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Can Human Medicine Cure a Coral Epidemic?

by Owen Ayite-Atayi, age 13

New research indicates that antibiotics used in humans can also help sick coral.

Corals are marine invertebrates that often form compact colonies of many identical individuals. Coral species include the important reef builder species that inhabit tropical oceans. The best known example on Planet Earth is the Great Barrier Reef off the coast of Australia.

Recent research proves that certain antibiotics have a positive effect on corals as they try to recover from a tissue-eating disease. This disease is caused by bacteria located in the coral's outer parts. The bacteria start to form and latch onto the coral until it dies. [Read More]

Lead Poisoning Hinders the Recovery of Bald Eagles

by Makya Rodriguez, age 17

The mighty bald eagle is facing some tough times. In recent years, the population of our national bird has decreased by almost 4%, and lead poisoning is usually the reason.

A new nationwide study has found that up to 33% of examined dead bald eagles contained serious levels of lead poisoning. This clinical poisoning is mainly transmitted from an eagle’s prey such as fish or small animals. After consuming such prey, the eagles’ stomach acids break down neurotoxin and release lead into the bird’s bloodstream. The lead then travels to soft tissues around the body and eventually accumulates within the bird’s bones leading to the death of these beautiful animals.

In colder seasons eagles tend to go from natural hunters to scavengers. Scientists have found that eagles are more likely to get poisoned during the colder months when they depend more on the tainted remains of dead prey. [Read More]

Megadrought in California Threatens Western Joshua Tree

by Sol-Saray, age 10

Have you ever heard of the Western Joshua Tree? The Western Joshua Tree is known for its spiky branches. It also looks similar to an acacia tree.

The Western Joshua Tree is usually spotted in deserts in California. There are places in California where the law prevents chopping down Joshua Trees. Aside from the law protecting it, the Department of Fish and Wildlife reports that there is an abundance of these trees, meaning the tree's extinction risk is low.

Despite the tree's low risk-status, there are still factors threatening the Western Joshua Tree. One of these threats is climate change. This is the process of the Earth heating up, largely due to pollution. Climate change is leading to droughts that are causing more wildfires, both of which are threats to the Western Joshua Tree. [Read More]

¿Qué causa la industria del reciclaje fallida de Estados Unidos?

por Yoanna Hoskins, 17 años de edad

La pandemia causó muchos cambios en la sociedad, pero también resaltó cuestiones que antes habían pasado desapercibidas. El engaño de la industria del reciclaje de plásticos es solo un ejemplo. En particular, Covid-19 demostró cuán sensible es la industria del reciclaje de plásticos a las variaciones en los precios del petróleo.

La pandemia causó cambios económicos y redujo el consumo de petróleo. Los precios del petróleo cayeron alrededor del mundo. Como resultado, los fabricantes comenzaron a preferir la creación de plástico nuevo y no al reciclaje porque los bajos costos del petróleo hacían que la nueva producción fuera menos costosa. La fabricación de nuevos plásticos sigue aumentando. Los expertos de la industria y los grupos ambientalistas dicen que esto crea un efecto cíclico, aumentando la polución. [read more]

Tracking the Full Moons of Autumn in Wisconsin

by Ayelen Florez, age 12

In the fall season, Wisconsin has one of the best skies to view at night. During this season, the skies are clear and the weather is cool and it is the best time to go stargazing. When the autumn moons light up the dark night for farmers and hunters, many people use the moon to keep track of fall events.

A way to monitor the moon is to remember that there are at least twelve full moons each year. Every full moon has its own unique nickname and is easy to spot and track.

The “Harvest Moon.” is the full moon that happens during September and sometimes October. This full moon is the closest to the autumnal equinox, which is when that the sun shines on the equatorial pathway. [Read More]

What is the World's Largest Plant?

by Jules Da Costa, age 14

Scientists sampling 10 different seagrass meadows off the coast of Australia were surprised to find that their samples were all from one plant. They had stumbled upon a seagrass that regrows by cloning itself.

The seagrass Posidonia australis, better known as Poseidon’s ribbon weed, is the largest living organism in the world, covering more than 70 square miles. Coincidentally, it is also the oldest plant in the world estimated to be about 4,500 years old. The ribbon weed currently resides across the Shark Bay in Western Australia.

Poseidon’s ribbon weed has unusual genetics. Usually plants inherit half of each parent's genetic information, known as a genome; however, the ribbon weed inherited the full genome of each parent. This is known as a polyploid plant, and these kinds of plants can continue growing and developing when left undisturbed. [Read More]

Drought Causes Saltwater to Invade the Mississippi River System

by Dulce Vazquez, age 14

The Mississippi River water level is reaching historical lows. A part of the Mississippi River measured in New Orleans is just three feet above sea level, which is very unusual and damaging to the boats that rely on the river and causes wildlife to act in different ways.

