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While these snake-like fish don’t earn the admiration of majestic salmon jumping waterfalls, the Pacific lamprey is just as important to the region and river ecosystems. Now, PNNL researchers at are striving to learn more about the lamprey and its East Coast cousin, the American eel. Read more about how a tiny acoustic tag is revealing the lamprey’s secrets: https://goo.gl/Bzy8aV. Watch our video at https://youtu.be/BxNkMxx0Lzc.

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Lamprey have been on Earth at least 400 million years, which is significantly longer than salmon and even dinosaurs. Now, researchers are tagging fish collected at a Columbia River dam with PNNL's super-small acoustic tag designed just for juvenile lamprey. Tagged fish have been released and researchers will track their movements so we can better understand how man-made structures such as dams affect them. This marks the first time PNNL's lamprey tag has been tested in the field.

PNNL's special lamprey tag weighs just 0.08 grams — less than a paperclip — and is designed to be injected with a syringe under a young fish's skin. It's the smallest fish tag that's part of PNNL's larger Juvenile Salmon Acoustic Telemetry System, which PNNL has been developing since 2001 to improve fish-tracking technologies.

For more information, see DOE's blog post on the lamprey tag: https://energy.gov/eere/success-stories/articles/eere-success-story-sturgeon-lamprey-and-eel-special-tags-special-fish.
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The discussion on climate has persisted for decades since we first discovered that there is a human-made influence on the environment. From then, many researchers have come together to finagle innovations that reduce our industrial carbon footprint.
One such innovation is the molecular leaf.
Liang-shi Li at Indiana University and an international team of scientists discovered this novel way to recycle carbon dioxide in the Earth's atmosphere.
With the use of light or electricity, the molecule built by the team can convert the notorious greenhouse gas into carbon monoxide. The molecular leaf is the most efficient method of carbon reduction to date.
The carbon monoxide generated by this molecule could be reused as fuel. Burning carbon monoxide releases an abundance of energy as well as carbon dioxide.
Because converting carbon dioxide back into carbon monoxide requires as much energy as is released by burning carbon monoxide, this potential cycle has been largely one way, leading to a build-up of carbon dioxide.
The team's work could lead to reducing this carbon dioxide build-up by making the conversion cycle more efficient and by harnessing solar power.

The molecule's nanographene structure has a dark colour that absorbs large amounts of sunlight. The energy from the sunlight is then utilised by the molecule's rhenium 'engine' to produce carbon monoxide from carbon dioxide.
The molecular leaf would help us tackle the greenhouse gas effects of carbon dioxide.
Since the industrial revolution, we have raised the levels of carbon dioxide from 280 parts per million to 400 parts per million in the last 150 years.
Scientists agree that there is a 95 percent probability that human-produced greenhouse gases have increased the Earth's temperature over the past 50 years.

While Li is glad that his innovation is efficient at tackling greenhouse gases, he hopes to improve the molecular leaf by producing one that can survive in a non-liquid form.
The team is also looking for ways to replace the rhenium element with manganese, which is far more common and therefore much more affordable for reproduction.
But even without these improvements, the molecular leaf could be a powerful tool in the efforts to halt climate change.

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Inter-regional hybrids of native and non-native Centaurea sulphurea inherit increased competitive ability from the non-natives

Exotic species can rapidly develop adaptations to their non-native regions, such as increased size and competitive ability. Although these traits are believed to be responsible for invasive success, some non-invasive exotic species display them too. This suggests that increased size and competitive ability might be necessary but not sufficient to turn an exotic into a successful invader.

We experimentally produced a cohort of C. sulphurea individuals from the native range of the species in Spain, from its non-native range in California, as well as hybrids between the two regions. We grew these plants in pots in competition with the grass Bromus hordeaceus, or alone in control pots. Individuals from California were larger and better competitors than individuals from Spain. Furthermore, inter-regional hybrids showed competitive responses similar to that of individuals from California.

