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Katelyn Moskos Northern Living

Northern Living: Redefining Vacations in the Enchanting Lake George Region | Katelyn Moskos

Lake George is found in the picturesque Adirondack Mountains and has long been a cherished escape for vacationers seeking respite from the daily grind. However, in the wake of pandemic fatigue, the need for rejuvenation and family bonding has become paramount. Katelyn Moskos, a visionary entrepreneur and founder of Northern Living, started her business to help families make those meaningful memories.

frog

How David Attenborough’s Camera Crew Capture’s Wildlife

David Attenborogh’s nature documentaries are some of the most creative and engaging programs that educate the masses about climate change, our natural world, and the beautiful species that occupy it. In a new documentary called West Isles, camera crew members spent three years at home filming domestic life, and now, they’ve revealed the amazing ways in which they’re able to take some of their detailed shots.

Dr. Rev. Diana B. St. Clair Pastor Ordained Minister

The Curative Power of Faith, Spirituality, and the Bounty of Nature | Dr. Rev. Diana B. St. Clair

In times of hardship and instability, believing in a higher power or hoping for a better tomorrow may make all the difference in the world. Dr. Rev. Diana B. St. Clair, a pastor and ordained minister, harnesses the transformative power of faith and alternative medicine to heal and protect people in need.

flooding

Pakistan’s Largest City Experiences Torrential Rain And Major Flooding Due To Climate Crisis 

Karachi, Pakistan’s largest city, is experiencing extreme torrential rain and flash flooding causing a multitude of public services and businesses to close down over safety concerns. Infrastructural damage and flooding has left at least 15 individuals dead since this weekend. 

This past Sunday, Karachi experienced 2.3 inches of rain, which is equivalent to the average of an entire month’s worth of rainfall for the area. Every summer Pakistan endures heavy monsoon rains, but more recently experts have been warning that climate change is accelerating and intensifying existing weather patterns. 

Sherry Rehman, Pakistan’s climate change minister, issued flash flood warnings for citizens in more than 14 cities and townships. 

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“Since the monsoon season began last month more than 300 people have been killed by heavy rains across Pakistan,” according to Pakistan’s National Disaster Management Authority. 

The 16 million residents of Karachi have witnessed entire neighborhoods become partially submerged from flooding. Photos from the area show individuals knee-deep in muddy flood water with vehicles left completely stranded and submerged. 

“Infrastructure including bridges, highways and roads have been damaged, disrupting traffic and upending the lives of millions across the city. Many have stocked up on fuel for their generators in case of power outages,”  said Afia Salam, a climate change advocate in Karachi.

“Climate change is a threat. We are a coastal city. It’s happening so fast and we will bear the brunt. People need to see the situation beyond individual events like a bridge falling or a road getting flooded.”

“The rapidity of these events is increasing and our response is not keeping pace. We are being reactive to individual events. Strategies need to be put in place, the poorest and most vulnerable are on the front line of the crisis,” said Salam.

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“Karachi, the country’s financial capital, boasts luxury hotels, malls and upmarket gated communities. But disparities in wealth and development remain, and an estimated 50% of its residents are forced to live in informal settlements,” according to the World Bank.

“Karachi’s infrastructure is highly vulnerable to climate-related disasters,” according to the World Bank.

Experts are stating that the climate crisis in Pakistan is also being exacerbated by poor flood management and ineffective disaster response. 

Extreme weather events in South Asia are becoming more frequent due to climate change, with temperatures in parts of India and Pakistan reaching record highs during a heat wave in April and May. 

According to a 2022 report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), they had “medium confidence that heat waves and humidity stress would become more intense and frequent, and annual and summer monsoon precipitation will increase.”

According to the IPCC India and Pakistan are among the countries that are expected to be the most affected by climate change.

