Brazilian Biodiversity Information System is bringing Brazil’s biological diversity to the internet

March 18, 2019 by  
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As one of the most biologically diverse countries on Earth, Brazil is taking steps to consolidate all of the nation’s biodiversity data and information into one place to support scientific research , as well as decision-making and creation of eco-friendly public policy. In an effort to achieve those goals, the Ministry of Science, Technology, Innovations and Communications (MCTIC) has created the Brazilian Biodiversity Information System (SiBBr), which is an online platform that gives free access to a collection of the largest amount of data and information on biodiversity in the South American nation. What is Megadiversity? In 1998, Conservation International made a list of 18 megadiverse countries, which meant that those nations harbored the majority of Earth’s species, as well as a large number of endemic species. The term megadiversity defines an area that features a significant amount of biodiversity . According to the UN’s Environment Program, Brazil is at the top of their list of the 18 most megadiverse countries in the world. With more than 120,000 species of invertebrates, 9,000 vertebrates and 4,000 plant species, Brazil hosts nearly 20 percent of Earth’s biological diversity. These natural assets can be a significant factor in Brazil’s future economic growth, but to avoid losing their biodiversity, the country wants to monitor conservation efforts and make sure their natural resources are sustainably used. Related: Biodiversity decline puts food supply at risk On average, “700 new animal species are discovered every year in Brazil,” says UN Environment. Considering how large Brazil is— as well as the numerous institutions researching the country’s biodiversity— putting all of that information in one easily-accessible place is a formidable challenge. “When the information is spread around different institutions, one is less able to find it, judge the quality of the data and understand how it can be used. Besides, the time needed to compile the data can make its use inefficient, as is the case in public policies,” explains Andrea Nunes, general coordinator of biomes of the Brazilian Ministry of Science, Technology , Innovations and Communications, and national director of the Brazilian Biodiversity Information System project. To illustrate her point, Nunes talked about Brazil’s special map that highlights the areas of the country that are a top priority for conservation and sustainable use. The map is a tool for public policy decision-making that takes two years to develop and is updated every four to five years. Nunes says that in terms of “territory dynamics and land use changes,” five years is a long time. However, SiBBr can change all of that. How SiBBr works Currently, the SiBBr gathers information and data from 230 Brazilian institutions, like state agencies, research centers, museums, and zoos. It has more than 15 million records about different species in the country published by those institutions. Researchers can use the database to find information on different species, as well as share their findings. Farmers can use the platform to calculate environmental compensation credits and get information about endangered animals and plants. There is also a way for Brazilian citizens to contribute their own information, like pictures and documentation on biodiversity in their area. There is also a tool called Biodiversity and Nutrition, which is a nutritional database of native Brazilian species. But, they aren’t just keeping all of this information to themselves. The SiBBr is also part of the Global Biodiversity Information Platform, which is “an international network and research infrastructure” that provides free biodiversity data from hundreds of institutions across the globe. Related: Cargill announces plan to reduce deforestation from cocoa This is the largest global initiative aiming to give people virtual access to free biological information, and it currently spans 60 countries and has more than 570 million species records. Conservation and sustainability is a top priority, and knowing Brazil’s biodiversity is key to achieving those goals. With SiBBr, anyone from government organizations to students and educators can access this vital information. According to their website, SiBBr is an accessible platform filled with tools to help with the “organization, publication, and consultation” of: Occurrences of species A catalog of species Ecological data Biodiversity projects The use of biodiversity Registration of the country’s biological collections The database continues to grow, and in the coming months SiBBr will switch to a new platform to make using the data even easier. BaMBa Connected to SiBBr is BaMBa, the Brazilian Marine Biodiversity database, which has the same goal for collecting data about the country’s marine life as SiBBr does for species on land. The information comes from sources like integrated, holistic studies and fish surveys which can be used for governmental policies related to the use and management of marine resources. Via U.N. Environment , SiBBr Images via Shutterstock

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Brazilian Biodiversity Information System is bringing Brazil’s biological diversity to the internet

