Sunday, May 1, 2011
The PEAK (P romoting E nvironmental A wareness in K ids) program is the result of a unique partnership between REI (Recreation Equipment, Inc.) and the Leave No Trace Center for Outdoor Ethics. PEAK is based on the seven principles of Leave No Trace and is designed to educate children about the outdoors and responsible use of our shared public lands.
The program is available for kids of all ages and involves a plethera of activities for children. A short list of activites includes...
Discovering the Leave No Trace Principles - An introduction to the principles through demonstration of preparing for an outdoor trip; works great as a skit.
How Long Does it Last? - Find how long it really takes for common trash/recyclable to break down in nature and why it's important to Trash our Trash.
Watch Your Step - There are living organisms everything. Explore your world from an ant's level and find out why it's important to stick to trails.
Leave No Trace Draw - Many Leave No Trace decisions can be made along the trail. A version of a relay race, participants will decide whether they advance on the trail by answering Leave No Trace related quetions.
Step on It! - Why is it important to stick to trails? How do we know how to do this? Compete with your team to answer questions and learn how to Choose the Right Path when outdoors.
What Principle Am I? - Test your knowledge of the Leave No Trace principles by listening to clues and deciding What Principle Am I?
Leave No Trace Crime Scene - Have your youth become CSI investigators as they stumble upon a campsite leave no trace "crime scene."
Minimum Impact Match - Find out what different gear items will help you Leave No Trace when you are outdoors. Ask Yes/No questions to find out what gear you represent, then find your match!
Treks and Track's Great Adventure - Meet all the PEAK characters and the principles they represent as Trek and Track (a pair of boots) head out on an outdoor adventure.
Leave No Trace Relay - Set up a Leave No Trace obstacle course for your students, with stops and activities representing each Leave No Trace principle.
The program is based on 7 principles of Leave No Trace. Know Before You Go, Choose The Right Path, Trash Your Trash, Leave What You Find, Be Careful With Fire, Respect Wildlife, Be Kind To Other Visitors
The solar decathlon is a fun competition that is a great example for new ideas in sustainable solutions. The U.S. Department of Energy Solar Decathlon challenges 20 collegiate teams to design, build, and operate solar-powered houses that are cost-effective, energy-efficient, and attractive. The winner of the competition is the team that best blends affordability, consumer appeal, and design excellence with optimal energy production and maximum efficiency. The event takes place every two years in Washington D.C..
When looking into this I found an amazing house, that has a great design and creative ideas. The House is called "The Watershed" and was designed by students at the University of Maryland. The house has two different sides and two seperate roofs. One roof is layered with solar panels to power the house with electricity. The other roof is topped with a butterfly garden, this is installed to collect rain water for everyday use. The house is projected to be able to sustain itself with electricity and water year round.
You may ask yourself, but there isn't enough rainwater to sustain it, and if so it may be acid rain. This is (to me) the coolest part of the house. The house is based on the ecosystem of Chesapeake Bay. Natural ecosystems have evolved over millions of years to sustainably harness energy, produce food, and recycle waste. Not to mention the house has a stream running through it!!!!
The house has a plethora of other features as well. Constructed wetlands, filtering stormwater and greywater for reuse.A green roof, retaining stormwater and minimizing the heat island effect. An optimally-sized photovoltaic array, harvesting enough energy from the sun to power WaterShed year round. Edible landscapes, supporting community-based agriculture. A liquid desiccant waterfall, providing high-efficiency humidity control in the form of an indoor water feature. A solar thermal array, supplying enough energy to provide all domestic hot-water, desiccant regeneration and supplemental space heating. Engineering systems, working in harmony, each acting to increase the effectiveness of the others. A time-tested structural system that is efficient, cost-effective and durable.
Here is a video of a digital walkthrough of the house. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SZJe2CReFA8&feature=player_embedded
Saturday, April 30, 2011
During Earth Week a few weeks ago, there was a shoe drive on campus. Fifty shoes were collected during the week.
