Stories tagged Interdependence of Life

Nov
02
2014

As Jerry Seinfeld might say: "What's the deal with Ebola?"

Ebola virus: Here's the famous photo enlargement of a microscope's view of Ebola.
Ebola virus: Here's the famous photo enlargement of a microscope's view of Ebola.Courtesy CDC
Many on the cable news networks seem to want to make it sound like the next version of the Black Plague. Politicians have turned it into a campaign issue as we head into the final days of the mid-term elections. The late-night comics are cracking jokes about it. But a lot of people in the U.S. are scratching their heads about how big a threat Ebola is to their personal health.

Here's a round-up of information on informational resources to help sort through the yapping to get to the heart of the matter on the Ebola threat.

The Centers for Disease Control have produced a nice info graphic about the ways Ebola virus is transmitted. It's not passed along by airborne systems like some other viruses. Droplets from an impacted individual need to make it into the body of an uninfected person for transmission to occur. Germs like chicken pox and TB are spread through the air. Germs like the plague and meningitis are spread through droplets.

What can you do to safeguard yourself from Ebola?

• Wash your hands often with soap and water. If soap and water are not available, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer.
• Avoid close contact with people who are sick.
• Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth. Germs spread this way.
ª Routinely clean and disinfect commonly touched surfaces like bathroom surfaces, since some germs can stay infectious on surfaces for hours or days and lead to transmission.

Who faces the highest risks? Here's the CDC's link to those facing the highest risk factors. In the U.S., healthcare workers treating those with Ebola have by far the highest risk levels. People living west African nations, where the core of the outbreak is located, have the highest risk factor as Ebola can be contracted there through the handling of wild meats, being bitten by bats or coming in contact with objects that have been infected by the virus.

What are Ebola's symptoms?

Where have other outbreaks occurerd?

How can Ebola be treated?

So what do you think? Has news coverage of the Ebola outbreak been informative to you? What more would you like to know? How concerned are you about Ebola impacting your life? Share your views here with other Science Buzz readers.

Aug
20
2014

Hot spot: This solar farm in the Mojave Desert in California is igniting birds in flight at an alarming rate. Mirrors on the ground reflect super-hot light to the towers to be converted into electricity.
Hot spot: This solar farm in the Mojave Desert in California is igniting birds in flight at an alarming rate. Mirrors on the ground reflect super-hot light to the towers to be converted into electricity.Courtesy Craig Dietrich - Flickr
A huge solar energy farm in the Mojave Desert seems to be having one serious side effect: passing birds in flight are bursting into flames.

What's going on is that 300,000 mirrors on the ground are directing sunlight to huge towers that convert that energy into electricity. Bugs are attracted to the bright light from the mirrors drawing hungry birds to get into the path of the reflected light. And that concentrated light energy is causing the birds to catch fire, sometimes at a rate of one every two minutes. The flaming birds have been noticed since the plant powered up in February and its estimated that the total bird kill this year could top out at 28,000. Researchers estimated that one bird they found dead had been roasted by light beams that were nearly 1,000 degrees F.

Plans for building a second plant are on hold while investigators study the situation at the current site. What do you think? Is the potential of killing many birds a worthwhile cost for increased clean, "green" electricity?

Mar
03
2014

Numbered days?: Zebra mussels totally cover a piece of underwater equipment from Lake Michigan.
Numbered days?: Zebra mussels totally cover a piece of underwater equipment from Lake Michigan.Courtesy M. McCormick
For more than 20 years, zebra mussels have gone unchecked in midwest waters. Introduced to North America as stow-away passengers on the bottoms of Great Lakes shipping vessels that came from Europe, the invasive species have exploded to fresh waters in 34 states at an alarming rate.

But their days may be numbered. A New York-based researcher has discovered a bacterium that can kill zebra mussels (and also the related invasive species quagga mussels) without disrupting the rest of the food web.

After rounds of lab testing, the Environmental Protection Agency has okayed the commercial production of Pseudomonas fluorescens strain CL145A, which can then be applied to waters and kill the menacing mussels. In lab tests, the bacterium killed over 90 percent of the the invasive mussels in came in contact with.

Along with pushing out other species in the waters, the invasive mussels have also become a nuisance by clogging up intake pipes at water plants and attaching themselves to docks, piers and other submerged water equipment. Plans are still being developed on how to apply this new bacterium to the waters. All wise zebra mussels might want to start packing their bages and heading back to Europe before they find out what this new bacterium has in store for them!

