Cleaning up oil spills with hair via Science Everyday

Adsorption of oil with hair is the adhesion of atoms, ions or molecules from a gas, liquid or dissolved solid to a surface. This process creates a film of the adsorbate on the surface of the adsorbent.

What this means is that hair allows oil to coat, hence effectively absorbing it. And given the surface area, cheap costs, and renewability of hair, this is a great solution.

Hair clippings are a low-tech, yet remarkably effective method to tidy up oil spills In fact, a San Francisco-based environmental non-profit organisation, Matter of Trust, has collected donations of thousands of pounds of human hair to clean up after the thousands of oil spills that happen each year.

Oil spills are an example of the havoc humanity often wreaks on the environment. In the last thirty odd years, the issue of oil spills and their effects has become a much talked about topic (And for all the wrong reasons).

So, how does an oil spill happen?

Oil spills happens when liquid petroleum is released into the environment by vehicle, vessel or pipeline.

It happens on a large scale and is mostly seen in water bodies. We’re not talking about a few litres here and there. We’re talking about millions of litres of oil spilling into the ocean.

Take the case of the M/T Haven Tanker Oil Spill. This devastating event watched approximately 45 million litres of oil fall into the ocean. Not only is this a significant loss, but the damages inflicted upon the environment have long lasting consequences.

And this is just one oil spill out of the many. Hundreds of oil spills take place every year. The news of many which don’t even reach us. Crude oil can be released by tankers on land. In water bodies, the spill occurs due to drilling rigs, offshore oil platforms and wells.

While the sources of oil spills are many, the solutions are limited.

Oil floats on water and prevents sunlight to pass through it. The shiny substance that you see sometimes on top layer of water is nothing but oil which makes it difficult for plants and sea animals to survive.

Underwater plants die. Oil weighs down the wings of birds that can no longer fly easily. It contaminates food, water and destroys the entire ecosystem.

See the source image
Birds struggling in oily water. Retrieved from

Unfortunately, cleaning up of oil spill is no easy task. Various factors need to be considered before carrying out operations. Some of them being amount of oil spilled, temperature of water, type of beaches and many more.

Currently methods used involve skimmers, dispersants an bio degradant technology. But is there a better way?

The answer lies in your hair.

Have you ever noticed how your hair becomes greasy when you don’t wash it for a while? Why does this happen? It happens because hair is adsorbent.

Adsorption is the adhesion of atoms, ions or molecules from a gas, liquid or dissolved solid to a surface. This process creates a film of the adsorbate on the surface of the adsorbent.

What this means is that hair allows oil to coat, hence effectively absorbing it. And given the surface area, cheap costs, and renewability of hair, this is a great solution.

Hair can also be washed repeatedly and this does not damage its ability to absorb oil. The average person takes around 150 haircuts in their lifetime. Hair is low-cost, easily available and a great alternative to chemical treatments.

This idea was the brainchild of Phil McCrory, a former hairdresser from Alabama and it has the potential to change the environment completely.

One of the most important takeaways from this, is how simple solutions can be used to bring around large change. I hope this encourages each one of you to try learning new things. Because, the solution of the biggest global problems lie in the simplest, most unassuming of places. And it might even be your barber’s floor.

-Adyesha Singhdeo


Donate Your Hair to Clean Up the Oil Spill


How Are Oil Spills Cleaned Up?

Cleaning oil spills with hair

Bringing innovative solutions to life.

 Hair clippings are a low-tech, yet remarkably effective method to tidy up oil spills In fact, a San Francisco-based environmental non-profit organisation, Matter of Trust, has collected donations of thousands of pounds of human hair to […]

via Cleaning up oil spills with hair — Science Everyday

Applying Human-Centered Circular Principles to Tax shifts and currencies to better design our societies.

Building equitable circular societies:

“The best way to design a circular world is to consider that waste should not have existed in the first place.”

This article is published in The Beam #6 — 

We have a dream: Our world appears more chaotic than ever, yet from chaos come the best innovations. Three such innovative concepts were born out of our crisis: the Circular Economy, the Blockchain and the Ex’Tax Project.

The Circular Economy is a regenerative system in which resources are kept in use for as long as possible; with maximum value continuously recirculated. Products and materials are offered as a service so that they can be recovered and regenerated at the end of each service life, i.e. no more cradle to grave, just cradle to cradle.

The Blockchain is a continuously growing list of records, called blocks, which are linked and secured using cryptography. Each block typically contains a cryptographic hash of the previous block, a timestamp and transaction data. By design, a blockchain is inherently immune to modification of the data.

The Ex’Tax Project is the proposal by Eckart Wintzen to bring tax on resources up and tax on labour down, creating a proper incentive to use abundant materials instead of scarce ones. Lower taxes on labour would make it more affordable to benefit from the abundance of the capacities of people, boosting labour force, craftsmanship and creativity.

Now, let us imagine that these three innovations, put to good use, could set up the foundations of a new era for any societies across the planet. One could be designing them in such a way to generate well-being on earth, for all of us. Not possible? Let’s see.

