Weekly Summary 3/26/16

We finally finished genetics-right before interim. We will be going on trips next week-super excited to head out to California!!

Weekly Summary 2/19/16

In bio, we got back our tests and were allowed to retake it next week. We also started a new unit on genetics, and had a taste-testing activity. We tested how strong our tastebuds were by using strips of PTC, Thiourea, and Sodium Benzoate.


Do Fish Survive Streams in Winter?

ScienceDaily has released an article that asks an interesting question: Do Fish Survive Streams in Winter? Anyone who has been somewhere very cold during the winter knows that most small ponds and rivers tend to freeze over – or have large chunks of ice. So how do fish survive without freezing to death – if they do at all – considering they remain in the freezing rivers during the cold months? A team of scientists tagged a fleet of fish to follow during this time. They discovered that “tracked sculpins and young trouts drastically decreased in mid-winter and was low until the ice broke up by which time the number increased again.” Given how the tags were not sensitive to ice-thickness, this could mean they lost the signal, or the young fish were not able to survive the winter, and more were born during the warmer months. They also discovered that health was most important. This makes sense; after all, you are unlikely to survive a harsh winter if you are already sickly as a fish. I also found it strange how the tag signal was ice-thickness dependent; the thicker the ice, the weaker the signal. I also am curious about the young fish, and why they were so hard to find. I also wonder: did they survive?

Scientists Discover New Reef System at Mouth of Amazon River

Reef systems are fragile and rare, often containing coral that is hundreds of years old. They provide habitats and feeding grounds for many aquatic animals – yet they are slowly dwindling. However, Science Daily has revealed that scientists have found a New Reef System Near the Mouth of the Amazon River. The Amazon River has one of the largest discharges into the ocean, but typically will “create gaps in the reef distribution along the tropical shelves.” This means that finding a reef system is very rare – which makes this discovery that much more interesting. It started when a scientist had mentioned “‘catching reef fish along the continental shelf and said he wanted to try to locate these reefs'” that spurred the investigation that led to the finding of the reef system. However, Patricia Yager cautions that “From ocean acidification and ocean warming to plans for offshore oil exploration right on top of these new discoveries, the whole system is at risk from human impacts.” I am hopeful that ways will be found to preserve these reefs before it is too late. This article not only addresses an exciting new find but also brings up concerns about our planet and the problems it faces. This is something that needs to be addressed in order to prevent future decaying of our oceans. I wonder how this change will be brought about?

Monarch Butterflies Face Habitat and Nectar Threats

According to ScienceDailyMonarch Butterflies face threats to their habitat and nectar. Typically, the blame goes to “a lack of milkweed, herbicides and genetically modified crops” for the threats to the Monarchs. However, the study found that there were other factors to blame, namely “sparse autumnal nectar sources, weather and habitat fragmentation.” When the population makes its annual trek to Mexico, researchers have noticed a significant decline, and have attributed the recent increase to good weather. However, they also reason that the Monarchs are slowly losing their nectar sources, meaning they will have lost a major food source. This is, in my opinion, something no one wants to happen. Aside from the fact that Monarchs are beautiful, they are also a necessary part of our ecosystem. Unless we reduce the chemicals and pesticides that are contaminating their food source and habitats, we may find them extinct in a few hundred years, significantly impacting our ecosystem. So: What can we do?

Ravens and Crows Might be as Clever as Chimps

According to a new study published on ScienceDailyRavens and Crows Might be as Clever as Chimps. They found out that brain size, contrary to popular stereotypes, has very little to do with intelligence. The scientists determined that one aspect of being considered ‘clever’ is the ability to “override animal impulses and choose a more rational behavior.” They tested this by putting the animals through a series of tests, then repeated the test with ravens and crows. They found that their scores were much higher than expected, proving that “bird brains are quite efficient, despite having a smaller absolute brain size.” I believe this test can pave the way to changing common stereotypes about birds. This is very interesting; to be able to test and understand animal intelligence in birds is very rare. However, the fact that they performed very well proves just how much we have been underestimating birds. I wonder what other animals are secretly ‘geniuses?’

Investigators Reduce Sugar Content in Yogurt Without Reducing Sweetness

I really love yogurt, but, like most people, do not love the high sugar content. Well, ScienceDaily has now released an article that tells how Investigators reduce sugar content of yogurt without reducing sweetness – the perfect solution to a delicious snack. A Danish food company has figured out how to sweeten the yogurt naturally instead of artificially, meaning less sugar and more natural ingredients. They have accomplished this by using yogurt-producing bacteria and manipulating their metabolic properties. Basically, they wanted to change the bacteria to “eat the galactose and spit out the glucose,” said Eric Johansen. Having accomplished this, the yogurt “had very little lactose, and not much galactose. But it was high in glucose–and sweet.” I think that being able to accomplish this is fantastic. In a world where sugar and fast-foods are on the rise, being able to create a product that is healthy and still something people love is incredible. I believe this is the start of a change in the food industry; changing it to incorporate healthier, more natural foods instead of the processed, artificial food we currently consume. I wonder what brand of yogurt this is?