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News Article | April 17, 2017
Site: www.prweb.com

Goodnewsforpets.com, a pet news digital platform of Germinder & Associates, Inc., today announced its sponsorship of the national NY Dog Film Festival. The sponsorship kicks off with a contest and announcement of the Goodnewsforpets #GoodDogsInFilm promotion, a year-long celebration of beloved dog stars of all kinds, past and present. “The idea of the #GoodDogsInFilm promotion came about after attending the venerable Sundance Film Festival. Sundance is an amazing experience, and true to the spirit of the festival, it nurtured an idea. I thought Goodnewsforpets.com could play an important part in showcasing the role of dogs in films in a very positive way. They enrich the film-going experience – from the earliest dog film stars to home-grown movies to blockbuster films. We will celebrate all of them and more with this promotion, starting with the NY Dog Film Festival,” said Lea-Ann Germinder, Founder and Publisher of Goodnewsforpets.com. Tracie Hotchner, founder and director of the NY Dog Film Festival is a well-known pet wellness advocate and author and recognized as the premiere voice for pets and their people on pet talk radio. Hotchner recently interviewed Germinder on her Dog Talk® radio show about Goodnewsforpets, working with veterinarians and pet professionals and the NY Dog Film Festival. The interview can be found here. “When Goodnewsforpets.com wanted to join forces with the NY Dog Film Festival, I was delighted to make a partnership with Lea-Ann and together go forward bringing the world Good News for Pets!" Hotchner commented, adding “I’m delighted to bring animal lovers together to share a communal experience of watching short films that celebrate the remarkable bond between people and dogs, while recognizing the great work of local animal organizations.” To enter the contest, go to NY Dog Film Festival Founder Tracie Hotchner’s blog post and find the special keyword to enter the contest. Entrants have the chance to win one of three copies of the American Veterinary College of Behaviorists’ book “Decoding Your Dog” together with three exclusive Elena Kriegner Goodnewsforpets sterling silver Heart-Paw charms. A personal donation in each winner’s name will also be made to a local dog rescue or shelter of his or her choice. Enter by April 28, 2017 for a chance to win here! Follow Goodnewsforpets on Twitter @goodnewsforpets and Facebook facebook.com/goodnewforpets   About Goodnewsforpets.com & Germinder & Associates, Inc. Goodnewsforpets.com curates news of interest and importance to informed pet parents inclusive of the pet industry and veterinary profession. The award-winning site was launched in 2000. Germinder & Associates is an award-winning New York City based agency that provides strategic counsel, digital publishing content, and national campaigns for niche markets including animal health and pet products. For more information contact Lea-Ann Germinder, President and Founder at Lgerminder@germinder.com or 212-367-2170. About the NY Dog Film Festival In 2015 the first NY Dog Film Festival™ premiered in New York City, which grew out of Tracie Hotchner’s desire as a pet wellness advocate to expand her Radio Pet Lady Network’s outreach to educate the public about adoption, health issues and philosophical aspects of pets in our lives. Hotchner created the Festival as a unique way of honoring dogs as true family members by bringing together like-minded people to experience the remarkable human-canine bond on film. The NY Dog Film Festival™ shares proceeds from its ticket sales with local shelters wherever it travels. For more information about the films, other 2017 destination cities, and how to buy tickets visit http://www.dogfilmfestival.com.


