Earth and Environment

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Dr Alejandro Estrada and Dr Paul A. Garber | The Importance of Indigenous Peoples in Safeguarding Earth’s Primates

Dr Alejandro Estrada and Dr Paul A. Garber | The Importance of Indigenous Peoples in Safeguarding Earth’s Primates

Non-human primates play crucial roles in sustaining natural ecosystems worldwide. However, approximately 68% of primate species are now at risk of extinction, mainly due to agriculture and the depletion of natural resources. Dr Alejandro Estrada at the National Autonomous University of Mexico, Dr Paul A. Garber at the University of Illinois-Urbana, and a group of scientists from various parts of the world recently carried out a study to better understand the role that Indigenous Peoples play in the conservation of threatened primates.

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Professor Olubukola Oluranti Babalola | Improving The Production of Cowpea, a Sustainable Superfood

Professor Olubukola Oluranti Babalola | Improving The Production of Cowpea, a Sustainable Superfood

Cowpea is an extremely versatile food crop. Packed with high-quality protein, it has become a staple legume in many households in Africa, where it is indigenous. Cowpea also cycles nutrients back into the soil, supporting sustainable farming and healthy ecological networks. However, the production of this sustainable crop faces many hurdles, including drought, pesticide use, and declining soil quality. In a recent review, Professor Olubukola Oluranti Babalola of North-West University in South Africa outlines the issues facing cowpea production and highlights potential solutions.

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Dr Sara Stančin | Dr Sašo Tomažič – Improving 3D Orientation Tracking in Gyroscope Sensors

Dr Sara Stančin | Dr Sašo Tomažič – Improving 3D Orientation Tracking in Gyroscope Sensors

Gyroscopes are widely used to measure the orientations and rotation speeds of moving objects – but according to one pair of researchers, the techniques we currently use to measure them are introducing significant and easily avoidable errors. Through their research, Dr Sara Stančin | Dr Sašo Tomažič, both at the University of Ljubljana in Slovenia, introduce a mathematical framework which accounts for how all three rotations measured by a gyroscope happen simultaneously, rather than in a sequence.

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Dr Klaudio Peqini | Professor Bejo Duka – Mapping Flows at Earth’s Core–Mantle Boundary

Dr Klaudio Peqini | Professor Bejo Duka – Mapping Flows at Earth’s Core–Mantle Boundary

The magnetic field that enshrouds Earth is generated by processes deep within the planet’s interior, which geologists still don’t fully understand. Among the effects that remain poorly studied are brief variations in the strength of the magnetic field, which occur over timescales of several decades. Through detailed mathematical analysis, Dr Klaudio Peqini and Professor Bejo Duka, both at the University of Tirana in Albania, explore how these variations could arise from changes in the flows of material at the boundary between Earth’s core, and its thick layer of mantle.

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Dr Angelica Tarpanelli | Keeping an Eye in the Sky on Rivers

Dr Angelica Tarpanelli | Keeping an Eye in the Sky on Rivers

Across the globe, climate change is driving extreme weather events, such as floods and droughts, with increasing frequency, duration, and intensity. Accurately assessing the flow of water through rivers – or river discharge – could help us forecast extreme weather events and prevent loss of life. Sensors onboard satellites could provide more accurate and in-depth measurements of river variables than ever before. As part of the RIDESAT project, funded by the European Space Agency, Dr Angelica Tarpanelli and her team of researchers from Italy and Denmark investigate how combining remote sensing data from satellites could support river discharge assessments.

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Dr Zsuzsanna Balogh-Brunstad | Getting to the Root of Plant-Fungi Symbiosis

Dr Zsuzsanna Balogh-Brunstad | Getting to the Root of Plant-Fungi Symbiosis

An ancient relationship between plants and fungi could help us improve forestry and agriculture, while also responding to the challenges posed by climate change. These beneficial fungi, along with their bacteria helpers, help plants to grow bigger and healthier, and survive droughts. An international team of researchers has been investigating how these fungi and bacteria increase mineral availability for Scots pine and red pine seedlings through mineral weathering.

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Dr Christa Mulder – Understanding How Flowering Plants Respond to Climate Change

Dr Christa Mulder – Understanding How Flowering Plants Respond to Climate Change

A welcome sign of a change in seasons, the year’s first flowers usher in the start of spring. Yet, as the climate warms, some flowers are blooming earlier. Since plants respond to environmental cues, such as temperature, shifts in their annual development has long been considered an effect of climate change. However, significant warming does not always lead to earlier flowering.

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The Geological History of Once-Glaciated Regions Affects Current and Future Earth Surface Processes | Dr Alison Anders

The Geological History of Once-Glaciated Regions Affects Current and Future Earth Surface Processes | Dr Alison Anders

Over the past few millions of years, a succession of ice ages has profoundly influenced the geology of Earth’s northerly latitudes. These past events continue to influence our lives today – particularly in the fertile regions we now rely on for agriculture. By tracing the advances and retreats of ice sheets, Dr Alison Anders at the University of Illinois is gaining important new insights into how the landscapes and ecosystems of these regions are intrinsically linked to the geological past. Her team is also revealing how these areas are responding to a changing climate, and to complex human relationships with the land.

