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Bettigole C.A.,University of Vermont | Donovan T.M.,U.S. Geological Survey | Manning R.,University of Vermont | Long R.,Woodland Park Zoo
Biological Conservation | Year: 2014

The conversion of natural lands to developed uses may pose the single greatest human threat to global terrestrial biodiversity. Continued human growth and development over the next century will further exacerbate these effects of habitat loss and fragmentation. Natural resource managers are tasked with managing wildlife as a public trust, yet often have little say in land use decisions. Generally speaking, decision makers could benefit from an understanding of what different regulations mean in terms of wildlife distribution. In a previous paper (Bettigole et al., 2013), we surveyed town residents throughout Vermont to measure how respondents feel about a range of development levels within their town boundaries. We estimated the "social carrying capacity for development" - or SKd - for 251 towns in Vermont. SKd provides an estimate of the level of developed land cover classes that town residents deem "acceptable" within their town boundaries. In this paper, we design a framework for linking the town-specific SKd estimates with the wildlife distribution patterns for three wide-ranging mammalian species: American black bear (Ursus americanus), fisher (Martes pennanti), and bobcat (Lynx rufus). We simulated landscape conditions at SKd for each town in Vermont, and then used existing occupancy models for the three target species to spatially map and compare occupancy rates in the baseline year 2000 with occupancy rates at SKd. With nearly 90% of Vermont towns willing to increase developed landcover classes within town boundaries compared to baseline levels, significant state-wide changes in occupancy rates were predicted for all three focal species. Average occupancy rates declined by -15.9% and -3.1% for black bear and bobcats, respectively. Average occupancy rates for fisher increased by 9.0%. This study provides a method for linking development standards within a town with wildlife occurrence. Across towns, the methodology spatially identifies areas that may be at risk of future development, as well as identifying areas where wildlife distribution patterns may face future change as a result of increased human population growth and development. © 2013.

News Article | December 25, 2016
Site: motherboard.vice.com

If you want to study wolverines with Robert Long, senior conservation fellow at the Woodland Park Zoo in Seattle, you'd better be okay with smelling like a skunk. That musky scent (mixed with a little castor oil and a touch of anise) emanates from dispensers installed at Long's winter research sites throughout the North Cascades Mountains in Washington State. Winter is the best season in which to study wolverines—work that is critically important, given their pending status as a threatened species. But, two years ago, a winter study was impossible for Long. Dangerously deep snow packs and steep avalanche slopes prevented biologists from returning regularly to the remote camera and hair snagging sites, in order to replace the wolverine-luring bait. (Back then, they were using things like rotting beaver carcass.) With a little help from Mike Sinclair, an engineer at Microsoft, Long came up with a smelly solution to make winter study possible. "We're dealing with a critically threatened population. It's not known how they will deal with long term concerns like climate change" Long and Sinclair, with biologist Joel Sauder from the Idaho Department of Fish and Game, developed a scent dispenser based on an ultra-low power control processor, which is powered by lithium batteries. This air 'de-freshener' has a tiny peristaltic pump designed to release three milliliters of skunky smell each day for six to nine months. During the fall of 2015, Long and his team put scent dispensers out at 24 stations in places they expected wolverines to visit. Cameras, hair traps and dispensers were placed a minimum of four