Nov
20
2013

The glow is gone: A glowing lake in Puerto Rico has mysteriously gone dark in the past week. Scientists are trying to figure out why the lake has changed its night time behavior.
The glow is gone: A glowing lake in Puerto Rico has mysteriously gone dark in the past week. Scientists are trying to figure out why the lake has changed its night time behavior.Courtesy Ocean Island Travel
For the past eight days, a glowing lake in Puerto Rico has gone dark, puzzling scientists and tourism officials alike.

Construction on a new sewage treatment plant nearby has stopped as researchers are trying to figure out why the Fajardo Grand Lagoon at the Nature Reserve of Las Cabezas de San Juan in Puerto Rico has suddenly lost its glow. The lake, informally referred to as a lagoon, has long been a popular tourist stop at night. Kayakers have been able to cruise the waters and see the glow of bioluminescent microorganisms in the water. The creatures give off a glow when disturbed by a passing paddle or waving hand.

While some worry run off from the treatment plant under construction might be the cause of the darkness, others point to recent rains and high winds creating waves on the lake. In the short term, researchers are hoping to minimize as many factors as possible to be able to zero in on the cause.

A local group also collects water samples from the lake three times a week to record data including temperature, salinity and precipitation. That data will also be analyzed in this current study.

The lake also went nearly dark for a short time in 2003, but had since rebounded to it's original levels of glow.

So what do you think is happening in the lake to make it go dark? Share your ideas with other Science Buzz readers in the comments section.

Apr
22
2013

Tall order: Scientists are cloning giant redwood trees from California in an effort to reforest lost trees and combat climate change.
Tall order: Scientists are cloning giant redwood trees from California in an effort to reforest lost trees and combat climate change.Courtesy Victorgrigas
Start talking about giant cloning projects, and the conversation is going to quickly turn to Jurassic Park, the film that "what iffed" the cloning of dinosaurs. It was all for fun, if beyond hypothetical.

But giants of another kind, trees, are being cloned in an effort to help turn the balance of deteriorating conditions here on Earth. California's iconic, and incredibly tall, redwood trees are getting the cloning treatment. You can read the full details about the project here. And today, Earth Day 2013, the project is going global as clones of these redwoods are being planted in Australia, New Zealand, Great Britain, Ireland, Canada, Germany and the U.S.

Why clone just behemoth trees? The guys running the project surmise where better to find the strongest, hardiest genetic codes to withstand the coming climate pressures than in these huge redwoods, many which have lived for over 4,000 years.

The current crop of plantings come from the DNA of giant trees cut down about a century ago. Even though the bulk of the trees are just stumps today, those stumps are very much alive. They have live shoots emerging from the stumps, which the researchers can extract DNA from to serve as the basis for their cloning work.

The new plantings have a long way to go. They're only about 18 inches tall right now. The big challenge, the researchers say, is to find people and resources to nurture this little trees into viable, independent growers.

Redwoods are considered best suited to absorb massive volumes of carbon dioxide, the greenhouse gas primarily responsible for climate change.

What do you think? Is this a good application for cloning? Can these huge trees make a difference with climate change over the long haul? Should we be tinkering around with this kind of science?

May
30
2012

The issue:
About a month ago, a frack-sand mining operation near Grantsburg, WI, spilled some fine-grained sediment from a settling pond into a tributary of the St. Croix River. Local news media covered the story, and more details, for example, can be found in the Pioneer Press story by Dennis Lien.

So what’s the big deal?
Well, there are standards regarding water turbidity, which means that as a society we’ve decided that we don’t like cloudy water, at least in some settings and at some levels. For a naturally clear-water system like the St. Croix, increasing turbidity would alter the food chain at all levels. Algal primary producers rely on sunlight blocked by turbidity. Sight-based predation at the top of the food change would be altered. Benthic (bottom-dwelling) organisms that depend on coarse substrates could be smothered by siltation. Especially in the St. Croix, one of the last refugia for freshwater endangered mussel species, we must be on guard against too much fine sediment. And finally, where does the sediment end up? It’s filling up not only man-made reservoirs but also treasured natural lakes, iconically Lake St. Croix and Lake Pepin. These lakes are filling in with fine-grained sediment at about 3X and 10X their natural rates, respectively. (How do we know? See work done by the Museum’s St. Croix Watershed Research Station.)

