The whales’ deaths are symbolic of humanity’s shocking disregard for marine life.
The U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service (USFWS) has added seven bee species to the endangered species list, a first for bees. Native to Hawaii, these yellow-faced bees are facing extinction due to habitat loss, wildfires and invasive species.
The tiny, solitary bees were once abundant in Hawaii, but surveys in the late 1990s found that many of its traditional sites had been urbanized or colonized by non-native plants. In March 2009, the Xerces Society for Invertebrate Conservation petitioned the USFWS to list these bee species as endangered under the U.S. Endangered Species Act.
“The USFWS decision is excellent news for these bees, but there is much work that needs to be done to ensure that Hawaii’s bees thrive,” wrote Matthew Shepherd, communications director for Xerces, in a blog post responding to the announcement.
Yellow-faced bees are the most important pollinators for many key trees and shrubs in Hawaii. They once populated the island from the coast up to 10,000 feet on Mauna Kea and Haleakalā. They get their name from yellow-to-white facial markings, and they are often mistaken for wasps.
According to Karl Magnacca, an entomologist with the O’ahu Army Natural Resources Program, the bees evolved in an isolated environment and were unprepared for the changes brought by humans. These included new plants, domestic animals such as cattle and goats, as well as ants and other bees that compete with the native Hawaiian bees.
One of the seven species, Hylaeus anthracites, is now found in just 15 locations on Hawaii, Maui, Kahoolawe, Molokai and Oahu. Protection of these areas could be a start to aid the bees.
“Unfortunately, the USFWS has not designated any ‘critical habitat,’ areas of land of particular importance for the endangered bees,” wrote Shepherd.
The listing comes just a week after the USFWS proposed listing another bee, the rusty patchedbumble bee, to the endangered species list. During the past 50 years, about 30 percent of beehives in the U.S. have collapsed, according to the the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
On Sept. 9, a new study published in the journal, Scientific Reports, found that the world’s most commonly used insecticide, neonicotinoids, caused queen bees to lay fewer eggs and worker bees to be less productive. A Greenpeace investigation of internal studies conducted by chemical makers Bayer and Syngenta showed that these chemicals can harm honeybee colonies when exposed to high concentrations. In January, the EPA found that one of these neonicotinoids, imidacloprid, can be harmful to bees.
The National Pesticide Information Center states unequivocally, “Imidacloprid is very toxic to honeybees and other beneficial insects.” The EPA has proposed prohibiting the use of neonicotinoids in the presence of bees.
The USFWS ruling protecting Hawaii’s yellow-faced bees becomes effective Oct. 31.
A 13-year-old student from Ohio won the top prize at the 2016 Discovery Education 3M Young Scientist Challenge Tuesday for developing a cost-effective device that uses solar and wind power to create energy.
Maanasa Mendu, a ninth grader at William Mason High School in Ohio, said she was inspired by a visit to India where she discovered many people lacked basic life necessities such as clean water and lighting.
During the past three months, Mendu worked with Margaux Mitera, a 3M senior product development engineer, to develop a more advanced system that was inspired by how plants function. Mendu decided to create “solar leaves” that harnessed vibrational energy. Her “leaves” get energy from rain, wind and the sun, using a solar cell and piezoelectric material—the part of the leaf that picks up on the vibrations—and transforms it into usable energy, Business Insider said.
Besides being named “America’s Top Young Scientist,” Mendu won $25,000 for her invention.
“Each year, the Discovery Education 3M Young Scientist Challenge reminds us of the inspiring ingenuity that results when we empower our youngest generation to apply science, critical-thinking and creativity to solve real-world problems,” said Bill Goodwyn, president and CEO, Discovery Education.
The second, third and fourth place winners each received a $1,000 prize and a trip to a taping of a show on Discovery’s family of networks for their inventions:
- Rohan Wagh from Portland, Oregon, a ninth grader at Sunset High School in Beaverton School District, received second place for his innovation that utilizes the natural metabolism of bacteria to create energy.
- Kaien Yang from Chantilly, Virginia, an eighth grader at Nysmith School for the Gifted, received third place for his innovation that uses pumpkin seed oil to create both a biodiesel and bioplastic that reduces emissions and pollution from plastic.
- Amelia Day from Sumner, Washington, a ninth grader at Sumner High School in Sumner School District, received fourth place for her invention that uses sensory feedback to help rebuild neural connections inside of the brain during rehabilitation.
NASA’s Voyager 2 spacecraft flew by Uranus 30 years ago, but researchers are still making discoveries from the data it gathered then. A new study led by University of Idaho researchers suggests there could be two tiny, previously undiscovered moonlets orbiting near two of the planet’s rings.
Rob Chancia, a University of Idaho doctoral student, spotted key patterns in the rings while examining decades-old images of Uranus’ icy rings taken by Voyager 2 in 1986. He noticed the amount of ring material on the edge of the alpha ring — one of the brightest of Uranus’ multiple rings — varied periodically. A similar, even more promising pattern occurred in the same part of the neighboring beta ring.
“When you look at this pattern in different places around the ring, the wavelength is different — that points to something changing as you go around the ring. There’s something breaking the symmetry,” said Matt Hedman, an assistant professor of physics at the University of Idaho, who worked with Chancia to investigate the finding.
Chancia and Hedman are well-versed in the physics of planetary rings: both study Saturn’s rings using data from NASA’s Cassini spacecraft, which is currently orbiting Saturn. Data from Cassini have yielded new ideas about how rings behave, and a grant from NASA allowed Chancia and Hedman to examine Uranus data gathered by Voyager 2 in a new light. Specifically, they analyzed radio occultations — made when Voyager 2 sent radio waves through the rings to be detected back on Earth — and stellar occultations, made when the spacecraft measured the light of background stars shining through the rings, which helps reveal how much material they contain.
