Oysters & Fortunetellers


Where the gringa lives in the gulf coast of Texas, oyster farming is big business. The gringa’s farming experience is limited to my father’s cattle ranch and my own egg farming. Is that how oyster farming works? Do you just leave the little guys alone most of the time to do what oysters do? Toss them a bit of feed, protect them from predators, stuff like that? Well, actually oyster farming has gone hi-tech. For young people who are interested in a beach bum lifestyle with the edge of technology, oyster farming or working with the technology related to the industry may be your thing if you love science as much as beach bumming.

Oysters don’t need their human overseers to bring them a bale of hay or toss out some nutrient enriched scratch. They are living filters that live on the bottom of a bay. Oyster farmers really don’t have that much to do, it would seem, unless it is harvest time. Sounds like the perfect beach bum job.

However, there is one thing that can happen that can interrupt an oyster farmer’s hiatus between harvests. If storm clouds gather, oyster farmers have to get out of their hammocks, put away the surfboard and forego the margaritas and head out for some serious relocating work in the estuaries.

You see, as bottom feeding filters, rain in this polluted day and age can be deadly for oysters. And even if contaminants in run off don’t kill the slimy, little buggers they could, in turn, kill a human if eaten. A local thunderstorm with a heavy downpour means one of two things:

  • Completely relocate their stock, or,
  • Quarantine the area and delay harvest until it is safe.

Now, even if an oyster farmer was willing to relocate their oysters, often weather conditions can change rapidly and unexpectedly in coastal regions.  Usually an oyster farmer simply doesn’t have enough time to respond. So, the oysters bide the storm and everyone hopes for the best. But considering how heavily polluted most of the soil is in populated areas around the world, it’s usually not good news when it’s all over.

The gringa doesn’t have the numbers for industry loss or farm closures in the Gulf of Mexico area I call home. However, I can tell you about what’s been going on in Tasmania. Since 2013 industry research has recorded a loss of over $4.3 million (Australian currency!) for Tasmanian oyster farmers due to contamination related farm closures, caused by pollutants in rainfall water runoff that entered estuaries.  This sounds awful, right? Well, take heart, dear readers. There is good news for Tasmanians as well as oyster farmers everywhere thanks to an agriculture technology start-up company, The Yield.

The Yield has designed a system of sensors that were tested in 14 Tasmanian oyster farm estuaries. This comprised about 80% of the entire oyster industry for the state. The technology measured:

  • Water depth
  • Salinity
  • Temperature
  • Barometric pressure

Oyster farmers use their smartphone, or other device, to access the handy little app that is updated every five minutes with new data about their squishy, little, hard-shelled babies. Access is also available to food safety regulators so everybody that matters is in the loop.

But the gringa wants to know if this has made oyster farming better. I mean, it’s always fun to have new gadgets but where business is concerned, is there a point to the expense? Here are the benefits of this new technology:

  • Reduces paperwork between farmers & food service regulators.
  • Food quality and safety has improved.
  • Accurate measurements has resulted in fewer farm closures.
  • Fewer farm closures has resulted in higher production, yields and profits.

Well, it looks like this technology is worth the investment for oyster farmers. It also looks like the investment of time and effort of scientists and meteorologists for more than a century was also a worthy investment. That is the backbone of the information that went into designing this system. If you have a habit or hobby of recording weather related “stuff”, who knows, one day what you may consider a hobby or pre-occupation could change the world! More than a hundred years worth of weather and tidal related data helped developers understand weather and tidal patterns, how they changed with the seasons, and how this would affect the performance of the technology to predict weather events. So, basically, Tasmania’s oyster farmers are more successful because of digital fortunetellers.

Sources:

www.techrepublic.com

www.theyield.com

oysterstasmania.org

Image Credit: oysterstasmania.org

 

 

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Amazing Grace and the Conveyor Belt


Is there a way to stem the tide of sea level rise due to climate change? I mean, if we can’t build a seawall around the coast of every continent and island, what other option is there other than an eventual mass human migration inland? Well, NASA thinks there very well may be a solution.