Drones: the future of ocean conservation

March 6, 2019 by  
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Unmanned systems such as drones, are increasingly used in a variety of fields — from border patrol, to cinematography to just plain showing off your cool new toy with neighbors. Thanks to rapidly improving technology , durability and artificial intelligence, these unmanned systems also show significant promise in the field of ocean conservation. Scientists can save significant time and resources by collecting data, mapping species and monitoring huge areas of ocean impossible to reach by boat. “Drones are fundamentally changing the way we monitor and manage our environment ,” National Oceanic and Atmospheric Institute Captain, Brian Taggart, told  DroneLife . Taggart explained that unmanned systems can help scientists track the abundance and distribution of endangered species, patrol for illegal fishing and monitor areas that might be hard for boats to reach — such as shallow reefs. Related: Oceans are dubbed the ‘ultimate sink’ for plastic waste WasteShark: the trash-eating ocean drone RanMarine, a Dutch technology firm, has launched a floating drone called “WasteShark” in several countries. This remote-controlled  or autonomously running drone collects floating trash at a rate of 130 pounds per trip, equaling 15 tons of waste every year. Think of it as a large, high-tech, trash -eating Roomba vacuum for the ocean’s surface. In addition to alleviating litter, the robot can also test water quality and remove oils, chemicals and harmful algae — all without threatening wildlife. Video: See how WasteShark works “WasteShark is cheaper, greener, more effective and less disruptive than other methods of dealing with marine litter,” Chief Commercial Officer of RanMarine, Oliver Cunningham, told the Daily Mail . Aerial mapping and measuring Drones are also used to collect data everywhere from the Caribbean to Antarctica. Conservation website Monga Bay reported that scientists in Antarctica are using drone imagery to measure and monitor leopard seal populations. This technology saves the researchers huge amounts of time, money and resources when compared to business as usual; physically capturing, sedating and then releasing each seal they measure. Weighing an average of 800 pounds each, this is a huge and costly endeavor that also disrupts the seal population. The researchers conducted a study to compare the results of drone-measured seals versus those that they hand measure and found the results only varied by two to four percent. “Because we took the time to develop this technique and verify that it’s doing what we think it’s doing, we can feel confident about gathering monitoring information in the future that will both help us understand ecosystem function and also give us better data to support conservation efforts,” lead scientist Douglas J. Krause told Monga Bay . Drones give students a new perspective   Drones can also be used for educational purposes by giving scientists, researchers, students and the general public a gorgeous, birds-eye view of marine ecosystems and restoration projects that they otherwise could never see up-close. The Nature Conservancy used drones to teach students in Grenada about a coral reef restoration project and used the awe-inspiring robot technology to hover over the project infrastructure and convince the students of how cool ocean conservation can be . Cracking down on drones in parks With advancing technology and decreasing prices, it seems like everyone has a drone now, and many local and state governments are cracking down on their use in parks. All drones have been recently prohibited in California’s San Luis Obispo Coastal Park with authorities arguing that the unmanned systems disturb both wildlife and the public’s recreational experiences. For example, unskilled drone users have been cited for accidentally landing drones on rock islands inhabited by sunbathing seals. Others have scared birds from their nests, while others lose their drones and trample through fragile ecosystems to retrieve them. Drone use for scientific research is still allowed with a permit and trained pilot. Related: Plastic pollution is causing reproductive problems for ocean wildlife Are drones taking jobs? There are many examples of how drone technology improves ocean conservation , but how does this artificial technology impact local fishers, park rangers and other ocean-based livelihoods? The National Geographic Society recently awarded Moroccan company ATLAN a World Oceans Day Prize for their drone that can identify, recognize and alert authorities of illegal fishing activities across 435 miles — far more than rangers on a motor boat could ever accomplish. This seems like a great achievement for protecting fish populations, especially when over 80 percent of the world’s fisheries are severely over fished. However, many marine protected areas — where fishing is prohibited — were established without consultation with subsistence and small-scale fishers. Despite their benefits to ecosystems, marine protected areas can often cause the displacement and criminalization of cultures and traditional ways of life without providing realistic alternatives. “The idea that conservation requires emptying the land of its customary inhabitants fails to acknowledge that Indigenous Peoples and local communities are the most effective and efficient guardians,” Rights and Resources’s Lindsay Brigda wrote in their publication, Cornered by Protected Areas . Many environmental organizations are now making a determined effort to consult with local communities and develop jobs in areas such as eco-tourism and conservation. With their extensive knowledge of navigated waters, fishers are often given jobs as park rangers– an opportunity to earn a living protecting the species they used to exploit. Video: See how a fisher woman in Jamaica become a fisheries warden Drones, like most artificial intelligence , are still years away from completely replacing the need for humans, but a concerted effort to protect already limited conservation jobs and budget for displaced people is paramount. Images via Shutterstock

