Two juniors at Sherwood High School in Montgomery County, Maryland volunteered to help their Spanish teacher, Tanya Aguilar, find COVID-19 vaccination appointments for members of their community who were struggling to get the shot. Many of them are older and do not have access to computers, while others do not speak or read English well enough to schedule an appointment for themselves. Kashmira Heaton- Vakharia, who is sixteen years old, and Fernando Johnson, who is seventeen years old, started volunteering as “vaccine hunters” along with a group of students and teachers in Montgomery County, Maryland community.
The teenage volunteers use their internet skills to navigate through dozens of websites to locate available appointments. Once the appointments are located, they carefully fill in the needed information to secure the appointment. The appointments were made for members of Takoma Park Seventh Day Adventist church, which included the pastor, Daniel Xisto. Sixty church members who were identified as at risk of contracting the incredibly contagious virus were able to take advantage of the volunteer’s computer skills to book their COVID-19 vaccines. People are considered at a higher risk of contracting COVID-19 for a number of reasons. One of the leading factors that place certain people at greater risk is simply their age. Anyone who is sixty-five years old or older is typically considered at high risk for contracting the COVID-19 virus if they are not vaccinated. Others may be considered at high risk because they have underlying health conditions including, but not limited to, diabetes, asthma, or heart problems. These chronic illnesses could make it difficult for the patient’s body to successfully fight off COVID-19 because the immune system is busy with other pre-existing illnesses. It was important for members of the Takoma Park Seventh Day Adventist church to know the risk factors so they could make use of the volunteers and get their vaccinations scheduled.
When asked about the experience, Fernando Johnson replied, “ It is an incredibly liberating feeling every time [ a vaccine is successfully scheduled.]” Johnson and Heaton-Vakharia have been able to utilize their computer skills and their time in order to schedule two hundred and fifteen COVID-19 vaccination appointments for members of their community. The teenage and adult volunteers are careful to fill in all the vaccine registration information correctly. Having the wrong information at the time of the appointment can cause delays and slow the process at the vaccination site.
The work of these teenage vaccine hunters did not go unrecognized. Pater Daniel Xisto made sure to get a picture of himself getting his vaccine. He wanted to show his congregation it was not a difficult thing to do. The pastor also wanted to publicly thank Johnson and Heaton-Vakharia and let them know what a wonderful service they provided to his congregation. He wants to invite them to services when his church is able to reopen. The vaccine hunters replied that it would be cool to sit down and talk to the pastor and congregation.
A Massive NZ Effort in Rat Eradication Saves Endangered Birds
Most times, thanks to development and people’s encroachment, endangered species tend to drop in numbers, requiring significant protection to stabilize. However, recently, that hasn’t been the case on the Wellington Miramar Peninsula. Instead, multiple bird species have been exploding in numbers, easily growing their presence into robust populations than can fend off the elements, disease, predators and competition. Overall, this gain in strength has been a 51 percent expansion of original species presence since their last measurement. In some cases, specific species of birds involved have increased their numbers up to 500 percent.
Much of previous risks and threats to the birds involved rodents. Rats as well as possums were notorious for killing birds, particularly the younger ones in nests, essentially culling the numbers and holding them back from any reasonable growth. However, significant efforts under the Predator Free 2050 program have been extremely effective in not only stopping the impact of the rodents but wiping them out from any viable presence as well. It wasn’t an easy battle, however.
The job of eliminating rodents from the Miramar peninsula involved over 11,000 rodent traps alone, as well as all the personnel, time and work involved to check, clear and reset the traps to do their job. Obviously, with any kind of threat, animals learn from experience and observation what could kill them, so the traps had to be altered as well to remain effective. In addition to the crew involved, some 3,000 volunteers and local residents took part in the effort as well. It was essentially an invasion of workers against the rodents and a persistence of eradication.
The rodent list wasn’t limited to the night creepers either. Every major rodent capable of harming the bird populations were targeted. As a result, weasels, stoats, and mustelids were caught up in the bio-dragnet as well. If one could think of a gang task force mission, this probably would have been called Operation Dead Rat or something similar and final.
Tracking and monitoring helped confirm the rat eradication efforts as well. Well over 300 cameras were used in different locations to confirm that the work was having an effect and that personnel were not just being duped by savvy hiding critters. The video work has also been effective in confirming the bird population growth as well. Instead of seeing rodent culprits, birds have been filling the gap left by the dead mammals and confirming their re-establishment now that their threat is gone.
Of course, cats might want to argue that they can help, but the project management has been advising homeowners to keep their cats indoors. Essentially, anything small on four legs is pretty much a target in the Mirimar Peninsula, without exception.
US Army Launches Huge Floating Solar Power Plant in Fort Braggs
The Big Muddy Lake in North Carolina’s Fort Bragg is home to the US Army’s first-ever floating solar farm. It was unveiled recently. Floatovoltaics are becoming increasingly popular in the United States, and this is the initial floating solar arrangement deployed by the military.
This project is intended to increase renewable energy, cut carbon emissions, and provide a backup power supply for the neighboring training center in the event of a blackout. Power generated by the panels will sufficiently supply about 180 homes.
