Mississippi’s largest city in water crisis as treatment plant fails

Read the full story in the Washington Post.

The governor of Mississippi urged residents of Jackson, the state’s capital and largest city, not to drink the water there — if they still had access to it — warning that running water would soon be unavailable as the city’s long-struggling treatment plant failed.

Gov. Tate Reeves (R) said during an emergency briefing Monday night that the city would be without “reliable running water at scale” for the near future.

Exactly when the situation would be resolved was unclear, officials at the briefing said, but Reeves said the state was prepared to distribute alternative sources of water for “as long as we have to.”The Mississippi Emergency Management Agency had asked Reeves to mobilize the National Guard to help with distribution, said the agency’s executive director, Stephen C. McCraney.

Jackson Public Schools said that starting Tuesday, all of its schools would shift to virtual learning because of the water crisis.

Until the situation is resolved, residents in the city of 150,000 should not drink the water or use it to cook or brush their teeth unless they boil it first, officials said. Reeves said the situation was “very different” from a boil-water notice, as the water itself would run out — leaving residents unable to flush their toilets…

There would not even be enough water to fight fires, Reeves said, adding that the state this weekend started gathering alternative sources of water, including for firefighting. Separate sources of drinking water and non-potable water for flushing toilets would be distributed, he said.

Ah-ha moments

Read the full story from the University of Tennessee.

Armed with a grant from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the Center for Industrial Services (CIS), an agency of the UT Institute for Public Service, has worked with five Tennessee food manufacturers so far to help them reduce their carbon footprints. CIS has used two EPA grants totaling $140,000 to offset costs to manufacturers and help them reduce their energy costs and will apply for a third.

Coyotes are here to stay in North American cities – here’s how to appreciate them from a distance

A coyote on a golf course in Scottsdale, Ariz., June 19, 2011. Dru Bloomfield/Flickr, CC BY

by David Drake, University of Wisconsin-Madison; Bret Shaw, University of Wisconsin-Madison, and Mary Magnuson, University of Wisconsin-Madison

Coyotes have become practically ubiquitous across the lower 48 United States, and they’re increasingly turning up in cities. The draws are abundant food and green space in urban areas.

At first these appearances were novelties, like the hot summer day in 2007 when a coyote wandered into a Chicago Quiznos sub shop and jumped into the beverage cooler. Within a few years, however, coyote sightings became common in the Bronx and Manhattan. In 2021 a coyote strolled into a Los Angeles Catholic school classroom. They’re also appearing in Canadian cities.

People often fear for their own safety, or for their children or pets, when they learn about coyotes in their neighborhoods. But as an interdisciplinary team studying how people and coyotes interact in urban areas, we know that peaceful coexistence is possible – and that these creatures actually bring some benefits to cities.

Adaptable animals

Coyotes can thrive in urban environments because they are incredibly adaptable. As omnivores, coyotes can change their diets depending on the type of food that’s available.

In rural areas coyotes may feed on bird eggs, rabbits, deer and a wide range of nonanimal matter, like plants and fruits. In urban environments they’ll supplement their natural diet with human-provided food sources, such as outdoor pet feeders and garbage cans.

Coyotes prefer to live in packs, and usually do so in rural areas. In urban areas, coyotes live in packs as well, although it may not seem that way because they are often seen individually rather than as a group.

Solitary coyotes not associated with a pack are somewhat common but tend to be transitory animals looking to join a pack or establish a new one in an unoccupied territory. These solitary coyotes can roam many miles per day, which enables them to disperse to new cities in search of food.

Map of the west side of Madison, Wisconsin, with stars indicating places a coyote stopped
Urban coyotes can roam multiple miles a day. This map of the west side of Madison, Wisconsin, tracks a male coyote collared by the UW Urban Canid Project. Each red star shows somewhere he stopped over the span of a few days. University of Wisconsin Urban Canid Project, CC BY-ND

Some wild species need very specific types of habitat to survive. For example, the Kirtland’s warbler is a rare North American songbird that breeds only in young jack pine forests in Michigan, Wisconsin and Ontario. In contrast, coyotes are habitat generalists that can live on and around a wide variety of land types and covers.

Many kinds of habitat that coyotes use in rural areas, such as parks, prairies, forest patches and wetlands, are also found in cities. Typically coyotes avoid the urban cores, but in Chicago they inhabit the downtown area and have been able to survive quite well.

