New EMS system dramatically improves survival from cardiac arrest

A new system that sent patients to designated cardiac receiving centers dramatically increased the survival rate of victims of sudden cardiac arrest in Arizona, according to a study published online in Annals of Emergency Medicine.”We knew lives would be saved if the hospitals implemented the latest cutting edge guidelines for post-cardiac arrest care and we were able to get cardiac arrest patients to those hospitals, similar to what is done for Level 1 trauma patients,” said lead study author Daniel Spaite, MD, Director of EMS Research at the University of Arizona Emergency Medicine Research Center in Phoenix and Tucson and a professor and distinguished chair of emergency medicine at the University of Arizona College of Medicine. “Taking these patients directly to a hospital optimally prepared to treat cardiac arrest gave patients a better chance of survival and of preventing neurologic damage, a common result of these cardiac events.”Under the study, 31 hospitals, serving about 80 percent of the state’s population, were designated as cardiac receiving centers between December 2007 and November 2010. Approximately 55 emergency medicine service agencies also participated in the study.The study shows that the survival rate increased by more than 60 percent during the four-year period of the study, from 2007 to 2010. More importantly, when the results were adjusted for the various factors that significantly impact survival (such as age and how quickly the EMS system got to the patients after their arrest), the likelihood of surviving an arrest more than doubled. In addition, the likelihood of surviving with good neurological status also more than doubled.This statewide effort was accomplished through the Save Hearts Arizona Registry and Education-SHARE Program, a partnership involving the Arizona Department of Health Services, the University of Arizona, over 30 hospitals and more than 100 fire departments and EMS agencies. The SHARE Program is part of a network of statewide cardiac resuscitation programs dedicated to improving cardiac arrest survival and working together as the HeartRescue Project.”We worked closely with the hospitals around the state to implement these Guidelines and then formally recognized the hospitals as Cardiac Receiving Centers (CRCs) ,” said Ben Bobrow, MD, Medical Director of the Bureau of Emergency Medicine Services and Trauma System for the Arizona Department of Health Services in Phoenix, Ariz. “We then developed protocols for our EMS agencies to transport post-cardiac arrest patients to those centers. Our overarching goal was to have more cardiac arrest victims leave the hospital in good shape and be able to return to their families and careers. As we suspected, ‘regionalizing’ the care for these critically-ill patients markedly increased their likelihood of survival and good neurologic outcome.”Dr. Bobrow, who is also a professor of emergency medicine at the University of Arizona College of Medicine-Phoenix and an emergency physician at Maricopa Medical Center, said the study shows that just transporting these patients to the nearest emergency department does not maximize the likelihood of a positive outcome. …

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Calcification in changing oceans

What do mollusks, starfish, and corals have in common? Aside from their shared marine habitat, they are all calcifiers — organisms that use calcium from their environment to create hard carbonate skeletons and shells for stability and protection.The June issue of the Biological Bulletin, published by the Marine Biological Laboratory, addresses the challenges faced by these species as ocean composition changes worldwide.As atmospheric carbon dioxide rises, the world’s oceans are becoming warmer and more acidic. This impact of global climate change threatens the survival of calcifying species because of the reduced saturation of the carbonate minerals required for calcification.The ability to calcify arose independently in many species during the Cambrian era, when calcium levels in seawater increased. This use of calcium carbonate promoted biodiversity, including the vast array of calcifiers seen today.”Today, modern calcifiers face a new and rapidly escalating crisis caused by warming and acidification of the oceans with a reduction in availability of carbonate minerals, a change driven by the increase in atmospheric CO2 due to anthropogenic emissions and industrialization. The CO2 itself can also directly cause metabolic stress,” write the issue’s co-editors, Maria Byrne of the University of Sydney; and Gretchen Hofmann of the University of California-Santa Barbara.Contributors to the journal address this timely issue across many taxa and from a variety of perspectives, from genomic to ecosystem-wide.Janice Lough and Neal Cantin of the Australian Institute of Marine Science review historical data on coral reefs to look at potential environmental stressors, while Philippe Dubois (Universit Libre de Bruxelles) discusses sea urchin skeletons.Other researchers address lesser-known organisms that are nevertheless critical to marine ecosystems. Abigail Smith of the University of Otago examines how bryozoans, a group of aquatic invertebrate filter-feeders, increase biodiversity by creating niche habitats, and what features make them particularly sensitive to calcium fluctuations.Evans and Watson-Wynn (California State University-East Bay) take a molecular approach in a meta-analysis showing that ocean acidification is effecting genetic changes in sea urchin larvae. Several papers take a broader population-based view by studying the effect of ocean acidification on predator-prey interactions in mollusks (Kroeker and colleagues of the University of California-Davis) and oysters (Wright and colleagues of the University of Western Sydney).”The contributors have identified key knowledge gaps in the fast evolving field of marine global change biology and have provided many important insights,” the co-editors write.By sharing research on this topic from researchers around the world, the Biological Bulletin is raising awareness of some of the greatest threats to the oceans today and emphasizing the global nature of the problem.Story Source:The above story is based on materials provided by The Marine Biological Laboratory. The original article was written by Gina Hebert. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.

