Hexbyte Glen Cove Study shows cactus pear as drought-tolerant crop for sustainable fuel and food thumbnail

Hexbyte Glen Cove Study shows cactus pear as drought-tolerant crop for sustainable fuel and food

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Among three cactus varieties researched by the University of Nevada, Reno as drought-tolerant crops for biofuel, Opuntia ficus-indica produced the most fruit while using up to 80% less water than some traditional crops. Credit: John Cushman, University of Nevada, Reno.

Could cactus pear become a major crop like soybeans and corn in the near future, and help provide a biofuel source, as well as a sustainable food and forage crop? According to a recently published study, researchers from the University of Nevada, Reno believe the plant, with its high heat tolerance and low water use, may be able to provide fuel and food in places that previously haven’t been able to grow much in the way of sustainable crops.

Global climate change models predict that long-term drought events will increase in duration and intensity, resulting in both higher temperatures and lower levels of available water. Many crops, such as rice, corn and soybeans, have an upper temperature limit, and other traditional crops, such as alfalfa, require more water than what might be available in the future.

“Dry areas are going to get dryer because of climate change,” Biochemistry & Molecular Biology Professor John Cushman, with the University’s College of Agriculture, Biotechnology & Natural Resources, said. “Ultimately, we’re going to see more and more of these drought issues affecting crops such as corn and soybeans in the future.”

Fueling renewable energy

As part of the College’s Experiment Station unit, Cushman and his team recently published the results of a five-year study on the use of spineless as a high-temperature, low-water commercial crop. The study, funded by the Experiment Station and the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture, was the first long-term field trial of Opuntia species in the U.S. as a scalable bioenergy feedstock to replace fossil fuel.

Results of the study, which took place at the Experiment Station’s Southern Nevada Field Lab in Logandale, Nevada, showed that Opuntia ficus-indica had the highest fruit production while using up to 80% less water than some traditional crops. Co-authors included Carol Bishop, with the College’s Extension unit, postdoctoral research scholar Dhurba Neupane, and graduate students Nicholas Alexander Niechayev and Jesse Mayer.

“Maize and sugar cane are the major bioenergy crops right now, but use three to six times more water than cactus pear,” Cushman said. “This study showed that cactus pear productivity is on par with these important bioenergy crops, but use a fraction of the water and have a higher heat tolerance, which makes them a much more climate-resilient crop.”

Cactus pear works well as a bioenergy crop because it is a versatile perennial crop. When it’s not being harvested for biofuel, then it works as a land-based carbon sink, removing carbon dioxide from the atmosphere and storing it in a sustainable manner.

“Approximately 42% of land area around the world is classified as semi-arid or arid,” Cushman said. “There is enormous potential for planting cactus trees for carbon sequestration. We can start growing cactus pear crops in abandoned areas that are marginal and may not be suitable for other crops, thereby expanding the area being used for bioenergy production.”

Fueling people and animals

The crop can also be used for human consumption and livestock feed. Cactus pear is already used in many semi-arid areas around the world for food and forage due to its low-water needs compared with more traditional crops. The fruit can be used for jams and jellies due to its high sugar content, and the pads are eaten both fresh and as a canned vegetable. Because the plant’s pads are made of 90% water, the crop works great for livestock feed as well.

“That’s the benefit of this perennial crop,” Cushman explained. “You’ve harvested the fruit and the pads for food, then you have this large amount of biomass sitting on the land that is sequestering carbon and can be used for biofuel production.”

Cushman also hopes to use cactus pear genes to improve the water-use efficiency of other . One of the ways cactus pear retains water is by closing its pores during the heat of day to prevent evaporation and opening them at night to breathe. Cushman wants to take the cactus pear genes that allow it to do this, and add them to the genetic makeup of other plants to increase their drought tolerance.

