13 Sep 2013:
Warmer Ocean Water Is Key
Factor in Melting Ice Shelves, Study Says
Recent research into one of West Antarctica's most rapidly melting glaciers and ice shelves has shown that rising ocean temperatures and a series of channels lacing the underside of
Edge of Pine Island ice sheet
the shelf are the key factors in the rapid thinning of the shelf
and the swift advance of the glacier behind it. Reporting in Science
, U.S. scientists said that instruments deployed on and under the Pine Island Glacier and ice shelf over the past two years have shown that warmer ocean water has been flowing through a series of channels under the shelf, causing the 31-mile-long floating slab of ice to thin at the alarming rate of 2.4 inches per day and loosening the shelf's hold on the bedrock below. The melting ice shelf itself doesn't contribute to sea level rise, but as it thins it allows more of the land-based Pine Island Glacier to flow into the sea,
which is contributing to sea level rise.
10 Sep 2013:
New Prize is Created to
Improve Measurements of Ocean Acidity
Philanthropist Wendy Schmidt is offering $2 million in prize money
to inventors who can develop inexpensive and easily deployable sensors to measure ocean acidification. The Wendy Schmidt Ocean Health X Prize
is offering $1 million to the team that invents the most accurate sensors to measure the ocean’s acidity and $1 million to the team that devises the most affordable and easy-to-use sensors. Biologist Paul Bunje, a senior executive for oceans at the X-Prize Foundation, said that because current ocean acidity sensors can cost more than $5,000, very little is known about the pace of ocean acidification in various regions and depths. The goal, said Bunje, is to deploy many thousands of sensors worldwide. Rising concentrations of atmospheric carbon dioxide mean that more CO2 is being dissolved in the oceans, steadily making them more acidic.
06 Sep 2013:
Immense Pacific Volcano Is
Among The Largest in the Solar System
A massive underwater volcano the size of New Mexico has been discovered 1,000 miles east of Japan, Nature Geoscience reports
. Covering an area of 120,000 square
miles, the volcano is 50 times larger than Hawaii's Mauna Loa, making it the largest volcano on Earth, according to a team of researchers
from the U.S., Japan, and the U.K. The newly discovered volcano, named Tamu Massif, is only 25 percent smaller than the immense volcano on Mars, Olympus Mons, which is large enough to spot with a backyard telescope. Tamu Massif is a shield volcano, with a low, broad shape and gradually sloped flanks. Its name derives from Texas A&M University, where the lead researcher taught for three decades.
30 Aug 2013:
Greenland Ice Hides Gorge
Longer than the Grand Canyon
A massive gorge nearly twice as long as the Grand Canyon is hidden under Greenland's ice sheet, reports a team of researchers from the U.K., Canada, and Italy.
With a width of about six miles and a maximum depth of 2,600 feet, the previously undiscovered canyon is as wide as its Arizona counterpart and nearly half as deep. Flowing water likely carved the canyon long before the formation of the mile-deep ice sheet that has blanketed it for the past few million years. Researchers found the feature using ice-penetrating radar equipment, they reported in Science
. The canyon does not yet have a name. "It's remarkable to find something like this when many people believe the surface of the earth is so well mapped," said lead author Jonathan Bamber, of the University of Bristol.
26 Aug 2013:
Ocean Acidification Could
Amplify Global Warming, Study Says
The increasing acidification of the world’s oceans caused by rising concentrations of atmospheric carbon dioxide not only poses a threat to marine creatures, but also could lead to an intensification of planetary warming,
according to a new study. A team of U.S., British, and German researchers conducted experiments in seawater enclosures, known as mesocosms
, showing that the increasing acidification of the ocean leads to a drop in production of an important sulfur compound, dimethylsulphide, or DMS. Marine emissions of DMS are the largest natural source of atmospheric sulfur,
and those sulfur aerosols play an important role in reflecting the sun’s energy back into space and cooling the planet. Reporting in the journal Nature Climate Change
, the scientists found that when they created acidic conditions in the seawater enclosures that match pH levels expected in 2100, emissions of DMS fell by roughly 18 percent. The scientists said their study was the first to prove the link between rising ocean acidification and the potential decrease in planet-cooling sulfur dioxide aerosols.
