Episode 12: The Big Year

This episode is all about our fine feathered friends and how observing them has helped propel us into a world where you, yes YOU, can be an integral part of scientific research! Tait Chandler is an avid birder and our special guest this week- listen as he and Jordan geek out over one of their favorite hobbies. Plus our usual environmental news updates and stories to give you hope about the Earth; listen here or subscribe on iTunes!🐦

Updates from the Field:

Tait informs us that much like the liberal bubble some of us reside in, birds construct similar social arrangements. Researchers at the University of Oxford have found that male Great Tits will choose their neighbors based on having similar personalities. As you may know, scientists have found that individual animals within a species tend to display consistent behavioral differences, much like a human personality. With Great Tits, these differences determine who males tend to nest near. This makes sense evolutionarily, since fewer skirmishes tend to occur, and each individual has a higher chance of passing on their genes to the next generation.

Steffi brings us the bad news that though scientists expected to see decreased dissolved oxygen in the ocean as the water temperature has risen, a new analysis of 50 years of data shows that the rate of decrease is two to three times faster than previously believed. This is likely due to changes in ocean circulation and unfortunately will lead to more hypoxic events.

Emily brings us an update on the debate over how to deal with the cocoa price crisis. VOICE Network, an NGO consortium based out of the Netherlands, released a discussion paper with a few suggested approaches and a breakdown of the issues. It’s just a starting point for developing a strategy on this complex and important issue, but it’s good to see that this conversation is making it into the public sphere.

Jordan drops a truth bomb on all the recent articles he’s seen with headlines like “Plastic Recycling worms will save the world!”, “Styrofoam Eating Worms Solve Climate Change!” etc. 

What’s Giving Us Hope for the Earth:

Tait is still riding the high from a great birding hike he went on in North Carolina. Listen to the episode for details!

Steffi, who loves Finding Nemo despite a lot of the scientific inaccuracies depicted in the film (for example Squirt would never have met his father Crush), was happy to learn that they did get one thing right: the distinct paternal instincts of  Marlin. Male clownfish’s paternal instincts are so strong that if you give a bachelor fish eggs from another nest he will care for them as his own, rather than eating them like other fish. Scientists have just identified the hormone responsible for this behavior, isotocin, which is their equivalent of oxytocin i.e. the love hormone in humans.

Emily brings us hopeful news from the recycling world: during the Walmart Sustainability Milestone Summit, eight brands announced that they will be joining the How2Recycle label program. The brands include Nestle, Pepsi, and Unilever, so this is a big deal. The program seeks to educate consumers about how to recycle packaging correctly. The labels show consumers how to recycle each component of packaging, and though Walmart started using the system in 2016 this marks a significant increase in the number of products that will have this consumer-friendly information.

Jordan is pleased that The Carton Council of North America has provided a grant to a recycling sorting facility to purchase a sorting robot built by AMP Robotics. Many of the recyclables sent to the sorting facility can be easily sorted by shape and chemical make-up, but others are more difficult so they require humans to stand next to a conveyer belt and pull them off by hand. This is dangerous, brutal work with high turnover and very low pay so the idea is that these robots will replace the hand labor on the line so the sorting facility can be fully automated and likely more efficient.

Silvan is super stoked about a community in Colorado that saved approximately 15 million gallons of water in one year just by changing their yards from green lawns to native plants. The story is a great example of a small group of people (Don and Lynn Ireland) engaging their community to make changes that had a huge impact on the environment!

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