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News Article | February 15, 2017
Site: www.eurekalert.org

It's easy to find out how many calories are in a Twinkie. But how about in a tweet? A team of scientists have invented a new instrument for measuring just that: the caloric content of social media posts--like tweets. "This can be a powerful public health tool," says Peter Dodds, a scientist at the University of Vermont, who co-led the invention of the new device--called a Lexicocalorimeter. "It's a bit like having a satellite image of how people in a state or city are eating and exercising." A study of the new device was published February 10, in the journal PLOS ONE. Of course, people don't actually eat tweets. Instead, the Lexicocalorimeter gathers tens of millions of geo-tagged Twitter posts from across the country and fishes out thousands of food words -- like "apples," "ice cream," and "green beans." At the same time, it finds thousands of activity-related terms -- like "watching TV," "skiing," and even "alligator hunting" and "pole dancing." These giant bags of words get scored--based on data about typical calorie content of foods and activity burn rates -- and then compiled into two measures: "caloric input" and "caloric output." The ratio of these two measures begins to paint a picture that might be of interest not just to athletes or weight-watchers, but also to mayors, public health officials, epidemiologists, or others interested in "public policy and collective self-awareness," the team of scientists write in their new study. The Lexicocalorimeter is open for visits by the public, and the current version gives a portrait of each of the contiguous US states. For example, the tweet flow into the device suggests that Vermont consumes more calories, per capita, than the overall average for the US. Why? Well, at the top of its list of words that push the Green Mountain State to the gourmand's side of the ledger is "bacon" -- tied for second in the US when states are ranked by bacon's contribution to caloric balance. "We love to tweet about bacon," says Chris Danforth, a UVM scientist and mathematician who co-led the new study. But Vermont also expends more calories than average, the device indicates, thanks to relatively frequent appearances of the words "skiing," "running," "snowboarding," and, yes, "sledding." And why does the Lexicocalorimeter suggest that New Jersey expends fewer calories than the US average? Below-average on "running" while the top of its low-intensity activity list is "getting my nails done." Overall, Colorado ranks first in the US for its caloric balance ("noodles" plus "running" seem to be a svelte pair) while Mississippi comes in last with relatively high representation of "cake" and "eating." The new PLOS ONE study suggests that the Lexicocalorimeter could provide a new -- and real-time -- measure of the US population's health. And the study shows that the device's remotely sensed results correlate very closely with other traditional measures of US well-being, like obesity and diabetes rates. For the study, the team of scientists explored about 50 million geo-tagged tweets from 2011 and 2012 and report that "pizza" was the dominant contributor to the measure of "calories in" in nearly every state. The dominant contributor to calories out: "watching TV or movies." The nine scientists -- led by professors and students at the University of Vermont's Computational Story Lab as well as researchers at the University of California Berkley, WIC in East Boston, MIT, University of Adelaide, and Drexel University -- are quick to point out that the ratio of calories in to calories out in the new study are "not meaningful as absolute numbers, but rather have power for comparisons," they write. The Lexicocalorimeter is part of a larger effort by the University of Vermont team to build a series of online instruments that can quantify health-related behaviors from social media. "Given the right tools, our mobile phones will very soon know more about us than we know about ourselves," says UVM's Chris Danforth. "While the Lexicocalorimeter is focused on eating and exercise, and the Hedonometer is measuring happiness, the methodology we're building is far more general, and will eventually contribute to a dashboard of public health measures to complement traditional sources of data." The bigger goal: "enable real-time sensing at the population level, and help health care providers make date-driven recommendations for public policy," says Danforth. Other measures of public health and behavior the team is considering adding to the dashboard? "Sleep is a huge health issue," says UVM's Peter Dodds. "We would like to make an Insomniameter. Then there could be a Hangoverometer."


