Polar Bears Get Crackin', Hot Squirrels, Buzzed Bees, Elephant Enclaves, Sucking CO2

 

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Polar Bears Get Crackin'


polar_bear1.jpg copyright Ansgar Walk, from Wikimedia Commons

With the Canadian Arctic warming up as a result of climate change, polar bears are having to cut short their hunting season and come off the sea ice earlier and earlier each year. For young bears, this means they have to forgo their most important food source -- seals. Dr. Robert Rockwell, an ornithologist at the American Museum of Natural History in New York, has been wondering what exactly the bears are eating, if they're not getting their fill of seal. It turns out they've discovered an egg-cellent new food source in the nests of snow geese.

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Self-Roasting Rodents


hot_squirrel.jpg Mother squirrel moving infant - M. Humphries

You'd think the biggest problem that tiny red squirrels in northern Canada would have to face would be the cold. That turns out not to be the case. In fact, it's the heat that is the biggest problem for them, especially for mothers nursing pups. Dr. Murray Humphries, NSERC Northern Research Chair and professor of Wildlife Biology at McGill University, has found that nursing squirrels have to keep moving their young to draftier and draftier nests, so that the heat generated by their racing metabolisms doesn't cook their kids.





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Buzzed Bees


bee.jpg

The first question you might ask when you found out that Dr. Gene Robinson, the Director of the Neuroscience program at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, was giving cocaine to bees, is why? Bees, it turns out, may be an interesting subject for studying the mechanisms and impacts of cocaine. By looking at the impacts of small doses of cocaine on the subtle and well-studied dance language that bees use to communicate, Dr. Robinson is hoping to get insights on the lowest level biochemical and genetic workings of this addictive alkaloid.

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Elephant Enclaves


elephants.jpg Elephants in Kenya, copyright Mgiganteus, from Wikimedia Commons

Human immigrants often look for enclaves of people from their native land when they move to a new place. There, they can find comfort and familiar culture. Dr. Noa Pinter-Wollman has found that elephants do the same thing. She spent a year tracking elephants in Kenya that had been moved from an overcrowded reserve to a larger, less crowded one. Rather than taking advantage of the opportunity to learn about their new home from resident elephants, they kept to their immigrant fellows, and only slowly integrated into the rest of the population. Dr. Pinter-Wollman did her research while studying at the University of California at Davis.

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Sucking CO2


air_capture.jpg Dr. Keith and his CO2 capture device - courtesy Ken Bendiktsen

Ever wonder why we can't just build big machines to suck the troublesome climate-warming carbon dioxide out of the atmosphere? Excellent question. In fact, several groups of scientists are looking at ways to do just that. It's a difficult proposition, since any kind of carbon dioxide capture is a tough proposition, and the carbon dioxide concentration in the atmosphere is only about 0.04%. Nevertheless, many scientists, including Canadian researchers like Dr. David Keith, Canada Research Chair in Energy and the Environment at the University of Calgary and Dr. Frank Zeman, the director of the Center for Metropolitan Sustainability of the New York Institute of Technology, are working on it. Both Dr. Keith and Dr. Zeman have worked on prototype air-capture systems, and they say the big problem is not whether it can be done, but whether it can be done cheaply and on a large enough scale to make a difference.

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