Redesigning our economic model

The best way to design a circular world is to consider that waste should not have existed in the first place. This is now recognised as a fact: waste is the result of a poorly designed economic model based on the ownership of a product, as well as its legal responsibility, both transitioning from manufacturers to end-consumers, thereafter ending in landfills. Our ‘throw-out’ economic model ensures that the more we buy products — often for single use — the more often we need to buy them to satiate our dependency. At the end of this chain, we end up with gigantesque amounts of waste that we try harder to repurpose. Today, we have to design waste out of our systems at the front end of the design stage, making durable products, preferably offered as services. They would be used for our needs and then, once fulfilled, would be designed to pass on to the next user, after repair, maintenance or refurbishment.

Here waste is considered the root cause of our environmental challenges. But does that suffice to address our systemic challenges?

“The best way to design a circular world is to consider that waste should not have existed in the first place.”

From Circular Economy to circular societies

Rethinking relations between the economic and the environmental is a great approach to hopefully fixing the way we live by sharing access to resources. The Circular Economy is often considered as being our next economic model given that it provides a response to businesses’ economic resilience. But how about adding a social dimension as well as a holistic value-based method to the current model, ensuring we stay within boundaries while aiming for the genuine well-being of all? Why not, whilst wearing these “circular lenses”, also rethink the origins of our societal negative externalities? If waste is the root cause of our environmental patterns, poverty is the one to consider for our social systems. If we can design waste out, why not apply circular thinking to design poverty out too? This way the model´becomes fully inclusive, ensuring all will benefit.

Neither waste nor poverty are produced in nature. Both are inventions of our economic systems. They need to be eradicated at the same time so as to shift the paradigm once and for all. This advanced approach of eradicating both waste and poverty out of our system is what we call ‘Circular Economy 2.0’. And this could be made possible with the help of new technologies and tax regimes.

Blockchain or the Internet Of Value

Touted as being the “biggest innovation of the past 250 years” (Tapscott, 2016) the blockchain’s inherent architecture means we have the capacity to be even more effective with how we transact and exchange values. Up until now, price has determined our values in the market place, often at the cost of society and planetary boundaries. Imagine a system where the value of the transaction is determined by the level of impact a good or a service has on the planet and its people. Imagine being able to transact intangible values, such as love, wellbeing, harmony. Imagine being able to digitise the impact of our transactions, recording transparently and immutably, those transactions which align with the key principles of a Circular Economy and those that don’t.

Now imagine what an incentive such a mechanism might have on influencing consumer and producer choices. With Blockchain technology: supply chains, products, services, communities can all be cryptographically stored on an immutable ledger; all capable of being coded to demonstrate the extent of their — positive or negative — impact on natural and social capital.

In effect, the Blockchain will allow us to redefine how we currently see value. Our ‘current see’ or currency has historically been very limited. With Blockchain, (our emerging ‘current see’) we can transact meaningful, regenerative values alongside financial values. Thanks to Blockchain, the Internet of Value (IOV) has arrived. We can start engaging with consumer choices that value the earth and its people as if they mattered more than centralised profit shares. Blockchain has the capacity to eradicate the linear extractive and destructive aspects to stocks and shares. It will allow us to truly take stock and share our collective bounty and creativity.

A truly decentralised and distributed economy

Since the beginning of the industrial revolution, finite resources have become increasingly controlled by centralised corporate structures. To date, around 1,318 transnational corporations currently control the majority of the planet’s informational, material, energy, financial, food and water stocks and flows (Glattfelder, 2011). There are obvious benefits to centralised systems but as the core concepts of a Circular Economy identify, centralised control (when viewed from a living systems perspective) leads to imbalance, brittleness and low resilience thresholds. The 2008 global financial crisis is testament to the consequences of depending on too brittle a centralised financial system. Global inequality is also such a consequence of centralised control systems with eight individuals alive today owning a combined wealth equal to the collective wealth (or poverty) of four billion fellow human beings.

With Blockchain, decentralised local economic systems can thrive, where the decision making process is designed through community consensus, with specific protocols determining how value is created, measured, transacted, and evenly distributed. This approach is far more analogous to a living system, where decentralised coordination of local resources ensues, resulting in zero waste and zero poverty. Blockchain is fundamentally the same as a complex adaptive system, upon which decentralised apps (DApps) can be built to ensure more regenerative distributive, diverse, socially inclusive economic activity can take place. A system where the flow of resources can be designed to key environmentally safe principles but also socially just circular principles, all listed here:

  • Safe Principle #1 “Preserve and enhance Natural Capital by controlling finite stocks and balancing renewable resource flows”;
  • Safe Principle #2 “Optimize resource yields by circulating products, components and material at the highest utility at all times in both technical and biological cycles”;
  • Safe Principle #3 “Foster system effectiveness by revealing and designing out negative externalities”;
  • Just Principle #4 “Equity makes business sense as services could be design to address the needs of all”;
  • Just Principle #5 “Developing people’s ability promoting any means of exchange is a priority as one should be accessing more with less in a service-based economy”;
  • Just Principle #6 “Using labour is innovative as in a systemic regenerative model all abundantly available renewable energies should be considered”;

All of these principles can be architecturally configured within decentralised autonomous organisations (DAO’s), where consensually agreed upon protocols determine how value is measured, tracked and exchanged. Blockchain technology (BCT) is ripe for circular economic interaction. BCT offers a shift from centralised vertical scaling to distributed lateral scaling. BCT ‘smart contracts’ enable decentralised and secure resource sharing, anywhere between peers who are hyper connected via the same smart contract platform. With the application of BCT, organisations and communities can design and build smart contract platforms which will rapidly upscale equitable circular economic activities through digitally integrated value chains — built for resilience — used within the multiple realms of not for profit community initiatives, private businesses and even local governance (for instance, human-centred Circular city structures).

