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Art by Daniela Gomez

Consequences of Consumption

Diseases such as rabies, HIV/AIDS and — most notably — COVID-19 are all animal-borne diseases, also known as zoonoses. Priorities of global health and the study of how diseases spread are primarily impacted by the spread and rapid population growth of humans throughout the globe in just the past few centuries. The advancement of human society and knowledge has led to better sanitation, improved disease control and the development of vaccines and antibiotics. However, the burden of infectious diseases is simultaneously compounded by the domestication of animals and the deforestation and urbanization of wildlife areas. A review published on ScienceDirect involving scholars from around the world, including Susanne H. Sokolow, a postdoctoral scholar of the UC Santa Barbara Marine Science Institute, contributes analysis to the global conversation about disease ecology. The study suggests that the second half of the past century has seen an increase in the risk of contracting a zoonotic disease, as well as an increase in the number of epidemics and pandemics. According to the publication, these trends likely represent the unforeseen consequences of the rapid globalization and development of the human race in recent years; as humans crowd more and more in large cities, consume more and more livestock and take more and more trips internationally, zoonotic diseases have more opportunities to spread, shock our socioeconomic systems and cause high rates of death. The review looks at how outbreaks of zoonotic diseases are a result of human degradation of our ecosystems and bases policy recommendations on these studies to slow down the consumption of livestock and agriculture, thus strengthening our biosecurity. 

Ancient Aquifers 

Fossil groundwater is a source of water that has been beneath the Earth’s surface for at least 12,000 years. It is projected that this ancient form of groundwater comprises more than half of the global groundwater supply on the Earth, being stored within 1,000 meters of the land surface. Radioisotope measurements are responsible for the identification of where on the planet the natural resources lie, as well as the majority of scientists’ current understanding of their distributions. Mapping where wells tap into the fossil aquifers, while relatively unknown, is important for water quality and quantity management. Researchers from the UC Santa Barbara Bren School of Environmental Science & Management, Merhawi GebreEgziabher and Scott Jasechko, along with Debra Perrone from the Environmental Studies Program, have conducted research on the global spread of fossil groundwater in order to better understand its spatial distributions and test the frequency by which stores have increased or decreased over time. The combination of radioisotopic-based fossil groundwater prevalence and well-drilling data, paired with a novel geodatabase consisting of 440 aquifer systems, revealed that the wells that are sufficiently deep enough to tap into fossil aquifers are widespread, although not directly associated with groundwater depletion, indicating that fossil groundwater is not necessarily a non-renewable water supply. This fortifies the importance of making efforts to safeguard the natural resource in order to ensure the quality and quantity of present and future water demands. 

Marine Science Meets Citizen Science

The COVID-19 pandemic has infiltrated almost all aspects of life on this planet, and its effects will no doubt be felt long into the future. However, one area which we may not immediately think of as having been negatively affected is the so-called “blue economy,” the socioeconomic sector built on human-ocean interactions including marine tourism, fishing and aquaculture. A team of scientists from universities and marine laboratories around the world, including UCSB’s Chris Honeyman of the Marine Science Institute, have launched a new global project called “Our Ocean in COVID-19,” which aims to overcome existing difficulties with gauging changes in the ocean and our relationship with it. These difficulties, such as resource-intensive data collection, have been amplified by the pandemic, making it even more of a priority to develop a way to both qualitatively and quantitatively study the blue economy in order to be able to establish successful practices for a more resilient and sustainable future. The project utilizes an app called eOceans, which allows citizen scientists to document activities, such as surfing or boating, and observations of wildlife and environmental surroundings, which can then be analyzed and interpreted by professionals. The project differs from past citizen science efforts, as it makes use of a mobile app and platform which allows for real-time documentation and more user accessibility, ultimately leading to a larger and more detailed set of data. “Our Ocean in COVID-19” presents a valuable opportunity for studying human-ocean relationships and hopefully will reveal concrete ways in which we can secure the future of the blue economy.