Friday, April 29, 2011
The EPA has online pages for kids of all ages. For the younger kids there is an online section for the kids. It is the "environmental kids club". This club contains activities and games that are all educational. There are games, wordsearches, funny videos, and quizes. All provide information about things such as recycling, water, and climate change. The club also provides links to science fair project ideas and an art room.
Tuesday, April 26, 2011
Monday, April 25, 2011
The first chapter of his book is titled "Don't be so Cerebral". In this chapter he challenges scientists and those who communicate science for a living to break out of their science training and become more public oriented. As scientists, we need to learn how to phase out confusing jargon and put complex topics into easier terms and concepts in order for our message to reach a greater audience. In order to do this he says that scientists need to get out of of the pattern of only using their heads and start using more of their heart, gut, and sex organs. By using their heart scientists can be sincere in their presentation of information, by using their gut scientists can relay information with humor an intuition, and finally through the use of sex appeal scientists will more effectively catch people's attention.
In the third chapter of his book, "Don't be Such a Poor Storyteller", Olson describes the importance of a storytelling. He describes an arousal and fulfill method where a storyteller should peak people's interest and then fulfill their desire to learn more exciting information. Without this effective story model, the message will not be effective. If people aren't aroused they will never get engaged with the message and if people aren't aroused they will walk away from a story unsatisfied. An effective story should also have a clear beginning, climax, and end. The three part story makes it easy for people to follow and since storytelling is how we communicate, it is important for scientists to also follow this model.
Wednesday, April 20, 2011
Jakki Dehn has created and released Rematerialise, a catalogue that has taken 17 years to create. Rematerialise contains more than 1,200 eco-friendly products for contruction industry uses that have come from more than 15 countries. Rematerialise will make its debut at EcoBuild, which is the world's largest event for showing sustainable industrial materials. The materials are open for people to come and touch and interact with. This is beneficial because usually one would not be able to see the materials until they were already ordered and delivered.
What all do these materials entail? The products of Rematerialise come from recycled materials, resources that are abundant and easy to grow, and from resources that are rarely used and often overlooked. Some examples of these products include insulation that is made from mushrooms. The insulation was only an inch thick but when one's hand was put on one side and a blowtorch on the other, the person could not feel any heat through the material. There are also countertops made from recycled glass from cars and building sites. These countertops are comparable to the highly appeasing granite. Some other used materials include coffee grounds, currency, mobile phones, aeroplane windscreens, and fibers from banana plant stems. Creative, right?
Sustainable material manufacturers and producers can submit their ideas to the program for consideration. If the ideas are liked then they might become available in the Rematerialise library.
Tuesday, April 19, 2011
Cryogenic carbon capture, patent pending, is used to capture CO2 from the emissions being produced by power plants. The gases produced by these power plants is filtered so that a nearly pure stream of CO2 can be separated from the rest of the emissions. This method could possibly be one of the cheaper ways of removing CO2 from power plant emissions and capturing this harmful compound.
This method does not require the building of a new facility for treatment of the gases. The emissions produced by the power plant can be processed on site and do not have to be transferred to a new cleaning facility. This can cut down on costs involved in building an off-site filtering and cleaning facility and can therefore be more cost effective than other techniques.
This technique can also separate other contaminants of the emissions being produced as well. Contaminants such as SO2, NO4, and mercury can be condensed out of the emissions during the process of condensing the CO2. The cooling of the CO2 can also be used to cool the new emissions as they pass through the processing chamber.
This can save on energy costs because the energy from CO2 capture can be harvested and used to continue the process of removing CO2 and other contaminants from the plant's emissions. Because of the multi-faceted benefits of this process, such as removing more than one pollutant and self-cooling mechanisms, this is one of the more promising sustainable solutions to pollutant removal from power plant emissions.
