St. John's, Canada
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News Article | May 1, 2017

So, last week approximately 7,500 songbirds flew into a giant flame and died. About 7,500 songbirds, possibly including some endangered species, were killed while flying over a gas plant in Saint John late last week, officials have confirmed. It appears the migrating birds flew into the gas flare at Canaport LNG between Friday night and Saturday morning, said Fraser Forsythe, the company's health, safety, security and environmental manager. The birds were drawn to the flame like moths, an extremely unusual event, according to Don McAlpine, the head of zoology at the New Brunswick Museum. "They would circle in around that and of course with a large flame like that and high temperatures, they wouldn't need to get terribly close to become singed or burned." CBC goes on to report that some of the birds may have been endangered species. Naturally, the CBC reports that employees at the plant were in tears upon finding the piles of dead birds in the morning. That's pretty much what you do when you find giant piles of dead birds, right? But helpfully, the zoologist quoted above reminds us that WAY more birds die in the United States every year, so... yeah, um...quit crying? McAlpine, said it's important to put the incident in perspective, noting an estimated one billion birds in the U.S. are killed every year from human causes. "Although this is certainly a tragic event and it's shocking to see 7,500 dead birds, it’s a drop in the bucket in terms of the number of birds that are killed from human actions every year," said McAlpine. I know he means well and is statistically correct, but really? Minor spoiler warning: This reminded me of that awkward scene in the hit show Breaking Bad when Walt tells the school children that they shouldn't be too upset about the deadly plane crash that occurred in their town because it was only the 50th worst air disaster of all time. Actually tied for 50th! In other words, yeah, 7,500 birds died, some of which are critically endangered, but cats and buildings kill way more. So don't be mad at the natural gas plant. Cats and buildings are your real enemy! What's frustrating about this is that natural gas flaring is not always necessary and is a huge waste of money, fuel and contributes to global warming. According to 2011 numbers, annually natural gas flaring wastes 5% of all the natural gas produced in the world, emitting 400 million metric tons of CO2 into the atmosphere -- the equivalent of 77 million cars -- and now has been shown to have the potential to kill migrating songbirds. Yes, cats and buildings kill many birds over the course of the year. But maybe this could be an opportunity to highlight the wastefulness and destructiveness of gas flaring and push for some tighter regulations and improved technology to reduce the practice as much as possible. IMAGE: RYE, ENGLAND - AUGUST 21: A warbler is weighed at a ringing hut on a private reserve in East Sussex on August 21, 2013 in Rye, United Kingdom. The BTO are currently in the process of recording migrating hirundines and other birds at the reserve.

Van Der Hoop J.M.,Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution | Moore M.J.,Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution | Barco S.G.,Virginia Aquarium and Marine Science Center | Cole T.V.,National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration | And 6 more authors.
Conservation Biology | Year: 2013

United States and Canadian governments have responded to legal requirements to reduce human-induced whale mortality via vessel strikes and entanglement in fishing gear by implementing a suite of regulatory actions. We analyzed the spatial and temporal patterns of mortality of large whales in the Northwest Atlantic (23.5°N to 48.0°N), 1970 through 2009, in the context of management changes. We used a multinomial logistic model fitted by maximum likelihood to detect trends in cause-specific mortalities with time. We compared the number of human-caused mortalities with U.S. federally established levels of potential biological removal (i.e., species-specific sustainable human-caused mortality). From 1970 through 2009, 1762 mortalities (all known) and serious injuries (likely fatal) involved 8 species of large whales. We determined cause of death for 43% of all mortalities; of those, 67% (502) resulted from human interactions. Entanglement in fishing gear was the primary cause of death across all species (n = 323), followed by natural causes (n = 248) and vessel strikes (n = 171). Established sustainable levels of mortality were consistently exceeded in 2 species by up to 650%. Probabilities of entanglement and vessel-strike mortality increased significantly from 1990 through 2009. There was no significant change in the local intensity of all or vessel-strike mortalities before and after 2003, the year after which numerous mitigation efforts were enacted. So far, regulatory efforts have not reduced the lethal effects of human activities to large whales on a population-range basis, although we do not exclude the possibility of success of targeted measures for specific local habitats that were not within the resolution of our analyses. It is unclear how shortfalls in management design or compliance relate to our findings. Analyses such as the one we conducted are crucial in critically evaluating wildlife-management decisions. The results of these analyses can provide managers with direction for modifying regulated measures and can be applied globally to mortality-driven conservation issues. © 2012 Society for Conservation Biology.

