Arctic shipping routes could threaten "unicorns of the sea"

July 3, 2018 by  
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Narwhals, or the “unicorns of the sea,” could be at risk from additional Arctic shipping routes as polar ice continues to recede. A peer-reviewed study published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences suggests as many as seven marine mammal species may face new threats and uncertain consequences from increased ship traffic. The Arctic Ocean is home to hundreds of animals, like narwhals, polar bears and whales. However, as the polar ice caps retreat, more shipping companies are taking advantage of open waters to reduce travel time. To determine how the increase of ships could affect marine mammals , the research team from University of Alaska Fairbanks and University of Washington studied wildlife during the fall shipping season. The group looked at 80 different subpopulations among the seven species to determine if they were directly exposed to the ships and how much these ships could affect the wellbeing of the marine life. Related: The melting Arctic is already changing the ocean’s circulation During the study period, over half of the subpopulations were impacted by ships, with narwhals inheriting the highest amount of risk. In addition to an increased risk of injury or death from collisions,  toothed whales also face communication challenges because of their audio sensitivity. Like dolphins, the ocean unicorn “talks” with a language of buzzing, clicking and calling. While narwhals could have the most to lose, polar bears and seals have the least risk because of the time they spend on land. But researchers note their populations also come with high long-term uncertainty, and the team concluded more data is required to determine how shipping affects their livelihood. The news wasn’t entirely bad for wildlife populations. The scientists noted through additional data collection, shipping companies could plan for environmentally-sustainable transportation options. “Regions with geographic bottlenecks, such as the Bering Strait and eastern Canadian Arctic, were characterized by two to three times higher vulnerability than more remote regions,” the researchers wrote in their study abstract. “These pinch points are obligatory pathways for both vessels and migratory [ocean mammals], and so represent potentially high conflict areas but also opportunities for conservation-informed planning .” Arctic planning groups are aware of the wildlife threats and are working out plans to balance shipping with environmental concerns. The Arctic Council instituted regulations on transport companies in January 2017, with the goal of making shipping safer for both crews and marine mammals. + Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences Via Earther

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Arctic shipping routes could threaten "unicorns of the sea"

Solar-powered Swiss home uses prefabrication to minimize site impact

July 3, 2018 by  
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Ralph Germann architectes  has completed the House MW, a contemporary prefabricated home designed to overlook views of the Lac de Joux in Vallee de Joux, Switzerland. Built for a couple and their child on a budget, the dwelling was constructed using prefab systems to reduce waste, costs, and site impact. The home was built with a concrete “skeleton” clad in locally sourced spruce with fiberglass insulation. Created as a modern home with traditional farmhouse influences, the House MW is topped with a simple black corrugated iron roof and embraces the outdoors with a shaded terrace measuring 592 square feet. The timber facades and gables were constructed through off-site prefabrication in a carpenter’s workshop and were later transported by truck to the site. Locally sourced spruce boards clad the facade. “The ‘skeleton of the house was made of concrete (raft foundation, slab and staircase),” explains Ralph Germann architectes. “After the concrete masonry part was completed, the prefabricated wooden facades were attached against this interior concrete structure. By using this method we could build a house for a reasonable cost, with low ecological impact and at the same time we were able to reduce the construction time.” Related: A 1920 Swiss barn is reborn as a modern home for a family of five The interior of the home, which is nearly 2,500 square feet, is bright, airy and lined with birch plywood panels. Concrete partitions finished with plaster, painted with RAL 9010 mineral paint, round out the interior siding. The ground floor ceiling and staircase are made from unfinished concrete. All furniture designed by the architects was constructed from birch venee,r save for the solid larch indoor and outdoor dining tables. An air / water heat pump and photovoltaic solar panels power the home. + Ralph Germann architectes Images © Lionel Henriod

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World’s rarest marine mammal could face extinction under Trump administration

