Surfing citizen scientists collect important ocean data

September 14, 2020 by  
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A new U.S. nonprofit called Smartfin is enlisting surfers to collect data on warming oceans . Smartfin distributes special surfboard fins, which track location, motion, temperature and other data while surfers ride the waves. “Most people who really call themselves surfers are out there, you know, almost every single day of the week and often for three, four hours at a time,” Smartfin’s senior research engineer Phil Bresnahan told Chemistry World . You could hardly imagine a group that is already more geared toward collecting ocean data than dedicated surfers. Related: High-tech wetsuit protects divers and surfers from toxic elements in the oceans Scientists have determined that since the 1970s, more than 90% of excess heat produced by greenhouses gas emissions has wound up in the oceans. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change has posited that the rate of ocean warming has more than doubled since 1993, and that surface acidification is increasing. Researchers at the University of California San Diego’s Scripps Institution of Oceanography began collaborating with local surfers in 2017 to collect more data about the effects of the greenhouse gases . San Diego is just the pilot project. Smartfin plans to deploy its data collection devices at surf spots worldwide. The genius of Smartfin is its symbiotic relationship between scientists and surfers. Every surfboard needs a fin for stability, and every researcher needs data. But ordinary sensors used for collecting ocean data don’t work well in choppy coastal waters. Once researchers figured out how to install a sensor inside a fin, they soon created a fleet of surfer citizen scientists. “This is enormously beneficial for researchers,” Bresnahan said. The researchers are still tweaking the fins and hope to add optical sensors and pH detectors soon. Smartfin project participants like David Walden of San Diego are happy to help. “If doing what I love and being where I love to be can contribute toward scientific research with the ultimate goal of ocean conservation , then I’m stoked to be doing it,” Walden said. “The Smartfin Project is a joy that gives my surfing meaning. Rad!” + Smartfin Via World Economic Forum Image via Pexels

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Surfing citizen scientists collect important ocean data

SeaChange uses plasma arc technology to save the oceans from plastic waste

September 8, 2020 by  
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We’ve all heard of the Great Pacific Garbage Patch and the continuing flow of oceanbound plastic. But what if something could intercept that plastic before it made it into the oceans? That’s the plan of SeaChange, a new organization that claims to have devised the technology to save our oceans from the plastic pollution crisis. The start of SeaChange SeaChange founders Carl Borgquist and Tim Nett grew up together in Paradise, California, and have been lifelong friends. They went on to have varied careers — Borgquist in renewable energy and as CEO of Absaroka Energy and Nett as a serial entrepreneur in advertising and media. But then their entire hometown burned in the infamous Camp Fire of 2018. Eighty-five people lost their lives and more than 11,000 homes burned to the ground. It was the worst fire in California history up to that point, and the future looked bleak as climate change worsened wildfires throughout the west. Related: Babylegs — the inexpensive, educational way to monitor ocean plastic   “ Climate change stops being theoretical when it destroys everything you’ve grown up with,” Nett said . “When there is no hometown to go back to. We couldn’t in clear conscience stand by and do nothing.” The two men decided to put their considerable life experience and gray matter together to work on climate change. And they’ve made a promising breakthrough. How SeaChange’s technology works SeaChange will outfit its ships with something called the Plasma Enhanced Melter (PEM). The PEM uses plasma arc technology to zap plastic and other trash before it enters the ocean. Plastic is shredded before it enters the Plasma Arc Zone. Instead of leaving harmful residues like conventional waste treatment methods, plasma arc technology uses high temperature and high electrical energy to heat waste , mostly by radiation. Organic material can be burned down into a combustible gas called syngas, which can be used as clean fuel for SeaChange’s ships. Inorganic components wind up as glassy slag. This reusable black glass is said to be nontoxic and safe for marine life. SeaChange will heat the plasma arc to temperatures up to 18,000 degrees. “That’s like dropping it on the surface of the Sun,” SeaChange said on its website. While this may sound like science fiction, the technology has been used on hazardous and medical waste since 1996. Finding the trash Of the 400 million tons of plastic produced every year, 90% is burned, buried or lost in the environment. Only 10% is recycled . Even if plastic is recycled, you could say that’s delaying the problem. Up until now, plastic has been forever-lasting, with no permanent solution to vaporize it. The SeaChange ships will seek the plastic that is lost in the environment. According to the organization’s research, about 10 million tons of plastic trash enters the oceans each year. That equals about one dump truck load per minute. Of this ocean plastic pollution, 90% flows into the sea from the 10 most polluted rivers . China’s Yangtze River gets the trophy for pollution champion, collecting 1.5 million tons of plastic trash before dumping it into the East China Sea near Shanghai. The runner-up is the Indus, which originates in Tibet before winding through Pakistan and then emptying an average 164,332 tons of plastic junk into the Arabian Sea by Karachi. The other eight rivers are the Yellow, Hai, Nile, Ganges, Pearl, Amur, Niger and Mekong Rivers. Eventually, the SeaChange ships — equipped with plasma arc technology — will travel to these polluted rivers to harvest and vaporize plastic trash before it enters the ocean. The crew can process up to 5 tons of plastic on the ship each day, melting it down to about 225 pounds of inert black glass . First stop, Indonesia SeaChange is planning to go on its first mission in 2021. Destination: Indonesia. Currently, somewhere between 0.5 and 1.4 million tons of plastic waste wind up in the ocean around Indonesia every year. SeaChange plans to remove trash to protect a sensitive Indonesian ecosystem full of coral species and mangrove forests. The organization is still sorting out what NGOs, government agencies and individuals it can partner with to make the mission happen. Since planning began, the pandemic has created additional logistical obstacles. It’s also contributing to the plastic problem. A huge surge of medical waste is landing in Indonesian waters after a six-month uptick in single-use gloves and masks. The trash that stays out of the waterways is being burned in open pits, exposing people to carcinogenic clouds of dioxins, which isn’t much better. If all goes to plan, SeaChange will start making a dent in the oceanbound plastic problem next year. This partnership between Borgquist and Nett reminds us of the oft-repeated and inspiring idea that even something terrible can bring about something positive. For example, when your hometown burns, you decide to tackle one of the world’s biggest problems. If the Indonesia mission is successful next year, maybe we’ll one day see a SeaChange ship at the mouth of every polluted river. + SeaChange Images via Kevin Krejci , M.W. and Sergei Tokmakov, Esq.