20 Aug 2013:
Google ‘Street View’ Will
Document Changes to World's Coral Reefs
Marine biologists are teaming up with Google to photograph detailed 360-degree panoramas of coral reefs around the globe. Using technology similar to
Google’s Street View feature, users will be able to survey coral reefs much like they might scope out a city block. The project, Google Street View Oceans
, has already surveyed a 150-kilometer stretch of the Great Barrier Reef and is now working on reefs in the Caribbean
. "Only 1 percent of humanity has ever dived on a coral reef, and by making the experience easily accessible the survey will help alert millions of people around the world to the plight of coral reefs," said Ove Hoegh-Guldberg, a marine biologist at the University of Queensland in Australia who is leading the survey. Image recognition software will log the distribution and abundance of marine organisms, and the researchers hope "citizen scientists" viewing the reefs will help assess other key measures of reef health.
19 Aug 2013:
Future Flood Losses
Could Increase Ten Times by 2050
The rapid growth of the world’s coastal cities, coupled with sea level rise and land subsidence, could mean that flood losses in major metropolitan areas could rise from
$6 billion in 2005 to more than $60 billion in 2050
, according to a new study. Reporting in the journal Nature Climate Change
, researchers said sea level increases of 8 to 16 inches by 2050 could cause $60 billion to $63 billion in damages in 136 of the world’s coastal cities.
That figure assumes the cities will undertake some flood control measures. Cities whose infrastructure and buildings are now most at risk — including New York; New Orleans; Miami; Guangzhou, China; and Osaka, Japan — will be joined in four decades by other rapidly growing cities,
such as Ho Chi Minh City in Vietnam and Abidjan, Ivory Coast.
12 Aug 2013:
Live Video Stream Provides
Rare Glimpse of Deepsea Marine World
The U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) this month is streaming online a live video feed from the deep-sea canyons off the northeastern U.S. coast
, offering a real-time glimpse of
the marine diversity on the ocean floor. In a 36-day expedition launched last month
, NOAA researchers are using a remote-controlled vehicle tethered to the research ship Okeanos Explorer
to capture video footage of rare marine creatures, deep coral communities, and cold vents, or seeps, from largely unexplored U.S. waters. NOAA is employing a remotely operated vehicle, known as Deep Discoverer
, and a sophisticated camera sled to explore and broadcast video — accompanied by real-time narration from scientists — from depths of up to 6,000 meters, or nearly 20,000 feet. The project will continue until August 17.
07 Aug 2013:
Mimicking Cactus Design,
Scientists Devise Oil Spill Cleanup Method
Chinese researchers have developed a method of removing oil from polluted water using tiny barbed spikes that mimic the natural design of a cactus
The cactus opuntia microdasys
Writing in the journal Nature Communications
, the Beijing-based researchers describe how arrays of tiny copper spikes, similar to the cone-shaped spikes of a type of cactus known as Opuntia microdasys
, are able to collect micron-sized oil droplets that might otherwise be difficult to remove from water. The copper spikes are extremely thin at their point but get wider as they get closer to the base, creating a pressure difference that pulls droplets of oil toward the artificial skin-like surface. The oil then coalesces at the base of the cone, which can then be removed from the water. “Each conical needle in the array is a little oil collection device,” said Lei Jiang, lead author of the report. In tests, the researchers found that the needle arrays were able to remove about 99 percent of oil content from water, suggesting that the design could lead to new methods of cleaning up oil spills.
