Animals Scientists are getting creative to save this muppet-faced, flightless parrot The kakapo is down to its last 147 individuals. Now, scientists are using fitness trackers and semen-carrying drones to help the bird reproduce. 5 Minute Read
PUBLISHED March 5, 2019
Inside a hut on remote Whenua Hou/Codfish Island off the coast of New Zealand’s South Island, there’s a chart on the refrigerator depicting the future of a species.
That species is the kakapo, an unusual, flightless parrot endemic to New Zealand. The chart lists every breeding female kakapo on the planet—50 of them, with names like Pearl, Marama, and Hoki—and the status of their eggs: smiley faces for fertile eggs, straight lines for infertile ones, wings and legs for hatched chicks, and Xs for those that have died.
In the hopes of more smiley faces getting wings and fewer getting Xs, a team of scientists, rangers, and volunteers are working around the clock during the current breeding season, using 3D-printed smart eggs, activity trackers, and a sperm-toting drone nicknamed the “cloaca courier” to turn a record breeding year into a repopulation milestone and help this beloved bird step back from the brink. Strange bird
The kakapo is an avian oddity: It’s the only nocturnal and flightless parrot in the world, a waddling, ground-bound bird that weighs up to nine pounds and tends to freeze when confronted by predators. Mottled green feathers offer forest camouflage, and a wide beak gives the creatures a comical expression, a mix between owl and muppet.
Despite intense conservation efforts, the kakapo are particularly tough to repopulate because they only breed every few years, and even when they do mate, more than half of the eggs are infertile. Photograph by Andrew Digby
Sirocco , a kakapo raised in captivity who has become the official “spokesbird” for New Zealand conservation, has more than 200,000 followers on Facebook. His failed attempt to mate with the head of a human zoologist became the inspiration for the party parrot , a gyrating, neon parrot emoji beloved by Redditors and the National Geographic animal desk.
“They’re amazingly charismatic birds,” says Andrew Digby, scientific advisor for the New Zealand Department of Conservation’s Kakapo Recovery Program .
“They’re hard not to love.”
Kakapo were once widespread in New Zealand, but the rats, cats, and stoats that humans brought with them to the islands devoured the flightless birds, their chicks, and their eggs. Today, just 147 adults have been transferred to three predator-free islands. That number is itself an achievement, up from a low of 51 individuals in the mid-1990s.
( Read about New Zealand’s plan to eradicate rats and stoats by 2050 .) View Images
The kakapo have been transferred to three predator-free islands off the coast of New Zealand, but with 2019 set to be a record breeding season, they may need new territory soon.
Photograph by Andrew Digby
Repopulating the species is hard work. The kakapo only breed every two to four years when rimu trees produce a bumper crop of fruit, and even when they do mate, less than 50 percent of the eggs are fertile, likely because of inbreeding. In 2016, 122 eggs were laid, but only 34 chicks survived to fledge.
“It’s frustrating, and it’s disappointing, and it’s euphoric,” says zoologist, author, and kakapo expert Alison Ballance of the breeding season drama, which she’s documenting for Radio New Zealand through the Kakapo Files podcast .
With 218 eggs laid since late December and 52 live chicks, this year has already surpassed previous highs. “It’s definitely record-breaking in terms of modern times of kakapo breeding,” Digby says.
“We’ve never had anything like this.” High-tech help
To maximize the number of eggs that grow into green-feathered adults, the Kakapo Recovery Program takes a technology-forward approach.
“It’s quite experimental,” says Digby. “It pushes the boundaries a bit in terms of what’s possible for conservation.
At the core of the program this year are activity-tracking smart transmitters worn by every bird that loop around their wings like a backpack. Even without rangers spying in the woods, the system can report which kakapo have mated, with whom, and how vigorously, and sensors outside each nest send alerts when mothers come and go.
Fertile eggs are removed from the nests and incubated in a dedicated room on each island to be hatched in captivity, while the mothers sit on 3D-printed smart eggs that make noise to prepare them for the return of fluff-ball chicks. Some hatchlings are being hand-reared to induce females to nest again this season.