News Article | June 21, 2017
Site: www.sciencedaily.com

What if researchers could go back in time 105 million years and accurately sequence the chromosomes of the first placental mammal? What would it reveal about evolution and modern mammals, including humans? In a study published this week in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, researchers have gone back in time, at least virtually, computationally recreating the chromosomes of the first eutherian mammal, the long-extinct, shrewlike ancestor of all placental mammals. "The revolution in DNA sequencing has provided us with enough chromosome-scale genome assemblies to permit the computational reconstruction of the eutherian ancestor, as well as other key ancestors along the lineage leading to modern humans," said Harris Lewin, a lead author of the study and a professor of evolution and ecology and Robert and Rosabel Osborne Endowed Chair at the University of California, Davis. "We now understand the major steps of chromosomal evolution that led to the genome organization of more than half the existing orders of mammals. These studies will allow us to determine the role of chromosome rearrangements in the formation of new mammal species and how such rearrangements result in adaptive changes that are specific to the different mammalian lineages," said Lewin. The findings also have broad implications for understanding how chromosomal rearrangements over millions of years may contribute to human diseases, such as cancer. "By gaining a better understanding of the relationship between evolutionary breakpoints and cancer breakpoints, the essential molecular features of chromosomes that lead to their instability can be revealed," said Lewin. "Our studies can be extended to the early detection of cancer by identifying diagnostic chromosome rearrangements in humans and other animals, and possibly novel targets for personalized therapy." To recreate the chromosomes of these ancient relatives, the team began with the sequenced genomes of 19 existing placental mammals -- all eutherian descendants -- including human, goat, dog, orangutan, cattle, mouse and chimpanzee, among others. The researchers then utilized a new algorithm they developed called DESCHRAMBLER. The algorithm computed ("descrambled") the most likely order and orientation of 2,404 chromosome fragments that were common among the 19 placental mammals' genomes. "It is the largest and most comprehensive such analysis performed to date, and DESCHRAMBLER was shown to produce highly accurate reconstructions using data simulation and by benchmarking it against other reconstruction tools," said Jian Ma, the study's co-senior author and an associate professor of computational biology at Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh. In addition to the eutherian ancestor, reconstructions were made for the six other ancestral genomes on the human evolutionary tree: boreoeutherian, euarchontoglires, simian (primates), catarrhini (Old World monkeys), great apes and human-chimpanzee. The reconstructions give a detailed picture of the various chromosomal changes -- translocations, inversions, fissions and other complex rearrangements -- that have occurred over the 105 million years between the first mammal and Homo sapiens. One discovery is that the first eutherian ancestor likely had 42 chromosomes, four less than humans. Researchers identified 162 chromosomal breakpoints -- locations where a chromosome broke open, allowing for rearrangements -- between the eutherian ancestor and the formation of humans as a species. The rates of evolution of ancestral chromosomes differed greatly among the different mammal lineages. But some chromosomes remained extremely stable over time. For example, six of the reconstructed eutherian ancestral chromosomes showed no rearrangements for almost 100 million years until the appearance of the common ancestor of human and chimpanzee. Orangutan chromosomes were found to be the slowest evolving of all primates and still retain eight chromosomes that have not changed much with respect to gene order orientation as compared with the eutherian ancestor. In contrast, the lineage leading to chimpanzees had the highest rate of chromosome rearrangements among primates. "When chromosomes rearrange, new genes and regulatory elements may form that alter the regulation of expression of hundreds of genes, or more. At least some of these events may be responsible for the major phenotypic differences we observe between the mammal orders," said Denis Larkin, co-senior author of the study and a reader in comparative genomics at the Royal Veterinary College at the University of London. The chromosomes of the oldest three ancestors (eutherian, boreoeutherian, and euarchontoglires) were each found to include more than 80 percent of the entire length of the human genome, the most detailed reconstructions reported to date. The reconstructed chromosomes of the most recent common ancestor of simians, catarrhini, great apes, and humans and chimpanzees included more than 90 percent of human genome sequence, providing a structural framework for understanding primate evolution.


