Environment Science Debate Science Policy 

The Unfortunate Withdrawal of the US from the Paris Agreement

By Jacqueline Mattos (@mattosjacq) This article is part of a series about key science policy issues. Please use these articles to become an informed voter, ask political candidates about the issues, and put every candidate on record about science. In December 2015, parties of the UNFCCC (United Nation Framework Convention on Climate Change) gathered at the twenty-first Conference of Parties (COP21) in Paris to create a new international deal to mitigate climate change, called the Paris Agreement. Its ultimate goal was to keep the rise in average surface temperature below…

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Biota Project Health 

Medicinal Plants to Nourish the Soul

White sage. Peyote. Opium Poppy. African Dream Root. What do all these species have in common? These are all plants that serve both medicinal and spiritual roles in cultures across the world. Plants have long since played important roles in human experience since time immemorial. Plants have provided civilization with food, shelter, tools, and the earliest form of health care. It is from the plant kingdom that people began developing the first medicines. Foxgloves, from the genus Digitalis, native to Europe, Asia, and northwestern Africa, were the original sources of…

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Citizen Science Citizen Science Connected Blog Environment Health 

You Can Help Beat Extreme Heat in Cities

Imagine a smoldering hot day in downtown Boston: temperatures have reached over 90 degrees Fahrenheit, and the sidewalks and streets are absorbing the strong heat from the sun and radiating it back into the air.  Days like this are becoming hotter and more frequent. This “silent storm” causes more deaths in the US than all other weather hazards combined. Heat impacts human health, infrastructure, and the environment. The Urban Heat Island (UHI) Effect Urban areas trap heat inside of them, experiencing hotter temperatures than in surrounding suburban areas. Cities are…

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Biology Biota Project Chemistry Environment 

Learning Where Water Comes From, With Isotopes

by Nicholas Dove and Alyssa Abbey Did you ever wonder where your water is coming from? For many of us, drinking a glass of water is as easy as turning on the tap. But, the journey of water from a single raindrop to your drinking glass starts long before then. Water can actually travel hundreds of miles or take hundreds of years before it finally reaches you. During this hot summer month of July, The Biota Project is exploring the origins of one of Earth’s most precious resources: water. We…

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Citizen Science Environment Health Science Policy 

Environmental Health Is a Social Justice Issue

By Shayna Keyles (@shaynakeyles) When we talk about recycling, mitigating climate change, protecting habitats, and more, it’s not only for some abstract mission of “saving the earth,” though that would be good, too. These are environmental justice issues; they are part of the struggle for basic human rights. Environmental justice in the US In the United States, the environmental justice movement grew out of the civil rights movement of the 1960s and 1970s. Communities of Black, Latinx, Native American, low-income, and immigrant groups found that they were disproportionately affected by…

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Environment Oceanography Science Policy 

The US Needs a Federal Ban on Marine Plastic Pollution

By Neha Jain (@lifesciexplore) Plastics may be convenient and cheap, but they are littering every part of the Earth, even once-pristine areas. The sheer scale of marine plastic pollution is staggering: over 5.25 trillion pieces of plastic are estimated to engulf the oceans. And the amount of plastic entering the oceans is expected to increase by an order of magnitude by 2025. In the “Great Pacific Garbage Patch” located between California and Hawaii, almost half of the waste by size comes from fishing nets. Marine plastic waste is not just…

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Botany Ecology Environment 

An Evolutionary Approach to Conserving Plant Habitats

By Mackenzie Myers (@thetiniestnail) To conserve plant habitats, a traditional approach to biodiversity—species richness, or saving as many species as possible—might not be the most effective route. Instead, vulnerable landscapes might be better served by a quality-over-quantity mindset, a recent paper from a team of UC Berkeley scientists suggests. Think of going into a grocery store. On a budget and with limited cooking time, shoppers probably don’t buy the first dozen random ingredients they see on the shelf. Rather, they find it more practical to shop deliberately, perhaps by looking…

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Citizen Science Citizen Science Connected Blog Environment Health 

Empowering Communities to Examine Lead Exposure with Crowd the Tap

By Bradley Allf Lead pipes for transporting water have been a fixture of modern civilization for more than two thousand years.  Ancient Romans channeled water into homes and bathhouses through lead piping. In fact, the Latin word for lead, plumbum, is where we get the English word “plumbing.” Yet we have also long recognized that lead can have a serious impact on our health. Vitrivius, who lived during the first century BCE, wrote at length about the physical harm caused by lead exposure, concluding that “water should therefore on no…

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Biology Environment Science Policy 

Does Habitat Fragmentation Affect Biodiversity?

By Jacqueline Mattos (@mattosjacq) Most scientists used to believe that habitat fragmentation was a real threat to biodiversity, but some controversial ideas have made this a potential topic for further discussion. Iconic experiments in the Brazilian Amazon, for example, have shown the edge effects on the ability of small patches to retain species. Edge effects relate to the possible outcomes of having too much border on chopped forests, which creates a boundary between two habitats. Where there is deforestation, patches are the remaining pieces of natural vegetation among other human-affected…

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Ecology Environment Science Policy 

Forest Restoration, Not Plantations, Will Curb Warming

By Neha Jain (@lifesciexplore) Forests are our best natural weapon against climate change. By sucking up large amounts of carbon dioxide from the air, forests can store about a quarter of the carbon necessary to restrict global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels. So, it is not surprising that boosting forest area through restoration has been one of the main goals of international organizations tackling rising global temperatures. Encouragingly, 43 countries concentrated around the tropics, where trees grow fast, have pledged to restore 292 million hectares of forest…

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