Site update

Since I have been really terrible at updating the blog (but pretty good at keeping up with the facebook blog posts) I've added the widget below so that facebook cross posts to the blog.

You shouldn't need to join facebook but can just click on the links in the widget to access the articles. If you have any problems or comments please mail me at arandjel 'AT'

Monday, April 23, 2012

"Chimpanzee" Movie

Disney's Chimpanzee has come out in theaters! The movie was primarily filmed in Ivory Coast with the habituated chimps from the Tai Chimpanzee Project and partially with the chimpanzees from the Ngogo Chimpanzee Project and the story is about the orphan adoption by an unrelated male in Tai's East Group :)

I am so proud of so many of my colleagues from the MPI (Tai Chimpanzee and Ngogo Chimpanzee Projects) that helped make the movie 'Chimpanzee' possible. (& thanks to Carly O for the screen snap from the movie :) )

Also, I LOVE Jane Goodall and here is an interview she did about the movie 'Chimpanzee' on the Daily Show. It was a little disappointing she didn't promote the chimpanzees actually featured in the movie (the chimpanzees of the Tai (Ivory Coast) and Kibale (Uganda) forests) or the NGOs that represent them, but if you want to help wild chimpanzee conservation please consider donating to the WILD CHIMPANZEE FOUNDATION or the NGOGO CHIMPANZEE PROJECTs.

Friday, March 16, 2012

Close a Deadly Loophole, Protect Chimpanzees

Thanks to Jim F for the link

go HERE to sign the petition

Target: Division of Policy and Directives - U.S. Fish and Wildlife Services
Sponsored by: Center for Biological Diversity
Please speak up to protect chimpanzees who can't defend themselves. The worldwide population of wild chimpanzees has fallen by nearly 70 percent in the past 30 years -- take action now to save these animals.

Wild chimpanzees have been protected under the Endangered Species Act since 1976, but a special rule exempts captive chimpanzees from protection. This loophole in the Act is preventing the recovery of the species in the wild by encouraging their illegal trade.

Chimpanzees are endangered due to habitat loss, poaching and illegal trafficking -- wild chimpanzees are captured and sold for use as entertainment, as pets and as test subjects.

We have a critical moment right now to help captive and wild chimpanzees: The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is considering whether to protect captive chimpanzees under the Endangered Species Act. Send your comments today in support of protecting every chimpanzee as endangered.

quote of the day

From I Am in Science's facebook page

One way of dealing with errors is to have friends who are willing to spend the time necessary to carry out a critical examination of the experimental design beforehand and the results after the experiments have been completed. An even better way is to have an enemy. An enemy is willing to devote a vast amount of time and brain power to ferreting out errors both large and small, and this without any compensation. The trouble is that really capable enemies are scarce; most of them are only ordinary. Another trouble with enemies is that they sometimes develop into friends and lose a great deal of their zeal. It was in this way the writer lost his three best enemies. Everyone, not just scientists, needs a good few enemies.

~ Georg von Békésy who received the 1961 Nobel Prize for Physiology or Medicine.

Snoring Doormouse

cuteness alert from Caro D

The Power of Social media - Kenyan Orphanage attack leads to over 50,000 dollars being raised by redditors

Thanks to Jesse D for the link!

Read this amazing Reddit thread of how one man's tragic attack at a Kenyan orphange lead to major funds being raised for the children under his care.

it all started with this plea:
Meet Omari. Two days ago he returned from the hospital after being hacked in the face by a machete defending an orphanage of 35 children by himself. Think we could raise the $2,000 needed for the remainder of the cement/barbed wire wall to keep both him and the children safe?

