Earth and Environment

Explore Earth and Environment

Professor Dawn Roberts-Semple | Measuring Air Pollution with Inexpensive Passive Diffusion Tubes

Professor Dawn Roberts-Semple | Measuring Air Pollution with Inexpensive Passive Diffusion Tubes

Air pollutants, such as nitrogen dioxide and ground-level ozone, are a significant threat to public health, contributing to respiratory symptoms and cardiovascular disease. Such pollutants are often caused by traffic emissions, and tend to accumulate in urban areas. Assessing when and where such pollutants tend to be present at dangerous levels is important for protecting public health, but concentrations may vary dramatically and can be influenced by wind patterns, temperature, traffic levels and urban architecture.

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Dr Martin Van Den Berghe | Combatting Climate Change with Microbe-Enhanced Rock Weathering

Dr Martin Van Den Berghe | Combatting Climate Change with Microbe-Enhanced Rock Weathering

In the fight against climate change, carbon capture and storage technologies are widely seen as a critical tool in avoiding the worst effects of global warming. The problem is being approached from many different angles, but many proposed solutions have a long way to go before they can have any meaningful impact on the health of Earth’s climate. According to Dr Martin Van Den Berghe at Cytochrome Technologies, one of the most promising approaches to carbon capture could be to enhance a chemical mechanism that has naturally shaped Earth’s geology for billions of years.

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Dr Gabriel Popescu | Reconstructing the History of a Prehistoric Society in the Eastern Balkans

Dr Gabriel Popescu | Reconstructing the History of a Prehistoric Society in the Eastern Balkans

When studying the earliest human societies, researchers use a combination of archaeological records and radiocarbon dating to create comprehensive models of population patterns. By applying advanced mathematical techniques, they can now estimate the changing sizes and distributions of ancient human populations and make more informed inferences about how societies were structured. In many regions, these models have allowed researchers to better understand the social and environmental changes that shaped the prehistoric world.

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Dr Catherine Richter | Exploring Enzymes in Fish to Accelerate Conservation

Dr Catherine Richter | Exploring Enzymes in Fish to Accelerate Conservation

Thiamine – commonly known as Vitamin B1 – is required by almost all life on Earth. Humans and other animals need to consume sufficient amounts of this vitamin to support brain and heart health. Some organisms, including certain molluscs, fish and bacteria, contain thiamine-degrading enzymes known as thiaminases. As such, consuming these organisms can lead to thiamine-deficiency.

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Robin Davidson-Arnott | Bernard Bauer – Predicting the Impacts of Rising Sea Levels on Sandy Coasts

Robin Davidson-Arnott | Bernard Bauer – Predicting the Impacts of Rising Sea Levels on Sandy Coasts

For coastal communities, one of the most worrying effects of climate warming is rising sea levels. Even if we halt all greenhouse gas emissions today, the oceans are predicted to rise by more than half a metre by the end of the century, threatening coastal cities, including Manhattan, Vancouver, Lagos, Shanghai and Tokyo. In addition to displacing millions of humans, rising seas will alter natural coastal environments and ecosystems.

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James Dyer | Raymond Desjardins – Using Protein as a Unifying Measurement of Livestock Carbon Footprints

James Dyer | Raymond Desjardins – Using Protein as a Unifying Measurement of Livestock Carbon Footprints

Livestock production has a significant impact on the environment, through land use and greenhouse gas emissions. As such, minimising environmental impacts while also fulfilling the dietary needs of a growing global population must be a priority for agriculture. However, directly comparing the carbon footprints of different livestock is challenging, mainly due to differences in their products. James Dyer and Raymond Desjardins from Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada set out to explore ways to compare the carbon footprints of animal products.

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Fritjof Basan | Exploring How Underwater Noise Dropped During the COVID-19 Pandemic

Fritjof Basan | Exploring How Underwater Noise Dropped During the COVID-19 Pandemic

Human activity slowed in 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Environmental researchers have taken this opportunity to investigate how ecosystems respond to a decrease in human-related stressors. One human-related stressor is shipping, which can impact ocean ecosystems by creating intense underwater sounds. Fritjof Basan and his colleagues at the Federal Maritime and Hydrographic Agency of Germany set out to determine whether reduced shipping activity in 2020 significantly affected the underwater soundscape.

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Dr Ana Elisa Rato – Dr Adélia Sousa | Harnessing Satellite Technology to Improve the Sustainability of Walnut Orchards

Dr Ana Elisa Rato – Dr Adélia Sousa | Harnessing Satellite Technology to Improve the Sustainability of Walnut Orchards

Walnuts are one of the most nutritionally dense foods on the planet, and could play a large role in achieving global food security. However, in non-organic walnut orchards, chemical fertilisers are typically applied to boost nut yields. When excessive amounts of these chemicals are applied, they can leach into the surrounding environment, damaging local ecosystems. To ensure that correct amounts of fertilisers are applied to walnut orchards, leaf samples are often analysed beforehand, but analysing enough leaf samples is time consuming and expensive. Now, Dr Ana Elisa Rato, Dr Adélia Sousa and their colleagues at MED Institute in the University of Évora have developed an inexpensive approach to assess nutrient levels in walnut orchards, by harnessing the power of satellite technology.

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Dr Thomas Arciuolo | Dr Miad Faezipour – Yellowstone Caldera Supervolcano

Dr Thomas Arciuolo | Dr Miad Faezipour – Yellowstone Caldera Supervolcano – A Solution to the Climate and Energy Crisis

The global climate crisis poses a major threat to human civilisation. The combustion of fossil fuels to generate energy is the primary cause of this crisis, due to the greenhouse gases released into the atmosphere. At the same time, the Earth faces another great crisis. Underneath Yellowstone National Park in Wyoming, USA, lies one of Earth’s most powerful volcanoes, which has the potential for an eruption that would be catastrophic to the entire world. Researchers Dr Thomas Arciuolo and Dr Miad Faezipour propose a solution to both of these problems, by harnessing the mighty energy reserve within the Yellowstone Supervolcano to generate clean, emission-free power – turning the Yellowstone curse into an immense blessing.

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Dr Martín Medina-Elizalde | Collapse of the Ancient Maya Civilisation: Aligning History with Geological Analysis

Dr Martín Medina-Elizalde | Collapse of the Ancient Maya Civilisation: Aligning History with Geological Analysis

Between 800 and 1000 CE, one of the world’s most advanced ancient civilisations underwent a devastating decline. The collapse of ancient Maya society has widely been attributed to a century-long drought; but so far, there have been few efforts to quantify this event, or to equate scientific findings with historical sources. Through new geological and paleoclimatological analyses, Dr Martín Medina-Elizalde at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst has revealed that the climate changes experienced during the drought followed more complex patterns than previously thought. His team’s discoveries could have important implications for predicting our own society’s future.

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