News Article | June 5, 2017
Site: www.PR.com

Reshaping attitudes with the hopes of eliminating stereotypes about the social stigmas that surround Epilepsy. Raleigh, NC, June 05, 2017 --( The Warriors 4 Epilepsy (W4E) and the Durham Epilepsy Support Team are calling on all citizens to acknowledge Epilepsy and to stand strong with the 65 million people worldwide who live with this disorder. This celebration will take place on Thursday, June 29, 2017 at: The McKimmon Center NC State University 1101 Gorman Street Raleigh, NC 27606 from 6pm to 9pm The spectacular lineup of amazing speakers will include, NC Senator Mike Woodard and Durham Councilman Eddie Davis. Professor Karen Munana and Research Technician Julie Nettifee from the NC State Veterinary College of Medicine. Keynote speakers Pearley Yelverton of the Durham Epilepsy Support Team and service dog trainer, Megan Standish from Triumphant Tails. Dr. Pamela Kelly, Regional Director of the SE Epilepsy Centers of Excellence, and powerful performances by the W4E Youth. Please help the W4E to spread awareness of Epilepsy in the entire state of North Carolina. About Warriors 4 Epilepsy Warriors 4 Epilepsy was birthed out of the compassion and the need for servicing all persons with Epilepsy who have been fired, shunned, banned from churches and other public places, and bullied relentlessly - treatments that have also led to the mistreatment of persons who live with this disorder. These are the 65 million who are faced with so many barriers, immeasurable stress, and education has been one of them. This group has become very vulnerable to being excluded. The Warriors 4 Epilepsy will continue to seek to level the playing field for Americans with disabilities and to ensure inclusivity. It is their mission to reshape attitudes and eliminate stereotypes. This begins with strengthening enforcement of the Americans with Disabilities Amendments Act, increasing enforcement by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, and striving for parity in insurance coverage for Persons with all disabilities and those with mental health issues. Raleigh, NC, June 05, 2017 --( PR.com )-- Please join the Warriors 4 Epilepsy in a celebration to help spread awareness of Epilepsy, a disorder that has no economic, racial, social or geographic barriers.The Warriors 4 Epilepsy (W4E) and the Durham Epilepsy Support Team are calling on all citizens to acknowledge Epilepsy and to stand strong with the 65 million people worldwide who live with this disorder.This celebration will take place on Thursday, June 29, 2017 at:The McKimmon CenterNC State University1101 Gorman StreetRaleigh, NC 27606from 6pm to 9pmThe spectacular lineup of amazing speakers will include, NC Senator Mike Woodard and Durham Councilman Eddie Davis. Professor Karen Munana and Research Technician Julie Nettifee from the NC State Veterinary College of Medicine. Keynote speakers Pearley Yelverton of the Durham Epilepsy Support Team and service dog trainer, Megan Standish from Triumphant Tails. Dr. Pamela Kelly, Regional Director of the SE Epilepsy Centers of Excellence, and powerful performances by the W4E Youth.Please help the W4E to spread awareness of Epilepsy in the entire state of North Carolina.About Warriors 4 EpilepsyWarriors 4 Epilepsy was birthed out of the compassion and the need for servicing all persons with Epilepsy who have been fired, shunned, banned from churches and other public places, and bullied relentlessly - treatments that have also led to the mistreatment of persons who live with this disorder. These are the 65 million who are faced with so many barriers, immeasurable stress, and education has been one of them. This group has become very vulnerable to being excluded. The Warriors 4 Epilepsy will continue to seek to level the playing field for Americans with disabilities and to ensure inclusivity. It is their mission to reshape attitudes and eliminate stereotypes. This begins with strengthening enforcement of the Americans with Disabilities Amendments Act, increasing enforcement by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, and striving for parity in insurance coverage for Persons with all disabilities and those with mental health issues. Click here to view the list of recent Press Releases from Warriors 4 Epilepsy