Bishop, Extension educator for Northeast Clark County, and her team, which includes Moapa Valley High School students, continue to help maintain and harvest the more than 250 cactus pear plants still grown at the field lab in Logandale. In addition, during the study, the students gained valuable experience helping to spread awareness about the project, its goals, and the plant’s potential benefits and uses. They produced videos, papers, brochures and recipes; gave tours of the field lab; and held classes, including harvesting and cooking classes.

Fueling further research

In 2019, Cushman began a new research project with cactus pear at the U.S. Department of Agriculture—Agricultural Research Service’ National Arid Land Plant Genetic Resources Unit in Parlier, California. In addition to continuing to take measurements of how much the cactus crop will produce, Cushman’s team, in collaboration with Claire Heinitz, curator at the unit, is looking at which accessions, or unique samples of plant tissue or seeds with different genetic traits, provide the greatest production and optimize the crop’s growing conditions.

“We want a spineless cactus pear that will grow fast and produce a lot of biomass,” Cushman said.

One of the other goals of the project is to learn more about Opuntia stunting disease, which causes cactuses to grow smaller pads and fruit. The team is taking samples from the infected plants to look at the DNA and RNA to find what causes the disease and how it is transferred to other cactuses in the field. The hope is to use the information to create a diagnostic tool and treatment to detect and prevent the disease’s spread and to salvage usable parts from diseased plants.

More information:
Dhurba Neupane et al, Five‐year field trial of the biomass productivity and water input response of cactus pear ( Opuntia spp.) as a bioenergy feedstock for arid lands, GCB Bioenergy (2021). DOI: 10.1111/gcbb.12805

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Hexbyte Glen Cove Small volcanic lakes tapping giant underground reservoirs thumbnail

Hexbyte Glen Cove Small volcanic lakes tapping giant underground reservoirs

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In its large caldera, Newberry volcano (Oregon, U.S.) has two small volcanic lakes, one fed by volcanic geothermal fluids (Paulina Lake) and one by gases (East Lake). These popular fishing grounds are small windows into a large underlying reservoir of hydrothermal fluids, releasing carbon dioxide (CO2) and hydrogen sulfide (H2S) with minor mercury (Hg) and methane into East Lake.

What happens to all that CO2 after it enters the bottom waters of the , and how do these volcanic gases influence the lake ecosystem? Some lakes fed by volcanic CO2 have seen catastrophic CO2 degassing during lake overturn (“limnic eruptions”; e.g., Lake Nyos, Cameroon). Could East Lake be a simmering “American lake Nyos”? East Lake went through a short “gas alert” in summer 2020, with strong H2S smells spreading over the caldera region.

Six Wesleyan University undergraduate/graduate students and their advisor set out to measure CO2 fluxes at East Lake each summer between 2015 and 2019.

East Lake accumulates CO2 below its winter ice cover, which is released again in abundance during ice melting and subsequently during the summer months. They also proposed that the East Lake ecosystem is largely driven by its volcanic inputs: CO2, nutrients like phosphorus and trace metals, with the fixed nitrogen nutrient largely provided by local cyanobacteria.

The outside world only adds sunshine to make this organic matter factory go! Their study illustrates how the lake CO2 reservoir renews itself over the seasons, and East Lake is unlikely to have catastrophic gas releases. Variations in CO2 flux can be used for volcano monitoring once the seasonal flux trends related to lake processes are understood.

More information:
H.D. Brumberg et al. Volcanic carbon cycling in East Lake, Newberry Volcano, Oregon, USA, Geology (2021). DOI: 10.1130/G48388.1

Small volcanic lakes tapping giant underground reservoirs (2021, March 5)
retrieved 6 March 2021
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Hexbyte Glen Cove Blind trust in social media cements conspiracy beliefs thumbnail

Hexbyte Glen Cove Blind trust in social media cements conspiracy beliefs

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Credit: Pixabay/CC0 Public Domain

The ability to identify misinformation only benefits people who have some skepticism toward social media, according to a new study from Washington State University.

Researchers found that people with a strong in information found on were more likely to believe conspiracies, which falsely explain significant events as part of a secret evil plot, even if they could identify other types of misinformation. The study, published in the journal Public Understanding of Science on March 5, showed this held true for beliefs in older theories as well as newer ones around COVID-19.

