conservation

Keeping Track of Deep-Sea Mining

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.

Endangered frog recovers thanks to resistance to deadly fungus

For decades a deadly fungus has been slaughtering amphibians around the world, driving many to the brink of extinction or even beyond.

But now one frog’s recovery shows that, with a little luck and habitat preservation, some amphibians may be able to evolve resistance to the fungusRead more in New Scientist.

The surprising link between the tapirs of Costa Rica and climate change

New studies suggest that protecting tapirs and other large seed-eating mammals is key to preserving carbon storage in rain forests.

Esteban Brenes-Mora has been obsessed with tapirs — large, pig-like jungle dwellers — for as long as he can remember. It started with a sticker book his grandfather gave him as a child, and continued through zoo visits and into his university studies.

“I’ve always been passionate about tapirs,” he says. “When I studied biology I was aiming for tapirs, and since I graduated I’ve been looking for ways to study them.” Read more in Ensia.

Israel’s botanical gardens face funding crisis

Israel’s 11 botanical gardens are scrambling to cope with deep cuts in funding from the government’s agricultural ministry. Government spending on the gardens, which host research and education programs and are often associated with universities, is down by more than 50% this year. That’s a reprieve from a 98% cut that the ministry announced last year, but still a major blow for the gardens, which rely heavily on government funds to pay for basic operations.

“There were times this year when we couldn’t afford potting soil, or even printer paper,” says Tal Levanony, curator of Tel Aviv University’ in Israel’s botanical garden. “I’m not sure how the researchers will cope without support.” Read more in Science.

Watch a baby sea turtle being hypnotised so we can weigh it

Baby sea turtles are an energetic bunch. As soon as they emerge from their sandy nests they scramble down the beach and swim out to sea. This frantic burst of activity helps the turtles evade predators, but it can be a real headache for researchers who want to gather measurements from these tiny, squirming subjects.

“We often heard about novice researchers dropping hatchlings,” says Mohd Uzair Rusli, a biologist at the University of Malaysia Terengganu in Kuala Terengganu. A drop in the lab from table height can be deadly, damaging their fragile internal organs. Read more in New Scientist.

Orangutan population in Sumatra more than doubles after census

There are more than twice as many orangutans on the Indonesian island of Sumatra as we thought, according to a new survey. But deforestation and development could still see their numbers plummet over the next decade.

A team led by Serge Wich, a primatologist at Liverpool John Moores University in the UK, scoured the Sumatran forest and found evidence that there were more than 14,600 apes living there, more than double the previous estimate of 6600. Read more in New Scientist.

Alligators help protect bird nests – but still snack on chicks

It’s raining food for alligators in the Everglades – those that act as bodyguards for nesting birds get paid in chicks.

It’s not uncommon for one animal to gain protection from a neighbour. In Florida’s Everglades, wading birds like storks and egrets preferentially build their nests where alligators live, because the presence of the big reptiles protects them from nest-raiding racoons and opossums.

Lucas Nell of the University of Florida in Gainesville has now cruised the Everglades at night to see what the alligator bodyguards get out of the deal. Read more in New Scientist.

Repelling a Hunter

Scientists are still not really sure if, or how, magnetic shark repellents work.

Sharks get a bad rap, though sometimes for good reason. At times they can be a nuisance, or even a threat. They eat endangered seals; occasionally take a bite out of unsuspecting swimmers and surfers; and, to their own detriment, get caught in gear intended for other fish. Technology that would allow people to repel hungry sharks might save countless lives—particularly the sharks’. Read more in Hakai.