is able to hold seven percent more moisture for each degree Celsius that it heats up. That is very dangerous in terms of the amount of precipitation hurricanes can potentially cause. With increased rainfall, flooding is more likely which is another big concern. The rising sea levels from global warming are also of concern, because with these higher levels, more water gets pushed onshore by wind during these storms. Louisiana, where Hurricane Ida made landfall, has areas where the water is 24 inches higher than it was in 1950. This hurricane is just one example of what is to come for the development and formation of other storms in the future. According to Kerry Emanuel, Ida is a step into the door of what can happen when a hurricane reaches its “full potential.”
Why we should care? The devastation that hurricanes have caused in the past will only get worse in the future with rising temperatures due to climate change. Something must be done before the wreckage is too detrimental.
I found this article interesting because it displays just how damaging climate change is and will continue to be in the future if something is not done. We see climate change in many aspects of life and around the Earth, but I personally did not realize the effect it would have on the brutality of a hurricane. It struck me that with the increasing temperatures, these powerful hurricanes will become a norm. It is important to be aware that human activity is one thing that is contributing to rising temperatures so something can be changed. I also found it interesting that hurricanes gain so much power from warmer water and air. I only had basic knowledge about how hurricanes form, so this was eye-opening to read.
Science in Action.
Dr. Kerry Emanuel is an Atmospheric Scientist at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.
Dr. Kerry Emanuel studies tropical meteorology and climate, specializing in hurricane physics. His research is focused on these things as well as how clouds, cumulus convection, water vapor and upper-ocean mixing determine climate. Another specialization of his is tropical cyclones and moist convection in the atmosphere. This connects to Hurricane Ida’s formation and development because part of his research is geared towards how climate is connected to hurricanes. With one of his focuses being on hurricane physics, that has to do with the formation and development of them, which is exactly what this blog post discusses. His research is vital to learning more about what climate change will do to the strength of hurricanes in the future. Based on the article I read, he knows these powerful hurricanes will become more frequent. However, it is not certain how bad they’ll really get.
By: Tara Flaherty
Summary. Scientist Raffael Ernst discovered the 'zombie frog' while doing field research for his PhD in the Amazon forest. This newly discovered species of frog lives most of its life underground and the male of its species is only known to call out during or directly after heavy rainfall. While out during a rainstorm Ernst heard a peculiar croak, one of an amphibian, but not one he had heard before. Following the sound of the cry Ernst and his fellow researchers dug in the mud until they found the source of the sound. The animal found only spanned about 1.5 inches and was orange and speckled in color. One would think that because of the species name that the zombie frog would have unusual physical features or extremely odd behavior but the zombie frog isn't drastically different than any normal species of frog. The species was instead given the name 'zombie frog' because of the appearance of the researchers after digging in the mud for hours. Little is actually known about the species itself, besides its nocturnal tendencies and physical features. Sadly Ernst believes that the zombie frog is nearing extinction. Amphibians are great indicators of environmental problems because of how sensitive they are to their surroundings, because of this up to seventy percent of amphibians are threatened with extinction. The amazon rainforest is struggling with this because of how much humans are abusing the wildlife. Industrial interests are tearing the forest up for resources including poaching, timber extraction, mining, and much more. Amphibians are dying because of decreased water quality, disease, habitat destruction and more in not only the Amazon but around the world because of humans ecological footprint.
Why we should care? Although this article isn't about a drastic issue that is affecting the entire world it is still an important topic in the fact that it reveals how little of the world is understood even by the most experienced scientists.
I found this article interesting because of how unique the species discussed is. I think as a whole frogs are a very fascinating species and this new species of frog does not disappoint. The name 'zombie frog' grabs your attention right away and it's interesting to find out that scientists didn't name them after the way they act or look but instead named them that because of how they, the scientists, looked after searching in the mud for the frogs. The frogs behave unlike many of their kind in the way that they live most of their lives underground and the males of their species only call out during or right after heavy rainfall. Making them a very difficult species to find.
Science in Action.
Dr. Raffael Ernst is a Herpetologist at the Senckenberg Research Institute.