A project recently sequenced the genome of every kakapo , so Digby is also performing artificial inseminations, taking semen from genetically important males and using a drone affectionately called the “cloacal courier” to fly it across the island to waiting females. (The cloaca is the cavity at the end of the reproductive, digestive, and urinary tracts.)
At night, workers camp near the nests, monitoring eggs, making nest renovations, and checking on vulnerable chicks.
“We’re working days and nights at the moment,” says Digby. “When there’s only 147 adults, we have to be in this intensive care phase. We can’t afford to lose any more kakapo, and we need to make as many as we can.” Great lengths
It’s a monumental effort to save a bird most people have never heard of.
“If we stopped kakapo conservation, we might better save three or four other species who require less effort,” Digby says.
But, he adds, the birds attract people who might not otherwise care about conservation. “We have children in the middle of America who instead of wanting birthday presents, they ask their family and friends to give to kakapo conservation, even though they’ll probably never see a kakapo in their life.”
On the Kakapo Recovery Facebook page, 53,000 followers eagerly await updates to the fridge chart, and Alison Ballance says her podcast has become one of the most listened to shows on RNZ. This Amazing Dog Helps to Save Endangered Parrots
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Tāne Davis, who represents the Ngāi Tahu Māori tribe in the Kakapo Recovery Program, says the birds were once a crucial resource for his ancestors, hunted for meat, feathers, and skin. “[They have] a very strong significance for the iwi [tribe],” he says.
“We treasure them because we respect what these taonga [treasured] species gave to us.
Even without the historical relationship, people fall hard for the kakapo. “They just get under your skin,” says Jonni Walker, a data visualization specialist who learned about the birds while looking for interesting data sets. “You just get this impression that they really all have different characteristics and their own personalities.”
Ballance attributes their following to the kakapo’s evolutionary distinction and the fact that responsibility for their survival lands squarely at our feet. “We feel this great moral obligation, having put it in this situation, to bring it back.”
This record-setting breeding season may be a step in the right direction.
“Ultimately our goal is to get kakapo back on mainland New Zealand,” says Digby.
“A few years ago it sounded pretty far-fetched, like it might happen in 300 years’ time. But I think with the way things are going, that’s not such a distant dream.” Continue Reading .
Space scientists want to pay you $19,000 to lie in bed for 2 months – CNN
(CNN) If you always struggle to get out of bed in the morning, this might be the perfect gig for you. Scientists are looking for women to stay in bed for 60 days to help them study how weightlessness affects the human body. As a reward for participating in the study, they will pay 16,500…
(CNN) If you always struggle to get out of bed in the morning, this might be the perfect gig for you.
Scientists are looking for women to stay in bed for 60 days to help them study how weightlessness affects the human body. As a reward for participating in the study, they will pay 16,500 euros, or about $18,522. When astronauts are in space, the weightlessness caused by microgravity changes their body. The reduced physical stress in space leads their muscles and bones to break down and body fluids to shift toward their head, according to the German Aerospace Center, which was commissioned by NASA and the European Space Agency to conduct the study.
A NASA-funded study says long trips in space could destroy astronauts’ stomachs and cause cancer By simulating weightlessness’ effects with bed rest, scientists hope to develop methods to counteract the impacts of weightlessness so that astronauts do not have to spend most of their days on the space station exercising.
The researchers have already created a “short-arm human centrifuge” that generates artificial gravity and corrects the distribution of body fluids. They are hoping to test it out on two-thirds of the study participants each day. Read More “Crewed spaceflight will continue to be important in the future in order to carry out experiments in microgravity, but we must make it as safe as possible for the astronauts,” says Hansjörg Dittus , executive board member for space research and technology at the German Aerospace Center. “This bed rest study … offers space researchers from all over Europe and the USA the opportunity to work together and jointly acquire as much scientific knowledge about human physiology as possible.” Participants will do everything lying down All activities — including eating, showering and going to the bathroom — must be done while lying down.
Each participant will have a private room and stay in a bed inclined at 6 ° with the head end downwards. A government-funded Swedish art project will pay you to do whatever you want A team of nutritionists will curate the meals so that participants do not gain weight and have all the nutrients they need. However, the German Aerospace Center says on its website that the meals are not “extra healthy,” and there will sometimes be pancakes or other sweet treats. The study is composed of two rounds.
