Courtesy Mark RyanI saw a posting on Facebook yesterday (tip of the hat to the Bell Museum) about a website called Project Noah. It’s a really cool site that allows anyone with a camera and a love of nature to upload pictures or video and help identify the plants and animals that populate our world, both locally and globally. And who doesn’t have a camera of some sort nowadays?
Anyway, according to their website Project Noah is:
"… A tool that nature lovers can use to explore and document wildlife and a technology platform research groups can use to harness the power of citizen scientists everywhere. The purpose of the project is to mobilize and inspire a new generation of nature lovers. It began as an experiment to see if we could build an app for people to share their nature sightings and has evolved into a powerful global movement for both amateurs and experts. The name “Noah” is an acronym that stands for networked organisms and habitats. “
That kind of sums it up. The site is easy to navigate and figure out. I uploaded a couple photos I’d taken recently and it wasn’t difficult at all. You can also join a “mission” dealing with a particular zoological or botanical subject you’re interested in. You can contribute to the mission’s knowledge base by adding your own photographs or some information such as the genus and species of an unknown specimen captured in someone else’s photograph. I like shooting photographs up around Lake Superior so I joined the “Great Lakes Monitoring” mission. It just took a click of a button to become a part of it.
You can even start your own mission. It could be a legitimate study you’ve devised like why "megapug" bees seek out sunflowers or something as simple as a call for the best wildlife photos of the year. Here at the Science Museum we could start a mission called Rotting Pigs. I wonder how many contributions that would garner?
As mentioned, there’s even a Project Noah app that you can download for the mobile device of your choice. I downloaded it for my iPod Touch but noticed the reviews for it seem to be mixed. It only got an average rating overall, but what the hey, it’s free so I’m giving it a shot anyway. You can do the same if you'd like. I already know the site works fine on my laptop.
I’m really excited about this. It’s a novel and cool way to intermingle our ever-changing networking technologies with the rest of the natural world, and contribute something to the science community at the same time.
If you have more questions you might find the answers on Project Noah’s FAQ page.
Courtesy JGordonThe human body is more or less the density of water: 1000 kg per cubic meter. (I tend to sink, so I'm probably a little denser, but I think we're close enough here.)
I weigh about 150 pounds, or 68 kg (2.2 pounds per kilogram).
1000kg / 1m^3 = 68kg / ?m^3
? = .068
So the volume of my body is about 0.068 cubic meters.
Each cubic meter equals about 35.3146667 cubic feet.
.068 x 35.315 = 2.401
So the volume of my body is about 2.401 cubic feet
My file drawer is 1 foot wide by 9 inches high (or .75 feet) by 2 feet and 2 inches deep (or 2.167 feet)
1 x .75 x 2.167 = 1.62525
So the volume of my desk drawer is 1.62525 cubic feet
1.62525 < 2.401
So the answer is NO. If you were to blend me up in a giant food processor, and then pour me into my file drawer, I would literally be overflowing.
That's sort of a relief.
Then again, it depends on how much denser I am than water. Maybe I would fit.
You think you’re safe from the dangers of the wild just because you live in a city? This video will change your view. It was shot by a guy named Craig Kuberski, who lives within the city limits of St. Paul, MN. I know some of you were hoping you'd get to see a rogue cougar or bear mauling innocent urbanites or eating their pets, but that’s not the case here. It’s just a couple of bucks on the town and in a rut trying to catch some city girls' attention.
Rutting period is the mating season for many ruminants, (i.e. mammals like moose, caribou, bison, and deer). The rut is set-off by the shortening of daylight hours during autumn and in the case of white-tail deer (Odocoileus virginianus - which I’m pretty sure these are) can last for one to three months. During that time, male deer get all goofy and twitterpated, rubbing their antlers against trees, rolling in the dirt or mud, or battling each other – as seen in this video. Rutting season is the best time to hunt for them, and the easiest time to hit them with your car, although I don’t advise you do the latter.
As you may notice, Mr. Kubinski posted two buck fever videos on YouTube. I’ve only used the second here because it’s the better of the two, focus-wise, But if you’d also like to watch Part I, there you have it. KARE 11 also ran a story on it.
I've been fascinated by ants since childhood. Back then, I loved to watch them working, or use their large anthills for my imaginary and devastating bombing runs, or incinerate them with a focused sunbeam from a magnifying glass (for scientific purposes, mind you). So here's a cool video from the Science Channel about the amazing complexities of an ant colony (or two). The little buggers are still fascinating.
Courtesy Mark RyanDiscover Life looks to be a great site that can help you identify or get vast amounts of information about plants or animals you see or come across in your daily travels, or just want to know more about. The following description comes from their homepage:
"We provide free on-line tools to identify species, share ways to teach and study nature's wonders, report findings, build maps, process images, and contribute to and learn from a growing, interactive encyclopedia of life that now has 1,354,546 species pages."
