Technology can help Us save the Environment and Achieve Global Sustainability by Preventing further Degradation via Scientific Inquirer

The use of big data can help scientists’ chart not only the degradation of the environment but can be part of the solution to achieve sustainability, according to a new commentary paper.

The paper, ‘Opportunities for big data in conservation and sustainability’, published today in Nature Communications, said increased computing speeds and data storage had grown the volume of big data in the last 40 years, but the planet was still facing serious decline.

Lead author Dr Rebecca Runting from the University of Melbourne’s School of Geography says that while we currently have an unprecedented ability to generate, store, access and analyse data about the environment, these technological advances will not help the world unless they lead to action.

“Big data analyses must be closely linked to environmental policy and management,” Dr Runting said. “For example, many large companies already possess the methodological, technical, and computational capacity to develop solutions, so it is paramount that new developments and resources are shared timely with government, and in the spirit of ‘open data’.”

Commentators noted that 2.3 million km2 of forest was lost over the years 2000 to 2012 and that dynamic marine and coastal ecosystems have revealed similar declines. An analysis of over 700,000 satellite images shows that Earth has lost more than 20,000 km2 of tidal flats since 1984.

“In light of the COVID-19 pandemic, we are currently seeing governments making rapid (health) decisions based on fairly sophisticated data analysis,” Dr Runting said. “There may be opportunities to learn from this and achieve a similarly tight coupling of analysis and decision-making in the environmental sector.”

Co-author Professor James Watson from the University of Queensland said with platforms like Google Earth Engine and the capacity of satellites to track and send information quickly to computers, big data was capable of identifying eco-health risks globally.

“What the big data revolution has helped us understand is the environment is often doing worse than what we thought it was. The more we map and analyse, the more we find the state of the environment, albeit Antarctic ice sheets, wetlands, or forests, is dire. Big data tells us we are running out of time,” Professor Watson said.

“The good news is the big data revolution can help us better understand risk. For example, we can use data to better understand where future ecosystem degradation will take place and where these interact with wildlife trade, so as to map pandemic risk.”

Dr Runting said big data has been pivotal in quantifying alarming spatial and temporal trends across Earth. For example, an automated vessel tracking and monitoring system is being used to predict illegal fishing activity in real-time.

“This has allowed governments quickly investigate particular vessels that may be undertaking illegal fishing activity within their jurisdiction, including within Australian waters,” she said. Similarly, Queensland’s Statewide Landcover and Trees Study uses satellite imagery to monitor woody vegetation clearing, including the detection of illegal clearing.

Professor Watson cited a similar example. “Global forest watch has been a game change for monitoring the state of the world forests in near real time. This can help identify illegal activities and informed active enforcement of forest conservation around the world,” Professor Watson said.

The paper also noted positive environmental changes due to human intervention such as greening seen in large expanses in China, which was driven by large scale national policies, including forest conservation and payments for restoration.

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Clearer water, cleaner air: the environmental effects of coronavirus (video) —

 

From crystal clear waters in the canals of Venice to dramatic falls in pollution levels in major cities, the coronavirus pandemic has had a number of positive effects on the environment as millions across the world are placed under lockdown. Video: France 24

via Clearer water, cleaner air: the environmental effects of coronavirus (video) —

Earth just had its second-warmest December-February on record

Originally posted on The Extinction Chronicles: https://www.usatoday.com/story/news/world/2020/03/13/climate-change-earth-had-second-warmest-winter-record/5043841002/ Doyle Rice USA TODAY AD 0:13 SKIP Only the El-Niño-fueled winter of 2015-16 was warmer. Some of the most extreme warmth was in Russia, which smashed its record for warmest winter. Thanks to human-caused global warming, “this period is now the warmest in the history of modern civilization.…

via What winter? Earth just had its second-warmest December-February on record — Exposing the Big Game

New Coronavirus Cases in California, Oregon, and Washington Suggest the Virus is now Widespread within our Community

The CDC is recommending that people who show symptoms should isolate themselves at home and call health authorities or their healthcare provider. Family and household members should try to stay at least 6 feet away from sick people.

