The best of EcoWatch, right in your inbox. Sign up for our email newsletter!
EcoWatch is a leading online environmental news company, publishing timely stories every day for a healthier planet and life. We are rapidly growing, reaching millions of readers each month through original writing from our contributors and reposts from partner organizations. EcoWatch informs its audience with essential science-based news on a wide range of topics including climate change, energy, oceans, animals, food, politics and health.
Tara joined EcoWatch as managing editor in April 2018. Her work has appeared in local and national publications including the Huffington Post, Cosmopolitan, American Theatre, BUST, Brooklyn Based and Clamor. She was a segment producer for Tina Brown Live Media and a freelance web producer for Condé Nast Traveler. She holds a master's degree from CUNY Graduate School of Journalism.
In addition to her media work, Tara has worked extensively in the nonprofit sector. As the founder of Poetic People Power, she has produced spoken word shows in New York City on issues including global warming and the global water crisis, and she's been featured in O, The Oprah Magazine, Time Out New York and The Brooklyn Rail. She also cofounded the international nonprofit The Project Solution, which funds water and sanitation projects in developing countries. She serves on the advisory board of The Arctic Cycle, a nonprofit theatre fostering dialogue about climate change.
Chris is a news editor for EcoWatch. He has a Ph.D. in English from the University of Georgia and a B.S. from Cornell University, where he studied ecology and psychology.
He was a staff writer for The Atlanta Journal and Constitution, and a contributor to Flagpole Magazine and Georgia Magazine.
Born in New York, he enjoys bicycling, hiking, swimming, writing and music, mathematics and nature.
Weekend associate editor Irma Omerhodzic joined the EcoWatch team in August 2015 as an editorial assistant after graduating from the E.W. Scripps School of Journalism at Ohio University with a bachelor's degree. She was then EcoWatch's associate editor until August 2019. Since August, Irma has been earning her master's degree from the E.W. Scripps School.
Born in Bosnia & Herzegovina, Irma moved to the U.S. in 1997 after having been refuged to Germany as a result of the Yugoslavian civil war.
She is passionate about coming together as a collective unit for the planet, in order to restore Earth back to its natural state of balance and unity. In her spare time, Irma enjoys hikes with her dog Myla, riding her bike and listening to podcasts.
Olivia is a contributing reporter for EcoWatch. She has been writing on the internet for more than five years and has covered social movements for YES! Magazine and ecological themes for Real Life. For her recent master's in Art and Politics at Goldsmiths, University of London, she completed a creative dissertation imagining sustainable communities surviving in post-climate-change London.
She has lived in New York, Vermont, London, and Seattle, but wherever she lives, she likes to go to the greenest place she can find, take long, meandering walks, and write poems about its wildflowers. Follow her on Twitter @orosane.
Jordan Davidson is a freelance journalist. His work has appeared in many local and national publications including the Wall Street Journal, Psychology Today, Science Friday, Prevention, NRDC.org, and many others. He holds a bachelors degree from Brown University and a masters from the City University of New York's School of Journalism.
Jordan spent years as an ESL teacher in New York City public schools before becoming a journalist. He is an avid traveler, hiker, cyclist and hobby farmer.
Madison is a freelance reporter at EcoWatch. Based in San Francisco, she works full-time as a journalist for IFLScience. She spent a few years working on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C. before reporting throughout the Rocky Mountains, where she received an M.A. in Environmental Science and Natural Resource Journalism from the University of Montana, as well as a graduate certificate in Natural Resource Conflict Resolution. She is also a 2019 Science Communication Fellow with the E/V Nautilus.
Tiffany is a freelance reporter at EcoWatch and an avid ocean advocate. She holds degrees from UCLA and the University of Pennsylvania Carey Law School and is an Al Gore Climate Reality Leader and student member of The Explorer's Club.
She spent years as a renewable energy lawyer in L.A. before moving to the Amazon to conduct conservation fieldwork (and revamp her life). She eventually landed in the Florida Keys as a scientific scuba diver and field reporter and writes about the oceans/climate/environment from her slice of paradise. When she's not underwater, she can be found on her yoga mat or planning her next adventure. Follow her on Twitter/Instagram @lilicedt.
James is EcoWatch's social media intern.
He lives in the UK and is a graduate from the University of Southampton where he studies Environmental Sciences (BSc). After volunteering with Young Friends of the Earth UK, he currently works as a social media officer for the UK charity Woodland Trust. He is also an associate of the Institution of Environmental Sciences.
