Scientists took a rare chance to prove we can quantify biodiversity by ‘testing the water’

Scientists took a rare chance to prove we can quantify biodiversity by 'testing the water'
EA team operating at the fishery farm during fish translocation. Credit: Dr. Watson H.V.

Organisms excrete DNA in their surroundings through metabolic waste, sloughed skin cells or gametes, and this genetic material is referred to as environmental DNA (eDNA).


As eDNA can be collected directly from water, soil or air, and analysed using molecular tools with no need to capture the organisms themselves, this genetic information can be used to report biodiversity in bulk. For instance, the presence of many fish species can be identified simultaneously by sampling and sequencing eDNA from water, while avoiding harmful capture methods, such as netting, trapping or electrofishing, currently used for fish monitoring.

While the eDNA approach has already been applied in a number of studies concerning fish diversity in different types of aquatic habitats: rivers, lakes and marine systems, its efficiency in quantifying species abundance (number of individuals per species) is yet to be determined. Even though previous studies, conducted in controlled aquatic systems, such as aquaria, experimental tanks and artificial ponds, have reported positive correlation between the DNA quantity found in the water and the species abundance, it remains unclear how the results would fare in natural environments.

Scientists took a rare chance to prove we can quantify biodiversity by 'testing the water'
Drained pond after fish translocation. Credit: Dr. Watson H.V.

However, a research team from the University of Hull together with the Environment Agency (United Kingdom), took the rare opportunity to use an invasive species eradication programme carried out in a UK fishery farm as the ultimate case study to evaluate the success rate of eDNA sampling in identifying species abundance in natural aquatic habitats. Their findings were published in the open-access, peer-reviewed journal Metabarcoding and Metagenomics.

“Investigating the quantitative power of eDNA in natural aquatic habitats is difficult, as there is no way to ascertain the real species abundance and biomass (weight) in aquatic systems, unless catching all target organisms out of water and counting/measuring them all,” explains Cristina Di Muri, Ph.D. student at the University of Hull.

During the eradication, the original fish ponds were drained and all fish, except the problematic invasive species: the topmouth gudgeon, were placed in a new pond, while the original ponds were treated with a piscicide to remove the invasive fish. After the eradication, the fish were returned to their original ponds. In the meantime, all individuals were counted, identified and weighed from experts, allowing for the precise estimation of fish abundance and biomass.

Scientists took a rare chance to prove we can quantify biodiversity by 'testing the water'
Environmental DNA sampling using water collection bottles. Credit: Dr. Peirson G.

“We then carried out our water sampling and ran genetic analysis to assess the diversity and abundance of fish genetic sequences, and compared the results with the manually collected data. We found strong positive correlations between the amount of fish eDNA and the actual fish species biomass and abundance, demonstrating the existence of a strong association between the amount of fish DNA sequences in water and the actual fish abundance in natural aquatic environments”, reports Di Muri.

The scientists successfully identified all fish species in the ponds: from the most abundant

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In Monterey Bay, California, scientists grab the chance to study white sharks up close

Growing over six meters (20 feet) long and armed with hundreds of serrated, razor-sharp teeth, white sharks are the world’s largest predatory fish.



a fish swimming under water


© Stanford University


In late summer and fall, up to 250 white sharks congregate in Monterey Bay, off the central Californian coast, to feast on marine mammals — including elephant seals and sea lions — that gather here to breed.

From a shark’s perspective, “think of Monterey Bay as having one of the best fast food restaurants on the planet,” says shark expert and Stanford professor, Barbara Block.

Block also travels to Monterey Bay because the annual marine mammal “buffet” offers her an ideal opportunity to study the sharks up close. She and her team lure the “curious” sharks alongside their small boat, attach electronic tags to their dorsal fins, and then track the sharks as they swim out to the open ocean and dive to depths of 2,000 meters (6,500 feet).

Data on white shark population sizes, life histories and migratory patterns, can be used to inform marine protection policy, says Block, adding that sharks play a vital role in maintaining ecological balance in the ocean. “We need these apex predators to keep our ecosystems healthy.”

Watch the video above to find out more.