“There was some good and in this study,” said Porismita Borah, an associate professor in WSU’s Edward R. Murrow College of Communication and a corresponding author on the study. “The good news is that you are less susceptible to conspiracy theories if you have some media literacy skills, one of which is being able to identify misinformation. But if you blindly trust the information you find on social media, those skills might not be able to help.”

Identifying misinformation is just one part of media literacy, Borah pointed out, and people may need a deeper education around social media to avoid falling for conspiracy theories.

For the study, the researchers surveyed 760 people recruited via Amazon’s Mechanical Turk crowdsourcing website. The participants were roughly split between male and female as well as Democrat and Republican. The majority, 63.1%, used Facebook and 47.3% used Twitter daily. They answered a range of questions related to the level of their social media news use and trust as well as ability to identify misinformation.

The participants were also asked to rate the truth of several COVID-19 conspiracy theories, such as the belief that the virus was a weapon of biological warfare developed by foreign countries. They also were presented with older conspiracies to rate, such as that the was a hoax and that Princess Diana was killed by a British intelligence agency.

The researchers found that a greater ability to identify misinformation lowered beliefs in all conspiracy theories—except for those who had high levels of trust in social media information. This is particularly problematic because other research has shown that once a conspiracy belief takes hold, it is very hard to convince the believer that it is false.

“The patterns around trust is one of the most important findings from our study,” said Borah. “We need to go deeper into what this trust means.”

Borah and her co-authors, recent WSU Ph.D. Xizhu Xiao and current doctoral student Yan Su, suggest that may play a role in this trust—that people want to believe the words of political figures they admire, whether what they say is actually true or not. Borah said more research is needed to understand why appeal to people and how best to combat them as there can be serious consequences.

“There are different levels of danger with these theories, but one of the prominent conspiracy beliefs about COVID-19 is that it isn’t true, that the virus is a hoax and that can be really dangerous: you’re putting yourself, your family members and your community at risk,” said Borah.

The researchers advocate for making media literacy part of the educational system and starting it well before college. They argue that such education should include a better understanding of how information can be manipulated as well as environments, news production and dissemination.

“There’s a long list of tasks to do to keep ourselves well informed,” Borah said. “I think there is hope with literacy and a better understanding of the information environment, but it is a complicated process.”

More information:
Xizhu Xiao et al, The dangers of blind trust: Examining the interplay among social media news use, misinformation identification, and news trust on conspiracy beliefs, Public Understanding of Science (2021). DOI: 10.1177/0963662521998025

Blind trust in social media cements conspiracy beliefs (2021, March 5)
retrieved 6 March 2021
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Hexbyte Glen Cove Apparent Atlantic warming cycle likely an artifact of climate forcing thumbnail

Hexbyte Glen Cove Apparent Atlantic warming cycle likely an artifact of climate forcing

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This map of the Earth shows the spacial pattern of temperature variance by percentage. The most variance is seen in the tropics with less at the poles. Credit: Daniel J. Brouillette. Penn State

Volcanic eruptions, not natural variability, were the cause of an apparent “Atlantic Multidecadal Oscillation,” a purported cycle of warming thought to have occurred on a timescale of 40 to 60 years during the pre-industrial era, according to a team of climate scientists who looked at a large array of climate modeling experiments.

The result complements the team’s previous finding that what had looked like an “AMO” occurring during the period since industrialization is instead the result of a competition between steady human-caused warming from greenhouse gases and cooling from more time-variable industrial sulphur pollution.

“It is somewhat ironic, I suppose,” said Michael E. Mann, distinguished professor of atmospheric science and director, Earth System Science Center, Penn State. “Two decades ago, we brought the AMO into the conversation, arguing that there was a long-term natural, internal climate centered in the North Atlantic based on the limited observations and simulations that were available then, and coining the term ‘AMO.’ Many other scientists ran with the concept, but now we’ve come full circle. My co-authors and I have shown that the AMO is very likely an artifact of climate change driven by human forcing in the modern era and natural forcing in pre-industrial times.”