News Article | December 23, 2016

A newly discovered virus infecting the fungus that causes white-nose syndrome in bats could help scientists and wildlife agencies track the spread of the disease that is decimating bat populations in the United States, a new study suggests. Regional variations in this virus could provide clues that would help researchers better understand the epidemiology of white-nose syndrome, according to Marilyn Roossinck, professor of plant pathology and environmental microbiology, College of Agricultural Sciences, Penn State. White-nose syndrome is a particularly lethal wildlife disease, killing an estimated 6 million bats in North America since it was identified in 2006. The disease, caused by the fungus Pseudogymnoascus destructans, first was found in New York and now has spread to 29 states and four Canadian provinces. Although several species of bats have been affected, some of the most prevalent species in the Northeast -- such as little brown bats -- have suffered estimated mortality as high as 99 percent. These losses have serious ecological implications. For instance, bats have a voracious appetite for insects and are credited with helping to control populations of mosquitoes and some agricultural pests. The researchers examined 62 isolates of the fungus, including 35 from the United States, 10 from Canada and 17 from Europe, with the virus infection found only in North American samples. P. destructans is clonal, meaning it is essentially identical everywhere it has been found in North America, making it difficult to determine how it is moving, said Roossinck, who also is affiliated with Penn State's Center for Infectious Disease Dynamics. "But the virus it harbors has quite a bit of variation," she said. "For example, in all the fungal isolates from Pennsylvania we analyzed, the viruses are similar. But those viruses differ from the ones we found in isolates from Canada, New York and so forth." Roossinck explained that fungal viruses are not readily transmitted among fungi, so the variation in the viral genome probably is occurring as the virus evolves within each fungal isolate, providing a marker. "So we believe the differences in the viruses reflect the movement of the fungus, and this viral variability should enable us to get a better handle on how the disease is spreading," she said. The virus is not thought to cause disease, but researchers don't yet know whether it influences the virulence of the fungus, Roossinck noted. "It's very difficult to study virulence in terms of infection in the bats in part because there are almost no bats left to study, and we don't have an experimental system that works." The researchers, who reported their results today (Dec 23) online in PLOS Pathogens, were able to eliminate the virus from one fungal isolate, which provided a virus-free isolate that they could compare to wild isolates that harbor the virus to look for biochemical changes. "Although we didn't look directly at the role of the virus in white-nose syndrome, there is evidence of a close biological relationship between the fungus and the virus," Roossinck said. "We found that the virus-free isolate makes many fewer spores than an isolate with the virus, suggesting that the virus may be beneficial to the fungus in reproduction. "We don't know whether the fungus spreads through spores or through direct contact between bats," she said. "But if it spreads via spores, the virus actually could be enhancing the spread of white-nose syndrome as a result of this increased spore production." Roossinck said the study has important implications in the search for ways to save the bats of North America. "There's a lot we don't know about white-nose syndrome, and before we can develop control strategies, we have to better understand the biology of the system. We now have a tool that can be used in broader studies to examine the epidemiology of the disease." Other Penn State researchers on this project were Vaskar Thapa, postdoctoral fellow in plant pathology and environmental microbiology, and Susan Hafenstein, assistant professor of medicine. Other researchers were Gregory G. Turner, Pennsylvania Game Commission; Barrie E. Overton, biology professor, Lock Haven University of Pennsylvania, and Karen J. Vanderwolf, formerly at New Brunswick Museum, Saint John, Canada, and now at University of Wisconsin, Madison. The Pennsylvania Game Commission, the Huck Institutes of the Life Sciences and the College of Agricultural Sciences, Penn State supported this research.

