Report: Endangered Mouse Nears ‘Zero’ in Southern New Mexico | New Mexico News

By SUSAN MONTOYA BRYAN, Associated Press

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (AP) — Environmentalists are asking for an independent investigation into U.S. Forest Service practices in southern New Mexico, saying hundreds of grazing violations on the Lincoln National Forest have pushed an endangered mouse closer to extinction.

The Center for Biological Diversity in its request pointed to a November report that looked at the condition of the habitat used by the New Mexico meadow jumping mouse, the connectivity between those patches of habitat and how long the tiny rodent has been missing from those areas. The report indicated that the mouse’s population in one stretch of southern New Mexico was near zero.

Robin Silver, a cofounder of the group, wrote in a letter sent last week to Forest Service Chief Vicki Christiansen that local and regional forest officials have failed to issue any noncompliance letters to ranchers who graze in the area despite more than 330 instances in which cattle were found in locations that had been fenced off for the mouse.

“We’re witnessing an extinction in progress,” Silver said in statement sent to The Associated Press. “We hope an inspector general’s investigation can shed more light on this tragic situation and give these adorable little mice a fighting chance at survival.”

While it’s unclear whether forest officials will consider the request, regional agency spokesman Shayne Martin said Thursday that several projects have been dedicated to establishing critical habitat for the mouse and looking at what strategies might work best over the long-term to bolster the population.

“What I can say is that our agency has put significant scientific research behind all actions taken, to include restoration of critical riparian areas for all species,” Martin said. “We’ve also worked closely with ranchers to ensure that grazing in these areas follows adaptive management measures that considers the full array of human and environment effects.”

The mice live near streams and depend on tall grass to hide from predators. They hibernate for about nine months, emerging in the late spring to gorge themselves before mating, giving birth and going back into hibernation. They normally live about three years.

The latest study aims to set the stage for long-term habitat planning for the mouse. So far, the focus has been on improving those patches of habitat that are considered healthier and have more potential for supporting the mouse.

The research suggests that efforts start with patches immediately adjacent to those areas already occupied by the mouse and then address the occupied patches before moving outward. The report states any successful long-distance dispersal by the rodents to colonize new meadows would be extremely unlikely.

Biologists say growing mouse numbers is a challenge because of the small population they have to start with and the lack of more suitable habitat.

Three decades ago, the mice were found at 17 locations in the Sacramento Mountains on the Lincoln National Forest. Now, it’s just one. The report noted that the downward trajectory of the population continued in 2020.

The U.S.

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Massive Arecibo Telescope Collapses in Puerto Rico | Smart News

On Tuesday, the radio telescope at the Arecibo Observatory in Puerto Rico collapsed, ending its nearly 60 years of operation, reports Dánica Coto for the Associated Press (AP).

The collapse saw a 900-ton equipment platform fall from more than 400 feet up and crash into the northern part of the telescope’s 1,000-foot-wide dish, per the AP. The National Science Foundation (NSF), which manages the facility, announced that no injuries have been reported.

This final death knell for Arecibo’s telescope, which tracked asteroids approaching Earth and searched the heavens for habitable planets, followed other serious damages to the massive observatory and weeks of discussion about its future.

In August, an auxiliary cable slipped from its socket and slashed a 100-foot fissure in the observatory’s reflector dish. Then, in early November, one of the main support cables responsible for holding the equipment platform above the reflector dish snapped, placing the entire structure at significant risk of an “uncontrolled collapse,” reports Bill Chappell for NPR.

These damages prior to the total collapse led to NSF determining that the telescope could not be safely repaired, and an announcement that Arecibo’s telescope would be withdrawn from service and dismantled.

When the observatory first closed after August’s damages, about 250 scientists around the world were still using it, according to the AP. For these scientists and for those who spent many years of their lives working with the astronomical instrument in the lush mountains of Puerto Rico, its sudden destruction exacts an emotional toll.