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Drones: the future of ocean conservation

Toxic bacteria found in microplastics on 3 different coastlines around Singapore

February 18, 2019 by  
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Scientists have found toxic bacteria on microplastics in waters around Singapore . The bacteria are believed to be one of the culprits behind coral bleaching. They have also been known to cause wound infections in people. Researchers working out of the National University of Singapore (NUS) discovered over an alarming 400 varieties of bacteria on a little less than 300 pieces of microplastics . The samples, which are only around 5 mm in size, were taken from three coastlines in the region: Changi Beach, Sembawang Beach and Lazarus Island. According to The Straits Times , scientists located the toxic bacteria through DNA sequencing. Once the results were in, they discovered traces of photobacterium, which has been linked to coral bleaching , and a species called vibrio, which is known to cause infections in wounds. The team also found traces of arcobacter, a microorganism that has been linked to gastroenteritis. “As the microplastics we studied were collected from locations easily accessible to the public  and in areas widely used for recreation, the identification of potentially pathogenic bacteria is important in preventing the spread of diseases,” Emily Curren, part of the team at NUS, explained in the report. Curren noted that the majority of microplastics came from straws and disposable utensils, such as spoons and forks. These plastics biodegrade in a few hundred years and serve as vehicles that transport toxic bacteria around the world. Not only can these affect human populations by getting in the water supply, but microplastics are ingested by marine animals, many of which are later consumed by people. Sandric Leong, who led the research effort at NUS’s Tropical Marine Science Institute, added that microplastics are one of the most popular forms of plastic pollution in the ocean. Organisms in these environments accidentally ingest the microplastics, which is how toxic bacteria could end up on dinner plates around the world. Leong explained how more research in microplastic distribution is needed to better understand how to manage this worldwide problem. The biggest way to combat microplastics, of course, is to decrease our use of non-biodegradable plastics and cut down on how much plastic ends up in landfills. Via The Straits Times Image via Shutterstock

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Toxic bacteria found in microplastics on 3 different coastlines around Singapore

Volvo creates the living seawall in Sydney to help with plastic pollution

January 25, 2019 by  
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With ocean habitats being degraded by plastic pollution and replaced with seawalls, more than half of the shoreline in Sydney, Australia , is now artificial. Scientists say that the amount of plastic waste in the ocean is so massive, removing it all simply isn’t possible. So, instead of hosting more beach clean-ups or tearing down seawalls, Volvo is taking a more modern, creative approach to the problem — a Living Seawall. Volvo has teamed up with the Sydney Institute of Marine Science and Reef Design Lab to create the Living Seawall. The Living Seawall is designed to recreate the structure of native mangrove trees and provide a habitat for marine life , according to the company’s website. The automaker also claims that Living Seawall will aid biodiversity and keep the water clean by attracting filter-feeding organisms that can absorb and filter out pollutants such as heavy metals. Related: Nestle ditching plastic straws, water bottles to reduce plastic waste Volvo’s commitment to sustainability goes far beyond the Living Seawall and Volvo Ocean Race, a beach clean-up initiative, as the company is also in the process of removing all single-use plastics from offices, cafeterias and events and replacing them with sustainable, eco-friendly options by the end of the year. It also has the goal of “putting 1 million electric cars on the road by 2025” and wants its manufacturing operations to be carbon neutral.  Volvo says that when it designs its cars, reduction of environmental impact is a top priority. The sales revenue from the Volvo V90 Cross Country is what funds the Volvo Ocean Race and Science Program, which measures ocean microplastics levels with sensors on boats. Volvo said it will continue to support research and thrive with its “radical and divergent style of thinking” that isn’t just what the company focuses on, but rather what defines it. + Volvo Images via Volvo

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Volvo creates the living seawall in Sydney to help with plastic pollution

