Let’s Talk About Climate Change

climate change

Many questions surround climate change and its effects. One question that has a clear answer: climate change is real. (Photo credit: ALAN DAWSON PHOTOGRAPHY/Alamy Images)

What is climate change? What evidence supports climate change? What role do humans play in climate change? Read on to find the answers to these questions and a few other frequently-asked questions about this topic. [Read more…]

Mexico’s Monarch Butterfly Wintering Grounds

monarch butterflies

Monarch butterflies cluster tightly together in pine and fir trees in their Mexican habitat. (Photo credit: Getty Images)

The number of monarch butterflies overwintering in Mexico dropped by 27 percent in 2017, according to experts. This decline is a reversal in last year’s numbers, which appeared to show a recovery in the monarch butterfly population. [Read more…]

Dealing with Waste in Antarctica

Antarctic penguins

Though it is the most pristine continent on Earth, human activities are polluting Antarctica. (Photo credit: ©Photodynamic/Shutterstock)

Given Antarctica’s geographic isolation and extreme climate conditions, is has long been an area of interest to scientists. But what happens to all the waste generated by the annual influx of scientists and their support staff? [Read more…]

The Plight of the Tasmanian Devil

Tasmanian devil

Tasmanian devils are currently threatened by a cancerous facial disease. (Photo credit: ©FiledIMAGE/Shutterstock)

Tasmania, an island located off the southeastern coast of Australia, is home to the Tasmanian devil. Unlike the human adult sized cartoon version, the real Tasmanian devil is only 20-31 inches (51-79 cm) tall and weighs between 9 and 26 pounds (4-12 kg).

While fossil evidence indicates that Tasmanian devils were once found on the Australian mainland, research indicates that the animals went extinct there 400 years ago due to increasingly arid conditions and the spread of the dingo, a type of wild dog. Tasmanian devils were nearly hunted to extinction on Tasmania during the late 1800s and early 1900s as they were considered to be pests by early settlers. The animals were placed under formal legislative protection in June 1941.

Though the Tasmanian devil bears no resemblance to its cartoon counterpart, it does share its terrible disposition. When the animal feels threatened, its puts on an aggressive display of growling, lunging, and baring its teeth. It earned its “devil” name from early settlers after hearing its “otherworldly” scream. However, while it may be aggressive to potential predators, Tasmanian devils tend to be fairly timid and are typically not a threat to people.

Tasmanian devils are nocturnal animals, which means they are active at night. They are carnivorous and generally feed on birds, snakes, fish, insects, and the remains of dead animals. They do not let any food go to waste – they eat the bones, tissue, muscles, and organs of their prey.

Like kangaroos and wombats, Tasmanian devils are marsupials. The animals breed once a year in March. After a three-week gestation period, between 20 and 30 rice-sized young are born. The young, called imps, must race to their mother’s pouch to claim one of her four teats; the majority are too slow and do not survive. The young devils stay in their mother’s pouch for four months, after which they are carried on their mother’s back. The young are fully grown after about nine months.

While in the mid 1990s, there was a surge in the Tasmanian devil population, that time period also coincided with the appearance of a disease called devil facial tumor disease (DFTD). This cancerous disease causes tumors to form on the animal’s face, which makes it difficult for it to eat, leading to starvation. Since 2001, the Tasmanian devil population has declined 60 percent.

Scientists are working to save the species from extinction. To do so, they are sequestering healthy populations to prevent the spread of disease. They are also focusing on captive-breeding programs. Currently, over 20 Australian organizations are involved in captive-breeding efforts and more than 600 Tasmanian devils have been bred in captivity.

More to Explore
Tasmanian Devil Natural History
Tasmanian Devil FAQs
Save the Tasmanian Devil
National Geographic: Tasmanian Devil

Country: Australia
Location: Australia is located on the Oceania continent, which is found between the Indian Ocean and the South Pacific Ocean.
Area: 7,741,220 sq km (land and water) (slightly smaller than the 48 contiguous United States)
Climate: Arid to semi-arid; temperate in the southern and eastern portions of the country and tropical in the northern portions of the country
Terrain: Mainly low desert plateaus; fertile plains in the southeast
Natural Resources: bauxite, coal, copper, diamonds, gold, iron ore, lead, natural gas, nickel, silver, tungsten, uranium, petroleum
Economics: $998.3 billion (est. 2013)
Environmental Issues: Soil erosion, urbanization, desertification, habitat destruction (land and marine)
Source:
CIA – The World Factbook

Waste Not, Want Not — Reducing Food Waste in America

food waste

Food waste is a major component of solid waste in landfills. Decomposing food creates methane, a potent greenhouse gas. (Photo credit: g215/Shutterstock)

In the United States, 40 percent of all food produced remains uneaten. Some of this food has spoiled, some of it was left in the fields to rot, and some of it never made it to market after being harvested. According to the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), Americans routinely throw away about 20 pounds of food per month, which equates to about $28-43 worth of food. In all, it is estimated that $165 billion are squandered each year when perfectly edible food goes uneaten. Why is there so much food waste? And what can you do about it?

[Read more…]

The Reindeer of Finland

reindeer

Reindeer refers to domesticated populations of caribou. (Photo credit: JellisV/istock Getty Images Plus/Getty Images)

You know Dasher and Dancer, and Prancer and Vixen … but what do you really know about reindeer?

[Read more…]

Scientists Closer to Predicting Volcano Eruptions

volcano monitoring

Measuring gas emissions is key to predicting volcanic eruptions. (Photo credit: Konstantina Sidiropoulou/Alamy Stock Photo)

Every month, an average of 40 volcanoes erupt on land into the atmosphere, and hundreds of others on the seafloor erupt into the ocean. Predicting when these eruptions will occur is nearly impossible. Scientists associated with the Deep Carbon Observatory (DCO) and Deep Earth Carbon Degassing (DECADE) initiative are setting the stage to make accurate volcanic eruption forecasts a reality. [Read more…]

Scientists Solve Mystery of Deadly 1952 London Fog

double-decker bus in London fog

Visibility was reduced to less than three feet in parts of the city during the killer London Fog event of 1952 (Photo credit: Bettmann/Getty Images)

Though London is well known for its overcast and foggy weather, the fog that enveloped the city for four days in 1952 was a fog like no other. By the time the fog lifted, at least 4000 people were dead and more than 100,000 people had been hospitalized. In addition, thousands of animals, including many livestock, also died. What caused this particularly deadly fog has long been unknown. Now scientists think they have finally solved the mystery behind the killer fog. Their findings may help prevent a similar event from occurring in modern-day China, which is home to 16 of the 20 most polluted cities in the world. [Read more…]

The Environmental Impact of Plastic Bags

plastic bags in trees

A huge number of plastic bags are used each year. A large proportion of them end up as litter. (Photo credit: bikeriderlondon/Shutterstock)

“Paper or plastic?” is a common question heard at the checkout line. Though the environmental impact of paper versus plastic bags continues to be debated, perhaps the best answer is “I’ve brought my own.” [Read more…]

Sweden’s Dedication to Sustainable Living

solar power in Sweden

Solar power is just one aspect of Sweden’s sustainable development initiatives. (Bohner Images/Getty Images)

Sweden has consistently been ranked as one of the most sustainable countries in the world for several years in a row. How has this Scandinavian country embraced sustainable living? [Read more…]