iSEE Fall Lecture Series: Where Stuff Comes From: Earth’s Resources & Sustainability

This fall, iSEE is excited to launch a three-part webinar series entitled “Where Stuff Comes From: Earth’s Resources & Sustainability.” The free, hour-long sessions will be hosted by University of Illinois Prof. Emeritus Stephen Marshakwho served as a faculty member for 35 years in roles including Geology Department Head and Director of the School of Earth, Society & Environment. The topics, dates, and times of each lecture are:

Topic 1 – Building Stuff: Materials From the Earth that Sustain our Built Environment: From Ancient Coral to City Sidewalks
Sept. 29, 2020 | Noon-1 p.m.

Topic 2 – Precious Stuff: The Discovery, Extraction, and Use of Valuable Minerals: From Gems to Smartphones
Oct. 27, 2020 | Noon-1 p.m.

Topic 3 – Burning Stuff: Fossil Fuels: Consuming the Life of the Past to Power Life of the Present
Nov. 17, 2020 | Noon-1 p.m.

Roark Industries launches graphene membranes

Read the full story in Filtration+Separation.

UK-based graphene specialist Roark Industries has announced the commercial availability of its GOGO graphene membranes for applications in the oil and gas industry.

Waste Management issues report on plastics recycling

Read the full story in Recycling Today.

Houston-based waste and recycling company Waste Management Inc. (WM) has issued its “Report on Recycling.” The report is in response to a dialogue among WM; Berkeley, California-based advocacy group As You Sow; and Boston-based Trillium Asset Management earlier this year on boosting U.S. plastic recycling rates.

WM agreed to provide a report that would identify gaps in recycling infrastructure, disclose the types of plastic collected by the company and their markets, provide an assessment of the effectiveness of its material recovery facilities (MRFs) and convey updated policy and advocacy positions on recycling.

Flexible and reusable carbon nano-fibre membranes for airborne contaminants capture

Al-Attabi, R. et al (2021). “Flexible and reusable carbon nano-fibre membranes for airborne contaminants capture.” Science of the Total Environment 754, 142231.

Abstract: Airborne aerosol pollutants generated from combustion vehicles exhausts, industrial facilities and microorganisms represent serious health challenges. Although membrane separation has emerged as a technique of choice for airborne contaminants removal, allowing for both size exclusion and surface adsorption. Here, electrospun carbon nanofibre mats were formed from poly(acrylonitrile) by systematic stabilization and carbonization processes to generate flexible and self-standing membranes for air filtration. The great mechanical flexibility of the electrospun carbon-nanofibre membranes was achieved through extreme quenching conditions on a carbon fibre processing line, allowing for complete carbonization in just 3 min. The carbonized nanofibre membranes, with fibre diameters in the range of 218 to 565 nm exhibited modulus of elasticity around 277.5 MPa. The samples exhibited air filtration efficiencies in the range of 97.2 to 99.4% for aerosol particle in the size of 300 nm based on face velocity, higher than benchmark commercial glass fibre (GF) air filters. The carbonized electrospun nanofibre membranes also yielded excellent thermal stability withstanding temperatures up to 450 °C, thus supporting the development of autoclavable and recyclable membranes. This significant and scalable strategy provides opportunities to mass-produce reusable air filters suitable for otherwise complex airborne pollutants, including volatile organic carbons and bio-contaminants, such as viruses.

Trinseo, Coexpan partner to recycle polystyrene for form fill seal dairy markets

Read the full story in Recycling Today.

The companies say industrial volumes of the recycled PS for form fill seal dairy markets will come online by the third quarter of 2022.

Air conditioning technology is the great missed opportunity in the fight against climate change

Read the full story from MIT Technology Review.

Soaring AC demand will threaten our power grids and accelerate global warming – unless we begin making major changes soon.

Update: Organizations announce plastic recycling initiative

Read the full story in Recycling Today.

Several nongovernmental organizations are spearheading an initiative called the United States Plastics Pact, which aims to make all plastic packaging 100 percent reusable, recyclable or compostable by 2025.

Women have disrupted research on bird song, and their findings show how diversity can improve all fields of science

Female song is common among fairywrens, like this red-backed fairywren. Paul Balfe/Flickr, CC BY

by Kevin Omland (University of Maryland, Baltimore County), Evangeline Rose (University of Maryland) and Karan Odom (Cornell University)

Americans often idealize scientists as unbiased, objective observers. But scientists are affected by conscious and unconscious biases, just as people in other fields are. Studies of birds’ vocal behavior clearly show how research approaches can be affected by the people who do the work.

For more than 150 years, dating back at least to Charles Darwin’s writings on sexual selection, scientists have generally considered bird song to be a male trait. The widely accepted view was that bird songs are long complex vocalizations produced by males during the breeding season, whereas such vocalizations in females are generally rare or abnormal.