News Article | June 21, 2017
Site: www.eurekalert.org

What if researchers could go back in time 105 million years and accurately sequence the chromosomes of the first placental mammal? What would it reveal about evolution and modern mammals, including humans? In a study published this week in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, researchers have gone back in time, at least virtually, computationally recreating the chromosomes of the first eutherian mammal, the long-extinct, shrewlike ancestor of all placental mammals. "The revolution in DNA sequencing has provided us with enough chromosome-scale genome assemblies to permit the computational reconstruction of the eutherian ancestor, as well as other key ancestors along the lineage leading to modern humans," said Harris Lewin, a lead author of the study and a professor of evolution and ecology and Robert and Rosabel Osborne Endowed Chair at the University of California, Davis. "We now understand the major steps of chromosomal evolution that led to the genome organization of more than half the existing orders of mammals. These studies will allow us to determine the role of chromosome rearrangements in the formation of new mammal species and how such rearrangements result in adaptive changes that are specific to the different mammalian lineages," said Lewin. The findings also have broad implications for understanding how chromosomal rearrangements over millions of years may contribute to human diseases, such as cancer. "By gaining a better understanding of the relationship between evolutionary breakpoints and cancer breakpoints, the essential molecular features of chromosomes that lead to their instability can be revealed," said Lewin. "Our studies can be extended to the early detection of cancer by identifying diagnostic chromosome rearrangements in humans and other animals, and possibly novel targets for personalized therapy." To recreate the chromosomes of these ancient relatives, the team began with the sequenced genomes of 19 existing placental mammals -- all eutherian descendants -- including human, goat, dog, orangutan, cattle, mouse and chimpanzee, among others. The researchers then utilized a new algorithm they developed called DESCHRAMBLER. The algorithm computed ("descrambled") the most likely order and orientation of 2,404 chromosome fragments that were common among the 19 placental mammals' genomes. "It is the largest and most comprehensive such analysis performed to date, and DESCHRAMBLER was shown to produce highly accurate reconstructions using data simulation and by benchmarking it against other reconstruction tools," said Jian Ma, the study's co-senior author and an associate professor of computational biology at Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh. In addition to the eutherian ancestor, reconstructions were made for the six other ancestral genomes on the human evolutionary tree: boreoeutherian, euarchontoglires, simian (primates), catarrhini (Old World monkeys), great apes and human-chimpanzee. The reconstructions give a detailed picture of the various chromosomal changes -- translocations, inversions, fissions and other complex rearrangements -- that have occurred over the 105 million years between the first mammal and Homo sapiens. One discovery is that the first eutherian ancestor likely had 42 chromosomes, four less than humans. Researchers identified 162 chromosomal breakpoints -- locations where a chromosome broke open, allowing for rearrangements -- between the eutherian ancestor and the formation of humans as a species. The rates of evolution of ancestral chromosomes differed greatly among the different mammal lineages. But some chromosomes remained extremely stable over time. For example, six of the reconstructed eutherian ancestral chromosomes showed no rearrangements for almost 100 million years until the appearance of the common ancestor of human and chimpanzee. Orangutan chromosomes were found to be the slowest evolving of all primates and still retain eight chromosomes that have not changed much with respect to gene order orientation as compared with the eutherian ancestor. In contrast, the lineage leading to chimpanzees had the highest rate of chromosome rearrangements among primates. "When chromosomes rearrange, new genes and regulatory elements may form that alter the regulation of expression of hundreds of genes, or more. At least some of these events may be responsible for the major phenotypic differences we observe between the mammal orders," said Denis Larkin, co-senior author of the study and a reader in comparative genomics at the Royal Veterinary College at the University of London. The chromosomes of the oldest three ancestors (eutherian, boreoeutherian, and euarchontoglires) were each found to include more than 80 percent of the entire length of the human genome, the most detailed reconstructions reported to date. The reconstructed chromosomes of the most recent common ancestor of simians, catarrhini, great apes, and humans and chimpanzees included more than 90 percent of human genome sequence, providing a structural framework for understanding primate evolution. Collaborating with Lewin, Larkin and Ma were Marta Farré of the Royal Veterinary College at the University of London in London, England; Jaebum Kim from the Department of Biomedical Science and Engineering at Konkuk University in Seoul, South Korea; and Loretta Auvil and Boris Capitanu of the Illinois Informatics Institute at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign in Urbana, Illinois. The research was supported by the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council; the Robert and Rosabel Osborne Endowment (UC Davis); the National Institutes of Health; the National Science Foundation; the Ministry of Science, ICT & Future Planning of Korea; the Ministry of Education of Korea; and the Rural Development Administration of Korea. This work was conducted as a contribution to the Genome 10K Project.


