August 2009 Archives
A new coalition of organizations, the Amphibian Survival Alliance, is being established in an attempt to conserve the world's vanishing frogs, toads and salamanders. Threats to these species are numerous - a deadly fungus, habitat loss, pollution, pesticides and climate change.
The alliance came together at the first Amphibian Mini Summit at the Zoological Society of London last week. The group includes amphibian specialists working in the wild as well as those in zoos, aquariums and botanical gardens.
"If we want to stop the amphibian extinction crisis, we have to protect the areas where amphibians are threatened by habitat destruction," says Claude Gascon, co-chair of the IUCN Amphibian Specialist Group. "One of the reasons amphibians are in such dire straits is because many species are only found in single sites and are therefore much more susceptible to habitat loss."
Chris Mooney and Sheril Kirshenbaum argue in Unscientific America that one important way of communicating that message is through popular culture, e.g., movies and music. Don't worry, I'm not planning to release a music video, but I was delighted to read this morning in Nature that the next album from They Might Be Giants1 is Here Comes Science. (That's a screenshot from the title video at the left.) Here are a couple of the questions and answers from the Q&A in Nature.
From the first song, 'Science is Real', this album seems to be making a statement. Why is that important?
It seems that science has suffered in this country recently, so it was political in a way. There has been some scepticism about science in the past 25 years that has been unfortunate. There's a decadent quality to that -- that the culture has lost its way.
Your lyrics talk about evolution being real and how stories about angels and unicorns are just that, stories. Did you worry that this might alienate some listeners?
John Flansburgh took the bull by the horns by writing that song and addressing that situation, which is that religion cannot take the place of science. It's not something you can tiptoe around. It's important that everybody gets what the discussion is about. If we're talking about the history of Earth, we can't rely on religious tradition to tell us all the information. He says it in the song: as beautiful as the stories are, they don't tell us everything we need to know. It's an old complaint on the part of scientists, but it bears repeating.
You read about it at Science Central about it, or you can head straight to the Times and start reading it right now. He starts by describing the plight that biology teachers all too frequently face:
The plight of many science teachers today is not less dire. When they attempt to expound the central and guiding principle of biology; when they honestly place the living world in its historical context -- which means evolution; when they explore and explain the very nature of life itself, they are harried and stymied, hassled and bullied, even threatened with loss of their jobs. At the very least their time is wasted at every turn. They are likely to receive menacing letters from parents and have to endure the sarcastic smirks and close-folded arms of brainwashed children. They are supplied with state-approved textbooks that have had the word "evolution" systematically expunged, or bowdlerized into "change over time".Head over and take a look. Dawkins can be infuriating, but he is (almost) always worth reading.
As scientists, we urge the President of the United States and his administration to take a science-based precautionary approach on decisions regarding the offshore oil and gas development of the U.S. Arctic Ocean. Prior to permitting any new oil and gas development, there must be thorough research, sustained monitoring, and comprehensive planning to better understand and avoid impacts and determine the best way to proceed in the U.S. waters of the Chukchi and Beaufort Seas.More information about the letter is available at Time out in the Arctic.
The Chicago Botanic Garden and Botanic Gardens Conservation International's U.S. office are working with several partners, including the Botanical Society of America, to assess strengths and areas for improvement in plant science education, research and habitat management in the United States. We need your help. Please take a few minutes to complete our survey (links below), which includes questions about your academic background, management specialization, research interests, career goals, access to resources, and your opinion on several conservation issues. The survey is anonymous, and results will only be reported as a group or group subset.
We are asking individuals involved in plant science research, education and/or natural resource management in the United States to take this survey. The objective of this grant-funded project is to assess the collective ability of U.S. institutions and individuals to advance plant science research and application, while identifying gaps in capacity and highlighting opportunities to fill these gaps in the future. A summary report will be released in mid-2010 and freely available from www.bgci.org/usa/bcapinfo.
Thank you in advance for completing this survey. Your contribution is crucial to the study's success and is greatly appreciated. Please note that all surveys will close on Friday, September 19, 2009.
To TAKE THE SURVEY - please go to http://www.bgci.org/usa/bcap/
Please feel free to forward this message on to colleagues or students, and don't hesitate to contact us directly with any questions or concerns.
Andrea T. Kramer, Ph.D.
Executive Director, U.S. Office
Botanic Gardens Conservation International
at Chicago Botanic Garden
1000 Lake Cook Road
Glencoe, IL 60022 USA
Barbara Zorn-Arnold, Ph.D.
Chicago Botanic Garden
1000 Lake Cook Road
Glencoe, IL 60022 USA
Sorry to say, the University of Connecticut did not do so well. We're #93 out of 135 schools ranked, but at least we passed -- with a C-. Yale did much better. It's #14 and got an A. Harvard's #11, and Brown's #64, Amherst's #71, and Williams is #52. Neither Princeton nor Cornell seems to be ranked.
You may also want to take a look at the College Sustainability Report Card. Colorado still beats us by a healthy margin, but at least we don't look quite as bad.
