Florida monkeys are excreting an infectious disease fatal to humans

January 11, 2018 by  
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Non-native rhesus macaques in Florida ‘s Silver Springs State Park have tested positive for herpes B, a potentially fatal disease that is spread through bodily fluids and may be transmissible to humans. According to a recent study published in the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention journal Emerging Infectious Diseases , about 30 percent of the monkeys tested carried the herpes B virus. In response to this public health threat, Florida state wildlife managers are proposing the removal of the macaques from their adopted habitats. Although there have been no documented cases of macaque-to-human transmission of the herpes B virus , we still do not know enough about the potential risks. Policymakers are taking the threat seriously. “Without management action, the presence and continued expansion of non-native rhesus macaques in Florida can result in serious human health and safety risks including human injury and transmission of disease,” said Thomas Eason, assistant executive director of the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, according to the Guardian . Although state officials have not specified exactly how the monkeys would be removed, they have indicated a willingness to fully remove the invasive macaques, creatures native to Asia which have settled in Ocala, Sarasota, and Tallahassee. Related: It’s so cold that frozen iguanas are falling off trees in Florida Of the 50 humans that have known to have contracted the herpes B virus, 21 have died. The high-fatality rate makes extreme precaution necessary. Unsurprisingly, the Florida monkeys are a popular wildlife attraction, though many who see them may not be aware of the risks of close contact. “Human visitors to the park are most likely to be exposed,” wrote the study’s authors, “through contact with saliva from macaque bites and scratches or from contact with virus shed through urine and feces.” While scientists work to uncover whether the virus is transmissible to humans, policymakers are making plans to control the invasive species. In the meantime, it’s probably best to keep your distance from Florida macaques. Via The Guardian Images via Depositphotos and Flickr

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Florida monkeys are excreting an infectious disease fatal to humans

It’s so cold that frozen iguanas are falling off trees in Florida

January 5, 2018 by  
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When frigid temperatures hit Florida , most humans can go inside, snuggle up, and wait it out. Not so for iguanas. According to reports from local residents, the reptiles were falling from trees onto roads, gardens, and even windshields. This doesn’t mean all the iguanas were dead – they were stunned, and there’s a chance they could come back to live when they warmed up. Zoo Miami communications director Ron Magill told The New York Times the reptiles “literally shut down, and they can no longer hold on to the trees.” Related: Fire ants swarm into floating rafts to survive Harvey Sad part- he prolly wasn’t dead but I didn’t know how to help! My neighbours used to put out heated cinder blocks and mago during cold nights to keep them alive. Sorry buddy. #floridawinter #38degrees #frozeniguana #notgeicogecko A post shared by Kristen (@seasthaday) on Jan 4, 2018 at 4:59pm PST But the stunned iguanas may return to life. The bigger the reptile, the better the chance it will survive. Magill said, “Even if they look dead as a doornail – they’re gray and stiff – as soon as it starts to heat up and they get hit by the sun rays, it’s this rejuvenation. The ones that survive that cold streak are basically passing on that gene.” He thinks in a couple decades, iguanas might be able to endure colder climates and may start working their way north. According to BuzzFeed , Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) experts said people should leave the iguanas alone – they can bite once they thaw out. Iguanas can be six feet long; one woman shared a video of a man carrying one of the reptiles nearly as long as he is tall on Facebook: (function(d, s, id) { var js, fjs = d.getElementsByTagName(s)[0]; if (d.getElementById(id)) return; js = d.createElement(s); js.id = id; js.src = ‘https://connect.facebook.net/en_US/sdk.js#xfbml=1&version=v2.11’; fjs.parentNode.insertBefore(js, fjs);}(document, ‘script’, ‘facebook-jssdk’)); I love all the Bomb Cyclone photos!!! Here’s a video for you – frozen iguana! Posted by Jenna Isola on Thursday, January 4, 2018 It’s not just the iguanas who were impacted by the cold . The FWC said a similar phenomenon can occur with sea turtles . Their news release said, “When the water temperatures drop, stunned sea turtles may float listlessly in the water or near shore. Although these turtles may appear to be dead, they are often still alive.” Check out our Facebook Live to see our staff rescue cold-stunned sea #turtles ! https://t.co/YNmLDsHT45 #Florida pic.twitter.com/hRlXrPYp0A — MyFWC (@MyFWC) January 4, 2018 Via The New York Times , the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission , and BuzzFeed Images via Maxine Bentzel on Twitter and Frank Cerabino on Twitter

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It’s so cold that frozen iguanas are falling off trees in Florida

