Anglers invited to join citizen science effort

TroutBlitz helps conservation and restoration efforts

Fishing for cutthroat trout at Clinton Gulch Reservoir, Summit County, Colorado.

Fishing for cutthroat trout at Clinton Gulch Reservoir, Summit County, Colorado.

Staff Report

FRISCO — It’s not always easy to gather good scientific data, especially in an era when political ideology drives policy, resulting in budget cuts that hamper government agencies.

That’s where citizen science can help, and Trout Unlimited wants anglers around the country to help record evidence of their trout catches both photographically and via mapping coordinates with the relaunch of TroutBlitz.

TU’s science team uses the data collected from anglers to learn more about native trout water, non-native trout proliferation and the health of entire watersheds. Continue reading

Environment: UK study shows how heavy metal pollution alters genetics of trout populations

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Some trout populations in Colorado have been affected by toxic heavy metal pollution from abandoned mines.

Historic UK mining contamination has cut genetic diversity of brown trout

Staff Report

FRISCO — In a study that has implications for Colorado rivers and fish, scientists in the UK have shown that heavy metal pollution from mining has dramatically reduced  genetic diversity of brown trout.

The University of Exeter researchers say their findings show that human activity can alter the genetic patterns of wild populations — an important issue in modern conservation. Continue reading

Environment: Study shows how growth hormones used in cattle linger in stream environments

Most modern cattle, including these longhorns near Silverthorne, Colorado, are descended from a

A new study suggests updated regulations are needed to protect the environment from growth hormones used in cattle. @bberwyn photo.

‘We expect impacts that extend through the aquatic food web’

Staff Report

FRISCO — Artificial hormones uses to fatten up cattle persist in the environment in unexpected ways, and for much longer than previously believed, according to environmental scientists, who say their study shows the need to update regulations based on new scientific research.

“What we release into the environment is just the starting point for a complex series of chemical reactions that can occur, sometimes with unintended consequences,” said Adam Ward, lead author of the study and assistant professor in the IU Bloomington School of Public and Environmental Affairs.

“When compounds react in a way we don’t anticipate — when they convert between species, when they persist after we thought they were gone — this challenges our regulatory system,” Ward said. Continue reading

Environment: Danube plastic pollution out of control, scientists say after intensive sampling effort

At times, there’s more plastic than baby fish in Europe’s second-largest river

Sunrise along the Danube in Linz, Austria.

Sunrise along the Danube in Linz, Austria. @bberwyn photo.

By Bob Berwyn

FRISCO —The Danube River has long been a source of inspiration for songs, fairytales and dreams. But in recent decades, those dreams have morphed into plastic nightmare of sorts, as the mighty European stream sends at least 1,500 tons of plastic debris surging into the Black Sea each year.

So much plastic is being washed into the Danube that, at times, the debris outweighs the amount of fish larvae drifting down Europe’s second-largest river, a team of Austrian scientists found after two years of intensive sampling.

Most of the plastic (about 80 percent) is from pre-consumer industrial sources — in other words, from the factories that make the tiny plastic pellets and flakes that, in turn, are used to make everything from toothbrushes to kids toys, says Aaron Lechner, a researcher with the University of Vienna who teamed up with other scientists to take a close look at the problem. Continue reading

Environment: New analysis helps pinpoint fracking pollution in Pennsylvania drinking water

Fracked nation.

Fracked nation.

Fracking substances found almost two miles away from faulty drilling operation

Staff Report

FRISCO — Scientists in Pennsylvania said they’ve been able to track pollution from fracking as the source of contamination in drinking water wells more than 1 mile from the fracked shale gas wells.

The stray natural gas and wastewater moved laterally along shallow to intermediate depth fractures to the source of the homes’ well water. The chemicals foamed from water faucets in three homes near a reported well-pad leak. The homes were sold to the gas company as part of a legal settlement in 2012, but scientists received samples before the transfer.

Previous studies had not been able to identify the cause of the foaming, but the new analysis found a chemical compound, 2-BE, and an unidentified complex mixture of organic contaminants, both commonly seen in flowback water from Marcellus shale activity.  Continue reading

Colorado: Water sharing a good deal for rivers

State water board, conservation group team up to create innovative new water rights agreement

By Bob Berwyn

Photos courtesy Colorado Water Trust

* Tools like the Little Cimarron agreement could be used to improve environmental conditions in many of the state’s rivers, and the evolving Colorado Water Plan can help identify places where deals like this could be used. Read more about the Colorado Water plan here.

FRISCO —For thousands of years, the Little Cimarron River trickled out of the snowfields of the San Juan Mountains, coursing unimpeded through steep alpine canyons and rolling sagebrush foothills before merging with the Gunnison River.

That changed when European settlers arrived in the region. Eager to tame the rugged land, ranchers and farmers took to the hills with shovels and picks, diverting part of the river’s flow to water hayfields and pastures. The back-breaking work brought the imprint of civilization to the area, but just as surely wrought huge changes to natural systems that had been self-regulating themselves since the end of the last ice age.

Like nearly every other river in Colorado, the Little Cimarron was free-flowing no more. Continue reading

Environment: Blacktop runoff is deadly to stream life

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Off the road, into the stream … Photo courtesy U.S. Department of Transportation.

Coal-tar sealant fingered as highly damaging to DNA

Staff Report

FRISCO — New research led by U.S. Geological Survey scientists shows that pavement sealants made with coal tar are highly toxic. Runoff from surfaces treated with such sealants can kill fish and other stream organisms for months after it’s applied, the researchers concluded in a pair of recent studies.

Pavement sealant is a black liquid sprayed or painted on the asphalt pavement of parking lots, driveways and playgrounds to improve appearance and protect the underlying asphalt.

Pavement sealants that contain coal tar have extremely high levels of polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs).  Coal tar is a known human carcinogen; several PAHs are probable human carcinogens and some are toxic to fish and other aquatic life. Continue reading

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