Ecosystems and Biodiversity

In Peru, the remains of an ancient 4-legged whale have been found, exhibiting similar features to that of a sea otter. Discovered among 42.6-million-year-old marine sediments, scientists will now be able to gain further insight into the evolution of whales. The skeleton indicates that this nearly 4-metre long quadrupedal whale would have been able to maneuver both on land and in water. Via Science Daily

A study from Ohio State University has been looking at human-based causes and environmental stressors to explain the mass death of green sea turtles in Australia in 2012 and 2013. The presence of heavy metals, such as cobalt, has been found in blood samples of sea turtles. This could be attributed to flooding and cyclones disturbing ocean sediments and contaminating the water. Scientists also found the presence of barnacles on the undersides of the sea turtles to indicate poor health: a build-up of barnacles shows that the turtles aren’t making the frequent  trips to the ocean floor to eat, which would typically cause the barnacles to rub off their bodies. Via EurekAlert!

Water Quality and Supply

The algae extracted from municipal wastewater systems usually ends up in landfills. Now, developers at Gen3Bio, a startup, are using technology to turn waste algae into biofuels and even bioplastics – instead of just dumping it. The algae can be chemically processed, its lipids and proteins extracted and manipulated, then turned into fish food and other products. Some of the revenue from those products can even go back to the water processing facilities. Gen3Bio has been supported by the Water Council’s BREW program, which offers startups the funding to bring their environmentally friendly technology to market. Via

Fecal bacteria are a common contaminant of fresh water, and can often pose a health hazard. Still, the dynamics behind their spread in rivers is poorly understood. Researchers from the University of Aberdeen and the Leibniz-Institute of Freshwater Ecology and Inland Fisheries have come up with a mathematical model that describes the spread of fecal bacteria in river systems given hydrological properties and connectivity of streams. The teams were able to develop the model by tracking indicator organisms in a river basin in Scotland. The model successfully predicted the bacterial distribution in summer months, but still needs other versions for predicting the movement of fecal bacteria in winter. Via

Government Initiatives

Maryland is the first state in the United States to ban polystyrene foam food containers and cups. The Maryland General Assembly gave final approval to the bill recently, as the third attempt to pass the bill by Del. Brooke Lierman, a Baltimore Democrat. It now advances to the desk of Republican Gov. Larry Hogan, who has not taken a position yet, however the bill passed both the House of Delegates and state senators with enough votes to override any possible veto. The legislation contains some exceptions, such as foam products packaged outside Maryland, foam products used to package raw or butchered meat, and foam products not used for food service. The ban would take effect July 1, 2020. Via

Energy and Power

An international team used net energy analysis to compare the net energy output of renewable electricity (solar and wind) with that of carbon capture and storage. This research showed resources that would be spent developing and installing carbon capture technologies would actually be better invested in creating more solar panels and wind turbines as well as energy storage options to support these.  This is important because carbon capture technologies play a fundamental role in international agreements on climate change. The better net energy return of renewable energy makes it more likely to help meet emission targets so renewables are a better investment for tackling climate change. Via EurekAlert!

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