Our results confirm that increased competitive ability might be more frequent than previously thought among introduced species, since it can be detected in at least some exotic non-invasive species. They also illustrate the importance of maternal effects, how locally adapted traits are conserved and spread in the non-native ranges of exotic species, and suggest that plant size and competitive ability are not directly associated in this species.

Free download: http://www.tandfonline.com/eprint/DtIsE5npy26VtymRvFKU/full
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NEW Deep Look: Roly Polies Came From the Sea to Conquer the Earth

Pill bugs. Doodle bugs. Potato bugs. Whatever you call them, there’s something less creepy about these critters than other insects. Maybe it’s because they’re not insects at all.

With winter rains, Bay Area pill bugs are out in force. Fortunately, they’re one of our most beloved “bugs.” Pill bugs. Doodle bugs. Potato bugs. Wood Shrimp. Whatever you call them, there’s something less creepy about these critters than other insects. Maybe it’s because they’re not insects at all.

Pill bugs are more closely related to shrimp and lobsters than crickets or butterflies. Their ancestors lived in the sea, but ancient pill bugs crawled out millions of years ago to carve a life for themselves on dry land.

You can see the evidence if you take a close look at them, so that’s exactly what we did for this episode of Deep Look, an ultra-high definition wildlife video series produced by KQED and PBS Digital Studios.

“Kids love them,” said Jonathan Wright, a professor of biology at Pomona College who studies the charismatic creepy-crawlies. After all, who hasn’t delighted as a youth in annoying a pill bug until it defensively curls up into a little armored ball?

Some adventurous foragers even eat pill bugs. Their flavor is said to resemble other crustaceans, earning pill bugs the moniker “wood shrimp.”

“I personally haven’t tasted one,” said Wright, “but I’ve spoken to people that have. They didn’t get a particularly high approval rating. Pill bugs have a lot of soil in their gut.”

They may not be ready to replace shrimp as an appetizer, but according to Wright, the evidence of the pill bug’s evolutionary lineage lies underneath its shell.

A Different Way to Breathe

“Like their ocean ancestors, pill bugs have gills,” said Wright. Gills work great in the water. They’re basically exposed mucous membranes that absorb oxygen out of the water and into the blood that feeds the rest of the body. But on land, gills are a liability.

If the pill bug dries out, its gills won’t function properly and the pill bug can suffocate. That’s why you usually only find them in damp areas, like under a dead log. If they start to overheat and dry out, pill bugs will even roll into a ball to protect the remaining moisture on their gills.

Unlike pill bugs, terrestrial insects breathe through a system of tubes called tracheae that connect to the air through tiny muscular valves on their bodies called spiracles. The spiracles open to allow air into the tracheae, which deliver oxygen directly to the insect’s tissues.

“You can look at things like the wings of a dragonfly,” said Wright. “The veins that you see are the tracheae system.”

For smaller animals like insects, the tracheae system is extremely efficient at delivering oxygen. It allows animals like bumblebees to sustain the enormous amount of effort required to fly from flower to flower.

Insects can also adjust the amount of air they let into their respiratory system. The insect’s tracheae system is much more efficient at reducing water loss when you compare it to the pill bug’s gills.

But over evolutionary time, the pill bug’s gills have adapted to life on dry land. Folds in the surface of their first two pairs of gills eventually turned into hollow branched structures, almost like tiny lungs.

Little Pill Bugs Make a Big Impact

In 2015, a study by Yale and several other universities found that terrestrial crustaceans like pill bugs may play a very real role in controlling the global climate.

Pill bugs consume fungus that is responsible for breaking down organic matter in the soil, a process that releases carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. As the atmosphere warms, the fungus activity increases, resulting in more carbon released and even higher atmospheric temperatures. It’s a dangerous vortex.

But when pill bugs and their kin are present, they’re able to mitigate the effects of increased temperature by consuming more of the fungus. They’re small, but pill bugs may be protecting us by slowing climate change.

