Here’s another rat story but with a positive spin instead of ending up at the wrong end of a pitch fork. In Tanzania rats have been successful trained to hunt land mines. Now thailand is trying the same along the Burmese border where humans and elephants have had a history of land mine casualties.
“Rats have excellent senses of smell and weigh too little to set off land mines with their bodies, making them the perfect alternative to using robots or humans to find mines in war-torn countries. Plus, they like to socialize, are easy to train, and are motivated almost entirely by food. HeroRATs have already found 861 land mines in Tanzania and Mozambique, allowing trained technicians to destroy the mines before they can harm local residents.”
Taken at the Marcy House projects in Brooklyn last week this photo apparently shows housing worker Jose Rivera holding a three-foot rat he killed at the end of a pitch fork.Rivera told The Daily News he hit the rodent once and it kept moving, but he struck it again and it died. “I’m not scared of rats,” he said, “but I was scared of being bitten.” Rivera was filling a rat hole when three came running up at him, but he managed to kill only one.
Read more: Business Insider
Environmental changes have always had a profound impact on the evolution of species. The advent of cities like NYC, have especially brought along swift environmental changes, steering evolution in a completely new direction. White footed mice for example, originally brought along by European settlers, have now become accustomed to urban stress, and have adopted from living in forests to modern day buildings. Scientists have also identified mutations in more than 1,000 genes in NYC mice, as compared to mice from other parks upstate.
Fish swimming along the Hudson River have experienced a very interesting change due in large part to environmental pollution. Once susceptible to deformities due to PCBs in the water, fish larvae were plagued with deformities. The fish, however,have now evolved to the point where they are resistant to PCBs and other poisons in the river.
Lockheed Martin wanted to sell F-16 fighter jets to the Thai government
The Problem: Lockheed Martin was competing with Russia’s Sukhoi and Sweden’s Saab. Also the Thai government didn’t want to pay in cash, so it proposed paying with 80,000 tons of frozen chickens.
The Role of U.S. Diplomats: They actually worked to promote the odd-ball deal since it A) helped Lockheed and B) kept the Russians from winning the deal. Incredibly, Lockheed indicated that it was “was willing to play ball” and accept chickens as payment. Nevertheless, the chickens-for-jets plan never panned out because the Thai regime was ousted in a military coup.
By Jen Phillips | Thu Dec. 16, 2010 4:15 AM PST
For some time, it’s been apparent that just as climate change is killing some species, it’s making room for others to expand, or fostering creation of new species  altogether via hybridization. In the Arctic, hybridization is a particular problem for conservationists trying to save unique species from extinction.
Take the magnificent polar bear: with thick white fur over black skin, and blubber up to 5″ thick, the animal is well-adapted to a cold environment. But as temperatures climb and animals begin to roam, it’s interacting (and breeding) with species it would have rarely encountered before. In 2006 a hunter killed an animal that was found to be half grizzly and half polar bear, the first known “grolar bear.” Another grizzly-polar hybrid was killed in April : DNA tests showed that not only was it a hybrid, it was a second-generation mix. Its mother was a “grolar” that had mated with a male grizzly bear, scientists said . Some have called it a “pizzly” to denote both its hybrid status and to differentiate it from the half polar-half grizzly “grolar.” Bears aren’t the only Arctic mammals creating hybrid offspring: biologists have evidence of harp seals mating with hooded seals, and narwhals mating with belugas.
In the current issue of Nature, a new study  says that we can expect these hybridizations to increase. Lead author University of Alaska professor Brendan Kelly says that  as animals used to Arctic isolation begin encountering their southern cousins, “they will mate, hybrids will form and rare species are likely to go extinct.” Already, many Arctic species are facing extinction due to shrinking habitats, decreasing food supplies, and competition from new species. As these factors shrink or scatter populations and biodiversity decreases, it makes sense that animals would mate with those of other species in order to pass on their genes. But in doing so, they compromise their species own survival even further. As the NRDC’s Andrew Wetzler told OnEarth , “When a species hybridizes, its gene pool can be compromised and even lost. Eventually, the ‘species’ you were trying to protect simply doesn’t exist anymore.”