Jonathan Friedman, a researcher who worked at the observatory for 26 years and still lives nearby, tells the AP what he heard at the moment of the collapse: “It sounded like a rumble. I knew exactly what it was. I was screaming. Personally, I was out of control… I don’t have words to express it. It’s a very deep, terrible feeling.”

“It’s such an undignified end,” Catherine Neish, an astrobiologist at Western University in London, Ontario, tells Maria Cramer and Dennis Overbye of the New York Times. “That’s what’s so sad about it.”

The telescope even achieved some level of renown among laypeople following its inclusion in popular movies such as “Contact” and the James Bond film “Goldeneye.”

Constructed in the early 1960s, the Arecibo telescope used radio waves to probe the farthest reaches of the universe. Among its most notable accomplishments is the first detection of a binary pulsar in 1974, per NPR. The discovery supported Albert Einstein’s general theory of relativity and eventually garnered the 1993 Nobel Prize in physics for a pair of researchers.

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Affordable Housing Units Prone to Floods Could Triple by 2050 | Smart News

The amount of affordable housing in the United States that is susceptible to damage and destruction caused by coastal flooding will triple by 2050, reports Daniel Cusick for E&E News.

A new study, published yesterday in the journal Environmental Research Letters, suggests that around 7,668 affordable housing units in the U.S. flood annually. Without swift action to reduce carbon emissions, that number could reach nearly 25,000 units by 2050, reports Oliver Milman for the Guardian. This is the first study of its kind to assess how vulnerable affordable housing units are to flooding and rising sea levels, according to a press release.

According to Reuters, previous studies have forecasted how houses along the coasts will be affected by climate change, but “there’s been much less attention put on these lower-income communities,” says computational scientist Scott Kulp of Climate Central, an independent group of scientists and communicators researching climate change.

The team of researchers used maps of low-cost and federally subsidized housing units and coupled them with flood projections to forecast how communities will be affected in the future, reports the Guardian. They found that states like New Jersey, Massachusetts and New York are expected to have the highest number of units at risk of flooding at least once a year by 2050, according to the press release.

The U.S. is already facing an affordable housing shortage—there are only “35 units available for every 100 extremely low-income renters,” reports Patrick Sisson for Bloomberg. That amounts to a shortage of 7 million units, so losing any more units will add to the deficit. For example, almost half of the available affordable housing units in New Jersey are projected to flood at least four times per year by 2050.

Within the next 30 years, coastal flooding will affect 4,774 affordable housing units in New York City, 3,167 in Atlantic City and 3,042 in Boston. Other cities will see a huge jump in the number of at-risk units: Miami Beach will see a 1,074 percent increase in at-risk units and Charleston, South Carolina, will see a 526 percent hike by 2050, according to the press release.

Climate change is wreaking havoc on coastal communities all over the world, but people with low incomes are being disproportionately affected by the ensuing hurricanes, floods and rising sea levels.

“The point here is that two neighbors can suffer from the same flood, one living in affordable housing and one in a home they own, and experience a very different outcome,” study co-author Benjamin Strauss, the CEO and chief scientist at Climate Central, tells Bloomberg. “Many more people in the general population will be affected by sea level rise than the affordable housing population. But the affordable population group is the one likely to hurt the most, who can’t afford to find a remedy on their own and tend to not have the voice needed to change the allocation of public resources.”

In the U.S., affordable housing units along the coast tend to be

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Breakthrough A.I. Makes Huge Leap Toward Solving 50-Year-Old Problem in Biology | Smart News

Life on Earth relies on microscopic machines called proteins that are vital to everything from holding up the structure of each cell, to reading genetic code, to carrying oxygen through the bloodstream. With meticulous lab work, scientists have figured out the precise, 3-D shapes of about 170,000 proteins—but there are at least 200 million more to go, Robert F. Service reports for Science magazine.

