On the horizon

Modern ark ... on ice

Aimed at safeguarding genetic material from a variety of species, Britain's Frozen Ark project boarded its first endangered passengers Monday, including an Arabian oryx, a spotted sea horse, and a British field cricket.

The Ark doesn't include any living animals, but scientists hope to collect frozen DNA and tissue specimens from many of the 10,000 species listed as in danger of extinction. The project will be guided by the World Conservation Union's red list of threatened species.

The principal collection will be set up in London at the Natural History Museum and the Institute of Zoology, and there are plans for duplicate collections to safeguard the survival of the samples.

Bryan Clarke, a population geneticist at Nottingham University, said the project would not immediately save any species from extinction.

"The Frozen Ark is not a conservation measure but rather a backup plan for when all best conservation efforts have failed," Clarke said.

Air in transit

The second phase of a massive air- quality study began Monday with the launch of a boat in Portsmouth, N.H., that will map and analyze air masses moving in from the West Coast.

With balloons, planes, and laboratories, scientists from six countries are mapping pollution from sea level up to 30,000 feet for the International Consortium for Atmospheric Research on Transport and Transformation.

The project includes the National Aeronautics and Space Administration, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, and the University of New Hampshire (UNH), which developed a low-cost solar-powered balloon that can measure ozone levels.

The NOAA ship Ronald H. Brown will spend three weeks in the Gulf of Maine tracking pollution moving across the country. Labs aboard NASA planes will study the same air masses at higher altitudes. "What we're learning is how the global community is affecting the air quality of our planet," said Robert Talbot, director of the AIRMAP Cooperative Institute at UNH. "For the first time we're starting to understand the details of large-scale air pollution transportation from one continent to another."

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