Latest Zoo & Conservation News
Week ending January 15, 2012
San Diego Zoo Global
Local news in red.
- Zoos, Aquariums, Botanic Gardens, and Conservation Organizations
- It’s time for Butterfly Jungle at San Diego Zoo Safari Park [link]
- CityPASS scheme for SoCal theme parks [link]
- ‘Worst ever’ storm damage at Edinburgh botanic garden [link]
- California state parks reeling from budget cuts [link]
- New bat exhibit at San Diego Zoo Safari Park debunks old myths [link]
- Nashville Zoo’s 10th annual 5k Run and Walk, Zoo Run Run is January 21 [link]
- Knoxville Zoo offers phone book recycling event for admission discounts [link]
- Buffalo Zoo is part of the Electronics Recycling Day [link]
- 6-week-long Dog Days of Winter at Huntsville Botanical Garden features events for visitors and their canine pals [link]
- San Francisco Botanical Garden Society hosts Lunar New Year Celebration and Flower Market [link]
- Guerilla gardeners in Southern California [link]
- Ecologists call for screening imported plants to prevent a new wave of invasive species [link]
- Africa’s rainforests ‘more resilient’ to climate change [link]
- Six new species of bioluminescent gilled mushrooms discovered in Brazil [link]
- Bat brains parse sounds for multitasking [link]
- Pale octopus, hairy-chested yeti crab and other new species found living around hydrothermal vent in Southern Ocean [link]
- First gray wolf in California since 1924 is named ‘Journey’, photo released [link]
- Malawi reserve resurrected by ‘Noah’s Ark’ project [link]
- ‘Zombie’ fly parasite killing honeybees; could be contributing to colony collapse disorder [link]
- WCS documents pneumonia outbreak in endangered markhor [link]
- Baby harp seals being drowned, crushed amid melting ice [link]
- 12 in Southern California and Nevada charged with trafficking in wildlife [link]
- Researchers use scat-detection dog to locate orca feces for studies [link]
- Scientists discover a new species of mouse lemur in Madagascar [link]
- Yale geneticists believe there may be extinct Floreana tortoises living on a different Galapagos island [link]
- New snake species announced by Wildlife Conservation Society [link]
- Environment, Sustainability
- Climate change models may underestimate extinctions: animals and plants could be on a collision course created by climate change [link]
- 15,000 images available 40 years after the EPA’s Documerica photo project [link]
- The Encyclopedia of Life expanding at a record pace [link]
- Eco-toilets help save hippos and birds in Kenya [link]
- Climate change media coverage drops 20 percent in 2011 [link]
- Algae biofuels inject money into San Diego’s economy [link]
- U.S. to ban new uranium mining near Grand Canyon [link]
- New and Notable Research
- Australian researchers use egg DNA to learn about endangered and extinct birds [link]
- World’s first primate chimeric offspring produced from stem cells [link]
- Researchers find that inhaled oxytocin might make monkeys more attentive and generous to each other [link]
- Cornell scientists use inexpensive RFID technology to improve bird tracking methods [link]
- Hybrid silkworms spin stronger spider silk [link]
- Other headlines
- Walt Disney World, Disneyland to stay open 24 hours on Feb. 29 [link]
- NSF tweaks its merit review rules [link]
- US Fish and Wildlife
- San Pablo Bay National Wildlife Refuge, Sonoma, Napa, and Solano Counties, CA; Final Comprehensive Conservation Plan and Finding of No Significant Impact [link]
- Draft Environmental Assessment and Proposed Single-Species Habitat Conservation Plan for the Proposed Shiloh IV Wind Plant Project, Solano County, CA [link]
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ZOOS, AQUARIUMS, BOTANIC GARDENS, AND CONSERVATION ORGANIZATIONS
It’s time for Butterfly Jungle at San Diego Zoo Safari Park
January 4, 2012 By Yadira Galindo
- From March 24 to April 15, San Diego Zoo Safari Park visitors enjoy thousands of butterflies that come from Africa, Asia, and Central and South America as part of the Butterfly Jungle exhibit.
- There are 30 species represented, and this year for the first time guests will get special identification cards to help them name each species.
- Special activities are scheduled, including butterfly themed foods and a new bat exhibit nearby featuring a cloud of 13 Rodrigues fruit bats (Pteropus rodricensis).
