Environment & Science

Mary Finn told us the study asked pimps in Atlanta and Chicago how technology has changed their business.
pixabay user Unsplash / Public Domain

It's known as the world's oldest profession, but make no mistake: Some 80% of all sales of sex happen online.

That figure comes from a first-of-its-kind study done by researchers from Michigan State University and Loyola University Chicago. They interviewed pimps in Atlanta and Chicago to find out how the digital world has affected the way they do business.

On July 27, Vayu's fully autonomous drone transported clinical lab samples from a remote village in Madagascar to a laboratory for testing.
Courtesy of Vayu

Fighting disease in developing countries is an uphill battle. 

One of the biggest challenges: the lack of roads. 

How do you get clinical samples – blood, stool, urine – from a remote village to a laboratory where the samples can be tested for disease?

A Michigan start-up called Vayu has taken a promising step toward addressing that crucial problem by using a drone on a life-saving medical mission in Madagascar.

Tougher pipeline safety rules could be a tough sell

Aug 23, 2016
Two men walk the scene of a natural gas transmission line explosion in western Pennsylvania, April 29, 2016. The blast was so powerful it ripped a 12-foot crater into the landscape and burned a section of the field with a quarter-mile radius.
Reid Frazier / The Allegheny Front

There's a building boom for pipelines all across the country right now, and that’s created anxiety about new pipelines close to where people live and work. While the federal government is trying to ratchet up safety rules, there are limits on what these new rules can do.

Kentwood, MI

Methane, a combustible gas, has been discovered underground, outside the boundaries of a Kent County landfill.

The now-closed landfill is near Kentwood's City Hall. 

Dar Baas, Kent County Director of Public Works, says methane usually vents up, into the air, but in this situation, some of it is moving horizonally, under the surface.

He says there will be increased monitoring in the area.

"We did some testing at the city office," says Baas, "and everything's coming back there non-detect, which is really good news. But we want to make sure we're thorough."

University of Michigan public policy assistant professor Catherine Hausman says we need to be concerned about what happens to the environment when methane leaks from natural gas.
Steven Depolo / Flickr - http://j.mp/1SPGCl0

The natural gas industry tells us that using natural gas is environmentally friendly. The industry says natural gas has fewer impurities than coal, and tells us its combustion yields mostly carbon dioxide and water vapor, so there’s less pollution.

But the main ingredient of natural gas is methane. And methane is one of the biggest contributors to climate change.

That’s why University of Michigan public policy assistant professor Catherine Hausman said we need to be concerned about what happens to the environment when methane leaks.

She also believes the utilities have little incentive to plug natural gas leaks. She recently wrote about the issue in an article at TheConversation.com and she joined Stateside to talk more about it. 

steve carmody / Michigan Radio

Work begins this week on replacing damaged lead service lines in Flint.

There’s also a little science going on as well.

Three contractors hired by the city to replace up to 250 service lines are contacting Flint homeowners to get their permission to do the work.  

Wayne State University researchers will also be contacting the same Flint homeowners to ask if they can test the water before and after the contractors do their work.  

pixabay

The drought this summer may not have been good for your lawn.

But it was good for reducing the blooms of green slime known as cyanobacteria in Lake Erie.

"The low bloom we're seeing right now is just because Mother Nature threw us a dry year," says Chris Winslow, Interim Director of the Ohio Sea Grant. "Definitely the problem's not solved."

The problem is phosphorus, a component of fertilizer used on farmland throughout the water basins of Lake Erie. In a normal year, rains flush the phosphorus from farmland into the lake, and cyanobacteria loves phosphorus.

Fleece fibers are released into the environment after washing, but scientists don't know what the effects might be.
user kellyhogaboom / Flickr - http://j.mp/1SPGCl0

A team of scientists from the U.S. and Canada are setting sail on Saturday. They’re heading out on a research trip to sample plastic pollution in all five of the Great Lakes.

It's part of a project called EXXpedition Great Lakes: seven research boats led by female scientists who are studying microplastic pollution. Microplastic pollution is made up of plastic particles that are five millimeters in diameter, or smaller.

Melissa Cooper Sargent / Ecology Center

Many gardeners know that bees are in trouble, and they want to help.  Sales of so-called "bee-friendly" flowering plants are on the rise. 