‘The Acrobats Of The Skunk World,’ Scientists Discover Handstanding Spotted Skunks

Scientists have recently discovered that there are more spotted skunk species than initially thought. Initially, it was agreed that there were four different species of spotted skunk, but according to the Molecular Phylogenetics and Evolution scientific journal, there are seven spotted skunk species. 

“North America is one of the most-studied continents in terms of mammals, and carnivores are one of the most-studied groups. Everyone thinks we know everything about mammalian carnivore systematics, so being able to redraw the skunk family tree is very exciting,” said study author Adam Ferguson.

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Spotted skunks are smaller than their striped relatives; about the size of a squirrel. They live all throughout North America and are carnivores. When it comes time to scare off a predator, these skunks perform a handstand and kick out their back legs as a form of intimidation.

“When they’re stressed, they bounce up onto their forelimbs and then kick out their hind limbs, puff their tail up, and they actually can walk towards the predator, basically making them look bigger and scarier. These ‘ecologically cryptic’ creatures live in dense environments and remote areas and seem less adaptable to urbanization than their larger, striped counterparts, Ferguson said.

Spotted skunks keep such a low profile that it makes them hard to study. The first spotted skunk was discovered in 1758, and since then there have been 6 potential other skunk species. Ferguson explained how they determined there were seven kinds of spotted skunks after analyzing data and observing them in their natural habitat. 

Ferguson and his team went to Mexico six times, and never caught a spotted skunk, but if they did they likely would’ve had a smelly surprise waiting for them. 

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“We call it the smell of success because it means we’ve actually encountered one, which is the ultimate goal. I was inspired to make ‘wanted’ posters and distribute them across central Texas in feed stores and areas where ranchers and trappers operate. The posters described the need for any spotted skunks that may have been trapped or found as roadkill and showed photos of the creatures,” he explained. 

The researchers also analyzed museum collection specimens to give them a greater understanding of their evolution and history. 

“I was able to extract DNA from century-old museum samples, and it was really exciting to see who those individuals were related to. It turns out that one of those was a currently unrecognized, endemic species in the Yucatan,” said study author Molly McDonough.

“The study wouldn’t have been possible without the museum specimens we had. The only reason we were able to get sequences from the more recent spotted skunk discoveries were museum specimens that were collected 60 or 70 years ago,” Ferguson said.

Skunks originally appeared in fossil records some 25 million years ago, and during that time they evolved and split into different species due to climate change and the ice age. 

“Knowing more about spotted skunks can also help conservation efforts to protect these animals. Skunks have their own role to play within the ecosystem, consuming fruit and defecating seeds that help with the dispersal of plants, as well as preying on crop pests and rodents,” Ferguson said.

Songbird

Flock of Undiscovered Songbirds Discovered Across Remote Islands

Since 1999, only an average of around five or six new bird species have been discovered across the planet each year. Therefore, it’s no surprise that the discovery of ten previously unseen songbird species has been met with a great deal of interest by ornithology and biodiversity experts the world over.

The discovery, detailed in the Jan. 10 issue of Science magazine, reveals an intriguing look at avian biodiversity. Made across several Southeast Asian islands near Sulawesi in the Wallacea region – Peleng, Taliabu and the Togian group – the discovery lists five new species alongside five new subspecies, based on the physical features, DNA and song variations of the birds. Some of these differences are visually prominent – for example, the yellow-bellied Togian jungle-flycatcher (Cyornis omissus omississimus) features a crown of iridescent blue feathers to set it apart from its cousins.

It had long been suspected that islands of Taliabu, Peleng and the Togian group may be home to a number of undiscovered bird species. The islands in question are separated from Sulawesi, the nearest landmass, by deep ocean waters; this has restricted a number of animals for intermingling throughout the region, as well as limiting access from predators. In fact, a number of tropical forest birds in the area rarely explore outside of safe, shady forest cover, meaning they are relatively undisturbed by other species.

