Category: Science

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Monarch Butterfly Populations Are Rising Again After Years In Decline


Credit: Wikipedia

Credit: Wikipedia





This year, we have published several stories about the dwindling monarch butterfly populations and some of the efforts that have been made to save the species. New reports last week have indicated that these efforts may actually be paying off, because Monarch populations are actually beginning to grow again. In Mexico, one of the main breeding areas for these butterflies, scientists believe that this year there will be at least three times as many of them this year than there was last year.

During a recent conference at the Piedra Herrada research reserve, U.S. Interior Secretary Sally Jewell said that Mexico and the US will be working together to create pesticide-free zones for the butterflies to flourish.

“Mexico, the U.S., and Canada have many species that don’t know our political borders, that cross the borders freely,” she said during a conference at the Piedra Herrada research reserve, adding that the three countries will be working together to rebuild the populations.

She told the audience that they hope to see “225 million monarch butterflies returning right here to Mexico every year. We believe we can get there by working together and it sounds like we may be on our way, we hope.”

“We are very glad to report that calculations done before the landfall of Hurricane Patricia showed the monarch presence could cover up to four hectares, a clear indication that the efforts mentioned by Secretary Jewell are having a positive effect,” Environment Secretary Rafael Pacchiano said.

“We estimate that the butterfly population that arrives at the reserve is as much as three and could reach four times the surface area it occupied last season,” he added.

For years, environmental experts have been warning about the steady decline of monarch butterfly populations. The causes of this decline have been largely speculation until recently, but a new report suggests that Monsanto’s herbicide Roundup Ready could be responsible.

The report was recently released by US environment watchdog Center for Food Safety and sheds new light on what has been happening with monarch butterfly populations.

According to the report, Monsanto’s herbicide has wiped out 99 percent of milkweed in corn and soybean fields in the US Midwest since 1999.

This has resulted in a decline of nearly 90 percent in monarch butterfly populations in the past 20 years.

Without the milkweed, the butterfly’s food supply is entirely cut out because caterpillars eat only milkweed plants, and then milkweed is needed again when it is time for the butterfly to lay their eggs.

Although this is a very serious problem, it is something that the average person can help to solve. Anyone with some space in their lawn or garden can plant milkweed to help reverse the trend that Monsanto started.

Below are some PDF guides which give you step by step instructions on how to plant milkweed and create habitats for monarch butterflies:

  1. Planting Native Milkweed Species
  2. Avoiding Non-Native Species
  3. Create Habitat for Monarchs
  4. Gardening for Monarchs


John Vibes is an author and researcher who organizes a number of large events including the Free Your Mind Conference. He also has a publishing company where he offers a censorship free platform for both fiction and non-fiction writers. You can contact him and stay connected to his work at his Facebook page. You can purchase his books, or get your own book published at his website This article (Monarch Butterfly Populations Are Rising Again After Years In Decline) was made available via

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Activist Post

Interrupt Your Regularly Scheduled Program

Electromagnetic Hypersensitivity from Microwave Technology Finally Medically Proven

wifi emfsBy Catherine J. Frompovich

Finally, there’s documented medical proof that electromagnetic hypersensitivity is a real-time health issue that actually can be verified using standard medical procedures and testing capabilities.

An international group of researchers aced it when they published their findings from the clinical study “Metabolic and Genetic Screening of Electromagnetic Hypersensitive Subjects as a Feasible Tool for Diagnostics and Intervention” in the November 2014 issue of Mediators of Inflammation.

So, the million-dollar-question has to be, “When will utility companies get up to speed on the latest in microwave technology damage to the human body?” Also, “When will public utility commissions nationwide institute proper procedures to protect consumers from such damage?”

Pennsylvanians currently are being bombarded by non-thermal health problems from public utility companies’ electric, natural gas and water Smart Meters, which operate using microwave technology.

Furthermore, the PA House Consumer Affairs Committee Chair Robert Godshall sits on Opt-Out Bills that will permit electrosensitive consumers and others to keep safe analog meters, which have been in use for decades.


