Florida coral reefs plagued with mysterious disease

May 16, 2018 by  
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With coral reefs under threat worldwide, researchers in Florida are racing to understand and treat a mysterious disease that threatens to decimate the third-largest coral reef on Earth. Over the past four years, the as-yet unidentified, potentially bacterial disease has already had a significant impact on Florida’s coral species, half of which are fatally vulnerable to the disease. “When they’re affected by this, the tissue sloughs off the skeleton,” Erinn Muller, science director at Mote Marine Lab’s Center for Coral Reef Research and Restoration in the Florida Keys, explained to NPR . “And we see that once a coral is infected, it usually kills the entire coral, sometimes within weeks. And it doesn’t seem to stop.” After being hired by the State of Florida to study the health of coral reefs near Miami , scientist William Precht first observed the disease moving from coral to coral, with particularly devastating effects on star and brain coral. “This is essentially equivalent to a local extinction , an ecological extirpation of these species locally,” Precht told NPR . “And when you go out and swim on the reefs of Miami-Dade County today, it would be a very rare chance encounter that you’d see some of these three or four species.” Related: Scientists made a liquid ‘umbrella’ to protect coral reefs from sun damage Researchers at Mote Marine Lab are hard at work to determine how to protect coral from the mysterious disease . “Anything from… looking at chlorine-laced epoxy as an antiseptic, and even looking at how antibiotics interact with the disease,” Muller said. “Because if it is bacterial, then antibiotics would be a way to stop it.” Mote Marine Lab is also serving as a nursery for baby coral, which are released into the wild when they are ready. At this moment, the reefs under siege will need all the help they can get. “We’re really at a critical juncture right now, where we have corals left on the reef,” said Muller. “Before we lose more corals, now is the time to start making a change.” Via NPR Images via  NOAA National Ocean Service   (1)

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Florida coral reefs plagued with mysterious disease

‘Game changing’ graphene-reinforced concrete is stronger and better for the planet

May 3, 2018 by  
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Add concrete to the list of things graphene can improve. Scientists at the University of Exeter ‘s Center for Graphene Science developed a new technique to incorporate graphene in concrete production with the help of nanoengineering technology — and the resulting material was not only over twice as strong as concretes we have today, but “drastically reduced the carbon footprint of conventional concrete production methods.” Is there anything graphene can’t do? It can boost both the strength and durability of concrete. The resulting University of Exeter composite material is four times as water resistant as existing concretes, and, according to professor Monica Craciun , “by including graphene we can reduce the amount of materials required to make concrete by around 50 percent — leading to a significant reduction of 446 kilograms per tonne of the carbon emissions .” Related: MIT just discovered a way to mass produce graphene in long rolls The research, published in late April in the journal Advanced Functional Materials , pioneers a novel, low cost technique that is, according to the university, compatible with requirements for modern, large-scale manufacturing. The composite material can be utilized right on building sites. Craciun described the new green concrete as an absolute game-changer. She said its strength, durability, and water resistance make it “uniquely suitable for construction in areas which require maintenance work and are difficult to be accessed.” Lead author Dimitar Dimov, a PhD student at the university, described the research as a first but crucial step “in the right direction to make a more sustainable construction industry for the future.” He said in the statement, “Finding greener ways to build is a crucial step forward in reducing carbon emissions around the world and so help protect our environment as much as possible.” + University of Exeter + Advanced Functional Materials Images via Depositphotos and Derek Torsani on Unsplash

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‘Game changing’ graphene-reinforced concrete is stronger and better for the planet

This dreamy cluster of cabins houses light-filled live/work spaces in Hokkaido

May 3, 2018 by  
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Japanese architect Makoto Suzuki has carved out a slice of live/work paradise with this cluster of cabins in Hokkaido . While each mono-pitched structure appears to stand independently, the timber-clad buildings are interconnected. The project, called the House in Tokiwa, also achieves harmony with the landscape through the use of natural materials and low-profile structures that embrace nature at every turn. Located near Sapporo, House in Tokiwa comprises a series of structures of varying heights clad in vertical timber planks. Mono-pitched roofs top the taller volumes, while greenery covers the roofs of a few of the lower-profile structures. Large windows frame views of the surroundings while the relatively remote location mitigates privacy concerns. Outdoor terraces also reinforce the connection with nature. Related: Tidy Japanese home mimics the greenhouse effect to keep warm The home is divided into two roughly equal-sized clustered halves connected by a centrally located bathroom. The main living areas are set in a cluster that wraps around a small courtyard planted with lilac trees. This cluster contains a two-story villa for Suzuki’s father, a kitchen and dining area with full-height windows, the master bedroom, and an office for Suzuki’s wife that sits above the living room. The majority of the workspaces are housed in the second cluster, which includes a meeting room, bathrooms, and two spacious work areas, one of which is used by sculptor Takenobu Igarashi . + Makoto Suzuki Via Dezeen Images via Koji Sakai

