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New head of Portland Audubon working for equitable access to birding, nature

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Tuesday, September 27, 2022

Stuart Wells is a lifelong lover of nature, but birding remains a bit of a mystery.

Stuart Wells was hired in May as the new executive director of the 120-year-old organization.

Read the full story here.
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Fiber “barcodes” can make clothing labels that last

Drawing inspiration from butterfly wings, reflective fibers woven into clothing could reshape textile sorting and recycling.

In the United States, an estimated 15 million tons of textiles end up in landfills or are burned every year. This waste, amounting to 85 percent of the textiles produced in a year, is a growing environmental problem. In 2022, Massachusetts became the first state to enact a law banning the disposal of textiles in the trash, aiming to up recycling percentages. But recycling textiles isn’t always easy. Those that can’t be resold as-is are sent to facilities to be sorted by fabric type. Sorting by hand is labor intensive, made harder by worn-out or missing labels. More advanced techniques that analyze a fabric’s chemistry often aren’t precise enough to identify materials in fabric blends, which make up most clothing. To improve this sorting process, a team from MIT Lincoln Laboratory and the University of Michigan offer a new way to label fabrics: by weaving fibers with engineered reflectivity into them. This fiber is only reflective under certain infrared light. Depending on the wavelengths of light that the fiber reflects when scanned, recyclers would know which type of fabric the fiber represents. In essence, the fiber works like an optical barcode to identify a product. “Having a way to easily identify fabric types and sort them as they’re coming through could help make recycling processes scale up. We want to find ways to identify materials for another use after the life cycle of the garment,” says Erin Doran, a co-author of the team’s study, which was recently published in Advanced Materials Technologies. Pulling threads Doran is a textile specialist at the Defense Fabric Discovery Center (DFDC) at Lincoln Laboratory. There, she works with researchers in the Advanced Materials and Microsystems Group to make “fabrics of the future” by integrating fibers ingrained with tiny electronics and sensors. At the University of Michigan, Brian Iezzi, the study's lead author, was investigating ways to improve textile recyclability. His work in U-Michigan's Shtein Lab focuses on applying photonics to fiber-based devices. One such device is called a structural-color fiber, a type of photonic fiber first developed at MIT more than 20 years ago by Professor Yoel Fink’s research team. It’s one area of expertise today at the DFDC. “It's a fiber that acts like a perfect mirror,” says DFDC researcher Bradford Perkins, a co-author of the study. “By layering certain materials, you can design this mirror to reflect specific wavelengths. In this case, you’d want reflections at wavelengths that stand out from the optical signatures of the other materials in your fabric, which tend to be dark because common fabric materials absorb infrared radiation.” The fiber starts out as a block of polymer called a preform. The team carefully constructed the preform to contain more than 50 alternating layers of acrylic and polycarbonate. The preform is then heated and pulled like taffy from the top of a tower. Each layer ends up being less than a micron thick, and in combination produce a fiber that is the same size as a conventional yarn in fabric. While each individual layer is clear, the pairing of the two materials reflects and absorbs light to create an optical effect that can look like color. It’s the same effect that gives butterfly wings their rich, shimmering colors. “Butterfly wings are one example of structural color in nature,” says co-author Tairan Wang, also from Lincoln Laboratory. “When you look at them very closely, they're really a sheath of material with nanostructured patterns that scatter light, similar to what we’re doing with the fibers.” By controlling the speed at which the fibers are drawn, researchers can “tune” them to reflect and absorb specific, periodic ranges of wavelengths — creating a unique optical barcode in each fiber. This barcode can then be assigned to corresponding fabric types, one symbolizing cotton, for example, and another polyester. The fibers would be woven into fabrics when the fabrics are manufactured, before being put to use in a garment and eventually recycled. Unlike the eye-catching designs of butterfly wings, the fibers are not meant to be showy. “They would make up less than a few percent of the fabric. Nobody would be able to tell that they're there until they had an infrared detector,” Perkins says. A detector could be adapted from the kind used to sort plastics in the recycling industry, the researchers say. Those detectors similarly use infrared sensing to identify the unique optical signatures of different polymers. Trying it on in the future Today, the team has applied for patent protection on their technology, and Iezzi is evaluating ways to move toward commercialization. The fibers produced in this study are still slightly thick relative to clothing fibers, so thinning them more while retaining their reflectivity at the desired wavelengths is a continued area of research. Another avenue to explore is making the fibers more akin to sewing thread. This way, they could be sewn into a garment in cases when weaving them into a certain fabric type could affect its look or feel. The researchers are also thinking about how structural-color fibers could help tackle other environmental problems in the textile industry, like toxic waste from dyes. One could imagine using such fibers to make fabrics that are inherently imbued with color that never fades. “It’s important for us to consider recyclability as the electronic-textile market expands, too. This idea can open avenues for recovering chips and metals during the textile recycling process.” Doran says. “Sustainability is a big part of the future, and it’s been exciting to collaborate on this vision.”

Ministers ‘ignored’ own adviser over weak targets for restoring English nature

Government accused of hypocrisy for pushing global target but not following Natural England’s advice at homeThe UK government ignored scientific warnings from Natural England that its nature restoration target was inadequate and would not meet its commitments, new documents show, undermining efforts to protect threatened species.In December the environment secretary, Thérèse Coffey, unveiled targets at the biodiversity Cop15 in Canada to reverse the decline of nature in England. They included plans to improve the quality of marine protected areas, reduce pollution and nitrogen runoff in the river system, and restore more than half a million hectares of wildlife-rich habitat outside protected areas by 2042. Continue reading...