News Article | February 19, 2017
Site: www.eurekalert.org

The first-ever study to map U.S. wild bees suggests they are disappearing in the country's most important farmlands -- from California's Central Valley to the Midwest's corn belt and the Mississippi River valley. If wild bee declines continue, it could hurt U.S. crop production and farmers' costs, said Taylor Ricketts, a conservation ecologist at the University of Vermont, at the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) annual meeting panel, Plan Bee: Pollinators, Food Production and U.S. Policy on Feb. 19. "This study provides the first national picture of wild bees and their impacts on pollination," said Ricketts, Director of UVM's Gund Institute for Ecological Economics, noting that each year $3 billion of the U.S. economy depends on pollination from native pollinators like wild bees. At AAAS, Ricketts briefed scholars, policy makers, and journalists on how the national bee map, first published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences in late 2015, can help to protect wild bees and pinpoint habitat restoration efforts. At the event, Ricketts also introduced a new mobile app that he is co-developing to help farmers upgrade their farms to better support wild bees. "Wild bees are a precious natural resource we should celebrate and protect," said Ricketts, Gund Professor in UVM's Rubenstein School of Environment and Natural Resources. "If managed with care, they can help us continue to produce billions of dollars in agricultural income and a wonderful diversity of nutritious food." The map identifies 139 counties in key agricultural regions of California, the Pacific Northwest, the upper Midwest and Great Plains, west Texas, and Mississippi River valley, which appear to have most worrisome mismatch between falling wild bee supply and rising crop pollination demand. These counties tend to be places that grow specialty crops -- like almonds, blueberries and apples -- that are highly dependent on pollinators. Or they are counties that grow less dependent crops -- like soybeans, canola and cotton -- in very large quantities. Of particular concern, some crops most dependent on pollinators -- including pumpkins, watermelons, pears, peaches, plums, apples and blueberries -- appeared to have the strongest pollination mismatch, growing in areas with dropping wild bee supply and increasing in pollination demand. Globally, more than two-thirds of the most important crops either benefit from or require pollinators, including coffee, cacao, and many fruits and vegetables. Pesticides, climate change and diseases threaten wild bees -- but their decline may be caused by the conversion of bee habitat into cropland, the study suggests. In 11 key states where the map shows bees in decline, the amount of land tilled to grow corn spiked by 200 percent in five years -- replacing grasslands and pastures that once supported bee populations. Over the last decade, honeybee keepers facing colony losses have struggled with rising demand for commercial pollination services, pushing up the cost of managed pollinators - and the importance of wild bees. "Most people can think of one or two types of bee, but there are 4,000 species in the U.S. alone," said Insu Koh, a UVM postdoctoral researcher who co-hosted the AAAS panel and led the study. "When sufficient habitat exists, wild bees are already contributing the majority of pollination for some crops," Koh adds. "And even around managed pollinators, wild bees complement pollination in ways that can increase crop yields." A team of seven researchers -- from UVM, Franklin and Marshall College, University of California at Davis, and Michigan State University -- created the maps by first identifying 45 land-use types from two federal land databases, including croplands and natural habitats. Then they gathered detailed input from national and state bee experts about the suitability of each land-use type for providing wild bees with nesting and food resources. The scientists built a bee habitat model that predicts the relative abundance of wild bees for every area of the contiguous United States, based on their quality for nesting and feeding from flowers. Finally, the team checked and validated their model against bee collections and field observations in many actual landscapes. "The good news about bees," said Ricketts, "is now that we know where to focus conservation efforts, paired with all we know about what bees need, habitat-wise, there is hope for preserving wild bees." Learn more about UVM efforts to save global bees. Subscribe to Gund news alerts. Follow the AAAS news at #AAASmtg.


