Topic: Ecosystems

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Current Event March 24, 2017

Debate: How Can We Address Global Pollution?

Weather and Climate Ecosystems Air Pollution

Although the United States has cut its emissions of smog-forming pollutants by half over the past few decades, smog levels in the Western United States have increased each year. Now, scientists believe that rising emissions in Asia are causing smog in the United States. Asian emissions have tripled over the past decades and are particularly high in China and India. During the spring, storms lift and carry emissions from Asia to the Western United States, causing fog. Listen to learn more about how emissions levels in different parts of the world are changing and how global climate systems move emissions around the Earth and then debate: How can we address global pollution?

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Amazon deforestation 2010214

Current Event December 4, 2015

Debate: Should Rich Nations Pay to Preserve the Rainforest?

Politics Climate Change Geography Ecosystems

Scientists say the results will be devastating if we don’t address global warming. The Climate Summit in Paris this month will bring countries together to agree on a plan to slow climate change. People call the Amazon rainforest the “lungs of the world.” Most of Europe and America have already cut down their trees in favor of agriculture and industry. Is it fair to ask Brazil to sacrifice its interests to preserve the rainforest for the rest of the globe? Listen to this story and have students choose a side in this debate: Should rich nations pay to preserve the rainforest?

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Current Event December 3, 2015

Butterfly Habitat Under Threat

Climate Change Elementary Animals Ecosystems

The population of monarch butterflies has declined dramatically in recent years. The milkweed population has also declined, and less milkweed equals fewer monarch butterflies. Monarchs lay their eggs exclusively on milkweed and it’s the only thing the larvae will eat. Some reasons for the decline in milkweed include loss of forestland in Mexico where monarchs winter and an increased use of herbicide. Regardless of the reasons, these are big changes. Listen to hear more about what is being done to restore the monarch butterfly population and how that also helps other insects.

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4. trees

Current Event September 30, 2015

How Many Trees?

Life Science Ecosystems

It may seem like planting a billion trees would help global warming because they absorb the greenhouse gas carbon dioxide during photosynthesis. But that would depend on the total number of trees on the planet, which was a number no one knew. Recently, researchers conducted a tree census that gathered the national forest inventories and tree information at a global scale. A previous estimate found 400 billion trees on Earth, but researchers discovered there were 390 billion in the Amazon basin alone. It took over two years to find a better estimate of the number of trees on the planet. Listen to this story to find out the results.

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Forest logging.square

Current Event June 12, 2015

Drones Track Illegal Logging

Life Science Economics Ecosystems

Rainforests are one of the most diverse and important ecosystems on Earth. Many rainforests have been protected as conservation areas or trusts. Unfortunately, some of these areas are so large and remote that they are almost impossible to monitor. A conservation group in Peru is fighting against deforestation by using drones. Small low-flying light weight airplanes can fly over and take pictures of parts of the remote jungle to find deforestation. Listen to learn more about the use of drones to protect the rainforest.

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Mud

Science Middle School

What is Being an Ecologist Really Like?

Life Science Ecosystems Ecology

Some jobs such as doctor, lawyer and teacher, are easy to imagine and define. Other jobs, like being a shellfish and wetland ecologist is a bit harder for young people to understand. Help your students understand what an ecologist does by hearing from ecologist Danielle Kreeger. Kreeger is the science director for a group that works to protect and improve the Delaware River and Bay.

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Jeffersons gardens

Science Middle School

Jefferson's Gardens Display a Diverse Ecosystem

Life Science US History I Ecosystems Plants

Thomas Jefferson’s vegetable garden at Monticello contains over 300 varieties of more than 90 different plants, demonstrating the diversity of Earth’s ecosystem. The former President and founding father prided himself on his diversified and rare collection of plants. And he never failed to record his gardening achievements in his famed “garden book”. Listen to learn more about the history of Jefferson’s garden and it’s current state following restoration.

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Shark survival

Science Middle School

Shark Embryos Fight for Survival

Life Science Ecosystems Evolution Oceans Reproduction

As plants and animals reproduce over time, they are able to change and adapt to ensure or improve their chances of survival. The evolutionary goal of reproduction is paired with the concept of natural selection and survival of the fittest to determine who will reproduce. From colorful plumage to size, different species use different strategies to ensure reproduction and mate selection. The sand tiger shark has a unique strategy to ensure successful reproduction - and it depends on the timing of mating. Listen to learn more about the ultimate sibling rivalry while in the womb.

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Plague threatens ecosystem

Science High School

Plague in Wildlife Threatens Ecosystem

Life Science Health Animals Ecosystems

Infectious diseases like plague don’t just impact humans, they can spread and decimate animal populations as well. One scientist saw the impact of plague in prairie dog colonies and among black footed ferrets. He questioned whether the scientific understanding of plague cycles and transmission was accurate. Listen to learn what scientists discovered about plague and its larger impact on ecosystems.

