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Plankton Worlds

Ancient bacteria, single cells and long strands of strange little plants, plus minute single celled animals and weird fantastical animal larvae – these are the members of the Earth’s massive and hugely important planktonic ecosystems. Come with Nan Evans as she talks with Dr. Gretchen Rollwagen-Bollens about this strange world and its significance to global ecology and human well being. Consider eutrophication, the world’s biggest threat to water quality or cyanobacteria and one of the causes of toxic algal blooms such as the ones in our local Andeson Lake.

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Canada lynx historic range in U.S. likely wider than previously thought

A broader past could mean a brighter future for Canada lynx in the United States, according to recent research.

The study, published in the journal Biological Conservation, indicates that lynx might do well in the future in parts of Utah, central Idaho and the Yellowstone National Park region, even considering climate change and the lack of lynx in those areas now.

Using a model validated by historic records, researchers first found that in 1900, Canada lynx had more suitable habitat in the United States than the few northern corners of the country where they are found currently. The study showed the elusive big cat likely roamed over a larger area in the Pacific Northwest, Rocky Mountains, Great Lakes region and parts of New England.

“History matters even for wildlife,” said lead author Dan Thornton, a Washington State University wildlife ecologist. “As part of the criteria for species recovery, we have to understand their historic distribution. Otherwise, how can we help recover a species, if we don’t know what we’re recovering to?”

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Billings Gazette

Heat, cold extremes hold untapped potential for solar and wind energy

Conditions that usually accompany the kind of intense hot and cold weather that strains power grids may also provide greater opportunities to capture solar and wind energy.

A Washington State University-led study found that widespread, extreme temperature events are often accompanied by greater solar radiation and higher wind speeds that could be captured by solar panels and wind turbines. The research, which looked at extensive heat and cold waves across the six interconnected energy grid regions of the U.S. from 1980-2021, also found that every region experienced power outages during these events in the past decade.

“These extreme events are not going away anytime soon. In fact, every region in the U.S. experiences at least one such event nearly every year. We need to be prepared for their risks and ensure that people have reliable access to energy when they need it the most,” said lead author Deepti Singh, a Washington State University climate scientist.”Potentially, we could generate more power from renewable resources precisely when we have widespread extreme events that result in increased energy demand.”

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New Genetic Tools Have Dramatically Changed Wildlife Conservation

The collection of eDNA is just the first step in trying to identify species from the bits of themselves they leave behind as they roam different habitats. The dead skin, saliva, scat, and other cellular material that organisms shed must then be analyzed in a laboratory using molecular methods.

At Washington State University’s School of the Environment, associate professor Caren Goldberg extracts the DNA trapped in the filters that [National Park Service biologist Andy] Hubbard sends from southern Arizona. “We do one species at a time, and then sometimes we have to do some extra cleaning on the samples, and then we process all the data, and we double-check it to make sure everything looks good before sending it back,” she said.

Environmental technology is a valuable tool for finding elusive species like frogs, Goldberg said. She knows how slippery the creatures can be because, as a University of Arizona student, she completed her master’s thesis after chasing barking frogs in the mountains and surveying Chiricahua leopard frogs that can be difficult to see in murky, and often deep, water holes.

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The Good Men Project