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The Telegraph


Wild chimpanzee observed caring for disabled infant in ‘first case of its kind’

Wild chimpanzee observed caring for disabled infant in ‘first case of its kind’

A wild chimp has been observed caring for its disabled daughter  Photo: AFP / Getty / Michio Nakamura

For the first time in the wild scientists claim to have observed a female chimpanzee caring for an infant with severe disabilities.

A team of researchers from Japan’s Kyoto University studied a mother providing care for her daughter living in the Mahale Mountains National Park in Tanzania over a two-year period.

The infant, known as XT11, was born at the park in 2011 and displayed symptoms resembling Down’s syndrome seen in other chimps in captivity.

She lived for 23 months and researchers doubt she would have stayed alive for so long without the help and care of her mother and sister.

Michio Nakamura, an associate professor at the university, told the Japan Times: “She had a fish look and kept her mouth half-open, so we assumed she had some kind of mental handicap.”

Scientists observed the chimps for nearly two years

“The observed infant exhibited symptoms resembling Down syndrome, similar to those reported previously for a captive chimpanzee,” researchers found in the study detailed in the international journal, Primates.


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The Telegraph

First genetically modified humans could exist within two years

Biotech company Editas Medicine is planning to start human trials to genetically edit genes and reverse blindness

Humans who have had their DNA genetically modified could exist within two years after a private biotech company announced plans to start the first trials into a ground-breaking new technique.

Editas Medicine, which is based in the US, said it plans to become the first lab in the world to ‘genetically edit’ the DNA of patients suffering from a genetic condition – in this case the blinding disorder ‘leber congenital amaurosis’.

The disorder prevents normal function of the retina; the light-sensitive layer of cells at the back of the eye. It appears at birth or in the first months of life and eventually sufferers can go completely blind.

“Hereditary eye disease in an obvious place to start given that there is already precedent in classical gene therapy”
Professor Darren Griffin, University of Kent

The rare inherited disease is caused by defects in a gene which instructs the creation of a protein that is essential to vision.

But scientists at Editas Medicine in the US believe they can fix the mutated DNA using the ground-breaking gene-editing technology Crispr.

Katrine Bosley, the chief executive of Editas Medicine, told a conference in the US that the company hopes to start trialling the technology on blind patients in 2017.

It would be the first time the technology has been used on humans. Gene editing is currently banned in the US, so the company would need special permission from health regulators.

“It feels fast, but we are going at the pace science allows,” Bosley told the EmTech conference in Cambridge, Massachusetts.


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New Scientist

Daily news

4 November 2015

Most of Earth's mass extinctions caused by… mineral deficiencies

Image credit: Sheila Terry/SPL

Are you getting enough minerals? A new theory suggests most of Earth’s mass extinction events could have been caused by a lack of essential trace elements in the world’s oceans, causing fatal deficiencies in marine animals, from plankton to reptiles.

Earth has been hit with five mass extinction events. The two most dramatic ones had pretty clear causes. The dinosaurs were probably wiped out 66 million years ago thanks to a massive meteor falling on modern-day Mexico, while the end-Permian extinction, which wiped out 90 per cent of species 252 million years ago, was probably the result of massive volcanoes in Siberia.

But that leaves three other mass extinctions, with no agreed cause.

“It’s a complex scenario,” says John Long from Flinders University in Adelaide, Australia. He says there are probably a lot of causes conspiring to drive these mass extinctions. But his latest work suggests fluctuations in essential minerals in the ocean could be an important, and so-far completely unexplored, cause.

Essential selenium

Earlier this year, researchers discovered that periods when the ocean had high levels of trace elements – like zinc, copper, manganese and selenium – seemed to overlap with periods of high productivity, including the Cambrian explosion, when most groups of living animals first appeared.

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Natural Blaze

Two New GE Pigs Want to Go To the Market


By Heather Callaghan

Did you think the genetically modified pig was gone? It is true that Canada’s “Enviro Pig” was scrapped in 2012 after consumer backlash and lack of university funding. That vacancy mainly left genetically modified salmon in the running to become the very first commercial GM animal.

But there are two new types of engineered pigs poised for approval in their respective countries. Now, with the secret Trans Pacific Partnership out in the open, it becomes clear that the deal opens the door for a swarm of global biotech ventures that can more easily glide their wares across country boundaries.

