Good evening all,
We've made it a point several times during class this term to highlight how behavioral knowledge could be applied to conservation efforts. Here's a link to a recent (and lengthy) discussion of how captive breeding in cheetahs has been enhanced by applying more-naturalistic methods than simply pairing together single males and females. It's quite striking the lengths to which breeders have gone in order to improve the success rate of their breeding programs!
Good morning all,
Hot off of the presses - new information on the genetic basis of avian migratory behavior, a topic we have considered in class. Here, researchers believe that they have identified a single gene on one of the avian sex chromosomes that is linked to specific migratory targeting in warbler species of conservation concern. Interestingly, this avian gene is related to a human gene thought to be associated with movement.
This is a good example of the current state of much of the study between genetics and behavior. Through large-scale genomic analyses, it is possible to identify associations (correlations) between individual gene variants and particular aspects of behavior, but there is much to be learned "in the middle" - how does any one gene, and its gene product, mechanistically contribute to behavior? Or is the association identified in first-order analyses spurious, or non-causal? There is plenty of room for further work, as these researchers note.
Good luck with all of your remaining exams -
Forest farms could create market for ginseng, other herbs | Penn State University
Good morning all,
Hot off of the presses this morning is a news report about sustainable "forest farms", efforts to use environmentally-friendly propagation methods, in naturalistic-type settings, to commercially produce native plants that are of economic value. It's an interesting idea, and one that is quite different (by necessity) from the mass-production, highly-intensive, large-scale format of most of our modern agricultural production.
Many find these small scale, low-impact 'farming' methods attractive for their reduced reliance upon chemicals and their shortened supply chains, with products often moving from producer to consumer with few or no intermediaries. As these authors note, these practices may provide a bit of 'social justice' as well, by providing more-direct benefits and controls to producers. As such, these methods could represent a 'win-win' situation: valued and sustainable production, and well-served consumers. This ties in very nicely with the concepts in our last chapter, including the adoption of sustainable agricultural practices.
Nitrogen crisis from jam-packed livestock operations has ‘paralyzed’ Dutch economy | Science | AAAS
Good morning all,
In the news this weekend is a report about nitrogen pollution from farming and industrial activities, topics we discussed just this past week. These are global problems, but the problems are worse in some areas than in others. And, the political will to address them is equally uneven in its distribution.
I suspect that we will see more of these 'crises', as industries are shut down or face temporary moratoriums when pollution reaches dangerous levels. These are not easy problems to fix - it's very hard to change communities that have been operating in a given way toward newer/better methods, especially when much has been invested in current technologies and practices. Big solutions, integrating social reform, advanced engineering, and education are likely to be required.
See you this afternoon for review -
A Population of Billions May Have Contributed to This Bird’s Extinction - The New York Times
As part of our discussions of sociality for Thursday, we'll need this short reading. It suggests that passenger pigeons, which once numbered in the billions, were driven to extinction over the course of a few decades in part because their large population size made them more at risk from extinction than if they had existed in smaller populations. This argument is directly counter to what we normally think of, in terms of how population size relates to extinction risk.
The article references a piece of original scientific literature, linked here: