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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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The science behind the pesticide that was almost banned

Last year, there was considerable news coverage on the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) decision to not ban chlorpyrifos, a pesticide which is believed to cause negative effects on brain development in children. While a lot of the media coverage focused on the nature of the decision, little was reported on the science itself. Thus, I have summarized below EPA’s assessment on the health effects of the pesticide on humans.

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A historic rapid climate change event led to whale beaching

Study conducted in Italy suggests that hunter-gatherers exploited whale beaching (cetacean strandings) during a rapid climate change event about 8,000 years ago. The researchers based their conclusions on investigations of bones excavated from Grotto dell’Uzzo in North West Sicily (Italy). The study highlights the potential impact of a rapid climate event on whale behaviour and conservation.

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The hidden value of coral reefs

Coral reefs act as natural breakwaters reducing wave energy along coasts and, thus, can mitigate flooding. Reef structures currently avert more than $4 billion of flood damage annually. The viability of coral reefs is threatened by rising ocean temperatures, changing seawater chemistry, and physical anthropogenic disturbances. The expected damages to coastal infrastructure from flooding would at least double if reef height is reduced by only one meter. The reduction in flood protection services underscores the importance of investments in reef management, protection, and restoration.

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Why YY Males? Using Hatchery Brook Trout to Eliminate an Invasive Species

Brook Trout were first introduced to the American West in the early 1900s. Since then, they have hurt native fish populations through competition and predation. In this study, scientists examine the effectiveness of using genetic technology to shift the ratio of male to female Brook Trout in the wild, which could eventually help remove them from their non-native streams.

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Natural vs. artificial: The potential utility of artificial wetlands in bird conservation

Fueled by development, the loss of wetland habitats and its impacts on the many species of birds that depend on this habitat has been concerning to conservationists for many years. Artificial wetlands, by-products of human development, may actually help combat some of the detrimental impacts of wetland habitat loss on birds. But the potential benefits of artificial wetlands remain a largely understudied topic. Efthymia Giosa et al. (2018) address this knowledge gap by evaluating the importance of artificial wetlands for birds, and comparing them to natural wetlands, using several natural and artificial wetlands in Cyprus as case studies

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It’s getting hotter in here: outlining strategies for protecting public health during heat waves

Heat waves, or prolonged periods of abnormally warm temperatures, have become increasingly common throughout the globe as a result of climate change. Since heat waves pose a risk to public health they have become a growing concern, particularly in urban environments. A recent analysis led by Gertrud Hatvani-Kovacs at the University of South Australia, outlines strategies for protecting public health during heat waves and mitigating the impacts of heat waves by instituting new policies. Among the suggestions of Hatvani-Kovacs and her colleagues are increasing the dissemination of information to the public regarding heat waves, providing guidelines for heat stress resistant building design, building public cool spaces, and introducing tariffs on water and electricity usage during peak demand.

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Throwback Thursday: How did streams and rivers flow before humans started changing things?

Throwbacks aren’t just for old songs and embarrassing childhood photos. Knowing how rivers and streams flowed before people started changing things can help us to create water management practices that are better for the ecological health of these systems. However, the first challenge of throwing it back to these natural flows is just figuring out what these natural flows are.

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