Whereas Enviro Pig’s genetic splicing was supposedly intended to cut down on phosphorous waste that kills waterways, two more pigs are vying for public acceptance.

It’s important to note that these animals aren’t “transgenic” like many of the GE crops on the market. That is, they do not contain genes from other species or kingdoms like bacteria. Biotech involves more than GMOs, and some methods currently fall outside of regulation or definition. However, we are still talking genetic engineering.

CBC News reports on them:

  • Bruce Whitelaw and his colleagues at the University of Edinburgh are developing a pig resistant to African swine fever, a devastating disease with no vaccine or cure that has led to hundreds of pigs being slaughtered in Europe to prevent its spread.
  • Jinsu Kim and his colleagues at Seoul National University have developed “double-muscle” pigs that produce twice as much muscle as a regular pig, resulting in higher protein, lower fat pork.


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CBC News

Genetically modified pigs raise concerns about food regulation

Regulatory system lacks transparency, critics say

CBC News Posted: Nov 03, 2015 11:50 AM ETLast Updated: Nov 04, 2015 8:59 AM ET

Two kinds of genetically modified pigs are on their way to becoming pork on our dinner plates. If they do, they'll be some of the very first genetically modified animals to enter our food system.

Two kinds of genetically modified pigs are on their way to becoming pork on our dinner plates. If they do, they’ll be some of the very first genetically modified animals to enter our food system. (Laszlo Balogh/Reuters)


The Current: GMO pigs’ cautionary tale of genetically modified food research 24:43

Two kinds of genetically modified pigs are on their way to becoming pork on our dinner plates. If they do, they’ll be some of the very first genetically modified animals to enter our food system, along with genetically modified salmon that is also trying to gain regulatory approval.

But consumers are wary and lack confidence in governments’ readiness to regulate this new class of food product, researchers and activists say.

The genetically modified pigs under development are designed to improve pork production in different ways:

  • Bruce Whitelaw and his colleagues at the University of Edinburgh are developing a pig resistant to African swine fever, a devastating disease with no vaccine or cure that has led to hundreds of pigs being slaughtered in Europe to prevent its spread.
  • Jinsu Kim and his colleagues at Seoul National University have developed “double-muscle” pigs that produce twice as much muscle as a regular pig, resulting in higher protein, lower fat pork.

In both cases, researchers have precisely targeted an individual pig gene to create a mutation that turns up or turns down certain genes. The African swine fever resistant pig has an immune gene that is slightly more like a warthog’s. The double-muscle pig has a mutation similar to one produced by normal breeding in a muscly cow breed called the Belgian blue.

The pigs aren’t “transgenic” — that is, they don’t contain genes from other organisms. That makes them unlike some genetically modified crops already on the market, which may contain genes from organisms such as bacteria.


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Ancient brains turn paleontology on its head

November 9, 2015
University of Arizona
When scientists presented evidence of an ancient, fossilized brain a few years ago, it challenged the long-held notion that brains don’t fossilize. Now, seven new specimens have been unearthed, each showing traces of neural tissue from what was undoubtedly a brain.

A: Under a light microscope, the above fossil shows traces of preserved neural tissues in black. B: An elemental scan of this fossil uncovered that carbon (in pink) and iron (in green) do not overlap in the preserved neural tissue.
Credit: Strausfeld et al. and Current Biology

Science has long dictated that brains don’t fossilize, so when Nicholas Strausfeld co-authored the first ever report of a fossilized brain in a 2012 edition of Nature, it was met with “a lot of flack.”

“It was questioned by many paleontologists, who thought — and in fact some claimed in print — that maybe it was just an artifact or a one-off, implausible fossilization event,” said Strausfeld, a Regents’ professor in UA’s Department of Neuroscience.

His latest paper in Current Biology addresses these doubts head-on, with definitive evidence that, indeed, brains do fossilize.

In the paper, Strausfeld and his collaborators, including Xiaoya Ma of Yunnan Key Laboratory for Palaeobiology at China’s Yunnan University and Gregory Edgecombe of the Natural History Museum in London, analyze seven newly discovered fossils of the same species to find, in each, traces of what was undoubtedly a brain.

