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Stanford Earth Matters

Science and insights for people who care about Earth, its resources and its environment

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About Stanford Earth Matters magazine

2018

Editor's picks: Top 10 stories of 2018

From revelations about the hidden messages in burbling lakes of lava to the staggering costs of runaway climate change, these 10 stories shed light on our planet and how we're changing it. They include our editor's picks and some our best-read stories for the year.

Ocean

Why deep oceans gave life to the first big, complex organisms

Why did the first big, complex organisms spring to life in deep, dark oceans where food was scarce? A new study finds great depths provided a stable, life-sustaining refuge from wild temperature swings in the shallows.

Future oceans

A glimpse into future oceans

Volcanic carbon dioxide vents off the coast of Italy are rapidly acidifying nearby waters, providing a crystal ball-view into potential future marine biodiversity impacts around the world.

Getz Ice Shelf

What caused Earth's biggest mass extinction?

Scientists have debated until now what made Earth's oceans so inhospitable to life that some 96 percent of marine species died off at the end of the Permian period. New research shows the "Great Dying" was caused by global warming that left ocean animals unable to breathe.

Butterflyfish

Fish give up the fight after coral bleaching

A new study offers some of the first evidence that coral bleaching may trigger rapid and potentially disruptive change in fish behavior.

Meltwater stream on glacier in Greenland

Scientists find missing piece in glacier melt predictions

A new method for observing water within ice has revealed stored meltwater that may explain the complex flow behavior of some Greenland glaciers, an important component for predicting sea-level rise in a changing climate.

Ocean wind

Searching the sea for climate solutions

A new study examines how renewable energy, marine protected areas, carbon storage in marine plants, and other ocean-based solutions could help to combat climate change and its effects on marine ecosystems.

Pig waste

How machine learning can aid environmental monitoring

Cash-strapped environmental regulators have a powerful and cheap new weapon. New research suggests machine learning methods more than double the number of violations detected.

Plastic straws

Do plastic straws really make a difference?

Driven by public pressure, governments and corporations are considering eliminating or phasing out single-use plastics such as straws. Stanford experts discuss the limitations of these bans and the potential for meaningful change.

Hurricane Florence

Hurricane Florence: The science behind the storm

Atmospheric scientist Morgan O’Neill discusses what’s driving Florence, why it’s unusual, and how it could be connected to climate change and other storms brewing in the Atlantic.   

Northern elephant seal

Tracking migration patterns of marine predators yields geopolitical challenges

Understanding the movements of migratory marine animals through different countries' waters and in the open ocean beyond is vital to their management and conservation.

Coral reef

Mapping coral reefs with drones

A new approach to underwater mapping could help scientists predict what sorts of underwater flows, wave action and temperatures may help preserve healthy reefs and prevent coral bleaching.

Adriatic

Trawling ban did not hurt fishing communities

New research shows fishers who complied with a moratorium in the Adriatic Sea maintained catch levels by fishing in other areas. The findings help justify extending regional protection and provide insight for ocean management elsewhere.

Fishing boat

Expanding social responsibility in fisheries

Egregious human rights abuses in the global fishing industry gained international attention two years ago. Where do we stand now? And what will it take to prioritize human wellbeing as much as environmental responsibility in sustainable seafood?

Mount Sinabung

Learning through sound

The audible world contains vast amounts of information about the world around us. Scholars from across Stanford are exploring this invisible landscape as a research tool and as a way of understanding each other.

Florida beach

Unintended consequences in a new era for U.S. ocean policies

The federal government rescinded the Obama-era National Ocean Policy and replaced it with new policies intended to promote jobs and national security. Stanford experts examine potential unintended implications.

Fishing boat

Making marine management as dynamic as the sea

Fisheries managers today protect species by creating static areas that fishers must avoid. New software can help locate productive fishing spots while avoiding species such as sea turtles and dolphins.

brown algae

Overlooked process in bacteria may shed light on ancient environments

Geologists assume when they find molecules called sterols in soils or rocks they indicate the presence of plants, animals or fungi in ancient environments. But discovering how some bacteria also produce and modify sterols could change those interpretations.

Coral reef

Editing coral DNA in search for keys to survival

Stanford scientists and their colleagues have used the CRISPR-Cas9 gene-editing system to modify genes in coral, a key step toward pinpointing natural gene variants that may help corals survive in warmer waters.

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