The first group of 24 test participants — 12 men and 12 women — began on Tuesday. It’s not clear yet how many participants will be needed for the next round, which will be conducted at the German Aerospace Center’s Institute of Aerospace Medicine in Cologne, Germany, from September to December 2019. The scientists are looking for healthy women between the ages of 24 and 55 years who are non-smokers to participate in the study, according to the study’s website. Participants must be able to speak German. In 2017 NASA conducted a similar bed rest study , in which 11 people spent 30 days in bed..
sleep study:NASA Will Pay You Rs 13 Lakh To Sleep In Bed And Do Nothing For Two Months – Indiatimes.com
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Do you find yourself feeling lazy very often? Taking naps during the workday? Looking forward to your bed at night?
Congratulations, because you’re eligible to work with NASA. You won’t be designing rockets, but you’ll get paid to lie down on the job!
The US space agency has teamed up with the European Space Agency (ESA) to conduct a study on sleeping in artificial gravity. It’s the first time that scientists will study how artificial gravity could help astronauts better cope with the rigors of space .
For the experiment, NASA is looking for 12 men and 12 women between the ages of 24 and 55 to basically lie in bed for two months. And for their trouble, they’ll be paid a hefty $18500, or approximately Rs 12.81 lakh.
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The AGBRESA (Artificial Gravity Bed Rest Study) will take place at the German Aerospace Centre (DLR) in Cologne, at their envihab medical research facility. And not just sleep, but all activities like experiments, tests, meals, and leisure will happen with the subjects lying in bed.
During the study, the volunteers will also not be allowed to exert themselves. They will also be subjected to various tests of their cognition, muscle strength, balance, and cardiovascular function throughout the duration. Additionally, half the participants will be subjected to the effects of an anti-gravity chamber.
Scientists hope to compare the physical deterioration of the two at the end of the study and uncover data that this technique could help astronauts in space .
“Although the effects of weightlessness are primarily investigated on the International Space Station, analogues such as :envihab are helpful when studying certain research topics under controlled conditions on Earth,” says Leticia Vega, Associate Chief Scientist for International Collaborations for NASA’s Human Research Program.
The thing is, when in space for a long time, astronauts have a load of physical consequences to deal with.
Because of the weightlessness, their muscles can atrophy, which is why they have to work out up there more than they would have on Earth. There’s also a considerable loss in bone density, that can lead to easier breaks. And that’s on top of the cosmic radiation, stress of isolation, and mental trauma from being cooped up in a tiny box with the same people for months or years.
If this study proves fruitful, it means NASA could actually spend money on developing antigravity devices for the ISS, and especially for spacecraft to distant places like Mars. At the very least then, those astronauts will be physically healthier. .
Idaho Utility Spurns Coal, Pledges ‘100-Percent Clean Energy By 2045’ : NPR
Enlarge this image Idaho Power says it already gets nearly half its energy from hydroelectric dams such as the Swan Falls Dam on the Snake River, just south of Boise. The utility plans to phase out its use of coal power plants. Education Images/UIG via Getty Images Education Images/UIG via Getty Images Idaho Power says…
Enlarge this image Idaho Power says it already gets nearly half its energy from hydroelectric dams such as the Swan Falls Dam on the Snake River, just south of Boise. The utility plans to phase out its use of coal power plants. Education Images/UIG via Getty Images Education Images/UIG via Getty Images Idaho Power says it already gets nearly half its energy from hydroelectric dams such as the Swan Falls Dam on the Snake River, just south of Boise. The utility plans to phase out its use of coal power plants.
Education Images/UIG via Getty Images Idaho Power plans to stop using coal energy and rely instead on hydroelectric, solar and wind resources, the utility says. The utility vows that 100 percent of energy will come from “clean” sources by 2045. Utility companies have made similar pledges in only a handful of states.
Idaho Power customers increasingly see clean energy that doesn’t rely on carbon dioxide-producing fossil fuels as a priority, the company says.
“We believe this goal is attainable,” Idaho Power President and CEO Darrel Anderson said in announcing the plan.
Idaho Power says it has already agreed to stop using two coal power plants by 2025 and that it’s considering how to shut down its third and final coal plant.