But over the past 20 years, research has shown that both males and females in many bird species sing, especially in the tropics. For example, our group has studied female song and male-female duets in Venezuelan troupials, a tropical species that sings year-round to defend territories. And we have studied female song in eastern bluebirds, a temperate species in which females sing to communicate with their mates during the breeding season.

Recent findings have shown that female song is widespread, and it is likely that the ancestor of all songbirds had female song. Now, rather than asking why males originally evolved song, the question has become why both sexes originally evolved song, and why females have lost song in some species.

In a recently published study, we reviewed 20 years of research on female bird song and found that the key people driving this recent paradigm shift were women. If fewer women had entered this field, we believe that it likely would have taken much longer to reach this new understanding of how bird song originally evolved. We see this example as a powerful demonstration of why it’s important to increase diversity in all fields of science.

Male and female troupials duetting in Puerto Rico. Karan Odom, CC BY-ND230 KB (download)

New voices lead to new perspectives

Traditionally, white men working in countries of the Northern Hemisphere have conducted much of the research on bird song. Researchers in countries such as the U.S., Canada, England and Germany have focused much of their work on migratory birds that breed in the north temperate zone.

But starting in the 1990s, new research began to contradict this view. Studies pointed out the bias toward temperate zones in previous work, and indicated that in the tropics, females of many species are prolific singers. Researchers began to study how female birds use their songs, how females learn songs and why females in some species join their mates to sing precisely coordinated duets.

We noticed that women had written many of the key papers on female song published in recent years and wondered whether this was a general trend. To see whether women were significantly more likely to publish about female bird song than men, we identified all papers with “female song” in the title or abstract that had been published in the last 20 years. Next we assembled a set of papers generally published in the same journals in the same years, but focused on “bird song” more broadly.

Pair of Venezuelan troupials
Male and female troupials. Both sexes are elaborately colored, and both sexes sing. Karan Odom, CC BY-ND

For each of these papers we determined the genders of all authors, including the first author, middle authors and final author. Final authors frequently are the senior authors – for example, research group leaders.

Focusing on first authors, we found that 68% of female song papers were written by women, whereas only 44% of the bird song papers were written by women. Therefore, men were 24% less likely to study female song than bird song. Conversely, women were 24% more likely to study female song.

Middle authors on female song papers were also slightly skewed toward women. However, last authors were much more commonly men for both female song and bird song papers. In other words, the team leaders on these projects were still more likely to be men.

For female song studies, 58% of last authors were men. In our view, although ornithology is now a relatively gender-balanced field, more women need to be promoted into senior leadership positions, so that they can lead key decisions on research directions, funding and student projects. Female northern cardinals sing along with males and have many different calls.

Diverse perspectives help drive scientific progress

A major goal of our study was to recognize and promote the diverse perspectives of researchers with different backgrounds and identities. However, we felt it was crucial for our study to look back at least 20 years, since that was the time frame over which this key paradigm shift occurred. Many authors from that far back would be difficult to contact directly for a variety of reasons.

In the future, allowing authors to self-identify for studies of gender and authorship in a range of fields would likely produce more correct gender data and allow researchers to identify as nonbinary or non-gender-conforming.

Our case study on bird song provides dramatic evidence that who researchers are, where they are from and what experiences they have had influence the science that they do. More diverse groups of researchers may ask a broader range of questions, utilize more varied methods and tackle problems from a wider range of perspectives.

Gender is just one aspect of identity that could influence topics, conceptual approaches and specific methodologies used in a wide range of scientific disciplines. Many other factors, such as race, ethnicity, geographic location and socioeconomic standing, could also have important impacts on scientific research.

Recent events have vividly illustrated the effects of racial biases in areas ranging from criminal justice to outdoor recreation. Our study shows why it is important to address racial, gender and other biases to improve the outcomes of research, teaching and outreach at colleges and universities around the world.

Casey Haines, a recent undergraduate student at the University of Maryland, Baltimore County, was lead author of the study on which this article is based. Michelle Moyer, a PhD student at UMBC, helped with this work.

Kevin Omland, Professor of Biological Sciences, University of Maryland, Baltimore County; Evangeline Rose, Postdoctoral Research Associate, University of Maryland, and Karan Odom, Postdoctoral Fellow, Cornell University

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

WEbinar: Big Gulp: Lessons Learned on Providing P2 Tech Assistance to Food and Beverage Manufacturers

Wed, Sep 23, noon-1:30 pm CDT
Register here.

This webinar highlights lessons learned in the field from delivering pollution prevention assistance to food and beverage manufacturers. The speakers will highlight what worked – and what didn’t – in driving sustainability improvements in this diverse sector. They represent different locations, program approaches, and client types, but they all have hands-on experience working with businesses large and small.

This webinar is geared toward sustainability professionals working with the food and beverage sectors, such as technical assistance programs, water and energy conservation programs, green business certification programs, and consultants.

More than 100 scientific journals have disappeared from the Internet

Read the full story at Nature.

Researchers have identified dozens of open-access journals that went offline between 2000 and 2019, and hundreds more that could be at risk.