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FrackFinder Interactive Map Tracks Fracking Sites in PA

Energy
FrackFinder Interactive Map Tracks Fracking Sites in PA

SkyTruth

Exactly two weeks ago, we officially launched the first stage of our new skytruthing initiative—FrackFinder: Project TADPOLE. Since the launch, our amazing volunteers have taken the project from 10 percent complete to 73 percent complete; that's over 64,000 completed tasks (task = number of times an image is viewed and classified).

On our website is a live, interactive map that illustrates, by county, the progress that our FrackFinder volunteers have made toward completing all tasks for Pennsylvania. So far, we have focused on natural gas drilling and fracking in the Marcellus Shale region of William Penn's woods. Now, we are working on preparing the next stage of this project, which expands FrackFinder to the Marcellus Shale region in another state—West Virginia. 

We continuously keep the lines of communication open with our volunteers and have gotten some great feedback. One volunteer shared with us an image that seems at first to be a bad photoshop job. The image, shown below, was captured by an aerial survey in 2010 over a permitted well pad in Butler County, Pennsylvania. However, while it looks electronically manipulated, we believe that the image is really a sort of  real-world photoshop called hydroseeding. Hydroseeding is a reclamation process that involves spraying a slurry that contains seeds, fertilizer, mulch and/or soil stabilizer, etc., on bare Earth to help re-vegetate and prevent erosion.

Unconventional wellpad in Butler County, PA, likely treated by hydroseeding. Photo from 2010.

While they missed a few spots, suggesting the job was done haphazardly, partial hydroseeding is at least better than leaving re-graded slopes bare and susceptible to erosion. More current imagery, found in Google Maps, shows the vegetation beginning to grow back in patches and at least part of the site plowed for agriculture.

Have you seen anything out of the ordinary or interesting while using FrackFinder? Send us a screen capture of the image in question, including the location data—county, year and the latitude/longitude coordinates—directly above and below the image. Also, if you would like to be a part of preparing and refining the the next stage of FrackFinder, please contact us.

Visit EcoWatch’s FRACKING page for more related news on this topic.

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A net-casting ogre-faced spider. CBG Photography Group, Centre for Biodiversity Genomics / CC BY-SA 3.0

Just in time for Halloween, scientists at Cornell University have published some frightening research, especially if you're an insect!

The ghoulishly named ogre-faced spider can "hear" with its legs and use that ability to catch insects flying behind it, the study published in Current Biology Thursday concluded.

"Spiders are sensitive to airborne sound," Cornell professor emeritus Dr. Charles Walcott, who was not involved with the study, told the Cornell Chronicle. "That's the big message really."

The net-casting, ogre-faced spider (Deinopis spinosa) has a unique hunting strategy, as study coauthor Cornell University postdoctoral researcher Jay Stafstrom explained in a video.

They hunt only at night using a special kind of web: an A-shaped frame made from non-sticky silk that supports a fuzzy rectangle that they hold with their front forelegs and use to trap prey.

They do this in two ways. In a maneuver called a "forward strike," they pounce down on prey moving beneath them on the ground. This is enabled by their large eyes — the biggest of any spider. These eyes give them 2,000 times the night vision that we have, Science explained.

But the spiders can also perform a move called the "backward strike," Stafstrom explained, in which they reach their legs behind them and catch insects flying through the air.

"So here comes a flying bug and somehow the spider gets information on the sound direction and its distance. The spiders time the 200-millisecond leap if the fly is within its capture zone – much like an over-the-shoulder catch. The spider gets its prey. They're accurate," coauthor Ronald Hoy, the D & D Joslovitz Merksamer Professor in the Department of Neurobiology and Behavior in the College of Arts and Sciences, told the Cornell Chronicle.

What the researchers wanted to understand was how the spiders could tell what was moving behind them when they have no ears.

It isn't a question of peripheral vision. In a 2016 study, the same team blindfolded the spiders and sent them out to hunt, Science explained. This prevented the spiders from making their forward strikes, but they were still able to catch prey using the backwards strike. The researchers thought the spiders were "hearing" their prey with the sensors on the tips of their legs. All spiders have these sensors, but scientists had previously thought they were only able to detect vibrations through surfaces, not sounds in the air.

To test how well the ogre-faced spiders could actually hear, the researchers conducted a two-part experiment.

First, they inserted electrodes into removed spider legs and into the brains of intact spiders. They put the spiders and the legs into a vibration-proof booth and played sounds from two meters (approximately 6.5 feet) away. The spiders and the legs responded to sounds from 100 hertz to 10,000 hertz.

Next, they played the five sounds that had triggered the biggest response to 25 spiders in the wild and 51 spiders in the lab. More than half the spiders did the "backward strike" move when they heard sounds that have a lower frequency similar to insect wing beats. When the higher frequency sounds were played, the spiders did not move. This suggests the higher frequencies may mimic the sounds of predators like birds.

University of Cincinnati spider behavioral ecologist George Uetz told Science that the results were a "surprise" that indicated science has much to learn about spiders as a whole. Because all spiders have these receptors on their legs, it is possible that all spiders can hear. This theory was first put forward by Walcott 60 years ago, but was dismissed at the time, according to the Cornell Chronicle. But studies of other spiders have turned up further evidence since. A 2016 study found that a kind of jumping spider can pick up sonic vibrations in the air.

"We don't know diddly about spiders," Uetz told Science. "They are much more complex than people ever thought they were."

Learning more provides scientists with an opportunity to study their sensory abilities in order to improve technology like bio-sensors, directional microphones and visual processing algorithms, Stafstrom told CNN.

Hoy agreed.

"The point is any understudied, underappreciated group has fascinating lives, even a yucky spider, and we can learn something from it," he told CNN.

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