“Wildlife biologists are monitoring species such as pelicans and plovers in the immediate path of the oil,” said Laura Burkholder at the Cornell Lab of Ornithology. “But we need bird watchers across the country to help us find out if birds that pass through or winter in the Gulf region carry contamination with them, possibly creating an ‘oil shadow’ of declines in bird reproduction hundreds of miles from the coast.”
To help, Burkholder said that anyone with an interest in birds can learn how to find and monitor nests as part of the Cornell Lab’s NestWatch project (www.nestwatch.org). It involves visiting a nest for a few minutes, twice per week, and recording information such as how many eggs it contains, how many chicks hatch, and how many leave the nest.
“Many birds that nest in backyards all across North America, such as Red-winged Blackbirds and Tree Swallows, spend part of the year along the Gulf of Mexico, where they could be affected by the oil spill,” Bukholder said. “Toxins often have profound effects on reproduction, and it’s possible that toxins encountered in one environment can affect the birds in another environment, after they arrive on their breeding grounds.”
When participants across large regions contribute information, Burkholder said, scientists can assess changes in nesting success in relation to environmental factors such as habitat loss, climate change, and pollution.
Citizen-science participants have helped the Cornell Lab monitor the success rates of nesting birds for 45 years. Now, Burkholder said, it’s especially critical to capture data on nesting birds to reveal the health of birds before they encounter the oil spill – as well as in the years ahead, to detect possible long-term effects.
To help the effort, visit www.nestwatch.org. In addition to accepting observations from the general public, NestWatch is available as a data repository for wildlife agencies and scientific organizations to support their research on the impacts of the oil spill.
John Carberry | Newswise Science News
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Plants and algae use the enzyme Rubisco to fix carbon dioxide, removing it from the atmosphere and converting it into biomass. Algae have figured out a way to increase the efficiency of carbon fixation. They gather most of their Rubisco into a ball-shaped microcompartment called the pyrenoid, which they flood with a high local concentration of carbon dioxide. A team of scientists at Princeton University, the Carnegie Institution for Science, Stanford University and the Max Plank Institute of Biochemistry have unravelled the mysteries of how the pyrenoid is assembled. These insights can help to engineer crops that remove more carbon dioxide from the atmosphere while producing more food.
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Our brains house extremely complex neuronal circuits, whose detailed structures are still largely unknown. This is especially true for the so-called cerebral cortex of mammals, where among other things vision, thoughts or spatial orientation are being computed. Here the rules by which nerve cells are connected to each other are only partly understood. A team of scientists around Moritz Helmstaedter at the Frankfiurt Max Planck Institute for Brain Research and Helene Schmidt (Humboldt University in Berlin) have now discovered a surprisingly precise nerve cell connectivity pattern in the part of the cerebral cortex that is responsible for orienting the individual animal or human in space.
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Using ultrafast flashes of laser and x-ray radiation, scientists at the Max Planck Institute of Quantum Optics (Garching, Germany) took snapshots of the briefest electron motion inside a solid material to date. The electron motion lasted only 750 billionths of the billionth of a second before it fainted, setting a new record of human capability to capture ultrafast processes inside solids!
When x-rays shine onto solid materials or large molecules, an electron is pushed away from its original place near the nucleus of the atom, leaving a hole...
For the first time, physicists have successfully imaged spiral magnetic ordering in a multiferroic material. These materials are considered highly promising candidates for future data storage media. The researchers were able to prove their findings using unique quantum sensors that were developed at Basel University and that can analyze electromagnetic fields on the nanometer scale. The results – obtained by scientists from the University of Basel’s Department of Physics, the Swiss Nanoscience Institute, the University of Montpellier and several laboratories from University Paris-Saclay – were recently published in the journal Nature.
Multiferroics are materials that simultaneously react to electric and magnetic fields. These two properties are rarely found together, and their combined...
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