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Ecology / Conservation posts

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  • September 3, 2015
  • 04:01 PM
  • 14 views

Fuels and fungi: A love story

by Rosin Cerate in Rosin Cerate

Fuels and fungi have a long-standing and intricate relationship. Before we get into the juicy details, let's examine the players.Traditionally speaking, a fuel is any organic substance (e.g. wood, coal, and oil) containing lots of stored chemical energy within the bonds holding its atoms together. This energy can be released via combustion, which we harness to move cars forward and generate electricity.Fungi are a huge group of organisms largely describable in terms of what they lack: locomotion........ Read more »

Haider R, Ghauri M, SanFilipo J, Jones E, Orem W, Tatu C, Akhtar K, & Akhtar N. (2013) Fungal degradation of coal as a pretreatment for methane production. Fuel, 717-725. DOI: 10.1016/j.fuel.2012.05.015  

Nicaud J. (2012) Yarrowia lipolytica. Yeast, 29(10), 409-418. DOI: 10.1002/yea.2921  

  • September 1, 2015
  • 12:06 PM
  • 40 views

Parasitized Bees May Self-Medicate with Nectar

by Elizabeth Preston in Inkfish



Mary Poppins taught us that a spoonful of sugar makes the medicine go down. A bumblebee's favorite sugary drink may already be laced with medicine. And bees seem to dose themselves with medicinal nectar when they're suffering from a gut full of parasites.

Plants manufacture many chemical compounds to defend against attackers. Some of these are familiar to humans—like capsaicin, the potent weapon made by chili pepper plants. But not every animal enjoys painful food experiences like we do........ Read more »

  • August 31, 2015
  • 10:09 AM
  • 70 views

Cow Pies Can Make You Smarter and Less Stressed

by Miss Behavior in The Scorpion and the Frog

It seems like everyone is running around buying school supplies and books, registering for classes, and fretting about how hard it is going to be to learn another whole year’s worth of stuff. The secret to success, it turns out, may lie in cow dung.A cow pie. Photo taken by Jeff Vanuga at the USDA available at Wikimedia Commons.Recent research has highlighted the important role that microbes living in animal digestive tracts have on host animals’ health and behavior. This influence of our gu........ Read more »

  • August 25, 2015
  • 03:06 PM
  • 74 views

Why Carefree Lady Fish Grow Larger Genitals

by Elizabeth Preston in Inkfish



The history of Bahamas mosquitofish is written in their genitals. Though you'd have a hard time locating a female fish's reproductive parts, they tell a story of predators, suitors, and finding a way to regain control.

Gambusia hubbsi arrived at Andros Island, in the Bahamas, about 15,000 years ago. The little fish live in vertical, water-filled caves called blue holes. Populations separated from each other by these caves are in the process of evolving into different species, pushed by ........ Read more »

  • August 24, 2015
  • 04:05 PM
  • 94 views

Argania spinosa has goat ornaments and makes a useful oil

by Rosin Cerate in Rosin Cerate

Argania spinosa (argan) is a tough little tree endemic to a limited area in southwestern Morocco and a bit of very western Algeria (Tindouf). Patchy forests of the tree cover about 800,000 hectares of the semi-arid Sous valley. These represent a unique biotope and have been designated a fancy UNESCO biosphere reserve. The presence of the forests slows desertification, as the drought-resistant trees act to stabilize the soil. Argan trees can live up to 250 years and are able to make do ........ Read more »

Monfalouti HE, Guillaume D, Denhez C, & Charrouf Z. (2010) Therapeutic potential of argan oil: A review. The Journal of Pharmacy and Pharmacology, 62(12), 1669-75. PMID: 21054392  

Paris C, Herin F, Reboux G, Penven E, Barrera C, Guidat C, & Thaon I. (2015) Working with argan cake: A new etiology for hypersensitivity pneumonitis. BMC Pulmonary Medicine, 18. PMID: 25888313  

  • August 21, 2015
  • 12:49 PM
  • 124 views

To Avoid Mosquitoes, Stop Breathing and Be Invisible

by Elizabeth Preston in Inkfish



Hungry mosquitoes use an arsenal of sensory tools to hunt you down. They sniff out the carbon dioxide you exhale; they home in on your heat signature. But a previously under-appreciated tool in the mosquito's kit is the same one you use just before slapping at it in horror: vision.