A third of the rain that falls in the United States goes to the Mississippi River system. Less rainfall is coming from the Midwest, which scientists are describing as a drought. This drought is causing many problems for ships and barges as mud clogs pathways, creating navigation difficulties.

Water from the Gulf of Mexico is pushing up the river and filling up a gap. “As the flows in the Mississippi River drop, the Gulf of Mexico essentially comes upstream,” says a specialist from the Army Corps of Engineers. The last time something similar to this happened was 10 years ago, back in 2012. This could cause problems by getting into the water people drink. [Read More]

Greenland’s Frozen Hinterlands are Melting Faster than Expected

by Theodore B. Morrison, age 15

Climate change has been impacting the planet for ages since humans started producing greenhouse gases. One impact climate change has had is the melting of the glaciers, which scientists have been trying to track for some time. One group has been following a particular ice stream to help keep track of the effects of climate change.

This group used GPS to track ice stream movements. The furthest point inland observed by this group transitioned from approximately 344 meters a year to 351 meters a year in three years. The quick movement of ice streams is projected to raise the global sea level by 14 to 16 millimeters by 2100. That is the same quantity of increase in global sea level rise by Greenland’s entire ice sheet in the last 50 years.

The tracking of this specific stream was motivated by the hope of discovering more about the effects of climate change. These sea level rises could change the world's coastlines and many scientists and climate activists hope to attempt to reverse or stop these effects of climate change on a warming planet Earth. [Read More]

First-of-its-kind Experiment Uses Lab-bred Trees to Stop Pollution

by Leilani McNeal, age 17

The U.S. Forest Service is trying a “first-of-its-kind” experiment that involves specialized trees that may keep contaminants from leaching out of landfills.

A part of a larger project to see if plants can solve the issues of pollutants in the environment, this process involves lab-grown variations of poplar, willow, and conifer trees, which all have the unique ability to absorb pharmaceuticals and harmful toxins alike.

So far, the Forest Service has planted more than 15 sites in Wisconsin and Michigan with 22,000 trees total. For example, the Boundary Road Landfill that skirts lakes Michigan and Superior will demonstrate how many contaminants can be captured, in a process called phytoremediation. [Read More]

City of Madison Continues to Make Progress in Composting Programs

by Mariama Bah, age 15

Citywide composting in Madison has had a challenging history, but supporters are still trying to make it a reality.

Compost is a mixture of decomposed organic matter typically used as fertilizer as it is high in nutrients for soil. Organic matter such as fruits and vegetables, grass clippings, and paper can be thrown into a pile and turned into compost. In turn, compost cuts methane emissions from landfills, conserves water, and reduces personal waste.

Madison has tried and failed to implement food composting programs. The city attempted to install curbside pick up services twice, but these programs quickly came to an end as food scraps were contaminated with non-organic materials like children's toys, coat hangers, and towels. [Read More]

New Land Purchase Will Protect Wildlife and Wetlands in Dane County

by Dulce Maria Vazquez, age 14

Groundswell Conservancy is a not-for-profit conservation group that recently bought 34 acres of wetland habitat in Dane County. The land is in the Town of Dunn near the Lower Mud Lake Natural Resource Area. This purchase will help groundswell achieve its mission of protecting wildlife habitats in Dane County and south-central Wisconsin.

Wetlands like the one recently purchased are areas that are flooded with water that can either be permanent or seasonal. These wetlands help manage floods, which is critical for the city of Madison's lakes. The landowners who sold the property wanted these lands to be protected.

Groundswell has to manage the property regularly to supply permanent habitat for ducks and other wildlife. The financing to obtain the land comes from the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources Knowles-Nelson Stewardship Program and a U.S Fish and Wildlife grant, which Ducks Unlimited administers. [Read More]

Recent Drought Slows River Traffic on the Mississippi

by Dayanara Flores Gonzalez, age 15

Over 500 million tons of agricultural and other products are shipped through the Mississippi River every year. More than 40 percent of the global food supply starts at the River Basin. A phenomenon that happens about once a decade, the water level is at a record low of just three feet above sea level near New Orleans. The lack of rainwater to fill the river from the drought has been causing navigational problems for ships and barges making the trip into and out of the river.

Economic costs due to the complications and obstacles with shipping are estimated to be in the billions. “We are seeing operational challenges that are almost unprecedented,'' said Paul Rohde, Waterways Council vice president of the Midwest area.