metres up trees to account for the massive snowpack that would accumulate over the next eight months. Then, they waited to see if the skunky scent dispensers would work. New results say yes. According to as-yet-unpublished research, the team detected wolverines at 13 locations, identified by varying colour patches on their chest fur, visited the sites over an eight-month period in 2015/16. "That represents a huge increase in the number of detections over any of our previous survey efforts from the summer," said Long, who had only detected individuals at four locations when he conducted surveys over the three summers previous. (There was no way to do winter research at that time, so he stuck to the warmer months.) In most cases, the first wolverine wasn't detected on camera until five or six months after the scent dispensers were deployed. "Wolverines are probably scarce on the landscape and moving great distances," said Long. "They are only in any one place infrequently, even in places we expect them to occur." However, he added, it's good news in term of the longevity of the dispensers, in that they were still luring wolverines that far out from deployment. While the smell drew them in, wolverines were not easily fooled. At most stations, Long said the wolverines only hung around for a minute or two. They would climb the tree toward the scent dispenser, investigate a bare bone that was hanging underneath, and quickly realize there was nothing to eat. Then they were out of there. Read More: This Medicine-Misting Bat Cave 'Air Freshener' Could Ward Off a Deadly Disease "Over the eight-month period the stations are operable, the wolverine might visit once, and only for two minutes. So it's really key that our equipment is working well," he said. Seventeen of the scent dispensers were still squirting out skunk smell upon retrieval in the spring of 2016. The other third worked for at least part of the winter. With Sinclair, the team was able to identify what contributed to any failures, and develop an upgraded version that will last over a longer period of time. This fall, Long and his team deployed another round of dispensers at winter research sites to help collect wolverine data. This comes at an important time for wolverines in the American Northwest, as understanding their populations numbers may be key to a correct listing under the Endangered Species Act. In 2014, the US Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) withdrew the proposal to list the wolverine as a threatened species after "concluding that the factors affecting it were not as significant as were once thought." However, a district court in Montana overturned the USFWS withdrawal, forcing them to reconsider the listing. As a result, the USFWS was soliciting any new information on wolverines through their commenting process in the fall. A threatened listing means this wolverine population is likely to become endangered within the foreseeable future, throughout all or a significant portion of its range. I asked Long if his findings support the listing. In the most positive interpretation of his preliminary results, he said there may be only 20-40 individuals in the area. "We're dealing with a critically threatened population. It's not known how they will deal with long term concerns like climate change, or short term concerns like moving across transportation corridors, roads, and through other human disturbances to the landscape," he said. Armed with new technology, Long aims to find out, one skunky smelling research station at a time. Correction: An earlier version stated that 13 wolverines had been detected, when in fact wolverines were detected at 13 locations (not necessarily adding up to 13 animals). In addition, during the previous three summers, wolverines were detected at four locations—again, not necessarily four wolverines. The original piece also contained a caption error in the lead image. The piece has been updated to reflect these changes. 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News Article | November 10, 2015
Site: phys.org