01 Aug 2013:
Whales Shown to Flee
From Mid-Frequency Military Sonar
Two new studies show that the use of military sonar can provoke whales to flee
, providing evidence that the naval operations may be a factor in mass strandings of whales and dolphins worldwide. According to one study
A blue whale
most marine mammal strandings related to naval sonar exercises involve beaked whales, a notoriously shy species that responds to noise levels well below those used by the U.S. Navy. Scientists believe the beaked whales may interpret the sonar noises as the sounds of killer whales. A separate study
found that even mid-frequency sonar affected the behavior of blue whales, the largest animals on earth, especially during feeding. After exposing tagged blue whales to simulated military sonar and other mid-frequency sounds, the animals often ceased feeding, increased swimming speeds, and traveled away from the sound. “Noise pollution threatens vulnerable populations, driving them away from areas important to their survival, and at worst injuring or even causing the deaths of some whales and dolphins,” Sarah Dolman of the non-profit group Whale and Dolphin Conservation told the Guardian
Interview: Leaving Our Descendants
A Whopping Increase in Sea Levels
Last week, a group of scientists led by Anders Levermann of the Potsdam Institute for Climate Change Research released a paper
that made a stark forecast:
For every 1 degree Celsius of temperature increase, the world will eventually experience a 2.3-meter increase in sea level. That means that should carbon emissions continue to rise at or near current rates, and temperatures soar 4 to 5 degrees C in the next century or two, the world could well experience sea level increases of many meters — dozens of feet — in the centuries and millennia to come. In an interview with Yale Environment 360
, Levermann discusses how he and his colleagues reached their conclusions, how much disruption such large sea level increases might cause, and why we need to ponder the effect of our actions on future generations. “Society needs to decide about how much damage it wants to do in the future and how much damage future generations can actually cope with,” he says.
Read the interview
19 Jul 2013:
European Fish Stocks
Show Signs of Recovery, Study Says
A major assessment of fish stocks in the northeast Atlantic Ocean shows that many species are recovering and are now being fished sustainably.
The surprising findings, reported in the journal Current Biology,
are based on data from government research institutes that collected millions of measurements of fish, both at sea and in markets. The study showed that for the first time in decades the majority of fish stocks in the northeast Atlantic are recovering, thanks to reforms instituted by individual nations and the European Union in 2002. This good news comes amid widespread criticism of EU fisheries policies
, which recently have undergone further reform. “We should be aware that low fishing pressure needs to be maintained until stocks recover,” said researcher Robin Cook of the University of Strathclyde in Scotland. “This is only the first step. Now we need to see numbers increase as a result of continued low fishing pressure.”
16 Jul 2013:
Russia Blocks Plans to Create
Massive Marine Reserve in Antarctica
Russian officials have blocked plans to establish the world’s largest marine reserve
in the waters off Antarctica, citing concerns that it would restrict their
John B. Weller/The Pew Charitable Trusts
Ross Sea pack ice
fishing interests in the region, according to news reports. The plan, which was proposed by the U.S. and New Zealand, would have protected a total of 2.3 million square miles in the Ross Sea, a deep, high-latitude body of water in the Southern Ocean. But during a meeting of the 25-member Commission for Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources, Russia questioned whether the organization had the legal right to create such a haven. A key sticking point for the Russians was the potential loss of the fishery for krill, a shrimp-like creature that is a critical food source for penguins, seabirds, seals, and whales, but is netted for use in Omega-3 dietary supplements.
10 Jul 2013:
Massive Iceberg Calves
Off Antarctica’s Pine Island Glacier
A massive chunk of Antarctica’s fastest-moving ice stream, the Pine Island Glacier, dropped into the Amundsen Sea this week
, nearly two years after
Click to enlarge
Alfred Wegener Institute/German Space Agency
Pine Island Glacier, 2011-2013
scientists first observed a crack in the glacier tongue. German scientists, who have been tracking the progress of the ice mass since NASA satellites first observed the crack in 2011, say the calved iceberg measured 720 square kilometers (278 square miles). There is no conclusive proof that climate change triggered the ice break, said Angelika Humbert, an ice researcher at the Alfred Wegener Institute. But shifting wind patterns around Antarctica are bringing warmer waters to the surface of the Southern Ocean in West Antarctica, which is hastening the thinning of some glaciers. Humbert said those warmer waters are causing the Pine Island Glacier to flow more rapidly into the Amundsen Sea.
