On 18 February, the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) released a report highlighting the three major emergencies that are currently challenging the entire planet— climate, biodiversity, and pollution. “Making peace with nature: A scientific blueprint to tackle the climate, biodiversity and pollution emergencies” is based on evidence from global environmental assessments. “Humanity is waging war on nature. This is senseless and suicidal. The consequences of our recklessness are already apparent in human suffering, towering economic losses, and the accelerating erosion of life on Earth,” said António Guterres, Secretary-General of the United Nations in the report foreword.
A guest post by Elizabeth Holton, University of Bath
The discovery of antibiotics unquestionably changed the face of public health. However, pathogenic tolerance to these drugs is ever increasing, and it’s becoming a global concern. The topic of antimicrobial, or antibiotic resistance (AMR) has existed for almost as long as the initial discovery of penicillin in the late 1920s; the difference now is the lack of new drugs being developed as alternatives. The discovery of new antibiotics is of course critical, yet we should be focusing more attention on prevention and containment. Inappropriate usage and disposal, livestock supplements in agriculture, and poor international regulation are some significant contributors; but are often difficult to quantify. One technique that is now being utilized is ‘water fingerprinting.’
A guest post by Julie P. Avery, Nicole Misarti, Todd M. O’Hara, and Lorrie D. Rea
Do you like fish? Have you heard warnings from the FDA about consuming predatory fish such as tuna, swordfish, and shark due to high mercury? Fish are a healthy food and an excellent source of lean protein, healthy omega-3 fats, vitamin D, iron, selenium, zinc, and iodine. Fish provide all these nutrients, which are essential for human and animal health. Marine mammals in Alaska, like Steller sea lions and northern fur seals, thrive on a diverse fish diet. But what about the mercury? Since we eat some of the same fish as seals and sea lions, we can study them to understand how mercury might affect humans.
Coastal and Arctic communities are especially vulnerable to the effects of mercury contamination due to their dependence on fish and marine resources for food and sociocultural needs. According to the World Health Organization, mercury is one of the top 10 contaminants of concern for human health.
One day, my oldest daughter (age 5) had to poop, an event that typically requires the audience of my youngest (age 3). However, on this particular journey, my oldest saw a small cellar spider in the adjacent bathtub, and this sight caused both to scream bloody murder.
Now, I study riparian spiders (more on that later) and my daughters have lived most of their lives with a striped-knee tarantula, that they named “Mr. Mommy.” They talk to Mr. Mommy, they help me feed her, they tap the glass – by all accounts, they seem to like Mr. Mommy. Additionally, they’ve both seen me shuttle wolf spiders from inside the house to the outdoors. We look at spiders on my phone and we talk about how jumping spiders are cute (seriously, if you didn’t know this… look at pictures of jumping spiders. Jumping spiders have a pair of large front eyes that make them adorable). However, I guess they forgot.
A guest post by Eric Peterson, Texas Tech University
Imagine driving down a country road on a clear, beautiful summer evening, when you see what looks like fog across the road in front of you. As you drive closer and closer, your car becomes engulfed, and you can no longer see the telephone poles in front of you. After a few hundred meters or so of this “fog,” you emerge on the other side, and it is once again clear. While it may sound like a scene out of the Stephen King novel The Mist, and more of a science fiction scenario, it is actually a phenomenon that occurs on a nightly basis all across the High Plains of the United States of America (US). The true culprit of this “fog” is actually dust emanating from beef cattle feed yards on a nightly basis.
In 2009, the United Nations (UN) General Assembly acknowledged that the Earth and its ecosystems are our common home and adopted its first resolution on “Harmony with Nature.” It recognized that while Nature has been treated as a commodity that exists largely for the benefit of people, it is now necessary to achieve a just balance among the economic, social, and environmental needs of present and future generations. Since then, the UN General Assembly has adopted eleven resolutions on Harmony with Nature.
Since COVID-19 started spreading worldwide during the first months of this year, we’ve heard intriguing stories and watched fascinating videos of wildlife emerging in city streets emptied by lockdown measures, even in metropolitan areas. The “great pause” has brought about unexpected effects. “Peacocks stroll the streets of Ronda, Spain; a gang of goats wander around a seaside town in north Wales; a puma climbs down from the Andes Mountains into Santiago, Chile; and coyotes trot around San Francisco.” Continue reading →
The following post previews the research that will be presented at the SETAC Europe Annual Meeting, held virtually as SciCon (3–7 May 2020).
A guest post by Verena Sesin, Steering Committee member of the SETAC Global Plants Interest Group
From our backyards, to parks, nature areas, and agriculture – plants surround us! We often forget that plants not only look pretty, but they are also vital for our daily lives. Plants are key parts of aquatic and terrestrial ecosystems. In rivers, wetlands, grasslands, forests, agricultural fields, and various other habitats, plants provide shelter and food for many animals, from tiny microbes and invertebrates, to large mammals – including us humans. And, don’t forget, plants use the light energy from the sun to produce macromolecules and oxygen – a very special skill that supports all life on our planet. Continue reading →
The following post is one of a series previewing the research that will be presented at the SETAC Europe Annual Meeting, held virtually as SciCon (3–7 May 2020, formerly to be held in Dublin, Ireland).
A guest post by Hans Sanderson, Anna Magdalene, Brun Hansen, Scott Belanger, Kristin Connors, and Monica Lam
Polymers are most known for their use in plastics (e.g., polypropylene), and while it is true that all plastics are polymers, it is not true that all polymers are plastics. Polymers have a much wider range of origins and uses and contain a wide variety of materials with differing structural attributes, functionalization, and physical and chemical properties.
Locusts—the oldest migratory pests in the world—are decimating crops and threatening food security in East Africa. Unlike ordinary grasshoppers, these pests gregarize and migrate over long distances. The most devastating of all locust species is the desert locust (Schistocerca gregaria), which is currently swarming at extraordinary levels. According to the latest update (5 March 2020) provided by Locust Watch, “The situation remains extremely alarming in the Horn of Africa, specifically Kenya, Ethiopia and Somalia where widespread breeding is in progress and new swarms are starting to form, representing an unprecedented threat to food security and livelihoods at the beginning of the upcoming cropping season.” Continue reading →