Full announcement: http://www.zandavisitor.com/newsarticle-5427-Its_Time_for_Butterfly_Jungle_at_San_Diego_Zoo_Safari_Park
CityPASS scheme for SoCal theme parks
January 5, 2012 By Tom Walker
- A new combined discount pass to Southern California attractions is now available that includes Disneyland, Universal Studios, Sea World and the San Diego Zoo.
- Called CityPASS, the adult price has been set at US$279, saving 26 percent off the cost of individual tickets to these attractions.
- The CityPASS Plus San Diego Zoo option costs $311 per adult and $263 for children ages 3-9.
Full article: http://www.attractionsmanagement.com/detail1.cfm?pagetype=detail&subject=news&codeID=295753&site=AM&dom=N
‘Worst ever’ storm damage at Edinburgh botanic garden
January 5, 2012 By Huw Williams
- Recent severe weather has been expensive and damaging to the Royal Botanic Garden in Edinburgh, resulting in “hundreds of panels” of shattered glass and 40 downed trees.
- The felled trees provided homes for numerous insects and birds, but with the trees down, scientists can examine the upper branches for the first time ever and have discovered numerous lichen species growing abundantly.
- Even though the trees grew to over 45 feet tall, the root systems can be fairly shallow, often reaching down only 6 feet into the ground.
Full article: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-scotland-edinburgh-east-fife-16427921
California state parks reeling from budget cuts
January 5, 2012 By Laurel Morales
- California budget cuts have resulted in a decision to close 70 parks by next summer.
- In other states similar closings have resulted in negative publicity and impacted tourism income.
- Seeking solutions, legislators in California and other states are turning to nonprofits and local government for park management and funding.
Full article: http://www.kpbs.org/news/2012/jan/05/state-parks-reeling-budget-cuts/
New bat exhibit at San Diego Zoo Safari Park debunks old myths
January 5, 2012
- The San Diego Zoo Safari Park recently opened a new exhibit featuring 13 Rodrigues fruit bats (Pteropus rodricensis)—the world’s most endangered bat.
- Goals of the exhibit include facilitating breeding and “improving the bat’s reputation” through visitor education of the bats’ important ecological role and harmlessness to humans.
- Bats are natural pollinators, play a significant role in insect consumption (including mosquitoes), provide natural fertilizer through their waste (guano), and help to disperse seeds.
Full article: http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?f=/g/a/2012/01/05/prweb9079759.DTL
Nashville Zoo’s 10th annual 5k Run and Walk, Zoo Run Run is January 21
January 5, 2012 By Jim Bartoo
- The Nashville Zoo, an AZA accredited not for profit organization, will host its 10th annual Zoo Run Run on Saturday, January 21.
- The 5k run/walk through the Zoo’s 188-acre property is open to athletes of all ages who will traverse roads and trails not normally open to the public as well as enjoy a post-race dinner and awards presentation.
- Proceeds will go towards funding Zoo operations including educational programs, animal care, and maintenance.
Full article: http://www.zandavisitor.com/newsarticle-5429-Nashville_Zoos_10th_Annual_5K_Run_and_Walk,_Zoo_Run_Run_is_January_21
Knoxville Zoo offers phone book recycling event for admission discounts
January 6, 2012
Full article: http://www.knoxnews.com/news/2012/jan/06/recycle-a-phone-book-sweeten-zoo-deal/
- Through January 31, the Knoxville Zoo is honoring a phone book recycling promotion; all visitors who present an outdated telephone directory receive buy one, get one free zoo admission.
- The Zoo is also celebrating “Penguin Discount Days” this time of year, when admission is reduced to half-price for all regular admission visitors.
- Many animals are especially active during the crisp winter weather, and animals from warmer climates may be viewed indoors.
Buffalo Zoo is part of the Electronics Recycling Day
January 6, 2012 By Jennifer Fields
- Buffalo Zoo is co-hosted an event a part of the Electronics Recycling Day on Saturday, January 7.
- Visitors who bring old and/or broken electronic equipment received a coupon for $1 off admission to the zoo and helped the zoo generate revenue “for each pound of electronics collected”.
Full announcement: http://www.zandavisitor.com/newsarticle-5432-Buffalo_Zoo_is_Part_of_the_Electronics_Recycling_Day_on_Saturday,_January_7,_2012
6-week-long Dog Days of Winter at Huntsville Botanical Garden features events for visitors and their canine pals
January 7, 2012 By Amy Mayfield
- The Huntsville Botanical Garden in Alabama kicked off its annual Dog Days of Winter on January 7.