There are many examples of blockchain based initiatives emerging exponentially. The most powerful promise of BCT however, is the opportunity for humanity to redefine how it values itself within an economic context. To date it has been our utilitarian capacity, our level of productivity that primarily deems us as economically valuable. With Blockchain and the rise of Artificial Intelligence (AI), we have an opportunity to reimagine and redefine what makes us unique. Perhaps we can be here to demonstrate our infinite creativity on a finite planet and recognise that we are able to be valued not for what we can extract from each other (our utilitarian capacity), but for what we can learn from each other (our creativity, diversity and uniqueness).

A tax system put to good use

A tax shift from labour to pollution redirects the creative force of entrepreneurs from focusing on reducing headcount to smart resource use. In this approach tax is not a penalty on innovation; innovation can run freely, as long as it’s safe and, hopefully, just. This approach makes it more likely for people to find new roles if and when their chores are taken over by machines, and within the context of our environmental boundaries.

The greatest opportunities exist when technology supports, complements and amplifies the talents of people, as explained above. If we want humans to flourish in balance with our natural systems, it is time we update our tax systems to match 21st century challenges.

Optimizing the Circular Value

Only humans can perceive value. Introducing the notion of circular value creation could ensure our priorities would remain on addressing people’s needs thanks to material circularity. With this ultimate goal in mind, well-balanced societies could rely on a human-centred Circular Economy — with a Humansphere(5) at its core -, be powered by a safe and just tax program and fueled by a carefully designed Blockchain strategy (among other diversified means of exchanges).

Designing waste and poverty out of our systems is a vision we can work towards with collective passion, audacity and hard work. We may be successful, we may not, but at least we are trying harder. The vision is set. Tools are available for its implementation. This is now a matter of leadership and collective willingness to succeed.

Building genuinely designed equitable circular societies is no longer a dream. It could be our reality.

(1) Environmentally Safe Circular Principles are the three core principles of the Circular Economy, as proposed by The Ellen MacArthur Foundation;

(2) Socially Just Circular Principles are three added circular principles proposed by the concept called the ‘Circular Economy 2.0’, adding the two missing dimensions to the Circular Economy: the social dimension, and an approach to the optimization of value, Circular Value, ensuring our circular design truly leads to a genuine paradigm shift;

(3) New humans roles could be reinvented based on two new business models: humans-as-a-service and humans-as-a-resource, but not limited to.

(4) Optimization of Circular Value (#OCV) is an approach of a new concept of value creation based on our ability to regenerate natural, economic and social cycles.

(5) As proposed in the concept of ‘Circular Economy 2.0’ (eradicating both waste and poverty out of our systems), a Circular Humansphere is inserted in the circular economy ‘butterfly diagram’ to enhance the decision-making process when designing a project or a service. It is based on our three stocks of available resources (Natural Capital, Human Capital, Remanufactured Capital) as well as our abundant or endless flows of energies available (renewable energies available from the Natural Capital as well as from the Human Capital).

Authors: Alexandre Lemille and Tom Harper

– Glatfelder, J. (2011) The 1318 transnational corporations that form the core of the global economy. Superconnected companies are red, very connected companies are yellow. The size of the dot represents revenue source:
– Tapscott, D. (2016) How The Blockchain is changing money and business:

Chemical engineers can help solve the climate challenge #COP21

Posted on 02/12/2015 by

COP21 logoThis week saw the start of the 21st Conference of Parties,COP21. More than 190 countries and 150 global leaders have gathered in Paris, France, to discuss a new global agreement on climate change.

The United Nations (UN) event will host around 40,000 people and runs right through until the end of next week (11 December).

The future of the natural world, and the animals and plant life that call it home, depends on the outcome of this conference. If we don’t limit global warming to 2 degrees, the consequences will be catastrophic.

Polar bearWhilst we cannot accurately predict the scale of any potential impacts now, what we do know for certain is that climate change is happening, and we have a responsibility to reduce any further damage.

Chemical engineers are part of the solution, and the IChemE Energy Centre has identified five priority areas where technology can be deployed now to help mitigate climate change.

These topics, as outlined in the IChemE Energy Centre Climate Communiqué, are:

  • energy efficiency
  • energy storage and grid management
  • carbon capture, storage and utilisation
  • nuclear
  • sustainable bioenergy

Released in a statement today, the Energy Centre says: “The technologies exist now to deliver massive energy savings and greenhouse gas emission reductions in all five priority areas. Taken together, they represent a pathway to a decarbonized energy system that can be realised now, as long as the agreement made at COP21 recognises that the time has come for deployment of such technologies.”

Read the Energy Centre supporting statement here.

Stefaan Simons, Chair of the Energy Centre Board, has also added: “Chemical engineers already understand the technology needed to limit atmospheric CO2 levels. Now is the time to start using it. World leaders can shift the focus from research and development to demonstration and deployment. We can give policy makers the solutions needed to mitigate climate change.”

You can watch Stef, alongside other members of the Energy Centre Board, Niall Mac Dowell and Ben Salisbury, discuss the five topics in more detail in the following video:

Over the next few days, whilst COP21 is still underway, the Energy Centre will be publishing evidence-based recommendations that cover each of the five topics on this very blog.

