Gleanings of the Week Ending September 28, 2019

The items below were ‘the cream’ of the articles and websites I found this past week. Click on the light green text to look at the article.

Marriott Aims For 33% Reduction in Plastic Waste | CleanTechnica – Marriott will do this by 2020. They will do away with the tiny tubes of shampoo, conditioned and other toiletries, replacing then with larger bottles affixed to the walls. It’s a step in the right direction and we all need to be looking for these steps that are ‘easy.’ We also need vendors to do their part and transition away from plastic packaging. Remember that plastic is relatively recent; there are still people alive that remember a time without it! But we need new solutions rather than just going back to pre-plastic days….it will take focus and creativity…and a demand from all of us – to rid ourselves of the negative aspects of plastic.

Top 25 Wild Bird Photographs of the Week: Endemic Birds – National Geographic Society Newsroom – Beautiful birds.

Dam Removal Complete on Maryland's Patapasco River - News | Planetizen – Some close-to-home news. I had been tracking these dam removals over the past few years and hearing reports about preparation and results at the annual Maryland Water Monitoring Council conference.

Harmful Algal Blooms (Red Tide) – Information and maps about algal blooms. I looked at the Chesapeake Bay part of the site.

Ghost Crabs Use Teeth in Their Stomachs to Ward Off Predators | Smart News | Smithsonian – This article reminded me of the ghost crab we saw on Two Mile Beach near Cape May, New Jersey last May. We must have been far enough away to not be too threatening; the crab did not make any noise at all.

Drinking tea improves brain health, study suggests -- ScienceDaily – I like to drink tea…and it gets even better with studies like this. The opposite it true for soft drinks…even the diet ones. Those I need to reduce or stop drinking completely.

Can We Turn Down the Temperature on Urban Heat Islands? - Yale E360 – Work to gather more detailed information about the heat islands within cities. The extra details help clarify strategies of how to reduce them. Some of the ideas I had heard before…others – like varying building heights – I had not.

Topography could save sensitive saguaros as climate changes -- ScienceDaily – We haven’t been back to Tucson since my daughter finished her graduate work at University of Arizona; but I always browse articles about the place. This research was done at U of A…and I was glad that the iconic saguaros might adapt to climate change – at least on Tumamoc Hill.

A Field Guide to The Feral Parrots of the US – Cool Green Science – Wow – there are a lot more of them than I realized.

Neurotoxin lead sometimes added to turmeric for brighter color -- ScienceDaily – Very scary. Are we sure they don’t export the tainted turmeric?

Gleanings of the Week Ending June 22, 2019

The items below were ‘the cream’ of the articles and websites I found this past week. Click on the light green text to look at the article.

The royal tombs of Ur reveal Mesopotamia's ancient splendor – From National Geographic - Leonard Woolley’s excavation of Ur in the 1920s.

Astronomers Worry New SpaceX Satellite Constellation Could Impact Research | Smart News | Smithsonian – Are telescopes on the surface of the earth doomed? Will we only be able to study the universe from space?

Americans May Be Ingesting Thousands of Microplastics Every Year | Smart News | Smithsonian and Hawaii’s newest black sand beach already contains plastic pollution – Plastics everywhere...and there is growing evidence that it is negatively impacting life on our planet. What are we doing about it?

Image of the Day: Hot Stripes | The Scientist Magazine® - Did you know that zebras can raise the black stripes separately from the white stripes!

Top 25 Wild Bird Photographs of the Week: Communication – National Geographic Society – Birds…never can resist including a wild bird photo collections.

BBC - Future - How modern life is transforming the human skeleton – The way we live – written in our bones.

New Jersey 100% Renewable Energy Plan -- More Fiber, Less Fluff | CleanTechnica – Hurray for New Jersey….having a tangible plan to use zero carbon energy by 2050.

Eliminating packaging is a good start – but here's what supermarkets should do to stop harming the planet – I’ve made it a point to reduce the amount of packaging when I shop; I am way past the easy things…and up against the way groceries operate in my area. I buy local produce through my CSA for 5 months of the year (a good way to eliminate packaging, eat seasonally, and reduce food transportation costs) but the other 7 months of the year, I’m back to the typical grocery store for produce.

How old are your organs?  -- ScienceDaily - To scientists' surprise, organs are a mix of young and old cells: Scientists discover cellular structures with extreme longevity, leading to insights for age-associated diseases.

