Environment 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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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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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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Environment Health Science Policy 

Imagining Future Wastewater Solutions

By Emily Folk (@EmilySFolk) Wastewater represents a serious risk to human health in both developing and developed countries. Through industrial, commercial, agricultural, and domestic activities, affected sources of water cause illness, disease, and even death. One particular case study serves as an example of these dangers. The Adyar River in Chennai, India, once supported the area’s economy and culture. With the introduction of untreated wastewater, the river soon became an active landfill, inundated with debris and refuse, with a thick consistency that no longer allowed for safe interaction (Hariram, 2017).…

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Deforestation Environment Science Policy 

Commodity-Driven Deforestation Threatens Forests

By Megan Nichols (@nicholsrmegan) The global economy is at the mercy of its consumers, whose needs often have a negative impact on the environment. A recently published study explores the impact of commodity-driven deforestation on forests around the world. What is the difference between deforestation and temporary forest loss? What sort of impact is this commodity-driven deforestation having on global ecosystems? Zero-deforestation agreements The commodity-driven economy is contributing to the decimation of forests across the globe. Projections by the NASA Earth Observatory estimate that if it continues at its current…

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Biology Education Science Policy 

The “Google Manifesto”: Bad Biology, Ignorance of Evolutionary Processes, and Privilege

By Agustin Fuentes, PhD, University of Notre Dame There are biological differences between the sexes, including average body size and upper body strength, and aspects of reproductive physiology. There is also a range of gendered differences in behavior and perception as contemporary societies structure developmental patterns and expectations differently for boys and girls. But there are more biological similarities than differences, and more gender overlaps than discontinuities, between males and females—we are the same species after all. These differences and similarities can, and do, play roles in shaping performance on specific tasks by individuals…

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Science Policy Challenges, Part Four: Information Overload Science Policy Technology 

Science Policy Challenges, Part Four: Information Overload

By Jonathan Trinastic @jptrinastic This is the fourth in a series of four articles by Dr. Jonathan Trinastic in our new Science Policy section. In 2002, human civilization duplicated or recorded 23 exabytes of data (that’s 23 followed by 18 zeros, or 23 billion gigabytes). That may sound like a lot, but fast-forward to 2017, and we are manipulating this much data in just one week. The amount of information at our fingertips is staggering, whether it be about Stephen Curry’s clutch 3-point field goal percentage at home against winning…

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Biology Health Science Policy 

Science Policy Challenges, Part Three: The Aging Brain

By Jonathan Trinastic @jptrinastic This is the third in a series of four articles by Dr. Jonathan Trinastic in our new Science Policy section. In 2014, 46.2 million people over the age of 65 lived in the United States. By 2060, this number will skyrocket to around 98 million, increasing the percentage of older adults from 14 to 22 percent. As our population becomes older on average, later-life diseases will strike with more frequency. By 2025, more than seven million Americans will likely suffer from Alzheimer’s disease, a specific type…

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