Stef will also present at the Paris climate talks on 10 December at an official side event: ‘Technology solutions for a 2oC world: Investing in renewables, storage, energy efficiency and CCS‘. So if you are in Paris, please join him.

There will also be an evening screening of the his side event on 10 December at it IChemE’s offices in Portland Place, London, UK – this event is free-of-charge and open to all.

Let’s all be part of the climate conversation, and make sure that the chemical engineering perspective is heard whilst the future of our planet is being decided over the next two weeks.


COP21 logoThis week saw the start of the 21st Conference of Parties, COP21. More than 190 countries and 150 global leaders have gathered in Paris, France, to discuss a new global agreement on climate change.

The United Nations (UN) event will host around 40,000 people and runs right through until the end of next week (11 December).

The future of the natural world, and the animals and plant life that call it home, depends on the outcome of this conference. If we don’t limit global warming to 2 degrees, the consequences will be catastrophic.

Polar bearWhilst we cannot accurately predict the scale of any potential impacts now, what we do know for certain is that climate change is happening, and we have a responsibility to reduce any further damage.

Chemical engineers are part of the solution, and the IChemE Energy Centre has identified five priority areas where technology can be deployed now to help…

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Snow Facts

It’s not really the most wonderful time of the year unless there is snow involved. Fact. 

DORKING, UNITED KINGDOM - JANUARY 19: A family of snowmen sit on Box Hill on January 19, 2013 in Dorking, United Kingdom. Heavy snow around the UK caused hundreds of flight cancelations at Heathrow, with more travel disruptions expected during a snowy weekend. Approximately 3,000 schools were closed in England, Wales and Scotland. (Photo by Dan Kitwood/Getty Images)
This is your reaction when it snows (Photo: Dan Kitwood/Getty Images)

Not only can snow be the greatest part of the British weather experience, but it also guarantees more happiness than a decent summer season.

Ah snow. Word on the street (the street being the Met Office) is that we are due a sprinkling of snow, with many places across the UK being treated to a flurry last night.

And snow lovers couldn’t be happier about this.


Of course autumn is really beautiful, what with the leaves all turning to a cosy shade of orange. However, not even the prettiest autumn scene, trees lining a path through an empty park, could ever trump a field full of freshly fallen, untouched snow.

2. Makes Christmas better

There are only two things that could make Christmas Day even better; meeting Santa Clause, or a white Christmas.

Nothing could match the warm fuzzy feeling of waking up early in the morning on Christmas Day and seeing your street transformed as if it’s been draped in a layer of clean cotton wool.

Bing Crosby felt exactly the same way.

3. Snowmen 

You love nothing more than grabbing a few sticks, buttons, pebbles and the obligatory carrot stick and assembling a small team to make an epic snowman.

Of course you take this very seriously, and every time you pride yourself on having the best snowman on the street.

In fact you have a strict method involving rolling a huge ball of snow down a slope in order to get your snowman as big as possible. You have also been known to shed a tear once he melts away. *Sob*

This is your reaction when it snows (Photo: Dan Kitwood/Getty Images)

4. Snow days = best days

There are waves of excitement that still feel the exact same way when you’re an adult as they did when you were a child.

Stuff like watching Home Alone, birthday cake… and snow days.

A snow day feels just as amazing now, when you can’t get into the office, as it did when school was closed.

Especially when you get to the station only to be greeted with signs telling you that all trains are cancelled.

You take this opportunity to power walk home as quickly as possible, alerting everyone you meet on your way that it’s now an official snow day, whilst being busy with thoughts of how to make the most of it.

Of course throwing a few snowballs around is mandatory.

5.  The memories

It doesn’t matter if your school days weren’t your best days, because the memories of snowy times during school definitely makes up for this.

The only thing to trump the mayhem of times when a dog managed to get into the playground was sitting in Maths and seeing thick heavy flakes falling and engulfing everything.

Most of the time your teachers would give up trying to capture your attention and let you out early which was always welcomed.

6. Perfect for long walks

There is something special about being able to stomp over fresh untouched snow whilst wrapped up head to toe in at least six layers of clothing.

Is there anything better than popping on some wellies and going for a long walk in the crisp cold air whilst feeling the soft snow underneath your feet?

Probably not.

Children play as snow covers part of Central Park following a snow storm in New York, February 4, 2014. Up to nine (23 centimeters) more inches of snow was expected to fall in the New York area beginning late in the evening, with a third snowstorm in a week predicted to hit the city over the weekend. AFP PHOTO/Emmanuel Dunand (Photo credit should read EMMANUEL DUNAND/AFP/Getty Images)
Better than sweating in the park during a muggy July (Photo: EMMANUEL DUNAND/AFP/Getty Images)
This is way better than sweating in the park during a muggy July (Photo: EMMANUEL DUNAND/AFP/Getty Images)

7. Everything stops

Of course some people don’t like the snow because it causes disruption, but this can actually be a good thing.

It’s nice to have a bit of disruption which causes things to come to a bit of a stop, proving that it’s not the end of the world if you don’t manage to answer all your emails before 6pm.

8. Snow watching is intense 

The only thing that could ever trump a snow filled walk, is sitting inside near the radiator with a hot drink and watching the snow fall and seeing the world turn into a winter wonderland.