The researchers previously showed that the apparent AMO cycle in the modern era was an artifact of industrialization-driven climate change, specifically the competition between warming over the past century from carbon pollution and an offsetting cooling factor, industrial sulphur pollution, that was strongest from the 1950s through the passage of the Clean Air Acts in the 1970s and 1980s. But they then asked, why do we still see it in pre-industrial records?

Their conclusion, reported today (Mar. 5) in Science, is that the early signal was caused by large volcanic eruptions in past centuries that caused initial cooling and a slow recovery, with an average spacing of just over half a century. The result resembles an irregular, roughly 60-year AMO-like oscillation.

“Some hurricane scientists have claimed that the increase in Atlantic hurricanes in recent decades is due to the uptick of an internal AMO cycle,” said Mann. “Our latest study appears to be the final nail in the coffin of that theory. What has in the past been attributed to an internal AMO oscillation is instead the result of external drivers, including human forcing during the industrial era and natural volcanic forcing during the pre-industrial era.”

The researchers looked at state-of-the-art climate models both for preindustrial times over the past thousand years where external factors such as solar and volcanic drivers were used, and unforced, “control” simulations where no external drivers were applied and any changes that happen are internally generated. When they looked at simulations for the short, 3- to 7-year El Niño Southern Oscillation (ENSO) cycles, they found that these cycles occurred in the models without adding forcing by climate change, volcanic activity, or anything else.

However, when they looked for the AMO, it did not occur in the unforced model and only appeared in modern times using climate change variables as forcing and in preindustrial times with forcing by .

“The models do show intrinsic internal oscillations on a 3- to 7-year time scale characteristic of the established El Niño phenomenon, but nothing on the multi-decadal scale that would be the AMO,” said Byron A. Steinman, associate professor of Earth and environmental sciences, University of Minnesota Duluth, who was also on the project. “What we know is an oscillation like El Niño is real, but the AMO is not.”

Mann suggested that while some influential scientists continue to dismiss certain trends as the result of a supposed internal AMO cycle, the best available scientific evidence does not support the existence of such a .

More information:
M.E. Mann el al., “Multidecadal climate oscillations during the past millennium driven by volcanic forcing,” Science (2021). science.sciencemag.org/cgi/doi … 1126/science.abc5810

Apparent Atlantic warming cycle likely an artifact of climate forcing (2021, March 4)
retrieved 5 March 2021
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Hexbyte Glen Cove Galapagos island gets 36 endangered giant tortoises thumbnail

Hexbyte Glen Cove Galapagos island gets 36 endangered giant tortoises

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The International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) lists the Chelonoidis chatamensis, or San Cristobal Giant Tortoise, as endangered, though their numbers are on the rise

Three dozen endangered giant tortoises, born and raised in captivity, have been released into the wild on one of the Galapagos islands, where their kind is from.

The Galapagos National Park said the 36 creatures were freed on the northeastern part of San Cristobal island, where an estimated 6,700 roam free.

The latest additions belong to the Chelonoidis chathamensis subspecies—one of 15 endemic to the Galapagos, where Charles Darwin’s observation of birds and tortoises on different islands led to his theory of natural selection.

The youngsters are between six and eight years old, and weigh between three and five kilograms (6.6-11 pounds) each.

The animals spent time in quarantine and were tested for disease and parasites before their release so as not to endanger the rest of the natives, the park said.

The International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) lists Chelonoidis chathamensis, or San Cristobal Giant Tortoise, as endangered, though their numbers are on the rise.

The slow-breeding creatures can live to the age of about 100 or 150 and are endemic to the Galapagos Islands in the Pacific Ocean off Ecuador’s coast.

According to the IUCN, the San Cristobal Giant Tortoise population experienced “catastrophic decline” due to the introduction of predators, competitors and vegetation change—from about 24,000 animals historically to about 500-700 in the early 1970s.

