Science Policy For All

Because science policy affects everyone.

Science Policy Around the Web – September 11, 2015

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By: Agila Somasundaram, Ph.D.

Corals and Fish on Jackson Reef by Matt Kieffer via Flickr Creative Commons BY-SA 2.0

Climate Change

Warming Oceans Putting Marine Life ‘In a Blender’

Lobsters are thriving in Maine, while their numbers are dwindling in southern New England. The reason? Global Warming. The higher temperatures in the north may be speeding up their metabolism, but the waters may be too warm at the southern edge of their range. This is just one example of a global trend in changing temperatures. Because the ocean temperatures have been rising, many marine species are moving to more comfortable waters. Many species are moving towards the pole, away from the Equator, at an average speed of 4.5 miles a year, about 10 times as fast as land species are moving. Scientists are developing models to study what this reshuffling of ocean ecosystems will look like, and the picture seems stark. In a recent study published in Nature Climate Change, scientists analyzed the current ranges of about 13,000 species of marine organisms. If ocean temperatures continue to rise, species will move to stay in their ‘thermal niches’. The move might be easier for some, and not so for the others, depending on the obstacles that lie in their migration paths. Scientists also project that, if this happens, by 2100, the tropics will lose a majority of their species, and there will not be new species taking their place. It’s unclear how the existing ecosystems away from the equator would be affected by the arrival of new species. Some newly arrived species may outcompete the native inhabitants, and some may go extinct. “It’s a game about winners and losers”, says Dr. Jorge García Molinos, lead author of the study. Dr. Malin L. Pinsky says that movement of fish away from the tropics might have food implications. “Seafood in many of these countries is a very important source of nutrition. Climate change could leave a gaping hole in the oceans.” (Carl Zimmer, The New York Times)

STEM Education and Funding

Intel Ending Sponsorship Of Prestigious Science Contest For High School Student

Intel, the giant semiconductor manufacturer, has been a sponsor of the Science Talent Search competition, organized by the Society For Science, since 1998. But Intel will be ending its partnership with the competition after 2017. Science Talent Search is the most prestigious science and mathematics award for high school students in the U.S. Some of the past winners have gone on to win prestigious awards such as the Nobel Prize and the MacArthur Fellowships. The decision by Intel is puzzling given that sponsoring the competition costs Intel $6 million a year, about 0.01 percent of Intel’s annual revenue, and it generates goodwill to the organization. Intel moving away from this competition does not mean it is moving away from encouraging students about STEM fields. Intel is partnering with Turner Broadcasting to create a technology-based invention reality show called the ‘America’s Greatest Makers’. (Brakkton Booker, NPR)

Reproductive Research

Preemies’ Survival Rates Improve, But Many Challenges Remain

Extreme preemies — born somewhere between 22 and 28 weeks — have a better chance of surviving now than they did 20 years ago, doctors reported Tuesday in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA). But many of these babies still have severe health problems. The study was done by pediatrician Barbara Stoll and her colleges at the Emory University School of Medicine in Atlanta. The doctors found that the survival rate of preemies has risen from 70 to 79 percent between 1993 and 2012 due to improvements in treatments for these babies. Outcomes are still bad for very young preemies, born less than 25 weeks – 90 percent of babies who survive have severe health problems. While neonatologist Roger Soll of the University of Vermont College of Medicine says “The changes in outcomes are much less than might be expected given the substantial changes in practice and raise the question whether many of these changes in practice have been effective”, Stoll is more optimistic. “We hoped for small, steady improvements like this,” she says. “We are cautiously optimistic that the data show progress is being made.” Two major medical interventions have helped this progress: prenatal steroid treatments to help preemies’ lungs develop faster, and doctors’ willingness to surgically deliver extreme preemies. (Michaeleen Doucleff, NPR)

Have an interesting science policy link?  Share it in the comments!

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Written by sciencepolicyforall

September 11, 2015 at 12:00 pm

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