News Article | May 1, 2017
"As the small Cessna airplane flies above Tucson, its passengers see the rugged, low-lying Tortolita Mountains to the east, followed by the huge green blocks of cotton fields. Over to the west, the bright blue Central Arizona Project canal slices through the desert. Farther south rise the untrammeled desert mountains of Saguaro National Park-West. This aerial view showcases both the conservation successes and failures in the Sonoran Desert surrounding Tucson, whose population totals about 1 million. In the past 17 years, Pima County has spent nearly $200 million, raised through voter-approved bond issues, to preserve more than 200,000 acres of deserts, mountain parks, riparian areas and grasslands. Though red-tile roofs dominate much of the land, which is surrounded by five publicly owned mountain ranges, you can still see plenty of open desert dotted with dark green mesquite and palo verde and gray-green cactus. The county’s preservation efforts have also put it in the cattle business. The protected lands include 140,000 acres on which the county controls grazing leases. Ranchers who once feared that their remote mesquite flats and grasslands would be gobbled up by speculators still ply their trade, albeit with much-reduced cattle numbers."
News Article | November 15, 2016
New Book Release from Fireship Press - "A Small Saving Grace" - a Contemporary Novel of Suspense with Wry Sensibilities Life is in turmoil, yet against the odds, Andy, and those who love her, make slow, but steady progress. All the while, Andys attacker is stalking the entire household, searching for the right opportunity to kill his only living witness before she regains her ability to communicate. Tucson, AZ, November 15, 2016 --( Life is in turmoil, yet against the odds, Andy, and those who love her, make slow, but steady progress. All the while, Andy’s attacker is stalking the entire household, searching for the right opportunity to kill his only living witness before she regains her ability to communicate. "A Small Saving Grace" is full of suspense, but at its heart, this is a story of love, resilience, perseverance and healing. “G. Davies Jandrey’s, A Small Saving Grace, tackles a family in crisis with brutal honesty and emotional depth. Peppered with quirky humor and a gallery of characters you won’t soon forget, Jandrey dishes up a meaty stew.” -Gerry Hernbrode, author of Provincial Justice About the Author G. Davies Jandrey, whose friends call her Gayle, is a retired educator, a writer of fiction and a poet. For five seasons she worked as a fire lookout in Saguaro National Park and Chiricahua National Monument. It was in these “sky islands” that she first learned to love the richness and diversity of southern Arizona. This double life, one spent teaching teens, the other focused on natural history, informs both her poetry and prose. She makes her home with her husband, Fritz, in the Tucson Mountains. Fireship Press P.O. Box 68412 Tucson, AZ 85737 520-360-6228 firstname.lastname@example.org http://www.fireshippress.com Fiction: General Trade paperback: 978-1-61179-371-0 / $17.95 ePub & Mobi: 978-1-61179-372-7 / $6.95 Available through: Amazon, Barnes and Noble, iBooks and Kobo Visit http://www.fireshippress.com/fireship_authors/g-davies-jan.html for more details. Tucson, AZ, November 15, 2016 --( PR.com )-- Set in Tucson, Arizona, "A Small Saving Grace" is a tale of suspense with wry sensibilities, offbeat characters and just enough menace to make the reader wince and say, “No, don’t go there.”Life is in turmoil, yet against the odds, Andy, and those who love her, make slow, but steady progress. All the while, Andy’s attacker is stalking the entire household, searching for the right opportunity to kill his only living witness before she regains her ability to communicate."A Small Saving Grace" is full of suspense, but at its heart, this is a story of love, resilience, perseverance and healing.“G. Davies Jandrey’s, A Small Saving Grace, tackles a family in crisis with brutal honesty and emotional depth. Peppered with quirky humor and a gallery of characters you won’t soon forget, Jandrey dishes up a meaty stew.” -Gerry Hernbrode, author of Provincial JusticeAbout the AuthorG. Davies Jandrey, whose friends call her Gayle, is a retired educator, a writer of fiction and a poet. For five seasons she worked as a fire lookout in Saguaro National Park and Chiricahua National Monument. It was in these “sky islands” that she first learned to love the richness and diversity of southern Arizona. This double life, one spent teaching teens, the other focused on natural history, informs both her poetry and prose. She makes her home with her husband, Fritz, in the Tucson Mountains.Fireship PressP.O. Box 68412Tucson, AZ email@example.com://www.fireshippress.comFiction: GeneralTrade paperback: 978-1-61179-371-0 / $17.95ePub & Mobi: 978-1-61179-372-7 / $6.95Available through: Amazon, Barnes and Noble, iBooks and KoboVisit http://www.fireshippress.com/fireship_authors/g-davies-jan.html for more details.