“The company that serves over half-a-million customers calls the effort ‘Clean Today, Cleaner Tomorrow,’ ” member station Boise State Public Radio reports . “Nearly 50 percent of the electricity the company currently generates comes from hydro power. About a fifth comes from coal.”
As it announced the news, Idaho Power also said it has reached a deal to buy electricity from a 120-megawatt solar farm, which will be built south of Twin Falls. That facility is still in the planning phase, and the deal will require state regulators’ approval.
“Similar clean energy pledges have been made by utilities in Iowa, Minnesota and California,” Boise State Public Radio’s Matt Guilhem reports for NPR’s Newscast unit.
Across the U.S., Idaho is far from alone in shutting down coal power plants. As NPR’s Jeff Brady reports, the domestic U.
coal industry is declining — even as exports to China and other Asian countries are rising.
“Despite President Trump’s effort to boost the domestic coal industry, power plants continue to shut down. They can’t compete against cheaper natural gas and renewable energy,” Brady reports for NPR’s Newscast.
“Environmental groups have cheered the decline as scientists warn carbon dioxide emissions will have to be dramatically reduced quickly to avoid the worst effects of climate change.
In 2018, the U.S. exported more coal than it had in the past four years, the Energy Information Administration said Tuesday.
#TodayInEnergy – In 2018, U.S.
#coal #exports were the highest in five years https://t.co/7DiCEtxLmN #EnergyTrade pic.twitter.com/wHChEp22Ht
— EIA (@EIAgov) March 27, 2019 But the agency also reported exponential gains for solar and wind over the past decade, saying, “U.
solar generation has increased from 2 million MWh [megawatt-hours] in 2008 to 96 million MWh in 2018, and wind generation rose from 55 million MWh in 2008 to 275 million MWh” last year.
U.S. solar generation has increased from 2 million MWh in 2008 to 96 million MWh in 2018, and wind generation rose from 55 million MWh in 2008 to 275 million MWh in 2018. https://t.
co/fpwO6ZbpXe #Electricity pic.twitter.com/yaqngg2Efp
— EIA (@EIAgov) March 27, 2019 When hydroelectric power is included, renewable energy sources in the U.S. generated “a new record of 742 million megawatt-hours (MWh) of electricity in 2018, nearly double the 382 million MWh produced in 2008” the EIA says .
Idaho Power says it has 17 hydroelectric plants on the Snake River.
It also owns three power plants that are fueled by natural gas, which is burned to spin turbine blades and produce energy.
The Idaho plan was welcomed by the Idaho Conservation League, which says it has been working for years to see the state’s power utility commit to clean energy.
“We’re enthusiastic about it and eager to continue to assist the utility on how to achieve this goal,” said Ben Otto, the Idaho Conservation League’s energy associate, in a published statement . “We’re hopeful this means they’ll work on developing renewable sources of energy built in Idaho by and for Idahoans. That way, Idaho’s economy, businesses, workers and families benefit, and we can wean ourselves of a dependence on out-of-state sources of energy.”
In an interview with the Idaho Press , Otto added, “Climate change and clean energy shouldn’t be a political issue.
” Of the officials at Idaho Power who made the decision for the utility to go green, he said, “They’re following the dollars; they’re following the science.”
Adam Richins, the utility’s vice president of customer operations and business development, tells Guilhem that the company’s plans acknowledge the possibility that new technologies could further reshape how electric utilities serve their customers.
Those new technologies could include nuclear power, which may be produced by small modular reactors that the U.S. Department of Energy and its partners plan to test in eastern Idaho. They would be the first such reactors in the country, The Associated Press reported when the deal was reached in late 2018.
The modular nuclear plan centers on the Idaho National Laboratory in Idaho Falls. After Idaho Power announced its clean energy plan, Mayor Sean Coletti of nearby Ammon, Idaho, asked the utility via Twitter if it will include nuclear energy.
“We’ll be evaluating all kinds of new, existing and emerging technologies to help us reach our goal,” the utility replied.
“That includes looking into nuclear technology, such as the small modular reactors planned in eastern Idaho.
Nuclear power has deep roots in Idaho.
As the Department of Energy has noted , it was a reactor in Idaho that generated the first electricity from nuclear energy, in December of 1951..
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