Tue, 01/16/2018 - 4:34am

Environment

New Fields For Food

Mary-Dell Chilton's DNA discoveries launched the field of genetically modifying plants to ward off pests, use less water, and improve yields. Supporters say it could help feed the world. Opponents say it's not safe, threatening the environment and people in ways that may not be known yet. By discovering the mechanism of DNA transfer, Chilton bestowed that power to humans.

The Library of Plants

Plants have developed new molecules to protect against diseases, sunburn, and other stresses, and humans can use those molecules in new medicines. However, those plants are in danger of being lost to development and changing climates. The NC Arboretum is racing to document and preserve those plants in a special repository before they are lost forever.

Rapid Water Test

The greatest danger for beachgoers may be millions of microbes also swimming in the water. While many are there naturally, stormwater runoff and sewage system failures can overwhelm coastal waters. One percent of NC's beaches were closed for short times in 2012 because of microbial contaminants. A marine biologist has now developed a rapid water test to keep the public safe.

What’s My Story: Marine Conservation Biologist

David Johnston is an Assistant Professor of the Practice of Marine Conservation & Ecology at the Nicholas School of the Environment at Duke University. As a kid, growing up miles from the ocean, he fell in love with the dazzling underwater photography brought into his living room by television. Today, he uses radio telemetry to get a more detailed image of the behavior of the ocean’s magnificent mammals.

What’s My Story: Zoologist

Roland Kays started studying animals in a physics class. He thought he wanted to work in a genetic engineering lab but thought better of it when he saw a film about a zoologist peering into prairie dog mounds looking for burrowing owls. He switched his major to zoology and fell in love with mammals. Today, he keeps tabs on thousands of mammals in their natural habitats with the aid of new technology and citizen volunteers at the NC Museum of Natural Sciences.

Fish Tagging

Ecosystems have limits to the numbers of organisms and population sizes they can support. These limits are set by predation, competition, diseases and the physical habitat (reefs, artificial reefs, mud flats, sea grass, and marsh). Fish biologists are using two types of tagging to understand how the physical environment constrains the population dynamics of the red drum, North Carolina's state fish.

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