A creepy-crawly food revolution

Long considered pests, insects are now on the menu for farmed fish and poultry in Kenya and Uganda, where scientists are looking for cheaper, healthier ways to boost animal growth and develop the local economy.

Raising chickens or fish in Africa can be an expensive proposition. Most of the money goes into just keeping them fed, which accounts for 60 to 70 per cent of the cost of rearing the animals.

“Around here the high cost can discourage farmers from using high-quality feeds,” says Komi Fiaboe, an agricultural entomologist at the International Centre of Insect Physiology and Ecology in Nairobi, Kenya.

The feed’s most expensive component is protein, which usually comes from imported soybeans or a combination of imported and locally sourced fishmeal, and the cost of the latter has doubled in the past couple of years. So researchers in Uganda and Kenya are investigating a cheaper, local alternative that could reduce the price of feed while providing economic opportunities in the region: insects. Read more in Canadian Geographic.

 

Dogs use deception to get what they want from humans (a sausage)

Dogs are all honest, loyal and obedient, right? Well, not always. Our pets can be sneaky and manipulative when they want to maximise the number of tasty treats they get to eat.

Marianne Heberlein, who studies dog cognition at the University of Zurich in Switzerland, wanted to test the animals’ ability to use deception to get what they want from humans. Read more in New Scientist.

Solithromycin rejection chills antibiotic sector

The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in December rejected the new antibiotic solithromycin over liver toxicity fears, putting the future of the drug in doubt and sending a chill through companies working on novel antimicrobials. “The problems with solithromycin are going to hit the whole sector hard,” says Lloyd Czaplewski, director of Chemical Biology Ventures, a pharmaceutical R&D consultancy in Oxford, UK. “It could put people off getting into an area where we really need some successes.” Read more in Nature Biotechnology.

Canada Foundation for Innovation awards $18 million to Amundsen

CFI aims to secure ongoing operation and maintenance funds for research facilities including Canada’s only research icebreaker.

Laval University has received more than $18 million for the research icebreaker CCGS Amundsen in the latest round of funding from the Canada Foundation for Innovation’s Major Science Initiatives Fund.

Over the next five years, the funding will mainly be used to maintain and deploy the coast guard ship’s scientific equipment and to pay the specialised engineers who operate the Arctic research vessel, says Louis Fortier, the Amundsen’s scientific director. But the money will also be used to subsidize some scientific projects that need a little extra cash. Read more in University Affairs.

Snow will melt more slowly in a warmer world – here’s why

As global temperatures rise, snow will melt more slowly. Yes, you read that right – more slowly.

Warmer global temperatures will lead to less snow in many mountainous areas, says Keith Musselman, a hydrologist at the National Center for Atmospheric Research in Boulder, Colorado.

That thinner layer of snow will be less likely to last into the late spring and early summer, when melting rates are highest. Instead, it will melt slowly throughout the winter and early spring, when night-time temperatures are lower and there is less direct sunlight, releasing just a trickle of water instead of a sudden gush. Read more in New Scientist.

Around the World in 15 Cranes

Renowned crane conservationist George Archibald just returned from a global tour to meet every species of crane in the wild. Here’s what he saw.

This week, when George Archibald arrived in Port Aransas, Texas for the annual Whooping Crane Festival, it marked the end of a remarkable journey. He was back with his beloved Whooping Cranes—one of the birds that inspired him to start the International Crane Foundation (ICF) in 1973—after a whirlwind tour visiting all 15 species of cranes in their native habitats.

For six weeks he travelled around the world, stopping in nine countries on four continents, to check in on the Whoopers’ extended family: the six-foot-tall Sarus Crane in India, South Africa’s Grey Crowned-Crane with its elegant spray of golden head feathers, the bluish-gray, salt-water-drinking Brolga in Australia, and many more. Read more in Audubon Magazine.

Feral Hogs Root Through History

Archaeological sites inside Florida Air Force bases are threatened by foraging pigs.

Feral swine, first introduced by some of the earliest European explorers to America, have been roaming Florida for the past 500 years, and are now present in at least 35 states. The invasive pigs are well-known as a destructive environmental menace, tearing up sensitive habitats and endangered plants and animals in their search for food. But the hogs can also dig up important archaeological sites, destroying an irreplaceable historical record.

“The damage feral pigs do to everything else — crops, wetlands, endangered species — it can all grow back,” said Richard Engeman, a biologist with the U.S. Department of Agriculture. “But once you move artifacts around, that doesn’t grow back.” Read more in Inside Science.

The Effects of Invasive Pythons Slither through the Everglades

Pythons may be setting off a cascade of ecosystem changes.

The huge Burmese pythons that are slowly taking over Florida’s Everglades wetlands are a threat to the mammals that live there. But new research shows the pythons’ influence extends far beyond their own appetites: the snakes are setting off cascading changes to the ecosystem. Read more in Hakai Magazine.

At smaller universities, fundraising is a challenge of scale, not technique

With a limited alumni pool and resources, small- and medium-sized universities leverage personal connections to find donors.

In fundraising, it’s the personal relationships that matter, says Susan Montague, senior campaign advisor at the University of New Brunswick in Fredericton. “People give to people.”

Those personal relationships will be vital in the coming months, she says. In December, UNB launched its latest major fundraising campaign – the largest in its history – seeking $110 million to boost scholarships and bursaries, improve facilities and support research. The campaign has already secured $77 million in pledges and has set a deadline of April 2018 to meet its target. And, for the first time, the university will be relying solely on private donations; previous campaigns relied on the provincial government kicking in around 20 percent of the total. Read more in University Affairs.

Why grey wolves kill less prey when brown bears are around

Wolves may be better at sharing their meals with bears than we thought.

Biologists have long assumed that when wolves and brown bears share territory, the wolves are forced to kill more often to make up for the food stolen by scavenging bears.

But when Aimee Tallian, a biologist at Utah State University, and her colleagues looked for evidence of this, they found the opposite. Where wolves live alongside bears in Scandinavia and Yellowstone National Park in the US, they actually kill less often. Read more in New Scientist.

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