By 2016, the numbers had recovered somewhat to about 6,700.

In the last eight years, 75 of the sub-species, raised in captivity, have been reintroduced to San Cristobal.

© 2021 AFP

Galapagos island gets 36 endangered giant tortoises (2021, March 4)
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Hexbyte Glen Cove Nuclear engineering researchers develop new resilient oxide dispersion strengthened alloy thumbnail

Hexbyte Glen Cove Nuclear engineering researchers develop new resilient oxide dispersion strengthened alloy

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Credit: Pixabay/CC0 Public Domain

Texas A&M University researchers have recently shown superior performance of a new oxide dispersion strengthened (ODS) alloy they developed for use in both fission and fusion reactors.

Dr. Lin Shao, professor in the Department of Nuclear Engineering, worked alongside at the Los Alamos National Laboratory and Hokkaido University to create the next generation of high-performance ODS , and so far they are some of the strongest and best-developed metals in the field.

ODS alloys consist of a combination of metals interspersed with small, nanometer-sized oxide particles and are known for their high creep resistance. This means that as temperatures rise, the materials keep their shape instead of deforming. Many ODS alloys can withstand temperatures up to 1,000 C and are typically used in power generation and engines within aerospace engineering, as well as cutlery.

The nuclear community has a high need for reliable and durable materials to make up the core components of nuclear reactors. The material must be , radiation tolerant and resistant to void swelling (materials develop cavities when subjected to neutron radiation, leading to mechanical failures).

Nuclear researchers like Shao are consistently seeking to identify quality creep-resistant and swelling-resistant materials for their use in high-temperature reactors.

“In general, ODS alloys should be resistant to swelling when exposed to extreme neutron irradiation,” said Shao. “However, the majority of commercial ODS alloys are problematic from the beginning.”

This is because almost all commercial ODS alloys are based on the ferritic phase. Ferritic alloys, classified by their and metallurgical behavior, have good ductility and reasonable high-temperature strength. However, the ferritic phase is the weakest phase when judged by its swelling resistance, therefore making the majority of commercial ODS alloys fail in the first line of defense.

Shao, known internationally for his pioneering work in radiation materials science, directs the accelerator laboratory for testing alloys under extreme irradiation conditions. Shao and his research team collaborated with the Japanese research group at Hokkaido University led by Dr. Shigeharu Ukai to develop various new ODS alloys.

“We decided to explore a new design principle in which oxide particles are embedded in the martensitic phase, which is best to reduce void swelling, rather than the ferritic phase,” said Shao.

The resulting ODS alloys are able to survive up to 400 displacements per atom and are some of the most successful alloys developed in the field, both in terms of high-temperature strength and superior-swelling resistance.

Details of the complete project were published in the Journal of Nuclear Materials along with the most recent study. The team has since conducted multiple studies and attracted the attention from the U.S. Department of Energy and nuclear industry. The project resulted in a total of 18 journal papers and two doctoral degree dissertations.

More information:
Hyosim Kim et al, Oxide dispersoid coherency of a ferritic-martensitic 12Cr oxide-dispersion-strengthened alloy under self-ion irradiation, Journal of Nuclear Materials (2020). DOI: 10.1016/j.jnucmat.2020.152671

Nuclear engineering researchers develop new resilient oxide dispersion strengthened alloy (2021, March 4)
retrieved 5 March 2021
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Hexbyte Glen Cove Tenfold increase in carbon dioxide emissions cuts needed to stem climate emergency thumbnail

Hexbyte Glen Cove Tenfold increase in carbon dioxide emissions cuts needed to stem climate emergency

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Credit: CC0 Public Domain

New research shows 64 countries cut their fossil CO2 emissions during 2016-2019, but the rate of reduction needs to increase tenfold to meet the Paris Agreement aims to tackle climate change.

