Friday, November 1, 2013

Obituary: To the young skunk that is gone...

Dead skunk left with a last expression of pain, the last lament.
Obituary:
Were you my neighbor skunk? The one I leave food for? I wonder. We rarely encounter, though you--if that was you, always let me know you have been around. I noticed that you didn't like leftover of bread. I am sorry about the accident. Someone must have not seen you crossing the street. Those dark clothes of yours may not have been safe for the road crossing. At least someone put you on the side, that was nice. Or did you manage to walk in pain, and lie there? How long did you suffer? I am sorry.
You know many people think that animals don't feel pain, but that is not possible. You were a mammal like us, with all those nerves, of course it must had hurt.I see it in your face. And, the feelings?I am sure you have family and friends...I wonder if you ''thought'' of them during those last moments. Did you have feelings? Anger, love...that stuff? Did you have a crush on a lady skunk?
They will count you as another road kill. You know lately, they say the populations of your people are increasing because more of your kind are dying on the roads. Could it be, that you have lost your wild food, your preferred habitat, or that you discovered the trash...and, then it was an easy move.
I wonder whether is good or not to leave the leftovers to share with your fellows that are still here. I hope you didn't die hungry. Can you live forever in a skunk spirit? Good bye!

Saturday, September 22, 2012

Gray Wolf hunting by the numbers

This information concerns only to the state of Wisconsin where wolf hunting permits have been granted for 2012 wolf hunting season. The main picture and some of the resources for this note were obtained from Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources (WI DNR) Wolf Management Section 2011-2012. 

Estimated wolf population in Wisconsin as 2011: ~800 (782-824, 202-203 packs, 19 loners, and 31 on Indian reservations. The hunting permits apply to outside reservation specified hunting zones)

How many wolves can the state of Wisconsin support: 700-1000
Maximum estimated historical population (highest pick 1830s): 3000-5000. No censuses were conducted then. Censuses started in the 90s.

Wolves were locally extinct by 1960s: population zero or near zero or zero sightings. This was associated with the increase in deer hunting as a sport activity, and non-tolerance for wolves as competitors for pray.

How many deers do wolves really eat? approximately 20/year (estimates based on current wolf populations). For Wisconsin, DNR researchers estimate that 30 livestock and 30 domestic animals (dogs) may be killed by wolves yearly. Accounting for all wolves in the state deer lost to wolves is about 16,000. This represents only 1/10 of the deer killed during hunting season.

How many deer are killed by hunters during hunting season? The number varies by year, policies observed and other factors. The most recent numbers:
During the first two opening days of the 2011 season ~600,000 hunters registered 112,581 deer killed in two days. This number alone surpasses the total deer estimate for a whole year.

How many deer are killed in car accidents (anthropogenic/human activity)?: 800

How many people apply for wolf hunting permits: 20,000

How many permits do the lottery would grant: 1600

WDNR quota for 2011 harvest: 116 wolves

Total wolves killed after the 2011 hunting season: 110. The season opened on Oct 25, 2012 and ended on Dec 23, 2011. The harvest was set up by quotas per region/management zones.  Originally, the season supposed to be open until the quota was reached and it was expected to be open until February 2013, although the quota was reached in less than two months.  (last update Dec 27, 2012)
 
Estimated pop 2011 before harvest season=~800 wolves. Now the numbers are below 700.

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

My Today's favorite Science News: Elvis the robots that knows when you lie...

A University of Arizona team developed a robot that can detect with an accuracy of 90% whether you are lying or not! The robot will be initially used to screen people at the airports entry points. This robot was custom design to meet the needs of U.S. Customs and Border Protection Agency (CBP).  Although CBP counts with very good human agents, who are trained to detect even professional liers, they can only humanly detect 54% of the total liers.  But this new Super Agent of Truth, Special Agent 'Elvis', will detect any attempt on your side to lie.

Elvis official name is  Automated Virtual Agent for Truth Assessments in Real-Time. But I think that if CBP uses some marketing, and make Elvis as famous or more than Elvis Presley, or something like the Angel of Truth, even the Mexican Mafia would like to meet him.  For now, most folks will only know Elvis as the Avatar Kiosk, which makes Elvis only another ATM-like machine with man Avatar. The difference though is that you may speak like if you were speaking to a person. If you are Catholic, you may even confess to him, instead of feeling shameful in front of the priest. I am seeing all sort of potential with Elvis. He can be hired by Universities for admission purposes; by the policy as an interview detective; by the FBI as Special Agent Elvis; our even by You, the successful owner of a business, to increase the truthfulness factor of your labor force...

