Backlash from Protecting Livestock (Week of 4/23/18)

D7E7DAC7-56C2-4828-A2BB-A06299E12D56Food is one of the the most important things to humans and nearly every living thing on this earth.  Some animals hunt, but primarily, humans create large populations of livestock for human consumption.  This agricultural practice has been relevant for hundreds, if not thousands of years.  Ranchers will go to great lengths to protect their livestock because not only is it their food, but it is also their livelihood and their income, both of which are incredibly important to survival in today’s society.

For many years, the wolf has been feared by ranchers because of the threat they are to the livestock.  From this fear, they choose to kill wolves and other predators that eat their livestock, effectively reducing their income.

There have been recent studies that killing small numbers of wolves at a time will actually increase the chances of wolves in the area killing and eating livestock.  The wolves that were part of packs were found more likely to eat more wild animals, whereas the wolves that were “lone wolves” were found to prey more on the livestock than on wild animals. The way this study was conducted was that “From 2008 to 2013, the team collected 1,457 samples of wolf scat and determined which wolf had left the poop behind and what it had eaten. The scientists also figured out whether or not the wolf had belonged to a pack, which consist of a pair of adults and their offspring.”

Hopefully, this information will enlighten ranchers so that they don’t kill the predators around their livestock and the apex predators can be saved so that they may help the populations flourish in the future.


Oh Boy! That’s a lot of Sharks! (Week of 2/26/18)

There have been recent sightings of large aggregations of basking sharks off the coast of the Northeastern United States and Nova Scotia.  The sharks are the second largest fish in the ocean, only second to the whale shark.  Both species of shark are nonthreatening to humans as their diet consists of plankton.  The largest aggregation was sighted off the coast of New England and it consisted of almost 1,400 sharks “within an 11.5-mile (18.5 kilometer) radius of the central point o aggregation” the article stated.

No one is exactly certain as to why this aggregation occurred as singular sightings are very common, but these large groupings are very rare.  Leading experts say it has most-likely something to do with mating, food or migration, but no one can be certain.  Many other sharks migrate, have special mating areas and have special feeding habits.  This habit of basking sharks is not known yet to humans, but the leading scientists are hard at work to find out.

As many may not know, sharks are one of the animals we know the least about in the animal kingdom. Not only do many species not do well in captivity, but they are very difficult to track in the wild because they migrate so frequently.  Finding out new things about sharks is very common because of how little we actually know about them.  Many would like to believe that they are savages that swim in the ocean, looking for nothing but trouble, but researching them has put much into perspective about these illusive animals.


Animal Behaviors (Week of 4/9/18)

As the semester winds down, I realized that the majority of my posts revolved around animals and the environment.  I’ve always had a passion for the environment and just an overall interest in animals and their behaviors.  Observing nature and its current happenings has been my main focus, so this post is dedicated to new technology designed to reveal behaviors of wild animals.

For years, scientists studied animal behaviors in a lab or in person in the wild.  But today, we have the technology for scientists not only to track animal locations in the wild but now they can track motion as well. “The environment in the lab is a lot simpler than the wild, and the compositions of the groups studied tend to be determined by the scientists,” says Dr. Andrew King of Swansea University in Wales and Dr. Ines Fürtbauer says “studying social behavior in the wild is hard. When observing monkeys [she has] to focus [her] attention on one or two individuals at a time.  Bio-loggers — which are electronic devices that can be attached to an animal, for example on a collar, are changing things — they can provide data on the behavior of many individuals simultaneously.”

This can help us to learn more about not only migration patterns, but perhaps mating patterns, feeding habits, hunting methods, and much more that we could never have learned from captive animals.

These collars will hopefully help us to learn more and more about how these animals behave in the wild, where the environment isn’t nearly as “simple” as a lab.  180411111021_1_540x360

Animal Welfare in Animal Testing (Week of 4/2/18)

Science is making steps towards the future, but some methods are timeless.  Though we try to find alternatives to animal testing for medications, hair products and other kinds of products we use, sometimes there is just no other more humane way to test these products than on animals.

Many believe that scientists sit in a room torturing puppies and innocent kittens in order to test their new anti-depressant medications, but that simply isn’t true.  The stigma originated when animal rights activists brought attention to the issue when scientists wouldn’t let the public see what they were doing to the animals, and maybe as far as the FCC is concerned, they were right to, but since then, scientists have been more open about their methods and procedures.  This openness is what gives scientists the ability to continue creating miracle medicines and great products, without testing on humans.  In a recent study, it was found that about two-thirds of the population in the United Kingdom believe that animal testing is okay, but only 30-40% of the population trusts the methods scientists use in order to conduct research.