News Article | November 3, 2016
In this election season science and health have taken a backseat. Worse, presidential candidate Donald Trump dismissed climate change as a Chinese hoax. His opponent, Hillary Clinton, vowed to dig up what the government knows about UFOs. Science is hardly getting its due. Meanwhile in labs and institutions around the country, scientists are hard at work: inventing technologies to make guns safer, developing antibiotics to quell treatment-resistant infections and searching for more efficient forms of renewable, clean energy. This research addresses complex scientific and social issues that require thoughtful policy-making and debate. The country's next Congress and president will have much to consider. To that end, Scientific American corralled some of the key scientific issues that U.S. politicians should be paying attention to, but aren’t—from the threat of nuclear Armageddon to the ethics of medically assisted suicide. We spoke with top thinkers in each field—policy experts at universities, members of foundations and nonprofits, and the scientists themselves. What, our reporters asked, should government be doing to keep Americans healthy, safe and productive? To learn the answers, read on. We hope those who would be our leaders will do the same.—Emily Laber-Warren Tuberculosis. Gonorrhea. Pneumonia. All these infections were once readily cured but overuse of antibiotics has created “superbugs”—bacteria that are resistant to even last-resort medicines. Twenty-three thousand people die in the U.S. each year from antibiotic-resistant infections, and by 2050, experts estimate that rogue bacteria will kill more people than cancer. The United Nations recently held an unprecedented conference on how to combat superbugs. Here in the U.S. experts endorse a three-pronged approach: Congress should invest in drug development, ban the wanton feeding of antibiotics to cows and pigs, and attempt to reduce the number of patient infections. Hopefully, says Kathy Talkington, director of the Antibiotic Resistance Project at The Pew Charitable Trusts, “we can move something in the near future through Congress while the iron is hot.” Unlike medicines for heart disease or diabetes, a good antibiotic is usually used by patients for just a single occurrence of an illness, which makes pharmaceutical companies reluctant to pour money into developing new ones. Congress could help by funding some of the research as well as by enacting legislation that eases the economic burden of testing new antibiotics. Meanwhile 80 percent of all antibiotics sold in the U.S. are given to cattle and other food animals, so legislators like Rep. Louise Slaughter (D–N.Y.) are turning their attention to the farmyard. Antibiotics make animals grow faster, and poultry, beef and pork farmers include regular doses in their animals’ feed. Slaughter has proposed legislation that would prohibit the use of antibiotics in healthy animals. Experts say we should also try to prevent the spread of infections in the first place—by encouraging hand washing and safe cooking practices.—Elyssa Bernfeld In Flint, Mich., thousands of children live with brain damage because lead from aging pipes leached into their drinking water. More than 360,000 underground water reserves have been polluted by waste from industrial processes. Severe droughts in the western states threaten water supplies for some 43 million people. Of all the services Americans depend on, clean drinking water is the most precious. But crumbling infrastructure, contamination from fracking and farming, and climate change–related drought are depriving many Americans of this essential resource. Experts say Congress must take a range of actions—from helping cities identify toxins in their water systems to setting stricter limits for the dumping of industrial waste. “Drinking water is a basic human need,” says Erin Derrington, a Pacific Northwest–based environmental consultant who specializes in wetlands. “Without wise management—a goal that does not seem to be at the top of either the Republican or Democratic nominees’ agenda—we face real risks of degraded drinking water quality.” Experts say Congress should close a loophole in the Safe Drinking Water Act that allows energy companies to inject wastewater into the ground, where it contaminates underground water supplies that could be useful in the future. In addition, they say, the federal government needs to invest more than the $5.4 billion it spent in 2014 to help states replace old water mains and pipes—an investment that will pay off by preventing costly public health crises like the recent one in Flint.—Nicole Lewis When the automobile was introduced, it was a death trap. But in the 1950s universities began crash testing—research that ultimately led to safer cars, better driver education and speed limits—and that slashed vehicular fatalities by 90 percent. Now public health experts—including the American Medical Association, which put out a statement in June—want the government to take a similar approach to gun violence, which is responsible for more than 30,000 deaths a year. The question of whether to regulate guns has become polarized, quelling progress on reducing deaths. But scientific research could liberate the issue from politics. Instead of debating whether people should have guns, science can suggest ways to make people safer: For example, how to prevent accidents and suicides in the 22 percent of U.S. homes where there are guns—by understanding how to best keep loaded guns out of the hands of children and distraught people who might act impulsively. Everytown.org, a leading gun violence prevention organization, wants Congress to fund research into technology such as biometric gun locks and safeties that would make it impossible for anyone but a gun’s owner to fire it. “The truth is, whether you want gun rights or you support gun control, you should want these kinds of detailed academic, scientifically rigorous studies,” says Adam Winkler, a constitutional law expert at the University of California, Los Angeles. “That is what a public health approach takes.”