Stories tagged 2012 Legislative Preview


Yesterday, I had the pleasure of attending Environmental Initiative's 2012 Legislative Preview, part of their Policy Forum series.

Basically, a bipartisan group of legislators discussed their environmental priorities with a diverse audience of public, private and nonprofit representatives for the purpose of providing

"a valuable first look at the most pressing environmental issues facing the state in anticipation of the upcoming legislative session."

MN Most Wanted: Asian carp, aquatic invasive species
MN Most Wanted: Asian carp, aquatic invasive speciesCourtesy State of Michigan

The biggest surprise to yours truly was the prevalence of carp among the discussion. Asian carp, AIS (aquatic invasive species), etc., etc.. Everyone appeared in agreement regarding the threat posed by carp, so the real question is what do we do about their impending invasion?

One repeated suggestion was to fund more research, specifically at the University of Minnesota. This is probably an important step towards defending our state waterways, and I think this story helps illustrate why:

"As yet, no technology can stop these downstream migrations; neither grates nor dangerous, expensive electrical barriers do the job.

But a wall of cheap, harmless bubbles just might—at least well enough to have a significant benefit."

Researchers at the U of MN have discovered that bubble barriers may deter 70-80% of carp migration. It's not the visual affect of the bubbles that prevents all but the most daring carp from penetrating the barrier, rather the noise -- equivalent to what you or I would experience standing about three feet from a jackhammer.

The bubble barrier has currently only been tested on common carp, but researchers involved in the experiment want to test the technology on Asian carp next.

In addition to the bubble barrier, U of M researchers are investigating whether Asian carp pheromones can be used to lure them into traps.


Australopithecus sediba
Australopithecus sedibaCourtesy Wikimedia Creative Commons
Fossil bones from a creature named Australopithecus sediba show traits of both ape and human features that could shake up the field of human evolution. The fossils were found in South Africa in 2008 and according to lead researcher Lee R. Berger of the University of Witwatersrand in South Africa, analysis of the bones show it to be the most likely ancestor to modern humans.

The rare, complete fossil hand of A. sediba has a curvature like you’d expect in a tree-dwelling ape-creature but the thumb is long and the fingers slender, more human-like and could allow for possible tool use. The fragmental remains of a heel suggest an arched foot suitable for walking on the ground, and with an attachment for a large Achilles tendon. The pelvis is more bowl-shaped, broad, and human-like than that of the older Australopithecus afarensis known as Lucy.

"This is what evolutionary theory would predict, this mixture of Australopithecene and Homo," said Texas A&M paleoanthropologist Darryl J. DeRuiter. "It's strong confirmation of evolutionary theory."

A. sediba lived two million years ago, and represents a very fine example of a transitional fossil, but its brain is still small and more like that of a chimpanzee, and it’s that fact that may cause scientists to reconsider some of their earlier assumptions about how humans evolved.

The research appears in five separate reports in the current issue of Science.

Star Tribune story
Science journal
More about A. sediba