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Wildlife

What New Species Have We Discovered in 2018?

May 21, 2018
new species 2018

Scientists discover new species of plants and animals every year.

The diversity and amount of life on Earth are astounding. Ecologists now estimate there are 8.7 million different species on the planet — and those are the ones we know about — but we discover more each year. Despite the large number of species we are aware of, we are just beginning to discover the extent of life on Earth, and there is so much more to uncover. However, as we enter new species into the record books, we lose others forever because of the destruction of habitats, climate change and illegal hunting.

Finding New Species

The advancement of technology has helped science classify and discover new species. Being able to study and look at DNA has shown how species differ on a molecular level. Communication and cooperation with others around the globe have also contributed to discovering new species. In time, perhaps the advancement of technology will allow us to save or bring back extinct species through cloning — science is certainly working on advancing the technique to make it a possibility!

Commercialization has also contributed to the discovery of new species. With commercial fishing heading into deeper waters for food, they are pulling up aquatic animals that have remained unseen for eons — or perhaps ever.

With the need for crops and livestock to feed hungry populations, farmers and ranchers are cutting down habitats for pastureland and cropland, which displaces animals and brings them out of hiding. While not exactly the most sustainable or environmentally friendly way to discover new species, it still lets us know they exist and gives us the opportunity to find ways to preserve their habitats.

New Species 2018

Every year, scientists identify thousands of new species, with insects being the most common. Even though we are only partway through the year, science has added to the species list. New species 2018 include the following listed below.

Tardigrade

These micro-animals live in mossy habitats all over the world. The newest addition to the family was found in moss growing in a parking lot in Japan. Tardigrades are resilient to extreme heat and cold, and researchers are studying them to understand how extreme conditions impact organisms on a molecular level.

Ocean Dwellers — Fish, Sea Slugs and Sharks

A brown-and-white butterfly fish was discovered 360 feet under the ocean off the coast of the Verde Island Passage in the Philippines. Other fish that have also been identified in 2018 include a catfish discovered in China and 20 reef fish.

Thirteen new species of sea slugs were also discovered, with eight of them being found in the Philippines. What makes these eight slugs special is the ability to swim due to tiny, wing-like structures.

A new six-gilled shard was discovered in the Atlantic Ocean, but it also inhabits the Indian and Pacific oceans. It took analyzing DNA samples from this shark to realize it was a new species of six-gill, bringing our total known variety of this species to three. Most of these sharks live in the extreme depths of the ocean thousands of feet below the surface, so they are difficult to study and discover.

Multitudes of other species live in the depths of the ocean that scientists have only recently discovered, including cookie-cutter sharks with bioluminescence, a cousin to the blobfish and a faceless fish.

Insects

Seven new species of ants have been discovered. A parasitic wasp has also been discovered that comes equipped with saws that allow it to slice its way out of the host body.

Arachnids

Three new species of scorpions that belong to the club-tailed group were identified in the tropical regions of the South, Central and North Americas. This group is unique because it can rub its tail against its body and produce an audible hissing sound, which may be a warning for predators to back off.

Lizards

New lizard species have been discovered in China and Thiruvananthapuram, the largest city in the Indian state of Kerala. The Indian lizard is part of a family that has colorful fans on their throat, and the newest addition was named after Sir David Attenborough, a famous British broadcaster and naturalist.

Plants

Sixteen new flowering plants have been discovered in Brazil and in West Bengal. The plant Lavoisiera canastrensis is critically endangered and can only be found on one mountaintop in the Serra da Canastra National Park.

Year after year, the discovery of new species is exciting and encouraging. Researching and learning more about plants and animals gives us deeper insight into our own lives and a better understanding of the planet we call home.

Despite the number of new species we discover each year, we are losing more at an unprecedented rate — mostly to environmental impacts caused by humans. It’s our responsibility to protect the earth and the creatures living on it so all plants and animals can thrive and survive.

Oceans

Endangered Ocean Plants Essential to Our Ecosystems

May 17, 2018
ocean plants

When you think of the ocean, and especially endangered species in the ocean, what comes to mind? For most people, it’s things like adorable penguins, majestic whales or playful dolphins. While these animals are all important parts of their respective ecosystems and may be endangered, they’re not the only life forms at risk. Ocean plants are an essential part of our ecosystems, and many of them are endangered as well, thanks to overfishing and other human interventions. Here are a few ocean plants that are essential parts of their own ecosystem and part of the oceanic biosphere as a whole.

Gracilaria Skottsbergii

The Galapagos Islands are known for their remoteness — and if we’re being honest, for their massive, ancient turtles. It is, or was, also home to a very rare type of red algae known as Gracilaria Skottsbergii. First discovered in 1934 at depths between 12 and 27 meters, this algae is a primary food source for sea urchins and other herbivores in the area.

This is one of the few ocean plant species that is considered to be critically endangered. It is so rare at this point that it is nearly impossible to observe in the wild and may actually be extinct in some areas. Climate change is being blamed for the loss of this rare red algae, as changing ocean temperatures disrupted its ecosystem.

Johson’s Seagrass

Florida is known for its beaches and tourist attractions — and for Johson’s Seagrass, an endangered type of ocean plant that is only found in the waters around the Sunshine State. It is an integral part of the ecosystem, absorbing carbon dioxide from the water and acting as a food source for everything from green sea turtles to manatees. It also acts as a home to many of the native fish and shellfish that inhabit the waters around the state.

This particular seagrass is threatened by pollution and runoff from the state’s industrial and agricultural areas.  It is also damaged frequently by boaters passing on the water above them. As a slow growing seagrass, it doesn’t repair damaged areas quickly, making it difficult for this species to thrive when it is so threatened.

