Science & Environment

Science news

Amy Bower (foreground) leads a group of students from Perkins School for the Blind.
Photo by Tom Kleindinst / Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution

As a college student, Amy Bower dreamed of becoming an oceanographer, combining her love of physics and the natural world. A devastating diagnosis almost derailed her.

Amy Bower was an undergraduate, studying physics at Tufts University, when she noticed that her vision was getting blurry. Later, as a graduate student at University of Rhode Island, she got the official diagnosis: she was going blind. Macular degeneration and retinitis pigmentosa would gradually take away her sight.

Keith Carver / Flickr

May 21st is World Fish Migration Day. Yes, that’s a real thing, and groups around Cape Cod have already begun participating by doing what many of them do every spring – gathering to count and learn about river herring as they try to make their way from the ocean up to fresh water to spawn.

World Economic Forum

In 1971, Jon Kabat-Zinn finished his Ph.D. in the laboratory of Nobel Laureate, Salvador Luria, at M.I.T. Then, he took what might be considered a left turn – he went to study with Buddhist masters. Several years later, he drew on both his training in both biology and Buddhism when he founded the Stress Reduction Clinic at U. Mass. Medical School and created the first course in Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction.

Center for Coastal Studies / NOAA permit 18786

It's the holy grail of commercial fishing: catch just the right amount of just the right size of just the right species, without damage to the physical environment. It's a tall order, and few fisheries are there yet.

The launch of the James Caird from Elephant Island on April 24, 1916.
Frank Hurley / State Library of New South Wales

One hundred years ago this week, Sir Ernest Shackleton and five members of his crew were in a jury-rigged 23-foot lifeboat named the James Caird, sailing across some of the most treacherous ocean in the world (the Drake Passage between South America and the Antarctic Peninsula is notorious for hurricane force winds and ninety foot waves) near peak storm season. Ironically, they weren't waiting to be rescued. They were the rescue mission.

National Archaeological Museum, Athens

The tools of archeology used to be simple: shovels, picks, brushes. Sure, those are still an essential part of the toolbox. But today’s archeologists are also using everything from underwater jet packs to infrared satellite imaging to probe more deeply into our collective past.

What do we get for all this technology?

Nothing less than the very thing that makes us human, argues Brendan Foley, an underwater archeologist with Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution.

"Is it a return on investment? Is it our stock portfolio?" he asks.

Daniel Piraino / flickr / CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

Muskeget Island is a small, sandy island that sits about halfway between Nantucket and Martha’s Vineyard. It’s currently home to the largest population of grey seals in New England. But that’s a relatively new thing. Over the past century, the island has been reshaped – quite literally – by the forces of erosion and sea level rise, but also by human activity.

Nauset Lighthouse Charter School students search for coyote scat.
Peter Trull

Conservation biologist Austin Gallagher wants to know how much stress coyotes on Cape Cod are feeling, and whether it's worse when they're in densely populated areas than when they’re out in more natural settings. Middle school students at the Nauset Lighthouse Charter School in Orleans are collecting samples for the research, and I've been invited to tag along. And that is how I've ended up spending a windy, early spring afternoon combing the back side of the dunes at Nauset Beach for coyote poop, or scat, as it's more formally known.

Wiki Commons

Tiny, thin-shelled oysters; crumbling coral reefs; fish unable to make sense of odors; decimated plankton populations. Those are some of the nightmare scenarios conjured by the prospect of a rapidly acidifying ocean caused by unchecked carbon dioxide emissions from fossil fuel burning.

Center for Coastal Studies

Periodically through the late winter we have been updating you on the return of right whales to Cape Cod Bay. This past week marked a big increase in sightings of the rare mammals in our waters, along with the season's first calf. 

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