News Article | November 30, 2016

BioBlitz Canada 150 will put Canadians in direct contact with our wildlife OTTAWA, ON--(Marketwired - November 30, 2016) - As part of Canada's 150th celebrations, the Canadian Wildlife Federation (CWF), with BioBlitz Canada and other partners in conservation, will carry out a series of public bioblitzes across the nation to help showcase and conserve our natural heritage. "This fascinating project will engage, inspire and strengthen the environmental consciousness of Canadians all across the country. Let's take the opportunity being offered to us to become the guardians of our Canadian wildlife, an invaluable source of wealth," said the Hon. Mélanie Joly, Minister of Canadian Heritage. BioBlitz Canada 150 is one of 38 Signature Projects recently announced by Minister Joly under the federal Canada 150 initiative. BioBlitz Canada 150 events will bring together thousands of Canadians from all ages, cultural backgrounds and walks of life to explore Canada's terrestrial, freshwater, coastal and marine environments. The BioBlitz Canada 150 project will generate new scientific data and document new species, information which is critical for decisions on the state of Canada's biodiversity. In the next days, for instance, the Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada (COSEWIC) will announce their assessments of which species are at risk of extinction and which may be holding their own. These assessments are based on the kind of data that the BioBlitz Canada 150 project will provide. "Wildlife and nature are key parts of the Canadian identity and we're very pleased the Government of Canada recognizes and supports this aspect of our national celebration," said Rick Bates, CEO of the Canadian Wildlife Federation. "We look forward to having people from across the country participate in a bioblitz as part of the 150th anniversary celebrations." Public bioblitz events will blend science with community and youth engagement. Scientists and interested members of the public will go out together in nature to find, identify and record as many species as possible in a given time. The BioBlitz Canada 150 project will feature five flagship events in urban areas, 20 community events and 10 science-intense blitzes. Individuals, schools and organizations will also be encouraged to organize their own bioblitz events to share the celebration of Canada's wildlife and contribute to the national database. Locations, results and activity guides will be posted on the new website and observations will be tracked in real time through, the official database platform for BioBlitz Canada 150. The website will feature a variety of other resources to encourage public participation throughout the year. Discoveries will be showcased to the Canadian public, wildlife managers, conservation organizations, educational institutions and government agencies to shape conservation decisions which will help to inform choices on such issues such as climate change and loss of biodiversity and ensure these wild species and spaces remain for generations to come. The project will create Canada's nature selfie for our 150th. For more information and to watch the project unfold visit About the Canadian Wildlife Federation: The Canadian Wildlife Federation is dedicated to fostering awareness and appreciation of our natural world. By spreading knowledge of human impacts on the environment, sponsoring research, promoting the sustainable use of natural resources, recommending legislative changes and co-operating with like-minded partners, CWF encourages a future in which Canadians can live in harmony with nature. Visit for more information. About BioBlitz Canada: BioBlitz Canada is a national partnership of leading conservation, education and research organizations with the goal to document Canada's biodiversity by connecting the public with nature in a scientist-led participatory survey of life from sea to sea to sea, and make sure this important information can be useful to current and future science, with open-source access to all. Its vision is to help Canadians learn about and connect with nature, be it in one's own backyard or the most important ecological sites in Canada. Alliance of Natural History Museums of Canada, Biodiversity Institute of Ontario, Biological Survey of Canada, Birds Studies Canada, Canadian Museum of Nature, Canadian Wildlife Service (Environment and Climate Change Canada), iNaturalist Canada, Nature Canada, Nature Conservancy of Canada, NatureServe Canada, New Brunswick Museum, Parks Canada, RARE Charitable Research Reserve, Royal Ontario Museum, Royal Saskatchewan Museum, Stanley Park Ecology Society, Toronto Zoo, Vancouver Aquarium and other organizations. About iNaturalist Canada: Launched in 2015, iNaturalist Canada is a virtual place where Canadians can record and share what they see in nature, interact with other nature watchers, and learn about Canada's wildlife. The app is run by the Canadian Wildlife Federation (CWF) and the Royal Ontario Museum (ROM) in collaboration with and the California Academy of Sciences. Parks Canada, NatureServe Canada and CWF's Hinterland Who's Who have been key partners in the development of iNaturalist Canada and will continue to play a role in the program.

