Environment

A look at the natural world around us.

This year, the federal government said it would give nearly $47 million to each of three states hoping to develop offshore wind power – Virginia, New Jersey and Oregon. 

Virginia said it would partner with Dominion Power to build a demonstration project, but the utility now says it can’t get started, because installing a couple of turbines is too expensive.  Meanwhile, Denmark reports it’s getting nearly 40% of its power from wind.  How did such a tiny country do that, and what could we learn from the Danes? 

Photo by Matt Wasson, Appalachian Voices.

The decline of coal mining is a blessing to some and a curse to others. And when it comes to what’s known as ‘mountain top removal’ the disagreement runs even deeper. Appalachia is ground zero for this form of surface coal mining. And while it’s only a small percentage of all coal mining, opponents are calling for it to stop.

“Appalachia has so much potential, but we can’t realize that potential if we continue to poison our water and destroy our mountains."

Virginia Tech

Scientists at Virginia Tech are one step closer to controlling a species of mosquito that carries deadly disease. It’s not a pesticide or repellant, it’s a gene that can literally change the gender of a mosquito from potentially deadly females to harmless males.

Sex matters in mosquitos, because it is females only which bite to nourish their young. That’s how they can spread disease.  Bio Chemistry Professor Jake Tu is part of the team that discovered the elusive gene called NIX, which can change female mosquitos and their offspring into males. 

You’ve probably seen it in your garden, along roadways, just about everywhere: Garlic Mustard.  It’s an invasive plant that stealthily out-competes native species, threatening the diversity of forests in many parts of the country. But what if there were a recipe to change that?

They don’t call it garlic mustard for nothing. Rachel Collins is Associate Professor of Biology at Roanoke College. 

“The chemical that it’s making that smells like garlic is one of these herbivore defense chemicals like basil and all the other yummy flavors in bail and mint.”

For two years, the state of Virginia has been begging cattle farmers to keep animals out of streams on their property - offering to pay the full cost of fencing to prevent pollution of rivers and, ultimately, the Chesapeake Bay. 

Irvin White raises cattle in Central Virginia - calling recently weaned calves to the feeding trough as part of his evening routine.  From the beginning, he’s seen good reason to fence his farms - to keep cows out of the streams where they like to drink and cool off when the weather turns warm.  After all, those streams are loaded with bacteria.

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