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This dreamy cluster of cabins houses light-filled live/work spaces in Hokkaido

Conservationists rid Florida of invasive iguanas by smashing their heads

March 16, 2018 by  
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Invasive iguana populations have soared in Florida , and the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission launched a $63,000 research project to figure out the best way to get rid of the lizards . But the Sun Sentinel and Gizmodo reported some people are taking issue with one method: that of smashing in the iguanas’ heads. Iguanas can impact native wildlife and plants and irritate homeowners, according to commission spokesperson Carli Segelson. Gizmodo said many residents of Florida consider the reptiles pests, akin to rats. A 15-person University of Florida team, whose work is part of the commission’s project, is tackling the problem with methods like a captive bolt gun or bashing the reptiles’ heads against solid objects, including a boat and truck they’re traveling in to track the creatures down, according to the Sun Sentinel. Wildlife biologist Jenny Ketterlin said their methods are compatible with Florida’s anti-cruelty laws, and that destroying the iguanas’ brains rapidly is the most humane method of killing them. The team has taken out 249 iguanas near a canal over three months, and have spurned other extermination techniques on the grounds they’re inefficient, not safe, unproven, or crueler. Related: It’s so cold that frozen iguanas are falling off trees in Florida Some people don’t like the sound of smashing in iguanas’ heads. The Kimmela Center for Animal Advocacy executive director Lori Marino described the method as appalling; veterinarian Susan Kelleher said it’s cruel and a kinder method of killing the iguanas would be sedating and euthanizing them. Gizmodo said this is a complicated situation. They spoke with iguana expert Joe Wasilewski who said he did cringe when he heard about iguana heads bashed in, but that this method is one of the better options we have. “In less than a second these lizards go from being cognizant to completely dead. Is that cruel?” he told Gizmodo. “Look, we kill millions upon millions of rats and cockroaches every year. The last thing I want to do is harm one. I’ve spent my whole career trying to improve their island habitats, but the sheer number of iguanas is exploding — it’s a situation that’s not getting better any time soon.” Via the Sun Sentinel and Gizmodo Images via Depositphotos and Skye am i/Wikimedia Commons

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Conservationists rid Florida of invasive iguanas by smashing their heads

Instead of fighting, Georgia businesses work with environmental groups to save gopher tortoise

January 30, 2018 by  
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350 species of animals reside in burrows created by gopher tortoises,  but the tortoises are in trouble. Protecting them under the Endangered Species Act in Georgia could create red tape and extra costs for Georgia businesses, so they’re taking what NPR described as an unusual approach: not fighting the listing but joining forces with several environmental groups, wildlife agencies, private foundations, and the Department of Defense to save the keystone species. Over 80 percent of gopher tortoise habitat is privately or corporately owned, according to the Natural Resources Conservation Service in Georgia . The reptile is already considered threatened under the Endangered Species Act in its western range in Alabama, Mississippi, and Louisiana, and environmental groups aim to protect at least 100,000 acres of the creatures’ habitat in Georgia so the reptile won’t need to be listed under the Environmental Species Act there under a project called the Georgia Gopher Tortoise Initiative. Related: This flipped-over giant tortoise gets by with a little help from his friend The tortoises – which are Georgia’s state reptile – flourish in longleaf pine forests. In the Southwest, there was once around 90 million acres of longleaf pine – today, there’s around three million acres. Habitat destruction hasn’t helped the gopher tortoise population. NPR reported the state’s biggest electric company Georgia Power is the largest business involved. Georgia Power is a major landowner, per the publication, and gopher tortoises reside at some of their plants. The company’s wildlife biologist, Jim Ozier, told NPR, “We’re glad to have them here. Gopher tortoises do very well right next door.” He said the company, in addition to planning around gopher tortoises so they’re not impacted by maintenance, is restoring longleaf pine forests. According to the Georgia Conservancy , protecting the species could help protect water sources, create new public recreation areas, and “provide assurances for a more compatible economic environment for Georgia’s business community.” The state, federal government, and private foundations and donors are, per NPR, raising $150 million for the initiative to protect healthy populations where they are. Funding could go towards acquiring new public lands or “conservation easements on private lands.” Via NPR Images via Depositphotos and U.S. Air Force photo/Samuel King Jr.