Dr. Raffael Ernst has over 100 publications of his own discoveries that span from discussion of certain endangered frog species to the Atlantic forest hotspot. Although Ernst is originally from Germany he travels the globe for his research. I think this is valuable because his published works are all from hands on experience and things that he has seen with his own eyes. As mentioned in my summary above he was the scientist who discovered the 'zombie frog'. The discovery of new species is valuable to the science community because it gives us another glimpse of all the life that our Earth can sustain.
By: Ximena Mazariegos
Summary. Ice worms are quite mysterious considering how only about a half-dozen researchers have studied these worms. Ice worms are found in the Northwest Glaciers and grow to be only about an inch long. High-altitude glaciers are not considered hotspots for living creatures, they are usually barren of life. That is why finding these ice worms living in the glaciers was astonishing, but despite the fact the ice worms live in the glaciers, they can actually die if the temperature goes below 32 degrees Fahrenheit (0 degrees Celsius). Since not much research has been done on these ice worms, we have no idea how they reproduce or what role they play in the ecosystem. According to Scott Hotaling, a researcher at Washington State University, winter might be the season where they can increase their energy stores on account of the fact that they are larger than when they first emerge in early spring. We do not know exactly what their diet consists of, but we think they survive off snow algae and bacteria. Researchers also hypothesize that they survive winter by burrowing under the snow. As I stated before, researchers still do not know how ice worms reproduce but seeing how they find smaller worms during the summer they assume the ice worms hatch somewhere before that. During the summer, the worms surface to the top when the sun is less intense, but we still do not know why they surface. We do know that they can withstand extremely elevated levels of ultraviolet light according to researcher Hotaling. There are still many unanswered questions about ice worms, they have gone unnoticed for far too long, but more research is being done to find out more about these creatures and what role they play in their ecosystem.
Why we should care? There are so many things we do not know about these ice worms. We don't know what role they play in the ecosystem, we basically know nothing of them. Digging deeper could lead us to finding more biodiversity that we are unaware of.
I found this particular article interesting because it talked about the return of the mysterious ice worms. I had no idea they existed, so I was intrigued from their word usage "return". This article stood out too because it mentioned something about biodiversity which we learned about in class. It goes over the hypotheses of how the ice worms reproduce, what they eat, and how they survive. It also stood out that the article talked about how ice worms could withstand high levels of ultraviolet light. I felt like this article included the most information than the others I had looked at.
Science in Action.
Dr. Scott Hotaling is a Postdoctoral Research Associate at Washington State University.
Scott Hotaling’s research centers around the understanding of organisms living in cold places and how they have adapted to it, but it also focuses on the future of these organisms considering how climate change is affecting them or is going to affect them. I believe this research is relevant to my blog because ice worms are organisms that live in a cold climate and can and will be affected by climate change. Climate change is already melting glaciers, and this is the type of research Hotaling focuses on. He is already working on finding out more about these ice worms since they are a complete mystery to us right now.
By: Kamaya Hayes
Summary. Studies have shown that the most prominent reason of habitat loss is climate change. Due to that, there has been a 40% decline in polar bears at the Southern Beaufort Sea. Nearly all of the 19 sub populations of polar bears from the Beaufort sea to the Siberian Arctic, would face being wiped out because of the loss of sea ice. With more sea ice melting each year the bears are forced onto land, away from their food supply. Ice melting can lead to prolonged fast and reduced nursing of cubs by mother. Also, the mothers not being able to eat properly can cause them to be underweight. Being underweight leads to less cubs being born and the ones that are born are much smaller than usual. Some of the polar bears remain on the ice year round, but most areas are melting in the spring and summer, which forces them ashore as well. As the regions warm, ice in the summer has declined by about 13 percent per decade, compared to 1981-2010 averages. In 2010, 120 million acres of northern Alaska was declared as critical habitat for polar bears under the Endangered Species Act. Temperature in the Arctic is rising at least twice a week and sea ice coverage is diminishing by nearly four percent per decade. Polar bears could become nearly extinct by the end of the century due to shrinking of ice, if global warming continues. So as you can tell the polar bears are at a very vulnerable state.
Why we should care? I think you should care about this topic because animals homes are being destroyed. You should take into consideration as if it were your family losing their home. Also, climate change and global warming are effecting us everyday as well.