Preferably whilst wearing thick woolly socks.

During this ritual you embark upon an emotional roller-coaster as you are glued to the window desperately wishing for the snow to become thicker, and heavier. Any sign of easing off leads to severe disappointment, which can only be ended by another flurry.

9. It’s very exciting 

Waiting for the snow to arrive is a bit like waiting for a baby.

You know that it will come at some point, and despite having a rough time frame you still exhaust yourself with excitement waiting for it to arrive.

Once it finally arrives there is something magical about waking up and being able to tell from the silence outside, and the light reflecting off the snow into your bedroom that your wait is now over.

10. How to deal with haters

Being a lover of snow means you’ve developed a very thick skin to not only deal with the temperature drop, but also all of the people who don’t like the snow.

You’ve figured that if you can convert one snow hater to a snow fan then you’ve pretty much served your purpose on Earth.


You’ve probably got a customised beauty hidden in your garage, or garden shed that you always bring out as soon as the snow lands.

You also know the best parks within a 10 mile radius to go get revel in all the fun that sledging offers. And you head out with a sense of urgency, in order  to get the best of the snow before pesky teenagers ruin it all.

12. It’s never enough

Chances are that most years you will end up slightly disappointed, as the UK tends to only get a small sprinkling.

But this just means that when we receive a heavy snow storm, you take full advantage of this rare event by spending as much time as possible outside.

You will even risk mild frostbite and soggy gloves in order to squeeze in as much time as possible in the snow. And it’s well worth it.

13 things all snow lovers know to be true

13. And it always goes too soon

The fact that snow melts away is one of the biggest tragedies in your life, and each time the sun comes out you are filled with dread.

Especially when it goes from being fresh white pure snow and disintegrates into a brown muddy slushy mess.

The only way to get through this is by remembering all of the good times you’ve had with it, and pinning your hopes on it returning next year. Courtesy of: The Metro UK.

Female astronauts will spend 8 days in space without men or make-up

The test and flight simulation project, named “Moon-2015”, is designed to simulate an eight-day round trip to the moon, reaching lunar orbit before returning to the Earth. The all female astronaut crew asked how they’d cope in space without men or make-up for 8 days:

The Russian Academy of Science’s Institute of Biomedical Problems (IBP) in Moscow began an all-female simulated lunar circumnavigation project on Wednesday, as the country’s space program looks to take off.

The test and flight simulation project, named “Moon-2015”, is designed to simulate an eight-day round trip to the moon, reaching lunar orbit before returning to the Earth.

An all-female crew will live inside a mock spaceship in a wood-paneled suite at the IBP to gather information on female responses to isolation, cohabitation, crew functionality, and other characteristics of spaceflight. Capture2.PNG

The six volunteers selected from IBP staff, have strong scientific, medical or research backgrounds and have similar medical, physical and physiological characteristics that would be required of a real space crew.

“Our special psychologists have communicated with all the volunteers. Certain methods have been used to test their character compatibility which is quite a concern for the qualification examination committee,” said Alexandr Smoleevskiy, a Russian physiologist involved in the project.

The participants, who have already been undergoing training ahead of the test, said their biggest challenge will be shutting off from the outside world. One crewmember said she felt fortunate as their project lasts only eight days, far less than Russia’s previous “Mars-500” project which concluded in 2011 after 520 days.

“I can’t imagine working in isolation for even 80 days. We have spent a whole day in the capsule to test the devices in a space environment and get familiar with our living conditions and we already felt the impact of being isolated. We wonder how the participants in the “Mars-500″ were able to finish their mission,” said Elena Luchitskaya, a volunteer of the “Moon-2015” project.
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Source: Female astronauts asked how they’d cope in space without men or make-up

Acoustic survey tracks whale population trends along the coast of Southern California

Posted on by Bob Berwyn:blue_whale_001_noaa_body_color Blue whale numbers holding steady; fin w86bdfeee-b9c8-4a62-baa4-a2488c3728f8-originalhales increasing… 

Staff Report: FRISCO — A new acoustic survey in Southern California coastal waters is helping researchers track whale populations.The data analyzed by the Scripps Institution of Oceanography at UC San Diego suggests that blue whale numbers are holding steady, while the number of fin whales is increasing.Both species are often seen in the Southern California Bight, the curved region of California coastline with offshore waters extending from San Diego to Point Conception (near Santa Barbara, Calif.), but little is known about their use of the area, where ever-increasing ship traffic has raised concerns about collisions between whales and boats.To learn more, researchers with the Scripps Marine Bioacoustics Lab and Scripps Whale Acoustic Lab  set out specialized recording devices on the seafloor, tracking whale vocalizations  from 2006-2012.The findings were described in the journal Endangered Species Research. The study was supported by the Office of Naval Research, and provides the first detailed view into the spatial use of Southern California waters by blue and fin whales, the two largest cetacean species in the world. Both are classified as endangered species.

Scripps marine acoustician Ana Širović found that blue whale calls were more commonly detected at coastal sites and near the northern Channel Islands, while fin whale calls were detected further off shore, in central and southern areas.

“I think it’s an interesting difference in trends because both of the species were subject to whaling earlier in the twentieth century, and now they’re clearly responding differently,” said Širović.

