Tag Archives: Ottawa East

The Billion Oyster Project

The New York Harbor for years has been a polluted wasteland. One non profit is trying to do something about this with oysters.

The billion Oyster project has partnered with more than 70 New York restaurants. The businesses save the  shells of the oysters that they serve. The project gathers them up and takes them to a small island off to an island near the Statue of Liberty. By leaving them outside for a year or so, they become naturally cleansed.

The cleansed shells are then sent to the New York Harbor School, where the students hatch and grow baby oysters that are then attached to the shells. The shells and their larvae are grouped together and strategically placed somewhere off the local coastline. 12 reefs have been started.

Hundreds of years ago when the first Europeans were first arrived in the area there were oyster reefs everywhere….and the harvesting began. By the early 1900’s New York Harbor was polluted and virtually lifeless. Dumping waste or raw sewage was allowed until the passage of the Clean Water Act of 1972. only recently has the water become clean enough to support shellfish like oysters, mussels, and clams.

These shellfish will not only filter and clean water , but also provide a physical barrier. The oyster reefs provide a natural breakwater dissipating the effects of storms like Hurricane Sandy that  can rip through the area.

The Billion Oyster Project is just under way and having success, cleaning our water one oyster at a time.


Garbage Study Counts Trash from Texas to Florida.

Trash, mainly plastic, in the ocean and along the shoreline is an economic, environmental, human health, and aesthetic problem causing serious challenges to coastal communities around the world, including the Gulf of Mexico.

Researchers have teamed up to do a 2 yr study to document the problem along the gulf of Mexico shoreline. From Feb 2015 to August 2017  researchers kept and eye on marine debris that washed up on the shoreline at 12 different sites from Texas to Florida. The trash was sorted by type, frequency, and location.

The most shocking discovery was that ten times more trash washes up on the coast of Texas than any of the other gulf states.

Most of the trash, 69 to 95% is plastic. These include bottles, bottle caps, straws, and broken pieces of plastic. More pieces of plastic washed up in spring and summer, perhaps because we are out and about more at these times.

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.