March 26, 2018 by  
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Under 30 vaquita porpoises live in the wild — but Donald Trump’s administration may be violating federal laws that could protect the animals, according to a lawsuit recently filed by conservation groups and reported on by Mother Jones . Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) staff attorney Giulia Good Stefani said in a statement  that the lawsuit “might be the vaquita’s last chance.” Will vaquitas vanish forever? Environmental groups are concerned they might, and the NRDC, Center for Biological Diversity , and Animal Welfare Institute are calling out Trump’s administration for failing to protect what the World Wildlife Fund calls the world’s rarest  marine mammal . The 1972 Marine Mammal Protection Act  requires the Secretary of the Treasury to “ban the importation of commercial fish or products from fish which have been caught with commercial fishing technology which results in the incidental kill or incidental serious injury of ocean mammals in excess of United States standards.” The vaquita can drown in gill nets, which are used to catch seafood , but the Trump administration has not banned seafood harvested with these nets in the Gulf of California, the sole habitat of the vaquita. Related: Trump administration ‘declares war’ on West Coast turtles, dolphins, and whales Gill nets kill around 50 percent of the vaquita population every single year — and, according to the Center for Biological Diversity, the creatures might even go extinct next year if fishing practices aren’t changed. Mexico  also hasn’t permanently banned all gill nets in the Gulf of California, though scientists have recommended they do so. And Animal Welfare Institute’s marine animal program director, Susan Millward, said the United States is “a leading importer of fish products caught in the upper Gulf of California.” The groups that filed the suit are calling for an immediate US ban on seafood imports that come from the upper Gulf and Mexican shrimp, hoping such a move would pressure Mexico to completely ban gil lnets in the vaquita’s habitat. Millward said, “The U.S. seafood market should not be contributing to the extinction of a species.” + Center for Biological Diversity Via Mother Jones Images via Wikimedia Commons and NOAA Restoration Center, Chris Doley

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Oslo’s new airport city could power the entire surrounding community

March 26, 2018 by  
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Airports aren’t always known for their energy efficiency, but Norway is planning to change that. Norwegian architectural practices Haptic Architects and Nordic – Office of Architecture  have announced plans for a sustainable smart city , powered entirely by renewable energy, near Oslo Airport. The complex will be the world’s first energy-positive airport city and it will have the capacity to sell surplus energy to surrounding buildings and communities. Plans for the Oslo Airport City line up with the country’s shift from reliance on fossil fuels to renewable energy and its readiness to embrace green technologies . For example, the city will serve as a testing ground for technology-driven urban design, including the incorporation of self-driving electric cars, automatic street lighting, and smart technology for services such as mobility, waste and security. Related: China announces plans to build nearly 300 new eco-cities “This is a unique opportunity to design a new city from scratch,” said Tomas Stokke, director and co-founder of Haptic Architects. “Using robust city planning strategies such as walkability, appropriate densities, active frontages and a car-free city center, combined with the latest developments in technology, we will be able to create a green, sustainable city of the future. Capitalizing on the central location in northern Europe, a highly skilled workforce and proximity to an expansive and green airport , OAC has all the ingredients needed to make this a success,” he added. The city will be car-free , and it will provide many green spaces for the airport’s growing workforce, which is expected to increase from 22,000 to 40,000 people by 2050. The project received outline planning consent for development and is slated for completion in 2022. + Haptic Architects + Nordic – Office of Architecture Images by Forbes Massie

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America’s oldest gun manufacturer files for bankruptcy

March 26, 2018 by  
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Fresh on the heels of the country-wide protests for gun control reform, Remington has filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection. The timing seems like a perfect reaction to the recent backlash for the school shooting at Stoneman Douglas High School, but the cause is more likely Donald Trump. While Remington has struggled with a negative public image after a shooter used a Remington rifle to kill 26 people at Sandy Hook, gun sales always take a dive when a Republican president is in office. Remington has struggled with a drop in sales for years, particularly after the Sandy Hook massacre. But gun manufacturers are having a hard time convincing people that the government is coming for their guns when there’s Republican leader in the Oval Office. As such, gun sales are down. Related: Could Changes in School Design Prevent Future Attacks? Remington probably isn’t going anywhere, despite the bankruptcy filing. Colt declared bankruptcy in 2016 and they are still around manufacturing weapons. Remington’s bankruptcy will likely help them with the lawsuit that Sandy Hook victims filed against the company – and they plan to continue to keep making guns as the company reorganizes. Via Fast Company and GQ Images via Flickr and Deposit Photos

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This hexagonal indoor farm grows more food in less space with 90% less water