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Fire ecology manipulation by California native cultures

Before the colonial era, 100,000s of people lived on the land now called California, and many of their cultures manipulated fire to control the availability of plants they used for food, fuel, tools, and ritual. Contemporary tribes continue to use fire to maintain desired habitat and natural resources.Frank Lake, an ecologist with the U.S. Forest Service’s Pacific Southwest Station, will lead a field trip to the Stone Lake National Wildlife Refuge during the Ecological Society of America’s 99th Annual Meeting in Sacramento, Cal., this August. Visitors will learn about plant and animal species of cultural importance to local tribes. Don Hankins, a faculty associate at California State University at Chico and a member of the Miwok people, will co-lead the trip, which will end with a visit to California State Indian Museum.Lake will also host a special session on a “sense of place,” sponsored by the Traditional Ecological Knowledge section of the Ecological Society, that will bring representatives of local tribes into the Annual Meeting to share their cultural and professional experiences working on tribal natural resources issues.”The fascinating thing about the Sacramento Valley and the Miwok lands where we are taking the field trip is that it was a fire and flood system,” said Lake. “To maintain the blue and valley oak, you need an anthropogenic fire system.”Lake, raised among the Yurok and Karuk tribes in the Klamath River area of northernmost California, began his career with an interest in fisheries, but soon realized he would need to understand fire to restore salmon. Fire exerts a powerful effect on ecosystems, including the quality and quantity of water available in watersheds, in part by reducing the density of vegetation.”Those trees that have grown up since fire suppression are like straws sucking up the groundwater,” Lake said.The convergence of the Sacramento and San Joaquin rivers was historically one of the largest salmon bearing runs on the West Coast, Lake said, and the Miwok, Patwin and Yokut tribal peoples who lived in the area saw and understood how fire was involved.California native cultures burned patches of forest in deliberate sequence to diversify the resources available within their region. The first year after a fire brought sprouts for forage and basketry. In 3 to 5 years, shrubs produced a wealth of berries. Mature trees remained for the acorn harvest, but burning also made way for the next generation of trees, to ensure a consistent future crop. …

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Sugar-sweetened beverages contribute to U.S. obesity epidemic, particularly among children

In response to the ongoing policy discussions on the role of sugar-sweetened beverages (SSBs) on weight and health, The Obesity Society (TOS) concludes that SSBs contribute to the United States’ obesity epidemic, particularly among children. Based on an in-depth analysis of the current research, TOS’s position statement unveiled today provides several recommendations for improving health, including that children minimize their consumption of SSBs.”There’s no arguing with the fact that the high rates of obesity in the U.S. are troubling for our nation’s health, specifically the recently reported rise in severe obesity among children in JAMA Pediatrics,” said TOS spokesperson Diana Thomas, PhD, Professor at Montclair State University and Director of the Center for Quantitative Obesity Research. “Following a thorough review and analysis of the existing research, TOS concludes that, by adding more non-nutritious calories to the American diet, SSBs have contributed to the U.S. obesity epidemic. Further, we recommend that to maintain and improve health children minimize drinking SSBs and adults reduce or avoid SSB consumption as part of an overall strategy to reduce calories.”According to the position statement posted online, TOS defines SSBs as sodas, sports drinks and other types of beverages that are primarily made up of water and added sugar. Consumption of these drinks in the U.S. remains high — Americans report that SSBs comprise 6-7% of overall calorie intake.”Despite the challenges researchers have faced with isolating the impact of specific foods or beverages on body weight, the studies conducted on SSBs thus far have generated important and meaningful data leading to our conclusion,” said Dr. Thomas. “The evidence shows that individuals with a higher BMI consume more SSBs than their leaner counterparts, and that decreasing SSB consumption may reduce overall calorie intake and help individuals with obesity or overweight reach healthy weight goals.”Weight gain occurs when total energy intake exceeds energy expenditure for extended periods of time. …

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Education: States’ standardized tests have a negative impact on parents’ civic engagement