- The six week event, which is included with garden attendance or membership, offers “trails for dogs and their owners to explore and a No Leash Zone.”
- Events include “Bow-Wow-Bone-anza”, which will feature demonstrations and “doggie dancing,” a Bow Wow 5k, and the new Barkitecture exhibit, featuring homemade dog houses.
Full article: http://www.al.com/entertainment/index.ssf/2012/01/have_a_dog-gone_good_time_at_d.html
San Francisco Botanical Garden Society hosts Lunar New Year Celebration and Flower Market
January 7, 2012
- The San Francisco Botanical Garden Society will celebrate the Year of the Dragon on January 21. The annual Lunar New Year Celebration and Flower Market will feature food, cultural music and dance performances, educational activities, flowers, and more.
- Attractions include chop carving, scroll painting, International School of Ikebana, docent-led tours of San Francisco Botanical Garden, traditional Lunar New Year plants and flowers, and much more.
- The San Francisco Botanical Garden is home to many rare and endangered Asian plants. During the event, the garden will place bilingual signs for some of the trees and plants
Full article: http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?f=/g/a/2012/01/07/prweb9086012.DTL
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Guerilla gardeners in Southern California
January 3, 2012 By Cindy McNatt
- Guerrilla gardeners are “ordinary individual gardeners or groups of gardeners who go out under the cover of darkness, but increasingly often in broad daylight, and improve the grounds in public spaces,” anonymously and without asking permission.
- Guerilla gardening is a world-wide phenomenon, expanding what garden clubs do in maintaining public spaces. In Southern California, Guerilla gardeners often plant public spaces with hardy succulents.
- “Guerrilla gardeners identify orphaned land, gather up truckloads of donated plants, bring many 5-gallon buckets of water, clean the place, plant, water and get out.”
Full article: http://www.ocregister.com/articles/gardeners-333629-guerrilla-tilson.html
Ecologists call for screening imported plants to prevent a new wave of invasive species
January 4, 2012
- Ecologist Bethany Bradley at the University of Massachusetts Amherst suggests that climate change will boost demand for imported drought- and heat-tolerant landscaping plants from Africa and the Middle East, which could include invasive species.
- The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) has proposed the Not Authorized Pending Pest Risk Analysis (NAPPRA) rule to screen for invasive species.
- In an analysis of global trade and climate change, the ecologists used import values from 1989 to 2010 to identify emerging trade partners. Earlier studies established a link between increased trade and the number of invasive species introduced.
Full article: http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/01/120104153735.htm
CITATION: Bradley BA, et al. 2011. Global change, global trade, and the next wave of plant invasions. Frontiers in Ecology and the Environment. doi:10.1890/110145
Africa’s rainforests ‘more resilient’ to climate change
January 6, 2012 By Mark Kinver
- Scientists attending the “Climate Change, Deforestation and the Future of African Rainforests” conference believe that “[tropical] forests in Africa may be more resilient to future climate change than the Amazon and other regions….”
- Resilience is due to the fact that the “region’s surviving tree species [have] endured a number of climatic catastrophes over the past 4,000 years,” meaning that the trees are “better suited” to endure future climate shifts.’
- Scientists point to a lack of data on the African climate, especially from the Congo basin, that makes it difficult to make climate predictions in the area.
Full article: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/science-environment-16428306
Six new species of bioluminescent gilled mushrooms discovered in Brazil
January 7, 2012 By Quentin Wheeler
- Six new species of bioluminescent gilled mushrooms (Genus Mycena) were found in the old-growth Atlantic Forest in São Paulo, Brazil.
- The Atlantic Forest is extremely threatened, with “less than 10% of its original land cover remaining.” Researchers are continually discovering new species of plants and animals in the forest.
- Scientists have speculated that mushrooms might emit light to “either attract fungivores that assist in spore dispersal or warm them off.”
Full article: http://www.guardian.co.uk/science/2012/jan/08/luminous-fungus-new-to-nature
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Bat brains parse sounds for multitasking
January 3, 2012
- Researcher Jagmeet Kanwal of Georgetown University published a new study examining how bats process incoming signals which help them navigate while simultaneously processing social communication from other bats.
- Bats’ “lopsided brains” allow them to multitask; neurons in right cerebral cortex “respond more strongly to echolocation” while neurons in left cerebral cortex respond more strongly to communication calls.
