Herbert W. Hoover Foundation stays true to mission to reduce water pollution

Jul 30, 2018

Original available at: http://www.cantonrep.com/entertainmentlife/20180729/herbert-w-hoover-foundation-stays-true-to-mission-to-reduce-water-pollution

JACKSON TWP. The late Herbert W. Hoover Jr. wasn’t just a Hoover Co. executive. He also was an ardent environmentalist.

Elizabeth Lacey Hoover said she thinks her father would be proud that his namesake foundation is continuing his legacy.

The foundation is a partner and chief underwriter of the Ohio Ocean Foundation, a local group working to educate the public on how pollution in the state’s waterways is connected to the health of the world’s oceans.

“My father was the first industrialist environmentalist,” Hoover said. “He was very concerned with the output of emissions at the factory. Our family, our history, was taking care of the people who worked in the factories. That was important to him.”

Herbert W. Hoover Jr. was a grandson of company founder William H. Hoover. He succeeded his father as company president in 1954, then served as board chair from 1959 to 1966. He died in 1997.

Ohio Ocean Foundation has invited several scientists and oceanography experts to give presentations in Stark County, worked with schools, and has as spearheaded a number of cleanups; the most recent in Stadium Park in Canton, and along the Ralph Regula Towpath in Massillon in partnership with Ernie’s Bike Shop.

“We’re looking for other community groups and organizations to participate,” said Hoover, who chairs the Herbert W. Hoover Foundation. “There are all kinds of opportunities.”

Solutions, not problems

Hoover estimates that the recent cleanups have resulted in the removal of more than 1,000 pounds of trash that eventually would have made its way into the local water supply. Such continued efforts, she said, can assist nonprofit organizations like the Jackson Township Recycling Center.

“We’re used to corporate recycling,” she said, “But nonprofit seems to be a better fit.”

Having help is important.

“It’s a good methodology to get people engaged,” said Caiti Waks, the Herbert W. Hoover Foundation’s program and outreach director.

Waks splits her time between Stark County and Miami, Fla., where she has spearheaded several initiatives to encourage sustainability and reduce the usage and consumption of plastic, particularly single-use items such as straws, cups and plastic bags.

As part of its local educational outreach, the Ohio Ocean Foundation had an informational booth at the most recent First Friday in downtown Canton. They’re also creating an educational “tool kit” that can be used by schools.

“We do a lot of intense research,” Hoover said. “We work with scientists and researchers. We work on most levels that most foundations don’t. We work on solutions, not problems.”

Hoover said her father, who retired to Bal Harbour, Fla., funded ocean health science for 50 years.

There is about 270,000 tons of plastic debris in the world’s five ocean basins.

“It impacted him a lot,” she said. “When he created his foundation, his philosophy was to hire top-tier scientists, but also to ensure that people would understand. When they do, people will do the right thing and make the right choices and protect the environment.”

Hoover said the foundation supports the Brian Bank at the University of Miami, algae scientists, and world renowned shark researcher and conservationist Neil Hammerschlag.

The foundation also has published a paper examining a possible link between Alzheimer’s disease, the food chain, and algal blooms, which release a toxin known to cause neuro-degenerative diseases.

From linear to circular

“It’s getting people to understand the ocean’s connection to health,” Hoover said. “This is just not some environmental tree-hugging activity. There is a link to human health.”

“We’re working with Ohio scientists, who are analyzing algal blooms through satellite imagery to predict future growth,” Waks said. “We’re also trying to provide solutions to prevent blooms from growing.”

“In the world of research, we’re small,” Hoover added. “But that enables us to look at startup research that no one else will look at.”

Waks said there’s a growing interest in technology to break down plastics and using the material to re-manufacture new products, which in turn would reduce the need for oil, one of basic elements needed to make plastic.

“It’s fiction that we have infinite resources to take from,” she said. “Just like it’s fiction that we have infinite space for disposal. We have to go from a linear model of living, to a circular model in which products are extended beyond their initial use.”

Megan Pellegrino, a former associate professor at Walsh University, became the Herbert W. Hoover foundation’s new Ohio operations manager in June.

