Biomass by sea and by land

Posted Posted in TopStory, Uncategorized

The ocean provides for us. It provides the air we breathe from photosynthesizing algae, the seafood we buy and sell, and the recreational tourism and educational opportunities which are boundless for business owners and educational networks. How much time do we spend thinking about, or informing others, about what the ocean gives us? Did you know the ocean may one day provide a sustainable form of renewable energy? There is incredible research being conducted and many results already shared in the scientific community about garnering alternative energy sources from the ocean, especially that of using algae as a biofuel.

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The horizons of funding, studying, and collaborating about sustainable and renewable energy sources have grown consistently within the last two decades. Researchers from many esteemed universities such as MIT, Kansas State University, UC San Diego, Texas A&M, and Colorado State University, plus many more, are actively seeking solutions to meet the demand of finding these energy sources and establishing sustainable supply chains from extraction to sale.

 

“New research could help with the large-scale cultivation and manufacturing of oil-rich algae in oceans for biofuel.” (ScienceDaily)

 

“Photosynthetic marine algae are attractive targets for the production of biofuels and bio-products because they have the ability to capture and fix carbon dioxide using solar energy and they grow in seawater, thereby minimizing fresh water usage.” (ScienceDirect)

What the research referenced above explains is crucial to how we stand up for the protection of ocean health, whether we live on the coastline or not. Amazing amounts of biomass exist in our world’s oceans, just as a forest does. These varieties of biomass are the frontier of renewable energy research and practice. In fact, scientists and educators from our state’s very own Colorado State University are part of a regional alliance called Bioenergy Alliance Network of the Rockies (BANR). Focused on researching how forest biomass can serve as feedstock for biofuels, BANR looks at ways beetle-killed tree biomass can contribute to a sustainable regional renewable energy industry.

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BANR is funded by the US Department of Agriculture, National Institute of Food and Agriculture, Coordinated Agricultural Projects through Agricultural and Food Research Initiative (USDA-NIFA AFRI CAP) grants. Say that 3x fast! These are currently 7 funded grant projects across the US. How proud we can be of CSU leading collaboration of this national and global initiative in our own backyard! 

 

So – what’s the connection between oceans and forests, you may ask? Why bother writing about the two in the same blog post about sustainable energy? I’m glad you asked!  If you look back to the first paragraph of this post, I think you can easily replace oceans with forest, and algae with trees, and seafood with timber, and so on. Our seas and our lands are bound intrinsically to humans as a resource – what we do to explore, learn from, and sustain them is up to us.

 

If you are an interested in attending a conference this May in Seattle about Biofuels and Energy Literacy, please see more at:  NARA Conference, SeaTac, May 3-4,2016  

More information about the excellent projects and organizations referenced in this post can be found at the following:

Bioenergy Alliance Network of the Rockies 

USDA-NIFA AFRI CAP grant programs

 

 

Sarah Burgess is currently working as a Research Naturalist for University Wisconsin-Extension, and looks forward to transitioning back to the Rockies later this summer. Her thoughts and musings can be followed at BurgessAdventures.

Protecting the Oceans from Two Miles High

Posted Posted in TopStory

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Location: Niwot Ridge

 

For the next few weeks, I am able to have the opportunity to stay in the outskirts of Nederland, Colorado for a 3-week class on lake and stream ecology. How fitting it would be, I thought, to connect experiences from this class to oceanic issues.

 

            Within the first few hours of class we are welcomed by our professor, and continue into lecture for the first hour. Next stop: Niwot Ridge, elevation 3520 meters. An approximate 10 minute off-roading adventure, followed by a 25-30 minute steep, rocky hike, and we have arrived! While eating lunch and admiring the tree-less slopes of the mountains, we discuss groundwater and precipitation. Groundwater moves approximately a foot per day, but can move faster in more geological areas- such as high alpine environments. As it moves downhill toward the lake and stream systems, the water collects nutrients and minerals that it runs over. Therefore, by the time the groundwater gets to the oceanic waterways, it could have collected thousands of feet worth of particles, whether it is nutrients or pollutants. Even these high alpine areas have pollutants, through precipitation. For example, sodium chloride would not be abundant in mountain regions, although there are trace amounts of it found. Why would sodium chloride be present here? Well, precipitation in these areas comes from evaporation from the ocean, hence oceanic nutrients are cycled to the mountains, and vice versa. This enhances the importance of maintaining healthy oceanic and alpine ecosystems! Another nutrient that was found to be in these high elevations was ammonia. This was due to food plots, in which food for a desired animal is plotted on land in order for it to be easier to hunt. It is the same concept as planting crops in association with fertilizer runoff. There are many issues with runoff, mostly concluding that it will lead to eutrophication.

 

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Location: Left Hand Reservoir

 

 

Importance of a Mile High

Posted Posted in TopStory

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Many people wonder how inland states can be connected to the ocean environment. In an episode of Diving Deeper, hosted by NOAA, Jeff Adkins explains how the ocean economy is continental-wide. With that said, this week’s blog will consist of a compilation of reasons inland states are connected to the coastline.