Now, the artificial intelligence company DeepMind, which is owned by the same company that owns Google, has developed a tool that can predict the 3-D shapes of most proteins with similar results to experiments in the lab, Cade Metz reports for the New York Times. While lab experiments can take years to tease out a protein structure, DeepMind’s tool, called AlphaFold, can come up with a structure in just a few days, per Nature’s Ewen Callaway. The tool could help speed up studies in medicine development and bioengineering.

Molecular biologists want to know the structures of proteins because the shape of a molecule determines what it’s able to do. For instance, if a protein is causing damage in the body, then scientists could study its structure and then find another protein that fits it like a puzzle piece to neutralize it. AlphaFold could accelerate that process.

“This is going to empower a new generation of molecular biologists to ask more advanced questions,” says Max Planck Institute evolutionary biologist Andrei Lupas to Nature. “It’s going to require more thinking and less pipetting.”

DeepMind tested out AlphaFold by entering it in a biennial challenge called Critical Assessment of Structure Prediction, or CASP, for which Lupas was a judge. CASP provides a framework for developers to test their protein-prediction software. It’s been running since 1994, but the recent rise of machine learning in protein structure prediction has pushed participants to new levels. AlphaFold first participated last year and scored about 15% better than the other entries, per Science magazine. This year, a new computational strategy helped AlphaFold leave the competition in the dust.

Proteins are made of chains of chemicals called amino acids that are folded up into shapes, like wire sculptures. There are 20 kinds of amino acids, each with their own chemical characteristics that affect how they interact with others along the strand. Those interactions determine how the strand folds up into a 3-D shape. And because these chains can have dozens or hundreds of amino acids, predicting how a strand will fold based just on a list of amino acids is a challenge.

But that’s exactly what CASP asks participants to do. CASP assessors like Lupas have access to the answer key—the 3-D structure of a protein that was determined in a lab, but not yet published publicly. AlphaFold’s entries were anonymized as “group 427,” but after they solved structure after structure, Lupas was able to guess that it was theirs, he tells Nature.

“Most atoms are within an atom diameter of where they are in the experimental structure,” says CASP co-founder

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In the Ancient American Southwest, Turkeys Were Friends, Not Food | Smart News

A blanket made by early 13th-century Indigenous peoples in what is now the southwestern United States featured more than 11,000 turkey feathers woven into almost 200 yards of yucca fiber, new research shows. The findings—published in the Journal of Archaeological Science: Reports—shed light on farming practices among the ancestral Puebloans, forebears of modern Hopi, Zuni and Rio Grande Pueblo nations, reports Jennifer Ouellette for Ars Technica.

The researchers say the region’s people began to switch from blankets made of rabbit skin strips to turkey-feather designs during the first two centuries A.D.

“As ancestral Pueblo farming populations flourished, many thousands of feather blankets would likely have been in circulation at any one time,” says co-author Shannon Tushingham, an anthropologist at Washington State University (WSU), in a statement. “It is likely that every member of an ancestral Pueblo community, from infants to adults, possessed one.”

Though the region’s early inhabitants had farmed turkeys prior to the 12th century, they only started using the birds as a food source around 1100 or 1200, when wild game became scarce due to overhunting. Previously, the study’s authors say, people painlessly plucked mature feathers from molting birds. This technique allowed them to harvest feathers several times per year over a bird’s lifetime of 10 years or more. Researchers have found that turkeys were often buried whole, pointing toward their significance to the people who raised them.

“The birds that supplied the feathers were likely being treated as individuals important to the household and would have been buried complete,” says the paper’s lead author, Bill Lipe, also an anthropologist at WSU. “This reverence for turkeys and their feathers is still evident today in Pueblo dances and rituals. They are right up there with eagle feathers as being symbolically and culturally important.”

Per the statement, the researchers conducted their analysis on a blanket from southeastern Utah. On display at the Edge of the Cedars State Park Museum in Blanding, the textile measures 39 by 42.5 inches. Insects had destroyed the cloth’s feather vanes and barbs, but feather shafts wrapped in the woven yucca fiber remained visible, according to Ars Technica. The scientists also examined a smaller intact blanket that appeared to be from the same time period. They found that the craftspeople who made the two blankets used body feathers from the birds’ backs and breasts.

turkey feather blankets
The researchers studied an intact blanket, as well as the cords remaining after insects destroyed feather material on a larger blanket.