News Article | February 19, 2017
Site: phys.org

If wild bee declines continue, it could hurt U.S. crop production and farmers' costs, said Taylor Ricketts, a conservation ecologist at the University of Vermont, at the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) annual meeting panel, Plan Bee: Pollinators, Food Production and U.S. Policy on Feb. 19. "This study provides the first national picture of wild bees and their impacts on pollination," said Ricketts, Director of UVM's Gund Institute for Ecological Economics, noting that each year $3 billion of the U.S. economy depends on pollination from native pollinators like wild bees. At AAAS, Ricketts briefed scholars, policy makers, and journalists on how the national bee map, first published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences in late 2015, can help to protect wild bees and pinpoint habitat restoration efforts. At the event, Ricketts also introduced a new mobile app that he is co-developing to help farmers upgrade their farms to better support wild bees. "Wild bees are a precious natural resource we should celebrate and protect," said Ricketts, Gund Professor in UVM's Rubenstein School of Environment and Natural Resources. "If managed with care, they can help us continue to produce billions of dollars in agricultural income and a wonderful diversity of nutritious food." The map identifies 139 counties in key agricultural regions of California, the Pacific Northwest, the upper Midwest and Great Plains, west Texas, and Mississippi River valley, which appear to have most worrisome mismatch between falling wild bee supply and rising crop pollination demand. These counties tend to be places that grow specialty crops—like almonds, blueberries and apples—that are highly dependent on pollinators. Or they are counties that grow less dependent crops—like soybeans, canola and cotton—in very large quantities. Of particular concern, some crops most dependent on pollinators—including pumpkins, watermelons, pears, peaches, plums, apples and blueberries—appeared to have the strongest pollination mismatch, growing in areas with dropping wild bee supply and increasing in pollination demand. Globally, more than two-thirds of the most important crops either benefit from or require pollinators, including coffee, cacao, and many fruits and vegetables. Pesticides, climate change and diseases threaten wild bees—but their decline may be caused by the conversion of bee habitat into cropland, the study suggests. In 11 key states where the map shows bees in decline, the amount of land tilled to grow corn spiked by 200 percent in five years—replacing grasslands and pastures that once supported bee populations. Over the last decade, honeybee keepers facing colony losses have struggled with rising demand for commercial pollination services, pushing up the cost of managed pollinators - and the importance of wild bees. "Most people can think of one or two types of bee, but there are 4,000 species in the U.S. alone," said Insu Koh, a UVM postdoctoral researcher who co-hosted the AAAS panel and led the study. "When sufficient habitat exists, wild bees are already contributing the majority of pollination for some crops," Koh adds. "And even around managed pollinators, wild bees complement pollination in ways that can increase crop yields." A team of seven researchers—from UVM, Franklin and Marshall College, University of California at Davis, and Michigan State University—created the maps by first identifying 45 land-use types from two federal land databases, including croplands and natural habitats. Then they gathered detailed input from national and state bee experts about the suitability of each land-use type for providing wild bees with nesting and food resources. The scientists built a bee habitat model that predicts the relative abundance of wild bees for every area of the contiguous United States, based on their quality for nesting and feeding from flowers. Finally, the team checked and validated their model against bee collections and field observations in many actual landscapes. "The good news about bees," said Ricketts, "is now that we know where to focus conservation efforts, paired with all we know about what bees need, habitat-wise, there is hope for preserving wild bees." Explore further: Save the bees? There's an app for that


News Article | February 21, 2017
Site: www.csmonitor.com

Bees land on a sunflower to gather pollen in Encinitas, California in this file photo from June 23, 2009. —Scientists have compiled a map detailing wild bee activity across the US, but the picture it paints isn’t great. It’s no secret that bees are struggling to stay aloft. The precise reasons are up for debate, but many experts agree that a perfect storm of pressures from pesticide use, the rise of monocrop agriculture, declines in natural habitat, and global warming are squeezing many bee populations out of existence. And it isn’t just bees. A 2016 UN report found that 2 out of every 5 spineless pollinator species are facing extinction. Unchecked, this trend could have disastrous consequences for global agriculture. As much as one-third of the crops raised around the world depend on pollinators to flower, accounting for up to half a trillion dollars in value. Of that, $3 billion comes from the US. Our fate is linked with that of our flying friends. "If we want to say we can feed the world in 2050, pollinators are going to be part of that," Dennis vanEngelsdorp, a bee expert at the University of Maryland, told the AP last year. To understand how the bee crisis is affecting the US, researchers from four American universities teamed up to compare habitat distribution with field observations to create a model that predicted how many bees lived where. The map, originally published in 2015, was highlighted this week at the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) annual meeting, during the panel Plan Bee: Pollinators, Food Production and U.S. Policy. "This study provides the first national picture of wild bees and their impacts on pollination," said University of Vermont conservation ecologist Taylor Ricketts, according to a press release. And that picture was troubled. The map singles out well over a hundred counties where bee populations don’t seem up to the task of pollination. Worryingly, many of the counties fall in major agricultural production zones in places such as California, the Pacific Northwest, and the Great Plains. The shortfall is most dramatic in areas that focus on specialty crops like apples and berries, which are especially reliant on pollinators. "Wild bees are a precious natural resource we should celebrate and protect," said Dr. Ricketts. "If managed with care, they can help us continue to produce billions of dollars in agricultural income and a wonderful diversity of nutritious food." North American farmers often rely on keeping stacked white boxes full of European honeybees to meet their pollination needs, but a rising demand for crop production also raises the demand for beehives to pollinate those crops. That pressure, combined with the declining health of bee populations, is putting farmers in an economic pinch, and many hope that wild bees could step up and fill the gap. "Most people can think of one or two types of bee, but there are 4,000 species in the U.S. alone," Insu Koh, a UVM postdoctoral researcher, said at AAAS. "When sufficient habitat exists, wild bees are already contributing the majority of pollination for some crops. And even around managed pollinators, wild bees complement pollination in ways that can increase crop yields." So what’s being done? The map is a first step, its creators say, and Ricketts is also developing an app to help farmers attract and keep more wild bees on their properties. "The good news about bees," said Ricketts, "is now that we know where to focus conservation efforts, paired with all we know about what bees need, habitat-wise, there is hope for preserving wild bees." Those conservation efforts vary from place to place. The European Union has banned certain types of harmful pesticides, an NGO in Latin America is working to preserve native bee-friendly plant species and habitats, and the Ginza Honey Bee project encourages urban beekeeping in Tokyo. Others are turning to technology. A Japanese research team recently succeeded in pollinating Japanese lilies using a small drone, and roboticists from MIT and Harvard have designed a small flying robobee. But as it stands now, a future where swarms of autonomous drones pollinate our food for us is a far-off, expensive dream. The current European honeybee economics that brings us apples and almonds, for comparison, works out to about 0.035 cents per bee per day. With that kind of competition, bee drones would be a tough sell. "I'm not sure that's going to be cheap enough to not make blueberries hundreds of dollars a pint," Ricketts previously told the Monitor. Fortunately, everyone can be part of the solution. The US Forest Service recommends several steps you can do to help out: for example, plant native species of flowers, avoid using chemicals, and provide a welcoming environment with good places to nest.