New research from a political scientist at the University of Massachusetts Amherst has found that parents of public school students in states with more extensive and stringent student assessment systems express lower trust in government, less confidence in government efficacy, and more negative views of their children’s schools, thereby threatening civic engagement and the potential for future education reform.In a study published by the journal Political Behavior, associate professor Jesse Rhodes merged data from an original survey of public school parents with quantitative measures of the scope and alignment of state standards, testing, and accountability policies, to determine whether and how education reforms influence the parents’ political attitudes and behaviors.He found that highly developed assessment policies alienate parents from government and discourage parental involvement in education, an effect he terms “demobilization.” Parental trust in government was 11 percent lower in states with the most extensive assessment policies, and parental assessments of government effectiveness were 15 percent lower, compared to states with less developed testing polices.Over the past decade, federal education policies such as No Child Left Behind and Race to the Top have led states to develop and adopt education reforms, including content standards specifying what children should know and be able to do, assessments measuring student progress toward those standards and systems of policies holding schools accountable for performance. As years have passed these policies have extended to a greater number of subjects and a wider range of education levels, but there is considerable state-by-state variation in the policies.While previous studies have examined how these policies affect student achievement, Rhodes’ research is the first to assess how they affect the citizenship practices of public school parents — a key education stakeholder.”Today, with trust in government near an all-time low, government’s authority to accomplish collective objectives is arguably at low ebb,” Rhodes writes in the study. “My findings indicate that standards-based reform policies may be further threatening the foundation of public support that government needs to function effectively.”In addition to their negative views of government, Rhodes also found that parents in states with more developed assessment systems were less likely to become engaged in some parental involvement behaviors, especially contacting teachers and participating in school fundraisers. The likelihood that parents would contact their children’s teachers was 17 percent lower in states with the most stringent testing policies, and the chance they would participate in school fundraisers was 28 percent lower. Parents residing in states with more developed assessment systems were more likely to attend their local school board meetings, but Rhodes argues that this involvement is stimulated by anger and dissatisfaction with the perceived negative consequences of state assessments.He argues that these policies tend to depress civic engagement among parents because they provide few opportunities for parental input and can introduce undesirable changes into schools.”My findings suggest that a major reassessment of standards, testing, and accountability policies is necessary,” Rhodes concludes. “At a minimum, standards-based reforms must be redesigned so that they engage parents more directly in the process of policy design and administration and allay parental concerns about counter-productive consequences. However, given the seriousness of the problems identified here, it is possible that an even more searching reevaluation of the standards-based agenda is necessary. Today, the question for policymakers and citizens is how to design education policies that advance the objective of high achievement for all students while strengthening the practice of citizenship for all adults.”Story Source:The above story is based on materials provided by University of Massachusetts Amherst. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.

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Contrary to expectations, life experiences better use of money than material items

Despite knowing that buying life experiences will make them happier than buying material items, shoppers might continue to spend money on the latter because they mistakenly believe items are a better value, according to a San Francisco State University study published today. That belief, however, isn’t accurate.Those surveyed after making a purchase rated life experiences both making them happier and as a better use of their money, indicating many are sacrificing their well-being for a sense of value that never materializes. The study is one of the first to shed light on why people buy material items even though years of research has shown experiences provide a greater happiness boost.”People actually do know, and accurately predict, that life experiences will make them happier,” said SF State Associate Professor of Psychology Ryan Howell, a co-author of the study who has extensively researched the link between spending and happiness. “What they really underestimate is how much monetary value they will get out of a life experience. Even though they’re told experiences will make them happier and they know experiences will make them happier, they still perceive material items as being a better value.”Part of the reason, Howell suggests, is that material items are a tangible reminder of what the item is worth. Life experiences produce only memories, which can be harder to put a price tag on.”We naturally associate economic value with stuff. I bought this car, it’s worth $8,000,” he said. “We have a hard time estimating the economic value we would place on our memories.”To conduct the study, Howell and lead author Paulina Pchelin, a student at SF State when the research took place, surveyed individuals both before and after making a purchase. Prior to the purchase, respondents said they believed a life experience would make them happier but a material item would be a better use of their money. After the purchase, however, respondents reported that life experiences not only made them happier but were also the better value.”There were just huge underestimates in how much value people expected to get from their purchase,” Howell said. …

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Religion, spirituality influence health in different but complementary ways

Religion and spirituality have distinct but complementary influences on health, new research from Oregon State University indicates.”Religion helps regulate behavior and health habits, while spirituality regulates your emotions, how you feel,” said Carolyn Aldwin, a gerontology professor in the College of Public Health and Human Sciences at OSU.Aldwin and colleagues have been working to understand and distinguish the beneficial connections between health, religion and spirituality. The result is a new theoretical model that defines two distinct pathways.Religiousness, including formal religious affiliation and service attendance, is associated with better health habits, such as lower smoking rates and reduced alcohol consumption. Spirituality, including meditation and private prayer, helps regulate emotions, which aids physiological effects such as blood pressure.The findings were published recently in the journal Psychology of Religion and Spirituality. Co-authors were Crystal L. Park of the University of Connecticut, and Yu-Jin Jeong and Ritwik Nath of OSU. The research was supported by a grant from the John Templeton Foundation.”No one has ever reviewed all of the different models of how religion affects health,” said Aldwin, the Jo Anne Leonard endowed director of OSU’s Center for Healthy Aging Research. “We’re trying to impose a structure on a very messy field.”There can be some overlap of the influences of religion and spirituality on health, Aldwin said. More research is needed to test the theory and examine contrasts between the two pathways. The goal is to help researchers develop better measures for analyzing the connections between religion, spirituality and health and then explore possible clinical interventions, she said.Story Source:The above story is based on materials provided by Oregon State University. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.