The largest floatovoltaics installation in the Southeast, the United States, is a huge triumph for technology, which has yet to make an impact in the United States. In the US, they only account for 2% of all solar installations each year, according to Duke Energy’s collaboration with Fort Bragg and Ameresco, a renewable energy firm.
As a rule, floating solar is more costly than its equivalents on land in the first stages. The panels are resting on a raft that is anchored to the floor of the water source. There are, however, advantages to using floatovoltaics. Solar panels have a tougher time generating the same level of electricity from the same quantity of sunlight at higher temperatures.
However, because water acts as a cooling agent, the panels can produce more power than those on land. Because of this, the efficiency of floating solar is improved, which more than makes up for the higher initial installation costs.
There are certain drawbacks to using solar power, such as the fact that it is land-intensive. One gigawatt of power from a solar farm may require 20 times as much land as a gigawatt of energy from a fossil fuel energy station. In the United States, several farmers, as well as conservationists, have already clashed over land use and the effect on desert environments, for instance, due to solar projects.
On the other hand, floatovoltaics may be able to circumvent some of these issues. Human-made waterways like reservoirs and canals are where you’re most likely to see them in the US. These are less difficult to construct and have a lower influence on delicate ecosystems than facilities erected in naturally occurring environments, such as deserts.
Floatovoltaics might create as much power as all of the world’s existing fossil fuel power plants, according to a new article in the journal Nature. The panels also help to prevent evaporation, which is especially significant in dry locations in which river levels are rapidly decreasing. Solar panels are also being used to line irrigation ditches in drought-stricken California.
A lot of this might help solar acquire a foothold in America. Despite this, solar accounts for only about three percent of the country’s total electricity generation. Nearly triple the power is generated by wind in the United States. Floating solar has created a name for itself outside of the United States, particularly in countries like Japan where land is scarce.
To accomplish global climate targets, massive expansion of renewable energy sources is required across the board. By 2035, the Biden administration hopes to have a grid powered entirely by sustainable energy, and by 2050, it hopes to have achieved net-zero emissions of greenhouse gases. That’s what’s needed internationally to meet the goals set out in the Paris climate agreement.
The US military is Among The Most Powerful Polluters Around
As one of the world’s largest polluters, the US military emits more greenhouse gas emissions each year than 140 countries combined. This is why the launch of Fort Bragg’s solar panel array is so vital. By the middle of this century, the United States Army plans to have zero net emissions.
The military has a stake in combating climate change, too. This disruption is expected to continue for the foreseeable future, according to the army’s climate plan. That includes the possibility of power failures. Battery power is also included in Fort Bragg’s new floatovoltaic formation in the event of a power outage, like in the case of a hurricane striking the area. By the year 2040, the military hopes to have “enough renewable energy generation and battery storage capacity to self-sustain its key missions” on all of its sites.
The Re-Establishment of Osprey in Southern England
When it comes to animals and breeding, the general public expects that nature just takes its course by instinct, and breeding happens on the natural. However, for anyone who’s actually been involved with animal husbandry, getting animals to do their thing can sometimes be a serious challenge. And, as it turns out, ospreys are particularly troublesome in this regard when it comes to the locale of southern England.
While ospreys in general have been breeding for years (or they wouldn’t exist otherwise), southern England has been a deadzone for the bird’s propagation. Areas around Dorset have been experiencing dwindling populations for years as the birds either move or just plain die off without generational replacement. However, thanks to the work of conservationists in the area, a particular osprey nest has been quite active and is now underway, potentially producing hatchlings for the first time in 200 recorded years. Streamed via a webcam set up by the Poole Harbour Osprey nest program, the filming has given researchers and the public a firsthand look at what has been missing from the Dorset area for approximately two centuries, at least by any serious archiving standards.
Ospreys have had a rough time, which contributed to their decline in number overall. Both in England and Europe, the birds have been hunted and intentionally culled to get rid of them or use them for taxidermy. The nests were also hunted down and plundered as the eggs were considered a delicacy. It was only in 2017 that a serious biology program was instituted to help repopulate the southern England region with the osprey via reintroduction. The birds were originally sourced from as far north as Scotland.
The Scottish effort started earlier, in 1996, and has since produced a very vibrant population of ospreys in the northern coastlands, making for plenty of candidates to relocate southward. Now, for the conservationists involved, a nest with an egg in it and being incubated by the hen osprey is a huge achievement for all the efforts that went into relocating the birds. At least seven years of effort and tireless work has gotten the program to this point in achievement. And if everything goes according to plan, a hatching set should appear by May 2022 along with feeding activity.
Generally, ospreys are a coastal sea-faring bird, feeding off of fish in the waters as their primary food source. Poole Harbour fit the bill for a relocation program given its heavy fish population and being smack dab on the normal migration path for the ospreys as they move back and forth to Europe and return annually. With tracking, the researchers were able to determine the given breeding pair made it all the way down to Arica during their seasonal flying and then returned to England to begin their breeding cycle.