This first global stocktake by researchers at the University of East Anglia (UEA), Stanford University and the Global Carbon Project examined progress in cutting fossil CO2 emissions since the Paris Agreement was adopted in 2015. Their results show the clear need for far greater ambition ahead of the important UN climate summit in Glasgow in November (COP26).

The annual cuts of 0.16 billion tonnes of CO2 are only 10 percent of the 1-2 billion tonnes of CO2 cuts that are needed globally every year to tackle climate change.

While emissions decreased in 64 countries, they increased in 150 countries. Globally, emissions grew by 0.21 billion tonnes of CO2 per year during 2016-2019 compared to 2011-2015.

The scientists’ findings, “Fossil CO2 emissions in the post-COVID era,” are published today in Nature Climate Change.

In 2020, confinement measures to tackle the COVID-19 pandemic cut global emissions by 2.6 billion tonnes of CO2, about 7 percent below 2019 levels. The researchers say 2020 is a ‘pause button’ that cannot realistically continue while the world overwhelmingly relies on fossil fuels, and confinement policies are neither a sustainable nor desirable solution to the climate crisis.

Prof Corinne Le Quéré, Royal Society Professor at UEA’s School of Environmental Sciences, led the analysis. She said: “Countries’ efforts to cut CO2 emissions since the Paris Agreement are starting to pay off, but actions are not large-scale enough yet and emissions are still increasing in way too many countries.

“The drop in CO2 emissions from responses to COVID-19 highlights the scale of actions and of international adherence needed to tackle climate change. Now we need large-scale actions that are good for human health and good for the planet.

“It is in everyone’s best interests to build back better to speed the urgent transition to .”

Annual cuts of 1-2 billion tonnes of CO2 are needed throughout the 2020s and beyond to avoid exceeding global warming within the range 1.5 °C to well below 2 °C, the ambition of the UN Paris Agreement. The world has warmed by over 1 °C since the Industrial Revolution because of emissions of greenhouse gases from human activities.

Of the 36 high-income countries, 25 saw their emissions decrease during 2016-2019 compared to 2011-2015, including the U.S. (-0.7 percent), the European Union (-0.9 percent), and the UK (-3.6 percent). Emissions decreased even when accounting for the carbon footprint of imported goods produced in other countries.

Thirty of 99 upper-middle income countries also saw their emissions decrease during 2016-2019 compared to 2011-2015, suggesting that actions to reduce emissions are now in motion in many countries worldwide. Mexico (-1.3 percent) is a notable example in that group, while China’s emissions increased 0.4 percent, much less than the 6.2 percent annual growth of 2011-2015.

The growing number of laws and policies appear to have played a key role in curbing the growth in emissions during 2016-2019. There are now more than 2000 climate laws and policies worldwide.

A full bounce-back in 2021 to previous CO2 levels appears unlikely. However, the authors say unless the COVID-19 recovery directs investments in clean energy and the green economy, emissions will likely start increasing again within a few years. The nature of the disruption in 2020, particularly affecting road transport, means incentive to expedite the large-scale deployment of electric vehicles and encourage walking and cycling in cities are timely and would also improve public health. The resilience of renewable energy throughout the crisis, falling costs, and air quality benefits, are additional incentives to support their large-scale deployment.

Investments post-COVID continue to be overwhelmingly dominated by fossil fuels in most countries, in contradiction with climate commitments, including in the United States and China. The European Union, Denmark, France, the United Kingdom, Germany and Switzerland are among the few countries that have so far implemented substantial green stimulus packages with limited investments in fossil-based activities.

Prof Rob Jackson of Stanford University co-authored the study. He said: “The growing commitments by countries to reach net zero emissions within decades strengthens the climate ambition needed at COP26 in Glasgow. Greater ambition is now backed by leaders of the three biggest emitters: China, the United States, and the European Commission.”

“Commitments alone aren’t enough. Countries need to align post-COVID incentives with climate targets this decade, based on sound science and credible implementation plans.”

Prof Le Quéré added: “This pressing timeline is constantly underscored by the rapid unfolding of extreme impacts worldwide.”