New Coronavirus Cases in California, Oregon, and Washington Suggest Community Spread

BY ZACHARY STIEBER

(Courtesy The Epoch Times)

New coronavirus cases confirmed in the Pacific Northwest late Friday indicate the new virus is spreading in the community in the United States.

Washington state, Oregon, and California officials confirmed in total four new cases. Officials do not know where or how three of the patients became infected.

Community spread means that people acquire COVID-19, the disease caused by the new virus, through an unknown exposure in the community.

The first case of unknown origin was confirmed on Feb. 26 in northern California. Still, officials held out the possibility that the female patient had come into contact with someone who traveled out of the country.

The new cases make it far more likely that the United States is experiencing community spread.

Epoch Times Photo
A support operations tent is seen at a earmarked quarantine site for healthy people potentially exposed to novel coronavirus, behind Washington State Public Health Laboratories in Shoreline, north of Seattle, Washington, on Feb. 28, 2020. (David Ryder/Reuters)

Health officials in Santa Clara County, California, reported that an older woman with chronic health conditions was tested after going to the hospital with a respiratory illness. The patient “does not have a travel history nor any known contact with a traveler or infected person,” according to county officials.

“This new case indicates that there is evidence of community transmission but the extent is still not clear,” Dr. Sara Cody, health officer for the county, said in a statement. “I understand this may be concerning to hear, but this is what we have been preparing for. Now we need to start taking additional actions to slow down the spread of the disease.”

Later on Friday, authorities in Oregon reported the state’s first case of COVID-19. The adult patient has no travel history to a country where the virus was circulating nor did they come into close contact with another confirmed case.

The patient spent time in the Lake Oswego school district and patients and staff members there may have been exposed to the virus, according to the Oregon Health Authority. Officials will try to locate the people the patient came into contact with.

After that, Washington state health authorities said two people—a woman in her 50s and a teenage boy—tested positive for the new disease. The woman traveled recently to Daegu, South Korea, which saw an explosion of cases in recent days, but the teen has no travel history and officials don’t know the source of his infection.

Epoch Times Photo
A woman wears a mask on Wall Street near the New York Stock Exchange in New York on Feb. 28, 2020. (Brendan McDermid/Reuters)

The teen visited Seattle Children’s North Clinic on Feb. 24 and attends Jackson High School in Mill Creek. The Everett Public Schools superintendent decided to close the school on Monday for three days of “deep cleaning,” the Washington State Department of Health said.

All four cases were confirmed by the states using tests developed by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). States received the testing kits early this month but most couldn’t use them until Friday.

The positive cases are considered presumptive pending confirmatory testing by the CDC, which is required through an Emergency Use Authorization. But the CDC and state and local public health officials are treating the cases as if they were confirmed.

Local officials attributed the detection of the cases to the new tests, which cut days off the testing process. States and local labs that couldn’t test locally previously had to spend hours packaging samples before shipping them to the CDC’s Atlanta headquarters. The Oregon State Public Health Laboratory used the new testing kit just hours after validating it, Oregon officials said.

Authorities also said they expect additional cases, a message that has been repeated by both state and federal officials.

CDC kits
The CDC’s laboratory test kit for the new coronavirus. (CDC via AP)

“Given the extent of global spread, we expect to identify more individuals with COVID-19 in Washington,” Washington Health Officer Dr. Kathy Lofy said at a press conference.

Federal officials warned earlier in the week that community spread of the new virus was likely, citing the spike in cases in South Korea, Italy, and Iran.

“It’s not so much a question of if this will happen anymore but rather more a question of exactly when this will happen and how many people in this country will have severe illness,” Dr. Nancy Messonnier, director of CDC’s National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases, told reporters in a phone call on Wednesday.

Federal officials are using an in-depth report produced by its researchers in 2017 as a roadmap for how to deal with the virus. Without a vaccine or proven treatment, officials are focusing on nonpharmaceutical interventions, which fall into three categories: personal, community, and environmental.

Personal interventions include routine recommendations such as washing hands and staying home when sick, and measures specific to pandemics such as people voluntarily isolating themselves at home even if they’re not sick if a member of their household has become ill.

Community interventions can include closing schools and transitioning to internet-based teleschooling and changing business meetings from in-person to online as well. Some locales could postpone or cancel large gatherings.

Environmental interventions primarily revolve around cleaning surfaces. The school closing for cleaning is an example of an environmental intervention.

california department of health
Narimon Mirza stands next a to a whiteboard showing the number of COVID-19 cases around the world at the Medical Health and Coordination Center at the California Department of Public Health in Sacramento on Feb. 27, 2020. (Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)

Americans, Messonnier said, should start preparing for “significant disruption” to their lives.

The new virus emerged in China late last year and has spread to dozens of countries, infecting patients in over a dozen countries for the first time this week alone. The virus spreads primarily through close contact. Patients who test positive are typically isolated in hospitals or at home. The origin of the virus isn’t known. Coronaviruses often circulate in animals and only in rare cases jump to humans before being transmitted between people.

Symptoms of the virus are similar to the flu and include fever, headache, and a dry cough. The incubation period is believed to be one day to 14 days.

Experts recommend people frequently wash their hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds, especially going to the bathroom, before eating, and after blowing their nose, coughing, or sneezing. Other prevention techniques include avoiding close contact with sick people, cleaning and disinfecting frequently touched objects and surfaces, and not touching one’s eyes, nose, or mouth with unwashed hands

via New Coronavirus Cases in California, Oregon, and Washington Suggest Community Spread

Lake Mendocino invasive mussel species inspections now seven days a week — The Ukiah Daily Journal

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers at Lake Mendocino announced it will now be conducting inspections seven days a week for invasive mussel species, with help from the Sonoma County Water Agency, an increase from the current weekend inspections. The inspections will start every day on Sunday, March 1, and the inspectors will be looking […]

via Lake Mendocino invasive mussel species inspections now seven days a week — The Ukiah Daily Journal

Lake Mendocino invasive mussel species inspections now seven days a week — The Ukiah Daily Journal

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers at Lake Mendocino announced it will now be conducting inspections seven days a week for invasive mussel species, with help from the Sonoma County Water Agency, an increase from the current weekend inspections. The inspections will start every day on Sunday, March 1, and the inspectors will be looking […]

via Lake Mendocino invasive mussel species inspections now seven days a week — The Ukiah Daily Journal

Sunrise, palm trees, buildings, boats. — Cool San Diego Sights!

This chilly January morning I enjoyed a brisk walk. I brought out my camera when it was light enough for good photographs. Come follow me from the County Administration Building north along San Diego Bay for a short distance. After returning back south, we’ll turn away from the water and head east on Ash Street, […]

via Sunrise, palm trees, buildings, boats. — Cool San Diego Sights!

DNA Sequencing Saves Endangered Species

NEWS_2.26.16_Myanmar_Fig1.jpg DNA profiling, a technique where investigators compare the base pair order of DNA found at the crime scene to a suspect’s DNA. Now, another type of genetic analysis – DNA barcoding – is being used to combat illegal wildlife trading.

Illegal wildlife trade is estimated to be right behind drugs and weapons in terms of size and profits, with experts estimating a yearly wildlife black market of $70 billion. Wildlife is sold as exotic pets, trophies and souvenirs, luxury items, religious items, and alternative medicines. High profits and low risks attract transnational criminal syndicates to this business. Because illegal wildlife trading funds and strengthens these criminal networks (networks that are also involved in human, drug, and weapon trafficking) it is considered a threat to global and national security. Wildlife trafficking can also have a long term negative effect on local communities. Finally, there is the very real environmental impact.

Animals and plants that are illegally traded are put under enormous stress. Sadly, endangered species are often targeted because their rarity increases their market value. The decrease/disappearance of these species can affect the health of the entire ecosystem. Accessing these animals provide an additional layer of ecological damage. In 2010, 179 nations came together to form the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) to combat illegal wildlife trade.

A major challenge in enforcing CITES and other wildlife trade laws is that poachers will often disguise their product. For example bones, horns, and medical plants are often ground into powders before transport. This is where DNA barcoding proves a valuable tool. DNA barcoding uses a combination of genetic, taxonomic, and computational analysis to rapidly identify the species of a confiscated sample. Briefly, DNA is extracted from the confiscated sample and then sequenced at one or more pre-established genetic locations. These sequences are then searched against a database of sequences from voucher specimens. A match between the sample and several voucher specimens allows the sample to be classified down to genus or species.

