Science Briefs – April 19, 2011

Kelsey Gobroski / Sun Star Reporter
April 19, 2011

Scientists see slippery spill results

Researchers returned to the decimated ecosystem surrounding the site of the Deepwater Horizon oil spill. The April 20, 2010 explosion killed 11 people and allowed more than 4 million barrels of oil to pump into the Gulf of Mexico. Although the most memorable photos of last year include pelicans and oil-caked shorelines, the greatest loss may be in the species-rich depths of the Gulf of Mexico. Oil had never been spilled so far below the surface. Cleanup efforts collected a quarter of the oil, whereas much of the leftovers combined with plantlike phytoplankton to form a curious slop. BP expected the oil to float, but microbes digested any lighter components, so leftover oil lost buoyancy and sank.

– Nature News

Economics endanger wolves

For the first time since the installation of the Endangered Species Act, Congress directly removed an animal from the endangered species list. Wolves in Montana and Idaho are now managed by their respective states, rather than federally. In the past, as with the Tennessee snail darter, Congress indirectly stunted federal jurisdiction over habitat by authorizing development. The removal came in the form of the new Congressional budget. The sciences with heaviest cuts include $49 million from climate change, $438 million from sustainable energy, $638 million from the Defense Department’s environmental cleanup, and $997 million from the Environmental Protection Agency’s water and pollution treatment.

– New York Times

Cosmonaut celebrated

Fifty years ago, humans sent one of their own into space. Russia hails Yuri Gagarin as a cosmonaut hero. Gagarin’s successful mission in 1961 teetered on precarious as problem mounted upon problem from takeoff to landing. After being shot into a potentially lethal orbit, Gagarin weighed 30 pounds too much in his spacesuit, and he landed 370 miles off target.

Discovery News

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