Earth Day Spotlight: Working Dogs for Conservation

Wicket, an eight year-old black lab-cross wearing a red vest emblazoned with the words "Search Dog", came to a sudden stop at the base of a thick willow tree, turning and sitting in one swift motion, and awaited her reward of a tennis ball for a successful detection. "Instead of using dogs to find narcotics, lets use them to find poop," Alice Whitelaw of Working Dogs for Conservation, said. Only one in 1,000 dogs have what it takes to become a detection dog. The Three Forks Mont.-based research group uses dogs to search for everything from invasive species to noxious weeds to rare animal scat to illegal snares used by poachers in Africa. Five Montana wildlife biologists came together in 2000 with a new idea to respond to a growing demand for non-invasive ways to do research.

Forest conservation could reduce malaria transmission

Preserving the biodiversity of tropical forests could have the added benefit of cutting the spread of malaria, according to a new study. The finding contradicts the traditional view that clearing native forest for agriculture curbs malaria transmission in the Amazon rainforest.

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.