The Earth may be saving herself. Climate change researchers have been collecting data from NASA satellites to determine where all this extra liquid water from melted ice sheets and glaciers is ending up. It seems the Earth has absorbed over three trillion tons of water (that’s about the equivalent of what’s in Lake Huron) that are replenishing depleted lakes and underground aquifers. Now, this is great news but not a permanent fix. Researchers estimate this temporary band-aid will slow sea level rise by about twenty percent. Earth is buying us Earthlings some more time to get our you-know-what together and fix this mess we have created.

So, how does this “band-aid” work? The Earth’s regular water budget is provided by annual amounts of water evaporated from the oceans. This becomes precipitation that returns to the Earth through rainfall or snow. It then recycles back into the oceans as runoff or through rivers. As mankind’s use of groundwater has dramatically increased, the Earth has become quite thirsty as reservoirs are depleted. It has become a sponge, compensating for this unprecedented loss by absorbing what is melting from ice sheets and glaciers. This has served to curb rising sea levels despite the fact that glaciers and ice sheets continue to melt.

Now scientists are scrambling to recalculate future models and adjust previous projections of sea level rise as a result of the Earth’s warming oceans. So, although sea levels are still expected to rise, Earthlings have a little bit more time to solve the problems that will cause. But, once the Earth has slated her thirst, all that meltwater will then become a problem.

NASA is using a twin satellite system, GRACE (Gravity Recovery and Climate Experiment), to measure how much water is being stored within the Earth. Since scuba divers can’t delve into these underground reservoirs, just what kind of digital dipstick is being used? The satellites use gravity to measure liquid. The gringa scratches her head and says, “Um, what? A gravity yardstick? How does that work?”

As the twin satellites orbit the Earth, they measure the distance between themselves. Their measurements are so accurate and precise, they can get as close as a strand of human hair. Amazing! But, I digress. GRACE then transmits the data to Earthling researchers who use the information to measure any gravitational change in the Earth that is the result of any change Earth’s water distribution.

By using this method, scientists have measured how much water has been stored within Earth’s continents as a result of ice sheet and glacier melt. This is the first study of its kind. And, according to NASA’s mission to use technology to safeguard the future of Earth and the lives of Earthlings, the agency has shared this knowledge with other scientific communities around the world.

And GRACE is proving her mettle in other areas of climate change data as well. The satellites are tracking circulation and current patterns within the Atlantic Ocean. The typical current pattern of the Gulf Stream carries warm, tropical water northward to Greenland. By the time it arrives at its northern destination, the water has cooled significantly. Colder water is denser so the water that originated from the tropics, and was riding at the surface. has sunk as deep as two miles within the ocean by the time it gets to Greenland. The colder, heavier, bottom water is then dragged back South.

In this way the waters of the Atlantic Ocean are consistently agitated, cooled, oxygenated and nutritionally refreshed. Oceanographers call this pattern the Atlantic Meridional Overturning Circulation (AMOC). However, the gringa prefers the common name, the “Conveyor Belt” of the Atlantic.

The Atlantic’s “Conveyor Belt” effect is like an air conditioner for the world’s oceans. It is critical to modulating the temperature of the Earth. Data collected from GRACE has revealed that the “Conveyor Belt” is slowing down. Researchers are uncertain if this is directly caused by climate change or if other factors are at play.

GRACE is going to help answer these questions. One way is by measuring gravity data from the bottom of the Atlantic Ocean. Changes in the ocean’s currents will result in pressure changes that GRACE can detect with gravitational measurements.

And GRACE is also contributing to the development of practical solutions that can be implemented right now, helping the people of Brazil. 2015 was the worst year in over three decades for drought in Brazil.

Hydrologists were able to use data collected from GRACE to calculate that in a three year period Brazil lost about fifteen trillion gallons of water each year. Water levels of aquifers and rivers were also analyzed.

