Plastic Pollution & Solutions

Marine debris, Hawaii photo courtesy: NOAA
Marine debris, Hawaii
photo courtesy: NOAA

Tackling Plastic Pollution (starts at 3:09):  It is, sadly, common for beachcombers around the world to see, along with clam shells and sand dollars, plastic bottles, bottle caps, cigaret filters and fish nets washed up on shore. According to estimates by World Economic Forum, our oceans will be populated by more pounds of plastic waste than fish by 2050. About a third of all plastic that is produced does not get properly collected; instead, much of it ends up floating in the ocean, or clogging the guts of innocent albatross, other birds and sea mammals. It could take 450 years, or forever, for plastic to completely biodegrade. Plastic waste just breaks down (photo-degrades) into tiny bits, causing harm to wildlife and, potentially, humans. How On Earth host Susan Moran and contributing host Jeff Burnside interview two guests who are working in different ways to assess the extent of the problem and its impacts, to educate people about it, and to effect positive change. Dr. Jenna Jambeck, an associate engineering professor at the University of Georgia, lead-authored a seminal paper in 2015 that estimated how much plastic waste is in the ocean. She will soon co-lead an all-female National Geographic expedition to study plastic pollution in India and Bangladesh.  Laura Parker is a staff writer at National Geographic magazine covering climate change and ocean environments. She won the Scripps Howard award for environmental reporting her June 2018 National Geographic cover article titled “Planet or Plastics?”

Hosts: Susan Moran, Jeff Burnside
Producer: Susan Moran
Engineer: Evan Perkins
Executive Producer: Joel Parker

Listen to the show here:


Arctic Frontiers // Wind Forecasting

Sami and reindeer in Finnmark, Norway. Photo credit: Thomas Nilsen/The Barents Observer
Sami and reindeer in Finnmark, Norway. Photo credit: Thomas Nilsen/The Barents Observer

Arctic Dispatch (starts at 2:18): There is no question that the Arctic is thawing faster than anywhere on the planet, except the western Antarctic Peninsula. But there are still so many unknowns regarding how things are actually changing in different places, and to what effect. How On Earth’s Susan Moran recently attended the Arctic Frontiers conference in Tromso, Norway. Among the scientists who discussed research on how the receding and thinning ice in the Arctic will likely affect different species was  George Hunt, a research professor of biology at the University of Washington. Aili Keskitalo, an indigenous Sami from Finnmark, Norway and president of the Sami Parliament, discussed how energy projects, including windmill parks, are negatively affecting reindeer and Sami culture. Hunt and Keskitalo discussed these issues with Moran.

Wind turbines, Photo credit: National Renewable Energy Laboratory
Wind turbines, Photo credit: National Renewable Energy Laboratory

Wind forecasting (starts at 10:40): The wind industry in the U.S. faces several hurdles, including a technical one: discovering how the wind is going to blow near the mountains. For power systems to be reliable, operators must know when to expect the blustery gusts or when to expect a still breezeless calm day.  That means they need accurate wind forecasts.  The Department of Energy has just given a substantial grant to a coalition of organizations in Colorado to help improve wind energy forecasting in mountain and valley regions. Julie Lundquist, a professor of atmospheric and oceanic sciences at the University of Colorado, discusses the current and planned research with co-host Jane Palmer.

Hosts: Susan Moran, Jane Palmer
Producer: Susan Moran
Engineer: Kendra Krueger
Executive Producer: Kendra Krueger

Click here to listen to the show:


The Ocean Is Us #2 : Endocrine Disruptors in Drinking Water

Dr. Alan Vajda (CU Denver) and Dr. David Norris (CU Boulder) dissecting fish from Boulder Creek to evaluate effects of wastewater effluent exposure.
Photo courtesy Alan Vajda

Endocrine Disruptors and Drinking Water (starts at 3:12) Today we continue our series called The Ocean is Us, which explores our  vital connection to the oceans. Alan Vajda, an environmental endocrinologist at the University of Colorado Denver, talks with How On Earth’s Susan Moran about a rare  success story: why fish in Boulder Creek are acting and looking more sexually normal. We also explore broader water-quality issues in Colorado and beyond, and the implications for human health. For more information on studies conducted by CU and USGS scientists on endocrine disruptors related to Boulder Creek, South Platte River and elsewhere, visit BASIN. Check our website for the previous interview in the “The Ocean is Us” series, on Teens4Oceans. And check out KGNU’s year-long series on Colorado water issues. It’s called Connecting the Drops. It’s at and To learn more or become active in preserving our watershed and the oceans, go to Colorado Ocean Coalition.

All features in The Ocean Is Us  series can be found here.

Hosts: Susan Moran, Kendra Krueger
Producer: Susan Moran
Engineer: Maeve Conran
Executive Producer: Joel Parker

Listen to the show: