Retired oil rigs off the California coast could find new lives as artificial reefs

May 17, 2019 by  
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Unnatural ecosystems can work for marine life, too.

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Retired oil rigs off the California coast could find new lives as artificial reefs

Stop Fish Bombing! uses gunshot detection technology to foil marine criminals

March 1, 2019 by  
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A nonprofit organization called Stop Fish Bombing! (SFB) is combating a famously destructive and illegal fishing practice. By adapting technology developed by the California company SST Inc. to detect gunshot locations, the nonprofit hopes to catch villains who are destroying the underwater world through fish bombing. Fish bombing — also called blast or dynamite fishing — uses explosives to stun or kill fish, making it easy to gather them up en masse. Dynamite doesn’t discriminate. Everything from fish eggs to dolphins to coral reefs die in the blast. While the short-term effect means an easy haul for fishermen, the long-term effects spell doom to the fish, the fishing industry and reef-related tourism. Eventually, the repeated blasts create dead zones, destroying biodiversity and whole ecosystems. Fish bombing is practiced in many places around the world, including Tanzania, Malaysia and Nicaragua. Related: Loophole allows 1M tons of sludge to be dumped on Great Barrier Reef SFB has adapted urban tech for the marine world. Law enforcement in more than 90 cities use SST Inc.’s ShotSpotter technology to find shooters. Acoustic sensors are placed throughout neighborhoods. When somebody fires a gun, multiple sensors detect and timestamp the sound. “The precise location of the gunshot is determined based on the time it takes for the sound of the gunshot to travel to each individual sensor, effectively triangulating the sound. The exact location of the detected gunshot is indicated by a dot on a map,” according to a video on the SpotShotter site. Back at the command center, analysts use audio technology to differentiate gunshots from other percussive sounds. Translating this tech to an underwater environment, SFB places sensors on piers and boats to locate blasts. In one success, the nonprofit triangulated the positions of 16 explosions in Sabah, Malaysia within 60 meters in about 10 seconds. They were able to safely detonate 19 bombs. By photographing boats in the vicinity at the time of blasts, SFB can help local law enforcement efforts. SFB, based in Hong Kong, was founded by Scubazoo, SST and Teng Hoi Conservation Organization . Scubazoo is a production and filming company specializing in marine and jungle locations in South East Asia. Teng Hoi focuses on environmental problems and education in Hong Kong and internationally. In addition to its work on fish bombing, SST has also adapted its ShotSpotter technology to deter rhino poachers in South Africa. Related: These AI-powered cameras can sense poachers and save wildlife Environmentalists now have one more tool in their race to save reefs. George Woodman, founder of Teng Hoi Conservation Organization, said, “Fortunately, we now have the technology to detect and locate fish bombs as they happen and publish this information on tablets and phones for access by everyone.” + Stop Fish Bombing! Via UN Environment Images via Shutterstock

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Stop Fish Bombing! uses gunshot detection technology to foil marine criminals

Ghost gear is haunting our oceans

January 31, 2019 by  
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Fishing gear isn’t just deadly when there’s a fisherman at the other end of the line. Lost and abandoned equipment continues to kill, rampaging beneath the ocean’s surface, tangling fish, drowning seabirds and smothering reefs. This ghost gear haunts common and endangered species indiscriminately. According to a UN Environment and FAO report , another 640,000 tons of ghost gear is added to the undersea dump each year. In Southeast India, workers at the Suganthi Devadason Marine Research Institute have formed a team of ghost-net busters to reverse this damage.  The Gulf of Mannar includes 560 square kilometers of islands and shallow coastal waters. Since being declared a marine park in 1986, the live coral reefs have shrunk from 110 to 80 square kilometers. Between climate change bleaching the coral and destructive fishing practices, the ghost-net busters face daunting challenges. They must manually remove nets, being careful not to further damage the coral. Related: California teen finds golf balls are a major source of plastic waste in our oceans “Through removal of ghost nets, we hope not only to help conserve corals but also to support the small-scale fishermen who depend mainly on the reef-associated fishery resources for their livelihoods,” said Patterson Edward, director of the research institute. Edward is part of a team of nine marine scientists and three support staff who survey, monitor and restore reefs in the Gulf of Mannar. Finding and retrieving ghost nets is one part of their work. The problem goes way beyond the gulf. Ghost nets “are killing megafauna in the Indian Ocean and are a transboundary problem, because nets from India find their way to other countries in the region such as the Maldives and kill many iconic species such as turtles, rays and sharks ,” said Gabriel Grimsditch, an expert in marine ecosystems at UN Environment. While aerial views of floating garbage patches are all too familiar, many people have yet to learn about ghost gear. “It’s not just plastic bags and bottles negatively impacting marine life and the blue economy; it’s estimated that by weight, ghost gear makes up between 46 to 70 percent of all macro plastics in our ocean,” said Grimsditch. + UN Environment and FAO Image via Shutterstock

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Solar protective glass gives the iceberg-like Hercule home a mirrored finish

January 31, 2019 by  
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Modern, monolithic and minimalist , Hercule is a single-family home designed like an iceberg — the bulk of the building is hidden while the visible portion emerges out of the ground like the tip of an iceberg. Named after local hero John “Hercule” Gruen for its “robust strength,” the house located in Mondorf-les-bains in the south of Luxembourg is the recently completed work of local architecture practice 2001 . Embedded into the sloped terrain, the concrete dwelling further immerses itself into the landscape with a massive wall of solar reflective glass that mirrors the surroundings. Located on residual land between an old farmhouse and a suburban villa, the project site had a sloped terrain that the architects decided to turn into a design attribute rather than an obstacle. The natural context determined the layout of the home’s three floors, which step down the slope from west to east. Covering a built footprint of 446 square meters, the home appears deceptively compact from street level because of the spacious basement level. The main living spaces as well as the technical rooms are all located on the basement floor, which includes a two-car garage, a fitness and spa area, a wine cellar, storage and the open-plan living room, kitchen and dining area that open up to an enclosed outdoor courtyard through full-height glazed sliding doors. The dimensions of the open-plan living area — measuring 14 by 6 meters — is repeated on the two floors above ground that house the bedrooms and bathrooms. Related: Mirrored pavilion all but disappears into nature Minimalism is stressed throughout the design, with the main structural elements visible and enhanced through formwork and sanding.  Solar protective glass clads the east and west facades, which are oriented toward the street and the garden. To the south, a blind béton brut wall serves as a beam for the upper two floors to ensure a column-free living area below, while the north side is punctuated with garden-facing openings. + 2001 Photography by Maxime Delvaux via 2001

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Shark fins still being sold in US restaurants amid ban

January 24, 2019 by  
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Shark finning has sparked numerous controversies for the horrible act of animal cruelty that has led to the banning of shark finning in 12 U.S. states. However, the ban is so difficult to effectively enforce that some restaurants in at least 10 of the states still manage to have shark fins on their menus, and some are starting to question if the ban is worth it. Shark finning — the act of slicing fins off live sharks and throwing the wounded shark into the ocean , where they sink and eventually die of suffocation and blood loss — became illegal in U.S. waters back in 2000. Yet, shark fins have been making their way to the states from countries that don’t ban the practice and catch sharks. Although the Animal Welfare Institute in Washington D.C. — who supports the national shark fin ban — updates their yearly list of establishments that serve shark fin soup, restaurants are still featuring the infamous soup on the their menus. According to National Geographic ,  shark fin soup is a “status dish in Asian countries” and has a long history dating back to the Song Dynasty. Currently, the soup is traditionally served at wedding receptions as a sign of respect for guests. Related: Nine more states join seismic blasting lawsuit against the Trump administration The “luxury dish” is prepared by boiling the shark fins and removing the skin and meat. The softened protein fiber that is left behind is then shredded and put into the soup. Trying to ban this item from restaurants is proving to be a major problem for U.S. enforcement agencies due to understaffing. Not to mention, making a case against shark fin vendors can be difficult since the trade is mostly underground, like illegal drugs. “I know it’s going on, I know it’s out there,” says San Francisco marine warden William O’Brien. “But it’s a very private matter — it’s not the kind of thing that, you know, people are selling to the public.” To make matters worse, the fines and jail sentences for violating the ban are usually light and don’t deter the practice. Via National Geographic Images via Shutterstock

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A modern vacation retreat is embedded into the rolling hills of southern Portugal