—Stephanie Daniel U.S. scientists and engineers produced the defining technologies of the modern era: the car, the airplane, the atom bomb, the iPhone. But the nation is quickly losing its edge. Foreign-born scientists and engineers are filling key slots at universities and in private labs, in part because of a dearth of qualified Americans. Most experts trace the problem to the U.S. educational system. Our students rank far below other industrialized countries in math and science. The average American 15-year-old has difficulty solving an equation using pi. But there is a huge variation in how students fare depending on the state they live in; some Bible belt states shirk teaching evolution science or present it as a competing theory with religious creationism whereas states like New Hampshire offer excellent math and science instruction. The solution, policy experts say, is for the federal government to create uniform, up-to-date requirements for the science and math concepts students should know at each grade level, as is done in other countries. But recent attempts at implementing national curricular conformity such as the Common Core have met resistance. For now, experts say, the best approach is to suggest, not require. The Next Generation Science Standards, led by educators from nonprofits, philanthropies and state governments, are an attempt to codify a national baseline of math and science achievement. But so far only 18 states and the District of Columbia have signed on. The standards are optional but their authors hope that more state legislatures will sign them into law.—W. Harry Fortuna America’s national parks and forests are facing many challenges. In recent years legislators have stymied attempts to increase park funding and pushed for privatization of publicly owned lands. The National Park Service is some $11 billion behind on repairs and maintenance. Meanwhile, Arizona’s congressional representatives support new uranium mines on public land near the Grand Canyon—and legislators from other states have similar projects such as oil and gas development in the lands around Arches National Park in Utah. “There’s constant pressure to develop the land surrounding parks,” says Kristen Brengel, vice president of government affairs at the National Parks Conservation Association. But Pres. Barack Obama has taken steps to protect public lands. Earlier this year the U.S. Bureau of Land Management created a plan to protect Utah’s public landscapes from energy developers. The Department of the Interior also recently canceled an oil-and-gas lease that threatened wildlife-rich regions around Montana’s Glacier National Park. Meanwhile private groups are taking their own steps to protect the nation’s public lands. The nonprofit Trust for Public Land recently worked with a philanthropist to add 282 acres to Arizona’s Saguaro National Park. But whether the money comes from Congress or private pocketbooks, some advocates say it would be better spent readying parks for the impacts of climate change or fixing trails and roads at heavily-visited sites like Yellowstone. “We shouldn’t be expanding our parks. We should be maintaining them,” says Bonner Cohen, senior fellow at The National Center for Public Policy Research.—Samantha Lee Last year in Paris the U.S. was one of 191 countries to sign a global agreement to slash the emissions that fuel climate change. It was an historic moment, but the hard work is yet to come: figuring out how to reduce the country’s greenhouse gases to at least 26 percent below 2005 levels within the next nine years. Climate change has gotten little attention during this presidential election season. Although Democrat Hillary Clinton has called climate change an “urgent threat” and pledged to carry on Obama’s climate initiatives, GOP candidate Donald Trump has openly denied climate change and said he would withdraw the U.S. from the Paris agreement. Part of the Obama administration’s solution—dubbed the Clean Power Plan—would require power plants to limit their emissions, but it has been blocked both by the Republican-controlled Congress and the Supreme Court. Most policy experts agree that Obama’s power plan is the best tool to meet the nation’s emissions reduction target. If Democrats win the presidency and control of both houses of Congress, the Clean Power Plan might get new legs. Other solutions include taxing carbon or allowing companies to profit when they reduce emissions more than required, says Daniel Fiorino, director of the Center for Environmental Policy at American University. If Republicans remain in control, experts say, Congress might do better to focus on investing in renewable energy sources such as wind and solar power, an approach that might appeal to the GOP because it could stimulate the economy by adding new jobs.