Toxin kills thousands of birds along Lake Michigan shoreline

Read the full story from Interlochen Public Radio.

Since 2006, Lake Michigan has seen a steady stream of dead birds washing up on its beaches, and this fall has been exceptionally grim.

Deepwater Horizon oil found in coastal birds

Read the full story at EnvironmentalResearchWeb.

In 2010 the Deepwater Horizon oil spill released up to 700,000 cubic metres of oil and 500,000 tonnes of gaseous hydrocarbons into the northern Gulf of Mexico. Although there’s evidence that carbon from the spill entered food webs in the ocean, it wasn’t clear what happened at the coast. Now a team from the US has shown that seaside sparrows (Ammodramus maritimus) living in the Louisiana marshes contained carbon from the spill in their feathers and in the contents of their crops.

The tragic reason seabirds keep mistaking ocean plastic for food

Read the full story in the Washington Post.

Each year, millions of tons of plastic waste end up in the ocean, where it often goes straight into the bellies of hungry birds, sea turtles and other marine animals. This is a big concern for scientists, who are still investigating the possible consequences for the marine ecosystem — but until now, researchers weren’t completely sure why so many animals were mistaking the plastic for food in the first place.

A new study, just out in the journal Science Advances, may shed some light on the mystery . The study finds that plastic in the ocean gives off a specific chemical compound with a distinctive smell, signaling to some seabirds that it’s dinnertime.

Citizen Scientists Can Now Lend a Hand in Penguin Conservation

Read the full story from Stonybrook University.

A new interactive and user-friendly website that tracks Antarctic penguin populations and provides information for scientists to better understand environmental changes will now be accessible to the general public. The new tool, developed  by Heather J. Lynch, PhD, an Associate Professor of Ecology and Evolution, and colleagues internationally, is the first of its kind giving citizen scientists a lens into the world of scientists seeking to impact global environmental change by way of analyzing penguin living patterns, known as a strong indicator of the effects of climate change.

Dr. Lynch and Mathew R. Schwaller, PhD, at NASA Goddard, teamed up with Washington, DC-based NGO Oceanites, Inc. to develop the newly launched Mapping Application for Penguin Populations and Projected Dynamics (MAPPPD;  Scientists and policy makers use the website to make conservation decisions regarding the Antarctic environment.

How hooded seals are transferring contaminants to their pups

Read the full story from the Society of Environmental Toxicology and Chemistry.

Environmental contaminants such as perfluoroalkyl substances (PFASs) can be transferred from mother to offspring through the placenta and mother’s milk, exposing the young mammal before and after birth. PFASs are a family of human-made chemicals, which have been used in a number of consumer products such as textiles, carpets, paper plates and food packaging because they repel grease, water and stains and are heat resistant. Since it was discovered that they pose a risk to wildlife and human health, some PFASs have been phased out of use, but they have not been universally banned. The Environmental Toxicology and Chemistry article, “Maternal Transfer of Perfluoroalkyl Substances in Hooded Seals” reports on the samples collected from lactating hooded seal mothers and their pups in West Ice, just east of Greenland.

WWF’s Living Planet Report 2016

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Global biodiversity is declining at an alarming rate, putting the survival of other species and our own future at risk. The latest edition of WWF’s Living Planet Report brings home the enormity of the situation – and how we can start to put it right. The Living Planet Index reveals that global populations of fish, birds, mammals, amphibians and reptiles declined by 58 per cent between 1970 and 2012. We could witness a two-thirds decline in the half-century from 1970 to 2020 – unless we act now to reform our food and energy systems and meet global commitments on addressing climate change, protecting biodiversity and supporting sustainable development.

Climate Change Is Driving Lobsters Farther North

Read the full story in CityLab.

…the lobsters have not disappeared. They’ve simply relocated northward to avoid the steamy waters. Their new choice of digs has caused havoc among Connecticut and New York fishing communities—some of which now have switched to harvesting clams and seaweed—while simultaneously creating a lobster boom in Maine.

We can watch their movement over the decades thanks to this nifty visualization from NASA, which uses data from Rutgers University’s OceanAdapt. It depicts lobster catches from the late ‘60s to 2014 off the New England coast, where the sea surface has warmed 99 percent faster than the rest of the planet’s oceans. Note that the lobsters probably are not physically trekking north in some great, 10-legged migration. It’s just that juvenile lobsters in the southern seas are less likely to survive—they’re vulnerable to heat stress and parasites—while northern waters provide a refuge.