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West Nile Virus Found in Sage Grouse

Local News 8 - Regional - West Nile Virus Found In Sage Grouse

This short report notes that sage grouse in Idaho, Wyoming, Montana, and Oregon have been confirmed to have West Nile Virus (WNV).

WNV is an infectious viral disease with a significant mortality rate in birds. The fact that the already-marginal populations of sage grouse are now at risk from this disease is definitely a bad thing. Within the past couple of years, sage grouse were considered for being put on the endangered species list, but were not listed as either endangered or threatened.

Act Now to Help End Japanese Dolphin Drive Hunting

Dr. Lori Marino, a colleague of mine at Emory University, sent out a call for action to end the Japanese drive hunts that annually kill dolphins and small whales. I got it relayed from Dr. Brenda McCowan at UC Davis. The short version is that scientists and zoological park staff have gotten together to condemn Japan's small cetacean drive hunts and are looking to collect a million signatures on a petition to try to get it shut down before the next scheduled drive hunts this coming October.

The petition site is Please visit it soon.

I've converted the three MS Word documents that I received as attachments to the safer and more portable Adobe Acrobat PDF format.

Call For Action
Press Release
Statements from Scientists

I'm proud to say to two of my committee members, Bill Evans and Sam Ridgway, are on the "Statements" page above.

I'll append the text of the email I got.

From: Lori Marino
Sent: Friday, July 21, 2006 2:18 PM
Subject: I urgently need your help on this issue!

Dear Friends and Colleagues,

I have been working with several leading colleagues in the marine mammal
scientific community towards ending an astonishingly cruel practice that
occurs annually in Japan. These are the Japanese dolphin drive hunts.

Texas A&M Graduate Study Spot Available: Conservation Biology

Opportunity Description:

Texas A&M University, Department of Wildlife and Fisheries offers a 2-year Graduate Research Assistant position, available to begin August 2006. The successful candidate will have a strong academic record and research interests in collaboration with a multidisciplinary project in conservation science. The position is ideal for a student with a social science background wishing to work in the field of conservation biology, who is seeking cross-training in the natural sciences. Experience in theory and skills of naturalistic inquiry are desirable.

Funded by the National Science Foundation, this research focuses on how science policy is mediated in land conservation associated with land trusts. A central question is how local, regional and global perspectives on biodiversity become linked in the place-based settings associated with protected areas. This place-based research strategy is a logical extension of landscape approaches to understanding behavioral ecology of animal populations. The research team is led by an applied anthropologist and a conservation biologist, who is cross-trained in behavioral ecology and cognitive sciences. The assistant will be expected to complete a graduate research project coordinated with one aspect of the research question.

Sage Grouse News, Week of March 12th, 2006

(Originally posted at BayWing.)

Philadelphia Inquirer article

Flying above the most prolific natural-gas field in the lower 48 states last summer, Linda Baker, an environmentalist, looked at the spider web of drill sites spread out like an ugly but lucrative quilt.

Nearby, another gas-rich field was just starting to be drilled, but this time, Baker hoped, it would have fewer drill pads to disturb dwindling wildlife. In an unusual move, environmentalists and industry here had forged a compromise to allow drilling while also protecting the environment. Ron Hogan, local general manager of Questar Exploration & Production Co., described it this way: "We win. The government wins. The country wins. The wildlife wins."

The alliance excited Baker: "Here in the middle of the hottest gas field in the U.S., we have these two extremes juxtaposed right next to each other: Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde."

Not anymore.

This rare compromise has vanished in the seven months since Hurricane Katrina swept ashore in the Gulf of Mexico, 2,255 miles away.

"Battle brewing over sage grouse protection"

(Originally posted at BayWing.)

USAToday ran an article back in 2004, Battle brewing over sage grouse protection. It outlined the predicament of the sage grouse, a native upland game bird whose population is declining. Its range overlaps that of much of the energy development going on in the West, which means that conservationists are pitted against oil and gas development interests.

Diane's research concerns how noise (including the anthropogenic noise of energy development) affects sage grouse biology. The most likely place for an affect to be seen is in the leks. A lek is a place where male sage grouse congregate and put on elaborate mating displays. Female sage grouse select males at the lek, mate, and then go off to build a nest, lay eggs, and raise the young. A significant part of the sage grouse mating display is the sound that each male makes. So the research going on now seeks to characterize the sound on the leks, the sound emitted by energy development, the effect of playback of noise from energy development on a few treatment leks, and characterization of sound propagation in the sage desert habitat.

Prions and Stem Cells

The prion responsible for "mad cow" disease apparently has a role in maintaining adult stem cells. The research findings are reported in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences this week.

Zhang teamed up with the Lindquist lab's graduate student Andrew Steele, an expert in prions, to discover what role PrP might play in stem cell biology. Zhang and Steele took bone marrow from mice in which PrP had been knocked out, and transferred that marrow into normal mice whose blood and immune systems had been irradiated. The new bone marrow took hold, and these mice flourished, although all their blood cells lacked PrP. Zhang and Steele continued the experiment, this time taking bone marrow from the newly reconstituted mice, and transplanting it into another group of mice. They repeated this process again and again--transplanting bone marrow from one group of mice to another like passing a baton.

Dogs and Cancer, Take Two

A joke relates how a patient goes to the doctor, and during the visit the doctor's Labrador retriever sniffs him. Later, the patient finds a charge on his bill that he didn't recall. His doctor explains, "Oh that's for the Lab test."

Humor meets science. A study shows dogs can detect lung and breast cancer by sniffing a patient's breath. Apparently, they are successful in 88 to 97% of cases. The experiment included over 80 cancer patients, and a similar number of controls.

Combatting Avian Flu

Researchers have constructed a vaccine that confers 100% protection to mice and chickens against the H5N1 virus, according to a Science A GoGo article. 100% effective, that is, against lethality, not infection per se. The control group was given an unmodified adenovirus vector based vaccine, and suffered the usual high mortality rates on exposure to H5N1. The experimental vaccine used a live adenovirus genetically engineered to express hemagglutin, a characteristic feature of H5N1 viral strains. They actually constructed several different versions with partial expression of traits and tested those.

"Evolution Makes a Mockery of Fishing Policy"

Over on the Science A GoGo site, they have an article titled, "Evolution Makes a Mockery of Fishing Policy". The study used strong selective pressure on fish populations mimicking the policy of taking the largest fish in the population. What they found was that the populational response was an evolutionary one, that part of the populational variation was in body-size traits, and that the new population with much smaller frequency of large body size individuals reflects new population characteristics:

Walsh said that removing the large fish in each generation caused declines in many traits spanning the life history, physiology and behavior of the fish. "We know that commercially exploited populations of fish often are slow to recover when fishing pressure is reduced. Our research indicates that the over-harvested fish stocks are slow to rebound because fishing selects for evolutionary changes in the life history of the fish. Because the changes in the fish are genetic, they don't immediately go away when fishing ceases," he concluded.

Online Zoologists Retooled

Online Zoologists is now running with an install of the CivicSpace content management system. This software system provides the basis for community weblogging and much, much more. I'm still working on the interface, so for a while yet the site will have that "under construction" look.

If you were familiar with the old site, don't worry, I will be setting up a block to link to those pages. And all the old URLs should still work. However, I plan to migrate material to the new system, and any updates will be made in the new system.

If you are a zoologist -- and I take that term broadly -- and would like to join in here with blogging or adding content, please drop me an email to the domain, and my user account is "welsberr".

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