To keep tabs on these elusive species, researchers typically will release a scent that catches their interest, and then use a remote camera – also known as a camera trap – to snap pictures that help monitor these animals. The pairing of enticing scents and remote cameras presents a non-invasive way to study these species during an active time for them, and thereby help advance wildlife conservation. But there's a hitch: the bait or scent at these survey stations usually has to be replenished every one to three weeks, which is no small task, especially in the dead of winter. Microsoft researcher Mike Sinclair engineered the missing piece that Seattle's Woodland Park Zoo and Idaho Fish and Game needed to keep their scent dispensers operating all winter long. "We were struggling to find something we could leave out to attract wolverines and other animals. How do we take stinky liquid lure and make it last all winter?" says Dr. Robert Long, a senior conservation fellow in the Field Conservation Department at Woodland Park Zoo. "We needed someone who could build some kind of electronic device that could dispense liquid. When I described this idea for a device, within a day we knew the fit was right with Mike." Long, Sinclair and Joel Sauder, Ph.D., a wildlife biologist for Idaho Fish and Game, worked together over six months to create an ultra-low power control processor powered by lithium batteries. It's programmed to release three milliliters of liquid scent lure each day for six to nine months without maintenance, through a mini peristaltic pump. Sinclair, who describes himself as "a hardware kind of guy," developed a processor board that he and high school students in his STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) mentoring group replicated about 70 times. They handed those over to the conservationists, who integrated the boards into metal, bear-proof kits that house the liquid scent pump system. The processor design had to withstand several variables, including extreme cold, rapid energy consumption for short intervals and extreme low power the rest of the time. Sinclair built in dispensing intervals and tested all the processors, also known as control boards. "It was a learning experience for all of us," says Sinclair. "It improved my coding skills, squeezing every last day out of these batteries, coming up with the best use of the program to not overtax the batteries." As part of an ongoing collaborative wolverine study with the US Forest Service, 35 of these dispensers will be distributed over about 656 square miles in the North Cascades. Another 20 are being used in a multi-species forest carnivore project in north-central Idaho that covers about 36 square miles. Another 10 are available as spares. The deployment was a mad scramble as the team sought to take advantage of good weather before the cold set in, but Long and the other conservationists are relieved to have found a solution to a problem that's long vexed them. "Mike has been absolutely awesome, he was exactly what we were looking for," Long says. "We needed a fairly straightforward way to control this thing over time. He created a tool to help us study and conserve these types of species. It really was a project that came about because of our true need." Sauder said they were impressed that Microsoft was interested in helping them, and it couldn't have come at a better time. The team had originally tried to build something using off-the-shelf tools, but they kept striking out when it came to battery life and durability. Long says they've already deployed 25 of the kits in September, with plans to put out more when Washington state closes Highway 20, between Ross Lake and the community of Mazama. The US Forest Service has conducted wolverine studies in the area for the past 10 years, so they know it's an area where they go. Remote cameras – which can take 40,000 images during a single deployment – provide valuable data about species demography and behavior, such as reproduction timing and success, as well as den site behavior. They're also used extensively as outreach and teaching tools. "Many of the species targeted in these surveys we don't know a lot about; these surveys fill knowledge gaps and give us improved information about populations," says Sauder, who once set up a bait station using a beaver carcass that attracted a number of species besides the carnivores, such as deer, elk and squirrels that all checked out the carcass due to the scent it produced. "This device will allow us to put out a network of cameras in fall before it snows, and pick them back up once the snow is gone." While Sinclair didn't have ties to conservationists in the past, he's happy to be part of helping wildlife prosper. "It was a fun project, and good for the world, good for the environment," Sinclair says. "It also increases my repertoire, working with low-power processors." Explore further: Utah wolverine sighting first documented in 30 years