ELK GROVE, Calif.--(BUSINESS WIRE)--Accellera Systems Initiative (Accellera) announced today that Tom Alsop, co-chair of the Universal Verification Methodology (UVM) Working Group, is the recipient of the sixth annual Accellera Technical Excellence Award. The award was established to recognize the outstanding achievements of an individual among Accellera’s working group members and their significant contributions to the development of its standards. Mr. Alsop will be presented the award at DVCon U.S. on Monday, February 27th, during the Accellera Day luncheon from 12:00-1:30pm at the DoubleTree Hotel in San Jose, California. He will be recognized for his technical contributions and leadership as co-chair of the UVM Working Group and guiding the submission of UVM 1.2 as a contribution to the IEEE P1800.2™ working group for further standardization and maintenance. “Tom has been a key contributor to the advancement of UVM,” said Karen Pieper, Accellera Technical Committee Chair. “As co-chair of the working group, his leadership has inspired a group of dedicated working group members to work openly to develop the standards policies with well-established flows and processes that have helped make UVM one of the most widely applied standards in the EDA industry. It is the dedication of leaders like Tom that help to further the advancement of standards that benefit the entire electronics design eco-system. UVM is a tremendous benefit to the industry, and we have Tom and his team to thank for all of their efforts in getting it to the IEEE. We are looking forward to his continued success in his new role as chair of the IEEE P1800.2 UVM Working Group.” “I am honored to receive this award and recognition from the Accellera members,” said Mr. Alsop, who serves as Principal Engineer at Intel. “I am proud of the UVM Working Group members and their tireless efforts getting the standard to the IEEE. We have worked very hard on UVM 1.2, and to see it become the basis for IEEE P1800.2 has been incredibly rewarding. I would like to thank my team for their invaluable contributions.” Mr. Alsop has been a member and co-chair of the Accellera UVM Working Group for eight years, ultimately forming the IEEE P1800.2 UVM committee and leading UVM to become an IEEE standard in 2017. The goal of the UVM standard is to improve design productivity by making it easier to verify design components with a standardized representation that can be used with various verification tools, helping to lower verification costs and improve design quality. Mr. Alsop has spent the last 10 years in the Product Development Solutions team at Intel as a Tool, Flow, and Methodology (TFM) expert supporting RTL and Validation teams across Intel. He leads Intel’s High Level Synthesis (HLS) efforts and is responsible for the company’s RTL and Validation design infrastructure and environment. He has also made significant contributions to the IEEE 1800 SystemVerilog 2009 and 2012 specifications. He holds a Bachelor of Science degree in Electrical and Computer Engineering from Brigham Young University. Accellera’s Technical Committee oversees 17 working groups that produce effective and efficient Electronic Design Automation (EDA) and Intellectual Property (IP) standards for today’s advanced IC designs. Participants include member companies and industry contributors. Technical contributors typically have many years of practical experience with IC design and developing and using EDA tools. For a list of Accellera Working Groups, please click here. Accellera Systems Initiative is an independent, not-for profit organization dedicated to create, support, promote and advance system-level design, modeling and verification standards for use by the worldwide electronics industry. The organization accelerates standards development and, as part of its ongoing partnership with the IEEE, its standards are contributed to the IEEE Standards Association for formal standardization and ongoing change control. For more information, please visit www.accellera.org. Find out more about membership. Follow @accellera on Twitter, or to comment please use #accellera. Accellera Global Sponsors are: Cadence, Mentor Graphics and Synopsys. DVCon is the premier conference and exhibition for discussion of the functional design and verification of electronic systems. DVCon U.S. is sponsored by Accellera Systems Initiative, an organization focused on the creation and adoption of EDA and IP standards. For more information, please visit www.accellera.org. For more information about DVCon, please visit www.dvcon.org. Follow @dvcon_us on Twitter, or to comment please use #dvcon_us. Accellera, Accellera Systems Initiative, and DVCon and are trademarks of Accellera Systems Initiative Inc. All other trademarks and trade names are the property of their respective owners.


