32 news posts related to Environmental Chemistry

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A new ‘atmospheric disequilibrium’ could help detect life on other planets

The coast of the Pacific Northwest from space

As NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope and other new giant telescopes come online they will need novel strategies to look for evidence of life on other planets. A University of Washington study has found a simple approach to look for life that might be more promising than just looking for oxygen. The paper, published Jan. 24 in Science Advances, offers a new recipe for providing evidence that a distant planet harbors life. 

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Salt pond in Antarctica, among the saltiest waters on Earth, is fed from beneath

At the base of the Transantarctic Mountains lies a geological oddity. Don Juan Pond is one of the saltiest bodies of water on the planet, filled with a dense, syrupy brine rich in calcium chloride that can remain liquid to minus 50 degrees Celsius, far below the freezing point of water. But the source of water and salt to this unusual pond remains a mystery — even as hints emerge that water in a similar form could exist on Mars. 

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Less life: Limited phosphorus recycling suppressed early Earth’s biosphere

A person wearing a green jacket at the base of a very large wall of red and black rock.

The amount of biomass — life — in Earth’s ancient oceans may have been limited due to low recycling of the key nutrient phosphorus, according to new research by the University of Washington and the University of St. Andrews in Scotland. The research, published online Nov. 22 in the journal Science Advances, also comments on the role of volcanism in supporting Earth’s early biosphere — and may even apply to the search for life on other worlds.  

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Usha Varanasi and Richard Feely named Fellows of the American Association for the Advancement of Science

Usha Varanasi, ’68, and Richard Feely have been named Fellows of the American Association for the Advancement of Science. As part of the Section on Chemistry, Usha was recognized for her distinguished contributions in environmental chemistry and toxicology, particularly in establishing and communicating the impact of environmental contaminants on marine organisms and ecosystems. In the Section on Atmospheric and Hydrospheric Sciences, Richard was recognized for leading the scientific examination of ocean acidification and shifting public policy to address the issue. 

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Probiotics help poplar trees clean up toxins in Superfund sites

The darker, taller poplar trees shown at the test site at the end of their third season were inoculated with microbes, while the shorter, lighter-green trees (center row) were not given the bacteria.

Trees have the ability to capture and remove pollutants from the soil and degrade them through natural processes in the plant. It’s a feat of nature companies have used to help clean up polluted sites, though only in small-scale projects. Now, a probiotic bacteria for trees can boost the speed and effectiveness of this natural cycle, providing a microbial partner to help protect trees from the toxic effects of the pollutants and break down the toxins plants bring in from contaminated groundwater. 

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