The Mighty Pythons of Florida

There have been many invasive species such as the rabbit in Australia. Now we have a carnivorous threat: the python who is literally eating Florida. Introduced Burmese pythons are firmly established in southern Florida, where they pose a serious threat to native wildlife. Burmese pythons, are native to Southeast Asia and can reach lengths greater than 20 feet. Pythons are long-lived (15 – 25 years), behavioral, habitat, and dietary generalists that are capable of producing clutches of up to 107 eggs. One new study, the first to document the ecological impacts of this invasive species, strongly supports that animal communities in this 1.5-million-acre park have been markedly altered by the introduction of pythons within 11 years of their establishment as an invasive species. Mid-sized mammals are the most dramatically affected, but some Everglades pythons are as large as 16 feet long, and their prey have included animals as large as deer and alligators.

Gestational Exposure to Urban Air Pollution Linked to Vitamin D Deficiency in Newborns

Chevy Chase, MD—Gestational exposure to ambient urban air pollution, especially during late pregnancy, may contribute to lower vitamin D levels in offspring, according to a recent study accepted for publication in The Endocrine Society's Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism (JCEM). According to study authors, this could affect the child's risk of developing diseases later in life.

Wind Power and Climate Change

Though there is enough power in Earth's winds to be a primary source of near-zero emission electric power for the world, large-scale high altitude wind power generation is unlikely to substantially affect climate. That is the conclusion of a Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory climate scientist and collaborators who studied the geophysical limits to global wind power in a paper appearing in the Sept. 9 edition of the journal Nature Climate Change. "The future of wind energy is likely to be determined by economic, political and technical constraints rather than geophysical limits," said Kate Marvel, lead author of the paper and a scientist in the Laboratory's Program for Climate Model Diagnosis and Intercomparison.

Nearly all conventional food crops grown with fluoride-laced water, then sprayed with more fluoride

The average American today is exposed to a whole lot more fluoride than he or she is probably aware. Conventional produce, it turns out, is one of the most prevalent sources of fluoride exposure besides fluoridated water, as conventional crops are not only irrigated with fluoride-laced water in many cases, but also sprayed with pesticide and herbicide chemicals that have been blended with fluoride, and later processed once again with fluoridated water.

Photos: camera traps capture wildlife bonanza in Borneo forest corridor

Camera traps placed in a corridor connecting two forest fragments have revealed (in stunning visuals) the importance of such linkages for Borneo's imperiled mammals and birds. Over 18 months, researchers with the Sabah Wildlife Department (SWD) and the Danau Girang Field Centre (DGFC) have photographed wildlife utilizing the corridor located in the Lower Kinabatangan Wildlife Sanctuary in Malaysian Borneo.

Shell begins offshore drilling in the Alaskan Arctic

With the approval of the Obama Administration, Royal Dutch Shell began drilling into the ocean floor of the Chukchi Sea off the coast of Alaska yesterday morning. The controversial operation, which has been vehemently opposed by environmental and Native groups, will likely only last a few weeks this year until the Arctic winter sets in. The U.S. government has said that Shell must complete operations by September 24th, however the oil giant has asked for an extension. "We look forward to continued drilling progress throughout the next several weeks and to adding another chapter to Alaska’s esteemed oil and gas history," Shell wrote in an online statement. "We're proud to be offshore Alaska, and we're extremely proud of the preparation we've put in place to do it right." Extreme weather, floating ice, and remoteness are just a few of the challenges that faces any fossil fuel exploitation in the Arctic, and environmental groups say Shell hasn't proven itself ready to drill safely. The oil giant, which spent $4 billion on Arctic oil drilling, has suffered costly and embarrassing delays all year, including an oil spill containment barge which is still harbored in Washington State and undergoing retrofitting.

Summer Temps in the Lower 48 Are 3rd Highest on Record

Between June and August, the contiguous United States experienced its 3rd hottest summer. According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), the average temperature around the lower 48 states was warmer than average in June and August, and set a new heat record for July. The average for the whole summer was 74.4 degrees F, 2.3 degrees above the 20th century average. The only hotter summers were in 2011 and way back in 1936. The most notable aspect of this summer climate is the extreme drought in parts of the country. According to the US Drought monitor, nearly 63 percent of the lower 48 continue to experience drought conditions to this day.

Arctic Contaminants

The Arctic is comparatively clean. Due to the prevailing worldwide sea and air currents, the Arctic area is also the fallout region for long-range transport pollutants, and in some places the concentrations exceed the levels of densely populated urban areas. An example of this is the phenomenon of Arctic haze, which is commonly blamed on long-range pollutants. It's been more than a decade since global leaders met in Stockholm, Sweden, to sign a treaty with the goal of eliminating persistent organic pollutants making their way into our food chain — such as harmful pesticides like DDT that nearly wiped out the American Bald Eagle. While leaders have come a long way in restricting these types of pollutants, contamination of the Arctic remains a problem. Researchers at MIT are working to help inform policies that more effectively address contamination problems with their latest research.

Omega 3 Fatty Acids Benefits

Omega 3 fatty acids are fats commonly found in marine and plant oils. The health effects of n-3 fatty acids supplementation are controversial. They are considered essential fatty acids, meaning that they cannot be synthesized by the human body but are vital for normal metabolism. A new study by the University of Oxford has shown that daily supplements of omega-3 fatty acids (Docosahexaenoic acid, or DHA) improved the reading and behavior of under performing children in mainstream primary schools. The researchers worked with children aged between seven and nine who had underperformed in standardized reading tests.

Waterloo Scientists Debate If Older People are Really Smarter

It is one of the oldest beliefs throughout the history of mankind; that with age, comes greater wisdom. For most cases this is true, particularly in learning a skill such as playing an instrument or constructing a house. But does knowing how to perform a skill more efficiently really make that person smarter, or have more wisdom? This then begs the question, what exactly is wisdom? There are many definitions, but one which stands out above all is that having wisdom means that one is good at resolving conflict. A new study from the University of Waterloo, Canada has found that acquiring greater conflict resolution depends on your culture, and more precisely, where you’re from.