Enn Original News

Why Birds Fly into Power Lines and Similar
March 18, 2011 01:06 PM - Andy Soos, ENN

Birds are different from human beings obviously. Birds have been known to fly into objects and knock themselves out. Why does this happen? A sensory ecology framework is used in a new research study to seek to assess why flying birds collide with prominent structures, such as power lines, fences, communication masts, wind turbines and buildings, which intrude into the open airspace. Such collisions occur under conditions of both high and low visibility. It is argued that a human perspective of the problems posed by these obstacles is unhelpful. Birds live in a different visual world. When in flight, birds may turn their heads in both pitch and yaw to look down, either with the binocular field or with the lateral part of an eye’s visual field. Such behavior may be usual for them and results in certain species being at least temporarily blind in the direction of travel.

How To Test for Toxicity
March 17, 2011 06:11 PM - Andy Soos, ENN

There are zillions of products and chemicals in the world. Some are obviously toxic. Others are more subtle or simply unknown because they were never studied. Study is expensive and time consuming. Several federal agencies have unveiled a new high-speed robot screening system that will test 10,000 different chemicals for potential toxicity. The system marks the beginning of a new phase of an ongoing collaboration, referred to as Tox21, that is working to protect people’s health by improving how chemicals are tested in this country. The robot system, which is located at the National Institutes of Health Chemical Genomics Center (NCGC), was purchased as part of the Tox21 collaboration established in 2008 between the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences National Toxicology Program, and NCGC, with the addition of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in 2010. Tox21 merges existing resources — research, funding and testing tools — to develop ways to more effectively predict how chemicals will affect human health and the environment.

News at the North Pole Ozone Layer
March 16, 2011 04:59 PM - Andy Soos, ENN

Unusually low temperatures in the Arctic ozone layer have recently initiated massive ozone depletion. The Arctic appears to be heading for a record loss of this trace gas that protects the Earth's surface against ultraviolet radiation from the sun. This result has been found by measurements carried out by an international network of over 30 ozone sounding stations spread all over the Arctic and Subarctic and coordinated by the Potsdam Research Unit of the Alfred Wegener Institute for Polar and Marine Research in the Helmholtz Association in Germany. In the Arctic the amount lost is more variable year-to-year than in the Antarctic. The greatest declines, up to 30%, are in the winter and spring, when the stratosphere is colder.

Earthquakes Change the Earth
March 15, 2011 01:57 PM - Andy Soos, ENN

The March 11, magnitude 9.0 earthquake in Japan may have shortened the length of each Earth day and shifted its axis. Using a United States Geological Survey estimate for how the fault responsible for the earthquake slipped, research scientist Richard Gross of NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif., applied a complex model to perform a preliminary theoretical calculation of how the Japan earthquake-the fifth largest since 1900-affected Earth's rotation. His calculations indicate that by changing the distribution of Earth's mass, the Japanese earthquake should have caused Earth to rotate a bit faster, shortening the length of the day by about 1.8 microseconds (a microsecond is one millionth of a second). There are about 86,400 seconds (86 billion microseconds) in a day, so the impact of the earthquake is quite small. The calculations also show the Japan quake should have shifted the position of Earth's figure axis (the axis about which Earth's mass is balanced) by about 6.5 inches, towards 133 degrees east longitude. The Earth's figure axis is not the same as its north-south axis in space, which it spins around once every day at a speed of about 1,000 mph. The figure axis is the axis around which the Earth's mass is balanced.

US Marine Corps and Kyocera Team Up to Produce Solar Power
March 15, 2011 09:46 AM - David A Gabel, ENN

San Diego County in southern California holds one of the United States Marine Corps' largest bases, Camp Pendleton. It is the major West Coast base and serves to train expeditionary forces and is a prime amphibious training base. It was established in 1942 to train marines for combat in World War II and soon became a permanent installation. A new chapter has now been written in the camp's rich history of training America's elite warriors. Camp Pendleton is now a producer of renewable energy.

Emperor Penguin Colony
March 14, 2011 05:04 PM - Andy Soos, ENN

Scientists at British Antarctic Survey (BAS) have recently described the loss of a small colony of emperor penguins on an island off the West Antarctic Peninsula. The loss is attributed to reduced sea ice, which provides an important nesting substrate for the penguins as well as an important foraging habitat. Reporting in the February edition of the scientific journal PLoS ONE researchers from BAS and Scott Polar Research Institute say that this is the first time the disappearance of an emperor penguin colony has been documented. The Emperor Penguin is the tallest and heaviest of all living penguin species and is endemic to Antarctica. The male and female are similar in plumage and size, reaching 48 inches in height and weighing anywhere from 49 to 99 pounds. The dorsal side and head are black and sharply delineated from the white belly, pale-yellow breast and bright-yellow ear patches. Like all penguins it is flightless, with a streamlined body, and wings stiffened and flattened into flippers for a marine habitat.

