Science & Environment

Science news

Bill Thompson/USFWS / CC BY 2.0

Many land  birds have been feeding and resting in the north woods for weeks, biding their time, waiting for the right high pressure system and northwest winds on which to make their first southbound move. All their highly evolved migration triggers, honed through countless generations, are telling them to head south.

William Warby / flickr / CC BY 2.0

As we head into the last weekend of September, local anglers are looking toward the fall run, when fish migrating southward will pass through our waters. The question every year is: will the fall run be a good one?

Judging by how this season has set-up, there's reason to believe this fall could bring great fishing.

Jiuguang Wang / Creative Commons

Intelligence, compassion, consciousness. These are some of the most fundamental aspects of what it means to be human. Yet, biologists struggle to settle on common definitions for these complex traits, let alone explain how they arise from the electrical signals fired by the million of neurons that make up our brain.

Major American and European initiatives are pouring hundreds of millions of dollars into mapping and modeling the electrical circuitry of the human brain. But not everyone in the neuroscience community thinks these projects are on the right track.

Jerry Oldenettel / flickr / CC BY-NC-SA 2.0

September is out of control for bird migration. For example, on the morning of September 14, from dawn until 45 minutes after the sun was in the sky at Higbee Dike in Cape May, New Jersey, an astounding number of migrant warblers were seen and counted, far surpassing any single flight recorded there. Some 56,636 were counted and 71 percent were American Redstarts. 

Wikimedia Commons

If you’ve ever been lost and alone, you know how terrifying it is. And if you’ve ever watched – or been – that person desperately asking his or her phone for directions, you know how ill-equipped many of us are for the challenges of navigation without modern technology.

Cotton is a water-intensive crop, which may not make it the most sustainable choice for clothing.
Jane Kahler / CSIRO

The environmental impacts of our food and energy systems have been the subject of increasing public scrutiny, but sustainable fashion writer and activist Amy DuFault says we don't give our clothes the same kind of attention.

Case in point: With California in the grips of a record-setting draught, you may have heard the oft-quoted statistic that it takes a gallon of water to grow a single almond. Do some quick calculations, and that translates to about four hundred gallons of water per pound - sixteen servings - of almonds. Astounding.

White cross jellyfish on a Maine beach reported using Twitter hashtag #Mainejellies.
Trina Stephenson

Science-based weather forecasting dates back some 150 years, and we've grown used to detailed, daily predictions of temperatures, precipitation, winds, and clouds. But nowhere in all those forecasts is there anything about the arrival of lobsters or jellyfish in nearshore waters, or the number of ticks and mosquitos one might encounter.

Scott Bennett / MBL

Contagious cancer is rare, thankfully. Until recently, there were only three documented examples, none of them in humans (again, thankfully) - a facial tumor in Tasmanian devils, a sexually transmitted cancer in dogs, and a hamster cancer. Earlier this year, researchers added one more to the list: a contagious leukemia that affects soft-shelled clams (a.k.a. steamers).

Wikimedia commons

If you walk down by the water right now along almost any dock or jetty, it's likely you’ll see schools of tiny fish swimming around. Seems like they’re everywhere this time of year. As a category, they're called baitfish, and they have a big impact on our late-summer fishing.

Dominic Sherony / CC BY-NC-SA 2.0

A dedicated pelagic birding trip that left Hyannis on August 22 and returned on the evening of August 23 with about 60 birders aboard saw and photographed so many unusual birds that it raised the bar, so to speak, for future expeditions. There had never been a trip even close to this, and to say it was beyond all expectations would still be a very large understatement.