Super Agent Elvis, will solve more than CBP screening entry needs.  People who suffer from anxiety, or score low in social skills, could totally avoid humans and instead meet Elvis. Also, all the generations of game players and machine and avatar lovers, would also identify with Elvis. Finally, CBP has also entered in Second Life and people could met their dreamed Elvis for real.  Besides that, everybody else who sweat having to pass customs, and want to avoid humiliating moments, may also go to talk to Elvis. Go to Elvis and avoid the hassle, could be the new CBP Slogan.  I bet they soon will be creating more Elvis'clones or firing some human agents. 

I recommend that University of Arizona in association with the Department of Home Land Security, FBI, and CBP, buy some of those good looking Chinese and Japanese robots, like the ones they have in their technology fairs, to improve new Elvis prototypes. People would think of that human-like robots are more personable. They may even be friendly and provide free handshakes. In the future CBS will hire agents, not to screen you for the truthfulness factor, but to protect their Special robot agents from stalkers and from being harassed by humans.

Some potentials problems for Elvis will include finding a way to rid himself of the pesky testers or those who fall in love with the machine, or those who want to practice their flirting skill with the robot.

For now, Customs and University of Arizona can make some money for more research by promoting the contest  "Do you think you could defeat Elvis?"  The sponsors for more Truth, could offer big cash prizes or CBP could offer an entire year of express pass by custom. 

ps. Please come visit again, next time I will have my very own Manga version of Elvis!
ps2. I first read this in CNN  Meet Elvis: The Virtual Border Official Who Knows You are Lying



Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Hey guys you are only a gene away from monkeys...

Y chromosomes in males has lost only one gene compared to the monkeys. That gene may be very important... and not only for male reproduction (insert laughs). The Joy of Science, that is  the title of a book I read a while ago. This is also an emotion I felt when I was reading Nature News. Yes, I was laughing...and it was not because of males lacking one thing monkeys still have. I know you guys have gained so much with that little loss...but really, our science is not only funny but highly controversial and exciting too!

Sometimes reading about controversial science views, new discoveries, the way someone interpret results, and so on, one find oneself participating in that old fashion soap opera of science.  The controversies and anti-controversies...the paradigms and destruction of paradigms. The rise and fall of theories. As they say, everything that rise may fall.

Australian scientists predicted the disappearance of the Y gene, and recently other scientists said no way. The Y chromosome, containing our male genes...no they are not going away. Amanacera y veremos--the sun will rise, and we will see.

A while ago, Australian scientists have predicted the disappearance of the Y gene. Their assessment was based in the absence of Y chromosome in some mammalian species, such as certain voles and thus the male of our species. They predicted that the male gene could disappear within the next 10 millions years.  One of the scientist involved in that study consider that the human y chromosome many duplications is a tell story of its demise. Yet, that does not mean the demise of males. The study found that the information for the expression of male feature in species that have lost their Y chromosome was relocated.

I was not imagining a world without males of our species. How boring the world would turn out to be? It would make a good science fiction story though. No brother, no lover, no father, etc., The males of our species are rather interesting creatures.

Would the lost of the Y gene correlate to the demise of Patriarchism, and the decrease of testosterone driven violence? I don't mean to be hopeless, but I bet that both roles, the 'patriarchal stereotype ruler' and the violent gang, would be taken by a segment of the female population. Haven't we seen how people get rid of their oppressors just to rise a new generation of them.

Independently of our science controversies, evolution will continue and will tell the stories. The scientist of the future will elucidate the outcome. They will say how close or far the scientist in the last two decades were.

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Birds, ecosystem services and economy

Do you know that birds help states/towns local economies? Birds are providing ecosystem services for people, and their beauty has an economic value for the places they depend on/ their habitats. Do you know how many people travel as tourist to see birds in Florida, Michigan, or Wisconsin? And how many people go around the globe to places in the tropics, high mountains or deserts in search of feathery beings. The more rare, the more exciting a bird is for bird watchers. Some people would go to almost the end of the world...to see puffins? By doing so they are making themselves happy and at the same time contributing to those local economies. There are great revenues for localities, for small and large business and for entire cities based on the whereabouts of birds.


Types of ecosystems services provided by birds: provisioning (for example food), regulating (for example, participating in the cycling of nutrients); cultural (people identify with birds, for example, in the U.S., the bald eagle represent the strength of the country); other types of services are calling supporting services (e.g., birds serve as pollinators for crops and also control pest). 


