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Azimuth
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Scientists and engineers helping save the planet.
Scientists and engineers helping save the planet.

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"In the first study of its kind, researchers characterized the skin microbiome of a population of free-ranging snakes to begin to understand how the animals' environmental microbial community may promote disease resistance as well as how it may be disrupted by infection.

The study, which was recently published in Scientific Reports, a Nature research journal, focused on eastern massasaugas in Illinois. This species of endangered rattlesnake is highly susceptible to the fungal pathogen Ophidiomyces ophiodiicola, which causes snake fungal disease (SFD). SFD results in disfiguring sores on snake skin, has a high mortality rate, and poses a significant threat to snake populations in North America and Europe. The mechanism by which the pathogen causes disease is unknown.

"Globally, fungal pathogens are increasingly associated with wildlife epidemics, such as white-nose syndrome in bats and chytridiomycosis in amphibians," said Dr. Matt Allender, a faculty member at the University of Illinois College of Veterinary Medicine and an affiliate of the Illinois Natural History Survey (INHS), part of the university's Prairie Research Institute. "Snake fungal disease has been identified in a number of snake species, but very little is known about contributing factors for infection."

Dr. Allender, who heads the Wildlife Epidemiology Laboratory, has been investigating SFD for more than 8 years. In 2014 he introduced a quantitative polymerase chain reaction (qPCR) test to quickly identify the fungus from a swabbed sample".

(Posted by +rasha kamel )
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"This summer's worldwide heatwave makes 2018 a particularly hot year. And the next few years will be similar, according to a study led by Florian Sévellec, a CNRS researcher at the Laboratory for Ocean Physics and Remote Sensing (LOPS) (CNRS/IFREMER/IRD/University of Brest) and at the University of Southampton, and published in the 14 August 2018 edition of Nature Communications. Using a new method, the study shows that at the global level, 2018-2022 may be an even hotter period than expected based on current global warming.

Warming caused by greenhouse gas emissions is not linear. It appears to have lapsed in the early 21st century, a phenomenon known as a global warminghiatus. A new method for predicting mean temperatures, however, suggests that the next few years will likely be hotter than expected.

The system, developed by researchers at CNRS, the University of Southampton and the Royal Netherlands Meteorological Institute, does not use traditional simulation techniques. Instead, it applies a statistical method to search 20th and 21st century climate simulations made using several reference models to find 'analogues' of current climate conditions and deduce future possibilities. The precision and reliability of this probabilistic system proved to be at least equivalent to current methods, particularly for the purpose of simulating the global warming hiatus of the beginning of this century".

(Posted by +rasha kamel )
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"Botanists have discovered a new species of orchid in Peru's central Amazonian rainforest, the country's national parks service announced Tuesday.

"The new species of orchid was recently discovered in the Tingo Maria National Park" in the Huanuco region, the parks service SERNANP announced.

The orchid is classified as belonging to the Andinia genus and was discovered in area of the Bella Durmiente (Spanish for Sleeping Beauty) mountain, which is a prominent feature of the Tingo Maria National Park, it said in a statement.

Set in the middle of Peru, the area is marked by mild weather with an annual average temperature of 20 degrees Celsius (68 degrees Fahrenheit).

Fragrant and delicately beautiful, there are around 30,000 different species of orchid around the world, around 10 percent of them in Peru.

Around 240 can be found in the Tingo Maria National Park, which was created in 1965.

"This kind of discovery highlights the natural heritage of the country and demonstrates the good standard of conservation of the park," said Lorenzo Flores, director of the Tingo Maria National Park".

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"An undergraduate researcher has developed a method to screen frogs for an infectious disease that has been linked to mass die-offs of frogs around the world. Thanks to her method, scientists will be able to track the disease and try to figure out why it is triggering the deaths.

