Archive for January, 2014
Scientific research relies on rigorous systematic testing that involves treatment and control groups and extensive peer review to prove or disprove hypotheses. That way we can be confident in the result, regardless of what the findings may be. In reality this is not always the case, people believing what they want to believe regardless of the evidence. Look at the trouble Copernicus and Galileo had trying to convince people that the Earth revolved around the Sun. Sadly, despite being scientifically trained, I am not really any different.
As an example, coffee is a marvellous drink proven, through scientific research, to increase energy levels, improve physical performance, and lower the risk of developing type II diabetes, Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, liver cancer and colorectal cancer. Much more spurious research that obviously needs to be repeated with a larger data set seems to link coffee to sleep disturbance, increased blood pressure and raised levels of cholesterol.
The research is similarly biased when it comes to alcohol consumption. I like nothing more than to sit back with my very full glass of red and read how the resveratrol in my Shiraz keeps my heart healthy and further protects me against diabetes and Alzheimer’s. All that nonsense about depression, cancer, cirrhosis and memory loss is surely just that?
The list goes on. Any research that supports an activity I engage in and enjoy is sound while anything that contradicts it is suspect. Science even has a name for this, confirmation bias. I suppose religions would call it faith.
Dr. F. Bunny
By Ellen Coulter
CSIRO is working with the University of Tasmania, beekeepers and fruit growers to trial the monitoring technology, in an attempt to improve honey bee pollination and productivity.
They are fitting tiny sensors to the insects, a process which sometimes involves shaving them first.
“This has been done before,” CSIRO science leader Paulo de Souza said.
“The difference here is about the size of the sensor. And the difference is the number; we’re talking about 5,000 bees.”
The sensors measure 2.5 millimetres by 2.5mm and act like a vehicle’s “e-TAG”, recording when the bees pass particular checkpoints.
Researchers can use the signals from the sensors to find out how the bees move through the landscape and understand changes in their behaviour.
They are also looking at the impacts of pesticides on the honey bees and the drivers of a condition decimating bee populations globally.
“If it impacts the bees, it impacts the whole industry that is producing food,” Dr de Souza said.
“This should help us understand optimal productivity conditions, as well as further our knowledge of the cause of colony collapse disorder.”
Bees put to sleep, shaved, fitted with sensor
The process of gluing on the tiny sensors to the bees is delicate but quick.
“We take the bee into a cold place, usually to a fridge about five degrees Celsius, for five minutes and that is enough to have the bees sleeping,” Dr de Souza said.
“We take them out again and attach it while they’re sleeping. In five minutes they wake up again and they’re ready to fly.”
But some need to be shaved first.
“Very young bees, they’re very hairy. At times we need to do something to help us,” Dr de Souza said.
Researchers say the insects are not harmed by the glue or the sensors.
“It doesn’t disturb the way the bee will see or the way the bee will fly, they just work normally,” Dr de Souza said.
“Each sensor weight is about five milligrams. This is about 20 per cent of what the bee can carry.
“So the bee can carry a lot of weight in pollen, in nectar, so this is like someone carrying a small backpack.”
Next step: shrink sensors to fit fruit flies, mosquitoes
Researchers are releasing about 20 honey bees a day from hives in southern Tasmania.
The bees travel up to 700 metres from the hives, but always return, making it easy to pinpoint changes in their behaviour.
Researchers hope their work will help farmers and fruit growers, who rely on the bees’ pollination, to improve their practices.
The next stage of the project is to shrink the sensors to only one millimetre, so they can be attached to much smaller insects such as fruit flies and mosquitoes.
Found at http://www.eenews.net/stories/1059991389.
Erica Rex, E&E Europe correspondent
ClimateWire: Friday, December 6, 2013
Why do badgers leave their homes?
Is climate change the real villain?
The badger sett vs. the Paterson set
Given that we are in the season for wishful thinking it seems appropriate that I should come up with a wish of my own. After all the time I have spent banging on about how zoos are doing it all wrong it is about time I made a few suggestions outlining how zoos could be doing it right. So, my wish is for my ideal zoo.
As I have said before, I am not against zoos per se, just the concept of zoos as entertainment rather than conservation centres. In order to avoid my future wrath I have devised a series of criteria that zoos must satisfy to be considered “ideal”. These are the Bunny Criteria. After all, what’s the point of devising standards if you can’t name them after yourself in order to achieve some level of immortality (although, as Woody Allen said, “I don’t want to achieve immortality through my films. I want to achieve immortality by not dying.”)?
- The zoo must be a non-profit organisation. As long as zoos are forced to pander to the public and the almighty dollar they will always risk putting money before animal welfare and conservation. This can be achieved through wealthy patrons/owners or government sponsorship e.g. White Oak Plantation/White Oak Conservation Center (http://www.gilmanfoundation.org/whiteOak/, http://wocenter.org/) and the Lubee Bat Conservancy (http://www.batconservancy.org/), both in Florida and both closed to the general public.
- With so many endangered species in the world and so few zoo places the zoo must focus on maintaining these species with no, or an absolute minimum, of non-endangered species e.g. the Durrell Wildlife Conservation Trust (http://www.durrell.org/) on Jersey Island.
- Zoos must have excellent education programs ranging from intelligently designed play areas for children e.g. Copenhagen zoo (http://uk.zoo.dk/VisitZoo.aspx) to structured classroom activities for school children to guided presentations within the zoo (presentations that do not include anyone patting tigers or other inmates) e.g. Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum (http://www.desertmuseum.org/).
- Zoos must be connected to in situ conservation programs by releasing captive bred species to the wild, assisting with habitat management and encouraging visitors to adopt conservation related activities.
- Zoo enclosures must meet certain minimum standards, which are already in place in many countries and administered through organisations such as ZAA, AZA, etc. However, the old adage of the bigger the better certainly applies when it comes to zoo enclosures. Every effort must be made to hold animals in a natural environment, in natural groups and fed a natural diet. If this cannot be done satisfactorily then the animal has no place in the zoo e.g. elephants in small urban zoos, polar bears in Australia, gorillas in Canada, etc.
- Zoos should focus primarily, if not exclusively, on local fauna and maintain as much of the local natural environment as possible in order to encourage visitors to enjoy and conserve that environment and the species contained therein e.g. Tidbinbilla Nature Reserve in Canberra (http://www.tidbinbilla.com.au/). Too many problems occur in zoos because of an inability to adequately duplicate an animal’s natural environment. The further from home that animal is the greater these problems will be.
There they are, The Bunny Criteria. No doubt there is plenty of room for improvement as it is hard to be dogmatic about these sorts of things. If a species is not local but endangered with an in situ conservation program e.g. the Mauritius kestrel, should it be maintained in a zoo? Yes. If a species is local and not yet endangered but can be used in the zoo to highlight environmental issues e.g. koala and habitat fragmentation, should it be kept in a zoo? Probably. If a species is not local and not endangered but has a high profile thatis used to bring visitors through the gate e.g. elephant, should it be in the zoo? No.
I am happy for animals to live in zoos as long as their welfare remains paramount and their presence realistically facilitates their conservation, rather than visitor entertainment. Don’t kid yourself into thinking that breeding one elephant every couple of years even comes close to satisfying this criterion.
Dr. F. Bunny