Monthly Archives: December 2013

Bacteria May Allow Animals to Send Quick, Voluminous Messages

By Layne Cameron & Kevin Theis, http://msutoday.msu.edu

hyenaIn the current issue of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, a Michigan State University researcher shows that the detailed scent posts of hyenas are, in part, products of symbiotic bacteria, microbes that have a mutually beneficial relationship with their hosts.

“When hyenas leave paste deposits on grass, the sour-smelling signals relay reams of information for other animals to read,” said Kevin Theis, the paper’s lead author and MSU postdoctoral researcher. “Hyenas can leave a quick, detailed message and go. It’s like a bulletin board of who’s around and how they’re doing.”

Interestingly, it’s the bacteria in pastes – more diverse than scientists had imagined – that appear to be doing the yeoman’s job of sending these messages.

“Scent posts are bulletin boards, pastes are business cards, and bacteria are the ink, shaped into letters and words that provide information about the paster to the boards’ visitors,” Theis said. “Without the ink, there is potentially just a board of blank uninformative cards.” Read More

 

Fungi Get Into the Holiday Spirit

holiday-themed-fungus-petri-dishes-snowman_62639_600x450The living artwork is the creation of Stephanie Mounaud, an infectious disease researcher at the J. Craig Venter Institute (JCVI) in Rockville, Maryland.

For the last several Christmases, Mounaud has used the different strains of mold that she works with to create holiday-themed fungal art.

The snowman pictured here was made by combining four different fungi, including common strains such as Aspergillus niger and rarer ones such as Penicillium marneffei.

Getting the colors just right for her artwork was tricky and required growing the right fungi on the right medium. For example, “the color that you see in the snowman is made from the spores,” hardy reproductive forms of fungi used for dispersal, Mounaud explained.

To coax the fungi to create spores, Mounaud used a nutrient-poor growth medium. “When you give them a starved condition, the fungi really want to produce their spores because they feel they’re in an environment where they need to survive,” she said.

Click here to see more festive mold or visit Stephanie Mounaud’s blog.

More asbestos found in Rock Island school

Rock Island Clock Tower

Rock Island Clock Tower (Photo credit: wonder_al)

By Tara Becker, http://qctimes.com

An additional 10,000-square-feet of asbestos discovered on the second floor of the former Audubon Elementary School in Rock Island will cost $57,000 to remove, a spokeswoman for the Rock Island-Milan School District said Monday.

 

Holly Sparkman said the removal may add only a day or two to the asbestos abatement process, with demolition scheduled to begin the first week in December.

 

The school board will vote on the additional work and cost during a special meeting at 6 p.m. Wednesday at the Administration Center, 2101 6th Ave.

 

Valley Construction of Rock Island began removing asbestos from the building Nov. 7 to prepare the building to be demolished.

 

Sparkman said the construction crew recently discovered that tiles on the ceiling of the second-floor had layers of mastic glue, a heavy-duty adhesive primarily made out of asbestos. Read More

 

Factory planned on South Side raises pollution fears

By Spencer Hunt, http://www.dispatch.com

A glass-recycling factory planned for the South Side has renewed many neighbors’ fears of pollution.

Phoenix-based Closed Loop Glass Solutions plans to build a new type of furnace and recycling system that promises to remove lead from old glass television tubes without sending the toxic metal into the air.

Closed Loop must emit less than 1 pound of lead per year, according to a permit approved by the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency.

“We will be way under that in terms of our operations,” said Brent Benham, the company’s chief financial officer.

That promise has done little to mollify some South Side residents who say the area already is dominated by heavy industry.

“We don’t want to see a company that is in any way going to be emitting lead into the community,” said Eileen Neale, a member of the Alum Crest Acres Civic Community group and the Far South Columbus Area Commission. “We’re absolutely inundated with those kinds of facilities.” Read More

 

Christmas Trees Threatened by Root Rot

farming-forest-agricultureJeff Pollard trudged up the steep slope and stopped at a desiccated, rust-brown tree. Two months earlier, workers had tagged this Fraser fir as ready for market.

It was going to be someone’s Christmas tree. And now it was dead.

“Never get paid back for this tree,” he said with a shrug. “Eleven years of work — gone.”

