Panama’s sloths harbor potential drugs
January 30, 2014 09:29 AM - Fred Fertado, SciDevNet
Sloths may be slow, apparently boring animals, but their hair is fast becoming an intriguing avenue for scientists seeking new drugs, including antibiotics and cancer-fighting compounds. A paper published in PLOS One this month (15 January) shows that sloth hair harbors a rich diversity of fungi whose extracts may contain a treasure trove of compounds active against bacteria, breast cancer cells and the parasites that cause malaria and Chagas’ disease.
Slowing down the floodwaters
January 29, 2014 10:41 AM - Robin Blackstone, ENN
Putting something called "Natural Engineering" to work in a five-year research project, Newcastle University in cooperation with the Environment Agency are discovering the benefits utilizing the land's natural defenses to slow river flow downstream and prevent flooding. Slowing down water in anticipation of flooding events is being tested all over the world. Strategies include the use of retention basins; wetlands development; levee systems and floodwalls but Newcastle University researchers directed by Dr. Mark Wilkinson are employing additional water retention strategies further up in the catchment system. The Belford Burn is a small catchment system located in Northumberland, a community just south of the Scottish border.
Linking Alzheimer's to environmental contributors
January 28, 2014 09:16 AM - Robin Lally, Rutgers University
Scientists have known for more than 40 years that the synthetic pesticide DDT is harmful to bird habitats and a threat to the environment. Now researchers at Rutgers University say exposure to DDT, banned in the United States since 1972 but still used as a pesticide in other countries, may also increase the risk and severity of Alzheimer's disease in some people, particularly those over the age of 60.
"Phosphate free for all" from P & G
January 27, 2014 09:26 AM - Click Green Staff, ClickGreen
Consumer product giant Procter & Gamble has announced that it will eliminate phosphates from all of its laundry detergents worldwide within the next two years. The change applies to brands including Tide, Ariel, Ace and Bonux, and will maximize the conservation of precious resources and reduce the threat of water pollution.
Biofuel crops 'may amplify mosquito-borne disease'
January 23, 2014 01:29 PM - Wagdy Sawahel, SciDevNet
The expansion of the some biofuel crops may unwittingly increase the risk of mosquito-borne disease by altering the insects' life cycle, a study suggests. The so-called first-generation biofuel crops, most notably maize, are increasingly being replaced by second-generation biofuel crops, such as perennial grasses, which require less energy, water, fertilizers and pesticides to thrive.
General Mills Makes Cheerios GMO-Free
January 23, 2014 09:08 AM - Editor, The Ecologist
The GMO Inside campaign has launched a major push to get General Mills to drop genetically modified organisms (GMOs) from Honey Nut Cheerios - the company's and the USA's biggest breakfast cereal. Massive consumer pressure on General Mills persuaded this US food giant to eliminate GMOs from original Cheerios. In a campaign relying heavily on social media to inform and involve consumers, the company was deluged with over 50,000 online postings to make original Cheerios GMO free.
Human response to climate
January 22, 2014 10:22 AM - B. Rose Huber, Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs, Princeton University
Throughout history, humans have responded to climate. Take, for example, the Mayans, who, throughout the eighth and 10th centuries, were forced to move away from their major ceremonial centers after a series of multi-year droughts, bringing about agricultural expansion in Mesoamerica, and a clearing of forests. Much later, in the late 20th century, frequent droughts caused the people of Burkina Faso in West Africa to migrate from the dry north to the wetter south where they have transformed forests to croplands and cut the nation's area of natural vegetation in half.
New theory on mental processing as we age
January 22, 2014 08:51 AM - EurekAlert
What happens to our cognitive abilities as we age? Traditionally it is thought that age leads to a steady deterioration of brain function, but new research in Topics in Cognitive Science argues that older brains may take longer to process ever increasing amounts of knowledge, and this has often been misidentified as declining capacity. The study, led by Dr. Michael Ramscar of the University of Tuebingen, takes a critical look at the measures that are usually thought to show that our cognitive abilities decline across adulthood. Instead of finding evidence of decline, the team discovered that most standard cognitive measures are flawed, confusing increased knowledge for declining capacity.
Wastewater to power project planned in DC
January 18, 2014 09:13 AM - Joanna M. Foster, Think Progress via Care2
When the D.C. Water and Sewer Authority was first planning to build its Blue Plains wastewater treatment facility back in the 1930s, it seemed logical to choose a site that would minimize the cost of pumping water uphill. That's why the facility, which today serves over 2 million people in D.C., Maryland, and Virginia and treats around 370 million gallons of wastewater a day, is located at the lowest point in all of the District of Columbia. But the 150-acre facility, on the banks of the Potomac River, is now confronting the downside of what was once a strategic siting decision — the entire facility is extremely vulnerable to the flooding predicted by future sea level rise.
Dueling fruit flies
January 17, 2014 11:13 AM - By Robin Blackstone
Apparently male fruit flies fight. Who knew? According to biologist David Anderson from the fly laboratory of California Institute of Technology (Caltech), Drosophilae, commonly known as fruit flies, fight regularly. Males in particular put up a big fight in the presence of a female because males have special cells in their brains that promote fighting that are absent in the brains of female fruit flies.