News Article | February 21, 2017
Site: www.npr.org

Health Insurance Woes Add To The Risky Business Of Farming There are many challenges to farming for a living: It's often grueling work that relies on unpredictable factors such as weather and global market prices. But one aspect that's often ignored is the cost of health care. A University of Vermont researcher found that nationally, most farmers cited health care costs as a top concern. Shoshanah Inwood is a rural sociologist at UVM. She has been studying the aging and shrinking farm population, and what components are needed to build a prosperous farm economy. Inwood says she hadn't thought about health care in particular as a factor until she conducted an unrelated survey in 2007 of farmers working the land in areas facing population growth and development pressures. The survey asked, "What are the issues affecting the future of your farm?" "And we assumed when we got that survey back, we would get things like the cost of land, the cost of inputs, neighbors. The number one issue facing farmers was the cost of health insurance. They identified that as the biggest threat to their farm," she said. Inwood says this held true for small and large farms: Two-thirds of commercial farmers cited the cost of health insurance as the biggest threat. Typically, strategies to build a robust farming industry have focused on access to land, capital and changes to market infrastructure. "But then you ask people, 'Well, how many people know a farmer that has an injury? Or a farm family that has a chronic health issue? Or a mental health issue?' And everybody's hand goes up," Inwood said. "And that's the one issue we really never talk about, are some of those social needs that farm families have." While it may be underrepresented in farm planning discussions, on the farm, families are talking about it. Take Taylor Hutchinson and Jake Mendell. The two fell in love with farming — and each other — on a small educational farm in California. When the two decided to take the plunge and start their own farm, they decided to head back east to Jake's hometown area. Over the past three years they've transformed three acres of his family's land in Starksboro, Vt., into a small farm business, selling vegetables, eggs and some meat through Community Supported Agriculture (CSA). Access to free land puts them well ahead of many starting farmers, financially. But one thing they didn't initially factor into their business budget was health insurance. "We both came of age at the beginning of the Affordable Care Act. It's not something that we've really had to think about, paying in full for a health insurance plan," says Mendell. By "coming of age," he means he aged off his parents' health insurance at 26. Mendell was able to stay on his parents' plan beyond college under a provision in the Affordable Care Act. Then he switched onto a heavily subsidized plan through Vermont Health Connect. His partner, Taylor Hutchinson, is covered by Medicaid because her income falls just below the threshold. "It's a very fine line for me personally, that I'm skating under right now," Hutchinson said. With government assistance, right now health insurance is not among their highest expenses. But that all could change. If their income grows, Hutchinson would no longer eligible for Medicaid. Or if health care policy changes, their subsidies could go away. Both scenarios would have very real impacts on their farm business. "It's concerning now that, I mean, I just don't know how we could manage $800 a month, when right now it ends up being combined $60 a month," says Mendell. The whole situation gets even trickier if or when the couple were to get married. That act alone would bring their shared income above the Medicaid line, meaning they'd have to pay a significantly higher price for health insurance. And then — someday — there are kids to consider. "Something that I think about is when we have kids, in order to be able to afford the medical bills for that, as well as daycare, it is very likely that I will be stepping back from the farm," says Hutchinson. "It's something that I'm thinking about now. Would I get a part-time job? Or would I try for a full-time job that I could get benefits that would cover us all?" That calculation is not unique. Nationally, slightly more than half of farmers also work off the farm. Historically it has been women who work two jobs, but that dynamic is changing as more women are getting into full-time farming. Inwood says the need to work another job just to support the farm is a real roadblock to growing a "prosperous, bright farm population." And it comes at a time when the overall farm population in the U.S. is aging and shrinking. "We need folks who have strong backs, who are able to do work," Inwood says. "And one of the things that happens is when you're young, that tends to intersect with the age when you're really ready to have children, that's when health insurances concerns really start to enter into people's minds." As recently as 2012, the number of new farmers was down about 20 percent from five years earlier. There are many factors — financial and otherwise — that make becoming a farmer incredibly challenging. But Inwood says one key learning from her research is that advisers who work with farmers need to be better prepared to help them navigate the ever-changing world of health insurance. "A lot of farm viability planning and farm business planning, they generally will tend to mention health insurance, but there's no planning for it," says Inwood. "None of the workbooks currently really talk about how are you going to do this ... How does having health insurance fit into your overall farm plan?" Back on the farm in Starksboro, Hutchinson says if it weren't for the Affordable Care Act, she likely wouldn't have health insurance. "I think that the subsidies have been crucial for us to have been able to start our farm, and to be able to keep our personal costs ridiculously low for the first few years," she says. Hutchinson says she knows many who are in the same situation. She is on the leadership team of the National Young Farmers Coalition; she says she knows many farmers either on Medicaid or highly subsidized insurance. And she says that in a recent meeting, many farmers mentioned that they're considering getting an off-farm job or even liquidating the business because they're worried that the health insurance situation could change. This story comes from the New England News Collaborative: Eight public media companies coming together to tell the story of a changing region, with support from the Corporation for Public Broadcasting.