BASSETERRE, St. Kitts.--(BUSINESS WIRE)--An excited and anxious group of 159 Ross University School of Veterinary Medicine (Ross Vet) students gathered at the clinical placement ceremony recently to find out where they had placed for either a stateside or international clinical rotation. As these students shared this important news, joined by friends and family, clinical affiliates Purdue University and Auburn University also participated, showing support for the students. Ross Vet is one of few schools that offer students the possibility to do the clinical year at AVMA- accredited clinical affiliates in the U.S. and internationally. This year, the ceremony was attended by more than 180 people, with more than 200 joining via web. “We are proud of the success of our Class of 2018. The placement ceremony is a monumental event for our students to support each other and celebrate the news with their friends and family,” said Dr. Juan C. Samper, Associate Dean for Clinical Affairs & Professional Opportunities at Ross Vet. “Our students obtain clinical spots into some of the most competitive AVMA-accredited clinical affiliates in the world, including Cornell University, Tufts University and Royal Veterinary College in London. Ross Vet graduates bring adaptability and resilience to their clinical affiliates. As a result of their experience in St. Kitts, our students can adapt to the cultural differences and are resourceful in emergencies.” “As a medical leader who has hired hundreds of veterinarians, I find Ross Vet graduates to be some of the best trained doctors to join our practice,” said Dr. Alexandra Quarti, medical director at Banfield Pet Hospital, sponsor of the Ross Vet placement ceremony. “They are flexible, able to deal with ambiguity, and often seem best able to fit in and foster a team atmosphere. They are committed to quality care and really embrace leadership roles.” Clinical Placement occurs at the beginning of the seventh semester and provides all Ross Vet students the opportunity to attain their Doctor of Veterinary Medicine degree. These students identify four clinical affiliates that best match their career goals. During this year, students participate in various rotations to gain clinical experience while remaining enrolled in Ross Vet. The clinical year curriculum is designed to be a series of integrated, consecutively scheduled learning experiences. Ross University School of Veterinary Medicine (Ross Vet) is a member of Adtalem Global Education (NYSE: ATGE), a global education provider headquartered in the United States. The organization's purpose is to empower students to achieve their goals, find success and make inspiring contributions to our global community. Ross Vet founded in 1982, is committed to preparing students to become members and leaders of the worldwide public and professional healthcare team and to advance human, animal and ecosystem health (One Health Initiative) through research and knowledge exchange. Ross Vet has focused research programs with an emphasis on emerging infectious and zoonotic diseases, conservation medicine, and ecosystem health. Ross Vet offers postgraduate Masters’, Ph.D. and Doctor of Veterinary Medicine (DVM) programs accredited by the St. Christopher & Nevis Accreditation Board. The DVM program holds accredited status from the American Veterinary Medical Association (www.avma.org). The Ross Veterinary Clinic is accredited by the American Animal Hospital Association (www.aahanet.org). For more information about Ross, visit www.rossu.edu/vet.


News Article | May 31, 2017
Site: www.sciencemag.org

Aardvarks have a drinking problem. Scientists have struggled for years to discover how the elusive, ant-loving animals imbibe one of the most important ingredients for life in the wild: water. Now, a team of researchers thinks it has the answer. Most scientific studies assume that aardvarks—nocturnal creatures that live in the deserts of sub-Saharan Africa—don’t drink, but instead get their water by metabolizing the mushy insides of termites, ants, and a rare type of fruit called the aardvark cucumber. That misunderstanding springs from a dearth of evidence, says Graham Kerley, a zoologist at Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University in Port Elizabeth, South Africa, and lead author of the new study. Aardvarks are intensely secretive, spending their days in burrows up to 10 meters deep. And because they lack the reflective tissue that makes many animals’ eyes shine at night, it’s hard for scientists to track them down and observe anything they’re doing. Few wild observations of drinking have resulted in the scientific myth. “The literature is quite confused,” Kerley says. So Kerley and his team trawled through past studies and compiled multiple reports of aardvarks drinking in the wild, including four photographs and a video, the team reports this month in the . Aardvarks were seen sipping water from several rivers, a puddle of rainwater, and the waters near a dam in South Africa. Together, Kerley hopes the observations—made by other researchers, wildlife photographers, and field rangers—put to rest the idea that aardvarks don’t drink water. Amelia Clark is far from surprised by the findings. The aardvarks’ drinking problem wasn’t nearly as mysterious as other scientists thought, says the wildlife biologist at the Royal Veterinary College in London. Zookeepers, for example, have long known that aardvarks drink the way other termite- and ant-eating animals do: dipping their long mouths into water. She says that the captive aardvarks are often fed a dry diet however, which is a far cry from the animal’s preferred palate for termites and ants. “Captive behavior is often a poor predictor of behavior in the wild.” Even though the myth had already been partially shattered, Kerley’s efforts could help raise awareness of aardvarks in the wild, which are under pressure from climate change, habitat destruction, and ecosystem disruptions, says Clark, who has studied aardvark, ant-eater, and armadillo diets. “[Aardvarks are] at the bottom of the [conservation] totem pole because they aren’t keystone species like pandas or koalas that everyone thinks are cute and fuzzy,” she says. Kerley agrees. He worries that climate change could irrevocably alter the dry areas where aardvarks now live, threatening their existence. “These systems are going to become dryer in the future and we have no idea what the implications are going to be,” he says. That could affect more than just aardvarks, because their burrows help plant growth and are used by warthogs, insects, and even humans for shelter.


