Sheila Watt-Cloutier, Living Batteries & Urban Coyotes

This week on Terra Informa, we hear about the changing Arctic, how to make a body into a battery, and what coyotes are up to in Canada’s cities. We bring you an exclusive interview with renowned Inuit activist Sheila Watt-Cloutier on how changes in the Arctic are affecting Inuit people. Then we talk to researchers trying to harness the battery potential of living bacteria — and people. Plus, a Science Short on the Edmonton Urban Coyote Project.

Download this week’s episode.

Sheila Watt-Cloutier, wearing glasses in front of a banner that reads "Energy"

This week’s guest Sheila Watt-Cloutier. Photo credit: Robert J Galbraith

Sheila Watt-Cloutier
Sheila Watt-Cloutier is a Canadian activist, teacher, and advocate for indigenous rights. In 2007 she was nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize for her work drawing attention to the human rights impacts of climate change. With a focus on solutions, Watt-Cloutier discusses the realities of the Arctic, where Inuit today face profound challenges to their environment, their economy, their health and their cultural well-being. Because her Inuit culture faces the most extreme challenges of globalization, Watt-Cloutier speaks from firsthand experience — and couples that with her extensive experiences as a global leader. Today Marcus Peterson brings us an exclusive interview with Sheila Watt-Cloutier.

Living Batteries
Tired of having to charge your cell phone everyday? Scientists are now working on biofuel batteries that can run off glucose produced by bacteria — or your own body. Brett Tegart brings us more on the story.

Urban Coyotes
Urban coyotes are a growing issue across North America.  In the last two decade urban populations have sprung up in cities including Toronto, Vancouver, Calgary and Edmonton.  Now city residents are having to learn how to coexist alongside these opportunistic carnivores.  The Edmonton Urban Coyote Project is a multi-faceted study of coyotes based out of the University of Alberta. Their goal is to collect information on the movement, habitat selection and diet of coyotes, as well as the knowledge and perceptions of residents. Maureen Murray is a masters student working on the project and today she tells us about their work.

News Headlines

Highway construction threatens drinking water
Residents of Wakefield, Quebec, near Ottawa, are fearful they may lose a key source of drinking water. Construction crews working to expand a provincial highway are in the process of excavating a sand formation that has been identified as a source of the town’s spring. Quebec’s Ministry of the Environment ordered a halt to the work in May, and has since issued two violation notices to the construction company, but throughout the week a steady stream of trucks continued to remove material from the site. Locals are now calling on the Ministry of Transportation, which hired the company, to step in and put a stop to the excavation before it’s too late.

Read more: Ottawa Citizen, CBC, The Lowdown Online

Australia to protect 40% of marine waters
Right in time for the United Nation’s Rio+20 conference on sustainable development next week, the Australian government announced that they plan on protecting a world-record breaking 40% of their territorial waters. By more than doubling the number of marine reserves from 27 to 60, the network of protected areas would cover an area the size of India. The plan includes a moratorium on all new mining projects from taking place and partial protection from commercial fishing in the Coral Sea which adjoins the threatened Great Barrier Reef. A declaration on the reserves from Australia’s minority Labour government is expected before the end of the year. Canada currently has less than 1 percent of its ocean areas protected.

Read more: New York Times, Guardian, Wall Street Journal

Opposition to closure of Experimental Lakes Area
Opposition to the federal government’s decision to close the Experimental Lakes Area is growing. Former Liberal PMs John Turner and Paul Martin, and Mulroney-era cabinet minister Tom Siddon, are among 70 signatories on a full-page ad in support of the ELA that ran last weekend in the Winnipeg Free Press and the Globe and Mail. The ad was was placed by the Coalition to  Save ELA, a group founded by Diane Orihel, a scientist at the University of Alberta. The group has collected more than 11,000 signatures on a parliamentary petition that calls on the government to continue providing the funds to keep the world renowned facility open.

Read more: Coalition to Save ELA, CBC, Vue Weekly

Shell Canada pleads guilty
Shell Canada has plead guilty to charges laid by Environment Canada for releasing harmful substances into the Peace River in Northern Alberta. The company was charged under the federal Fisheries Act for allowing the deposit of over 12,000 litters of sodium bisulphate into the river in August of 2009. Sodium Bisulphate is a common food additive that was being used at Shell’s Peace River oil sands facility to remove oxygen from water to prevent pipeline corrosion. However, sample analysis conducted on the chemical determined that it is harmful to fish. The company was fined $22,000 for the offense and was also ordered to pay over $200,000 to the Environmental Damages Fund. The Fisheries Act is one of the pieces of legislation now subject to proposed changes by the federal government through the anticipated passing of Bill C-38.

Read more: Newswire, Global

Mosquito-fighting bacteria
Mosquito season is upon us. This summer city workers in Lethbridge, Alberta will be keeping mosquitoes populations down using a bacterium called Bti. Found naturally in soil, Bti or Bacillus thuringiensis subspecies israelensis, has been used worldwide since 1982 as a biological pest control agent to combat mosquitoes and black flies. It is used in areas that accumulate water. The BTi bacterium works by producing a protein crystal which is toxic only to mosquito and black fly larvae.

Read more: Health Canada, City of Lethbridge, National Center for Biotechnology Information

Road sealant spill in Saskatoon
For this week’s Oil Leak of the Week, we’re going to Saskatchewan for a spill of oil-based road sealant material that leaked into the South Saskatchewan River in Saskatoon. Environmental Services manager Brenda Wallace was alerted to a glob of tar-like material on a sandbar last Thursday. The bitumen emulsion, an water-insoluble oil-based product, is used to seal cracks in roads and, according to Wallace, poses little threat to the local flora or fauna. Cleanup crews used booms to contain the spill and continued throughout the night. The amount of sealant released and the source were not yet determined.

Read more: Saskatoon Homepage, The StarPhoenix

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