Rare Opportunity to Study the Critically Endangered North Pacific right whale in the Bering Sea

Even after so many years of doing field work, sometimes you are still left amazed. Because every now and then the stars all align, and everything works out exactly as you hoped it would. Today was one of those times, because we found that needle in the haystack.

Frogs That Adapt to Pesticides Are More Vulnerable to Parasites

Amphibians can evolve increased tolerance to pesticides, but the adaptation can make them more susceptible to parasites, according to a team that includes researchers at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute. The research, led by Binghamton University, showed that wood frogs that evolved increased tolerance to pesticides showed greater susceptibility to a dangerous virus, although they also demonstrated reduced susceptibility to a parasitic worm.“We have only recently begun to understand that amphibians can rapidly evolve tolerance to chemicals like pesticides, which on the surface is good news,” said Rick Relyea, a professor of biological sciences and director of the Darrin Fresh Water Institute at Rensselaer. “But now comes the bad news: with that tolerance there is a tradeoff, which is that they become more susceptible to parasites that, in the case of ranavirus, can wipe out entire amphibian populations.”

Balloons and drones and clouds; oh, my!

Last week, researchers at Sandia National Laboratories flew a tethered balloon and an unmanned aerial system, colloquially known as a drone, together for the first time to get Arctic atmospheric temperatures with better location control than ever before. In addition to providing more precise data for weather and climate models, being able to effectively operate UASs in the Arctic is important for national security.“Operating UASs in the remote, harsh environments of the Arctic will provide opportunities to harden the technologies in ways that are directly transferable to the needs of national security in terms of robustness and reliability,” said Jon Salton, a Sandia robotics manager. “Ultimately, integrating the specialized operational and sensing needs required for Arctic research will transfer to a variety of national security needs.”

Researchers clarify mystery about proposed battery material

Battery researchers agree that one of the most promising possibilities for future battery technology is the lithium-air (or lithium-oxygen) battery, which could provide three times as much power for a given weight as today’s leading technology, lithium-ion batteries. But tests of various approaches to creating such batteries have produced conflicting and confusing results, as well as controversies over how to explain them.Now, a team at MIT has carried out detailed tests that seem to resolve the questions surrounding one promising material for such batteries: a compound called lithium iodide (LiI). The compound was seen as a possible solution to some of the lithium-air battery’s problems, including an inability to sustain many charging-discharging cycles, but conflicting findings had raised questions about the material’s usefulness for this task. The new study explains these discrepancies, and although it suggests that the material might not be suitable after all, the work provides guidance for efforts to overcome LiI’s drawbacks or find alternative materials.

University of Sydney charges ahead on zinc-air batteries

University of Sydney researchers have found a solution for one of the biggest stumbling blocks preventing zinc-air batteries from overtaking conventional lithium-ion batteries as the power source of choice in electronic devices.Zinc-air batteries are batteries powered by zinc metal and oxygen from the air. Due to the global abundance of zinc metal, these batteries are much cheaper to produce than lithium-ion batteries, and they can also store more energy (theoretically five times more than that of lithium-ion batteries), are much safer, and are more environmentally friendly.

A new method of 3D printing living tissues

The approach could revolutionise regenerative medicine, enabling the production of complex tissues and cartilage that would potentially support, repair or augment diseased and damaged areas of the body.Printing high-resolution living tissues is hard to do, as the cells often move within printed structures and can collapse on themselves. But, led by Professor Hagan Bayley, Professor of Chemical Biology in Oxford’s Department of Chemistry, the team devised a way to produce tissues in self-contained cells that support the structures to keep their shape.

University of Delaware look at adding silicon to soil to strengthen plant defenses

To help plants better fend off insect pests, researchers are considering arming them with stones.The University of Delaware’s Ivan Hiltpold and researchers from the Hawkesbury Institute for the Environment at Western Sydney University in Australia are examining the addition of silicon to the soil in which plants are grown to help strengthen plants against potential predators.The research was published recently in the journal Soil Biology and Biochemistry and was funded by Sugar Research Australia. Adam Frew, currently a postdoctoral research fellow at the Charles Sturt University in Australia, is the lead author on the paper.

Study Finds Drought Recoveries Taking Longer

As global temperatures continue to rise, droughts are expected to become more frequent and severe in many regions during this century. A new study with NASA participation finds that land ecosystems took progressively longer to recover from droughts in the 20th century, and incomplete drought recovery may become the new normal in some areas, possibly leading to tree death and increased emissions of greenhouse gases.In results published Aug. 10 in the journal Nature, a research team led by Christopher Schwalm of Woods Hole Research Center, Falmouth, Massachusetts, and including a scientist from NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, California, measured recovery time following droughts in various regions of the world. They used projections from climate models verified by observations from the Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) instrument on NASA's Terra satellite and ground measurements. The researchers found that drought recovery was taking longer in all land areas. In two particularly vulnerable regions -- the tropics and northern high latitudes -- recovery took ever longer than in other regions.

Case study suggests new approach to urban water supply

If you live in the developed world, safe water is usually just a faucet-turn away. And yet, global warming, drought conditions, and population growth in coming decades could change that, ushering in an era of uncertain access to water.Now an MIT-based research team has evaluated those potential problems and, based on a case study in Australia, suggested an alternate approach to water planning. In a new paper, the researchers find there is often a strong case for building relatively modest, incremental additions to water infrastructure in advanced countries, rather than expensive larger-scale projects that may be needed only rarely.

Air pollution linked to cardiovascular disease; air purifiers may lessen impact

Exposure to high levels of air pollution increased stress hormone levels and negative metabolic changes in otherwise healthy, young adults in a recent study conducted in China. Air purifiers appeared to lessen the negative effects, according to new research published in the American Heart Association’s journal Circulation.Researchers focused on fine particulate matter (PM2.5) – a component of air pollution emitted from vehicles, factories, power plants, fires and smoking – because many studies have suggested this type of major air pollutant might lead to cardiovascular and metabolic health consequences, according to Haidong Kan, M.D., Ph.D., study author and professor of environmental health sciences at Fudan University in Shanghai, China.