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Flow of plastic waste in the ocean could triple by 2040

July 24, 2020 by  
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New research by The Pew Charitable Trusts and SYSTEMIQ has found that the plastic flow into the oceans could triple by 2040 without immediate action. But the study, “Breaking the Plastic Wave: A Comprehensive Assessment of Pathways Towards Stopping Ocean Plastic Pollution,” also outlines solutions that could cut this plastic waste by more than 80%. According to the researchers, the methods currently used to deal with plastic pollution are less effective unless they are consolidated and accompanied by new technology and more research. The report shows that if governments continue addressing plastic waste as they are currently, the amount of plastic waste flowing into oceans could only be reduced by 7% in the next 20 years. With no intervention, the plastic waste entering the ocean could grow from 11 million to 29 million metric tons by 2040. Because plastic lasts for hundreds of years, the cumulative amount pf ocean plastic could reach 600 million tons (the equivalent weight of 3 million blue whales) by that point. Related: Record high amount of microplastic found on seafloors “Breaking the Plastic Wave” identifies eight measures that could reduce plastic waste by 80%. The proposed measures include reducing plastic production and consumption, substituting plastics with biodegradable alternatives, designing product packaging for recycling , increasing recycling, increasing waste collection rates and reducing plastic waste exports. More technological advancements, business models and research and development are needed to completely eliminate plastic waste in the oceans, according to the study. Although many of these methods are already being applied by some governments, the report proposes a more consolidated approach. The researchers estimate that governments could save up to $70 billion and reduce plastic-related greenhouse gas emissions by 25% by 2040 by adopting these measures together. According to Martin Stuchtey, SYSTEMIQ’s founder, the plastic pollution problem is solvable if action is taken now. “Our results indicate that the plastic crisis is solvable,” Stuchtey said. “It took a generation to create this challenge; this report shows we can solve it in one generation.” + Breaking the Plastic Wave Image via Sergei Tokmakov

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Flow of plastic waste in the ocean could triple by 2040

