Tag: Russell McLendon

Love and caring.

“It is a time for kindness, love, community and human spirit to connect with nature.”

This sentence was written by Colette who blogs over at Stargazing Futures. Colette offered that thought in a response to a post last week in this place.

The reason I used it as the sub-heading for today’s share is that it is perfect.

Read this from Mother Nature News and you will understand.

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Watch an excavator gently rescue a deer

Russell McLendon   September 5, 2017

When two young black-tailed deer wandered onto a construction site in 2016, they probably didn’t realize how dangerously muddy the ground had become. They both got stuck in the mud, a predicament that could have easily been fatal — if an observant worker at the site hadn’t noticed them and swung into action.

“I wouldn’t have seen them if they hadn’t moved and caught my eye!” wrote Bill Davis, a native of Tacoma, Washington, who was checking on the property for his employer.

When he realized the two yearling deer were stuck, he “orchestrated a rescue operation with his cellphone,” his son-in-law told GrindTV, by contacting a skilled excavator operator who might be able to pluck the helpless deer out of the mud.

Using an uncannily light touch for such a powerful piece of machinery, the operator managed to rescue both deer from the mud. Davis posted one of the rescues in the video above; the actual scooping up of the deer starts at about the 2:30 point.

Of course, it might have been even better for these deer if the property was still forest, not a muddy construction site, and it’s worth noting that habitat loss is one of the main problems facing wildlife around the world. But that was a moot point by the time these deer got stuck, and since Davis couldn’t return their lost patch of habitat, he did the next best thing by making sure they survived this ordeal.

Plus, as Earth Touch News points out, these deer were thought to be yearlings at the time, so they may have already been old enough to rebound afterward.

Davis wasn’t taking any chances, though. “Didn’t sleep much last night [after the rescue],” he wrote on Facebook. “[A]ll I could think about was those little guys getting stuck again, and not finding mama! I’m out there looking to make sure the babies didn’t come back to the mud! No sign of them.”

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“It is a time for kindness, love, community and human spirit to connect with nature.”

Exactly!

We want them to live forever!

Here’s an anti-aging project that we all wish for a successful outcome.

Despite the fact that one of the very important items that we learn from dogs is the certainty of death, there is not a single dog carer who doesn’t want them to live much longer lives.

Today’s post is the republication of a recent science report over on Mother Nature Network concerning a drug, rapamycin, that is hoped may give our wonderful dogs several more healthy years of life. As always, republished within the generous terms of MNN.

We wish the scientists much luck in achieving this outcome, without any deleterious side effects.

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Anti-aging project aims to extend dogs’ life spans

Researchers hope a drug called rapamycin can give dogs several more healthy years of life.
By: Russell McLendon, December 4, 2015,

Although some dogs have lived as long as 29 years, canine life spans are typically closer to half that length. (Photo: Shutterstock)
Although some dogs have lived as long as 29 years, canine life spans are typically closer to half that length. (Photo: Shutterstock)

Living with a dog can help humans in lots of ways, from reducing stress and anxiety to lifting our spirits and making us laugh. Yet despite the abundance of benefits dogs offer, they also come with a notable drawback: Their life spans are much shorter than ours, forcing us to deal with the sadness of their deaths every 15 years or so.

Grieving for our dogs is just part of life, and in the big picture, it’s a small price to pay. But according to researchers at the University of Washington (UW), there may be a way to help our best friends stay with us — and stay healthy — a little longer.

Dog aging varies widely by size and breed, with smaller dogs typically maturing more quickly, yet also living a few years longer on average. It’s also common for mutts to outlive purebred dogs, thanks to the perks of higher genetic diversity. But while almost any dog is considered elderly by age 15, some have been known to nearly double their expected life spans — including Bluey, an Australian cattle dog who famously lived to see his 29th birthday last century.

And now researchers at UW’s Dog Aging Project (DAP) are working to bring similar longevity to canines of all kinds. In addition to performing “the first nationwide, large-scale longitudinal study of aging in pet dogs,” this project involves efforts to improve dogs’ “healthy life span” via therapies that already work in lab settings.

“To be clear, our goal is to extend the period of life in which dogs are healthy, not prolong the already difficult older years,” the project’s website explains. “Imagine what you could do with an additional two to five years with your beloved pet in the prime of his or her life. This is within our reach today.”

If it pans out, this may also aid ongoing research into extending the lives of other animals, including humans. But for now, the therapy is focused on dogs.