Time will tell if the hatchlings make it, but if they do, there’s a very good chance Pool Harbour will start to see more and more of the birds over the next decade as a result.
Bakery Truck Fed Scores of Stranded I-95 Motorists Biblical Style
The Holihan’s had been stuck on I-95 in Virginia for almost 16 hours before they came up with a plan to get home.
Around 9 a.m. on Tuesday, the couple saw a Schmidt Baking Company vehicle just several feet ahead of them. At this point, they guessed that it had been 37 hours when they had eaten.
23-year-old Holihan recalls that they were “starving” at the stoppage, which took place near Quantico. “Not only were we struggling, but everyone around us was as well. Kids were wailing in the background.”
Schmidt Baking Co. in Baltimore was the number they dialed in the hopes that they’d happily offer any goods on the vehicle to famished commuters, and they were not disappointed. Despite the couple’s knowledge that it was a bit of a stretch, they and countless others, many of whom got stranded on I-95 for nearly 24 hours, were starving for food.
When they dialed the customer service phone number, they gave them their phone number.
I doubted it would work, Holihan admitted.
Chuck Paterakis, another of the founders of H&S Bakery, which owns Schmidt Baking Company, contacted the couple within 20 minutes after she had contacted them.
Afterward, he instructed the truck driver to offer up two items—a package of rolls and a loaf of bread—to everyone who requested them.
Paterakis stated, “It was a no-brainer.” With no food and water, “I would want somebody to give their products” was his final thought when asked about being stranded in the middle of nowhere.
They were on their way from Ellicott City, Md., to see Noe’s relatives in Newport, NC, on I-95 when they got into an accident.
Ron Hill, Holihan, and Noe joined the truck driver in snatching bread from the truck and dispersing it to passing motorists. Others quickly jumped on the bandwagon.
He remarked, “We started knocking on doors, and we were able to help several folks.”
About 300 loaves of bread got distributed during an hour’s trek along the ice-slicked roadways.
Holihan added that “some folks said that this was a lifesaver for them.”
For several hours, an Uber driver and a passenger got stuck on I-95. Her safety was his number one priority.
There were families with kids stranded for long periods without sustenance. “We established a tiny little commune that will stay etched in their memories,” she said of the experience of sleeping on a highway all night.
Paterakis’s compassionate act was the only thing that stood out to them in an otherwise harrowing situation.
“He didn’t have to assist us. Holihan opined, “He could have generated revenue on that bread.” He said, “It was quite touching.”
“We’re flattered and thankful that we could contribute,” Paterakis said of his family’s 80-year legacy as a family-run bakery in Baltimore. Since then, his three brothers have taken control of the business.
It has given about 3 million loaves of food aid to the poor in the Baltimore-Washington region since March 2020, he said.
It was instilled in him by his parents, who he credits with teaching him how to strive and help the less fortunate. It would be a great honor for my parents to see this.
Holihan expressed her gratitude for the bread and the unexpected community they discovered. On Tuesday evening, the pair was on the highway for 33 hours but still had roughly two hours to go before they arrived in Newport.
Even though it seemed like an interminable road journey, we could make friends with other stranded travelers and bring them bread from the rear of the truck.
All of Holihan’s friends and coworkers expressed their gratitude.
Saving the Great Barrier Reef One Coral at a Time
The Great Barrier Reef has been the subject of news focus for a number of years now many of the existing adult coral reefs have been damaged by water temperature changes and sun bleaching. Entire ecosystems depend on the reefs, so the loss of even some of the structure could be disastrous for life in the area. As a proactive effort to reverse some of the loss, a project involving lab-created coral has been worked on with the hope of generating new coral beds with new life. The results are starting to pay off with the first generation of offspring now appearing.
Starting in 2016, 22 coral colonies were developed through lab-enhanced growth and establishment, and then they were transplanted to the Great Barrier Reef to promote establishment. Now, some five years later, the results are being seen as those artificially-created coral are now at maturity and beginning to propagate an entire new generation from them. This is exactly the long-term results researchers were hoping for.
The initial size of the planted coral when first started was microscopic. They have since grown into sizable clusters, most as big as a plate of food. Even more promising, another wave of coral at mid-development stage should be maturing within another year, creating another wave of growth and propagation in case the first one suffers some sort of a glitch. However, given the results the researchers are seeing, the planted colonies are raging forward in growth and showing no signs of sputtering at doing what they do best.
The helping hand provided by science and the conservation efforts are a big confidence booster for multiple efforts working to save the Great Barrier Reef. It’s also proving that the methodology used for prolonged coral development is a working, viable path that can be scaled up to bigger levels now that it’s a proven success. The project is the first to cross the line and re-establish successfully a coral bed and colony, especially where factors have damaged the previous coral and killed it off.
While the project is not a perfect, all-encompassing solution for the Great Barrier Reef die-off, the lab-produced coral are showing themselves to be one of the most successful approaches so far with a significant potential to replace lost coral altogether in a short period of time. If humans can help reverse the past damage, it could produce a positive karma effect that benefits future generations with a preserved ocean eco-system range vital to regional sea life.
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