Government accused of hypocrisy for pushing global target but not following Natural England’s advice at homeThe UK government ignored scientific warnings from Natural England that its nature restoration target was inadequate and would not meet its commitments, new documents show, undermining efforts to protect threatened species.In December the environment secretary, Thérèse Coffey, unveiled targets at the biodiversity Cop15 in Canada to reverse the decline of nature in England. They included plans to improve the quality of marine protected areas, reduce pollution and nitrogen runoff in the river system, and restore more than half a million hectares of wildlife-rich habitat outside protected areas by 2042. Continue reading...

Killing dingoes is the only way to protect livestock, right? Nope

For more than 200 years, European farmers have killed dingoes to protect livestock. But living alongside dingoes benefits nature - and actually helps graziers

Supplied, Author providedSince European colonisation, farmers have often viewed dingoes as the enemy, waging war against them to protect their livestock. Farmers felt they had no option but to eradicate dingoes using traps, shooting, poisoned baits (such as 1080) and building a 5,600km long dingo fence, the world’s longest. Killing dingoes costs millions of dollars each year. But it hasn’t resolved the conflict. In many cases it has made the threat to livestock worse by breaking up dingo families and removing experienced adults which hunt larger, more mobile prey. The alternative? As some farmers are discovering, there are unexpected benefits of learning to coexist with dingoes instead. As Western Australian cattle grazier David Pollock told us: I reckon my dingoes are worth $20,000 each, probably more. So, killing them would be the last thing that I did. Can dingoes really help graziers? Yes. In many cases, they can be allies for graziers by reducing the competition for pasture from wild herbivores such as kangaroos and goats, as well as killing or scaring off foxes and feral cats. As our understanding of the importance of predators has grown, a new approach has taken root: human-wildlife coexistence. Recently recognised by the United Nations Convention of Biological Diversity, this field offers a path to stem the global loss of biodiversity by balancing the costs and benefits of living alongside wildlife. Our new research lays out seven pathways to shift from the routine killing of dingoes towards coexistence. What does coexistence look like? One path to coexistence is supporting graziers to adopt effective tools and strategies to reduce the loss of livestock while capitalising on the benefits of large predators. This is known as predator-smart farming Our research on this area has led to a new Australian guide. This approach relies on a variety of effective non-lethal tools and practices to protect livestock three main ways: humans or guardian animals such as dogs and donkeys watch over and defend livestock from dingoes, as well as using fencing to create a physical barrier using knowledge about dingo biology and behaviour to find better deterrents, such as the use of lights, sounds or smells stronger land management and livestock husbandry to increase the productive capacity of pastures and livestock resilience. This approach helps ensure the livelihoods of farmers remain resilient and makes the most of the benefits of dingoes for productive agricultural landscapes and ecosystem health. This artist’s impression of a predator smart farm shows many different deterrent methods. Amelia Baxter As one New South Wales cattle producer found, these approaches work. He told us: Three years ago, we were losing 53% of our calves to dingoes. We started looking into alternatives that were cost and time effective and decided to try guardian donkeys. We purchased two jacks (male donkeys) and now we have 94% calving rate. Donkeys saved our business. Guardian donkeys are effective dingo deterrents. Author provided So what’s stopping us? We now know it’s entirely possible to live and farm alongside dingoes. So why do we still resort to lethal control? Inertia is one barrier to change. The default option is to kill dingoes. Laws, policies and funding by government and industry have institutionalised lethal control. But there are other barriers, such as a lack of funding for different approaches from government and a lack of support from the community and graziers. Despite this resistance the number of graziers adopting predator smart farming is growing. To overcome these barriers, we believe it’s important to undertake research alongside graziers to field-test and demonstrate how these methods actually work, and which combinations work best. Changes like this take time. We also have to build connections and rapport through agricultural networks, as well as tackle the institutional infrastructure built up around dingo control. It’s natural for farmers, graziers and state government representatives to be sceptical of such a big change. But the status quo isn’t working. Living alongside dingoes could help us make some of the fundamental changes needed to stop the loss of biodiversity. To that end, public awareness and talking about this openly can help bring something which has long gone unquestioned into the spotlight. Our research emerged from in-depth interviews with Australian livestock producers, ecologists, conservation and animal welfare groups, industry representatives and policy makers as well as field observations and analysis of Australia’s wild dog action plan. Coexisting with dingoes could be a win-win for livestock farmers. Shutterstock If we do make progress towards coexisting with dingoes, we could embed predator-smart techniques in the way we farm to boost biodiversity, landscape resilience, food security and livelihoods. We would bring back dingoes as apex predators and regulators of healthy ecosystems. Politics would take a step back, in favour of scientific, evidence-based approaches and First Nations input into environmental policies. This is not hypothetical. Graziers and landholders already using predator-smart tools and strategies report many benefits. They include: fewer animals injured or killed by dingoes less time spent stalking and killing dingoes lower total grazing pressure from feral grazers such as goats boosting pasture growth and livestock profitability. Landholders for Dingoes promotes the work of landholders who are coexisting with dingoes. It’s time to modernise Australia’s approach to dingoes. This approach offers a potential win-win for farmers and dingoes, as well as significant gains for nature. But to make this happen, we will have to shift our attitude towards dingoes, gain support from graziers and other stakeholders, and make non-lethal coexistence tools and approaches the new standard practice. Read more: From the dingo to the Tasmanian devil - why we should be rewilding carnivores Louise Boronyak was funded by the University of Technology Sydney under the UTS Research Excellence Scholarship. She is is a research affiliate of the University of Technology Sydney and Humane Society International AustraliaBradley Smith is an unpaid director of the Australian Dingo Foundation, a non-profit environmental charity that advocates for dingo conservation. He also serves as a member of the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) dingo working group, which is part of their Species Survival Commission (Canids Specialist Group).

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