Researchers think rapamycin might increase a dog's healthy life span by up to 5 years. (Photo: Shutterstock)
Researchers think rapamycin might increase a dog’s healthy life span by up to 5 years. (Photo: Shutterstock)

Namely, they’re testing the FDA-approved drug rapamycin (aka sirolimus) on middle-aged dogs. High doses of rapamycin are already used in humans to fight cancer and prevent organ-transplant rejection, but at low doses, it has also been shown to slow aging and extend life span in several animals with few or no side effects. In mice, for example, the immunosuppressant can lengthen lives by up to 25 percent.

“If rapamycin has a similar effect in dogs — and it’s important to keep in mind we don’t know this yet — then a typical large dog could live 2 to 3 years longer, and a smaller dog might live 4 years longer,” the project’s organizers write. “More important than the extra years, however, is the improvement in overall health during aging that we expect rapamycin to provide.”

Rapamycin trials have already begun on 32 middle-aged golden retrievers, Labrador retrievers and German shepherds. Ranging from 6 to 9 years old, these dogs will spend several months on a low-dose rapamycin regimen in which researchers study age-related metrics like heart function, immune response, physical activity, body weight and cognitive measures. They’ll also follow these 32 dogs throughout the rest of their lives, looking for any significant changes in aging or life span.

And in phase two of the study, a second group of middle-aged dogs will enter a longer-term, low-dose rapamycin regimen “designed to optimize lifespan extension.” Based on mouse studies conducted both at UW and elsewhere, they anticipate the drug “could increase healthy lifespan of middle-aged dogs by 2-5 years or more.”

Rapamycin isn’t a miracle drug, however, and high doses have been linked to side effects like immune suppression and delayed wound healing. But as the DAP website argues, “these are greatly mitigated at the doses used to extend longevity, and both animal and human studies indicate that even mild adverse events are rare.”

Regular exercise and outdoor time are great ways to boost a dog's quality of life. (Photo: Shutterstock)
Regular exercise and outdoor time are great ways to boost a dog’s quality of life. (Photo: Shutterstock)

While the idea of extending dogs’ lives is exciting, it’s important not to let quantity of life overshadow quality of life. We may never have full control over how long our dogs live, but we can make sure they live well while they’re here.

A good reminder of this comes from Pegasus, a Great Dane rescued from unscrupulous breeders in South Africa when she was 4 weeks old. Suffering from a pigment deficiency often associated with blindness and deafness, Pegasus wasn’t expected to live very long. Filmmaker Dave Meinert adopted her anyway, and decided to film her daily as she grew up. In May 2015, he released a time-lapse movie (see below) of her reaching adulthood that quickly went viral. And as he explains in the video, Pegasus’ prognosis only helped the pair live every day like it was their last.

“I still don’t know how long she is going to live,” Meinert admits. “But right now is pretty great.”

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Watching the video offers the most beautiful, and powerful, reminder of the unconditional love that we can share with our dogs! What a gift they give us!

Wouldn’t we all love a few more years of happy and healthy life for our beloved dogs.

These extraordinary minds of ours.

Serendipity at work.

Chapter 8 of my book is entitled: Behaviours and Relationships. It opens thus:

“It is all to do with relationships.”

I heard this many years before the idea of writing this book came to me. Heard it from J, who was referred to in the previous chapter. J was speaking of what makes for happy people in all walks of life. It’s one of those remarks that initially comes over as such an obvious statement, akin to water being wet or the night being dark, that it is easy to miss the incredible depth of meaning behind those seven words.

Humans are fascinating. Every aspect of who we are can be seen in our relationships. How we relate to people around us, whether it be a thirty-second exchange with a stranger or a long natter with friends whom we have known for decades, including our partners and family relations. The core relationship, of course, the relationship that drives so many of our behaviours is the relationship that we have with ourself. That being rooted in our relationship experiences with the adults around us when we were young people.

When one looks at the performance of successful companies one often sees, nay one always sees, people being valued. The directors and managers of those companies understand that if people are valued then a myriad of benefits flow from that approach to relationships. Moving out of the workplace, the relationships that people have are always stronger and happier if those individual persons know they are valued. Moving beyond people, our dogs, and many other animals, are always stronger and happier if they feel valued. It’s the difference between empathy and sympathy.

Recently over on Mother Nature Network there was an essay presented by Russell McLendon who is science editor for MNN. It is about happiness.

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Happiness is all in your head

Scientists say they’ve found where happiness happens in the brain. What does that mean?

By: Russell McLendon, November 24, 2015

Understanding how our brains generate happiness could help make it less elusive, researchers say. (Photo: Andrew Vargas/Flickr)
Understanding how our brains generate happiness could help make it less elusive, researchers say. (Photo: Andrew Vargas/Flickr)

Everyone wants to be happy. Yet despite all our efforts in pursuit of this prized emotion, it can be a surprisingly nebulous goal. What is “happiness,” exactly?