January 24, 2019 by  
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Tucked into the rolling meadows of Southern Portugal’s Alentejo region, a beautiful 2,691-square-foot vacation home holds court in an idyllic area that is perfect for disconnecting from the hustle and bustle of city life. The Cercal House, designed by Lisbon-based studio Atelier Data , boasts a Mediterranean style that is embedded into the landscape in order to blend in seamlessly with the natural environment. One of the most complicated challenges for the architects was the site’s problematic topography. Located on land separated by a river, the dry terrain is sloped on each side. Taking this challenge to heart, the designers decided to use the slanted landscape to their advantage by implanting the structure into the landscape’s natural shape while reducing its impact on the land. Related: Atelier Data transforms an old horse stable into a simple but stunning home in Portugal Embedding the home into the landscape provided an  energy-efficient advantage to the home while also adding a solar orientation that would reduce the home’s energy use. Additionally, the site can capture the best views of the home’s expansive pastoral setting. Wanting to meld the design into this setting, the architects created a structure that mimicked a traditional gable-house silhouette, but they added a modern touch in the form of four square cut-outs on one side of the roof. These openings not only allow for a subtle connection to the landscape but also provide an abundance of natural light and air ventilation to flow throughout the home’s interior. Jutting out from the interior living space is a large, open-air patio with polished concrete floors, and this space frames the picture-perfect views. In fact, four open-air patios are located at each corner of the home, which has three bedrooms that are arranged in a square layout. Further connecting the home with its surroundings is a beautiful infinity pool built at land level. + Atelier Data Via Dwell Photography by Richard John Seymour via Atelier Data

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A modern vacation retreat is embedded into the rolling hills of southern Portugal

Oceans warming 40 percent faster than previously thought

January 16, 2019 by  
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  After discrepancies between climate models projecting higher levels of ocean warming and observational data showing lower temperatures, a recent article published in Science demonstrated that the world’s oceans are warming about 40 percent faster than previously projected.  Apparently, the higher numbers were right, and even though this gives scientists a better understanding of climate change , the reality of the situation could be alarming for marine life and coastal residents. “The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s (IPCC) Fifth Assessment Report, published in 2013, showed that leading climate change models seemed to predict a much faster increase in ocean heat content over the last 30 years than was seen in observations,” study author and University of California (UC) Berkeley graduate student Zeke Hausfather said in a UC Berkeley press release. Hausfather says that was a problem because this is something they need the models to get right. Now that the corrected records agree with climate models, it is an encouraging step that removes major uncertainty. Oceans are incredibly important when understanding the implications of global warming, as they can absorb more than 93 percent of the solar energy that becomes trapped by greenhouse gasses. Not to mention, ocean warming can lead to severe consequences such as sea level rise, stronger storms and loss of ocean life. Hausfather explains that the best place to see where global warming is happening is to look at the oceans. While current technological methods have allowed for better oceanic temperature readings, it was more difficult to obtain clear readings before the mid 2000s, when 4,000 floating robots called Argo were distributed. This network of robots dives into the ocean every few days to take temperature, PH and salinity readings. Before the creation of Argo, bathythermographs were the only thing that could take ocean measurements. Yet, they could only be used once because they couldn’t be recovered from the ocean floor. Now that we have accurate measurements, we can understand the steady increase of ocean temperatures. Hausfather wrote on Twitter that 2018 would beat out the second-place year (2017) “by a comfortable margin” for warmest year. Via EcoWatch Image via dimitrisvetsikas1969

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Coral forests thrive near Sicilys underwater volcanoes

July 10, 2018 by  
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Nearly one kilometer below the water surface near Sicily, a rare ecosystem of corals, sponges and wildlife is thriving. A recent study from conservation agency Oceana discovered healthy and active coral forests near underwater volcanoes just north of Sicily. These coral forests were previously undiscovered by humans but have not been spared from their impact via pollution. As an under-researched area, scientists wanted to learn more about the wildlife near the Aeolians Islands north of Sicily, the location of several underwater volcanoes . Exploring around a kilometer under the surface, the team found coral forests rich with endangered species. At the shallowest levels, a research robot found red algae beds that support both plants and sea animals in the area. Sea fans and horse mackerel were abundant near the surface. At intermediate depths, sharks laid eggs in beds of black coral, complemented with beds of red coral and yellow tree coral. Both colored corals are considered threatened species in the Mediterranean Sea . Related: Red List expands to 26,000 endangered species The most exciting discoveries were found at the bottom of the ocean floor. As far down as 981 meters, researchers found naturally growing bamboo corals on the endangered species list , as well as sea squirts and carnivorous sea sponges that were not known to live in the area. The deep dive also revealed two species never before seen in the area: the skinny sea star  Zoroaster fulgens and a goby fish originally found near the Adriatic Sea. Unfortunately, this unique environment isn’t immune to human damage. The diving robot discovered extensive evidence of fishing pollution , including abandoned traps, nets and fishing lines. Some of those contributed to the death of the wildlife, including turtles and corals. Other discarded waste found includes single-use plastic flatware, glass and even tires. “We have found tens of features that are internationally protected in the Mediterranean, from impressive coralligenous beds to loggerhead turtles and many species of corals and molluscs,” Ricardo Aguilar, senior research director for Oceania, said in a statement. “However, we also found widespread impacts of human activity, even in the farthest and deepest areas, and it is vital that we stop harming marine life if we are to preserve the uniqueness of this part of the Tyrrhenian Sea.” The discoveries will help scientists develop a plan to protect the unique ecosystem from future damage. Oceana’s expedition is part of bigger research expedition with the Blue Marine Foundation to better understand the Aeolians Islands and their  environment . + Oceana Images via  © Oceana