More information:
“Fossil CO2 emissions in the post-COVID era,” March 3, 2021 in Nature Climate Change, 2021.

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Hexbyte Glen Cove Scientists find strongest evidence yet of 'migration gene' thumbnail

Hexbyte Glen Cove Scientists find strongest evidence yet of ‘migration gene’

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Tagged peregrine falconMust credit Andrew Dixon. Credit: Andrew Dixon

A team from the Chinese Academy of Sciences and Cardiff University say they have found the strongest evidence yet of a “migration gene” in birds.

The team identified a associated with migration in by tracking them via satellite technology and combining this with genome sequencing.

They say their findings add further evidence to suggest genetics has a strong role to play in the distance of migration routes.

The study, published today in the journal Nature, also looks at the predicted effect of climate change on migration—and how this might interact with evolutionary factors.

The researchers tagged 56 Arctic peregrine falcons and tracked their journeys by satellite, following their annual flight distances and directions in detail.

They found the studied peregrines used five migration routes across Eurasia, probably established between the last ice age 22,000 years ago and the middle-Holocene 6,000 years ago.

The team used and found a gene—ADCY8, which is known to be involved in in other animals—associated with differences in migratory distance.

They found ADCY8 had a variant at in long-distance (eastern) migrant populations of peregrines, indicating this variant is being preferentially selected because it may increase powers of long-term memory thought to be essential for migration.

Tagged peregrine falconCredit Andrew Dixon. Credit: Andrew Dixon

One of the authors on the study, Professor Mike Bruford, a molecular ecologist from Cardiff University’s School of Biosciences, said: “Previous studies have identified several candidate genomic regions that may regulate migration—but our work is the strongest demonstration of a specific gene associated with migratory behaviour yet identified.”

The researchers also looked at simulations of likely future migration behaviour to predict the impact of global warming.

If the climate warms at the same rate it has in recent decades, they predict populations in western Eurasia have the highest probability of population decline and may stop migrating altogether.

“In this study we were able to combine animal movement and genomic data to identify that climate change has a major role in the formation and maintenance of patterns of peregrines,” said Professor Bruford.

Professor Xiangjiang Zhan, honorary visiting professor at Cardiff University, now based at the Chinese Academy of Sciences, said: “Our work is the first to begin to understand the way ecological and evolutionary factors may interact in migratory birds—and we hope it will serve as a cornerstone to help conserve migratory species in the world.”

The work was carried out by a joint laboratory for biocomplexity research established in 2015 between Cardiff University and the Institute of Zoology at the Chinese Academy of Sciences in Beijing.

More information:
Climate-driven flyway changes and memory-based long-distance migration, Nature (2021). DOI: 10.1038/s41586-021-03265-0 , dx.doi.org/10.1038/s41586-021-03265-0

Scientists find strongest evidence yet of ‘migration gene’ (2021, March 3)
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Hexbyte Glen Cove NASA's James Webb Space Telescope completes final functional tests to prepare for launch thumbnail

Hexbyte Glen Cove NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope completes final functional tests to prepare for launch

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Following the conclusion of the James Webb Space Telescope’s recent milestone tests, engineering teams have confirmed that the observatory will both mechanically, and electronically survive the rigors anticipated during launch. Credit: NASA/Chris Gunn

February marked significant progress for NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope, which completed its final functional performance tests at Northrop Grumman in Redondo Beach, California. Testing teams successfully completed two important milestones that confirmed the observatory’s internal electronics are all functioning as intended, and that the spacecraft and its four scientific instruments can send and receive data properly through the same network they will use in space. These milestones move Webb closer to being ready to launch in October.

These tests are known as the comprehensive systems test, which took place at Northrop Grumman, and the ground segment test, which took place in collaboration with the Space Telescope Science Institute in Baltimore.