News Article | February 15, 2017
Site: www.nature.com

Every few days, Alan Flint plucks a gardenia from outside the building where his wife, Lorraine, works in Sacramento, California. He replaces the fading flower on her desk and refills the glass with fresh water. It's an easy romantic gesture, given that Alan's office is right down the hall. The Flints are both research hydrologists with the US Geological Survey California Water Science Center. It's the farthest apart their offices have been for years: they met during secondary school, married in 1975 and have been next door to each other throughout much of their careers in soil science. There are many couples in science similar to the Flints — and this Valentine's Day, Alan might not be the only one delivering flowers to an office down the hall. For researcher couples, obvious advantages can range from reviewing each other's writing to carpooling. Yet there are potential downsides, from navigating the challenge of finding and holding dual jobs to concerns about potential or existing conflicts of interest — such as when one partner sits on a promotions committee that discusses the other — or what might happen if the romance collapses (see 'Science soldiers on'). According to a 2008 report by the Clayman Institute for Gender Research at Stanford University in California, which collected data on around 9,000 faculty members at 13 universities, 36% of US faculty members were part of an academic couple1. Of those, 38% worked in the same department as their partner. Professors in the natural sciences were particularly likely to work in similar fields or the same department: 83% of female scientists and 54% of male scientists in academic couples had another scientist as a partner. A report released by the US National Science Foundation in 2015 found that 73% of scientists were married, and 24% of their employed spouses worked in engineering, computing, mathematics or the natural sciences2. “I know so many of my colleagues here who are married to another scientist on this campus,” says Alexis Templeton, a geologist at the University of Colorado Boulder. In Europe, too, it's common for scientists to marry another scientist, says Phil Stanier, a geneticist at University College London — although it's less common for them to work as closely as he does with his wife, geneticist Gudrun Moore, with whom he's co-authored dozens of papers. A 2016 report by the European Commission (EC) similarly found that 72% of surveyed researchers were in a relationship, and, of those, 54% were partnered with a person who was also pursuing a demanding career (although not necessarily in science)3. Some couples deliberately keep their careers separate and don't talk much shop on evenings and weekends. Others, such as the Flints, are driven by a shared goal, and seamlessly integrate their work and home lives. Ultimately, navigating a relationship and career as a member of a scientist couple requires mutual respect, effort to carve out two distinct niches and a hearty dose of cooperation. Married wildlife biologists Paula MacKay and Robert Long laugh at the idea of setting boundaries between personal and professional activities. The pair was once halfway up a mountain, carrying odorous bear-scent lures, when MacKay realized that it was their wedding anniversary. Long, a senior conservation scientist at Woodland Park Zoo in Seattle, Washington, and MacKay, a contract field biologist whose clients include the zoo, had been so involved in planning their trip that they had both forgotten the date. “I feel like I'm always out there with my best friend,” MacKay says. “When we approach a remote camera site or a place where we had set out a station before, it's really exciting to be there with Rob.” That shared joy is one of the myriad benefits of dual employment as researchers. Those might be as simple as grabbing lunch for one's partner on a busy day, as Frances Rena Bahjat and Keith Bahjat of Bristol-Myers Squibb in Redwood City, California, frequently do for each other. Frances Rena is senior director of in vivo studies and Keith directs cellular immunology at the company. To keep up with the literature, they also play a 'Who can find the best papers?' game each week, and they recommend potential collaborators to each other. “The two of us have much more reach than a single scientist, that's for sure,” says Frances Rena. One partner's enthusiasm for science, or for a particular field, can be contagious. Frances Rena says that she probably wouldn't have become a scientist if she hadn't met her husband (and now, colleague) when both were undergraduates. She didn't understand how science could be a career until she met Keith, whose father was a geophysicist. Similarly, Alan Flint started his career in soil science before Lorraine followed, and their couple status has even helped in a job search. As Alan was finishing his PhD and Lorraine her master's, their adviser heard about a lab that was looking for two soil scientists — one at the PhD level and one at the master's level. They got the jobs. This situation is not uncommon: in the Clayman Institute report1, 10% of faculty members were hired as a couple, and as of 2008, that rate was on the rise. Usually, one partner was hired first and negotiated for the other. Men were more often the first hire at that time, and the second hire was more likely to be in a junior faculty position. For many couples, such as geneticists Moore and Stanier of University College London, working together enhances both the relationship and research. The pair met during the 1980s at St Mary's Hospital in London. After a series of lecturer and postdoc positions, both worked at Imperial College London for a time, sharing equipment, working on each other's grants and co-authoring papers. They tried working apart, but didn't like it. “We're stronger together,” says Moore. For example, the pair was able to productively combine Moore's background in protein chemistry and Stanier's in molecular cloning when they searched for a gene associated with X-linked cleft palate. Working together and being able to continue the discussion at home is a big