Research suggests humans emerged 2.8M years ago amid major climate change event

May 18, 2017 by  
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Mystery still shrouds much of the story of our origins, but new Arizona State University (ASU) research sheds new light on why we first emerged where and when we did. Around 2.8 million years ago our genus, Homo , could have emerged in a valley in Ethiopia . It was a time of change on that Earth long ago; it appears forest landscapes altered into grassy ones where our ancient ancestors lived. Back in 2013 an ASU team discovered a jawbone with teeth at Ledi-Geraru, and the incredible find is the oldest evidence of Homo we’ve yet found and dates back around 2.8 million years. The find was 400,000 years older than other fossils we’d discovered to that point. Building on that discovery, ASU scientists hoped to answer two questions: why did humans emerge in Ethiopia’s lower Awash Valley, and why did they emerge at that point in time? Related: New ‘Hobbit’ fossils provide a glimpse into human relative Animal fossils help scientists recreate the conditions of the past – what they ate help indicate the environment in those days. Scientists discovered that the animals found with the 2.8 million-year-old Homo fed on grass, seeming to support the guesses of many in the scientific community humanity emerged as grassy environments were spreading in a period of global cooling. According to IBTimes UK, the landscape in which early humans lived would have been similar to today’s Serengeti region. Scientist Joshua Robinson said evidence had hinted at the connection between the emergence of humans and the spread of those grassy, open environments, “but, until now, we had not direct environmental data for the origins of Homo now that it’s been pushed back in time.” The 2.8 million date is also incredibly important for the fossil record. The famous Lucy fossil ( Australopithecus ), which dates to around 3.2 million years ago, was found just around 18 miles west of ASU’s 2013 discovery. But the geological sequence ended around 2.95 million years ago, until the recent findings. ASU researcher John Rowan said although Lucy’s species endured many environmental changes, it appears they didn’t last through the ancient climate change as open environments spread. The diet of early humans was still very similar to what Lucy would have consumed, however. The ASU research was published online this week in Nature Ecology & Evolution . Four ASU scientists worked on the study with one geoscientist from the University of South Florida . Via Arizona State University and IBTimes UK Images via Kaye Reed/Phys.org and Josh Robinson/Arizona State University

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Research suggests humans emerged 2.8M years ago amid major climate change event

Barcelona set to double tree population in major urban greening push

May 18, 2017 by  
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You may think there isn’t much space for a centuries-old, built-out city like Barcelona to radically greenify itself with double the amount of trees and expanded green space. But that’s exactly what the city aims to do. They recently rolled out a Plan of the Green and Biodiversity Barcelona 2020 , including ambitious goals that could offer ideas to other dense cities needing greenery too. Air pollution , heat, and climate change are among the reasons Barcelona needs to become a greener city. But they have a plan – their 2020 goals could see twice the number of trees flourishing in the city, alongside park space increased by two thirds. Overall each citizen could receive nearly 11 square feet of extra green spaces . The plan aims to provide Barcelona with 108 acres of new green areas by 2019 and more than 400 acres by 2020. Related: Paris allows anyone to plant an urban garden How will the city accomplish this feat? First, they’ll plant five new gardens , which will later be connected to open spaces already in place to form thriving plant-filled corridors. Green roofs will also help keep the city cool. Creepers will snake across bare walls. And in spaces waiting for construction, the city will plant temporary gardens. CityLab reports some of the new gardens are already being built, and their designs reveal how to find space in a city where one might think space would be lacking. For example, the largest garden will be planted around a city square once filled with cars. That traffic will now be diverted to tunnels. Another garden is more controversial – the city will clear out a courtyard block filled with squatted 1920’s workshops to make way for greenery. One garden will green up a scrap of ex-industrial semi-wasteland. Slowly the city is filling up with new flora and fauna – local architecture firm JORNETLLOPPASTOR drew up many of these images around five years ago. Green corridors planted in the past have been successful; a 2000 one restored life to a stream formerly dirty. As climate change raises temperatures, a city that already reaches around 90 degrees Fahrenheit in the summer stands to benefit greatly from the air-cleaning, cooling plants. Via CityLab Images via Ajuntament de Barcelona

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3 big ways sustainable design will shape future cities

May 10, 2017 by  
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When it comes to the evolution of urban areas, think up and think fewer cars.

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3 big ways sustainable design will shape future cities

Decrepit 19th century chapel converted into a breathtaking home

January 22, 2017 by  
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From the beginning, the principal renovation objective was to retain as much of the old church’s original essence as possible, keeping the beautiful arched windows intact and working around the rather complicated floorplan. To retain the original feel of the chapel layout , the design team went for an open mezzanine floor design. Related: Majestic church is transformed into a gorgeous modern family home in Chicago “One of the main elements of the Chapel is the Gothic style arched windows that elegantly frame the beautiful views and allow the space to fill with light. Before the mezzanine floor could be considered we had to ensure that the new ceiling line would not obstruct any of the windows,” says designer Paul King. “Our approach was to provide solutions that answered the brief, but did not alter the historic details or essence of the Chapel. The main hall was the core element that gives the Chapel its feel of space and with its detailed simplicity it became the heart of the proposed design.” For anyone who’d love to get away from the hustle and bustle of the city, the Chapel on the Hill guest home has four bedrooms, a fully equipped kitchen, spacious living room, and offers stunning views of the expansive countryside. + Evolution Design Via Archdaily Photographs via Evolution Design