Cryogenic Carbon Capture Status
Sustainable Energy Solutions
It has become very important for people of higher education to be effective at educating others and providing them with useful information about their surroundings. One of the biggest challenges that educators face is how to effectively get their points across and to illustrate why what they are teaching is important. Environmental education is of great importance and there needs to be ways to effectively educate people about the environmental concerns that can affect them on a daily basis.
Many people are hands-on, visual types of learners. Being one of these types of learners myself, I can speak from experience when I say that it is much easier for some people to grasp concepts when they are able to see what is being taught and are able to interact with the instructor. Outdoor education can be used for these types of learners to effectively educate about environmental issues in a specific area. Showing the people what is actually going on instead of just telling them can have a greater impact on whether they care or whether they will remember the information you present them with.
When choosing how to educate people about the environment, it is important for educators to keep in mind their intended audience. If they are trying to educate young children, it would be important to include things that will keep their attention for a longer period of time and to bring the information down to a level in which they will understand what the educator is trying to get across. If the intended audience is higher level scholars, the important information that will hit home for them will be a completely different set of statistics and illustrations than when dealing with the smaller children.
Another important aspect of environmental education is that it must provide ways that the students can make a difference. If they are learning about all the environmental issues of an area, more likely than not, they will seek ways that they can make a difference and can become a positive influence on protecting the environment. If there is no "moral of the story" or "plan of action" that people can take away from the experience, they really have not learned very much. Environmental communication and education is very important and can be very effective if used correctly. Hopefully one day the environmental education programs will make a difference in many peoples lives and change can come about.
For more information: Elements of Effective Environmental Education Programs
Wednesday, April 13, 2011
There are several ways to increase environmental awareness and education in our communities. These ways include environmental rights (responsibilities and consequences), media usage, awareness campaigns, teaching environmental issues in the classroom, increasing awareness in target groups and the encouragement of public participation. Many sectors of society are involved in developing and delivering educational courses and campaigns. Theses include national, regional and local government bodies, domestic and international organizations, school systems, media and even celebrities.
The Media can be a powerful ally when trying to educate the public. In today's society, our primary source of information comes from computers, televisions or other electronic devices. If we can get these organizations to work alongside the media, they can educate those delivering the news through briefings. They can then inform the public about the situation. Other countries have had success utilizing the media to publicize environmental conferences and and public awareness campaigns. Information centers available to the public can also help to educate journalists with basic environmental information on a specific topic. These information centers should have recently published information like press releases, have a public library with many environmental sources and contain information on actively debated issues.
Community leaders have a very influential role in the community. The education of these community leaders can help organizations implement environmental procedures. When putting together a campaign for a specific area one must take into consideration several things. The campaign must be in the local language, it must be in a form that appeals to the people (posters, radio, TV) and it must contain a clear message in plain language so the general population can understand it.
Other approaches used to increase awareness include sustainable environmental education, information centers, environmental raffles and environmental holidays. Environmental raffles can be used to educate the public while raising funds for the organizations.
To summarize, public environmental awareness and education can be increased by the following actions:
- Generating public awareness and environmental education, particularly among targeted groups, about relevant laws and regulations and about their rights, interests, duties and responsibilities, as well as about the social, environmental and economic consequences of non-compliance
- Promoting responsible action in the community through the media by involving key public players (government officials)
- Organizing campaigns for fostering environmental awareness among communities, non-governmental organizations, the private sector and industrial and trade associations
- Inclusion of awareness and environmental educational programmes in schools and other educational establishments as part of education
- Organizing campaigns for increasing environmental awareness and environmental educational programs
- Organizing campaigns for encouraging public involvement in monitoring of compliance.
Monday, April 11, 2011
A pollinating insect on a Carpobrotus affine acinaciformis flowerhead.
Using empirical tests, a pioneering study shows how plant species, such as the prickly pear, invade Mediterranean ecosystems, and can either rob the native plants of pollinating insects, or, surprisingly, can attract them, thus benefiting the whole plant community, such as in the case of balsam. The research contradicts the hypothesis of the “floral market” whereby only the invasive flowers are seen to benefit and the native flowers are no longer visited by pollinating insects.