advantage for the research, agrees Shin-ichi Horike, a geneticist at Kanazawa University in Japan whose wife, Makiko Meguro, works in his lab. When a grant deadline is coming up, science is a major item on the conversation agenda at their house, albeit after the children have gone to bed. They discuss results of their experiments on those evenings. For partners who collaborate closely, division of expertise is crucial. “You have to develop complementary skills so that you're not in competition with each other,” says Lorraine Flint. And it's important, for the relationship, to take a bit of time away from science, say the Flints. They've set aside a daily cocktail hour. Ethologists Rick D'Eath and Susan Jarvis of Scotland's Rural College in Easter Bush, UK, don't work on exactly the same science, but they use each other as a sounding board to practise major presentations. Both can approach other colleagues for feedback, but are fully — even brutally — honest with each other. Jarvis feels perfectly comfortable telling her husband that his points are “a bit rubbish”. Whether scientist couples work closely or just share an employer, many say that they appreciate the ability to provide mutual support through tough times at work. Allison Mattheis, an educational researcher at California State University (Cal State) in Los Angeles, met her partner, Valerie Wong, when they were both at the University of Minnesota — Mattheis at the Minneapolis campus and Wong in St Paul. Now, Wong is an adjunct faculty member at Cal State. “You get frustrated by all the same bureaucratic hurdles of the institution,” says Mattheis. Who better to commiserate with over Mattheis's struggles to add her partner to her health insurance than Wong? The two talk about how best to design lessons, address students' misconceptions or advise students. Wong also refers biology students with an interest in teaching to Mattheis. The two have started a project to connect secondary-school teachers with university instructors to improve early science education. These relationships are of value to scientists still in training, too. Erin Zimmerman of London, Canada, misses this kind of connection now that she and her husband, Eric Chevalier, no longer work in science. Although they met as graduate students in the Plant Biology Research Institute at the University of Montreal, Canada, she's now a freelance science writer; he, an optometrist at Old South Optometry in London. When they began dating, it was easy to keep in contact. Chevalier once placed a picture of a hand-drawn flower into a beaker on Zimmerman's desk, because he knew she hated how real cut flowers die. They co-authored a review, and related to each other's dealings with academic culture, funding woes and other frustrations. “It was nice being able to have someone at home who really understood that,” says Zimmerman. “Now,” she jokes, “we bore each other.” There are potential pitfalls to such a relationship. For one, those determined to work together might limit their options. One-fifth of researchers in a relationship surveyed by the EC3 had refused or left a job owing to the challenge of maintaining both careers. Moore advises: “You have to be seen as one, so when they want you, they want both of you.” Scientist couples who work together need to be aware of how they present themselves, and must always maintain an image of two distinct professionals. “Your relationship is living in a fishbowl,” says MacKay. And they must take care to avoid even the possible appearance of favouritism. Intern architect Donna Marion and her husband, Mike Grosskopf, a statistics graduate student at Simon Fraser University in Vancouver, Canada, met as undergraduates in an astrophysics lab at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor. Both joined the lab as employees once they graduated, and, for a time, Grosskopf was Marion's supervisor. But when romance blossomed, he warned his boss, who changed Marion's supervisor. Similarly, mathematician Piper Harron, a temporary faculty member at the University of Hawaii at Manoa, avoided selecting her husband, Robert Harron, as an academic mentor when she was applying for grant support. “If we weren't related, I would be the natural choice,” says her husband, a maths faculty member at the university, but he knew that any reports or letters of recommendation that he might write about her would be suspect. Nonetheless, they contribute to each other's work, reading and editing their writing. Piper excels at bits that sell the projects, and Robert is good at converting text into more maths-oriented language. Sharing a last name might also raise eyebrows, adds biochemist Edith Sim of Oxford, UK, who met her husband, Bob Sim, when they were undergraduate laboratory partners. They worked in each other's labs at times. Once, a grant application that she had submitted came back with the comment, “Was this hers or was this her husband's?” From then on, she left her husband's name off any papers that she produced. By contrast, colleagues of Moore and Stanier didn't always catch on that they were married. “We didn't hide it, but we didn't particularly flaunt it,” explains Stanier. One visiting student spent a few months in Moore's lab while Stanier was a postdoc there, and thought the two were engaged in a scandalous affair. (His adviser set him straight.) Another issue that couples may want to consider, points out Keith Bahjat, is that when a couple works for the same employer, both members depend on that employer for their wages. That's a particular concern in industry, he says, where companies might impose layoffs at any time. D'Eath and Jarvis had the same concern, which they've mitigated in part by Jarvis taking a second position as director of a master's programme at the University of Edinburgh, UK, in addition to her work at Scotland's Rural College. Now they feel safer, because it's unlikely that both institutions would falter at the same time. Despite these challenges, scientist couples know that they enjoy significant good fortune. “Finding a situation where you both have great opportunity is really rare,” says Frances Rena Bahjat.