“I was familiar with the foundation,” she said. “I was teaching museum studies at Walsh, and connected with the Hoover Historical Center, which funded a digitization project for us. I find what they do meaningful.”

Pellegrino said she’s impressed with what the Ohio Ocean Foundation has done in such a short period of time.

“A lot of times, we hear about problems, but there’s not always an easy way to help,” she said. “I’ve been very happy to see the response. Once you explain how plastic on the street ends up in the ocean, they get it.”

To learn more, visit www.hwhfoundation.org or the Ohio Ocean Foundation Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/ohiooceanfoundation/

Mussels off the coast of Seattle test positive for opioids

Originally published on CBS News on May 24, 2018 at 5:34 PM. Written by Christina Capatides. Original article available here. Photo by iStockfootage used for educational purposes.

As more and more American communities grapple with opioid addiction, the human toll of the epidemic has grown in both scope and severity. And now, scientists at the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife have found evidence that drug’s impact has literally flowed downstream to affect marine life, as well.

Specifically, they used mussels as a barometer of pollution in the waters off Seattle, and discovered that oxycodone is now present enough in the marine environment there for shellfish to test positive.

Since mussels are “filter feeders,” they absorb contaminants from their environment into their tissues in a concentrated way.  Scientists used cages to transplant clean mussels from an aquaculture source on Whidbey Island to 18 urbanized locations around Puget Sound. Several months later, they pulled those previously uncontaminated mussels back out of the urban waters and, together with the Puget Sound Institute, tested them again.

In three of the 18 locations, the mussels then tested positive for trace amounts of oxycodone. How, you ask?

When humans ingest opioids like oxycodone, they ultimately end up excreting traces of the drugs into the toilet. Those chemicals then end up in wastewater. And while many contaminants are filtered out of wastewater before it’s released into the oceans, wastewater management systems can’t entirely filter out drugs. Thus, opioids, antidepressants, the common chemotherapy drug Melphalan — the mussels tested positive for all of them.

“What we eat and what we excrete goes into the Puget Sound,” Jennifer Lanksbury, a biologist at the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife, told CBS Seattle affiliate KIRO. “It’s telling me there’s a lot of people taking oxycodone in the Puget Sound area.”

While mussels likely don’t metabolize drugs like oxycodone, and thus wouldn’t necessarily be physically harmed by the presence of it in their tissues, studies show that fish are not so lucky. In fact, scientists at the University of Utah recently discovered that, if given the opportunity, zebrafish will willingly dose themselves with opioids. Scientists say salmon and other fish might have a similar response.

The Puget Sound Institute notes that the amounts of opioids detected were thousands of times smaller than a typical human dose. And none of the mussels tested are near any commercial shellfish beds.

Still, the discovery of opioid-positive shellfish in Puget Sound is a stark new milestone in the epidemic, showing that enough humans are hooked on these life-altering drugs for the trace chemicals they excrete to register in other species in our coastal waters.

Students talk opioids with “Dreamland” author

Sam Quinones, author of the book “Dreamland,” speaks to Stark County high school students about opioids. (CantonRep.com / Bob Rossiter)

By: Shane Hoover from the Canton Repository. To see the original article, visit this link. Originally posted on April 2, 2018.

CANTON Author and journalist Sam Quinones spoke Monday morning with an audience of local high school and college students from who were reading his book, “Dreamland: The True Story of America’s Opiate Epidemic.”

The book chronicles how black tar heroin from Mexico and the reckless marketing and prescribing of narcotic painkillers shaped an opioid overdose epidemic that killed more than 42,000 Americans in 2016.

Quinones talked about his reporting and the growing sense of isolation that makes communities, rich and poor, more susceptible to drugs.

“We have destroyed what brought us together as Americans,” he said.

But the former Los Angeles Times reporter spent much of the morning asking his audience how the opioid epidemic impacted their lives. After a little prodding, the students opened up.

One young man said he lost a friend to an overdose months ago, and had another friend who was in a bad car accident and now took a handful of pills every morning just to get out of bed.

Other students talked about family members who used prescription pills, bullying and stress in high school and peer pressure to smoke marijuana or take drugs.

Starting a conversation

The Stark County District Library arranged Quinones’ talk with the students at the Canton Palace Theatre, and a similar event for the general public Monday evening.