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Elon Musk says SpaceX’s new Starship rocket has 33% chance of success

  • SpaceX is planning to fly a Starship rocket prototype to its highest altitude yet this weekend, according to road closures and a Notice to Airmen issued for the aerospace company’s launch site in southern Texas. 
  • The spacecraft should fly 15 kilometers (9.3 miles) into the air. Previous prototypes have only made short hops of about 150 meters (492 feet).
  • SpaceX CEO Elon Musk said there was a lot that could go wrong, and gave the rocket a one-in-three chance of landing in one piece.
  • Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.

This weekend, Elon Musk’s space-exploration company, SpaceX, is poised to take a big step forward in its quest to further revolutionize space travel.

Musk tweeted on Sunday that a prototype of SpaceX’s enormous Starship spacecraft — a fully reusable vehicle the company wants to use to send humans to the moon and Mars — will soon undergo its first high-altitude test.

The flight attempt to 15 kilometers (9.3 miles), follows a successful November 24 rocket-engine test firing of the Starship prototype, called SN8 or serial no. 8. The test also comes after a successful “hop” flight in August to roughly 150 meters (492 feet) using a previous prototype called SN5.

On Wednesday the Federal Aviation Administration issued a Notice to Airmen (NOTAM) for a rocket launch from the Boca Chica Village in southern Texas, where SpaceX is developing Starship, from Friday at 8 a.m. CT through Sunday at 5 p.m. CT.

However, both a NOTAM and road closures are required for launch. The Cameron County judge has issued Boca Chica road-closure notices for every weekday through December 9, but the only overlap with the NOTAM is Friday from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. CT.

Musk: ‘Maybe 1/3 chance’ of a successful flight and landing

SpaceX Starship.JPG

A prototype of SpaceX’s Starship spacecraft at the company’s facility in Boca Chica, Texas (September 28, 2019).

REUTERS/Callaghan O’Hare


This test flight will be a big step in testing whether the design can withstand the rigors of flights to higher altitudes.

Musk said in a follow-up tweet on Wednesday that a “lot of things need to go right” for SN8 to land intact, adding that he thinks there’s “maybe 1/3 chance” that it does.

However, should SN8 fail, SpaceX’s Starship factory is cranking out more prototypes, and SN9 could soon be ready to take its place for future testing.

Read more: SpaceX may spend billions to outsource Starlink satellite-dish production, an industry insider says — and could lose $2,000 on each one it sells

SpaceX’s Starship spacecraft is made up of two sections, the Super Heavy booster and the Starship rocket ship, which Musk claims will be able to carry 100 people to Mars at a time. The entire spacecraft stands at 120 metres (394 feet) tall. 

In October, Musk said SpaceX has a “fighting chance” of sending an uncrewed Starship rocket to Mars in 2024, two years later than previously hoped. 

Gwynne Shotwell, SpaceX’s president and chief operating officer said October 23 the Starship

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SpaceX’s next Starship rocket may soar to 15 kilometers this weekend, but Elon Musk says there’s a 2-in-3 chance the flight may fail



a man standing in front of a tall building: SpaceX, founded by Elon Musk, is building and launching Starship prototypes in Boca Chica, Texas. SpaceX; Mark Brake/Getty Images; Business Insider


© Provided by Business Insider
SpaceX, founded by Elon Musk, is building and launching Starship prototypes in Boca Chica, Texas. SpaceX; Mark Brake/Getty Images; Business Insider

  • SpaceX is planning to fly a Starship rocket prototype to its highest altitude yet this weekend, according to road closures and a Notice to Airmen issued for the aerospace company’s launch site in southern Texas. 
  • The spacecraft should fly 15 kilometers (9.3 miles) into the air. Previous prototypes have only made short hops of about 150 meters (492 feet).
  • SpaceX CEO Elon Musk said there was a lot that could go wrong, and gave the rocket a one-in-three chance of landing in one piece.
  • Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.

This weekend, Elon Musk’s space-exploration company, SpaceX, is poised to take a big step forward in its quest to further revolutionize space travel.

Loading...