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Nutella.square

Current Event October 17, 2014

Nutella Drives Nut Production

Life Science Economics Ecosystems

The creamy chocolate, hazelnut spread called Nutella is experiencing a surge in popularity. Kids eat it on bread for breakfast, adults snack on it with bananas and restaurants serve nutella crepes. The increase in demand is putting pressure on the world’s hazelnut crops, which are primarily in Turkey. Listen to this public radio story to learn about the history and current day economics of Nutella.

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Commonloon.square

Current Event September 23, 2014

Birds Signal Climate Change

Life Science Earth and Space Science Climate Change Ecosystems Atmosphere

A recent report shows carbon dioxide levels in the atmosphere rose at a record rate in 2013. Humans aren’t the only species affected by these changes. A new report by the National Audubon Society makes it clear that bird species in the U.S. and Canada are at risk of losing their habitats and potentially their lives due to climate change. Listen to this public radio story with your class to learn more about the links between changing temperatures and bird habitat and survival.

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Overfishing and bluefin tuna

Science Middle School

Overfishing and Blue Fin Tuna

Life Science Environment Ecosystems Human Impacts Oceans

This public radio story takes you on a boat for some blue fin tuna tagging and fishing. It’s action packed but also filled with scientific data about the status of blue fin in our oceans.

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Coral bleaching

Science Middle School

Ocean Warming is Forcing Coral Reefs to Adapt

Life Science Environment Ecosystems Human Impacts Oceans

Oceans around the world are seeing declines in healthy reefs. The changes are caused by many factors, including the increase in ocean temperatures due to global warming. This public radio story is about coral reefs that are endangered. But some corals are thriving despite the increase in ocean temperature.

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An imminent thaw

Science Middle School

The Changing Ecosystem of the Bering Sea

Earth and Space Science Environment Ecosystems Oceans

Ice is an essential component of the ecosystem of the Bering Sea region. For example, sea ice cover can dramatically affect the levels of phytoplankton which has enormous effects on the entire food web. In this public radio story we hear about the health of the Bering Sea ecology by studying scientific observations.

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Manatees

Science Middle School

Changing Ecosystem Threatens Florida's Manatees

Life Science Earth and Space Science Climate Change Weather and Climate Ecosystems Human Impacts

Manatees, the vegetarian aquatic mammals that inhabit the waters of Florida, depend on natural warm water springs to survive the winter. But as a consequence of greater development, those warm water sources have diminished over the years. So manatees have come to depend on the warm water discharge of power plants. But now, they face losing these man-made refuges as power plants strive to be more efficient and environmentally friendly.

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Energy of ecosystems

Science Middle School

Industrial Scale Composting

Life Science Ecosystems Physical Science Energy Ecology

Students in Bellingham, Washington, pushed to introduce composting programs at their high schools and these programs proved successful. This public radio story also gives an insider's view of industrial scale composting from multiple perspectives. It follows food from the school cafeteria to the compost site where it is transformed by microorganisms and eventually to home gardens and nurseries where compost is applied as fertilizer and mulch.

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Weathering and erosion

Science Middle School

Beach Erosion Threatens Infrastructure

Earth and Space Science Environment Geography Ecosystems Physical Science Human Impacts Oceans

What happens when human structures and nature come into conflict? Ocean Beach in San Francisco is naturally eroding, but the consequence of this shifting shoreline is that a sewage treatment plant is put in peril. Without intervention, raw sewage could be dumped into the ocean. A rock wall has temporarily stabilized the pipeline, but not without complications. Now other solutions are being considered, including construction of an artificial dune.

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Using grass for electricity

Science Middle School

Burning Grass for Alternative Electricity

Life Science Earth and Space Science Environment Ecosystems Physical Science

Energy experts are thinking about ways to replace coal that’s burned in American power stations. One alternative is to burn plants because they can produce fewer greenhouse gas emissions. This is called biomass power. This public radio story looks at a movement in the Midwest that uses millions of acres of grass for biomass power.

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Ocean acidification

Science Middle School

Shellfish on your Dinner Plate Threatened by Ocean Acidification

Environment Ecosystems Oceans chemistry

The increasing acidity of the oceans could eventually affect your dinner plate. This public radio story begins in a factory where workers are shucking shellfish. It looks at a shellfish producer and how the company has had a hard time producing juvenile oysters or “seed” because of the increase of CO2 in the ocean. The story examines the impact of ocean acidification on the seafood we eat.

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Spotted dolphins and spinner dolphins

Science Middle School

Spotted Dolphins and Spinner Dolphins

Life Science Animals Ecosystems Human Impacts Oceans

Spotted dolphins and spinner dolphins are often found living with tuna. When people started using large nets to capture tuna in the 1960s, many dolphins were killed as well. Scientists responded by sending “observers” on tuna boats to keep track of the number of dolphins killed. Scientists store samples of different parts of dolphins collected from dolphins killed by the tuna nets. In this public radio story you hear from a scientist who is studying these tissues to try to learn more about these dolphins in order to help preserve dolphin populations.

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