News Article | December 22, 2016
Site: phys.org

She's Colo, the nation's oldest living gorilla, and she turned 60 on Thursday at the Columbus Zoo and Aquarium. Colo was the first gorilla in the world born in a zoo and has surpassed the usual life expectancy of captive gorillas by two decades. Her longevity is putting a spotlight on the medical care, nutrition and up-to-date therapeutic techniques that are helping lengthen zoo animals' lives. "Colo just epitomizes the advances that zoos have made, going all the way back to her birth at Columbus," said Dr. Tom Meehan, vice president for veterinary services at Chicago's Brookfield Zoo and veterinary adviser to a national gorilla species survival plan. The changes also mean more animals living with the normal aches and pains of growing older. Today, zoo veterinarians regularly treat animals for heart and kidney disease, arthritis, dental problems and cancer. Hundreds of people gathered at the zoo Thursday to see Colo, singing "Happy Birthday" moments before the gorilla ambled into an enclosure decorated with multicolored construction paper chains and filled with cakes such as squash and beet and cornbread with mashed potato parsley frosting. Among the first in line was Pam Schlereth of Columbus, who at 63 was just a little girl when her father brought her to see the newborn Colo in a gorilla incubator in 1956. "It's a tribute to the zoo that she's alive at 60 years old," Schlereth said. Colo represents so much to the zoo, Tom Stalf, president of the zoo, told the crowd. "It's all about connecting people and wildlife," he said. Colo is one of several elderly gorillas around the country. The oldest known living male gorilla, Ozzie, is 55 years old and lives at the Atlanta Zoo, which has a geriatric gorilla specialty. At Seattle's Woodland Park Zoo, staff members use acupuncture, massage, laser therapy, and heat and joint supplements to help Emma, a 13-year-old rabbit. At the National Zoo in Washington, Shanthi, a 42-year-old Asian elephant with arthritis, receives osteoarthritis therapy and was recently fitted with specially crafted front foot boots to help her feet heal as medications are applied. In Oakland, California, Tiki, a 27-year-old giraffe and one of the oldest in the nation, gets foot care, massage therapy, acupuncture and chiropractic care, along with traditional veterinary medicine. Gao Gao, a 26-year-old male panda at the San Diego Zoo with a heart condition, periodically undergoes cardiac ultrasounds. "Geriatrics is probably one of our most common medical challenges that we face in a zoo situation," said Dr. Keith Hinshaw, director of animal health at the Philadelphia Zoo. "So pretty much anything that you could imagine would happen with an older person is going to happen eventually with any animal." That's up to and including medication: JJ, a 45-year-old orangutan at the Toledo Zoo, is on the human heart medicines carvedilol and Lisinopril, along with pain and orthopedic medications. He also takes Metamucil. Colo, a western lowland gorilla, holds several other records. On her 56th birthday in 2012, she exceeded the record for longest-lived gorilla. On Thursday, she surpasses the median life expectancy for female gorillas in human care (37.5 years) by more than two decades. Coldilocks, a 36-year-old polar bear at the Philadelphia Zoo and considered the oldest polar bear in the U.S. The bears' typical lifespan in captivity is 23 years. The zoo says treating her early for kidney disease appears to have helped prolong her life. Elly, an eastern black rhino at the San Francisco Zoo estimated to be 46 years old, is the oldest of her species in North America. She has had 14 calves, and her offspring have produced 15 grandchildren, 6 great-grandchildren and 1 great-great-grandchild. Packy, an Asian elephant at the Oregon Zoo, and at 54, the oldest male of his species in North America. The zoo says Packy, born in 1962, became the first elephant to be born in the Western Hemisphere in 44 years. Nikko, a 33-year-old snow monkey at the Minnesota Zoo, the oldest male snow monkey in North America. Little Mama, a chimpanzee living at Lion Country Safari in Loxahatchee, Florida, with an estimated age in her late 70s. She takes allergy medicine, iron supplements and omega 3 multivitamins, and has been trained to accept a nebulizer treatment for coughing. Emerson, a Galapagos tortoise at the Toledo Zoo in Ohio, whose age is estimated at about 100. Michele Frymen, from left, Christy Anderson and Jacob Anderson, all from Columbus, hold up a birthday cake and wave as they get their picture taken during some festivities in the food court as part of the 60th birthday celebration for Colo, the nation's oldest living gorilla, at the Columbus Zoo and Aquarium, Thursday, Dec. 22, 2016 in Columbus, Ohio. Colo was the first gorilla in the world born in a zoo and has surpassed the usual life expectancy of captive gorillas by two decades. Her longevity is putting a spotlight on the medical care, nutrition and up-to-date therapeutic techniques that are helping lengthen zoo animals' lives. (AP Photo/Ty Wright) In this Dec. 16, 2016 file photo, Coldilocks the polar bear looks up from a nap at the Philadelphia Zoo in Philadelphia. Coldilocks, who celebrated her 36th birthday last week, is considered the oldest polar bear in the U.S. The bears' typical lifespan in captivity is 23 years. (AP Photo/Matt Rourke, File) In this March 27, 2012 file photo, Packy, an Asian elephant, is sprayed with water at the Oregon Zoo, in Portland. Packy at 54 is the oldest male of his species in North America. The zoo says Packy, born in 1962, became the first elephant to be born in the Western Hemisphere in 44 years. (Randy L. Rasmussen/The Oregonian via AP, File) Explore further: Oldest zoo gorilla doing well after biopsy before birthday