Tropical Cyclones are Stalling More – Hurricane Harvey (Texas)….Tropical storm Fay (Florida)…Hurricane Florence (North Carolina) – All three storms caused a lot of damage to the coasts when they lingered over the coastal area becoming prolific rain producers. Is this the new normal for Atlantic Hurricanes?

Gleanings of the Week Ending June 8, 2019

The items below were ‘the cream’ of the articles and websites I found this past week. Click on the light green text to look at the article.

5 Unusual Species Found in and Around the Everglades - The National Wildlife Federation Blog – I’ve seen two of the 4: the snail kite and wood stork!

Want to reduce single-use plastic in your life? Try these tips from National Geographic Explorer and #ExpeditionPlastic team member Lillygol Sedaghat. – National Geographic Society Newsroom – It’s hard to avoid single use plastics completely….but easy to cut back.

How big data can be used for personal health -- ScienceDaily – Yes – doing a lot of tracking of personal health information and having a baseline might be useful – but it’s not clear (from this article) that it didn’t result in overtreatment. It will be a challenge to match treatments in asymptomatic situations…that may never develop into a health problem. How well do we really understand risks?

BBC - Future - How weeds help fight climate change – And experiment in Australia showing how weeds might help in the process toward sustainable agriculture

Fracking: Earthquakes are triggered well beyond fluid injection zones: Computer model and field experiment data suggest a new link between subsurface injections and earthquake swarms -- ScienceDaily – Oklahoma….in the hot center of man-made earthquakes.

Do additives help the soil? Scientist suggests nature knows what's best -- ScienceDaily – Wow – a whole industry (bio-fertilizers) that is not having the positive effect on crops anticipated….and could have long-term effects on soil that are not positive. Why is the industry surviving?

Blood-squirting insects and more tiny creatures flourish in African park – Gorongosa National Park in Mozambique.

Exploring the origins of the apple -- ScienceDaily – Large fruits developed to attract large animals like wild horses and large deer…..and probably other animals that are now extinct. The modern apple is a hybrid of at least 4 wild apple populations….along the Silk Road.

A Better Route Planner & Other Open Source Projects Need Our Help | CleanTechnica – Technology that needs to mature before Electronic Vehicles become more numerous.

Excessive rainfall as damaging to corn yield as extreme heat, drought -- ScienceDaily – This year there has been too much rain in the corn belt. This story is over a month old but there are still areas of high water. What percentage of the corn fields haven’t been planted yet because they are still flooded?

Gleanings of the Gleanings of the Week Ending April 27, 2019

The items below were ‘the cream’ of the articles and websites I found this past week. Click on the light green text to look at the article.

Berkeley Soda Tax, 3 Years In: What New Research Shows About Its Effectiveness | Berkeley Wellness - Consumption of sugary drinks has fallen by half in low-income areas of Berkeley, California.

The Real Reason You See Earthworms After Rain – Cool Green Science – There could be multiple reasons. Maybe they are moving to new territory while the surface is wet, and they won’t become dehydrated. Or maybe they want the extra oxygen that is at the surface.

Exploring The Parks: Great Sand Dunes National Park And Preserve – It’s been a long time since I have been to this park…and we didn’t explore it thoroughly when we were there. Maybe time to plan another trip.

Image of the Day: Pretty Jellies | The Scientist Magazine® - Genetic comparisons of jellyfish types

These Cities Are the Most Dangerous for Migrating Birds | Smart News | Smithsonian – Chicago, Dallas, and Houston….an area that Texas would probably prefer to not be at the top. Maybe the “Lights Out” trend with help.

Washington Monument Opening Pushed Back To August Due To Contaminated Soil – I was surprised when I saw this headline because I didn’t even know is was closed! The soil is below the surface and probably from the 1880s.

Allergy Season Is Getting Longer and Nastier Each Year | Smart News | Smithsonian – It’s happened gradually but the length of allergy season and the amount of pollen has been increasing over the past 20 years. There are new treatments for those suffering enough to go to allergists - many allergists are prescribing immunotherapy tablets for people suffering from grass pollen, dust mite or ragweed allergies.

Scientists Say They Have Found a Viable Replacement for Petroleum-Based Plastic - Yale E360 – Plant based material that has the strength and aesthetics…suitable for food packaging. The research described in the article is from Ohio State but there are probably others working on the problem too. If a replacement for petroleum-based plastic can be found it would make it much easier to ‘go green.’

