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 21 
 on: Dec 03, 2016, 06:08 AM 
Started by Rad - Last post by Rad
ESA reaffirms commitment to Mars after disappointing lander crash

After the ESA's Schiaparelli lander crashed to the surface of the Red Planet in October, there may have been doubts about the project's future. But experts say they can fix the problem – and renewed funding is a sign of confidence.

By Ellen Powell, Staff December 3, 2016

The Schiaparelli lander may have crashed, but that doesn't mean Europe is giving up on Mars.

In a show of confidence, member states on Friday approved 450 million euros ($480 million) in funding for the European Space Agency’s ExoMars mission. Numerous other projects, including several related to the International Space Station, were also given the go-ahead as part of a 10.3 billion euro ($11 billion) budget approved by the ESA’s 22 members during a two-day meeting in Lucerne, Switzerland.

The renewed funding should answer any lingering questions about the future of ExoMars, a joint project between the ESA and Russia’s Roscosmos. And plans to send a rover in 2020 must proceed on schedule, ESA Director General Jan Woerner said.

"It's not an easy thing, but we are confident we will succeed," Dr. Woerner said, emphasizing that delaying the mission beyond 2020 was not an option.

The ExoMars mission sent the Trace Gas Orbiter and Schiaparelli test lander to Mars earlier this year. The Trace Gas Orbiter is orbiting the planet, looking for gases such as methane that may indicate the possibility for life on the planet. The Schiaparelli lander, meanwhile, crashed in October: a software glitch caused the lander to detach its parachute more than 2 miles above the planet’s surface, thinking it was already on the ground.

While the crash was certainly a disappointment, experts remain optimistic about the future of the project.

“As it is, we have one part that works very well and one part that didn’t work as we expected,” Jorge Vago, project scientist for ExoMars, told Nature after the first photos of the crash site were released. “The silver lining is that we think we have in hand the necessary information to fix the problem.”

The first photos from the Trace Gas Orbiter (TGO), released on Tuesday, have only added to that enthusiasm. Onboard the orbiter is the Colour and Stereo Surface Imaging System (CaSSIS), which takes high-definition images of the planet’s surface as the TGO orbits the planet every four days.

The photos are “absolutely spectacular,” said Nicolas Thomas, CaSSIS team leader, at the University of Bern's Center of Space and Habitability in Switzerland. And soon, CaSSIS may produce 3D maps of the surface of Mars.

At the Lucerne meeting, ESA member states also extended their commitment to participate in the International Space Station (ISS) until 2024. This will allow the agency to send more European astronauts into space. France’s first astronaut, Thomas Pesquet, arrived at the ISS in November.

Other programs received less support. The Asteroid Impact Mission, intended to investigate ways of deflecting an asteroid approaching Earth, will be cancelled, though asteroid-defense study will continue, Woerner said. Asteroid-deflection was the subject of a recent NASA exercise.

The Trace Gas Orbiter is intended to remain in orbit around Mars for seven years, and ESA plans to put a rover on the Red Planet’s surface by 2020.

 22 
 on: Dec 03, 2016, 06:06 AM 
Started by Rad - Last post by Rad
CS Monitor

Move over Copernicium, there's a new heavy metal band on the periodic table

Four new elements have taken up permanent residence on the periodic table, though each of the synthetic metals can only exist in reality for fractions of a second.

By Story Hinckley, Staff December 2, 2016

Nihonium (Nh), moscovium (Mc), tennessine (Ts), and oganesson (Og): Welcome to the periodic table.

The International Union of Pure and Applied Chemistry (IUPAC) approved the names and symbols for four new elements earlier this week. After verifying their discovery last December, the IUPAC suggested names for these four elements in June, pending a five-month review period for public comment.

Nh, Mc, Ts, and Og – officially designated as elements 113, 115, 117, and 118, respectively – will complete the seventh period (or row) on the table, making them some of the heaviest metals on the table. These elements are synthetic, or man-made, and they only exist for fractions of a second in a lab before breaking apart into other elements.

These are the first elements added to the centuries-old periodic table since 2011, when heavy metal band members livermorium (element 116) and flerovium (element 114) were added to the table. Adding new names to the table is not something scientists – or the general public – take lightly, as the five-month process suggests.

“Overall, it was a real pleasure to realize that so many people are interested in the naming of the new elements, including high-school students, making essays about possible names and telling how proud they were to have been able to participate in the discussions,” said Jan Reedijk, president of the Inorganic Chemistry Division at IUPAC, in a press release. “It is a long process from initial discovery to the final naming, and IUPAC is thankful for the cooperation of everyone involved.”

