Tag Archives: environmental condition

Coral Reefs in Palau Surprisingly Resistant to Naturally Acidified Waters

Ocean researchers working on the coral reefs of Palau in 2011 and 2012 made two unexpected discoveries that could provide insight into corals’ resistance and resilience to ocean acidification, and aid in the creation of a plan to protect them.

The team collected water samples at nine points along a transect that stretched from the open ocean, across the barrier reef, into the lagoon and then into the bays and inlets around the Rock Islands of Palau, in the western Pacific Ocean. With each location they found that the seawater became increasingly acidic as they moved toward land. (more…)

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Less Toxic Metabolites, More Chemical Product

The first dynamic regulatory system that prevents the build-up of toxic metabolites in engineered microbes has been reported by a team of researchers with the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE)’s Joint BioEnergy Institute (JBEI). The JBEI researchers used their system to double the production in Escherichia coli (E. coli) of amorphadiene, a precursor to the premier antimalarial drug artemisinin.

Using genome-wide transcriptional analysis, the JBEI researchers identified native regions of DNA – called “promoters” – in E. coli that respond to toxic metabolites by promoting the expression of protective genes. They then developed a system based on these promoters for regulating artificial metabolic pathways engineered into the E.coli to enable the bacterium to produce amorphadiene. (more…)

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Scientists Discover Thriving Colonies of Microbes in Ocean ‘Plastisphere’

Scientists have discovered a diverse multitude of microbes colonizing and thriving on flecks of plastic that have polluted the oceans—a vast new human-made flotilla of microbial communities that they have dubbed the “plastisphere.”

In a study recently published online in Environmental Science & Technology, the scientists say the plastisphere represents a novel ecological habitat in the ocean and raises a host of questions: How will it change environmental conditions for marine microbes, favoring some that compete with others? How will it change the overall ocean ecosystem and affect larger organisms? How will it change where microbes, including pathogens, will be transported in the ocean? (more…)

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Early Warning System Provides Four-Month Forecast of Malaria Epidemics in Northwest India

ANN ARBOR — Sea surface temperatures in the tropical South Atlantic Ocean can be used to accurately forecast, by up to four months, malaria epidemics thousands of miles away in northwestern India, a University of Michigan theoretical ecologist and her colleagues have found.

Colder-than-normal July sea surface temperatures in the tropical South Atlantic are linked to both increased monsoon rainfall and malaria epidemics in the arid and semi-arid regions of northwest India, including the vast Thar desert, according to Mercedes Pascual and her colleagues, who summarize their findings in a paper published online March 3 in the journal Nature Climate Change. (more…)

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More Potent than Carbon Dioxide, Nitrous Oxide Levels in California May be Nearly Three Times Higher Than Previously Thought

Berkeley Lab researchers devise a new method to estimate state’s greenhouse gas emissions.

Using a new method for estimating greenhouse gases that combines atmospheric measurements with model predictions, Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (Berkeley Lab) researchers have found that the level of nitrous oxide, a potent greenhouse gas, in California may be 2.5 to 3 times greater than the current inventory.

At that level, total N2O emissions—which are believed to come primarily from nitrogen fertilizers used in agricultural production—would account for about 8 percent of California’s total greenhouse gas emissions. The findings were recently published in a paper titled “Seasonal variations in N2O emissions from central California” in Geophysical Research Letters. Earlier this year, using the same methodology, the researchers found that levels of methane, another potent greenhouse gas, in California may be up to 1.8 times greater than previous estimates. (more…)

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NASA Radar Penetrates Thick, Thin of Gulf Oil Spill

PASADENA, Calif. – Researchers at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory and the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena have developed a method to use a specialized NASA 3-D imaging radar to characterize the oil in oil spills, such as the 2010 BP Deepwater Horizon spill in the Gulf of Mexico. The research can be used to improve response operations during future marine oil spills.

Caltech graduate student Brent Minchew and JPL researchers Cathleen Jones and Ben Holt analyzed NASA radar imagery collected over the main slick of the BP Deepwater Horizon oil spill on June 22 and June 23, 2010. The data were acquired by the JPL-developed Uninhabited Aerial Vehicle Synthetic Aperture Radar (UAVSAR) during the first of its three deployments over the spill area between June 2010 and July 2012. The UAVSAR was carried in a pod mounted beneath a NASA C-20A piloted aircraft, a version of the Gulfstream III business jet, based at NASA’s Dryden Aircraft Operations Facility in Palmdale, Calif. The researchers demonstrated, for the first time, that a radar system like UAVSAR can be used to characterize the oil within a slick, distinguishing very thin films like oil sheen from more damaging thick oil emulsions. (more…)

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The Success of Homo sapiens May Be Due to Spatial Abilities

While the disappearance of Neanderthals remains a mystery, paleoanthropologists have an increasing understanding of what allowed their younger cousins, Homo sapiens, to conquer the planet. According to Ariane Burke, Professor in the Department of Anthropology at the Université de Montréal, the rapid dispersal of anatomically modern humans was not so much due to superior intelligence or improved hunting or gathering techniques, but rather to the creation of symbolic objects that allowed them to extend their social relations across vast territories.

Symbolism and social exchanges

Homo sapiens arrived in Europe some 45,000 years ago, from Africa. In less than 15,000 years, they managed to occupy the whole of Europe and Eurasia—an extremely rapid expansion. Neanderthals, on the other hand, were born of Europe, appearing on the continent more than 250,000 years ago, after their ancestors, Homo ergaster, had established there 600,000 years earlier. Though physiologically well adapted to the cold climate of the glacial and postglacial periods, why were Neanderthals not as successful as their newly landed rivals in colonizing the continent? (more…)

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Researchers Report Potential for a “Moderate” New England “Red Tide” in 2012

New England is expected to experience a “moderate” regional “red tide” this spring and summer, report NOAA-funded scientists working in the Gulf of Maine to study the toxic algae that causes the bloom. The algae in the water pose no direct threat to human beings, however the toxins they produce can accumulate in filter-feeding organisms such as mussels and clams— which can cause paralytic shellfish poisoning (PSP) in humans who consume them.

Under a newly developed rating system, a moderate bloom could cause the closure of shellfish beds along an estimated 126 – 250 miles of coastline. (more…)

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