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In recent years, the majority of new bird species have been found in South America, namely Peru and Brazil. The discovery of new species in Indonesia isn’t a total surprise though, as some researchers in the 1990s did identify what they believed to be new songbird species in the region, but neglected to collect specimens or formally describe any findings. However the fact that animals have been able to exist and survive there for so long without being documented is somewhat surprising – especially considering the number of species found.

The birds are not living without risk though – logging and severe forest fires have been threatening their habitats in recent years, and some predictions suggest the newly discovered species may not survive many more years. These elements are putting a great deal of pressure on biodiversity across the planet, and while conservation efforts are working hard to ensure the survival of such species, little can be done for those that have yet to be discovered.

So what does this discovery mean for avian biodiversity across the world as a whole? Considering North America alone has seen numbers of birds decline by 29% since 1970, the survival of these species is crucial. In the U.S., these numbers are largely due to the loss of natural habitat caused by both climate change and agricultural development, as birds are struggling to survive without the correct environment available, while seabirds are also facing the threat of marine heat waves. Living so remotely, the newly discovered songbirds have managed to largely avoid some of these factors – however this does not mean they aren’t at risk from environmental threats.

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The general consensus between researchers is that Earth is currently undergoing a sixth mass extinction, meaning for the sixth time in the life of the planet global fauna is experiencing a catastrophic collapse in numbers. The United Nations predicts up to one million species could face extinction, and this includes a large number of birds. Conservation groups are working hard to ensure that animals are protected from threats, but as we have seen with the recent wildfires in Australia, this is not always possible. Taliabu and Peleng’s own forest fires have proved that the birds are at risk, and the situation is not getting any better.

Frank Rheindt, associate professor of biological sciences at NUS and one of the researchers involved in the discovery, has been keen to encourage the importance of increased protective efforts, stating that “while most of the avifauna we described seems to tolerate some form of habitat degradation and is readily detected in secondary forest and edge, some species or subspecies are doubtless threatened by the immense levels of habitat loss on these islands. As such, urgent, long-lasting conservation action is needed for some of the new forms to survive longer than a couple of decades beyond their date of description.”

On the whole, the revelation is an overwhelmingly positive one – such a wealth of species points to positive levels of biodiversity in the region. Rheindt and his team are optimistic that the methods used in this discovery could be effectively applied in other regions and for other forms of wildlife in the future. “Going forward, the use of earth-history and bathymetric information could also be applied to other terrestrial organisms and regions beyond the Indonesian Archipelago to identify promising islands that potentially harbour new taxa to be uncovered,” stated Rheindt.

Blue Whale

Scientists Take A Blue Whale’s Heart Rate For The First Time And Are Shocked By What They Hear

Blue whales are the largest, and potentially most majestic, mammals on the planet. They can grow up to 100 feet in length, and weigh up to 150 tons! Scientists have long studied the blue whale to greater understand the way it lives, how it’s body functions and thrives as it does at such a massive size. For the first time ever, scientists have gained a greater insight into an aspect of the blue whale’s anatomy that can be considered one of the most important bodily functions in all living things; its heartbeat. 

Scientists have never been able to properly take a blue whale’s heartbeat. It’s massive size, thick blubber, and constant mobility made it nearly impossible for scientists to create a device that would accurately take a reading of the whales heartbeat; until now. According to Live Science Magazine, a team of marine biologists were finally able to take the measurements by combining a pulse monitor with suction cup technology that allowed for the monitor to stay stable and attached to the blue whales back. The research took place off the coast of California, where scientists watched and recorded the blue whale diving and resurfacing for nine hours straight. Blue whales do this to alternate between filling their lungs with a high amount of oxygen for their deep dives, and then filling their stomach with hundreds of thousands of tiny fish that are below the surface. 

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As the scientists were monitoring the whales heartbeat, they made a very intriguing discovery. The average heart rate of the blue whale that was studied was four to eight beats per minute. The highest it got during its deep dive was 34 beats per minute, and the lowest was a whopping two beats per minute! 

