Thresher sharks die in Massachusetts – likely due to cold shock

December 29, 2017 by  
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Winter is here, and it appears even marine creatures are feeling the impact. The Atlantic White Shark Conservancy responded to calls of two thresher sharks stranded on Massachusetts beaches, and said the sharks likely succumbed to cold shock. The north half of the United States is battling bitter cold with a mass of Arctic air, according to The New York Times , with meteorologists saying single-digit temperatures could be here to stay for at least another week. And even sharks are battling the frigid weather . The Atlantic White Shark Conservancy shared on their social media they were called to two thresher shark strandings near Cape Cod in Massachusetts, along with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration Fisheries Service and the Massachusetts Division of Marine Fisheries . The conservancy said the sharks were both male, and probably stranded because of cold shock. Related: 512-year-old Greenland shark may be the oldest living vertebrate on Earth Massachusetts Division of Marine Fisheries marine scientist Greg Skomal told The New York Times, “If you’ve got cold air, that’ll freeze their gills up very quickly. Those gill filaments are very sensitive and it wouldn’t take long for the shark to die.” Skomal said the thresher sharks may have been working their way south with the cooling of northerly waters, but could have gotten trapped by Cape Cod and stranded on the beach, where they may have died more rapidly because of the cold. The Atlantic White Shark Conservancy, which promotes Atlantic white shark conservation through scientific research and education, gathered morphometric data and organ and tissue samples for analyzing once they thaw. They called on people to report anything strange they might see on Cape beaches, with a picture and location. If you’d like to help out the conservancy, they put together a shark stranding response kit wishlist on GOODdler; you can donate here . Via the Atlantic White Shark Conservancy Facebook and The New York Times Images via the Atlantic White Shark Conservancy Twitter

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Thresher sharks die in Massachusetts – likely due to cold shock

Universal DNA vaccine could make yearly flu shot a thing of the past

December 29, 2017 by  
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There were 7,000 confirmed cases of the flu in the United States by the end of November – double the amount from the same time the prior year, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. University of Washington School of Medicine researchers are hoping to one day offer an alternative to the annual flu shot: a DNA vaccine . The vaccine could offer long-lasting protection from all flu virus strains – even as viruses genetically change. A DNA vaccine could instruct a person’s skin cells to generate antigens and induce antibodies and T cell responses to fight the flu, according to UW Medicine . A gene gun device could inject the vaccine right into skin cells. With the universal vaccine, people might not have to get a flu shot every year. Related: Experimental Zika vaccine to be tested on humans for the first time The DNA vaccine is able to get around genetic changes in flu strains by “using genetic components of influenza virus – the conserved areas – which do not change,” according to UW Medicine. The DNA vaccine doesn’t just repel a virus but finds infected cells and kills them. The research team tested the vaccine on primates , and found T cell responses were so fast the primates just did not get sick. Department of Microbiology professor Deborah Fuller, in whose laboratory this research took place, said in a statement, “With the immunized groups, we found that using this conserved component of the virus gave them 100 percent protection against a previous circulating influenza virus that didn’t match the vaccine.” This universal vaccine could be ready for rapid deployment in case of a deadly pandemic flu strain, and has a production time of around three months as opposed to the nine months required for the United States-approved vaccine for flu season. The DNA-based approach could also offer a mechanism for vaccines for other viruses like Zika . The vaccine could still be five to 10 years away – UW Medicine said that’s about as long as it takes from promising laboratory results to commercial viability. The journal PLOS One published the research this month. 17 researchers from institutions around the United States contributed to the paper. Via University of Washington School of Medicine Images via Depositphotos ( 1 , 2 )

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Universal DNA vaccine could make yearly flu shot a thing of the past