Full article: http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/01/120103135504.htm
CITATION: Kanwal JS. 2011. Right-left asymmetry in the cortical processing of sounds for social communication vs. navigation in mustached bats. European Journal of Neuroscience. doi:10.1111/j.1460-9568.2011.07951.x
Pale octopus, hairy-chested yeti crab and other new species found living around hydrothermal vent in Southern Ocean
January 4, 2012 By Alok Jha
- A geothermal vent several miles under the ocean near Antarctica has been found to be the home of a new species of hairy-chested yeti crabs, barnacles, a pale octopus, and colonies of limpets, snails and barnacles, according to Prof. Alex Rogers of Oxford University.
- Hydrothermal vents are powered by underwater volcanoes and can reach temperatures of almost 750 degrees Farenheit.
- Rogers and team "uses a remotely operated vehicle...to scout the sea bed around the [East Scotia Ridge]."
- The expedition brought back more than 12,000 samples of rocks, bacteria and animals. Rogers said the animals existing at these vents are almost all new to science.
Full article: http://www.guardian.co.uk/environment/2012/jan/04/new-species-southern-ocean-antarctica
First gray wolf in California since 1924 is named ‘Journey’, photo released
January 4, 2012 By Bettina Boxall
- The first gray wolf (Canis lupus) to enter California since 1924 has been named Journey as a result of a children’s naming contest.
- Captured and fitted with a GPS collar last year by the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife, the wolf was known as OR7. Oregon Wild, a conservation group, conducted the children’s contest to rename the wolf.
- The wolf was photographed on Nov. 14 by a game camera set up by Allen Daniels near Butte Falls, Oregon.
Full article: http://www.latimes.com/news/local/environment/la-me-gs-california-wolf-named-journey-photo-20120104,0,3802878.story
Malawi reserve resurrected by ‘Noah’s Ark’ project
January 4, 2012 By Jean Liou
- In a project reminiscent of Noah’s Ark, African Parks Networks has reintroduced more than 2,500 animals, including antelope, elephants, leopards and lions into Malawi’s Majete Wildlife Reserve. The reserve had fallen victim to poaching, with almost no animals remaining when this project was initiated in 2003.
- Among other animals relocated into the reserve are impalas, buffalo, zebras, warthogs, black rhinos, with more additions planned for next year.
- The reserve will provide jobs for local people, and has already built a clinic, a school, and a water source. A luxury lodge is planned to help attract foreign tourists.
Full article: http://www.physorg.com/news/2012-01-malawi-reserve-resurrected-noah-ark.html
‘Zombie’ fly parasite killing honeybees; could be contributing to colony collapse disorder
January 5, 2012 By Katherine Harmon
- Colony collapse disorder has been affecting the U.S. honeybee population for several years. Recently John Hafernick, biology professor at San Francisco State University, learned by accident that a possible cause may be a parasitic fly (Apocephalus borealis) that has been invading the bodies of honeybees (Apis mellifera) in Northern California.
- This fly species is known to parasitize bumblebees and paper wasps, but this is the first documented instance of it parasitizing honeybees.
- Several days after the fly lays eggs in a honeybee’s abdomen, the bee leaves the hive, moving with “no sense of direction,” behavior that has been compared to that of zombies.
Full article: http://blogs.scientificamerican.com/observations/2012/01/03/zombie-fly-parasite-killing-honeybees/
WCS documents pneumonia outbreak in endangered markhor
January 5, 2012
- A population of endangered markhor (Capra falconeri) in Tajikistan was reportedly hit by a pneumonia outbreak in September and October of 2010, which is believed to have killed some 65 markhors (20% of the species’ population in the country).
- Scientists believe the disease was spread to the markhors by domestic goats, on which local communities depend for their livelihood.
- The outbreak emphasizes a greater need for disease surveillance among domestic animals in close contact with wildlife—especially concerning threatened and endangered populations.
- The Wildlife Conservation Society is working together with Central Asian governments to stop poaching, enforce hunting bans, and assess diseases which threaten markhor and other valuable wild species.
Full article: http://www.physorg.com/news/2012-01-wcs-documents-pneumonia-outbreak-endangered.html
Baby harp seals being drowned, crushed amid melting ice
January 6, 2012 By Dave Mosher
- As a result of storms, warmer waters, and rising temperatures, ice cover is diminishing in the sub-arctic and North Atlantic Ocean, with a 6% decline per decade since the 1970s.
