Nature | Environment

Nature, Environment

These Termite Mounds Are Visible From Space

The Free Press WV

A study published in Current Biology details the discovery of a vast network of millions of regularly spaced termite mounds covering 89,000 square miles — roughly the size of Idaho — in northeastern Brazil.

Measuring more than 8 feet high and 30 feet wide, the mounds were made around 3,820 years ago, when their termite architects excavated an amount of soil equivalent to 4,000 Great Pyramids of Giza.

The mounds are not nests, but the byproducts of termites tunneling underground to feast on dead leaves while hiding from predatory ants.

Learn More:    Newsweek      Gizmodo


Rubus discolor Weihe & Nees
The Free Press WV

Gilmer County Conservation Supervisors, Larry Sponaugle and Jane Collins are working to get a noxious and invasive plant identified and eradicated before spreading to other locations in Gilmer County.

The first of October Conservation Supervisor, Larry Sponaugle, was notified that a vigorous thorn-studded vine was growing on property owned by Rick Frame in the Normantown vicinity. The vines were beginning to get out of control and taking over a meadow that is being used for Agriculture purposes.

Contacts were made to The Dept. of Agriculture, DNR, and WVU Extension office in an attempt to get this thorny vine identified. Paul Harmon, Rare and Endangered Plant Botanist at DNR, after receiving samples from the site, unofficially identified the plant as Rubus discolor Weihe & Nees(Himalayan Blackberry). Photos were taken of the vine and sent to WVU Extension Specialist Rakesh Chandran, who also unofficially identified the plant as Himalayan Blackberry however, he was checking further with WVU’s Herbarium Curator before a final identification would be confirmed. In West Virginia, tracking and control of a non-native invasive plant species is conducted by the WV Dept. of Agriculture. Mr. Harmon has alerted the Dept. Of Ag of this find in Gilmer County and is currently working with Donna Ford-Werntz, Herbarium Curator at WVU to positively identify the plant.

According to Mr. Harmon, since this species is perceived as an invasive plant species elsewhere in North America the quicker the population could be treated and eliminated from the site in Gilmer County the better. At this time, West Virginia has NOT identified this vine as an invasive species.

Gilmer County Conservation Supervisors, are currently working with WVU Extension, DNR, and WV Dept. of Agriculture to get the species identified and to develop a plan eradication..

Larry Sponaugle and Jane Collins – Gilmer County Conservation Supervisors

The Free Press WV

The Free Press WV

The Free Press WV

The Free Press WV

Seed Banking Won’t Work for 36% of Threatened Plants

The Free Press WV

The UN’s Global Strategy for Plant Conservation program has set a 2020 deadline for conserving 75% of the world’s threatened plant species outside of their natural habitat. But, based on the results of a new study, the prospects of meeting that target aren’t very good. According to a paper published earlier this month in Nature Plants, 36% of “critically endangered” species produce recalcitrant seeds, meaning that they can’t survive being dried out. And that means that they aren’t candidates for the traditional seed banking process, reports. The study, performed by scientists affiliated with the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, also found that 35% of “vulnerable” species and 27% of “endangered” species generate seeds that cannot be banked using the common method of freezing them at about -4 degrees Fahrenheit.

Among them are trees such as oak, avocado, cacao, and mango. “As successful as seed banking is for some species, it is not suitable for all seed plants and we need to invest in other ways to safeguard recalcitrant seeds,” says study co-author John Dickie, per One of those other ways to preserve recalcitrant seeds may be cryopreservation, which involves removing the embryo from a seed and freezing it at about -320 degrees Fahrenheit using liquid nitrogen. Per, Kew has been using cryopreservation at its Millennium Seed Bank for years and is planning to develop a protocol to “kick-start large-scale use” of the method.

Yes, That’s a Jar of Poop Next to Bill Gates

The Free Press WV

Placing a jar of feces on a pedestal next to him, billionaire philanthropist Bill Gates made a plea Tuesday for the safe disposal of human waste as he kicked off a “Reinvented Toilet” Expo in China. “You might guess what’s in this beaker—and you’d be right. Human feces,“ the former CEO of software giant Microsoft said. “This small amount of feces could contain as many as 200 trillion rotavirus cells, 20 billion Shigella bacteria, and 100,000 parasitic worm eggs.“ He went on to say that pathogens like these cause diseases that kill nearly 500,000 children under the age of 5 every year. More than 20 companies and academic institutions are exhibiting new toilet technologies at the three-day expo in Beijing, from self-contained toilets to a small-scale, self-powered waste treatment plant called the Omni Processor.

The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation has spent more than $200 million since 2011 to stimulate research and development of safe sanitation technology, reports the AP. “The technologies you’ll see here are the most significant advances in sanitation in nearly 200 years,“ he said, according to a text of his prepared remarks. UNICEF estimates that 4.5 billion people worldwide do not have access to safely managed sanitation, and that 480,000 children under 5 die every year from diarrhea, primarily in South Asia and sub-Saharan Africa. There is an economic cost, too: Poor sanitation cost the world nearly $223 billion in 2015, according to a study by Oxford Economics and Japanese toilet maker Lixil. Gates left the feces on display for about 10 minutes before removing it, his point made.

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