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Musk tweeted on Sunday that a prototype of SpaceX’s enormous Starship spacecraft — a fully reusable vehicle the company wants to use to send humans to the moon and Mars — will soon undergo its first high-altitude test.

The flight attempt to 15 kilometers (9.3 miles), follows a successful November 24 rocket-engine test firing of the Starship prototype, called SN8 or serial no. 8. The test also comes after a successful “hop” flight in August to roughly 150 meters (492 feet) using a previous prototype called SN5.

On Wednesday the Federal Aviation Administration issued a Notice to Airmen (NOTAM) for a rocket launch from the Boca Chica Village in southern Texas, where SpaceX is developing Starship, from Friday at 8 a.m. CT through Sunday at 5 p.m. CT.

However, both a NOTAM and road closures are required for launch. The Cameron County judge has issued Boca Chica road-closure notices for every weekday through December 9, but the only overlap with the NOTAM is Friday from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. CT.

Musk: ‘Maybe 1/3 chance’ of a successful flight and landing



a flock of birds flying over a building: A prototype of SpaceX's Starship spacecraft at the company's facility in Boca Chica, Texas (September 28, 2019). REUTERS/Callaghan O'Hare


© REUTERS/Callaghan O’Hare
A prototype of SpaceX’s Starship spacecraft at the company’s facility in Boca Chica, Texas (September 28, 2019). REUTERS/Callaghan O’Hare

This test flight will be a big step in testing whether the design can withstand the rigors of flights to higher altitudes.

Musk said in a follow-up tweet on Wednesday that a “lot of things need to go right” for SN8 to land intact, adding that he thinks there’s “maybe 1/3 chance” that it does.

However, should SN8 fail, SpaceX’s Starship factory is cranking out more prototypes, and SN9 could soon be ready to take its place for future testing.

Read more: SpaceX may spend billions to outsource Starlink satellite-dish production, an industry insider says — and could lose $2,000 on each one it sells

SpaceX’s Starship spacecraft is made up of two sections, the Super Heavy booster and the Starship rocket ship, which Musk claims will be able to carry 100 people to Mars at a time. The entire spacecraft stands at 120 metres (394 feet) tall. 

In October, Musk said SpaceX has a

Read more

Isiah Kiner-Falefa has spent his career proving doubters wrong, now he has a chance to prove Rangers right

And you thought the Rangers didn’t have money to burn.

How many other teams in 2021 will be able to boast of reserve middle infielders pulling down more than $25 million between them? Now, that’s living large.

On Tuesday, Rangers management yanked the band-aid off the still-oozing scar of long-term investments into Elvis Andrus and Rougned Odor that have not borne fruit. Andrus, general manager Jon Daniels and manager Chris Woodward announced, will not go to camp as the starting shortstop for the first time in his 13-year career in February. He has been replaced by Isiah Kiner-Falefa, who demonstrated defensive excellence at third base.

Daniels and Woodward said almost the same thing about Nick Solak replacing Odor at second base. The difference: The Rangers know Kiner-Falefa, who won a Gold Glove at third base in his first year at the position in 2020, can play elite defense. They are not sure Solak, a hitter without a position, can adequately defend at second. They will, however, give him every opportunity to demonstrate he can next spring. Odor will be work some at second in the spring but also will work at other positions such as third base and left field.

“Sometimes it’s important to pick a path and allow everyone to prepare a certain way,” Daniels said. “We talked about it late in the season a little bit. We tried to let it breathe a little bit and let everybody kind of step away from the year, and when we came back and met again and talked it over, I think everyone had additional conviction that this was the right move as far as not just 2021 but setting things up beyond.”

Make no mistake: This is all about the future. Moving Kiner-Falefa to short creates a clear path for top prospect Josh Jung to reach the majors sometime in 2021. It gives the Rangers a full year to evaluate whether Kiner-Falefa can hit enough to dissuade them from diving into the best free agent market for shortstops ever after the 2021 season. It gives them a chance to finally install Solak at a position and let him focus on it.