However, the naming process is not entirely open to the public.

Although numerous comments and petitions were received, the suggestions “could not be accepted,” IUPAC explains, because only the elements' discoverers “have the right to propose names and symbols.”

The four new elements follow IUPAC’s guidelines, which dictate that all elements be named after a place, scientist, property, mineral, or mythological concept. Oganesson honors Armenian nuclear physicist and element hunter Yuri Oganessian, who is also known as “the grandfather of superheavy elements.”

Nihonium, moscovium, and tennessine are all named for the locations where they were discovered: Japan (Nihon is a way to say Japan in Japanese), Moscow, and the US state of Tennessee.

“It used to be that when a discovery was made, when you thought you had one, you named it something,” Janan Hayes, professor emeritus at Merced College in California and former chair of the American Chemical Society’s Division of History of Chemistry, told The Christian Science Monitor’s Lisa Suhay. “But this was very confusing because you could end up with three or four names for an element as three or four different groups or laboratories claimed discovery. What makes the naming important internationally is that the name is accepted internationally.”

And considering that new elements come along so infrequently, it makes sense that chemists take their naming seriously.

“Biologists get to do all those sorts of things, more whimsical namings, because they have so much more to work with,” added Dr. Hayes. “In chemistry, we have so little that we really need to put deeper thought into it every time.”

 23 
 on: Dec 03, 2016, 06:04 AM 
Started by Rad - Last post by Rad
CS Monitor

Is climate change causing more extreme tornado outbreaks?

Climate models predict that conditions just right for tornado outbreaks should be increasing with rising temperatures, but do the data agree?

By Eva Botkin-Kowacki, Staff writer December 3, 2016

As global temperatures warm, climate scientists expect to see more tornadoes reaching their long, swirling bodies down to Earth. But the data isn't exactly cooperating in a straightforward manner.

Scientists have reported that, over the last 50 years, the average number of tornadoes that touch down in the United States each year has not risen. But analysis of this data suggests that the most extreme outbreaks, when several twisters appear as part of a single weather event, are on the rise.

Surely climate change is playing a role in the rise of those extreme events, a team of researchers at Columbia University expected. But when they analyzed the data they didn't find the signs they expected, they report in a paper published Thursday in the journal Science.

No, that doesn't mean climate change isn't behind the rise of extreme tornado outbreaks across the country, study lead author Michael Tippett, a mathematician at Columbia University, tells The Christian Science Monitor in a phone interview. "We're just saying that it's not playing the role that we expected."

There are two ingredients that make for conditions conducive to tornadoes, Dr. Tippett explains. One is the propensity of air to rise, called the convective available potential energy (CAPE), and the other is vertical wind shear. Warmer, moist air near the surface of the Earth particularly tends to rise, so climate projections predicted an increased CAPE with climate change and therefore more of one of the key ingredients for tornadoes.

As such, Tippett and his colleagues expected to see an increased CAPE in the environments where extreme tornado outbreaks were occurring. But when they dug into the data, that wasn't the case. In fact, wind shear seems to have increased.

"The lack of a change in CAPE that correlates with the change in tornadoes is a significant result," Harold Brooks, a researcher at the National Severe Storms Laboratory who was not involved in the research, writes in an email to the Monitor.

"Increases in CAPE are, in the convective storms world, the thing we’re most confident in as the planet warms. It’s a fairly direct connection between surface warming and higher CAPE. The fact that they can explain the tornado changes by storm relative helicity (related to shear) changes is, in one aspect, not surprising (it’s a much better predictor of whether a storm will make a tornado than CAPE is), but, in another aspect, difficult to explain. We don’t really have a good conceptual model for why high SRH values should increase as the planet warms."

Tippett agrees that his research poses more questions than it answers, particularly when it comes to the role global warming may be playing in tornado trends.

"One possibility is that there are aspects of climate change that we don't understand yet," Tippett says. "The other possibility is it's not climate change."

The data Tippett and his colleagues are working off might not be the full story, Charles Konrad, director of the Southeast Regional Climate Center who was not involved in the study, points out. The methods and technologies for cataloguing tornado events greatly improved in the 1960s and 1970s, a few decades into the time period they focus on.

"We don't have a clear grasp early in the period of tornado intensity or exactly how many tornadoes," he says in a phone interview with the Monitor.

