Friday, May 11, 2012

Sustainability news from campuses on the 2012 campaign trail: Indiana, North Carolina, and West Virginia


Yesterday, I promised:
I'll have another installment of news from Indiana, North Carolina, and West Virginia tomorrow. I might even throw in news from Wisconsin if I'm ambitious. After all, Wisconsin had their own elections Tuesday, "Total Recall" starring Scott Walker.
I'm not feeling that ambitious, so I'll just stick with the stories I already included in Overnight News Digest: Science Saturday. As for Wisconsin stories, I'll probably add them to this Saturday's OND and start posting them next week.

General Sustainability

Purdue University: Links between animal health and food safety studied
May 4, 2012

WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. – The head of Purdue University's Department of Animal Sciences was on a team of experts that examined the relationship between the health of agricultural animals and consumers' increasing demand for safe food. The report will be released Monday (May 7) in Washington, D.C.

Alan Mathew co-wrote "Healthy Animals Make Confident Consumers" with five other members of a task force organized by the nonprofit Council for Agricultural Science and Technology.

"This was our attempt to review the literature regarding animal health and food safety and determine what research needs to be conducted to determine the connection between the care and health of food animals and food safety," Mathew said.
University of North Carolina: UNC Nutrition Research Institute study identifies gene associated with male infertility
April 30, 2012

Fifteen of every 100 couples in the world who want to have children find it difficult or impossible to conceive. In about half those couples, the male partner is infertile. Now researchers at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill Nutrition Research Institute in Kannapolis have found a possible genetic cause for some cases of male infertility.

A study led by Amy Johnson, Ph.D., a postdoctoral research associate working under institute director Steven H. Zeisel, M.D., Ph.D., has found that a genetic variant, called a single nucleotide polymorphism (SNP), is associated with human sperm motility. Between 5 percent and 10 percent of men are affected.

The SNP commonly occurs within the gene for human choline dehyrdogenase (CHDH) and can influence the amount of choline required in an individual’s diet. Choline, a nutrient used to form cell membranes, is found in eggs, meats and wheat germ, among other foods.
Population is the ultimate sustainability problem, so anything that increases it or decreases it is on topic here.

West Virginia University: WVU journalism student receives Young Botanist Award from the Botanical Society of America
May 2, 2012
Studying both journalism and biology at West Virginia University, senior Codi Yeager has been recognized for both her interests in plant biology and writings about botanical science.

Yeager is the recipient of a Young Botanist Award, given by the Botanical Society of America. The purpose of these awards is to offer individual recognition to outstanding graduating seniors in the plant sciences and to encourage their participation in the Botanical Society of America.

This is the first award given to a journalist-botanist by the society, emphasizing the importance of communicating plant science to the public. Yeager’s academic background and investigative approach made her well qualified to write accurate and engaging articles about botanical subjects for her journalism internships, utilizing her interdependent journalism major and biology minor.
Environment, including science

Purdue University: Tiny 'spherules' reveal details about Earth's asteroid impacts
April 25, 2012
WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. – Researchers are learning details about asteroid impacts going back to the Earth's early history by using a new method for extracting precise information from tiny "spherules" embedded in layers of rock.

The spherules were created when asteroids crashed into the Earth, vaporizing rock that expanded into space as a giant vapor plume. Small droplets of molten and vaporized rock in the plume condensed and solidified, falling back to Earth as a thin layer. The round or oblong particles were preserved in layers of rock, and now researchers have analyzed them to record precise information about asteroids impacting Earth from 3.5 billion to 35 million years ago.

"What we have done is provide the foundation for understanding how to interpret the layers in terms of the size and velocity of the asteroid that made them," said Jay Melosh, an expert in impact cratering and a distinguished professor of earth and atmospheric sciences, physics and aerospace engineering at Purdue University.
Society, including culture and politics

Purdue University: Prof: President's use of Bin Laden anniversary sets campaign tone
May 4, 2012
WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. - President Barack Obama, like his presidential predecessors, is making the best use of the opportunity to travel to Afghanistan and mark the anniversary of Osama Bin Laden's death while reshaping public perception about the Republican Party's leadership in foreign policy, says a Purdue University public opinion expert.

