Monday, December 28, 2009

Why some ducks have such extravagant penises.

From Discover: "Kinkiness Byond Kinky"

"Female ducks can’t stop an unwanted male from delivering his sperm, but the obstacles in their oviducts may give them control over what happens to that sperm."

Need we say more? Get the whole story. Read Discover Magazine Blog.

Friday, December 11, 2009

Last regularly scheduled contribution from David Orr in Conservation Biology

David W. Orr, Paul Sears Professor of Environmental Studies and Politics, has published his last column for Conservation Biology. His essay in the December issue (published online November 24, 2009), Retrospect and Prospect: the Unbearable Lightness of Conservation, is an insightful review and nudge - or shove - onward. Read it. Then get cracking on what needs to be done.

The editors thanked Professor Orr with these words:
After some 20 years of providing columns for Conservation Biology, this is the last regularly scheduled contribution from David Orr, who has asked to retire from this position to devote time to other pursuits. The Board of Governors and Executive Committee of SCB wish to express their profound thanks and gratitude to Professor Orr for his extraordinary and unparalleled service for nearly the entire life of this journal to date. His columns were consistently stimulating, often edgy, and his many insights and observations always challenging to our readers. His writings have been unique in bringing science, politics, economics, and social and ethical issues under a robust and uncompromising vision of what it means to do conservation in our time. His understanding of conservation and devotion to this journal are without equal. The Society recognizes and thanks him for his numerous and diverse contributions; his presence is irreplaceable, and he will be sorely missed in these pages.
Luigi Boitani
SCB President, on behalf of the Board of Governors and Executive Committee

This final essay is important reading, chronicling breathtaking transitions and stupefyingly stuck legislators and policy makers. His contributions (63 columns since 1988) have marked many missed opportunities to slow the train of environmental disaster before we reach the last switch. It is enough to make you weep in frustration, or lie down in despair, but only in preparation for the next round.

The December issue of Conservation Biology will be archived at the OhioLINK Electronic Journal Center, where you can quickly search for all of David Orr's writings within that title since 1992. Older volumes are archived at JSTOR. A 1995 column caught my eye: None so blind, the problem of ecological denial. The column could have been written today, describing climate change deniers. Orr says "denial is manifest in ridicule and ad hominem attacks." That was certainly obvious at Lord Christopher Monckton's speech in Copenhagen on Dec. 9, when Lord Monckton referred to protesters as "Hitler Youth" and "nazis." [Story from It's Getting Hot in Here].

Thank you, Professor Orr, for your writing and advocacy.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Friends of Wetlands Newsletter, available to all

Friends of Wetlands (FOWL), a local all-volunteer organization, has just published its December Newsletter. Everyone is welcome (and invited!) to read and download the newsletter, to learn more about current challenges to wetland ecosystems in northern Ohio. FOWL actively works to educate the public about the essential and multiple roles wetlands have in the environment, and is completely funded by memberships and donations. Enjoy the newsletter, sign up for FOWL email alerts, and consider being active in the organization by participating in the Stakeholder's Meeting on January 9.

Exciting news in this newsletter: Robert F. Kennedy Jr. will be speaker at the 2nd Annual EcoWatch Green Gala. Kennedy, a visionary leader and advocate for the environment, spoke to thousands gathered at the 2007 American Library Association Conference in Washington, D.C. His address at the Green Gala is certain to be dynamic and inspiring.

Also included in the newsletter is William E. Stafford's poem, The Well Rising:
The well rising without sound,
the spring on a hillside,
the plowshare brimming through deep ground
everywhere in the field—

The sharp swallows in their swerve
flaring and hesitating
hunting for the final curve
coming closer and closer—

The swallow heart from wingbeat to wingbeat
counseling decisions, decision:
thunderous examples. I place my feet
with care in such a world.

This poem was chosen by a reviewer on NPR's April 14 "Morning Edition" news program (90.3, 89.7 FM) as the one which, if all people read it, would be most likely to save the planet.

Wednesday, December 09, 2009

Public Citizen's new blog: Citizen Energy

Public Citizen launched a new blog this week, Citizen Energy, with thoughts on the start of the Climate Conference in Copenhagen. The image of one ton of carbon dioxide, trapped in a threatening-looking balloon, is compelling (reproduced here without permission, but with attribution to, thank you very much).

Here is snippet from Citizen Energy's blog post: "Public Citizen understands that climate change is a transformative event that requires us to rethink our corporate model of centralized energy production. Rather than promote market-based solutions to protecting the planet that will hand billions of dollars in windfall profits to polluters and Wall Street, we need a decentralized energy system where families generate their power needs from rooftop solar, small scale wind and massive new investments in energy efficiency." Read more.

I like the message on the balloon: reduce every way YOU can. Now!