—Suzanna Masih Scientists are inching closer to the holy grail of genetic engineering—the ability to add or remove DNA from an organism to change specific traits. Genetic engineering, also known as gene editing, has been used for years to enhance agriculture and treat disease. But a new technology that harnesses the CRISPR–Cas9 gene–protein complex makes it possible to add and remove genes with unprecedented speed and precision, bringing designer babies and other sci-fi capabilities closer to reality. Scientists are testing whether gene editing can help treat diseases such as HIV and hemophilia. But CRISPR opens the door to editing for human enhancement—such as adding genes for bigger muscles or whiter teeth—possibilities that are “soon to be on the horizon,” says Fyodor Urnov, a geneticist at the University of California, Berkeley. There are as yet no laws regulating gene editing for enhancement. Bioethicist Jonathan Moreno of the University of Pennsylvania says that’s proper, because the technology is not yet developed, and “once you legislate, it’s very hard to unlegislate [sic].” For now experts are wrestling with the ethical implications of gene editing and making recommendations: In December a committee of the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine, comprising specialists in health, science and bioethics, will publish their recommendations on how to legislate as the technology develops.—Michael R. Murphy Nuclear war is no longer a two-player game, as it largely was during the cold war, with the U.S. and NATO facing off against the Soviet Union and Warsaw Pact. The geopolitical nuclear landscape has grown more fraught and complex than ever. China, India, Pakistan and Israel all have nuclear weapons. North Korea’s dictator is conducting missile tests with great fanfare. These new configurations multiply exponentially the rivalries and passions, global and regional, that could ignite a regional or global nuclear conflict. Experts are divided over how the U.S. should act to minimize the threat. Some say we should publicly embrace a “no first use” policy, solidifying our implicit vow never to be first to push the button. But Obama’s advisers maintain that any change of policy could upset the status quo—and hence the safest action is no action at all. Another issue is how to respond to a perceived nuclear attack. The current policy is “launch on warning,” meaning that we will fire as soon as we learn that another country has attacked us. This policy has led several times to near-catastrophe, when our warning systems were mistakenly tripped by a satellite, a faulty computer chip and even the moon. A safer doctrine, say experts including former Secretary of Defense William J. Perry, is to avoid mistakes by retaliating only after being struck. Once nukes have been launched against us, there’s nothing we can do to stop them. But we can strike back—even after being hit—using our fleet of nuclear subs and bombers. “We’re not going to change,” Perry says, “until people understand what those dangers are.”—Michael O’Brien Two years ago, a 29-year-old woman named Brittany Maynard who was dying of brain cancer decided to end her life. But she did not want to swallow a bunch of pills. She wanted to die safely and without pain, under a doctor’s supervision. That meant Maynard had to move from California to Oregon, one of the few states where medically assisted suicide was legal at the time. Maynard’s story made the cover of People magazine. Suddenly the “right to die” had become a national issue—a far cry from the 1990s, when physician Jack Kevorkian was nicknamed “Dr. Death” and convicted of murder for helping his dying patients end their lives. The U.S. Supreme Court ruled in 1997 that the right to medically assisted death is not constitutionally protected, leaving legislation up to the states. Assisted suicide is now legal in Montana, Vermont, Washington State and California as well as Oregon—and 20 other states and the District of Columbia are considering the move. But as right-to-die legislation gains traction, it is becoming as polarizing as the abortion debate, raising similar religious and ethical questions about an individual’s rights and who should have authority in matters of life and death.—Alyssa Pagano In 2013 the U.S. threw away more than 32.5 million tons of plastic waste, up from around 390,000 tons in 1960. Much of this plastic litter reaches rivers and makes its way to the sea. Plastic bags, balloons and six-pack rings pose known dangers to birds, sea turtles and other wildlife. But recent research suggests that once in the ocean, plastics degrade into microscopic particles that can be hazardous not only to animals and the environment but to humans as well. These so-called microplastics—particles smaller than one fifth of an inch—are ingested by fish, then by people if they eat the affected seafood. A new study by researchers at Plymouth University in England found that a single washing machine cycle can release hundreds of thousands of microplastic particles from fleece and other synthetic fabrics. The U.N. has singled out microplastics for their potential to cause infertility and other health issues. One approach to the problem has been to institute bans or taxes on plastic shopping bags, but only three of 77 such proposals have passed in recent years, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures. Similar efforts are being made to ban so-called microbeads—tiny plastics manufactured for use in soaps and cosmetics. Conservation groups also organize beach and road cleanups, to prevent plastics from lingering in the environment.