SCIENCE NEWS: The signature of snow; Waterproof drone soars over obstacles in fish monitoring; Macroinvertebrates meet microplastics; The gnawing question of saltwater beavers; and more …

Swirling phytoplankton in the Gulf of Finland; photo by Stuart Rankin

In science news this week:

The signature of snow:  “The history of the planet can be found inside a sediment core at the bottom of the ocean, or the cake-like layers of a soil pit, or in the strata of the Grand Canyon. So it shouldn’t be too surprising that the climatic history of water — and a hint about its future — can sometimes be found by digging into a pit of snow.  “Snowpack does have a stratigraphy when you dig those pits,” said Katherine Markovich, whose graduate research at UC Davis and with UC Water took her to the mountains of Chile. Her work there, along with fellow graduate students Stephen Maples and Lauren Foster, is chronicled in a video from UCTV Sustainable California called “Water’s Signature.” ... ”  Read more from UC Davis here:  The signature of snow

AquaDrone Waterproof Drone Soars over Obstacles in Fishing and Fish Monitoring: ““I came up with the idea about five years ago,” says Dan Marion, Founder, and CEO of AguaDrone based in Vero Beach, Florida. “I do a lot of fishing, and I came up with the idea of a waterproof drone that could help with my fishing, and could help others fish, too. I came up with the idea of interchangeable pods for different functions I wanted, so it wouldn’t be hard to switch functions to suit what I needed while out there trying to catch fish.”  Since then, Marion has been contacted by Shark Tank, Make Me A Millionaire Inventor and Discovery Daily Planet in Canada. “Everyone’s been calling me!” Marion laughs. Not only people who fish but also researchers, including marine biologists and others who spend their lives delving into the inner workings of fish and other aquatic life. … ”  Read more from Environmental Monitor here:  AquaDrone Waterproof Drone Soars over Obstacles in Fishing and Fish Monitoring

Macroinvertebrates meet microplastics:  “Our planet is awash in plastic. It’s ubiquitous, takes hundreds of years to degrade, and more is constantly being produced. Numerous studies have assessed plastic making its way into food webs, and the potentially fatal effects it can have on organisms around the world; however, only a mere 4 percent of these studies have focused on freshwater systems. While the oceans represent a much larger proportion of the Earth’s total water than rivers (about 97 percent compared to less than one percent), the continuous injection of plastic into our planet’s freshwater veins still warrants investigation. Since waterways are interconnected, rivers actually contribute an enormous proportion of the pollution that ends up in the oceans. In fact, just 10 rivers contribute 88 to 95 percent of the global plastic load flowing into the ocean. While seeking to expand the limited scientific understanding of the effects of plastic in freshwater systems, a team of researchers from Wales recently discovered that plastic is even being eaten by the smallest insects at the base of river food webs (Windsor et al. 2019). ... ”  Read more from FishBio here:  Macroinvertebrates meet microplastics

Microplastic contamination found in common source of groundwater:  “Microplastics contaminate the world’s surface waters, yet scientists have only just begun to explore their presence in groundwater systems. A new study is the first to report microplastics in fractured limestone aquifers — a groundwater source that accounts for 25 percent of the global drinking water supply.  The study identified microplastic fibers, along with a variety of medicines and household contaminants, in two aquifer systems in Illinois. The findings are published in the journal Groundwater. … ”  Read more from Science Daily here:  Microplastic contamination found in common source of groundwater

The gnawing question of saltwater beavers:  “The female beaver laying on a table in the exam room was nearly comatose, her whiskered face and nimble paws twitching with seizures. Bethany Groves, the attending wildlife veterinarian, had seen beavers before, many the victims of car strikes and dog attacks. Those patients tended to be feisty, snapping their orange, self-sharpening incisors—fortified with iron—at Groves’s hands. This 16-kilogram adult, though, had none of the species’ usual vigor. Within a day, the animal was dead.  Groves found a clue to the beaver’s demise in the circumstances of its death. … ”  Read more from Hakai Magazine here:  The gnawing question of saltwater beavers

Once-abundant sea stars imperiled by disease along West Coast:  “The combination of ocean warming and an infectious wasting disease has devastated populations of large sunflower sea stars once abundant along the West Coast of North America in just a few years, according to research co-led by the University of California, Davis, and Cornell University published Jan. 30 in the journal Science Advances.  “At one time plentiful in nearshore waters, the sunflower sea stars right now cannot be found off the California coast and are rare into Alaska,” said Drew Harvell, Cornell professor of ecology and evolutionary biology, a co-lead author. “Numbers of the sea stars have stayed so low in the past three years, we consider them endangered in the southern part of their range, and we don’t have data for northern Alaska.” ... ”  Read more from Science Daily here:  Once-abundant sea stars imperiled by disease along West Coast

Seas may be rising faster than thought:  “A new Tulane University study questions the reliability of how sea-level rise in low-lying coastal areas such as southern Louisiana is measured and suggests that the current method underestimates the severity of the problem.  Relative sea-level rise, which is a combination of rising water level and subsiding land, is traditionally measured using tide gauges. But researchers Molly Keogh and Torbjörn Törnqvist argue that in coastal Louisiana, tide gauges tell only a part of the story. … ”  Read more from Science Daily here:  Seas may be rising faster than thought

Maven’s XKCD Comic Pick of the Week …

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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

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