Hey, it’s only a little bit...
Or was it? How much is a little? A little here, a little there, and a little more from over there -- it starts to add up. All water in a watershed runs downhill to the river, efficiently carrying both particles and dissolved materials. The river ultimately sees it all: all the disturbances, however seemingly minor, throughout the watershed. Rivers die a death of a thousand cuts. We have enough difficulty trying to control nonpoint sources of sediment and other pollutants. Stopping discharge of fine-grained materials from a mining operation is eminently fixable. It’s the right thing to do. Fortunately, all parties seem in agreement on this, including the mining company, which has repaired its leaky dike.

Nov
04
2011

Abarham Maslow created the 5 basic human needs. Otherwise known as Maslow's hierarchy of needs.

5. self-actualization
4. self esteem
3. belonging
2. safety
1. survival
Now the pyramid works like this, lets say if your first need of survival is not met your safety, belonging, esteem and accusation won't be met the reason is that if your so concerned about the things on the bottom you won't meet the things on the top. Take Dave Pelzer, he was worrying about his survival he couldn't work on belonging. Or you could look at it the way most people would say your hungry or maybe concerned for your safety. you're not worried about your work you're worried about food or getting out of the unsafe place you're in. Just think of it as if you're climbing a ladder.

Nov
04
2011

Teeth tell tales of travel: Ratio of oxygen isotopes in Camarasaurus teeth reveals that the sauropod migrated long distances to find food and water. Geological Museum, University of Wyoming, Laramie, WY
Teeth tell tales of travel: Ratio of oxygen isotopes in Camarasaurus teeth reveals that the sauropod migrated long distances to find food and water. Geological Museum, University of Wyoming, Laramie, WYCourtesy Mark Ryan
Ever wonder how something as big as a sauropod dinosaur was able to grow so large? Sauropods were those huge, long-necked quadrupeds estimated to have weighed anywhere from 50 to 120 tons, and with lengths of up to 200 feet. Just seeing the skeleton of any one of them – the Apatosaurus, Diplodocus, Brachiosaurus, Ultrasaurus or any their kind – you just know those Jurassic giants had to be on a constant eating binge to maintain their massive size. But just how much food could a single area supply? Doesn’t it make sense that these critters would have eaten up any food source within the reach of their extensive necks? Then what would they do?

A new study of sauropod teeth has produced some strong evidence that the giant herbivores migrated during times of drought or other environmental stresses, searching for new untapped food and water sources. Geochemist Henry Fricke of Colorado College in Colorado Springs along with student colleagues Justin Hencecroth and Marie E. Hoerner studied the teeth of various Camarasaurus specimens comparing the ratio of oxygen isotopes found in the enamel with the ratio found in the sedimentary rock deposits where the teeth were found. By sauropod standards, Camarasaurus was one of the smaller ones, but it's the most common sauropod found in the Morrison Formation deposits.

Camarasaurus skeleton
Camarasaurus skeletonCourtesy Public domain
During its lifetime 145 million years or so in the past, a Camarasaurus's teeth would absorb the isotopes ratio of its environment, that is the ratio of the oxygen isotopes found in the local water supply. So Fricke’s team sampled 32 camarasaur teeth, taking measurements of the younger enamel found near the base of each tooth with the older enamel near the crown. In some cases, the isotopes ratios in the enamel matched those of the sedimentary rocks from where the teeth were found. But some enamel didn’t match. This meant the dinosaur must have migrated at some time to higher ground, more than likely in search of a better food source.

"In a theoretical sense, it's not hugely surprising,” Fricke said. “They are huge — they would probably have eaten themselves out of house and home if they stayed in one place.”

So the camarasaurs did what any hungry animal would do: they headed out in search of more food, even if it meant a migration of 200 miles into the higher regions and back. Seasonal droughts were probably another factor. The highlands would have had more rainfall and therefore more vegetation and water. When the wet season returned to the basin so would the camarasaur herds. Fricke estimates the seasonal herbivore hikes took around five months to complete. He also thinks if one kind of sauropod migrated, other genera probably did the same, and an analysis of their teeth would probably show similar results.

