Dragonflies reveal United States mercury pollution


This 2013 video from the USA is about dragonflies.

From Dartmouth College in the USA:

Dragonflies reveal mercury pollution levels across US national parks

Local research project spurs first nationwide survey of the toxic metal

July 22, 2020

A citizen science program that began over a decade ago has confirmed the use of dragonflies to measure mercury pollution, according to a study in Environmental Science & Technology.

The national research effort, which grew from a regional project to collect dragonfly larvae, found that the young form of the insect predator can be used as a “biosentinel” to indicate the amount of mercury that is present in fish, amphibians and birds.

The finding will make it easier to conduct mercury research and could lead to a national registry of pollution data on the toxic metal.

“Researchers needed a proxy for fish since that is what people and animals eat,” said Celia Chen, director of Dartmouth’s Toxic Metals Superfund Research Program and a co-author of the study. “Fish can be hard to work with for a national-level research program, so it’s helpful to be able to focus our research on dragonfly larvae.”

Dragonflies occupy diverse freshwater habitats across six continents and have tissues that take up mercury in its toxic form. As predators, dragonflies operate in the food web in a manner that is similar to fish, birds and amphibians that also accumulate mercury in their body tissues.

The study includes data from thousands of larval dragonfly specimens collected from nearly 500 locations across 100 sites within the U.S. National Park System. The survey was collected from 2009 through 2018 as part of the national Dragonfly Mercury Project.

“The support of citizen scientists around the country created the opportunity for this study to have such significance. This is a terrific example of how public outreach around science can bring results that help the entire country,” said Chen.

Methylmercury, the organic form of the toxic metal mercury, poses risks to humans and wildlife through the consumption of fish. Mercury pollution comes from power plants, mining and other industrial sites. It is transported in the atmosphere and then deposited in the natural environment, where wildlife can be exposed to it.

Fish and aquatic birds are commonly used to monitor mercury levels but are difficult to work with in a large-scale project because of their size, migratory patterns, and the diversity of species. Dragonfly larvae are easy to collect and make the citizen science research project possible.

“It is extremely rewarding to assist teachers and their students to engage in data-driven, real-world research impacting their communities. I see a lot of enthusiasm from students eager to take part in ‘real’ science,” said Kate Buckman, a research scientist who serves as Dartmouth’s coordinator for the citizen science program.

As part of the decade-long study, researchers came up with the first-ever survey of mercury pollution in the U.S. National Park System. The research found that about two-thirds of the aquatic sites studied within the national parks are polluted with moderate-to-extreme levels of mercury.

The finding of mercury within park sites is not an indicator that the source of pollution is in the parks themselves. Mercury is distributed widely within the atmosphere and is deposited in the protected areas as it is in other water bodies across the country.

Given that the parks studied stretch across the entire U.S., including Alaska and Hawaii, the findings reflect levels of mercury throughout the country.

“To date, we have not conducted such a broad scale survey on mercury in the U.S. The beauty of the dragonfly data set is that it is national, covers a huge area with different systems, and has the potential to create a national baseline of mercury pollution information,” said Chen.

The study also found that faster-moving bodies of water, such as rivers and streams, featured more mercury pollution than slower-moving systems including lakes, ponds, and wetlands.

According to the paper: “Collectively, this continental-scale study demonstrates the utility of dragonfly larvae for estimating the potential mercury risk to fish and wildlife in aquatic ecosystems and provides a framework for engaging citizen science as a component of landscape [mercury] monitoring programs.”

In the citizen science project, students and park visitors conduct field studies and collect the dragonfly specimens. National Park rangers help guide the citizen scientists through the protected sites.

The original project was launched by Dr. Sarah Nelson at the University of Maine and the Schoodic Institute in 2007. Dartmouth’s Toxic Metals Superfund Research Program developed a regional effort in New Hampshire and Vermont in 2010. The project was expanded nationally by the National Park Service and the U.S. Geological Survey.

The citizen science project in the Upper Valley region of New England typically runs in the fall with participation from high school students in New Hampshire and Vermont.

Researchers from the USGS, National Park Service, University of Maine, Appalachian Mountain Club and Dartmouth participated in this study. Collin Eagles-Smith from the USGS served as the paper’s lead author. Sarah Nelson who launched the original project is now director of research at the Appalachian Mountain Club.

Donald Trump’s United States coronavirus disaster continues


This 24 July 2020 video says about itself:

Trump cancels in-person Republican convention events in Florida

The staggering impact of COVID-19 on the United States shows no sign of easing.

