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Wednesday, December 17, 2014

ScienceDaily: Top Environment News

ScienceDaily: Top Environment News

Abundance of microplastics in the world's deep seas

Posted: 16 Dec 2014 06:22 PM PST

Around four billion minute fibers could be littering each square kilometer of some of the world's deep seas, according to a new study.

NASA data underscore severity of California drought

Posted: 16 Dec 2014 03:41 PM PST

It will take about 11 trillion gallons of water (42 cubic kilometers) -- around 1.5 times the maximum volume of the largest U.S. reservoir -- to recover from California's continuing drought, according to a new analysis of NASA satellite data.

Biologist reveals how whales may 'sing' for their supper

Posted: 16 Dec 2014 02:57 PM PST

Humpback whales have a trick or two, when it comes to finding a quick snack at the bottom of the ocean. Even in the dark. Biologists have been studying these unique feeding behaviors. Her research emphasizes the importance of specific auditory cues that these mammoth creatures emit, as they search the deep ocean for their prey.

Big-data analysis reveals gene sharing in mice

Posted: 16 Dec 2014 02:57 PM PST

Scientists have detected at least three potential hybridization events that likely shaped the evolutionary paths of 'old world' mice, two in recent times and one in the ancient past. The researchers think these instances of introgressive hybridization -- a way for genetic material and, potentially, traits to be passed from one species to another through interspecific mating -- are only the first of many needles waiting to be found in a very large genetic haystack. While introgressive hybridization is thought to be common among plants, the finding suggests that hybridization in mammals may not be the evolutionary dead end biologists once commonly thought.

Probing bacterial resistance to a class of natural antibiotics

Posted: 16 Dec 2014 12:47 PM PST

Researchers explore the clever techniques used by bacteria to survive destruction from antimicrobial peptides -- potent defense factors produced by all living forms, including humans.

NASA Goddard instrument makes first detection of organic matter on Mars

Posted: 16 Dec 2014 11:41 AM PST

Scientists have made the first definitive detection of organic molecules at Mars. The surface of Mars is currently inhospitable to life as we know it, but there is evidence that the Red Planet once had a climate that could have supported life billions of years ago.

DNA sheds light on why largest lemurs disappeared: Giant lemurs' demise linked to size, low numbers

Posted: 16 Dec 2014 11:41 AM PST

DNA from giant lemurs that lived thousands of years ago in Madagascar may help explain why the animals went extinct, and what makes some lemurs more at risk today. Scientists have little doubt that humans played a role in the giant lemurs' demise. By comparing the species that died out to those that survived, scientists hope to better predict which lemurs are most in need of protection in the future.

The sense of smell uses fast dynamics to encode odors

Posted: 16 Dec 2014 11:41 AM PST

Neuroscientists have discovered that mice can detect minute differences in the temporal dynamics of the olfactory system. The research team used light in genetically-engineered mice to precisely control the activity of neurons in the olfactory bulbs in mice performing a discrimination task.

Glacier beds can get slipperier at higher sliding speeds

Posted: 16 Dec 2014 11:07 AM PST

Scientists have found that as a glacier's sliding speed increases, the bed beneath the glacier can grow slipperier. That laboratory finding could help researchers make better predictions of glacier response to climate change and the corresponding sea-level rise.

Can returning crops to their wild states help feed the world?

Posted: 16 Dec 2014 11:07 AM PST

To feed the world's growing population -- expected to reach nine billion by the year 2050 -- we will have to find ways to produce more food on less farmland, without causing additional harm to the remaining natural habitat. A new review points the way to intensifying agriculture sustainably by fixing weaknesses that have sprung up quite by accident in the process of traditional crop breeding over the course of thousands of years.

People's genes may influence 'gut' bacteria that cause Crohn's disease, ulcerative colitis

Posted: 16 Dec 2014 09:38 AM PST

People's genes may have an influence over some of the intestinal bacteria that cause Crohn's disease and ulcerative colitis, collectively know as inflammatory bowel disease, a new study by an international team of researchers shows for the first time. About 1.6 million Americans suffer from Crohn's disease or ulcerative colitis. Understanding the causes of these diseases is another step toward prevention and treatment.

Carbon-trapping 'sponges' can cut greenhouse gases

Posted: 16 Dec 2014 09:38 AM PST

In the fight against global warming, carbon capture -- chemically trapping carbon dioxide before it releases into the atmosphere -- is gaining momentum, but standard methods are plagued by toxicity, corrosiveness and inefficiency. Using a bag of chemistry tricks, materials scientists have invented low-toxicity, highly effective carbon-trapping 'sponges' that could lead to increased use of the technology.

Scientists trace nanoparticles from plants to caterpillars: Are nanoparticles getting in our food?

Posted: 16 Dec 2014 09:38 AM PST

In one of the most comprehensive studies of its kind, scientists tracked uptake and accumulation of quantum dot nanoparticles from water to plant roots, plant leaves and leaf-eating caterpillars.

Comparing state solar policies to determine equation for solar market success

Posted: 16 Dec 2014 08:30 AM PST

Scientists have used statistical analyses and detailed case studies to better understand why solar market policies in certain states are more successful. Their findings indicate that while no standard formula for solar implementation exists, a combination of foundational policies and localized strategies can increase solar photovoltaic installations in any state.