With a $33,540 grant from the Herbert W. Hoover Foundation, the library also gave 2,000 copies of “Dreamland” to 15 area school districts, as well as Malone and Walsh universities.

Beth Kasler, an English teacher at Louisville High School, taught the book with her seniors and brought them to Monday’s event.

Along with reading and discussing the book, Kasler said she brought in guest speakers who talked about how to properly use prescriptions, how police have responded to the epidemic and how overdoses impact families.

“A lot of the discussion of the dangers and how to help,” Kasler said. “What do we do? Where do we go from here?”

Colton Hoover Chase, vice chairman of the Herbert W. Hoover Foundation, said the more people read and talk about the epidemic, the more their minds might open to unique solutions.

“This is a difficult problem and we’re open to a lot of different things,” Chase said.

The speaking event was one of three recent opioid-themed programs organized by the Stark County District Library in cooperation with Stark County Mental Health and Addiction Recovery.

“The library always has been interested in the ideas, the concerns, the things happening in society,” said Jean Duncan McFarren, the library’s interim director.

Traditionally, the library played that role through books, but today it can be a forum for conversation.

“I think the library is in the perfect position to do that because everybody comes to the library,” McFarren said.

Reach Shane at 330-580-8338 or shane.hoover@cantonrep.com

On Twitter: @shooverREP

World’s largest collection of ocean garbage is twice the size of Texas

SOURCE:  USA Today/Doyle Rice  March 22, 2018

The world’s largest collection of ocean garbage is growing.

The Great Pacific Garbage Patch, a collection of plastic, floating trash halfway between Hawaii and California, has grown to more than 600,000 square miles, a study published Thursday found. That’s twice the size of Texas.

Winds and converging ocean currents funnel the garbage into a central location, said study lead author Laurent Lebreton of the Ocean Cleanup Foundation, a non-profit organization that spearheaded the research.

First discovered in the early 1990s, the trash in the patch comes from around the Pacific Rim, including nations in Asia and North and South America, Lebreton said.

The patch is not a solid mass of plastic. It includes about 1.8 trillion pieces and weighs 88,000 tons — the equivalent of 500 jumbo jets. The new figures are as much as 16 times higher than previous estimates.

The research — the most complete study undertaken of the garbage patch — was published Thursday in the peer-reviewed journal Scientific Reports.

 “We were surprised by the amount of large plastic objects we encountered,” said Julia Reisser of the foundation. “We used to think most of the debris consists of small fragments, but this new analysis shines a new light on the scope of the debris.”

The study was based on a three-year mapping effort by an international team of scientists affiliated with the Ocean Cleanup Foundation, six universities and an aerial sensor company.

More: Our trash harms the deepest fish in the ocean

More: Humans have produced 18.2 trillion pounds of plastic since the ’50s. That’s equal in size to 1 billion elephants.

Sadly, the Pacific patch isn’t alone. The Great Pacific Garbage Patch is the largest of five such trash collections in the ocean, Lebreton said.

This video shows the devastating plastic waste that is overtaking the waters near Bali. Buzz60

Scientists work with the European Space Agency to take photos of the garbage patches from space.

No governments have stepped up to clean the trash, which is in international waters, so it’s up to privately funded groups such as the Ocean Cleanup Foundation to take the lead in getting rid of the garbage.

There’s a sense of urgency, said Joost Dubois, a spokesman with the foundation.

“It’s a ticking time bomb of larger material,” Dubois said. “We’ve got to get it before it breaks down into a size that’s too small to collect and also dangerous for marine life.”

Since plastic has been around only since the 1950s, there’s no way of knowing exactly how long it will last in the ocean. If left alone, the plastic could remain there for decades, centuries or even longer.

“Unless we begin to remove it, some would say it may remain there forever,” Lebreton said.

73% of Deep-Sea Fish Have Ingested Plastic

SOURCE:  EcoWatch/Lorraine Chow   Feb 18, 2018

Microplastics can really be found everywhere, even in the stomachs of creatures living deep underwater.