That question has puzzled philosophers for thousands of years, and it’s still tricky for anyone to tackle. But recent advances in neuroscience have finally begun to shed light on it, and now a new study claims to have found an answer. Being told happiness is “all in your head” may seem both obvious and dismissive, but in this case the specifics are also empowering. The more we know about how (and where) happiness happens, the less helpless we’ll be to summon it when we need it.

By comparing magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) with questionnaires about emotional states, researchers from Kyoto University in Japan say they’ve traced the experience of happiness to a specific part of the human brain. Overall happiness, they conclude, occurs when positive emotions combine with a sense of life satisfaction in the precuneus, a region of the medial parietal lobe that’s linked to important brain tasks like episodic memory, self-reflection and consciousness.

Psychologists already distinguish between broad life satisfaction and “subjective well-being,” since happiness often seems to fade during bad moods without necessarily plunging us into deeper existential despair. But by revealing the neural mechanics of how these feelings combine to create overall happiness, the authors of the new study hope to make it easier to objectively quantify this mysterious and elusive emotion.

“Over history, many eminent scholars like Aristotle have contemplated what happiness is,” lead author Wataru Sato says in a press release. “I’m very happy that we now know more about what it means to be happy.”

Scientists used MRI brain scans to identify happiness in a brain region known as the precuneus. (Photo: Kyoto University)
Scientists used MRI brain scans to identify happiness in a brain region known as the precuneus. (Photo: Kyoto University)

To pinpoint the location of happiness, Sato and his colleagues first used MRI to scan the brains of their study subjects. Those participants then took a survey, which asked about their general sense of happiness, the intensity of their emotions and the degree of their overall life satisfaction.

After analyzing the data, the researchers discovered that those who scored higher on the happiness survey also had more gray matter mass in the precuneus. That means this brain region is larger in people who feel happiness more intensely, feel sadness less intensely and who are better able to find meaning in life.

“To our knowledge, our study is the first to show that the precuneus is associated with subjective happiness,” the researchers write in the journal Scientific Reports.

Complex phenomena like happiness rarely boil down to a single brain region, but other recent research also points to an outsized role for the precuneus. A study published this month links impaired connectivity in the precuneus to depression, for example, and a 2014 study suggests the region is a “distinct hub” in the brain’s default-mode network, which is active during self-reflection and daydreaming.

All this may seem like an esoteric quest for neuroscientists, but it’s about more than just academic curiosity. By knowing which parts of the human brain generate our sensation of happiness, we might develop more accurate ways to test methods of becoming happier, like travel, exercise or meditation.

“Several studies have shown that meditation increases grey matter mass in the precuneus,” Sato says. “This new insight on where happiness happens in the brain will be useful for developing happiness programs based on scientific research.”

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It’s an unscientific opinion from me but I truly believe that humans have a bias towards happiness. And if there’s one animal that we can learn happiness from, it’s the dog!

Photo: Kiuko/flickr.
Photo: Kiuko/flickr.

For safer, cheaper pest control, just add ants!

A very interesting report that recently appeared on Mother Nature Network (MNN).

We live in Josephine County here in Southern Oregon. Our next door neighbours to the East are Jackson County. Josephine and Jackson Counties share one very noble attribute: each is only one of just nine GMO-free counties in the entire United States of America.  Plus, as evidenced at our local Grants Pass Farmers’ Market every Saturday, the growing of organic fruit and vegetables is widespread in our county.  We feel very happy to have ended up in this part of America.

All of which makes a logical introduction to a report that appeared on MNN on September, 1st.  It is republished below.

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For safer, cheaper pest control, just add ants

Ants offer a surprisingly effective alternative to synthetic pesticides on crops ranging from cashews to sugar cane, according to a new review of more than 70 scientific studies.

By: Russell McLendon, September 1, 2015, 9:30 a.m.

Weaver ants can not only protect tree crops from pests, but may also benefit the quality of produce. (Photo: Rushen/Flickr)
Weaver ants can not only protect tree crops from pests, but may also benefit the quality of produce. (Photo: Rushen/Flickr)

Sometimes ants are pests, marching through our kitchens on an industrious quest for crumbs. But when faced with more serious pests — namely those that destroy crops on which people’s livelihoods depend — we can also use ants to our advantage.

Published in the Journal of Applied Ecology, a new research review suggests ants can control agricultural pests as efficiently as synthetic pesticides, with the bonus of being more cost-effective and generally safer. And since many pesticides pose a danger to helpful wildlife like birds, bees and spiders — not to mention humans — ants might be a key ally in feeding the planet’s booming human population.

