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Climate crisis forcing polar bears from Alaska to Russia

Climate change is forcing polar bears to ditch Alaska for Russia, according to American scientists.

In recent years, polar bears in the Beaufort Sea have had to travel far outside of their traditional hunting grounds which has contributed to an almost 30 per cent decrease in their population, according to a recent study by Washington State University.

pagano_anthony
Pagano

Anthony Pagano, a postdoctoral researcher in Washington State University’s School of the Environment, said: “Having to travel farther means these bears are expending more energy which can threaten their survival.

“If we want to preserve the habitat of these amazing mammals, then we need to focus on the root of the problem, which is slowing global climate change.”

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Air pollution from wildfires, rising heat affected 68% of U.S. West

Large wildfires and severe heat events are happening more often at the same time, worsening air pollution across the western United States, a study led by Washington State University researchers has found. In 2020, more than 68% of the western U.S. – representing about 43 million people – were affected in one day by the resulting harmful-levels of air pollution, the highest number in 20 years.

“We have seen an increasing trend in the past 20 years of days when high-levels of both particulate matter and ozone are occurring simultaneously,” said lead author Dmitri Kalashnikov, a WSU doctoral student. “This is tied to two things: more wildfires and increases in the types of weather patterns that cause both wildfires and hot weather.”

Deepti Singh.
Singh

“From every indication we have, the hotter, drier conditions projected for this region are likely to increase wildfire activity and contribute to more widespread, severe heat, which means we can expect to see these conditions happen more often in the future,” said co-author Deepti Singh, a WSU assistant professor. “Preparing for these events is really important. We need to think about who is exposed, what capacity there is to minimize that exposure, and how we can protect the most vulnerable people.”

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Big gaps in quest to sequence genomes of all animals

Efforts to sequence the genomes of the world’s animals tend to focus on those that most resemble humans with the work conducted almost entirely in the Global North, according to an analysis led by Washington State University.

Scott Hotaling.
Scott Hotaling

“With genome assemblies accumulating rapidly, we want to think about where we are putting our efforts. It’s not being spread evenly across the animal tree of life,” said lead author Scott Hotaling, a WSU post-doctoral researcher. “Invertebrates are still very underrepresented, which makes sense given that people seem to care more about vertebrates, the so-called ‘charismatic megafauna.”

The authors, Hotaling, Frandsen and WSU associate professor Joanna Kelley, also noted that the vast majority of genetic sequencing work is happening in developed countries often called the Global North because most are located in the Northern Hemisphere. Three countries, the United States, China and Switzerland produce the most. There were even certain proclivities for different regions with North America doing the most sequencing of mammals and insects, Europe of fish and Asia of birds.

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Concurrent heat waves becoming more frequent

Multiple large heatwaves the size of Mongolia occurred at the same time nearly every day during the warm seasons of the 2010s across the Northern Hemisphere, according to a study led by Washington State University researchers.

“More than one heatwave occurring at the same time often has worse societal impacts than a single event,” said Cassandra Rogers, a WSU post-doctoral researcher and lead author of the study in Journal of Climate. “If certain regions are dependent on one another, for instance for agriculture or trade, and they’re both undergoing stresses at the same time, they may not be able to respond to both events.”

Deepti Singh.
Singh

“As a society, we are not currently adapted to the types of climate events we’re experiencing right now,” said co-author Deepti Singh, WSU associate professor in the School of the Environment.

In addition to Rogers and Singh, authors on the study include Kai Kornhuber of Columbia University, Sarah Perkins-Kirkpatrick of the University of New South Wales in Australia and Paul Loikith of Portland State University. This research was supported by the National Science Foundation and the Australian Research Council.

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Recent study aims to estimate lynx population in Glacier Park

The first-ever comprehensive lynx population survey in the park, funded by the Glacier National Park Conservancy and conducted in collaboration with Alissa Anderson, John Waller and Dr. Dan Thornton, hopes to finally shed light on mysterious feline’s population densities and preferred habitat inside Glacier National Park.

“It seems like there are lynx in many different parts of Glacier, which we are excited about, but we still don’t know what kind of habitat they really prefer,” said Anderson, a graduate student and researcher at Dr. Dan Thornton’s Mammal Spatial Ecology and Conservation Lab at Washington State University. “Hopefully, this study will help us understand why lynx choose to live in certain parts of the park but not in others.”

With the data collection period completed, the researchers are now hard at work attempting to identify individual lynx captured in the images as they pursue population density estimates. While little is known about the overall population of lynx in the United States, which were listed as threatened under the Endangered Species Act in 2000, the study may be able to help researchers understand how many individual lynx can be found in certain areas of the park.

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