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The aim of this study was to estimate long-term changes in the winter feeding pattern of red foxes Vulpes vulpes and in their predation on brown hares Lepus europaeus in relation to the decreasing abundance of hares in western Poland in 1965/1966-2006/2007. The frequencies of occurrence in the stomachs of culled foxes (N = 726) were used as indices of prey capture rates. The average autumn density of brown hares in the study area decreased from 48 individuals/km2 at the turn of the 1960s and 1970s to seven individuals/km2 in 1999-2006. Hares and small rodents were the main food classes of foxes in western Poland at the turn of the 1960s and 1970s; however, the occurrence of hares in the fox diet subsequently decreased, and they were replaced by livestock carrion. The relationship between the occurrence frequency of hares in the fox diet and the hare density was best described by sigmoid equation. It indicates that the red fox showed a type III functional response to long-term changes in hare abundance. When predation rate index was estimated on the basis of functional response, the potential fox predation was density-dependent at low to intermediate hare densities (<25 individuals/km2). This finding suggests that the increase in the number of low-density hare populations may require intensive management measures, e.g. simultaneous use of fox control and habitat improvement. © 2013 Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg.

In my opinion, there is nothing more exciting happening in science and technology right now than the journey to Mars. Experts at NASA and beyond are working on finding solutions to every possible challenge that humans will face both traveling to and surviving on the red planet. One of the many issues is how to grow food. A PhD student at the University of Colorado Boulder is one of the winners of the Lemelson-MIT Prize for her invention that tackles that issue. Heather Hava has developed three pieces of technology that would help provide fresh produce for astronauts. The first is called SmartPot (SPOT) and it's a smart growth chamber that semi-autonomously grows food. The compact chamber would serve as a microclimate for a particular plant, with temperature, humidity, lighting and ventilation all perfectly programmed. The bottom of the chamber is a water reservoir containing water and all of the nutrients needed for the plant. The water is pumped into the chamber where it drips onto the plants roots and eventually trickles back down to the reservoir. The chamber has a screen where the plant's health data is displayed and that information is also sent back to an Earth-based team that can remotely make adjustments to the chamber. The SPOTs can send messages when they need care like more water in the reservoir. Those alerts are sent via a smartphone app to the astronauts and the remote crew. The small size of the chambers means that several of them containing various crops could be used onboard a spacecraft and in a space habitat on another planet. Another piece of Hava's invention is a software system called AgQ. This platform analyzes data from the SPOT sensors and from physiological sensors placed on the astronauts to monitor, predict and send alerts about health issues concerning the crops and the humans working with them. The system helps the teams in space and on Earth correct any problems with suggestions for how to maximize crop yield or prevent health issues in the astronauts. The last part of the inventions is a robotic gardener that could care for the plants in the SPOT chambers. Hava developed a prototype with NASA's X-Hab team for a Remotely Operated Gardening Rover (ROGR) that could be remotely controlled to move around the spacecraft or habitat to monitor and harvest the plants. ROGR has cameras that allow the remote operators to inspect the crops to see if they're ready for picking. If so, the ROGR's arm can be used to harvest the food and move it to a food prep area. This trio of inventions won Hava $15,000. She will soon test the technology at one of the Earth-based Mars research habitats like Antarctica or the Mars Desert Research Station where people carry out similar tasks with the same restrictions that they would have on Mars. She and her research team are particularly interested to see how the SPOT plants affect nutrition, stress levels, cognitive performance and the general well-being of the caretakers.