NEWS_2.26.16_ParrotEggs_Fig2.jpgAn example is the 2003 case against Joao Migel Folgosa. Mr. Folgosa was apprehended at the Recife Internal Airport of Brazil when police discovered him hiding 58 eggs under his shirt. Based on egg morphology – and Mr. Folgosa history as an exotic pet trafficker – officials suspected that the eggs were parrot. However, they were unable to specify the species. Because Brazil has 21 endangered parrot species but 83 species overall only limited charges could be brought against him. The case was further weakened by Mr. Folgosa claim that the eggs were from quails.

NEWS_2.26.16_ThumbTwelve years later Dr. Miyaki and colleagues picked up this cold case. They retrieved tissue samples from the 58 eggs/embryos and isolated DNA from each. Then, using a combination of primers, they amplified and sequenced the DNA at two locations in the mitochondrial genome. Finally, they compared their results to publically available records in BOLD (Barcode of Life Data System) and Genbank. Through this process they were able to positively identify 57 of the eggs. All 57 were parrot eggs. More specifically fifty belonged to Alipiopsitta Xanthops (a IUCN vulnerable species), three belonged to Ara ararauna, and four were either Amazona aestiaval or Amazona ochrocephala.

This research illustrates how DNA barcoding could be used to prosecute criminal traffickers. However, the connected case also emphasizes an obstacle that still need to be overcome, making the DNA technology affordable and available to law enforcement in many countries. Many hope that new developments in nanopore sequencing will enable this. Equally important to the use of DNA barcoding in criminal investigations is developing a robust database. This database must (a) have all possible taxa are represented, (b) be readily accessible and searchable, and (c) be able to withstand the scrutiny of a legal investigation. Two organizations working towards these two goals are the Wildlife Crime Tech Challenge and the Barcode of Wildlife Project.

To explore DNA barcoding with your students check out kit #338 – Exploring Plant Diversity with DNA Barcoding.

 

via DNA Sequencing to Save Endangered Species

Protecting the Environment and Preserving Trees by Scaling back on Liberal Arts University Programs

For the first time in 185 years, there will be no fall semester at Green Mountain College in western Vermont. The school fell victim to trends in higher education that could soon impact hundreds of other schools. One expert predicts that 25% of colleges will fail in the next 20 years. In an effort to protect the environment colleges will be cutting back on Liberal Arts University Programs and all other curriculums that are not work based skiils, AKA: programs that dont lead to work, will be reducing their volume.

Brook Silva-Braga reports. Watch “CBS This Morning” HERE: http://bit.ly/1T88yAR Download the CBS News app on  “CBS This Morning” co-hosts Gayle King, Anthony Mason and Tony Dokoupil deliver two hours of original reporting, The broadcast has earned a prestigious Peabody Award, a Polk Award, four News & Documentary Emmys, three Daytime Emmys and the 2017 Edward R. Murrow Award for Best Newscast. The broadcast was also honored with an Alfred I. duPont-Columbia Award as part of CBS News division-wide coverage of the shootings at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut.  —————————————————————————————————————————>>   Related:

Timeline of events surrounding 3M’s admission of illegal chemical release into Tennessee River — WHNT.com

DECATUR, Ala. – A series of interesting events happened before and after 3M disclosed it failed to obey federal law by releasing certain manufacturing chemicals or the waste of those chemicals into the Tennessee River. 3M sent that disclosure letter in April. WHNT News 19 was told just weeks before the EPA may have been at 3M’s plant in Decatur in mid-March. WHNT News 19 went through official channels at the EPA to find out if it happened. As of […]

via Timeline of events surrounding 3M’s admission of illegal chemical release into Tennessee River — WHNT.com