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Online gaming augments players’ social lives, study shows

New research finds that online social behavior isn’t replacing offline social behavior in the gaming community. Instead, online gaming is expanding players’ social lives. The study was done by researchers at North Carolina State University, York University and the University of Ontario Institute of Technology.”Gamers aren’t the antisocial basement-dwellers we see in pop culture stereotypes, they’re highly social people,” says Dr. Nick Taylor, an assistant professor of communication at NC State and lead author of a paper on the study. “This won’t be a surprise to the gaming community, but it’s worth telling everyone else. Loners are the outliers in gaming, not the norm.”Researchers traveled to more than 20 public gaming events in Canada and the United Kingdom, from 2,500-player events held in convention centers to 20-player events held in bars. The researchers observed the behavior of thousands of players, and had 378 players take an in-depth survey, with a focus on players of massively multiplayer role-playing games such as EVE Online and World of Warcraft.The researchers were interested in tracking the online and offline behavior of gamers, focusing on how they communicated with each other. They found that gaming was only one aspect of social behavior at the gaming events.”We found that gamers were often exhibiting many social behaviors at once: watching games, talking, drinking, and chatting online,” Taylor says. “Gaming didn’t eliminate social interaction, it supplemented it.”This was true regardless of which games players were playing, and whether a player’s behavior in the online game was altruistic. For example, a player could be utterly ruthless in the game and still socialize normally offline.”The researchers also found that gamers didn’t distinguish between the time they spent playing games and the time they spent watching other people play games.”It all fell under the category of gaming, which they view as a social activity,” Taylor says.Taylor notes that this work focused on Western gaming communities, and he’s interested in studying the relationship between social behaviors and gaming in other cultures.Story Source:The above story is based on materials provided by North Carolina State University. …

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Mosquito season unpredictable; year-round heartworm prevention is best

Although it may not feel like spring yet, it’s time to start thinking about protecting your pets from spring pests, particularly mosquitoes, according to a Kansas State University veterinarian.Susan Nelson, clinical associate professor of the university’s Veterinary Health Center, says mosquitoes carry heartworm, a blood parasite that can be deadly when spread to cats and dogs. Almost 100 percent of dogs exposed to heartworm will develop the disease. While that number is not as high for cats, it is often more fatal for felines.”Cats are sometimes a little less obvious with their heartworm disease,” Nelson said. “It can be just a little weight loss or lethargy, but we can also see asthma-type signs in cats. They can have trouble breathing, develop a cough, chronic gagging and vomiting.”It only takes one or two worms to cause significant harm to a cat and unlike dogs, there is no treatment for heartworm once cats are infected. That’s why it is important to use prevention tools.”We really want to preach prevention for our pets because it’s so much easier and so much cheaper for them, especially since treatment is hard on them,” Nelson said.Nelson also stresses that prevention year-round is key to protecting your pet because just like the weather, mosquito season is unpredictable.Story Source:The above story is based on materials provided by Kansas State University. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.

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Cereal flake size influences calorie intake

People eat more breakfast cereal, by weight, when flake size is reduced, according to Penn State researchers, who showed that when flakes are reduced by crushing, people pour a smaller volume of cereal into their bowls, but still take a greater amount by weight and calories.”People have a really hard time judging appropriate portions,” said Barbara Rolls, professor of nutritional sciences and Helen A. Guthrie Chair in Nutrition. “On top of that you have these huge variations in volume that are due to the physical characteristics of foods, such as the size of individual pieces, aeration and how things pile up in a bowl. That adds another dimension to the difficulty of knowing how much to take and eat.”According to Rolls, national dietary guidelines define recommended amounts of most food groups in terms of measures of volume such as cups.”This can be a problem because, for most foods, the recommended amounts have not been adjusted for variations in physical properties that affect volume, such as aeration, cooking, and the size and shape of individual pieces.” Rolls said. “The food weight and energy required to fill a given volume can vary, and this variation in the energy content of recommended amounts could be a challenge to the maintenance of energy balance.”The researchers tested the influence of food volume on calorie intake by systematically reducing the flake size of a breakfast cereal with a rolling pin so that the cereal was more compact and the same weight filled a smaller volume. In a crossover design, the team recruited 41 adults to eat cereal for breakfast once a week for four weeks. The cereal was either standard wheat flakes or the same cereal crushed to reduce the volume to 80 percent, 60 percent or 40 percent of the standard. The researchers provided a constant weight of cereal in an opaque container and participants poured the amount they wanted into a bowl, added fat-free milk and non-calorie sweetener as desired and consumed as much as they wanted.The researchers reported their results in the current issue of the Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics.The research showed that as flake size was reduced, subjects poured a smaller volume of cereal, but still took a significantly greater amount by weight and energy content. Despite these differences, subjects estimated that they had taken a similar number of calories of all versions of the cereal. They ate most of the cereal they took, so as flake size was reduced, breakfast energy intake increased.”When faced with decreasing volumes of cereal, the people took less cereal,” Rolls said. …

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Stress impacts ability to get pregnant, study finds

