On The Radio- Increasing Summer Heat


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Midday heat (wexass/flickr)

Kasey Dresser | September 17, 2018

This weeks segment talks about why Iowa and other mid-latitude states are experiencing hotter summers.

Transcript:

Summers in mid-latitudes, including Iowa, are warming faster than other seasons, a recent study found.

This is the Iowa Environmental Focus.

Between forty and sixty degrees latitude in the Northern Hemisphere, an area from the southern Iowa border to mid Canada warmed more rapidly in the summer than in the winter over a thirty-eight-year-period,

The study published in the journal Science attributed this finding to the fact that a substantial amount of Earth’s land mass is concentrated in this zone, and land tends to heat up more quickly than the ocean. This can have serious implications on agriculture, because much of this land is used to grow crops in the summer, particularly in Iowa.

This study was conducted using a fingerprint method, meaning the researchers could distinguish natural climatic warming from increased temperatures due to human activity.

For more information, visit iowa-environmental-focus-dog-org.

From the UI Center for Global and Regional Environmental Research, I’m Sara E. Mason.

 

On The Radio- Soil Conservation Mapping


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Kasey Dresser | September 10, 2018

This weeks segment talks about how Iowa is the country leader in soil conservation mapping.

Transcript:

Iowa is now one of the country’s leaders in soil conservation mapping.

This is the Iowa Environmental Focus.

Iowa officials have recently completed a map of the conservation efforts in the state. This map identifies the six different methods of soil conservation used in Iowa—including terraces, ponds, grassed waterways, sediment control basins, and more. The map shows where practices are deployed and how they are funded.

The map also acts as a visual for determining how different areas of Iowa are being funded for their conservation efforts, and whether that funding is public or private.

Iowa is the first state to conduct such a thorough analysis of its conservation practices statewide. The project took three years and was a joint effort between Iowa State University and the Iowa Department of Natural Resources. Researchers used something called LiDAR—laser imaging software—and years of aerial photographs to compile the conservation map.

Iowa State University is currently performing additional research to build a newer map, one that also shows the reduction of sediment and phosphorous buildup in Iowa’s waterways.

For more information, visit Iowa Environmental Focus dot org.

From the UI Center for Global and Regional Environmental Research, I’m Sara E Mason.

 

EnvIowa- Iowa City Climate Action Steering Committee


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CGRER member Charles Stanier speaks about his experience on the Iowa City Climate Action Steering Committee.

Eden DeWald| September 6, 2018

Episode 9 of the EnvIowa Podcast gives an inside look at how the City of Iowa City created its climate plan. We spoke with the Iowa City Sustainability Coordinator Brenda Nations, about her role in the planning process, and about why Iowa City needs a climate action plan. CGRER member Charles Stanier was a part of the steering committee that provided input for the climate action plan, and helped to personalize the plan to fit Iowa City. He provided context for this EnvIowa episode about what it was like being a member of the steering committee and implementing a climate action plan in his community.

The Iowa City Climate Action Plan has ambitious goals—like aiming to reduce Iowa City emissions by 80% by 2050. Take a peek at this episode of EnvIowa to learn more about the process of creating this plan!

 

An alternative to artificial preservatives


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Bowl of fruit (photo credit to Suzy Hazelwood)

Kasey Dresser | August 22, 2018

A research team at the Nanyang Technological University in Singapore have found a plant- based preservative that could replace artificial preservatives.

Flavonoid is a group of phytonutrients found in fruits and vegetables that has recently been used as a natural preservative in food.  The naturally occurring chemical is responsible for defending the plant against pathogens, pests, or other environmental stressors. It is also the reason onions, tea, strawberries, kale, grapes and other foods have such vivid colors.

During testing in a room temperature environment, food with flavonoids were able to stay fresh for 2 days without refrigeration while current artificial preservatives succumb to bacteria after 6 hours.

This research could not be announced at a better time as just last month the American Academy of Pediatrics had 67,000 pediatricians in the U.S. step forward about their concerns of nitrates and nitrites being used to preserve meat products. Research has show that nitrates and nitrites can interfere with thyroid hormone production, the metabolic process and cause gastrointestinal and nervous system cancers. Flavonoids are packed with vitamins and do not cause harm to the digestive system.

