Nobody, it seemed, had thought to look before. When two Austrian scientists discovered last year that it's likely most people have plastic inside their bodies, it wasn’t because they had invented some new, complicated scientific method. It was because they were the first to check. Their approach was simple. They asked eight people, mostly in Europe, but also in Japan and Russia, to keep a weeklong food diary. Then, they examined stool samples from their subjects, looking for plastic. They found it in every single one: On average, 20 tiny pieces in each 10 grams of stool; given that humans poop on average 400 to 500 grams a day, that means their subjects were likely passing some 800 to 1,000 pieces of so-called microplastic daily. The scientists, Philipp Schwabl, a researcher at the Medical University of Vienna, and Bettina Liebmann of Austria’s environment agency, are the first to admit their findings are at best preliminary. Their results don't say where that plastic … [Read more...] about The plastic in our bodies
So much of Iceland’s history and a great deal of current controversy revolves around the largest animals on the planet—whales. But did you know that a pound of “whale poop” could be worth 7,000 USD? We asked Joe Roman, a visiting Fulbright conservation biologist at the University of Iceland: why is whale poop so valuable? Most whales live on diets of fish. So you might see fish scales and even squid beaks in their poop. There are also a lot of nutrients and micronutrients in whale feces, such as nitrogen, phosphorus and iron. It is those nutrients that are of most value here. Whales can dive hundreds of meters beneath the surface to feed. When they come up to breathe, they rest, digest, and often defecate. They release nutrients in their poop near the ocean surface, where there’s enough sunlight for photosynthesis to occur. Whale poop fertilizes ocean gardens—increasing the growth of algae, zooplankton and even fish populations. This can enhance the … [Read more...] about Ask A Marine Ecologist: What Is The Importance Of Whale Poop For The Ocean?