It’s Friday!  Here are the stories that caught my attention this week:

1. Today (17 May) is Endangered Species Day and later this year we’ll mark the 40th anniversary of the Endangered Species Act which was signed into law by President Nixon on 28 December 1973.  The primary goals of this legislation are to prevent extinction of at risk species of animals and plants and mitigate threats to their survival.  Despite worldwide determination to protect these organisms, there are organized efforts to kill or maim them.  Earlier this month poachers entered the Dzanga Bai World Heritage Site in Central African Republic and killed at least 26 elephants and stripped them of their tusks.  WATCH: Environmentalist Philippe Cousteau spoke about poaching in an interview with CNN this week.   WEB_113502(Image: Elephants in Dzanga Bai via World Wildlife Fund)

2. NPR’s Morning Edition had a piece on Valley Fever this week.  Valley Fever (coccidioidomycosis) is a disease caused by a soil-borne fungus (Coccidioides immitis) found in arid climates, such as the American southwest where cases are mysteriously on the rise.  People who work outside are at highest risk of inhaling infested dust and if infections go unchecked, the fungus can spread from the lungs to the central nervous system.  Patients with severe cases may require lifelong anti-fungal medications and due to similarities between fungal and human cells (FYI: fungal cells are much more like human cells than plant cells!), the medications can result in many unpleasant side effects. This is an unfortunate reminder of how much work there is to be done in the field of medical mycology.

3. In response to the news that atmospheric carbon dioxide levels reached 400 ppm (a level unseen in the past 800,000 years), Scientific American published a piece on artificial “trees” binding CO2 from the air.  Just reading the title, my mind immediately went to Dr. Seuss’ The Lorax, which describes the consequences of world without trees.  Physicist Klaus Lackner has developed a synthetic resin that sequesters CO2, which can then be used for industrial purposes or buried underground.  An interesting option, but I agree with the article’s author, David Biello: we need to make more efforts toward lowering CO2 emissions in the first place.The Lorax(Image: Dr Seuss’ The Lorax, 2012)

 4. Finally, I wanted to share these images of sea butterflies from zoologist Karen Osborn.  Not only are they beautiful but these organisms serve as indicators of the health of our oceans. sea butterfly(Image: Karen Osborn via Smithsonian)