(Edge of the Cedars State Park Museum, Blanding, Utah / Journal of Archaeological Science: Reports)

The Puebloans’ blanket-making process survives to this day: In 2018, Mary Weahkee, an archaeologist at the New Mexico Department of Cultural Affairs, taught herself to weave turkey-feather blankets using the 1,000-year old technique, reports Alexa Henry for New Mexico Wildlife magazine. Producing a 2- by 3-foot blanket took her 18 months and required 17,000 feathers from 68 turkeys.

“I looked at how the ancestors were creative and patient,” Weahkee, who is of

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Memorial University delaying the start of most winter classes | Canada | News

Memorial University has decided to delay the official start date of its winter semester in most programs at its St. John’s campus, Grenfell Campus in Corner Brook and the Marine Institute.

Originally, the return date for winter classes was Wednesday, Jan. 6. It now will be Monday, Jan. 11.

“I hope that extending the break by a few days… will help to reduce the stress in the winter term,” said Dr. Mark Abrahams, provost and vice-president (academic).



Abraham’s quote appeared in a story in the online version of the MUN Gazette (gazette.mun.ca), used to announce the delay.

Due to what are described as “unique program delivery constraints”, the school says exceptions have been approved for the Faculty of Medicine, the Faculty of Nursing and the Faculty of Engineering and Applied Science. 

As a result, classes in these academic units will resume as previously scheduled on Jan.6.

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Loyola University New Orleans honors Orleans Parish judge, and more metro college news | Crescent City community news

LOYOLA UNIVERSITY NEW ORLEANS: Judge Robin Pittman ‘91, J.D. ‘96,  is recipient of the 2020 Adjutor Hominum Award from the Alumni Association of Loyola University New Orleans. This award recognizes a Loyola graduate whose life exemplifies the values and philosophy of Jesuit education: moral character, service to humanity and unquestionable integrity. Pittman is a criminal court judge and former assistant district attorney in Orleans Parish. She spends much of her time out of chambers in the community, engaged in service to Loyola and visiting local schools to mentor young students. In lieu of a party to celebrate her accomplishment, Pittman has established a sociology scholarship to benefit high-achieving sociology majors with financial need. To contribute, visit giving.loyno.edu/adjutorhominum.

DELGADO COMMUNITY COLLEGE CYBERSECURITY TRAINING: A 4.5-month cybersecurity career training course begins Dec. 7 at Delgado Community College with support from the Capital One Foundation. Those who complete the program will receive credentials qualifying them for entry-level positions and can also receive up to nine credit hours in Delgado’s associate degree program in computer information technology. The cost is $500; $300 will be due Dec. 4. For an application and payment information, contact Troy L. Baldwin at [email protected]

DELGADO COMMUNITY COLLEGE WINTER REGISTRATION: Registration is open through Dec. 11 for the winter session at Delgado Community College, which begins Dec. 14 and ends four weeks later. Fast-paced courses are available in business, science and technology, arts and humanities, and other interests. Credits are transferrable to other colleges and universities. For details, visit www.dcc.edu/go/wintersession.

UNIVERSITY OF HOLY CROSS: Registration for the spring 2021 semester at University of Holy Cross is open. Housing applications for the university’s new residence hall are also available. To register or apply for housing, visit www.uhcno.edu or call (504) 394-7744.

NUNEZ COMMUNITY COLLEGE: Registration is open for the winter intersession at Nunez Community College, which will run from Dec. 14-Jan. 8. The schedule currently includes 11 fully web-based courses; additional courses will likely be added. To see the schedule of classes, visit www.nunez.edu/future-students. Registration assistance is available by calling (504) 278-6467. Registration for Nunez’s spring 2021 semester opened Oct. 26.

