Animals, Biology, News, Science

Power lines may be absolutely terryfing animals and disrupt herding

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High voltage power lines aren’t quite the safest places to be around, especially if you’re a large animal or bird and touch two different conductors, thus creating a voltage difference which kills on the spot. Apparently, though, not too many animals wonder near power lines. Roads are known animal traffic disruptors, but even power lines stretched across isolated portions where there aren’t any roads still keep animals away. A possible explanation for this is that the electricity flowing through power lines looks terryfing to them, thus discouraging the animals from coming in the vicinity. If this is found true, it could potentially have important implications from an environmental perspective, as…

Animals, Genetics

Sea anemone is genetically half animal, half plant

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Sea anemones are remarkable creatures. They are a group of water-dwelling, predatory animals, but if you look at them, they look like plants more than animals. Now, a team of evolutionary biologists from the University of Vienna has discovered that sea anemones display a remarkable genome, featuring a complexity of regulatory elements similar to that of fruit flies and, more distantly, other animal model systems. However, sea anemones are more similar to plants rather than vertebrates or insects when it comes to regulation of gene expression – which makes them quite the remarkable mixture. The way our body looks and the way it works is (taking environmental factors into consideration) largely a…

News, World Problems

Obama Wants to Eliminate Tax Break on Oil Companies, Invest in Renewable Energy

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It’s tax season again, and hopefully, the Obama Administration will succeed in their plan of eliminating $4 billion in annual federal tax incentives for the oil and natural gas industry. Furthermore, they want to put a big chunk of that money in alternative fuel research and development. But does this initiative stand a chance of passing? Providing the oil companies, this is a puzzling matter. After all, these companies are making record breaking profits; if you look at the global annual earnings of all time for all companies, the top 5 spots are all occupied by Exxon Mobil – the world’s largest private company. In 2008, they made $45.22 billion….

Environmental Issues, News, Renewable Energy

Warmest winter on record for California worsens drought streak

california-drought

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) said in a statement that California just came off its warmest winter on record. On average there were 48 Fahrenheit (9 Celsius) for December, January and February, making it 4 degrees hotter than the 20th-century average in California. The state is currently facing its most dire drought streak in years, and this latest news is most concerning. Of course, for the farmers in California this doesn’t come as a novelty, yet with their best efforts, it’s still very difficult for them. For California, a warm winter is a whole not worse than a scorching summer. California, and other similar states in the US,…

Biology, Eco tips, Environmental Issues, Green Living, News

Solar powered toilet locks greenhouse gases and increases crop yields

The solar char toilet developed at University of Boulder Colorado.

One of the 16 teams involved in a collaborative project funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation that aims to help some of the 2.5 billion people around the world lacking safe and sustainable sanitation recently unveiled their innovative design: a solar-powered toilet that treats solid waste by effectively carbonizing it. The concentrated solar power delivers high energy in the waste chamber, sterilizing it and transforming it into biochar – a highly porous charcoal used to both increase crop yields and sequester carbon dioxide. Karl Linden, professor of environmental engineering at University of Colorado Boulder, and colleagues developed a next-generation toilet destined for poor and unaccessible areas where waste…

Environment, News

San Francisco bans small plastic water bottles

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San Francisco continues to be one of the most environmentally interested cities in the US, with the Board of Supervisors on March 4 voting unanimously to bar the city from buying plastic water bottles and to ban distribution of plastic water bottles smaller than 21 ounces (600 grams) on city property starting October 1. The exceptions to the ban are marathons and other sporting events. “We all know with climate change, and the importance of combating climate change, San Francisco has been leading the way to fight for our environment,” Board President David Chiu, who authored the legislation, said at the hearing. “That’s why I ask you to support this…

Animals, Biology, News

Camouflage or bright colours: what’s better for survival?

A macro shot of a Blue Poison Dart Frog (Dendrobates Azureus). You wouldn't want to eat this fellow, and its bright colours serve as a warning. (c) MSU

The wild is often home to a game of hide or seek, and animals need to be well adapted to their part of the game. For those who are constantly juggling the role of prey, however, the game seems to always favor them less. We, as humans, have little direct contact with these underlying mechanics of survival, as we sit comfortably on the crown spot of the food chain. For the millions of species out there fighting for survival this is an entirely different matter, but of course nature has granted each of them with a trait or skill. It all boils down to avoid being eaten, and some of…

Animals, Environmental Issues, News

P&G is driving massive deforestation and an orangutan graveyard in Indonesia

A scene of devastation is captured in an aerial survey mission by Greenpeace on Indonesia's Borneo island. Photograph: Bay Ismayo/AFP/Getty Images

A year long investigation by Greenpeace reveals grim palm oil harvesting practices in Indonesia, where suppliers are currently engaging in massive deforestation, which severely threaten the already endangered Sumatran tigers and orangutans, shady PR tactics and intentionally lighting up forest fires. Among the findings is a horrific graveyard where  the buried remains of several orangutans were discovered just outside the land owned by two major suppliers. Greenpeace, in its report, urges the American giant Procter&Gamble to clear up its supplier’s act and only buy palm oil from companies that have a proven record of sustainable palm oil production. Palm oil is the world’s most ubiquitous vegetable oil and a main driver…

Environment, Pollution

Light pollution impeding rainforest regeneration: Seed dispersing bats avoid feeding in light polluted areas

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When you think about pollution, usually dirty chemical substances pop to mind; maybe some petroleum, or waste water – light pollution doesn’t usually take the first places. But a new study conducted by scientists from the German Leibniz Institute for Zoo and Wildlife Research Berlin (IZW) showed that light pollution can also have a significant effect. What is light pollution, anyway? Well, as the name pretty much explains it, light pollution is excessive, misdirected, or obtrusive artificial light. It is introduced by humans directly or indirectly, and it generally occurs in or near big cities – but this is not always the case. Light pollution is basically a side-effect, a…

Environmental Issues, News, Renewable Energy, World Problems

Four newly discovered man-made gases destroy the ozone layer

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It was only around the mid 1980s that the world finally recognized the dangers posed by the build-up of chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs) in the atmosphere. A big hole in the ozone layer revealed at the time by a team of scientists from the British Antarctic Survey showed what these sort of chemicals withering through the atmosphere could do. Luckily, CFCs have become regularized since then, yet apparently there are still other chemicals being funneled into the atmosphere.  University of East Anglia report in recent study that they have identified four new gases that destroy ozone – the sources of these gases have yet to be discovered. Sitting between 15 and 30 km from the…