Tiny treadmills for turtle hatchlings help scientists evaluate their stamina

December 20, 2017 by  
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When baby sea turtles are born, within their first 24 hours they make the journey from nest to ocean . The trek which should take a few minutes sometimes lasts hours in urban settings where artificial light can disorient the hatchlings. Two Florida Atlantic University (FAU) scientists employed wee treadmills and little swimsuits to dig into the turtles’ swimming performance after crawling for so long – and they were surprised by what they found. Speed is crucial for turtle hatchlings, who face dangers on their way to the ocean. Their survival “depends heavily on their ability to swim,” according to FAU. But in urban settings, excess light from streets and buildings can draw the babies away from the ocean and towards land – where they might get run over by traffic, drown in a pool, or be eaten by a predator. Biological sciences associate professor Sarah Milton said in a statement, “What prompted our study was the desire to understand what happens to these hatchlings after they spend hours crawling on the beach because they are disoriented. We wanted to know if they would even be able to swim after crawling 500 meters or more, which could take them as long as seven hours to complete.” Related: Police Officer Saves Nearly 100 Baby Sea Turtles in Florida Milton and graduate student Karen Pankaew conducted what FAU described as the “first study on disorientation to examine the physiological effects of extended crawling and swimming performance.” They gathered 150 hatchlings from 27 loggerhead and 18 green turtle nests in Palm Beach County, Florida . The hatchlings walked on tiny treadmills before swimming in a tank in a specially designed swimsuit. The scientists measured oxygen consumption, lactate accumulation, and swimming breathing and stroke rates. Field studies supplemented laboratory observations. The hatchlings were placed into the ocean in their natural habitats shortly after collection. The study results completely surprised the researchers, according to Milton, who said, “We were expecting that the hatchlings would be really tired from the extended crawling and that they would not be able to swim well. It turned out not to be the case and that they are in fact crawling machines. They crawl and rest, crawl and rest and that’s why they weren’t too tired to swim.” She also said the study offers a scientific basis to back up lighting ordinances during hatching season. The Journal of Experimental Biology published the study in November. Via Florida Atlantic University Images via Pixabay and Jay Paredes

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Tiny treadmills for turtle hatchlings help scientists evaluate their stamina

The World’s First Shampoo Bottle Made from Beach Plastic

November 21, 2017 by  
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At the moment, there are 165 million tons of plastic … The post The World’s First Shampoo Bottle Made from Beach Plastic appeared first on Earth911.com.

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The World’s First Shampoo Bottle Made from Beach Plastic

Biomimicry helps nature-lovers and fragile wildlife co-exist at the Votu Hotel in Brazil