It is strongly believed that climate change is responsible for the unpredictable weather. St. Louis was hit with a world record-shattering rainfall in July, right before the drought began. Yet by October, CBS News claimed that there were multiple reports that barges were stranded waiting for the low water levels to rise. [Read More]

Dane County Students Gather to Discuss Climate Change at Second Annual Conference

by Desteny Alvarez, age 17

For the second year in row, students from around Dane County will gather to address climate change issues. The second annual Dane County high school climate action conference will take place at the Alliant Energy Center on Saturday, November 12.

The title for this year’s event is Gen Z: Meeting the challenge of Our Changing Environment. Local student members of the Dane County Youth Environmental Committee are helping plan the conference. A range of speakers and climate experts will make presentations and address topics of particular interest to young people.

“I learned a lot at last year’s conference” said Devika Pal, a student at Madison’s Memorial High School. “Now, I want to know more. I’m interested in learning what actions we can take to make a difference.” [Read More]

Wisconsin Begins PFAS Testing this Fall

by Sandy Flores Ruíz, age 16

Per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances, also known as PFAS, are a family of synthetic chemicals. They are used in everyday household products, such clothes, carpets, nonstick cookware, packaging, and firefighting foam due to their ability to repel water and stains. The PFAS family of approximately 5,000 chemicals are known as “forever chemicals” because they last for a long period of time in the environment and human body. Research suggests that these chemicals can cause various types of cancers, decrease birth weights, damage the immune and reproductive systems, impact hormone regulation, and alter thyroid hormones.

Since 2019, the DNR has been working to develop standards for two of the better known PFAS chemicals, PFOA and PFOS, to determine safe levels of these two chemicals in public water systems. Beginning this fall, Wisconsin communities will be required to test their water to ensure that the PFOA and PFOS do not exceed limits set by the State of Wisconsin.

Testing will be phased in for cities depending on their size. Cities with a population exceeding 50,000 are required to begin testing on November 1, 2022. Communities with populations under 49,999 will begin testing in February of 2023, and cities with populations under 10,000 will need to start testing in early May of that same year. [Read More]

What Fuel­s America’s Failed Recycling Industry?

by Yoanna Hoskins, age 17

The pandemic caused numerous changes in society, but it also highlighted issues that had previously gone unnoticed. Deception in the plastics recycling industry is just one example. In particular, Covid-19 demonstrated how sensitive the plastics recycling industry is to swings in oil prices.

The pandemic caused economic shifts and lowered oil consumption. Oil prices plummeting worldwide. As a result, manufacturers began to favor creating new plastic over recycling because low oil costs made new production less expensive than recycling. The manufacturing of new plastic continues to increase. Industry experts and environmental groups say this creates a cyclical effect, increasing pollution.

The motto “Reduce. Reuse. Recycle” was created in the 1970’s to help the public understand how they can help save the planet. The R that stood for “Recycle”, has become a symbol for the environmental movement. [Read More]

Wisconsin Considers Updated PFAS Rules

by Gabriella Shell, age 16

After failure earlier this year, the Wisconsin DNR is once again attempting to tighten restrictions on one of the state’s biggest water pollutants.

Early in September, the DNR obtained a scope statement from Governor Tony Evers, allowing them to begin drafting a rule that would add four PFAS contaminants to Wisconsin’s current groundwater law. The chemicals in question---PFOS, PFOA, PFBS, and GenX---would be the first additions to the law in over a decade.

Before the rule can be enacted, it must first be approved by the governor, the Natural Resources Board, and the state legislature. A similar rule that proposed a 20 ppt standard for public drinking water, drafted in 2019, failed to make it past the Natural Resources Board in early 2022. The Board instead chose to enforce a 70 ppt in line with the 2016 EPA guidelines. [Read More]

It’s an “Interruption Year” in Wisconsin:
Snowy Owls Are Moving South
by Mariama Bah, age 15

Keep your eye to the ground and be careful when you’re walking in the Arctic Tundra, because you may find a snowy owl nesting site. Treeless, wide, hilly spaces are where snowy owls prefer to nest and hunt. These owls mainly eat small mammals, but their diet can range from rodents and rabbits to ducks and geese. [Read More]

State of Wisconsin Issues PFAS Warnings for Dane County Fisheries — by Makaya Rodriguez, age 17

PFAS, also known as (poly-fluoroalkyl substances), are man-made chemicals. They were used on clothing, carpets, non-stick pans, cookware, and as firefighting foam. PFAS are made to be stain and water-resistant. These PFAS chemicals are being found in many Wisconsin bodies of water, specifically in Dane County. [Read More]

Lluvia ácida: una consecuencia de la contaminación

por Jason Medina, 11 años de edad; traducido por Yoanna Hoskins, 17 años de edad

La lluvia ácida ha existido para 150 años, la misma cantidad de tiempo que el carbón se ha utilizado para poder. La lluvia ácida afecta el bienestar de los animales, las plantas, los árboles y los lagos.

