Science & Environment

Science news

Piping plovers recovered from hunting, but now face threats from habitat destruction and sea level rise.
Putneypics / flickr

Two hundred and fifty million years ago, close to ninety percent of all life on earth disappeared. Sixty-five million years ago, a wave of extinction wiped out the dinosaurs. Today, many scientists say we are on the verge of another mass extinction event – the sixth in our planet’s history, but the first to be caused by humans.

Just over a year ago, SharkCam - an underwater vehicle equipped with five cameras and the ability to independently follow radio tags placed on sharks - took Discovery Channel's Shark Week by storm with dramatic video of being attacked by great white sharks.

SomeDriftwood / flickr / CC2.0

You find periwinkles in almost every rocky nook of our tidal coastline: small snail-like creatures clinging onto boulders, lining tide pools. Pluck one off and roll it in your palm for a few seconds, then watch as the periwinkle pokes out from its shell as if to get its bearings.

Periwinkles - the common species is littorina littorea - also make good eating, and they are an often overlooking shellfishing resource.

Cape Cod's salt marshes drew early European settlers with the promise of lush grazing and plentiful hay for cattle.
Photo courtesy of the Massachusetts Office of Coastal Zone Management

For thousands of years, native Americans lived on Cape Cod, fishing, farming, and managing the forests in a sustainable way. Then, along came European settlers who, in the span of a few hundred years, fished out the oceans, deforested the land, and depleted the soil.

composite: wesbl / Nils Rinaldi / Public Herald / flickr / CC2.0

Just about every fisherman has a camera in his pocket now, thanks to the smart phone. But face it, that doesn't mean you know how to take a good picture of your catch.

Vicky Somma / flickr / CC BY-NC-SA 2.0

The arrival of August ushers in very interesting birding. The breeding season has scaled way back, and only a few prolific multi-brooded species are still making more birds. Most birds have finished with their nesting chores for the year and many are already on the move.

Courtesy of Buzzards Bay Coalition

Long before crowd-sourcing and citizen science were buzzwords, volunteers for Buzzards Bay Coalition were monitoring water quality along the estuary's edges, from Westport to the Elizabeth Islands. The resulting data set spans twenty four years, and includes information about nutrients, temperatures, oxygen levels, and algral growth at two hundred locations. It's a scientific treasure-trove, but one which has gone relatively un-mined ... until now.

At this time in July, gulls are fledging young, the beaches are crowded with people, making it time to talk about behavior at the beach. Gulls are adaptable, and once they figure out how to find a meal they quickly learn new behavior. The gulls I am talking about belong to the following species - Great Black-backed Gull, Herring Gull, Ring-billed Gull and Laughing Gull. They have beach smarts, often operating like a rogue gang, terrorizing beach goers. They are getting smarter as you read this.

Ken Kostel / Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution

In 1998, Ben LeComte swam some 3,700 miles across the Atlantic Ocean, eight hours at a time. It took him seventy three days in total. Now, he's taking on an even bigger challenge - The Longest Swim - a 180-day, 5,500 mile swim across the Pacific Ocean, from Tokyo to San Francisco. His goal is to boost our understanding and awareness of ocean health issues.

Scup don't get a lot of publicity. You can't even find them in most fish markets on the Cape and Islands. But scup - or "porgy," as they're also known - can be delicious to eat. And they sure are fun for kids to catch.