At Caltech, Floris van Breugel put mosquitoes in a wind tunnel to tease apart how they find their meals. He used Aedes aegypti, a tropical species that spreads yellow fever and other diseases. The insects wer........ Read more »

van Breugel, F., Riffell, J., Fairhall, A., & Dickinson, M. (2015) Mosquitoes Use Vision to Associate Odor Plumes with Thermal Targets. Current Biology, 25(16), 2123-2129. DOI: 10.1016/j.cub.2015.06.046  

  • August 21, 2015
  • 03:06 AM
  • 38 views

Can we use economic information to anticipate a fishery collapse?

by sceintists from the Marine group at CEES in Marine Science blog




This paper investigates the scope for resilience indicators to predict an upcoming stock collapse. We find that economic information, such as profits, may complement biological information when assessing the state of fisheries.

... Read more »

Dakos, V., Carpenter, S., van Nes, E., & Scheffer, M. (2014) Resilience indicators: prospects and limitations for early warnings of regime shifts. Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences, 370(1659), 20130263-20130263. DOI: 10.1098/rstb.2013.0263  

Richter, A., van Soest, D., & Grasman, J. (2013) Contagious cooperation, temptation, and ecosystem collapse. Journal of Environmental Economics and Management, 66(1), 141-158. DOI: 10.1016/j.jeem.2013.04.004  

  • August 20, 2015
  • 06:01 PM
  • 241 views

The story of a cave and climate change

by Jonathan Trinastic in Goodnight Earth

Old writings spanning the last four hundred years have been discovered in China that detail eras of drought. Using these as a starting point, researchers have connected the time periods with changes in rainfall to predict future droughts in the region.... Read more »

Tan, L., Cai, Y., An, Z., Cheng, H., Shen, C., Breitenbach, S., Gao, Y., Edwards, R., Zhang, H., & Du, Y. (2015) A Chinese cave links climate change, social impacts, and human adaptation over the last 500 years. Scientific Reports, 12284. DOI: 10.1038/srep12284  

  • August 13, 2015
  • 03:45 PM
  • 122 views

Nutrient oasis is just a nice way of saying rotting corpse

by Rosin Cerate in Rosin Cerate

A whale fall is a pleasant little ecosystem that springs up whenever a whale dies and sinks to the bottom of deeper parts of the ocean. Sunlight doesn't penetrate to such depths, so there aren't any plants or algae churning out bits of easily digestible organic matter for other organisms to eat. Thus, it's feast or famine for any creatures living in the deep sea, and a whale carcass is a five star buffet. Whale fall communities are mostly made up of invertebrates, including worms capable of........ Read more »

  • July 31, 2015
  • 10:00 AM
  • 162 views

How to make rice healthier for you and the environment

by Betty Zou in Eat, Read, Science

An innovative way of cooking rice that removes more arsenic than the conventional method and a new strain of high-starch, low-methane rice are discussed.... Read more »

  • July 28, 2015
  • 12:05 PM
  • 178 views

Sports Stadiums Make Bats into Winners and Losers

by Elizabeth Preston in Inkfish



Bats are indifferent to whether we're playing soccer, baseball, or beach volleyball under our stadium lights. They only care about the game of catch they're playing with all the bugs attracted to the glow. As bats stuff themselves on swarms of sports-adjacent insects, though, our stadiums may be aiding certain bat species and wiping others out.

Any bat that's willing to visit a lit-up sports stadium will find a bug bonanza there, says Corrie Schoeman, an ecologist at the University of........ Read more »

  • July 27, 2015
  • 02:49 PM
  • 176 views

Some vaccines support evolution of more-virulent viruses

by Dr. Jekyll in Lunatic Laboratories

Scientific experiments with the herpes virus such as the one that causes Marek’s disease in poultry have confirmed, for the first time, the highly controversial theory that some vaccines could allow more-virulent versions of a virus to survive, putting unvaccinated individuals at greater risk of severe illness. The research has important implications for food-chain security and food-chain economics, as well as for other diseases that affect humans and agricultural animals.... Read more »

Andrew F. Read, Susan J. Baigent, Claire Powers, Lydia B. Kgosana, Luke Blackwell, Lorraine P. Smith, David A. Kennedy, Stephen W. Walkden-Brown, & Venugopal K. Nair. (2015) Imperfect Vaccination Can Enhance the Transmission of Highly Virulent Pathogens. PLOS Biology. info:/10.1371/journal.pbio.1002198

  • July 21, 2015
  • 12:17 PM
  • 171 views

Plants Murder Bugs to Pay Their Bodyguards

by Elizabeth Preston in Inkfish



It's not only carnivorous plants that bugs have to watch out for. Sure, if an ant tumbles into a pitcher plant or a spider stands in the open maw of a Venus flytrap, we know what's coming next. But certain innocent-looking plants—perhaps very many of them, even including ones in your own yard—murder hosts of insects that they have no plans to eat. They lure passing bugs into a slow death, then exchange their corpses with other insects for protection.

