Oil-Eating Mushrooms and Other News of the Week

All this talk of using mushrooms to develop portable decontamination units makes me think of this little guy.

From Red Orbit comes good news for anyone concerned about the ecological effects of soil contaminated by our ongoing reliance on fossil fuels. Mohamed Hijri, professor of biological sciences and B. Franz Lang, the Canada Research Chair on Comparative and Evolutionary Genomics and biology professor at the University of Montreal are working to harness nature itself in the effort to clean up some of the world’s most contaminated sites.

Apparently, there are microscopic mushrooms out there which love to eat oil. Cleaning up a contaminated site could be as simple as seeding an area in the spring with willow cuttings and bacteria to stimulate the growth of these microscopic oil-devouring mushrooms. As the willows grow, they suck up the contaminants in the soil, along with the bacteria. In the fall, the willows are harvested and burnt, leaving cleanup crews with a handful of ashes that contain the heavy metals from the contaminated area. Rinse and repeat for a few seasons and even highly contaminated sites will be clean again. “In addition, it’s beautiful,” says Hijri.

Oil-Eating Mushrooms continues below the fold with:

  • New arctic dinosaur discovered in Alaska
  • Mars Rover Curiosity update

New arctic dinosaur discovered in Alaska: From Newsminer comes word that paleontologists out of the Dallas Museum of Nature & Science have discovered a new arctic Triceratops-like dinosaur in a cliff in Northern Alaska. Technically, Tony Fiorillo discovered the Pachyrhinosaurus perotorum in 2006, but it took about 5 years to sift through the mass of bones they found and verify that the plant-eater was in fact a new kind of dinosaur. Distinguishing the Pachyrhinosaurus from Triceratops was easy. Although both have massive neck frills, the Pachyrhinosaurus lacks the Triceratops’ distinctive three-horn pattern on its face.  Distinguishing Pachyrhinosaurus from two other thick-nosed dinosaurs discovered in Canada was a bit trickier. But subtle differences between the species and the fact that Pachyrhinosaurus lived some 3 million years after the other two dinosaurs is apparently enough. According to the Newsminer, the skull at least is museum-quality. As the specimen has been named in honor of the family of H. Ross Perot, a major donor to the Dallas Museum of Nature & Sciences, we at Caterpickles Central are fervently hoping the Dallas Museum will put the Pachyrhinosaurus on display sometime soon.

Mars Rover Curiosity well on its way: This week’s science news round-up could hardy be complete without an update on the progress of the Mars Rover Curiosity. Those of you who have been following The Four-Year-Old’s Mars Rover Curiosity Lift-off celebrations all week will be pleased to know that the Curiosity is right on track. According to NASA, the trajectory of the Next-Little-Rover-That-Could is “spot-on and needs no refinement right now.” Excellent work, Curiosity. 

So, what about you? What caught your eye this week?

About Shala Howell

I spent two decades helping companies like Bell Labs, Juniper Networks, and a genetic testing company that was later acquired by CVS translate some of the world’s most complicated concepts into actionable, understandable English. Now I'm working on a much harder problem -- fostering children’s curiosity and engagement in the scientific, artistic, and linguistic world that surrounds them. The first book in my Caterpickles Parenting Series, What’s That, Mom?, focuses on how to use public art to nurture children’s curiosity in the world around them. My next book, Did Dinosaurs Have Belly Buttons?, is currently planned for release in 2018. In the meantime, you can find me blogging about life with a very curious Ten-Year-Old at Caterpickles.com, chatting about books and the writing life at BostonWriters.blog, and tweeting about books, writing, science, & things that make me smile at @shalahowell.
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