The People’s Choice: Americans Would Pay to Help Monarch Butterflies

Americans place high value on butterfly royalty. A recent study suggests they are willing to support monarch butterfly conservation at high levels, up to about 6 ½ billion dollars if extrapolated to all U.S. households. If even a small percentage of the population acted upon this reported willingness, the cumulative effort would likely translate into a large, untapped potential for conservation of the iconic butterfly.

Lack of nanotech regulations leaves developing world exposed

Nanotechnology is a promising field, but a lack of regulation means there is uncertainty over the safety of its implementation, particularly in developing countries. This week I received some unexpected insights on nanotechnology and its relationship with industry in different parts of the world.

Armored giant turns out to be vital ecosystem engineer

The giant armadillo (Priodontes maximus) is not called a giant for nothing: it weighs as much as a large dog and grows longer than the world's biggest tortoise. However, despite its gigantism, many people in its range—from the Amazon to the Pantanal—don't even know it exists or believe it to be more mythology than reality. This is a rare megafauna that has long eluded not only scientific study, but even basic human attention. However, undertaking the world's first long-term study of giant armadillos has allowed intrepid biologist, Arnaud Desbiez, to uncovered a wealth of new information about these cryptic creatures. Not only has Desbiez documented giant armadillo reproduction for the first time, but has also discovered that these gentle giants create vital habitats for a variety of other species.

The Benefits of Allergies

For those of us that suffer from seasonal allergies, or even from indoor allergens like dust or mold, the symptoms that we have to these allergens is actually a positive reaction as two new studies show that our sneezing and wheezing may actually protect us. In a study involving reactions to bee stings, researchers report that mice that develop an allergic response to the venom in honeybee stings are more likely to survive potentially lethal doses of the same venom later on.

Breakthrough in CO2 conversion to useful forms of carbon

CO2 is an important air pollution emission contributing to climate change. Researchers around the globe are looking at ways to remove CO2 from flue gasses and to store it (sequestering) or to in someway use it. By tuning gold nanoparticles to just the right size, researchers from Brown University have developed a catalyst that selectively converts carbon dioxide (CO2) to carbon monoxide (CO), an active carbon molecule that can be used to make alternative fuels and commodity chemicals. "Our study shows potential of carefully designed gold nanoparticles to recycle CO2 into useful forms of carbon," said Shouheng Sun, professor of chemistry and one of the study’s senior authors. "The work we've done here is preliminary, but we think there's great potential for this technology to be scaled up for commercial applications."

Introduction to Persistent, Bioaccumulative, Toxic (PBT) Compounds in the Environment

Global chemical contamination is a worldwide concern affecting every being on earth. Chemical exposure, whether it is through air, water, plants, soil or our modern living environment is unavoidable. But certain chemicals and compounds having Persistent, Bioaccumulative, Toxic (PBT) characteristics are more dangerous to our environment than others because of their inability to break down easily, are easily transferred throughout all forms of environmental media, and posing risks to human health and the ecosystem due to their toxicity at low concentrations.

Ecology: Life’s Connections

Ultimately, all humanity and all life have is the biosphere, the thin layer of life just above and below Earth’s surface, composed of ancient, miraculously evolved natural ecosystems. The natural Earth is a marvel - a complex coupling of species within ecosystems, whereby life begets life. Ecology is far more than the study of life and its environment. The word is used here as a synonym for ecosystems - the vibrant connections that emerge between species across scales, which cumulatively make life on Earth possible.

Dead battery troubles will soon be a thing of the past

With technology almost always at our fingertips, it’s hard to avoid constantly being on our smart phone, camera, or tablet. It distracts us from our boredom, connects us quickly to friends, helps navigate us to local restaurants, and points out the nearest gas stations when we’re running low on fuel.

Patagonia Goes Fair Trade

Patagonia made headlines when they admonished us: "Don't buy that jacket." In fact, they made so many headlines, we bought them anyway. Their commitment to environmental sustainability keeps them at the top of GoodGuide’s apparel recommendations.

Amazon at more risk for dieback than previously thought

With habitat destruction trends and interaction with climate change, things are not looking good for the Amazon rainforest. According to a new study, the southern portion of the Amazon rainforest is at a much higher risk of dieback due to stronger seasonal drying than projections made by the climate models used in the latest report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). One of the biggest culprits? Drought.