Flow of plastic waste in the ocean could triple by 2040

July 24, 2020 by  
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New research by The Pew Charitable Trusts and SYSTEMIQ has found that the plastic flow into the oceans could triple by 2040 without immediate action. But the study, “Breaking the Plastic Wave: A Comprehensive Assessment of Pathways Towards Stopping Ocean Plastic Pollution,” also outlines solutions that could cut this plastic waste by more than 80%. According to the researchers, the methods currently used to deal with plastic pollution are less effective unless they are consolidated and accompanied by new technology and more research. The report shows that if governments continue addressing plastic waste as they are currently, the amount of plastic waste flowing into oceans could only be reduced by 7% in the next 20 years. With no intervention, the plastic waste entering the ocean could grow from 11 million to 29 million metric tons by 2040. Because plastic lasts for hundreds of years, the cumulative amount pf ocean plastic could reach 600 million tons (the equivalent weight of 3 million blue whales) by that point. Related: Record high amount of microplastic found on seafloors “Breaking the Plastic Wave” identifies eight measures that could reduce plastic waste by 80%. The proposed measures include reducing plastic production and consumption, substituting plastics with biodegradable alternatives, designing product packaging for recycling , increasing recycling, increasing waste collection rates and reducing plastic waste exports. More technological advancements, business models and research and development are needed to completely eliminate plastic waste in the oceans, according to the study. Although many of these methods are already being applied by some governments, the report proposes a more consolidated approach. The researchers estimate that governments could save up to $70 billion and reduce plastic-related greenhouse gas emissions by 25% by 2040 by adopting these measures together. According to Martin Stuchtey, SYSTEMIQ’s founder, the plastic pollution problem is solvable if action is taken now. “Our results indicate that the plastic crisis is solvable,” Stuchtey said. “It took a generation to create this challenge; this report shows we can solve it in one generation.” + Breaking the Plastic Wave Image via Sergei Tokmakov

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How your beauty routine might be killing sharks

July 20, 2020 by  
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Even before Jaws , people were fascinated with sharks. But they are much more than the menacing villains they portray in movies. Their beauty is impossible to ignore. There’s a whole week of TV dedicated to sharks, because it’s so easy to celebrate these animals. Sharks are at the top of their food chain, so it’s hard to imagine these beautiful beasts could ever be in danger. But there’s an even more powerful hunter prowling the oceans and putting these animals at risk: humans. Every year, millions of sharks die for common makeup products. The secret life of shark oil Human skin naturally produces squalene, a hydrating oil. Many cosmetics companies add squalene to their products to supplement the natural squalene your skin produces. It’s a common ingredient in lipstick, sunscreen, eye shadow, lotion and foundation. Squalene is a popular addition to anti-aging creams. You can even find it in hair products. Related: Lather is the PETA-approved skincare that reminds us all to slow down There are many sources of squalene in plants. You can find it in yeasts, wheat germ, olives, sugarcane and rice bran. However, plant-based squalene is 30% more expensive to make than squalene found in animals. The cheapest source of animal-based squalene is found in sharks. Around 2.7 million sharks are killed annually for cosmetic industry products. That’s an even bigger problem as the number of sharks in the oceans is dwindling. Sharks 101 Sharks actually predate the dinosaurs — by more than 200 million years . They’ve survived major climate changes, possibly one catastrophic meteor impact and more than one massive extinction event. But now, shark populations are declining at alarming rates around the world. Almost one-quarter of all shark species are officially threatened with extinction . Compared to other marine animals , sharks produce very few offspring. This makes them even more vulnerable to human threats. In addition to being hunted by cosmetic companies, sharks are hunted by commercial fishers who hope to cash in on selling shark fins. The fins are a delicacy used in soup . The WWF has flagged several shark species for concern, including the hammerhead, because their numbers are dwindling so dramatically. The Shark Allies One company hopes to save the sharks. Since 2007, Shark Allies has been fighting for these finned swimmers of the deep. Shark Allies was started by Stefanie Brendl. She began scuba diving at 22 and started working with sharks in Hawaii. In an interview with Inhabitat, she spoke about how she came to love sharks and why she knew she had to help them. “I ran a shark diving operation in Hawaii for several years, photographing and diving with sharks of all shapes and sizes,” Brendl said. “Through that work, I came to realize that I had to do something to protect them, so I switched gears to focus on shark conservation .” Brendl was traveling in Indonesia and Micronesia in the 1990s. That’s when everything changed. “We actually saw first-hand a long line fishing vessel that had pulled into the harbor with dried fins hanging off the railings. This hit me particularly hard because this is a place that is famous for shark diving and [one] that was putting great efforts into protecting their sharks. It came as such a shock to me and it inspired me to learn all I could in the years that followed.” Shark Allies has been hard at work in the years since, sponsoring legislature aimed at protecting the oceans’ most famous predators. Shark Allies helped pass the Kristen Jacobs Ocean Conservation Act in Florida. “This bill bans the import, export and trade of shark fins in Florida, which is currently the biggest hub of the shark fin trade in the U.S. The bill unanimously passed both the House and Senate,” Brendl explained. Shark Allies is also part of the EU Citizens Initiative, a group that is working to bring the issue of the shark fin trade to the European Commission. How you can help Want to become one of the Shark Allies? Brendl says everyone is welcome. “Our mission at Shark Allies is to make it possible for every person to become a warrior for sharks and get involved with shark conservation. We have an entire page that helps people to ‘Take Action Now,’ from emailing your legislatures to putting pressure on manufacturers to stop using shark products.” Shark Allies is also working on its Shark Free Products campaign, aimed at spreading awareness about squalene in the cosmetics industry. For the record, Brendl’s favorite species of shark is the tiger shark — but only for diving encounters. When it comes to saving the sharks of the world, she has no favorites. Brendl hopes to save them all from cosmetics companies. PETA and many other websites offer up-to-date lists of cosmetics companies that do not test on animals, nor use animal-derived ingredients (such as squalene) to create their products. By not buying products made of shark squalene, you can send a strong message to the cosmetics companies that they need to change their production methods. + Shark Allies Images via Pixabay