The number of infections across the country has crossed four million.

President Trump has called off the main Republican convention events in Florida, because of coronavirus fears.

Al Jazeera’s Heidi Zhou-Castro reports.

US coronavirus hospitalizations surge back to April highs. By Bryan Dyne, 24 July 2020. The spike in hospitalizations is the result of infections surging nationally, including more than 69,000 new cases today, along with 1,150 deaths, bringing the total known case count and death toll to 4.17 million and 147,000, respectively.

“They have put the needs of the 1 percent over the importance of human life”. NASSCO shipyard worker dies from COVID-19 in San Diego. By Linda Rios, 23 July 2020.

Amazon’s Jeff Bezos adds record $13 billion to net worth in a single day. By Jacob Crosse, 24 July 2020. US billionaires continue to profit fabulously off the pandemic while millions face hunger, eviction, and joblessness.

HOW HIS CONVENTION COLLAPSED The inability of local officials to assure needed security and relentlessly increasing coronavirus cases spurred President Donald Trump to pull the plug on his nominating convention in Florida. It’s the second time Trump has had to cancel a full-blown celebration of his nomination for a second term. Trump moved the convention from its original site, Charlotte, North Carolina, in June, because Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper refused to waive social distancing and mask-wearing rules. Trump said on Thursday that under a new plan, all the delegates will now meet in Charlotte and nominate him in late August. [HuffPost]

WHITE HOUSE DENIES STEPHEN MILLER’S GRANDMOTHER DIED OF COVID-19 The Trump administration rejected assertions that White House adviser Stephen Miller’s 97-year-old grandmother died of the coronavirus after his uncle reported earlier this month that she had fallen victim to COVID-19. “This morning my mother, Ruth Glosser, died of the late effects of COVID-19 like so many thousands of other people; both young and old,” Miller’s uncle, David Glosser wrote on Facebook on July 4. But when asked about Glosser’s death, the White House told Mother Jones the link to the coronavirus was incorrect. [HuffPost]

SENATOR RIPPED FOR REFUSING TO WEAR MASK IN MEETING WITH TRIBAL LEADERS  Democratic senators condemned Interior Secretary David Bernhardt for refusing to wear a mask in a recent meeting with leaders of the Klamath Tribes of Oregon. In a letter, Sens. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.), Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.) and Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) also said they’ve heard reports of Bureau of Land Management employees, who are part of the Interior Department, ignoring Oregon’s mask mandates in outdoor settings where people cannot stay six feet apart. This type of cavalier and callous indifference for human safety is unacceptable,” the senators wrote. [HuffPost]

Saving Chinese crested terns


This 23 July 2020 video says about itself:

A total of 19 Chinese crested tern eggs have successfully hatched at Jiushan Islands National Nature Reserve in Xiangshan County of Ningbo City in east China’s Zhejiang Province, adding to the number of the extremely endangered bird species. Only about 100 are currently known to be alive in the entire world.

From Oregon State University in the USA:

Saving critically endangered seabird

July 21, 2020

The global population of the critically endangered Chinese crested tern has more than doubled thanks to a historic, decade-long collaboration among Oregon State University researchers and scientists and conservationists in China, Taiwan and Japan.

The project included OSU’s Dan Roby and Don Lyons and was led by Chen Shuihua of the Zhejiang Museum of Natural History. When it began, fewer than 50 of the seabirds remained.

“The species is still far from being safe from extinction, but the population is now well over 100 adults and the future is much brighter than 10 years ago,” said Roby, professor emeritus in the Department of Fisheries and Wildlife in the College of Agricultural Sciences.

Findings were published in Biological Conservation.

First described in 1863, the Chinese crested tern has been a largely mysterious species and is arguably the world’s most threatened seabird.

After 21 specimens were collected in 1937 along the coast of Shandong Province, China, it wasn’t until 2000 that any other sightings were confirmed: four adults and four chicks within a large colony of greater crested terns in the Matsu Islands, Taiwan.

The discovery was big news in the ornithology world, which had generally considered the Chinese crested tern to be extinct. In the years since, breeding has been confirmed in five locations: three along the Chinese coast, plus an uninhabited island off the southwestern coast of South Korea and the Penghu Islands of Taiwan.

The Chinese crested tern is among the nearly one-third of seabird species threatened with extinction because of entanglement with fishing gear, reduction in food supplies, environmental contaminants, overharvest, and predation and other disturbances by invasive species.

