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North America’s urban Bat Colony turns out to be an unusual attraction for Tourists

Millions of Mexican free tailed bats fly out from the Congress Avenue Bridge in search of food and water attracting tourists from all over the world

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  • The world’s largest urban bat colony is situated under the Congress Avenue Bridge in North America
  • Despite the popularity of the bats in Austin, bats are among those creatures of the world which is least appreciated and one of the most endangered animals
  • The Bat Conservation International (BCI) educated the citizens, they realized this was an exceptional thing to have in the community

North America, Sep 14, 2016: Every evening from October to April, people gather to see the world’s largest urban bat colony situated under the Congress Avenue Bridge in North America. More than a million Mexican free-tailed bats are fun to watch, as they fly out from the bridge in search of food and water.

In the 1980s, the engineers constructed the Congress Avenue Bridge and the crevices located beneath the bridge made it ideal for bat roost. They like to live in limestone, caves, and cracks so it was quite appropriate for them. The Mexican free-tailed bats migrate each spring from Mexico and Central America, while the females like to live under the bridges with their babies or pups. Their babies or pups, when born, weighs around one-third as much as their mothers, which is equivalent to that of a human giving birth to a child of 40 pounds.

The Mexican free-tailed bats migrate each spring from Mexico and Central America, while the females like to live under the bridges with their babies or pups. Their babies or pups, when born, weighs around one-third as much as their mothers, which is equivalent to that of a human giving birth to a child of 40 pounds.

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There was lots of anxiety among people when they initially see these creatures swarming out and often most of them react in fear and ignorance. As the Bat Conservation International (BCI) educated the citizens, they realized this was an exceptional thing to have in the community. It was exceptional because these creatures in their nightly dinner hunt eat up around 900 kilograms of insects which otherwise might have harmed the trees and crops.

ALSO WATCH:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bb_CwFzcxn8

The Austin city has started to appreciate these creatures, which are gentle and incredibly sophisticated animals, unlike their appearances that tend to scare the humans out. The Congress Avenue Bridge became the largest urban bat colony in North America with a population of 1.5 million bats. The bats spiraling into the skies during summer are now one of the most unusual and fascinating sights for tourist attractions. It is estimated that more than thousands of people visit the bridge to witness the unusual scene, generating millions of dollars in the tourism revenue annually.

The bats spiraling into the skies during summer are now one of the most unusual and fascinating sights for tourist attractions. It is estimated that more than thousands of people visit the bridge to witness the unusual scene, generating millions of dollars in the tourism revenue annually.

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Despite the popularity of the bats in Austin, bats are among those creatures of the world which are least appreciated and one of the most endangered animals. Bats suffer from habitat loss and other environmental hazards; humans remain a primary cause of the decline of the bats. Bat Conservation International (BCI) tries to protect and promote the Congress Avenue Bridge bat colony. Not much effort is required in the conservation and protection of the bats; they just need the friendly environment and neighbors.

BCI also hopes that the city will keep the annual visitors in mind when planning any major developments along the river, so that Austin continues to grow bat families along with humans.

– by Pinaz Kazi of NewsGram. Twitter: @PinazKazi

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Street View Car Map by Google Locates Methane Gas Leaks

Colorado State University biologist Joe Von Fisher helped enable a street view of Methane leaks in the city with the help of Google maps

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Colorado State University
Gas Leak. Wikimedia

August 04, 2017: Finding underground methane gas leaks is now as easy as finding a McDonalds, thanks to a combination of Google Street View cars, mobile methane detectors, some major computing power and a lot of ingenuity.

When a city’s underground gas lines leak, they waste fuel and release invisible plumes of methane, a potent greenhouse gas. To find and measure leaks, Colorado State University biologist Joe von Fischer decided to create “methane maps,” to make it easier for utilities to identify the biggest leaks, and repair them.

“That’s where you get the greatest bang for the buck,” he pointed out, “the greatest pollution reductions per repair.”

Knowing that Google Maps start with Google Street View cars recording everything they drive by, along with their GPS locations, von Fischer’s team thought they would just add methane detectors to a Street View car. It turned out, it was not that simple.

“Squirrelly objects”

The world’s best methane detectors are accurate in an area the size of a teacup, but methane leaks can be wider than a street. Also, no one had ever measured the size of a methane leak from a moving car.

“If you’ve ever seen a plume of smoke, it’s sort of a lumpy, irregular object,” von Fischer said. “Methane plumes as they come out of the ground are the same, they’re lumpy squirrelly objects.”

The team had to develop a way to capture data about those plumes, one that would be accurate in the real world. They set up a test site in an abandoned airfield near campus and brought in what looked like a large scuba tank filled with methane and some air hoses. Then they released carefully measured methane through the hose as von Fischer drove a specially equipped SUV past it, again and again.

They compared readings from the methane detectors in the SUV to readings from the tank.

“We spend a lot of time driving through the plumes to sort of calibrate the way that those cars see methane plumes that form as methane’s being emitted from the ground,” von Fischer explained.

With that understanding, the methane detectors hit the road.

Also Read: This fiber material can sense odorless fuel leaks


Turning data into maps

But the results created pages of data, “more than 30 million points,” said CSU computer scientist Johnson Kathkikiaran. He knew that all those data points alone would never help people find the biggest leaks on any map. So he and his advisor, Sanmi Peracara, turned the data into pictures using tools from Google.

