A new tool against illegal logging: tree DNA technology goes mainstream

The role of tree DNA tracking is increasing in the fight against illegal logging as evidenced by prosecution cases in USA and Germany. Modern DNA technology offers a unique opportunity: you could pinpoint the origin of your table at home and track down if the trees it was made from were illegally obtained. Each wooden piece of furniture comes with a hidden natural barcode that can tell its story from a sapling in a forest all the way to your living room.

Green ‘Khutbah’ Muslim Sermon Campaign

Muslims have been asked to encourage their spiritual leaders, imams, to devote this Friday Khutbah or sermon (19th April 2013) to celebrate the blessings, graces and beauty of all of Allah’s creation. Muaz Nasir from Khaleafa who is leading the effort is also hoping to raise awareness amongst Muslim of the environmental challenges facing humanity. "The 'Green Khutbah Campaign' is aiming to challenge Muslims to become stewards of the environment by making changes to their daily routines," explains Nasir. "Although the evidence of environmental damage is stronger than ever, the public is starting to tune out due to the recent economic crisis and a lack of political leadership. But Muslims cannot tune out from the environmental damage – tuning out would mean that we are disregarding our moral responsibility to Allah's creation."

Study Suggests Community Gardening May Produce Health Benefits

There are many benefits to community gardens. From greening urban ecosystems, to offering education and cultural opportunities, community gardens provide a venue for people to come together and stimulate social interaction. For individuals, these gardens also provide a venue for exercise, food production, and improved diets. These potential benefits have lead to a new study that reveals those who participate in community gardening have a significantly lower body mass index and have lower odds of being overweight or obese compared to their non-gardening neighbors.

Shooting Asteroids

Asteroids is a video arcade game. The object of the game is to shoot and destroy asteroids and saucers while not colliding with either. Real asteroids are minor planets (small Solar System bodies and dwarf planets) that are not comets, especially those of the inner Solar System. They have also been called planetoids, especially the larger ones. Shyam Bhaskaran of NASA is working a lot with asteroids these days. And also like many of his colleagues, the deep space navigator devotes a great deal of time to crafting, and contemplating, computer-generated 3-D models of these intriguing nomads of the solar system. But while many of his coworkers are calculating asteroids' past, present and future locations in the cosmos, zapping them with the world's most massive radar dishes, or considering how to rendezvous and perhaps even gently nudge an asteroid into lunar orbit, Bhaskaran thinks about how to collide with one.

Wildlife Sanctuaries Along Coasts and Sea Level Rise

A new report on the potential effects of climate change on NOAA's Olympic Coast National Marine Sanctuary uses existing observations and science-based expectations to identify how climate change could affect habitats, plants and animals within the sanctuary and adjacent coastal areas. It also outlines new management recommendations for the sanctuary, and sanctuary officials called it the first step toward addressing them. They also said the report issued by the sanctuary, Climate Change and the Olympic Coast National Marine Sanctuary: Interpreting Potential Futures, will provide a foundation of information and identify key issues facing the sanctuary.

Aerosols Confirmed Rising Over India

While satellite data has shown aerosols — tiny polluting particles in the air — to be rising over India, a new study based on primary data gathered from measuring instruments installed in a network of stations confirms the trend. The study, by a team from the Vikram Sarabhai Space Centre, Thiruvananthapuram, and Indian Institute of Science (IISc), Bangalore, published online in Geophysical Research Letters last month (14 March), is based on the principle that aerosols absorb the sun's rays as they reach the earth's surface.

Cigarette Butts Litter Waterways, Create Toxic Aquatic Ecosystems

What would you say is the most littered item on US roadways? I think of two things: gum and cigarette butts. But let's focus on cigarettes for now. Cigarette filters are made from cellulose acetate, a plastic which is technically biodegradable. However, cigarette butts only degrade under conditions described by researchers as "severe biological circumstances," such as when filters end up in sewage. Even under optimal conditions, it can take at least 9 months for a butt to degrade.

Aerosols confirmed rising over India

While satellite data has shown aerosols — tiny polluting particles in the air — to be rising over India, a new study based on primary data gathered from measuring instruments installed in a network of stations confirms the trend. The study, by a team from the Vikram Sarabhai Space Centre, Thiruvananthapuram, and Indian Institute of Science (IISc), Bangalore, published online in Geophysical Research Letters last month (14 March), is based on the principle that aerosols absorb the sun's rays as they reach the earth's surface.

Seismic Airgun Testing for Oil and Gas Threatens Marine Life and Coastal Economies

According to government estimates, 138,500 whales and dolphins will soon be injured and possibly killed along the East Coast if exploration companies are allowed to use dangerous blasts of noise to search for offshore oil and gas. The U.S. Department of the Interior (DOI) is considering allowing geophysical companies, working on behalf of oil and gas companies, to use seismic airguns to search for offshore oil and gas in the Atlantic Ocean, from Delaware to Florida. These airguns use compressed air to generate intense pulses of sound, which are 100,000 times more intense than a jet engine.

How Can You Find and Track Asteroids Near Earth?

It seems that every now and then we are surprised to learn that an asteroid is passing near the earth. Sometimes these are asteroids that NASA and others have been tracking for some time, but in other cases, they are newly discovered. The consequences of an asteroid hitting our planet range from relatively insignificant to catastrophic. At the University of Rochester, a team has developed a special type of camera that is capable of detecting and tracking asteroids. A sensor designed to be the eyes of a future asteroid-tracking mission has passed a critical test. The Near Earth Object Camera (NEOCam) sensor is a new infrared-light detector to improve the performance and efficiency of the next generation of space-based asteroid-hunting telescopes. It is the result of a long-term collaboration between the University of Rochester and the Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL), together with Teledyne Imaging Sensors. A paper on the NEOCam sensor test will be published in an upcoming issue of the Journal of Optical Engineering.