An avid eco-socialist, he co-runs a blog on WordPress and can be found on Twitter @S0cialEcologist.
RebelMouse builds technology that enables companies to succeed in the world of distributed publishing. By using either our groundbreaking Distributed Content Management System (DCMS) for natively-social publishing or by extending their existing CMS, our customers launch fully-distributed web properties in a matter of days. At the core of the platform are smart distribution tools which help to increase organic reach on social media. RebelMouse technology makes it easy to find and grow relationships with social influencers and connect content with its maximum audience.
Theodore P. Janulis
Ted, EcoWatch's co-executive chairman, partner and board member, has worked for 27 years in the financial services industry. He graduated from Harvard College in 1981 and received his MBA from Columbia Business School in 1985. He was the 1981 recipient of the Rolex/Our World Underwater Scholarship, enabling him to work and travel for a year with ocean scientists and explorers.
Ted's past/present board affiliations include the Ronald McDonald House of New York City, Zawadi By Youth, Livingston Ripley Waterfowl Sanctuary and The Explorers Club. Ted has also served on the advisory council of the Center for Biodiversity and Conservation at the American Museum of Natural History.
Tom O'Sullivan is co-executive chairman, partner and board member of EcoWatch. Tom has more than 20 years of business management, finance and accounting experience. He has held several senior management roles including Treasurer and Chief Financial Officer at a National Depository Institution and Chief Financial Officer of the mortgage business at a Wall Street firm.
Tom received a BBA from Hofstra University and an MBA in Finance and International Business from New York University.
Kerry has more than 25 years of business leadership and capital markets experience, having graduated from the U.S. Coast Guard Academy in 1978. He received an MBA with a major in Finance from Columbia University's Graduate School of Business in 1985.
Prior to graduate school, Kerry served on active duty for five years, in operational leadership and staff positions, as a commissioned officer in the U.S. Coast Guard.
In addition to serving on the EcoWatch board, he is a director of Rivergate Foundation and ICA-Art Conservation, and a member of the investment committee of The HELP Foundation, Inc. He is a past member of the boards of The Music Settlement – Cleveland, The U. S. Coast Guard Academy Alumni Association, The Cleveland Rowing Foundation and The MG Car Club, Washington, DC Centre.
The Board members above collectively are the majority owners of EcoWatch.
EcoWatch Daily Newsletter
Mangroves play a vital role in capturing carbon from the atmosphere. Mangrove forests are tremendous assets in the fight to stem the climate crisis. They store more carbon than a rainforest of the same size.
- Protecting Mangroves Can Prevent Billions of Dollars in Global ... ›
- Could the 'Mangrove Effect' Save Coasts From Sea Level Rise ... ›
Monday is World Oceans Day, but how can you celebrate our blue planet while social distancing?
- 5 Things to Know About Earth's Warming Oceans - EcoWatch ›
- Bioluminescent Waves Mesmerize California Beachgoers, Surfers ... ›
- NOAA: 2020 Could Be Warmest Year on Record - EcoWatch ›
- On June 8, We Celebrate Our Oceans, Our Future - EcoWatch ›
- 5 Things to Know About the State of Our Oceans for World Oceans Day ›
By Jacob L. Steenwyk and Antonis Rokas
From the mythical minotaur to the mule, creatures created from merging two or more distinct organisms – hybrids – have played defining roles in human history and culture. However, not all hybrids are as fantastic as the minotaur or as dependable as the mule; in fact, some of them cause human diseases.