 

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University-industry partnership drives UB health care innovation – UB Now: News and views for UB faculty and staff

Research News

Inside the lab at Garwood Medical Devices.

Jackson Hobble, a biomedical engineer at Garwood Medical Devices and a UB biomedical engineering graduate, works in the company’s lab. He is using an in vitro model to test the electrical stimulation technique that BioPrax™ employs to treat infections. Photo: Douglas Levere

By JESSICA SZKLANY

Published December 2, 2020

headshot of Mark Ehrensberger.

Batman and Robin. Peanut butter and jelly. Jobs and Wozniak. Like for these famous duos, when universities and companies join forces, they can achieve far greater impact.

Such is the case for a team of UB researchers and Buffalo-based startup Garwood Medical Devices, who, in partnership, have been awarded $749,000 to evaluate a medical device that utilizes UB-licensed technology and bring it one step closer to clinical use in amputee patients.

The device, called BioPrax™, was created to prevent, control and eliminate bacterial biofilm infections associated with orthopedic implants — a common, costly and potentially devastating problem.

“Metallic implants, such as knee and hip replacements, are prone to getting antibiotic-resistant biofilm infections, which are nearly impossible to cure without removing the implant altogether,” says Wayne Bacon, president and chief executive officer of Garwood Medical Devices. “After removing orthopedic implants, there is a high percentage of failure to ever re-implant another joint replacement, costing patients and the health care system tens of billions of dollars per year and leading to many joint fusions, amputations and deaths.”

The technology behind BioPrax, a cathodic voltage-controlled electrical stimulation (CVCES), is patented by UB and Syracuse University and exclusively licensed by Garwood. When an infection is present, BioPrax delivers the electrical stimulation to a metal implant, such as a prosthetic knee, where it has an antibacterial effect and kills the infecting bacteria.

“We believe this novel infection-control strategy has the potential to introduce a paradigm shift in the treatment of orthopedic implant-associated infections (IAIs), as it would allow for effective treatment without having to remove the implant, thereby maintaining biomechanical stability and mobility of the body segment, and reducing the morbidity and mortality rates associated with recalcitrant IAIs,” says Mark Ehrensberger, co-inventor of the CVCES technology and associate professor in the Department of Biomedical Engineering, a joint program of the School of Engineering and Applied Sciences and the Jacobs School of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences at UB.

Ehrensberger is also director of the Kenneth A Krackow, MD, Orthopaedic Research Laboratory in the Department of Orthopaedics in the Jacobs School.

New grant focuses on helping disabled vets

Previous, nonclinical studies have proven the technology to be effective at disrupting biofilms and killing bacteria, and showed no deleterious impacts to tissue or bone. Last year, Garwood received Breakthrough Device designation from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to expedite development and approval of BioPrax.

According to the FDA’s website, the Breakthrough Devices Program targets technologies “that provide for more effective treatment or diagnosis of life-threatening or irreversibly debilitating diseases or conditions.” The goal “is to provide patients and health care providers with timely access to these medical devices by speeding up their development, assessment and

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Western Big Game Benefits from New Tracking Tool / Public News Service

A 2019 poll by the National Wildlife Federation found nearly 85% of respondents in New Mexico said they'd like to see increased efforts to safeguard wildlife corridors. (dog.gov)

A 2019 poll by the National Wildlife Federation found nearly 85% of respondents in New Mexico said they’d like to see increased efforts to safeguard wildlife corridors. (dog.gov)

December 2, 2020

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. – A new report published by the U.S. Geological Survey includes detailed maps of Global Positioning System tracked migration routes for mule deer, elk, pronghorn, moose and bison. The tracking tool will help stakeholders, from conservation groups to transportation agencies, understand how big-game species move across the landscape.

Jesse Deubel, executive director of the New Mexico Wildlife Federation, said the new study maps more than 40 big-game migration routes to provide connectivity among multiple states.

“Wildlife doesn’t recognize state borders,” said Deubel. “So cross-jurisdictional collaboration when it comes to the management of wildlife, and when it comes to the protection of key wildlife corridors, is absolutely critical.”

