International Coastal Cleanup Gears up for ‘Million-Strong’ Turnout Saturday
This coming Saturday, Sept. 21 is the International Coastal Cleanup (ICC), the annual Ocean Conservancy event that mobilizes volunteers in more than 100 countries to collect litter from beaches and waterways and record what they find.
The organization is looking to build on last year's event, which was noteworthy for two reasons: It was the first time more than one million people participated, and it was the first time that plastic cutlery made the group's top 10 list of most collected items.
"We are so moved by the incredible turnout in 2018, and we are gearing up for another million-strong volunteers showing up this year," Ocean Conservancy CEO Janis Searles Jones said in a press release. "The ICC numbers speak for themselves: together, we can make a difference – for our community, for our coasts, and for our ocean."
THE NEWS IS OUT:— Ocean Conservancy (@OurOcean) September 4, 2019
In 2018, we had over 1 MILLION volunteers remove approximately 23 MILLION POUNDS of trash from coastlines and waterways around the world in just ONE DAY.
Check it out! 🌊https://t.co/ko1rkYEBT3
The ICC is unique in that it is not simply a litter pickup. It's also a massive data collection event that generates the world's largest database of marine trash. The yearly findings can help activists, scientists and policy makers discern what items to target in order to fight plastic pollution.
The prevalence of plastic knives, forks and spoons last year led the group to launch a Quit the Cutlery pledge, urging signers to take steps such as carrying reusable sporks and refusing plastic utensils when ordering takeout.
"Plastic forks, knives and spoons are ranked among the most harmful types of marine debris to ocean animals, and the 2018 ICC data show that they may be a lot more prevalent than we had previously suspected," Nicholas Mallos, senior director of Ocean Conservancy's Trash Free Seas® program, said in the press release.
2018's top 10 list had other, broader lessons. Nine of the top 10 items were related to food and drink, as National Geographic pointed out.
In addition, many of the items were things like straws, bottle caps and lids that are not easily recyclable.
"If you run down the rest of the top ten list, what strikes me is that the vast majority are not recyclable. To the extent we talk about recycling as a solution to ocean plastic problems, it would have to get to 50 or 90 percent, which is a huge lift and gets complicated very quickly," Ocean Conservancy chief scientist George Leonard told National Geographic.
Around eight million metric tons of plastic enter the world's oceans every year, impacting more than 800 animal species. The Ocean Conservancy has been working on the problem of marine trash since 1986. Since that first ICC, more than 15 million volunteers have collected almost 315 million pounds of trash.
The organization won't know yet if 2019's turnout is on track to surpass last year's 1,080,358 volunteers, since volunteers typically register with local partners, ICC Director Allison Schutes explained in an email to EcoWatch. Hurricane Dorian, which devastated the Bahamas, also put a damper on cleanups organized on the islands.
ICC works with around eight different groups in the Bahamas, which coordinate approximately 1,000 to 3,000 volunteers a year, ICC Outreach Manager Sarah Kollar told EcoWatch in an email. Most of those groups are now focused on offering relief to fellow Bahamians impacted by the storm, though they may reschedule cleanups for later in the year. The Ocean Conservancy is also in conversation with these groups to see what help it can provide.
"In past experiences with natural disasters impacting our ICC family, Ocean Conservancy has stepped in to provide funds to cover materials that other relief efforts may be short on, like generators, cleanup materials, and so on," Kollar said.
But, despite the tragedy in the Bahamas, the global outlook for the event is still positive.
"We are working with partners and volunteers around the world to continue the momentum, and have even seen a number of celebrities share the call to participate. We are optimistic this will be one of our biggest ICC's yet!" Schutes wrote.
We are all connected to the oceans which cover 70% of earths surface & produce 1/2 the air we breathe, oceans govern the world's weather & are to home a kaleidoscope of life ~ give back to the worlds oceans.~ volunteer on September 21st @ https://t.co/JjSiiS0s9I @OurOcean #ICC pic.twitter.com/r9chw1W9v5— Daryl Hannah (@dhlovelife) September 16, 2019
Anyone who wants to join a cleanup Saturday can sign up on the Ocean Conservancy website.
For those who want to litter pick but don't live near a river, lake or coast, Saturday is also World Cleanup Day, which started in Estonia in 2008 and amassed 18 million participates from 157 countries last year. It is organized by the membership-based group Let's Do It World. This year, the group is hoping for 30 million participants.
"Our focus during World Cleanup Day is to activate citizens to take action and become more aware of their surroundings, the trash around them and to change behaviours to become more environmentally aware," Heidi Solba, President and Head of Network of Let's Do It World, said in an email to EcoWatch.
Anyone interested can find out how to participate here.
633 Divers Break Record for World’s Largest Underwater Cleanup https://t.co/rwdw7vuFG0— Robb Edwards Ⓥ (@RobRobbEdwards) June 17, 2019
EcoWatch Daily Newsletter
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.
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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" />
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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)
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