The Fate of Our Microplastics

Microplastics, or plastics smaller than a sesame seed, have become a growing concern for marine environments. A majority of facial cleaners contain microplastics, such as microbeads or micro exfoliates, which get washed down the sink drain and end up in our oceans. A research team in Auckland, New Zealand investigated four local brands, and determined all four brands contained about 150 microplastics per 1.5 grams of cleanser. Most were around the size of a grain of sand, and some were irregularly shaped and susceptible to breaking down into smaller pieces. The apprehension of these findings is that small plastic particles could be confused for food by microscopic marine life, and the plastic could accumulate up the food chain and harm marine life. Furthermore, microplastics can also accumulate chemical toxins in the ocean, and their environmentally persistent nature allows for them to become more toxic as they age. Therefore, simple measures such as using organic facial cleansers, and becoming more aware of our daily habits and products use, are essential to reducing ocean pollution.

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Started from the Bottom: Predicting Risk of Toxin Formation in Wetland Mud

They say that you only live once, but for wild rice plants in the Great Lakes Region, whether or not they live depends on what tiny microbes living deep within the mud are doing. Although small, these microbes can poison the rice plants and have some big impacts, especially for everyone that depends on the food these plants provide.

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One man’s waste water is another man’s “accidental” wetland: How urban wetlands can revolutionize restoration

After the Salt River passes through the metropolitan area of Phoenix, AZ about 90% of the original water has been removed for human and agriculture use. Because of reduced water connectivity, similar to many urban streamside areas, plant and wildlife diversity in the Phoenix area have taken a big hit. “Accidental” wetlands forming along the river may be the money-saving restoration solution Phoenix, and hundreds of other cities, are looking for.

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Bacteria can eat plastic?

Plastic can now be found everywhere, from your kitchen to the ocean. Recently a group of scientists discovered a bacteria that can grow on one of the most abundant types of plastic: PET. Researchers in this study explored the mechanism behind this bacteria’s ability to survive on plastic. Read on to learn more about how these microbes might help us solve our plastic pollution problem.

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Invasive ant species is forming supercolonies across southwestern British Columbia, Canada

Ant supercolonies are taking over southwestern British Columbia. A study published in the Journal of the Entomological Society of British Columbia late last year provides evidence of at least two supercolonies of an invasive ant species, Myrmica rubra, inhabiting BC. Evidence from behavioral experiments demonstrates that this ant species behaves as if it has formed up to five different supercolonies across seven regions of southwestern BC.

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Work smarter and harder: a fieldwork fable involving the investigation of lake greenhouse gas emissions

“Are you sure this is the ramp?” my colleague, Dr. Jake Beaulieu asked the head field researcher, Adam Balz, as we drove up to the site.

The three of us took in the view of the crumbling asphalt inclined plane that disappeared into the lake. According to the map, this was the boat launch. But the usage of the lake had changed from allowing motorized craft to “paddle craft only” several years ago, and now the disused ramp was covered in layers of sandy sediment.  

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What happened to the Great Barrier Reef in 2016?

In 2016, a severe coral reef bleaching event killed ~30% of the corals in the Great Barrier Reef. Abnormally warm global ocean temperatures are becoming more common and intense which will increase the frequency of bleaching events. Forward-looking projections indicate potential coral reef benefits associated with moving toward lower greenhouse gas emission futures. How do we get there?

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