Trump to open the Atlantic, Pacific, and Arctic to oil drilling

January 5, 2018 by  
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The Trump Administration announced on Thursday that it will open nearly all United States coastal waters to oil and gas drilling. This order marks a significant break from bipartisan precedent, which placed at least some restrictions on where the fossil fuel industry could drill offshore. As part of this move, California ‘s waters will be open to drilling for the first time in decades – along with more than a billion acres in the Arctic and along the East Coast. The move by the Trump Administration reverses an order implemented by the Obama Administration which blocked oil and gas drilling in 94 percent of the outer continental shelf, the American offshore territory between state coastal waters and the deep ocean . Such a reversal would mark a serious blow to former President Obama’s environmental legacy and could put coastal states at risk of an incident similar to that of the Deepwater Horizon oil spill in 2010. The expansion of oil and gas drilling has already met with bipartisan opposition. Republican Governor of Florida Rick Scott pushed back against the move, concerned on the effects that drilling might have on tourism. “I have asked to immediately meet with Secretary Zinke to discuss the concerns I have with this plan and the crucial need to remove Florida from consideration,” said Scott in a statement. “My top priority is to ensure that Florida ’s natural resources are protected.” Related: Scientists protest senator’s plan to open vital Arctic wildlife refuge to oil exploration Industry leaders have predictably applauded the move. “I think the default should be that all of our offshore areas should be available,” said Thomas J. Pyle, president of the American Energy Alliance, according to the New York Times . “These are our lands. They’re taxpayer-owned and they should be made available.” If all profits from such drilling were directly distributed to taxpayers, perhaps Pyle’s position would resonate. Instead, offshore oil drilling under the current system involves socialized risk, with citizens paying the price when something goes wrong, and privatized gain, with industry profiting off of the public’s natural resources . Finalizing Trump’s plan could take up to a year and a half, during which time the order will be challenged in the courts and Congress . Meanwhile, it remains to be seen whether the fossil fuel industry takes advantage of these new opportunities in light of oil’s recent slump which has only recently ended and the major infrastructure investment required. All the while, the prospect of a future Democratic president reversing Trump’s order looms. Via the New York Times Images via Depositphotos and The White House/Flickr

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Trump to open the Atlantic, Pacific, and Arctic to oil drilling

This striking art studio was inspired by the movement of butterfly wings

January 5, 2018 by  
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New York-based firm Valerie Schweitzer Architects has created a funky backyard art studio inspired by the movement of butterfly wings. The 350-square-foot Butterfly Studio comprises multiple volumes that fit together at various angles. The studio is clad in a mix of stucco and reclaimed teak , interrupted by a series of long, narrow windows, giving the project a warm yet industrial character. The compact studio is a beautiful composition of glass, wood and steel. The angled volumes that make up the structure are topped with an expansive skylight of thermally-insulated glass. Allowing the optimal amount of natural light to enter the studio, the skylight all but eliminates the need for artificial lighting, even for an artist. Strategically placed windows provide cross ventilation that captures the breeze off nearby Long Island Sound. A sealed poured concrete flooring contains radiant heat piping, which also adds to the design’s energy efficiency. Related: Prefabricated garden retreat snaps together in less than a week The multi-faceted design was created to provide a strong sense of privacy for anyone working on the studio interior , but without being overly isolated. The windows provide light and a sense of openness on the interior, resulting in an optimal space for artistic production. + Valerie Schweitzer Architects Via v2com Newswire Photography by Tom Leighton

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This striking art studio was inspired by the movement of butterfly wings

Delightful climbing ‘trees’ let budding adventurers safely play to their heart’s content

December 26, 2017 by  
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Keeping children occupied and active is no easy feat, but a new company called  Luckey Climbers  is creating some seriously cool structures  for budding adventurers. The innovative three-dimensional vertical mazes come in all shapes and sizes and have large colorful platforms that are easy to climb on. The structures are surrounded by nets to let kids scramble as high as they want – without giving parents a heart attack. The New York-based company has installed bespoke climbing structures all over the world, from Florida to Hong Kong. The climbers are made out of bent plywood with plastic platforms, stainless steel pipes, and thousands of feet of colorful coated cable. Each structure is a unique design, created for children, but also meant to be a public landmark for communities. Related: Historic Amsterdam park gets new life with a funky climbing “blob” Designed to encourage physical activity and imaginative play for kids of all ages, the climbers are also created to foster physical and intellectual development in children. According to the company, the fun structures “have dramatically positive effects on child development such as problem-solving, spatial thinking, balance, social interaction, and cooperation.” + Luckey Climbers Images via Luckey Climbers

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Delightful climbing ‘trees’ let budding adventurers safely play to their heart’s content