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Make Every Day World Oceans Day

June 29, 2020 by  
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World Oceans Day, declared by the United Nations as a … The post Make Every Day World Oceans Day appeared first on Earth911.com.

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Discarded COVID-19 masks are now littering seas and oceans

June 10, 2020 by  
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In May, the French nonprofit Opération Mer Propre reported collecting several used face masks within waves of the Mediterranean Sea. According to the organization’s report, there has been a surge in “COVID waste”, including masks, latex gloves and plastic hand sanitizer bottles, in the past 3 months. Unfortunately, this only compounds a waste problem that has been around for many years. According to the United Nations Environmental Program (UNEP), over 13 million metric tons of plastic waste go into the oceans each year. UNEP predicts that the amount of waste dumped in the oceans will increase up to 10 times the current amount in the next 15 years. However, the UN report did not anticipate a situation where people around the world had to use face masks on a daily basis. The pandemic now complicates all efforts geared toward a safer and more sustainable environment. Related: How to safely dispose contaminated gloves, masks, wipes and more According to Joffrey Peltier of Opération Mer Propre, dozens of face masks, gloves and hand sanitizer bottles were found at the bottom of the sea among other plastic waste. Opération Mer Propre is one of many organizations concerned about the fate of the environment after the coronavirus pandemic . “Soon there will be more masks than jellyfish in the waters of the Mediterranean,” said Laurent Lombard of Opération Mer Propre. Now, Opération Mer Propre and other organizations are calling for a more cautious approach to the use of face masks and other medical tools. Environmental activists are championing the use of reusable face masks and more washing of hands instead of wearing latex gloves. The oceans are already overwhelmed with plastic waste from our normal lifestyles. If we keep on pumping medical waste into the environment, we risk pushing thousands of ocean species to extinction. In the words of Peltier, “With all the alternatives, plastic isn’t the solution to protect us from COVID.” Via The Guardian Image via Noah

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Discarded COVID-19 masks are now littering seas and oceans

Air pollution climbing back to pre-pandemic levels

June 5, 2020 by  
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Last month, news media around the world heralded cleaner skies as a byproduct of the pandemic-induced quarantines. Alas, as lockdowns are lifted, air pollution is climbing back to pre-COVID levels in  China . Several European countries may soon follow suit. Concentrations of fine particles and nitrogen dioxide (NO2) are back to where they were a year ago, according to data from the Centre for Research on Energy and Clean Air (Crea). In early March, when China was suffering the worst of the  pandemic , the particle count was down by 34%, while nitrogen dioxide levels had fallen by 38%. Related: Air pollution could make COVID-19 more dangerous “The rapid rebound in air pollution and coal consumption levels across China is an early warning of what a smokestack industry-led rebound could look like,” said Lauri Myllyvirta, Crea’s lead analyst, in an article from  The Guardian . “Highly polluting industries have been faster to recover from the crisis than the rest of the economy. It is essential for policymakers to prioritise clean energy.” Wuhan, the pandemic’s ground zero, is still experiencing lower than usual nitrogen dioxide levels — 14% lower than last year. However, Shanghai’s NO2 level has soared to 9% higher than in 2019. Wood Mackenzie, an energy consultancy group, expects that the second quarter of 2020 will see China’s  oil  demand recover nearly to its normal level. European cities are still enjoying significant dips in air  pollution . The Copernicus Atmosphere Monitoring Service (Cams) shows that 42 of the 50 European cities it tracks had below-average NO2 levels in March. This pollutant, which is largely produced by diesel vehicles, dropped by 30% in Paris and London during the pandemic. How fast and how much European air pollution will rebound depends on the decisions of citizens, companies and government officials. “We do not know how people’s behaviour will change, for example avoiding public transport and therefore relying more on their own cars, or continuing to work from home,” Vincent-Henri Peuch, the director of Cams, told  The Guardian . Environmentalists hope that people will choose to  walk  and cycle more and drive their cars less. + The Guardian Images via Pexels

