STUDY VERIFIES MORE THAN 100,000 AFRICAN ELEPHANTS KILLED IN THREE YEARS

From the FMS Global News Desk of Jeanne Hambleton   Released: 19-Aug-2014  Source: Colorado State University  Citations Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences

 

Newswise — New research led by Colorado State University has revealed that an estimated 100,000 elephants in Africa were killed for their ivory between 2010 and 2012. The study shows these losses are driving population declines of the world’s wild African elephants on the order of 2 percent to 3 percent a year.

This study provides the first verifiable estimation of the impacts of the ongoing ivory crisis on Africa’s elephant populations to date, solidifying speculation about the scale of the ivory crisis. An average of 33,630 elephants per annum are calculated to have been lost over those three years, with preliminary data indicating unsustainable levels continued in 2013.

To quantify the poaching death toll, researchers drew on data and experience from a continent-wide intensive monitoring program. The most thoroughly studied site was Samburu in northern Kenya where every elephant birth and death over the past 16 years has been recorded. The intensive population study was conducted in a project founded by George Wittemyer of Colorado State University with Save the Elephants, and in association with the Kenya Wildlife Service.

Wittemyer is lead author of the new report and a professor in the Department of Fish, Wildlife and Conservation Biology at CSU’s Warner College of Natural Resources. He has dedicated his scientific career to understanding and conserving one of Earth’s most intelligent and charismatic species.

“Witnessing the killing of known elephants, some that we have followed since they were born, has been terrible,” said Wittemyer. “Our data has become the most sensitive barometer of change during this poaching epidemic. We needed to quantify the scale of killing and figure out how to derive rigorous interpretation of poaching rates.”

The researchers determined illegal killing in Samburu began to surge in 2009. This surge was directly correlated to a more than quadrupling of local black-market ivory prices paid to poachers and tripling in the volume and number of illegal ivory seizures through Kenyan ports of transit. The data also show that the destination of the illegally trafficked ivory increasingly shifted to China.

The team used the intensive study of the Samburu elephants as a Rosetta stone to translate less detailed information from 45 elephant populations across Africa to estimate natural mortality and illegal killing rates to model population trends for the species. The UN-mandated continental Monitoring of Illegal Killing of Elephants (MIKE) programme establishes cause of death for each elephant carcass found in these sites, and this has provided the best measure of poaching pressure.

Over the last decade, the proportion of illegally killed elephants has climbed from 25 percent to between 60 percent and 70 percent. Such figures cause conservationists alarm, as the study shows over 54 percent is a level of poaching that elephant birth rates are unable to overcome and will lead to population decline.

“This study helps make sense of the challenge faced by thousands of rangers working on the frontlines to protect elephants and other species across Africa,” said co-author Julian Blanc of the Convention on the International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) secretariat.

“It also highlights the importance of the accurate collection of data as part of their day-to-day patrol work, which is essential to understand and communicate the true proportions of the threat that elephants face.”

To establish figures rather than proportions, two types of model were used. One focused on the elephant populations with the best information and used them as an indicator for the conditions in their region of Africa. The other used proxy variables such as Chinese consumption rates and a corruption index to estimate illegal killing in 300 sites. Both came to similar conclusions.

While the timing and magnitude of declines differed by region in Africa, with central Africa experiencing the worst levels, all regions of Africa are facing unsustainable levels of ivory poaching with the killing peak in 2011 equating to more than 40,000 elephant deaths.

“It’s a complex situation for elephants across Africa, with some populations – such as in Botswana – still increasing. History has taught us that numbers alone are no defense against attrition from the ivory trade, and this new work confirms that elephant numbers are decreasing in East, Central and Southern Africa,” said co-author Iain Douglas-Hamilton, founder of Save the Elephants.

The research paper, “Illegal killing for ivory drives global decline in African elephants,” is published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States.

TARGETED BRAIN TRAINING MAY HELP YOU MULTITASK BETTER

From the FMS Global News Desk of Jeanne Hambleton Citations PLOS ONE                Released: 20-Aug-2014 Source Newsroom: Universite de Montreal By Dr. Sylvie Belleville,

 

Newswise — The area of the brain involved in multitasking and ways to train it have been identified by a research team at the IUGM Institut universitaire de gériatrie de Montréal and the University of Montreal. The research includes a model to better predict the effectiveness of this training. Cooking while having a conversation, watching a movie while browsing the Web, or driving while listening to a radio show – multitasking is an essential skill in our daily lives. Unfortunately, it decreases with age, which makes it harder for seniors to keep up, causes them stress, and decreases their confidence. Many commercial software applications promise to improve this ability through exercises. But are these exercises truly effective, and how do they work on the brain? The team addresses these issues in two papers published in AGE and PLOS ONE.

Targeted action for a specific result

The findings are important because they may help scientists develop better targeted cognitive stimulation programs or improve existing training programs. Specialists sometimes question the usefulness of exercises that may be ineffective simply because they are poorly structured.

“To improve your cardiovascular fitness, most people know you need to run laps on the track and not work on your flexibility. But the way targeted training correlates to cognition has been a mystery for a long time. Our work shows that there is also an association between the type of cognitive training performed and the resulting effect. This is true for healthy seniors who want to improve their attention or memory and is particularly important for patients who suffer from damage in specific areas of the brain. We therefore need to better understand the ways to activate certain areas of the brain and target this action to get specific results,” explained Sylvie Belleville, who led the research.