Tracking and studying high-elevation species such as wolverines and lynx during the onset of winter at the North Cascades in Washington state can be challenging. The aforementioned species are easily irked by humans. As a result, researchers are forced to set up what's known in nature as camera traps — a method of releasing a pleasing scent to attract the animals and then snapping pictures of them remotely as they follow their nose to the smell. Well, a Microsoft researcher has figured out a better mouse trap technology to follow such animals through the winter. According to a Microsoft blog, researcher Mike Sinclair developed an ultra-low processor — powered by lithium batteries and only dispensing three milliliters of luring liquid scent per day — allowing researchers to track and study high-elevation species throughout the winter and beyond without any maintenance. The way Sinclair accomplished this was by working with a group of STEM high school students, who built about 70 processor boards, which have since been installed in metal bear-proof casings. The dispensers were then distributed throughout the North Cascades and beyond, in places like the Woodland Park Zoo in Seattle and Idaho Fish and Game. "We were struggling to find something we could leave out to attract wolverines and other animals. How do we take stinky liquid lure and make it last all winter?" Dr. Robert Long, a senior conservation fellow in the Field Conservation Department at Woodland Park Zoo, said in Microsoft's blog. "We needed someone who could build some kind of electronic device that could dispense liquid. When I described this idea for a device, within a day we knew the fit was right with Mike." The main problem with camera traps before Sinclair's upgrade was they relinquished their scent too quickly and had to be replenished every one to three weeks. That was a hard task to pull off during the bitter winter cold. Now, with Sinclair's advanced technique, the way North Cascades will monitor high-elevation species can be relatively autonomous throughout the winter and beyond, with Microsoft saying the slight-dispensing scent will last six to nine months without maintenance.

Porolak G.,James Cook University | Dabek L.,Woodland Park Zoo | Krockenberger A.K.,James Cook University
PLoS ONE | Year: 2014

Tree kangaroos (Macropodidae, Dendrolagus) are some of Australasia's least known mammals. However, there is sufficient evidence of population decline and local extinctions that all New Guinea tree kangaroos are considered threatened. Understanding spatial requirements is important in conservation and management. Expectations from studies of Australian tree kangaroos and other rainforest macropodids suggest that tree kangaroos should have small discrete home ranges with the potential for high population densities, but there are no published estimates of spatial requirements of any New Guinea tree kangaroo species. Home ranges of 15 Huon tree kangaroos, Dendrolagus matschiei, were measured in upper montane forest on the Huon Peninsula, Papua New Guinea. The home range area was an average of 139.6626.5 ha (100% MCP; n = 15) or 81.8628.3 ha (90% harmonic mean; n = 15), and did not differ between males and females. Home ranges of D. matschiei were 40-100 times larger than those of Australian tree kangaroos or ther rainforest macropods, possibly due to the impact of hunting reducing density, or low productivity of their high altitude habitat. Huon tree kangaroos had cores of activity within their range at 45% (20.964.1 ha) and 70% (36.667.5 ha) harmonic mean isopleths, with little overlap (4.862.9%; n = 15 pairs) between neighbouring females at the 45% isopleth, but, unlike the Australian species, extensive overlap between females (20.865.5%; n = 15 pairs) at the complete range (90% harmonic mean). Males overlapped each other and females to a greater extent than did pairs of females. From core areas and overlap, the density of female D. matschiei was one per 19.4 ha. Understanding the cause of this low density is crucial in gaining greater understanding of variations in density of tree kangaroos across the landscape. We consider the potential role of habitat fragmentation, productivity and hunting pressure in limiting tree kangaroo density in New Guinea rainforests. © 2014 Porolak et al.