I found this topic interesting because i love animals. I think we should treat them with the same respect as we do each other. Animals have families just like us humans and the fact that we played a part in the decline is unsettling. So we should do everything we can to make matters better for them. There isn’t just one type of polar bear, there are several different bears that live numerous parts of the world and there all at a decline. So think its time we all try and figure out a solution to help the beautiful creatures.
Science in Action.
Dr. Andrew Derocher is a Professor of Biology at the University of Alberta in Edmonton, Canada.
Dr. Andrew Derocher studies the Artic, polar bears, carnivores, ecology, behavior, and climate change. His current research interest are conservation, ecology, and management of large mammals (mainly polar bears). He currently asses the effects of climate change and toxic chemicals on polar bears. He believes his research is to improve ones understanding of large carnivores with specific reference to how they are affected by human activities. For over 38 years his focus has been on polar bears, but he is still invested in his other studies. His research is revenant to my topic because that’s what my summary is about. It’s about climate change and how it caused loss of polar bear habitat.
By: Sobhie Nazal
Summary. The environment is very crucial and needs to be tended to in ways of which benefits the future of animals starting with their present lifestyles. According to the article "Birds of Prey Face Global Decline From Habitat Loss and Poisons", current habitats of birds of prey are not being guarded responsibly or considerably, causing a decline of habitats for these helpless animals and a scarcity of population. The slowly diminishing habitats are the reasons these species can not stand a chance and their numbers continuously decrease. Although pesticides on animals are a great cause for toxins entering these species bodies causing them harm, they are not the only reason these birds are poisoned. The greatest killers accountable for the this cruelty results in the negligent actions made by humans. Some species of these birds like raptors, usually feed upon rodents and dead animals and rely on their food to survive. However, toxins like lead are habitually exposed in the foods they eat due to gun residue and ammunition from the firearms of hunters. Anti-inflammatory drugs injected into animals these species feed upon is another reasoning for the possessing destruction in regards to these birds. Drugs like these used on the animals the birds prey upon were an extensive reflection of the loss of 95% of vultures after devouring carcasses with the intent to eat in order to survive. This falls into the recklessness of humans being careless to the population or habitats of these now endangered animals. Habitats have been destructed by humans who made actions based off of inconsiderate decisions to knock down hundreds of trees and call for a reckoning upon these critical animals facing extinction due to shrunken habitats. Species that fall victim enormously to tree cutting and tree burning relate to many birds like, Harpy eagles with most of their population resulting in a 54% decline and a 47% depletion of Owls. These primary birds that take on the identity of critical predators of ecosystems are no longer serving their initial purpose as mentioned by bird scientist Gerardo Ceballos. What people fail to realize is that when an animal is at the verge of extinction it is a threat to us all. This begins to affect ecosystems, life cycles, and the world all together as a whole. It should be of deep deliberation and focus to aim at a better life, better future, and better restorative approach as a society to help aid these birds of prey that deserve to live fierce and not become scarce.
Why we should care? We should care about this topic because it effects both the lives of animals and disrupts the life cycle.
This article was positively content heavy and filled with information. What struck my interests the most about this article was the statistics given. The direct numbers of losses and percentages of birds of prey that have continued to decrease over time due to their habitats, really struck my interests and curiosity. This article is really interesting because it uses a few pictures to engage and entertain their community of readers showing a sense of imagery that helps us identify birds of prey. This article was also very pleasing because many very well known scientists and researchers were a part of this article and input their own personal findings or opinions in coordination with their prior investigations to help make a better clarification or understanding on statistical findings, making it more of an eyeopener to readers like myself. Nowadays many people overlook the problems animals are facing becoming nearly extinct and their homes being destroyed, and I think people need to come to a realization to try and protect the homes of animals to ensure a healthy longevity of life for birds of prey.
Science in Action.
Dr. Gerardo Ceballos is a Full Time Senior Researcher and Scientist at the UNAM Institute of Ecology.