“Most seabirds select nesting habitat largely by social cues, whose absence may delay recovery even when there is suitable habitat,” Roby said. “Since the 1970s, new techniques have been developed and implemented to enhance seabird restoration efforts. These techniques are social attraction and chick translocation and have been used in at least 171 different seabird restoration projects conducted in 16 locations in an attempt to restore 64 seabird species.”

Social attraction was the strategy for the Chinese crested tern project, the first major conservation effort for seabirds in the People’s Republic of China.

“Terns feed their young and provide other parental care for extended periods post-fledging, suggesting that chick translocations would likely not result in fledged young that would survive to recruit into the breeding population,” Roby said.

Social attraction involves decoys, recorded bird vocalizations, mirrors, scent and artificial burrows that work in concert to lure adult seabirds to restoration sites with the goal of establishing breeding colonies.

“The most serious immediate threat to the survival of the species was the illegal harvest of eggs by fishermen,” Roby said. “Beyond just taking the eggs, the disturbance associated with fishermen landing on breeding islands to collect eggs or shellfish apparently caused breeding terns to abandon their nesting sites.”

The scientists believed that if Chinese crested terns could be attracted to a site with suitable nesting habitat that was continuously monitored and secured against egg harvest and other human disturbances, the species could have a chance to recover from the brink of extinction.

In 2013, a tern restoration project was launched on Tiedun Dao, an uninhabited, densely vegetated, 2.58-hectare island in the Jiushan Islands, home to a former breeding colony of Chinese crested terns that was abandoned in 2007 in the wake of illegal egg harvesting.

“It’s near the original breeding island of Jiangjunmao but was not known to have been previously occupied by breeding seabirds,” Roby said. “To improve the chances for Chinese crested tern success, we used social attraction techniques to try to establish a new breeding colony of greater crested terns because since their rediscovery, Chinese crested terns had only been found nesting in large colonies of greater crested terns.”

In 2015, Yaqueshan, a 1-hectare island in the Wuzhishan Archipelago, was chosen as a second restoration site, where social attraction would be deployed in an attempt to stabilize the breeding colony there.

Three years later, the researchers attracted a total of 77 breeding adult Chinese crested terns to the Tiedun Dao and Yaqueshan colonies — 88.5% of the known number of breeding adults in the global population for that year.

Also in 2018, 25 Chinese crested tern chicks fledged from the Tiedun Dao and Yaqueshan colonies, or 96% of the known number of Chinese crested tern fledglings produced that year.

“Consequently, we now know for the first time in history that the global population of Chinese crested terns exceeds 100,” Roby said. “The population increase from under 50 to more than 100 is a cautiously hopeful sign that this species can be brought back from the very edge of extinction. The success of this international project is a testimony to what can be accomplished when scientists from China, the U.S. and Taiwan work together toward a common conservation goal.”

COVID-19 kills 3-year-old girl


This 23 July 2020 video from the USA says about itself:

85 babies in Nueces County, Texas, have tested positive for coronavirus since March — with 60 of the cases from July alone. Nueces has the highest rate of positive cases among all ages in the state. Corpus Christi residents Benjamin and Ashley Carrizales say they were shocked to learn that their 3-month son Samuel had contracted the coronavirus, a disease that disproportionately impacts the elderly.

Translated from Dutch NOS radio today:

In Belgium, a 3-year-old girl has died of the coronavirus. …

According to the Flemish broadcasting organisation, the girl is the youngest coronavirus victim in the country. “It may be exceptional that young people die from Covid-19, but let’s be clear: nobody is immune,” says Boudewijn Catry of the Crisis Center in Belgium.

Recently, COVID-19 killed a 18-year-old woman in Belgium. In March, it killed a 12-year-old girl in Gent.

What baby crown-of-thorns starfish eat


This 2016 video from Australia is about crown-of-thorns starfish.

From the University of Sydney in Australia:

Eating habits of baby predator starfish revealed

Juvenile crown-of-thorns starfish will eat almost anything to survive, complicating plans for their management

July 21, 2020

The varied diet of juvenile crown-of-thorns starfish complicates scientists’ ability to age them. This makes plans for the management of this invasive species more difficult, as outbreaks of adults on the reef are unpredictable.

Adult crown-of-thorns starfish pose one of the greatest threats to the Great Barrier Reef due to their coral diet. Marine life, including fish, crabs, seahorses, and turtles, depend on coral as a food source, as well as for shelter. No coral means no smaller creatures. This has a domino effect, ultimately decimating the food chain and ecosystem. Learning more about this starfish is crucial for efforts to save the Reef.