Having difficulty getting pregnant can be an incredibly stressful experience for any couple. Now, for the first time, researchers have data that suggests preconception stress might play a role in infertility.Extending and corroborating their earlier study conducted in the UK that demonstrated an association between high levels of stress and a reduced probability of pregnancy, this work adds new insight by suggesting that stress is associated with an increased risk of infertility. The study findings appear online in the journal Human Reproduction.Courtney Denning-Johnson Lynch, director of reproductive epidemiology at The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center, and colleagues found that women with high levels of alpha-amylase — a biological indicator of stress measured in saliva — are 29 percent less likely to get pregnant each month and are more than twice as likely to meet the clinical definition of infertility (remaining not pregnant despite 12 months of regular unprotected intercourse), compared to women with low levels of this protein enzyme.Researchers tracked 501 American women ages 18 to 40 years who were free from known fertility problems and had just started trying to conceive, and followed them for 12 months or until they became pregnant as part of the Longitudinal Investigation of Fertility and the Environment (LIFE) Study. Saliva samples were collected from participants the morning following enrollment and again the morning following the first day of their first study-observed menstrual cycle. Specimens were available for 373 women and were measured for the presence of salivary alpha-amylase and cortisol, two biomarkers of stress.”This is now the second study in which we have demonstrated that women with high levels of the stress biomarker salivary alpha-amylase have a lower probability of becoming pregnant, compared to women with low levels of this biomarker. For the first time, we’ve shown that this effect is potentially clinically meaningful, as it’s associated with a greater than two-fold increased risk of infertility among these women,” said Lynch, the principal investigator of the LIFE Study’s psychological stress protocol.Lynch said results of this research should encourage women who are experiencing difficulty getting pregnant to consider managing their stress using stress reduction techniques such as yoga, meditation and mindfulness. However, she said that couples should not blame themselves if they are experiencing fertility problems, as stress is not the only or most important factor involved in a woman’s ability to get pregnant.Germaine Buck Louis, director of the Division of Intramural Population Health Research of the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (NICHD) and the LIFE Study’s principal investigator, said, “Eliminating stressors before trying to become pregnant might shorten the time couples need to become pregnant in comparison to ignoring stress. The good news is that women most likely will know which stress reduction strategy works best for them, since a one-size-fits-all solution is not likely.”Story Source:The above story is based on materials provided by Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.

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Preventing Head Blight in Barley, Wheat: Biochemical Pathways Hold Key to Resistance

Pale, shriveled heads of grain spell trouble for wheat and barley farmers — they’re the telltale signs of fusarium head blight. The fungal disease, commonly known as scab, not only dramatically shrinks yields but produces toxins that make the grain dangerous for human or animal consumption.From 1991 to 1996, head blight caused $2.6 billion in losses to the U.S. wheat crop. At its peak, the fungus destroyed the entire malting barley crop in the Red River and Ohio River Valleys, according to molecular biologist Yang Yen, an Agricultural Experiment Station researcher and professor at South Dakota State University.Two decades later the U.S. Department of Agriculture still ranks head blight as “the worst plant disease to hit the U.S. since the rust epidemics in the 1950s.” Wheat and barley farmers have lost more than $3 billion since 1990 from blight outbreaks.Despite major research funding — including the U.S. Wheat and Barley Scab Initiative, scientists admit that efforts to control this devastating disease have met with limited success.”This is an extraordinary disease that requires extraordinary means to combat it,” says Yen, who began working on head blight in 1997.Using advanced genetic and molecular technologies, Yen has begun tracing the biochemical pathways that make wheat susceptible or resistant to head blight. Three graduate students and two postdoctoral scientists have worked on this research over the last 16 years.Multiple hosts and pathogensHead blight can be caused by multiple pathogens, and these pathogens can attack multiple hosts including grasses and corn, Yen explains. This makes the disease tougher to combat.Researchers are working to develop resistant types of grain, alter tillage practices and apply fungicides to fight the disease.”This disease is not new,” Yen says. It was first reported in England in 1884 and in North America in 1890. …

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True value of cover crops to farmers, environment