The species, Fuxianhuia protensa, is an extinct arthropod that roamed the seafloor about 520 million years ago. It would have looked something like a very simple shrimp. And each of the fossils — from the Chengjiang Shales, fossil-rich sites in Southwest China — revealed F. protensa‘s ancient brain looked a lot like a modern crustacean’s, too.

Using scanning electron microscopy, the researchers found that the brains were preserved as flattened carbon films, which, in some fossils, were partially overlaid by tiny iron pyrite crystals. This led the research team to a convincing explanation as to how and why neural tissue fossilizes.

In another recent paper in Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B, Strausfeld’s experiments uncovered what it likely was about ancient environmental conditions that allowed a brain to fossilize in the first place.

The only way to become fossilized is, first, to get rapidly buried. Hungry scavengers can’t eat a carcass if it’s buried, and as long as the water is anoxic enough — that is, lacking in oxygen — a buried creature’s tissues evade consumption by bacteria as well. Strausfeld and his collaborators suspect F. protensa was buried by rapid, underwater mudslides, a scenario they experimentally recreated by burying sandworms and cockroaches in mud.

This is only step one. Step two, explained Strausfeld, is where most brains would fail: Withstanding the pressure from being rapidly buried under thick, heavy mud.

To have been able to do this, the F. protensa nervous system must have been remarkably dense. In fact, tissues of nervous systems, including brains, are densest in living arthropods. As a small, tightly packed cellular network of fats and proteins, the brain and central nervous system could pass step two, just as did the sandworm and cockroach brains in Strausfeld’s lab.

“Dewatering is different from dehydration, and it happens more gradually,” said Strausfeld, referring to the process by which pressure from the overlying mud squeezes water out of tissues. “During this process, the brain maintains its overall integrity leading to its gradual flattening and preservation. F. protensa‘s tissue density appears to have made all the difference.”

Now that he and his collaborators have produced unassailable evidence that fossilized arthropod brains are more than just a one-off phenomenon, Strausfeld is working to elucidate the origin and evolution of brains over half a billion years in the past.

“People, especially scientists, make assumptions. The fun thing about science, actually, is to demolish them,” said Strausfeld.

Story Source:

The above post is reprinted from materials provided by University of Arizona. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.

Journal Reference:

  1. Xiaoya Ma, Gregory D. Edgecombe, Xianguang Hou, Tomasz Goral, Nicholas J. Strausfeld. Preservational Pathways of Corresponding Brains of a Cambrian Euarthropod. Current Biology, 2015; DOI: 10.1016/j.cub.2015.09.063

Cite This Page:

University of Arizona. “Ancient brains turn paleontology on its head: Strongest evidence yet that it’s possible for brains to fossilize and, in fact, a set of 520-million-year-old arthropod brains have done just that.” ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 9 November 2015. <>.

Could Dangerous Underwater Volcano in Caribbean Cause a US Tsunami?

PHOTO: View from "Hercules," a 5,000-pound submersible used by Robert Ballard and his team.
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A team of scientists is exploring the darkest corners of a huge underwater volcano in the Caribbean in hopes of better understanding the mysteries of earthquakes and tsunamis, ultimately saving lives.

Kick’em Jenny is a dangerous and active volcano sitting roughly 6,000 feet below the surface of the Caribbean Sea, and located off the coast of the island of Grenada, south of St. Lucia.

Robert Ballard, famous for discovering the Titanic 12,000 feet below the surface of the icy North Atlantic in 1985, set his sights on exploring the Kick’em Jenny to study its eruption history and learn more about how underwater volcanoes can pose a threat.

Ballard, the president of The Ocean Exploration Trust and the director of the Center for Ocean Exploration at the University of Rhode Island’s Graduate School of Oceanography, said the Kick’em Jenny volcano has a history of explosive eruptions, which could have the potential to trigger tsunamis, the effects from which could be felt as far away as the northeastern United States.


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Undersea warfare: Viruses hijack deep-sea bacteria at hydrothermal vents

May 1, 2014
National Science Foundation
More than a mile beneath the ocean’s surface, as dark clouds of mineral-rich water billow from seafloor hot springs called hydrothermal vents, unseen armies of viruses and bacteria wage war.