The culprit: Phytophthora root rot, a water mold that, once in the soil, makes it unfit for production.

Pollard has been growing Fraser fir in these western North Carolina mountains for nearly 40 years. To him, it’s “the ultimate tree.”

But this persistent problem has him looking to a species from the birthplace of old Saint Nicholas himself for a possible alternative. And he’s not alone.

Growers in Oregon, the nation’s No. 1 Christmas tree producer, have been experimenting with the Turkish fir for more than 30 years. That species and the Nordmann fir, also native to Eurasia, have shown promising resistance to root rot.

“Phytophthora is a problem in most areas where true firs … are grown,” said Gary A. Chastagner, a plant pathologist and extension specialist at Washington State University. “It’s a national problem.”

Oregon leads the nation in Christmas tree production, with nearly 7 million harvested in 2007, the latest figures available from the National Christmas Tree Association. North Carolina was a distant second, with around 3.1 million trees cut.

One study estimated the potential losses to Oregon’s nursery and Christmas tree industries of up to $304 million a year if Phytophthora is not properly contained. Douglas and Noble fir are the dominant holiday tree species in the Pacific Northwest.

In North Carolina, the No. 2 producer, it costs farmers up to $6 million a year, said John Frampton, a Christmas tree geneticist at North Carolina State University in Raleigh.

To date, no fungicide has proven effective to control Phytophthora on Christmas tree plantations. So once it’s in the soil, that’s it.

Pollard, who grows about 130,000 trees on several western North Carolina farms, said Phytophthora set in after Hurricane Fran in 1996 and got worse following 2004’s Hurricane Ivan. He’s lost about a quarter of his trees over the past six seasons, and the state rated the mortality on some of his stands at up to 80 percent.

“They’ll be good for growing grass,” he said as he stood overlooking several barren hilltop fields recently.

Researchers at Washington State and several other universities are hoping to unlock the secrets to some species’ rot resistance. Read More

 

Toxic soil found next to Providence park

By,  Walt Buteau, http://www.wpri.com/

Photo via EPA.gov

Photo via EPA.gov

The Department of Environmental Management ordered a Providence LLC to remove soil from land next to a park on Valley Street after a DEM inspection found the soil ‘contains hazardous substances’ including lead and arsenic.

Documents show the soil was hauled from a piece of property that was purchased with a $620,000 taxpayer funded loan from the embattled Providence Economic Development Partnership.

In the letter, the company was told the contaminated soil “shall be taken offsite for disposal at a facility that is licensed to receive contaminated soil”.

In December, an eyewitness who asked to remain anonymous, told Target 12 he saw “6 hours of digging” at the Valley Street location on November 27. He reported seeing dozens of loads of soil hauled away and dumped in the wooded area that abuts Donigian Park and playground. That wooded area is part of the 5 acre 100 Amherst Street lot.

The DEM confirmed last December that the agency was investigating a complaint that soil was removed from  181 Valley Street. A clean up plan for the property indicates the soil contains “arsenic, lead, poly-nuclear aromatic hydrocarbon and total petroleum hydrocarbons”. Read More

 

Science gets silly for fundraising

MorgancornOnce again QuanTEM Labs has taken on the task of raising money for Oklahoma City’s Infant Crisis Center during the holidays. The lab staff is divided into teams and each team competes to raise the most money during the rush towards the QuanTEM Christmas Party on December 13th.

The competition was fierce this year as teams went the extra mile to one-up each other in order to bring in the most cash for the cause.

Team 3 Gentlemen & a Lady started off strong by offering raffle tickets for the chance to smash a pie in the face of Jeff, Steven, or Jim for the nominal fee of $1. Needless to say, oppressed lab techs jumped at this opportunity giving the team a strong early lead.

Darth CarterSandy Dragon

Not to be outdone, Team Winning Team began to offer chances to smash a pie in Chemistry Tech, Carter’s face as well as letting their faces be painted throughout the month – all in the name of helping infants, and winning of course.

Team Tinsel Hoof hatched a scheme to raise $100 by promising that Microbiologist, Morgan would dress like a unicorn for a day once the goal was met. People really seemed to embrace the idea of helping Moran live out her lifelong dream of donning a unicorn snuggie, much to her chagrin.