SOURCES and LINKS
Abstract in Nature
Nature News
Paleoclimatology: the Oxygen Balance
Camarasaurus facts

Oct
19
2011

8-Yr-Old Shark Conservationist Sophi Bromenshenkel from Minnesota
8-Yr-Old Shark Conservationist Sophi Bromenshenkel from MinnesotaCourtesy University of Miami
Second-grader Sophi Bromenshenkel from Minnesota sold lemonade, hot chocolate, shark-shaped cookies, and wristbands to promote shark conservation, and become an international phenomenon. Earlier this year, 8-year old Sophi was named the 2011 "Ocean Hero" from Oceana, an international advocacy group working to protect the world’s oceans. She graces the front cover of the latest issue of Oceana Magazine.

Through her efforts, $3,676.62 was raised to pay for satellite tags that are used to track movement of individual sharks, and provide insight on shark populations. In addition to providing safety information to recreational ocean users, the observations of how sharks navigate the ocean can be used to inform policymakers where to focus their marine protection efforts. The satellite-tagged sharks can be followed online from the website for the R.J. Dunlap Marine Conservation Program. Note that the Google Earth Plugin needs to be installed on your computer to view the maps.

Oct
15
2011

Giant bison skull: its horns spanned 6 feet 4 inches. Behind stands Dr. Steve Holen, curator of archaeology at the Denver Museum of Nature & Science
Giant bison skull: its horns spanned 6 feet 4 inches. Behind stands Dr. Steve Holen, curator of archaeology at the Denver Museum of Nature & ScienceCourtesy Photo by Heather Rousseau ©Denver Museum of Nature and Science
The last talk I attended at the Geological Society of America (GSA) convention this past week was one of my favorites. It was an update of the Snowmastodon Project given by Kirk Johnson, chief curator at the Denver Museum of Nature and Science (DMNS). Just one year ago, a construction worker bulldozing for a dam-building project at the Zeigler Reservoir near Snowmass Village in Colorado unearthed a mammoth tusk. Paleontologists and archaeologists from the Denver museum were called in, and excavation of a small portion of the drained reservoir bottom soon got underway. The museum crew worked for just one month, until November 14, 2010, when snowfall halted the project. Then last spring scientists returned to the site and were allowed just 51 days to excavate the fossil deposits before the Snowmass Water and Sanitation District resumed their expansion work on the reservoir.

This time more research experts from the US, Canada, and England joined the dig along with a slew of interns and volunteers, totaling some 233 people working on the project. Over the next seven weeks excavation at the Zeigler Reservoir site progressed at a frantic pace. According to Johnson, anywhere from 15 to 90 diggers were on site each day digging out fossils from the ancient peat and mud deposits, from what once were the shores of a small glacial lake. Despite the short window of opportunity, the sheer number and diversity of fossils from the dig site has been truly remarkable.

American Mastodon: (Mammut americanum)
American Mastodon: (Mammut americanum)Courtesy Dantheman9758 at en.wikipedia
Of the nearly 5000 bones and skulls exhumed from the Snowmass fossil site, more than 60 percent were of mastodons (Mammut americanum) representing at least 30 individuals in various stages of life. The other 40 percent of the fauna included mammoths (Mammuthus columbi), camels, horses, giant bison (Bison latifrons) and ground sloths (Megalonyx jeffersonii), otters, muskrats, minks, bats voles, chipmunks, beavers, bats, rabbits, mice, salamanders, frogs, lizards, snakes, fish, and birds, and iridescent beetles. No large carnivore remains were found in the deposits, and human remains were absent as well, although archaeological techniques were used during the dig just in case any were uncovered.

Flora from the prehistoric tundra environment included pollen, green leaves and cones, and tree logs, some with their bark still intact.

So far, age estimates for the deposits range between 43, 000 to 130,000 years old although further dating tests should narrow that down.

The talk included several photos of what Johnson termed “Flintstone moments”, i.e. shots of field workers posing with massive mammoth or mastodon femurs or tibia. And Johnson marveled at the incredible state of preservation of many of the fossils displayed. Some of the bones, he said, still emitted a very strong funk.

In terms of sheer number of bones and ecological data, Snowmastodon ranks up there as probably one of the best high altitude Ice Age ecology sites in the world, and certainly the best mastodon fossil site. A team of researchers at the DMNS lab will spend the next year and a half cleaning, cataloging, and analyzing all the fossils found at the Snowmass dig site, water was to be reintroduced into the reservoir on Oct. 13. Despite the loss of the site, the field crew did a tremendous job in the time they were given to excavate the fossil-rich site. And Kirk Johnson didn’t hide his excitement. In closing his talk, he said “It was one hell of a year!”

FURTHER INFO
The Snowmastodon Project website
Photo set on Flcker