July 20, 2018 – In her blog for Scientific American, Jennifer M. Archambault wrote about Using Herbicides to Save Endangered Snails.
The habitat of the rare, tiny Panhandle pebbles snail, which consumes algae and other microorganisms and is integral to maintaining the ecological balance in river systems, is threatened by an invasive aquatic plant called hydrilla. Introduced through the aquarium trade in the 1950s into the ponds and canals of Florida, it has worked its way into many southern states and is on the Federal Noxious Weeds list. Humans aid in its spread, as it can easily propigate from small fragments on boat motors or fishing equipment. After much field study and testing, it was found in a pilot study in the Eno River in North Carolina that, with applications of a herbicide, the hydrilla is dramatically thinning, and the snails’ population is growing. A great deal of work is left to do to control the hydrilla in the greater Southern water system, but the data gives hope. Read Jennifer’s blog post here.
From ScienceDaily, July 5, 2018. Bacteria-powered solar cell converts light to energy, even under overcast skies!
U of BC researchers have found a cheap, sustainable way to build a solar cell using bacteria that convert light to energy. Their cell generated a current stronger than any previously recorded from such a device, and worked as efficiently in dim light as in bright light. This innovation could be a step toward wider adoption of solar power in places like British Columbia and parts of northern Europe where overcast skies are common. This is great news, particularly since it’s from Canada, where the government hopefully cares about its environment more than the current administration in the U.S.
“We recorded the highest current density for a biogenic solar cell. These hybrid materials that we are developing can be manufactured economically and sustainably, and, with sufficient optimization, could perform at comparable efficiencies as conventional solar cells.” Read the article here.
Another article from ScienceDaily, June 18, 2018
Cementless fly ash binder makes concrete ‘green’
Engineers use byproduct from coal-fired power plants to replace Portland cement. It is made primarily of fly ash, a byproduct of coal-fired power plants. If you noticed an article in the NY Times this week that reported the EPA is easing standards on the disposal of toxic coal ash, this development could provide some way of cleaning up some of the messes created by these plants. Read more about this new composite, environmentally friendly material here.
Another, related article about this sustainable alternative to traditional concrete using coal fly ash is here. This article mentions that the production method doesn’t require heating, which is one of the other polluting aspects of concrete manufacture. The cement less binder also aids groundwater and mitigates flooding, because water can pass through it, unlike cement. Read this article here.
Also, Focus On the Anhinga.
This bird quickly spears a fish with its sharp bill, then flips it into the air and swallows it head first. Sometimes the Anhinga spears the fish so hard it has to return to shore to get the fish off its bill by banging the fish against a rock.
Also known as snakebird, the Anhinga sometimes swims slowly underwater stalking fish around submerged vegetation, but when hunting at the surface, it stretches its head and neck flat out on the surface of the water, above its submerged body. With head and neck stretched out, it has the appearance of a snake is gliding through the water.
The Anhinga’s feathers are not waterproofed with oils, and can get waterlogged, but this helps it stay submerged for long periods of time. Afterwards, it will perch for long periods with its wings spread to dry them. If it tries to fly with wet wings, it has difficultly getting airborne, so it has to take off by flapping energetically and running on the surface of the water.
Once in the air, it is a graceful flier and can go long distances without flapping its wings, using thermals for soaring, and can achieve altitudes of several thousand feet.