Burning Lungs- L.A. to India

A 2019 study from 2000-2018 found that individuals in metropolitan areas such as Los Angeles, Chicago and New York, just by breathing the air in their city, had lung damage in the form of emphysema. Emphysema is a type of lung damage derived from smoking cigarettes, yet these individuals are afflicted merely by breathing the air in their city.

According to the NIH, air pollution is a mixture of natural and man-made substances in the air we breathe. This form of pollution involves exposure to fossil fuel particulates, noxious fumes and airborne dust; other examples include household cleaners, building materials, smoking and ground level ozone, also known as smog. The World Health Organization has stated that air pollution kills approximately seven million people worldwide every year. With the rise of our globalized economy and rapidly increasing population, air pollution will become an issue of intense focus in the coming years.

Los Angeles, according to the American Lung Association has the worst smog within the United States. In 2018 there were 87 straight days of air quality that violated federal standards. In the 20 years that the American Lung Association has recorded smog, LA rests at the top of the list of smoggiest U.S. cities, 19 years out of 20. Poor air quality in LA has been a problem since, at the very latest, 1943. The cars of that time period had very poor emissions regulations and constantly spewed noxious fumes that when heated by the sun’s rays became smog. The earth is warming, and with that rise in heat this will accelerate the pace of ozone (smog) formation.  Los Angeles is a desert city and as officials look to the future, we know that between rising temperatures and populations, the city of angels will have to make serious changes to remove the title “Smoggiest city in the United States”.

Smog over LA- Image by traveljunction.com

When we look from a global perspective, India stands breathless and suffocating. The air pollution in Delhi is primarily particle pollution, a cocktail of small and microscopic solids that when inhaled can damage the respiratory system. The PM2.5 particles (smaller than 2.5 microns) are of grave concern due to their ability to penetrate deeply and cause the aforementioned damage to the lungs. In 2018, the World Health Organization showed that 11 out of the 12 cities with the most PM2.5 particle pollution are in India. In 2019, a public health emergency was declared in Delhi, leading the delay and cancellation of flights due to poor visibility and school closures. The air pollution in 2019 reached levels near the equivalent of smoking 45 to 50 cigarettes a day.

Delhi, India- McKay Savage

Has the United States air quality improved since 1980? Yes it has. However, “Will the current regulations be enough to stem the tide of a growing population and newly industrialized economies” is a question that remains contested. In this article I only highlighted two regions that are experiencing difficulties with air pollution, but they are hardly alone – China, New York, Pittsburgh, Bangladesh, Kuwait. This is a global problem that will require systemic and serious regulation in order to make progress. Our air is a precious resource and it needs to be protected so that all people can breathe easily and freely.

Featured Gif Source: https://childeducationbodysystems.weebly.com/respiratory-system.html

Delhi India Image Source: McKay Savage from London, UK / CC BY (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)

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Nightmare Fuel: Botflies hijack mosquitoes to lay maggots under your skin.

I wish today’s creature and the title was a bad joke.

Unfortunately this is no joke- The Human Botfly (Dermatobia hominis) slaps eggs onto a mosquito, when that mosquito bites you, those eggs are implanted under your skin. Over the next 5-12 weeks, a maggot grows under your skin causing painful leaking pustules until it crawls out of your skin and into the next stage of development as a pupae. Sickening.

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This fly is a part of a family known as Oestridae or Botflies, the larvae of all Botfly species parasitize mammals. Honestly, one of these flies is too many – but to know there are approximately 150 species of Botfly is frankly terrifying. They are found world-wide but the Human Botfly is primarily in the regions found below.

By Cfugate23 – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=17455271
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Icing on the horror cake shown below – the maggots have backwards facing spikes, designed to make them difficult and painful to remove.

 

Should you be so unlucky to need it, the most commonly used method of removal is  to apply petroleum jelly, glue or nail polish to cover the hole preventing the literal pus-eating worm from breathing. Showing that vaseline can cure everything from ashy hands to hell-spawn growing under your skin.

 

This bite can occur anywhere a mosquito can bite you, so if it is in a sensitive or hard to reach area then please seek a medical professional to apply iodine and remove the fly via tweezer. Be careful if you are removing one yourself, rupturing certain Botfly species can induce anaphalactic shock.

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Despite knowing that these flies are not widespread in my region, every time a mosquito bites me, a tiny voice wonders, “Is today the day that I wind up with maggots under my skin?” Now, a small bit of that terror will go with you 😉.

Botfly maggot removal via tweezer

Parting with Honeybees is Such Sweet Sorrow

Traditionally speaking, when we hear about honeybees, we think about insects that sting. We also think about pollination and of course by proxy, honey.

These associations may only be fleetingly considered, but when you take a moment to really think about how significant the act of pollination actually is, you realize these little critters are way more important than they seem at first glance.