Planting cover crops in rotation between cash crops — widely agreed to be ecologically beneficial — is even more valuable than previously thought, according to a team of agronomists, entomologists, agroecologists, horticulturists and biogeochemists from Penn State’s College of Agricultural Sciences.”As society places increasing demands on agricultural land beyond food production to include ecosystem services, we needed a new way to evaluate ‘success’ in agriculture,” said Jason Kaye, professor of biogeochemistry. “This research presents a framework for considering a suite of ecosystem services that could be derived from agricultural land, and how cover crops affect that suite of services.”Cover cropping is one of the most rapidly growing soil and water conservation strategies in the Chesapeake Bay region and one we are really counting on for future improvements in water quality in the bay. Our analysis shows how the effort to improve water quality with cover crops will affect other ecosystem services that we expect from agricultural land.”The research, published in the March issue of Agricultural Systems, quantified the benefits offered by cover crops across more than 10 ecosystem services. Benefits included increased carbon and nitrogen in soils, erosion prevention, more mycorrhizal colonization — beneficial soil fungus that helps plants absorb nutrients — and weed suppression.Lead researcher Meagan Schipanski explained that commonly used measurements of ecosystem services can be misleading due to the episodic nature of some services and the time sensitivity of management windows.”For example, nutrient-retention benefits occur primarily during cover crop growth, weed-suppression benefits occur during cash-crop growth through a cover crop legacy effect, and soil-carbon benefits accrue slowly over decades,” she said. “By integrating a suite of ecosystem services into a unified analytical framework, we highlighted the potential for cover crops to influence a wide array of ecosystem services. We estimated that cover crops increased eight of 11 ecosystem services. In addition, we demonstrated the importance of considering temporal dynamics when assessing management system effects on ecosystem services.”Trade-offs occurred between economic metrics and environmental benefits, said Schipanski, who was a postdoctoral scholar at Penn State when she led the cover crop study. Now an assistant professor in the department of soil and crop sciences at Colorado State University, she noted that the planting of cover crops will become more attractive if fertilizer prices rise or if modest cost-sharing programs like the one currently in place in Maryland are developed.Researchers simulated a three-year, soybean-wheat-corn rotation with and without cover crops in central Pennsylvania, which presented agroecological conditions broadly representative of the Northeast and mid-Atlantic regions. The cover crop rotation included red clover, frost-seeded into winter wheat in March, and winter rye, planted after corn was harvested in the fall. The research, funded by the U.S. …

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Novel battleground for plant-pathogen interactions

Scientists at The Sainsbury Laboratory in Norwich, with collaborators at Michigan State University and the University of Illinois, have unveiled a new way in which plants perceive pathogens to activate immunity. They also show how pathogens inhibit the mechanism to cause disease. It was previously only associated with other processes in mammalian cells.When plants detect microbial molecules, they trigger immune responses to prevent disease. Although several plant immune receptors for these microbial molecules are known, how they are activated once the microbe is recognized is not well understood.In a study published this week in the journal Science, the scientists found that phosphorylation of an amino acid called tyrosine — phosphorylation being a process that can turn molecules on or off — is key for activating plant immune receptors. This mechanism is already known to play an essential role in the activation of mammalian receptors, and its mis-regulation is often linked to important chronic diseases.The current study shows for the first time that the modification occurs in plant immune receptors as well.”This finding opens the door to improving crop disease resistance as we can investigate ways to optimize how plants recognize pathogenic microbes,” says Professor Cyril Zipfel.”It also provides a new link between our understanding of cellular signalling in plant and animal cells.”In the same study, the researchers discovered that pathogenic bacteria use an enzyme secreted within plant cells to derail the plant’s immune response. They use an enzyme to remove tyrosine phosphorylation from immune receptors, quelling the plant’s signalling mechanisms. Inhibiting the immune response allows bacteria to cause disease.”Our research highlights a battle between hosts and pathogens to take control of an important mechanism,” said first author Dr Alberto Macho from The Sainsbury Laboratory.”Control over this mechanism to activate immune receptors determines whether a plant stays healthy or suffers from disease,” he says.Story Source:The above story is based on materials provided by Norwich BioScience Institutes. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.

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Concerns raised about using beta agonists in beef cattle

Use of certain animal drugs known as beta agonists in cattle production has received considerable national attention.A Texas Tech University veterinary epidemiologist has found that although there are significant societal benefits to the practice, an increase in death loss of cattle raises questions about welfare implications of its use.In a peer-reviewed article published in PLOS ONE, Guy Loneragan, professor of food safety and public health in Texas Tech’s College of Agricultural Sciences and Natural Resources, adds to this ongoing national dialogue.”Beta agonists improve the efficiency of beef production and this improvement provides important societal benefits,” Loneragan said.”The beta agonists approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration for use in cattle increase muscle growth and may reduce the amount of fat the cattle accumulates,” he said. “This means the cattle converts more of the feed it eats into beef, and it does this more efficiently.”The article is co-authored by Daniel Thomson and Morgan Scott of Kansas State University and is titled “Increased mortality in groups of cattle administered the β-adrenergic agonists ractopamine hydrochloride and zilpaterol hydrochloride.”With the use of beta agonists, cattle require less feed and less water to produce the same amount of beef than if no beta agonists were used. Less land would be used to grow the crops used to feed the animals and, therefore, less fuel to produce the same amount of beef. The improvement in the efficiency of production has meaningful societal benefits.”However, through our extensive analysis, we found that the incidence of death among cattle administered beta agonists was 75 to 90 percent greater than cattle not administered the beta agonists,” Loneragan said. “This increase in death loss raises critical animal-welfare questions. We believe an inclusive dialogue is needed to explore the use of animal drugs solely to improve performance, yet have no offsetting health benefits for the animals to which they are administered. This is particularly needed for those drugs that appear to adversely impact animal welfare, such as beta agonists.”At a recent symposium held at Texas Tech, the animal behaviorist and welfare expert Temple Grandin headlined a discussion of beta agonists and animal welfare.In a recent joint NPR interview with Loneragan and Grandin about beta agonists’ affect on animal welfare, Grandin said, “These problems have got to stop. I’ve laid awake at night about it. I’ve worked all my career to improve how animals are handled and these animals are just suffering. …