Vanderwolf K.J.,New Brunswick Museum | Vanderwolf K.J.,K2M | Malloch D.,New Brunswick Museum | Mcalpine D.F.,New Brunswick Museum | Forbes G.J.,University of New Brunswick
International Journal of Speleology | Year: 2013

We provide a review of fungi, yeasts, and slime molds that have been found in natural solution caves and mines worldwide. Such habitats provide frequent roost sites for bats, and in eastern North America the environmental conditions that support white-nose syndrome, a lethal fungal disease currently devastating bat populations. A list of 1029 species of fungi, slime moulds, and yeasts in 518 genera have been documented from caves and mines worldwide in 225 articles. Ascomycota dominate the cave environment. Most research has been conducted in temperate climates, especially in Europe. A mean of 17.9±24.4SD fungal species are reported per study. Questions remain about the origin and ecological roles of fungi in caves, and which, if any, are cave-specialists. In the northern hemisphere, caves are generally characterized by relatively stable, low temperatures and a lack of organic substrates. This environment favors communities of oligotrophic, psychrotolerant fungi. Data that may help explain how cave environmental features and faunas influence the introduction and transmission of cave fungi remains scant.

Falcon-Lang H.J.,Royal Holloway, University of London | Gibling M.R.,Dalhousie University | Benton M.J.,University of Bristol | Miller R.F.,New Brunswick Museum | And 2 more authors.
Palaeogeography, Palaeoclimatology, Palaeoecology | Year: 2010

Newly discovered tetrapod trackways are reported from eight sites in the Lower Pennsylvanian Tynemouth Creek Formation of southern New Brunswick, Canada. By far the most abundant and well-preserved tracks comprise pentadactyl footprints of medium size (32-53 mm long) with slender digits and a narrow splay (mostly < 55°). Digit lengths typically approximate a phalangeal formula of 23453 (manus) and 23454 (pes), but this may vary due to extramorphology. These tracks are referred to Pseudobradypus and they are attributed to early amniotes. A second type of track (rare) comprises very small (5-8 mm long) tetradactyl manus, and incompletely preserved pedes. Referred to Batrachichnus, these are attributed to temnospondyl amphibians. A third type (also rare) comprises small pentadactyl pedes (20-25 mm long) showing stubby, widely splayed (152°) digits with a terminal bulge. Manus are probably pentadactyl (preservation incomplete) with a narrower digit splay. These footprints, classified as Baropezia, are attributed to anthracosaurs. Facies analysis at the most prolific site (179 footprints documented) suggests that the tetrapods lived amongst small alethopterid trees colonizing the abandoned floor of a seasonally active fixed-channel river and a similar dryland context is probable for the seven other sites. The dominance of amniotes in these dryland alluvial facies contrasts markedly with coeval wetland facies in the nearby Joggins Formation, where skeletal and trackway assemblages are amphibian-dominated. This may imply that amniotes were better adapted to seasonally dry settings and sheds new light on the community ecology of tetrapods during a key evolutionary phase. © 2010.