Cada año, cien millones de toneladas de dióxido de azufre son liberadas a la atmósfera por la quema de combustibles fósiles. En la década de 1970, los Estados Unidos produjeron treinta y dos millones de toneladas. Cuando el dióxido de azufre está en la atmósfera y se mezcla con la lluvia, crea lluvia ácida. La acidez es una medida de la concentración de iones de hidrógeno (pH) y el valor más bajo de pH, más ácida se vuelve una sustancia. El pH del agua destilada es de siete y el del agua de lluvia natural es de alrededor de 5.6. La lluvia ácida está bajando el pH de algunos lagos debajo de cinco.

Casi 1,800 lagos en el sur de Noruega están más o menos desprovistos de peces. En la mitad de los lagos de Suecia, los peces están seriamente agotados y los ríos salmoneros también sufren mucho. En Canadá, unos cincuenta mil lagos también se han visto afectados, así como cientos de lagos en Adirondacks en el estado de Nueva York. Cuanto más ácida es la condición, más aluminio se disuelve en el suelo. [Read More]

First Plant Successfully Sprouts in Lunar Soil — by Daniel Li, age 15

The first seeds to ever sprout in lunar soil poked their heads above moon dirt at the University of Florida in May. Decades of research and experimentation led to this breakthrough which marks the first time terrestrial plants have grown in extra-terrestial soil. It also offers hope that astronauts will one day be able to grow food on the moon. [Read More]

New Report Exposes “Greenwashing” in the Clothing and Fashion Industries — by Sandy Flores-Ruiz, age 16

The Changing Market Foundation, an environmental advocacy group, said recently that certification systems claiming meant to check the sustainability practices of fashion companies fall short of public expectations. These practices support greenwashing in the textile industry. Greenwashing is the deliberate concealment of information by a company in order to project an image of environmental stewardship to the public. [Read More]

Scientists Look for Ways to Protect Wisconsin Walleyes — by Julian Medina Ruiz, age 14

Wisconsin lakes are facing a sharp decline in the walleye populations. This trend is most apparent in the northern part of the state. [Read More]

Scientists Study Effects of Climate Change in Lake Superior — by Moises A. Hernandez, age 17

About ten years ago, a bloom of cyanobacteria appeared in Lake Superior. Since that time, scientists have searched for answers as to why this problem occurs in this specific lake. [Read More]

Plastic Pollution Overwhelms America’s Recycling Systems — by Gabriella Shell, age 16

Generations of Americans have grown up on a doctrine of “reduce, reuse, recycle.” Everyone, from the oldest Boomers to the youngest of Gen Z know what to do when they see the little triangle made of arrows on the bottom of a plastic product: chuck it in the recycling bin. However, unbeknownst to the masses of routine recyclers, this casual recycling may be causing more problems than it fixes. [Read More]

Watch Out for Poison Hemlock in Wisconsin — by Anissa Attidekou, age 12

There are a wide variety of poisonous plants that are toxic to humans and animals. Some can lead to extreme pain and others can even be deadly. One of these deadly plants is named the poison hemlock. [Read More]

Public Service Commission Approves New Solar Projects in Wisconsin — by Mariama Bah, age 15

Last year the Wisconsin Public Service Commission (PSC) approved a $925 million investment by Alliant Energy to construct six solar farms across Wisconsin. The projects are currently in development. Recently, the PSC voted to approve Alliant Energy's plan to buy or build six more solar farms, an investment of an additional $620 million. [Read More]

Harriet Tubman Was an Expert Naturalist — by Katina Maclin, age 16

Harriet Tubman was an expert naturalist. The Underground Railroad’s most famous conductor used her understanding of geography, wildlife biology, and astronomy to guide people to freedom. [Read More]

New School in Fitchburg Uses Green Energy Technology — by Devika Pal, age 16

Forest Edge Elementary School in Fitchburg is the first Net Zero Energy school in Wisconsin. The school opened in September of 2021, and is part of the Oregon School district. The district’s Superintendent Dr. Leslie Bergstrom said the school’s goal is to create “the best design for student learning that also incorporated technologies to efficiently use and conserve energy.” [Read More]

Groundswell Conservancy Land Purchase Will Help Dell Creek Conservation Efforts — by Dyami Rodriguez, age 17

Buying land is a major factor in protecting the environment. To that end, the Groundswell Conservancy, along with other conservation groups, recently made a major purchase with the intent of protecting Wisconsin's environment. [Read More]

The Canola Flower: Beautiful and Delicious! — by Sol Saray, age 10

Canola is a flower that blooms in late winter to early spring representing Jeju Island in South Korea. It is a type of rapeseed and is part of the mustard family. There is even a festival named after the canola flower. [Read More]