When Looking Through a Microscope Isn’t Close Enough.<p>For the last few years, <a href="http://www.rokaslab.org/" target="_blank">our team at Vanderbilt University</a>, <a href="https://www.researchgate.net/lab/Gustavo-Goldman-Lab" target="_blank">Gustavo Goldman's team at São Paulo University in Brazil</a> and many other collaborators around the world have been collecting samples of fungi from patients infected with different species of <em>Aspergillus</em> molds. One of the species we are particularly interested in is <a href="https://doi.org/10.1006/rwgn.2001.0082" target="_blank"><em>Aspergillus nidulans</em>, a relatively common and generally harmless fungus</a>. Clinical laboratories typically identify the species of <em>Aspergillus</em> causing the infection by examining cultures of the fungi under the microscope. The problem with this approach is that very closely related species of <em>Aspergillus</em> tend to look very similar in their broad morphology or physical appearance when viewing them through a microscope.</p><p>Interested in examining the varying abilities of different <em>A. nidulans</em> strains to cause disease, we decided to analyze their total genetic content, or genomes. What we saw came as a total surprise. We had not collected <em>A. nidulans</em> but <em>Aspergillus latus</em>, a close relative of <em>A. nidulans</em> and, as we were to soon find out, <a href="https://doi.org/10.1016/j.cub.2020.04.071" target="_blank">a hybrid species that evolved through the fusion of the genomes</a> of two other <em>Aspergillus</em> species: <em>Aspergillus spinulosporus</em> and an unknown close relative of <em>Aspergillus quadrilineatus</em>. Thus, we realized not only that these patients harbored infections from an entirely different species than we thought they were, but also that this species was the first ever <em>Aspergillus</em> hybrid known to cause human infections.</p>
Several Different Fungal Hybrids Cause Human Disease.<p>Hybrid fungi that can cause infections in humans are well known to occur in several different lineages of single-celled fungi known as yeasts. Notable examples include multiple different species of <a href="https://doi.org/10.1002/yea.3242" target="_blank">yeast hybrids</a> that cause the human diseases <a href="https://rarediseases.info.nih.gov/diseases/6218/cryptococcosis" target="_blank">cryptococcosis</a> and <a href="https://www.cdc.gov/fungal/diseases/candidiasis/index.html" target="_blank">candidiasis</a>. Although pathogenic yeast hybrids are well known, our discovery that the <em>A. latus</em> pathogen is a hybrid is a first for molds that cause disease in humans.</p>
(Left) Candida yeasts live on parts of the human body. Imbalance of microbes on the body can allow these yeasts, some of which are hybrids, to grow and cause infection. (Right) Cryptococcus yeasts, including ones that are hybrids, can cause life-threatening infections in primarily immunocompromised people. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention<p><a href="https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.ppat.1008315" target="_blank">Why certain <em>Aspergillus</em> species are so deadly</a> while others are harmless remains unknown. This may in part be because <a href="https://doi.org/10.1016/j.fbr.2007.02.007" target="_blank">combinations of traits, rather than individual traits</a>, underlie organisms' ability to cause disease. So why then are hybrids frequently associated with human disease? Hybrids inherit genetic material from both parents, which may result in new combinations of traits. This may make them more similar to one parent in some of their characteristics, reflect both parents in others or may differ from both in the rest. It is precisely this mix and match of traits that hybrids have inherited from their parental species that <a href="https://www.nytimes.com/2010/09/14/science/14creatures.html" target="_blank">facilitates their evolutionary success</a>, including their ability to cause disease.</p>
The Evolutionary Origin of an Aspergillus Hybrid.<p>Multiple evolutionary paths can lead to the emergence of hybrids. One path is through mating, just as the horse and donkey mate to create a mule. Another path is through the merging or fusion of genetic material from cells of different species.</p><p>It is this second path that appears to have been taken by our fungus. <em>A. latus</em> appears to have two of almost everything compared to its parental species: twice the genome size, twice the total number of genes and so on. But unlike other hybrids, which are often sterile like the mule, we found that <em>A. latus</em> is capable of reproducing both asexually and sexually.</p><p>But how distinct were the parents of <em>A. latus</em>? By comparing the parts contributed by each parent in the <em>A. latus</em> genome, we estimate that its parents are approximately 93% genetically similar, which is about as related as we humans are with lemurs. In other words, <em>A. latus</em>, an agent of infectious disease, is the fungal equivalent of a human-lemur hybrid.</p>