Credit: NOAA

[Click to enlarge image]

More than a mile beneath the ocean’s surface, as dark clouds of mineral-rich water billow from seafloor hot springs called hydrothermal vents, unseen armies of viruses and bacteria wage war.

Like pirates boarding a treasure-laden ship, the viruses infect bacterial cells to get the loot: tiny globules of elemental sulfur stored inside the bacterial cells.

Instead of absconding with their prize, the viruses force the bacteria to burn their valuable sulfur reserves, then use the unleashed energy to replicate.

“Our findings suggest that viruses in the dark oceans indirectly access vast energy sources in the form of elemental sulfur,” said University of Michigan marine microbiologist and oceanographer Gregory Dick, whose team collected DNA from deep-sea microbes in seawater samples from hydrothermal vents in the Western Pacific Ocean and the Gulf of California.

“We suspect that these viruses are essentially hijacking bacterial cells and getting them to consume elemental sulfur so the viruses can propagate themselves,” said Karthik Anantharaman of the University of Michigan, first author of a paper on the findings published this week in the journal Science Express.

Similar microbial interactions have been observed in shallow ocean waters between photosynthetic bacteria and the viruses that prey upon them.

But this is the first time such a relationship has been seen in a chemosynthetic system, one in which the microbes rely solely on inorganic compounds, rather than sunlight, as their energy source.

“Viruses play a cardinal role in biogeochemical processes in ocean shallows,” said David Garrison, a program director in the National Science Foundation’s (NSF) Division of Ocean Sciences, which funded the research. “They may have similar importance in deep-sea thermal vent environments.”


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Land contaminated by waste from factories in Lanzhou, Gansu province. (File photo/Xinhua)

Land contaminated by waste from factories in Lanzhou, Gansu province. (File photo/Xinhua)


  • China Begins Soil Pollution Clean-up amid Doubt over Funding

    BEIJING (Reuters) – China has announced its first pilot projects to treat metal pollution in soil and prevent farmland from further contamination, but critics say the government’s overall efforts are underfunded and inefficient.

    The Ministry of Finance will subsidize soil pollution prevention and treatment in three cities in the central province of Hunan, state media reported, as pilot efforts to halt developments that have rendered 3.33 million hectares (8 million acres) of Chinese farmland too polluted to grow crops on.

    Hunan was the source of rice containing dangerous levels of toxic cadmium sold in the southern city of Guangzhou last year.

    Under the plan, the Ministry of Agriculture will monitor and control metal residues to prevent them from leaking into the soil, while the rice crop will be replaced with cotton and other non-edible products.

    But government efforts to protect agricultural and urban soil fall massively short of what is needed, said Lan Hong, a professor at Renmin University’s School of Environmental and Natural Resources.

    In the current five-year plan, the Ministry of Finance has budgeted 30 billion yuan ($4.8 billion) in spending on soil pollution prevention efforts, but Lan said it would cost at least 140 billion yuan, nearly five times above the budget, to solve the problem.

    “The funding is based on data from the Ministry of Environmental Protection, but it is at the lower end of estimates. Some of the environmental damage will only be exposed after many years,” Lan told Reuters.


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    Plants used to weed out soil pollution

    Chinese scientists have developed soil remediation technologies to prepare for large-scale applications.

    The technologies focus on using plants to absorb heavy metal contaminants in soil.

    The technologies were developed by the Center for Environmental Remediation of the Institute of Geographic Sciences and Resources Research under the Chinese Academy of Sciences, which began research 10 years ago.

    Soil contamination is serious in China, with large areas of cropland polluted, said Lei Mei, a professor at the center.

    Soil remediation technologies have been applied on 133 hectares of land in the Guangxi Zhuang autonomous region, Henan, Yunnan and Hunan provinces and Beijing on a trial basis, and Lei said she believes the technologies will have “good application prospects”.

    A report from the Ministry of Environmental Protection on Thursday showed that about 19.4 per cent of farmland in China was polluted, according to Xinhua News Agency.

    “The publication of the survey result is a milestone for soil remediation in China,” Lei said.

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