Emily Karwacki, who recently earned her biology degree from the University of Central Florida, didn't set out to track the deadly pathogen Perkinsea, but after landing a research spot in Assistant Professor Anna Savage's lab, she was set with the task of trying to test for the disease. Frogs, which are indicators of environmental changes, have been dying off in mass quantities. They are also an important part of the food chain. Without frogs, many other species would die, Savage said.

Scientists have narrowed down what's most affecting frogs to three pathogens, including Perkinsea.

"Not a lot of people have studied Perkinsea because it has only recently been identified," Karwacki said. "It's different from other diseases because of the way it attacks the host."

The pathogen enters the frog through the skin or may be ingested through its mouth. Scientists know it goes straight to the liver, embedding itself, before moving onto the rest of the tissue. It spreads and then the frog dies.

Karwacki, along with Savage and doctoral student Matt Atkinson, suspected that Perkinsea was killing frogs in Central Florida, but the researchers needed a way to test for it first. Karwacki was tasked with creating the molecular test. The method is called qPCR, but because Perkinsea was newly discovered, there wasn't enough genetic data to make a specific test. Karwacki had to create what's called a primer pair, and match it with a DNA sequence of Perkinsea, to get the qPCR test to work".

(Posted by +rasha kamel )
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"Key message: Scientists have developed an accelerated way to produce magnesite at room temperature, a mineral which can capture the greenhouse gas CO2 from the atmosphere.

Why interesting: Removing CO2 from the atmosphere will slow global warming. This work takes a different approach to existing processes, and may make it economically viable, but it is at an early stage, and is not yet an industrial process.

What have they done: Researchers have developed a way of dramatically speeding up the natural formation of the mineral magnesite, which can capture CO2.

Boston: Scientists have found a rapid way of producing magnesite, a mineral which stores carbon dioxide. If this can be developed to an industrial scale, it opens the door to removing CO2from the atmosphere for long-term storage, thus countering the global warming effect of atmospheric CO2. This work is presented at the Goldschmidt conference in Boston.

Scientists are already working to slow global warming by removing carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, but there are serious practical and economic limits on developing the technology. Now, for the first time, researchers have explained how magnesite forms at low temperature, and offered a route to dramatically accelerating its crystallization. A tonne of naturally-occurring magnesite can remove around half a tonne of CO2 from the atmosphere, but the rate of formation is very slow.

Project leader, Professor Ian Power (Trent University, Ontario, Canada) said:

"Our work shows two things. Firstly, we have explained how and how fast magnesite forms naturally. This is a process which takes hundreds to thousands of years in nature at Earth's surface. The second thing we have done is to demonstrate a pathway which speeds this process up dramatically"

The researchers were able to show that by using polystyrene microspheres as a catalyst, magnesite would form within 72 days. The microspheres themselves are unchanged by the production process, so they can ideally be reused".

(Posted by +rasha kamel )
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"More than 100 oceanic floats are now diving and drifting in the Southern Ocean around Antarctica during the peak of winter. These instruments are gathering data from a place and season that remains very poorly studied, despite its important role in regulating the global climate.

A new study from the University of Washington, the Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute, Princeton University and several other oceanographic institutions uses data gathered by the floating drones over past winters to learn how much carbon dioxide is transferred by the surrounding seas. Results show that in winter the open water nearest the sea ice surrounding Antarctica releases significantly more carbon dioxide than previously believed.

"These results came as a really big surprise, because previous studies found that the Southern Ocean was absorbing a lot of carbon dioxide," said lead author Alison Gray, a UW assistant professor of oceanography. "If that's not true, as these data suggest, then it means we need to rethink the Southern Ocean's role in the carbon cycle and in the climate."

The paper is published Aug. 14 in Geophysical Research Letters, a journal of the American Geophysical Union.

The data was gathered through the Southern Ocean Carbon and Climate Observations and Modeling (SOCCOM) project based at Princeton University. The National Science Foundation, through its Office of Polar Programs, funded the $21 million effort to place dozens of floating robots to monitor the water around Antarctica and learn how it functions in the global climate system".