Biological invasions (species transported by humans outside their region of origin to other regions where these species become established and expand) are one of the major causes of the loss of biodiversity. The plants fight for nutrients, space and light, and for pollinating insects.
An article about this subject has been published in the “Oecología” [Oecology] journal by scientists at the Universidad Autónoma de Barcelona (UAB), [the Autonomous University, Barcelona], the Biological Station, Donana, CSIC [the Spanish National Research Council] and the Instituto Mediterráneo de Estudios Avanzados (IMEDEA) [Mediterranean Institute for Advanced Studies]. According to the research, the existence of invasive plants in invaded sites can increase visits from insects to the majority of native plants. In this way the “floral market” hypothesis in which only the invasive flowers are seen to benefit and the native flowers are no longer visited by insects is contradicted.
Ignasi Bartomeus, a researcher at the UAB, and the main author of the study, points out some important details to SINC: “the invasions do not follow a single pattern: for this reason it is necessary to understand the mechanisms and structure whereby the native species compete”.
The two invasive plants under study, Opuntia stricata – a type of prickly pear – and Carpobrotus affine acinaciformis – also called Sally-my-handsome or balsam – have more eye-catching flowers and are richer in pollen that the rest of the native plants and receive many more insect visits that the latter.
The study reveals that the invasive plants play a central role in the plant pollination network. This is because during the period of the study, Opuntia stricta received 30.9% of insect visits, compared to 43.4% for Carpobrotus affine acinaciformis.
The scientists discovered that the more resources there are in the plant community, the more pollinators will be attracted towards all of the plants, although it is still not known whether the impact on the seeds of the native plant is positive or not. This is the case for Carpobrotus, which can impact upon the pollination of the native plants.
The researchers observed 23 pollinating insects for Carpobrotus and 17 for Opuntia. Compared to the native plants, the two invasive plants have a different impact. In the first case, there was no insect that was an exclusive pollinator, whereas in the second case, the carpenter bee (Xylocopa violacea) was an exclusive pollinator. “The Opuntia flowers monopolise the market, attracting all the pollinating insects in the area to their flowers, whereas the Carpobrotus attracts more pollinating insects to the area, but all the plants are seen to benefit”, Bartomeus points out.
The study concludes that Carpobrotus can improve the reproduction of the native plants whereas Opuntia reduces it. Bartomeus confirms to SINC that “the presence of the invasive plants can alter the structure of the plant community, and it is difficult to predict the long-term effects of this.”
Bartomeus I., Vila M., Santamaría L. Contrasting effects of invasive plants in plant-pollinator networks. Oecologia 155(4): 761-770 ABR 2008. doi: 10.1007/s00442-007-0946-1
Wednesday, April 6, 2011
In New England the European crab (Carcinus maenas) and the Asian shore crab (Hemigrapsus sanguineus) are two invasive species that are causing a lot of harm... to each other. Ecologists had first expected to see that the two species would cause double the harm to the area and its organisms but really they are cancelling each other out.
The European crab came to New England by ship in the 1800s, ate through the American soft-shell clam industry, and spread rapidly into Canada and the southeastern United States. The Asian shore crab came over from Asia by ship in the 1980s. It was attracted to the same rocky holes and habitats as the European crab but it mostly fed on algae.
Upon being studied, the crabs do not do much harm to native plant and animal species. Most of the focus is on each other. The Asian shore crab would often drive the European crab from its rocky homes. Also, when the Asian shore crab was in the presence of the European crab, this caused the European crab to eat less shellfish and less food overall. The European crab's population grew slowly due to the bullying from the Asian shore crab but it is known to often get its revenge because the European crab was sometimes observed feasting on the Asian shore crab.
