“Super Sponge” Polymer to Mop Up Oil Spills Created

Something for certain communities to think about using when they inevitably suffer effects of an oil spill, as there are still way too many oil pipelines around the world. It really is stupid for them to still exist at such scale — in the U.S., Keystone XL unfortunately was approved, and in Canada Trudeau keeps campaigning for the oil pipelines, disillusioning a lot of Canadians in the process.

Oil spills could be soaked up by a new floating substance that combines waste from the petroleum industry and cooking oil, according to new research led by South Australia’s Flinders University.

The new polymer, made from sulphur and canola cooking oil, acted like a sponge to remove crude oil and diesel from seawater, according to a new study published in the Advanced Sustainable Systems journal. The polymer can be squeezed to remove the oil and then reused.

The lead researcher, Dr Justin Chalker, said it had the potential to be a cheap and sustainable recovery tool in areas affected by oil spills.

“We anticipate that when we get to economies of scale we will be able to compete in price with other materials that are used to soak up oil,” said Chalker, senior lecturer in synthetic chemistry at Flinders University.

“Our goal is for this to be used globally. It is inexpensive, and we have an eye for it to be used in parts of the world such as the Amazon Basin in Ecuador and the Niger Delta that don’t have access to solutions to oil spills.”

The International Tanker Owners Pollution Federation says about 7,000 tonnes of crude oil were spilt into oceans last year.

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The Flinders University research is just six months ago but Chalker said the new polymer had the potential to be less expensive and more sustainable than current clean-up tools such as polypropylene fibres and polyurethane foam.

Yale University Research: Majorities in Every U.S. County Support Teaching Children About Climate Change

The massive corporate propaganda effort in the U.S. has lead to the country being off the international spectrum in illogical climate denialism. Still, it’s encouraging to see this sort of evidence as the threat of climate change hangs over humanity.

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The fact that climate change is happening and human-caused is not a matter of scientific debate: many studies have examined climate scientists’ conclusions about global warming and have found scientific agreement similar to the level of consensus that smoking causes cancer (i.e., above 95%).

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Many teachers, however, need training and support to implement climate change science standards in their classrooms. Recent research published in Science found that many teachers are themselves not certain about climate change. For example, only 30% of middle school and 45% of high school science teachers understand the extent of the scientific consensus. Furthermore, of the educators who do teach climate change, many suggest the cause is ambiguous or uncertain to their students, while 30% actually incorrectly teach that global warming is naturally caused. Correcting the misperception about the scientific consensus that global warming is happening and human-caused is a key educational challenge for both teachers and students.

Shell Also Knew About Climate Change Decades Ago

Fossil fuels corporations such as Shell and Exxon studied climate change because there was a realization among them that they were causing it. The new documents also reveal that Shell predicted that it might be sued for this cover up, which is another indication that shows their responsibility for causing the emerging climate crisis seen today.

In response to a Dutch journalist publishing a trove of internal Shell documents revealing what Shell knew about climate change and its risks to both the world’s people and the company’s profit, Greenpeace USA Acting Climate Director Naomi Ages said,

“In 2015, we learned that Exxon knew decades ago about the severity of climate change and hid that knowledge from the public and shareholders. Now, we know that Shell knew too and even anticipated public backlash. Just like Exxon, Shell peddled scientific uncertainty and dragged its feet, maximizing its profits while the climate crisis grew. What makes Shell different from Exxon, is that Shell predicted that it would get sued over this – and, just like climate change, it was right about that too.

“These new reports increase the likelihood of more legal actions against Shell and bolster pending climate lawsuits. It’s time for Shell to reckon with the global costs of catastrophic climate change for which it is responsible.”

Ability of Birds to “See” Magnetic Fields Helps Them Navigate

A unique protein in the eyes of birds may be what grants them their navigation abilities, according to new research. An interesting finding considering how it might be able to be replicated.

The mystery behind how birds navigate might finally be solved: it’s not the iron in their beaks providing a magnetic compass, but a newly discovered protein in their eyes that lets them “see” Earth’s magnetic fields.

These findings come courtesy of two new papers – one studying robins, the other zebra finches.

The fancy eye protein is called Cry4, and it’s part of a class of proteins called cryptochromes – photoreceptors sensitive to blue light, found in both plants and animals. These proteins play a role in regulating circadian rhythms.

There’s also been evidence in recent years that, in birds, the cryptochromes in their eyes are responsible for their ability to orient themselves by detecting magnetic fields, a sense called magnetoreception.

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According to researchers at the Theoretical and Computational Biophysics group at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, whose researcher Klaus Schulten first predicted magnetoreceptive cryptochromes in 1978, they could provide a magnetic field “filter” over the bird’s field of view – like in the picture above.