Finally, urban coyotes have flexible activity patterns. Most urban coyotes are active mainly between dusk and dawn, when they are less visible than in daylight. However, as coyotes grow used to humans and begin to lose their fear of people, they may be seen more frequently during daylight hours.

Hunting rodents and spreading seeds

Studies show that urban coyotes generally avoid direct interactions with people. A long-term study in Chicago found that these animals are good at adapting to human-built environments and navigating urban areas without being seen by humans. Often people may not realize they’re sharing the urban landscape with coyotes until they see one in their neighborhood.

Despite their trickster portrayal in folklore and popular media, coyotes tend to avoid conflict. They enter urban landscapes because they’re opportunistic. And because cities don’t have apex predators like wolves or bears, there are lots of smaller wild prey species, such as squirrels and rabbits, running around for coyotes to feed on.

A 2021 study conducted in Madison, Wisconsin, found that the vast majority of human interactions with coyotes there were benign. When asked to rank how aggressive coyotes had been during interactions on a scale of 0 (calm) to 5 (aggressive), most of the 398 people in the study chose zero. More than half of the coyotes in the study moved away from the human, indicating that the animals maintained a healthy fear of people.

Graphic explaining how to behave around urban coyotes
Coyotes are present throughout Florida, including in urban areas like Miami and Tampa-St. Petersburg. Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission

And having coyotes around can be useful. In urban areas they are at the top of the food chain and can help regulate populations of prey species such as rabbits, rats and mice. Since coyotes are omnivores, they also eat plant material and spread seeds when they defecate.

Our team is working to learn how people feel about coyotes in their urban communities so that we can identify the best ways to foster positive human-coyote relationships. In Madison, we’ve found that many people appreciate coyotes and are likely to respond positively to messages that highlight coyotes as a valued part of the urban landscape.

Don’t be afraid to haze

If you encounter an urban coyote, it’s OK to enjoy watching it from a safe distance. But then haze it by making noise – for example, yelling and waving your arms to look big.

University of Wisconsin wildlife extension specialist David Drake shows how to haze a coyote.

For animal lovers, this might seem harsh, but it’s extremely important to make sure the coyote doesn’t get too close. This teaches the animal to keep away from people. In the rare cases in which urban coyotes have attacked humans, the animals typically had become habituated to human presence over time.

If you have pets, keep them leashed in public parks and watch them when they’re loose in unfenced yards. Keep their food inside as well. To a coyote, a dishful of dog food is an easy free meal, and it may cause coyotes to revisit the area more frequently than they would if human-provided food weren’t accessible.

Based on existing research, we believe urban landscapes have plenty of room for coyotes and humans to coexist peacefully. It starts with each species giving the other enough room to go about its business. To learn more about these amazingly adaptable animals, check out the national nonprofit Project Coyote and the Wisconsin-based Urban Canid Project.

David Drake, Professor of Forest and Wildlife Ecology and Extension Wildlife Specialist, University of Wisconsin-Madison; Bret Shaw, Associate Professor of Life Sciences Communication, University of Wisconsin-Madison, and Mary Magnuson, Master’s student in Environment and Resources, University of Wisconsin-Madison

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

How year-round crops could reduce farm pollution in the Mississippi River

Read the full story from Northern Public Radio.

For years, Minnesota has struggled to reduce the farm pollution from fertilizers and other sources that runs into streams, lakes, the Mississippi River and eventually, the Gulf of Mexico.

Wyse, a crop scientist who founded and now co-leads Forever Green, said he watched for years as all the funding for farm pollution research went into describing the problem. “There wasn’t a very big investment in solutions.”

So crop breeders at Forever Green are working on 16 perennial and winter annual crops to suck up that nutrient pollution before it escapes. Food scientists and marketers with the program are trying to develop uses for these crops and hopefully, provide new revenue for farmers, too.

What is climate-neutral aviation and how do we get there?

Read the full story at Anthropocene Magazine.

Airplanes affect the climate in complex ways. In addition to carbon dioxide, burning jet fuel produces water vapor, sulfur dioxide, soot, nitrogen oxides, and contrail clouds, all of which can affect global temperature. Emissions other than carbon dioxide – especially contrails, which are well known to have a warming effect – are responsible for two-thirds of aviation’s climate impact. But these emissions aren’t covered by current international climate agreements and other efforts to mitigate climate change.