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Coral forests thrive near Sicilys underwater volcanoes

Starbucks ditches plastic straws for the environment

July 10, 2018 by  
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Coffee drinkers around the world can soon sip their daily latte in peace, knowing it is getting better for the environment. Starbucks has announced it will eliminate single-use plastic straws from more than 28,000 company-owned and -licensed stores by 2020. The company will replace them with compostable straws (for blended drinks) and recyclable, strawless lids. Plastic pollution from single-use products is a major concern. The United Nations’ Environment Program estimates as many as eight million tons of disposable plastic products end up in the oceans each year, where it ultimately harms aquatic ecosystems. Related: This British café is serving to-go coffee in ceramic mugs to combat waste To reduce its overall reliance on plastics, the coffee giant is introducing strawless lids for the majority of its beverages — including cold coffee drinks. For its blended offerings, the company will move to paper or compostable plastic straws. The new lids were approved for global distribution after testing in 8,000 North American stores, as well as select Asian countries. Starbucks’ home stores in Seattle and Vancouver will be the first to fully transition to the lids starting in the second half of 2018, followed by transitioning in Europe. Its goal is to completely remove the single-use plastic items over the next two years. “For our partners and customers, this is a significant milestone to achieve our global aspiration of sustainable coffee ,” Kevin Johnson, Starbucks president and CEO, said in a statement,“served to our customers in more sustainable ways.” The change to drinkable lids and straws made out of paper or biodegradable plastic is part of a larger goal set for the company. Starbucks is also expanding a paper cup surcharge to 950 stores in the United Kingdom by the end of July 2018 to discourage their use, while offering discounts to those who bring in reusable cups . In addition, the company wants to include 20 percent post-consumer recycled fiber in its cups by 2022 and have achieved 99 percent ethical sourcing of its coffee. However, government reports suggest the coffee industry has a long way to go before going completely green. The British parliament discovered the coffee industry adds 2.5 billion disposable cups to the nation’s landfills annually. + Starbucks

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Bjarke Ingels is crowdfunding a massive reflective sphere for Burning Man 2018

July 10, 2018 by  
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A massive, mirrored sphere is gearing up to be one of the most eye-catching pieces at this year’s Burning Man festival. Designed by architects Bjarke Ingels and Jakob Lange of the world-renowned architecture firm BIG , The Orb is a giant reflective sphere that would serve as an art piece and way-finding device. To make the inflatable art installation a reality, the architects have launched a crowdfunding campaign on Indiegogo seeking $50,000 over the next two months. Elevated into the air with a 105-foot-long inclined steel mast, The Orb would be inflated to a scale of 1/500,000 of the Earth’s surface with a diameter of nearly 84 feet. The Orb could be visible from all over Black Rock City, the temporary crescent-shaped settlement erected for the event in Nevada . The team of artists and architects behind the “temporal planet” have thus far self-funded the majority of the project’s costs, including 30 tons of steel and welding labor for the mast and foundation as well as the 1,500 hours of sewing required to piece together the sphere’s reflective fabric. This fabric measures approximately 21,500 square feet. The $50,000 crowdfunding goal is the last bit of funding required to bring The Orb to Burning Man 2018. “Because of The Orb’s curvature, it will mirror everything around it and offer a whole new perspective,” explained  Bjarke Ingels in its crowdfunding video. “The ORB finds itself at the axis of Art & Utility, capturing the entire Black Rock City in an airborne temporal monument that mirrors the Burning Man experience to the Burners as single beings in the midst of an intentional community. Visible from most of The Playa, it will help Burners navigate the desert and find way.” Related: Spiraling timber temple revealed for Burning Man 2018 At night, spotlights will illuminate the reflective sphere and create a giant “shadow of light” on the ground that can serve as a gathering spot or dance floor for the festival-goers. The Orb’s illumination at night can also help attendees navigate and find their way across the vast desert . Designed to leave no trace on the Playa, The Orb can be easily inflated and deflated. + The Orb Via Dezeen

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Bjarke Ingels is crowdfunding a massive reflective sphere for Burning Man 2018

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