How to teach children about climate change

January 22, 2019 by  
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As the saying goes, children are our future. Because they will be the next voice in striving toward a sustainable planet, they must first be aware of the problems and possible solutions. But implying that the earth will eventually burst into a fiery ball and there’s little we can do about it might not be the best approach. When educating children about climate change , it’s important to make sure the information is age-appropriate, you use positive, empowering language and you remember to revisit the conversation often. Here are a few pointers to get you, and your potentially earth-saving discussion, headed in the right direction. Make it age-appropriate Children are both imaginative and literal, so a phrase like, “We’re killing the planet” can set the conversation off on the wrong path. Remember that those developing minds are a blank slate when it comes to climate change. They don’t have decades of knowledge, facts and fallacies from which to work. For children under the age of eight, keep the conversation focused around a love of nature . Impress upon them the beauty around them. Talk about the importance of picking up garbage, helping animals and growing plants. With an understanding of nature, children will have a better comprehension of climate change down the road. Around the age of nine or 10, children are able to consume more abstract concepts. This means that they can absorb information through discussion and hands-on activities. Related: 7 ways to conserve water and reduce your water footprint Make it tangible Although children become capable of engaging in the discussion, it’s always better to help them see the problem through hands-on activities. The goal is to visually express the point. For example, create a science experiment in your kitchen where you grow plants in an aquarium and add chemicals to the water. Show them images of environmental pollution and talk about how the food chain is affected by the loss of a species. When thinking about examples that will resonate with your child, keep in mind his or her interests. Are they passionate about a particular animal? What about babies, trees, bugs or food? Meet them where their interests lie for the best results. Be factual, not inflammatory For children to have an understanding that might lead to change, they must first understand the facts. Using fear tactics is not likely to net the result you’re looking for. Instead, focus on facts that are easily digestible. Don’t worry about statistics and hard data. Instead, discuss things that interest them. Make it a regular conversation. While washing the vegetables at the kitchen sink, discuss where the water comes from, how it’s treated and where it goes after it heads down the drain. Explain how chemicals in that water end up back in the system. When planting the garden, talk about how the plants benefit from sunlight and water, and how that ultimately brings energy into our bodies. Remember that the conversation regarding climate change will be ongoing. As they get older, discuss reports, news and articles. Educate them about how the fossil fuels  that plastic is made from affects the planet, and challenge them to think about changes you could make as a family to eliminate plastic in your home. Your children will have questions. When they do, admit if you don’t have the answers. Empower them by showing them how to perform effective research and find the answers together (within the allowed boundaries of internet usage in your home). While you’re online, track down a carbon footprint calculator and have your children complete it with you as a measurement of your electrical and water consumption. Find resources for every age The idea of climate change is certainly not new, and generations of teachers and parents have found interesting ways to discuss the issues with children of all ages. Books and videos that cover the effects of climate change on our planet are prevalent and allow you to preview material before sharing it with children. Read books that are engaging and informative. Start with “The Magic School Bus” or “Bill Nye the Science Guy” for digestible and entertaining content. Related: Oceans warming 40 percent faster than previously thought Keep it positive Although a virtual dark cloud sometimes goes hand-in-hand with discussions around climate change, try to focus conversations around positive actions. Discussing the topic by showing your child news reports of other children picking up plastic trash or businesses aimed at sustainable practices. This shows them that many, many people are making tangible changes already and offers encouragement that they too can make a difference through small or large actions. Do as you say The most powerful statement you can make to your child is living the life that you talk about. Although children hear what you say, when they see you taking your own shopping bags to the grocery store and they understand why, it drives home the message. Work with your children to avoid single-use plastic by making your own yogurt and applesauce, taking a reusable water bottle everywhere you go and declining straws at the restaurant. Recycle at home and explain the process as you go. Nurture their environmentalist tendencies by signing up for a beach clean up day or a community tree planting event. Via Rainforest Alliance , NASA , Scholastic and Study Images via Shutterstock

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Faux fur or real fur, which one is better for the planet?