With only a week left until the party Team Starry Night decided to up the ante by offering crafted sock snowmen for sale at the front desk.

CristalAll three teams are spending the last few days leading up to the party doing everything in their power to raise the most money. Members of the winning team will be entered into a drawing at the Christmas party, while losers will have to endure a full year of mockery at the hands of the winning team. At this point it is still very much anybody’s game.

Ultimately the real winner will be the Infant Crisis Center, since all money collected by the teams will be matched by QuanTEM before being donated to help local families.Infant Crisis Logo

New antifungal composition effectively inhibits a wide variety of fungi

Provided by Asociación RUVID, AlphaGalileo

In order to overcome resistance to antifungal variety of pathogenic fungi and yeast, researchers from the University of Alicante have developed a novel and efficient antifungal composition with pharmacological applications in agriculture and food industry, among others.

The composition, developed and patented by the UA Research Group in Plant Pathology, is based on the combined use of chitosan, or chitosan oligosaccharides (COS), antifungal agents and additives that synergistically affect the growth of a variety of pathogenic fungi.

“Chitosan is a non-toxic biopolymer, biocompatible and naturally degradable, with antibacterial, antiviral and antifungal properties obtained from chitin, the main constituent of hard body parts of invertebrates, such as the shells of shrimp, lobsters, crabs, and other marine crustaceans, and is part of the fungal cell wall”, as explained by lecturer Luis Vicente López Llorca, Director of the UA Research Group in Plant Pathology and head of the research work.

“Because many fungal pathogens develop resistance to prolonged treatment with antifungal drugs, it is desirable to find alternatives for their control in medical, agricultural and those applications in which the fungi cause damage. In clinics, pathogenic fungi resistant to antifungal drugs are a major cause of mortality in patients. Chitosan and the antifungal additives, some based on the identification of molecular targets of chitosan, contribute to produce a novel alternative to control fungal diseases and in particular antifungal resistant strains” López Llorca said. Read More

 

Contractor finds asbestos while repairing bridge

By Patricia Mazzei, http://www.miamiherald.com

Walter Michot / Miami Herald

Walter Michot / Miami Herald

A contractor repairing the bridge that connects Virginia Key to Key Biscayne has found asbestos on a tube containing electrical wiring for street lights – an unforeseen condition that could delay the project’s completion.

Kiewit Infrastructure found the asbestos when it demolished a portion of the Bear Cut Bridge’s roadway in August, according to a memo Miami-Dade Mayor Carlos Gimenez sent county commissioners Friday. The company has been removing and disposing of the tainted material.

The extra work could push back the repairs by several weeks, according to the memo. Kiewit has claimed a 36-day delay, though the county is still negotiating that number.

As part of bonds scheduled for commission approval in December, $750,000 in funding would be set aside to handle the asbestos. The final costs of the fix are still being negotiated. Read More

 

Millions of U.S. and Canadian Workers May be Exposed to Lead by Using Shop Towels

By Rachel Gross, schwartzmsl.com

A peer-reviewed study conducted by Gradient, a nationally recognized environmental and risk sciences consulting firm, shows that U.S. and Canadian manufacturing workers who use laundered shop towels may be exposed to lead and other metals. The analysis, “Evaluation of Potential Exposure to Metals in Laundered Shop Towels,” was published in the October issue of Human and Ecological Risk Assessment.

Workers cannot see, smell, or feel heavy metal residue on laundered shop towels, so the risk is not apparent to the many workers who use the towels to wipe parts, spills, and their hands.

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, nearly 12 million Americans, or nine percent of the workforce, are employed directly in manufacturing. In Canada, more than one million people work in manufacturing.

“The study adds to the growing body of data on potential health risks associated with using laundered shop towels in the workplace,” said Barbara Beck, Ph.D., DABT, FATS, and Principal at Gradient. “We continue to find a range of heavy metals on commercially laundered towels. Of particular interest is that exposures to lead may exceed certain health-based limits. Much as bacteria and viruses can spread through touch and be ingested, heavy metals on shop towels may also be transferred through touch to workers’ mouths and be swallowed.” Read More