A poll last year found more than eight in ten residents of New Mexico and Colorado support protecting wildlife migration routes.

Deubel said in the Gila region, all kinds of species are moving between New Mexico and Arizona – but it isn’t a seasonal migration. Instead, big-game animals are looking for water.

Forest fires, many due to climate change, also affect big game migration in New Mexico. That’s another important reason to maintain habitat connectivity, according to Nicole Tatman – big game program manager with the state’s Department of Game and Fish.

“Animals will move out of an area when a wildfire is occurring,” said Tatman. “But they’ll move back into that area after the fire has gone and maybe rains have come and brought up some green vegetation that they can take advantage of.”

In addition to wildfires, drought can make finding that green vegetation harder for big-game animals, according to Matthew Kauffman, wildlife researcher with the U.S. Geological Survey.

Kauffman, the report’s lead author, said food is often absent along ancient migration corridors.

“Drought disrupts that ‘green wave,’ and makes it more difficult for animals to surf,” said Kauffman. “They still try, they do their best given the drought conditions, but they just can’t be in the right place at the right time.”

The new study builds on more than two decades of research by state wildlife agencies including GPS tracking-collar data, mapping migration routes in Arizona, Idaho, Nevada, Utah and Wyoming.

Support for this reporting was provided by The Pew Charitable Trusts.

Roz Brown, Public News Service – NM

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In Australia, Just One Wasp Can Ground an Airplane With a Strategically Placed Nest | Smart News

New research conducted at Brisbane airport shows how the invasive keyhole wasp builds their nests over important sensors, causing havoc for aircraft, George Dvorsky reports for Gizmodo.

Keyhole wasps like to lay their eggs in small, pre-made cavities like window crevices, electrical sockets and, as their name implies, keyholes. Airplanes, meanwhile, rely on external sensors that are shaped like thin tubes. If the pilot realizes after takeoff that a sensor is blocked, the plane just has to turn around so it can be cleaned. But in a worst-case scenario, malfunctioning sensors are catastrophic. The new study, published on November 30 in the journal PLOS One, confirmed keyhole wasps are the sensor-blocking culprit, figured out their favorite size sensors for nest-building, and found that they built most of their nests near a grassy field at the airport.

The researchers hope that airports will be use the data to better combat the six-legged saboteurs.

“When we did some background research we realized that this wasn’t just an inconvenience, that you just had to clean these things out and swat the wasps away; this could actually lead to major accidents,” says Eco Logical Australia ecologist Alan House, lead author on the new study, to CNN’s Hilary Whiteman.

A plane crash off the coast of the Dominican Republic in 1996 that killed all 189 passengers and crew was linked to blockage of the pitot tube, which measures the speed that air is flowing through it as a proxy for how fast the plane is flying. The pitot tube’s measurements can show if the plane is flying fast enough to be stable, or if the plane is flying too slow, putting it at risk of stalling. Inaccurate airspeed readings can cause dangerous reactions by the pilots—or software.

“It’s not a Mayday emergency but it’s the next level down, and it closes the runways,” says House to New Scientist’s Donna Lu.

The wasps are native to the Americas, but have been flying around Brisbane for over a decade. The insects have figured out a speedy strategy for establishing their nests.

“We have anecdotal reports from ground crew at Brisbane that a plane can have arrived at the gate and within a matter of two or three minutes, a wasp will be flying around the nose of the plane having a look at the probe,” House tells CNN. House adds to Belinda Smith at ABC News Australia, “When the plane first comes in, those probes are too hot for the wasp, so I think what she’s doing is waiting for it to cool down.”

Once the tube is cool, the wasp fills the cavity with mud, an egg and a bit of prey, like a caterpillar. A thin wall of mud at the front seals the nest, and solidly blocks the pitot tube. This process can happen in under 30 minutes, as was the case when a wasp nest blocked the temperature probe on a flight from Brisbane to Newcastle in 2015, per ABC

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