 

  1. Our restaurants serve seafood- that inevitably, comes from the sea.
  2. Factor in transportation and CO2 emissions, and you could say we are definitely involved in ocean issues
  3. We buy products made in other countries- that export their goods via ships
  4. Our agricultural practices release pesticides into our waterways- and “all drains lead to the ocean”- take it from Nemo
  5. We pollute just as much driving to the mountains as we would driving to the ocean
  6. The filter feeders of the oceans take in the pollutants- and then we eat them- gross.
  7. Our activities result in nonpoint source pollution- rainfall and snowmelt moving over and through the ground collect pollutants and deliver them to the oceans- oil, grease, toxic chemicals from urban development, sediment from construction sites, eroding streambanks

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Watersheds include the boundaries of streams and moving waters that lead to the ocean. Therefore, the tiny streams you see on your beautiful hike up the mountains high above a mile are included in these watersheds. Streams are ordered numerically, starting with a first order stream, which is characterized as mountainous, tiny streams that include very few fish and many tiny organisms that scrape their food. Once a first order stream and another first order stream join together, they create a second order stream. These streams may seem pristine and beautiful far away from society, but at some point they will join with a polluted, urban river and continue down the pathway to the ocean.

 

How will you reduce your impact in an inland state? https://www.surveymonkey.com/s/V2NCJ5J

 

Why Free Willy?

Posted Posted in TopStory

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Many people understand that killer whales should not be help captive in locations such as SeaWorld, based on the size of the animal relative to the size of the tank. Although, there are many other health issues that arise due to keeping these amazingly beautiful and intricate creatures in bath-tub sized tanks. In this blog, I wanted to discuss two of those issues: collapsed dorsal fin, and tooth decay.

The risk of infections and bacterium in pool-sized tanks due to tooth decay is a high concern for killer whales in captivity as they bite down on steel gates separating the training pools from the performance pools (Jett & Ventre, 2011). I will explain the consequences of tooth fragments and the exposure of the pulp of the teeth. Because the space in amusement parks is not comparable to the size of the ocean, there are elevated risks of diseases (Jett & Ventre, 2011). I have provided background information on health factors, diseases, visible signs of distress, and specific cases on the reasons scientists and societies began to focus on the captivity of orcas. Female orcas have a mean life expectancy of 50.2 years and a maximum of 80-90 years; wild males have a mean life expectancy of 29.2 years, and a maximum of 50-60 years (Olesiuk et al, 1990). Most industry sources insist around 35 years as the maximum captive lifespan (Mooney, 1998). Of the 107 orcas in captivity that have died since 1961, average length of survival was under six years. The health affects presented to orcas in captivity are of concern to medical, veterinary, and orca researchers. The elevated opportunities for infectious agents cause many problems for orcas in close proximities (Jett & Ventre, 2011). Treatments of these illnesses are constantly evolving as veterinary staff is discovering new diseases.

 

The factors that play into the deaths of orcas in captivity at young ages include: collapsed dorsal fin syndrome, tooth decay, and brain damage, to name the most studied (Ridgway 1979). Collapsed dorsal fin syndrome is a major theme in health concerns for captive orcas because it is not seen in the wild. This is due to the lack of space and movement that orcas are able to carry out in the pools they are held in. Contrary to captivity, the lateral, torsional, and compressive forces generated by consistent moving in the ocean water sculpt vertical dorsal fins (Jett & Ventre, 2011).  With the removal of these forces, and the constant surfacing of orcas in captivity, the connective tissue is impaired and results in a collapsed dorsal fin. This phenomenon is not seen in females due to the incomparable size of dorsal fins in females versus males. Male orcas acquire taller dorsal fins than females (Durdab et al, 2006). This also plays from the fact that orcas in captivity do not have to chase live fish due to a change in diet. Now, they eat dead, frozen fish, rather than having to strategize for their meals. This lack of movement causes fins to collapse, as well as provides less nutrition and other health affects.

 

 Killer whales are some of the most aggressive animals on the planet. Ways that they display dominance in cases of captivity include biting down on the steel bars of the pools. This is known as a process called “jaw-popping,” and is used to show another orca that they are of lower hierarchal status than the one showing aggression (Graham & Dow, 1990). In addition to showing aggression, it is very common for orcas to experience boredom and social strife, which is shown by chewing on the steel gates that separate them from their training pools and entertainment pools (Jett & Ventre, 2011). Tooth fragments are commonly found on the bottom of their pools and can leave some of the pulp of the tooth exposed if not picked up. Improper care of teeth can lead to a number of diseases including: valvular heart disease, gingivitis, pneumonia, stroke, and heart attack (Jett & Ventre, 2011). Pathogens have a direct route to the blood stream through open bore holes due to teeth falling out. These can then be deposited into the tissue of various organs throughout the body, such as the heart or kidney. Some orcas have their teeth drilled and are treated with prophylactic antibiotics to control the risk of bacteria. It is known that long-term antibiotic use can lead to health effects aside from tooth decay, such as antibiotic-resistant bacteria, increased susceptibility to certain cancers, and disruption of intestinal flora leading to phytochemical malnourishment (Jett & Ventre 2008). There is also an increase in risk for skin cancer since various antibiotics can cause photosensitiation and phototoxicity to those exposed to UVR. With the constant exposure to the sun, due to minimal availability of shade in the orca pools, the risk of skin cancer is higher in captivity than in the wild.

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