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Our Daily Planet: Maria A Year Later, Fall Foliage Outlook, Antarctic #MeToo Moment, and our IOTW and Hero of the Week
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By: Monica Medina and Miro Korenha

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Friday, September 21st, 2018

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 Storms  

Oscar Carrion taught himself to repair his neighbor’s power lines in Puerto Rico. Photo: Carolina Moreno/Huffington Post

One Year After Maria Puerto Ricans Fear Future Storms


Yesterday (and in the same week that Hurricane Florence passed over the Carolinas) marked the 1-year anniversary of Hurricane Maria’s devastation of Puerto Rico. We now know that nearly 3,000 Americans lost their lives when the storm struck and in the aftermath when people were left without power and water for months (some still do not have steady access). Thousands of Puerto Ricans are still displaced and some are on the brink of homelessness as FEMA has stopped paying for their temporary housing. Additionally, many power lines were not rebuilt by government relief efforts so residents like Oscar Carrion had to take it upon himself to raise money and learn to repair them in his neighborhood and those nearby. “I kept working until I restored power in all the communities, over six thousand residences,” he told the Huffington Post, a glimmer of pride in his eyes.

One year later and while many have been able to start rebuilding, they fear that with the money they have received from FEMA that they are not able build homes that can withstand another storm. Homes that are reinforced cost more to build than the $13,000 many Puerto Ricans have been issued by FEMA and people are praying that another storm doesn’t come to destroy what they’ve been able to rebuild. For Puerto Ricans on the island and for those that have fled to the mainland, many are still struggling to get by and feel completely forgotten especially when our own president denies the death tolls. September 20, 2017 will be a day marked forever in Puerto Rico’s history and as Dante Disparte stated in Forbes, “For a country whose motto is E Pluribus Unum – out of many, one – no American should take comfort in what transpired in Puerto Rico on this fateful day nor in the gaping holes it revealed in our national safety net.

Why This Matters: Aside from the human suffering, what has been so unsettling since Hurricane Maria struck is the disinterest by Washington to earnestly help Puerto Rico. Much of the aid and resources that were given were bandaids for a problem that requires serious attention and strategy. Puerto Rico’s governor has estimated that it will take a staggering $94.4 billion to rebuild while the FEMA chief estimates $50 billion, either way, both men agree that island is entirely unprepared to face another hurricane. 
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 Ice

The newly renamed Matataua Glacier in Antarctica   Photo: Peter Reicek, National Science Foundation

Me Too Movement Results in Renaming of Antarctic Glacier

The U.S. Board on Geographic Names last week took the unprecedented step of renaming the Marchant Glacier in the Royal Society Range of Antarctica to be the Matataua Glacier because the previous namesake, geologist David Marchant, sexually harassed one of his former students, Jane Willenbring during fieldwork in Antarctica nearly 20 years ago. The San Diego Union-Tribune reports that Ms. Willenbring said she was “pleased and surprised” by the move.  She told the Journal Science that the decision “sends a message that this sort of thing isn’t tolerated anymore.”  Science further reports that the glacier’s new name “Matataua”  means “a scout before the troops” in the language of the Maori people of New Zealand.  

Willenbring did not file a complaint against Marchant until 2016, when she finally received tenure, even though the harassment occurred in 1999-2000 while she was a graduate student. Kelly Falkner, director of the Office of Polar Programs at the National Science Foundation, said “Boston University found Marchant created an environment that was hostile and harmful to fellow researchers, particularly women. That behavior is unacceptable and impedes scientific progress.” The Board on Geographic Names requires that geographic landmarks should be named for people who have made extraordinary or outstanding contributions to the advancement of polar science. 

Why This Matters:  Ms. Willenbring said it better than we ever could.  She told the Union-Trib, “When someone comes forward after decades of silence, some people evoke the idea that there’s a statute of limitations on things like this,” Willenbring said. “There’s this feeling that people don’t remember what happened decades ago. I am shocked by that idea. A woman absolutely remembers the event.”Willenbring added: “There is this perception that men are on thin ice with women. It is easy to remain off thin ice; treat women professionally.”  

