New from BBC Earth: America’s National Parks

Once hailed as 'America’s best idea', Yellowstone was the world's first national park. Changing the way we interact with nature, the Pulitzer prize-winning author Wallace Stegner put it best when he said national parks "reflect us at our best, not our worst". In the gigantic 3.5million square miles of land, Yellowstone is host to a large number of interesting animal species, including bison, cougars, lynx, bobcats and coyotes. The whole park actually sits on a caldera, often referred to as a 'supervolcano', and has at its heart the same conditions that brought about the start of life on Earth. This means it holds one of the world’s natural wonders. The volcano means Yellowstone remains geologically very active. Recent changes in the volcanic springs have killed these pines by cooking their roots, as the branches freeze in winter. It's safe to say that Yellowstone is a place of natural beauty that's inspired conservation and preserved countless areas of outstanding natural interest around the world.

Ice Cores Yield Rich History of Climate Change

On Friday, Jan. 28 in Antarctica, a research team investigating the last 100,000 years of Earth's climate history reached an important milestone completing the main ice core to a depth of 3,331 meters (10,928 feet) at West Antarctic Ice Sheet Divide (WAIS). The project will be completed over the next two years with some additional coring and borehole logging to obtain additional information and samples of the ice for the study of the climate record contained in the core.

Energy efficiency incentives for commercial buildings announced

President Barack Obama announced a new clean energy program in Pennsylvania on Thursday, seeking to show he remains focused on jobs in a state that may be essential to his 2012 re-election prospects. Obama outlined a plan in his State of the Union address last month to encourage clean energy technologies and to double by 2035 the U.S. share of electricity from clean energy sources such as wind, solar, nuclear and "clean" coal. As part of that program, Obama announced a plan to improve energy efficiency in U.S. commercial buildings by offering businesses incentives to help pay for upgrades of offices, stores and other buildings, which he said consume 40 percent of the energy Americans use, and could save $40 billion a year.

Gowanus Canal Superfund Site

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has completed its investigation of the Gowanus Canal Superfund site in Brooklyn, N.Y. The investigation confirmed the widespread presence of numerous contaminants in the canal and identified the sources of contamination. The investigation also identified characteristics of the canal that will influence future plans for a cleanup. A companion human and ecological risk assessment found that exposure to the contaminants in the canal poses potential threats to people’s health and the environment. The Gowanus Canal was originally built to allow access for industrial needs by bulkheading and dredging a tidal creek and wetland that had previously been fished for oysters. After its completion in the 1860s, the canal quickly became one of the nation’s busiest industrial waterways, home to heavy industry including gas works, coal yards, cement makers, soap makers, tanneries, paint and ink factories, machine shops, chemical plants, and oil refineries. It was also the repository of untreated industrial wastes, raw sewage, and surface water runoff for decades, causing it to become one of New York’s most polluted waterways. Although much of the industrial activity along the canal has stopped, high contaminant levels remain in the sediments.

Fit females have strong male-like traits, reveals study

Combs on female red grouse are bigger during the breeding season and among fitter, more mature adults – just like they are in males – a new study led by scientists from the University of Aberdeen shows. This is the first experimental evidence that suggests these male-like traits in females are dependent on the individual's fitness.

All Aboard for High-Speed Rail

The Obama administration has given passenger rail the strongest federal push since the days of Abraham Lincoln in hopes of spurring job growth and keeping pace with a rising China. In early 2010, Washington allotted $8 billion in stimulus cash to fund 13 high-speed rail systems spread across 31 states, including projects in Florida, the Midwest, California, and the Northeast. "Within 25 years, our goal is to give 80 percent of Americans access to high-speed rail," said President Obama during the 2011 State of the Union address.

Deep Below Antarctic Ice, Lake May Soon See Light

While a team of Russian scientists were drilling ice core samples from their Vostok base in Antarctica, new satellite imagery revealed the outline of a lake the size of New Jersey buried two miles underneath the ice. Scientists have been drilling through the ice and are now just 100 feet away from breaking into the third largest lake on the planet.

Gulf recovering from BP oil spill quickly

The Gulf of Mexico should recover from the massive BP oil spill by the end of 2012, the administrator of the $20 billion victims compensation fund said Wednesday. By that time, most of the harmful effect of the worst offshore oil spill in U.S. history will have dissipated and the economy should have picked up, said Kenneth Feinberg, independent administrator of the Gulf Coast Claims Facility (GCCF). On the basis of the estimate, the fund plans to make final payments of twice the documented 2010 damages minus payments already made through the fund, Feinberg said.

Brazil Approves Construction of the Belo Monte Dam Project

The proposed Belo Monte Dam in northern Brazil would be the third largest hydro-electric dam in the world in terms of electrical output. The dam would be 3.75 miles long and generate over 11,000 megawatts, which could power up to 23 million homes. Government officials say that the dam is an essential step in supplying energy to the nation's growing population. However, the project is rife with environmental conflicts. The project requires the clearing of 588 acres of Amazon jungle, the displacement of over 20,000 indigenous people, flooding a 193 square mile area, and drying up a 62 mile stretch of the Xingu River.

Arctic Mercury Mystery: Meterological Conditions in the Spring and Summer to Blame?

More mercury is deposited in the Arctic than anywhere else on the planet. Researchers from the Norwegian University of Science and Technology (NTNU) think that one explanation for this may lie in the meteorological conditions in the Arctic spring and summer.