- Without thick (12-28 inches), solid expanses of ice (covering 60-90 percent of the water), vulnerable harp seal (Pagophilus groenlandicus) pups are increasingly downing or being crushed by chunks of ice during their earliest weeks of development.
- These findings come from a three part study conducted by a team of scientists led by David Johnston, Duke University marine biologist; the study seeks to understand how climate variations are affecting sea ice and arctic habitats.
- The study’s findings add to evidence that climate change has reduced harp seal birthing grounds, and though the species is not yet endangered, its ability to adapt to long-term climatic changes is not yet known.
- Scientists highlight the importance of controlling human behavior as soon as possible in the interests of reducing stress on global climate in the interest of avoiding a “conservation train wreck.”
Full article: http://news.nationalgeographic.com/news/2012/01/120106-harp-seals-global-warming-sea-ice-science-environment/
CITATION: Jonston DW, et al. 2012. The effects of climate change on harp seals (Pagophilus groenlandicus). PLoS ONE 7(1):e29158. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0029158
12 in Southern California and Nevada charged with trafficking in wildlife
January 7, 2012 By Victoria Kim
- “Operation Cyberwild” was created by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to tackle online sales of endangered or protected animals.
- Last week, USFWS brought charges against 12 individuals in Southern California and Nevada in an attempt “to scare would-be sellers and buyers” away from illegal wildlife trade.
- Internet sales have “caused a surge” in wildlife trafficking; the International Fund for Animal Welfare documented 7,122 online ads and auctions over a period of 6 weeks in 2008, with 70% originating in the United States.
- Operation Cyberwild uses volunteers to find online ads and sends out undercover agents to contact the sellers.
Full article: http://www.latimes.com/news/local/la-me-cyberwild-20120107,0,2455772.story
Researchers use scat-detection dog to locate orca feces for studies
January 7, 2012 By Ashley Ahearn
- Researchers in Puget Sound are using scat-detection dogs to locate killer whale (Orcinas orca) feces.
- Fecal analysis can help scientists understand why the population of these animals isn’t recovering after being placed on the endangered species list on 2005. They will analyze the samples to learn the animals’ diets, identify individuals, look at toxin concentrations, and more.
- Scat-detection dogs can “sniff out floating whale scat from a mile away.”
Full article: http://www.npr.org/2012/01/07/144752385/dog-trained-as-ultimate-whale-pooper-snooper
Scientists discover a new species of mouse lemur in Madagascar
January 9, 2012 By Rachel Nuwer
- Researchers have found a new species of mouse lemur in Madagascar. The species has been named the GERP mouse lemur (Microcebus gerpi), after the French abbreviation of the Study and Research Group on the Primates of Madagascar to which all of the researchers belong.
- There were only two known species of mouse lemurs in the 1990s, but with further exploration 18 species have been found to date, with this latest discovery bringing the number up to 19.
- Although M. gerpi lives only 30 miles away from its closest relative, the Jolly’s mouse lemur, the researchers found that its genetics “show a sharp divergence from its nearest relatives.”
Full blog post: http://green.blogs.nytimes.com/2012/01/09/meet-madagascars-new-lemur/
CITATION: Radespierl U, et al. 2011. First indications of a highland specialist among mouse lemurs (Microcebus spp.) and evidence for a new mouse lemur species from eastern Madagascar. Primates. doi:10.1007/s10329-011-0290-2
Yale geneticists believe there may be extinct Floreana tortoises living on a different Galapagos island
January 9, 2012 By Henry Nicholls
- A species of Galapagos tortoise – the Floreana tortoise (Chelonoidis elephantopus) – has been thought to be extinct since Darwin first visited the island in 1835, assuming “that whalers, pirates and human settlers had wiped them out.”
- Geneticists at Yale have found evidence that “purebred Floreana tortoises may still be alive” on the Galapagos island of Isabela near Wolf Volcano, due to pirates and whalers “stashing” them on the islands.
- The study published in Current Biology sampled 1,669 tortoises from Wolf and discovered “84 tortoises that have to have had a purebred C. elephantopus as one of their parents.” Since the animals can live for more than 150 years, the scientists believe that there may still be purebred Floreana tortoises on Isabela.
- If the difficult task of locating purebred Floreana tortoises was accomplished, a potential breeding program over several decades would be very difficult to coordinate and expensive.
