Trump plan to reduce marine monuments could put vital ecosystems at risk

January 2, 2018 by  
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A report from United States Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke recommends shrinking three ocean monuments and opening them up to commercial fishing . The monuments, two in the Pacific Ocean and one in the Atlantic Ocean , are undersea treasures, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s administrator between 2009 and 2013, Jane Lubchenco, who told The Guardian , “These ‘blue parks’ harbor unique species, a wealth of biodiversity , and special habitats.” President Donald Trump may not just take aim at land-based national monuments , but at the following three marine monuments. The over 490,500-square-mile Pacific Remote Islands monument, created by George W. Bush and expanded by Barack Obama, includes largely untouched coral reefs and is “the last refugia for fish and wildlife species rapidly vanishing from the remainder of the planet,” per the Fish & Wildlife Service . The 10,156 square mile Rose Atoll monument “protects diverse marine ecosystems and the millions of wildlife dependent upon the Central Pacific.” And the 4,913 square mile Northeast Canyons and Seamounts monument is the United States’ only protected area in the Atlantic Ocean, featuring underwater mountains and canyons, deep-sea coral, and endangered whales and sea turtles. Related: Patagonia is suing the Trump administration over Bears Ears: “The President Stole Your Land” In his report Zinke said, “While early monument designations focused more on geological formations, archaeological ruins, and areas of historical interest, a more recent and broad interpretation of what constitutes an ‘object of historic or scientific interest’ has been extended to include landscape areas, biodiversity, and viewsheds.” Fishing organizations aren’t always pleased about the monuments. In March, a New England coalition sued the federal government over fears fishers would be out of a job due to the Northeast Canyons and Seamounts monument. The challenge is based on the idea Obama exceeded his authority in designating the monument. Conservation groups worry activities like seabed mining or oil drilling could be next if monuments are opened for fishing. Pew Charitable Trusts Director of U.S. Oceans, Northeast Peter Baker told The Guardian, “It shouldn’t be too much to ask to protect two percent of the U.S.’s exclusive economic zone off the Atlantic coast for future generations.” Lubchenco said, “Creation of highly protected blue parks like these monuments is beginning to re-establish the all-important balance of places to be used and places to be treasured. We need both.” Via The Guardian Images via USFWS – Pacific Region on Flickr and NOAA photo by Hatsue Bailey

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Trump plan to reduce marine monuments could put vital ecosystems at risk

NASA scientists identify unknown microbes aboard International Space Station

January 2, 2018 by  
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Hurricane Harvey couldn’t stand in the way of a groundbreaking experiment on the International Space Station (ISS) this summer. NASA astronaut Peggy Whitson and the Genes in Space-3 team have identified unknown microbes in space . Their work could help future astronauts monitor crew health and diagnose ailments in real time – without needing to send a sample back to Earth. Astronaut Kate Rubins sequenced DNA for the first time in microgravity in 2016 , which NASA described as a game changer. But scientists knew what the samples contained, as they’d been prepared on Earth. This past summer, the Genes in Space-3 team conducted an experiment with samples collected in space to see if they could sequence unknown organisms. Whitson was in the process of performing the investigation when Hurricane Harvey hit – and the Earth-based principal investigator Sarah Wallace was in Houston. The Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama came to the rescue, enabling the two women to communicate by patching Wallace’s cell phone into the space to ground loops. With a hurricane whirling outside, the experiment continued. Related: The International Space Station is a germophobe’s nightmare “Right away, we saw one microorganism pop up, and then a second one, and they were things that we find all the time on the space station,” Wallace said in a statement. The samples were sent to Earth, so biochemical and sequencing tests could confirm the ISS findings, which they did: the results were the same on our planet as in orbit. “As a microbiologist, my goal is really so that when we go and we move beyond ISS and we’re headed towards Mars or the moon or wherever we are headed to, we have a process that the crew can have that great understanding of the environment based on molecular technology,” said Wallace in a NASA Johnson video . She was the lead author on a study published in Scientific Reports in December. A team of 21 scientists from NASA and institutions in the United States and United Kingdom collaborated on the article. Via NASA Images via NASA Johnson on YouTube , NASA , and Rachel Barry

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NASA scientists identify unknown microbes aboard International Space Station

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