So what’s the big deal about pollination? Besides, when Spring comes around, pollen wreaks havoc on millions that suffer from allergies, so there can’t be anything good about it, right?

Wrong!

Pollination is crucial for the fertilization of all flowers to reproduce, whether it’s your typical daisy in a meadow, or a flower on your fruit or vegetable crop, with the latter being most important to our well-being as humans.

The process of pollination requires the transfer of pollen grains from a male flower to the receiving reproductive organs of the female flower; sometimes flowers are hermaphroditic and contain both male and female reproductive components, allowing for easier pollination.

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Now, finding great pollen-producing flowers isn’t just an intuitive skill. You have to set out and find them! So, if you’re also wondering how honeybees communicate with their hive mates about where they’ve located the best pollen and nectar sources, take a quick moment to watch this short, cool video below (you’re gonna love it):

Who would have known honeybees could get their twerk on? 😀

Honeybees aren’t the only creatures that carry out this process, as various bird species also engage in the pollination of flowers, such as hummingbirds, spiderhunters, and honeyeaters, to name a few. As a matter of fact, 87.5% of plant flower species are visited by animals for pollination purposes. 75% of all crops used directly for human consumption worldwide are pollinated by insects, the majority of which are bees.

However, bird species for instance, are experiencing negative unintended consequences of climate change, which is limiting their ability to pollinate as they traditionally would. Definitely take a look at the article, Our Silent skies – 3.1 Billion Birds Lost, for more details on the crisis afflicting our birds.

Additionally, western honeybees are the most frequent floral visitor of crops, worldwide, and unfortunately, a concern over their well-being is growing as honeybee populations are dwindling across the globe. This also opens up the conversation to how this impacts the success of agricultural industries and our resulting food supply.

So what is leading to the decline in bees’ numbers, and hindering their ability to pollinate? I’ll list a few reasons:

Lack of biodiversity: Studies have shown that pollination is most successful with diverse populations of pollinators, as they tend to forage on the upper half of plants, while wild bees tend to pollinate closer to the ground. In settings where environmental conditions are windier, honeybees tend to leave the setting, but wildbees continue pollinating at the same rate.

However, when biodiversity is lower and only honeybees are present in those same harsh conditions, little to no pollination occurred. So some bees are just built to handle more stressful settings…honeybees, maybe not so much.

Honeybee competition: Interestingly enough, honeybees that are managed in apiaries by bee-handlers seem to out-compete wild bees and drive them from their natural habitats, thus reducing the diversity of bees in a given area.

Pollution: Research has shown that honeybees that are exposed to elemental heavy metals from pollutants in their environments, such as cadmium and lead, may negatively alter their feeding behavior.

Fortunately, there are other groups investigating certain gut microbes that can scavenge and metabolize these heavy metals that dwell within the bee host, and could serve as a probiotic of sorts for sickly honeybees. The use of pesticides have also been of concern when accounting for bee colony loss.

Infection: In conjunction with pesticide exposure, there have been outbreaks of parasite exposures and various other pathogens that have burdened bee populations worldwide, and veterinary researchers are hard at work to quell this issue.

As you can see, our sweet little honeybee friends are quite sensitive to their environments. We have to be mindful of not only what we’re doing to nature, but how nature is responding to our actions. They may be small, but honeybees play a huge role in our well-being, bigger than many of us may have realized. So, pay them some respect, and show them some love.

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Nightmare Fuel: The Bobbit Worm

Lurking in the watery depths lies a worm spun from pure nightmare fuel- the Bobbit worm.

Filmed by Khaled Sultani- Check out their other videos!
Eunice aphroditois

Mrs. Scary-Face is a predator who feeds on anything she can catch, using her long sensory antennae to determine when prey is nearby. The jaws are held back until the right moment when they snap shut on unsuspecting prey. These creatures can vary in length, from a few inches to 10 feet long!  Bobbit worms are distributed worldwide but mainly found within the Indo-Pacific ocean. These creatures produce sexually, with both male and female ejaculating sperm and eggs respectively into the water and letting the ocean current do the rest. The next time you are swimming on those white sandy beaches, remember that a very tiny percentage of that crystal clear water is- “Bobbit sex water”.

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Research related to Bobbit worms has found interesting predator-prey behaviors, where fish will actually gang up and blow water jets on the Bobbit worms to cover the Bobbit hole with sand and silt and force the monster  Bobbit to retreat.  The research on Bobbit worms is not widespread, a discredit to us all, as this fascinating predator is assuredly hiding some scientific secrets.