The University of Bath was recently nominated in the Media Engagement category for Understanding Animal Research’s Openness Awards and this won them points big time.  If the public wants science to keep producing such drastic and amazing results as it does, then the public must also allow scientists to test on animals.  There is a “3 R-rule” in animal testing: Replacement, the act does not allow animal research to be done where alternatives exist, Reduction: the minimum number of animals is used to obtain valid results for any experiment, and Refinement: all techniques, from picking up an animal to a simple injection, must be done in a way that minimises animal suffering and emphasises the welfare of the animal.  If the scientists conducting research wish to keep doing so they must be in accordance with the public’s wishes to keep animal testing to a minimum level.  With everyone working together, then science can keep being as productive as it has been for the past years and for the years to come.shutterstock_605226554

Black Hole Blues and Other Songs From Outer Space (Week of 3/26/18)

assasn-14li_banner_0Have you ever stayed up late at night wondering if black holes made noise?  Well, now you can find out in Black Hole Blues and Other Songs From Outer Space by Janna Levin.  In her book, she tells the exciting tale of the progress of research in the field of black holes and their effects on us.  As we learn, there are many contributors to the projects taking place at the National Science Foundation.

The way that scientists track these massive balls of nothing but mass, so large that not even light escapes its grasp, is we look for things called “accretion disks.”  So then, the scientists at the NSF fix their instruments towards the disks in hopes of recording the sounds of the black holes.  The sounds are actually emitted when two black holes collide and the accretion disks rub against each other.  The sounds are something like faint TV static.

Levin really lives up the topic of black holes in her book because not too many Americans care to learn about astrophysics, but many love a good biography.  As the book goes on, the reader finds out more and more about the contributing scientists to this legendary research and her methods of storytelling create faces for these feats of mankind, rather than simply explaining the laws of physics.

We’ve been researching black holes for decades since Einstein first theorized gravitational waves.  More is to come on the subject and maybe Dr. Levins will publish a book then too!

Climate Change: An Unstoppable Force (Week of 3/19/18)

klima-1024x615As we near 2020, more and more activism is taking place in the United States about important issues, from freedom of speech to gun control.  But many forget that these problems are only anthropological.  Yes, there is a much more pressing issue at hand that may soon take precedence over these seemingly large issues: climate change.

As many people can be killed by one gun in the hands of the wrong person, the planet has handed humanity the wheel to steer it as it pleases and many humans are making very poor choices that will not only hurt a small group of people but immense amounts of populations subject to poor living conditions.

The planet is a large system in which everything contributes to in some way, whether it be a huge impact or a small one.  A cattle grazing not only affects itself but the plants around its meal, the air surrounding it, the soil below it and the person who eats it.  What can one cow do really though?  Not too much but the impact the beef industry has on the planet is nearly irreversible.

With the loss of rainforests to make more room for animal agriculture, many scientists are finding that the biodiversity of the Earth is plummeting to a level that will be very difficult from which to come back.  There have been studies that show that for the most part, humans are to blame.

Though a man with a gun can be dangerous, humanity behind the wheel of the Earth is a much more dangerous enemy to be dealt with and should be taken more seriously than it currently is.

Overpopulation of Wolves in the West (Week of 3/5/18)

As I described earlier in my blog, there is always a problem when overpopulations of animals exist in any habitat.  Many times it can be because of lack of predators, boosting numbers of herbivores in the area and creating an imbalance in the environment, which can limit plant growth.

When there is a lack of predators, the prey’s population size increases because it has relatively less threats to its species’ survival, but this is a bad thing. Unfortunately, the same is true for when a prey species is overhunted, the predators’ species suffers starvation.

But there is also such a thing as the overpopulation of carnivores as well.  In Idaho, elk are a good source of not only food but income for the state and its residents.  Unfortunately, an overpopulation of wolves in the area have plummeted elk population in the area known as the “Lolo Zone”.  This overpopulation has hunters in the area scared of what the effects might be down the road, but they decided to do something about it recently.

By order of the state, the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Wildlife Services killed 10 wolves, or about one pack in the area to see if they can boost the elk population back up from its low numbers.  It was even recorded that numbers have dropped from “about 16,000 to about 2,000” in the past 25 years.  This is bad news for the families in the area that depend on those elk for their food and income.

Hopefully, without those wolves, the population can stand a chance for survival for future generations of elk.wolf