September 20, 2017 by  
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The Maraú Peninsula is a 25 mile long bar of pristine Brazilian sand, flanked by the Atlantic Ocean on one side and the tranquil Camamu Bay on the other, where one glorious beach gives way to another. With such stunning landscapes, it’s no wonder hip Brazilians are flocking to these shores. But the native mangrove forests here are one the world’s most endangered ecosystems, and great care must be taken to preserve them. GCP Arquitectura and Urbanismo’s Votu Hotel takes an unusual approach to that challenge: biomimicry––sustainable innovation inspired by nature’s proven wisdom. According to Indian legend, the peninsula’s namesake, Maraú, was a peaceful fisherman who lived in with his beautiful wife, Saquaíra. One day, while Maraú was out fishing, his neighbor, Camamu, came ashore, and he and Saquaíra fell deeply in love. Camamu took her away in his canoe, and when Maraú returned to discover her abduction, he desperately begged the gods for a faster one. They granted his lovesick plea, and away he went after her at top speed, surfing the waves and sculpting the peninsula´s curved beaches and bays as he went. Today, the region is a dreamy wonderland of rich, golden sands, rugged white cliffs, nodding coconut palms, cool waterfalls, teeming coral reefs, tranquil mangrove forests and restingas ––special forests that grows on shifting coastal dunes. Unfortunately, humans are having a massive impact on the landscape. Less than 5% of the original forest cover remains, yet 40% of its plants and 60% of its vertebrates––including a long-hair maned sloth, giant armadillo, giant otter, and unique local populations of cougar, jaguar, and ocelot––are found nowhere else in the world. New species are discovered frequently: over a thousand new flowering plants, a black-faced lion tamarin recently believed extinct, and a brightly blonde-haired capuchin monkey in recent years. Meanwhile, the mangroves and estuaries provide critical nurseries for the fish, crustaceans, and mollusks that feed these populations. Inhabitating such a precious and endangered habitat requires the region’s hotels to care for it just as they care for the visitors who come here. The Votu Hotel, designed by GCP Arquitectura and Urbanismo , embraces the challenge using biomimicry, an innovative approach to design that is in accordance with nature. GCP even has a biologist on staff––Alessandro Araujo, a Certified Biomimicry Specialist educated by Biomimicry 3.8 ––and it’s her job to enhance natural processes already at work here by tapping nature’s proven solutions ––those favored for hundreds of millions of years of evolution. Related: 6 groundbreaking examples of tech innovations inspired by biomimicry The GCP team sought to maintain and support the region’s native species while minimizing air conditioning and electricity consumption, and good water management, ventilation, and thermal comfort were also critically important. These requirements were made challenging by the vulnerability of these shores to heavy rain, floods, coastal erosion, high temperatures, salt spray, and high humidity. To solve these problems, Araujo looked at species that solve these same kinds of challenges. Prairie dogs, for instance, are social rodents that live in large colonies or towns where outside temperatures can reach 100°F in the summer and -35°F in the winter. They rely on long underground burrows to insulate them from such extremes. GCP borrowed this concept for Votu, using concrete walls and a roof garden to buffer heat. The burrows also leverage a natural process called the Bernoulli principle, in which air flow is slowed by the prairie dogs’ earthen mounds, increasing pressure and forcing air to flow quickly through the tunnels. Votu’s team mimicked this clever strategy by optimizing the position of each bungalow using computer modeling, and placing a semi-permeable guardrail in front of the prevailing winds, slowing them and drawing air into ventilation ducts below the roof. The bungalow shell itself was inspired by another biological champion, the saguaro cactus, which relies on long spines and accordion-like folds to mitigate extremes of heat and exposure. The deep folds offer partial shade, cooling air on the shaded side and creating a gradient that facilitates circulation and minimizes heat absorption. The Votu bungalows mimic this strategy with vertical, wooden, self-shading slats. Local species were consulted as well. The little houses rest on stilts, just as the native mangroves and restinga forest trees do, preserving the natural topography and allowing the unimpeded flow of rainwater and tides. Meanwhile, the kitchen takes inspiration from the toco toucan, a local bird that experiences large temperature swings, from hot days to cool nights. The large, vascularized toucan beak is an extremely efficient thermal radiator, offering the greatest thermal exchange known among animals. Heat from the kitchen is dissipated the same way: as it rises, it is drawn into a copper coil that passes through the rooftop soil. Air cools in the shade of a roof garden, and eventually returns to the kitchen: a natural air conditioner requiring no additional energy. Biomimicry is known for its reliance on a simple set of Life’s Principles, and GCP is dedicated to following them. One Araujo particularly loves is “Be resource efficient,” which the team did by relying on multifunctional design, low energy processes, recycling, and fitting form to function. The bottom of Votu’s concrete structure doubles as the bathroom wall, for instance, while the upper part forms the roof. In front of the hotel, a thicket of bamboo intercepts any run-off from the bungalows or tidal wash from the beach, acting as a living filter against salinity, bacteria, or pollutants. In back of the bungalows, graywater goes into the banana circle, while blackwater passes through a biodigester and biofilter, ending in a compost pile that fertilizes a fruit-bearing orchard for the guests to enjoy. GCP’s approach to conservation and tourism may seem unusual, but biomimicry has been growing in popularity among architects for a long time. And after all, these ideas are proven winners, nature’s survivors. Why reinvent the wheel? And maybe, just maybe, such bio-inspiration will let nature’s wild places continue to survive and thrive as we enjoy them. + GCP Arquitetura & Urbanismo

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Biomimicry helps nature-lovers and fragile wildlife co-exist at the Votu Hotel in Brazil

