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The gene pool

The gene pool

Sharon Oosthoek A tiny water flea possessing more genes than you or I has the potential to be a highly sensitive and inexpensive pollution detector, say scientists who recently sequenced its genome.

Poplar improvements

Poplar improvements

by Sharon Oosthoek We know that food can be genetically modified. Now, it appears that trees can be genetically rearranged as well. Last fall, a team of international scientists announced they had sequenced the complete set of genetic “instructions,” or genome, for assembling the black cottonwood poplar.

What are our options?

What are our options?

How to make sense of carbon-free energy alternatives and what the province plans to do about it By Sharon Oosthoek Decisions, Decisions To feed our power cravings, we can choose from: Hydro Nuclear Geothermal Wind Solar Biomass Coal Gas Never has it been more important to push for a clean energy agenda. In our fast-growing […]

Heavy breathing

Heavy breathing

By Sharon Oosthoek The earth’s plants collectively inhale – wait for it –123 billion tonnes of carbon through photosynthesis each year, according to a team of international researchers who say their finding will eventually allow a more accurate prediction of the impact of climate change on trees, shrubs and crops.

One of-a-kind protection

One of-a-kind protection

By Sharon Oosthoek Walpole Island First Nation has a long history of taking care of the rare ecosystems that make up its six delta islands at the head of Lake St. Clair. Now a group of residents is building on that history with the creation of the first Aboriginal land trust in Canada to receive charitable […]

The lowly worm

The lowly worm

By Sharon Oosthoek It sounds like a bad Hollywood film, but truth can be stranger than fiction. While gardeners love to see earthworms in their soil and eco-conscious apartment dwellers rely on them to compost food waste, most people do not realize that the vast majority of worms in Ontario are invasive species. Furthermore, scientists […]

Unwelcome visitors

Unwelcome visitors

By Sharon Oosthoek Fisheries biologists have unexpectedly discovered round gobies in the Thames, Sydenham, Ausable and Grand rivers and are now sounding the alarm over how this invasive fish may affect endangered species. The Great Lakes tributaries, Canada’s most diverse aquatic ecosystem, were long thought to be immune to such an invasion because, since each […]

Reading feathers

Reading feathers

by Sharon Oosthoek As any female will tell you, it is important to know your potential mate’s strengths and weaknesses before committing to a relationship. Ornithologists have long thought female birds choose mates on the basis of their bright plumage – which, presumably, is a signal of a healthy male that could produce healthy offspring. […]

Raising the dead

Raising the dead

Atlantic salmon once dominated the depths of Lake Ontario, so plentiful, a person could bend down and scoop the huge fish out of the water. But the last of the salmon was caught more than a century ago. Enter genetic researcher Oliver Haddrath, who is determined to restore this top predatory species to the lake […]

Harvesting the rain

Harvesting the rain

by Sharon Oosthoek Climate change, coupled with burgeoning urban populations, has prompted several Ontario municipalities to consider installing harvesting systems for rainwater, which will then be used in toilets, dishwashers and watering gardens in both government buildings and residences.

One night stands

One night stands

by Sharon Oosthoek Researchers at the University of Guelph are discovering that playing matchmaker to lonely elm trees – as with lonely humans – requires no small degree of perseverance. Nevertheless, they are determined to track down and eventually mate mature white elms, or American elms as they are also known, with a circumference greater […]

Polar bear countdown

Polar bear countdown

by Sharon Oosthoek How many polar bears live in the north? Counting animals in the wild has never been a straightforward or easy task, but because climate change has altered polar bear habitat so markedly, scientists are finding that deriving an accurate count is proving especially difficult.

Poison ivy takeover

Poison ivy takeover

by Sharon Oosthoek While climate change may bring about local extinction of some species, others may thrive under new environmental conditions. Poison ivy, as luck would have it, will in all likelihood flourish as a result of increases in carbon dioxide (CO2) levels associated with global warming.

Chemical imbalance

Chemical imbalance

by Sharon Oosthoek Two dominant and much discussed threats to the boreal forest are industrial interests and logging. Now another threat has surfaced. According to researchers from Queen’s and York universities, lakes in the forest are suffering from “aquatic osteoporosis” due to declining calcium levels.