Chewing the Cud on Wild Yaks

A weekly roundup of the best in science journalism, doodled.

April 21, 2015

I’m very curious about what it will mean for the environment if California starts building desalination plants off its coast. Turning saltwater into freshwater is a process well underway in places like the Middle East, but U.S. projects have lagged behind. Now, thanks to a four-year drought, desalination in the Golden State is getting a recharge—but not without controversy. As the New York Times reports, these expensive plants consume lots of electricity and could have impacts on local sea life.

Flora LichtmanPhoto: Flora Lichtman

There are still vast places and creatures on earth that we know very little about—like wild yaks in the Himalayas. Biologist Joel Berger describes a day in the extreme life of this animal at “the roof of the world.” (By the way, alongside photos of his daughter, Berger also carries photos of yaks and muskoxen and saiga and chiru in his wallet.) He tells Flora Lichtman of the Adaptors podcast that they’ve never been able to put a radio collar on a yak, which means more observation days in the field—and more 25-degree nights snoozing in two sleeping bags.

Photo: Lieven Devreese and Gael Elie Gnondo Gobolo

GOOD NEWS ABOUT THE ENVIRONMENT! The red colobus monkey is not, in fact, extinct. A team of researchers, led by northern Congo locals familiar with the primates’ vocalizations and habits, took the first photograph ever of a mother red colobus with her infant. Apparently when they encounter humans, red colobus stay where they are in the tree and just gaze down at us—which is probably why they are so rare. Don’t talk to strangers, monkey!

An op-ed column in an Australian newspaper claims ocean acidification is an invention of scientists and survivable by corals. Graham Readfern at the Guardian consults with three reputable scientists to find out just how valid those arguments are. (Spoiler: They’re not.) Journalists don’t want to spend too much time taking apart misleading opinion pieces, but this takedown taught me a lot—and has some good pointers for those dinner parties where your host’s friends (we know YOUR friends wouldn’t be science deniers) start talking this and that about the “ocean acidification hoax.”

onEarth provides reporting and analysis about environmental science, policy, and culture. All opinions expressed are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the policies or positions of NRDC. Learn more or follow us on Facebook and Twitter.

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