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Characterization of stink bug saliva proteins opens door to controlling pests

Brown marmorated stink bugs cause millions of dollars in crop losses across the United States because of the damage their saliva does to plant tissues. Researchers at Penn State have developed methods to extract the insect saliva and identify the major protein components, which could lead to new pest control approaches.”Until now, essentially nothing was known about the composition of stink bug saliva, which is surprising given the importance of these insects as pests and the fact that their saliva is the primary cause of feeding injury to plants and crop losses,” said Gary Felton, professor and head of the Department of Entomology. “Other than using synthetic pesticides, there have been few alternative approaches to controlling these pests. By identifying the major protein components of saliva, it now may be possible to target the specific factors in saliva that are essential for their feeding and, therefore, design new approaches for controlling stink bugs.”The team reported its results in PLOS ONE.According to Felton, stink bugs produce two types of saliva that are required for successful feeding. Watery saliva helps stink bugs to digest their food. Sheath saliva surrounds stink bugs’ mouthparts and hardens to prevent spillage of sap during feeding. The hardened “sheath” remains attached to the plant when the insect is finished feeding.”Unlike a chewing insect, which causes damage by removing plant tissue, stink bugs pierce plant tissue and suck nutrients from the plant,” said Michelle Peiffer, research support assistant. “During this process, stink bugs also deposit saliva onto the plant. The interaction between this saliva and the plant is what causes the cosmetic and physiological changes that make crops unmarketable.”To extract the two types of saliva from brown marmorated stink bugs, Felton and Peiffer first collected adult bugs from homes and fields in central Pennsylvania and maintained them in their laboratory.The researchers chilled the insects on ice. As the insects returned to room temperature, their watery saliva was secreted from the tips of their beaks. …

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Think it’s safe to type a quick text while walking? Think again

Texting and walking is a known danger, but Dietrich Jehle, professor of emergency medicine at the University at Buffalo, says distracted walking results in more injuries per mile than distracted driving.Consequences include bumping into walls, falling down stairs, tripping over clutter or stepping into traffic. The issue is so common that in London, bumpers were placed onto light posts along a frequented avenue to prevent people from slamming into them.”When texting, you’re not as in control with the complex actions of walking,” says Jehle, MD, who is also an attending physician at Erie County Medical Center, a regional trauma center in Western New York. “While talking on the phone is a distraction, texting is much more dangerous because you can’t see the path in front of you.”Though injuries from car accidents involving texting are often more severe, physical harm resulting from texting and walking occurs more frequently, Jehle says.Jehle explains that pedestrians face three types of distraction: manual, in which they are doing something else; visual, where they see something else; and cognitive, in which their mind is somewhere else.In his practice, Jehle has seen, first-hand, the rise of cell phone-related injuries.Tens of thousands of pedestrians are treated in emergency rooms across the nation each year, and Jehle believes as many as 10 percent of those visits result from accidents involving cell phones. He says the number of mishaps involving texting and walking is likely higher than official statistics suggest, as patients tend to underreport information about themselves when it involves a behavior that is embarrassing.Historically, pedestrian accidents affected children, the intoxicated or the elderly, says Jehle. However, cell phone related injuries have skyrocketed over the past 10 years, coinciding with the rise of smartphones.And with social media so pervasive, texting isn’t the only concern. It’s not uncommon to find a person walking, head down, scrolling through their Twitter feed or checking email.A study from Ohio State University found that the number of pedestrian ER visits for injuries related to cell phones tripled between 2004 and 2010 — even though the total number of pedestrian injuries dropped during that period.The study also found that the age group most at risk for cell-phone related injuries while walking are adults under 30 — chiefly those between the ages of 16 and 25.Laws discouraging texting and walking have been written up, but are strongly voted down, says Jehle. His suggestion: mobile applications that text via voice command or use the phone’s camera to display the approaching streetscape while pedestrians text.Although Jehle prefers that pedestrians keep their eyes off of their phones until they reach their destination, he says the apps are better than nothing at all.Story Source:The above story is based on materials provided by University at Buffalo. The original article was written by Marcene Robinson. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.

