Ecosystems and Biodiversity

Green algae uses sunlight as an energy source, and can sense light using photoreceptors. Two of these sensors have already been identified, and now researchers in Germany have found a third light sensor. This new sensor is inhibited by light rather than activated by light, like the other two. When the sensor, 2c-Cyclop, is exposed to light, the production of an important messenger molecule slows down – the same thing that occurs in rhodopsins in the human eye! This discovery could offer exciting possibilities in optogenetics: algae light sensors can be put into other cells so that pathways can be activated or now, inhibited, using light. Via

Human activities have increased the amount of sediment suspended in tropical coastal waters. Researchers at the ARC Center of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies investigated how this increase in sediment affects fish behaviour. They found that after living in sediment-heavy water for a week, one-month-old cinnamon anemone fish responded more quickly to simulated predators and were more cautious when foraging. This shift in behaviour may adversely impact growth and development, as fish spent more energy being on “high alert” in the tested low visibility conditions. Via Science Daily

Roddickton, located on Newfoundland’s Great Northern Peninsula, is at the edge of an inlet that has recently trapped a group of around 40 harp seals after it froze over. The Fisheries Department is working hard to catch and return the seals back to the ocean. The seals have been drawing safety concerns as they’ve been blocking roads, driveways, and doors. Residents are unable to move these animals themselves as it is illegal to touch marine mammals and it is generally not advised to approach them. So far, on Sunday, eight seals have been released. Via Global News

Water Quality and Supply

Reported in ACS’ journal Analytical Chemistry, researchers are finding that octocrylene – an ingredient used in sunscreen, cosmetics and hair products – accumulate in coral as fatty acid esters, which may interfere with the organism’s metabolism. Several studies have found that up to 14,000 tons of sunscreen end up in the oceans every year. The state of Hawaii recently banned sunscreens containing oxybenzone and octinoxate to protect coral reefs, with the law set to take effect in January 2021. Via Science Daily

Many of us are aware of some of the consequences of sea level rise, but there is a much larger scope that’s often overlooked. In Florida, water quality is beginning to be affected by sea level rise by causing septic tank failures. As the sea level increases, it is also raising the ground water level. This is leading to septic tank failures because there is not enough soil between the septic and the ground level, causing an improper filtration of the waste water and in extreme cases even pushing the waste to the surface leaving poopy swamps. As sea level is predicted to continue rising, the need for improved infrastructure is apparent. Via

Government Initiatives

Removing plastics from the ocean is proving to be a long and arduous task. Weary from its fight against the Great Pacific Garbage Patch and missing a 60ft end piece, The Ocean Cleanup’s giant boom had to be towed for repairs and design tweaks last week. The break is thought to have occurred due to metal fatigue. While praise is abundant, critics say it could be hazardous to wildlife, and having a large machine to pick up after humans may divert attention from prevention efforts to reduce plastic usage in the first place. Via National Geographic

Energy and Power

The Pacific Northwest National Laboratory has developed a “Sensor Fish” that can provide data about what happens to juvenile salmon and steelhead when they pass through the turbines of hydroelectric dams.  Most of the juveniles survive the turbines, but more needs to be known about the injuries and deaths that occur in order to make turbines friendlier to fish populations. The “Sensor Fish” is a juvenile-fish-sized device filled with sensors that can make 2000 measurements per second of physical stressors, like acceleration and pressure. In addition to advanced tagging technology, the “Sensor Fish” has become commercially available and licensed to Advanced Telemetry Systems. Via EurekAlert!

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