Frederick C.,University of Washington | Hunt K.E.,University of Washington | Kyes R.,University of Washington | Collins D.,Woodland Park Zoo | Wasser S.K.,University of Washington
Journal of Mammalogy | Year: 2012

Most species of bears exhibit a reproductive strategy that includes a highly defined breeding season, delayed implantation, pseudopregnancy, and no postpartum estrus. Sun bears (Helarctos malayanus), a tropical lowland species, represent a potential departure from the typical ursid reproductive pattern. We studied reproductive timing in captive sun bears by examining fecal hormones and behavior of 13 female and 5 male sun bears, the entire North American population of H. m. euryspilus at the time of the study. Fecal estrogens and progestins in females did not vary by season or month, nor did fecal androgens in males. Estrus occurred in 11 of 12 months; breeding and births occurred year-round. However, birth rates were lower in the spring and higher in the fall and winter. Our study documented 1 complete pregnancy, in which delayed implantation did not occur; the delay between estrus and the progesterone rise (i.e., implantation) in the pregnant bear was similar to that seen in nonpregnant bears. All bears, whether nonpregnant or pregnant, exhibited a prolonged period of high progesterone after estrus, indicating obligate pseudopregnancy. Studbook records show that estrus can occur within 6 months after parturition; these cases were typically associated with loss of the previous cub. Our findings suggest that sun bears are unique among ursids, being polyestrous, nonseasonal breeders that do not appear to exhibit delayed implantation and that are capable of initiating estrus in the event of early loss of a cub. © 2012 American Society of Mammalogists.

News Article | March 25, 2016
Site: www.reuters.com

Towan, who was one of the first set of twin orangutans known to be be born in captivity is shown in this handout photo provided by the Woodland Park Zoo in Seattle, Washington, March 25, 2016. Towan, who was one of the first set of twin orangutans known to be be born in captivity, is shown in this handout photo provided by the Woodland Park Zoo in Seattle, Washington, March 25, 2016. An orangutan that was one of the first set of twins known to be born in captivity died at the Seattle zoo this week at age 48, after living two decades longer than the median life expectancy for the Asian great ape, a zoo spokeswoman said on Friday. Towan and his sister, Chinta, born at Seattle's Woodland Park Zoo in 1968, were hybrid crosses between the two orangutan species indigenous to the islands of Sumatra and Borneo, spokeswoman Gigi Allianic said. Interbreeding between Sumatran and Bornean orangutans, the only great apes native to Asia, ended after zoologists established that specimens from each island belonged to distinct species, she said. As a result of her brother's death, Chinta is now the oldest hybrid in North America, Allianic said. The median life expectancy of orangutans is 28, although some have lived to be as old as 59, the zoo said. The highly intelligent, reddish-brown apes tend to live longer in captivity because of the medical care they receive in zoos, Allianic said. Orangutans, part of the same biological family as Africa's gorillas, chimpanzees and bonobos, are endangered, primarily because of poaching and the rapid destruction of the forest environments required for their survival, according to the Orangutan Conservancy. The conservancy, which supports rehabilitation centers in Borneo and Sumatra and other initiatives, believes only 40,000 orangutans remain in the wild, down from as many as 60,000 a decade ago, it said on its website. Sumatra is part of Indonesia, while Borneo is divided among Indonesia, Malaysia and Brunei. Towan, which means "Sir" in Malay, died during an examination by veterinarians concerned about his recent respiratory difficulties, often a cause of death in orangutans, the zoo said in a statement. It will announce the specific cause of the 257-pound (116-kg) animal's death after final pathology tests. Woodland Park said Towan was the inspiration for the character Maurice in the "Planet of the Apes" movie franchise. "Towan gave me the soul of Maurice," Karin Konoval, who portrayed the character in two of the movies, was quoted as saying in the statement.

News Article | March 25, 2016
Site: phys.org

The 48-year-old primate named Towan died during a veterinary examination Thursday. Zoo officials say he had been taking medication that hadn't improved his condition. The birth of Towan and his twin sister, Chinta, at Seattle's Woodland Park Zoo in 1968 received widespread attention because they were the first twin orangutans born in captivity. Zoo officials described the 257-pound primate as an accomplished artist. He used paint pens and colored chalks to make art, which sold for up to $1,000. A statement by the zoo's mammal curator, Martin Ramirez, says Towan's death is a "deep loss for our zoo family and those who came to love and admire him as we have." Explore further: Lion gives birth to 3 cubs at Cincinnati Zoo

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