—Michael H. Wilson Obesity now affects more than a third of American adults. It’s associated with myriad diseases—the treatment of which costs over $147 billion a year. And almost one in five children are now obese, detracting from their self-esteem, emotional well-being and health. “If we continue on this course, this generation of children could be the first in U.S. history to live shorter, less healthy lives than their parents,” Donald Schwarz, vice president, Program, of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, the nation’s largest public health philanthropy, said during a telephone press conference. Experts say there is no single way to reduce obesity, because so many factors can impact weight—income, education, access to healthful food, physical activity. This is confounded by the fact that weight is not necessarily an indicator of overall health. States and even city governments have introduced policies aimed at changing people’s exercise and eating habits and fighting the hold fast food has on the U.S. diet. For example, the cities of Philadelphia and Berkeley, Calif., recently instituted a tax on sugary sodas—something that New York City tried and failed to do several years ago. Critics reject such programs as government overreach, calling them behavior taxes, but a similar program in Mexico has curbed soda consumption substantially. “We know it works,” says spokesperson David Goldberg of Healthy Food America, a science-based nonprofit.—Kazi Awal Hurricane Matthew, which devastated Haiti and deluged huge swaths of North Carolina earlier this month, was the latest in a barrage of catastrophic storms to hit U.S. coastlines in recent years. With storms and flooding along the coasts intensifying due to climate change, experts say it is time for a paradigm shift in how we think about our coasts, home to nearly 40 percent of the U.S. population. “I wouldn’t put my money in investing in real estate at the coast, certainly not in the long term,” says Jeff Williams, a coastal marine geologist and scientist emeritus at the U.S. Geological Survey. The most sensible strategy, however difficult to stomach, is for the government to buy damaged property so that it never gets built on again, and people need to move inland. “Basically coastal communities in this country are staring down the loaded gun of climate change,” says Shiva Polefka, an ocean policy analyst with the liberal-leaning think tank, the Center for American Progress. “Due to sea level rise, we’re going to have to pull back from the coast.” Instead, the approach that towns and cities have been taking, with financial support from the federal government, has been to build walls around their shorelines or dump tons of sand on eroding beaches. Experts say Congress should reallocate money into large-scale programs to buy property from coastal homeowners. Buyout programs do exist, but they are tiny. After Hurricane Sandy in 2012, for example, New York City helped rebuild more than 10,000 houses, but bought fewer than a thousand.—Meaghan Lee Callaghan The next president will inherit a national patchwork of renewable energy policies. Only 30 states mandate renewable energy. Top on the list are Maine and Idaho, which derive 100 percent of their energy from renewable sources such as biomass and hydropower. But Pennsylvania produces a paltry 4 percent of its energy from renewables. And the states that have set no requirements lag even further behind. Wyoming, for instance, generates less than 1 percent of its energy from renewables. The U.S. has around 4 percent of the world’s population but emits some 25 percent of global CO , the main driver of climate change. Yet only about 13 percent of the nation’s electricity comes from renewable sources like wind, solar, hydropower and biomass. Many believe it is high time for Congress to create a national standard. The Union of Concerned Scientists, a nonprofit advocacy group, points out that half of U.S. wind production between 2001 and 2006 was the result of state energy standards. Others contend that, given the huge differences in natural resources around the country, it makes sense for states to retain flexibility on how to meet their energy needs. A Great Plains state like Iowa, for example, may be well situated to harness energy from windmills whereas sunny Arizona would do better to rely on solar. Most attempts at national renewable energy policy take this geographic variability into account, allowing states to develop individualized portfolios while adhering to strict standards that increase over time. Standards aside, experts say the federal government needs to modernize the energy grid. Renewable energy is not evenly distributed across the country. For example, lots of wind is collected in the western plains, and most solar energy is generated in the Southwest, but the areas with highest energy demand are on the coasts. Territorial battles among the states hold up necessary permits, leading to delays in connecting the isolated segments of the energy grid, according to policy expert Jules Kortenhorst, CEO of the Rocky Mountain Institute, a nonprofit research center in Colorado. Kortenhorst suggests that a future president could institute a “federal override” that would allow the government to step in and force the integration of various regional grids, as it currently does with pipelines.—Roshan Abraham The reporters are students in Emily Laber-Warren's science journalism class at the C.U.N.Y. Graduate School of Journalism.