To support marine biology research check out the links below:

 

 

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Our Silent Skies: 3.1 Billion Birds Lost

Birds of today must contend with new and dangerous challenges: air pollution, wind turbines, skyscrapers, airplanes, and unprecedented levels of habitat loss. Rachel Carson’s Silent Spring was a blaring alarm that reckless use of pesticides is killing our environment, and yet this alarm has been largely ignored. Since 1970, 3.1 billion birds have been lost. This is according to a recent report in Science, which details how humanity has largely failed to protect so many different avian species. 

Birds that reside in the grasslands have been hit the hardest, potentially due to the effect of increasing agriculture in the fertile grasslands of the West. The land is cleared, tilled, and sprayed with herbicides and pesticides, draining the earth of insect life that is beneficial to the crops, subsequently starving the birds to death. The scientists in this study have found 74% of the grassland bird species are declining, and 700 million individuals have been lost. Solutions are needed, or we risk wiping the skies free of our feathered friends. 

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Doing the bare minimum by banning one or two chemicals is not enough to tip the scales. Humanity needs to hold up a mirror to itself and decide — do we truly wish to be alone on this planet with only our livestock and “conventional” pets as our companions? The biodiversity of the earth is a vibrant and important resource for science, medicine, education and our understanding of ourselves. We need to fund research into this field to delineate the best policies that can help our system. Policies to protect biodiversity should not be dismantled by a few close-minded individuals. We constantly use hashtags: #savethebees, #savethefrogs, #savethebirds, #savetheamazon, but if we don’t get serious soon, the next hashtag will be #saveus.

 

Don’t forget to subscribe to our platform to receive notifications of our latest intriguing science news and media! Also, join and ‘like’ our Facebook group!

Our Silent Skies- 3.1 Billion Birds Lost

Birds of today must contend with new and dangerous challenges: air pollution, wind turbines, skyscrapers, airplanes, and unprecedented levels of habitat loss. Rachel Carson’s Silent Spring was a blaring alarm that reckless use of pesticides is killing our environment, and yet this alarm has been largely ignored. Since 1970, 3.2 billion birds have been lost. This is according to a recent report in Science, which details how humanity has largely failed to protect so many different avian species. 

Birds that reside in the grasslands have been hit the hardest, potentially due to the effect of increasing agriculture in the fertile grasslands of the West. The land is cleared, tilled, and sprayed with herbicides and pesticides, draining the earth of insect life that is beneficial to the crops, subsequently starving the birds to death. The scientists in this study have found 74% of the grassland bird species are declining, and 700 million individuals have been lost. Solutions are needed, or we risk wiping the skies free of our feathered friends. 

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Doing the bare minimum by banning one or two chemicals is not enough to tip the scales. Humanity needs to hold up a mirror to itself and decide — do we truly wish to be alone on this planet with only our livestock and “conventional” pets as our companions? The biodiversity of the earth is a vibrant and important resource for science, medicine, education and our understanding of ourselves. We need to fund research into this field to delineate the best policies that can help our system. Policies to protect biodiversity should not be dismantled by a few close-minded individuals. We constantly use hashtags: #savethebees, #savethefrogs, #savethebirds, #savetheamazon, but if we don’t get serious soon, the next hashtag will be #saveus.

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Green Jobs: Grow the Economy, Save the Earth

Last week we had climate strikes around the globe. These strikes represent a new wave of green activists that are determined to make a difference. Greta Thunberg led what is currently estimated to be around 4 million protestors to take to the streets in support of climate legislation and conservation. These protests have officially ended on September 27th, but the fight is not over for the earth’s preservation as our resources shrink. 

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One of the arguments against climate science and conservation centers around the negative impact on our economy that will result from green-based, sustainability regulations. However, this is not the case — some of the fastest growing jobs over the next decade will be from the environmental sector. We have compiled five of these incredible positions from the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics that are sure to grow and jumpstart our economy!

  1. Solar Photovoltaic Installers (63% growth, from 2018-2028)
“Solar photovoltaic (PV) installers assemble, in Lingyi Zhao Jiexi Liaostall, and maintain solar panel systems on rooftops or other structures.”
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  1. Wind Turbine Technicians (57% growth, from 2018-2028)
“Wind turbine service technicians install, maintain, and repair wind turbines.”
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  1. Environmental Engineering Technicians (13% growth, from 2018-2028)
“Environmental engineering technicians carry out the plans that environmental engineers develop.”
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  1. Hazardous Materials Removal Workers (11% growth, from 2018-2028)
“Hazardous materials removal workers identify and dispose of asbestos, lead, radioactive waste, and other hazardous materials.”
  1. Forest Fire Inspectors and prevention specialist (8% growth, from 2018-2028)
Fire inspectors examine buildings in order to detect fire hazards and ensure that federal, state, and local fire codes are met.”

-some of the fastest growing jobs over the next decade will be from the environmental sector!

If you found this article informative please hit the ‘like’ button below, and don’t forget to subscribe to our platform for the latest intriguing science news and media!