News Article | July 7, 2017
Site: www.newscientist.com

Frogs legs have sprung a big surprise – contrary to textbook biology, they have primitive kneecaps. The kneecaps are made of dense, fibrous cartilage rather than bone, and appear to be much better suited to soaking up the strains of leaping and jumping than the bony human patella. They may have been missed until now because they are not clearly visible on frog leg bones, even with a microscope, says Virginia Abdala of Argentina’s Institute of Neotropical Biodiversity, who led the investigation. The researchers analysed full skeletons of 20 species, but they were only able to see kneecaps in the eight specimens from which they took tissue slices for analysis. One implication of the discovery is that kneecaps like this began to evolve in the Devonian period 400 million years ago, when the first four-legged animals reached land, the researchers say. “Until now it was thought that the evolution of kneecaps coincided with the arrival of tetrapods that lay eggs on land or retain fertilised eggs in the body,” says Abdala. This investigation shows that the process really started with fibrocartilage in frogs, she says. “It could be related to locomotion on land, which may have required reinforcement of precise limb points,” she says. The frogs’ fibrous kneecaps have a lot of elasticity, and so are suited to soaking up the large forces exerted during the act of jumping or leaping once tetrapods reached land. Animals later evolved to walk rather than relying so heavily on jumping, and so developed bony kneecaps better suited to this. “The resting position in frogs is analogous to the jumping position in humans, so the knees of frogs are under constant stress, and the fibrocartilaginous kneecap might alleviate this,” says Abdala. “It does matter what kneecaps are made out of,” says John Hutchinson, also at the Royal Veterinary College. “Bone is a good lever, better at resisting compression than fibrocartilage, so animals using their kneecaps as levers rather than cushions would benefit from bony kneecaps.” “Fibrocartilage is a good cushion, and might be the original state of kneecaps, possibly inherited by all legged land vertebrates.” Abdala agrees: “The structures are probably protecting the knee from the huge mechanical effort necessary for the jumping of frogs”. In contrast, when humans jump, there’s not enough elasticity in the bony patella to soak up these forces, leading to injury and inflammation of the underlying tendons, as in “jumper’s knee”. “I think it’s very exciting to have potentially discovered a patella in frogs,” says Sophie Regnault  of the Royal Veterinary College in London. There are hints of non-bony kneecaps in frogs, crocodiles and turtles, and a non-bony kneecap or similar structure is well-documented in marsupials, she adds. Not everyone believes the structures qualify as kneecaps, however. “The authors convincingly demonstrate that some frog species have one, sometimes two, fibrocartilagenous elements adjacent to the knee joint, but it’s premature to identify them as patellae,” says Matthew Vickaryous of Ontario Veterinary College in Canada. He says that similar features – called patelloids – have been found in some mammals, in some cases alongside clearly genuine kneecaps, as in rabbits. Vickaryous also points out that there are around 7000 species of frogs and toads worldwide, so it may not be justified to infer that they all have these features after analysing only eight species. “The data represent more of a starting point for future investigations aimed at resolving the evolutionary origins of these confusing elements,” he says. Richard Essner of Southern Illinois University feels similarly. He recommends analysing tailed frogs and New Zealand frogs, because they branched off from other frogs 200 million years ago. If they too have fibrous kneecaps, it would reinforce the argument that the earliest frogs had them too, he says.