From this information, ecologists have drawn the conclusion that when there are two similar invasives living in one area, they often mutually attack one another. This information can better help conservationalists control invasive species. Previously a species may have purposely been introduced to kill the invasive but now it is known that if there is an invasive that a species that needs the same habitat and food as the invasive should be introduced. This creates competition and keeps either species from harming natives.
Nearly one in six (15%) of every animal species in Europe is threatened for extinction. The World Conservation Union (IUCN) carried out the assessment of all European mammals. Besides that every 1 of 6 are threatened for extinction, it was found that more than a quarter of all populations are declining. Of Europe's marine mammals, 22% are classified as threatened by extinction. Also, 13% of all European birds are threatened with extinction. These numbers are likely to be higher because 44% of all species were classified as "data deficient" which means that all of the necessary data could not be collected. Of those threatened species, the Iberian Lynx and the Mediterranean Monk Seal are at the top of the list as critically endangered, both of which reside in Europe. The Arctic Fox and European mink are also a concern, along with the other two critically endangered species. Only 8%, although better than no percent, of all of the mammals were observed to be on an increasing trend in population numbers. The European Bison is one that has come back from the brink of extinction, with its last members saved in zoos and then re-introduced into their environments.
Along with many other areas of the world the main cause for the decline in population numbers is because of habitat loss and destruction, whether it be deforestation or wetland drainage. The second largest cause is pollution and the third is from over-harvesting. For marine species, the biggest cause of population loss is because of pollution and accidents (ship collisions). Environment Commissioner Stavros Dimas said that Europe needs to decrease the level of biodiversity loss and create better methods for protecting their threatened and endangered species, along with all of their species overall.
Tuesday, April 5, 2011
In the past 30 years, there have been major reductions in the amphibian populations around the world. These reductions have been due to viruses and other pathogens, climate change, and habitat destruction. Habitat destruction has been one of the most significant sources of declines in amphibian populations but pathogens are steadily becoming more evident as a major cause of these declines. One of the big pathogenic amphibian killers has been a fungal skin disease called chytridiomycosis. This fungus was originally discovered to be a cause of amphibian declines in Australia. Now it has been found that it is the source for declines all around the world.
There have been many species of frogs, salamanders, and caecilians that have gone extinct due to these various changes in habitat, climate, and pathogens. At least 120 species of frogs have gone extinct in Panama alone since 1980. Today there are conservation agencies and zoos that are making an effort to save some of the more critical frog populations in Panama. They are trying to develop techniques that could be used to try and bring the frog populations back through captive breeding.
One species in particular, Hyloscirtus colymba, has been of interest because of its rapidly declining wild population. The Panama Amphibian Rescue and Conservation Project took on the project of trying to breed this frog in captivity. Apparently this frog is very hard to maintain and to keep alive in captivity. It has been a great accomplishment of this conservation project to successfully breed and keep 28 adult frogs alive.
They did some extensive work on figuring what the best techniques would be to care for the frogs in order to keep them healthy in captivity. Because they are so hard to keep alive, there has been very little work done with this particular species. These conservationists have come up with several ways to keep these frogs healthy and fit enough to reproduce. The techniques that they have perfected could possibly be used to help save other critically endangered frog species.
Visit the ScienceDaily article for further information
Friday, April 1, 2011
The wood bison is also called the mountain bison or mountain buffalo, and is a larger cousin to the plains bison. The wood bison was thought to have been extinct through North America until they were found in Alberta, Canada. In 1957 a herd of about 200 was found. Their population is now about 2,000 thanks to the protection and restoration efforts of the Canadian government.
Wednesday, March 30, 2011
Skunk vine was originally introduced from Asia in the late 1800s. It was going to be used as a fiber crop but it was determined that its weedy properties were going to be harmful for the skunk vine to be used in this manner. It eventually became labeled as an invasive weed because of these weedy properties. The vine is woody and doesn’t contain thorns on its vine. It also has a characteristic stinky smell when it is crushed.