Marine scientists from the National University of Ireland (NUI) in Galway found the plastic bits in 73 percent of 233 deep-sea fish collected from the Northwest Atlantic Ocean—one of the highest microplastic frequencies in fish ever recorded worldwide.

For the study, published Monday in the journal Frontiers in Marine Science, the scientists inspected the stomach contents of dead deep-water fish collected from the Northwest Atlantic Ocean. The sampled fish, including the Spotted Lanternfish, Glacier Lanternfish, White-spotted Lanternfish, Rakery Beaconlamp, Stout Sawpalate and Scaly Dragonfish, were taken from depths of up to 600 meters (about 2,000 feet).

Even though microplastics are usually found around the ocean’s surface, these fish were able to gobble them up anyway.

“Deep-water fish migrate to the surface at night to feed on plankton (microscope animals) and this is likely when they are exposed to the microplastics,” explained Alina Wieczorek, lead author of the study and Ph.D. candidate from the School of Natural Sciences and Ryan Institute at NUI Galway.

One fish that was examined, a Spotted Lanternfish less than 2 inches in length, had 13 microplastics extracted from its stomach, Wieczorek said.

“In total, 233 fish were examined with 73 percent of them having microplastics in their stomachs, making it one of the highest reported frequencies of microplastic occurrence in fish worldwide,” she said.

The fish were sampled from a warm core eddy, which is similar to ocean gyres that are thought to accumulate microplastics. The sampled fish may have originated from a particularly polluted patch of the Atlantic Ocean.

“This would explain why we recorded one of the highest abundances of microplastics in fishes so far, and we plan to further investigate the impacts of microplastics on organisms in the open ocean,” Wieczorek added.

The identified microplastics were mostly microfibers, with black and blue the most recorded colors. These tiny plastic threads shed from commonly used synthetic fabrics like polyester, rayon and nylon. When washed, plastic microfibers break off and a single jacket can produce up to 250,000 fibers in washing machine effluent.

Microplastics can contain additives such as colorants and flame retardants and/or pollutants adsorbed onto the particles from the sea, a press release for the study noted. Ingesting them can cause internal physical damage to the animals such as inflammation of intestines, reduced feeding and other effects. Ingested microplastics can also move up the food chain.

“While there is clearly a concern that the ingestion of microplastics with associated toxins may have harmful effects on these fishes, or even the fishes that feed on them, our study highlights that these seemingly remote fishes located thousands of kilometers from land and 600 meters down in our ocean are not isolated from our pollution,” Dr. Tom Doyle, a co-author of the study from the Ryan Institute at NUI Galway, said.

“Indeed, it’s worrying to think that our daily activities, such as washing our synthetic clothes in our washing machines, results in billions of microplastics entering our oceans through our waste water stream that may eventually end up in these deep-sea fishes.”

SOURCE:  NPR/Christopher Joyce    January 25, 2018

Millions of tons of plastic waste end up in the ocean every year. And the trash stays there: Whether it’s grocery bags or water bottles or kids’ toys, plastic is practically indestructible.

Now marine scientists have discovered that it’s killing coral reefs.

A new study based on four years of diving on 159 reefs in the Pacific shows that reefs in four countries — Australia, Thailand, Indonesia and Myanmar — are heavily contaminated with plastic. It clings to the coral, especially branching coral. And where it clings, it sickens or kills.

“The likelihood of disease increases from 4 percent to 89 percent when corals are in contact with plastic,” researchers report in the journal Science.

Senior author Drew Harvell at Cornell University says the plastic could be harming coral in at least two ways. First, bacteria and other harmful microorganisms are abundant in the water and on corals; when the coral is abraded, that might invite pathogens into the coral.

“It’s certainly well known that plastics abrade corals, create new openings,” she says. “They basically tear open the skin of the coral and that can allow an infection from anywhere to start.”

In addition, Harvell says, plastic can block sunlight from reaching coral.

A survey of 150 reefs found plastic was a common pollutant.

Kathryn Berry/Science

Her group found increased risk of four diseases in coral in contact with plastic.

“This is a huge survey,” says Harvell. It was the idea of Joleah Lamb, who was at the time, a graduate student.

“There are really great studies showing how much plastic is going into the oceans and how much is floating on the surface,” says Lamb, who’s now a fellow at Cornell University. “But we really didn’t have an idea about what’s underneath the surface of the ocean.”