One of these plants is the serp........ Read more »

  • July 18, 2015
  • 12:43 PM
  • 202 views

Study finds metal foams capable of shielding X-rays, gamma rays, neutron radiation

by Dr. Jekyll in Lunatic Laboratories

Research from North Carolina State University shows that lightweight composite metal foams are effective at blocking X-rays, gamma rays and neutron radiation, and are capable of absorbing the energy of high impact collisions. The finding means the metal foams hold promise for use in nuclear safety, space exploration and medical technology applications.... Read more »

  • July 16, 2015
  • 06:24 PM
  • 194 views

Hydraulic fracturing and hospitalization: a tentative link

by Jonathan Trinastic in Goodnight Earth

There is little hard data bout how fracking affects health outcomes, but a new study provides a first glimpse at a correlation between increased well-drilling and inpatient rates. Read more here!... Read more »

Jemielita, T., Gerton, G., Neidell, M., Chillrud, S., Yan, B., Stute, M., Howarth, M., Saberi, P., Fausti, N., Penning, T.... (2015) Unconventional Gas and Oil Drilling Is Associated with Increased Hospital Utilization Rates. PLOS ONE, 10(7). DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0131093  

  • July 15, 2015
  • 05:42 PM
  • 164 views

New solar energy storage works at night

by Jonathan Trinastic in Goodnight Earth

It is still an open research problem to store energy generated from solar cells, but a new, all-vanadium electrochemical cell made at UT Arlington may be a solution.... Read more »

  • July 15, 2015
  • 03:03 PM
  • 158 views

Journal Club: Starlings on Prozac: How pharmaceuticals may affect wildlife

by GrrlScientist in Maniraptora

SUMMARY: Recent research suggests that the commonly prescribed psychiatric drug, Prozac, occurs at environmentally relevant concentrations that can significantly alter behaviour and physiology in wild birds .. Read more... Read more »

Bean, T., Boxall, A., Lane, J., Herborn, K., Pietravalle, S., & Arnold, K. (2014) Behavioural and physiological responses of birds to environmentally relevant concentrations of an antidepressant. Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences, 369(1656), 20130575-20130575. DOI: 10.1098/rstb.2013.0575  

Crockett, M., Siegel, J., Kurth-Nelson, Z., Ousdal, O., Story, G., Frieband, C., Grosse-Rueskamp, J., Dayan, P., & Dolan, R. (2015) Dissociable Effects of Serotonin and Dopamine on the Valuation of Harm in Moral Decision Making. Current Biology, 25(14), 1852-1859. DOI: 10.1016/j.cub.2015.05.021  

Markman, S., Müller, C., Pascoe, D., Dawson, A., & Buchanan, K. (2011) Pollutants affect development in nestling starlings Sturnus vulgaris. Journal of Applied Ecology, 48(2), 391-397. DOI: 10.1111/j.1365-2664.2010.01931.x  

  • July 15, 2015
  • 02:16 PM
  • 161 views

Vaginal douches may expose women to harmful phthalate chemicals

by Dr. Jekyll in Lunatic Laboratories

Women who use feminine care products called douches may increase their exposure to harmful chemicals called phthalates–and black women may be at particularly high risk due to frequent use. Public health officials advise against the use of douching products, which can hide vaginal infections and lead to other serious health problems. Despite that, douching products are still a popular item on the drug store shelf, and are disproportionately used by black women.... Read more »

Francesca Branch et al. (2015) Vaginal douching and racial/ethnic disparities in phthalate exposures among reproductive-aged women: National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey 2001-2004. Environmental Health. info:/10.1186/s12940-015-0043-6

  • July 12, 2015
  • 11:38 PM
  • 163 views

The Hidden Microbial World On Your Cash And What It Means For Your Health

by Geoffrey Hannigan in Prophage

We have all thought and talked about how dirty money is. Those notes are transferred all over the world, touched by thousands of people, and find themselves in every sort of hygienic situation. But how dirty is money really? What kinds of microbes (bacteria, viruses, etc) are sitting on your cash, and can they make you sick? To provide us with some insight ...... Read more »

  • July 8, 2015
  • 11:35 AM
  • 212 views

Colour changing fruits and veggies

by Rosin Cerate in Rosin Cerate

The fleshy parts of plants we eat tend to change colour. This can be due to ripening (e.g. various berries turning red as they mature), intentional injury (e.g. apple slices turning brown after being cut), or changing external pH (e.g. red cabbage turning pink in vinegar). Let's look a bit at how and why this happens using a couple of examples.Strawberry fruit develops through green, white, and red stages. These correspond to changing levels of chlorophyll, anthocyanins, flavonoids, tannins, and........ Read more »

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