Full blog post: http://blogs.nature.com/news/2012/01/extinct-galapagos-tortoise-may-just-be-in-hiding.html
CITATION: Garrick RC. 2012. Genetic rediscovery of an ‘extinct’ Galapagos giant tortoise species. Current Biology 22(1):R10-R11. doi:10.1016/j.cub.2011.12.004
New snake species announced by Wildlife Conservation Society
January 9, 2012
- A new species of snake has been discovered in Tanzania.
- The black-and-yellow snake is called Matilda’s horned viper, measures 2.1 feet in length and has “horn-like scales above its eyes.”
- The authors, which include the director of the Wildlife Conservation Society’s Tanzania program, believe the species will be classified as critically endangered as its habitat consists of only a few square miles.
Full article: http://www.physorg.com/news/2012-01-snake-species.html
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Climate change models may underestimate extinctions: animals and plants could be on a collision course created by climate change
January 3, 2012
- Models of climate change that make predictions of the loss of worldwide plant and animal diversity do not consider species competition and movement, and may underestimate potential losses, according to a new study by ecologist Mark Urban, assistant professor of ecology and evolutionary biology at the University of Connecticut.
- Studies have shown that species move in response to climate change, but not all are able to move rapidly enough to find suitable habitat. Sometimes the new habitat includes competition by other species, providing a further challenge.
- Urban says this is a first step toward making climate change predictions of biodiversity more sophisticated.
Full article: http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/01/120103211054.htm
CITATION: Urban MC, Tewksbury JJ, Sheldon KS. 2012. On a collision course: competition and dispersal differences create no-analogue communities and cause extinctions during climate change. Proceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences. doi:10.1098/rspb.2011.2367
15,000 images available 40 years after the EPA’s Documerica photo project
January 4, 2012 By Dylan Walsh
- In 1972, the Environmental Protection Agency asked nearly 100 freelance photographers to document “the environmental happenings and non-happenings” of the decade. By 1977, there were over 80,000 images in the project, named Documerica.
- Jerry Simmons, an archives specialist at the National Archives and Records Administration, rediscovered the collection in time for its 40th anniversary. More than 15,000 images have been digitized and posted at the National Archives Web site.
- To mark the 40th anniversary of the project, the E.P.A. started a second photodocumentary project last year, again asking people to submit photos of “life and our environment.” You can view these photos on the EPA’s blog: https://blog.epa.gov/epplocations/
Full blog post: http://green.blogs.nytimes.com/2012/01/04/a-photographic-blast-from-the-past/
The Encyclopedia of Life expanding at a record pace
January 4, 2012
- The Encyclopedia of Life (EOL, http://www.eol.org) provides data on nearly half of all described species, information about conservation issues and Red List status for more than 40,000 species.
- In the past four years, EOL has grown from 30,000 pages with content to more than 900,000, a 2,900% increase, and from a dozen content partners to 190, a 1,480% increase.
- Information on 15,000 species in Spanish has been included.
- NatureServe has contributed distribution, habitat, trend, and threat information along with maps for U.S. states and Canadian provinces for more than 60,000 species.
Full article: http://www.biologynews.net/archives/2012/01/04/the_encyclopedia_of_life_expanding_at_a_record_pace_.html
Eco-toilets help save hippos and birds in Kenya
January 4, 2012 By Jeremy Hance
- Increased human population in the Dunga Wetlands on Lake Victoria’s Kenya side has resulted in a loss of habitat for the common hippopotamus (Hippopotamus amphibius), which is listed as Vulnerable on the IUCN Red List.
- The Dunga Wetlands are also home to the sitatunga (Tragelaphus spekii), the spotted-necked otter (Lutra maculicollis), the papyrus gonolek (Laniarius mufumbiri), listed as Near Threatened, the papyrus yellow warbler (Chloropeta gracilirostris), listed as Vulnerable, and a number of other African wetland birds.
- Ecologically sanitary (Eco-san) toilets have been introduced that do not use water and produce fertilizer for crops. These toilets allow villagers to grow more crops in existing areas, reducing the need to convert further wetlands and protecting important habitat.
Full article: http://news.mongabay.com/2012/0104-hance_ecosan_cree.html
Climate change media coverage drops 20 percent in 2011
January 5, 2012 By Jeremy Hance
- In an analysis from The Daily Climate, worldwide reporting on climate change issues was down 20 percent from 2010 levels, despite extreme weather and increased warnings from scientists as more studies targeted global warming consequences.