I don't think of the typeface as dull or boring, I think of it as neutral, but not in a colorless, noncommittal way, but in a way that's helpful and intentional. It's almost like there is a sort of Zen in the way Helvetica is perfectly, beautifully bland (and yet, not bland).I like to think of myself as "helpful and intentional", but I'd never go so far as to claim that there's any sort of Zen about me.
If you'd like to know what typeface you are, head on over to [i]ndependent lens and take the quiz.
There's another problem with intelligent design. A lot of things in the world don't look so intelligently designed. Would an intelligent designer have us ingest food and water and transport it to the stomach through a tube that's shared with the tube taking oxygen to our lungs? A designer who would build us so that the Heimlich maneuver had to be invented seems pretty stupid to me.
Here's another example from today's issue of Science.
It's long been known that many animals acquire protective chemicals from symbionts that live with or within them. The aphid Acyrthosiphon pisum, for example, gains protection against a parasitoid wasp when it's "infected" by a bacterium, Hamiltonella defensa. Now it may seem a little odd that an intelligent designer would leave A. pisum unprotected without the bacterium, but maybe the bacterium is really common and it was "easier" that way.1
But it doesn't stop there.
The light gray bar on the left side of the figure shows the fraction of A. pisum individuals parasitized when they are uninfected. The dark gray bar on the right side of the figure shows the fraction of individuals parasitized when they are infected with Hamiltonella, but the Hamiltonella aren't infected with the virus. No difference. It's only when individuals are infected with Hamiltonella that is itself infected with the virus that they are protected against parasitism (black bar in the middle).2
That strikes me as a system that might have been designed by Rube Goldberg, not an intelligent designer.3
Getting REDD right in Brazil and beyond is "totally possible and essential", says Lars Løvold, director of the Rainforest Foundation Norway in Oslo, which, along with Friends of the Earth Norway, proposed to the Norwegian government that it invest in a big forest conservation initiative. "But you need some projects to show that it works."Sounds pretty promising, if it works. Last December, WWF was skeptical:
WWF criticized Brazil's plan to reduce Amazon deforestation to 5,740 square kilometers per year as being "short on ambition and detail".
In a statement issued Wednesday, WWF said that Brazil's proposed fund for conserving the Amazon would still result in the annual loss of an area forest the size of Rhode Island.
Wright's F-statistics, and especially FST, provide important insights into the evolutionary processes that influence the structure of genetic variation within and among populations, and they are among the most widely used descriptive statistics in population and evolutionary genetics. Estimates of FST can identify regions of the genome that have been the target of selection, and comparisons of FST from different parts of the genome can provide insights into the demographic history of populations. For these reasons and others, FST has a central role in population and evolutionary genetics and has wide applications in fields that range from disease association mapping to forensic science. This Review clarifies how FST is defined, how it should be estimated, how it is related to similar statistics and how estimates of FST should be interpreted.
|The Colbert Report||Mon - Thurs 11:30pm / 10:30c|
Chairman Wayne Wright, one of the dissenters, declared, "Now's the time to do the right thing. ... Neither our state's economy, our ranchers, our sportsmen or our elk herds can wait any longer." (from the Spokesman Review article)Idaho Fish & Game currently estimates that there are about 1020 in the state. The original recovery goal set by the Fish & Wildlife Service for Idaho, Montana, and Wyoming was only 300 wolves. Supporters of the hunt contend that the wolf population is now secure and can be hunted without endangering it. Opponents threaten legal action.
The season will start on the 1st of September in some parts of the state and run through December 31st.
In 2007, more than 1,500 research scientists from more than 50 countries, including 71 from Quebec, signed a letter to Canadian government leaders seeking the conservation of the Boreal forest protection through land-use planning prior to industrial development, and in accordance with the principles of sustainable development.
This letter also asked governments to support the implementation of the Boreal Forest Conservation Framework drafted and signed by the Canadian Boreal Initiative, Canadian conservation organizations, First Nations and industry partners.
Since then, two Canadian provinces, Ontario and Quebec, have announced plans for the Boreal forest that include the essential notion of the agreement - stated simply, 50-50 zoning of the region (protection of at least 50% of the region, with sustainable industrial activity in the other half).
We believe that these commitments merit a letter to the government supporting these announcements, while also reiterating our vision that any development must be truly sustainable, based on scientific conservation principles and a sound data acquisition system.
To this end, we have drafted the attached letter. Please read it carefully and add your signature if you agree with its contents. We invite you to circulate this letter to your colleagues, who may sign here: http://interboreal.org/scientifiquesQC/index.php?lng=eng
Marcel Darveau, Ph.D., Ducks Unlimited Canada and Laval University
Nigel Roulet, Ph.D., McGill University
Jeff Wells, Ph.D., International Boreal Conservation Campaign
When I checked the list yesterday about 1:00pm, there were 420 signatures on the letter. If you haven't already done so, please add yours.
i still have static copies of all of them, and I'll move them over into the same directory where they used to be so that people finding this site through searches may still be able to see them, but the results aren't going to be pretty.