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Posts Tagged ‘helen palmer’

I’m hearing more and more these days about “good bacteria,” including in a song by singer-composer Will McMillan on the friendly bacteria we humans carry around.

Now, it seems, bacteria found in soil may help to save amphibians from dangerous fungal epidemics. Public Radio International’s environmental news program, Living on Earth, has the story.

“Around the world, fungal diseases have been killing millions of frogs and bats and snakes. And a newly emerging disease in salamanders in Europe is scaring biologists here, so the US Fish and Wildlife Service has introduced a ban on their import to try to protect amphibians in the US.

“But now scientists see some hope in soil bacteria that get onto the salamanders and frogs and apparently protect them. Doug Woodhams is an assistant professor of biology at UMass Boston, who’s been working with amphibians in Panama – and he explained what his team has found to Living on Earth’s Helen Palmer.

“WOODHAMS: Some of the amphibians have beneficial bacteria that live on their skin and these have antifungal properties.

“PALMER: This is kind of like having good bacteria in your gut, for instance, that stop you from getting sick. … Is there any evidence that  good bacteria actually work against devastating funguses?

“WOODHAMS: Yeah, there’s quite a bit of evidence. Many of the bacteria that we can culture from some amphibian species are able to inhibit the fungus in culture. We also have some population-level data that shows populations that tend to have these antifungal bacteria can persist with Bd in the environment and survive. …

“Bd is the chytrid fungus that’s been spreading around the world and devastating amphibian populations. So salamanders, frogs, toads. Populations that tend to have more of these beneficial bacteria seem to be surviving, and populations that don’t have as many of the individuals that have these bacteria seem to disappear. …

“The next thing we want to try is adding some of these bacteria, not just to petri dishes, but to soil and see if infected amphibians can be cleared of their infection by being housed on soil that’s been inoculated with these bacteria. …

“There are other fungal pathogens, so it could be something that you could apply in a cave that could reduce White-nosed syndrome [in bats]. Also, rattlesnakes have been recently affected by fungal disease during hibernation, so it could be applied into a rattlesnake den.”

More on the science here.

Photo: Matt Becker
The Appalachian Mountains are home to this Cow Knob Salamander, Plethodon punctatus, from George Washington National Forest, Virginia.

 

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Here’s a green-transportation update from the radio show Living on Earth.

“ELF stands for Electric, Light and Fun, And this particular Elf is an invention that launched with a Kickstarter in 2013. As Living on Earth’s Helen Palmer reported, it’s a human- and solar-powered, covered tricycle that aims to create a commuting revolution, and might just help combat climate change. Now two years on from the Elf’s Kickstarter campaign, its designer and developer, Rob Cotter, tells Living on Earth’s Helen Palmer how successful the invention has proved. …

“COTTER: Many years ago I was working for Porsche and BMW more on the race-car side of things — and I was living in Southern Calif. — and they were building the Gossamer Condor and Gossamer Albatross — the pedal-powered aircraft — not too far from me, so I kind of linked up with those folks. … I became vice president of land for human-powered vehicles, I built a 62 mph tricycle about 30 years ago — and once I realized you could go highway speeds at one horsepower — I realized how inefficient everything is that we do. …

“PALMER: [Elf] uses no gas at all: just human-power, sun-power and a battery pack with a 30-mile range. It’s not built for highways though — only for local roads, and bike trails, as federal regs say a bicycle can’t go faster than 20 miles an hour. Cotter says if enough people who drive about 30 miles a day climbed out of their cars and into an Elf, the effect on greenhouse gas emissions could be startling. …

“COTTER: Each one of these on the road takes about 28 tons of CO2 out of the atmosphere per year — so 100 of these on the road are equivalent to a 4-megawatt wind turbine at about 20% of cost. … The base price is $4,000 [and] we have over 400 orders or reservations currently, just from our website.

“PALMER: And that was before the Kickstarter campaign got underway — they reached their $100,000 funding goal in 12 days, and 40 people have actually paid for the vehicles. …

“COTTER: We actually worked with an organization in San Jose that trains homeless people to become bicycle mechanics, so we went there as kind of a test pilot to see who could build this and how, and in a week’s time we taught them how actually to build ELFs, and maintain them, and service them …

“COTTER: People are using them all winter long in places like Canada. They’re pulling trailers, 500, 600-pound trailers around with snow-blowing equipment and yard equipment on there. They turn them into food trucks. There’s a gentleman in Pasadena that has a gelato freezer on the back … One gentleman rode from Ontario, Canada, to Key West, Florida, on his Elf all on secondary roads and bike paths. But the thing that amazes me most I think is people with disabilities that are using the Elf to increase their mobility. So, this one woman, she broke both her legs in 20 places and doctors said she would never walk again without assistance. And she purchased an Elf, she lowers herself in it, and takes off on electric power, and when she can she goes ahead and just rotates the pedals. And six months later, she’s riding 22 miles a day and able to walk without a cane.”

More here.

Photo: Joanna Rifkin
Inventor Rob Cotter shows reporter Helen Palmer the ELF.

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