- Media coverage of global warming was highest in 2009, the year of the UN Climate Conference.
- Joe Romm, who wrote the Daily Climate article, believes drop in coverage is due to editorial boards rather than individual reporters, as there were only “…580 editorials published on climate change, while 2009 saw 1,229.”
Full article: http://news.mongabay.com/2012/0105-hance_climate_media_decline.html
Algae biofuels inject money into San Diego’s economy
January 6, 2012 By Erik Anderson
- San Diego Association of Governments (SANDAG) conducted a survey and found that the algae biofuels industry is responsible for 466 local jobs, compared to 210 in 2009, and $41 million payroll and $80 million in economic impacts.
- The next step for the industry will be to build large-scale production sites, although these will most likely be built outside of the San Diego region. Stephen Mayfield, director of the San Diego Center for Algae Biotechnology, believes the headquarters and research centers for the industry will still remain in San Diego.
Full article: http://www.kpbs.org/news/2012/jan/06/algae-biofuels-inject-money-san-diegos-economy/
U.S. to ban new uranium mining near Grand Canyon
January 6, 2012 By John M. Broder
- The U.S. Department of the Interior has approved a 20-year moratorium on new uranium mining around the Grand Canyon.
- Interior Secretary Ken Salazar suspended new uranium claims on public lands around the Grand Canyon in 2009, overturning a previous policy encouraging claims.
- Small numbers of existing mining operations will continue in the region.
Full blog post: http://green.blogs.nytimes.com/2012/01/06/u-s-to-ban-new-uranium-mining-near-grand-canyon/
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NEW AND NOTABLE RESEARCH
Australian researchers use egg DNA to learn about endangered and extinct birds
January 4, 2012 By Aaron Fernandes
- According to Murdoch University’s Dr. James Haile, DNA in eggshells is being used to learn more about genetic diversity, behavior, and evolutionary history in endangered and extinct Australian birds.
- The information from eggshells can also be used to identify smuggled eggs and learn more about bird behavior to inform conservation strategies.
- Future improvements in the technique could produce “up to a million DNA sequences from one sample.”
Full article: http://www.physorg.com/news/2012-01-eggs-reveal-secret-life.html
CITATION: Oksam C, et al. 2010. Fossil avian eggshell preserves ancient DNA. Proceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences.
World’s first primate chimeric offspring produced from stem cells
January 5, 2012
- In a study of primates at the Oregon National Primate Research Center, three baby rhesus macaques (Macaca mulatta)“developed from stem cells taken from two separate embryos,” called chimeric, have been bred successfully for the first time.
- According to the article, “The research was conducted to gain a better understanding of the differences between natural stem cells residing in early embryos and their cultured counterparts called embryonic stem cells.”
- Unlike in mice, where either totipotent (cells from early embryos) or pluripotent (cells from a more developed embryonic stage) stem cells can be combined from two different animals into a chimeric animal, the researchers found that for the monkeys, only pluripotent stem cells could later develop into a chimeric animal.
Full article: http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/01/120105164740.htm
CITATION: Tachibana M, et al. 2012. Generation of chimeric rhesus monkeys. Cell. doi:10.1016/j.cell.2011.12.007
Researchers find that inhaled oxytocin might make monkeys more attentive and generous to each other
January 5, 2012
- Giving Oxytocin to rhesus macaques (Macaca mulatta), a Duke University research team learned that the monkeys are more attentive to each other and more generous after receiving a dose of the “love hormone”, even if they don’t get a treat themselves.
- Neuroscientist Michael Platt, who headed the study, said of the idea that inhaled oxytocin might enhance prosocial behavior in monkeys: "If that's true, it's really cool, because it suggests that oxytocin breaks down normal social barriers."
- Oxytocin is being considered as “a therapy for autism, schizophrenia and other disorders that are marked by an apparent lack of interest or caring about others.”
Full article: http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/01/120105145835.htm
CITATION: Change SWC, et al. 2012. Inhaled oxytocin amplifies both vicarious reinforcement and self reinforcement in rhesus macaques (Macaca mulatta). PNAS. doi:10.1073/pnas.114621109
Cornell scientists use inexpensive RFID technology to improve bird tracking methods
January 6, 2012 By Krishna Ramanujan
- Scientists at the Cornell Lab of Ornithology are repurposing RFID (radio frequency identification) technology to improve bird tracking methods; RFID, as opposed to the traditional manual tracking/observation method, automatically tracks errors, records very brief visits, and generates a complete record of continuous data to allow for mroe effective study of birds’ habits and influences concerning feeding, breeding, and other behaviors.