New research from Dione Deaker, a PhD student at the University of Sydney, and her adviser Professor Maria Byrne, along with colleagues at the National Marine Science Centre, Coffs Harbour, adds another piece to the crown-of-thorns puzzle. The research team has already shown that baby starfish can survive on algae for up to six and a half years instead of switching to a coral diet at four months of age, per their typical growth pattern. Now, they have discovered that juveniles can eat a range of algae, not just the algae they are thought to prefer; crustose coralline algae. They can even subsist on biofilm — microorganisms that cover the sea floor, including bacteria and protists — to avoid starvation.

“The diet flexibility of juvenile crown-of-thorns starfish complicates our ability to age this species and, therefore, our ability to predict devastating outbreaks of adults on reefs,” Ms Deaker said.

“There is potential for reserves of juveniles to accumulate on the reef and produce outbreaks when favourable feeding conditions arise.

“There is no doubt that these starfish are extremely opportunistic and resilient when their preferred food source is limited. We now demonstrate that this resilience also applies to the youngest juveniles.”

The researchers came to their conclusions, published in influential journal PLOS ONE, after feeding newly settled juveniles either crustose coralline algae, a different kind of algae (Amphiroa) or biofilm in a controlled environment, and then monitoring their growth.

Small juvenile crown-of-thorns starfish are just millimetres in diameter. Once they switch to a coral diet, they can grow to up to a metre wide.

Trump’s bully Pompeo bullies Denmark


This 22 July 2020 German TV video says about itself:

US’s Pompeo wants Denmark to stop work on Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline | DW News

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo is visiting Denmark to try to persuade Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen to stop work on the Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline passing through its waters. Denmark has just given the go-ahead for the work, but Pompeo hopes to get the Danes to change their minds. The US believes the pipeline will make Germany too dependent on Russian gas.

The Trump administration wants Germany to be dependent on United States fracking gas, from which Donald Trump profits personally.

Last week, Pompeo warned companies involved in the project they will be subject to US penalties if they didn’t halt their work. So how is the German government reacting to this latest US diplomatic offensive against Nord Stream 2? DW’s chief political editor Michaela Küfner spoke to German Defense Minister Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer.

Triassic era catastrophes and wildlife


This 18 June 2020 video from the USA says about itself:

Big Amphibians of the Chinle Formation!

Dinosaur Journey Re-Opens today! And to celebrate we wanted to share a video of Dr. Julia McHugh talking amphibians. Ever noticed the large red rock base of Independence Monument?! Well, that’s the Triassic age rock these amazing creatures were discovered. WATCH now to learn more!

From the University of Texas at Austin in the USA:

Arizona rock core sheds light on Triassic dark ages

July 20, 2020

A rock core from Petrified Forest National Park, Arizona, has given scientists a powerful new tool to understand how catastrophic events shaped Earth’s ecosystems before the rise of the dinosaurs.

The quarter-mile core is from an important part of the Triassic Period when life on Earth endured a series of cataclysmic events: Our planet was struck at least three times by mountain-sized asteroids, chains of volcanoes erupted to choke the sky with greenhouse gases, and tectonic movement tore apart Earth’s single supercontinent, Pangea.

Among the chaos, many plants and animals, including some of the long-snouted and armored reptiles that ruled Pangea throughout the Triassic, vanished in a possible shake-up of life on Earth that scientists have yet to explain.

The study, published July 20 in GSA Bulletin, offers scientists a foundation to explain the changes in the fossil record and determine how these events may have shaped life on Earth.

By determining the age of the rock core, researchers were able to piece together a continuous, unbroken stretch of Earth’s history from 225 million to 209 million years ago. The timeline offers insight into what has been a geologic dark age and will help scientists investigate abrupt environmental changes from the peak of the Late Triassic and how they affected the plants and animals of the time.

“The core lets us wind the clock back 225 million years when Petrified Forest National Park was a tropical hothouse populated by crocodile-like reptiles and turkey-size early dinosaurs,” said Cornelia Rasmussen, a postdoctoral researcher at the University of Texas Institute for Geophysics (UTIG), who led the analysis that determined the age of the core.

“We can now begin to interpret changes in the fossil record, such as whether changes in the plant and animal world at the time were caused by an asteroid impact or rather by slow geographic changes of the supercontinent drifting apart,” she said.

Petrified Forest National Park’s paleontologist Adam Marsh said that despite a rich collection of fossils from the period in North America, until now there was little information on the Late Triassic’s timeline because most of what scientists knew came from studying outcrops of exposed rock pushed to the surface by tectonic movements.