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Site: phys.org

The largest survey of its kind in the southern hemisphere examined 61 species, including 370 inidvidual birds from eastern Australia. Dr Kathy Townsend from the School of Biomedical Sciences and the Moreton Bay Research Station said 30 per cent of species investigated had ingested marine debris. "How the birds feed effects the type of debris they ingest, along with their habitat," Dr Townsend said. "For example, pursuit-diving species such as shags and cormorants ingested things like fishing hooks and sinkers, while surface-feeders such as albatross and short-tailed shearwaters ingested buoyant plastics and balloons. "The study showed that marine birds were highly selective of the physical characteristics, types and colours of debris they ingest." Dr Townsend said that for the short-tailed shearwater their unorthodox diet was likely a case of mistaken identity. "These birds feed extensively on red arrow squid and they were found to particularly favour red and orange balloons which may look similar when they are foraging." Lead author Lauren Roman, now with the Institute for Marine and Antarctic Studies in Tasmania, conducted research as part of her UQ Honours thesis. Ms Roman said species which ingested debris included the near-threatened Buller's albatross (Thalassarche bulleri) and shy albatross (Thalassarche cauta). The vulnerable Westland petrel (Procellaria westlandica) and Gould's petrel (Pterodroma leucoptera) were also found to feed on rubbish. Ms Roman said the birds investigated in the study were collected dead by citizen scientists and wildlife care groups across eastern Australia and the contents of their stomach examined during necropsies. "Pollution of the world's oceans is having direct impacts on marine birds but the extent is yet to be fully investigated in Australia," she said. Australian Seabird Rescue, Pelican and Seabird Rescue, Currumbin Wildlife Hospital, RSPCA Wacol Wildlife Hospital, the Queensland Department of Environment and Heritage Protection, Australia Zoo Wildlife Hospital and Queensland Museum all contributed to the survey. The study has been published in PloS One. More information: Anthropogenic Debris Ingestion by Avifauna in Eastern Australia. dx.doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0158343

Rising temperatures can create stressful and possibly lethal stream habitat for native trout. To help understand the interactive effects of climate warming and livestock grazing on water temperature, researchers from the Pacific Southwest Research Station (PSW) and University of California, Berkeley, conducted a six-year study documenting high elevation water temperatures in areas of the Golden Trout Wilderness. The wilderness area is located within the Sequoia and Inyo national forests in California and was designated Wilderness primarily to protect the native California golden trout, the state's official fish. To understand the impact of land use on water temperature, researchers measured streamside vegetation and monitored water temperature in three meadow streams where livestock had three different types of stream access between 2008 and 2013. Key findings include: In the study, researchers found that land use can interact with climate change to intensify warming in high elevation meadow streams, and protecting and restoring streamside vegetation can help keep streams cool for the California golden trout. "Our study clearly shows the role of streamside vegetation in maintaining low stream temperatures," said Kathleen Matthews, a PSW research scientist and co-author of the study. "Enhancing and protecting streamside vegetation may ensure that streams have the resiliency to withstand future climate warming that can lead to stressful and possibly lethal stream temperatures for golden trout." The paper, "Mediating Water Temperature Increases Due to Livestock and Global Change in High Elevation Meadow Streams of the Golden Trout Wilderness," was released in the journal PLOS One.