Brazil is heavily dependent on the country’s rivers to provide water for their people, electricity production and for critical agriculture. The data provided by GRACE enables the Brazilian government to create models that will simulate future expected droughts. This makes it possible for the nation to plan effectively, monitor their water resources responsibly and continue to provide for the water needs of over 200 million Brazilians.

And those are just some of the facts about “Amazing GRACE”.

 

Source:  www.nasa.gov

Image Source:  www.nasa.gov

 

 

 

 

 

 

1991 Armed Forces Immigration Adjustment Act


January 30, 1991, Senator Ted Kennedy sponsored a bill and President George Bush, Sr. thought it would be a great idea to sign it into law. This legislation was an amendment to current immigration law which would include reform specifically designed for military personnel. The new legislation provided special immigration status for military personnel who had served honorably for twelve years. This status was to include spouses and children. For non-citizen military personnel who had not yet served twelve years, if they had committed to re-enlistment to cover a twelve year span, they and their family would have their status adjusted to permanent resident until such time as they completed their duty requirements. Then they would be eligible for naturalization.

What the gringa doesn’t understand, is why do they not qualify for naturalization within five years like other immigrants? Why would any immigrant want to serve in the military if it meant they would have to serve twelve years before qualifying for citizenship? They could just remain a civilian immigrant, renewing their visa, staying employed or enrolled in school, and qualify in five years as a civilian. After the evidence of statistics and senior officer testimony in 1968 affirmed the quality of service provided by immigrant military personnel, why would the U.S. government do anything that would deter immigrants from enlisting? As the gringa scratched her head over this one, it took quite a bit of digging around to discover what this legislation was really all about. Once I did, it finally met with my approval.

The 1968 legislation only provided for expedited naturalization for military personnel involved in hostilities. The Vietnam War and Cambodian Civil War both ended in 1975. Although the U.S. was involved in many military operations around the world after 1975, the country was not involved in an actual war until August 2, 1990, when the Persian Gulf War officially began as Operation Desert Shield. There was a gap of time where many non-citizen military personnel did not qualify for expedited naturalization because they were not involved in hostilities during the time of their enlistment. This legislation was to remedy that fact and honor those service men and women with the citizenship status they deserved.

Provision was also made for 2,000 immigrants annually from countries the U.S. had treaties with (not including their spouses and children) and 100 annually from countries the U.S. did not have treaties with (not counting their spouses and children). This inclusion of immigrants from countries the United States may or may not have had treaties with was important because, at the time of this bill’s passage, the Gulf War was still going on, although its conclusion was in sight. In fact, it was actually less than a month away. There would be foreign nationals who had assisted U.S. efforts and it would not be safe for them to remain in their countries of origin. They and their families would need to flee to a place of safety. The gringa is proud of the United States for considering these humanitarian needs as well as remaining loyal to those who served in such a capacity. These special immigrants were considered refugees, given permanent resident status and provided with resettlement appropriations.

The scope of this immigration reform bill was narrow and specifically designed with the non-citizen soldier in mind. Tweaking immigration law in such a way as this reflects upon a government that is much more aware of what really needs to be done for immigration reform than they let on. Oftentimes the nation’s politicians throw up their hands and act as if immigration reform is so complicated they can’t possibly put together a bill the majority of legislators will agree on. That’s a big, fat lie. If they stick to simple, narrow measures, tweaking details here and there, they can, over time, get much done. A little bit of progress is better than none. The citizens of the nation have to put pressure on government leaders on behalf of the non-citizen who does not have any real influence as a non-registered voter. The citizens who care must speak for them and demand meaningful immigration reform.

Sources:

http://library.uwb.edu/guides/usimmigration/1991_armed_forces_immigration_adjustment_act.html

https://www.govtrack.us/congress/bills/102/s296

https://www.congress.gov/bill/102nd-congress/senate-bill/296

http://www.state.gov/documents/organization/87576.pdf

Photo credit: http://www.slideshare.net