Tiny treadmills for turtle hatchlings help scientists evaluate their stamina

December 20, 2017 by  
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When baby sea turtles are born, within their first 24 hours they make the journey from nest to ocean . The trek which should take a few minutes sometimes lasts hours in urban settings where artificial light can disorient the hatchlings. Two Florida Atlantic University (FAU) scientists employed wee treadmills and little swimsuits to dig into the turtles’ swimming performance after crawling for so long – and they were surprised by what they found. Speed is crucial for turtle hatchlings, who face dangers on their way to the ocean. Their survival “depends heavily on their ability to swim,” according to FAU. But in urban settings, excess light from streets and buildings can draw the babies away from the ocean and towards land – where they might get run over by traffic, drown in a pool, or be eaten by a predator. Biological sciences associate professor Sarah Milton said in a statement, “What prompted our study was the desire to understand what happens to these hatchlings after they spend hours crawling on the beach because they are disoriented. We wanted to know if they would even be able to swim after crawling 500 meters or more, which could take them as long as seven hours to complete.” Related: Police Officer Saves Nearly 100 Baby Sea Turtles in Florida Milton and graduate student Karen Pankaew conducted what FAU described as the “first study on disorientation to examine the physiological effects of extended crawling and swimming performance.” They gathered 150 hatchlings from 27 loggerhead and 18 green turtle nests in Palm Beach County, Florida . The hatchlings walked on tiny treadmills before swimming in a tank in a specially designed swimsuit. The scientists measured oxygen consumption, lactate accumulation, and swimming breathing and stroke rates. Field studies supplemented laboratory observations. The hatchlings were placed into the ocean in their natural habitats shortly after collection. The study results completely surprised the researchers, according to Milton, who said, “We were expecting that the hatchlings would be really tired from the extended crawling and that they would not be able to swim well. It turned out not to be the case and that they are in fact crawling machines. They crawl and rest, crawl and rest and that’s why they weren’t too tired to swim.” She also said the study offers a scientific basis to back up lighting ordinances during hatching season. The Journal of Experimental Biology published the study in November. Via Florida Atlantic University Images via Pixabay and Jay Paredes

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Tiny treadmills for turtle hatchlings help scientists evaluate their stamina

Wildfires in California now larger than NYC and Boston combined

December 11, 2017 by  
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The wildfires raging throughout Southern California are now so fierce and widespread they cover a land area larger than Boston and New York City combined. The Thomas Fire, the largest of the six blazes, covers 230,000 acres, making it the fifth largest wildfire in modern Californian history. Firefighters are struggling to make progress against the inferno, with containment of the Thomas Fire shrinking from 15 percent to 10 percent on Sunday. The fire’s spread has been aided by powerful, dry Santa Ana winds and a lack of rainfall , which are fairly typical of the Southern California coastal region. “Every single year, we have ideal conditions for the types of wildfires we’re experiencing,” ecologist Alexandra Syphard at the Conservation Biology Institute told Wired . “What we don’t have every single year is an ignition during a wind event. And we’ve had several.” Related: The fearless dog who refused to leave his goats during the Santa Rosa wildfire “The problem is not fire,” Syphard added. “The problem is people in the wrong places.” While wildfires were a normal occurrence before the development of Los Angeles and the rest of Southern California, they would typically only occur once or twice a year. Human activity in one of the most populous regions in the United States has increased the rate of wildfires, which has damaged the local ecology. “We’ve lost a lot of our natural heritage [to wildfires],” US Geological Survey research ecologist Jon Keeley told Wired . As the effects of climate change continue to become more pronounced and powerful, these ferocious wildfires may become ordinary occurrences. “With climate change, some scientists are saying that Southern California is literally burning up,” said California Governor Jerry Brown, “so we have to have the resources to combat the fires and we also have to invest in managing the vegetation and forests … in a place that’s getting hotter.” Via CNN and Wired Images via Depositphotos , US Fish and Wildlife Services  and Glenn Beltz/Flickr

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Wildfires in California now larger than NYC and Boston combined

