The Origin of Mud. As part of our Thanksgiving tradition growing up, my family would head to the soccer field behind the local elementary school to play mud football. Mud is the great equalizer: No one can run fast, or sidestep a tackle, on a playing field covered in slick mud. The college athletes in my family would be as off-balance as my middle-aged uncles. Faceplants happened regularly. I never realized that the source of this tradition began 458 million years ago. Mud used to wash into the ocean regularly, writes Laura Poppick for Knowable Magazine, but the evolution of plants changed that, keeping mud on land. Since then, mud has changed the shape of rivers and the life beneath our feet. As deforestation threatens riverbanks, I think we could all benefit from taking a moment to appreciate this small wonder. I know my Thanksgivings would never have been the same without it.
—Jenessa Duncombe, Staff Writer
The Federal Government Will Hold an ANWR Lease Sale. But Drilling Would Be More Than a Decade Away. There’s no doubt that the Trump administration’s recent green lighting of land sales for drilling is bad news for the Arctic National Wildlife Reserve (ANWR). But a closer look shows that sales wouldn’t take place until 2021, and that’s only if litigation put forth by environmental groups fails to delay any sales. And oil won’t be flowing for at least a decade. So there’s still hope that oil production could be put on hold or severely curtailed in the coming months and years.
—Kimberly Cartier, Staff Writer
Sage Grouse Face a New Threat: Kanye West. This week I’m reading about Kanye West and the crumbling of the remarkably bipartisan 2015 cooperative strategy to conserve the sage grouse. Kanye just wanted to build a few 10,000-square-foot structures on his Wyoming ranch, but ran up against the strictures of an Obama-era diplomatic agreement among 11 Western states, several federal agencies, oil and gas producers, environmentalists, scientists, ranchers, and tribes designed to protect core breeding habitat and avoid listing the birds under the Endangered Species Act. Sage grouse need a lot of space but are sadly caught in a pincer between their incompatibility with humans and ecosystem upheaval driven by invasive species and climate change.
—Liza Lester, Staff Writer
Horse Eyeballs and Bone Hammers: Surprising Lives of the Neanderthals. I’m throwing a bit of a curveball this week and recommending a wonderfully written book review, which, in turn, recommends a new book by archaeologist Rebecca Wragg Sykes about the fascinating history of Neanderthals, from their hunting and dietary habits to their budding artistic inclinations. Never have I so wanted to delve into the lives of this ancient species and kin from our shared genus. Kindred: Neanderthal Life, Love, Death and Art is definitely going on my fall reading list.
—Timothy Oleson, Science Editor
Just the submarine canyon that was my backyard growing up—ho hum…. The good folks at the Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute charted the most detailed map of Monterey Canyon (1-meter resolution!) using data collected over 22 years.
—Caryl-Sue, Managing Editor