The more they looked, especially in Asian waters, the more they found: bottles, diapers, cotton swabs, food wrappers. They noticed that coral that had plastic didn’t look healthy.

Based on how much plastic the researchers found while diving, they estimate that over 11 billion plastic items could be entangled in coral reefs in the Asia-Pacific region, home to over half the world’s coral reefs. And their survey did not include China, one of the biggest sources of plastic pollution.

Australian reefs had the least amount of plastic observed on reefs, which the researchers attribute to a more comprehensive system for waste control. Other countries in the Pacific don’t have much control over what ends up in the waste stream. “Massive amounts of plastic are being thrown into the oceans from land,” Harvell says, in countries that don’t have much recycling and with dumps that are often adjacent to the ocean or waterways that run into the ocean.

Coral reefs already are susceptible to bleaching due to unusually warm water, either from seasonal shifts in water temperature or from human-caused global warming. “Bleached coral is more susceptible to disease,” Harvell says. “The bleached coral is stressed. Plastic would make things that much worse.”

Matthew Savoca, a marine scientist at the the University of California, Davis, who studies the effects of plastic in the ocean, suggests that ocean waters with lots of plastic waste might also carry other pollutants that could also be contributing to higher rates of coral disease.

But Lamb says they found that corals within yards of each other showed a noticeable difference: Those with plastic were much more likely to be diseased. “It seems to be something associated with the plastic itself,” says Lamb.

Exactly how the plastic is causing disease is still unclear. What is clear from numerous studies is that the amount of plastic getting into the oceans is on the rise.

The Blue Planet effect: why marine biology courses are booming

SOURCE:  The Guardian/Helena Pozniak   Jan 12, 2018

Thanks in part to the BBC wildlife series, there has been a sea change in the popularity of marine biology courses and the study of the world’s oceans.

When she was just 12 years old, an impressionable Cathy Lucas, now associate professor in marine biology at the University of Southampton, met Sir David Attenborough. He’d come to talk to students about his 1979 landmark wildlife series Life on Earth. “I thrust him my copy of his book to sign. He inspired me to go on and study zoology.”

Just back from a research trip to Saudi Arabia, she’s since spent years investigating what makes jellyfish tick – programme makers at the BBC’s latest natural history series Blue Planet IIsought her expertise for a segment. Although jellyfish have been around for at least 500m years, they’ve remained the poor relation of marine life, often misrepresented as freakish, alien blobs, says Lucas.

But recent population blooms have piqued scientists’ interest. “Attention is focused on what’s driving this growth in numbers – and the effect this has on the oceans.” Invited to a screening of the Blue Planet II series, she once again heard Attenborough speak and thought: “Here I am, doing this, as my actual job.”

Lucas teaches students on Southampton’s marine biology degrees based at the National Oceanography Centre. Like many universities around the country, Southampton is noticing the “Blue Planet effect” on the numbers of students interested in the field. “Big series such as these are critical in raising awareness of the issues facing marine wildlife,” says Lucas.

Even between the first and second series, there have been dramatic changes in the oceans, says David Duffy, a research fellow at Bangor University. “Most of these changes can be traced back to human activity, which is having a devastating impact.”

Duffy is working with scientists at the Sea Turtle hospital in the Whitney laboratory for marine bioscience at the University of Florida, investigating the huge rise in cases of young turtles suffering cancerous tumours. “Numbers worldwide are skyrocketing and this is almost certainly due to human activity, but we don’t know exactly what activity,” he says.

Drawing on techniques he developed during five years spent researching human cancers, Duffy has been analysing samples from the turtles operated on: “I became convinced that the cutting-edge techniques I was using could be applied more broadly, so I embarked upon a project that brought me back to wildlife and the sea – having studied marine snails as a postgrad.”

From acidification of the oceans to the aggression of hermit crabs, there’s no shortage of research avenues, says Prof Mark Briffa who’s taught students on Plymouth University’s one-year master of research (MRes) in marine biology. As professor of animal behaviour in the School of Biological and Marine Sciences, he’s currently researching how and why sea anemones fight.