08 Jul 2013:
Crowdsourcing Project Targets
Open-Source Tool for Ocean Research
A team of marine researchers is developing a blueprint for an inexpensive tool to collect oceanographic data, a venture they hope will make ocean science more accessible
to other scientists, educators, and marine enthusiasts. Using an open-access model
, the researchers hope to build their own CTD, a widely used oceanographic instrument that collects information on ocean temperature, depth, salinity, and density. While CTDs are vital to marine research, the technology can be prohibitively expensive for some “citizen scientists,” with costs running $5,000 to $25,000 per instrument. Traditional CTDs are small, cylindrical instruments that are dropped from boats and relay data back to shipboard computers. Using a crowdsourcing website, organizers of the so-called OpenCTD project are raising funds to design a CTD capable of collecting ocean data down to 200 meters at a cost of about $200.
01 Jul 2013:
Climate Change Driving
More Active El Niño Cycles, Study Says
A new analysis of tree-ring data indicates that the climate cycle known as the El Niño – Southern Oscillation (ENSO) has been more active during the latter part of the 20th century than at any other time during the past seven centuries
, suggesting that global warming is affecting this climate phenomenon. Using data from 2,222 tree-ring chronologies from the tropics and mid-latitudes in both the northern and southern Hemispheres, a team of scientists determined that ENSO-related behavior in the late 20th century was far greater than the natural variability reflected in data going back to 1300. A naturally occurring climate cycle, ENSO is characterized by warmer ocean temperatures off the west coast of South America, a phenomenon that can cause major droughts, floods, and extreme weather across the Pacific. According to Jinbao Li, a scientist at the University of Hawaii and lead author of the study published in the journal Nature Climate Change
, greenhouse gases are altering the planet’s radiation balance and thus intensifying ENSO cycles.
20 Jun 2013:
Global Reports Underline
Threats to Planet’s Bird Species
New global research underlines the rising threats facing the world’s bird species, with three reports providing evidence that climate change, overfishing, and unsustainable agriculture are taking a heavy toll on
Puffins along the Maine coast.
avian populations worldwide. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) reports that numbers of some migratory bird populations in Maine — including Arctic terns and puffins — have plummeted in recent years
because their food supplies are disappearing as a result of commercial fishing and the shifting of fish to cooler waters, which is making it more difficult for some birds to feed their young. In a separate study, scientists predict that rising sea levels will devastate habitat for some migratory shore birds
in the coming decades. Higher sea levels, the study predicts, will flood 23 percent to 40 percent of the intertidal habitats for several shorebird species, triggering population declines of as much as 70 percent. Overall, one in eight bird species globally is at risk of extinction
, according to a new report by BirdLife International
17 Jun 2013:
Changes in Jet Stream Triggered
Record Greenland Melt in 2012, Study Says
An unusual shift in the jet stream triggered the historic level of surface ice melt
that occurred across Greenland last summer, a new study says. Using satellite data and a computer model simulation, scientists from the University of Sheffield found that a high-pressure system developed in the mid-troposphere over Greenland for much of the summer, pushing warm southerly winds over the western edge of the ice sheet and creating a “heat dome” over Greenland. According to the study, published in the International Journal of Climatology
, this unprecedented event caused record melting across virtually the entire ice sheet, including on Summit Station, Greenland’s highest peak. Ocean temperatures and Arctic sea ice retreat, meanwhile, played a minimal part in the record surface ice melt, the scientists reported. The study predicted that the record ice melt of 2012 is not likely to be “climatically representative of future ‘average’ summers” during the coming century.
