Several decades ago, ecologist and scientist Rachel Carson, who authored numerous books on ocean ecosystems, wrote: “It is a curious situation that the sea, from which life first arose, should now be threatened by the activities of one form of that life. But the sea, though changed in a sinister way, will continue to exist: the threat is rather to life itself.” 

Today, we are even more acutely aware of what is happening in the oceans due to climate change. But just how the natural mechanisms within the oceans may change — and what feedback effects those changes will have on the climate — remain mysterious. The feature, “Under Pressure,” explores the work by University of British Columbia ocean researchers Philippe Tortell and Roger Francois as they investigate the changes occurring in Arctic seawaters. 

In the feature “Celestial Mining,” ACCN is boldly going where no issue has gone before — exploring the viability of mining asteroids in the solar system. One day soon, technology may advance to the point where it becomes economical to extract things like water and minerals from these chunks of floating rock.

Another feature, “The Farmer in the Lab,” reveals how agriculture’s loss is chemistry’s gain. York University organic chemist Michael Organ, the new director of the University of Ottawa’s Centre for Catalysis Research and Innovation, considered a career as a farmer before entering academia. But the lessons of the field never left him during his venerable and renowned career. “I have a simple view of life,” Organ says.“Real innovation comes at the grass roots.” 

Rounding out our features is a stellar lineup of stories in the Chemical News section. Tim Lougheed explores how gamma irradiation can be used to remediate oil sands tailings and return them to a state fit for biological habitation. Other items investigate the use of metal organic frameworks as a means of sequestering CO2, the use of polyphenols from maple syrup as a therapy for Alzheimer’s, as well as the slightly surprising revelation that metal fuels — first discovered by the Chinese more than 1,000 years ago — might help wean our economy off carbon-based energy sources.

Last but not least, congratulations to ACCN contributor Mark Lowey of Calgary, who is this year’s recipient of the annual Award of Journalism Excellence in Engineering from Engineers Canada. Lowey won for his article “Pipe Dream,” which ran in the May-June 2015 edition of ACCN. The article assessed the risks and potential hazards of the Enbridge Northern Gateway pipeline and Kinder Morgan’s Trans Mountain expansion project.