The Great Barrier Reef

While the reef itself isn’t a plant, the great coral structure is home to hundreds of species of plants and animals that will all be threatened if the reef dies. The obituaries for the reef that made the rounds on social media last year were more accurate than even their authors realized — the great reef is dying, because of climate change and human-introduced pollutants in the water.

When the Great Barrier Reef, this 25-million-year-old wonder of the natural world, finally dies, it will take its entire ecosystem with it. The ecosystem will collapse and all of the plants and animals that call the coral home will have to relocate or die — and most will probably die.

Plankton

No, we’re not talking about the one-eyed villain from the Spongebob Squarepants cartoon. Plankton, the often microscopic plants that float throughout the oceans, are an integral part of nearly every oceanic ecosystem in world. They are being threatened by climate change and water pollution throughout the world — and if they die, life on Earth might go with them.

Professor David Thomas, of the University of Bangor, explained it best. “Half of the world’s oxygen is produced by these organisms. If you took that away you would lose the basis of life on the globe. There simply wouldn’t be enough oxygen to support life.” We, quite literally, can’t exist without plankton and many of the individual species are starting to become endangered due to human intervention.

Asian Surfgrass

The coasts of China, Japan and Korea are often heavily fished to sustain the growing populations of those three countries. One species that is taking the brunt of the damage causing by overfishing and aquaculture isn’t a fish at all — it’s Asian Surfgrass. This ocean plant used to grow all along the coasts of all three countries, serving as a food source for a variety of different animals.

Today, thanks to the growing kelp aquaculture industry in the area, this surf grass is dying out and can only be found in very limited areas in the region. Japan’s habit of using dynamite in fishing also damages the grass’ ecosystem, making it hard for it to grow back in damaged areas. It is currently listed as endangered, but the aquaculture industry might mean that this ocean plant isn’t too far from extinction.

Eyelash Seaweed

This ocean plant might sound a little strange, but it is one of the oldest plants in the ocean — at least that we’ve discovered so far. It is only found in one place — off the eastern coast of New Zealand’s South Island. Not much is known about this particular species of seaweed, in spite of its apparent age. It was only discovered in 2000.

It is entirely possible that this species is extinct. The 2016 Kaikoura earthquake that rocked New Zealand lifted the seabed in the area where the eyelash seaweed is was discovered, and it hasn’t been spotted since. While this particular extinction might not directly be due to human actions, the fact that it was only found one some boulders off the coast of New Zealand might be due to the fact that it can’t spread further because of changing water temperatures or ocean chemistry. Conservationists in the area are currently searching for any remaining eyelash seaweed populations so they can be studied further.

 

All of these ocean plants have two things in common — each one is an integral part of its local ecosystem, and each one is threatened because of climate change, agriculture and aquaculture, or other human interventions. Without ocean plants, the ocean’s ecosystem would collapse and we would lose an important source of food, medicine and oxygen that is essential for our continued survival on this planet. The plants can’t speak for themselves, so it’s up to us to protect them to ensure that the beautiful oceans that we enjoy today — complete with their majestic whales and playful dolphins — are there for future generations to enjoy.

Green Technology

Renewable Energy Statistics by Country

May 14, 2018
renewable energy statistics by country

The rest of the world is not as reliant on fossil fuels as the United States. Many other countries have taken steps to embrace renewable energy. These nations lead the way toward a future of greener electricity. Discover some of the most interesting renewable energy statistics by country. These nations are pushing the world toward going to green energy within the next 20 to 40 years.

Renewable Energy Sources

Renewable energy includes more than solar panels. Despite decades of using electricity, mankind still gets most of its power from using something to turn a turbine. Fossil fuels burn to generate steam, but renewable sources do this without burning nonrenewable resources. Wind, water and geothermal heat can all turn turbines. Biomass is a renewable source of fuel for burning. Of these, the most cited in renewable energy statistics by country are solar, wind and water.

Iceland

With a name like Iceland, you’d be excused for thinking this is a land of ice. But this island nation is built on the Trans-Atlantic Ridge, which pushes magma to the surface. This hot magma fuels the country’s geothermal energy, which accounts for 13 percent of its energy production. As a country with 100 percent renewable energy, Iceland’s remaining 87 percent of its power comes from hydropower.

United Kingdom

The United Kingdom is turning to renewable energy with Scotland at the front. Much of the UK now uses wind power. For a nation that once relied on coal, this is a tremendous change. Its coal use has dropped from 42 percent of its electricity production to only 7 percent in 2017, just five years later. In Scotland, some especially windy days produce more electricity than the nation uses. Ireland also benefits from wind power. In 2015, a single day was blustery enough to power 1.26 million homes.

China

Since 2000, China has dramatically increased its production of renewable energy. In 2000, the amount barely registered above three billion kilowatt-hours. By 2015, this measurement rose to 295 billion kilowatt-hours. Part of this power comes from wind. China produces one-third of the world’s wind power and is the top producer on earth. When the world’s most populous nation makes such a drastic change in energy sources in just 15 years, it gives hope for other countries around the world.

United States

Many link the United States to its dependency on fossil fuels such as oil and natural gas. But this country is also making strides toward greener energy. Over the most recent seven years, the United States dropped emissions from energy production by 12 percent. This marks a small start in a trend toward becoming greener and relying less on nonrenewable resources.

Costa Rica

While small, Costa Rica is making a large impact on worldwide renewable energy use. This nation uses nonrenewable energy for 99 percent of its electricity production. It’s even logged pairs of consecutive using 100 percent green power. With a 2021 deadline of achieving full carbon neutrality, Costa Rica is on track to achieve its goal. Along the way, this tiny country shows the world how geothermal, wind and water can power an entire population.