USGS launches Butterfly and Moth Website
March 13, 2011 08:07 AM - Roger Greenway, ENN

The United States Geologic Survey, and partners including Montana State University Big Sky Institute, National Biological Information Infrastructure, Northern Prairie Wildlife Research Center, has launched a new website to help us understand, identify, and appreciate the rich diversity of butterflies and moths of North America. The heart of the web site is the Butterflies and Moths of North America database Why should we care about butterflies and moths? Thanks to butterflies, bees, birds, and other animal pollinators, the world's flowering plants are able to reproduce and bear fruit. That very basic capability is at the root of many of the foods we eat. And, not least, pollination adds to the beauty we see around us. Yet today, there is evidence of alarming pollinator population declines worldwide. Fortunately, science investigators of this crucial issue can use data collected and organized in the BAMONA database to monitor the health of our butterfly and moth population.

New from BBC Earth: Migrating with Mom
March 12, 2011 11:11 AM - Editor, BBC Earth

Any great journey starts out with a little trepidation, think back to your first day of school, walking out into the big wide world (or playground) and then looking back to see your guardian eagerly watching and willing you to keep going. These first steps are always the hardest, and as one of the the largest mammals on the earth there's no exception. Scientifically classified as one of the "big-winged" (Megaptera) species, the Humpback Whale make their annual move north from the warm Hawaiian Island waters from March onwards. Seeking fresh food and cooler temperatures, these magnificent giants will travel through currents so challenging that only perseverance will see them through. And as a newborn, the first ocean crossing will be something to remember. After approximately four months of not eating and living off her own blubber, it's not just the cow's instinct which is telling her that it’s time to move on. With calf in tow, she sets off. From the low-latitude breeding grounds, they will travel at 3-9 mph (5-15kph) or as fast as the calf can swim. Sometimes this can take up to three months, but at 1,000miles per month, at this stage they can’t afford to waste a moment of their time.

Honeybee End?
March 11, 2011 01:45 PM - Andy Soos, ENN

The mysterious collapse of honey-bee colonies is becoming a global phenomenon. Declines in managed bee colonies, seen increasingly in Europe and the US in the past decade, are also now being observed in China and Japan and there are the first signs of African collapses from Egypt, according to the report from the United Nations. Beekeepers in Western countries have been reporting slow declines of stocks for many years, apparently due to impaired protein production, changes in agricultural practice, or unpredictable weather. In early 2007, abnormally high die-offs (30-70% of hives) of European honey bee colonies occurred in the U.S. and Québec; such a decline seems unprecedented in recent history. This has been dubbed Colony collapse disorder (CCD); it is unclear whether this is simply an accelerated phase of the general decline due to more adverse conditions in 2006, or a novel phenomenon. More than a dozen factors, ranging from declines in flowering plants and the use of memory-damaging insecticides to the world-wide spread of pests and air pollution, may be behind the emerging decline of bee colonies across many parts of the globe.

A Really Old Bird with Chicks
March 10, 2011 03:59 PM - Andy Soos, ENN

How old can a bird live in the wild? And how long can they breed successfully. Records are sparse of course. A Laysan albatross named Wisdom, is at least 60 years old and was spotted in February 2011 raising a chick at the Midway Atoll National Wildlife Refuge in the Pacific Islands. The bird has sported and worn out 5 bird bands since she was first banded by U.S. Geological Survey scientist Chandler Robbins in 1956 as she incubated an egg. Robbins estimated Wisdom to be at least 5 years old then since this is the earliest age at which these birds breed, though they more typically breed at 8 or 9 after an involved courtship lasting several years. This means, of course, that Wisdom is more likely to be in her early sixties. While no bander goes out to study the maximum lifespan of a species as the only reason for their banding, every bander can contribute to this information. The information on life span is collected every time a banded bird is reported. The maximum longevity record cannot be longer than the time span that researchers have been studying that species, and the lifespan of the bands used on birds was shorter than the lifespan of the birds for some species. Most banders that are working on species with long lifespans are using a harder metal band that will last as long as the bird lives.

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