Monthly Archives: November 2021

Why Are Nebraska’s Birds Turning White?

The following post is one of a series previewing the research that will be presented at the SETAC North America 42nd Annual Meeting (SciCon4), 14–18 November.

A guest post by Lauren Gillespie, Central Community College-Columbus

A block of four different photos of birds, two showing white feathers, one showing asymmetrical tail feathers, and the fourth showing a swallow with normal coloration.
Photo 1: A. The first barn swallow with partial leucism we caught in 2018; B. An example of the white feathers we have found in many individuals; C.  An example of tail streamer deformation and asymmetry; D. A barn swallow with typical melanin coloration.

I teach general biology at Central Community CollegeColumbus (CCC-C) in Nebraska, where I hold ecology lab courses at a nearby creek with students in waders performing water quality tests. This “creek” is a glorified agricultural drainage ditch, bordered by farmland in a state that crop-dusts on a regular basis throughout the summer months. I saw birds nesting underneath the bridge once and decided on a whim to mist net during a lab session. Mist nets are used to capture birds and can only be purchased with proof of a U.S. Fish and Wildlife collecting permit. As students took samples, I extracted the bird—a barn swallow (photo 1, A)—that started this project.

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Radioactive Waste Cleanups After the Manhattan Project: Lessons Learned

The following post is one of a series previewing the research that will be presented at the SETAC North America 42nd Annual Meeting (SciCon4), 14–18 November 2021

A guest post by Karen Keil, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers

Nuclear contamination warning sign
Nuclear contamination warning sign, Adobe Stock Image

Radioactivity was first discovered over a century ago (circa 1890s). Within 50 years we were harnessing that incredible power to build an atomic bomb, in an effort to end World War II. However, the Manhattan Project left a legacy of radioactive waste sites. Over the last several decades, we have spent billions of dollars cleaning up the environmental impacts of this waste, with efforts still ongoing. What have we learned from this process? Although radioactive waste products are now considered “legacy” contaminants, back in the day they could have been classified as “contaminants of emerging concern”—substances whose recently discovered environmental consequences pose challenging problems to environmental scientists. What have we learned from the cleanup efforts for legacy radioactive waste? Can we apply the lessons learned to new contaminants?

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