Category Archives: Environmental Management

Integrating Knowledge on the Distribution and Maternal Transfer of Organic Pollutants to Advance Sea Turtle Conservation

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 Cynthia C. Muñoz and Peter Vermeiren, Radboud University, The Netherlands

Knowledge regarding the internal distribution and subsequent maternal transfer of organic pollutants—such as polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs), once used in electical equipment and plastics; organochlorine pesticides (OCPs), and polybrominated diphenyl ethers (PBDEs), which make materials nonflammable—within organisms is of critical importance to scientists who interpret tissue-specific biomonitoring results and refine risk assessments. Although the manufacture and/or use of most of these chemicals were banned decades ago, they persist in the environment and accumulate in wildlife. This is particularly true for long-lived organisms, such as sea turtles, where pollution burdens build up over time and affect health later in life. Moreover, organic pollutants can accumulate over many years before being transferred from the mother to its offspring, where they can interfere with critical development processes. For example, maternal transfer of organic pollutants into yolk, through the placental barrier, or during lactation has been linked to decreased survival rates and impaired embryo and juvenile development in several long-lived vertebrate species. Yet knowledge on the internal and maternal distribution of organic pollutants remains limited for many such species, due to ethical, economic, and logistical restrictions on sampling them, as many are threatened or endangered. Additionally, a diverse chemical universe of legacy, new, and emerging organic pollutants is present in the environment, of which the behavior within the environment and upon contact with long-lived species is largely unknown. In short, the challenge of refining risk assessments specific to the characteristics of long-lived species, such as sea turtles, is complex, without an easy solution.

Continue reading

We Should Take a Holistic Approach to Environmental Risk Assessment Following Oil Spills

A guest editor post by Sharon Hook, CSIRO Oceans and Atmosphere

With the recent pipeline leak in the waters off of Orange County, California, USA, oil spills are once again in the headlines. We are hearing the concerns of the affected communities about what the consequences of this spill will be for wildlife, fisheries, and safe use of the beaches. After all of the decades of oil spill-related research, there is still a lot of uncertainty about the environmental impacts of oil spills. It is a good opportunity, to ask ourselves as environmental scientists, if we are asking the right questions in our research into the impacts of oil spills, and if we are setting up our studies with the most environmentally relevant approaches.

Continue reading

Evolution by Pesticides: Evidence of Evolution in American Alligators Affected by Endocrine Disrupting Chemicals

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 Yeraldi Loera, Ph.D. student at Princeton University

Baby alligator rests in open palm.
Solo gator. Photo courtesy of the author.

Instances of environmental pollution by manufactured contaminants are widespread across the globe. Pesticides are commonly used in agriculture to combat pests, but can also harm other, non-targeted organisms. Exposure to some pesticides can lead to disruption in the endocrine system, altering reproductive development and fitness. One study showed this kind of disruptive effect across populations of American alligators (Alligator mississipiensis) that were exposed to a pesticide (DDT) spill in Lake Apopka, Florida. Surprisingly, another study in the same region showed a rebound in the population following their exposure, suggesting possible evolved resistance to pesticide contamination.

Continue reading

Understanding Underwater Sounds: Evaluating Risks of Human Activities

Commercial shipping density (red lines).
Credit: B.S. Halpern (T. Hengl; D. Groll) / Wikimedia Commons / CC BY-SA 3.0

A guest post by Andrew McQueen, US Army Corps of Engineers

Researchers around the world are focusing more on the role of anthropogenic (human-made) sounds in marine ecosystems. In the last half century, as we have industrialized and expanded our use of the “blue” ocean economy (maritime transport, fisheries, and renewable energy), some regions have observed incremental increases of anthropogenic underwater sounds. However, the ecological consequences, or risks, of these changing underwater soundscapes remain largely unknown.

Continue reading

Lost Wilderness: Restoring both Habitat and Animal Species

Photo credit: Hannes Flo, CC BY 2.0.

By Roberta Attanasio, IEAM Blog Editor

A month after the death of Henry David Thoreau, The Atlantic published his 1862 essay “Walking,” which “extolled the virtues of immersing oneself in nature and lamented the inevitable encroachment of private ownership upon the wilderness.” It included Thoreau’s famous line “In wildness is the preservation of the world”—eight powerful words that played a major role in saving places such as Yosemite and Cape Cod from human-caused environmental destruction, inspiring the creation of the US National Parks system. Upon signing the US Wilderness Act in 1964, President Lyndon B. Johnson stated: “If future generations are to remember us with gratitude rather than contempt, we must leave them more than the miracles of technology. We must leave them a glimpse of the world as it was in the beginning, not just after we got through with it.” Continue reading

Biodiversity Under Attack in Rivers: Human Activities Cause Changes All Around the Globe

Roberta Attanasio, IEAM Blog Editor

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.

Continue reading

Antimicrobial Resistance: Using Water Fingerprinting to Assess Usage and Fate of Antibiotics

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.’

Continue reading

Spiders!

The following post is one of a series previewing the research that will be presented at the SETAC North America 41st Annual Meeting (SciCon2), 15–19 November 2020.

A guest post by Gale Beaubien

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.

An adorable jumping spider. Photo by Opoterser–own work, CC-BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=5066311
Continue reading

The Fog

The following post is one of a series previewing the research that will be presented at the SETAC North America 41st Annual Meeting (SciCon2), 15–19 November 2020.

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.

Cows look at the photographer against a backdrop of thousands of other cattle. Industrial equipment is blurred in the far background.
Beef cattle feed yards typically house thousands of cattle in relatively tight areas and can cover two square kilometers. Photo credit Eric Peterson
Continue reading

“Humanity at a Crossroads”: How Will Future Generations Experience the Natural World?

By Roberta Attanasio, IEAM Blog Editor

Hopetoun Falls
Photo by DAVID ILIFF, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=43330268

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.

Continue reading