News Article | February 19, 2017
Site: phys.org

Currently, she would have to walk through her fields, assess possible locations, take measurements, spend hours crunching costs and still only guess at the amount of bees and pollination the effort will generate. Soon, the farmer can do it all on her phone or computer with a mobile app that will calculate the crop productivity and pollination benefits of supporting endangered bees. University of Vermont (UVM) bee expert Taylor Ricketts, who is co-leading the app's development, introduced the interactive technology at the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) annual meeting panel, Plan Bee: Pollinators, Food Production and U.S. Policy, on Feb. 19. The soon-to-be named app, launching later this year, allows users to explore land management scenarios, and virtually test how bee-friendly decisions would improve their business, says Taylor Ricketts, Director of UVM's Gund Institute for Ecological Economics, and Gund professor at UVM's Rubenstein School of Environment and Natural Resources. Loaded with aerial images of North America, the app allows users to "enter their address and begin adding best practices for boosting pollination," says Ricketts. "You simply draw different options - from wind breaks to planting flowers or bringing in honey bees." Farmers can save and compare different scenarios. "The app will do a pollination, productivity, and eventually, a cost-benefit analysis," adds Ricketts, who is developing the app with Philadelphia software company Azavea. "Farmers can then determine which choices bring the best return on investment." APP BUILDS ON FIRST U.S. BEE MAP The app builds on the first national map of U.S. wild bees, which found the key insects are disappearing in the country's most important farmlands - including California's Central Valley, the Midwest's corn belt and the Mississippi River valley. That study, led by UVM bee researchers, showed that with further bee losses, farmers could face higher costs and the nation's food production could experience "destabilization" due to climate change, pesticides, habitat loss and disease. "We found 139 counties - which together contain 39% of pollinator-dependent U.S. crops - at risk from simultaneously falling wild bee supply and rising crop pollination demand," says Ricketts, who published the map with UVM's Insu Koh in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS) in December 2015. "Farmers are a natural partner to protect bees, because pollinators are essential for growing many foods," says Ricketts, noting that more than two-thirds of the most important crops either benefit from or require pollinators, including coffee, cacao, and many fruits and vegetables. With the app, Ricketts aims to make the best available science and bee-friendly practices accessible to society - to make real steps to reverse bee losses. "Government action is key, but saving bees requires more than that," says Ricketts. "Leadership from the private sector, especially farmers and agricultural businesses, is crucial. Their choices will have a huge impact on whether pollinators fail or flourish." "This gives farmers a chance to help with an issue that directly impacts their businesses," he adds. Learn more about UVM efforts to save global bees. Explore further: The quiet buzz of wild bees