News Article | February 5, 2016
A newly discovered tarantula sports a black coat that is as dark and brooding as its celebrity namesake: the renowned singer Johnny Cash. Tarantulas, the hairy spiders that stole movie scenes and won hearts in popular films like "Home Alone," "Raiders of the Lost Ark," and "Dr. No," take a starring role in a new study that reorganizes their group, reclassifying the majority of 55 known tarantula species and adding 14 new ones, including the creepy-crawly named for Cash. The study researchers evaluated close to 3,000 tarantulas from across the American Southwest. Scientists integrated tarantula DNA into the study alongside anatomy, geography and behavior gleaned from spiders that were gathered by the researchers, contributed by "citizen-scientists" and borrowed from museum collections, to deliver the most comprehensive overview of tarantulas ever assembled, according to the new study, published online Feb. 4 in the journal ZooKeys. [Tarantula Photos: Gallery of 'Eight-Legged Teddy Bears'] Even though tarantulas as a group are generally well known and easily recognized by the public from their appearances in popular culture, far less was known to science about their distribution, diversity and how they lived in the wild, according to the study's lead author, Chris Hamilton. Hamilton, an arachnologist and graduate student at Auburn University's Department of Biological Sciences, told Live Science that "not much behavioral or ecological work has been done to understand these species and the settings they live in," he said. So he set out to do something about that. While tarantulas can vary greatly in size — from a leg span measuring about 6 inches (15 centimeters) long to tiny individuals able to fit comfortably on the face of a U.S. quarter — tarantula species generally don't vary much in their anatomical features. For tarantula taxonomists of the past, this posed a frustrating challenge, resulting in classifications that divided tarantulas into many more species than the group required, Hamilton found. "There was huge murkiness as to what was a species," Hamilton told Live Science. For more than 10 years, Hamilton and his colleagues gathered and analyzed tarantulas from a range of habitats in the southwestern United States. Brent Hendrixson, study co-author and chairman of the Department of Biology at Millsaps College in Mississippi, set up a Web page that allowed citizen-scientists to send the researchers hundreds of specimens from locations across the U.S., including some where tarantulas had never been collected before, Hamilton said. Tarantulas stored in museum collections proved to be useful, too. The Auburn University Museum of Natural History (AUMNH) houses a tarantula collection containing more than 2,300 specimens, which played an important part in the study, according to Jason Bond, the study's senior author and AUMNH director. Spanning more than 50 years of collecting, the AUMNH tarantulas provided critical data on variations between tarantula populations and biogeography, "essential elements to understanding how diversity of life on our planet has evolved and become spatially distributed," Bond told Live Science in an email. [Goliath Birdeater: Images of a Colossal Spider] When the researchers' work was done, the tarantula group that originally contained 55 species had been pared to 15, with the 14 new species bringing the grand total to 29, they reported in the study. One of the new spider species, Aphonopelma johnnycashi, had a particularly well-known namesake — famed singer and songwriter Johnny Cash. The spider was abundant near Folsom State Prison in California, which had inspired Cash's song "Folsom Prison Blues" and where he performed and recorded a live album in 1968. And the tarantula's dark coloration reminded Hamilton of Cash's preference for head-to-toe black attire, which had earned Cash the nickname, "The Man in Black." But with 14 new spiders, the scientists had to come up with a lot more names, and A. johnnycashi was the only one inspired by a celebrity. "We tried to tie them into something about the species," Hamilton told Live Science. Some were named in reference to where they were found, like A. saguaro (Saguaro National Park) and A. superstitionense (the Superstition Mountains). Hamilton named A. moellendorfii to commemorate mentor, educator and fellow arachnologist Dave Moellendorf, who introduced Hamilton to tarantula distribution in Texas and supported his early interest in the spider group. And A. xwalxwal (pronounced “hwal-hwal") got its name from the word for "a type of small spider" in the language of Cahuilla Native Americans. "As a Native American myself — a member of the Chickasaw Nation of Oklahoma — I do try to look for ways to tie Native Americans into new species, if possible," Hamilton said. But finding new species isn't just about scoring naming rights, Hamilton said. "We do it because we love what we do. We really love the organisms, and we want to know what's here on Earth and what their relationships are," he said. And if naming a new species after a celebrity brings some of that excitement about biodiversity and evolution to a wider audience, then everybody wins. "It's a really important mechanism for reaching out to the public and getting them involved," Hamilton said. "We want the public to love these new species, too." Follow Mindy Weisberger on Twitter and Google+. Follow us @livescience, Facebook & Google+. Original article on Live Science. 10 Things You Didn't Know About Spiders Copyright 2016 LiveScience, a Purch company. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.