March 26, 2018 by  
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Hexagro ‘s Living Farming Tree is a groundbreaking indoor garden that uses technology to grow food faster using less space. The innovative design combines aeroponics with efficient grow lights, full automation, and a modular tiered structure to optimize space, crop yield, and water use – allowing anyone to grow crops in practically any room. Hexagro aims to bring nature indoors and nurture the urban farming movement. This goal led them to create Living Farming Tree, an automated vertical growing system controllable with an app. As seen in the video above, poles and hexagonal connectors pop together to create the tree, providing a structure to support small growing modules. The system, which can be customized and scaled up with more modules, is built entirely with recyclable materials . Related: Build your own indoor garden with modular LEGO-like blocks Living Farming Tree uses aeroponics , a process that enables urban growers to cultivate produce sans soil or pesticides and with around 90 to 98 percent less water. The plants flourish in an inert substrate with roots hanging underneath; well-aerated, their roots absorb nutrients via a nutrient mist and oxygen, causing the plants to grow faster and taste better. According to Hexagro, this system—which boasts low energy consumption—allows for a 150 percent increase in the plants’ nutritional value as well. The tree also lets you sit back and relax, for the most part: LED lights, sensors, and a proprietary monitoring computer keep your maintenance time to a minimum. Leafy greens, sprouts, herbs, air-filtering plants, or small fruits like strawberries will be available for budding urban farmers, and Hexagro hopes to offer spices, edible and non-edible flowers, and even vegetables like eggplants or tomatoes in the future. Sold yet? Their website does not yet say how much the Living Farming Tree will cost, but Hexagro’s first international crowdfunding campaign is in the works, and you can let the sales team know you’re interested via this Google Documents form . In the words of CEO Felipe Hernandez, “With your help, [Hexagro] will transform your house into an indoor farm . Anybody, anywhere, can access healthy food .” + Hexagro Urban Farming Images courtesy of Hexagro Urban Farming

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This hexagonal indoor farm grows more food in less space with 90% less water

A beluga whale living with dolphins learned to "speak their language"

November 3, 2017 by  
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A beluga whale living in captivity with a pod of bottlenose dolphins learned to communicate using their unique “language” or sounds. Detailed in a new study published in the journal Animal Cognition , the extraordinary inter-species communication breakthrough demonstrates the well-documented ability of beluga whales to accurately imitate sounds of other species. This mimicry extends even to humans, as was the case with Noc, the beluga whale studied by the US Navy in the 1970s who was observed making human-like sounds. Although it can’t be confirmed whether or not the beluga whale actually understands the meaning of the dolphin sounds, her ability to shift her own communication style demonstrates the social sophistication and intelligence of cetaceans . At first, the cohabitation arrangements were not originally an easy transition for the cetaceans. “The first appearance of the beluga in the dolphinarium caused a fright in the dolphins,” wrote researchers Elena Panova and Alexandr Agafonov of the Russian Academy of Sciences in Moscow . However, after only two months of living with dolphins , the beluga whale featured in the study began using dolphin sounds. The team of scientists recorded 90 hours of vocalizations, data through which the researchers were able to identify that the beluga whale began to use the signature whistles of each individual dolphin, unique sounds that may function similar to names. Related: There’s a humpback whale living in the Hudson River Although the beluga whale was eager to fit in with her new family, the dolphins did not similarly adapt their “ language .” “The inspection of the audio recordings made before and after the beluga’s introduction revealed that the cross-species imitation was not reciprocal,” wrote the researchers. “While the imitations of dolphin whistles were regularly detected among the beluga’s vocalizations, we found only one case in which the dolphins produced short calls that resembled (but were not identical in physical parameters) those of the beluga .” Although the beluga may not be able to understand the sounds it is using, it is nonetheless an important example of a phenomenon known as call convergence. “The case reported here, as well as other instances of imitation and whistle sharing in dolphins described in the literature, may be considered as vocal convergence between socially bonded individuals – a phenomenon that can be seen in various vocal species, from birds to humans,” wrote the researchers. “With some exceptions, call convergence is suggested to provide recognition of a group and strengthening of social bonds between its members.” Via Science Alert Images via Depositphotos (1)

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Trump administration ‘declares war’ on West Coast turtles, dolphins, and whales

