Tsunami reveals drifting ocean plastic opens globe to invasive castaways

These living marine sea slugs were removed for study from a Japanese vessel that originated in Iwate Prefecture and washed ashore in Oregon in April 2015. (Photo by John W. Chapman) Plastic debris floating in the ocean has become a powerful new passport to far-away destinations for a wide variety of invasive species, according to new study published today in the journal Science by biologists from the Smithsonian Environmental Research Center, Williams…

September 28, 2017
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National Zoo scientist and partners revolutionize animal conservation with gold nanotechnology and lasers

Human health researchers use zebrafish—which have a genome similar to that of humans—as important disease models to study melanoma, heart disease, and blood disorders, among other health issues. Because the embryos of other aquatic animals—fish, amphibians, and coral—are very similar to those of zebrafish, this technology is directly applicable to the cryopreservation of many species’ embryos. For more than 60 years, researchers have tried to successfully cryopreserve (or freeze) the…

July 13, 2017
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Gold nanotechnology and lasers used to successfully freeze fish embryos

Human health researchers use zebrafish—which have a genome similar to that of humans—as important disease models to study melanoma, heart disease, and blood disorders, among other health issues. Because the embryos of other aquatic animals—fish, amphibians, and coral—are very similar to those of zebrafish, this technology is directly applicable to the cryopreservation of many species’ embryos. For more than 60 years, researchers have tried to successfully cryopreserve (or freeze) the…

July 13, 2017
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The Smithsonian’s history is right in line with Earth Optimism

The Smithsonian is celebrating Earth Day this month by hosting the first Earth Optimism Summit from April 21–23 in Washington, D.C. Its goal is to change the conversation about saving the planet from one of worry and failure to one of hope and success. In addition to scientists, thought leaders, philanthropists, and civic leaders, the summit also will bring together artists, historians, writers, and filmmakers to explore what is working…

April 14, 2017
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Battle against invasive marine species comes up short as global shipping surges

SERC marine biologist Jenny Carney descends the gangway of a giant bulker ship in Virginia. When ships export coal and other goods, they return loaded with ballast water from foreign ports—and often inadvertently bring invasive species with them. (Credit: Kim Holzer/SERC) In the battle against invasive species, giant commercial ships are on the front lines. But even when they follow the rules, one of their best weapons are coming up…

March 28, 2017
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Simultaneous hermaphrodites: Understanding Speciation in fish called “hamlets”

Golden hamlet (“Hypoplectrus gummigutta”). (Photo by Kosmas Hench) New species don’t just spring out of thin air. Speciation, the evolutionary process by which new and distinct species arise, usually takes millions of years. In most cases, scientists can infer how and when a new species evolved through clues found in the fossil record. But what if we could study the moment when a new species starts developing, right as it’s…

March 13, 2017
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