The acoustic data and overall trends outlined in this study are consistent with visual observations from another Scripps-led study. Širović said the parallel findings between the two studies as evidence that passive acoustics can be used as a powerful tool to monitor population trends for these large marine mammals.

“I think it’s very exciting that we see the same trends in the visual and acoustic data, because it indicates the possibility of using acoustics to monitor long-term trends and changes,” she said, adding that the new study suggests there is a resident fin whale population in the area.

The seasonal recordings of blue whale calls reinforces what’s already known about their migration from the waters off the coast of Mexico and Costa Rica, arriving in Southern California in late spring to forage through the fall.

The leave in early winter, but researchers aren’t certain where they go next. Although researchers have studied blue and fin whales for years, Širović said both species are particularly mysterious, and scientists still don’t know some basic information about them, such as their mating system or breeding grounds.

The Southern California Bight is a highly productive ecological territory for many marine animals due to strong upwelling of cold water, but researchers have not found any evidence that blue or fin whales are breeding there.

The productivity of the coastal region also makes it a hotbed for human activity, with large cities onshore and ships, commercial fishing vessels, and other human impacts ever-present in the water. Since fin whales generally live further offshore, Širović posits that they might have a slight advantage over blue whales, which tend to inhabit areas where there is more ship traffic–increasing their chances for ship strikes.

“It seems that for fin whales, things are probably improving,” she said Širović.

“For blue whales, it’s a little bit harder to tell. There is a question right now as to whether their population has grown to its maximum capacity, because there are many lines of evidence showing that their population is not growing currently,” she said. “So the question remains, is it because that’s just what their population size can be maximally, or are there factors that are keeping them from growing further?”

Širović hopes that future studies can help identify why there is this difference in population trends of blue and fin whales. Now that she and her colleagues have taken a first look at the broad trends of the two species, they want to dig deeper and look into environmental drivers and other factors and features that may be causing some of the spatial distribution patterns and long-term changes of the whales.4074036

Summit County Citizens Voice

Blue whale numbers holding steady; fin whales increasing

Staff Report

FRISCO — A new acoustic survey in Southern California coastal waters is helping researchers track whale populations.

The data analyzed by the Scripps Institution of Oceanography at UC San Diego suggests that blue whale numbers are holding steady, while the number of fin whales is increasing.

Both species are often seen in the Southern California Bight, the curved region of California coastline with offshore waters extending from San Diego to Point Conception (near Santa Barbara, Calif.), but little is known about their use of the area, where ever-increasing ship traffic has raised concerns about collisions between whales and boats.

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The Dept of Fisheries launches a “Shark Monitoring Program” to make the Ocean Safer for Humans

Australia: The worlds Deadliest Shark Coast. The “Great White Shark” is the most deadly of the oceans predators. The Shark Investigation Team works on making the deadly seas safer for humans. The Dept of Fisheries launches an extensive “Shark Monitoring Program” The Western Australia  (Full Documentary) Deadly Shark Attacks


New “camoflauge” wetsuits prevents shark attacks

shark documentary documentary (Nature Documentary)
Deadly Shark Attacks documentary Full
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The Dangers of Over-Prescribing Antibiotics

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CDC: Over-prescibing Antibiotics promotes stronger More Resilient Bacteria Growth. This new Bacteria Growth is more resistant to medications, and often causes infections and cancer-type skin spots (these spots appear red and brown) that are much more serious than the original infection being treating.

Antibiotic prescribing in hospitals is inconsistent and often inappropriate—contributing to the emergence of antibiotic resistance, according to an analysis of hospital antibiotic prescribing by the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). But simple steps, such as implementing checklists, could help hospitals more wisely use these vital medications, the CDC says.

The CDC has launched an increasingly urgent campaign to combat antimicrobial resistance. A report issued by the agency last fall found that antibiotic-resistant bacteria infect 2 million US individuals each year, causing 23 000 deaths and accounting for $20 billion in health costs. The report also raised the specter of the emergence of untreatable infections.

But in a March press briefing, CDC Director Thomas Frieden, MD, MPH, said that it is possible to reduce drug resistance rates by establishing antibiotic stewardship programs at hospitals and improving coordination between facilities. “We want to develop the infrastructure in every hospital, so every physician knows how to prescribe properly in the context of [his or her] hospital,” said Arjun Srinivasan, MD, associate director for health care–associated infection prevention programs at the CDC.

The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention advises more judicious use of antimicrobials to treat urinary tract infections, pneumonia, and infections with methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus.

For its part, the CDC is providing checklists for hospitals and physicians. And with the help of an additional $30 million in funding in the Obama Administration’s proposed 2015 budget, the CDC also plans to build an improved surveillance system to rapidly detect the emergence of antibiotic resistance.

More than half of hospital patients receive an antibiotic during their stay, and nearly a third receive a broad-spectrum antibiotic, according to the CDC’s analysis of data from 323 hospitals. These statistics aren’t terribly surprising, but the wide variations among hospitals are. Frieden noted that some of the 26 hospitals reporting data to the National Healthcare Safety Network prescribe 3 times more antibiotics than others.

“This provides a warning bell that improvement is possible,” Frieden said.

