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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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George Washington: General, Founding Father, and … Ecologist?

Before George Washington became the military general and Founding Father we know today, he spent years traveling the wilderness and helping divide up land for colonial settlement. His meticulous notes about the natural landscapes have been preserved over time because of his later prominence as a political figure. Today, these documents can be used to reconstruct what forests looked like over 250 years ago.

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Preserving Culturally-Important Xochimilco Wetlands Requires Policy and Personal Change

Created by the Aztecs in 500 CE for agriculture, Xochimilco is an area of culturally important wetlands in southern Mexico City. Despite its cultural and economic importance, this area is experiencing wetland degradation and loss due to urban development and water quality issues. Even with a high level of local concern about wetland degradation, little effort will be made toward conservation without a change in public policies regarding local infrastructure and development.

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The Novel Axolotl: A Conservation Paradox

The axolotl is a special kind of salamander. Unlike other salamanders, this species maintains its juvenile morphology and remains aquatic its entire life. This unique “forever-young” feature is one reason axolotls are so widely popular. In fact, the axolotl is the most widely distributed amphibian worldwide because of its attraction as a pet and its status as a model organism in biomedical research. At the same time, this species is on the verge of extinction in its native habitat, giving it the unique status of a “conservation paradox”.

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Who are we going to call when rainforests are suffering from droughts? Termites!

Tropical rainforests are already showing signs that climate change is leading to higher tree mortality. However, Dr. Louise A. Ashton and collaborators investigated if termites could help turn the game on climate change and help tropical biodiversity and survival. This fascinating study shows that high termite abundance can lead to greater soil moisture and nutrient levels during drought conditions, which ultimately favors plant establishment. This suggests termites can potentially be major allies of tropical forests against climate change.

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Cutting through the doom and gloom – how psychology can be used to promote climate action

Do you feel overwhelmed by the apocalyptic scenarios presented in news related to climate change? You’re not alone! The fact that so many people feel hopeless about the prospects of halting climate change can put a spoke in the wheel of any efforts to inspire broad, public involvement in climate action. But by factoring in human psychology, climate change communicators can strike an optimally motivating balance between hope and fear.

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Oyster Reefs Defend Our Coasts

Oyster reefs, a dense conglomerate of oysters on a budding surface in coastal bays, are making a comeback! These habitats provide a structure to protect our shorelines, and a nice environment for marine animals and vegetation to gather and filter pollutants. Research suggests that under certain circumstances, oyster reefs do help reduce wave energy that could otherwise harm or damage coastal marshes.

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The Price of Pollution: How Air Pollution Impacts Premature Birth and the Economy

Does man-made outdoor air pollution increase the risk of premature births? Research suggests that it does, and new analyses out of New York University have tried to estimate the burden of premature births and their economic costs that can be attributed to air pollution.

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