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Revealing How Ocean Chemistry Controlled Earth’s Ancient Atmosphere and Microbial Evolution | Dr Romain Guilbaud

Revealing How Ocean Chemistry Controlled Earth’s Ancient Atmosphere and Microbial Evolution | Dr Romain Guilbaud

Important clues buried within ancient rocks that were deposited on the ocean floor around one billion of years ago could help scientists understand the evolutionary history of life on Earth. Dr Romain Guilbaud and an international team of researchers from the UK and China analysed the chemical composition of these rocky sediments from the Huainan Basin in North China. Their findings demonstrate how changes in ocean chemistry occurring between one billion and 800 million years ago strongly limited the production of atmospheric oxygen, which is a necessary prerequisite for the planet to host complex life.

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Exploring the Impact of Urbanisation on Soil Microbes | Dr Carl Rosier

Exploring the Impact of Urbanisation on Soil Microbes | Dr Carl Rosier

Beneath our feet lies one of the most biodiverse habitats imaginable – the soil. These highly active underground microbial communities are vital to ecosystem health; they cycle nutrients, form soil structure, and decompose organic matter, among many other functions. The type of microbes that colonise soil is determined by the local plant community and climatic variables, both of which are rapidly changing due to human activity. In a recent study, Dr Carl Rosier of the University of Delaware has explored how urban development disturbs the environmental cycles that influence the types of microbes found in various soil habitats.

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Dr Jeanne Chambers – Measuring Ecological Resilience to Combat Wildfires

Dr Jeanne Chambers – Measuring Ecological Resilience to Combat Wildfires

Invasive plants can permanently alter ecosystems to promote conditions that support their own persistence. For example, certain invasive grasses can make areas prone to more frequent and larger wildfires, which negatively impact native species but favour fire-resistant invaders. This self-perpetuating process, termed a grass-fire cycle, can be impossible to reverse. Dr Jeanne Chambers of the United States Department of Agriculture’s Rocky Mountain Research Station and her colleagues – Matt Brooks, Matt Germino, Jeremy Maestas, David Board, Matt Jones, and Brady Allred – recently examined how an ecosystem’s resilience to fire and resistance to invasive grasses influence whether a grass-fire cycle will establish. In their paper, the scientists introduced a geospatial tool and decision matrix that incorporate measures of ecological resilience and resistance to invasive grasses for designing management strategies to combat grass-fire cycles.

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Return of Baird’s Tapir: Blessing or Omen? | Dr LaRoy Brandt – Maggie Singleton

Return of Baird’s Tapir: Blessing or Omen? | Dr LaRoy Brandt – Maggie Singleton

The destruction of jungle and forest habitats is a serious issue threatening species across the globe. Dr LaRoy Brandt and Maggie Singleton of Lincoln Memorial University studied one such threatened species, Baird’s tapir, in Costa Rica. By identifying the tapir’s tracks and deploying remote trail cameras, the team caught rare glimpses of this threatened species, indicating a return of the native population and an increase in their numbers. The question is, however, is this increase a sign of improving habitats or a result of less favourable forces at play?

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Dr Alexandra (Sasha) Pavlova – Professor Paul Sunnucks | Genetic Rescue Saves Species from Extinction

Dr Alexandra (Sasha) Pavlova – Professor Paul Sunnucks | Genetic Rescue Saves Species from Extinction

When a species’ habitat shrinks, its populations decline. Individuals that persist in remaining islands of habitat have no choice but to breed with their relatives, reducing the health and fertility of their offspring. Researchers at Monash University seek to increase genetic diversity in small populations, helping them rebound. They have established ‘genetic rescue’ methods to save many endangered species from extinction, collaborating with wildlife agencies to test solutions.

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Dr Candice M. Duncan – Dr Evelyn E. Cooper | Improving Agriculture and Geoscience through Educational Initiatives

Dr Candice M. Duncan – Dr Evelyn E. Cooper | Improving Agriculture and Geoscience through Educational Initiatives

The College of Agriculture and Natural Resources at the University of Maryland College Park provides exciting student experiences through three innovative programs: AgDiscovery, Summer Opportunities in Agricultural Research and the Environment (SOARE), and SOARE: Strategic Work in Applied Geosciences (SOARE:SWAG). These educational initiatives aim to build a stronger scientific workforce by inspiring young people from underserved communities to pursue science careers.

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Dr Conrad Labandeira | Which Came First: Pollinating Insects or Flowers?

Dr Conrad Labandeira | Which Came First: Pollinating Insects or Flowers?

Historically, controlled forest burning in western North America created a forest patchwork that limited the size and severity of wildfires. Over the last 200 years, however, fire suppression created large areas of dense tree stands. As droughts and temperatures increase due to climate change, these dense forests are now at increasing risk from extremely severe wildfires.

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Dr Susan Prichard | Adapting Forests to Wildfires in a Changing Climate

Dr Susan Prichard | Adapting Forests to Wildfires in a Changing Climate

Historically, controlled forest burning in western North America created a forest patchwork that limited the size and severity of wildfires. Over the last 200 years, however, fire suppression created large areas of dense tree stands. As droughts and temperatures increase due to climate change, these dense forests are now at increasing risk from extremely severe wildfires.

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Dr Christa Mulder – Understanding How Flowering Plants Respond to Climate Change

Dr Christa Mulder – Understanding How Flowering Plants Respond to Climate Change

A welcome sign of a change in seasons, the year’s first flowers usher in the start of spring. Yet, as the climate warms, some flowers are blooming earlier. Since plants respond to environmental cues, such as temperature, shifts in their annual development has long been considered an effect of climate change. However, significant warming does not always lead to earlier flowering.

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