Link to KQED Science blog: https://ww2.kqed.org/science/2017/01/17/roly-polies-came-from-the-sea-to-conquer-the-earth-deep-look/

Link to research: http://pages.pomona.edu/~jcw04747/research.html
http://www.pnas.org/content/112/22/7033.abstract

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Blog post on a Special Feature of the Royal Society Proceedings B on biodiversity, available at [ http://royalsocietypublishing.org/cc/the-value-of-biodiversity-in-the-anthropocene ]. "Today we published a new Special Feature in Proceedings B on the topic of ‘The value of biodiversity in the Anthropocene’, guest edited by Professor Nathalie Seddon (University of Oxford) and Dr Rachel Cavanagh (British Antarctic Survey).

This Special Feature is particularly timely, as many scientists agree that meeting the ever-increasing needs of the Earth’s human population while maintaining biological diversity is one of the greatest challenges of our time. Despite bold international commitments, biodiversity continues to decline. One potential solution rapidly gaining momentum—as well as opposition—is to incorporate the economic value of biodiversity into mainstream decision-making.
[...]
This Special Feature covers a broad range of perspectives on this important issue, and includes articles on marine and terrestrial environments, at scales ranging from microbes to tropical rainforests. A full list of the articles included can be accessed via ‘The value of biodiversity in the Anthropocene’ page on the journal website."

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Ants developed farming way before humans did

"(Ants) carefully planted them (seeds) in the nooks and crannies of the tree bark. Once the plant takes root in the tree and begins to grow, the ants climb inside its young stalks and fertilize it. The ants continue to nourish the plants with fertilizer even after they are fully grown, and the plants provide them with sugary fruit as well as shelter. (...) It's very possible that many of the structural changes we see in Squamelleria came from careful ant cultivation, much the way humans changed the structure of beans and corn over thousands of years of farming."

"P. nagasau aren't the only ants to become agriculturalists. Leaf cutter ants carefully grow fungus underground to feed their young, while Argentine ants shepherd vast farms of aphids in trees, milking them for a sugary substance called honeydew. What's different about P. nagasau is that its entire existence is dependent on the plant it farms. (...) Millions of years before humans ever dreamt of farming, these insects had devoted their entire societies to growing cities made out of plants."

http://arstechnica.com/science/2016/11/on-fiji-ants-have-learned-to-grow-plants-to-house-their-massive-colonies/

Original article (paywall): http://www.nature.com/articles/nplants2016181

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Scientists are learning more about chemical interaction mechanisms that may be responsible for the high amount of sugar-like material found in sea spray produced from ocean bubbles that burst and launch the tiny particles into the atmosphere. Ultimately, research will show how these particles impact the brightness of the cloud layers formed above the ocean, which have an effect on the Earth’s climate. Read more at http://goo.gl/xKwTj4.

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Exiting the airport, travelers catch a taxi, Uber, or bus ride to their next stop. Seafaring sugar molecules floating near the ocean's surface take a similar tack. Instead of taxis, they hitch a ride on oily molecules floating by.

Researchers at PNNL, +Montana State University and +Los Alamos National Laboratory found this "sticky" strategy not only shields these molecules from their soluble nature, it explains the discrepancies between models that predict sea spray's organic enrichment and the actual measurements of sea spray aerosol composition.

The study's findings, published in Geophysical Research Letters, may explain how so many soluble sugars find their way into sea spray, and provide clues to how they may affect the amount of sunlight reflected by sea-spray-seeded clouds.

Scientists are interested in the composition of particles tossed into the atmosphere by sea spray, a large source of water vapor helping form clouds. What are these particles that affect marine clouds? Researchers who analyze sea spray samples collected onboard ships found that they contain a large amount of saccharides (sugar-like molecules). However, because saccharides easily dissolve in water, it was unclear how this material survived to enter the spray.