Skunk vine is capable of living in many different types of habitats and can grow very tall, sometimes actually growing up into the canopy of forests it has invaded. Because it is capable of living in many diverse habitats and because it can climb up trees and shrubs, skunk vine can climb up, engulf, and strangle native trees and shrubs. Skunk vine is also capable of reproducing vegitatively or through the use of seeds. Because of this property, it is hard to get rid of.
There have been many different efforts to try to get rid of skunk vine, including physical, chemical, and biological controls. When trying to get rid of this harmful weed, it is a big problem if even stem fragments get transported because new plants can start growing from these fragments. This is one property of skunk vine that aids it in its invasiveness.
There has been a recent discovery of a beetle that could possibly be used for biological control. This beetle, Himalusa thailandensis, was found in Thailand. It was actually found chowing down on a different species of skunk vine that is closely related to the two species that are now invading southern Florida. The way that this new beetle feeds on the skunk vine, it is very detrimental to the plant. Scientists are currently trying to figure out the biology and possible ecological effects of this beetle. They are trying to determine if this beetle would really be a good biological control for eliminating the skunk vine problem in southern Florida.
For some more information on the skunk vine, visit the following website: Center for Aquatic and Invasive Plants
Sunday, March 27, 2011
Scientists everywhere are brainstorming for the next idea for a better biofuel possibility. A $2 million grant funded under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act is helping with a project that believes that microalgae would be a good source as a biofuel. Where it would usually take millenia to produce crude oil, this research is speeding that process up to just minutes by heating and compressing the algae. The wastes from this process would be fed on by E.coli, which is also being researched as being used for a fuel source. The only thing that would leave the company would be the oil.
Why use microalgae? These small organisms lack leaves, roots and stems. They also have a weak cell wall, which is easy to break down compared to the other biofuel-potential plant sources. The algae are also carbon-neutral because they consume CO2 regularly and then when used as a fuel that same CO2 that was consumed is released. There is no additional carbon dioxide than what was originally taken in.
So how does the algae become fuel? It is literally pressure-cooked. This is a very simple process where the algae is heated to 300 degrees at a high pressure to keep the algae in a liquid form rather than it being released as steam. This process typically last 30 to 60 minutes until the crude oil is produced. When the algae breaks down due to the high heat and pressure levels, it releases natural oils and proteins which add to the fuel.
Once the crude oil is obtained it is in a tar-like state. The research is currently at this stage in the process, trying to determine how to change the properties of the substance to make it more of a flowing substance that would be easier to put into a car's gas tank. They are also working to clean the substance by reducing its sulfur and nitrogen levels.
An earlier article mentions that there are over 100 companies working on the algae-to-biofuel project and expects it to be a very expensive project. Once all of the technology in in store it will be up to the resource availability of the planet to keep the production of the algae based biofuels proceeding. The major required sources are water, flat land, appropriate climate, and carbon dioxide. It is being considered to use wastewater for the algae production, which helps out both areas respectively. It is expected that algal biofuel could become available within 10 years.
Wednesday, March 23, 2011
An invasive species is non-native to the ecosystem under consideration, and its introduction causes or is likely to cause economic or environmental harm. They can also cause harm to human health.
Lignol Energy Corporation located in British Columbia is looking at the new generation of biofuels. They are making their ethanol the byproduct of an industrial process. The process focuses on the cultivation of a market for the natural glue and lignin that wood pulp contains. It is the lignin that makes the ethanol. However, even with the cost of oil over $100 a barrel, woodbased ethanol isn't commercially competitive. It won't be till the price of oil goes up much higher, or cellulosic ethanol must become cheaper. The company's CEO Ross MacLachlan says "from an industry perspective I think it's fair to say that the cost curve is going to fall over time."