The study based on this data was published this week in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, which concluded that “the simple act of catching a bite [to eat] may push a blue whale’s heart to its physical limits and that could explain why no creatures larger than blue whales have ever been spotted on Earth. Animals that are operating at physiological extremes can also help us understand biological limits to size,” lead study author Jeremy Goldbogen, an assistant professor at Stanford University in California, said in a statement.

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The study is revealing the science behind how the Earth’s largest creatures develop an anatomy strong enough to keep such a massive living being alive. Blue whale’s hearts are, on average, around 400 pounds, and are roughly the size of a golf cart. While that data is staggering, it makes sense considering that heart needs to pump blood in an animal that’s about the size of two large school buses. 

While the team of marine biologists expected that the blue whale’s heart rate would be relatively slow, the data they recorded was 50% slower than what they originally hypothesized. The study meticulously measured how long the whale was under the surface of the ocean, at the surface, diving, breathing, etc. What they found was that the whale’s longest dive lasted a total of 16.5 minutes and had traveled 600 feet below the ocean’s surface in that time. The whale also didn’t spend any more than 4 minutes at the surface to refill its lungs. 

As the whale got progressively deeper and deeper, its heart rate slowed down. Scientists know this is because their bodies are more concentrated on distributing whatever oxygen is in the whale’s lungs to their heart and brain exclusively. On the opposite end, when the whale would come back up to the surface, it’s heart rate would accelerate up to 25-37 beats per minute. This occurred so that the whale’s bloodstream could rapidly distribute oxygen throughout its entire body and recharge it for the next dive. Researchers believe that it’s unlikely the massive heart of the blue whale would have the capability of beating any faster than that, hence the limit to its size and why the Earth doesn’t have any other animal larger than it.

Doctor with Patient

Researchers Argue Sex and Gender Analysis Improves Science

It has long been understood in scientific circles that unconscious biases, particularly those relating to sex and gender, can have a negative impact on the objectivity of scientific findings. While the goal of science is to discover the truth in as objective a manner as possible, scientists are prone to the same unintentional, biased assumptions as anyone else, and the quality of scientific work can be affected. For instance, the appropriate dosage for a medicine may be devised with the assumption that the patient is male, leading to suboptimal dosage recommendations for women. As another example, safety equipment too can be designed with the physical concerns of men in mind, negatively affecting women who use the equipment. And as machine learning technologies advance, engineers are realizing that machine learning programs are capable of picking up on human beings’ unconscious biases and replicating them, perpetuating the problem.

In light of these realizations, much conversation has taken place regarding how best to correct for sex and gender bias in science. This concept is explored in an article posted in Nature entitled “Sex and gender analysis improves science and engineering.” The article’s authors argue that taking sex and gender into consideration while conducting science not only benefits less-advantaged individuals by recognizing the institutional challenges they face, but also improves the quality of science itself, as unconscious biases are identified and corrected. This approach, the authors claim, benefits multiple scientific fields, including medicine, artificial intelligence, and even climatology. 

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While many consider the terms synonyms, the researchers explain the difference between sex and gender, defining the former as including mainly biological attributes, whereas they define the latter as “psychological, social and cultural factors that shape attitudes, behaviours, stereotypes, technologies, and knowledge.” This distinction is important because sex and gender interact in complex ways; for instance, there exist physiological differences relating to the experience of pain between the sexes, and gender impacts how patients communicate pain with doctors and researchers. The researchers point out several improvements which have been made in this area over the past several decades; for instance, crash test dummies were originally based on a male physique, but now represent more diverse body shapes, allowing engineers to design vehicles that are safe for a larger number of people. However, they also point out areas for future improvement. 

As advanced technology continues to influence society, ensuring that it doesn’t perpetuate harmful stereotypes takes on additional importance.

