All posts by kathleenferraro

Global coral ‘bleaching’ threatens reef survival

By Kathleen Ferraro

Many of the ocean’s coral reef populations are fast declining in what is the longest episode of coral bleaching on record.

Global warming, the current intense El Nino, overfishing and land-based pollution are all contributing to rapid coral bleaching, or a potentially fatal loss of pigmentation caused by environmental stress, according to National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration scientists. With a majority of the world’s reefs threatened by some combination of these factors, extensive coral damage could mean certain coral species’ extinction, a decline in ocean biodiversity and a restructuring of ocean ecosystems, said an NOAA scientist.

“We are having a global bleaching event, a mass bleaching event,” said Paulo Maurin, national education coordinator and fellowship manager for NOAA’s Coral Reef Conservation Program. “When you look at the bleakest reefs, they will, by the middle of the century, not stay around.”

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Someone is spending $1 million to make you a space archaeologist

By Kathleen Ferraro

Space archaeologist Sarah Parcak wants us to follow the clues from space.

She delivered this message at the annual TED Conference in Vancouver, where she unveiled her plans for spending her $1 million 2016 TED Prize earnings.

Parcak said the money will launch Global Xplorer, an online platform that will use crowdsourcing and citizen scientists to analyze satellite images and detect unknown archaeological sites. The project aims to “crowdsource exploration,” building a network of citizen archaeologists who collectively accelerate the discovery and protection of ancient sites, according to Parcak.

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For sharks, fish are friends, not (always) food

By Kathleen Ferraro

Sharks strike fear with their reputation as man-eaters. But coral reef sharks are light eaters with no taste for human fare, new research shows.

Reef sharks – species of shark that inhabit coral reefs – eat small prey and only at infrequent intervals, according to scientists at James Cook University’s ARC Centre of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies in Queensland, Australia.

The research suggests that significant reef shark deaths due to human hunts, climate change  and other causes could potentially throw off coral reef food chains, altering coral ecosystems. This insight is especially pertinent considering ongoing coral reef decline in tandem with humans’ killing roughly 100 million sharks per year globally, researchers said.

“The core theme of my research is the ecological importance of sharks to coral reefs. One of the first things to do was look at the diet and see what they’re eating. And through that work we found that they are probably not the apex predator of the ecosystem,” said marine biologist Ashley Frisch, lead researcher. ”The reef sharks seem to be feeding in the same trophic level—the same level in the food chain—as other large fish.”

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Drones and dealers: Monitoring artifact looters in Jordan

By Kathleen Ferraro

At an ancient cemetery in Jordan, the last thing you’d expect to see in the sky above is a neon model airplane with a GoPro strapped to its front.

But for Chicago archaeologist Morag Kersel, this bird’s eye view gives her new insights for her research.

Kersel, an anthropology professor at DePaul University, has been using drones to survey and monitor a Bronze Age burial site at Fifa, in southern Jordan. Her research documents the landscape’s change over time and monitors looting at the site. It is also introducing drones into the world of archaeology, as she discussed Sunday at the annual conference of the American Association for the Advancement of Science in Washington D.C.

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Space archaeology meets the Islamic State

By Kathleen Ferraro

Keep your eyes on the skies, especially for space archaeology in the Middle East.

Archaeologists have long used satellite images to detect and map archaeological sites on the ground. Now, they are turning this bird’s eye view to damaged sites in the Middle East; policing destructive forces from the skies.

“The use of satellite imagery that’s become very widespread in the last couple of years is to monitor cultural heritage sites that are in conflict zones,” said Emily Hammer, an archaeologist at the University of Chicago.

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Dinosaurs in heat: the original lovebirds

By Kathleen Ferraro 

The first physical evidence of dinosaur lovefests–long grooves likely created by amorous dinosaurs in the throes of a courtship ritual–has been discovered in Western Colorado, researchers are reporting.

Paleontologist Martin Lockley, of the University of Colorado at Denver, along with an international research team, discovered scrapes likely made by two-legged, meat-eating theropod dinosaurs about 100 million years ago. The scrapes, evidencing an ardent pawing of the sandstone, parallel modern birds’ breeding behaviors, the researchers said.

They reported their results in the current edition of the journal Scientific Reports.

“We’ve found several large areas where tracks of carnivorous dinosaurs … with dozens of large scrapes, some the size of bath tubs,” Lockley said. “These are also the first sites with evidence of dinosaur display rituals ever discovered, and the first physical evidence of courtship behavior.”

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Dirty little secret about ancient Rome: Latest poop on the empire

By Kathleen Ferraro

Ancient Rome was famous for its sanitation: latrines, sewer systems, piped water and public baths believed to improve public health. But a University of Cambridge researcher found just the opposite in his research published in the January issue of the journal Parasitology.

Piers Mitchell, a paleopathologist, or specialist in ancient human diseases, found that Roman hygiene proved insufficient to protect the population from parasites.

It turns out Roman times weren’t necessarily the glory days we watched in the 2000 epic “Gladiator.”

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