Romania

All of Europe has a low target of 20 percent of energy coming from renewable sources by 2020. To showcase its drive toward a greener, cleaner world, Romania set its own nation’s goal of 24 percent renewable power. The country has already exceeded this. The eastern European nation uses renewable resources to generate 24.8 percent of its country’s power, setting them well on their way to exceeding the EU renewable energy target of 27 percent of energy coming from renewable sources by 2030.

Uruguay

Uruguay is the answer to those opposed to significant government intervention in switching to greener energy. In less than a decade, this country has rocketed to using renewable for 94.5 percent of its electricity generation and 55 percent of the country’s total energy mix. Additionally, it did not increase the amount consumers paid nor did the country use subsidies to achieve this. It’s a true testament that greener energy goals do not require subsidies to reach.

Kenya

Kenya has made strides toward stepping away from standard fossil fuels and hydroelectric power to wind power. In 2015, this nation set out to build the Lake Turkana Wind Power Project. This would become the largest wind farm on the entire continent. Though two-thirds of Africa’s population does not have electricity, Kenya is looking to the future of switching to wind power as it and the rest of the continent seek to increase electricity access.

Germany

Though the climate in Germany has posed problems for integrating renewable energy in solar power, by 2015 the nation had increased its use of green energy sources almost 3000 percent compared to 1991. Though still behind places like Iceland and Scotland, Germany in 2015 recorded a day that reached a peak of using 78 percent renewable energy. Wind power is a major contributor. Germany has the third highest wind power production in the world.

Austria

Despite having only one-third of its energy from renewable sources, Austria is doing well with using hydroelectric sources for power. This country gets the majority of its electricity from water with a potential capacity of 13 gigawatts. Wind and solar power fall far behind, but these sources are not insignificant. Wind power can produce 2.4 gigawatts. Power from solar can be 900 megawatts. For reference, home electricity use is measured in kilowatts per hour. A megawatt is 1,000 kilowatts, and a gigawatt is 1,000 megawatts or one million kilowatts.

Norway

Many Scandinavian nations rely more on renewable energy as time passes. Norway ranks close to 100 percent with renewable sources supplying 98 percent of the country’s power. Like Austria, most of the power Norway uses comes from hydroelectric sources.

Sweden

Sweden has successfully switched to getting a majority of its energy from renewable sources. Over the last 48 years, the country dropped its reliance on oil significantly. In 1970, 75 percent of Sweden’s energy came from oil. Today, the number is below 20 percent. This country has put forth a challenge to the rest of the world’s nations to make earth a 100 percent renewable energy planet.

Though renewable energy is not universal, yet, many countries are trying to make it so. As these renewable energy statistics by country show, these places sit on the edge of a future of greener electricity. Perhaps one day, the rest of the world can achieve the goal of 100 percent clean, renewable energy.

Environment

10 Best Eco-Friendly Commercial Cleaning Products

May 10, 2018
eco-friendly commercial cleaning products

Going green is a popular buzzword, as more and more people become concerned with the impact that we have on the planet. Driving electric cars, recycling and composting are all great ways to go green — but when it comes to cleaning products, many of the greenest households are still relying on harsh chemicals like bleach and ammonia to keep their houses sparkling. Thankfully, the push toward green living has resulted in a plethora of eco-friendly cleaning products that you can use to reduce your reliance on harsh chemicals.  If you’re not sure where to start, we’re here to help — here’s our list of our top 10 eco-friendly cleaning products that we use every day.

1. Seventh Generation Dish Soap

Getting greasy stuck on food off of your dishes can be a pain, even with the toughest chemicals — and they still end up being harsh on your hands and poor for the environment. Seventh Generation is one of our favorite companies for green cleaning products in general, but their dish soap really stands out. Their Free and Clear soap has no artificial scents, and even their scented soaps are mild and use botanical extracts and essential oils. It’s easily one of our favorite green cleaning products.

2. Better Life Stainless Steel Polish

Cleaning stainless steel appliances can be a nightmare, especially if you’ve got lots of little hands leaving fingerprints on your fridge and stove. Most stainless steel polishes contain harsh chemicals like VOCs which are bad for your health and the environment.  Better Life’s stainless steel polish provides the same cleaning power, plus a protective fingerprint repellant, without relying on harsh chemicals. Plus, the company is vegan — their products aren’t tested on animals at all.

3. Osmo Wash and Care Wood Floor Cleaner

Cleaning and sealing your hardwood floors usually results in your house reeking of artificial pine or lemon scents, not to mention the fumes from whatever oil you use to seal the wood after cleaning it. Instead of having to leave all your windows open when you clean your floors, choosing Osmo Wash and Care wood floor cleaner lets you get all your floors clean and polished without worrying about using harsh chemicals in your home.

4. Intelligent Nutrients Hand Sanitizer

Hand sanitizer is a great tool to keep you healthy, especially if you work in an office or around people who tend to carry lots of germs. Traditional hand sanitizers tend to be harsh on the skin and are full of chemicals. Intelligent Nutrients also uses alcohol as the main sanitizing ingredients, but instead of pairing it with antibacterial ingredients, it uses essential oils and other ingredients to kill surface bacteria and keep you healthy.

5. Nature Zway Bamboo Towels

We use 13 billion pounds of paper towels every single year. If you break that down per person, that’s an average of 45 pounds of paper towels that each person in the United States uses and throws away every single year. While we love the convenience of being able to use a paper towel and throw it away, it’s incredibly wasteful and not terribly good for the environment. Nature Zway Bamboo Towels come in a roll of 25 for $11 and can be rinsed and reused up to 100 times each. If you’ve got kids and have a lot of spills to contend with, these reusable towels can be a godsend.

