This summer, teachers across northwest Ohio took the time to learn about water quality in Waterville at Farnsworth Metropark. The teachers were training in the Maumee River for the Student Watershed Watch (SWW) program, run by TMACOG. “TMACOG is the Toledo Metropolitan Area Council of Governments, Sara Guiher, a water quality planner and SWW coordinator for TMACOG, explains to EM. “We’re a regional planning organization and we work with local governments on issues related to stormwater, wastewater, drinking water, and watersheds. . . .
If you’ve ever sat at the beach or on the shore of a lake reapplying your sunscreen and wondered what happens to that sunscreen as it washes off in the water, you’re in good company. A team of researchers has been investigating how sunscreen chemicals affect marine wildlife, and their recent paper indicates that ultraviolet (UV) filters from sunscreen and other personal care products can affect zebrafish embryo development.
Dyes are part of manufacturing everything from clothing to food all over the world. In fact, every year about 700,000 metric tons of dye change the hue of consumer goods. However, about ten percent of that dye ends up in the world’s waterways, sometimes with toxic results. Even non-toxic dyes pose a threat in the environment, because changing the color of the water in streams, lakes, holding ponds, and rivers can mean interfering with plants’ ability to photosynthesize.
The Great Barrier Reef (GBR) is composed of over 3,000 individual reefs, making it the most massive reef system on Earth. Its 900-plus islands cover more than 344,400 square kilometers, about half the size of Texas. That’s a lot of ground to cover if you’re a scientist or research team studying the reef; add in the difficulties inherent to conducting research underwater, including anything from sharks to bad weather, and you have a serious challenge on your hands. . . .
Do you have a childhood memory of a favorite lake you used to visit with family and friends? This is one of the most common experiences we share as Americans, and how much we care about lake ecosystems can affect how much protection we afford them. Recent research from Virginia Tech, University of Wisconsin, The Pennsylvania State University, Cornell University, Cary Institute of Ecosystem Studies, and Michigan State University models both human and natural systems to explore how humans and the environment affect each other.
In April of 2010, a series of mistakes snowballed into an industrial and environmental disaster as the Deepwater Horizon offshore drilling rig caught fire. The well was supposedly sealed by September of that year, but leaks were reported at the site in 2012. By any measure, it was an unprecedented disaster—but it has also inspired interesting new research from Penn State.
Researchers from Stevens Institute of Technology are training AI-powered robots to adapt to the unpredictable conditions of life under the ocean’s surface using algorithms and machine learning. Their immediate goal is to enable these robots to inspect underwater infrastructure autonomously, reducing risk to human divers and providing improved security. However, the possibilities for deploying AI-powered robots underwater are numerous and exciting.
Drinking water management plans in many cities use chemical softening agents to reduce mineral buildup and keep water flowing inside the plumbing. Recent research reveals that these additives might make plumbing a much more slippery situation, not just for water, but for pathogenic bacteria such as those that cause Legionnaires’ disease, too. Biofilms grow inside pipes that carry water, attaching themselves to buildups of mineral scale.
It’s been a battle, but water quality in San Francisco Bay is finally showing improvement thanks to years of aggressive environmental interventions. One of the groups noticing the difference—and making it happen—is the San Francisco Baykeeper (Baykeeper). Ian Wren, the Staff Scientist from the Baykeeper, spoke to EM about some of the challenges the Bay faces, and what’s being done to improve its water quality.
Well, not literally. But recent research proves that acidic oceans do impair olfaction in sea bass, and probably other fish—and that really does stink, for everyone. Fish sniff out safe habitats, food, suitable spawning grounds and each other—and they also use their sense of smell to avoid predators. This means that reduced olfaction can threaten their survival. Dr. Cosima Porteus of the University of Exeter, who led the study, discussed her recent research on this issue with EM.
Right now, when an expert at a water treatment plant detects cyanobacteria in a sample, they have to take action quickly. Some treatment facilities can handle cyanobacteria, but many smaller systems can’t, and separate water supplies such as those from private wells are typically not tested at all.
A recent feasibility study of new artificial intelligence (AI) water monitoring technology may mean an easier, more cost-effective solution for water treatment plants—especially for smaller and more rural municipalities.
Over the past decade or so, nanomaterials have been deployed in agrochemicals such as pesticides and fungicides more and more. In theory, this is a brilliant strategy, reducing the number of toxins fields of crops—and agricultural producers and workers—are exposed to, and enabling increased crop yield and more disease protection. However, recent work from CEINT reveals nanomaterials and nutrient pollution combine to worsen eutrophication in water—and that a holistic, experimental approach can yield more accurate results.
One of the biggest challenges scientists who study sea creatures face is the problem of where and how to study their subjects. In situ study is critical to many lines of research, especially to anything that touches upon conservation. However, marine fauna are often very difficult to study in place, especially for species that live very deep underwater. Recent work from mechanical engineer Zhi Ern Teoh, PhD, and colleagues, offers a potential solution for those studying the denizens of the deep: self-folding polyhedron robots inspired by origami.
Over the past few years, people in Hawaiian waters have been spotting whale sharks more and more often—and researchers are wondering why. Now, the dedicated team of researchers from the Hawaii Uncharted Research Collective (HURC) is working to find out with the Whale Shark Initiative. Chief Technical Scientist Travis Marcoux and Chief Research Scientist Stacia Goecke of HURC spoke with EM about the inspiration for the whale shark research program and its connection to HURC.
A recent report from the Environmental Defense Fund (EDF) reveals that there is lead present in drinking water among childcare centers in different parts of the country. The report clarifies where problems are appearing, and sets forth new, more stringent recommendations for standards. Lead is unsafe in drinking water, at any level. It is especially risky for children because lead exposure can impair normal brain development, leading to problems learning and behavioral issues. . . .