News Article | November 11, 2015
Back in 2012, the Grand Canyon National Park began prohibiting the sale of bottled water, in an effort to reduce pollution and cut the costs of waste removal and recycling. Today, over 20 parks have followed suit, and instead provide visitors with free water refilling stations. According to the National Parks Service, using the water stations also reduces the greenhouse gas emissions associated with the production, filling, transportation and recycling of disposable plastic bottles. But the bottled water industry is pushing back, with a small last-minute amendment to a House spending bill. The amendment, introduced by Representative Keith Rothfus, prohibits parks from eliminating “the sale in National Parks of water in disposable plastic bottles.” The Washington Post reports that the industry has spent $510,000 to lobby congress to end the sales bans. Currently, parks that ban the sale of bottled water on their grounds do not prohibit visitors from bringing disposable water bottles into the park. And at many national parks, reusable water bottles are for sale to visitors who might forget to bring their own. The International Bottled Water Association (IBWA), whose members include Danone, Absopure, Grand Springs, Glacier Springs, Evian and about 200 others, argues that banning water sales encourages the consumption of less healthy beverages such as soda. The industry group “applauds” the amendment. “These bans, whether in national parks or college campuses, are misguided attempts to deal with a waste management issue that would be better addressed through efforts to improve recycling rates of all packaged drinks,” said Chris Hogan, IBWA Vice President of Communications, in a press release. Beverage companies have a long history of promoting recycling instead of addressing the problems associated with single-use packaging. Refilling a reusable bottle uses a fraction of the resources compared with recycling many disposable plastic bottles. If banning bottled water does make drinking soda seem like a better option, then perhaps more parks should follow the lead of Saguaro National Park in Arizona by eliminating the sale of both soda and bottled water.
Springer A.C.,Saguaro National Park |
Swann D.E.,Saguaro National Park |
Crimmins M.A.,Water and Environmental Science
Journal of Arid Environments | Year: 2015
Severe freeze events have been identified as a primary limiting factor for the saguaro cactus at high elevations in the southwestern United States. With the observed increase in minimum temperatures, it may be expected that saguaros will expand their elevational range. To better understand the factors influencing potential range expansion, we developed a logistic regression model to help explain saguaro presence along its current uppermost elevation. We find that the occurrence of fire decreases the odds of saguaro presence by 78 percent. While less frequent freeze events could allow saguaros to push their current elevational limit, our model suggests that increased fire activity related to the establishment and spread of invasive species could inhibit this range expansion. © 2015.
Ramos-Lara N.,University of Arizona |
Koprowski J.L.,University of Arizona |
Swann D.E.,Saguaro National Park
Journal of Mammalogy | Year: 2013
Many animals depend on nests for their survival and reproduction, with some species considered obligate tree cavity-nesters. Mearns's squirrel (Tamiasciurus mearnsi) is a species endemic to the Sierra de San Pedro Mártir, Baja California, Mexico, that relies on tree cavities for nesting. Federally listed as threatened in Mexico, and as endangered by the International Union for Conservation of Nature, the ecology of this southernmost Tamiasciurus is poorly known. The aim of this study was to examine the nesting requirements of Mearns's squirrels. We used telemetry to locate the nests and 10-m-radius circular plots to compare habitat characteristics between nest sites and random sites, nest sites of males and females, and nest sites of breeding and nonbreeding females. Nest tree species, nest tree condition, nest tree size (diameter at breast height), canopy cover, and occurrence of white firs (Abies concolor) are important characteristics for nesting. Nest sites of males did not differ from those of females except for nest tree condition. Females apparently do not have specific nesting requirements for rearing young. Unlike other congeners that also build leaf nests and underground burrows for nesting, large trees and snags that facilitate cavity formation are critical for the conservation of this species. © 2013 American Society of Mammalogists.