Tuesday, December 08, 2009

Alternative Gift Fair This Week! Science Center, Bent Corridor

The Alternative Gift Fair is a great place to buy gifts that support environmental sustainability, fair trade, and organizations that serve those who are unemployed (or underemployed), hungry and homeless. A number of tables are set up in the Bent Corridor of the Science Center from 11:30 am - 1:30 pm this week, representing different agencies or organizations. Each offers an opportunity for gifts that make a positive difference. You make an environmentally sustainable choice by buying gifts offered locally, without excess plastic packaging, thus reducing the fuel and petroleum-based materials associated with transport and packaging.

Come see! The Gift Fair catalog is online, too.

Monday, December 07, 2009

Opening Day for Copenhagen Climate Conference

From The Guardian, UK:

Newspapers, blogs and individuals around the world have welcomed a common editorial on the Copenhagen climate conference, which opened today. The editorial, which called on rich countries to commit to "deep cuts which will reduce their emissions within a decade", appeared on the Guardian front page and ran in 56 newspapers in 45 countries.

Alan Rusbridger, editor-in-chief of the Guardian, said: "No individual newspaper editorial could hope to influence the outcome of Copenhagen but I hope the combined voice of 56 major papers speaking in 20 languages will remind the politicians and negotiators gathering there what is at stake and persuade them to rise above the rivalries and inflexibility that have stood in the way of a deal." Read the common editorial.

It is a persuasive call for unity on this 68th anniversary of the bombing of Pearl Harbor.

Follow the Climate Talks blog at Environmental Defense Fund for conference updates and news coverage.

Friday, December 04, 2009

Enhanced Searching of PubMed with BioMedSearch

BioMedSearch was just reviewed in The Scout Report of the Internet Scout Project - excellent timing as we celebrate Science and Health during December in the Year of Science.

BioMedSearch is an "enhanced version of the NIH PubMed search that combines MedLine/PubMed data with data from other sources to make the most comprehensive biomedical literature search available. BioMedSearch also provides advanced account features that allow saved searches, alerts, saving documents to portfolios, commenting on documents and portfolios, and sharing documents with other registered users."

The cluster concept is interesting, bringing together papers related to one of 100 broad topics. Scanning through the top list of clusters is relatively efficient, but the subcluster lists (each with another 100 closely related topics) are harder to differentiate as many of the defining terms are repeated. Take a look at the population genetics subclusters, for example.

This maybe perfect for someone who needs an efficient way to follow all new publications in a specific area (polymorphism in schizophrenia, perhaps), and registering for BioMedSearch is free. Give it a try!

Wednesday, December 02, 2009

Science and Health: December's Theme in the Year of Science

The Year of Science comes to a close with a celebration of science and health - a very fitting focus for the month of December, which began with World AIDS Day, and given a year of concern over the H1N1 virus. Not to mention extraordinarily contentious debates over health insurance/health care reform, and the scrutiny given to health-care legislation in the U.S. Congress. [Track legislation with THOMAS from the Library of Congress]

The theme, though, is science and health, rather than politics, economics, behavior, or social aspects of health. The National Institutes of Health lists dozens of scientific interest groups that function as "assemblies of scientists with common research interests." Member lists for each group might help you identify a contact for an internship or Winter Term project, in addition to showing the broad reach of NIH research support.

The NIH is the "National Medical Research Agency," and is the provider of PubMed ("more than 19 million citations for biomedical articles from MEDLINE and life science journals"). Once only accessible by searching print volumes within a research library, MEDLINE via PubMed is freely available to anyone with an Internet connection. It is one of the great things that our government makes possible - thank you, NIH!

Obviously, you can find health and wellness advice everywhere on the Web, but for comprehensive searching of medical literature, and published studies of scientifically conducted clinical trials, MEDLINE is your best source. You can search it for free as PubMed, or in tandem with any number of EBSCOhost databases (for EBSCOhost subscribers). This is a very efficient way to search multidisciplinary research topics, with quick access to thousands of full-text articles. Link to Academic Search Complete from the Science Library's home page, and look for the "Choose Databases" link at the top of the search screen for a list of all EBSCOhost databases that can be searched simultaneously. Very cool.

Tuesday, December 01, 2009

AIDS Vaccine Research Shows Promise

World AIDS Day headlines heard on National Public Radio this morning included a report that research for an effective AIDS vaccine continues to look very positive. Follow progress on AIDS vaccine research at the International AIDS Vaccine Initiative. See New Antibodies Found that Cripple HIV. Learn how you can be part of the effort at the National Institutes of Health site BeTheGeneration.

Abstracts of scientific papers given at the AIDS Vaccine 2009 conference, held October 19-22 in Paris, are freely accessible online in Retrovirology, vol. 6, supplement 3 (also in the OhioLINK Electronic Journal Center and at PubMedCentral). Related publications from those researchers may be found by searching PubMed, the public site for Medline.

A report by NPR's Richard Knox on All Things Considered, September 24, 2009 is a helpful overview of vaccine development and testing. Listen or read the transcript.