Gerardo Ceballos is a very acclaimed bird scientist known to many people and researches topics with high relevance to the environment and the way we live and how it affects certain individuals or species. Gerardo studies issues of ecology and conversation and connects his findings to help humans utilize more efficient sustainability in the world. His research is a very essential key component to our environment and also has a great relevance to my blog topic. Gerardo and his experiments help bring awareness to endangered species which directly coordinates with my blog topic on birds of prey and the scarcity of these birds along with their habitats.
By: Emma Cockerill
Summary. Brood X debuted in North America with a mighty chorus earlier this summer. Trillions of Cicadas emerging across North America after 17 years underground did not disappoint. Blanketing the North East, Mid-Atlantic and Mid-West regions, the unmistakable sound of male Cicadas battling for attention filled the air. Cicadas are unmistakably loud, their song can reach 100 decibels, almost as loud as an ambulance siren. Brood X is particularly important as it is the largest of all Cicada broods. Broods are groups of Cicada which emerge either annually or periodically depending on the species. Periodical broods are groups of Cicadas which share the same years of emergence after a period of time. There are 15 periodicals which emerge on either a 17-year or 13-year cycle. During their time a couple of feet underground, nymph Cicadas develop and feed on sap from tree roots. On the year of emergence when the soil temperature hits about 64⁰F, after soaking rain, Cicada’s tunnel to the surface to mature and grow wings. It is a survival strategy of Cicadas to emerge in such large groups for predator protection. The purpose is to overwhelm the potential predators with a great number in the hopes that enough will survive to reproduce. Broods are numbered by Roman numerals corresponding to the emergence year since records began in the late 1800’s. Given each Broods scarce visibility over such long periods of time, research during the scheduled year of emergence is critical. Ecologists have been anticipating the arrival of Brood X in 2021, a unique opportunity to take advantage of technologies not in existence 17 years ago. Cicadas are harmless and native to North America and have been tracked and cataloged by scientists and citizens alike for over a hundred years. Not until recently, however, does every person have a smart phone with a camera and GPS. Citizen science was of great importance this year, with every willing person able to take a picture and upload the location of Brood X to community maps. Two mapping programs were created in preparation for Brood X’s arrival earlier this year. Cicada Safari and iNaturalist both launched free apps for citizens to participate, yielding results never possible 17 years ago. Tracking Brood X and comparing to historical maps can give us clues to how urbanization and climate change has affected the biodiversity and habitability of the land.
Why we should care? Cicadas are an indication of environmental health and provides essential ecosystem services. As humans ravage the landscape, it is more important than ever to preserve the Cicadas for our own benefit.
Howard Russell is interviewed in this article by Michigan Radio in April, before the emergence of Brood X began. Russell is an Entomologist at Michigan State University. He explains the historical Brood X distribution specific to Michigan and why it is so important to preserve our mature trees. Cicadas need mature trees for their roots as a food source when burrowed underground. Deforestation in the Mid-West has limited habitats available for many broods. Russell also revealed that past cycles of Brood X in Michigan have been sighted in Washtenaw, Lenawee, Genesee, Oakland and Livingston Counties. He explained that undisturbed preserves such as Cherry Hill Nature Preserve near Ann Arbor provides the perfect accommodation for the insects to live.
Science in Action.
Dr. Gene Kritsky is the Dean of Behavior and Natural Sciences Mount Saint Joseph University, Cincinnati, Ohio.
Dr. Kritsky is an entomologist who has published numerous books and journals on insects and evolution. This year, he published a book on Brood X, ‘Periodical Cicadas: The Brood X Edition’. He has studied Cicada brood history over many centuries. His previous research in Ohio discovered that the distribution of 17-year periodical Cicadas match the geographic regions created by the ice ages. Kritsky and his colleagues developed the app, Cicada Safari, to track sightings during the Brood X emergence. He explains the importance of tracking Brood X as the distribution is an indication of how their survival is faring. Periodical broods are fairly resistant to climate change but Kritsky insists habitat loss is the main threat to Brood X due to deforestation.