Bashforth A.R.,Dalhousie University | Bashforth A.R.,Copenhagen University | Bashforth A.R.,Smithsonian Institution | Cleal C.J.,National Museum Wales | And 3 more authors.
Review of Palaeobotany and Palynology | Year: 2014

The distribution and community ecology of Early Pennsylvanian (middle Bashkirian, Langsettian) vegetation on a seasonally dry fluvial megafan is reconstructed from plant assemblages in the Tynemouth Creek Formation of New Brunswick, Canada. The principal motif of the redbed-dominated succession consists of degraded interfluve surfaces overlain by coarsening-upward aggradational sequences, a pattern that expresses the approach of an active channel system over a part of the megafan where landscape stasis prevailed. Accrual under a (dry) subhumid tropical climate, typified by a protracted dry season and a short wet season with torrential rainfall, resulted in Vertisol-like paleosols, episodic discharge and sedimentation, shallow channels incised into partially indurated interfluve strata, and scattered 'waterhole' deposits. Plant fossils, including many upright stumps, are preferentially preserved above paleosol-mantled interfluve surfaces, recording the inundation of a vegetated landscape. Quantitative analysis of 41 census-sampled megafloral assemblages collected in facies context indicates that a cordaitalean-rich flora dominated the dryland ecosystem. Less common was a wetland flora typical of tropical lowlands at coeval localities, comprising medullosalean pteridosperms and calamitaleans with rare ferns and lycopsids. 'Enigmatic dryland' plants, taxa of ambiguous affinity including Megalopteris, Pseudadiantites, and Palaeopteridium, were rare but surprisingly diverse. The taphonomic and sedimentologic context of fossiliferous horizons indicates that low-diversity, old-growth stands of gigantic cordaitaleans blanketed distal interfluves and inactive parts of the megafan, environs marked by limited deposition and extended paleosol development. Small patches of the pteridosperm-dominated wetland flora were interspersed within the dense cordaitalean forest, restricted to landforms that acted as waterholes during the dry season, such as perennial lakes, stagnant ponds, and seasonally active interfluve channels. In contrast, cordaitaleans and wetland plants formed mixed communities in disturbance-prone proximal interfluves and fluvial tracts, where more flooding and sedimentation resulted in less moisture-stressed conditions and a wider range of habitable landforms. Dense calamitalean groves persisted alongside fluvial channels, and an array of wetland plants occupied seasonally active abandoned channels that retained water throughout the year (waterholes). Rare 'enigmatic dryland' species were more prevalent in flood-prone fluvial tracts, and were dispersed within cordaitalean-dominated and wetland communities rather than forming discrete, compositionally unique patches. Although frequently characterized as 'extrabasinal' or 'upland' elements, this study confirms that these unusual plants occupied Pennsylvanian tropical lowlands during episodes of climatic drying. © 2013 Elsevier B.V.

Recent records for the Ocean Pout, Zoarces americanus (collected 11 February 2011), and the Ocean Sunfish, Mola mola (photograph taken 24 June 2012), in the lower Saint John River system, New Brunswick, add to the list of marine fishes reported from this oceanographically unique estuary system. A total of 62 species of strictly freshwater, anadromous, catadromous, and marine fishes have now been recorded in the Saint John River system, with 49 of these in the Saint John River sensu stricto. The Acadian Redfish, Sebastes faciatus, a species assessed as threatened by the Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada, appears to be among these. While strictly marine fishes may contribute relatively little to the over-all biomass of fishes in the Saint John River system, marine species account for 30.6% of the biodiversity of fishes in the river to date. This suggests that marine fishes may be a more significant component of the ichthyofauna of the lower Saint John River system than is generally recognized.

The introduced European slug Deroceras invadens Reise, Hutchinson, Schunack & Schlitt, 2011 is here reported from St. John's, Newfoundland. This new record is the first from the island of Newfoundland, the Canadian province of Newfoundland and Labrador, and from Atlantic Canada. It is the first verified record for this species living outside of greenhouses in eastern Canada. © 2014 Check List and Authors.

The minute land snail, Carychium minimum Müller, 1774 is reported from New Brunswick, Canada. This new record further adds additional data to support the supposition that this introduced, European species is probably more widespread over temperate North America than currently known. © 2015 Check List and Authors.

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