Green Jobs- Grow the Economy, Save the Earth

Last week we had climate strikes around the globe. These strikes represent a new wave of green activists that are determined to make a difference. Greta Thunberg led what is currently estimated to be around 4 million protestors to take to the streets in support of climate legislation and conservation. These protests have officially ended on September 27th, but the fight is not over for the earth’s preservation as our resources shrink. 

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One of the arguments against climate science and conservation centers around the negative impact on our economy that will result from green-based, sustainability regulations. However, this is not the case — some of the fastest growing jobs over the next decade will be from the environmental sector. We have compiled five of these incredible positions from the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics that are sure to grow and jumpstart our economy!

  1. Solar Photovoltaic Installers (63% growth, from 2018-2028)
“Solar photovoltaic (PV) installers assemble, in Lingyi Zhao Jiexi Liaostall, and maintain solar panel systems on rooftops or other structures.”
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  1. Wind Turbine Technicians (57% growth, from 2018-2028)
“Wind turbine service technicians install, maintain, and repair wind turbines.”
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  1. Environmental Engineering Technicians (13% growth, from 2018-2028)
“Environmental engineering technicians carry out the plans that environmental engineers develop.”
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  1. Hazardous Materials Removal Workers (11% growth, from 2018-2028)
“Hazardous materials removal workers identify and dispose of asbestos, lead, radioactive waste, and other hazardous materials.”
  1. Forest Fire Inspectors and prevention specialist (8% growth, from 2018-2028)
Fire inspectors examine buildings in order to detect fire hazards and ensure that federal, state, and local fire codes are met.”

-some of the fastest growing jobs over the next decade will be from the environmental sector!

If you found this article informative please hit the ‘like’ button below, and don’t forget to subscribe to our platform for the latest intriguing science news and media!

Amphibians Are Going Extinct, The Cure For Cancer May Die With Them

There is a constant clamor for the “cure for cancer” and other medical miracles. Although the cancer research industry falls back on plants and synthetic chemistry to find cures, some in the science world believe the very cures we seek may be found within frogs, toads, newts and salamanders.

Hans Spemann, professor of zoology at the University of Freiburg-im-Breisgau, was awarded the  Nobel Prize in Medicine in 1935 for discovering that the fate of embryonic cells is not predetermined. This discovery was made using the embryos of newts. Without this research, techniques like stem cell transplant would not exist. Stem cell transplants are currently used to treat blood cancers such as leukemia, lymphoma and multiple myeloma.  

Researchers have found some amphibians are capable of secreting chemicals that potentially have both antimicrobial and anticancer properties.  In a world where antibiotic resistant superbugs take 70,000 lives per year, we need to pursue every new antimicrobial possibility. 

Colorectal cancer is the fourth most common cancer worldwide, taking 880,000 lives in 2018. This cancer can develop chemoresistance due to a high level of tumor heterogeneity, highlighting a need for novel treatments. Research on toad venom compounds have shown this venom is able to prevent the growth of two different types of colorectal cancer. 

The research on the medicinal benefits of amphibians is simultaneously understudied and underappreciated. These animals represent a system that could provide a wide array of treatment options for the complex medical problems we face today, but the species is struggling for survival. 

In the past 50 years, there have been more than 500 amphibian species threatened by fungal diseases and human activity. Amphibians such as frogs, newts and salamanders all have permeable skin; this means that amphibians are extremely sensitive to toxins, pollutants and disease. This has resulted in at least 90 extinctions, and will likely lead to more if significant regulatory and conservation efforts are not made. 

If we do not change the way we conduct amphibian conservation and habitat protection our beloved amphibians will become extinct. If you want to help protect these creatures, support or join the organizations below.

Endangered Species International

https://www.endangeredspeciesinternational.org/amphibians7.html

National Wildlife Federation 

https://www.nwf.org/

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The Marvelous Space Bear

The Incredible Tardigrade is INDESTRUCTIBLE

The Tardigrade is fondly called both the “water bear” and the “space bear”!

Sadly, you may not be able to give this cute bear a squeeze because it is a micro-animal, meaning it can only be seen with the use of a microscope. 

This adorable water bear is able to survive in the deepest parts of the ocean and at temperatures from -458°F to 300°F. The Tardigrade is even able to survive the VACUUM OF OUTER SPACE!  

How is this possible?!

The Tardigrade is able to withstand forces that would normally be deadly due to its amazing ability to enter a type of “frozen state” called cryptobiosis. This allows for the water bear to actually go without food and water for up to 30 YEARS!  

This incredible organism is able to be found on most trees, mosses and lichen. Try to go out with your friends, dip a piece of lichen or moss into the water and then look at the moss under the microscope! Do you see any Tardigrades? 

Let your curiosity roar!

Watch this amazing video below to learn more!

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