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Instead of fighting, Georgia businesses work with environmental groups to save gopher tortoise

Foster + Partners unveils LEED Gold-targeted PGA TOUR HQ in Florida

January 23, 2018 by  
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Foster + Partners has unveiled designs for the new PGA TOUR headquarters in Ponte Vedra Beach, Florida. The sleek, light-filled building will be equipped with sustainable biophilic design features that will help the project obtain its targeted LEED Gold certification. Surrounded by greenery, the building will be placed within a large freshwater lake in a nod to the iconic ‘Island Green’ 17th hole at THE PLAYERS Stadium Course. Located to the south of the Clubhouse at TPC Sawgrass, the 187,000-square-foot PGA TOUR headquarters will serve as the new Global Home for the professional golf platform. The new headquarters will also consolidate all the offices —currently spread out across multiple buildings—under one roof. The new building will stress a sense of openness, transparency, and flexibility for a greater collaborative environment. “Inspired by the lush greenery of TPC Sawgrass and the beautiful Floridian light, the new PGA TOUR headquarters is designed as an extension of its surrounding landscape,” said Nigel Dancey, Head of Studio, Foster + Partners. “As the Global Home of the PGA TOUR, it brings the organization under one roof for the first time, and signifies the progressive spirit of the TOUR.” Twenty-foot-wide bridges connect the two building bays and allow for informal meetings, while flexible workspaces cater to the increasingly mobile workforce. Related: Foster + Partners’ Apple Park Visitor Center opens to the public Natural light and air pours into the headquarters through glazed facades and five large skylights. Axial landscape views are welcomed into the building, and employees will have access to a 1.3-kilometer running track in the middle of the woods. Rooftop solar panels will power a portion of the building’s energy needs, while deep roof overhangs mitigate solar heat gain. + Foster + Partners Images via Foster + Partners

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Foster + Partners unveils LEED Gold-targeted PGA TOUR HQ in Florida

Repurposed cargotecture dwellings keep naturally cool in Costa Rica

January 23, 2018 by  
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An environmentally conscious family tapped DAO and Re Arquitectura to design a home expansion project with low landscape impact. In response, the architecture firms created Franceschi Container Houses, a series of cargotecture apartments to independently house the family’s three sons. Located in Santa Ana west of Costa Rica’s capital, the repurposed shipping container dwellings make use of passive climate control, solar water heaters, and recycled materials to minimize waste and energy demands. Set next to the Uruca River canyon, the Franceschi Container Houses were built on the same property as the main family house where the clients have been living for around 20 years. The project comprises three independent units raised off the ground for minimal landscape impact . The dwellings were built from repurposed 40-foot-tall cargo containers and feature identical floor plans. Related: Qatar unveils first-ever FIFA World Cup stadium to be built from shipping containers The architects carefully placed the dwellings to maximize passive climate control conditions and to optimize natural lighting. The social areas and a deep covered porch are located on the ground floor while the private areas are placed on the upper level. Waste was minimized through recycling and leftover materials like wood and metal were reused for miscellaneous objects like handrails, door handles, planters, and hangers. + Re Arquitectura Via ArchDaily Images via Re Arquitectura

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Repurposed cargotecture dwellings keep naturally cool in Costa Rica

Florida monkeys are excreting an infectious disease fatal to humans

January 11, 2018 by  
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Non-native rhesus macaques in Florida ‘s Silver Springs State Park have tested positive for herpes B, a potentially fatal disease that is spread through bodily fluids and may be transmissible to humans. According to a recent study published in the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention journal Emerging Infectious Diseases , about 30 percent of the monkeys tested carried the herpes B virus. In response to this public health threat, Florida state wildlife managers are proposing the removal of the macaques from their adopted habitats. Although there have been no documented cases of macaque-to-human transmission of the herpes B virus , we still do not know enough about the potential risks. Policymakers are taking the threat seriously. “Without management action, the presence and continued expansion of non-native rhesus macaques in Florida can result in serious human health and safety risks including human injury and transmission of disease,” said Thomas Eason, assistant executive director of the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, according to the Guardian . Although state officials have not specified exactly how the monkeys would be removed, they have indicated a willingness to fully remove the invasive macaques, creatures native to Asia which have settled in Ocala, Sarasota, and Tallahassee. Related: It’s so cold that frozen iguanas are falling off trees in Florida Of the 50 humans that have known to have contracted the herpes B virus, 21 have died. The high-fatality rate makes extreme precaution necessary. Unsurprisingly, the Florida monkeys are a popular wildlife attraction, though many who see them may not be aware of the risks of close contact. “Human visitors to the park are most likely to be exposed,” wrote the study’s authors, “through contact with saliva from macaque bites and scratches or from contact with virus shed through urine and feces.” While scientists work to uncover whether the virus is transmissible to humans, policymakers are making plans to control the invasive species. In the meantime, it’s probably best to keep your distance from Florida macaques. Via The Guardian Images via Depositphotos and Flickr

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Florida monkeys are excreting an infectious disease fatal to humans