Commensal bacteria were critical shapers of early human populations

Posted: 16 Dec 2014 08:30 AM PST

Using mathematical modeling, researchers have shown that commensal bacteria that cause problems later in life most likely played a key role in stabilizing early human populations. The finding offers an explanation as to why humans co-evolved with microbes that can cause or contribute to cancer, inflammation, and degenerative diseases of aging.

First steps for Hector the robot stick insect

Posted: 16 Dec 2014 08:29 AM PST

A research team has succeeded in teaching the only robot of its kind in the world how to walk.The robot is called Hector, and its construction is modeled on a stick insect. Inspired by the insect, Hector has passive elastic joints and an ultralight exoskeleton. What makes it unique is that it is also equipped with a great number of sensors and it functions according to a biologically inspired decentralized reactive control concept: the Walknet.

Discovery aims to fight destructive bee disease

Posted: 16 Dec 2014 07:06 AM PST

Researchers hope their new discovery will help combat a disease killing honeybee populations around the world. The researchers have found a toxin released by the pathogen that causes American foulbrood disease -- Paenibacillus larvae -- and developed a lead-based inhibitor against it.

A lot or a little? Wolves discriminate quantities better than dogs

Posted: 16 Dec 2014 07:05 AM PST

Being able to mentally consider quantities makes sense for any social species. Scientists studied how well dogs can discriminate between different quantities and discovered that wolves perform better than dogs at such tasks. Possibly dogs lost this skill, or a predisposition for it, during domestication.

A beetle named Marco Polo

Posted: 16 Dec 2014 07:05 AM PST

A team of Chinese and Italian scientists has joined efforts to provide a key to the understudied phaleratus group of blister beetles. During their research the scientists have also discovered a new species from the genus Hycleus, which they named after Marco Polo.

Composite plane life cycle assessment shows lighter planes are the future

Posted: 16 Dec 2014 07:05 AM PST

A global fleet of composite planes could reduce carbon emissions by up to 15 percent, but the lighter planes alone will not enable the aviation industry to meet its emissions targets, according to new research.

Hurricane-forecast satellites will keep close eyes on the tropics

Posted: 16 Dec 2014 07:05 AM PST

A set of eight hurricane-forecast satellites is expected to give deep insights into how and where storms suddenly intensify -- a little-understood process that's becoming more crucial to figure out as the climate changes.

Discovery of official clay seals support existence of biblical kings David and Solomon, archaeologists say

Posted: 16 Dec 2014 07:04 AM PST

Six official clay seals found by an archaeological team at a small site in Israel offer evidence that supports the existence of biblical kings David and Solomon. Many modern scholars dismiss David and Solomon as mythological figures and believe no kingdom could have existed in the region at the time the Bible recounted their activities. The new finds provide evidence that some type of government activity was conducted there in that period.

Damming beavers are slowly changing the world: Growing beaver population affecting methane gas emissions

Posted: 16 Dec 2014 05:25 AM PST

There are consequences of the successful efforts worldwide to save beavers from extinction. Along with the strong increase in their population over the past 100 years, these furry aquatic rodents have built many more ponds, establishing vital aquatic habitat. In doing so, however, they have created conditions for climate changing methane gas to be generated in this shallow standing water, and the gas is subsequently released into the atmosphere. In fact, 200 times more of this greenhouse gas is released from beaver ponds today than was the case around the year 1900, estimates an expert.

The bloody truth: How blood donations can save animals' lives

Posted: 16 Dec 2014 05:24 AM PST

Blood transfusions are of importance not only in human medicine. Also animals do need blood donations. The University of Veterinary Medicine, Vienna operates a blood bank for dogs for more than a decade. But also cats can donate blood for acute emergencies. Horses need blood donations especially during operations that involve high blood loss. Sheep, goats and other ruminants require transfusions when plagued by serious infestations of parasites. Three vets from different areas of expertise explain how blood transfusions work with different animal species and how they can save lives.

Self-repairing subsea material

Posted: 16 Dec 2014 05:24 AM PST

Embryonic faults in subsea high voltage installations are difficult to detect and very expensive to repair. Researchers believe that self-repairing materials could be the answer. The vital insulating material which encloses sensitive high voltage equipment may now be getting some 'first aid'.

A taxonomic toolkit ends a century of neglect for a genus of parasitic wasps

Posted: 15 Dec 2014 09:30 AM PST

Entomologists have used a combination of morphometric and molecular techniques to describe the first new North American species of a particularly morphologically-challenging genus of parasitic wasps in over 100 years.

Professor discusses benefits and costs of forest carbon projects

Posted: 15 Dec 2014 07:17 AM PST

Forests can help slow the buildup of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere while also providing beneficial biophysical feedbacks.

Techniques for minimizing environmental impacts of fracking

Posted: 15 Dec 2014 07:16 AM PST

Natural gas power plants emit less carbon dioxide than coal power plants, but must be carefully managed to prevent air and water pollution.

Scientist examines ways to put stormwater to use in big cities

Posted: 15 Dec 2014 07:16 AM PST

Researchers plan to use data from St. Paul, Minn., to determine the value of stormwater, and apply these lessons to water projects in Brazil and Ethiopia.

Neighborhood designs can cut carbon emissions, electric costs

Posted: 15 Dec 2014 07:15 AM PST

Researchers find that by clustering trees and homes on smaller lots, homeowners and developers can save money and improvement the environment.

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