Sitting cross legged on the floor, a group of children smiled excitedly as a small creature walked up to each of their feet, wiggled its nose and moved on. The children’s hands fidgeted in their laps, itching for a chance to touch an animal that most people are terrified to even look at.
“Can I pet her?” one of the smaller girls asked as the creature waddled out of the semi-circle the children had formed.
“No. We’re not going to pet her,” said Nicole Harmon, who has the title of “humane educator” at the Moraine Ridge Wildlife Rehabilitation Center in Valparaiso, Indiana. The center falls under a parent organization called Humane Indiana which initially only took in domestic animals until July of 2014 when it decided to expand to accommodate the large number of calls received about injured wildlife.
As Harmon spoke, she walked over and scooped up the wandering opossum from the floor and cradled it like a baby. Continue reading →
Slowed reaction time. Reduced ability to make decisions. Impaired coordination. Memory loss. Difficulty in problem-solving. These are some of the symptoms listed by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) describing people who drive under the influence of marijuana. And right now, it is very difficult for law enforcement officials to determine when these drivers are sharing the road with you—and may be responsible for causing an accident.
Detecting recent marijuana use by drivers is far more difficult for law enforcement than detecting the presence of alcohol. Currently, testing can’t be done for marijuana using on-site breath samples. Now, a new device that aims to provide a reliable solution to this growing concern is being developed—and law enforcement officials welcome the potential of the new technology.
As more states move to legalization for recreational purposes, marijuana is more accessible to people with limited or no experience using it. The ability to successfully detect drivers that have smoked or ingested the drug becomes paramount to keeping drivers safe. Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), which is the main psychoactive compound in marijuana that produces the feeling of being high, does not show up on current, traditional breathalyzer devices used by law enforcement to detect blood alcohol content. Continue reading →
SIEM REAP, Cambodia – From looking at religious merit release practices in and around Siem Reap, to exploring “pet culture” and animal welfare in households, to investigating the effects of noise pollution on a vulnerable bat population, students at The School for Field Studies in Cambodia are doing more than just studying abroad.
These students are investigating environmental concerns that face Cambodian communities today with hopes that their research can help inform environmental policy and action in the future. Through their programs, SFS is training students to do community-relevant research – that is, research that can make a difference. Continue reading →
Mouse study shows offspring of active fathers are better at learning and remembering
By Valerie Nikolas Medill Reports
Men, if you want smarter kids, it may be time to hit the gym.
When it comes to baby-bearing, women often get the brunt of the responsibility, especially before a child is born. But new evidence shows that a dad’s morning run or lifting session may be responsible for more of his offspring’s cognitive traits than previously thought.
Researchers at the Cajal Institute, a neuroscience research center in Madrid, found in a study with mice that offspring of active fathers learn and recall information better than the offspring of sedentary dads. The study, published last month in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS), cites “paternal physical activity as a direct factor driving offspring’s brain physiology and cognitive behavior.” Continue reading →
Medill News Service journalist Lauren Robinson is embedding this spring with Northwestern University researchers studying freeze-casting for a planned space launch.
Cristabella Wolff, an undergraduate materials science student, drops liquid succinonitrile (SCN) into a container of cupric-oxide (CuO) nanoparticles. To the human eye, this looks like a handful of powdery soot. But soon, Wolff will have a suspension of the two materials that can be used for freeze-casting, a process that creates microscopically porous molds used in manufacturing of materials. Wolff and others studying freeze-casting at Northwestern University plan to send suspensions like this one to the International Space Station for a series of freeze-casting experiments. The scientists are using SCN for the project because, among other reasons, it is compatible with equipment on-board the ISS used for sublimation, a key part of the freeze-casting process.
Before the SCN can be dropped into the CuO particles – each of which measures about 20 to 30 nanometers in diameter – it has to be gently heated until it becomes a liquid. That takes about a half-hour. A nanometer measures in at a mere 1 billionth of a meter.
Once the SCN is liquid, Wolff can drop it into the container of CuO particles. She has calculated the precise amount to add to get to a 10 percent volume, meaning the nanoparticles will make up 10 percent of the suspension.
Next, the mixture needs to be sealed off so that it can be shaken, evenly dispersing the particles. Wolff tracks down the high-tech supplies for this endeavor — such as tape.
Wolff straps the container into a device that shakes it until the CuO particles are dispersed. The container gets shaken three times, in 2-minute intervals.
In between shakes, the suspension is kept warm, ensuring that the SCN remains in liquid form and doesn’t congeal. In its solid state, reached at room temperature, it takes on a waxy consistency.
Wolff monitors the shaking process to ensure the tape doesn’t come undone and affect the dispersing of the particles.