“We’re still seeing students coming through who were inspired by the first Blue Planet series,” he says.

Plymouth accepts about 20 students on the year-long course, which kicks off with some taught modules to build research skills. Students then pursue individual research projects, working with university researchers or those based at the nearby Marine Biological Association. They may investigate local shores, go offshore or travel to a research facility in Ischia, Italy.

“The degree gives you a chance to dip your toe into research and see if it’s for you,” says Briffa. Students go on to find work with marine agencies and environmental consultancies, he says.

Briffa hopes the students also leave inspired with a sense of wonder and curiosity: “I can go to a local rocky shore and pick up a single rock and find some major divisions of life – that can’t fail to fascinate anyone.

“It sparks questions of why animals live where they do and how they survived. There’s a whole world down there that people simply aren’t aware of.”

As Britain bans microbeads, lawmakers urge more action on plastic

SOURCE:  Reuters/Varsha Saraogi            Jan 8, 2018

LONDON, Jan 8 (Thomson Reuters Foundation) – A ban on plastic microbeads, used as exfoliants in toothpastes, face washes and shower gels that end up in the oceans, will come into force in Britain on Tuesday, but lawmakers said more needed to be done to tackle plastic pollution.

The tiny plastic beads pollute waterways and oceans, where they can be eaten by marine life and end up in the human food chain. A report by lawmakers in 2016 said the industry’s commitment to phasing them out was inconsistent and recommended a ban.

“Microbeads in cosmetics are an avoidable part of the problem, which is why we called for a ban,” member of parliament Mary Creagh, chair of the Environmental Audit Committee, a cross-party green watchdog, said in a statement. “This is a step in the right direction, but much more needs to be done. Since we called for a ban, my committee has also recommended a deposit return scheme for plastic bottles, a latte levy for plastic-lined coffee cups and reforms to make producers responsible for their packaging.”

A deposit return scheme involves consumers paying a small deposit that is refunded when they return empty plastic bottles and is common in many parts of the world including Denmark, Germany and Australia.

In Britain, the idea of a deposit return scheme for bottles has won the backing of two supermarkets, Iceland and the Co-op, the first major retailers to support the policy to promote recycling and tackle ocean plastic pollution.

A spokesman for the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) said last month the government “will be working with industry to explore how we can reduce the amount of single-use plastic waste.”

Eight million tonnes of plastic – bottles, packaging and other waste – are dumped into the ocean every year, killing marine life and entering the human food chain, says the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP).

If current pollution rates continue, there will be more plastic in the sea than fish by 2050.

In December, all l93 countries that are members of the United Nations signed a U.N. resolution to eliminate plastic pollution in the sea, a move some delegates hoped would pave the way to a legally binding treaty. (Editing by Ros Russell )

Soils reveal a hidden cost of farming, and fertilizers

SOURCE:  Environmental Health News/Douglas Fischer   Dec 15, 2017

In one Montana ag basin, drinking wells test at twice the federal health standard for nitrate pollution. That’s a problem on many levels. Montana State researchers are working with farmers to solve it.

For every ton of fertilizer farmers apply to fields in the United States, almost 1,200 pounds is wasted due to inefficiency, with almost 400 pounds of that waste flushing into streams and aquifers.

That’s a lot of nitrogen – farmers apply 22 million tons of fertilizer a year in the United States alone, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Nitrogen runoff is responsible for a lot of polluted drinking water sources and compromised aquatic ecosystems across the globe — a problem only getting worse in regions with growing population and development.

New research out of Montana State University finds that, in one agricultural basin in the upper Missouri River watershed, groundwater and streams mirrored soil chemistry. For the environment, you are what’s in your dirt. Now scientists are working with farmers who manage the land to make the findings relevant to those with power to make a difference.

In the Judith River basin, where farmers fertilize crops of wheat and barley – and then pray for timely rain, researchers found mean nitrate levels in drinking wells more than twice federal standards. Those concentrations exceeded the 75th percentile for Montana’s statewide agricultural well network and landed in the 95th percentile for a 2011 survey nitrate pollution in U.S. wells.