A bush plane buzzed through the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge in Alaska and landed on a river bank, leaving environmental photographer Gary Braasch and his then-13-year-old son, Cedar, to try to tell a story. The pair planned to photograph the diverse wildlife — caribou, polar bears, gray wolves — to show how oil drilling could impact the animals’ habitat. For Cedar Braasch, it was a chance to see his father at work — and to understand the passion and plight he had dedicated a lifetime to pursuing. “It was the first time my dad welcomed me into his world,” Cedar Braasch, now 28, told The Washington Post. “During that time, we really had a chance to get to know each other.” “I found out he was a conservationist more than anything else. He wanted to pass on the gift of wildlife — real wildlife — to the world.” Gary Braasch never stopped photographing the natural world and had recently traveled to northeastern Australia to document the impacts of climate change on the Great Barrier Reef. But he died Monday while snorkeling near the Lizard Island Research Station, according to the Australian Museum, which runs the research station. Museum officials said in a statement that Braasch, from Portland, Ore., was found “floating face down in the water.” Attempts to resuscitate him were not successful. His death was not considered suspicious, police told the Brisbane Times. “He was an amazing person who influenced so many people’s lives, including my own,” Cedar Braasch wrote on Facebook. “I’m so blessed to have had him as my dad.” The Smithsonian’s Siobhan Starrs said she worked with the photographer on the “Forces of Change” series at the National Museum of Natural History. “Gary worked to document the often invisible nature of our changing planet through one of the most visceral media available to us — photography,” she told The Post in a statement. “The photographs he provided to the Forces of Change exhibition series brought to life in a tangible way the ongoing changes in remote Arctic landscapes, the retreat of Earth’s glaciers, and the impacts of environmental change felt by local peoples, wildlife, and plants around the world. “He was a master craftsman in landscape and environmental photography and he will be missed.” In 2009, Braasch published a book “Earth Under Fire: How Global Warming Is Changing the World,” which documented the impact of climate change. “Pictures are not science,” he wrote. “They can, however, provide direct evidence that global warming is happening now, all over the world.” Braasch told The Post at the time that the project evolved from talking to scientists about the changes they were seeing in the environment. “I didn’t see many photographs about what was really happening about climate change,” he said. “Using money from his other environmental photography assignments, he traveled the world with different scientific teams, serving as a sort of embedded reporter and witness to climate change field research.” Nicky Sundt, director for climate science and policy integration at World Wildlife Fund, described Braasch as a “longtime friend and colleague” who was committed to achieving change. “Gary provided a steady stream of images, some of which are truly iconic,” Sundt wrote Monday on Facebook. “I am deeply grateful for all Gary contributed during his lifetime, and for having had the privilege of sharing part of that journey with him.” Braasch, who was in his 70s, got his start in journalism, snapping photos to illustrate his nature articles. But he soon realized “editors were more interested in the pictures than the words,” he told Nikon when he was named a “Legend Behind the Lens” recipient. In 1980, an earthquake angered Mount St. Helens and the volcano soon exploded — spewing lava and sending a mushroom cloud filled with ash into the air. In that moment, Braasch said he realized that “as a journalist and someone who loved nature, I should be reporting on nature rather than just making beautiful pictures,” he told Nikon. Cedar Braasch, his son, called it his father’s “big break” in his photography. He said his father was among the first to step on the mountain after the eruption. “That’s when he started his career in environmental photography,” he said. Braasch went on to illustrate many significant stories through his pictures. For weeks, he lived in a tropical tree in Costa Rica to capture the “the rich diversity of a single place, at one moment, as seen by one person,” according to his biography. He spent time snapping photos in an alligator hole in the Florida Everglades. He froze the first images showing Shell’s Arctic oil rig Kulluk prepare to drill down in the Beaufort Sea, according to the New York Times. “A lot of nature pictures inspire people to be more interested in nature,” he told Nikon. “I try to bring people to the significance of an issue. “It’s very common that I make and get published pictures that are of environmental destruction rather than beauty, and these pictures carry a different kind of emotional weight than a pretty picture of the environment. Making a picture that shows scientists or researchers doing something adds another element. The picture says, okay, something’s happening here to preserve or restore this place. This person is doing something. And people are drawn into reading the caption and the story and learning more.” Many who knew Braasch said environmental photography was more than a career to him — it was a responsibility. Cedar Braasch said his father dedicated his life to protecting the environment and died trying to bring attention to it. “We think our lives are so important, but there’s a whole other world out there whether we witness it or not. My dad was willing to witness it,” he said, adding: I hope people are inspired by my dad. Cedar Braasch said he is planning to take over his father’s nonprofit, World View of Global Warming, to do his part to keep his legacy alive. He said he wants to travel to the sites his father visited bringing attention to climate change and scatter his father’s ashes. “I want to fully understand my father,” he said. “I can’t touch my dad right now so I’m going to the places he has touched.” China vowed to peak emissions by 2030. It could be way ahead of schedule Greenland’s melting is ‘feeding on itself,’ scientists say For more, you can sign up for our weekly newsletter here, and follow us on Twitter here.

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