In their paper, the scientists focus on the surprising and complicated ways sex and gender manifest across a variety of disciplines, with the most focus placed on marine science, biomedicine, robotics, and artificial intelligence. The authors discuss how sex impacts science even in non-humans, as male and female marine life react differently to the effects of changing ocean temperatures, an observation which has generated insights about more accurately modelling the effects of climate change. In human beings, sex differences account for disparities in responses to various medicines, such as vasopressin and cancer immunotherapy, for biological reasons including differences in amounts of testosterone and estrogen and overall body composition.

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Perhaps more surprisingly, artificial intelligence is a field in which unconscious biases can make their way into technologies, unintentionally perpetuating cultural biases and stereotypes. For instance, advertising algorithms are more likely to automatically serve ads for high-paying jobs to men than to women, and automatic image captioning algorithms tend to misidentify pictures of men in kitchens as women. As advanced technology continues to influence society, ensuring that artificial intelligence doesn’t perpetuate harmful stereotypes takes on additional importance.

The authors conclude by proposing solutions to many of the problems with sex and gender biases in science they identify. One suggestion is to foster greater interactions between the scientific community and the humanities, including social scientists. Allowing for interdepartmental conversations in this way helps scientists to learn about how biases emerge and affect human reasoning, and can incorporate this knowledge into their work. Additionally, the researchers advocate for greater transparency in scientists’ reporting by including variables relating to sex and gender in their data analyses. 

Air Pollution Towers

How Nature Can Help Reduce Air Pollution

Climate change is a permanent epidemic that the Earth has been enduring for decades. Now, in 2019, it’s the worst it’s ever been, so much so that a lot of the damage is irreversible. Government bodies worldwide have made monetary commitments, policies for greener cities, and have invested in technology and science to help save the huge amount of healthy Earth that has been lost. However, studies show that the best way to regain the natural environment that has been lost, is to use nature itself, as opposed to complex technology. This is especially true for helping areas of the world suffering greatly from air pollution and industrial powers expelling greenhouse gases and other harmful substances into the atmosphere. 

A study published by Physics.org revealed that planting trees and other plants near areas of heavy air pollution can help reduce that pollution by up to 27%! Plants would also be a much cheaper alternative to enforcing the use of green technology to combat negative air emissions. The research conducted measured areas of land near power plants, industrial factory sites, roadways, gas and oil drilling sites, etc. and found that in 75% of the land data collected, growing new plant life near these sites would be the cheapest option to reducing air pollution.

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“The fact is that traditionally, especially as engineers, we don’t think about nature; we just focus on putting technology into everything, and so, one key finding is that we need to start looking at nature and learning from it and respecting it. There are win-win opportunities if we do—opportunities that are potentially cheaper and better environmentally,” said Bhavik Bakshi, lead author of the study and professor of chemical and bio-molecular engineering at The Ohio State University.

The study was extensive; researchers took air pollution data from different counties in 48 out of the 50 states in America. The research compared and contrasted the level of air pollution with the amount of vegetation that was in those areas to begin with. Then, they calculated how much it would cost to add additional trees and plants to those areas, based off different state-wide costs and regulations. They then took the data of the current state of each counties pollution/vegetation levels and calculated the capacity to which the vegetation alleviated and reduced pollution without any additional plants/trees. According to the study, researchers focused on major air pollutants found all over the world; sulfur dioxide, nitrogen dioxide, and any other particulate matter that contributes to smog such as dust or soot.

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Through their calculations, it was found that restoring vegetation to its full potential in each county (based on their specific environmental conditions), could reduce air pollution up to 27%. It’s important to emphasize that restoration would be different for every county. For example, the amount of vegetation restoration that would be needed in a vast farming landscape in Mississippi would be much less than that of a desert environment in California. However, even though the types of landscapes are vastly different all over the world, the research showed that air pollution could be lowered in urban settings just as much as more rural settings as long as the ratio of vegetation is calculated and correctly executed. This conclusion is great news in regard to our planets overall health and restoration. Additionally, it’s important for our health as human beings, and any other living thing on Earth. Poor air quality can lead to diseases such as lung cancer, heart disease, asthma, throat cancer, etc. and research shows that areas of the world with heavily polluted air tend to also have higher rates of these diseases for the individuals living there. 