A team of researchers investigated the water surface interactions between saccharides and fatty acids—oily molecules that are insoluble in water. Montana State University researchers and EMSL staff performed spectroscopy experiments at the EMSL facility and showed that saccharides can adsorb (stick) to the bottom of a layer of fatty acids that coat the water surface. This adsorption causes an increased amount of saccharide molecules to be present at the surface. When the layer of fatty acids was not present, the saccharide molecules dissolved in the water. Because sea spray aerosol forms from the surface layer of ocean water, mechanisms similar to the one investigated in this study could increase the amount of organic matter emitted in sea spray.

Using a model developed at PNNL and Los Alamos, researchers tested the sensitivity of modeled sea spray composition to this mechanism. They found that if the molecules adsorb strongly enough, the amount of organic matter emitted in sea spray could be substantially increased. These organic matter emissions could potentially impact the amount of sunlight that is reflected by clouds that are influenced by this spray.

Why is this important? Sugar molecules (saccharides) are normally soluble in water. Yet, somehow, they make their way into sea-spray particles that are tossed into the atmosphere by breaking waves, eventually helping seed low-lying marine clouds. These clouds have a large role in the climate because they regulate the amount of sunlight that hits the ocean surface—the largest heat sink on the planet. By solving the mechanistic mystery by which sugars and other organic matter in sea spray aerosol, such as these sugars, is emitted to the atmosphere, scientists will be better able to simulate its impacts on the climate. This information allows better estimations of the amount of sunlight that is reflected by clouds, which has a cooling effect on the Earth.

What's next? Researchers suggest further experiments to test interactions of additional organic molecules that reflect the range of chemistry occurring in the ocean's surface waters. They want to identify whether the interactions studied in surface films will affect the composition of artificially generated sea spray aerosol.

Acknowledgments: Research was partially supported by the +U.S. Department of Energy Office of Science, Office of Biological and Environmental Research for the Regional & Global Climate Modeling Program. Partial support was provided by the +National Science Foundation.
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Did you know that satellites can track toxic algal blooms from space?

This short video explains the ShellEye project, which aims to use satellite data to help the aquaculture industry tackle the toxins from algal blooms that can make people ill and cause huge amounts of food waste. In the video we see a shellfish farmer describe his losses ($50,000 per week), as well as the principle scientists explaining the rationale and details behind the research.

The research is based at Plymouth Marine Laboratory, UK, and is funded by BBSRC and NERC. Read more in this feature: http://www.bbsrc.ac.uk/news/food-security/2016/160921-f-what-can-satellite-data-do-for-aquaculture/

A similar approach by the same team was undertaken in bathing waters and then used in the Scottish salmon farming industry, and a paper on their results is here: http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0098300415000114

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To improve its image, traditional #agriculture has focused upon reducing as far as possible the quantity of #pesticides used in #farming. To do so, there is a need to understand in detail - and mastering - what happens when micro-drops of the sprayed product meet the surface of the plant being sprayed. This is the subject addressed by Mathieu Massinon, researcher at Gembloux Argo-Bio ( )  Tech and author of a thesis on the retention of phytosanitary products by plants known as ‘superhydrophobic’. 
http://reflexions.ulg.ac.be/en/PesticidesMicroDrops
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#oceanography   #climatechange   #chemistry   #GHG  
A team of researchers from #Belgium has identified important concentrations of #methane in the surface waters of the #North #Sea, mainly near the Belgian and English coasts. In order to understand the origins of this methane concentration, it is necessary to go back 16,000 years in time when forests and peatlands connected England and Ireland to continental Europe. Trapped in marine sediment today, this organic matter produces methane which is easily released into the atmosphere from the shallower zones of the basin. This ground-breaking study includes the coastal regions in the quantification of the methane cycle. This quest was made even more difficult by the many sinks and sources of this hydrocarbon of both anthropogenic and natural origin. A better understanding of methane, the second most efficient greenhouse gas after carbon dioxide could be key to slowing down climate change. A study published in Scientific Reports. +Université de Liège (ULg) 
infos : http://reflexions.ulg.ac.be/en/MethaneNorthSea
original paper : http://www.nature.com/articles/srep27908
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