Press ESC to close

Looking Back: The Year in Science

As science educators, it’s easy to focus so deeply on our classrooms that we forget to recognize the science happening outside of it. So we pulled some of the most interesting scientific updates from 2023 to give you an exciting overview of and some ideas for how to incorporate these phenomena into your 2024 lessons.

Harmful Algal Blooms

Along Florida’s Gulf Coast, harmful algal blooms are contaminating the water, killing and poisoning fish, shellfish and birds, and even making the air hard for humans to breathe. These blooms are caused by a combination of warm water and excessive nitrogen and phosphorus, churned up from the ocean floor by storms and entering the water as runoff from farms and sewers. While harmful algal blooms are a regular occurrence in Florida, they have been happening more often in recent years, which scientists attribute to rising temperatures and increased development and agriculture.

Volcano in Iceland and Earthquake in Turkey

2003 saw two major geological events that each highlight the relationship between plate tectonics and volcanoes and earthquakes. 

  • Turkey is located on the border of three tectonic plates and experienced a series of devastating earthquakes. 
  • Iceland is also located on the border between plates and experienced a swarm of earthquakes followed by a major volcanic eruption.

Graphic Credit: Mosa Mack Book 

Canadian Wildfires

In June, harmful smoke from Canadian forest fires blanketed multiple states in the U.S. Fueled by warming temperatures and drier weather, wildfires like these are happening more frequently and burning more widely in North America and across the world. 

Lab-Grown Meat

The U.S. Department of Agriculture granted approval for the sale of chicken meat cultivated from cells in a lab. Proponents of lab-grown meat hope for it to become a more sustainable alternative to traditional animal agriculture, which produces a high percentage of the world’s greenhouse gas emissions. 

Photo Credit: Peter DaSilva (Reuters)

Frozen Organ Transplant

A frozen kidney was successfully thawed and transplanted into a rat, marking the very first cryogenically preserved organ transplant. 

Photo Credit: Caroline Yang for Stat

New Sickle Cell Disease Treatment

In December, the FDA approved a breakthrough treatment for sickle cell disease, a life-threatening condition caused by a mutation of red blood cells. This is the first FDA-approved treatment using the new gene editing tool CRISPR. 

Graphic Credit: BBC News

Titan Implosion

On June 18, the Titan submersible tragically imploded as it traveled 12,467 feet below sea level. Engineers immediately pointed towards flaws in the design being the cause of the failure. 

Graphic Credit: The New York Times 

AI in Science

Across many fields of science, artificial intelligence is improving and accelerating the process of research and discovery. In recent years, scientists have used AI tools and techniques like robotics, data generation, and modeling to speed up drug development, predict weather more accurately, count and classify endangered species, and decode the mysterious language of whales.

Photo Credit: Getty Images

Your Favorite Phenomena

Do you use different scientific moments from 2023 to support lessons in your classroom? Share the ones you picked with our curriculum team by sending us a note!