January 9, 2019 by  
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Remember the days when anti-fur advocates would sling red paint onto the fur-clad fashion lovers dressed in mink? The fur debate has come a long way since then, with many key players in the fashion world now becoming some of the biggest voices in the anti-fur movement. But, instead of ditching fur altogether, some brands have switched to lavish faux fur options, and that has pivoted the discussion. Instead of focusing on ethics and animal welfare, the spotlight is now shining on its  environmental sustainability. Is it good for the environment? Over the past couple of decades, faux fur has evolved from a cheap, itchy material to a luxurious, affordable option that looks just like the real thing. Faux fur now looks so realistic that consumers can’t tell the difference, but is this option really better for the environment? If you are morally opposed to wearing fur, then it is easy to avoid it. However, if you are just trying to make the best choice for the environment, there are some things you need to know. Just because a piece of clothing might be animal -free, it doesn’t mean it’s not causing damage. Fur industry lobbyists now argue that faux fur is a less sustainable choice because it is made from acrylic, which is a synthetic material made from a non-renewable source that takes centuries to biodegrade. “Petroleum-based faux fur products are the complete antithesis of the concept of responsible environmental conservation,” says Keith Kaplan, director of communications at the Fur Information Council of America. “Right off the top, petrol-based plastic fur is extremely harmful to the environment. It isn’t biodegradable. It’s harmful to wildlife .” Kaplan also points out that trapping wild animals like fox, coyotes and beavers— which is about 15 percent of the fur trade— actually helps manage the wildlife population, and it also provides a livelihood for many indigenous communities. What do the experts say? The research is starting to support this opinion , and we are just beginning to learn about the environmental impact of microfibers— the tiny plastic particles that synthetic fabrics shed when you wash them. A 2016 study published in Environmental Science & Technology found that when you wash a synthetic jacket, it can release an average of 1,174 milligrams of microfibers. And, whatever isn’t filtered out by wastewater treatment plants can end up in waterways, and aquatic animals will ingest them. Many designers, like London-based footwear label Mou, have taken the stance that real fur is a more sustainable option than faux fur because the synthetic is a “non-biodegradable pollutant.” Mou founder Shelley Tichborne says that the faux fabrics don’t “breathe” like natural materials, and that causes unpleasant smells and shortens the product’s lifespan. Related: This couch made from recycled water bottles is built to last a lifetime “In contrast, the natural fiber materials we use such as calfskin, goatskin, sheepskin, antelope, lambskin and rabbit fur are by-products of the meat and dairy industries — all the animals are eaten for their meat, and some produce milk for human consumption,” Tichborne says. “The skins from these animals are naturally beautiful, soft to the touch, warm, bio-degradable and durable, lasting — with care — for up to thirty years.” Anti-fur advocates admit that synthetics like faux fur aren’t the best substitute, but they say the environmental hazards in the fur manufacturing process make real fur the worse option. Advocates claim that CO2 emissions produced from feeding thousands of minks on a single farm, manure runoffs into nearby lakes and rivers and toxic chemicals used in fur dressing and dyeing is evidence enough that real fur is far worse for the environment compared to its alternative counterpart. They also mention that the traps used to hunt wild animals ensnare “non-target” animals like domestic dogs, cats and birds. Which is best? There is a ton of evidence that backs up both sides of the argument, and it is a lot of information to process. But, the reality is that banning fur outright doesn’t solve all of the issues in fashion’s supply chains since the alternatives are petroleum-based textiles. However, the consumer interest in this issue can only be a good thing. We know for sure that cheap, disposable clothing— and our tendency to buy and throw out almost all of it— is terrible for the environment. But, is it really a good idea to wear genuine fur instead of faux fur? Ultimately, it comes down to your own morals and ethics, and the debate won’t be settled anytime soon. Fortunately, with technological advancements happening every day, it probably won’t be long before we start seeing faux furs that have a smaller environmental footprint. Via Fashionista , Refinery29 , HuffPost Images via Shutterstock, Tamara Bellis

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Faux fur or real fur, which one is better for the planet?

Can vegan pet food be good for the planet and your pet?