Researchers are now better able to map these effects on the functioning of very specific areas of the brain. Will we eventually be able to adapt the structure of our brains through highly targeted training?

“We have a long road ahead to get to that point, and we do not know for sure if that would indeed be a desirable outcome. However, our research findings can be used right away to improve the daily lives of aging adults as well as people who suffer from brain damage,” Dr. Belleville said.

The right combination of plasticity and attentional control

In one of the studies, 48 seniors were randomly allocated to training that either worked on plasticity and attentional control or only involved simple practice. The researchers used functional magnetic resonance imaging to evaluate the impact of this training on various types of attentional tasks and on brain function. The team showed that training on plasticity and attentional control helped the participants develop their ability to multitask. However, performing two tasks simultaneously was not what improved this skill. For the exercises, the research participants instead had to modulate the amount of attention given to each task. They were first asked to devote 80% of their attention to task A and 20% to task B and then change the ratio to 50:50 or 20:80. This training was the only type that increased functioning in the middle prefrontal region, or the area known to be responsible for multitasking abilities and whose activation decreases with age. The researchers used this data to create a predictive model of the effects of cognitive training on the brain based on the subjects’ characteristics.

About the study author
Dr. Sylvie Belleville, PhD, is the Research Director at the IUGM and a Full Professor in the Department of Psychology at the University of Montreal. The university is officially known as Université de Montréal.

 

FUTURE PHONES TO USE BLOOD AND SPEECH TO MONITOR HIV, STRESS, NUTRITION

From the FMS Global News Desk of Jeanne Hambleton           Released: 19-Aug-2014 Source Newsroom: Cornell University

Newswise — ITHACA, N.Y. – David Erickson, professor of mechanical and aerospace engineering at Cornell University, will receive a $3 million National Science Foundation grant over five years to adapt smart phones for health monitoring.

Erickson will head a multidisciplinary team of investigators from Cornell, Cornell NYC Tech, Cornell Weill Medical College, the University of Maryland and the University of California Los Angeles. The program, dubbed PHeNoM for Public Health, Nanotechnology, and Mobility, aims to deploy three systems that can have an immediate impact on personal healthcare: a Stress-Phone for long term stress management, a Nutri-Phone for nutritional awareness and a Hema-Phone for monitoring viral loading in HIV positive patients.

“We believe that the science and technology enabled by the PHeNoM program will ultimately lead to widespread access to the wealth of health information obtainable from lab-on-chip technology,” said Erickson.

“This could fundamentally alter the domestic healthcare landscape by enabling earlier stage detection of disease, reducing the cost of public healthcare delivery and allowing individuals to take better control of their own wellbeing.”

After deploying the systems, the researchers will study how people use them with an eye to eliminating any roadblocks to adoption. Ultimately, they hope to show that ready access to personal health information can get people to change their behavior.

“Almost everyone is deficient in vitamin D, but most people do not think about it,” said Erickson. “If you could use your phone to see how deficient you are, you might be more likely to take a supplement, or get more sun.

“Eventually we hope that the Nutri-Phone will measure a multitude of vitamin and micronutrient deficiencies like A, B12 and iron, as well as D and be deployed in the developing world where nutritional deficiencies are most prevalent,” said Erickson.

PHeNoM will build on research Erickson started with the help of a seed grant from Cornell’s David R. Atkinson Center for a Sustainable Future. That project produced a smart phone camera accessory and application that measures cholesterol levels in a drop of blood in minutes.

The application uses the camera to read paper test strips that turn different colors depending on the amount of cholesterol in the blood. The Nutri-Phone and Hema-Phone will similarly use the smart phone’s camera to accurately read test strips, while the Stress-Phone will also use the phone’s microphone to measure stress levels in the user’s voice.

The award comes from the Integrated NSF Support Promoting Interdisciplinary Research and Education (INSPIRE) program to support “bold projects” in all NSF-supported areas of research.

Hope you found this interesting . Back tomorrow if  WordPress publish my blogs daily.  This is written Wednesday and I wonder when you will see it?  Jeanne

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About jeanne hambleton

Journalist-wordsmith, former reporter, columnist, film critic, editor, Town Clerk and then fibromite and eventer with 5 conferences done and dusted. Interested in all health and well being issues, passionate about research to find a cure and cause for fibromyalgia. Member LinkedIn. Worked for 4 years with FMA UK as Regional Coordinator for SW and SE,and Chair for FMS SAS the Sussex and Surrey FM umbrella charity and Chair Folly Pogs Fibromyalgia Research UK - finding funding for our "cause for a cure" and President and co ordinator of National FM Conferences. Just finished last national annual Fibromyalgia Conference Weekend. This was another success with speakers from the States . Next year's conference in Chichester Park Hotel, West Sussex, will be April 24/27 2015 and bookings are coming in from those who raved about the event every year. I am very busy but happy to produce articles for publication. News Editor of FMS Global News on line but a bit behind due to conference. A workaholic beyond redemption! The future - who knows? Open to offers with payment. Versatile and looking for a regular paid column - you call the tune and I will play the pipes.
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