By: Mark Kaminski
Summary. According to the EPA, Lake Superior contains over 2,900 cubic miles of fresh water. Containing 10% of the earth's fresh water, Lake Superior is the largest lake, by surface area, in the world. This lake was once thought to be "immune" to harmful blue-green algal blooms, but the last decade has shown otherwise. A protective characteristic of lake superior is its clean cold waters, since blue-green algae normally thrive in warm, nutrient dense waters. A fundamental shift in the waters of Lake Superior has recently allowed this algal to form. Since 2012, several algal blooms have been reported, with the largest bloom occurring in 2012 and 2018. The blue-green algal forms vast clusters of cyanobacteria that survive on nutrient run off and sunlight. The blooms have been described as a chalk-green color and can produce toxins that have been linked to the deaths of livestock and pets. Climate change can be linked to the rising water temperatures and the increase in nutrient run off. Region wide warming has caused a sufficient decrease on the Lake's ice cover during the winter and warmer surface waters during the summer. In fact, a joint study headed by the National Aeronautics and Space Administration reported that Lake Superior is warming at the fastest rate. In addition, surface water temperatures have increased 5 degrees Fahrenheit over the last 30 years. According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, Climate change has also caused an increase in precipitation intensity by 40%, in the region. With larger, more violent storms there has been an uptick in erosion, ultimately leading to more phosphorous running off into the lake. This phosphorous is thus one of the main food sources for the algal. These blooms can lead to widespread problems in human infrastructure, in addition to, devastating damage to ecosystems. Blocking sunlight, degrading water quality, and depleting dissolved oxygen levels can choke out the local aquatic ecosystems causing ripples down the food chain. This in turn can hurt the major fishing industries and drive away tourist due to the unsettling smell and color. The blooms can also damage anything that may be consuming water from the lake. For example, in 2014 a bloom in Lake Erie forced the city of Toledo to shut off water intake from the lake because the city could not properly treat the water. Overall, the blooms found in Superior have not yet reached disaster levels, but it is feared that the lake is at a tipping point. In December 2020, The International Joint Commission between the United States and Canada stated that blooms in Lake Superior are expected to worsen, and a joint effort is needed to maintain adequate water quality of the Great Lakes.
Why we should care? This topic is important because toxic algal blooms are now found in one of the worlds largest lakes. In a single decade algal blooms went from being impossible to a yearly occurrence in Lake Superior.
I found this article interesting because it is dated back in 2015, just three years after the first algal bloom was reported in Lake Superior. It also reiterated the fact that Lake Superior was warming at the fastest pace out of all the great lakes. The article focuses more on the other Great Lakes, but it does a great job outlining some of the devastation that these algal blooms can and have caused. The article also mentions that these algal blooms could cause “dead zones” which would result in more methane being released into the atmosphere, leading to more climate change. One of the most chilling things mentioned in the article is the very last sentence where Donald Uzarski, of Central Michigan University is quoted saying “…small change in water temperature produces a domino effect…”, this domino effect that just six years later we are experiencing.
Science in Action.
Holly Wellward Kelly is a Senior Research Technician and Aquatic Ecologist at the University of Minnesota Duluth.
Holly Wellward Kelly is an Aquatic Ecologist who has studied everything from costal wetlands to the impact of pharmaceuticals on aquatic ecosystems. Currently she is working on monitoring the phytoplankton communities in the Great Lakes and working with aquatic invasive species. This is relevant to the Algal blooms on Lake Superior because these blooms impact aquatic ecosystems and degrade the water quality. This research is also relevant because these algal blooms are not occuring because of one factor but a verity of reasons. Kelly also has a unique perspective on this topic because Duluth Minnesota is located right on Lake Superior.
By: Patrick Carlson
Summary. Since the 1880's Sugar island has been a must visit attraction for locals from Canada and Michigan. The sweet maple trees on the island gave it the name "Sugar Island". It became such a tourist spot that pavilions, docks, and even a small amusement park were put on the island. As Great Lakes Now describes, "Grosse Ile residents often refer to the years that followed as the golden era of Sugar Island". Unfortunately the following decades the island was practically abandoned due to failed residential attempts until 2011 when the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service purchased it to be part of the Detroit River International Wildlife Refuge. Sugar island marks an important spot for bird migrations and a huge spawning/nursery for many fish species. In the 1980's Sugar Island was designated as an area of concern regarding the high pollution rates of the Detroit river. Since the 1930's the island has shrunk by about 20% due to rising water levels, and frequencies of storms. The solution took many years but finally came to fruition in 2018. A series of small islands were to be put around the island to create a barrier for fish nurseries and to prevent large waves to erode the island as drastically as before. It also includes adding a rocky reef farther offshore to attract native fish. This project adds about 20 acres of wetlands and natural habitats for native species of fish, birds, reptiles, and amphibians while also reducing the damage done by climate change.