It potentially leaves the Rangers with nearly 30% of what is expected to be an approximately $100 million payroll sitting on the bench. Andrus will make $14.25 million in both 2021 and 2022. Odor is scheduled to make $12.3 million in each of the next two years. Both players have contract options for 2023. The Rangers can buy out Odor’s for $3 million.

Andrus’ situation is more complicated. If he were to get 1,100 plate appearances over the next two years or 550 in 2022, it would trigger the $15 million option. If he were traded, it would make the option a player option. Andrus, who would be 34 after 2022, would almost certainly choose to exercise that option. Add that to his ability to veto any trade due to service time rights, declining performance and a history of

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Every contender’s chance to reach the College Football Playoff if it wins out

With just a few weeks remaining before College Football Playoff Selection Day, only a few programs truly control their own destiny. For everyone else, it’s a matter of degree.

And the variance in those degrees can be large. The difference between what else needs to happen for Oklahoma to win out and reach the playoff versus, say, what Northwestern needs if it wins out is pretty substantial. But here to help us parse through it all is the Allstate Playoff Predictor, which will run through each team’s chances in the event it wins out. Let’s break them down.

Locks and virtual locks: Alabama (7-0), Notre Dame (8-0), Ohio State (4-0), Florida (6-1)

All of the marquee undefeated programs are obviously in if they win out, and Florida joins them in the over-90% category should it win out and be a one-loss SEC champion. This part is easy — we all know these teams literally control their own destiny — so let’s move on to the more interesting cases.

Northwestern (5-0)

Chance to reach playoff if it wins out: 81%

This might shock people, but Northwestern literally is the No. 1 team in the country in strength of record. An average top-25 team would have had just a 9% chance to go 5-0 against the Wildcats’ schedule, as the Wildcats have. Another way to put it: Going 5-0 against Northwestern’s schedule is harder than going 7-0 against Alabama’s, 8-0 against Notre Dame’s or 5-1 against Texas A&M’s.

2 Related

My point here is that Northwestern already has a strong résumé. And it only would get stronger with an undefeated season. That’s not Northwestern’s issue, though; team quality is. Currently, ESPN’s College Football Power Index (FPI) considers the Wildcats the 19th-best team in college football. But here’s the thing: While there’s a lot of talk of the four best teams, résumé is traditionally the most important characteristic for the committee. Therefore, the Allstate Playoff Predictor is quite confident the Wildcats wouldn’t have a problem making the playoff field in the 11% of simulations in which they win out.

USC (3-0) and Oregon (3-0)

Chance to reach playoff if they win out: 74% and 71%, respectively

After seeing the initial committee rankings — which slotted the Ducks at No. 15 and the Trojans at No. 18 — our model is likely a little high on the Pac-12. It’s tough to be sure — the committee is evaluating a three-game sample from USC compared to, say, an eight-game sample from Cincinnati, so things could change.

But here’s what the model is thinking about when it says USC controls three-quarters of its destiny: the zero in the loss column. Traditionally, low loss totals have been rewarded by the committee above and beyond strength of record, and so the model sees an undefeated champion even with a small number of games and leans toward the committee putting it in. But we’d be the first to admit this is a particularly hard season to quantify: The

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Deadline to claim your first stimulus check in 2020 is expired. Here’s your last chance to get it

016-cash-stimulus-empty-wallet-economic-crisis-dollar-bill-currency-2020

Missed the deadline to claim your stimulus money in 2020? You still have an option left.


Sarah Tew/CNET

The IRS deadline to register a claim for a missing stimulus payment this year has now expired, but you can still file a request to get your missing check — you just have to wait until 2021 to receive up to $1,200 per qualified adult for the first payment the IRS sent in April.

We’ll show you how to figure out if you’re part of a group that could still be eligible for a full or catch-up payment. This is separate from a potential second stimulus check, which Congress is still weighing as part of another economic stimulus package amid increased pressure to ramp up negotiations and pass a new bill. (If a second check is approved, you might get it faster if you do these things now.)

We outline who may qualify for more money in the first round and who might not be eligible for a second payment, if one happens — read on for more information. This story was updated recently.


