With help from the National Science Foundation, Cornell University’s Ornithology Lab is tracking bird breeding biology and the impact of climate change on bird populations. Some of the best information they are getting is from dedicated “citizen scientists” who provide critical data on what kinds of birds are nesting where, the number of eggs laid, and the number of chicks hatched. These volunteers can do this across the continent, over long periods of time. Laura Burkholder, project leader for the lab’s NestWatch, says some species are laying their eggs more than a week earlier than they did just a few years ago, which could mean trouble if the hatch dates get out of sync with the availability of food. Bird watchers also help Cornell scientists catalog literally millions of images taken every 20 seconds from nestcams across the country. Animal Behavior Scientist Janis Dickinson, who heads the Citizen Scientist Program, says the cameras allow researchers to look at nesting success, daily survival, and long term events such as climate change.
Green roofs can minimise storm water run-off, cool the environment and help absorb CO2. Find out how they work and how they can help local climates.
Watch the leading efforts to capture wave energy through creating powerful devices that can withstand heavy winds, monster waves, and corrosive salt water.
You might call them the ‘poster children’ of Antarctica. Penguins have long topped the charts as the iconic animal of the frozen continent.
But now, a new study indicates melting sea ice, caused by climate change, may soon wreak havoc on one colony of emperor penguins – and that could spell doom for a large swath of the entire species.
David Stahle travels to ancient forests around the world, collecting tree rings to learn more about major climate and historical events dating back hundreds and thousands of years. With help from the National Science Foundation, he uses Dendrochronology, or tree-ring dating, to get a snapshot of climate change over time.
Think of earthworms and a few things come to mind: they make great bait for fishing, they aerate the soil, and they’re an excellent addition to a compost pile. But, what a lot of people don’t know is many earthworms are actually invasive species. “The western Great Lakes region, which is the area we’re focused on, has no native earthworms,” says ecologist Cindy Hale, a research associate with the Natural Resources Research Institute at the University of Minnesota in Dulutha. Earthworms may be small but when they take over a forest, the impact is dramatic.
Ocean “dead zones” along the Washington and Oregon coasts are threatening critical U.S. fishing areas. These oxygen-depleted regions, that loose virtually all of their marine life in the summer, are expanding, and new ones are appearing in the Pacific Ocean. Oceanographer Jack Barth of Oregon State University says these new ocean dead zones are different from most of the 400+ others known around the world. While the majority of those are caused by excess nutrients in river runoffs, his research is the first to tie these new dead zones to climate change. With support from the National Science Foundation, Bath is also using an impressive new tool, an unmanned underwater glider that provides round the clock monitoring of these zones.
All of us use water and in the process, a lot of it goes to waste. Whether it goes down drains, sewers or toilets, much of it ends up at a wastewater treatment plant where it undergoes rigorous cleaning before it flows back to the environment. The process takes time, money and a lot of energy. What if that wastewater could be turned into energy? It almost sounds too good to be true, but environmental engineer Bruce Logan is working on ways to make it happen. Most treatment plants already use bacteria to break down the organic waste in the water. With support from the National Science Foundation, Logan and his team at Penn State University are taking the idea a step further. They are developing microbial fuel cells to channel the bacteria’s hard work into energy.
Chemical engineers at the University of Texas in Austin are researching new “spray-on” applications for photovoltaic panels. With support from the National Science Foundation, Brian Korgel and his team are testing out nanoparticle “inks” that are designed to be painted on rooftops or the sides of buildings. The technology is not yet at the same levels of efficiency as standard, commercial photovoltaic panels, but Korgel expects some commercial uses for his research within three to five years. And, because they are semi-transparent the new cells could allow windows to double as solar collection cells.
With funding from the National Science Foundation, researchers at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst have made a breakthrough in the development of “green gasoline,” a liquid identical to standard gasoline yet created from sustainable biomass sources, such as switch grass and poplar trees. While it may be five to 10 years before green gasoline arrives at the pump or finds its way into a fighter jet, these breakthroughs have bypassed significant hurdles to bringing green gasoline biofuels to market.