6. Moldex Mold Remover

Our go-to cleaning substance for getting rid of mold is bleach — but if you’re trying to go green, then chlorine bleach isn’t always the best option. Moldex doesn’t just kill mold and make it easier to clean, it also inhibits mold growth in the future by using a combination of materials that works as a viricide, a fungicide, and mold and mildew inhibitor – all without using bleach or other harsh chemicals.

7. The Honest Co. Honest Dishwasher Pods

We all love the convenience of being able to use our dishwashers instead of hand washing our dishes, but most dishwasher soap isn’t the greenest. If you can’t live without your dishwasher, The Honest Co’s Honest Dishwasher Pods are one of the best options on the market — fewer harsh chemicals while still getting your dishes sparkling clean.

8. GreenWorks Chlorine Free Bleach

It can be hard to break that bleach habit. If you can’t live without that clean bleach smell, then the best thing you can do is to get away from traditional chlorine bleach. GreenWorks Chlorine Free Bleach uses sodium lauryl sulfate as its primary cleaning ingredient — a plant based solvent that works just as well as chlorine without all the fumes or harsh side effects.

9. SafeChoice Super Clean

Everyone can always use a good all-purpose cleaner but many of them use harsh chemicals and VOCs as their cleaning agents. Super Clean, by SafeChoice, is one of the most effective degreasers and all-purpose cleaners that we’ve ever tried, without any of the chemicals that we normally worry about. It comes in one-gallon jugs and it’s concentrated, so a little bit goes a long way.

10. Vinegar and Baking Soda

One of our favorite green cleaners is probably already in your kitchen.  White vinegar is one of the most versatile green cleaners that you’ll ever find. If you can’t stand the smell of vinegar, steep your cleaning vinegar with some lemon rinds for a few weeks — not only will this give it a fresh lemon scent, but it helps to increase its cleaning properties. If you have something particularly grimy that needs to be cleaned, sprinkle some baking soda on it first. Once you spray it with your vinegar cleaning solution, it will bubble up and carry the grease and grime away with it.

 

You don’t have to break the bank to go green — at least for your cleaning supplies. It might be a little difficult to know where to start, but hopefully, this top 10 list will help you figure out the best supplies to keep your house clean and sparkling without any harsh chemicals.

Wildlife

What’s Being Done to Save Government Red List Species?

May 7, 2018
government red list

Protecting the planet’s wildlife is up to us.

The variety and amount of animals that occurs on this planet haven’t been fully documented. Science discovers thousands of new species each year, including plants, animals and insects. However, with the discovery of new species, other species are lost to habitat destruction, hunting, poaching and climate change.

Humans are fully aware of their destructive nature and have tried to implement procedures and policies to slow the destruction of the natural environment. The Endangered Species Act (ESA) was enacted in 1973 to decrease, prevent and recoup the loss of plant and animal species from extinction.

Since the ESA has been in place, several species have been brought back from the brink of extinction, including the bald eagle, whooping crane, American alligator, grizzly bears, the California condor and the American gray wolf, among others. However, there is still work that needs to be done and several species on the government red list that need to be saved.

Technology, science and environmentally conscious groups and individuals are all playing a role in protecting endangered species. Below are some ways in which government red list species are being cared for.

Monitoring and Tracking

One way to keep tabs on endangered species is to know where they are in the world and how their environment is being impacted. Technology makes it easier and more efficient to track populations of animals across the globe. If there are changes to the environment, whether through human-made or natural disasters, the impacts on the animal population can be documented and remedied so that further harm doesn’t come to the protected species.

Keeping tabs on a population also allows scientists and researchers to document the health of the population and whether or not they are producing offspring. If the goal is to increase the numbers of endangered species, they need to have optimum conditions and be able to breed. If the environment isn’t conducive to supporting the population, it’s possible new policies and plans will need to be put in place so population growth can be successful.

Monitoring and tracking species of concern also helps reduce the amount of poaching for particular species, including elephants and rhinos. While the process won’t stop poaching completely, it will make it more difficult and risky for those who attempt to kill animals without a license.

Government Policies and Strategies

In the U.S., any company that wants to expand, build, mine, develop roads, put up wind turbines, etc. has to conduct studies for federal threatened, endangered, protected and candidate species, and they may also have to conduct surveys for state-threatened species.

If the goal of the ESA is to ensure that we don’t lose animals to extinction, protecting them with policies and strategies is a good idea. If any federal- or state-protected species are found where the new construction is to occur, measures must be taken to ensure the species are protected so that no harm comes to them. These measures vary on a case-by-case basis and depend on what species will be affected and when they will be affected (during breeding season, migration, etc.).

Mitigating or preventing impacts to protected species isn’t always popular with companies and individuals who view it as a hindrance to progress. However, without these policies and strategies in place, the world would lose even more species at an alarming rate.

Captive Breeding Programs

With the loss of natural habitats, it’s not always possible to bring animals back from the edge of extinction in a natural, wild way. However, to prevent the species from being completely lost, captive breeding programs have been created. These programs have saved a variety of species from extinction, including the corroboree frog, bongo, regent honeyeater, golden lion tamarin and the Amur leopard, among others.

The problem with captive breeding programs is whether or not the populations will be able to return to the wild and thrive in their natural habitats. Studies have been conducted to determine if breeding programs promote genetic diversity and will allow the populations to be self-sustaining outside a captive environment. Science doesn’t have all the answers yet, but it hopes to make progress in the future.

Partnerships with Conservation Groups and Individuals

Helping endangered and protected species is a task that takes the involvement of multiple groups, government entities, organizations and individuals. It’s not a task that one entity can accomplish on their own. By working together and developing plans, mitigation and restoration of endangered species are possible.

Informing and educating the public is another way to help reverse the negative impacts that can occur to government red list species. Knowledge is powerful, and it can motivate and encourage people to take action and work toward a common goal.