There's just one problem, says Melissa Cooper Sargent of the Ecology Center, and it's a big one. 

Sargent says it's common practice for nurseries around the country to treat the seeds of the plants, or the plants themselves, with pesticides called neonicotinoids, that are highly toxic to bees.

The Kirtland's warbler, an endangered bird in Michigan.
USFWS

Endangered species are waiting in long lines for the federal government to make a decision.

That’s the conclusion of a study in the journal Biological Conservation on wait times for listing a species under the Endangered Species Act.

Jane Kramer photographing the American lotus.
Rebecca Williams / Michigan Radio

Plants usually don’t get as much love as cute animals. Sometimes it’s hard to get people fired up about an endangered plant.

But Jane Kramer’s trying to do that anyway.

She’s a fine art photographer. She takes photos of the shadows of rare or threatened plants, and then prints them on paper she makes out of invasive plants like garlic mustard and purple loosestrife.

Sanilac Petroglyphs Historic State Park is home to prehistoric petroglyphs, a form of rock art made by carving, picking or otherwise removing part of a rock's surface.
michigan.gov

The least-visited park in the state is the site of some of its very oldest historic artifacts. 

The Department of Natural Resources, the Office of Historic Preservation, and members of the Saginaw Chippewa tribe want to encourage more visitors to come check out Sanilac Petroglyphs Historic State Park. 

Researchers found that cardinals might be helping to shield people from West Nile virus in some regions of the country.
USFWS

Robins are considered "super-spreaders" of West Nile virus. They’re especially good at passing the virus to mosquitoes, and mosquitoes, of course, can then pass it to us.

It turns out a different bird species – cardinals – might be shielding people from getting the virus in some parts of the country.

Flickr user mLu.fotos / Flickr / HTTP://J.MP/1SPGCL0

Time to plan your Perseid party!

The annual meteor show we enjoy each August is expected to be extra special this year.

Filling a sample bottle.
Virginia Tech

Virginia Tech released its latest round of water tests from Flint homes today.

Here are the take-home messages:

Some good news: The team, led by former Flint resident LeeAnne Walters and the Flint citizen science group, sampled lead levels in water in 162 homes in July 2016. The 90th percentile level for lead was 13.9 ppb. This is below the EPA action level of 15ppb.

But there’s an important caveat here. Kelsey Pieper, a postdoctoral fellow at Virginia Tech, said their sampling pool is a random sample of homes and does not specifically target the highest risk homes for lead. So, while their results show the homes they tested are below the action level, it’s not an official result that would qualify under the EPA’s Lead and Copper Rule.

Whiskey Point, at the west end of the harbor at Beaver Island.
Sarah Hulett / Michigan Radio

Fifteen coastal projects in Michigan have landed more than $927,000 of federal money.

Rachel Cromwell is with the Office of the Great Lakes Coastal Management Program. The state agency decides which projects will be funded.

“The overall objective is to help restore and protect and enhance coastal resources. So we’re looking at different areas like public access, restoration, habitat, things like that, to help bring back those coastal resources or preserve them," she says.

Marc Edwards/Flint Water Study

Remember all that smelly, brownish-orange water that was coming out of people’s taps in Flint?

That was Flint’s water system – the actual pipes – corroding and breaking down, at a rate 15 times faster than they normally would have, says Virginia Tech engineering professor Marc Edwards. 

Hydraulic fracturing rig
flickr user Eusko Jaurlaritza / http://j.mp/1SPGCl0

In the last decade the term "fracking" has become part of the national lexicon.

Now, it's the focus of a new anthology that pulls together the work of almost 50 writers. It's called Fracture: Essays, Poems, and Stories on Fracking in America.

Allyse Ferrara and Doug Stange pose with an alligator gar.
Courtesy of Allyse Ferrara

It has scales so tough Native Americans once used them as arrowheads.

It can grow longer than a horse, and it loves to munch on Asian carp.

It's the alligator gar!

This ancient fish is found in the south, but they're being restocked in rivers and lakes as far north as Illinois in hopes they might control Asian carp and, in turn, protect the Great Lakes. 

American views on the existence of evidence of global warming: 2008-2016.
CLOSUP

The first six months of this year were the warmest on record. This week, we heard about a deadly anthrax outbreak in Russia that's thought to be the result of permafrost thawing.

