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We want to make cutting edge research in the environmental sciences accessible to all by highlighting recent studies and explaining how these advances shape the understanding of our world.

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What’s the future? Addressing the Global Plastic Pollution Problem through Blockchain Technology

You may have first heard about blockchain technology over this past year as the price of different cryptocurrencies swung wildly and made news. OpenLitterMap aims to tackle the global plastic pollution problem through their reward system utilizing blockchain technology called Littercoin. Littercoin rewards people for contributing open data about litter they come across in their cities, reporting information such as litter location, type, and even brand information. Global plastic pollution is a massive problem that requires large scale solutions to solve. And through its efforts to tackle plastic pollution OpenLitterMap aims to to prevent plastics from entering landfills and the oceans.

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Are your choices really climate friendly?

Emissions of greenhouse gases into the atmosphere are driving global climate change and increasing the occurrence of extreme weather events. Technological advances are not enough to reach the needed reduction in emissions to mitigate impacts of climate change. Households have to pull their weight by altering consumption patterns. Perhaps you already do – by choosing not to own a car and taking public transportation or walking. But have you thought about how you (re)-spend the money you saved by this choice? And how it affects the bottom line of green-house gases emissions.

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Turning the Sahara Green: Some Unintended Consequences of Wind and Solar Farms

A few days ago, the IPCC released a special report announcing that we only have about twelve years before we cross the 1.5-degree warming threshold that many countries are trying to avoid.  We need to reduce our carbon emissions more urgently than ever, and some scientists have risen to this challenge with proposals so ambitious that they almost sound like science fiction.  One proposal is to cover much of the Sahara Desert with wind turbines and solar panels. A move this big could have many unintended consequences for the climate, but fortunately, a new study by Li Yan et al. suggests that enormous wind and solar farms could actually have positive impacts for those living around the Sahara.

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Can soil help remove antibiotics from wastewater effluent?

Antibiotics are finding their way into surface waters via wastewater effluent where they pose a threat to the environment and organisms including humans. Many wastewater treatment plants are not designed to remove antibiotics. This study explores the use of soil to reduce the amount of antibiotics that enter the environment.

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This website helps ordinary people collect data to save snakes

With a limited amount of time and money available for conservation efforts, it’s critical to know which species are the most vulnerable. Unfortunately, that assessment requires a virtually impossible amount of data. Citizen scientists from North and South Carolina have filled this critical gap by collecting 7,684 snake observations from every county in the two states over the course of eight years. Here’s what they found.

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Winter coat color determines species survival in a changing climate

We’ve all seen pictures of a bright white arctic fox or snowshoe hare in a snowy landscape. But did you know, these same animals actually have brown coats during the summer? The ability of animals to change their seasonal coat color enables them to camouflage themselves against the landscape year round. A decrease in the duration of winter snow cover is one of the most widespread signals of climate change. Without snow, bright white arctic foxes and snowshoe hares will be obvious to predators and have decreased survival. A recent study reports that populations that have a mix of individuals with either brown or white winter coats may be better able to adapt and persist during this age of climate change.

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Following a Coastal Geologic Hazards course in Rhode Island

Coastal communities are impacted by hazards such as hurricanes, tsunamis, and beach erosion. Geologists reconstruct past events to understand future events. Follow along as a University of Rhode Island geology class explores coastal geologic hazards.

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It’s More Than Just a Song for Songbirds

Songbirds have intricate courting rituals. Often females are attracted to males that have the most brilliant feather coloration and the sweetest songs. But what’s a bird to do if they aren’t the most colorful of the bunch? New research by Lindsay Henderson and colleagues at the University of California Davis suggests that house finches engage in different levels of courting depending the appearance of other finches in the area.

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Microplastics may be hitching a ride from water to land in mosquitos

Microplastics are now found all over, even in freshwater environments such as ponds, rivers and lakes. Young mosquitos live in these freshwater environments and move to land as they mature. Scientists in this study wanted to find out if young mosquitos ingest microplastics found in freshwater environments and carry the microplastics with them to air and land as adults.

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