Climate and Vector-Borne Diseases – The Clock is ‘Tick’ing

Bloodsucking, disease-spreading creatures are spreading throughout the United States. This is not a horror movie plot, but a real description of the rapid spread of ticks over the last few years. Thanks largely to warmer winters brought about by climate change, ticks are now common in areas they didn’t exist in just a few years ago. More importantly, many diseases spread by these ticks are now being seen in these areas for the first time. This is a looming public health catastrophe.

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Losing a Louisiana Icon

Along with the American alligator and the crawfish, bald cypress trees (Taxodium distichum) and their swamps are one of the most iconic images of Louisiana. With their quirky “knees”, flared bases, and long lives, it is not surprising these trees have long supported and defined the culture of the state and the region. Fittingly, bald cypress is the state tree of Louisiana. However, within the past 150 years humans have changed the Louisiana landscape in ways that have caused bald cypress trees to die off faster than new ones can grow to replace them. As older trees die and waterways become increasingly developed and controlled, the future of this iconic Louisiana species has become uncertain.

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Can the structure of a hurricane make it wobble?

Hurricanes are among the most dangerous natural disasters, but they can still be a challenge to forecast!  In particular, it’s really difficult to understand how a hurricane’s structure – that is, its specific pattern of clouds, winds, and rain – can affect its motion.  In a recent theoretical modeling study, Konstantin Menelaou and his co-authors have examined how one particular kind of hurricane structure, known as a secondary eyewall, can make a hurricane wobble.

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Climate change can make it harder to help your neighbors – increased insect damage in diverse forest stands during drought

if you’re a tree trying to avoid being eaten by insects, it matters who you’ve got next to you: is it your own species, or another one? Often you’re better off with another species as a neighbor, but a new study shows that climate change can turn this upside down.

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Navigating the science-law interface: opportunities and challenges

Lately, there has been a renewed focus on the need to consider the real-world applications of scientific research and how best to transfer this knowledge to decision makers. A leading journal in the environmental science field even dedicated an entire special issue on translational ecology recently (https://esajournals.onlinelibrary.wiley.com/toc/15409309/15/10). However, incorporating research knowledge into decision making processes remains a challenge. In this paper, Moore et al. (2018) discuss the opportunities and challenges associated with addressing the science-law interface and offer helpful insights to those attempting this endeavor, especially external scientists not directly involved in government. 

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Drought! What is it good for? Native plants

Climate change predictions show that extreme events, including extreme droughts, will be more common in the future. From 2012-2015, California experienced the most extreme drought in over 1,200 years. Scientists from the University of California examined seeds in the soil and plants growing in grassland communities at the beginning of the drought and two years into the drought. They found that the seeds of native plants increased in the soil during the drought, while seeds of non-native grass species that generally dominate the landscape decreased significantly. Their findings suggest that brief, periodic droughts may benefit native plants that produce drought-resistant seeds.

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Reducing Plastic Pollution through Economic Incentives

Strolling along the beach, especially during peak tourist season anywhere and you will inevitably stumble upon someone’s cast away plastic bottle. Whether left by a beach-goer or washed onto the sand from upland, plastic litter can cost you the enjoyment of your beach day. Not only that, but collectively this nuisance plastic waste costs lost revenue from decreased tourism as well as harm to public, wildlife, and overall ecosystem health.

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