Latest Data Confirm the Increased Frequency of Extreme Weather Events Over the Past 3 Decades

A direct consequence of climate change.

New data show that extreme weather events have become more frequent over the past 36 years, with a significant uptick in floods and other hydrological events compared even with five years ago, according to a new publication, “Extreme weather events in Europe: Preparing for climate change adaptation: an update on EASAC’s 2013 study” by the European Academies’ Science Advisory Council (EASAC), a body made up of 27 national science academies in the European Union, Norway, and Switzerland.

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Globally, according to the new data, the number of floods and other hydrological events have quadrupled since 1980 and have doubled since 2004, highlighting the urgency of adaptation to climate change. Climatological events, such as extreme temperatures, droughts, and forest fires, have more than doubled since 1980. Meteorological events, such as storms, have doubled since 1980.

These extreme weather events carry substantial economic costs. In the updated data, thunderstorm losses in North America have doubled — from under US$10 billion in 1980 to almost $20 billion in 2015.

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The update also reviews evidence on key drivers of extreme events. A major point of debate remains whether the Gulf Stream, or Atlantic Meridional Overturning Circulation (AMOC), will just decline or could ‘switch off’ entirely with substantial implications for Northwest Europe’s climate. Recent monitoring does suggest a significant weakening but debate continues over whether the gulf stream may “switch off” as a result of the increased flows of fresh water from northern latitude rainfall and melting of the Greenland icecap. EASAC notes the importance of continuing to use emerging oceanographic monitoring data to provide a more reliable forecast of impacts of global warming on the AMOC. The update also notes the recent evidence which suggests an association between the rapid rate of Arctic warming and extreme cold events further south (including in Europe and the Eastern USA) due to a weakened and meandering jet stream.

New Deep Reef Ocean Zone Discovered

New species of fish are being discovered in what’s being referred to as the Rariphotic zone. Deep reef ecosystems could still be explored much more.

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It’s always been there, but a layer of the ocean is so distinct from the waters above and below it that it needed its own category.

Scientists have just defined the newly named rariphotic zone, a layer of ocean between depths of 130 and 300 metres (400 and 1,000 feet) – a low-light or “twilight zone” in deeper reef regions.

It sits just below the mesophotic zone, between 40 and 150 metres (131 and 492 feet), where medium light penetrates – the optimal waters for tropical coral reefs. And it’s teeming with previously unknown fish – a whole newly discovered ecosystem.

These fish are closely related to reef fish, which researchers didn’t think could live below the mesophotic.

This has led to a hypothesis that the new rariphotic zone may be a refuge for shallower reef fishes seeking respite from the warming waters and coral deterioration caused by climate change.

There’s a lot we don’t know about the ocean, simply because it’s so difficult for us to access. It was only thanks to advances in submersible technology that marine scientists have been able to explore down below the reef off the coast of Curaçao.

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“It’s estimated that 95 percent of the livable space on our planet is in the ocean, yet only a fraction of that space has been explored,” said study lead author Carole Baldwin of the NMNH.

“That’s understandable for areas that are thousands of miles offshore and miles deep. But tropical deep reefs are just below popular, highly studied shallow reefs – essentially our own backyards. And tropical deep reefs are not barren landscapes on the deep ocean floor: they are highly diverse ecosystems that warrant further study. We hope that by naming the deep-reef rariphotic zone, we’ll draw attention to the need to continue to explore deep reefs.”

Trump Regime’s Wildlife Advisory Board — Most Members are Repugnant Trophy Hunters

Yet another sick and disturbing part of what has happened to the American federal government over the last year. It’s disturbing to know how many people still support the immensely harmful Trump regime — as it continually enacts policies against their interests (such as the latest corporate welfare package for Wall Street) no less.

Instead of appointing scientists or conservation experts, the International Wildlife Conservation Council is composed almost entirely of celebrity hunting guides, representatives from rifle and bow manufacturers and, of course, wealthy trophy hunters who like to boast about all of their “Big Five” souvenirs.

After reviewing the backgrounds of the new council’s 16 board members, The AP found ten members of the council are high-profile members of Safari Club International, which is a hunting organization that lobbied hard against the (recently overturned) federal ban on elephant and lion trophy imports.

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Yet several recent studies have suggested trophy hunting leaves already vulnerable animal populations significantly weakened. Even still, with such a one-sided council, it seems inevitable that the wildlife advisory council will come to the same conclusion as Zinke.

The story of damaging vulnerable animal populations often means that humans miss valuable potential insights about them. There are countless examples of these insights being beneficial, from venom being used to create medicine to the study of bats leading to the development of radar.