It’s so cold that frozen iguanas are falling off trees in Florida

January 5, 2018 by  
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When frigid temperatures hit Florida , most humans can go inside, snuggle up, and wait it out. Not so for iguanas. According to reports from local residents, the reptiles were falling from trees onto roads, gardens, and even windshields. This doesn’t mean all the iguanas were dead – they were stunned, and there’s a chance they could come back to live when they warmed up. Zoo Miami communications director Ron Magill told The New York Times the reptiles “literally shut down, and they can no longer hold on to the trees.” Related: Fire ants swarm into floating rafts to survive Harvey Sad part- he prolly wasn’t dead but I didn’t know how to help! My neighbours used to put out heated cinder blocks and mago during cold nights to keep them alive. Sorry buddy. #floridawinter #38degrees #frozeniguana #notgeicogecko A post shared by Kristen (@seasthaday) on Jan 4, 2018 at 4:59pm PST But the stunned iguanas may return to life. The bigger the reptile, the better the chance it will survive. Magill said, “Even if they look dead as a doornail – they’re gray and stiff – as soon as it starts to heat up and they get hit by the sun rays, it’s this rejuvenation. The ones that survive that cold streak are basically passing on that gene.” He thinks in a couple decades, iguanas might be able to endure colder climates and may start working their way north. According to BuzzFeed , Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) experts said people should leave the iguanas alone – they can bite once they thaw out. Iguanas can be six feet long; one woman shared a video of a man carrying one of the reptiles nearly as long as he is tall on Facebook: (function(d, s, id) { var js, fjs = d.getElementsByTagName(s)[0]; if (d.getElementById(id)) return; js = d.createElement(s); js.id = id; js.src = ‘https://connect.facebook.net/en_US/sdk.js#xfbml=1&version=v2.11’; fjs.parentNode.insertBefore(js, fjs);}(document, ‘script’, ‘facebook-jssdk’)); I love all the Bomb Cyclone photos!!! Here’s a video for you – frozen iguana! Posted by Jenna Isola on Thursday, January 4, 2018 It’s not just the iguanas who were impacted by the cold . The FWC said a similar phenomenon can occur with sea turtles . Their news release said, “When the water temperatures drop, stunned sea turtles may float listlessly in the water or near shore. Although these turtles may appear to be dead, they are often still alive.” Check out our Facebook Live to see our staff rescue cold-stunned sea #turtles ! https://t.co/YNmLDsHT45 #Florida pic.twitter.com/hRlXrPYp0A — MyFWC (@MyFWC) January 4, 2018 Via The New York Times , the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission , and BuzzFeed Images via Maxine Bentzel on Twitter and Frank Cerabino on Twitter

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It’s so cold that frozen iguanas are falling off trees in Florida

Trump to open the Atlantic, Pacific, and Arctic to oil drilling

January 5, 2018 by  
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The Trump Administration announced on Thursday that it will open nearly all United States coastal waters to oil and gas drilling. This order marks a significant break from bipartisan precedent, which placed at least some restrictions on where the fossil fuel industry could drill offshore. As part of this move, California ‘s waters will be open to drilling for the first time in decades – along with more than a billion acres in the Arctic and along the East Coast. The move by the Trump Administration reverses an order implemented by the Obama Administration which blocked oil and gas drilling in 94 percent of the outer continental shelf, the American offshore territory between state coastal waters and the deep ocean . Such a reversal would mark a serious blow to former President Obama’s environmental legacy and could put coastal states at risk of an incident similar to that of the Deepwater Horizon oil spill in 2010. The expansion of oil and gas drilling has already met with bipartisan opposition. Republican Governor of Florida Rick Scott pushed back against the move, concerned on the effects that drilling might have on tourism. “I have asked to immediately meet with Secretary Zinke to discuss the concerns I have with this plan and the crucial need to remove Florida from consideration,” said Scott in a statement. “My top priority is to ensure that Florida ’s natural resources are protected.” Related: Scientists protest senator’s plan to open vital Arctic wildlife refuge to oil exploration Industry leaders have predictably applauded the move. “I think the default should be that all of our offshore areas should be available,” said Thomas J. Pyle, president of the American Energy Alliance, according to the New York Times . “These are our lands. They’re taxpayer-owned and they should be made available.” If all profits from such drilling were directly distributed to taxpayers, perhaps Pyle’s position would resonate. Instead, offshore oil drilling under the current system involves socialized risk, with citizens paying the price when something goes wrong, and privatized gain, with industry profiting off of the public’s natural resources . Finalizing Trump’s plan could take up to a year and a half, during which time the order will be challenged in the courts and Congress . Meanwhile, it remains to be seen whether the fossil fuel industry takes advantage of these new opportunities in light of oil’s recent slump which has only recently ended and the major infrastructure investment required. All the while, the prospect of a future Democratic president reversing Trump’s order looms. Via the New York Times Images via Depositphotos and The White House/Flickr

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Trump to open the Atlantic, Pacific, and Arctic to oil drilling

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