The analysis found frequent mistakes in the treatment of common conditions. Using data from its Emerging Infections Program, which included information on about 11 000 patients at 183 hospitals in 2011, the CDC found that half of all antibiotics were prescribed for 3 conditions: lower respiratory infections, urinary tract infections (UTIs), and gram-positive infections that are presumed to be resistant. In a review of 296 cases at 36 hospitals in which physicians treated patients with intravenous vancomycin or treated patients with a UTI who did not have a catheter, the CDC found that more than one-third of those cases involved mistakes that could contribute to resistance. For example, samples were not taken before initiating therapy, doses were incorrect, therapy was not reevaluated after 48 hours, or antibiotics were administered for too long.

“The data on surveillance are no surprise, but it is important to have numbers to support stewardship programs,” said Helen Boucher, MD, a physician at Tufts Medical Center and a member of the Infectious Diseases Society of America’s board of directors. She noted that the society has advocated for better stewardship of antibiotics for years.

More judicious use of antimicrobials in hospitals could have a big effect. Based on its models, the CDC estimates that a 30% reduction in the use of broad-spectrum antibiotics in hospitals—representing a 5% reduction in overall hospital antibiotic use—could prevent 26% of Clostridium difficile infections related to antibiotic treatment. These reductions could also help prevent spillover transmission of C difficile into the community.

To aid all these efforts, the CDC plans to use its anticipated funding boost to build the infrastructure necessary to more quickly identify the emergence of resistant strains. Boucher explained that European public health officials are far ahead of the United States in this regard and can provide detailed information on resistance patterns by country and region.

John R. Combes, MD, senior vice president at the American Hospital Association, said that hospitals recognize the need for improvement and that the association is partnering with other organizations to build a toolkit for stewardship programs.

“We must improve our processes, not only to protect our patients, but to protect our antibiotics,” he said.


The CDC recommends that each hospital build an antibiotic stewardship program to provide physicians with the information and tools they need to make the right decisions.

“Antibiotics are a precious resource, yet for decades we have not had a systematic approach in hospitals across the US to ensure they are used wisely,” said Sara Cosgrove, MD, MS, chair of the Society for Healthcare Epidemiology of America antimicrobial stewardship taskforce, in a statement. “Antimicrobial stewardship programs are a critical step toward stemming the tide of antibiotic resistance and ensuring patients are receiving the right antibiotic, at the right dose and for the right duration.”

The CDC recommends that stewardship programs include 7 components:

  • Dedicated human, financial, and technology resources

  • A physician or other leader responsible for overall outcomes

  • A pharmacist leader focused on prescribing

  • An action to improve prescribing, such as requiring reassessment of prescriptions after 48 hours for drug choice, dose, and duration

  • Monitoring of prescribing and resistance patterns

  • Regular reporting of resistance information to clinicians

  • Education about resistance and judicious prescribing

Boucher, who was hired by Tufts to lead its stewardship program, said that not only were these steps reasonable, but that taking them may also bring other benefits for hospitals. She explained that Tufts has saved millions of dollars by improving its stewardship of antibiotics.

Combes emphasized that the recommendations are not intended to limit physicians’ autonomy but to give them the information they need to provide the best care possible. In an age when “health care has become more of a team sport,” he said, the expertise of pharmacists and infectious disease specialists can help a physician choose the right drug.

“This shouldn’t be viewed as a bureaucratic obstacle to good clinical care,” he said. “This is good clinical care.”

The CDC is also recommending that hospitals work more closely with local public health agencies and neighboring health care facilities to better control the spread of microbes between facilities.

“Our hospitals are just one part of a continuous system of care,” said Combes. Courtesy of: Zedie @

MSU News – MSU chemists solve long-standing problem, explained in international journal

BOZEMAN, MT – A Montana State University team says it has discovered the grail of organic chemistry and has just published a paper about its accomplishment in one of the field’s top journals.

The paper by professor Tom Livinghouse and graduate students Bryce Sunsdahl and Adrian Smith appears in the Dec. 22 issue of the German chemistry journalAngewandte Chemie.

First published online in October, the highly technical paper explains how the team in MSU’s Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry developed an inexpensive and environmentally friendly way to sequentially produce carbon-nitrogen and carbon-carbon bonds commonly found in antibiotics and other pharmaceuticals for humans and animals.

Organic chemists often produce a mixture of unneeded products in the process of making the one they want, Livinghouse explained. As a result, they often throw much material away and keep the one they want.

To solve that long-standing problem, Livinghouse said the MSU group developed a one-step process that largely eliminates waste products. The process is extremely efficient, and it saves time and money. Livinghouse describes it as green chemistry because the process is non-toxic and produces few byproducts. If done right, it minimizes the needs for external solvents. Scientists get “two bonds for the price of one.”

The MSU team isn’t the first to come up with the idea, but the techniques developed by other groups over the past 15 years have had very limited application, Livinghouse said.

“What we did can apply to a great many pharmaceuticals,” he said.

Livinghouse said he came up with the idea about three years ago, but he praised his graduate students for making it happen over the past year. He said their work in the lab was critical to the success of the project and the newly published paper.

“Only with the very best graduate students can you do this,” Livinghouse said. “I’m very proud of my students.

“I couldn’t have done it without them,” he added. “That’s what science is all about. That’s what the university is all about.”

The paper was Sunsdahl’s first published paper. When he learned it had been accepted for publication, Sunsdahl said, “I celebrated by doing more chemistry.”