Michael Mann, director of the Earth System Science Center at Pennsylvania State University who was also not involved in the research, disagrees. "The trend analysis in the tornado data seems sound, but not especially novel – the increase that is found is consistent with other previous work," he writes in an email to the Monitor.

But, Dr. Mann says, "the climate change interpretation is fatally flawed."

"We published an article in Science only last year showing that the simple procedures used by the current authors (assuming that the climate change component of a time series is reflected by a simple linear trend) are entirely unsound and produce profound artifacts when trying to separate anthropogenic trends from natural variability. In fact, we have published four articles demonstrating this, back to 2006," he writes.

So could this mean Tippett and his colleagues' conclusions that the CAPE is not rising are flawed? "Yep," Mann says.

One challenge with this data, Tippett says, is that climate trends are assessed on the scale of centuries, not decades. So 50 years is a relatively short period for looking at climate signals.

"To do that only using the data is very challenging, so we would like to move to using numerical models which simulate the environment" and allow scientists to manipulate the data to include or exclude climate change or other variables, he explains, "so we can try to isolate what's going on."

 24 
 on: Dec 03, 2016, 06:02 AM 
Started by Rad - Last post by Rad
Did the biggest volcanic eruption on record barely affect the climate?

The eruption of the volcano in AD 946 was likely the biggest in the last couple thousand years, but ice cores and tree rings show little evidence of climatic effects.

By Rowena Lindsay, Staff December 3, 2016

The eruption of Mount Paektu in AD 946 was likely the largest volcanic event in recorded history – but evidence suggests it had a surprisingly small effect on the weather.

Confused by this anomaly, a team of international researchers from Britain, North Korea, China, and the United States measured the sulfur levels in newly collected magma samples to determine exactly how much of the gas the famous North Korean mountain pumped out, and why it apparently had little climatic influence.

The mountain, which straddles the border of North Korea and China, is the subject of many songs and legends. More than 1,000 years ago, it was the site of what was likely the largest volcanic event in recorded history, dubbed the Millennium Eruption. When little earthquakes started shaking the mountain between 2002 and 2005, North Koreans began to worry that Paektu might be gearing up to blow.

Earthquakes on a volcano do often precede an eruption, explained volcanologist Kayla Iacovino to NPR, "so people in the region – including North Korea – started becoming a little bit wary."

That possibility worried the North Korean government enough that it broke from its typically isolationist protocol and invited a team of international researchers from the United States, Britain, and China to study the mountain together. Since 2013, they have published two studies, most recently in the journal Science Advances.

It took more than two years to organize permission for the scientists to travel to North Korea. Even then, due to Western rules against bringing technology with military applications into North Korea, the scientists had to leave some instruments behind.

The team has now determined that the eruption spewed much more sulfur into the atmosphere than previously thought: up to 42 megatons, more than the infamous Tambora eruption of 1815 that caused the so-called Year Without a Summer in 1816.

By calculating the difference between the amount of sulfur in magma drops flash-frozen in the site's pumice – which represented the amount of sulfur present before the eruption – and the amount of the gas in magma that cooled after the eruption, the research team could determine the amount of sulfur released into the air a millennium ago.

"We can now say that the eruption of Paektu was probably one of the largest eruptions in the last couple thousand years – not only in terms of the ash and rock output, but also in terms of the gas output," Dr. Iacovino told NPR.

Evidence of such a massive eruption's impact on the climate, however, is low: Greenland ice cores show a small up-tick in absorbed sulfur, but only about 5 percent of what scientists would expect from such a large eruption.

To explain this, the researchers point to Mount Paektu's latitude, noting that "perturbations in climate following eruptions at high latitudes are much smaller and shorter-lived than if the same eruption had occurred in the tropics." Any cooling impact may have also been decreased because the explosion took place during winter, when atmospheric gases can be pulled out of the air by snow and rain more quickly than they do in summer.

For some scientists, those reasons aren't persuasive enough to explain the disparity. "With the large sulfur emissions they claim, there would certainly be deposition in Greenland even if the eruption was in the winter," Alan Robock, a climatologist at Rutgers University's School of Environmental and Biological Sciences, told Science.

"This paradoxical case in which high [sulfur] emissions do not result in a strong glacial sulfate signal may present a way forward in building more generalized models for interpreting which volcanic eruptions have produced large climate impacts," the researchers write.