A former adviser to the World Health Organization and consultant Medical Oncologist, Dr. Gabriel Oon Chong Jin said in an interview, “Flavonoids are important natural food supplements with vitamins, but also used as food additives, without causing harm to the human system. This is unlike currently available artificial preservatives used in most processed foods such as aspartame and nitrates, which may cause cancer among other adverse health effects.”

The research team is being led by Professor William Chen, the Director of NTU’s Food Science & Technology program. The recent findings were published in last month’s Food Chemistry journal.

UI begins new sustainable water graduate program


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The University of Iowa is home to a new graduate program for sustainable water development. (Vkulikov/Wikipedia)

Katelyn Weisbrod | July 5, 2018

The University of Iowa’s new Sustainable Water Development graduate program goes beyond science and engineering to give its “trainees” a holistic understanding of food, energy, and water.

The program is in its first year with a class of 17 students from around the country with a vast array of career goals. Coursework employs several different disciplines, like entrepreneurship and health in addition to science and engineering.

“I’m excited to think that when I’m finished here, I won’t just be an engineer — I’ll be a scientist, a budget expert, and a public health expert. I’ll definitely be better prepared for whatever the world throws at me,” Amina Grant, a student in the program, said to Iowa Now.

The National Science Foundation Research Traineeship awarded a $3 million grant to the UI to start this program in 2016. Program director David Cwiertny believes the multidisciplinary proposal and the opportunities the state provides made Iowa the best choice for the grant.

“The state really does feed the world,” Cwiertny said to Iowa Now. “Iowa is also a leader in wind energy and is dealing with important water quality issues. This makes the state the perfect place for a training program for professionals who want to address water, food, and energy issues.”

Seattle bans straws


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Five hundred million straws are used everyday in the US (Jeff G/flickr)

Eden DeWald | July 4th, 2018

Seattle is making a move to reduce single use plastics, by banning straws and any single use plastic utensils from restaurants and all other dining venues. Straws that are reusable or can be composted are still allowed, but the ordinance has a strong preference towards not providing any straws.  

Five hundred million plastic straws are used everyday in the United States. Because they are so lightweight, used straws find their way into the ocean quite easily. Once in the ocean, straws wreak havoc on marine life and seabirds. Approximately 70 percent of seabirds and around one third of turtles found have ingested, or gotten some kind of plastic superficially stuck on their body. There are around fourteen cities in the US that currently have straw bans, but Seattle is the largest city so far to place a ban on straws. However, New York City and the state of California have also gained momentum towards banning single use plastic utensils. 

The city of Seattle has made many other steps towards their mitigating impact on the surrounding ecosystem, including its efforts to help the salmon population. The Salmon in the Schools program allowed schoolchildren to hatch salmon and release them into, providing important environmental education to school children as well as helping to bolster the salmon populations numbers. 

 

On the Radio- The reduced carbon impact of electric buses


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An English electric bus service makes a stop (Paul R/flickr)

Eden DeWald | June 11, 2018

This week’s segment discusses the findings of a new study about the reduced carbon impact of electric buses.

Transcript:

A new study describes the health and economic benefits of electric school buses.

This is the Iowa Environmental Focus.

The Environment America Research and Policy Center recently released a study that describes the advantages of swapping America’s school buses for cleaner electric ones. The center estimates that the switch could reduce pollutants by about 5.3 million tons annually, which is the equivalent of taking one million cars off of the road.

Ninety-five percent of school buses run on diesel fuel. Inhaling diesel exhaust can cause respiratory diseases and worsen existing conditions such as asthma. School children that ride on school buses are especially vulnerable to inhaling in high concentrations of toxic diesel fumes.  

While replacing 480,000 school buses nationwide is a daunting task, the move would actually save states and local school districts money, as each electric bus costs roughly $6,400 less per year to operate.

The study outlines possible financial resources for states to use for the transition, including federal grants and utility investments.

For more information, visit iowa-environmental-focus dot org.

From the Center for Global and Regional Environmental Research, I’m Betsy Stone.