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The Gap Year Blog

Frontier Environmental and Research News Round-up 23/11/18

23 Nov 2018 16:05 PM

Photo Credits: Flickr | John Westrock

Edited with permission by Frontier

Environment News

Bamboo House wins Cities for our Future Competition

A sustainable house designed by materials science engineering graduate Earl Frolales has won the prestigious Cities of our Future Award. His design impressed judges from the Royal Institute of Chartered Surveyors (Rics), winning the £50,000 top prize. 

Photo Credits: The Guardian | Handout

His design uses bamboo to create a housing solution that can be manufactured in one week and constructed for £60 per square metre in less than 4 hours. The initial inspiration was taken from his grandparent’s bamboo house outside Manilla.

The judges were particularly impressed as the bamboo design releases a large amount of oxygen into the environment. When interviewed by the Guardianone of the judges Dr Beth Taylor said:

“One of the reasons Earl’s entry stood out from the other finalists was through its use of traditional, sustainable technologies and materials, to solve an issue facing modern cities across the world.”


Photo Credits: The Guardian | Handout 

Earl hopes to start building the homes in Manilla:

“This is a huge step forward to helping the people of Manila. The state of housing in the city is at crisis point, and will undoubtedly get worse with this new influx of workers.”

New record concentration of warming gases recorded

The World Meteorological Organization have released their annual greenhouse gas bulletin, highlighting the current record high concentrations of warming gases in the atmosphere. 

The report outlines that carbon dioxide concentrations have reached a 5 million year high of 405 parts per million. Comparing to pre-industrial times this means that current CO2 concentrations are 46% higher. 

In addition, a previously banned gas CFC-11, commonly used in home insulation, has shown a resurgence. Despite the gas being outlawed under the 1987 Montreal Protocol, current atmospheric concentrations have slowed in their decline, indicating that new emissions are still being produced. The finger is currently being pointed at a few Chinese factories. Other significant greenhouse gases like methane and nitrous oxide have risen drastically since pre industrial times, 257% and 122% respectively. 

Photo Credits: BBC News | NASA/Science Photo Library

In terms of the environment, the report suggests that current emissions cuts are not working as hoped and that greenhouse gases are lasting longer, meaning even historical emissions are still affecting the climate today. 

Plastic Whale

A sperm whale recently washed up at an Indonesian National Park. On inspection it was found to have 6kg of plastic in its stomach. After further analysis,  115 drinking cups, four plastic bottles, 25 plastic bags and two flip-flops were found. 

Photo Credits: BBC News | Reuters

The find is a worrying reflection of the current state of marine pollution, particularly in Asia where China, Indonesia, the Philippines, Vietnam and Thailand account for up to 60% of the plastic waste that ends up in oceans.

The mystery of wombat poop

Wombats produce cube shaped poop. The mystery of how has eluded scientists until recently.

Researchers from the Georgia Institute of Tech studied the animal’s intestines and found that their elasticity explained the uniquely shaped faeces. Their unique square shape means the faeces do not roll away from where they are deposited, an important characteristic as wombats are known to stack the faeces to mark their territory and communicate with other individuals. 

Photo Credits: BBC News | EPA 

Dr Yang, one of the study’s lead scientists, when interviewed by the BBC hopes that the new information could inform future cube design:

“We currently have only two methods to manufacture cubes: We mould it, or we cut it. Now we have this third method. It would be a cool method to apply to the manufacturing process, how to make a cube with soft tissue instead of just moulding it."

Research Round-up

Frogs hate noisy traffic – Scientists have found that traffic noises reduces frog’s ability to produce proteins on their skin important for protecting from pathogens. In the wild however, frogs naturally living near traffic noise have developed a lower stress response to traffic noise, adapting to reduce its negative effects. 

Hungry snails are daredevils –Snails have been found to take a risk when hungry, they are more likely to eat potentially toxic substances compared to when they are fully-fed. Researchers discovered this after measuring their brain activity, finding risk decision making areas became active when the snails were hungry. It is hoped that the results could provide insights into how behavioural decision making affects food intake, lending relevance to humans facing extreme famine. 

By Ignatius-Roy Hillcoat-Nalletamby - Online Journalism Intern 

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