29 May 2013:
Genetically Modified Salmon
Can Breed with Wild Fish and Thrive
Fast-growing, genetically modified salmon can interbreed with wild brown trout and produce offspring that grow rapidly and out-compete other wild salmon in streams
, according to a new study. Researchers from Memorial University in Newfoundland, Canada, found that so-called “Frankenfish” — which are close to being approved for sale in the United States
— can easily interbreed with brown trout in the wild, creating offspring that aggressively compete for food with salmon. In settings that simulated real streams, the offspring of the genetically modified (GM) salmon and brown trout were so aggressive that they suppressed the growth of GM salmon by 82 percent and wild salmon by 54 percent. “These findings suggest that complex competitive interactions associated with transgenesis and hybridization could have substantial ecological consequences for wild Atlantic salmon should they ever come into contact [with GM salmon] in nature,” the researchers wrote in the Proceedings of the Royal Society B
. The creator of the GM salmon, Aqua Bounty, said the risks were minimal since all the GM salmon will be female, sterile, and produced in tanks on land.
22 May 2013:
Whale’s Battle with Nets
Is Revealed Through Monitoring Device
A small monitoring tag attached to an entangled North Atlantic right whale revealed just how much fishing gear impairs a whale’s ability to swim, dive, and feed
, scientists say. After locating a two-year-old whale,
EcoHealth Alliance, under permit number 594-1759
The entangled whale
dubbed Eg 3911, with fishing gear entangled around her mouth and pectoral fins, a team of scientists was able to attach a so-called Dtag in January 2011 that recorded her movements before, during, and after the team removed the nets. The whale “altered its behavior immediately following the disentanglement,” according to the study published in the journal Marine Mammal Science
. She swam faster, dove twice as deep, and stayed underwater for longer periods. Scientists say the added buoyancy, increased drag and reduced speed caused by such gear may overwhelm an animal's ability to forage for preferred prey, delay its arrival to feeding or breeding grounds, and ultimately drain its energy. Indeed, two weeks after disentangling Eg 3911 from the nets, an aerial survey spotted her dead at sea.
14 May 2013:
Shifting Petrel Diets Suggest
Effect of Humans on Ocean Food Web
An analysis of the bones of ancient and modern Hawaiian petrels has revealed that modern petrels, which forage in the open ocean, are eating prey lower on the food chain
than in centuries past, a dramatic shift
that coincides with the rise of industrial fishing. In tests conducted on petrel bones collected over three decades in the Hawaiian islands, a team of scientists found that the bones from 4,000 to 100 years ago contained higher ratios of nitrogen-15 and nitrogen-14 isotopes than the more recent bones, suggesting that the earlier birds ate bigger prey before changes in the food web composition of the Northeast Pacific. According to the scientists, the nitrogen ratio started to decline in the decades after the early 1950s, when industrial fishing started to extend beyond the continental shelves. “Our bone record is alarming because it suggests that open-ocean food webs are changing on a large scale due to human influence,” said Peggy Ostrom, a zoologist at Michigan State University and co-author of the study, published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences
03 May 2013:
Seawater Energy Technology
Is Focus of Pilot Project in China
The U.S. defense and aerospace giant, Lockheed Martin, is partnering with a major Chinese company to build a pilot project off the southern Chinese coast that will use temperature differentials between the deep and shallow ocean to generate electricity
. The technology, known as ocean thermal energy conversion (OTEC), uses the heat from warm surface waters to boil a fluid with a low boiling point, such as ammonia, producing steam to drive turbines. Colder water is then pumped from 2,500 to 3,000 feet under the sea, which condenses the steam into liquid; the liquid can then be boiled again to produce more steam and power. Lockheed Martin and its Chinese Partner, the Beijing-based Reignwood Group, said their project — the largest OTEC plant ever built — will produce 10 megawatts of power when it opens in 2017, enough to provide electricity for a large, planned resort that Reignwood is building.