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Sea turtles thrive on empty beaches during COVID-19 lockdowns

April 21, 2020 by  
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As more people around the world stay inside, more animals are able to thrive in places that are typically crowded by humans. In the southeastern U.S., sea turtles are enjoying a peaceful nesting season without pesky sunbathers, fishermen or boats. “It’s going to be a very good year for our leatherbacks,” Sarah Hirsch, senior manager of research and data at Loggerhead Marinelife Center , told WPEC . “We’re excited to see our turtles thrive in this environment. Our world has changed, but these turtles have been doing this for millions of years and it’s just reassuring and gives us hope that the world is still going on.” Loggerhead Marinelife Center’s researchers have located 69 nests on the 9.5 miles of beach they study, which is significantly more than normal. Related: Baby turtles officially return to the beaches of Mumbai after largest beach cleanup in history All seven types of sea turtles are endangered or vulnerable. The odds are stacked against hatchlings; only one in 1,000 live to become adults. While hatchlings elude natural predators, such as dogs, seabirds, raccoons, ghost crabs and fish, turtles of all ages face many threats from humans. These include microplastics, fishing gear, coastal development, boat strikes, global warming and the illegal trade in eggs, meat and shells. David Godfrey, executive director of the Sea Turtle Conservancy , said thousands of turtles are currently migrating to nesting beaches in the sotheastern U.S. and that “all of the potential positive impacts relate to changes in human behavior.” With fewer boats on the water, the number of boat strikes on turtles and other marine animals will also drop. “All of the reduced human presence on the beach also means that there will be less garbage and other plastics entering the marine environment,” Godfrey said. A 2016 University of Florida study concluded that removing trash and debris from beaches can increase the number of turtle nests by 200%. In 2019, Florida reported more than 395,700 sea turtle nests during hatching season. Because many beaches preferred by turtles are also prized by tourists, researchers will watch with concern as parts of Florida begin to open their beaches to humans again. Via CBS News Image via Pixabay

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Prefab Danish home was built from CLT and weathered steel in just 3 days

April 21, 2020 by  
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Set into the lush green landscape of Denmark’s Fyn island, Villa Korup is a large home designed for a family of six. A collaboration between Danish architect Jan Henrik Jansen and Australian architect Marshall Blecher , Villa Korup, which features three elongated “wings”, was prefabricated offsite using weathered steel and CLT panels. The project is unique in a number of ways. The home is one of the first private dwellings in Denmark to be constructed out of CLT . Prefabrication enabled the architects to build the home in just three days, reducing construction time and causing minimal disruption to the landscape and wildlife . To add durability, the timber panels were treated in a traditional manner using soap and lye to give the cladding a resilient finish. Related: Cross-laminated timber makes this Scottish home climate-resistant In addition to the CLT cladding, the home’s exterior also features weathered steel panels. This industrial material will change color over time, taking on a patina that will gently camouflage the home into its incredible woodland surroundings. Adding to the exceptional design is the unusual layout. Villa Korup is spread out across three elongated wings to create enough space to fit the needs of a family of six. These three sections house the bedrooms and bathrooms, along with other private areas, such as an office. The layout also allows for each wing to enjoy a series of small, individual courtyards. The main social areas are found where the wings converge. Inspired by Scandinavian design principles, the interior design is light and airy. Minimal furnishings and neutral colors were chosen to keep the spaces open and clutter-free. Throughout the design, swaths of glass, including sliding glass doors, open the interior living spaces to the outdoors, making nature one with Villa Korup. + Jan Henrik Jansen + Marshall Blecher Via Wallpaper* Photography by Gabrielle Gualdi , Hampus Berndtson  and Marshall Blecher

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