Yet getting a handle on these non-carbon dioxide emissions is crucial in order to meet the Paris Agreement’s goal of limiting global warming to 1.5°C, a new study shows.

Researchers from the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Zurich modeled at the climate impacts of aviation under various scenarios. If aviation continues to grow at the expected rate and airplanes continue to primarily use fossil jet fuels, then aviation alone could contribute an additional 0.4°C of warming by 2100, the researchers report in Nature Climate Change.

North Carolina Fish Forum turns research collaboration into action

Read the full story at Environmental Factor.

Researchers across three NIEHS-funded universities and their stakeholders organized the North Carolina Fish Forum in 2019 to understand the process of setting fish consumption advisories and barriers to more effectively communicating them. Three years later, the collaborators continue to reveal new insight into contaminants in fish, inform more health-protective advisories, and communicate risks to diverse groups.

Fishing is a beloved pastime and, for many, a source of affordable, local food. However, some types of fish may contain potentially harmful contaminants. Fish consumption advisories help people understand what fish are safe to eat, for whom, and in what quantities.

Quickly reporting back water testing results after a wildfire

Read the full story in the Partnerships for Environmental Public Health Newsletter.

Communicating environmental health information quickly after a disaster is critical and allows residents to take protective actions against harmful environmental exposures. When residents began to return to the town of Paradise, California, after evacuations caused by the devastating 2018 Camp Fire, they were unsure whether it was safe to use the tap water. Community-wide sampling from local water utilities had found contamination in the public water supply, but NIEHS-funded researchers at the University of California, San Francisco and the Public Health Institute were interested in sampling that would provide households with their own water results. A recent paper describes how the researchers developed and implemented this strategy by partnering with local organizations and community leaders.

The Research Reputation-Industrial Complex: Corporate influence on the research ecosystem

Read the full story in Online Searcher.

I braved airline travel in COVID America to attend the fall 2021 meeting of the Coalition for Networked Information (CNI), which took place Dec. 13–14 in Washington, DC. At the opening plenary session, the forward-looking head of CNI, Clifford Lynch, talked about a topography of emerging advances and trends he sees in the broad terrain of research and scholarship. While the talk was interesting, during the Q&A portion, a question about research impact indicators particularly piqued my interest because the questioner used the term “research reputation-industrial complex” to describe the overreliance on simplistic metrics and indicators in research evaluation processes.

As it happened, using that phrase in his question was none other than library luminary Lorcan Dempsey, a prodigious thinker in the information profession with a longtime career at OCLC. Dempsey was gracious enough to give me some of his time to discuss issues related to the generation and refinement of research impact metrics by for-profit entities, namely Elsevier, Clarivate, and Digital Science. Dempsey suggested that info pros and librarians should question the motives of commercial players and their roles in research evaluation. Dempsey made it clear to me that he is merely an observer and by no means an expert in scientometrics or research evaluation, yet I thought his point merited pondering.

Developing tech to eliminate ‘forever chemicals’ from water

Read the full story from the University of Illinois Chicago.

Engineers at the University of Illinois Chicago have been awarded just over $1 million from the U.S. Department of Energy’s National Alliance for Water Innovation to build a system that selectively removes and destroys poly- and perfluorinated substances, commonly called PFAS and referred to as “forever chemicals,” from industrial and municipal wastewaters. PFAS are man-made chemicals found in many common materials, and the grant will support the team’s work for three years. 

Texas A&M AgriLife develops new bioremediation material to clean up ‘forever chemicals’

Read the full story from Texas A&M.

A novel bioremediation technology for cleaning up per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances, or PFAS, chemical pollutants that threaten human health and ecosystem sustainability, has been developed by Texas A&M AgriLife researchers. The material has potential for commercial application for disposing of PFAS, also known as “forever chemicals.”

Published July 28 in Nature Communications, the research was a collaboration of Susie Dai, associate professor in the Texas A&M Department of Plant Pathology and Microbiology, and Joshua Yuan, chair and professor in Washington University in St. Louis Department of Energy, Environmental and Chemical Engineering, formerly with the Texas A&M Department of Plant Pathology and Microbiology.

grant from the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences and support from Texas A&M AgriLife funded the work.