SCIENCE NEWS: Electromagnetic surveys in the sky and on land give a view of what’s below the surface; Not your average pond; Protecting birds – on their own terms; Can we save Northwest salmon?; and more …

Example of a resistivity map. Photo by USGS.
In science news this week: Electromagnetic surveys in the sky and on land give a view of what’s below the surface; Not your average pond; Protecting birds … on their own terms; Northwest salmon, the stuff of legends, struggle to survive: Can we save them – and at what price?; Technology spotlight: The smolt spy; The way rivers function reflects their ecological status and is rarely explored; Seawalls: Ecological effects of coastal armoring in soft sediment environments; Atlantic/Pacific ocean temperature difference fuels US wildfires

Electromagnetic surveys in the sky and on land give a view of what’s below the surface:  “It’s like something out of a science-fiction movie: in an empty field in the middle of nowhere, hundreds of feet of wire hum with barely audible electricity. A group of scientists take a peek under the Earth’s surface, all without disturbing a speck of soil; what is revealed to them will forever change their understanding of this part of the planet. On a 1950s silver screen, mad-scientists in impeccable lab coats would have discovered an underground colony or remnants of a long-lost civilization. In the 21st century, actual real-life scientists in dusty clothes uncover the geological secrets stored underground, secrets that shape their knowledge of an area’s geological history and groundwater resources.  The technique is called electromagnetic surveying, and scientists at the California Water Science Center are using it to study geology and groundwater throughout California. … ”  Read more from the USGS Water Science Center here:  Electromagnetic surveys in the sky and on land give a view of what’s below the surface

Not your average pond:  “With the dog days of summer quickly approaching and temperatures rising across the state, our heavy winter rains might seem like a distant dream. Just as ephemeral is a special kind of habitat  that comes and goes with the rain, known as vernal pools. One of the most unique ecosystems in California, vernal pools are a type of temporary wetland that typically occur in Mediterranean climates. They are commonly observed in open fields, and form slowly by rainwater that accumulates in poorly draining depressions over impermeable soils or bedrock (Weitkamp et al. 1996). Vernal pools form independently of streams or groundwater sources (Zedler 1987), so these fleeting habitats eventually disappear once all of the water evaporates. But while they exist, vernal pools support a wide array of specialized organisms that include plants, crustaceans, amphibians and insects. In fact, 33 distinct species of plants and animals rely on these habitats in California and southern Oregon. … ”  Read more from the FishBio blog here:  Not your average pond

Protecting birds … on their own terms:  “Walking to her office after lunch, Jennifer Brown couldn’t stop laughing.  “This is one of the craziest calls I’ve ever gotten,” she said with a huge smile. “A chiropractor told me he gave back adjustments to a bird he rescued and the bird enjoyed listening to Pink Floyd!”  Brown is one of the bird experts at the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s regional office in Sacramento. When the telephone rings at her desk, the calls nearly always involve birds—baby birds, annoying birds and sometimes, dead birds.  “People call this office for all kinds of things, from mockingbirds waking them up in the morning to birds in the chimney,” she said. … ”  Read more from the US FWS here:  Protecting birds … on their own terms

Northwest salmon, the stuff of legends, struggle to survive: Can we save them – and at what price?  “The salmon of the Northwest are the stuff of legends.  Pioneers talked of rivers so thick that they were tempted to cross on the backs of the fish. When Meriwether Lewis led his band of explorers through the Northwest in 1805, he marveled in his journal of “almost inconceivable” numbers of salmon.  At one time, 8 million to 16 million Columbia and Snake river salmon rode spring flows from tributaries such as the cold, clear Salmon and Clearwater rivers to the ocean, living one to three years before making the daunting upstream trip to their native waters to spawn and die. … ”  Read more from the Idaho Statesman here:  Northwest salmon, the stuff of legends, struggle to survive: Can we save them – and at what price?

Technology spotlight: The smolt spy:  “At FISHBIO, we specialize in both counting fish and building things. This naturally led us to construct our own automated video system for monitoring fish passage, called the Smolt Spy. Using video to record fish passage at structures like dams and weirs has been around since the days of using VHS tapes for recording. As fisheries biologists, we are always looking for improved ways to collect fisheries data. Today, smaller cameras, better lighting options, and software that speeds up the review process have led to big improvements in video monitoring technology. Recent advances allow us to manipulate the video image resolution, set the frame rate, and switch from color to black-and-white video for recording at night under infrared lighting to create equipment tailored for various applications. … ”  Read more from FishBio here:  Technology spotlight: The smolt spy

The way rivers function reflects their ecological status and is rarely explored:  “The Ecología de ríos/Stream Ecology research group of the UPV/EHU’s Department of Plant Biology and Ecology is a group that specialises in the study of the way rivers function; it comprises experts from numerous areas who have combined their knowledge with a broad range of bibliographical information in the context of the European Globaqua Project in which more than 10 European institutions are participating. One outcome of such a broad piece of work is a long article “in which we synthesize and classify all the processes that can be measured in rivers; we explain how the measurements can be made (methods existing in the literature), how these processes respond to various environmental stressors, etc.,” explained Daniel von Schiller, one of the authors of the article. It is a “proposal that puts forward a new, highly appropriate working framework for both researchers and managers,” he pointed out. … ”  Read more from Science Daily here:  The way rivers function reflects their ecological status and is rarely explored

Seawalls: Ecological effects of coastal armoring in soft sediment environments:  “For nearly a century, the O’Shaughnessy seawall has held back the sand and seas of San Francisco’s Ocean Beach. At work even longer: the Galveston seawall, built after America’s deadliest hurricane in 1900 killed thousands in Texas.  These are just two examples of how America’s coasts — particularly those with large urban populations — have been armored with humanmade structures.  These structures essentially draw a line in the sand that constrains the ability of the shoreline to respond to changes in sea level and other dynamic coastal processes. While the resulting ecological effects have been studied more in recent years, the research largely has been conducted in specific settings, making it difficult to generalize these effects across ecosystems and structure types. … ”  Read more from Science Daily here:  Seawalls: Ecological effects of coastal armoring in soft sediment environments

Atlantic/Pacific ocean temperature difference fuels US wildfires:  “An international team of climate researchers from the US, South Korea and the UK has developed a new wildfire and drought prediction model for southwestern North America. Extending far beyond the current seasonal forecast, this study published in the journal Scientific Reports could benefit the economies with a variety of applications in agriculture, water management and forestry.  Over the past 15 years, California and neighboring regions have experienced heightened drought conditions and an increase in wildfire numbers with considerable impacts on human livelihoods, agriculture, and terrestrial ecosystems. This new research shows that in addition to a discernible contribution from natural forcings and human-induced global warming, the large-scale difference between Atlantic and Pacific ocean temperatures plays a fundamental role in causing droughts, and enhancing wildfire risks. … ”  Read more from Science Daily here:  Atlantic/Pacific ocean temperature difference fuels US wildfires

Maven’s XKCD Comic Pick of the Week …

Daily emailsSign up for daily email service and you’ll never miss a post!

Sign up for daily emails and get all the Notebook’s aggregated and original water news content delivered to your email box by 9AM. Breaking news alerts, too. Sign me up!


About Science News and Reports: This weekly feature, posted every Thursday, is a collection of the latest scientific research and reports with a focus on relevant issues to the Delta and to California water, although other issues such as climate change are sometimes included. Do you have an item to be included here? Submissions of relevant research and other materials is welcome. Email Maven

Print Friendly, PDF & Email