June 13, 2017 by  
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Environmentalists say President Donald Trump’s administration has declared war on California marine animals after an announcement this week from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). The administration canceled proposed limits on the amount of endangered whales, sea turtles , and dolphins that can be hurt or killed on the West Coast by sword-fishing nets. The proposed limits were backed by the fishing industry and environmentalists. But NOAA said other protections have helped slash the amount of marine creatures that get trapped in the nets – called gill nets – like better training for fishing boat skippers and sound warnings so creatures can leave the area. NOAA Fisheries spokesperson Michael Milstein told the Los Angeles Times, “The cap would have imposed a cost on the industry to solve a problem that has already been addressed.” Related: Unusually high number of humpback whale deaths prompts NOAA inquiry NOAA statistics reveal injuries and deaths for protected whales dropped from over 50 in 1992 to one or two every year by 2015. For common dolphins, the numbers fell from nearly 400 to just a few. But environmentalists disagree. Turtle Island Restoration Network director Todd Steiner said the Trump administration has declared war. He said the drop in numbers is due to the decline in the gill-net fishing fleet in California. He told the Los Angeles Times, “The numbers caught per set have not gone down. The California gill-net fishery kills more marine mammals than all other West Coast fisheries combined.” The restrictions were strong: if two endangered sea turtles or whales were seriously harmed or killed during two years, the gill net fishery would be shuttered for as long as two years. If any combination of four bottlenose dolphins or short-finned pilot whales were hurt or died, the fishery would also be shut down. Center for Biological Diversity senior attorney Catherine Kilduff said rare species are still being killed. And the numbers of some species are so small that the death of just one can be devastating. She told the Los Angeles Times, “Government scientists have said that West Coast fisheries can’t catch more than one leatherback every five years. They estimate that four times that have caught just in the gill-net fishery alone.” Via the Los Angeles Times Images via Salvatore Barbera on Flickr and Wikimedia Commons

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Nike makes Air Max shoebox from recycled milk jugs and coffee lids

June 13, 2017 by  
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Nike is thinking inside the box—the shoe box, that is. 30 years after the Air Max 1 changed the sneaker industry forever, the sportswear giant is revolutionizing the shoe’s packaging with a polypropylene receptacle derived entirely from post-consumer recycled milk jugs, juice containers, and coffee-cup lids. The brainchild of Arthur Huang, CEO of Taipei-based engineering firm Miniwiz , the revamped shoe box features a modular design that makes stacking for storage or display a cinch. Even better, it can be repurposed as a hardshell backpack. Another bonus? At the end of its life, the shoe box can easily be recycled. No waste, no haste. The container’s pro-planet traits dovetail neatly with Miniwiz’s own business philosophy, Huang said in a statement. “These are all intentional features and qualities which revolve around the intent of every Miniwiz product—reducing the impact on the environment in every way it can,” Huang said. “In this case, we’re adding features and efficiency to an existing product—shoe boxes—and by reusing non-virgin materials in a sustainable and responsible way.” Related: Clever Little Bag: Fuseproject and PUMA revolutionize the shoe box The sneaker the container was designed to support, the NikeLab Air Max 1 Royal, takes a similar resource-conserving tact. It’s clad in Nike’s Flyknit fabric, which the company stitches together using a seamless technique said to produce 60 percent less waste than conventional cut-and-sew means. Related: Nike’s stunning Flyknit Feather Pavilion lights up the night “We love Flyknit as a technology,” Huang said. “It gives designers a new canvas to create cool, while lowering environmental impact. We want to be associated with that and are glad that we are a part of this revolution.” + Nike Air x Arthur Huang Via Dezeen

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Nike makes Air Max shoebox from recycled milk jugs and coffee lids

This solar and wind-powered autonomous vehicle is out to unlock the secrets of the Celtic Sea

August 25, 2015 by  
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Click here to view the embedded video. The Celtic Sea, located off the south coast of Ireland, is a curious place; home to common dolphins, harbor porpoises, fin whales and a surprising number of marine predators, but it has yet to be designated a protected Marine Conservation Zone. In the hopes of learning more about this diverse and mysterious region, an unmanned solar and wind-powered vehicle, the C-Enduro, known more familiarly as Thomas, is spending a month surveying the area with GoPro  cameras, meteorological equipment and marine mammal acoustic detectors. And once Thomas has spent a month out in the Celtic Deep it will return with a wealth of information that will assist oceanographers in not only better understanding the area, but also in developing a plan for protecting the Celtic Deep. Read the rest of This solar and wind-powered autonomous vehicle is out to unlock the secrets of the Celtic Sea

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