"Going into the campaign season, there are certain expectations - really stereotypes - about which party serves one area, such as foreign affairs or social issues, better than the other," says James McCann, a professor of political science who studies voter behavior and public opinion.
"Right now there is a dance between the media and both parties to see what issues will creep to the top of the agenda," he says. "By highlighting Obama in this foreign policy role, the strategy is to take away the advantage that the Republicans might naturally have because it cuts against the stereotype. Obama is making best use of the opportunity, similar to his predecessors."
As I've noted before, war is a sustainability issue.

Purdue University: Celebrity deaths have special place in social media world
April 24, 2012
WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. — Retweeting, status updates and other social media posts about the latest celebrity death are more than fans saying good-bye, says a Purdue University mass media effects expert.

"Fans lack the usual channels through which people would normally use to express their sorrow and grief," says Glenn Sparks, professor of communication. "We can't phone the celebrity's family to express our grief. We can't offer to bring meals to the house. We're generally not invited to attend the funeral services. In short, while we still care immensely and have deep emotional involvement with the person, we have none of the usual social outlets for our emotional expression. That's where social media may be playing an increasingly important role."
Economy, including technology

University of North Carolina: Online retailers, shipping companies give minors access to alcohol, study finds
May 07, 2012
Minors can easily purchase alcohol online as a result of poor age verification by Internet alcohol vendors and shipping companies such as FedEx and UPS, according to a new study from University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill researchers.

The study, published in the May issue of the Archives of Pediatrics and Adolescent Medicine, found that 45 out of 100 orders attempted by underage buyers were successful, even though they provided their real underage driver license when asked. Only 28 percent of orders placed by minors were rejected because of age verification.

“With just a few clicks on their computer or smartphone, kids can order alcohol delivered to their home.” said Rebecca Williams, Ph.D., research associate at UNC’s Center for Health Promotion and Disease Prevention and lead author of the study. “We were amazed at how easy it was for minors to buy alcohol online. Using their real ID and a prepaid Visa card, they could place an order for alcohol in just a few minutes and often have it delivered to their door in a matter of days without anyone ever trying to verify their age.”
Purdue University: Modern hybrid corn makes better use of nitrogen, study shows
April 30, 2012
WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. - Today's hybrid corn varieties more efficiently use nitrogen to create more grain, according to 72 years of public-sector research data reviewed by Purdue University researchers.

Tony Vyn, a professor of agronomy, and doctoral student Ignacio Ciampitti looked at nitrogen use studies for corn from two periods – 1940-1990 and 1991-2011. They wanted to see whether increased yields were due to better nitrogen efficiency or whether new plants were simply given additional nitrogen to produce more grain.

"Corn production often faces the criticism from society that yields are only going up because of an increased dependency on nitrogen," said Vyn, whose findings were published in the early online version of the journal Field Crops Research. "Although modern hybrids take up more total nitrogen per acre during the growing season than they did before, the amount of grain produced per pound of nitrogen accumulated in corn plants is substantially greater than it was for corn hybrids of earlier decades. So, in that sense, the efficiency of nitrogen utilization has gradually improved."
Purdue University: Climate change, biofuels mandate would cause corn price spikes
April 23, 2012
WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. - A study from Purdue and Stanford university researchers predicts that future climate scenarios may cause significantly greater volatility in corn prices, which would be intensified by the federal biofuels mandate.

The findings, published this week in the journal Nature Climate Change, show that severely hot conditions in corn-growing regions and extreme climate events that are expected to impact supply would cause swings in corn prices. When coupled with federal mandates for biofuel production, the price volatility could increase by about 50 percent over the period from 2020-2040 as compared to recent history.

"There could be quite a substantial increase in yield volatility, and that's due to the increased frequency and intensity of the high temperatures throughout the Corn Belt," said Thomas Hertel, a Purdue distinguished professor of agricultural economics. "Closer integration of the corn and energy markets through the ethanol industry could aid in buffering these shocks, but this would not occur in the presence of a mandate."
This could have gone under general sustainability, but it works as a conclusion just as well.

For the Play theme, here is the Purdue University Band playing the college's fight song.

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