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Next stimulus checks: What to expect



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How to file for your missing stimulus money in 2021

If you belong to one of the groups below, or tried estimating your total stimulus payment and think the IRS didn’t send your check in full, you have one more chance to claim your stimulus check money, which the IRS is calling the Recovery Rebate Credit. You’ll be able to file in tax season 2021; if the typical schedule holds, your federal tax return will be due April 15, though in 2020, the IRS extended the deadline to July 15 as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.

While the IRS doesn’t have specific instructions yet for every personal situation (more on these below), the agency does say that people who files taxes can use 2020 Form 1040 or 1040SR to claim a catch-up payment. If you received a partial payment, you’ll need the IRS’ calculated amount from the letter called Notice 1444 Your Economic Impact Payment when you file in 2021.

If you don’t normally file a tax return, do this

In September, the IRS started sending letters to 9 million Americans who may have qualified for a payment but perhaps didn’t know they needed to register to claim it. This group — which the IRS categorizes as “nonfilers” — includes people who didn’t file a tax return in 2018 or 2019, such as older adults, retirees, SSDI recipients and individuals with incomes less than $12,200. Those in this group needed to file a claim using the Non-Filers tool by Nov. 21. The IRS said if you missed the deadline you can claim the payment, which, again, it calls a Recovery Rebate Credit, in 2021 when you file a 2020 federal income tax return:  

When you file a 2020 Form 1040 or 1040SR you may be eligible for the Recovery Rebate

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College Football Picks: Indiana’s big chance; FSU’s big fall

This Saturday, Indiana will play at Ohio State and Clemson will visit Florida State.

One of these games is a matchup of ranked teams that will go a long way toward deciding a division title. The other carries a 35-point spread.

As three-time national champion Florida State limps toward its worst season in 45 years, No. 9 Indiana will try to pull off the biggest upset of the season against No. 3 Ohio State.

The Hoosiers are in the midst of what could be their best season since 1967, the last time they went to the Rose Bowl. That 1968 New Year’s Day game against No. 1 USC was also the only time Indiana football has ever played in a game matching two top-10 teams.

Meanwhile, Florida State’s fall has turned what for years was the Atlantic Coast Conference’s biggest game into mismatch.

For six straight seasons (2011-16), Clemson and Florida State played with both in the Top 25. Each time, the winner went on to win the Atlantic Division and then the conference championship.

The last three seasons, the Seminoles haven’t stood a chance, losing by an average of 32 points.

The good news for Florida State is that basketball season starts next week and the Seminoles, who finished No. 4 in the tournament-less last season, are No. 21 in the preseason poll.

Indiana hoops is unranked. Strange year.

The picks:

THURSDAY

Tulane (plus 6 1/2) at No. 25 Tulsa

Golden Hurricane last played as a ranked team in 2008, going 1-2 that season … TULSA 27-23.

SATURDAY

Kentucky (plus 31) at No. 1 Alabama

Wildcats play slow on offense and limit big plays on defense so maybe they can stay within shouting distance for a while … ALABAMA 38-13.

No. 9 Indiana (plus 20 1/2) at No. 3 Ohio State

Hoosiers have already snapped a 24-game losing streak to Michigan. They have lost 25 in a row to the Buckeyes … OHIO STATE 45-21.

No. 4 Clemson (minus 35) at Florida State

Trevor Lawrence is back for the Tigers, trying to make up for lost time in the Heisman race … CLEMSON 49-12.

No. 6 Florida (minus 31 1/2) at Vanderbilt

Seems like a game for Gators QB Kyle Trask to pad his stats, but aren’t they all these days? … FLORIDA 56-21.

No. 7 Cincinnati (minus 6 1/2) at UCF

Biggest test yet for the Bearcats’ stingy defense; the Knights are averaging 619 yards per game … CINCINNATI 38-35.

North Alabama (plus 47 1/2) at No. 8 BYU

Bad timing: If the Cougars had this date open, they might have been able to get a game with idle Colorado out of the Pac-12 … BYU 63-10.

No. 10 Wisconsin (minus 7 1/2) at No. 19 Northwestern

Wildcats tend to give the Badgers fits; Or is it Fitz? … WISCONSIN 24-20.

