Duck broods are more resilient than expected in the face of oil and natural gas extraction

The Bakken Formation, a unique geological feature in the midwestern US and Canada, is a mecca for oil reserves and duck habitat. Scientists aimed to better understand how increased oil production has impacted the establishment and survival of duck broods.

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Friend or foe? Invasive earthworms can benefit agriculture but harm forests

Earthworms are welcome guests in the garden, but it’s a different story in the forest. By consuming and removing leaf litter too fast they set in motion complex cascades of ecological changes, with long-term negative effects on soil fertility and biodiversity.

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Crowdsourcing Sharks: a citizen science success story

Conserving the environment and its organisms works most effectively when managers and scientists have a lot of environmental information. However, some of the world’s most vulnerable animals, like the sand tiger shark, are also the most secretive. Luckily for these scary looking predators, amateur scientists can be an agent of change.

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Can you figure out what species this is? Computers can

Protecting wild animals requires far more data than scientists could collect alone, so researchers often enlist the help of amateur “citizen scientists” to help identify animals in photos. However, with more and more large scale projects that need help from citizen scientists, it is taking an increasingly long time to process all of the photos from any individual study. Marco Willi from the University of Minnesota and his colleagues thought there might be a way to speed things up: by getting computers to identify most of the easy animals, and leaving humans to figure out the extra hard ones. 

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Native milkweed supports healthy monarch communities

“Monarch butterflies do really well on the exotic milkweed species that’s being widely sold and planted under current environmental conditions. But under warmer conditions, the exotic plant becomes too toxic and monarchs become less healthy.”

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Gardeners for Biodiversity: How Surveys can Help Quantify Diversity in Urban Areas

Backyard gardens can boast surprising levels of biodiversity. Quantifying the diversity of many small gardens spread out across an urban area, however, can be difficult for scientists. In this study, researchers proposed a survey in which garden-owners were asked to give basic information about their gardens. From the responses, a statistical model was designed to determine the actual number of species present.

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Dead trees and utility poles partially offset the impacts of deforestation on birds

Mature trees serve as important habitats for a variety of species including insects and birds. Birds use trees for many purposes including nesting, perching, and foraging. Conservationists are exploring strategies to maintain bird populations in areas where mature trees are being lost due to agricultural expansion, wood production, and increased urbanization. In a recent study, scientists in Australia measured how utility poles and erected dead trees impacted the number and abundance of bird species in urbanized regions. The results suggest that artificial structures can offset some, but not all, of the bird loss due to deforestation.

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