Poison Ivy’s Pervasiveness

Are you part of the 80% of the population that is allergic to poison ivy? What do we really know about poison ivy beyond its potential to cause an itchy rash on our skin? Poison ivy can actually adapt to its environment and exploit a variety of habitats, which helps explain its ubiquitous distribution. A future climate with greater carbon dioxide concentrations is expected to expand its distribution and increase its toxicity – bad news.

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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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Palm Oil’s Inconvenient Truth

Palm oil is quickly growing to be one of the most economically lucrative crops, at a huge expense to the environment. With weak political clout by environmental groups in western nations and high demand for palm oil products in India and China, there is little that can be done to curb rainforest habitat loss as the market for palm oil continues to soar.

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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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Reviving Our Rivers

Most rivers in the developed world are mere artifacts of what they once were – wild dynamic beasts that wiggled across the landscape recycling old land and creating new surfaces. With human development came the desire to manage water movement, and now most rivers flow through static channels held in place by levees and controlled by dams. But recently some regions are making efforts to give rivers a bit more freedom and restore their associated floodplains.

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