Wallace J.E.,University of Arizona |
Steidl R.J.,University of Arizona |
Swann D.E.,Saguaro National Park
Journal of Wildlife Management | Year: 2010
Many aquatic species in the arid southwestern United States are imperiled, persisting primarily in isolated, low-order streams that are increasingly vulnerable to stochastic disturbances. During 2003 and 2004, we surveyed 39 mountain canyons in southeastern Arizona, USA, for lowland leopard frogs (Rana yavapaiensis), a species that has declined in abundance and distribution across its range in the United States. We quantified habitat features at 2 spatial scales, canyon and pool, to identify features that distinguished sites inhabited by frogs from those uninhabited by frogs. Canyons inhabited by frogs had watersheds that averaged 8.1 km2 larger (SE 2.52), pools that averaged 37.8 m3 greater (9.30) in volume, gradients that averaged 4.1 (1.40) less steep, and locations that averaged 3.2 km closer (1.06) to the nearest valley stream than did uninhabited canyons. Plunge pools inhabited by frogs averaged 13.5 (5.66) more perimeter vegetation, 11.2 (5.34) more canopy cover, and 1.9 (0.60) more refuges than uninhabited pools. In general, canyons that provided more perennial water during dry summer months and plunge pools that provided more bank heterogeneity were more likely to be inhabited by frogs. Conservation of lowland leopard frogs and other aquatic species that inhabit xeric systems in the southwestern United States depends principally on maintaining riparian ecosystems that provide habitat for these species and the adjacent uplands that influence the structure and function of these systems. Therefore, both riparian areas and their adjacent uplands must be managed to maintain habitat for organisms that inhabit these rare and diverse ecosystems. © The Wildlife Society.
Zylstra E.R.,University of Arizona |
Steidl R.J.,University of Arizona |
Swann D.E.,Saguaro National Park
Journal of Wildlife Management | Year: 2010
Effective conservation requires strategies to monitor populations efficiently, which can be especially difficult for rare or elusive species where field surveys require high effort and considerable cost. Populations of many reptiles, including Sonoran desert tortoises (Gopherus agassizii), are challenging to monitor effectively because they are cryptic, they occur at low densities, and their activity is limited both seasonally and daily. We compared efficiency and statistical power of 2 survey methods appropriate for tortoises and other rare vertebrates, line-transect distance sampling and site occupancy. In 2005 and 2006 combined, we surveyed 120 1-km transects to estimate density and 40 3-ha plots 5 times each to estimate occupancy of Sonoran desert tortoises in 2 mountain ranges in southern Arizona, USA. For both mountain ranges combined, we estimated density to be 0.30 adult tortoises/ha (95 CI 0.170.43) and occupancy to be 0.72 (95 CI 0.560.89). For the sampling designs we evaluated, monitoring efforts based on occupancy were 836 more efficient than those based on density, when contrasting only survey effort, and 1730 more efficient when contrasting total effort (surveying, hiking to and from survey locations, and radiotracking). Occupancy had greater statistical power to detect annual declines in the proportion of area occupied than did distance sampling to detect annual declines in density. For example, we estimated that power to detect a 5 annual decline with 10 years of annual sampling was 0.92 (95 CI 0.750.98) for occupancy and 0.43 (95 CI 0.350.52) for distance sampling. Although all sampling methods have limitations, occupancy estimation offers a promising alternative for monitoring populations of rare vertebrates, including tortoises in the Sonoran Desert. © 2010 The Wildlife Society.
Zylstra E.R.,University of Arizona |
Steidl R.J.,University of Arizona |
Swann D.E.,Saguaro National Park |
Ratzlaff K.,Saguaro National Park
PLoS ONE | Year: 2015
Dynamics of many amphibian populations are governed by the distribution and availability of water. Therefore, understanding the hydrological mechanisms that explain spatial and temporal variation in occupancy and abundance will improve our ability to conserve and recover populations of vulnerable amphibians. We used 16 years of survey data from intermittent mountain streams in the Sonoran Desert to evaluate how availability of surface water affected survival and adult recruitment of a threatened amphibian, the lowland leopard frog (Lithobates yavapaiensis). Across the entire study period, monthly survival of adults ranged from 0.72 to 0.99 during summer and 0.59 to 0.94 during winter and increased with availability of surface water (Z = 7.66; P < 0.01). Recruitment of frogs into the adult age class occurred primarily during winter and ranged from 1.9 to 3.8 individuals/season/pool; like survival, recruitment increased with availability of surface water (Z = 3.67; P < 0.01). Although abundance of frogs varied across seasons and years, we found no evidence of a systematic trend during the 16-year study period. Given the strong influence of surface water on population dynamics of leopard frogs, conservation of many riparian obligates in this and similar arid regions likely depends critically on minimizing threats to structures and ecosystem processes that maintain surface waters. Understanding the influence of surface-water availability on riparian organisms is particularly important because climate change is likely to decrease precipitation and increase ambient temperatures in desert riparian systems, both of which have the potential to alter fundamentally the hydrology of these systems. © 2015, Public Library of Science. All rights reserved. This is an open access article, free of all copyright, and may be freely reproduced, distributed, transmitted, modified, built upon, or otherwise used by anyone for any lawful purpose. The work is made available under the Creative Commons CC0 public domain dedication.