(Posted by +rasha kamel )
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"In a kind of geological mystery, scientists have known for decades that a massive ice sheet stretched to cover most of Canada and much of the northeastern U.S. 25,000 years ago. What's been trickier to pin down is how—and especially how quickly—it reached its ultimate size.

One clue to answering that, Tamara Pico said, may involve changes to the Hudson River.

A graduate student working in the group led by Jerry Mitrovica, the Frank B. Baird Jr. Professor of Science, Pico is the lead author of a study that estimates how glaciers moved by examining how the weight of the ice sheet altered topography and led to changes in the river's course. The study is described in a July paper published in Geology.

"The Hudson River has changed course multiple times over the last million years," Pico said. "The last time was about 30,000 years ago, just before the last glacial maximum, when it moved to the east.

"That ancestral channel has been dated and mapped … and the way the ice sheet connects to this is: As it is growing, it's loading the crust it's sitting on. The Earth is like bread dough on these time scales, so as it gets depressed under the ice sheet, the region around it bulges upward. In fact, we call it the peripheral bulge. The Hudson is sitting on this bulge, and as it's lifted up and tilted, the river can be forced to change directions."

To develop a system that could connect the growth of the ice sheet with changes in the Hudson's direction, Pico began with a model for how the Earth deforms in response to various loads.

"So we can say, if there's an ice sheet over Canada, I can predict the land in New York City to be uplifted by X many meters," she said. (What we did was create a number of different ice histories that show how the ice sheet might have grown, each of which predicts a certain pattern of uplift, and then we can model how the river might have evolved in response to that upwelling)."

(Posted by +rasha kamel )
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"When plants are in distress or being fed on by insects, they have been known to send out sensory volatile cues that alert organisms in the area—such as birds—that they are in need of help. While research has shown that this occurs in ecosystems such as forests, until now, this phenomenon has never been demonstrated in an agricultural setting.

Researchers at the University of Delaware have recently found that agricultural plants also send out these signals when under duress from insects, opening new potential avenues for growers to defend their crops while at the same time providing a much-needed food source for birds.

Ivan Hiltpold and Greg Shriver led the research at UD and used an unorthodox method to create their 'larvae' for the study: a little bit of Play-Doh and orange colored pins.

Using a field plot of maize on UD's Newark farm, the researchers attached dispensers using a synthetic odor blend that replicated the volatiles—odor cues given off by plants to indicate they are being attacked such as the smell of freshly cut grass—attached to corn stalks. They also used dispensers using only an organic solvent as a control measure.

The Play-Doh larvae with orange head pins were then distributed on plants around the volatile dispensers and the organic solvent dispensers with the researchers measuring the bird attacks or pecks on the larvae.

They found that the imitation larvae located closer to the volatile dispensers had significantly more attacks than those located closer to the organic solvent dispensers".

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"Habitat loss, habitat fragmentation and the loss of genetic diversity are the three main factors driving the extinction of many wild species, and the few eastern massasauga rattlesnakes remaining in Illinois have certainly suffered two of the three. A long-term study of these snakes reveals, however, that—despite their alarming decline in numbers—they have retained a surprising amount of genetic diversity.

The new findings are reported in the journal Copeia.

"Despite occurring in small, fragmented populations, eastern massasaugas in Illinois do not show genetic evidence of inbreeding," said Illinois Natural History Survey postdoctoral researcher Sarah J. Baker, who led the new research.

The genetic analysis did reveal, however, the loss of several rare versions of genes over the course of the 10-year study, which ended in 2012. Such losses can signal the early stages of local extinction, Baker said.

In 2015, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service listed the eastern massasauga as a threatened species nationally. Massasaugas are endangered in Illinois.

The widespread conversion of prairie to row-crop agriculture and the construction of the Carlyle Lake dam in central Illinois were among the biggest assaults on massasauga populations in the state, said INHS herpetologist Michael Dreslik, a coauthor of the study".

(Posted by +rasha kamel )
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