 25 
 on: Dec 03, 2016, 05:59 AM 
Started by Rad - Last post by Rad
December 3, 2016

‘Magic mushrooms’ help cancer patients deal with anxiety and depression

by Chuck Bednar
Red Orbit

A naturally occurring psychedelic compound produced by more than 200 species of mushrooms may effectively treat anxiety and depression systems in patients dealing with serious, potentially life-threatening illnesses, two separate clinical trials have reportedly confirmed.

According to Newsweek and the Los Angeles Times, one of the trials was conducted at New York University Langone Medical Center and involved 29 patients, while the other took place at Johns Hopkins University and involved 51 patients, all of whom were administered psilocybin.

In each case, the researchers found that approximately 80% of participating patients reported that they experienced a decrease in both anxiety and depression, as well as a higher overall quality of life, after being placed on psilocybin therapy. The improvement lasted for at least six months and in some cases, it appeared to be permanent, the authors reported in their respective studies.

Twenty of the 29 patients participating in the NYU study called it one of the “most meaningful” events of their lives, the Times said, and lead investigator Dr. Stephen Ross told Newsweek that he was skeptical at first, but after seeing the results repeat “20 to 30 times,” he started to realize that this was “a real effect.” The results, he continued, were “amazing.”

‘Groundbreaking’ results indicate sustained quality-of-life improvement

In the NYU study, which is detailed (along with the Johns Hopkins one) in the latest issue of the Journal of Psychopharmacology, patients were split into two groups, with half of them receiving psilocybin and the other half receiving an “active placebo” of niacin, which can be used to mimic the beginning of a psychedelic experience by causing a rush of blood to the skin.

Afterwards, the researchers switched the two groups, and in both instances, the niacin was found to have little effect on anxiety or depression. For the Johns Hopkins study, patients took part in a pair of sessions – one in which they received a low dose of psilocybin, and another in which they were given a much higher dose. The effects of the smaller dose were comparatively negligible.

Dr. George Greer, medical director of the Heffter Research Institute (the nonprofit organization that funded both studies,” called the results “groundbreaking,” telling the Times, “ that the group is looking to create a future in which special clinics have regular access to psilocybin for use in treating patients who are depressed or suffering from anxiety. However, as Newsweek points out, psilocybin is listed as a Schedule I substance in the US and is currently illegal to possess.

The success of these trials, both of which are currently in Phase 2 (establishing the efficacy of the drug, usually against a placebo) come on the heels of the FDA’s decision to approve a large-scale Phase 3 trial to investigate the potential use of 3,4-methylenedioxymethamphetamine – a substance better known as ecstasy – for use in treating PTSD. If the upcoming trial proves to be effective, ecstasy could soon be classified as a prescription drug.

Psilocybin is much further away from receiving such status, although both of the new studies were double-blind placebo trials, which the Times calls the “gold-standard of medical research.” In fact, six months after the NYU trial, 87% of the patients reported an increase in overall life satisfaction and/or well-being, the newspaper said – all with minimal adverse side effects.

 26 
 on: Dec 03, 2016, 05:58 AM 
Started by Rad - Last post by Rad
December 3, 2016

High school kids create $2 dose of Martin Shkreli’s $750 drug Daraprim

by Chuck Bednar
Red Orbit

A life-saving drug at the center of a 2015 price-gouging controversy when one pharmaceutical CEO increased its price by 5,000% has been recreated by a group of Australian students in the chemistry lab at their school for just $20 per pill, according to CNN and BBC News reports.

Daraprim (also known as Pyrimethamine) is a medication that is used to treat cystoisosporiasis, malaria, and toxoplasmosis, and when used alone with dapsone, it is also prescribed in order to prevent Pneumocystis jiroveci pneumonia (PCP) in patients infected with HIV or AIDS.

Daraprim is produced by Turing Pharmaceuticals, which drew national attention last year when chief executive Martin Shkreli opted to increase the price of the anti-parasitic from $13.50/tablet to $750/tablet in the US. Shkreli was heavily criticized for the move, with The Atlantic reporting that he was “the face of unapologetic profiteering from the suffering of humans.”

Now, under the tutelage of University of Sydney chemist Dr. Alice Williamson, students from Sydney Grammar School have successfully synthesized the active ingredient Pyrimethamine in the laboratory at their school. They were able to produce 3.7 grams of Pyrimethamine for $20, a quantity that would reportedly cost patients in the US more than $100,000.

‘Pure sample’ produced using easily obtainable raw materials

One of the students, Charles Jameson, told the BBC that synthesizing Daraprim “wasn't terribly hard but that's really the point, I think, because we're high school students.” Another student, 17-year-old James Wood, explained The Sydney Morning Herald that “the background to this made it seem more important.”