December 20, 2018 by  
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Does your pup hover at your feet when the smell of bacon or steak wafts in his direction? It’s no surprise, considering the ingredients dogs are used to receiving and the evolution of the species. Every bag of food at the pet store promotes meat as its main ingredient. From chicken to lamb to bison, meat reigns supreme in the pet food world. Now it is coming to light that maybe it would benefit the planet and our pets if we moved to vegan food to fulfill their dietary needs. But is a plant-based diet both good for your pup and our Earth? Many companies are jumping into the plant-based pet food market. Celebrities are shining a light on the irony of providing shelter for animals and then feeding them animal-based foods. More and more people are beginning to question whether feeding meat-based foods is an unnecessary form of animal cannibalism. Does it make sense to rescue animals like rabbits in one effort and then raise them for slaughter in another? Related: A guide to the best eco-friendly holiday gifts for pets A potential issue with meat-based pet food is the consumption of meat in a world already stressed by the burdens that cattle and other livestock industries contribute to the planet. When you consider that animals drink water and also consume foods that require water to grow, the effects are staggering, and it explains why many vegans have chosen a meat-free diet. In addition to gouging water resources, animal production requires massive amounts of land. Opponents of the meat industry argue that all forms of fruits and vegetables produce more consumable food per acre and use significantly fewer resources. Some estimates report that eliminating meat from the pet food market could reduce the environmental impact by over 25 percent. Of course, there is also the ethical component in the mix. Ask any PETA member and they will scream out that raising animals entirely for the purpose of butcher is inhumane. Plus, there are well-documented issues about how these animals are treated during their short life cycles with little room to move, limited access to the outdoors and an inability to follow their instincts. Related: This sustainable dog house has a green roof and solar-powered fan to keep cool Many animals are already vegan . Think cows, hamsters and elephants, for starters. So we know that humans and some animals can survive without meat. But does that apply to our domestic friends, too? The question has been asked, “Is it healthy for animals to go vegan?” This is where science and veterinarians weigh in. In short, the answer is yes, cats and dogs can be perfectly healthy eating a vegan diet. Like humans, the key is acquiring the right nutritional balance. We associate meat with protein , but vegetables can fill that requirement just as well in many ways. There are exceptions, however. For example, some vets argue that cats and dogs do not absorb vitamin D from the sun and need to get it from their food. Specifically, dogs and humans can absorb D2 from foods, but cats need D3, only available in animal proteins. An inadequately balanced diet can result in a deficiency of minerals, nutrients, vitamins, amino proteins (especially taurine) and essential fatty acids. A shortage of these dietary needs can lead to irreversible medical issues. As the premium pet food market explodes, manufacturers are finding ways to make sure that food meets the nutritional needs of our pets. That means that many products spend time in a lab before being added to food. This food technology is not new. Scientists have worked toward meat substitutes in our food markets for many years. The advantage of transferring this technology over to animal products is that the consumer is a whole lot less picky. Where humans require a smell and texture similar to the meat variety, pets don’t care about tactile pleasure. That means that pet food produced with the help of a lab is faster and less expensive to make. It also means that scientists can carefully balance the nutrients in the food, even if the ingredients don’t provide them upfront. The bottom line is that pets need specific nutrients, regardless of what form they come in. These needs are well-backed by science, so everyone can agree that if the nutritional profile is being met, then it’s absolutely healthy for your pet to sustain a vegan-based diet. The problem is getting a guarantee that your pet food selection in fact meets those needs. Pet owners should not make the decision lightly. After all, modern day pets are members of the family, and we want to provide them the best care we can. When considering the switch to vegan pet food, there are several things to keep in mind. Make sure the food has been thoroughly tested through trials and has met the requirement outlined by the AAFCO (Association of American Feed Control Officials). Discuss the switch with your veterinarian; not only are they trained in animal diets, but they’ve seen the results of a poor diet and can guide you toward the best combination for your pet. Get a preliminary or baseline blood test for your pet, and take them back in for another test after six months. Never feed a vegan diet to puppies or kittens, or any animal that you plan to breed, as these groups have additional nutritional needs. While many see this as an opportunity to significantly reduce the carbon footprint from meat production and offer an alternative to the use of animals in animal food, others maintain the believe that there is no substitute for the real thing. Either way, the market is providing options for consumers on both sides of the aisle. Via Popular Science Images via Ish Ka , Mimzy and Shutterstock

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Can vegan pet food be good for the planet and your pet?