BBC - Future - How air pollution is doing more than killing us and Air Pollution Increases ER Visits — Largest US Study On The Topic Confirms It | CleanTechnica – Lots of public health issues being studied in light of air pollution….and the findings are concerning. The linkage to things like asthma has long been discussed but now there are more details and more negative impacts of air pollution on health being identified.  Emerging studies show that air pollution is linked to impaired judgement, mental health problems, poorer performance in school and most worryingly perhaps, higher levels of crime.

#IYPT2019 – What elements do you need to live? – in C&EN | Compound Interest – An infographic to answer the question.

Gleanings of the Week Ending February 23, 2019

The items below were ‘the cream’ of the articles and websites I found this past week. Click on the light green text to look at the article.

BBC - Future - A high-carb diet may explain why Okinawans live so long – I was surprised that sweet potatoes played a significant role in their diet.

Photo of the Week – January 18, 2019 | The Prairie Ecologist – Ice crystals on plants and barbed wire….winter photography.

Top 25 Wild Bird Photographs of the Week: Birds Using Rivers and Lakes  and Top 25 Wild Bird Photographs of the Week: Parrots (both from the National Geographic Society Newsroom) – I’m doing a bit of catching up on the Top 25 bird posts. I always enjoy these photographic series.

A Mysterious Disease Is Killing Beech Trees | The Scientist Magazine® - Beech Leaf Disease…first spotted in Ohio in 2012 and expanding since then. It appears to be an infectious disease but the causal agent hasn’t been determined and there is no treatment yet. We have a lot of beech trees in Maryland’s forests. We lost the hemlocks and ashes….and years before the chestnuts. Each loss changes the forest.

The microbes that help make you and me and  BBC - What we do and don’t know about gut health and  Is it worth taking probiotics after antibiotics?  and How dirty air could be affecting our gut health and How to eat your way to a healthy gut – A series from BBC- Future. It seems like a lot of people could feel better if we knew more about how to keep (or regain) a healthy gut.

See the microscopic wonders of herbs – Scanning Electron Microscope images of herbs – the beauty of  plants with such distinct smells and flavors.

New wisdom about high cholesterol treatment for adults aged 80 and older -- ScienceDaily – So many of the medical guidelines were developed with trials including younger people…and the assumption was made that it would be the same for older people. But now more people are living past 80 and it’s becoming clearer that it is not always the case.

See what your ZIP code says about you using Esri's ZIP lookup tool - Business Insider – The link is at the bottom of the article. I looked at places I am familiar with and it seemed about right. This would be an interesting tool to use if you were moving to a new area…provide a different perspective to your home search.

The Hidden Environmental Toll of Mining the World’s Sand - Yale E360 – Sand is needed for concrete…and a lot of building going on in the world. The problem of extreme mining in rivers and estuaries is increasing.

BBC - Future - The natural products that could replace plastic – Can any of these happen fast enough to stop – or even reduce - the flow of plastics into our rivers and oceans and landfills?

Gleanings of the Week Ending February 02, 2019

The items below were ‘the cream’ of the articles and websites I found this past week. Click on the light green text to look at the article.

Top 25 Wild Bird Photographs of the Week: Camouflage – Lots of birds can hide in plain sight! Owls are the ones I think of first in this category.

When 'alien' insects attack Antarctica: Terrestrial ecosystems are vulnerable to single introduced insect species -- ScienceDaily – A threat from a tiny flightless midge

Anak Krakatau: Planet Labs imagery of the aftermath of the landslide - The Landslide Blog - AGU Blogosphere – Imagery of the landslide that caused the deadly tsunami just before last Christmas.

What is the most commonly found ocean litter? – Yuck! Another reason that cigarettes are a bad thing.

A series of posts from NOAA’s 2018 Arctic Report Card: Visual highlights , Multi-year stretch of record and near-record warmth unlike any period on record, Reindeer and caribou populations continue to decline, Less than 1 percent of Arctic ice has survived four or more summers, Red tides and other toxic species expanding across the Arctic, increasing risks to marine mammals and humans – Quantifying the changes occurring in the arctic

Image of the Day: In Sync | The Scientist Magazine® - Infants playing with their parents…syncing of brain activity

New Ultima Thule discoveries from NASA's New Horizons -- ScienceDaily – A space mission to something we’ve never seen before….the aptly named ‘New Horizons’

Why are biology classes ignoring insects? · john hawks weblog – When I was in high school, insects were a big deal for biology classes; many students created an insect collect the summer prior to the biology year. I don’t remember too much about insects in my first courses as an undergraduate in biology I the 1970s…but there was probably more coverage than in the more recent textbooks.