Planet Earth is full of amazingly diverse creatures — some of which we haven’t discovered yet. Understanding animals and the environment gives us better insight into ourselves, but if we destroy animal populations and habitats, we’ll never have the ability to learn the lessons they have to teach. It is in ours and the world’s best interest to protect government red list species, and it will take cooperation to accomplish that task.

Oceans

Oceanography vs. Marine Biology: What’s the Difference between the Two?

May 3, 2018
oceanography vs marine biology

Our planet is a wonder, at least as far as we know. It’s the only place in the universe that contains life. That life, all of the life we know of in the entire universe, depends on the oceans. Studying the oceans is a life-long goal for many people. Both the fields of oceanography and marine biology have intense competition, especially for graduate school placement.

The work you do, regardless of which field you choose, will be essential. As climate change progresses, it will only become more so. But that doesn’t always mean it will be good. Working on the ocean is hard, it can be dangerous, and it’s often underfunded. When considering oceanography vs. marine biology, you face similar working conditions and hazards. It comes down to the work you’ll be doing.

Oceanography

An oceanographer has a big job. The oceans are vast, and they’re constantly changing. The presence of saltwater and currents makes this job more like a combination meteorology and climatology than one or the other, and that’s just if you’re studying the water itself. It also focuses on the physics and chemistry of the oceans. As you can imagine, that’s an incredibly complex system.

Oceanographers study underwater volcanoes, coral reefs, the deep abyss and the accumulation of plastic in some regions of the waters. The rubber duck experiment is an excellent example of how these scientists will use whatever means they can to learn about the seas. It was also a great example of how marine scientists can use the help of citizen scientists to fill out some of their information. Even when comparing oceanography vs. marine biology, it quickly becomes apparent that both fields can significantly benefit from citizen scientists who take the time to measure, log and submit information.

The work of an oceanographer is so vast it can be hard to narrow down. But the work they do is incredibly important. This is where you’ll find people who are studying the global ocean conveyor belt and trying to determine how climate change is affecting a 1,000-year cycle.

Marine Biology

The study of life in our oceans is not precisely a separate science from oceanography. It can be, and individual topics have to be sorted out that way, but the reality is that all life in the oceans depends on the physical oceans. To have a full understanding of marine biology, you’ll have to have some knowledge of oceanography. You’ll need to know how the currents impact living organisms, what happen in specific areas to create individual ecosystems and how they contribute to the whole.

But beyond that, you’ll need to know about the actual species you’re studying. The life of the ocean is pretty much everything in it. While oceanographers need to understand why the currents collect plastic in specific areas like the Great Pacific Garbage Patch, you’ll need to know what animals frequent those areas and what the impact of the plastic will be.

Studying life in the ocean is wide-ranging and will require you to narrow down your field as much as an oceanographer would have to. You’ll have to learn about the differences between mega and micro flora and fauna and choose what you want to study. Megafauna includes the large animals, everything from whales to some species of crabs. Microfauna are mostly microscopic, like zooplankton. Even at their tiniest, these animals have a massive impact on the health and wellness of the oceans, and some researchers spend their entire lives dedicated to them.

As climate change progresses, marine biologists will be watching and learning as much as they can. They will have to try and determine which species are being impacted the fastest by the changing seas and try to protect them. They’ll be learning how to encourage coral reefs to grow faster and be hardier, as well as deal with invasive species.

The Big Difference

To sum up, the difference between both fields is pretty clear. Marine biologists study things that live in the ocean. The bio in marine biology means “life.” Of course, the ology means “study of” and marine means “aquatic.” That gives you “the study of aquatic life.

On the other hand, oceanographers study the physical elements of the ocean its self. That means tides, rock formations, salt content and geography. That’s pretty much what it boils down to, but the nuances are what make it interesting.

One of these is not better than the other. They’re both different and what you’re drawn to will depend on what you want to actually do. If you choose something you’re passionate about, your job will never grow old.

Green Technology

Wind Energy vs. Solar Energy for Meeting Renewable Energy Goals

April 30, 2018
wind energy vs. solar energy

Having goals is an integral part of progress, regardless of what they entail. Individuals, families, communities — and yes, even countries — set a series of goals. As you achieve goals and set new ones, your options change. Moving from fossil fuels to renewable energy for an entire nation doesn’t require you to decide on one kind of energy source. Instead, it’s a better idea to take a look at all the available options and use as many of them as possible.

With that in mind, it’s important to note there are tons of options for renewable energy sources. The factors that determine what’s “best” for a given area depend on its natural resources. Places like Chile in South America have a plethora of wind, sun and geothermal energy. Other regions, like Iceland, are better suited to water and geothermal than they are to solar. Meanwhile, China has arranged to make biomass available to their citizens regardless of natural availability, which changes individuals’ ability to produce energy independently.

The U.S. is in a unique position. We have a vast landmass to work with that enables us to take advantage of many resources, not just one or two. However, given the availability of land and the way the economy has worked out, our two most common options are wind and solar. Here, there are solar options for everything including backpacks and sunglasses. Wind isn’t as common for everyday use, but it is a significant contributor to the energy grid.

In 2017, non-renewable sources besides nuclear contributed about 60 percent of the U.S. energy supply, while nuclear and renewables made up the remaining 40 percent. Last year marked the first time renewables overtook nuclear, surpassing them by a small, but important, margin. That’s a significant jump, since renewables only contributed about 15 percent in 2016, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration.

Of renewable energy sources in the U.S., solar, wind and hydropower are the most prominent. The problem with hydropower is that it isn’t always the wisest way to generate energy. Building a dam destroys so much land it’s often akin to wiping out entire forests. Once the dam is complete, it can produce power for generations. The forests, however, may never regrow. That leaves solar and wind power as the cleanest, most efficient methods for energy generation.