“The thing that we are interested in is basically making sure that engineering contributes positively to sustainable development, and one big reason why engineering has not done that is because engineering has kept nature outside of its system boundary,” Bakshi said.

It’s time that we help fight nature with nature. Human beings made the creations that are killing the planet, and while we’ve thought that more man-made devices can help reverse that damage, maybe it’s time we take a page out of Mother Nature’s book and help let her do the restorative work we all so desperately need.

Earth

New Research Hints at Origin of Life on Earth

While the theory of evolution is broadly accepted as fact among scientists, more controversy exists over explanations for the ultimate origin of life on Earth. However, new research published in Nature Ecology & Evolution sheds light on a potential theory for the origin of living things by attempting to recreate the conditions of the early earth and exploring how they could lead to the development of “protocells,” which are thought to be fundamental “building blocks” of all life. In an experiment, researchers successfully created conditions that led to the development of protocells by replicating the environment of underwater hydrothermal vents, whose combination of heat, alkalinity, and minerals are instrumental in the creation of protocells.

Though multiple competing theories explaining the origin of life exist, including Darwin’s assertion that life probably first evolved in shallow pools of warm water, the theory that life originally began within underwater thermal vents is supported by evidence, including the discovery of some of the world’s oldest fossils nearby these vents. Now, this explanation for the creation of life seems even more likely, as demonstrating the creation of protocells under these conditions is a key argument supporting the theory. Although the results of this research do not definitively prove that life on earth began in underwater hydrothermal vents, the researchers assert that the possibility of this explanation cannot be ruled out.

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Hydrothermal vents are located deep under the Earth’s seas, where minerals from the planet’s crust react with seawater, creating a warm, alkaline, and hydrogen-rich environment. This process leads to the creation of so-called chimneys, which are rich with alkaline and acidic fluids, enabling the formation of complex organic compounds, including, as this new research shows, protocells. These vents emerge spontaneously along fault lines as a result of geological processes, and have existed on Earth for millions, if not billions of years. Hydrothermal vents are known for being areas of the deep sea where life is relatively abundant, as they tend to be populated by shrimp, worms, and clams, who feed off of the energy and materials present around the vents.

This research has strong implications not only for the beginning of life on Earth, but for the potential for life to form elsewhere in space.

Protocells are, in essence, the most basic form of a cell, consisting of a bilayer membrane around an aqueous solution. Previous experiments succeeded in creating these cells in cool, fresh water, but only under tightly controlled conditions. Also, previous experiments attempting to replicate hydrothermal vents have failed to generate protocells which don’t fall apart. In this most recent experiment, however, the scientists identified a flaw with previous research on creating protocells in hydrothermal vents; namely, these experiments used a limited number of types of molecules, whereas in natural environments, you would expect to see a wide range of different types of molecules.

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Whereas it was previously thought that heat, alkalinity, and salt posed obstacles in the creation of protocells, this new research shows that these factors were actually beneficial in the process. This is because head allowed long carbon chains to form into a protocell structure, an alkaline solution helped protocells keep their electric charge, and saltwater helps fat molecules band together, forming more stable structures. What’s notable about this experiment is that while protocells have been created artificially in laboratory environments before, they had never been before created under conditions that match the chemistry of the early Earth.

This research has strong implications not only for the beginning of life on Earth, but for the potential for life to form elsewhere in space. This is because space missions have revealed the presence of similar hydrothermal vents on extraterrestrial bodies, including the icy moons of Jupiter and Saturn. Life on other planets or moons has not yet been discovered, of course, but research into the origins of life on Earth could give scientists a better idea of where in space to look for extraterrestrial life.