News Article | February 19, 2017
Site: www.eurekalert.org

Let's say a farmer wanted to plant wildflowers to nurture the bumble bees that pollinate her crops. Currently, she would have to walk through her fields, assess possible locations, take measurements, spend hours crunching costs and still only guess at the amount of bees and pollination the effort will generate. Soon, the farmer can do it all on her phone or computer with a mobile app that will calculate the crop productivity and pollination benefits of supporting endangered bees. University of Vermont (UVM) bee expert Taylor Ricketts, who is co-leading the app's development, introduced the interactive technology at the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) annual meeting panel, Plan Bee: Pollinators, Food Production and U.S. Policy, on Feb. 19. The soon-to-be named app, launching later this year, allows users to explore land management scenarios, and virtually test how bee-friendly decisions would improve their business, says Taylor Ricketts, Director of UVM's Gund Institute for Ecological Economics, and Gund professor at UVM's Rubenstein School of Environment and Natural Resources. Loaded with aerial images of North America, the app allows users to "enter their address and begin adding best practices for boosting pollination," says Ricketts. "You simply draw different options - from wind breaks to planting flowers or bringing in honey bees." Farmers can save and compare different scenarios. "The app will do a pollination, productivity, and eventually, a cost-benefit analysis," adds Ricketts, who is developing the app with Philadelphia software company Azavea. "Farmers can then determine which choices bring the best return on investment." The app builds on the first national map of U.S. wild bees, which found the key insects are disappearing in the country's most important farmlands - including California's Central Valley, the Midwest's corn belt and the Mississippi River valley. That study, led by UVM bee researchers, showed that with further bee losses, farmers could face higher costs and the nation's food production could experience "destabilization" due to climate change, pesticides, habitat loss and disease. "We found 139 counties - which together contain 39% of pollinator-dependent U.S. crops - at risk from simultaneously falling wild bee supply and rising crop pollination demand," says Ricketts, who published the map with UVM's Insu Koh in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS) in December 2015. "Farmers are a natural partner to protect bees, because pollinators are essential for growing many foods," says Ricketts, noting that more than two-thirds of the most important crops either benefit from or require pollinators, including coffee, cacao, and many fruits and vegetables. With the app, Ricketts aims to make the best available science and bee-friendly practices accessible to society - to make real steps to reverse bee losses. "Government action is key, but saving bees requires more than that," says Ricketts. "Leadership from the private sector, especially farmers and agricultural businesses, is crucial. Their choices will have a huge impact on whether pollinators fail or flourish." "This gives farmers a chance to help with an issue that directly impacts their businesses," he adds. Learn more about UVM efforts to save global bees. Watch of video of UVM bee research in action. Follow the AAAS news at #AAASmtg and subscribe to Gund news alerts.


