Worms May Save the World From Plastic Glut

Wax Worm, unlikely ally fighting plastic pollution

Worm guts may save the world from the avalanche of plastic accumulating  in the environment. Humans produce about 80 million tonnes of polyethylene every year. An amateur beekeeper in Spain has discovered a caterpillar that actually munches and thrives on the plastic. It helps that Federica Bertocchini is a biologist working at the Institute of Biomedicine and Biotechnology in Spain.
She noticed that her beehives were infested with these “worms”, the larvae of the wax moth, Galleria mellonella, and were happily munching through her honeycombs. She tossed them into a plastic bag and found they quickly escaped by chewing holes in the bag.
Polyethylene is slow to biodegrade and often fails to do so over many months. Scientists have tried exposing it to various life forms like bacteria and fungi but the process is slow. The wax worms are fast, munching holes in the plastic and converting it to ethylene glycol.
The wax moths may be found …

Last Orca Born at Sea World Texas

Orcas belong in the ocean Sea World, Texas, has announced that an Orca calf was born on April 19 will be the last one at their facility. The public has learned a great deal since the first Orca or Killer Whale was captured alive and displayed at an aquarium and the tide of opinion has turned against the capture and breeding of the animals.
Mortality rates are higher in Orcas that are confined and kept away from their family groups. Sea World has had 43 pregnancies in its captive Orcas. Half of those pregnancies ended in miscarriages or early death of the youngsters.
In the wild, Orcas live in family groups led by a matriarch. Males can live as long as 60 years and females as long as 90. They have complex communications and are judged to be intelligent. They have large brains and can “speak” in several whale dialects. Younger whales in the pod learn from the older members.
There are also three distinct groups of Orcas. One group lives in the open ocean and hunts sharks; one hunts mamm…

Campbell River British Columbia at Risk for Oil Spills

Would you like oil with that?

 Top: Early morning looking toward Quadra Island Top Rt. Totem figures holding up roof of gathering place. Many small fishers depend on clean unpolluted waters.Rt. end of building depicts Sea Snake(serpent) First Nation Art.
Left. Art work along esplanade. Based on war helmet.
Bottom: Welcome figure on sea side of FN shopping centre

Campbell River is just one of many small coastal towns at risk for oil spills. While the government in Ottawa debates the merits of oil pipelines and proposed increase of tanker traffic in the hundreds per year, these small coastal towns remain vulnerable.
This little town located on the northern and eastern coast of Vancouver Island has seen its ups and downs over the years. A hydro-electric dam started in the late 40s brought temporary work for men. Logging and fishing were big money makers through the following decades. But once the big timbers were cut and easy fishing played out the cycle of boom and bust continued. Recen…

Fukushima Still Spewing Radiation 6 Years Later

The nuclear power reactor on the east coast of Japan dubbed Fukushima Daiichi has been out of commission for six years. The reactor complex was part of the damage done by a combination of strong earthquake and destructive tsunami that slammed into the beachfront installation.
Radiation is still escaping. In February, a probe was sent into one of the wrecked reactor containers. It recorded a reading of 530 Sieverts. This is more than seven times the previous high level taken in 2012 of 73 Sieverts. An exposure to one Sievert is enough to make a person sick and 5 Sieverts is enough to kill.
A spokesperson for the clean up operation mused that the high reading might be due to a difference in the sampling technique. The person did offer that the probe observed a hole in the metal grating below the containment vessel and opined that the melted nuclear fuel may have run through it. Dark lumps observed by the probe might be remains of nuclear fuel rods.
The clean up of the destroyed electri…

US Congress and Senate Pass Bill to Allow Animal Snuff Films

Soon you might be allowed to kill them in their sleep. Opinion:
It is not too strong an allegation to make. In a vote of 225 to 198 Congress voted in H J Resolution 69 which has been described as “The stuff of wildlife snuff films.”Both sides of the house voted for the bill and both sides against.
If US President Trump signs the bill it will be legal to hunt predators in the Alaska Federal Game Refuges. To use the term ‘hunt’ loosely, it will allow humans to dig wolf puppies out of their den to kill them. It will allow hunters to extirpate whole packs from large areas.
But wait, there’s more. Hibernating bears will be fair game for the ruthless. Female bears denned up with cubs will be a two for one as no cubs can survive without their mother’s care. To ensure an adequate amount of suffering and maiming, the bill also would allow bear traps and snares to be placed in the refuge areas. Both black and grizzlies would be targets. If the bears are reluctant to step into the leghold traps, t…

N. Dakota Oil Spill Dumps Half Million Gallons

Estimates of this spill have now been adjusted to 530 000 gallons. North Dakota has suffered a large oil spill from a ruptured pipeline. Over half a million gallons have seeped out of the soil and into Ash Coulee Creek. The creek is a tributary to the Little Missouri River which in turn flows into the Missouri River.
The company that owns the pipeline has revised its figures on the December spill upward from  176 000 gallons to 530 000 gallons. They have embarked on a clean up exercise by skimming oil floating on the waterway and have assured the public that they will clean it up. It may take a year.
The pipeline company did not elaborate on how they plan to recapture the oil that has already floated down river.
This is not the largest oil spill in N. Dakota. In 2013 a ruptured pipeline released about 840 000 gallons.
The revelation comes hard on the heels of US President D. Trump’s signing an executive order to restart construction of the Keystone XL pipeline which would bring Alber…

Atmospheric Ammonia on the Increase

Air is a shared. Eventually pollutants travel and disperse affecting air quality far from their generation. Scientists at the University of Maryland have developed a way to measure atmospheric ammonia using data generated by NASA satellites. The scientists point out a troubling increase in atmospheric ammonia over the past four years.
The areas showing the greatest increases were the USA, Europe, India and China.
Much of the increase is blamed on agricultural practices which use large amounts of fertilizer, those which generate large amounts of animal waste and climate warming that increases soil temperatures. In the USA some of the increase may be attributed to the vigorous efforts to control acid rain. As the acid rain has come under control, atmospheric ammonia may increase.
Why should we care about ammonia in the air? Because too much can cause a lot of harm. One of the authors of the study, Russell Dickerson, was quoted in the NASA news release – “It has a profound effect on air an…