Before the launch environment test, technicians ran a full scan known as a comprehensive systems test. This assessment established a baseline of electrical functional performance for the entire observatory, and all of the many components that work together to comprise the world’s premiere science telescope. Once environmental testing concluded, technicians and engineers moved forward to run another comprehensive systems test and compared the data between the two. After thoroughly examining the data, the team confirmed that the observatory will both mechanically and electronically survive the rigors of launch.

Through the course of 17 consecutive days of systems testing, technicians powered on all of Webb’s various electrical components and cycled through their planned operations to ensure each was functioning and communicating with each other. All electrical boxes inside the telescope have an “A” and “B” side, which allows redundancy in flight and added flexibility. During the test all commands were input correctly, all telemetry received was correct and all electrical boxes, and each backup side functioned as designed.

“It’s been amazing to witness the level of expertise, commitment and collaboration across the team during this important milestone,” said Jennifer Love-Pruitt, Northrop Grumman’s electrical vehicle engineering lead on the Webb observatory. “It’s definitely a proud moment because we demonstrated Webb’s electrical readiness. The successful completion of this test also means we are ready to move forward toward launch and on-orbit operations.”

Webb’s recent systems scan confirms the observatory will withstand the launch environment.

During its final full systems test, technicians powered on all of the James Webb Space Telescope’s various electrical components installed on the observatory, and cycled through their planned operations to ensure each was functioning, and communicating with each other. Credit: NASA/Chris Gunn

Following the completion of Webb’s final comprehensive systems evaluation, technicians immediately began preparations for its next big milestone, known as a ground segment test. This test was designed to simulate the complete process from planning science observations to posting the scientific data to the community archive.

Webb’s final ground segment test began by first creating a simulated plan that each of its scientific instruments would follow. Commands to sequentially turn on, move, and operate each of four were then relayed from Webb’s Mission Operations Center (MOC) at the Space Telescope Science Institute (STScI) in Baltimore. During the test, the observatory is treated as if it were a million miles away in orbit. To do this, the Flight Operations Team connected the spacecraft to the Deep Space Network, an international array of giant radio antennas that NASA uses to communicate with many spacecraft. However, since Webb isn’t in space yet, special equipment was used to emulate the real radio link that will exist between Webb and the Deep Space Network when Webb is in orbit. Commands were then relayed through the Deep Space Network emulator to the observatory at Northrop Grumman.

One of the unique aspects of Webb’s final ground segment test occurred during a simulated flight environment when the team successfully practiced seamlessly switching over control from its primary MOC at STScI in Baltimore to the backup MOC at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland. This demonstrated a backup plan that isn’t anticipated to be needed but is necessary to practice and perfect prior to launch. Additionally, team members successfully sent multiple software patches to the observatory while it was performing its commanded operations.

“Working in a pandemic environment, of course, is a challenge, and our team has been doing an excellent job working through its nuances. That’s a real positive to highlight, and it’s not just for this but all of the tests we’ve safely completed leading up to this one,” said Bonnie Seaton, deputy ground segment & operations manager at Goddard. “This recent success is attributable to many months of preparation, the maturity of our systems, procedures, and products and the proficiency of our team.”

When Webb is in space, commands will flow from STScI to one of the three Deep Space Network locations: Goldstone, California; Madrid, Spain; or Canberra, Australia. Signals will then be sent to the orbiting observatory nearly one million miles away. Additionally, NASA’s Tracking and Data Relay Satellite network—the Space Network in New Mexico, the European Space Agency’s Malindi station in Kenya, and European Space Operations Centre in Germany—will help keep a constant line of communication open with Webb.

Engineers and technicians continue to follow personal safety procedures in accordance with current CDC and Occupational Safety and Health Administration guidance related to COVID-19, including mask wearing and social distancing. The team is now preparing for the next series of technical milestones, which will include the final folding of the sunshield and deployment of the mirror, prior to shipment to the launch site.

The next series of milestones for Webb include a final sunshield fold and a final mirror deployment.

NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope completes final functional tests to prepare for launch (2021, March 2)
retrieved 3 March 2021
from https://phys.org/news/2021-03-nasa-james-webb-space-telescope.html

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