Lots Of Snow Still Present Across Colorado’s High Country — CBS Denver

SUMMIT COUNTY, Colo. (CBS4) – As we head into mid-July in Colorado, snow on the ground is still alive and kicking for some of the state’s higher terrain. A few high mountain spots in northern Colorado haven’t seen snow on the ground last this long into the summer in eight years — since 2011! With…

via Lots Of Snow Still Present Across Colorado’s High Country — CBS Denver

Himalayan glaciers are losing 1.5 feet of Ice per Year: Study via Social News XYZ

New Delhi, June 20 (IANS) Himalayan glaciers across India, China, Nepal and Bhutan have been losing the equivalent of more than a vertical foot and half of ice each year since 2000, a new comprehensive international study said on Wednesday. The analysis, spanning 40 years of satellite observations, indicates that melting of the Himalayan glaciers caused by rising temperatures has accelerated dramatically since the start of the 21st century — almost double the amount of melting that took place from 1975 to 2000. The study is the latest and perhaps most convincing indication that climate change is eating the Himalayas’ glaciers, potentially threatening water supplies for hundreds of millions of people downstream across much of Asia. “This is the clearest picture yet of how fast Himalayan glaciers are melting over this time interval, and why,” said lead author Joshua Maurer, a Ph.D. candidate at Columbia University’s Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory. While not specifically calculated in the study, the glaciers may have lost as much as a quarter of their enormous mass over the last four decades, said Maurer. The study appears this week in the journal Science Advances. Currently harboring some 600 billion tonnes of ice, the Himalayas are sometimes called the earth’s “Third Pole”. Many other recent studies have suggested that the glaciers are wasting, including one this year projecting that up to two-thirds of the current ice cover could be gone by 2100. But up to now, observations have been somewhat fragmented, zeroing in on shorter time periods, or only individual glaciers or certain regions. These studies have produced sometimes contradictory results, both regarding the degree of ice loss and the causes. The new study synthesises data from across the region, stretching from early satellite observations to the present. The synthesis indicates that the melting is consistent in time and space, and that rising temperatures are to blame. Temperatures vary from place to place, but from 2000 to 2016 they have averaged one degree Centigrade (1.8 degrees Fahrenheit) higher than those from 1975 to 2000. Maurer and his colleagues analysed repeat satellite images of some 650 glaciers spanning 2,000 kms from west to east. Many of the 20th-century observations came from recently declassified photographic images taken by US spy satellites. The researchers created an automated system to turn these into 3D models that could show the changing elevations of glaciers over time. They then compared these images with post-2000 optical data from more sophisticated satellites, which more directly convey elevation changes. They found that from 1975 to 2000, glaciers across the region lost an average of about 0.25 metres (10 inches) of ice each year in the face of slight warming. Following a more pronounced warming trend starting in the 1990s, starting in 2000 the loss accelerated to about half a meter (20 inches) annually. Recent yearly losses have averaged about 8 billion tonnes of water, or the equivalent 3.2 million Olympic-size swimming pools, said Maurer. Most individual glaciers are not wasting uniformly over their entire surfaces, he noted; melting has been concentrated mainly at lower elevations, where some ice surfaces are losing as much as five metres (16 feet) a year. Some researchers have argued that factors other than temperature are affecting the glaciers. These include changes in precipitation, which seems to be declining in some areas (which would tend to reduce the ice), but increasing in others (which would tend to build it). Another factor: Asian nations are burning ever-greater loads of fossil fuels and biomass, sending soot into the sky. Much of it eventually lands on snowy glacier surfaces, where it absorbs solar energy and hastens melting. Maurer agrees that both soot and precipitation are factors, but due to the region’s huge size and extreme topography, the effects are highly variable from place to place. Overall, he says, temperature is the overarching force. To confirm this, he and his colleagues compiled temperature data during the study period from ground stations and then calculated the amount of melting that observed temperature increases would be expected to produce. They then compared those figures with what actually happened. They matched. “It looks just like what we would expect if warming were the dominant driver of ice loss,” he said.

New Delhi, June 20 (IANS) Himalayan glaciers across India, China, Nepal and Bhutan have been losing the equivalent of more than a vertical foot and half of ice each year since 2000, a new comprehensive international study said on Wednesday. The analysis, spanning 40 years of satellite observations, indicates that melting of the Himalayan glaciers […]

via Himalayan glaciers getting smaller every year: Study — Social News XYZ