Robert Lalasz

Robert Lalasz is the director of science communications at The Nature Conservancy and blogs on Cool Green Science.

Protect the coral reefs — the life you save might be your own

Photo: U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service — Pacific RegionCoral reefs are in big trouble worldwide — and that’s not just bad news for snorkelers. It could mean death instead of life for millions of people … maybe even you. Here’s why: Coral already provides the elemental compounds for a growing number of crucial medicines and health products — ranging from antiviral drugs like Ara-A and AZT to anti-inflammatories, painkillers, and even sunblocks. But science is in a race against time: We’ve just started to plumb the depths of coral’s potential to attack the world’s health issues … only to have …

New study: How to get your kids to become environmentalists

LEAF participants enjoy an afternoon at the beach after a morning of work at the Conservancy’s Cape May Migratory Bird Refuge in the Delaware Bayshores region.Photo: Erika Nortemann/TNCCross-posted from Cool Green Science. Want your kids to become ecologically conscious as adults? Get ‘em into nature now — that’s the most reliable way to build their love of the outdoors, according to mountains of research. But in a harried and always-online world (for parents as well as children), what’s it going to take to do that? One way: Find a program with mentors who guide them through the wonders (and occasional …


Hot-and-cold running crisis: cities, water, and climate change

Woman carrying water through the Dharavi slum of Mumbai.Photo: Meena KadriCross-posted from Cool Green Science. Imagine living on less than a bathtub of water for all your daily needs: drinking, cooking, bathing, washing clothes … and everything else. By 2050, more than 1 billion city dwellers may be doing just that if we don’t build new infrastructure or begin new water conservation efforts, according to a new study [PDF] by scientists at The Nature Conservancy and other institutions. And more than 3 billion in cities may suffer similar water shortages at least one month of every year, says the report. …

One shell of a species

How to save the world’s oysters — and eat them, too

Consider the oyster — carefully. Photo: Wally GobetzCross-posted from Cool Green Science. The headlines were enough to make you throw away your shucking knife: “More than 85 percent of [oyster] reefs have been lost due to overfishing, according to a new study,” said The Independent. Foodie bloggers panicked over the news — was it suddenly an eco-crime to belly up to the oyster bar? Would oyster eating be forced underground, like those little birds the French eat with napkins over their faces? Could you ever again enjoy shelling out for these delicious bivalves with a clear conscience? Yes, you should …

Reef(er) Madness

Scientist: 75 percent of coral reefs are threatened — but there’s hope!

Bleached coral in waters off Phuket, Thailand.Photo: AeyseaCross-posted from Cool Green Science As anyone who’s ever snorkeled off of a Caribbean island knows, coral reefs are strange, beautiful structures housing a dizzying diversity of sea life. Coral reefs occupy less than 1 percent of the ocean floor, but provide habitat for as much as a quarter of the world’s sea species. But just like their terrestrial rival in biodiversity, rainforests, coral reefs have been under siege from human activity for some time. Back in 1998,  a report called Reefs at Risk jolted scientists and policymakers alike with its gloomy findings …

Charismatic microfauna

A scientist dishes on the wild kingdom beneath our feet

Creature from the underworld: Scanning electron micrograph of an adult water bear (tardigrade).Photo: Goldstein labCross-posted from Cool Green Science. Water bears? Fungi that strangle worms? Roots that send off reconnaissance soldiers (that somehow report back)? There’s a world of bizarre organisms under our feet — millions of species that are also critical for life on Earth. Nature Conservancy scientist Sophie Parker specializes in soil ecology, and has just published a paper called “Buried Treasure: Soil Biodiversity and Conservation.” I recently asked her about her favorite soil critters and why we should care about what lives in the dirt. Q. What …

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