Tesla patent reveals plans for a new battery-swapping machine

September 20, 2017 by  
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In the not-so-far future when  electric vehicles (EV) rule the road, don’t expect to sit around in line waiting for your battery to charge. That’s because electric automaker Tesla recently filed a patent for a mobile battery swapping technology that could replace a depleted battery in under 15 minutes. In 2013, the company toyed with the idea of building stationary rigs that can replace a car’s battery pack. However, that idea never took off. Now, the EV maker is improving on the concept and has filed a patent application for a more compact, mobile version that would be placed in strategic locations where Superchargers aren’t always available. As Elektrek reports, Tesla’s original system was designed to be autonomous, while the newer one can be operated by technicians. Additionally, the original battery swap service claimed a 90-second swap, whereas the new one says “less than fifteen minutes” is more plausible. Says the patent application, “In some implementations, the battery swap system is configured for use by one or more technicians, who will monitor certain aspects of the system’s operation and make necessary inputs when appropriate. For example, the battery -swapping system can be installed at a remote location (e.g., along a highway between two cities) and one or more technicians can be stationed at the location for operating the system. This can reduce or eliminate the need for the system to have vision components, which may otherwise be needed to align the battery pack or other components. Using techniques described herein it may be possible to exchange the battery pack of a vehicle in less than fifteen minutes.” As can be seen from the application figures, the patent application references swapping Model S and Model X battery packs. Both vehicles’ battery packs have been designed to be easily swappable. Model 3’s battery pack is not, on the other hand. Because the company aims to expedite the process in 15 minutes or less, it is unlikely the system will apply to more complicated swaps. Related: Tesla to TRIPLE number of Superchargers by end of 2018 When Tesla CEO Elon Musk last mentioned the battery swap system, he said it would likely be developed to support commercial fleets — if pursued at all. Now that plans for Tesla’ all- electric Semi-Truck have been shared, Musk’s vision is coming into focus. + Tesla Via Elektrek Images via Tesla , Pixabay

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Tesla patent reveals plans for a new battery-swapping machine

How the Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk Preserves the Environment

August 2, 2017 by  
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Breathtaking surroundings, historic structures, screams of delight — this is the Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk. An amusement part and a beach might seem like a combination that simply can’t be environmentally friendly, but step right up and see…

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How the Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk Preserves the Environment

Three-fourths of sunscreens don’t work as they claim and may contain harmful chemicals

May 23, 2017 by  
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Before heading to the beach, most people make sure to pack a bottle of sunscreen. After all, the ultraviolet rays can be seriously damaging and no one wants to get  skin cancer . But it turns out some ingredients in hundreds of common sunscreens don’t work as well as advertised, according to a new report released by the Environmental Working Group (EWG). Additionally, 73 percent of 880 sunscreens that were tested contain “worrisome” ingredients people may not want to slather on their skin. Authors of the report , which was released on Tuesday, examined the SPF protection, chemical ingredients and overall safety and effectiveness of numerous sunscreens , moisturizers, and lip balms. Then, they compiled a list of the best- and worst-rated products to help consumers make the best – and healthiest – choices when preparing to have fun in the sun. Sonya Lunder, a senior analyst with the environmental advocacy group and lead scientist of the 2017 Sunscreens Guide, said of the findings, “Sunscreens are really mismarketed, and as a result, people who depend on them think they are far more powerful than they really are.” According to dermatologist Dr. Dawn Davis, who did not participate in the report and works at the Mayo Clinic, the SPF is a ratio of how long a person without sunscreen can be in the sun without becoming red. In his own words, “if you’re standing on the equator at high noon and it would usually take your skin one minute without sunscreen to become red and irritated, SPF 15 means you can stand in that same sun exposure for 15 minutes.” Related: Hawaii aims to ban coral reef-killing chemical sunscreens Most sunscreen brands offer products with high SPF, sometimes even over 100. Thought to be beneficial, they are actually misleading, says Lunder. “People who buy high-SPF products are more likely to get burned because they assume they’re getting better and longer-lasting protection,” she said. It is for this reason that she supports the American Academy of Dermatology’s recommendation to choose a sunscreen that is at least SPF 30 (which would block 97% of UVB rays) and suggests one reapply it every few hours. SPF protection can also vary, depending on its age, how it has been stored and lab tests find that SPF levels can vary wildly. There is also something to be said about the questionable ingredients in certain sunscreens. While most chemicals in the product create a barrier to prevent damage from UV rays, other chemicals create damaging effects. Two ingredients, in particular, oxybenzone and retinyl palmitate, consumers should avoid. According to Lunder, oxybenzone “is a hormone disruptor that mimics body hormones and affects reproductive tract and other hormones.” And Retinyl palmitate, a form of vitamin A, has been linked to the development of skin tumors under direct UV light. More research needs to be conducted on the latter, but authors of the report advise consumers to avoid sunscreens that contain both ingredients. All in all, the report recommends sunscreen products that are safe and offer adequate sun protection. The EWG says outdoor enthusiasts should look for three things: an SPF between 30 and 50 to protect from UVB rays, zinc oxide and titanium oxide to ward off UVA rays, and no oxybenzone and retinyl palmitate. + Environmental Working Group Via CNN Images via  Bella Mecia , Pixabay