Read more: http://www.vancouversun.com/technology/Biofuel+Lignol+Energy+hunts+markets+wood+waste+products/4454392/story.html#ixzz1HTzYFjJG
Tuesday, March 22, 2011
Like most invasive plants introduced to the U.S. from Europe and other places, garlic mustard first found it easy to dominate the natives. A new study done in 2009 shows that over time its fungus-killing toxin becomes less potent. The study suggests that evolution can alter the attributes of an invasive plant that give it an advantage over native plants. In fact, the study suggests the plant's defenses are undermined by its own success.
Most plants rely on soil fungi to supplement them with phosphorus, nitrogen and water, however, garlic mustard does not utilize any of this additional help. Instead, garlic mustard produces glucosinolates which are compounds that leach into the soil and kill off many soil fungi, especially those native to North America. This process weakens the native plants because they rely on those soil fungi. As a result, garlic mustard now grows in dense patches and stifle the growth of native plants.
The study focused on answering this question: Once garlic mustard has killed off most of its competitors, why would it invest as much energy in maintaining its toxic components? The team collected garlic mustard seeds from 44 locations, grew them in a greenhouse and tested glucosinolate levels in each. Those tests found that older populations (those that have been present in an area for more than 30 years) produced lower levels of the fungicidal compounds than younger population less than two decades old. Genetic studies suggested that these patterns were the result of natural selection. That is, the plants that produced less of the toxin were more likely to survive and reproduce in older population. The researchers then grew the garlic mustard in soil from native woodlands. After a time, they removed these plants and potted native trees in the same soil. The trees did best in pots that had held plants from older populations of garlic mustard, indicating, again, that the plants' toxin output had diminished over time, killing less of the fungus on which the native plants relied.
While this study focused on only one plant, the results indicate that some invasive plants evolve in ways that may make them more manageable over time. It also provides some information to clarify some questions we discussed about the Garlic Mustard paper in class. We were confused by figure 7 which demonstrated how some plants grew better in soil that was previously inhabited by Garlic Mustard while others didn't do so well. It could depend on how old the Garlic Mustard plants were genetically. If they originated in a area that's been dominated by Garlic Mustard for a substantial amount of time then there would be less toxin in the soil and therefore more growth would be possible.
Tuesday, March 15, 2011
A plant commonly known for its role in the production of tequila has been overlooked as a source of biofuel that would not compete with food crops. Agave plants can sustain high yields while enduring extreme temperatures, droughts and carbon dioxide increases, with little need for irrigation, according to a series of papers in a special issue of Global Change Biology Bioenergy. With around 20 per cent of the world semi-arid, and some 200 agave species growing worldwide, utilizing this plant could help combat the potential energy crisis.
Field trials of the biofuel potential of some common Mexican varieties have begun in Australia and there are vast areas of abandoned agave plantations in Africa (once used for sisal fibre production, but abandoned after synthetic fibre production came along) that might be re-established for biofuel uses. This would avoid and economic impact food and would reduce the amount of additional land that would be cleared.
There are two different varieties: Agave mapisaga and Agave salmiana. When produced their energy yields far exceed corn, soybean, sorghum, and wheat productivities; and even without irrigation they still maintain high yields, according to another paper.
Arturo Velez, a former coordinator at the National Confederation of Forestry Producers and head of the Agave Project, an initiative to scale up agave biofuel production in Mexico claims that some varieties produce twice the dry biomass per hectare of hybrid poplar, three times the sugar of sugarcane, and four times more cellulose than eucalyptus, and capture five times more carbon dioxide than the most productive ecosystem. According to Velez, Mexico has 80 million hectares of arid and semiarid areas with no productive potential in which 5,600 million tons of dry biomass could be obtained from agave. This would be enough to meet the United States' transport fuel needs.
Different agave species are already widely used in Mexico for production of tequila and bacanora (traditional drink in Mexico) and henequen fibre (textile fiber made from a native Mexican plant), but in some cases up to 80 per cent of the plant's biomass is being thrown away.