Their visual summaries made it easy for utility experts to analyze the methane maps, but von Fischer wanted anyone to be able to identify the worst leaks. His teammates at the Environmental Defense Fund met that challenge by incorporating the data into their online maps. Yellow dots indicate a small methane leak. Orange is a medium-sized one. Red means a big leak – as much pollution as one car driving 14,000 kilometers in a single day.

Von Fischer says that if a city focuses on these biggest leaks, repairing just 8 percent of them can reduce methane pollution by a third.

“That becomes a win-win type scenario,” he said, “because we’re not asking polluters to fix everything, but we’re looking for a reduction in overall emissions, and I think we can achieve that in a more cost effective way.”

After analyzing a methane map for the state of New Jersey, for example, the utility PSE&G has prioritized fixing its leakiest pipes there first, to speed the reduction of their overall pollution.

“To me that was a real victory, to be able to help the utility find which parts were leakiest, and to make a cost effective reduction in their overall emissions,” von Fischer said.

Von Fischer envisions, even more, innovation ahead for mapping many kinds of pollution… to clean the air and save energy. (VOA)

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Genetic ‘Mutational Meltdown’ push the wooly mammoth toward extinction: Research

A genetic “mutational meltdown” helped push the wooly mammoth toward extinction

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FILE - The woolly mammoth - in a display at the Royal BC Museum in Victoria, Canada - went extinct during the last ice age, which ended 4,000 years ago. (Wikipedia commons)

USA, 4Mar, 2017: A genetic “mutational meltdown” helped push the wooly mammoth toward extinction, according to a new study.

Researchers at the University of California, Berkeley, say they compared genetic material from mammoths when they were plentiful and material from when the population was in decline.

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What they found was “genome deterioration” that reflected the smaller population size. The findings are a warning to conservationists that keeping a small pool of endangered animals could result in inbreeding and genomic meltdown.

“There is a long history of theoretical work about how genomes might change in small populations. Here we got a rare chance to look at snapshots of genomes ‘before’ and ‘after’ a population decline in a single species,” said Rebekah Rogers, who led the work as a postdoctoral scholar at Berkeley and is now an assistant professor at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte. “The results we found were consistent with this theory that had been discussed for decades.”

According to researchers, woolly mammoths were once very common in North America, Siberia and Beringia, which is the land bridge that used to exist between current day Russia and the U.S. state of Alaska.

About 10,000 years ago, in the face of a warmer climate and increased hunting by humans, the populations of the beasts began to shrink. But the woolly mammoth existed until about 3,700 years ago when they finally went extinct.

Researchers say they compared genetic materials from a 45,000-year-old mammoth to one that lived 4,300 years ago. The latter was from a group of about 300 mammoths that lived on Wrangel Island in the Arctic Ocean.

“We found an excess of what looked like bad mutations in the mammoth from Wrangel Island,” Rogers said.

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Using mathematical models, researchers say they found “multiple harmful mutations” in the sample from Wrangel Island. Some of the mutations caused the mammoths to lose olfactory receptors. This led to problems with mate choice, researchers said. Furthermore, one mutation likely caused the animal to develop an “unusual translucent satin coat.”

“With only two specimens to look at, these mathematical models were important to show that the differences between the two mammoths are too extreme to be explained by other factors,” Rogers said. (VOA)

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India tops Asia in sending scientists and engineers to US: Report

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Washington: Among Asian countries, India continues to be the top country of birth for scientists and engineers who have made the US their destination for key research and development, latest data has revealed.

With 950,000 out of Asia’s total 2.96 million, India’s 2013 figure represented an 85 percent increase from 2003, according to a new report from the National Science Foundation’s National Center for Science and Engineering Statistics (NCSES).

From 2003 to 2013, the number of scientists and engineers residing in the US rose from 21.6 million to 29 million.

“An important factor in that increase over the same time period, the number of immigrant scientists and engineers went from 3.4 million to 5.2 million,” the report noted.

Of the immigrant scientists and engineers in the US in 2013, 57 percent were born in Asia while 20 percent were born in North America (excluding the US), Central America, the Caribbean or South America.

“While 16 percent were born in Europe, six percent were born in Africa and less than one percent were born in Oceania.

“Immigrants went from making up 16 percent of the science and engineering workforce to 18 percent,” the NCSES statement read.

In 2013, the latest year for which numbers are available, 63 percent of US immigrant scientists and engineers were naturalised citizens, while 22 percent were permanent residents and 15 percent were temporary visa holders.

Since 2003, the number of scientists and engineers from the Philippines increased 53 percent and the number from China, including Hong Kong and Macau, increased 34 percent.

The NCSES report found that immigrant scientists and engineers were more likely to earn post-baccalaureate degrees than their US-born counterparts.

In 2013, 32 percent of immigrant scientists reported their highest degree was a master’s (compared to 29 percent of US-born counterparts) and 9 percent reported it was a doctorate (compared to 4 percent of US-born counterparts).

“The most common broad fields of study for immigrant scientists and engineers in 2013 were engineering, computer and mathematical sciences, and social and related sciences,” the report revealed.

Over 80 percent of immigrant scientists and engineers were employed in 2013, the same percentage as their US-born counterparts.

Among the immigrants in the science and engineering workforce, the largest share (18 percent) worked in computer and mathematical sciences, while the second-largest share (eight percent) worked in engineering.

Three occupations — life scientist, computer and mathematical scientist, and social and related scientist – saw substantial immigrant employment growth from 2003 to 2013.

 

(IANS)