$30M contract cancelled by FEMA after supplies to Puerto Rico fail to arrive

November 29, 2017 by  
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A recently formed Florida-based company was granted a $30 million contract to provide vital supplies to Puerto Rico in its recovery from Hurricane Maria , only to have the contract cancelled by FEMA after Bronze Star LLC failed to deliver emergency tarps and plastic sheeting for urgent repairs. While no payments were ever made to the company, the botched contract resulted in four weeks of inactivity, between when the contract was given and when it was cancelled, while Puerto Ricans went without the vital supplies they need to rebuild. This failure comes amidst a period of heavy rainstorms, during which emergency tarps would have been very helpful in protecting people — many of whom remain homeless in Puerto Rico. It is not known how thoroughly FEMA vetted Bronze Star before granting the contract, but there are certainly warning signs regarding the company’s seriousness. Formed in August 2017, Bronze Star had never delivered supplies or been awarded a government contract before. The company, founded by two brothers, was listed at an address in a single-family home in a residential subdivision in St. Cloud, Florida . Kayon Jones, co-founder of Bronze Star, claims that, prior to accepting the contract, manufacturers had promised him that tarps would be ready and fit for usage. Related: Tiny Montana company signs $300M contract to help restore power in Puerto Rico Jones also claims that the difficulty in acquiring the tarps was due to their being manufactured in Houston, Texas , which is recovering from Hurricane Harvey. “We were trying to help; it wasn’t about making money or anything like that,” said Jones in an interview with the Associated Press . Although more than half a dozen other businesses bid for the contract, FEMA has not disclosed details as to why the deal was ultimately granted to Bronze Star. Via Associated Press Images via United States Department of Agriculture (1)

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$30M contract cancelled by FEMA after supplies to Puerto Rico fail to arrive

Should hydroponic veggies be labeled organic?

November 20, 2017 by  
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Does produce grown hydroponically deserve the organic label? Some organic farmers don’t think so, and they gathered at a National Organic Standards Board (NOSB) meeting where the board voted on a ban on hydroponic practices in organic farming, reports NPR . Hydroponic farmers fought back, saying they can produce food with less water . Organic farmers turned out at the NOSB meeting in Jacksonville, Florida in an attempt to have the organic label removed from hydroponic vegetables . Vermont farmer Dave Chapman of Long Wind Farm , who’s the National Organic Coalition executive director, said the founding principles of organic farming center around “ soil health, regenerating the soil” as opposed to simply providing plants with nutrients. Related: 40-foot shipping container farm can grow 5 acres of food with 97% less water Hydroponic farmers disagree. Wholesum Harvest marketing manager Jessie Gunn told NPR, “We can grow our tomatoes organically with three to five gallons of water, per pound of production, as opposed to growing tomatoes in open fields, which can use anywhere from 26 to 37 gallons of water.” Cultivating crops in fields “uses more water, more land, destroys more natural habitat. I mean, what is the true essence of organic?” Hydroponic vegetables are taking over a growing share of sales to grocery stores . Chapman said already, most organic tomatoes you’d find in a supermarket today never touched soil. He said soon virtually all organic tomatoes, peppers, and cucumbers, and most berries and lettuce, will be grown hydroponically, which he considers tragic. Other people, such as members of the Recirculating Farms Coalition , consider hydroponic farming to be sustainable, a sensible choice “especially for a planet with a changing climate , and assorted challenges in reducing use of water, energy , and space.” The 15-person NOSB, a federal advisory board for the United States Department of Agriculture, voted against the ban, eight to seven. Via NPR Images via Depositphotos ( 1 , 2 )

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Should hydroponic veggies be labeled organic?

Video: NASA tests its supersonic parachute for the first time

November 20, 2017 by  
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NASA has performed the first test of its supersonic parachute as part of its Mars 2020 mission. This essential component will allow the Mars-bound spacecraft to slow down as its enters the planet’s atmosphere whilst traveling at speeds of over 12,000 MPH. “It is quite a ride,” said Ian Clark, the test’s technical lead from NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California. “The imagery of our first parachute inflation is almost as breathtaking to behold as it is scientifically significant. For the first time, we get to see what it would look like to be in a spacecraft hurtling towards the Red Planet , unfurling its parachute.” Take a look at the video after the jump. The first test of this parachute was conducted with the Black Brant IX sounding rocket, which launched from NASA’s Wallops Flight Facility in Virginia on October 4, 2017. After the rocket reached 26 miles in altitude and a speed 1.8 times that of sound, its parachute was deployed successfully. The rocket landed off the coast of Virginia shortly after. “Everything went according to plan or better than planned,” said Clark. “We not only proved that we could get our payload to the correct altitude and velocity conditions to best mimic a parachute deployment in the Martian atmosphere, but as an added bonus, we got to see our parachute in action as well.” Related: The world’s first space nation is now officially in orbit The Mars 2020 mission aims to search for signs of life on Mars by investigating evidence on location through the use of a remote rover and by gathering drilled rock samples to be studied upon their return to Earth. As indicated by its name, the mission aims to launch in 2020 and will require new technology , such as the supersonic parachute, to complete the ambitious undertaking. Although this marked the first parachute test for the Mars 2020 mission, the parachute itself has been used before for Mars exploration. In 2012, a parachute with the same design was used to land NASA’s Mars Science Laboratory on the planet itself. Future tests will incorporate a strengthened parachute, which may be used in the Mars 2020 mission. Via NASA / NBC News Images via NASA

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Video: NASA tests its supersonic parachute for the first time

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