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Three-fourths of sunscreens don’t work as they claim and may contain harmful chemicals

Gorgeous year-round bath house in Sweden soaks up the winter sun

May 19, 2017 by  
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This minimalist bath house allows inhabitants of Karlshamn, Sweden, to enjoying the sea all year round. White Arkitekter designed the timber-clad building to age naturally for low-maintenance facilities that straddle both the water and the land. The town’s first bath house was carefully situated to soak up as much sunlight as possible all winter long, while protecting visitors from the chilly winter winds. Local organization Kallbadhusets Vänner (Friends of the Bath House) worked with local sponsors and the municipality to realize a project which would allow people to enjoy the sea all year round. Kallbadhus is located along a beach promenade, close to the public swimming hall . Sitting at a height of three meters above sea level, the sharply angled timber-clad volume straddles solid land and water while offering views of the sea. Related: Tiny Norwegian Prefab Bathhouse is Clad in Sustainable Kebony Wood Two glulam beams provide structural support for a small bridge that links the building to the beach. A common room with an adjoining terrace is flanked on one side by the women’s sauna and the by the men’s sauna on the other. The architects designed the saunas to receive optimal amount of sunlight while simultaneously offering protection from the wind. The exterior cladding is treated with a grey-pigmented oil which allows the wood to age naturally. + White Arkitekter Via World Architecture News

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Gorgeous year-round bath house in Sweden soaks up the winter sun

Contemporary Atlantic house celebrates the history of its coastal landscape

January 17, 2017 by  
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Bates Masi + Architects completed a stunning eco-sensitive home that offers more than just rugged good looks. Located in Amagansett, New York overlooking the ocean from which the home gets its name, the Atlantic is a contemporary beauty that celebrates the maritime, military, and architectural history of the coastal landscape. The house takes design cues from the old military stations that once lined the coast, from the exposed beams used for storage to use of natural weather-resistant materials. The 2,300-square-foot Atlantic house faces the Atlantic Ocean as well as low sand dunes and the historic Life Saving Station. The station, which was built over a century ago, holds historical significance as the place where a guard discovered Nazi invaders coming ashore during World War II. The lifesaving station’s lookout towers and elevated decks provide panoramic views for the crew members, while the use of rugged materials protects the structure from succumbing to the elements. Related: Bates Masi Architects unveil tiny, daylit Beach Hampton House The Atlantic is also built with those same materials, chosen for their ability to withstand the coastal climate. Cedar, bronze, and weathering steel clad the home and will develop beautiful patinas over time: the cedar siding will lighten; bronze bars will turn dark brown then green; and the weathering steel will gradually rust to protect itself from further corrosion. The home was raised above the flood plain to reduce risk and to minimize the building impact on the landscape. Bedrooms are located on the lower levels, while the main living areas are placed atop and overlook stunning elevated views of the ocean. + Bates Masi + Architects Via ArchDaily Images via Bates Masi + Architects

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Contemporary Atlantic house celebrates the history of its coastal landscape

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