SETAC MultiBrief
Dec. 11, 2014

NOAA report says California drought mostly due to natural causes, not global warming
The Washington Post
The build-up of heat-trapping gases in the atmosphere may worsen western droughts in the future, but it is not the principal driver of historic drought afflicting the entire state of California right now, says a major NOAA report. "Natural oceanic and atmospheric patterns" are to blame for the drought, the 42-page report says. Specifically, it highlights a persistent area of high pressure off the West Coast that has blocked rain-bearing storms from coming ashore – which some have dubbed the "ridiculously resilient ridge." The pattern of sea surface temperatures also contributed to the drought, the study says.More

Student probes toxicity of fire-retardant materials in daycares
The Star Phoenix
University of Saskatchewan toxicology student David Saunders has analyzed dust from 20 daycares in the Saskatoon area in Canada to learn whether flame retardant chemicals in foam furniture and children's toys pose a health hazard. Added to fabrics and furniture to increase fire resistance, brominated flame retardants (BFRs) in high concentrations are potentially toxic for human health and very persistent in the environment. More

Audubon's Christmas bird count starts Dec. 14
The Christmas Bird Count is a citizen science project where people head outdoors to count the types and numbers of birds that they see. Scientists use the data from the bird count to assess the health of bird populations. The data are also used to help develop conservation programs that protect bird habitat. To date, over 200 studies published in the scientific literature have used data from the Christmas Bird Count. More

Jellification: A sequel to the disappearance of water fleas from Canadian lakes
The plenitude of environmental changes currently underway is leading scientists to devise new catchwords for communicating novel, unexpected findings. Think of plastiglomerates, a new type of stone made up of melted plastic and other materials that will likely become part of the rock record. Now, we have "jellification" — very recently conceived to describe the process causing goo balls to wash up on the shores of Canadian lakes. More

Fellowship helps UGA student study pharmaceutical pollution in salt marsh estuaries
UGA Today
David Brew, a second-year doctoral student in the University of Georgia College of Public Health, has been awarded a fellowship from the Society of Environmental Toxicology and Chemistry for doctoral research in environmental science as he examines the impacts of pharmaceutical pollution in Georgia's salt marsh estuaries.More

A hot coffee culture in Salt Lake City
The New York Times
In a place known more for proximity to powdery ski slopes than perfect espresso pulls, it's easy to assume Salt Lake City couldn't breed advanced coffee geek culture. Yet the high-desert city has become the kind of town where some cafes sell 12 ounces of roasted coffee beans for $50 and teach customers about the benefits of drinking coffee without cream or sugar. More

New research suggests Caribbean gorgonian corals are resistant to ocean acidification
A new study on tropical shallow-water soft corals, known as gorgonians, found that the species were able to calcify and grow under elevated carbon dioxide concentrations. These results suggest that Caribbean gorgonian corals may be more resilient to the ocean acidification levels projected by the end of the 21st century than previously thought. More

In new drainage projects, long buried urban streams see the light again
National Geographic
On a recent overcast fall morning, Keith Underwood gave National Geographic a tour of what is once again a picturesque stream in the nation's capital. Trees muffled the sound of traffic on 36th Street and Linnean Avenue in Washington D.C., as dragonflies darted overhead, chasing gnats. "This is the first time there's been a stream here in a hundred years," said Underwood, a landscape architect based in Annapolis, Maryland, who was hired by the city to restore the stream in the Rock Creek watershed.More