“This Daraprim story has been ingrained in lots of people's minds,” Dr. Williamson said in an interview with CNN. “I thought ‘what if we can get these boys to show you can make it from cheap materials and that relatively inexperienced young scientists can make it?’ Not only would the boys be involved in an exciting research project, maybe it would be a way to highlight the iniquity [of the price hike].”

The project was dubbed “Breaking Good,” a nod to the popular US TV show “Breaking Bad,” which is about a chemistry teacher who is diagnosed with inoperable lung cancer and who starts producing and selling crystal meth to earn money for his family before dying. The students spent one year producing the Daraprim, and said they were pleased with the results of their work.

According to the Morning Herald, the students started by obtaining 17 grams of the raw material 2,4-chlorophenyl acetonitrile, which can be purchased online for a cost of $36.50 per 100 grams. They were unable to use the patented technique for producing the drug, as it requires the use of dangerous reagents, and instead worked with their chemistry teacher to use an alternative method that produced “a very pure sample of the active ingredient,” Dr. Williamson told CNN.

The students presented the results of their work Wednesday at the Royal Australian Chemical Institute NSW Organic Chemistry symposium.

 27 
 on: Dec 02, 2016, 11:41 AM 
Started by Rad - Last post by tashizangmo@yahoo.com
Hi Tashi,

Thanks for taking the time, and making the effort, that you have to contribute to this thread on skipped steps. What we are doing in this thread is to make it as simple and essential as possible in order to understand what the core of skipped steps are in any given chart, and how to resolve those skipped steps.

Dear Rad
Thank you so much for your clear statements.  I definitely did not read enough of the thread to understand what had been said, and I see now how I was speculating on archetypes.  I will be more careful, and pay more attention.  I have the utmost respect for the teachings of JWG, and am reforming all my notions of too much knowing of old astrological paradigms to advance my real understanding of natural law and totally appreciate all the points you have made here.  I continue to learn with great humility and respect for EA. 
Thank you so much for your candor.  I am grateful and look forward to the ability to continue to learn.
I appreciate the forum and am never afraid to stumble if I am learning. 
Grateful to your tender instruction
Tashi

 28 
 on: Dec 02, 2016, 11:07 AM 
Started by Rad - Last post by Kristin
Hi All,

I wanted to share some follow up news re: Shaw, as I heard from his mother yesterday. She wanted to let me know that Shaw has shifted his energy significantly since the reading, that she is witnessing a sea change in his behavior.

This is an example of the power of bottom lines, spoken in simple messages that can really penetrate into the psyche and the Soul to induce changing behaviors.....and thus new choices.

Shaw came out of a therapy appointment this week with all smiles. He entered the car and the first thing said to his sister was,"Hi Chloe, I Love you."

On the heels of where things have been, his mom was positively floored.

I reminded her that life is an ebb and flow journey, that with his SN in the 4th, as well as his Saturn and Mars in Cancer, it could be a two steps forward, one step back process. Just like with the changes of the Moon, his moods may also change with the tides, but to encourage that he continue to feel all the way through his emotion versus reacting in the moment.

He now knows the WHY to his hard and heated emotions, and he knows he has a chance to move through them on his own, in a way that benefits all.

"SO the change is up to me?" He said.
"Yes", I said, "the change is up to you."

This puts the power back into the hands of a Soul who has felt like a victim to his circumstance. Step by step.

Peace,
Kristin

 29 
 on: Dec 02, 2016, 09:43 AM 
Started by Rad - Last post by Rad
Massive rift in Antarctica’s Larsen C ice shelf

STEAM Register
02 Dec 2016 at 07:43 ET

GREENBELT, MD: A massive rift in Antarctica's Larsen C ice shelf was photographed on Nov. 10, 2016 by NASA IceBridge mission scientists.

Ice shelves are the floating parts of ice streams and glaciers, and they support the grounded ice behind them. But when a collapse occurs, the ice behind the shelf begins to race toward the ocean, where it then adds to sea level rise.

Larsen C is neighbor to a smaller ice shelf that disintegrated in 2002 after developing a rift similar to the one now growing in Larsen C.

The new fracture in Larsen C is roughly 70 miles long, more than 300 feet wide and about a third of a mile deep. While the crack completely cuts through the ice shelf, it does not go all the way across it. But once it does - and no doubt it will - the result will likely be an iceberg about the size of Delaware.