Keeping fit: how to do the right exercise for your age – A good summary…although the key message is to keep moving…sustained exercise is the best strategy.

Our bodies may cure themselves of diabetes in the future -- ScienceDaily – It’s at the basic research level…but could be an approach to ‘diseases’ caused by cell death in the future (diabetes, Alzheimer’s and cells damaged by heart attacks, etc.)

YE Thinking: Reducing Plastic

It’s impossible to stop using plastic completely – but I am reducing in every way that I can. Plastic on our land or in our water is not a good thing and it is a totally man-made problem that is becoming more apparent every year. Here are my strategies for reducing my plastic footprint at the end of 2018:

Buy products in containers that are not plastic (i.e. milk in cartons rather that plastic jugs, lemon juice in glass jar, peanut butter/preserves in glass jars).

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Always have reusable shopping bags handy. This was probably the first strategy I implemented, and it’s been over 10 years ago now. It was very easy for the weekly grocery shopping. Doing it for the quick trips of one or two items - and to stores other than the grocery store – happened over time. I now carry a small bag in a stuff pocket attached to my purse.

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Put produce in reusable produce bags. The challenge is that the labels spewed out by the scales don’t stick to the fabric…so I have a pad of paper to stick them too and the checker easily scans them when I am checking out.

Avoid single use plastic utensils. Go with plastic that can withstand many passes through the dishwasher or stainless flatware. My husband and I have travel sporks that we use for picnics on road trips.

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Make your own body wash with slivers of soap with water in a plastic bottle (I have a bottle from purchased body wash that I like for it’s shape….it will last for several years replenished from time to time with bar soap slivers!)

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Stop buying soft drinks and bottled water. I have been surprised at how easy this is to do for me. My husband is still working at it. It’s a healthy choice too. I carry my travel mug almost all the time – usually with just ice water. Another plus – it can reduce ‘grocery’ costs.

In the end – plastic is unavoidable. I try to choose plastics that are easier to recycle in our community.

  • Our recycling does not take clamshells like salad comes in so I rarely buy salad in that form. I buy the bundled organic full leaves (or plant) and put it in one of my reusable bags….or in a container that I can recycle (like a plastic bag).

  • I buy popcorn in a plastic bag rather than plastic container since I am more confident that the grocery store where I return clean plastic bags gets them recycled than the vendor that processes the multi-stream recycling picked up at our curb.

  • If there is an option to buy something I use frequently in a larger container (both plastic), I buy the larger container. My rationale is that larger containers probably get through the recycling process and into the correct bin (i.e. plastic) to be recycled.

One strategy that has helped me reduce the amount of plastic we are using is to look at what we put in our trash or recycle bins. I am fast approaching the point that I’ve done what I can do until packaging changes and I have more choices – choices that don’t include plastic.

Gleanings of the Week Ending July 28, 2018

The items below were ‘the cream’ of the articles and websites I found this past week. Click on the light green text to look at the article.

Go Orchids: North American Orchid Conservation Center – A great site for learning about orchids…mentioned in my second post about the class I attended at the Smithsonian Environmental Research Center.

In praise of drawing - The Painters Keys – This is post originally written in 2006 but still very applicable today. I looked more at Internet Archive for some of the ‘how to draw’ books that were mentioned in the article; it’s amazing that in a 40-year period in the 1800s so many were published. A more recent post – from a science education perspective – was published in 2015: Rediscovering the forgotten benefits of drawing. I am contemplating taking a ‘next step’ from Zentangles to realistic drawings.

Time-Lapse Videos Capture Echinopsis Cacti in Bloom – Eye candy videos…beautiful.

Free Technology for Teachers: 7 TED-Ed Food Science Lessons – We could all learn a little more about the food we consume….educate ourselves to eat wisely.

Research Dollars Go Farther at Less-Prestigious Institutions: Study | The Scientist Magazine® - Interesting finding. I wonder if it will change how some organizations that award research dollars make decisions in the future.