UCLA (plus 13 1/2) at No. 11 Oregon

Coach Chip Kelly’s second visit to Eugene to face his old team; first one was a 21-point loss …

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Biden Has Remote Chance of Winning if Popular Vote is Close, Electoral College Study Predicts

If the popular vote between President Donald Trump and former Vice President Joe Biden is nearly a tie, Trump has an 88 percent chance of re-election, researchers of the Electoral College predict in a recent study.

The Electoral College system has a bias which is set to favor the Republican presidential candidate in 2020 again, but the discrepancy between the popular vote and electoral votes will not be as wide as the “statistical outlier” election of 2016. Columbia University researchers delved into the electoral “inversion” which allows candidates like Al Gore and Hillary Clinton to win the most votes across the country, but still lose the Electoral College which decides U.S. elections. Their data found Trump only has a 12 percent chance of losing to Biden if the popular vote is a virtual tie or very close.

Even if the popular vote is 52 to 48 percent in favor of Biden, Trump still has a similarly overwhelming chance of winning. But should Trump fall below 48 percent of the popular vote, his chances of winning become very remote.

“The popular vote ties and very close elections are likely to favor Trump, with a certain degree of built-in uncertainty,” the researchers wrote in their study of Electoral College data published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS) journal last month.

If Biden achieves the same majority popular vote percentage as Clinton did in 2016, 51.10 percent, he only has a 46.14 percent chance of winning the Electoral College in 2020.

But the study authors cautioned that the use of 2012 data was not reflected in the 2016, particularly in the battleground states of Pennsylvania, Michigan and Wisconsin, where Trump enjoyed narrow, popular vote victories. They found that over the past 10 elections between 1980 and 2016, there was “no obvious systematic bias tilting the Electoral College” toward either party. The 2004, 2008 and 2012 elections actually showed the electoral vote system tilted in favor of the Democratic candidate for president.

“For all of the disruption in its wake, the Electoral College’s Republican bias so evident in 2016 could recede in status to a historical anomaly,” the researchers added.

Using each state’s vote divisions between Democrats and Republicans from the 2012 contest of Barack Obama versus Mitt Romney, the researchers say “Donald Trump got lucky with the variation of the simulated shocks” to the vote four years later. Shifts within the Democratic Party were more than average in the country’s two largest states, California and Texas, but that didn’t change the Electoral College winners. On the other hand, Republicans shifts in the states of Pennsylvania, Michigan and Wisconsin allowed Trump to “narrowly win there.”

The Electoral College is composed of 538 electors based on 435 representatives and 100 senators from all 50 states, plus three electors out of Washington, D.C. Candidates need at least 270 electoral votes to win, or more than half. Should the Electoral College votes end in a tie, it would be sent to the House

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Which conference has the best chance to send multiple teams to the College Football Playoff?

Georgia lost to Alabama on Saturday in a battle of top-three teams, yet the Bulldogs aren’t out of the College Football Playoff picture just yet.

The Allstate Playoff Predictor gives the 3-1 Bulldogs a 28% chance at making the playoff, fifth best in the country as of now. Clemson tops the list with an 87% chance, while Alabama is second at 81.6%.

Sure, Georgia’s probability of making the playoff dropped significantly (the Bulldogs had a 53% chance at making the playoff and 13% shot at the title last week, but they’re now down to 4.9%), but it is in better shape now compared to other one-loss teams.

Florida, which had its matchup with LSU postponed after a COVID-19 spike, saw its playoff hopes dwindle from 14% to 4% last week after the Gators lost to Texas A&M. The Aggies currently have a 0.5% chance at making the playoff, while 4-1 Miami is at 0.4% and 3-1 Virginia Tech has a 0.3% chance.

Things will start changing drastically next weekend when the Big Ten kicks off. Currently, Ohio State, Wisconsin and Penn State are all among the top eight teams to have a shot at making the playoff. Two Pac-12 teams — Oregon and USC — also find themselves in the top 10 for playoff odds, and their conference doesn’t begin play until Nov. 7.

For now, here is a complete look at the top of the CFP projections picture after Week 7:

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