Do you care about fracking, have a computer, and are at least a little familiar with Google Maps? Then our friends at SkyTruth need your help to map fracking ponds across Pennsylvania's Marcellus Shale.
Today, SkyTruth is launching a crowdmapping tool called FrackFinder PA: Project Moor Frog in order to find all the ponds and impoundments that might be associated with unconventional drilling and hydraulic fracturing in Pennsylvania. Scientists have used this same approach to categorize millions of galaxies imaged by telescopes around the world. But now SkyTruth is turning the cameras toward Earth to look at the way drilling and fracking is transforming our landscape.
In August, SkyTruth combined the same aerial survey imagery you see in Google Earth with drilling permit data from state regulators and launched their first crowdmapping initiative—FrackFinder PA—Project Tadpole. It took volunteers only 29 days to finish the project, processing nearly 90,000 aerial images of permitted fracking sites. The 233 volunteers who participated found a total of 1,420 active wellpads over the five years covered by the study, out of a possible 3,000 locations where drilling permits had been issued by the state.
Equipped with this precise map of active wellpads in the state of Pennsylvania, the team at SkyTruth is hoping for even more cyber-volunteers to review these sites and locate ponds (impoundments) that might be associated with gas drilling. There's nothing to download, no special GIS or image analysis experience required—you’ll learn everything you need to know in a brief tutorial. All you need is some time to help map fracking so researchers can be better equipped to investigate industry’s cleverly worded claims that fracking never hurt anyone.
All across the U.S. there are a growing number of open-air ponds that contain millions of gallons of wastewater from fracking, but there is little data about where these ponds are located and when they were built. This information will be used right away by researchers at the Bloomberg School of Public Health at Johns Hopkins University to support their study of air quality, public health issues and fracking. Participating in Project MoorFrog is also a great way to get a bird’s-eye-view of drilling across William Penn’s woods and see the way farms, fields, and forests are being transformed into industrial sites for natural gas production.
Check it out and volunteer now.
Visit EcoWatch’s FRACKING page for more related news on this topic.
Sweden's reindeer have a problem. In winter, they feed on lichens buried beneath the snow. But the climate crisis is making this difficult. Warmer temperatures mean moisture sometimes falls as rain instead of snow. When the air refreezes, a layer of ice forms between the reindeer and their meal, forcing them to wander further in search of ideal conditions. And sometimes, this means crossing busy roads.
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By Aaron W Hunter
A chance discovery of a beautifully preserved fossil in the desert landscape of Morocco has solved one of the great mysteries of biology and paleontology: how starfish evolved their arms.
The Pompeii of palaeontology. Aaron Hunter, Author provided<h2></h2><p>Although starfish might appear very robust animals, they are typically made up of lots of hard parts attached by ligaments and soft tissue which, upon death, quickly degrade. This means we rely on places like the Fezouata formations to provide snapshots of their evolution.</p><p>The starfish fossil record is patchy, especially at the critical time when many of these animal groups first appeared. Sorting out how each of the various types of ancient starfish relate to each other is like putting a puzzle together when many of the parts are missing.</p><h2>The Oldest Starfish</h2><p><em><a href="https://www.biorxiv.org/content/10.1101/216101v1.full.pdf" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Cantabrigiaster</a></em> is the most primitive starfish-like animal to be discovered in the fossil record. It was discovered in 2003, but it has taken over 17 years to work out its true significance.</p><p>What makes <em>Cantabrigiaster</em> unique is that it lacks almost all the characteristics we find in brittle stars and starfish.</p><p>Starfish and brittle stars belong to the family Asterozoa. Their ancestors, the Somasteroids were especially fragile - before <em>Cantabrigiaster</em> we only had a handful of specimens. The celebrated Moroccan paleontologist Mohamed <a href="https://doi.org/10.1016/j.palaeo.2016.06.041" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Ben Moula</a> and his local team was instrumental in discovering <a href="https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S0031018216302334?via%3Dihub" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">these amazing fossils</a> near the town of Zagora, in Morocco.</p><h2>The Breakthrough</h2><p>Our breakthrough moment came when I compared the arms of <em>Cantabrigiaster</em> with those of modern sea lilles, filter feeders with long feathery arms that tend to be attached to the sea floor by a stem or stalk.</p><p>The striking similarity between these modern filter feeders and the ancient starfish led our team from the University of Cambridge and Harvard University to create a new analysis. We applied a biological model to the features of all the current early Asterozoa fossils in existence, along with a sample of their closest relatives.</p>
Cantabrigiaster is the most primitive starfish-like animal to be discovered in the fossil record. Aaron Hunter, Author provided<p>Our results demonstrate <em>Cantabrigiaster</em> is the most primitive of all the Asterozoa, and most likely evolved from ancient animals called crinoids that lived 250 million years before dinosaurs. The five arms of starfish are a relic left over from these ancestors. In the case of <em>Cantabrigiaster</em>, and its starfish descendants, it evolved by flipping upside-down so its arms are face down on the sediment to feed.</p><p>Although we sampled a relatively small numbers of those ancestors, one of the unexpected outcomes was it provided an idea of how they could be related to each other. Paleontologists studying echinoderms are often lost in detail as all the different groups are so radically different from each other, so it is hard to tell which evolved first.</p>
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