Southern Resident Orcas in Decline

Southern Orcas in steady decline 

The west coast of Canada and the US is host to distinct family groups of Orcas, also known as killer whales, one of which is known as the southern pod. The black and white whales are a popular tourist attraction in the Juan de Fuca and Victoria, BC, area.
The University of Washington has conducted a multiyear study of the southern pod, trying to determine which deleterious environmental stimuli have the most impact on the group. They looked at boat traffic, toxins in the water and abundance of food. The study continued for seven years, from 2007 to 2014.
The conclusion, published this year, named the lack of the Orcas’ preferred food as the number one factor in the decline of this family group. The resident Orcas depend heavily on salmon to maintain their health. The southern population depends on salmon for 95% of its food and the majority of that is the variety known as Chinook Salmon.
The researchers looked at returns to both the Fraser and Columb…

Mandatory Evacuation Ordered for Waterton Lakes Nat. Park

Too often people carelessly start fires. This campsite was the start of a major forest fire in California
The wildfire season continues to wreak havoc in the western part of the continent. Friday a mandatory evacuation order was implemented to clear people from Waterton Lakes National Park. Winds have pushed an out of control fire into the park boundary. This includes the town of Waterton, Alberta.
This fire, labelled the Kenow Fire, is believed to have started in BC from a lightning strike. The hot, dry summer that BC has experienced has led to the worst fire season on record. Metro Vancouver and Vancouver Island have had influxes of smoke from both BC and Washington State wildfires. Washington State is fighting numerous wildfires including five areas where multiple fires have converged to for complex burn areas.
Idaho and Oregon are also fighting numerous large wildfires, many with 20% or less containment. California is battling several serious fires. They have had a hot, dry summer…

Killer Storms Take Aim at US, Mexico

Sept. 8/17 Hurricane Irma

Hurricane season in the Atlantic starts in the autumn when sun warmed waters at heat to storm systems. If enough heat is contributed, a storm may turn into a hurricane. 
Hurricane Harvey slammed into the Texas coast inundating millions of acres of city and farmland. It forced hundreds of thousands to flee their homes, some with only the clothes they were wearing. The decision to not order evacuations of Houston, in retrospect, looks like a mistake. However, during the last major hurricane threat, evacuations claimed more lives than the storm.
Deaths attributed to the “Thousand Year Storm” vary, depending on which agency is reporting, but Fox News and Time Inc. are quoting 70 deaths to date. Damage estimates top US$100 million.
Hurricane Irma is now churning through the Bahamas and heading toward Florida. It is expected to touch the north coast of Cuba which may slow the wind speeds enough to downgrade Irma from a cat. 5 to a cat. 4. That may be cold comfort …

Alien Jelly Blobs Discovered in Vancouver Lake

Colony of Pectinatella magnifica Lost Lagoon in Vancouver, BC, has been harbouring a strange life form. It looks like human brains are sitting in the shallow water but fortunately that isn’t the case. The warm water and abundant microscopic floaties in the lake have made perfect conditions for a variety of Bryozoan.
Bryozoans are tiny animals without backbones. Individuals are around half a millimetre(0.02 inches), but form colonies of thousands which can reach over two feet across. They may be anchored to the bottom or free floating.
The variety found in Lost Lagoon is not native to the area, but was originally found east of the Mississippi River. Over the past few decades the variety has spread across N. America and Europe.
The jelly blobs are not harmful to humans but they are pretty repulsive to us. The colony forms around a base of mucus and the surface of the colony is also covered in mucus. These little organisms actually clean the water by consuming microscopic bits of organ…

BC coping with record high temperatures

September 3/17

These have stayed dry since June The Province of British Columbia, Canada, continues to swelter under unseasonably hot, dry conditions. This forest fire season in the province has been the worst on record with numerous mass evacuations needed. It has also been the most costly.
Eastern Vancouver Island is usually drier than the west coast and much of the mainland coast, but this year it is parched. A combination of higher than usual temperatures and lack of rain has dried out the land.
There has been no useful rainfall since June and none is in the forecast. The water hauling trucks are being kept busy in the rural areas.
Saturday, we saw another upswing in temperatures with temperatures once again peaking in the 30s Celsius. In my area today’s temperature is expected to reach 32 degrees C. (90 F). The government web site warns that this weather system seems to be stalled over the province.
We may look on the bright side, I suppose. The stagnant air may allow outflow …
Killer Floods Claim Lives Around the World
photo NOAA               Hurricane Harvey now tracking north east, Hurricane Irma in Atlantic

While Hurricane Harvey dominates the news reporting in N. America, flooding in India, Bangladesh and Nepal has killed hundreds and made thousands homeless. Hurricane Harvey is now being touted as a 1000 year storm, a storm that only happens in one thousand years, yet the frequency of these devastating storms seems to be increasing.
There is no recorded record of a storm in south east Texas a thousand years ago that matched the fury of Harvey. Most people will remember Hurricanes Katrina and Sandy which were exceptionally fierce storms in the US. These storms not only claimed lives but cost individuals and taxpayers billions in restoration work while turning citizens into refugees in their own land.
India, Bangladesh and Nepal have also been suffering. Heavy monsoon rains have flooded vast areas of these countries. At least 1200 are confirmed dead and mil…

Worms May Save the World From Plastic Glut

Wax Worm, unlikely ally fighting plastic pollution

Worm guts may save the world from the avalanche of plastic accumulating  in the environment. Humans produce about 80 million tonnes of polyethylene every year. An amateur beekeeper in Spain has discovered a caterpillar that actually munches and thrives on the plastic. It helps that Federica Bertocchini is a biologist working at the Institute of Biomedicine and Biotechnology in Spain.
She noticed that her beehives were infested with these “worms”, the larvae of the wax moth, Galleria mellonella, and were happily munching through her honeycombs. She tossed them into a plastic bag and found they quickly escaped by chewing holes in the bag.
Polyethylene is slow to biodegrade and often fails to do so over many months. Scientists have tried exposing it to various life forms like bacteria and fungi but the process is slow. The wax worms are fast, munching holes in the plastic and converting it to ethylene glycol.
The wax moths may be found …