Sunsdahl, who is listed as first author of the paper, said his main role in the breakthrough described in Angewandte Chemie was developing and streamlining the methodology for the new chemical reaction.

Sunsdahl is pursuing doctoral degree in organic chemistry and plans to graduate in the spring. With his family in St. Cloud, Minn., and only seeing them every few weeks, he said he often works late into the night in Livinghouse’s laboratory.

Smith from Escanaba, Mich., is working on his doctorate in organic chemistry and also plans to graduate in the spring.

“This is my third publication, but definitely the most prestigious one I have been a part of,” Smith said.

Livinghouse has been published once before in Angewandte Chemie, but he said the potential impact of his latest paper is much more significant than the first. In fact, he submitted his paper to the German journal because it is the most select journal in the field of organic chemistry. After learning the paper had been accepted for publication, Livinghouse said he was pleased by the recognition.

“We have been doing great chemistry in my group and throughout the department for a great many years,” he said.

MSU News – MSU chemists solve long-standing problem, explain in international journal.

MSU News – MSU researchers publish paper on the optics of Yellowstone thermal springs

BOZEMAN MT – Researchers with Montana State University’s College of Engineering have used optical technology to create a simple mathematical model to explain how temperature and chemical composition in Yellowstone’s thermal springs combine to give them their amazing colors. The model can be used to visually recreate how the springs appeared years ago, before decades of contamination from make-a-wish coins and other man-made detritus.

A paper authored by Joe Shaw, professor at Montana State University and director of the university’s Optical Technology Center, along with his doctoral student Paul Nugent and visiting German colleague Michael Vollmer, details the new model and showcases images of the springs. The paper appeared recently in the journal Applied Optics, which is published by the Optical Society (OSA).

“This is a paper that showcases MSU’s strength in optical science with the locally interesting application of better understanding Yellowstone’s hot springs,” Shaw said. “Researchers at MSU have explored Yellowstone’s thermal pools for decades, bringing us historic scientific discoveries and some of the most important lines of inquiry MSU has ever undertaken. Meanwhile, MSU’s optical science and engineering researchers have pushed the envelope of how we can measure of our world with laser and thermal imaging technology. It is exciting to see the two disciplines overlap.”

Yellowstone National Park is a geothermal wonderland, with Grand Prismatic Spring and its neighbors acting as envoys, steaming in front of visitors’ cameras and often gracing the internet with their ethereal beauty. While the basic physical phenomena that render these colorful delights have long been scientifically understood — they arise because of a complicated interplay of underwater vents and lawns of bacteria — no mathematical model existed that showed empirically how the physical and chemical variables of a pool relate to their optical factors and coalesce in the unique, stunning fashion that they do.

“What we were able to show is that you really don’t have to get terribly complex – you can explain some very beautiful things with relatively simple models,” Shaw said.

Using a relatively simple one-dimensional model for light propagation, the group was able to reproduce the brilliant colors and optical characteristics of Yellowstone National Park’s hot springs by accounting for each pool’s spectral reflection due to microbial mats, their optical absorption and scattering of water and the incident solar and diffuse skylight conditions present when measurements were taken.

“When we started the study, it was clear we were just doing it for fun,” Vollmer said. But they quickly discovered there was very little in the scientific literature on the subject. That’s when things got interesting.

In the summer of 2012, Vollmer, on sabbatical from the Brandenburg University of Applied Sciences, travelled with Shaw and Nugent to the park.  Using handheld spectrometers, digital SLR cameras for visible images and infrared thermal imaging cameras for non-contact measurement of the water temperatures, the group took measurements at a number of pools in Yellowstone, including Morning Glory Pool, Sapphire Pool and Grand Prismatic Spring. Using these data, along with previously available information about the physical dimensions of the pools, they were able to create a simple model whose renderings of the pools were strikingly similar to actual photographs.

In the case of Morning Glory Pool, they were even able to simulate what the pool once looked like between the 1880’s and 1940’s, when its temperatures were significantly higher. During this time, its waters appeared a uniform deep blue. An accumulation of coins, trash and rocks over the intervening decades has partially obscured the underwater vent, lowering the pool’s overall temperature and shifting its appearance to a terrace of orange-yellow-green. This change from blue was demonstrated to result from the change in composition of the microbial mats, as a result of the lower water temperature.

A general relationship between shallow water temperature (hence microbial mat composition) and observed colors was confirmed in this study. However, color patterns observed in deeper segments of the pool are caused more by absorption and scattering of light in the water. These characteristics – mats having greater effect on color in shallow water, and absorption and scattering winning out in the deeper areas – are consistent across all the measured pools.

“Our paper describes a very simple, one-dimensional model, that gives the first clue if you really want to do more,” Vollmer said.

“We didn’t start this project as experts on thermal pools,” Shaw said. “We started this project as experts on optical phenomena and imaging, and so we had a lot to learn.”

“There are people at my university who are world experts in the biological side of what’s going on in the pools,” Shaw said. “They’re looking for ways to monitor changes in the biology – when the biology changes, that causes color changes – so we’re actually looking at possibilities of collaborating in the future.”

Nugent, Vollmer and Shaw are continuing their research, delving further into infrared imaging at Yellowstone National Park.

Contact: Joe Shaw, (406) 994-7261,

MSU News – MSU researchers publish paper on the optics of Yellowstone thermal springs.

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