A life devoted to safeguarding the African lion

Over the years, Kissui's research focus crystallized to reflect the reality of lions and pastoralist communities sharing the land: potential for human-lion conflict. His long-term studies have helped create a broader understanding of such challenges and effective lion conservation strategies in the landscape. He and his team have learned that most livestock predation in the Maasai Steppe occurs during the rainy season and that hyenas are responsible for most livestock kills. Yet lions appear to be disproportionately killed by local people in retaliatory killings. His team has also shown how livestock ownership and relative wealth do not correlate to a higher likelihood of retaliation against lions.

Geladas: the extraordinary monkeys bringing tourists to Ethiopia

When it comes to primate species with fascinating idiosyncrasies, geladas do not disappoint. These highland monkeys, also known as gelada baboons and bleeding-heart baboons, are highly social, occupying herds that are several hundred or even 1,000 strong. Found only in Ethiopia, this iconic species is a big tourism draw for Simien Mountains National Park, along with other endemic but threatened wildlife like the Ethiopian wolf and the Walia ibex. Geladas are unique in the monkey world. Their diet is almost entirely grass, but they have impressive canine teeth — especially the males, who rely on their fearsome fangs not to eat but to signal dominance or to fight. They are terrestrial, or ground dwellers rather than tree dwellers. When feeding, they use a "shuffle gait," meaning they move along seated, without lifting their feet. To keep safe at night, they sleep on cliffside ledges where hyenas and leopards will not be able to get them.

Conservation sniffer dogs: How a unique human-canine bond leads to wildlife detection

With their powerful senses of smell, these working dogs detect everything from full tusks to ivory jewelry and rhino horn dust — even when items are concealed in coffee or powdered milk. When the dog detects a stash, it signals his or her handler by sitting or freezing at that spot. The dogs are only half the equation. Each one is paired with a dedicated handler — generally rangers from wildlife authorities. During training, the focus is not just on refining sniffing skills, but on the relationship. Will Powell, director of the Canines program, says, “The dogs and their handlers must be totally in love with each other. The first week of their training is simply about creating the bond that cements the partnership for the training to come, involving play and just hanging out. Once this bond is established, we can start work.”

Chemists and other researchers are working up new formulas for greener plastic

Every year in the United States, more governments enact such restrictions, which are part of a larger shift away from petroleum-based plastic. As people grow more concerned about throwaways destined for landfills (or worse, for the open ocean) and the problems associated with fossil fuels, businesses of all sizes are looking beyond "traditional," petroleum-based plastics to alternatives derived from plants, or even synthesized by microorganisms.

How Sea Spray Seeds the Sky

What impact does sea spray have on global climate? It's a question scientists have studied for decades. They know that sea spray aerosols can float into the atmosphere and "seed" clouds — many of which seem to help cool the Earth by reflecting light, though there are others that seem to contribute to warming. But which aerosol particles do what actions, and under what conditions? How do aerosols affect precipitation and rainfall distribution? Could better understanding sea spray actually help humanity offset climate warming? "The single largest uncertainty in climate change is how aerosols affect clouds and climate," said atmospheric scientist Kimberly Prather of the University of California, San Diego.

Andante Higgins: A Versatile Newsman

Sometimes a journalist has to be resourceful. As in, finding a way to film hundreds of people sans pants, riding the New York subway. Film crews, of course, aren’t supposed to board trains to film the annual “No Pants Subway Ride.” That would tip off unsuspecting commuters and ruin the joke. Digital journalist Andante Higgins (CAU ’02), covering the flash mob for NYPost.com, solved that problem by filming with his Blackberry.

Seismic Risk? Research Addresses Dangers of Older Concrete Buildings in U.S.

In the heart of the worst U.S. earthquake zones, an alarming number of older, low-rise concrete buildings have not been retrofitted for earthquake safety. These two-story to five-story structures may meet the building-code standards of their day, but that day is long past. Today's building codes reflect later earthquake engineering research and incorporate structural elements that allow concrete buildings to bend and stretch a bit during an earthquake. Older designs lack those details.