Jane Willenbring of Scripps Institution
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 Trees

Northeast Has Best Outlook for Fall Foliage

Leaf peepers take note — for the best foliage head to New England. Forecasters say the most vibrant autumn leaves are likely to be found from southern New York to southern New England.  According to AccuWeather Meteorologist Max Vido, “[i]n this region, rainfall has not been as extreme from the summer months and near- to below-normal autumn rain is expected.” Plus, he said, “[t]here is a greater likelihood for the dry, cool nights and sunshine-filled days that enhance leaf vibrancy.”

Here is the outlook for each other region of the U.S.:
  • The remainder of the East — including the Ohio Valley, mid-Atlantic and Southern Appalachians — will struggle because meteorologists are predicting a warm and wet fall.
  • Much of the South — including the Smoky and Appalachians — have lost much of their leaf cover pre-maturely due to Hurricane Florence.
  • The Upper Midwest is forecast to have frequent storms that will also cause an early leaf drop there.
  • The Northwest will have plenty of foliage but the colors will not be vibrant because the summer drought has stressed trees, causing colors to be delayed and vibrant yellows, reds, and oranges may struggle to develop.
Why This Matters:  Because fall is the favorite season for many people, these foliage forecasts are more than just interesting — they drive fall tourism as well.  It is a great time to be outdoors regardless — so just as we did in the summer, we encourage everyone to take a nature break with your family and friends and enjoy the fall wherever you are!
This story was brought to you by the National Wildlife Federation.  To learn more about how the National Wildlife Federation can help you connect your family with the outdoors, click here.
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 People

Interview of the Week:  Jon White, RADM (Ret.) and CEO Consortium for Ocean Leadership

Admiral White is President and CEO of the leading consortium of ocean science and technology institutions from academia, public aquariums, and industry.  He spent 32 years in the Navy where he served ultimately as the Navy’s chief scientist.  He is an expert on ocean resources and we asked him about one area of growing interest — aquaculture.

ODP:  With wild capture fisheries unable to keep up with the need for protein globally, is much more aquaculture development inevitable?  
 
AJW:  Absolutely!  The world’s population is fast approaching eight billion and is on its way to at least nine by mid-century. Protein from the sea is essential to meet the growing demand, yet the majority of wild-caught fisheries are being fished at or increasingly above sustainable rates.  In most nations, the majority of seafood consumed is from aquaculture sources already, but we must dramatically increase the amount of farmed seafood we consume — especially finfish — to meet demand and allow our natural fisheries to recover.
 
ODP:  What are the biggest areas of risks associated with finfish aquaculture and is there sufficient research funding to develop solutions to those risks?
 
AJW:  Escapement and feed impacts. Farmed fish (near or offshore) that escape and enter the environment can lead to the spread of invasive species, undesired genetics, or even illnesses. The design and construction of fish pens and monitoring systems can reduce or prevent escapes, and additional (government-funded) research and development are needed for more effective and affordable means to do this on a grand scale. Another major and legitimate concern is the impact of fish food and fish waste on the environment. This can be resolved through nutritional research with the goal to produce alternative feed sources that are affordable, healthier for the ocean (put less nitrogen and phosphorus in the water), safe for human consumption, and that reduce overfishing risk of species used for fish meal.
 
ODP:  What does the U.S. aquaculture industry need federal and state governments to do to foster growth?  
 
AJW:  I believe the industry needs public-private partnerships for research and development, clear authorities for permitting or even leases, and concerted champions for sustainable fish aquaculture to get communities and consumers onboard. Accelerated advancements in U.S. agriculture came about through vigorous federal and state funding, as well as the development of partnerships through the extension program; aquaculture needs the same thing.

ODP:  What does the public need state and federal governments to do to protect ocean and human health in the face of growing aquaculture? 

