science podcast #156

Conservation Drones, Sounds of the Earth’s Magnetosphere

(Photo: Flickr/The Exo Guy)

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This Week: On the western Indonesian island of Sumatra, scientists are using drones to help protect the endangered Orangutan. The sound of the Earth’s magnetosphere. And a mysterious kidney disease that’s killing thousands of people in Sri Lanka’s rice growing North Central Province. A new study thinks the likely cause is farm chemicals.

The Sounds of the Earth’s Security Blanket: We hear a lot about the fragility of life on earth these days. The impact of 7 billion-plus people is putting huge stresses on the natural systems that we depend on. But at least some of the vital systems that protect our planet are largely beyond our ability to mess with. And that’s a strangely reassuring idea to The World’s environment editor Peter Thomson. He got to thinking about it, when he heard a newly recorded piece of sound.

Conservation Drones Help Protect Orangutans: Primatologist Serge Wich of Liverpool John Moores University has been studying Sumatran orangutans for nearly two decades. The species is critically endangered, threatened by deforestation and poaching. Wich wants to protect the species. So, he monitors orangutan populations. But it takes a long time and costs a lot of money to monitor this tree dwelling species. That’s why he and his colleagues recently decided to put drones to the task. The drones fly over swaths of the forest and come back with detailed pictures. It’s a quick and inexpensive way to track orangutan populations and monitor illegal human activities like logging and poaching.
Learn more at Conservation Drones.

Sampath Kumarasinghe and his widowed mother, P. Dingirimenike, share a quiet moment outside their home in Sri Lanka's North Central Province. Kumarasinghe has chronic kidney disease. (Photo: Rhitu Chatterjee)

Sri Lanka’s Mysterious Kidney Disease Linked to Farm Chemicals:

Thousands of people in the Asian island nation of Sri Lanka have been struck by a mysterious and deadly form of kidney disease. A new study points to a likely cause: pesticides and fertilizers. This story was reported as part of a joint investigation with the Center for Public Integrity. Read more reports in the series Mystery in the Fields.
Click here for slide show and video from Sri Lanka’s North Central Province.

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