Martín Esqueda, a researcher at the Feeding and Development Research Center in Mexico, warned that agave should be sustainably managed to avoid over-exploitation of the wild populations. This has happened with angustifolia species (lavender), which is now endangered because of unsustainable use to produce bacanora according to him.
Monday, March 14, 2011
Most countries spend a substantial amount of time, energy, and money, to treat wastewater so that it will not cause harm to the environment. What if all of this effort could be put into using the waste liquid as an alternative energy source? Wastewater is currently being looked at as a problem rather than a resource. If the energy from this substance can be harnassed and used, it would help water industries become more self-sufficient energy-wise. It would also help those countries that are worse off and who clean water by spending vital resources that they cannont really afford to spare. The U.S. alone uses nearly 1.5 percent of the nation's electrical energy to treat 12.5 trillion gallons of wastewater per year. So, why dump the water after cleansing rather than convert its energy into an energy resource? If this were done, it would no longer be an energy loss to manage waste water, but an energy gain.
The energy in waste water is due to the bonds in the organic molecules, ranging from small, simple chains, to large complex ones. A new freeze-dry technique is being used to recover this energy and it has allowed for better energy recovery. One other study has researched the energy found in waste water. It harnessed 20 percent less energy than what really was present because the freeze-dry technique was not used meaning that there most definitely was loss of some energy-rich compounds due to evaporation.
Saturday, March 12, 2011
Thursday, March 3, 2011
A satellite is launched into space, but instead of working like a wind mill, where a blade attached to the turbine that is rotated to generate electricity, the satellite would use charged copper wire for capturing electrons traveling away from the sun at several hundred kilometers per second.
- The scientists say that the entire energy generated from solar wind will not be able to reach the planet for consumption as a lot of energy generated by the satellite has to be pumped back to copper wire to create the electron-harvesting magnetic field. However, the amount that reaches earth is more than sufficient to fulfill the energy needs of the planet.
- A team of scientists at Washington State University speculate that it can generate 1 billion billion gigawatts of power by using a massive 8,400-kilometer-wide solar sail to harvest the power in solar wind.
- One billion gigawatts of power could also be generated by a satellite having 1,000-meter (3,280-foot) cable with a sail 8,400 kilometers (5,220 miles) across.
- The scientists feel that if some of the practical issued are solved, Solar wind power will generate the amount of power that no one including the scientists working to find new means of generating power ever expected.
Disadvantages of Solar wind power
But despite the fact that Solar wind power will solve almost all the problems, it has some disadvantages as well.
- Large engineering difficulties will have to be solved before satellites to tap solar wind power are deployed.
- The distance between the satellite and earth will be so huge that as the laser beam travels millions of miles, it makes even the tightest laser beam spread out and lose most of the energy. To solve this problem, a more focused laser is needed.
- But even if these laser beams reach our satellites, it is very doubtful that our satellites in their present form will be able to tap them. The energy is there but there are practical constraints preventing the capture of the energy at this time.
Sunday, February 27, 2011
Due to the excess of nitrogen in these water ecosystems, a process called eutrophication occurs. Eutrophication is when algae suddenly grow out of control because there is a large amount of their essential grown nutrient. This extreme excess of growth causes pipes to clog, all of the oxygen to be use up in the system, and the high concentration of organisms blocks the light from those that live deeper in the water system. Jill Baron, a scientist with the USGS, is currently participating in a study of limiting nutrients in alpine lakes in locations such as Colorado, Norway, and Sweden. These ecosystems are ideal to study because they are secluded from humans and have no immediate drainage from polluted watersheds. Before the industrial revolution, organisms in the water ecosystems in these locations has an abundance of phosphorus and were limited in growth because a lack of nitrogen. After the shift to a more urban society with more pollutants, there was so much nitrogen present in the alpine lakes that organisms were not missing phosphorus to continue their growth. This discovery shows that there has been a significant increase of nitrogen in the atmosphere due to the increase of technology and burning of fossil fuels from the time after the industrial revolution until now.