Monthly Archives: December 2018

Seals react to new ecotourism regulations.

Seals are quick to react defensively as soon as the perceive  a potential life threat. They can’t tell if the approaching boat is a predator or just full of curious humans. The closer the boat approaches the more likely the animals will rush into the sea in an attempt to escape. There is a risk of injury or even death in the stampede, or predation once in the water. The act of remaining vigilant comes at potentially high energetic costs for animals.


When a seal first detects a threat while onshore. they first change their posture , watch the object, and remain alert until the danger is gone. In a field survey a response was triggered when the research boat came to within 75 metres of the colony. When there was only 25m between the seals and the boat many animals fled to the water. This reaction is dangerous to the seals…but especially to their pups. In a large scale stampede pups can easily be crushed or fall from cliffs.

As the result of the study boats are restricted to 100m on the approach when rearing of pups takes place. During the breeding period 200m is the distance to be maintained.

These finding are from a single colony of Australian fur seals, and are therefore insufficient to generalize the findings to other species.

Cloud droplets have a secret life.


Driving through a rainstorm, raindrops streak across the windows just like water droplets in clouds travel in airflow streamlines…following currents of air usually without touching. Air inside clouds can be more turbulent, as people who fly alot can tell you. Swirling turbulent air causes droplets to cluster.

For many years scientists thought that water droplets did cluster in clouds, but clouds swirl in vast scales that doubts persisted. Atmospheric scientists have finally taken instruments into the atmosphere  and confirmed that droplets do indeed cluster inside clouds.

If droplets cluster in the clouds , they are more likely to collide. Collisions increase at the rate that which the droplets grow, and decrease the time needed until precipitation begins.

Knowing more about clustering improves the general knowledge of clouds and can lead to improvements in forecasting the behavior of clouds. When will they rain? How long will they last?

A Vast Underground Reservoir.

Scientists have found a vast lake underneath the surface of Mars, a big breakthrough in the search for alien life.  This is the first time a sable water supply has been detected on Mars, resolving decade old discussions if there is any water at all..because if no water then no life.

The vast lake lies underneath Mar’s southern pole and stretches 20 km across. Long ago Mars was a warmer and wetter, with significant bodies of water.

The discovery was found by the Mars Express spacecraft. Radar pulses penetrate the surface and the ice caps on Mars and are measured on their return. The data generated showed a very sharp change of signals from about 1.5 km beneath the surface. The data was compared to that seen beneath the Antarctic and Greenland. The suggestion being that mycobacterial life could live in these extreme condition.

It is even colder on Mars than in the Antarctic or Greenland, making the discovery of liquid water even more amazing. The water itself is probably a briny sludge..the salt being why it is liquid at all.

It remains to be seen if there are more subsurface reservoirs..stay tuned.

The Water Carriers

The lives of the women and girls in Kakora, Tanzania is transforming due in part to a clean water project funded by Canada.

Many of the women and girls of the local area are water carriers, journeying up to 10 times a day to their water source. They deliver the precious resource that is or was not always clean, but it was all that was available.

One young water carrier, Raphael, has become a water engineer for the regional government. She is part of a team that has installed a water tower in the village of Kakora. in May. Kakora is the first of several more villages in the area that will receive clean water by 2020 through an initiative by the Canadian government.

Raphael wants to change the lives of so many of the women in the region who can not school or work as their days are spent hauling water. A water carrier can spend up to 5 hours a day fetching water. The days starts with a 2 k walk to the water source, fill a 20 litre bucket that weighs 44 lbs, put it on her head,  carry it back to the village, and repeat 4-5 times per day.

The water comes from a pond that is not always clean, but it is the only water available to wash , cook , and bath in. In dry season it might be a 10k oneway trip to a water source, often in the dark where predators are a real issue

Today in Kakora the water tower holds enough water for the 3,000 residents. Women fill up at the local tap, with the hours used for school or work. Cases of water-borne illnesses are diminished, cholera down by 90%.


Mussels and Microplastic

New research shows that mussels will readily take in microplastics, but quickly flush them out again.

Man made microplastics are seen through the world’s oceans. The big pieces you can see on the beaches, but the microplastics are everywhere. The most abundant being in fiber form which shed easily from carpets and fleece clothing and such. Their small size makes them edible to marine life as small as zooplankton. Plastic can both directly affect the animals that ingest it, and build up in the animals that feed on them …including humans.

Through lab experiments it was seen that the mussels quickly rejected most of the fibers, quickly coating them with mucus and expelling them. However, one in ten fibers got inside accumulating them in their body tissues. The scientists upon moving the afflicted mussels to clean water noted the mussels  flushed most of the accumulated fiber out of their bodies.

The Amazing Gecko Walks on Water.

Geckos can stick to smooth walls, swing from leaves and skitter along the surface of water…in essence walking on water. By slapping the surface of the water with all for limbs they create surface bubbles and exploit the surface of the water travelling at speeds that can match what they achieve on land.

They should not be able to do this but they can move at almost a meter per second, faster than if they were fully emerged. The front 70% of the geckos body rises up out of the water. Since water is harder to move through than air, this positioning helps the gecko move through the water at about 10.5 body lengths per second.