The review covers more than 70 scientific studies on dozens of pest species that plague nine crop varieties in Africa, Southeast Asia and Australia. Because ants are organized as “superorganisms” — meaning the colony itself is like an organism, with individual ants acting as “cells” that can move around independently — they are uniquely capable of hunting down pests and then overwhelming them.

“Ants are great hunters and they work cooperatively,” says author Joachim Offenberg, a biologist at Aarhus University in Denmark, in a press release about the research. “When an ant finds its prey, it uses pheromones to summon help from other ants in the nest. By working together, they can subdue even large pests.”

Most studies in the review focused on weaver ants, a tropical genus of tree-dwelling ants that weave ball-shaped nests using leaves and larval silk. Since they live in the canopy of their host trees, near the fruit and flowers that need protection, weaver ants have a natural tendency to control pest populations in orchards.

A colony of weaver ants in India works on converting leaves into a nest. (Photo: Raghu Mohan/Flickr)
A colony of weaver ants in India works on converting leaves into a nest. (Photo: Raghu Mohan/Flickr)

In one three-year study, Australian cashew growers recorded yields 49 percent higher in trees guarded by weaver ants versus trees treated with synthetic chemicals. But higher yields were only part of the prize: The farmers also got higher-quality cashews from the trees with ants, resulting in a 71 percent higher net income.

Similar results were reported in mango orchards. While mango trees with ants had roughly the same yields as those with synthetic chemicals, the ants were cheaper — and the trees they inhabited grew higher-quality fruit. That led to a 73 percent higher net income compared with pesticide-treated trees. Not all crops had such dramatic results, but studies on more than 50 pests showed that ants can protect crops including cocoa, citrus and palm oil at least as effectively as pesticides.

“Although these are rare cases where the ants were superior to chemicals, many studies show that ants are just as efficient as chemical controls,” Offenberg says. “And of course ant technology is much cheaper than chemical pest control.”

To recruit weaver ants in their orchards, farmers just collect nests from the wild, hang them in plastic bags from tree branches and feed them a sugar solution while they build new nests. Once the ants establish their colony, farmers can help them expand by connecting target trees with aerial walkways made from string or vines.

The ants are mostly self-sufficient from there, needing only some water during the dry season — provided via plastic bottles in the trees — and pruning of non-target trees that host different ant colonies to prevent fights. Farmers can also help their ants by avoiding broad-spectrum insecticide sprays, researchers say.

Ants protect mango trees about as effectively as pesticides, but at less cost, research suggests. (Photo: Shutterstock)

It’s worth noting that ants can also be detrimental to some plants, such as when they herd sap-feeding insects like aphids and leafhoppers. But if they still fend off fruit-ruining flies and beetles, their net impact may be positive nonetheless. Not only do weaver ants kill pest insects on their trees, but their presence alone is reportedly enough to scare away marauders as large as snakes and fruit bats. And research suggests their urine even contains important plant nutrients.

The use of ants for pest control isn’t new. As early as 300 B.C., Chinese farmers could buy weaver ants in markets to release in their citrus groves, a practice that has faded over time, especially after the advent of chemical pesticides. But it may be coming back, both because ants are cheaper than pesticides and because certified organic produce can fetch higher prices, due to concerns that broad-spectrum pesticides harm more than just pests. Aarhus University is studying the use of weaver ants as pest control in Benin and Tanzania, for example, where the insects could lead to increased export revenue of $120 million and $65 million, respectively.

“To kill the flies with pesticides, you have to make the mango so poisonous that it can kill the maggot,” Aarhus University biologist Mogens Gissel Nielsen told China’s Xinhua news agency in 2010. “But when it is too poisoned for the maggot to eat, it might not be good for us to eat either.”

While the research in Offenberg’s review focused largely on weaver ants, he points out they “share beneficial traits with almost 13,000 other ant species, and are unlikely to be unique in their properties as control agents.” Lots of ants nest in the ground, and while it may be a challenge to relocate them, they too have shown promise in protecting a variety of commercially important crops.

“Weaver ants need a canopy for their nests, so they are limited to plantations and forestry in the tropics,” Offenberg says. “But ground-living ants can be used in crops such as maize and sugar cane. European wood ants are renowned for controlling pests in forestry, and new projects are trying to use wood ants to control winter moths in apple orchards. Ants could even be used to fight plant pathogens because they produce antibiotics to combat diseases in their dense societies.”

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As with many of the other fine articles that appear on Mother Nature Network, this report by Russell McLendon has many links to other information sources, too many for me to set up. So if this report ‘speaks’ to you and you want to look up the background information then please go here and read it over on MNN.