Wind Energy vs. Solar Energy: The Breakdown

Right now, solar is taking off. There are a few reasons for this. First of all, people are more familiar with solar power. Most people own at least one solar-powered product, even if it’s just a dancing flower that sits in your window. That makes it less of a change to adapt to, and we all know how much people resist change!

The demand for solar has, so far, overshot practically every estimate governments have made. Some of this might be thanks to subsidiaries from governments, but in large part, solar has accomplished most of these strides independently. With the current administration in the U.S., we’ll be able to see how it does when the cards are stacked against it as well. With as robust a base as solar currently has, all it needs to do is continue its current path to successfully create an energy revolution.

But solar power can’t do it alone, and so far, it hasn’t had to. While there is a contribution of wind energy vs. solar energy, the two work better together than apart. Wind power has been a boon for large companies that can hold enough land and contribute enough money to create wind farms. The main issue is that they’re difficult for individual people to get into. Most people don’t want a giant windmill in their yard. The power might save some money, but the actual structure could decrease the home’s value.

That means unless a home can connect to a wind farm that already exists as part of the energy grid, it’s hard to convince people to install them individually. Solar hasn’t had that problem, since most homeowners can get panels installed right on top of any roof, and it usually increases the market value of the house. In only two years, we could see 3.8 million households with solar power. That’s a pretty massive push, since solar panels first emerged as a viable energy solution in the 1970s.

The Discrepancy

Wind power is still a significant contributor to the energy bill. In the U.S., it could produce as much as 10 percent of the country’s power by 2020. Remember, renewable energy overall was only about 15 percent in 2016, so in four years’ time, wind power could almost double that. The main contributor to that push isn’t the average American, though — it’s corporations.

Many U.S. corporations have decided to pursue wind energy instead of solar, for a variety of reasons. For starters, it tends to be a bit cheaper. As the prices for both wind and solar continue to fall, that could change, but so far, it hasn’t. The price difference is so small it’s virtually inconsequential for an individual family, but that’s not the case with companies. When you have to generate a lot of power constantly, any cost discrepancy adds up.

For renewables, wind is cheaper. Amazon, one of the largest corporations in the world, has invested so heavily in wind power that their solar investment is almost nonexistent in comparison. Google, Microsoft and even Facebook have all shown a great deal of preferential buying of wind over solar, and are helping drive demand for the products.

Wind energy, once installed, needs very little maintenance. Solar power, on the other hand, has to be kept clean and updated regularly. It’s also more likely to sustain damage from mild storms like hail, while wind turbines almost have to be hit by a tornado to sustain severe damage.

However, the renewable energy revolution is still in its infancy. There is plenty of time, and resources, for solar to catch up to wind in the corporate sector, and for wind to become more attractive to individuals. As we move closer and closer to using renewables as our primary energy source, we will have to see what the government and the markets come up with.

The only thing we know for sure is that right now, we can and should use all the resources available to us. With almost every country in the world committed to meeting their renewable energy goals, wind and solar both have important roles to play.

Environment

10 Vegan Pantry Staples

April 26, 2018
vegan pantry staples

Going from an omnivorous or vegetarian lifestyle to a vegan one seems like a clear-cut transition: You’re cutting all animal products from your diet. But the task becomes a bit more difficult when you open your pantry and realize so many of your go-to favorites no longer fit your gastronomical requirements.

Fortunately, there are some vegan staples you can use to refill your cabinets and rely on for a quick, satisfying meal that’s animal-product-free. Here are 10 things to stock up on.

1. Beans

This might be an obvious inclusion, but the vegan diet wouldn’t be complete without beans. Whether you choose dried or canned legumes, you’ll have a tasty source of protein and texture to add to any meal. Pinto beans, chickpeas, lentils and more are all options you can easily store and use to enhance the flavor and variety of your vegan meals.

2. Grains

New and seasoned vegans alike know the power of whole grains in their diet. Much like beans, they’re a filling addition to a meal, especially when layered at the bottom of a hearty Buddha bowl. These recipes combine grains, plant protein and vegetables in tasty, filling combinations, and they’re easy to throw together if you always have the staples in your pantry. Try to mix things up with rice, quinoa, couscous, bulgur wheat, barley and other grain variations.

3. Nuts and Seeds

When non-vegans imagine a plant-based diet, they envision people who eat raw fruits, vegetables and seeds all day long. These crunchy snacks aren’t just part of a farcical image of a vegan, though: They’re packed with protein and nutrients that enrich your diet.

Along with chia, pumpkin, sunflower and flax seeds, stock your pantry with almonds, walnuts and cashews. And, while they make great snacks, they bring just enough crunch to soups, salads and even the Buddha bowls we previously mentioned.

4. Non-Dairy Milk

The production of the dairy milk you used to drink has substantial environmental consequences: It creates a tremendous amount of nitrous oxide, a gas that’s 300 times more damaging to the earth than carbon dioxide. That’s why milks made of almonds, cashews or even coconut should have a special spot in your kitchen. Use non-dairy creamers to make your morning coffee tastier, too.

5. Oil, Vinegar and Sweeteners

Another mischaracterization of vegan cooking is that it’s dull and flavorless. However, you can spice things up with your favorite plant-based flavorings to make your meals complete. Stock up on tasty oils and vinegar you can use to make dressing, gravy and other sauces to complete a dish. On top of that, maple and agave syrups show up in a lot of vegan recipes as the all-natural sweetener of choice or a substitute for honey, so have those on hand, too.