Stalagmites & Hieroglyphs: Investigating the Maya Demise

You think you have interesting work, and indeed you may, but chances are it doesn’t involve hieroglyphs, fieldwork at a Belize geological site, a 2,000-year-old stalagmite or coordinating a team of diverse experts across oceans to help solve a centuries-old mystery that may hold important lessons for us today. But if this work, which is that of environmental archaeologist Douglas Kennett, sounds a little bit like Indiana Jones, it is in fact, often a slog.

A radio woman’s tale: reclaiming her voice

All of these years, Diane Rehm's voice: the vehicle for ordinary sentences she enunciates so emphatically that they carry their utmost weight. But creaky on the edges, hitting snags. It's a voice reliably there at midmorning on her NPR talk show, familiar; listeners love it. Except for the inevitable detractors, who say they find Rehm grating, or schoolmarmish. Love or hate that voice, it's illuminating to learn that a physical problem contributes to Rehm's on-air distinctiveness. Doctors earli

Desert dwellers and 'bots reveal physics of movement - US National Science Foundation (NSF)

Physicist Daniel Goldman and his fellow researchers at the Georgia Institute of Technology shed light on a relatively unexplored subject--how organisms such as sea turtles and lizards move on (or within) sand. If you've ever struggled to walk with even a modicum of grace on a soft, sandy beach, you may appreciate the question. The answers that Goldman's CRAB lab (Complex Rheology and Biomechanics Laboratory) uncovers--with the help of living animals and biologically inspired robots--deepen our

Tuning In to Undersea Sounds

Marine biologist Erica Staaterman is tuned in to the sounds of the undersea world. She records and analyzes the noise of life underwater, and as a result can tell you what a lobster sounds like, or a mantis shrimp (it rumbles). "Most people don't really consider anything beyond whales and dolphins, maybe seals, as sound producers, but it turns out that a lot of things in the ocean make sound," she says. "Fish, crab, lobsters, shrimp — you name it."

A Big Hand for Biofilms

What have we here? An image that represents how strong and prevalent bacteria biofilms are —despite our efforts to control them with antibiotics and other antimicrobial agents. (A biofilm is a layer —or multilayered community —of microorganisms, such as bacteria, that stick together and coat surfaces. Dental plaque is an example.) Human Hand Controlling Bacterial Biofilms, by artist and Stanford University senior scientists and electron microscopy specialist Lydia-Marié Joubert, won a People's Choice Award in a recent science and engineering visualization contest, known as "SciVis", which is sponsored by the National Science Foundation and Science magazine.

Slain in a broadcast underground

Michael Taylor believed in second chances — he was living proof that they come along. Before the early 1990s, the Los Angeles resident had been an addict, a dealer, eventually homeless. But one day he decided to turn his life around, and achieved the miracle — sobered up, straightened out and found his legitimate passions: community activism and radio. He became a reporter and later an occasional host of public affairs programming on Pacifica station KPFK. So he was a felt presence among Los A

Nature Aids Science to Take on Bed Bugs

Taking up the fight against bed bugs, research scientists have looked to old European folk practice — kidney bean leaves. First, they identified precisely how the leaves trap the bugs and then they created synthetic leaf traps, or biomimetic plastic surfaces. Traditionally in Bulgaria, Serbia and other southeast European countries, households with infestations of bed bugs have thwarted the evasive little bloodsuckers by strewing kidney bean leaves on the floor at night. In the morning, the bed-bug-studded leaves are swept up and burned in piles.

Visualizing the Motion of Corals

This Research in Action article was provided to Live Science in partnership with the National Science Foundation. This striking photograph shows just how active are the ocean’s reef-building corals. Scientists from MIT and the Weizmann Institute of Science captured the way in which cilia  — tiny hair-like projections on the surface of corals — create unseen currents as they wave back and forth in the water, helping to take in nutrients and move out waste.

New Biofuel Possibility in Horse Gut Fungus

At a recent meeting of the American Chemical Society, scientists announced a potential new biofuels source — anaerobic gut fungus (yeast) found in horses' waste and digestive tracts. This news is exciting because the fungus makes enzymes that digest lignin — a protective barrier inside plant cell walls that is hard to separate from cellulose. In terms of biofuel production, cellulose is the good stuff — the raw materials enzymes break down into sugars for fermentation.
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