In the heat of political crisis, Belarus launches first nuclear power plant
Astravets nuclear power plant, Belarus, 2020. Photo (c): Hanna Valynets, used with permission.Since August, Belarus has been rocked by mass protests and strikes. The authorities try not to pay attention, for they are preoccupied with a no less historic development — the construction of a new nuclear power plant. That is controversial in a country which suffered greatly from the 1986 Chernobyl catastrophe in neighbouring Ukraine. Concern at the state of democracy dominates Belarusian public life, but alongside it another urgent conversation continues — about the country’s past experience with n...
Bulldozers were ready to fight California fires. Why did Forest Service turn them away?
SACRAMENTO, Calif. — The Loyalton fire was 2 days old and starting to pick up momentum in a heavily forested area 50 miles north of Lake Tahoe. That’s when Jeff Holland offered to help.Holland’s logging company, CTL Forest Management Inc., happened to have an array of firefighting equipment — bulldozers, water trucks, a wood-chipping machine called a masticator — parked on a property he owns in Loyalton, just west of where the fire started in mid-August. He proposed hiring out the equipment to the U.S. Forest Service, which was in charge of fighting the fire.He was turned down.“I had several p...
The Sacramento Bee
Here's why shark researchers are concerned about a potential COVID-19 vaccine
MIAMI — Science’s steady march to find a vaccine capable of ending the coronavirus pandemic may come at the expense of another species: sharks.Miami shark researchers say they’re concerned about a key ingredient used to make vaccines more effective, squalene — an oily substance found in plants and even human skin — but is particularly concentrated in shark livers.The practice of using shark-derived squalene as a booster to stimulate a stronger immune response to a vaccine is not unique to the coronavirus vaccine. The compound has been shown to be safe and effective in millions of doses of vacc...
They're not in the mood. Toxins are turning off great egrets mating in the Everglades
MIAMI — Great egrets in the Everglades are losing their sexual motivation because they are exposed to mercury through the fish they eat, a University of Florida study using more than 20 years of data has found.Researchers observed that mercury contamination led to a 50% reduction in attempts by the birds to breed, showing that the heavy metal is affecting their reproduction process much earlier than previously thought. As most studies have focused on offspring-related metrics such as hatchling success, the recent findings indicate that the full effects of mercury exposure among wading birds ma...
Poll: Religious people believe climate change is a real threat, not a controversy
People of all faiths, including white evangelicals, are convinced climate change is real and a threat, according to a new poll, but whether they believe it’s caused by humans depends on the denomination.Further, climate change doesn’t seem to be controversial among Roman Catholics, despite the contention of U.S. Supreme Court nominee Amy Coney Barrett, who is Catholic, that the issue was too “controversial” for her to comment on during a recent Senate hearing.A majority of Catholics not only believe that climate change is happening, but that it is caused by humans and they are worried by it, a...
The Philadelphia Inquirer
Wolf researcher's new book explores predators, prey on Isle Royale
MINNEAPOLIS — Renowned Minnesota wolf researcher Dave Mech was in his early 20s and a graduate student at Purdue University when he arrived on Isle Royale in 1958 to study the predator-prey relationship between wolves and moose. Mech’s three-year groundbreaking project detailed for the first time the killing efficiency of wolves and the vulnerability of moose on the 210-square-mile Lake Superior island.Now in a compelling new book to be launched Tuesday titled “Wolf Island: Discovering the Secrets of a Mythic Animal,” Mech, along with Twin Cities co-writer Greg Breining, chronicles Mech’s life...
Star Tribune (Minneapolis)
Illinois launches statewide plan to boost monarch butterfly population: 'If enough people get on board, we can turn this thing around'
CHICAGO — Monarch butterflies have flown south for the winter, but efforts to protect them in Illinois are sticking around.As butterflies east of the Rocky Mountains migrated thousands of miles toward Mexico, a group of stakeholders representing farms, cities, roadsides and natural areas signed on to the Illinois Monarch Action Plan, the state’s all-hands-on-deck effort to ensure the survival of that unmistakable orange-winged butterfly.The plan is part of an effort to add regionally 1.3 billion stems of milkweed, which monarchs depend upon. Illinois aims to add 150 million stems of the state ...
How to build an anti-racist STEM lab: Tips from a scientist
CHICAGO — Environmental scientist and ecologist Bala Chaudhary is used to her published papers on microbes getting, maybe, 100 clicks.But the DePaul University assistant professor’s latest paper, “Ten simple rules for building an antiracist lab,” (co-authored with Asmeret Asefaw Berhe, a University of California at Merced professor of soil biogeochemistry) has been viewed over 13,000 times and downloaded more than 7,000 times.“Asmeret and I have been floored by the response,” Chaudhary said. “So many people have said that they used our paper to guide the first conversations that they organized...
‘Godfather of Peruvian falcons’ uncovers peregrine’s epic journey from the Arctic
When a peregrine falcon crashed through the skylight of a high-rise building in Lima, Peru, what impressed falcon researchers was not its tremendous speed (peregrines are the fastest animal in the world), or that it was found eating a dove in a busy stairwell. But rather, they were impressed by its long, long journey.A recently published study in the Journal of Raptor Research links the breeding sites of the North American subspecies of peregrine falcons (Falco peregrinus) from their breeding and natal (birth) grounds in Canada and the U.S. to their wintering sites in Peru.Using 57 years of da...
Indonesia’s ‘militarized agriculture’ raises social, environmental red flags
JAKARTA — Observers and activists have raised concerns about the leading role the Indonesian government plans to give to the military and to big corporations in a program to establish vast crop plantations across the country.The move appears to be part of a creeping rollback of Indonesia’s civilian democracy by the administration of President Joko Widodo, critics say, and could have major repercussions for Indigenous and community land rights, the conservation of the country’s rainforests, and efforts to curb greenhouse gas emissions.The government has framed the program as a bid to secure foo...