Loss of nitrogen from soil triggers problems on many levels, says Montana State University Water Quality Associate Specialist and graduate student Adam Sigler, the lead author of the study, published this fall in the Journal of Hydrology. Infants are particularly vulnerable to nitrate pollution, which can lead to a condition known as “blue baby” syndrome.

Farmers suffer, too, as nutrients they’re paying for – fertilizer is a $58 billion industry in the U.S., according to the Fertilizer Institute – get flushed into the environment rather than boosting yield and protein in crops.

And excess nitrogen triggers a host of problems in the environment, from algae blooms in water to impaired plant growth on land and the increase of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere.

The Montana researchers found some silver linings. Planting a cover crop – rather than leaving the land fallow – helps. “Simply growing a crop every year mitigates the environmental implications,” Sigler said. And getting farmers engaged can trigger change.

That dialog, researchers concluded, “allowed agricultural producers to evaluate their role in landscape-scale water quality issues and to help identify management strategies that would be practical and effective.”

Listen to Adam Sigler explain the research.

And read about what some California farm towns are doing to fight nitrate pollution, in this report published in September in Resilience.

Where Are the Sharks? Scientists Use DNA Sampling to Find Out

SOURCE:  PEW Charitable Trusts/Rebecca Goldburg        Dec 7, 2017

Scientists are estimating the relative abundance and diversity of shark species across vast stretches of the ocean with little more than a few plastic bottles filled with seawater.

By analyzing environmental DNA (or eDNA), a relatively inexpensive and non-invasive technique, researchers can determine if a species is—or has recently been—in the area. The work, led by Professor Stefano Mariani and researcher Judith Bakker from the University of Salford, UK, is detailed in a study published Dec. 4 in Scientific Reports.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, the study found that areas experiencing less human impact and greater shark protections appear to support more shark species. These more pristine areas also may support greater abundances of several shark species, although the study addressed only the abundance of the species relative to one another.

Scientists used a method called eDNA metabarcoding to isolate DNA directly from seawater samples (the technique is also used on land, for example in analyzing soil). Unlike traditional animal monitoring approaches, eDNA does not require researchers to see the organisms of interest, or catch and tag them.

In recent years, eDNA has been used to detect rare or invasive species, particularly in rivers and lakes, where water is relatively contained compared to the ocean. The new study shows that this technique can also be used to monitor large, elusive species, even including highly mobile ones like sharks. Assessing geographical patterns of diversity and, potentially, abundance in shark populations can help inform conservation strategies, such as the creation and monitoring of marine protected areas.

In the Field

Developing management strategies for sharks is a challenge due to the high cost and effort associated with large-scale monitoring of shark species. In this study, scientists estimated shark diversity and relative abundance in the Caribbean Sea and the Coral Sea. From February to November 2015, researchers collected water samples from four Caribbean locations—Jamaica, the Bahamas, Belize, and Turks & Caicos Islands; and three locations in the Coral Sea—Noumea, New Caledonia North, and the Chesterfield atolls. These areas represented various levels of human impacts and known shark protections.

The researchers genetically identified 22 shark species—12 in the Caribbean and 16 in the Coral Sea (nine species appeared in both regions).

They also found a greater diversity and relative abundance of sharks in the Coral Sea than the Caribbean. Within the Caribbean, the study found the most shark species (11) in the Bahamas, where shark fishing is banned, and fewer in areas with greater human impacts, including Jamaica (two species) and Belize (one species). Similarly, in the Coral Sea shark diversity was greater in remote locations such as New Caledonia North (14 species) and Chesterfield atolls (11 species), while waters near the densely populated city of Noumea supported only five species.

Next Steps

While eDNA research is still new, scientists are already making rapid improvements with it, including the ability to distinguish closely related species from one another. Still, the technique has limitations: In some cases, eDNA can specify only the genus for closely related species. And scientists still need to compare this new method to established approaches used to estimate the relative abundance of individual species. Also, much more research is required to determine whether estimates of actual population abundance can be obtained using the technique.

“This technique has the potential to become a powerful conservation tool in the near future,” says Mariani. “Conservation and management of highly mobile species like sharks requires rapid and extensive monitoring across large ocean areas and at numerous times a year. A streamlined water-collection program may be the only approach able to provide this level of coverage.”

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