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Decrepit 19th century chapel converted into a breathtaking home

Tasmanian Devils are rapidly evolving to fight cancer

September 1, 2016 by  
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In the quest to conquer cancer , scientists have turned to the natural world for effective solutions. In this case, the details may be in the Devil. An international team of researchers has learned that two specific sections of the Tasmanian Devil genome are changing rapidly in response to the spread of devil facial tumor disease (DFTD). The genetic data compiled by the researchers will be used to help protect the Tasmanian Devil from extinction while providing insight into treatment for humans. “Our study suggests hope for the survival of the Tasmanian devil in the face of this devastating disease ,” said researcher Andrew Storfer. “Ultimately, it may also help direct future research addressing important questions about the evolution of cancer transmissibility and what causes remission and reoccurrence in cancer and other diseases.” The Tasmanian Devil is the largest carnivorous marsupial in the world and is found in the wild only on the Australian island state of Tasmania. It is named for its aggressive behavior against outsiders and fellow Devils. Through this peer-to-peer violence, DFTD may be spread. One of only three types of transmissible cancer, DFTD has wiped out nearly eighty percent of the Tasmanian Devil population in the twenty years since it was discovered. As Dr. Ian Malcolm once so eloquently put it, life finds a way  and some Devils have evolved to endure against this threat. Related: Australian state announces the country’s first permanent ban on fracking The researchers were inspired to explore genetic explanations when some individuals in disease-ravaged populations endured despite scientific models predicting their demise. “If a disease comes in and knocks out 90 percent of the individuals, you might predict the 10 percent who survive are somehow genetically different,” said study co-author Paul Hohenlohe. “What we were looking for were the parts of the genome that show that difference.” The team discovered that two specific genomic regions, which contained genes that are connected to the immune system  and cancer, demonstrated significant changes in the surviving populations. In addition to identifying the specific function for these genes, the researchers hope to use this information to increase genetic diversity and resilience within the Tasmanian Devil population. Via Phys.org Images via Chen Wu/Flickr  and  Greg Schechter/Flickr  

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Tasmanian Devils are rapidly evolving to fight cancer

One man’s passion: 45 years with the EPA

June 29, 2016 by  
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Scientist Tom Murray gives a retrospective overview, from the EPA’s tumultuous beginnings to the evolution of today’s industrial partnerships.

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One man’s passion: 45 years with the EPA

Why Hawaii is leading us to 100% renewable energy

May 31, 2016 by  
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As an island state heavily dependent on imported fossil fuels for its energy needs, Hawaii is uniquely vulnerable to things like volatile electricity prices, rising sea levels and supply chain disruptions.Luis Salaveria, Director of the State of Hawaii’s Department of Business, Economic Development & Tourism, spoke at VERGE 2015 in San Jose about how Hawaii’s challenges act as an impetus for the state to become a leader in the evolution toward a renewably powered future.

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Why Hawaii is leading us to 100% renewable energy

Scientists discover ancient 3-armed sea monster unlike any living species

December 3, 2015 by  
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If you were to travel back 550 million years ago, you would be forgiven for thinking that you’d accidentally arrived on an alien planet . The Earth’s ecosystem, entirely confined to the ocean, would have been populated by primitive and bizarre organisms. One such sea monster is the  Tribrachidium , a three-armed sea creature that is unlike any living thing found today. Read the rest of Scientists discover ancient 3-armed sea monster unlike any living species

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Scientists discover ancient 3-armed sea monster unlike any living species

Researchers find that the blind cave fish evolved a smaller brain in order to survive

October 9, 2015 by  
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In the dark waters of a limestone cave in northeastern Mexico , a blind fish makes its home. Washed into the cave at some time in the distant past, the fish had no choice but to survive by eating bat droppings and not much else. With no light, their distinct pigmentation was useless and was lost to evolution. With nothing to see, their eyesight – and eventually their eyes and a significant part of their brains – were the next things to go. Biologists in Sweden report that these losses save the fish energy and were probably vital to the species’ continued survival. Read the rest of Researchers find that the blind cave fish evolved a smaller brain in order to survive

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Researchers find that the blind cave fish evolved a smaller brain in order to survive

Ancient human-sized fish breathed with lungs

September 21, 2015 by  
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The ancient ancestors of the human-sized coelacanth (see-leh-kanth) breathed with lungs, according to a new study. The modern coelacanth, like most fish, uses gills to get oxygen from the water, but its dinosaur-age ancestors also had a well-developed lung, allowing them to survive in low-oxygen shallow waters. It’s probable that during the Mesozoic Era, part of the coelacanth family moved to deeper waters, eventually losing their lung and relying solely on their gills to breathe. Read the rest of Ancient human-sized fish breathed with lungs

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