Study finds microplastics in sea turtles around the world

December 12, 2018 by  
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The microplastics problem in the oceans has made its way to sea turtles in a big way. A new study from researchers at the University of Exeter and Plymouth Marine Laboratory along with Greenpeace Research Laboratories has found microplastics in the guts of every single turtle they tested — a total of 102 sea turtles. The researchers tested more than 100 sea turtles from all seven species and three different oceans , and they were looking for synthetic particles less than 5 mm in length. The most common thing the team found were fibers, which most likely came from clothing, tires, cigarette filters and fishing equipment. Related: Microplastics have made their way into human poop “The effect of these particles on turtles is unknown,” said lead author Emily Duncan from the University of Exeter’s Center for Ecology and Conservation. “Their small size means they can pass through the gut without causing a blockage, as is frequently reported with larger plastic fragments.” Duncan added that future work should focus on the effects of microplastics in aquatic organisms , and researchers should look for possible contaminants, bacteria or viruses as well as how the microplastics affect turtles on a cellular level. The researchers found more than 800 synthetic particles in the turtles , but since they only tested part of the gut, they believe the total number of particles could be 20 times higher. They don’t know how the turtles ingest the particles, but they think the sources are polluted seawater and the digestion of polluted prey or plants. Professor Brendan Godley, the senior author of the study, said that the ingestion of microplastics isn’t the biggest threat to sea turtles at the moment, but it is a clear sign that we need to do a better job governing global waste . Penelope Lindeque from Plymouth Marine Laboratory said that during their work over the years, researchers have found microplastics in all of the marine animals they have studied. This turtle study is just more evidence that we need to reduce the amount of plastic waste, so we can maintain clean and healthy oceans for future generations. + University of Exeter Image via Jeremy Bishop

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Study finds microplastics in sea turtles around the world

The limits of science-based targets

November 7, 2018 by  
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The concept of science-based targets is important — but they can ignore the urgency and ambition called for by the science.

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The limits of science-based targets

China plans to launch the world’s first ‘artificial moon’

October 29, 2018 by  
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A private aerospace institute in China has announced its ambitious plan to launch an “artificial moon” into stationary orbit above the city of Chengdu. Referred to as an “illumination satellite,” the new moon would serve as a sunlight reflector to provide a nighttime and backup light source for residents in the Sichuan province city. The venture — still obscure due to a lack of information — was first reported by Chinese newspaper People’s Daily in mid October. Since then, there have been many conflicting reports and figures on how the new moon would operate — or if it even could. Wu Chunfeng, chairman of Chengdu Aerospace Science and Technology Microelectronics System Research Institute Co., Ltd. and head of Tianfu New District System Science Research Institute, said the artificial moon has been under development and testing for a few years and “is now nearly ready to launch.” Related: California plans to launch its own satellite to monitor air pollution There have been no accounts of what the stunt-double moon actually looks like or if it has any official support from the government or financial backers. Both experts and the general public have expressed widespread skepticism and even ridicule at the announcement. If the 2020 project does succeed, Wu claimed that two additional moons could be ready for orbit by 2022. “By then, the three huge mirrors will divide the 360-degree orbital plane, realizing illuminating an area for 24 hours continuously,” he said. The project aims to help Chengdu save money and electricity on street lamps and provide a reliable light source during blackouts caused by natural disasters and grid malfunctions. According to the aerospace center’s figures, a whopping $173 million ($1.2 billion yuan) could be saved on streetlights yearly for illuminating even a small portion of 19 square miles (50 sq km). The cost of illuminating the whole city? Well, in the long run, it’s certainly less than putting a moon in space, according to Wu. Dr. Matteo Ceriotti, a professor of space systems engineering, said the project is feasible and not as silly as it sounds. “Think of this as sort of an investment,” he explained to BBC . “ Electricity at night is very expensive, so if you could say, have free illumination for up to 15 years, it might work out better economically in the long term.” Recent social media backlash against the Chengdu moon has centered around the issue of animal protection. While Harbin Institute of Technology Director Kang Weimin insists that the fake moon “should not affect animals’ routines,” because its light would be similar to a “dusk-like glow,” other scientists disagree. Despite his agreeable response to the project, Ceriotti said, “It will disrupt the night cycle of nature [if the light is too strong], and this could possibly affect animals.” Wu insisted that the aerospace company’s technology could dim and brighten the moon. The light, which has the ability to reflect a beam “eight times” brighter than the moon, could also be timed. All in all, the few and contradicting details surrounding the project makes it uncertain whether the new moon will launch successfully in 2020. While experts debate whether or not it should be launched in the first place, those in Chengdu are probably looking upward, wondering whether or not they’ll miss this night sky — one that might never look the same again. Via BBC , China Daily  and  People’s Daily Images via Spencer Arquimedes and Mike Petrucci

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