"It's a large rift on an ice shelf whose future we are curious about. Inevitably, when you see it in satellite imagery or from a plane, you wonder what is going to happen when it breaks off," said Joe MacGregor, IceBridge deputy project scientist and glaciologist at Goddard. "However, large icebergs calve from ice shelves regularly and they normally do not lead to ice-shelf collapse. The growth of this rift likely indicates that the portion of the ice shelf downstream of the rift is no longer holding back any grounded ice."

The northernmost Antarctic Peninsula, viewed from the northeast aboard the IceBridge research aircraft on an Oct. 17, 2016, flight toward the mission's inshore survey line in the western Weddell Sea. Credit: NASA/John Sonntag

"We are probing the most remote corners of Spaceship Earth to learn more about changes that affect all of us locally, such as how ice sheets are contributing to sea level rise," said NASA Deputy Administrator Dava Newman on her very first flight over Antarctica with the IceBridge team on Nov. 17. "At NASA we explore: not only space, but also our home planet."

The mission of Operation IceBridge is to collect data on changing polar land and sea ice and maintain continuity of measurements between NASA's Ice, Cloud and Land Elevation Satellite (ICESat) missions. The original ICESat mission ended in 2009, and its successor, ICESat-2, is scheduled for launch in 2018. Operation IceBridge, which began in 2009, is currently funded until 2019. The planned overlap with ICESat-2 will help scientists validate the satellite's measurements. Learn more about NASA's Operation IceBridge..

 30 
 on: Dec 02, 2016, 09:39 AM 
Started by Rad - Last post by Rad
Bottlenose dolphins found with record-high levels of mercury

Miami Herald
01 Dec 2016 at 19:14 ET   

MIAMI — Bottlenose dolphins swimming off the Florida Everglades, beloved for zipping alongside lonely boaters in the remote bays and rivers chiseled out of the vast marshes, have the highest levels of mercury ever documented in the mammals, researchers have found.

But why that is may not be so easy to unravel.

The findings surfaced in a study in the journal Environmental Pollution that looked at pesticides and toxins in South Florida dolphins. Dolphins are considered a sentinel species, providing valuable insight into ecosystems and public health. Last year, for example, in a study that looked at dolphins in the Indian River Lagoon, researchers discovered that elevated mercury levels in dolphins accurately reflected high amounts in the nearby human population.

But in the Everglades, nothing is ever simple.

The high amounts of mercury likely come from the miles of mangrove that line the coast and form countless islands, said Florida International University marine ecologist and co-author Jeremy Kiszka. Mercury in the Everglades has long been linked to smoke stacks and fertilizer used in farming and led to declines in birds — as well as repeated health warnings over eating fish. But aggressive cleanup efforts have helped reduce levels.

Still, mangroves are remarkably efficient at producing and trapping mercury, and filtering it into the water, so determining where the toxic mercury comes from, and how long it's been there, remains poorly understood, researchers say.

"I would love to answer this absolutely critical question," Kiszka said. "I understand it's frustrating. We don't know where it's coming from. OK, potentially the mangroves, but there could be other sources."

That also means the dolphins inhabiting Florida Bay, Whitewater Bay, Joe River and other areas in Everglades National Park studied by the team have likely had high levels for a long time with no ill effects, he said.

"I doubt there is any impact on the population. However, without any data, it's not reasonable to say," he said. "This is a baseline study."

While boaters to the remote rivers and bays are familiar with the dolphins, little is actually known about them. Kiszka said FIU scientists have been studying the dolphins since 2010 but have focused largely on their distribution and foraging habits, not their physiology. So for this study, the team wanted to see what kind of pollution they could find in the dolphins, as well as pods in the Florida Keys, examining tissue samples taken from scores of dolphins in 2008 and 2013.

Not surprisingly, they found higher levels of pesticides in dolphins near the Keys, which were more likely to be exposed to urban runoff. However, the levels were lower than expected, providing some good news, Kiszka said.

Because mangroves trap and transport mercury — other studies have found high levels in the Amazon and other mangrove forests — scientists expected to find elevated levels. But not in such high amounts, he said.

"I couldn't believe those levels because that's the highest ever recorded," he said. "It raises a lot of other questions."

FIU scientists now hope to expand the study to include other animals — alligators and bull sharks — that could give them a better understanding of what mercury is doing in the marine environment.

"Expanding to other species in the Everglades will definitely help to understand the pathways," he said. "We're trying to put together the many different pieces to understand what makes those animals or ecosystems more susceptible to high mercury. There's a lot of work to be done."

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