At last, the suspension is ready to go. Wolff uses a syringe to dispense the solution onto a glass slide, used to microscopically observe the creation of a dendritic mold by freeze-casting.
Click the first photo in the gallery above for a photo essay showing how a freeze-casting suspension is created.
Krysti Scotti’s enthusiasm for her pioneering freeze-casting work at Northwestern University is contagious enough to brighten the coldest and wettest days.
Scotti is hosting my embedded-reporting assignment at SpaceICE, where scientists in professor David Dunand’s lab are preparing to test freeze-casting — a way to manufacture materials — in a NASA satellite mission and on the International Space Station. The University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign is building the actual CubeSat satellite for the mission. Continue reading →
I traveled to India for the first time in my life for an all-too-brief three weeks’ of learning how farmers are adapting to increasing drought in the central province of Telangana with water conserving greenhouses.
Hyderabad and environs are about as far inland as can be at this latitude. But in the heart of the city, the human-made Hussain Sagar Lake serves as a community hub. The lake is surrounded by parks and temples, and you can take a ferry to a statue of the Buddha in the middle of the lake.
My first day in Hyderabad, I walked along the beautiful lake’s east side. It’s cut off from the rest of the city by an elevated highway, the “Tank Bund,” and layered with litter and trash along the banks. Near the hotel where I stayed, a family of feral pigs picked at garbage on a dry river bed that feeds into the lake.
A province conservation group has put up signs asking people to keep the lake shore clean and trash free. The group established a row of planters filled with palm trees to beautify this portion of the waterfront. On the other side, fruit vendors and cane juice stalls offer respite from the 95-degree weather. A cold bottle of water will only set you back 20 rupees, or about 30 cents USD.
Visitors should come prepared for the high volume of swastika graffiti and understand that it means “all is well” in its use by Hindus and Buddhists long before Nazi Germany adopted the symbol. Here, the former meaning persists. Tthe swastika also has been used as a symbol for the sun dating back millennia.
Elaborate mosques and temples line the other side of the Tank Bund. Some of these structures are ages old, such as the one across the street from my temporary home in Secunderabad.
Meanwhile, at the Kheyti Project office where I am embedded as a reporter, a street dog has discovered that benevolent humans there will feed him. He and I have become friends. Kheyti’s work here involves providing farmers with efficient greenhouses that help them grow crops in this drought-ridden area, providing harvests and easing poverty.
Kheyti has installed nearly 100 greenhouses already and project founders hope to have as many as 1,000 in place by the end of the year. My reporting will focus on the moving target of sustainable farming as climate change threatens the farmers’ crops and livelihood within coming decades – or even sooner.
A Hindu Temple in downtown Hyderabad. (Aaron Dorman/Medill)
Researchers at Northwestern University’s Jewett Lab use E. coli and other strains to innovate new renewable compounds
By Valerie Nikolas Medill Reports
At Northwestern University’s Jewett Lab in the Center for Synthetic Biology, researchers aim to create sustainable chemicals and materials out of existing organic compounds. Using cell-free metabolic engineering, they isolate the structural components from existing organisms, such as E. coli, and manipulate them to create new compounds. These types of reactions are called “cell-free” because they occur outside the confines of a cell.
“We focus on E. coli because it is super well-studied,” said Ashty Karim, research fellow and assistant scientific director at the Jewett Lab. “We know a lot about how it functions and how to manipulate it to do our engineering objectives.”
The lab’s engineering objectives are to create sustainable and renewable chemicals that can be used for biofuels and in manufacturing.
Slideshow: The 59th Annual Sakura Matsuri Japanese Street Festival. (Stephanie Fox)
A few blocks from the National Mall, families, friends, dogs and anime enthusiasts crowded through a gated entryway placed on Pennsylvania Avenue to experience the 59th Annual Sakura Matsuri Japanese Street Festival.
Some effortlessly used chopsticks to eat mango sticky rice on-the-go. Others sipped bubble tea, or stared admiringly at a newly-purchased bonsai tree while taking a selfie. Everyone enjoyed the company of a welcoming community while celebrating the significance of the U.S.-Japan relationship and the final day of Washington, D.C.’s three-week Cherry Blossom Festival. Continue reading →
About 60 residents gathered at Paseo Stadium in Agana, Guam, on Saturday, April 13, in an act of solidarity with the island’s natural resources.
As Earth Month hit mid-swing, they carried homemade signs that said things like, “There is No Planet B” and “Certified Tree Hugger.” From local advocacy leaders to college students and schoolchildren, they assembled to participate in the second annual March to Protect Mother Earth.
The march came at a time when the U.S. territory is under considerable strain: forces including invasive species, coral bleaching and wildfires threaten the small Pacific island’s natural resources and wildlife while its consumption and population remain sky high.