- With RFID, researchers attach leg tags to birds; an antenna (battery or solar powered)and micro-computer set up on a bird feeder automatically record ID tag numbers whenever a tagged bird nears within inches of the feeder.
- RFID typically costs up to $10,000 per setup, but a do-it-yourself version was developed by Cornell scientists, which can be made for about $40. Instructions are found at http://www.animalmigration.org and were published in the Journal of Field Ornithology.
- RFID tags have a history of use in tracking pets, packages, and hordes of birds.
Full article: http://www.physorg.com/news/2012-01-technology-tracks-birds-feeders.html
CITATION: Bridge ES, Bonter DN. 2011. A low-cost radio frequency identification device for ornithological research. Journal of Field Ornithology 82(1):52-59. doi:10.1111/j.1557-9263.2010.00307.x
Hybrid silkworms spin stronger spider silk
January 6, 2012
- Researchers at the University of Notre Dame have found that “silk produced by transgenically engineered silkworms…exhibits the…strength and elasticity of spider silk.”
- The transgenic silkworms created in Malcom Fraser Jr.’s lab produced silk strong enough that it could potentially “find application in sutures, …wound dressings, artificial ligaments, tendons, tissue scaffolds, microcapsules, cosmetics, and textiles.”
- According to the article, “Commercial production of spider silk from spiders is impractical because spiders are too cannibalistic and territorial for farming.”
Full article: http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/01/120106113037.htm
CITATION: Teule F, et al. 2012. Silkworms transformed with chimeric silkworm/spider silk genes
spin composite silk fibers with improved mechanical properties. PNAS. doi:10.1073/pnas.1109420109
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Walt Disney World, Disneyland to stay open 24 hours on Feb. 29
January 5, 2012
- On February 29, Walt Disney World Resort and Disneyland will celebrate Leap Year by staying open for 24 hours, from 6:00 a.m. February 29th to 6:00 a.m. March 1st.
- The “One More Disney Day” event is the first time the parks have ever stayed open for 24 consecutive hours. Not all attractions or services will be available.
Full article: http://www.tampabay.com/news/business/tourism/walt-disney-world-disneyland-to-stay-open-24-hours-on-feb-29/1209192
NSF tweaks its merit review rules
January 9, 2012 By Jeffrey Mervis
- The National Science Foundation has made two changes in how grant applications are reviewed in an attempt to clear up confusion regarding a criterion “asking reviewers to evaluate the… ‘broader impacts’ of the proposed research.”
- The first change is that the NSF will no longer recommend a specific set of activities related to Broader Impacts, as this list of examples “has become a de facto definition of broader impacts,” when it was never intended as such.
- The second change deals with how the NSB assesses the impact of outcomes, which in the past has been measured by whether or not the findings were published in an academic journal. However, the NSF is now noting that “assessing the effectiveness and impact of outcomes of these activities one project at a time may not be meaningful,” and it may make more sense to evaluate the success of a “cluster of grants…[or the] combined efforts of multiple grants at a particular [organization].”
- The NSF is planning to put the new guidelines in effect in January 2013.
Full article: http://news.sciencemag.org/scienceinsider/2012/01/nsf-tweaks-its-merit-review-rule.html?ref=hp
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US FISH AND WILDLIFE SERVICE - FEDERAL REGISTER ANNOUNCEMENTS
San Pablo Bay National Wildlife Refuge, Sonoma, Napa, and Solano Counties, CA; Final Comprehensive Conservation Plan and Finding of No Significant Impact
January 9, 2012
Vol. 77, No. 5
FR Docket # 2012-130
Full announcement: http://www.gpo.gov/fdsys/pkg/FR-2012-01-09/pdf/2012-130.pdf
Draft Environmental Assessment and Proposed Single-Species Habitat Conservation Plan for the Proposed Shiloh IV Wind Plant Project, Solano County, CA
January 10, 2012
Vol. 77, No. 6
FR Docket # 2012-288
Full announcement: http://www.gpo.gov/fdsys/pkg/FR-2012-01-10/pdf/2012-288.pdf