Hang on to that tree! Lizards that survived hurricane Maria showed increases in grip strength

The 2019 hurricane season started off with a bang. It’s clear that climate change has affected the frequency and severity of hurricanes. To understand whether species will be able to cope with more frequent severe storms we need more research to see how hurricanes can affect populations of plants and animals. Read on to find out how hurricane Maria in 2017 affected lizards in Dominica.

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Surviving in the age of microplastics: the tale of a curious shrimp

Each year, a tremendous amount of plastic waste enters the marine environment. As plastic ages, it breaks down in to smaller and smaller pieces, called microplastics, but never degrades. These tiny plastic fibers are eaten by numerous organisms and can cause organ damage or even death. But one species is able to rid its stomach of accidentally ingested microplastics. This is the tale of the Atlantic ditch shrimp and how it will survive in the age of microplastics.

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Detective Work in the Nuclear Era: Investigating a Mysterious Radioactive Event

Nuclear alarm bells rang loudly in 2017 when sensors all around Europe detected sudden increases of a potent radioactive substance in the air. There were no known nuclear-related incidents or accidents at the time. This is the story of how a multi-national team worked together to monitor, analyze, and finally pinpoint the source of this still-undeclared release of radioactive material.

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Crowdsourcing Sharks: a citizen science success story

Conserving the environment and its organisms works most effectively when managers and scientists have a lot of environmental information. However, some of the world’s most vulnerable animals, like the sand tiger shark, are also the most secretive. Luckily for these scary looking predators, amateur scientists can be an agent of change.

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Alexa, What’s Your Carbon Footprint?

Artificial intelligence is used to develop algorithms that can process human languages and even respond to you. Behind every voice assistant like Amazon’s Alexa is a network of algorithms that help the voice assistant understand and interact with us. Behind every voice assistant are also hundreds of thousands of pounds of CO2 emissions. Where do these emissions come from and what can we do about it?

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Be quiet, please – I’m listening for bees

Sounds are everywhere in nature, and are important communication tools for many organisms. Plants may not be the first organisms you’d think of that would rely on sound to assess their environment, but new research shows that flowers can respond to the sound of a nearby buzzing bee by producing sweetened nectar, likely an adaptation that lets them avoid “wasting” resources on nectar production in the absence of hungry pollinators.

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Can you figure out what species this is? Computers can

Protecting wild animals requires far more data than scientists could collect alone, so researchers often enlist the help of amateur “citizen scientists” to help identify animals in photos. However, with more and more large scale projects that need help from citizen scientists, it is taking an increasingly long time to process all of the photos from any individual study. Marco Willi from the University of Minnesota and his colleagues thought there might be a way to speed things up: by getting computers to identify most of the easy animals, and leaving humans to figure out the extra hard ones. 

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Which Wetland? National Dataset Helps Reduce Flood Risk

Flooding is an expensive and dangerous problem across the globe. Freshwater wetlands can help reduce flood risk and damage. During large storm events, wetlands hold extra water allowing it more time to flow downstream or into the soil. In order to help communities understand where to spend their time and resources to utilize these important landscape features, researchers created a national dataset that identifies the wetlands that would be best for mitigating flood risk.

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‘Otter’ Ways of Assessing Species Vulnerability to Climate Change

How do scientists figure out how a species will be impacted by climate change? They usually look at how their habitat will change with a changing climate – but that may not be the whole story. Other factors, such as a species environmental needs, how they tolerate change, and how their habitat will change (i.e. size, fragmentation, proximity to human disturbances) also need to be considered! Otters are among the most vulnerable mammals in the world, and determining where their specific threats from climate change come from will be key for conservationist to save them from extinction.

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Can shellfish farming clean our coastal waters?

Coastal waters throughout the United States and the globe are suffering from an excess of nitrogen due to human activities. Excess nitrogen comes from a variety of sources such as wastewater treatment plants and can impact the health of coastal habitats. Coastal managers are adopting a variety of practices to limit the nitrogen inputs to coastal waters including improved stormwater and wastewater treatments, but could shellfish farming help clean our coastal waters? A study from Cape Cod, Massachusetts sought to quantify how much nitrogen can be removed from coastal waters through oyster and quahog farming.

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