Why we should care? Sugar Island is a prime example of an ecosystem that can be restored through the effort of many. It acts as a natural home for both common and endangered species, a purifier of nearby water, and a barrier against incoming floods/storm surges that erode our shores.
The News Herald explained a very interesting piece of data that was honestly quite shocking. In the last 200 years, since European settlers had arrived, almost 97% of the Detroit rivers coastal wetlands have been destroyed. Because a change this drastic occurred, both the United States and Canada were forced to create an international agreement in which areas around the Great Lakes were designated as areas of very high concern. This cooperation will allow multiple organizations and agencies to work towards a common goal of delisting some of the very important coastal areas and island; sugar Island being one of the most notable.
Science in Action.
Dr. Rani-Henrik Andersson is a Senior University Lecturer in North American Studies at the University of Helsinki.
Rani-Henrik Andersson is one of the most interesting researchers on the Sugar Island topic in recent years. His research is focused more on the development of Sugar Island since its inhabitance by Finnish immigrants in the early 1900's. Knowing what the land's uses for development can help us understand the composition of the soils, types of flora and fauna introduced by the cultivation of the land. By knowing more about the history of the Island, it may aid in future restoration and protection of an extremely important ecological ecosystem directly involved with the entire great lakes system as a whole.
By: Tommy Maloney
Summary. In April of 2021 while conducting research on sturgeon the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service was able to reel in a 240-pound female sturgeon from the lower Detroit River. The fish measuring in at 6 feet 10 inches long and weighing 240 pounds was estimated to be approximately 100 years old. Sturgeon being a dying species, this is a very stunning specimen to be recorded especially given the location it was caught. News of the giant being caught by Grosse Ile quickly spread around the community. The lower Detroit River is a very heavily fished area by local sportsmen so news of a sturgeon of these dimensions shocked a lot of people. After a five minutes and multiple failed attempts the group of three was able to land the fish. They estimated the fish to have been born in the early 1920’s but believe it could be even older than that. Commercial fisheries severely overfished these sturgeon because of their great taste and the taste of their eggs, also known as caviar. And if it was not the overfishing that killed one of these fish the destruction of their habitat did. Damming their natural habitats creates difficulties breeding for these fish because they require a strong current to be able to reproduce. On top of those two, water pollution has made living conditions for these fish much worse. A fish with a population so great it was seen as a nuisance now relies on us to help rebuild and clean up what they call home in hopes we can bring back their population to a safe and healthy number.
Why we should care? As an avid fisherman I believe preserving and restoring these waters is extremely important giving it is connected with the largest source of fresh water in the world to help preserve it for future generations.
As an avid fisherman in southeast Michigan, hearing of news like this really shocked me. Not only are sturgeon very rare to catch in general, to see one of this size is eye opening. Its reassuring to know that the Detroit River is still healthy enough to be home to such an astonishing specimen. I believe that it is very important to preserve our great lakes and freshwater. In the past there has been a lot of damage done to them by big companies and negligent people. There is a lot to do to restore these waters, but nothing is impossible. These waterways have been very important in producing and exporting goods and conducting trade, but more importantly we are surrounded by the worlds largest source of fresh water in the world, and we need to do everything possible to preserve it for future generations.
Science in Action.
Dr. Kim Scribner is a Professor in the Michigan State University Department of Fisheries and Wildlife.
Kim Scribner is a professor at Michigan State University in their department of fisheries and wildlife. He has recently received a grant from the Michigan Department of Natural Resources. His studies focus on restoring the population of lake sturgeon in Michigan. This is relevant to the topic of my blog because my blog talked about the surprising specimen caught in an area that has been severely affected by habitat damage and overfishing and pollution. Scribner’s work is focused on restoring the population of sturgeon, like the one caught in the Detroit River, and bring them back to a healthy habitat where their population can thrive.