Expeditions will delve into the wild, looking for species that haven’t been seen for at least a decade.
Somewhere deep in the remote and largely inaccessible wetlands of northern Myanmar, Richard Thorns hopes to find a ghost. This fall, the ambulance driver and amateur ornithologist plans to leave his home in Crowborough, England to launch his seventh expedition in search of the elusive — and quite possibly extinct — pink-headed duck.
The striking but shy bird was always a rare sight in the marshes of India, Bangladesh and Myanmar, and little is known about its behavior and habits. Its large, dark brown body, with characteristic pink plumage adorning its head and neck, has not been conclusively seen in the wild since 1949. But Thorns has made it his personal mission to prove that the bird is still out there. Read more in Inside Science.
Software helps a conservation group see where shade trees will best cool a river. Then the hard work starts.
In 2011, the city of Medford in Oregon had a problem. The treated water being released into the Rogue River from its sewage treatment plant was too warm, threatening the river’s fish.
The historically cool Rogue River was already warming, and Medford’s discharge could raise the temperature by another 0.18 degrees Celsius. Warmer rivers have less oxygen, and cause fish to hatch earlier and die younger. To stay on the right side of Environmental Protection Agency regulations, Medford had to find a way to cool down its wastewater.
“We looked at agricultural re-use, chillers, cooling towers and lagoons, but all the options were really expensive – more than $15 million,” said Tom Suttle, construction manager for the city’s water reclamation division. Read more in Inside Science.
Flying foxes are in deep trouble. Almost half the species of this type of fruit bat are now threatened with extinction.
The bats face a variety of threats, including deforestation and invasive species, but the main one is hunting by humans, says Christian Vincenot, an ecological modeller at Kyoto University in Japan, who highlights their plight in a perspective article in Science this week. Read more in New Scientist.
Renowned crane conservationist George Archibald just returned from a global tour to meet every species of crane in the wild. Here’s what he saw.
This week, when George Archibald arrived in Port Aransas, Texas for the annual Whooping Crane Festival, it marked the end of a remarkable journey. He was back with his beloved Whooping Cranes—one of the birds that inspired him to start the International Crane Foundation (ICF) in 1973—after a whirlwind tour visiting all 15 species of cranes in their native habitats.
For six weeks he travelled around the world, stopping in nine countries on four continents, to check in on the Whoopers’ extended family: the six-foot-tall Sarus Crane in India, South Africa’s Grey Crowned-Crane with its elegant spray of golden head feathers, the bluish-gray, salt-water-drinking Brolga in Australia, and many more. Read more in Audubon Magazine.
Pythons may be setting off a cascade of ecosystem changes.
The huge Burmese pythons that are slowly taking over Florida’s Everglades wetlands are a threat to the mammals that live there. But new research shows the pythons’ influence extends far beyond their own appetites: the snakes are setting off cascading changes to the ecosystem. Read more in Hakai Magazine.
Wolves may be better at sharing their meals with bears than we thought.
Biologists have long assumed that when wolves and brown bears share territory, the wolves are forced to kill more often to make up for the food stolen by scavenging bears.
But when Aimee Tallian, a biologist at Utah State University, and her colleagues looked for evidence of this, they found the opposite. Where wolves live alongside bears in Scandinavia and Yellowstone National Park in the US, they actually kill less often. Read more in New Scientist.
Can New Zealand pull off an audacious plan to get rid of all invasive predators by 2050?
Razza the rat nearly ended James Russell’s scientific career. Twelve years ago, as an ecology graduate student, Russell was releasing radio-collared rats on to small islands off the coast of New Zealand to study how the creatures take hold and become invasive. Despite his sworn assurances that released animals would be well monitored and quickly removed, one rat, Razza, evaded capture and swam to a nearby island.
For 18 weeks, Russell hunted the animal. Frustrated and embarrassed, he fretted about how the disaster would affect his PhD. “I felt rather morose about the prospects for my dissertation,” he says. Read more in Nature.
The increasingly urban birds are carrying salmonella.
If you’re golfing in Florida this winter, resist the urge to feed the friendly white ibises congregating around the water hazards—they might just give you salmonella.
The birds, native to Florida’s dwindling wetlands, have been moving to urban golf courses and parks. There they come into close contact with people—even being hand-fed in some cases—and leave their droppings on benches and buildings. Each point of contact has the potential to infect people. Read more in Hakai Magazine.
The odds world governments will finally agree to establish marine protected areas in the Southern Ocean are looking better than ever.
The Southern Ocean around Antarctica is one of the most diverse, fragile, and poorly studied ocean ecosystems on Earth. But as far as marine protection goes, it’s the Wild West. That could soon change, as representatives from 24 countries plus the European Union sit down this week to discuss the establishment of three marine protected areas (MPAs) in the waters off Antarctica. If the proposed protections go through, they will be the first of their kind for Antarctica’s marine environment. Read more in Hakai Magazine.
A new website uses ship location data to track deep-sea mining exploration.
Mining companies have claimed more than a million square kilometers of ocean around the world and soon—maybe sooner than you think—will begin sending huge robotic diggers to grind up the seafloor and extract gold, copper, manganese, and other metals to feed our growing hunger for raw materials. Read more in Hakai.