Patch Job

A study published earlier this year pointed to a decrease in the size of the ozone hole over the Antarctic. This healing process indicates the success of the Montreal Protocol, the 1989 treaty intended to limit the production and use of ozone-harming chemicals. Ratified by all United Nations Members, as well as Niue, the Cook…

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Adding It Up

Not so very long ago, processing large amounts of data was a tedious business, riddled with human error, machine failings and limited reach. These days, information availability can feel like a tsunami. There’s so much of it, all the time, all around. It’s become easier than ever to share information and images, sometimes involuntarily. The…

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Arctic Oil Hubris

The U.S. government has approved plans by Royal Dutch Shell to begin drilling for oil off the Alaskan coast this summer. This comes after years of industry lobbying to explore what some estimate to be major oil deposits in the Chukchi Sea. Some estimates run up to 15 billion barrels. On the one hand, the…

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Unexpected Communication

Before I started this post on talking turtles this morning, I moseyed over to Wikipedia to see what words we use to describe acoustic communications between turtles. Dogs bark, geese hiss, tapirs whistle, giraffes bleat and most rodents squeak – at least, that’s what they do when we’re talking about them in English. But turtles?…

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Antarctic Shiver

Everyone knows the best scare stories are those in which the most obvious and visible danger turns out to less dire than an unsuspected peril revealed only later, the deadfall that sends a shiver down the listener’s spine. We’ve all heard about the Antarctic ice shelf melt-off that’s been taking place with increasing speed and…

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Yoke of Gold

The history of gold – that is, the history of gold extracted from the planet surface – is inextricably linked with human history. Gold has always been as much a shining harness as a coveted bauble. It has so many qualities we would like to think we ourselves possess: It’s rare but not lonely and…

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Toothfish Piracy

*Update below (July 29). There are a couple of cinema-worthy chase scenes going on right now, all located in the Southern Ocean. The New Zealand navy is currently chasing two ships sailing under the flag of Equatorial Guinea for illegal fishing, and a Sea Shepherd vessel has been chasing a Nigerian trawler, the Thunder, since…

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Portrait of Living Wind

A century ago this month, the world’s last passenger pigeon (Ectopistes migratorius)¬†died in the Cincinnati Zoo, long¬†after the last passenger pigeon had been seen in the wild. The passenger pigeon, once populous beyond imagining, took only a century to disappear. It seems that more than one factor was responsible for the population decline and how…

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Newness, Past and Present

I noticed two items this week regarding species previously unknown to us. They’ve both been labelled ‘new’, although they are anything but new. The first is a long-extinct sauropod, the largest yet discovered, which has been given the truly magnificent name Dreadnoughtus schrani, ‘that which fears nothing’. As a quadruped the size of a Boeing…

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Washed Up

Warmer water temperatures, reduced ability to fight illness, pathogens passed on from shellfish – it’s not quite clear which of these, or maybe which combination is raging through the sea star populations of the United States West Coast. But the fact is that millions of sea stars from Alaska to Mexico are wasting away, suddenly…

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