6. Nutritional Yeast

One of the biggest surprises when it comes to the world of vegan eating is nutritional yeast. It sounds like it wouldn’t be more than an ingredient in a baked good, but it will probably become a staple in your diet. That’s because nutritional yeast is a tasty substitute for cheese in your diet — and you’ll find it in recipes for things like mac and cheese, cheesy popcorn and queso dip. If that’s not incentive enough, it’s packed full of B vitamins, protein and fiber, all of which are great for you.

7. Nut Butters

We’ve already touched on the importance of nuts in their natural form, but nut butters should also make their way into your vegan-friendly pantry. Just a dollop of almond, hazelnut or peanut butter can transform a bowl of oatmeal to an even tastier level. Try adding a spoonful to your smoothies, slathering it onto a piece of fruit or eating a bit by itself for an energizing bite of protein.

8. Vegetable Stock or Broth

Soups and stews will undoubtedly become a big part of your vegan diet. Unfortunately, many recipes call for beef or chicken broth as their base. You can swap in a vegan-friendly version to make the same soup without the animal products, so have a few cartons on hand for whenever you’re in the mood to fire up your stovetop and stew.

9. Canned Vegetables

You’ll probably fill your fridge with fresh fruits and veggies, but canned produce can be a quick addition to your vegan dinners, too. A few tins of diced tomatoes and garlic can transform into a tasty spaghetti sauce, while you can drop canned veggies or beans into a soup or curry to bulk it up and make it into a full-fledged, filling dinner.

10. Dried Fruits

Vegetables aren’t the only nonperishables that will keep for a while in your cabinets. Dried fruits like raisins and apricots can be a sweet snack all on their own, and they can add depth to an otherwise savory salad or curry, too. You might even pop a few pieces of dried fruit into your morning cereal or oatmeal — along with that spoonful of nut butter we already mentioned — to start your morning with even more flavor.

Make It Vegan

With a pantry full of vegan-friendly ingredients, you’re sure to stay on course with your animal-product-free lifestyle. So, start with the 10 items listed above, fill your kitchen and make it vegan — you’re doing yourself and the environment a favor by sticking to your healthy new way of eating.

Wildlife

Private Reserves vs. National Parks: Do Both Aid Conservation?

April 26, 2018
private reserves vs national parks

The United States pioneered the national park approach to conservation, a method that has become common around the world.

It involves closing off certain areas to all private development. The government owns and manages these lands to protect them for future generations. All land outside of these protected areas is open to private development.

There’s a space in between these two extremes though: privately owned reserves. Private individuals or organizations own these areas and choose to protect the natural landscapes within them.

Do national parks and private reserves both contribute to conservation efforts? Is one better than the other? Let’s explore these questions.

The Strengths of Private Reserves

Although private reserves are a relatively new idea in many areas, and it’s difficult to know how many there are in the world, it’s estimated that they cover more than 20 million hectares. Private reserves often provide many of the same ecological benefits that areas protected by the government do, primarily protecting biodiversity and natural landscapes.

Sometimes, private parks work in coordination with public ones. They often border government-protected areas, expanding the square footage of a given habitat that receives protection.

It’s challenging for either government or private entities alone to protect a sufficient amount of land to fully protect a unique ecosystem. In these cases, both private and public protection plays a crucial role. Sometimes, private protection eventually leads to government action. A private individual might step up to protect an area until the government realizes the importance of protecting it or obtains the funding to do so.

The lack of reliance on public funding and political priorities is one of the advantages of private reserves. Government-funded projects can have limited funding, and political entities might not have sufficient incentives to protect an ecosystem.

If an individual or private company owns a piece of land and uses it to benefit financially from ecotourism, they have substantial incentive to preserve it. In strong economic times, private reserves may have more funding than public ones, which enables them to improve their conservation efforts.

This private ownership, proponents argue, gives the power to the people and helps support the local economy. Private reserves can have social and economic benefits as well as environmental ones.

The Weaknesses of Private Reserves

Private ownership, however, can also present challenges under some conditions. In tough economic times, the incomes of these preserves may suffer, putting their conservation efforts in jeopardy.

The owners of these lands might also be tempted, especially during an economic downturn, to prioritize profit over preservation of nature. This decision may lead them to develop parts of the land or interfere with the area’s natural systems. For example, they might bring in non-native species to add to the park’s appeal.

There’s no guarantee that a private area will stay protected. The owners could decide to sell the land or develop it at any point. As it gets passed down through generations, and new leadership takes over organizations, priorities can change as well.

Another challenge is that private reserves are typically small compared to public ones. Often, they’re too small to adequately protect larger animals and prevent habitat fragmentation.

Some of the rules and regulations that apply to government-managed lands don’t cover private reserves. Although animal attacks are extremely rare, lack of knowledge about a specific reserve’s policies might cause increased fear of such an incident occurring. Private landowners might also be more likely to be lenient with guests whose actions disturb the environment or even directly harm wildlife.

The Strengths of National Parks

National parks, on the other hand, are designated as such by law, so they’re less vulnerable to economic fluctuations. If ecotourism loses popularity or people’s disposable incomes decrease, national parks will still exist.

It’s also much harder to develop a national park or sell it off to a private company. Although laws can change, it typically involves a lengthy legislative process that would likely be met with legal challenges.

Publicly protected lands are also governed by stricter regulations, which may make people feel safer when visiting them. Because those managing the land are responsible for reporting to a government agency, they may be more likely to enforce rules designed to ensure that guests stay safe and don’t harm the natural environment during their visit. Private landowners often have no responsibility to enforce such rules.

The Weaknesses of National Parks

It’s no secret, though, that publicly owned aspects are still subject to mismanagement. Although in an ideal world, those who break the rules would be removed from power, this process isn’t always the case.