I would counter that although yes, it is upsetting species are going extinct, hybridization is a natural process and can eventually create new species. In the case of mammals with long life spans, the creation of new species will take quite a while since each generation may last 30 years. And for the polar bear, that is simply time it doesn’t have. As Kelly put it,  “This change is happening so rapidly that it doesn’t bode well for adaptive responses.” Kelly has recommended culling hybrids when feasible, but the best thing for Arctic species, he’s said, is reducing carbon emissions.
“I didn’t want to believe it,” said Ms. Mayo, a soft-spoken young woman who has long been active in the slow-food movement. She found it particularly hard to believe that the bees would travel all the way from Governors Island to gorge themselves on junk food. “Why would they go to the cherry factory,” she said, “when there’s a lot for them to forage right there on the farm?”
It seems natural, by now, for humans to prefer the unnatural, as if we ourselves had been genetically modified to choose artificially flavored strawberry candy over strawberries, or crunchy orange “cheese” puffs over a piece of actual cheese. But when bees make the same choice, it feels like a betrayal to our sense of how nature should work. Shouldn’t they know better? Or, perhaps, not know enough to know better?
But Mr. Selig said there was something extraordinary, too, about those corn-syrup-happy bees that came flying back this summer.
by Timon Singh, 11/22/10
Wi-fi networks blanket urban areas around the world, keeping us constantly connected to the internet wherever we may be — however a new European study finds that these networks may have harmful side-effects on the environment. According to a report by Wageningen University, the constant humming of internet data centers and wi-fi networks could have an adverse effect on nearby trees. The article states that the background radiation produced by these beacons of tech could be making trees sick.
According to the report, trees in urban areas of the Netherlands have shown an increasing number of damage such as cracks, bumps, discoloration and various forms of tissue damage. There have also been significant variations in growth, as well as bleeding and fissures in the bark.
The Wageningen University report was ordered by the city of Alphen aan den Rijn five years ago after officials found unexplained abnormalities on trees that couldn’t be ascribed to a virus or bacterial infection. According to the study, 70 percent of all trees in urban areas in the Netherlands have shown the same symptoms, compared with only 10 percent five years ago. Meanwhile, trees in densely forested areas have hardly been affected. Further studyhas also showed that the disease has similarities affecting trees throughout the Western hemisphere.
A single-family home in California has been “invaded” by bees—so much so that honey is now leaking from the electrical outlets, coming “from a giant beehive behind the walls.”
A radioactive rabbit caught at Hanford just north of Richland had Washington State Department of Health workers looking for contaminated droppings Thursday.
Contaminated animals occasionally are found at the nuclear reservation, but more often they are in the center of Hanford, far from town.
The rabbit trapped at the 300 Area caught the Department of Health’s attention because it was close enough to the site’s boundaries to potentially come in contact with the public — such as if it had been caught by a dog or if its droppings were deposited in an area open to the public.
It’s the Department of Health’s job to look for contamination off-site and make sure there is no public hazard.
However, an afternoon of surveying turned up no contaminated droppings in areas accessible to the public, said Earl Fordham, the department’s regional director of the Office of Radiation Protection.
“When Mr. Landers read of the federal government’s gassing and disposal of nearly 400 Canada geese in Prospect Park in the name of airline safety, and then read comments on City Room that Canada geese were not fit for human consumption anyway, he recognized an educational opportunity.
“I saw people saying you can’t eat them, and I knew that wasn’t true,” he said. Canada geese, Mr. Landers said, taste better than most species of duck. Their diets are more consistent. “They’re herbivores, grazers,” he said. “In Prospect Park, they’re eating mown grass.”
…With the help of a Brooklyn chef, Leighton Edmondson, Mr. Landers will cook and serve the geese — paired with New York State wines, of course — at a two-hour workshop under the auspices of Slow Food NYC.
- but keep in mind that hunting is still not allowed in prospect park.