That's a lot of species pages. I did a search for the common crow and found tons of information and links about the Corvidae family which includes crows, magpies, ravens, jays, and allies. It brought up a list of 128 genera with links to countless (meaning I didn't count them) species. Plus some pages come with photos you can enlarge and zoom into for close-ups of different details. There are also interactive global maps displaying the ranges of species, and when I checked out "crocodile" it led me to this surprising link. I had no idea.
Courtesy limonadaSeveral species of snakes seem to be in decline according to a study published in the journal Biology Letters. The most abrupt change took place right around 1998 and scientists are stumped as to what happened at that particular time that could have caused such a worldwide drop in snake population. Some of you may be happy to hear this news since snakes aren’t very highly regarded by most humans. But the slithery reptiles are one of the top predators of their kind, and scientists fear a diminished population would no doubt upset the ecological balance.
Seventeen populations of snake comprised of eight different species were in the study, and in most cases it didn’t seem to matter where on Earth they were located.
"Two-thirds of the monitored populations collapsed, and none have shown any sign of recovery over nearly a decade since the crash,” the researchers reported. The most affected species were opportunistic foragers - the proverbial “snakes in the grass” that wait in hiding for unsuspecting prey to pass by. The more active hunters showed less of a decline. Only one “sit and wait” forager species bucked the trend – the tiger snake (Notechis scutatus) which lives on a small island off the coast of Australia, showed little change in its population over the period of study. The researchers think the isolation of its location could be a factor.
“It surprised us when we realized what we were looking at," said team leader Chris Reading of the Centre for Ecology and Hydrology in Great Britain. Researchers from several other countries were also involved in the study, and although they haven’t pinpointed what was going on in 1998 to trigger such a decline –it could be environmental or climate related or disease, or something completely unknown at the moment. But since it affected snake populations around the globe they suggest that it’s probably from a single cause.
Courtesy Dawson via Wikimedia CommonsThe common musk turtle (Sternotherus odoratus) has a strange way of extracting oxygen from its surroundings – it breathes through its tongue. It’s certainly not the strangest way of taking a breath (as you’ll discover if you read further), but it is one scientists weren’t expecting to find.
Turtles have been around since the Late Triassic some 225 million years ago when they first appeared in the fossil record. A lot of the breed’s success has to do with its rigid protective shell (carapace), and being able to protect itself under it. Another is its ability to stay underwater for long periods of time without coming up for air and exposing itself to surface predators. But because the shell develops out of a turtle’s ribcage, limitations are imposed on its ability to breathe in what we consider the “normal way”. So turtles have come up with all kinds of interesting adaptations for extracting oxygen from their surroundings. Some, like the Painted turtle (Chrysemys picta) can stay submerged for 4 to 6 months while hibernating. It does this by slowing down its metabolism which subsequently reduces the production of lactic acid in its system. Others can breathe through their skin, others through their rear ends (okay, a major “ewwww” factor here – but of course who are we to judge?). The musk turtle’s ability to breathe through its tongue adds just another bizarre method to the family’s repertoire.
The musk turtle (aka stinkpot turtle – a great name by the way) is so named because of the disagreeable odor it can produce to fend off predators. It spends most of its life underwater, and can live for months at a time submerged without coming up for air. The species doesn’t breath through its skin as some other turtles do. Nor does the stinkpot turtle breathe through its butt like Australia’s Rheodytes leukops does. R. leukops possesses specialized bursae, large sacs in its rear orifice (cloaca) that can draw water in and out to get precious oxygen to its blood in that manner. The cloacal bursae are used to get nearly 70 percent of it oxygen. How bizarre is that?
Anyway, back to the stinkpot turtle. So now scientists have discovered S. odoratus’s breathing secrets. It all has to do with the cells called papillae that line its tiny tongue. As water flows past, the papillae are able to absorb oxygen. (We humans also have papillae on our tongues but they don’t extract oxygen from the atmosphere).
Egon Heiss, a PhD candidate at the University of Vienna in Austria, along with his colleagues, discovered the stinkpot’s secret while studying juveniles of the species. While an adult italicizedSternotherus odoratus tends to spend most of its life underwater, its young offspring do occasionally venture onto land in search of food. The researchers noticed the reptile youngsters wouldn’t eat their food on land but instead dragged it back into the water. This led the researchers to the creature’s tongue and its unique function. The team’s research appears in the journal The Anatomical Record.
Researchers from J. Craig Venter Institute (JCVI) in Rockville, Maryland, and San Diego, California, have achieved a major stage in the world of synthetic genomics. A synthetic bacterial chromosome created in the lab was exchanged with the DNA in the nucleus of a bacterium and the hybrid cell self-replicated successfully. The news appears in this week's Science Express.
ADDENDUM (5-21-10) In my haste yesterday, I may have minimized the significance of this news with a minor post. Here's a video from TED of Craig Venter himself explaining what they have accomplished and what it means.