29 Apr 2013:
Ocean off the U.S. Northeast
Was Warmest in 150 Years, Report Says
Sea surface temperatures along the northeastern U.S. were warmer in 2012 than during any year in the last 150 years
, a new report finds. According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s (NOAA) latest Ecosystem Advisory for the Northeast Shelf
, sea surface temperatures across the region — which extends from Cape Hatteras, N.C., to the Gulf of Maine — averaged 14 degrees C (57.2 degrees F) last year, significantly higher than the average temperature over the last three decades, which was 12.4 degrees C (54.3 degrees F). It was also the biggest one-year increase since records were first kept in 1854. While the data historically has been collected by ship-board instruments, NOAA now also incorporates satellite remote-sensing technology. “Changes in ocean temperatures and the timing and strength of spring and fall plankton blooms could affect the biological clocks of many marine species, which spawn at specific times of the year based on environmental cues like water temperature,” said Kevin Friedland, a NOAA scientist.
16 Apr 2013:
U.S. Offshore Seismic Testing
Threatens Many Marine Species, Study Says
The proposed use of seismic air guns in the search for offshore oil and gas reserves along the U.S. East Coast could injure or kill nearly 140,000 marine animals
annually and disrupt the vital activities of other species,
Moira Brown/New England Aquarium
North Atlantic right whale
a new study says. The seismic testing, in which guns filled with compressed air are fired repeatedly over deep-sea target areas to provide energy companies an image of the deposits below, would threaten marine species of all sizes, from tiny fish eggs to large whales, according to an analysis by the conservation group Oceana
. The group said that the powerful air gun blasts, which it describes as “100,000 times more intense than a jet engine,” could disturb the breathing, feeding, and mating habits for dolphins and whales and cause injury or death to endangered species such as the North Atlantic right whale. The analysis comes as the U.S. Interior Department’s Bureau of Ocean Energy Management completes a study of the potential impacts of seismic activities from Delaware to Florida. Oil industry officials point to other research that shows seismic testing is unlikely to threaten marine mammals.
12 Apr 2013:
Many Marine Mammal Species
Have Rebounded Since U.S. Protections
Forty years after the passage of the Marine Mammal Protection Act (MMPA), no marine mammal species in U.S. waters has been extirpated and the populations of
many marine animals are more abundant
than in 1972,
a new study says. While many species, including the endangered right whale, remain at significant risk, the populations of other species — including gray seals in New England and sea lions and elephant seals on the Pacific coast — have “recovered to or near their carrying capacity,” scientists say. “At a very fundamental level, the MMPA has accomplished what its framers set out to do, to protect individual marine mammals from harm as a result of human activities,” said Andrew Read, a professor at Duke University and co-author of the study, published in the Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences
. Passed at a time when numerous species were on the edge of extinction, the MMPA imposed strict regulations against commercial killing and the incidental bycatch of marine mammals by the fishing industry.
11 Apr 2013:
Marine Council's ‘Eco-Labeling’
Process Is Too Lenient, Report Says
The process by which the Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) certifies seafood as sustainable is too lenient and discretionary
, allowing for “overly generous interpretations” from third-party certifiers and adjudicators, a new report says. Launched in 1997, the UK-based MSC administers a well known eco-labeling process to inform consumers which fisheries are sustainable and provide incentives for better fisheries management. But in an analysis of 19 formal complaints against the council, a group of researchers found that several of the fisheries that received the MSC’s “sustainable” label — accounting for 35 percent of labeled seafood — apparently do not meet the council’s standards. For example, they found that Canada’s longline fishery for swordfish resulted in an extraordinary amount of incidental bycatch of other species, with the annual catch of 20,000 swordfish also netting 100,000 sharks, 1,200 endangered loggerhead turtles, and 170 leatherback turtles, according to the report, published in the journal Biological Conservation
Interview: A Marine Biologist
Works to Create a ‘Wired Ocean’
Even as populations of sharks, bluefin tuna, and other large fish are being severely over-exploited, scientists still know surprisingly little about when and where the ocean’s biggest predators congregate to feed and spawn,
making it difficult to protect biological hotspots. Stanford University marine biologist Barbara Block is seeking to narrow that knowledge gap by deploying an armada of satellite tags on the backs of ocean creatures. Block envisions a wired ocean, a blue fount of data in which tags, smart buoys, and mobile robots reveal the secrets of marine life. In an interview with Yale Environment 360
, Block discusses the wealth of data gathered by the latest electronic tags and explains why it’s important to put the fruits of this research into the public’s hands “What we need is environmental interest and awareness that connects humans to the world,” says Block, "or else we're going to end up with the same problem we had on the continents, where the large mammals are gone."