Material formed from crab shells and trees could replace flexible plastic packaging -- ScienceDaily – This type of technology gives me hope. Recycling can’t do everything. We have to reduce the non-compostable materials in our packaging…have a net decrease in what has to be (expensively) recycled and/or go to the landfill.

Recovery: America’s Giant Squirrel Back from the Brink – Cool Green Science – I’ve seen signs about the Delmarva Fox Squirrel when we have gone to Blackwater National Wildlife Refuge but have never seen one. It’s good to hear a environmental improvement story!

As usual – I can’t resist the ’25 birds’ posts from National Geographic. Here are two that have come out recently: Top 25 Bird Interactions and Top 25: Wild Birds with Spectacular Catches

BBC - Future - The complicated truth about a cat’s purr – We all like to think that when our cat purrs that it is a sound of happiness…but is it?

Compound Interest - Volcanic eruptions: the chemistry of lava and volcanic gases and Compound Interest - The chemistry of spinach: the iron myth and ‘spinach teeth’ – Two posts from Andy Brunning. In the first one – click on the graphic and the larger version of the infographic will appear....a timely post with the volcanic event in Hawaii this summer.

Changes at the Grocery Store - a little history

When I first started doing my own grocery shopping back in the 1970s – the checkers still had to know the prices (no scanners), there was only one kind of bag and it was paper, and I paid cash or wrote a check.

Then the scanners came along and plastic bags although paper bags could be requested. At some point, paying for groceries with a credit card took over from checks. The credit card processing hand changed over the years…from the checker swiping it through a part of the register, to me swiping it through a device, and most recently, to me inserting the chip end of the card into the upgraded device. That finally step has eliminated the signature requirement.

I started using my own reusable bags about 8 years ago and now seldom get the plastic bags any more (and never from the grocery store). Sometimes my husband requests paper bags that we use for collecting paper to be recycled.

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The last plastic bags I’ve eliminated are from the produce department; I’ve started taking a reusable plastic bin for those items – weighing them so the checker can easily scan the weight/price for those items. In a recent trip I eliminated 3 plastic bags; I always am pleased when I can take a simple action and reduce plastic use!

Of course, once the Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) season starts in June, my purchases from the grocery store produce department are dramatically reduced.

Gleanings of the Week Ending May 12, 2018

The items below were ‘the cream’ of the articles and websites I found this past week. Click on the light green text to look at the article.

Why I Speak Up for Science – National Geographic – A short piece about the need for science in everyday life….why science is important for everyone.

From property damage to lost production: How natural disasters impact economics -- ScienceDaily – The economic impact is more than just a single point of property damage and lost production…there is a ripple effect that can increase the overall impact significantly over what insurance covers and it beomes a very complex problem to estimate.

European Union Bans All Outdoor Uses of Neonicotinoids - Yale E360 – Shouldn’t we in the US be at least this concerned about the health of bees and other pollinators? Why have we not done more to curtail the use of neonicotinoids?

Top 25 Urban Birds – National Geographic – Some birds are thriving in the cities of the world.

Common Eye Disorders Explained: Cataracts, Glaucoma, AMD | Berkeley Wellness – Prevention, signs and symptoms, treatment…well organized and easy to understand.

These daggers made from human bone were a deadly asset on the battlefield | Science | AAAS – They are from New Guinea….and decorated. Most of the time they were made from cassowary leg bones….but sometimes human thigh bones were used.

US gains in air quality are slowing down: New study indicates challenges of meeting ozone goals -- ScienceDaily – I live in an area that has an increasing number of ‘code red’ days (high ozone). This study indicates that emissions from cars and power plants are understood well enough…but not other sources and that is probably why the trend toward better air quality is slowing down.

BBC - Future - How prison changes people – Evidently the personality change that dominates is an inability to trust others….but there are other common changes as well. Prisons almost seem design to change personalities for the worse.

City upbringing, without pets, boosts vulnerability to mental illness -- ScienceDaily – We need to figure out how to make cities a healthy place for everyone --- including children.

BBC - Future - Why pristine lakes are filled with toxins – A study done on Lake Geneva revealed cadmium, mercury, lead…sometimes in high concentration…from decades of plastic build up in the lake. Other studies of the microplastics in the water (and in water that has been processed for drinking) and then beer and honey from the area. Lots more research is needed on the impact to wildlife in and around the lake.