News Article | February 18, 2017
Site: www.eurekalert.org

Why does some research lead to changes in public policy, while other studies of equal quality do not? That crucial question - how science impacts policy - is central to the research of University of Vermont (UVM) Prof. Taylor Ricketts and recent alum Stephen Posner. According to their findings, the most effective way environmental scholars can boost their policy influence - from protecting wildlife to curbing pollution - is to consult widely with stakeholders during the research process. Speaking at the American Association for the Advancement of Science annual meeting talk, The Effectiveness of Ecosystem Services Science in Decision-Making, on Feb 18., the team briefed scientists and policy experts on their 2016 study in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS). Surprisingly, the study finds that stakeholder engagement is a better predictor of future policy impacts than perceived scientific credibility, says Ricketts, Director of UVM's Gund Institute and Gund Professor in the Rubenstein School of Environment and Natural Resources. The study is the first quantitative analysis of how environmental knowledge impacts the attitudes and decisions of conservation policymakers. Researchers from the UVM, World Wildlife Fund and Natural Capital Project analyzed 15 policy decisions worldwide, with outcomes ranging from new coastal preservation laws to improved species protections. Stephen Posner, a Gund researcher and COMPASS policy engagement associate, characterizes policy-related research without outreach as the academic equivalent of "the sound of one hand clapping." "Scholars may have the best policy intentions and important research, but our results suggest that decision-makers are unlikely to listen without meaningful engagement of them and various stakeholders," he says. When scholars meet with constituent groups--for example, individual landowners, conservation organizations, or private businesses--it improves policymakers' perception of scientific knowledge as unbiased and representative of multiple perspectives, the study finds. "For decision-makers, that made research more legitmate and worthy of policy consideration," Ricketts adds. The research team suggests research institutions offer scholars more time and incentives to improve engagement. They also encourage researchers to seek greater understanding of policy decision-making in their fields, and include stakeholder outreach plans in research projects. "For those working on policy-related questions, we hope these findings offer a reminder of the value of engaging directly with policy makers and stakeholders, " Posner says. "This will be crucial as we enter the new political reality of the Trump administration." Previous research on science-policy decision-making used qualitative approaches, or focused on a small number of case studies. The study is called "Policy impacts of ecosystem services knowledge" by Stephen Posner, Emily McKenzie, and Taylor H. Ricketts. Co-author Emily McKenzie hails from WWF and the Natural Capital Project. The study used a global sample of regional case studies from the Natural Capital Project, in which researchers used the standardized scientific tool InVest to explore environmental planning and policy outcomes. Data included surveys of decision-makers and expert review of 15 cases with different levels of policy impact. The forms of engagement studied included emails, phone conversations, individual and group meetings, as well as decision-maker perceptions of the scientific knowledge. Learn more about UVM newsmakers at AAAS. Subscribe to Gund news alerts and follow the conference at @GundInstitute and #AAASmtg.


News Article | February 18, 2017
Site: www.eurekalert.org

How do you redeem a place like Gitmo, the notorious U.S. military prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba? Reboot the naval base and detainee center as a cutting-edge marine research lab and peace park, says Joe Roman, a conservation biologist at the University of Vermont (UVM). Roman briefed journalists and scholars on his "Green Gitmo" proposal at the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) annual meeting panel, Protecting the Crown Jewel of the Caribbean: Cuba's Marine Ecosystems, on Feb. 18 in Boston. The provocative idea, first published in Science last year, has taken on new meaning under a Trump presidency, Roman says. While former U.S. President Barack Obama pledged to close Gitmo, other U.S. politicians want the prison to remain open - and the Trump administration's Cuba strategy remains unclear. In contrast, Cuba has considered the U.S. presence in Guantánamo as illegal since the 1960s - even refusing to cash the annual rent check of $4,085, part of an agreement that stretches back to a 1903 U.S.-Cuba treaty. According to Roman, an oceans expert in UVM's Gund Institute for Ecological Economics and Rubenstein School of Environment and Natural Resources, the proposal offers a "third path" forward. "Turning Gitmo into a research center and peace park offers a solution to a major impasse in U.S.-Cuba relations," says Roman, who co-authored the proposal with James Kraska of the U.S. Naval War College. Military documents have identified Gitmo as a "prime candidate" for closure, given its proximity to the U.S. base in Key West, Florida, only 90 miles away, notes Roman. "The business case for closing down Gitmo is significant," says Roman. "U.S. taxpayers spend more than $445 million each year to run Guantanamo Bay, which now holds roughly 40 detainees. That funding could support research labs and a peace park at a fraction of the cost, leaving ample money to invest in other military purposes, he says. Under Roman and Kraska's proposal, existing Gitmo facilities would be refurbished for research and education on climate change, ocean conservation and biodiversity loss. With a reduced U.S. footprint at Guantánamo, the land and sea could support threatened Cuban species - from manatees to hawksbill sea turtles -- as well as habitats: rare tropical dry forests, pristine coral reefs, mangroves, and seagrass beds. Roman, who teaches a UVM course in Cuba, says greening Gitmo would help recognize Cuba's "conservation efforts and strong stance on climate change." It would also offer up-to-date facilities, financial support, and opportunities for Cuba's upcoming scientists and students. According to Roman, a "green Gitmo" would unite Cuba and the United States in joint management, rather than serve as a wedge between them. "For the next generations, the name Guantanamo could be associated - not with its recent dark history - but with redemption, preservation, and repair of nature and international friendship." Learn more about UVM newsmakers at AAAS. Follow the conference on social media at #AAASmtg. Subscribe to our mailing list to receive Gund news alerts.

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