They found the pattern in Uranus’ rings was similar to moon-related structures in Saturn’s rings called moonlet wakes.
The researchers estimate the hypothesized moonlets in Uranus’ rings would be 2 to 9 miles (4 to 14 kilometers) in diameter — as small as some identified moons of Saturn, but smaller than any of Uranus’ known moons. Uranian moons are especially hard to spot because their surfaces are covered in dark material.
“We haven’t seen the moons yet, but the idea is the size of the moons needed to make these features is quite small, and they could have easily been missed,” Hedman said. “The Voyager images weren’t sensitive enough to easily see these moons.”
Hedman said their findings could help explain some characteristics of Uranus’ rings, which are strangely narrow compared to Saturn’s. The moonlets, if they exist, may be acting as “shepherd” moons, helping to keep the rings from spreading out. Two of Uranus’ 27 known moons, Ophelia and Cordelia, act as shepherds to Uranus’ epsilon ring.
“The problem of keeping rings narrow has been around since the discovery of the Uranian ring system in 1977 and has been worked on by many dynamicists over the years,” Chancia said. “I would be very pleased if these proposed moonlets turn out to be real and we can use them to approach a solution.”
Confirming whether or not the moonlets actually exist using telescope or spacecraft images will be left to other researchers, Chancia and Hedman said. They will continue examining patterns and structures in Uranus’ rings, helping uncover more of the planet’s many secrets.
“It’s exciting to see Voyager 2’s historic Uranus exploration still contributing new knowledge about the planets,” said Ed Stone, project scientist for Voyager, based at Caltech, Pasadena, California.
Voyager 2 and its twin, Voyager 1, were launched 16 days apart in 1977. Both spacecraft flew by Jupiter and Saturn, and Voyager 2 also flew by Uranus and Neptune. Voyager 2 is the longest continuously operated spacecraft. It is expected to enter interstellar space in a few years, joining Voyager 1, which crossed over in 2012. Though far past the planets, the mission continues to send back unprecedented observations of the space environment in the solar system, providing crucial information on the environment our spacecraft travel through as we explore farther and farther from home.
NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, a division of Caltech in Pasadena, California, built the twin Voyager spacecraft and operates them for the Heliophysics Division within NASA’s Science Mission Directorate in Washington.
For more information about Voyager, visit: http://voyager.jpl.nasa.gov
In a beautiful example of a closed but functional ecosystem, David Latimer has grown a garden sealed inside of a giant glass bottle that he has only opened once since he started it almost 54 years ago.
Latimer planted the garden on Easter Sunday in 1960. He placed some compost and a quarter pint of water into a 10-gallon glass carboy and inserted a spiderwort sprout using wires. In 1972, he opened the garden again to add a bit of water. With that one exception, the garden has remained totally sealed – all it needs is plenty of sunlight!
It might seem strange to some that a totally sealed garden would thrive like this, but it’s not – the garden is a perfectly self-sufficient ecosystem. The bacteria in the compost break down the dead plants and break down the oxygen given off by the plants, turning it into the carbon dioxide that the plants need to survive. The bottle is an excellent micro version of the earth as a whole.
The largest earthquake ever recorded in Kansas—a 4.9 magnitude temblor that struck northeast of Milan on Nov. 12, 2014—has been officially linked to wastewater injection into deep underground wells, according to new research from the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS).
The Wichita Eagle noted from the study that this man-made quake, which hit 40 miles southwest of Wichita and felt as far away as Memphis, likely came from just one or two nearby wells. The publication ominously noted that, “one of those two wells, operated by SandRidge Energy, is still injecting water at the same level as when the earthquake occurred two years ago.”
The USGS scientists believe that the 4.9-magnitude earthquake was triggered by wastewater injection for the following reasons:
- There had not previously been similar earthquakes in the area.
- There were waste-water injection wells nearby.
- The earthquake activity started after the amount of water injected in the wells increased.
- There’s a piece of earth that could be activated by changes in pressure.
Kansas has had a long history with fracking. In fact, the first well ever fracked in the United States happened in 1947 in the Sunflower state. The process is now used for nearly all of the 5,000 conventional wells drilled in Kansas every year.
But just like Oklahoma, Kansas is seeing an alarming uptick of “induced” earthquakes connected to the underground disposal of wastewater from the fracking process. Kansas is a region previously devoid of significant seismic activity, however, the number of earthquakes in the state jumped from only four in 2013 to 817 in 2014, The Washington Post reported.
According to an August report from The Wichita Eagle, Kansas has seen fewer and weaker earthquakes following the Kansas Corporation Commission’s recommendations to reduce underground injection of oilfield wastewater.
Incidentally, the Milan quake and the record-breaking 5.8 earthquake that struck Pawnee, Oklahoma last month occurred on faults that scientists did not previously know existed.
“If the well is in the right place next to a fault and the fault is oriented the right way, a little change in stress could cause (an earthquake) to occur,” USGS geologist George Choy, the study’s lead author, told The Wichita Eagle.
The study will be published in Seismological Research Letters next month.
“The source parameters and behavior of the Milan earthquake and foreshock–aftershock sequence are similar to characteristics of other earthquakes induced by wastewater injection into permeable formations overlying crystalline basement,” the study abstract states.
SandRidge Energy is the largest oil producer in Kansas and the largest disposer of wastewater in Oklahoma. In January, the Oklahoma-based company refused to abide by the Oklahoma Corporation Commission’s recommendations to shut down or decrease wastewater injection in order to prevent more earthquakes. The company agreed to shut down wells and reduce wastewater volumes months later.