A new survey finds that fewer Americans doubt that climate change is happening, but it continues to be a highly polarizing issue.

A diver inspects Enbridge's Line 5 pipeline under the Straits of Mackinac for a possible dent. Enbridge performs inspections, but won't share what they find.
Credit an Enbridge inspection video shared with the state of Michigan

UPDATED at 9:34 pm on 8/3/16

Some of the supports for Enbridge Energy’s Line 5 pipelines under the Straits of Mackinac are not as close together as they should be, according to State Attorney General Bill Schuette.

That’s gotten the company into some hot water with the state of Michigan.

Supports help keep the pipeline stable as it is buffeted by the powerful currents of the Straits. 

Enbridge told the state in 2014 the pipeline has supports every 75 feet, as required by the state's 1953 easement.

Asian carp leaping out of a river.
glfc.org

Great Lakes charter boat companies are pleading with Congress to approve bills aimed at keeping Asian carp out of Lake Michigan, by permanently separating the lake from the Mississippi River watershed, where the invasive species is numerous.

Denny Grinold owns Fish N' Grin Charters in Michigan.

He says if carp get into the Great Lakes, his business will be worthless, and he will  have nothing to pass on to his children and grandchildren.

Decades after falling from popularity, Spartan barley returns with the help of MSU researchers.
Courtesy of Ashley McFarland

Michigan’s local food movement has brought heirloom plants back into the spotlight, making for the perfect time to bring back a century-old barley strain.

Developed in 1916 by an MSU professor, “Spartan” barley is now making a comeback with the help of a team of the school's researchers.

Farmer Mick Luber stands along the southern border of his property in eastern Ohio, where Marathon has begun installing a liquid natural gas pipeline.
Julie Grant / The Allegheny Front

There’s been a big push to build new pipelines to move natural gas from well heads, to the people who need it. If it’s considered in the public interest, pipeline companies can get the power of eminent domain. That allows them to route their lines through people’s land, whether the landowner likes it or not.

But what happens when they’re carrying other products - like propane, butane, or ethane - byproducts of natural gas production?

What does your intelligence show about you?

Aug 1, 2016
Intelligence makes a huge difference in one's life, but what is it exactly?
Flickr user ssmegss / HTTP://J.MP/1SPGCL0

 

Intelligence is one of the biggest factors for success in contemporary American society. But what is intelligence and what does one’s intelligence reveal about them?

Flickr user orangesparrow / Flickr / HTTP://J.MP/1SPGCL0

The Next Idea

 

Many Michiganders enjoy walking in our outdoor spaces, whether private or public, being rejuvenated by the sights and sounds they encounter. But how many know what they are experiencing? Are they just seeing “walls of green?” Are they merely hearing a sound coming from somewhere high in a tree? And do they know whether the animals and plants they see are healthy?

Piping plover.
USFWS

There’s some good news for birds on the endangered species list.

A new report by the American Bird Conservancy says 78% of the birds listed as threatened or endangered are now stable, increasing, or have recovered enough to be taken off the list (think: Bald Eagle). The group analyzed data from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

NOAA

Now, you can type in your zip code and see the future.

At least, you can see how hot it’s probably going to be.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration has updated the tool it calls Climate Explorer. It’s an interactive website loaded with data for each county in the U.S.

David Herring is with NOAA’s Climate Program office. He says you can type in your city or zip code, and see projections: for example, how many days might be hotter than 95 degrees Fahrenheit.

The hunt for methane gas leaks goes high tech

Jul 26, 2016
Carnegie Mellon researcher Aja Ellis monitors air emissions near a Marcellus Shale gas well in Wyoming County, Pennsylvania.
Reid Frazier / Allegheny Front

Scientists are trying to find leaky gas wells and pipelines. They want to know how much of this infrastructure is leaking methane - a potent greenhouse gas.

Naomi Zimmerman is checking a computer screen inside a white van that looks like it came straight from an episode of Storm Chasers.

“There’s a blue line with the green line, but you can’t even see it anymore because the fit is spot on. We’re ready to do our calibrations,” she says.

Ford Motor Company

Using plants to make plastics is an idea that’s been around for a while. Henry Ford produced an experimental car with a soybean plastic exterior in 1941.

Now, 75 years later, Ford is looking to make car parts out of another plant, a plant that’s best known for being an ingredient in Tequila.

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