AJW:  The public needs clear and up-to-date communication and active engagement from all government offices on the opportunities and benefits of greatly expanded, environmentally sustainable aquaculture. This includes measures to ensure transparency and traceability to know where fish are coming from; clear authorities and resources to monitor impacts; means to hold industry accountable and revoke permits if needed; as well as stable funding to support ocean and human health research, including incentives or subsidies to help industry offset the cost of scientific and technological advancement.
 
ODP:  What is the area of greatest potential growth for finfish aquaculture right now?  
 
There is great potential in federal (and some state) waters for what is known as “offshore aquaculture,” where deep water and constant flow allow the fish to grow quickly. There is also significant potential for growth of land-based recirculating aquaculture systems (RAS), which are essentially aquariums where the water is continuously cleaned and reused to ensure fish health. Both types are necessary to meet the growing demand for profitable industries. 
 
ODP:  Where should research dollars be going?  

AJW:  Science and technology are critical for ensuring the sustainability of aquaculture environmentally, socially, and economically. Some areas for research investment are drug and vaccination research (to keep fish and humans healthy), development of better and cheaper means to monitor environmental impacts, reproductive study and discovery to determine what fish are best for meeting  demand with economic feasibility in mind, technological improvements (to feed fish, monitor environment, purify RAS water, etc.), and let’s not forget education and social science initiatives to help consumers understand and embrace the numerous benefits of sustainable aquaculture.
 
ODP:   Would greater government investment in research and science on sustainable finfish aquaculture speed its development and ensure food security going forward? 
 
AJW:  Yes, federal and state investments in research are essential to advance sustainable aquaculture that is economically viable while also attracting the capital investment needed for rapid industry growth. Fish must be healthy and affordable on national and global scales, and I believe subsidies and government-led partnerships are essential to the necessary growth of the U.S. aquaculture industry, as well as to our international leadership in healthy and prosperous aquaculture that sustains the ocean and our posterity.
 
Thank you, Admiral White, for helping us to understand this complex issue.  The key to expanding aquaculture lies in making sure that it is done in a way that can ensure food security and ocean health.

To Go Deeper: 
The Consortium will be working with stakeholders on aquaculture in the coming months.  See this website for additional information.  
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 Hero

Hero of the Week: Matthew Marchetti, founder of CrowdSource Rescue

Matthew Marchetti was a victim of Hurricane Harvey last year and as a former EMT he wanted to put his skills to use to help people that were stranded or needed assistance. He turned to Facebook to see if he could find people needing help and the posts and updates he came across were almost countless. As USA Today described, with 911 systems overwhelmed and a lack of organized efforts to corral and dispatch civilian rescuers, Marchetti resolved to do something about it. That night, Marchetti built a basic online mapping program to give a handful of volunteers – mostly people he knew – a place to coordinate their rescue efforts. At best, Marchetti thought, people from his church could use it to try to get into neighborhoods to help, connecting elderly people with vetted rescuers. The tool became so useful that it has been activated 8 times sincer Hurricane Harvey and more than 13,500 people – including 780 people with first-responder training – have signed in to voluntarily evacuate more than 37,500 people who were otherwise trapped or stranded.  Marchetti’s tool called CrowdSource Rescue has gained international praise and has likely saved thousands of lives! 

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 Oceans

Photo: Erik Engeberg
One Cool Thing: Robo Moon Jelly Explores the Ocean 

Scientists have created several robots in the past to explore the ocean (some cool ones include this sea otter, tuna, and octopus) but as Wired reported this week, a team at Florida Atlantic University unveiled a new eight-inch wide robo-jellyfish built to monitor marine life and harsh underwater habitats. The robo-jelly is made of soft rubber and is designed to mimic a moon jelly’s movement as it surveys coral reefs and hard to reach crevices. In its next iteration, researchers hope the robot can descend several hundred feet below the surface and use sonar to navigate its own slow journey through the sea.
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Although it still feels like summer here in DC, Saturday will mark the first day of fall. We wish you a wonderful season ahead that will be perfect for looking at stars, enjoying all the apples, and catching some beautiful foliage. Hope you have a great weekend and see you Monday morning! 
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