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Agencies often hindered in addressing health concerns from industrial animal production

State regulatory agencies face barriers and often take limited action when confronted with public health concerns resulting from industrial food animal production operations. This is according to a new study led by researchers at the Johns Hopkins Center for a Livable Future who examined agency responses to community health concerns. They found that agencies with jurisdiction over industrial food animal production operations are unable to address concerns primarily due to narrow regulations, a lack of public health expertise, and limited resources. The results are featured today online in PLOS ONE.”Despite the well-established health risks associated with living and working near industrial food animal production operations, regulation of these sites is limited and characterized by a patchwork of different regulatory approaches from state to state,” said Jillian Fry, PhD, MPH, a project director at the Johns Hopkins Center for a Livable Future. “Common across most states, however, is delegating the permitting to an agency without a primary mandate to address public health, which raises concerns that public health issues may not be adequately monitored or addressed. Our study found that permitting and agriculture agencies’ response to health-based industrial farm animal production concerns are constrained by narrow regulations, a lack of public health expertise, and limited resources. In addition, most agency staff believed health departments should play a role in addressing citizen concerns related to industrial food animal production operations.”Researchers conducted semi-structured qualitative interviews with staff at 12 state agencies in seven states. The agencies were selected based on high volumes of industrial food animal production or a rapid increase in the number of industrial food animal production operations within their state. The interviews were conducted to gather information regarding agency involvement in regulating operations, the frequency and type of contacts received about public health concerns, how the agency responds to such contacts and barriers to additional involvement.Previous studies have shown air near animal production sites to contain hydrogen sulfide, particulate matter, and allergens. Exposure to these emissions has been associated with multiple respiratory, cardiovascular and neurological health problems. …

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Livestock found ganging up on pandas at the bamboo buffet

Pandas, it turns out, aren’t celebrating the Year of the Horse.Livestock, particularly horses, have been identified as a significant threat to panda survival. The reason: They’re beating the pandas to the bamboo buffet. A paper by Michigan State University panda habitat experts published in this week’s Journal for Nature Conservation explores an oft-hidden yet significant conflict in conservation.”Across the world, people are struggling to survive in the same areas as endangered animals, and often trouble surfaces in areas we aren’t anticipating,” said Jianguo “Jack” Liu, Rachel Carson Chair in Sustainability at Michigan State University (MSU). “Creating and maintaining successful conservation policy means constantly looking for breakdowns in the system. In this case, something as innocuous as a horse can be a big problem.”China invests billions to protect giant panda habitat and preserve the 1,600 remaining endangered wildlife icons living there. For years, timber harvesting has been the panda’s biggest threat. Pandas have specific habitat needs — they eat only bamboo and stay in areas with gentle slopes that are far from humans. Conservation programs that limit timber harvesting have chalked up wins in preserving such habitat.Vanessa Hull, a doctoral student in MSU’s Center for Systems Integration and Sustainability (CSIS), has been living off and on for seven years in the Wolong Nature Reserve, most recently tracking pandas she’s equipped with GPS collars. She has been working to better understand how these elusive and isolated animals move about and use natural resources.Over the years, she started noticing it wasn’t just pandas chowing on bamboo.”It didn’t take particular panda expertise to know that something was amiss when we’d come upon horse-affected bamboo patches. They were in the middle of nowhere and it looked like someone had been in there with a lawn mower,” Hull said.Alarmed by the growing devastation, she learned that some of Wolong’s farmers, who traditionally hadn’t kept horses, had been talking to friends outside of the reserve who had been cashing in by raising them. …

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Retention leads to discipline problems in other kids

When students repeat a grade, it can spell trouble for their classmates, according to a new Duke University-led study of nearly 80,000 middle-schoolers.In schools with high numbers of grade repeaters , suspensions were more likely to occur across the school community. Discipline problems were also more common among other students, including substance abuse, fighting and classroom disruption.Public debate typically focuses on how retention affects an individual student’s academic performance, said lead author Clara Muschkin. So she and her colleagues decided to take a wider view and consider how holding students back may affect the school as a whole.”The decision to retain students has consequences for the whole school community,” said Muschkin, an associate director of the Duke Center for Child and Family Policy. “That wider effect is an issue worth considering as we debate this policy.”The study by Muschkin, Elizabeth Glennie and Audrey Beck looked at 79,314 seventh-graders in 334 North Carolina middle schools.For information on retention and discipline problems, the authors turned to administrative data from the state’s public school system. The authors found that different schools have greatly varying numbers of older and retained students, with significant consequences.The authors took pains to account for a range of factors that might offer alternative explanations for their findings, including schools’ socioeconomic composition and parents’ educational status. Even after controlling for such factors, the presence of older and retained students was still strongly linked with more discipline problems in the entire group.For instance, if 20 percent of children in seventh grade were older than their peers, the chance that other students would commit an infraction or be suspended increased by 200 percent.”There’s a strong relationship here that we think is likely to be causal,” Muschkin said.The study focused on two groups in particular: students who repeated a grade, and students who were a year older than their classmates, on average. When there were more older and retained students present, discipline problems increased for all subgroups in the study, including black and white students and boys and girls. Two groups saw a particularly large jump in discipline problems: white students and girls of all races.”This finding took us by surprise,” Muschkin said. “These two groups appear to be a bit more affected than others by the influence of older peers.”In early adolescence, a time of major physical and psychological change, students are particularly vulnerable to peer influence, Muschkin noted. However, more research is needed to understand why some subgroups appear to respond more strongly than others to the influence of their classmates, she said.Holding students back became a popular educational option as criticism of “social promotion” mounted. …

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