Read the interview
08 Mar 2013:
Largest U.S. Dam Removal
Releases Huge Amount of Sediment
Scientists tracking the aftermath of the largest dam removal in U.S. history say the dismantling of a dam in northwestern Washington state has unleashed about 34 million cubic yards of sediment and debris
that built up
A plume of sediment at the mouth of the Elwha River.
for more than a century. While about one-third of the 210-foot Glines Canyon Dam on the Elwha River still stands, vast amounts of sediment are already flowing downstream, allowing University of Washington (UW) scientists a rare opportunity to track the discharges and study their ecological impacts. Scientists say it is unclear where much of the sediment will end up — or what the environmental consequences will be. In an ongoing study, they will use sophisticated technology to track particles in the water and monitor their accumulation on the ocean floor. Scientists say the sediment — enough to fill 3 million truckloads — could create murkier water conditions, threatening the reproduction of salmon and blocking light for marine life.
08 Feb 2013:
Memory of Magnetic Landscape
Guides Salmon to Home Rivers, Study Shows
Although magnetism has been known to play a role in the remarkable homing ability of salmon, a new study clarifies just how the fish use magnetic fields
to travel thousands of miles to their natal rivers to spawn. Researchers at Oregon State University solved this mystery by studying 56 years of fishery data involving the millions of sockeye salmon that annually pour into British Columbia’s Fraser River. Vancouver Island sits in front of the Fraser, and the routes the salmon took around the island in different years offered clues to how the fish decipher shifting magnetic fields. When the magnetic field of the northern passageway around Vancouver Island was similar to that experienced by the fish when they left the river two years earlier, the returning salmon tended to chose the northern route;
the reverse was true when there was a more southerly magnectic field. Lead researcher Nathan Putnam said this showed that juvenile salmon imprint on the magnetic signature of their home rivers and then seek their way back using that signature. The research was published in Current Biology
05 Feb 2013:
Sea Urchins Offer a Clue
To New Way to Capture Carbon Dioxide
British researchers have discovered that sea urchins use nickel particles on their exoskeletons to effectively capture CO2 and turn it into a solid form, an intriguing finding that could offer an inexpensive way to capture and store carbon
from fossil fuel-fired power plants. Scientists from Newcastle University were studying how marine organisms absorb CO2 to make shells and skeletons when they discovered that sea urchin larvae have a high concentration of nickel on their exoskeletons, which helps them absorb CO2. When the researchers added nickel nanoparticles to CO2-saturated water, they discovered that the nickel completely removed CO2 and turned it into calcium carbonate
, a chalk-like mineral. Current efforts to capture and store carbon dioxide from power plants involve either pumping it underground or using an enzyme called carbonic anhydrase to convert it to calcium carbonate. But both methods are expensive, and the Newcastle researchers say that using nickel to capture and store CO2 bubbled through water could be a thousand times cheaper than employing carbonic anhydrase. “It seems too good to be true, but it works,” said Lidija Siller, a physicist at Newcastle. The research was published in Catalysis Science & Technology.