Oil Spills are a Black Mark on Health

The thought of oil spills conjures up images of marine disasters–wildlife smothered in slick sludge and thick black smoke. But what are the human health consequences to the brave men and women who respond and work to clean up these messes? New research examines the potential impact of oil spill response work on risk of heart attack in those who clean up after the Deepwater Horizon disaster.

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White water in the swamp: The success of the Bonnet Carré in controlling the Mississippi River

“Why are there rapids in the cypress swamp?”, I ask myself. It is a weird scene. White water is tumbling through the cypress forest out towards Lake Pontchartrain from the southwest, traversing a completely flat landscape. A strong current tears out under the bridge into the lake. “That would be a fun kayak,” I think. I am cruising down Interstate 10 right where it touches the edge of the lake just upriver from New Orleans. I quickly remember that the Army Corps of Engineers opened the Bonnet Carré Spillway. Again.

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Recycling Old Cell Phones to Benefit Gorillas

Do you have an old cell phone at home that is simply sitting in a drawer collecting dust? In fact, roughly eighty percent of us do. While there are many reasons we may feel the need to hang onto our relic devices, there are important reasons to recycle them. One reason is our phones contain valuable materials that are finite in nature. As we continue to mine for these materials, we lose habitat and endanger wildlife. One program in Australia worked to collect cell phones over a six year period, highlighting the importance of recycling efforts while bringing awareness to how recycling can help species, like gorillas, to survive.

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How the Driest Regions on the Planet Add to Sea Level Rise

Terrestrial water loss is a major contributor to water stress around the world. Areas that are hydrologically isolated tend to lose water twice as fast as other regions. But where does that water go? New evidence is showing that water from the driest regions on the planet may have a consequential impact on global sea level rise.

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What gives glacier algae their wild colors?

When a British expedition reported seeing pink mountain snow in 1818, the London Times said: “Our credulity is put to an extreme test upon this occasion, but we cannot learn that there is any reason to doubt the fact as stated.” Two hundred years later, we now can confirm that pink snow (“watermelon snow”) is real and it is caused by certain types of algae. But why is it that snow algae take on such distinctive red and purple colors? And how does this connect to melting glaciers or global sea level rise?

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New on the menu – plastics for microbes

There are trillions of pieces of plastic floating across the ocean’s surface. Once plastics enter the ocean, they can release dissolved organic carbon, which is a food source for marine microbes. This study estimated that about 60% of that released dissolved organic carbon is available as an edible food source to marine microbes and can help stimulate growth at the base of the marine food web. As plastic pollution increases, more dissolved organic carbon may be released, having unknown effects on marine microbes.

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