How A. Latus Differs From its Parents.<p>Elucidating the identity of closely related fungal pathogens and how they differ from each other in infection-relevant characteristics is a key step toward reducing the burden of fungal disease. For example, we found that <em>A. latus</em> was three times more resistant than <em>A. nidulans</em>, the species it was originally identified as using microscopy-based methods, to one of the most common antifungal drugs, <a href="https://www.drugbank.ca/drugs/DB00520" target="_blank">caspofungin</a>. This result provides a clear example of the potential importance of accurate identification of the <em>Aspergillus</em> pathogen causing an infection.</p><p>We also examined how <em>A. latus</em> and <em>A. nidulans</em> interact with cells from our immune system. We found that immune cells were less efficient at combating <em>A. latus</em> compared to <em>A. nidulans</em>, suggesting the hybrid fungus may be trickier for our immune systems to identify and destroy.</p><p>In the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, our quest to understand <em>Aspergillus</em> pathogens is becoming more urgent. Growing evidence suggests that <a href="https://doi.org/10.1111/myc.13096" target="_blank">a fraction of COVID-19 patients are also infected with <em>Aspergillus</em>.</a> More worrying is that these <a href="https://doi.org/10.3201/eid2607.201603" target="_blank">secondary <em>Aspergillus</em> infections</a> can worsen the clinical outcomes for those infected with the novel coronavirus. That being said, we stress that little is known about <em>Aspergillus</em> infections in COVID-19 patients due to a lack of systematic testing, and none of the infections identified so far appear to have been caused by hybrids.</p><p>So, when it comes to hybrids, some are fantastic (the minotaur), some are helpful (the mule) and some are dangerous (<em>Aspergillus latus</em>). Understanding more about the biology of <em>Aspergillus latus</em> may help in our understanding of how microbial pathogens arise and how to best prevent and combat their infections.</p>
This Saturday, June 6, marks National Trails Day, an annual celebration of the remarkable recreational, scenic and hiking trails that crisscross parks nationwide. The event, which started in 1993, honors the National Trail System and calls for volunteers to help with trail maintenance in parks across the country.
- As Protests Rage, Climate Activists Embrace Racial Justice ... ›
- First-Ever Black Birders Week Tackles Racism Outdoors - EcoWatch ›
- 15 EcoWatch Stories on Environmental and Racial Injustice ... ›
- Take a Hike Day Is Around the Bend. What's Your Dream Hike ... ›
By John Letzing
This past Wednesday, when some previously hard-hit countries were able to register daily COVID-19 infections in the single digits, the Navajo Nation – a 71,000 square-kilometer (27,000-square-mile) expanse of the western US – reported 54 new cases of what's referred to locally as "Dikos Ntsaaígíí-19."
The Navajo Nation covers the corners of three different states. Google Maps
Growing Contribution<img lazy-loadable="true" src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8yMzM3NDY5Ny9vcmlnaW4ucG5nIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTY0NjM4MTgyM30.IuQTKQs1stvYYKD6vaVTrqAyoBsUG0BhDvlhxsyKwPA/img.png?width=980" id="02a05" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="2841f82b1785df5d5ed7bf64d3bb882b" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" />
World Economic Forum
- Black and Hispanic Americans Suffer Disproportionate Coronavirus ... ›
- Native American Tribes' Pandemic Response Is Hindered by ... ›
- Navajo Nation Has Highest Covid-19 Infection Rate in the U.S. ... ›
World Environment Day: A Time to Consider the Planet We’ll Return To, and Decide How to Care for It Going Forward
It's a different kind of World Environment Day this year. In prior years, it might have been enough to plant a tree, spend some extra time in the garden, or teach kids the importance of recycling. This year we have heavier tasks at hand. It's been months since we've been able to spend sufficient time outside, and as we lustfully watch the beauty of a new spring through our kitchen's glass windows, we have to decide how we'll interact with the natural world on our release, and how we can prevent, or be equipped to handle, future threats against our wellbeing.
Scuba divers around the world are holding their metaphorical breath to see if a coronavirus infection affects the ability to dive.
DAN medical experts explained the difference between normal lungs, on the left, and "very serious lungs caused by COVID-19," on the right. Matias Nochetto / Divers Alert Network (DAN)
- How the COVID-19 Coronavirus Attacks the Entire Body - EcoWatch ›
- What Does 'Recovered From Coronavirus' Mean? - EcoWatch ›
- Scuba Divers Make Face Masks out of Recycled Ocean Plastic ... ›
'Another Blow to the Black Community': Trump Waives Environmental Law That Gives Public a Voice in Infrastructure Projects
- Environmental Racism in Action: The Trump Administration's Plans ... ›
- 'Freeway Revolts' Helped Create the People's Environmental Law ›
- Environmental Negligence vs. Civil Rights: Black and Hispanic ... ›
- 15 EcoWatch Stories on Environmental and Racial Injustice ... ›
- In This Time of Crisis, We Need to Keep Our Eyes Open - EcoWatch ›