“Outcrops are like broken pieces of a puzzle,” said Marsh, who earned his Ph.D. from The University of Texas at Austin’s Jackson School of Geosciences. “It is incredibly difficult to piece together a continuous timeline from their exposed and weathered faces.”

Marsh was not an author of the study but is part of the larger scientific coring project. UTIG is a unit of the Jackson School.

The Petrified Forest National Park core overcomes the broken puzzle problem by recovering every layer in the order it was deposited. Like tree rings, scientists can then match those layers with the fossil and climate record.

To find the age of each layer, the researchers searched the rock core for tiny crystals of the mineral zircon, which are spewed into the sky during volcanic eruptions. Zircons are a date stamp for the sediments with which they are buried. Researchers then compared the age of the crystals with traces of ancient magnetism stored in the rocks to help develop a precise geologic timeline.

Geoscience is rarely so simple, however, and according to Rasmussen, the analysis of the core gave them two slightly different stories. One shows evidence that a shake-up in the species might not be connected to any single catastrophic event and could simply be part of the ordinary course of gradual evolution. The other shows a possible correlation between the change in the fossil record and a powerful asteroid impact, which left behind a crater in Canada over 62 miles wide.

For Marsh, the different findings are just part of the process to reach the truth.

“The two age models are not problematic and will help guide future studies,” he said.

The research is the latest outcome of the Colorado Plateau Coring Project. The research and the coring project were funded by the National Science Foundation and International Continental Drilling Program.

Donald Trump’s United States secret police


This 24 July 2020 video from the USA says about itself:

Portland Protesters Clash With Federal Troops–Mike Dusek LIVE From Portland

Independent journalist Mike Dusek guest reports for Status Coup from ongoing Portland protests.

From Our Revolution in the USA, 23 July 2020:

President Trump‘s decision to send secret police to attack peaceful protestors in Portland, Oregon (and now Chicago) is the move of a racist would-be dictator whose behavior is a threat to our fundamental rights.

According to Our Revolution ally, Senator Jeff Merkley, even Republican Senators think Trump’s use of modern-day brownshirts is a “massive overreach of federal power” that’s “potentially unconstitutional.”

This use of secret police on American soil to undermine the first amendment is a turning point, and Our Revolution is fully committed to doing everything in our power to stop Trump from turning our country into a corporate fascist state where we don’t have the right to free speech.

Rush a donation here to help us fight Trump’s escalating fascism by organizing with our local groups to have the back of peaceful protestors and support progressive candidates who have the moral courage to call out Trump’s increasingly dictator-like behavior!

In solidarity,

The whole team at Our Revolution

From daily News Line in Britain, 24 July 2020:

US CIVIL WAR! – Trump vows to send federal officers into NY, Chicago and Philadelphia

US PRESIDENT Trump announced yesterday that he is sending ‘a surge of federal security forces to US cities in a crackdown on crime’.

Chicago, New York and Philadelphia are being targeted in the Republican president’s offensive dubbed operation ‘Taliferro’.

His comments came after Mayor of Portland, Oregon, Mayor Ted Wheeler, sided with demonstrators in their call for federal officers to leave the city after getting tear-gassed by federal agents during mass protests against racism and police violence on Wednesday night.

Wheeler, 57, was among the crowd of protesters outside the federal courthouse and the Justice Centre when federal police fired the gas to disperse the crowd.

The Democrat mayor, who has been in office since 2017, had talked to demonstrators for around two hours before the gas was used. He told one protester: ‘I’m not going to leave. If you get gassed, I’m getting gassed.’

One man walked up to the mayor and emptied a bag full of shrapnel in front of him causing Wheeler to stop in his tracks, while another came up behind him and put a police hat on his head which he swiftly removed.

Several people held banners aloft reading ‘Tear gas Ted’ and ‘Hey Ted, no more tear gas.’

Wheeler was filmed coughing as he marched on with protesters, with some people swearing at the mayor. One person shouted, ‘How does it feel, Teddy?’ and a brief tussle broke out between the crowd and his security detail before he left the scene.

Trump defended the deployment of federal officers, claiming that his administration is ‘trying to help Portland, not hurt it’.

The operation will see agents from the FBI, Marshals Service and other federal agencies work with local law enforcement, according to the US Department of Justice.

Trump – whose opinion poll numbers have been slumping amid a coronavirus-crippled US economy – said: ‘This rampage of violence shocks the conscience of our nation.’

Portland rabbis to federal agents: Leave our community.