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Health
Vladimirovic / iStock / Getty Images Plus

The Many Hazards of Toxic Algae Outbreaks

By Sarah Graddy and Robert Coleman

This summer, the Environmental Working Group (EWG) is tracking outbreaks of potentially toxic algae across the U.S. We have been startled to find that these outbreaks are erupting everywhere: from the East Coast to the West Coast, from the Great Lakes to the Gulf of Mexico.

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Animals

Scientists Battle Mysterious Pathogen Destroying Coral Reefs Off Florida Coast

By Robynne Boyd

Off the coast of Broward County in southeast Florida, a 330-year-old coral colony has withered in the water thanks to a mysterious pathogen. At the height of its health, this slow-growing variety of coral, known as mountainous star, looked like a car-size brown mushroom cap scored by ridges and valleys and colored with splashes of fluorescent green. Today the countless minuscule sea-anemone-like polyps that form the colony have turned white and died, laying bare the skeletal structure below.

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Climate
Smoggy downtown Houston. Kyle Jones / Flickr

Most EPA Pollution Estimates Are Unreliable, So Why Is Everyone Still Using Them?

By Rachel Leven

Engineer Jim Southerland was hired by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) in 1971 to join the nascent war on air pollution. He came to relish the task, investigating orange clouds from an ammunition plant in Tennessee and taking air samples from strip mines in Wyoming. Among his proudest accomplishments: helping the agency develop a set of numbers called emission factors—values that enable regulators to estimate atmospheric discharges from power plants, oil refineries, chemical plants and other industrial operations.

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Politics

Governors Weigh in on Water, Climate and the Environment: What We Know So Far

By Brett Walton

State of the State speeches are where governors sketch their legislative priorities and report on the overall health of their dominions. The state of the state is almost always "strong" and water issues are occasionally mentioned.

Below are summaries of the governors' references to water, climate and the environment.

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Animals
Coral bleaching survey, Orpheus Island 2017. Greg Torda / ARC Centre of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies

Severe Coral Reef Bleaching Now ‘Five Times More Frequent’ Than 40 Years Ago

By Daisy Dunne

The scale of bleaching has been rising steadily in the last four decades, a study author told Carbon Brief, with the global proportion of coral being hit by bleaching per year rising from 8 percent in the 1980s to 31 percent in 2016.

The findings indicate that "coral reefs as we know them may well vanish in the lifetime of the youngest of us" if no efforts are made to rapidly curb climate change, another scientist told Carbon Brief.

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Climate
Algae bloom in the Arabian sea. Norman Kuring / NASA

Oceans Losing Oxygen at Breathtaking Speeds

Ocean dead zones quadrupled in size since 1950, while low oxygen sites around the world increased tenfold, threatening large swaths of marine life, scientists warned in a study released on Friday.

"Major extinction events in Earth's history have been associated with warm climates and oxygen-deficient oceans," the analysis published in the journal Science stated.

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Health
Salting streets in Milwaukee. Michael Pereckas / CC BY-SA

Can Road Salt and Other Pollutants Disrupt Our Circadian Rhythms?

By Jennifer Marie Hurley

Every winter, local governments across the U.S. apply millions of tons of road salt to keep streets navigable during snow and ice storms. Runoff from melting snow carries road salt into streams and lakes, and causes many bodies of water to have extraordinarily high salinity.

At Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, my colleague Rick Relyea and his lab are working to quantify how increases in salinity affect ecosystems. Not surprisingly, they have found that high salinity has negative impacts on many species. They have also discovered that some species have the ability to cope with these increases in salinity.

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Science

From Pond Scum to Food Bowl, Dutch Designers 3D-Print Algae Into Everyday Products

You might not think of pond scum as something that's good for the environment, but Dutch designers have developed a bioplastic made from algae that they hope could replace petroleum-based plastics.

According to Dezeen, Eric Klarenbeek and Maartje Dros have been cultivating live algae and processing it into material that can be used for 3D printing. This algae polymer can be churned into everyday items, from shampoo bottles to bowls to trash bins. 

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Energy
Harvesting sugarcane in Brazil. Jonathan Wilkins / CC BY-SA

Jet Fuel From Sugarcane? It’s No Flight of Fancy

By Deepak Kumar, Stephen P. Long and Vijay Singh

The aviation industry produces two percent of global human-induced carbon dioxide emissions. This share may seem relatively small—for perspective, electricity generation and home heating account for more than 40 percent—but aviation is one of the world's fastest-growing greenhouse gas sources. Demand for air travel is projected to double in the next 20 years.

Airlines are under pressure to reduce their carbon emissions, and are highly vulnerable to global oil price fluctuations. These challenges have spurred strong interest in biomass-derived jet fuels. Bio-jet fuel can be produced from various plant materials, including oil crops, sugar crops, starchy plants and lignocellulosic biomass, through various chemical and biological routes. However, the technologies to convert oil to jet fuel are at a more advanced stage of development and yield higher energy efficiency than other sources.

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