Although the law mandates the existence of national parks, changes in political leadership and priorities can impact the amount of funding parks get. Substantial budget reductions can cripple parks’ operations. Between 2001 and 2005, for example, budget constraints reduced the amounts of guards in Corcovado National Park in Costa Rica, which led to a dramatic surge in illegal hunting.

Even in times of relatively high levels of funding, national parks may still fall behind private reserves regarding financial resources and struggle to finance all the work that needs to be done to them.

Political leaders can also take steps to allow more development of publicly protected lands by private entities such as oil and gas companies. Exactly 534 active oil and gas wells currently operate on national park lands in the U.S., and rules giving the National Park Service more control over how oil and gas companies use parklands are now under scrutiny.

A Balanced Approach

Private reserves and national parks both have their pros and cons. In some situations, private protection may be the best option while in others, the public approach may be most effective. Because of the limitations of each method, the two often need to work together.

Models that work in some places also might not work as well in others due to differences in environmental, societal, political and economic factors. Where demand for land is especially high, researchers have suggested, learning how to live alongside wildlife may work better than dividing the land into distinct areas for preservation and development.

Preserving natural ecosystems is a complex task, and neither system can address all of its challenges perfectly. To ensure that our natural lands and the biodiversity they contain remain protected, we’ll likely need to employ aspects of both the private and public approach.

Environment

A Roundup of Earth Day 2018

April 23, 2018
Earth Day 2018

Every year, millions of people around the globe celebrate Earth Day. It’s a chance to soak in all the beauty of the earth while raising awareness of how everyone can help make it a better place. There’s no doubt that work can be done by everyone to decrease pollution, which is why so many people come together at special Earth Day events. Everyone wants to make a difference, and that can be made even greater when it’s a large group of people all aiming at the same goal.

For Earth Day 2018, plenty of these events were available for people to attend if they wanted to go green. Some might not have known how they could contribute, while others might have already been living a green lifestyle and wanted to help others join the cause. There are lots of different ways that people in all parts of the world can celebrate and help the earth, which makes each event special.

From festivals to parades, people celebrated Earth Day 2018 with the kind of pride that comes along with living on such a beautiful planet. There’s so many reasons to love the earth and give back to it. Check out some of the ways that people came together at Earth Day events. Whether they did something to give back or just tried to learn something new, everyone made a positive impact by attending these events.

San Francisco, California

People in San Francisco celebrated a little early this year with speakers ready to present on a variety of topics. Save the Redwoods League partnered with Bioneers, SF Sustainable Fashion Week and the California Academy of Science to inform audiences about things like recycling, climate change and how politics and technology intersect with the environment. What made it even better was that it was completely free, so the public was able to attend for as long as they wanted.

York, Pennsylvania

Over in York, Pennsylvania, a special film screening of “SEED: The Untold Story” was shown for free to the general public. As the climate changes, plants have to adapt to that change, so farmers are trying to keep our culture connected to seeds by saving one of humanity’s most treasured resources. With 94 percent of seed varieties having disappeared, it’s important for more people to be aware of this issue to minimize its impact in the coming future.

Washington D.C.

People who live and work in the D.C. area know that it has a large draw of tourists on a daily basis, which makes it the perfect place to celebrate Earth Day. They’re able to reach people quickly while getting them involved, which is why they celebrated conservation success at the Smithsonian’s National Zoo. Education stations and Animal Enrichment activities provided everyone from children to adults with the opportunity to learn something and leave with a more informed perspective.

Chicago, Illinois

The key to make people get invested in an issue is to make it personal, which is something the Chicago Botanic Garden understands. They brought a science fair to life with three days of science activities like looking through a telescope and discovering biospheres in your own backyard. There was also a poetry slam for those who leaned more creatively than scientifically.

Dalton, Massachusetts

Dalton put on an Earth Day celebration at The Stationary Factory for people to learn about local sustainable businesses and organizations. While there are plenty of ways to volunteer and help the Earth, sometimes all it takes is getting to know which organizations you can support in your local community. Add that to little green lifestyle changes like recycling old bottles and using less electricity and you can make more of a difference than you might think.

Durham, North Carolina

Though much of North Carolina is dedicated to farm towns, there’s still an ever-growing number of people who can get involved to go green. That’s why Durham threw a public festival in the Durham Central Park. People enjoyed music by local bands, good food and activities focused on environmental education. There’s no better way to get people engaged with something than to help them have fun while they learn.

Dallas, Texas

The running joke that Texans like to make is that everything is bigger in Texas, and that includes their celebrations. EarthX was a two-day festival to inform Texans about how their lives impact the earth. Conferences and speakers spoke on a variety of ecological topics to show people how to be green in all aspects of their lives. Whether people led healthy and active lifestyles or wanted to influence policy, EarthX offered valuable resources for everyone who attended.

Arlington, Virginia

Much of what pollutes the earth goes into the oceans and rivers, making them a hazardous home to all marine life. The group Arlingtonians for a Clean Environment saw that and decided to get a head start on Earth Day by cleaning up the Potomac River. Volunteers came from all over to help pick up trash and debris on the shoreline to prevent any more marine life from being tangled up in or hurt by improperly discarded trash.

 

As spring comes into full bloom, more and more people think about the earth and how it’s doing. The sad truth is that pollution is a constant problem. Sometimes it’s because of people who don’t think before throwing trash out of their car window, but other times it’s unknown pollution. People who have to fly regularly for their jobs are causing planes to emit CO2 at alarming rates, and all they meant to do was go to their next meeting.

That’s why Earth Day is so important. It makes people come together to really think about how they’re impacting the Earth on a daily basis. People leave Earth Day events more informed so they can make greener decisions in the future. It’s great to celebrate the beauty of Earth, but it’s even better to keep the Earth functioning and looking great all year round by hosting events like these to spread the word and change the world.