Roles of birds in the ecosystem:

  • predators
  • pollinators
  • scavengers
  • seed eaters/seed dispersers
  • prey or food for other species (or humans/recreational activities such as hunting)
  • ecosystem engineers (some species have the ability to transform/or drive ecosystem change)
  • other services driven by bird behavior: participation on nutrient cycling, feeding nutrients to plants. In some urban areas, the presence of excess of birds such as geese in nearby lakes may cause pollution or health concerns. By contrast, the presence of birds in other areas, e.g., eagles or kingfish in a river attract tourists. 
  • Other services: birds can benefit agriculture (by controlling pest or providing pollination services to crops such as grapes or coffee); birds may cause crop loses by predating in a cash crop. 
  • Migratory birds participate in ecosystem process at broad scales. They may transfer products from an area to another. Birds have been linked to the spread of invasive species at regional levels and to the spread of zootic/animal transmitting diseases such as viruses. 



References: 
Jedicka, Greenberg and Letourneau, 2011. Avian conservation practices strengthen ecosystem services in California vineyards.http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22096555


Whelan and Marquis, 2008. Ecosystem Services provided by birds.  Ann N Y Acad Sci. 2008;1134:25-60. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/18616745


Kellerman, Johnson, Stercho and Hackett, 2008. Ecological and economic services provided by birds on Jamaican Blue Mountain coffee farmsConserv Biol. 2008 Oct;22(5):1177-85.http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/18616745


How to identify birds eggs? And how are humans 'like' eggs?



How do scientist or bird watchers identify bird eggs?
- by anatomical comparisons and also using molecular tools.
What does an amateur needs to identify the eggs of different bird species?
-anatomical comparisons or a careful look at the egg morphology: egg color, size, and texture.
-In addition you need to learn about the behavior of the birds, nesting habits, type of preferred habitat and so on.
-a good actualized birds egg field guide.
-a lot of practice!
Imagine that you could see just an egg and say, this is a crane, a parrot, a woodpecker, a tern,or an specific species of owl? Wouldn't it be impressive? And you may wonder what is that for? How can it help anybody?
Because several species of birds have been treatened by human ways--habitat destruction or change, pesticides, illegal trades, and yes even egg collecting, some species of birds are protected. In the United States, the Endangered Species Act is the regulation that have been brought about to protect these species and their habitats. If you like to know more about endangered species please see the UICN Red list of threatened species; or endangered species -The global list of endangered species [earth endangered species] http://www.earthsendangered.com/list.asp
Collecting birds eggs is against the law for many birds. As for those that are not protected, think about it twice or as many times you need. Why would you need their eggs? It is expensive to produce eggs. It takes a lot of energy...and they do it with the hopes to pass their genes. Let those eggs where you see them. Let them become new birds, part of the food chain or rotten eggs.
If you come across one endangered species eggs, take a picture and an information about the site. Many phones allow you to save the location. Inform your local Audubon chapter and write a petition to establish protected that particular area.
read more:

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

How People and Animals Learn ( Source PNAS- Oct 2011)


How do we learn by instruction and experience-- and how does negative negative feedback may influence our learning

Mattew Walch and John Anderson both scientists at the Department of Psychology at Carnegie Mellon, have corroborated through probabilistic experiments and modeling that humans and animals learn from trial-and-error interactions, experiences with the environment, but also through non-experiential situations that are recorded in the neural reward pathways.

The researchers made use of electroencephalograms (EGG), separated by components, and a set of paired cues to  validate the viability of reinforcement learning as a model of behavioral adaptation-- and/or as the result of neural reward pathways. 
They hypothesized that because learning through trial error is inefficient and potentially dangerous for humans, other mechanisms of learning may be highly valuable. The ability to learn from non-experiential exposure was found to be not only advantageous, but also rewarded (assimilated through neural pathways.)
The researchers studied instruction or the lack of it as their model for behavioral adaptation through neural pathways. The participants were given probabilistic assignments, and the events were tracked and scored for later analysis. The test groups were separated as follow:

Test group 1: received feedback indicating response reward--after each task.
Test group 2:  received the same feedback given to test group 1 and additional instructions about the reward probabilities, before they conducted another task.

The researchers found that "instruction eliminated participants’ reliance on feedback." By contrast, negative responses related to feedback and the event-related potential, both associated with neural reward prediction errors keep adapting with experience. Both groups benefited from experience.

The research findings suggest that while instruction may influence or control behavior right away, certain neural responses must be learned from experience.