News Article | November 3, 2015
Site: www.theguardian.com

More than half of the world’s population of an endangered antelope died within two weeks earlier this year, in a phenomenon that scientists are unable to explain. At least 150,000 adult saiga antelopes were buried during a fortnight in May, but scientists say the actual figure will be significantly higher as many more carcasses were found but not counted as part of the burials. Calves were not counted, but it is thought that hundreds of thousands died too. Known for their distinctive cylindrical snout, bulging eyes and curled horns as well as their ability to survive dramatic changes in temperature, the animals are one of the most endangered species on the planet. Before the most recent die-off, the estimated population was between 250,000 and 320,000. The die-off has only occurred in the plains of Kazakhstan, where 90% of the global population resides. The mass mortality defies understanding of how biological systems normally behave, scientists have said. They believe the deaths occurred too quickly to be attributed to a transmissible disease. There are no wounds or evident trauma that would point to poaching and no obvious signs of malnutrition. Soil and water samples have not revealed any significant presence of toxins or poisoning by radiation, despite claims by Kazakhstan activists that fuel from Russian rockets could be to blame. The most likely culprit is a bacteria called pasteurella already living in the throat of the animals, Prof Richard Kock from the Royal Veterinary College at the University of London told the Guardian. Although normally dormant, it is likely that an unidentified trigger caused it to change its character and “become nasty”, he said, producing toxins that could attack the antelope’s organ systems and cause death within hours. But something must have triggered this change across the entire population; most likely a environmental factor, said Kock. A temperature drop from 30C to -5C within 24 hours occurred in the days before the die-off, during the calving period after the animals have shedded their protective winter coats. However, similar temperature changes have occurred in previous years. Ongoing climate change could also have had an impact, with significant temperature rises in the region in recent years, he added. Changes to vegetation and soil and the presence of toxins are being further investigated. “It could all be down to timing. If you get your ducks all lined up in a row, something happens. Whatever it is, it has to be something that would affect all of them.” The phenomenon is all the more notable for the 100% mortality rate recorded among some populations, an “extremely rare” event, said Kock. “This is not really normal for a biological system. It’s bizarre, extremely rare and doesn’t make a lot of sense. Usually in a system, a proportion die and get sick,” he said. Scientists are also investigating the potential role of a virus, but no evidence has yet emerged. The species’ extinction could now be inevitable, warned Kock. “It’s a question of luck at this stage. If you can lose 100% of a population, you’re left with a few populations and they are all affected at the same time, that’s it … If climate change is involved, the frequency [of deaths] will increase and if that’s the case then extinction could be inevitable,” he said. Saiga antelopes are vulnerable to dramatic population loss. Just 15 years ago, the global population stood at more than 1 million, but the species has since experienced a decline of 95%, according to the Saiga Conservation Alliance. Previous population crashes were attributed to poaching. Scientists, wildlife specialists, police and campaigners are now engaged in a race against time to save the species, with key figures from the different affected countries coming together with support from the UN last week to explore future measures to support the species.


News Article | February 24, 2017
Site: phys.org

Scientists at Cornell University's College of Veterinary Medicine have devised genetic tests that can detect the environmental DNA (eDNA) of invasive species in a waterway before they become established there. But there are more than 7,600 freshwater lakes and ponds and over 70,000 miles of rivers and streams in New York State, all of them potential conduits for the unwelcome species. How can the Cornell team watch them all for signs of a potential invasion? The answer: teams of young citizen scientists from schools located near a lake, river, or creek, who gather water samples to send to Cornell for analysis. Dr. Donna Cassidy-Hanley, a senior research associate at the Cornell Veterinary College, had already worked with teachers across New York state to provide hands-on resources for teaching basic science. Teaming up with Cornell Professor James Casey, who developed the genetic tests, Cassidy-Hanley went back to those teachers with a new proposal: Engage your students in a hands-on research project with Cornell scientists that introduces them to invasive species, ecology, environmental management, and bio-informatics, and that has important real world impact. The response has been amazing. "We had hoped to get five or six teachers involved in the pilot program," says Hanley-Cassidy. "We currently have 60 teachers across the state." Students at schools from New York City to small rural upstate towns have joined in the effort to monitor the spread of invasive fish, contributing critical data and learning about science firsthand. Cornell sends participating classes free kits containing everything needed to collect water samples. Sample collection starts in the spring as soon as the ice melts and continues until the waters freeze in the fall. Cornell shares detailed test results with teachers and students as soon as the analyses are complete, providing a platform for further learning and discussion. Some classes travel to Cornell to see the laboratory where their samples are tested. Casey is impressed with the quality of the samples. "I was surprised at how well the program works," he says. "Round goby have been identified at 38 separate sites across the state, including two sites in areas where round goby had not previously been found." The program is supported in part by a USDA HATCH grant, which covers activities in New York state. Word is spreading and teachers from other states are expressing interest in the possibility of similar program,The feedback from teachers and students is very encouraging. Student interest is high, even among students with little past interest in science, and extracurricular groups like ecology clubs have become involved. "Activities like this can have a game changing influence on attitudes and interests," Cassidy-Hanley says. "Seeing firsthand how invasives can affect fishing and boating, as well as the environment and the economy, helps students understand that science has a real impact on daily life." Maps that show participants and test results across the state can be seen by visiting tetrahymenaasset.vet.cornell.edu/invasive-fish-program/edna-testing-results/ . The map on that page is not interactive, but the four species-specific links above it connect to maps that are. Explore further: Study finds cash and coins help engage primary maths students


News Article | February 24, 2017
Site: www.eurekalert.org

Invasive aquatic species like round goby, Asian carp, and sea lamprey are a growing problem in New York State. Their presence impacts water quality, food supply, recreation and tourism, as well as human and animal health. Early detection is a critical first step in monitoring a species' spread and managing responses. Scientists at Cornell University's College of Veterinary Medicine have devised genetic tests that can detect the environmental DNA (eDNA) of invasive species in a waterway before they become established there. But there are more than 7,600 freshwater lakes and ponds and over 70,000 miles of rivers and streams in New York State, all of them potential conduits for the unwelcome species. How can the Cornell team watch them all for signs of a potential invasion? The answer: teams of young citizen scientists from schools located near a lake, river, or creek, who gather water samples to send to Cornell for analysis. Dr. Donna Cassidy-Hanley, a senior research associate at the Cornell Veterinary College, had already worked with teachers across New York state to provide hands-on resources for teaching basic science. Teaming up with Cornell Professor James Casey, who developed the genetic tests, Cassidy-Hanley went back to those teachers with a new proposal: Engage your students in a hands-on research project with Cornell scientists that introduces them to invasive species, ecology, environmental management, and bio-informatics, and that has important real world impact. The response has been amazing. "We had hoped to get five or six teachers involved in the pilot program," says Hanley-Cassidy. "We currently have 60 teachers across the state." Students at schools from New York City to small rural upstate towns have joined in the effort to monitor the spread of invasive fish, contributing critical data and learning about science firsthand. Cornell sends participating classes free kits containing everything needed to collect water samples. Sample collection starts in the spring as soon as the ice melts and continues until the waters freeze in the fall. Cornell shares detailed test results with teachers and students as soon as the analyses are complete, providing a platform for further learning and discussion. Some classes travel to Cornell to see the laboratory where their samples are tested. Casey is impressed with the quality of the samples. "I was surprised at how well the program works," he says. "Round goby have been identified at 38 separate sites across the state, including two sites in areas where round goby had not previously been found." The program is supported in part by a USDA HATCH grant, which covers activities in New York state. Word is spreading and teachers from other states are expressing interest in the possibility of similar program, The feedback from teachers and students is very encouraging. Student interest is high, even among students with little past interest in science, and extracurricular groups like ecology clubs have become involved. "Activities like this can have a game changing influence on attitudes and interests," Cassidy-Hanley says. "Seeing firsthand how invasives can affect fishing and boating, as well as the environment and the economy, helps students understand that science has a real impact on daily life." Maps that show participants and test results across the state can be seen by visiting https:/ . The map on that page is not interactive, but the four species-specific links above it connect to maps that are.

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