This is the best part:
As of now, the best way to donate is through We will assume that any donation made between now and next week was meant for the Faraja Orphanage in Ngong, Kenya.
Also, remember her? The construction date is scheduled for February 15th!
Edit: In the process of uploading more pictures of the orphanage, but my modem is being very slow. I would also like to add that this orphanage is unlike any I have seen before. The mother of Omari, the sole caretaker of the children (with the help of volunteers), has made multiple efforts to keep the orphanage sustainable. There are dozens of chickens and a small garden which helps feed the 35 children between the ages of 2 and 17. As you can imagine, these efforts are great but not enough to support 35 children everyday.
Edit 2: The wooden fence next to the concrete section of the wall. The goal is to construct a wall the same height as the existing structure, with three feet of barbed wire (three coiled stacked on top of each other) on top.
Edit 3: Omari explained to me that many of the kids are very scared to re-enter the home; scared that the attackers are still inside "waiting with knives". So it was nice to see them playing (and eating oranges) outside in the yard.
Edit 4: I figure the story is worth sharing: After two previous invasions during the week, Omari was relatively certain another would occur. He woke up to the sound of footsteps outside his door, he figured it was his mother taking a few of the boys outside to go to the bathroom. He quickly realized that the footsteps were heavy, and that of more than one person; he then saw a flashlight shine beneath the crack of his door. Being the third time this happened that week, he had already stashed a hammer beside his bed. He grabbed it, and threw it at the first person who entered his room. He hit the person square in the head, and chased the rest out. The following night, the three thugs returned, presumably to avenge their friend. Omari put up a fight but was outnumbered. The last thing he remembers was being struck in the face by the machete. He has been in and out of the hospital since, yet remains positive and confident that the suspects will one day see justice. Until then, I only hope that is courage and strength is felt by all of you. Speaking with him was a very humbling and special experience that I will never forget. I told him I would try my best to help, so this is my effort: Reddit, already donations are pouring in, and I can't thank you enough.
Edit 5: Another picture of a few kids playing with one of their favorite toys. Reddit, twice now, you have nearly brought me to tears. I have never felt so encouraged in my life. Donations are coming in too fast to keep track, so I will update as soon as they seem to slow down. If the donations reach over $2,000, the rest will go towards food and supplies for the children. I will ABSOLUTELY keep all of you updated with the progress.
Edit 6: Many people are asking for proof, the mods have contacted me and I'm working on it. It's 5:03am right now, I haven't slept all night (nor do I plan to), I've been messaging my friends on facebook left and right trying to get the word out, but I never, NEVER, could have imagined the night ending this way. In just a few short hours I will return to the orphanage with by far the BEST news I could ever tell anyone. There will be pictures!
Edit 7: I've sent the mod a picture of myself, reddit name, date, PSU id, and the expired Kenyan residency card I received in 2010 when I first studied abroad. I am literally waiting for the sun to come up so I can run to the orphanage and tell them the INCREDIBLE news. I will take a picture with everyone (Omari will absolutely be present) and return as soon as I can.
Edit 8: Over $9,000 and I'm in a state of shock. I...... Just.....................Thank you.
Edit 9: Over $11,000. It's 6am. In 45 minutes I will RUN to the orphanage. I should be back with pictures in just a few hours. This is the best news I have ever had to privilege to tell anyone, and you are all to thank for it. Also, I am too overwhelmed at the moment, but I will do my best to reply to as many comments/messages/questions as I can.
Edit 10: $44,000!!!!!!!!! REDDIT!!!!! I can hardly breathe. I refreshed the page at least twice to make sure it was real. I cannot believe this. I just came back from the orphanage..... Let's just say many tears were shed, and many hugs were shared. The children were all leaving to school as I arrived, but I will return around 6pm to take a group picture. I am about to upload the picture and video of Omari's thanks. He's been reading all of your comments, he said he'll read every one if it takes him all day. $44,000. Reddit, thank you.
Edit 11: $48,000! This is surreal. Thank you for the $10,000 donation in addition to upgrading our website to Weebly Pro for two free years. Of course, thank you all so much. I must sleep for a bit, but I'll be back!
Edit 12: Who am I kidding I couldn't sleep if I tried. We hit the $50,000 mark! I know by now I sound like a broken record, but thank you Reddit, sincerely.

Ancient Domesticated Dog Skull Found in Siberian Cave: 33,000 Years Old

thanks to Caro D for the link!
from ScienceDaily

A 33,000-year-old dog skull unearthed in a Siberian mountain cave presents some of the oldest known evidence of dog domestication and, together with an equally ancient find in a cave in Belgium, indicates that modern dogs may be descended from multiple ancestors.

If you think a Chihuahua doesn't have much in common with a Rottweiler, you might be on to something.
An ancient dog skull, preserved in a cave in the Altai Mountains of Siberia for 33,000 years, presents some of the oldest known evidence of dog domestication and, together with equally ancient dog remains from a cave in Belgium, indicates that domestication of dogs may have occurred repeatedly in different geographic locations rather than with a single domestication event.
In other words, man's best friends may have originated from more than one ancient ancestor, contrary to what some DNA evidence previously has indicated.
"Both the Belgian find and the Siberian find are domesticated species based on morphological characteristics," said Greg Hodgins, a researcher at the University of Arizona's Accelerator Mass Spectrometry Laboratory and co-author of the study that reports the find.
"Essentially, wolves have long thin snouts and their teeth are not crowded, and domestication results in this shortening of the snout and widening of the jaws and crowding of the teeth."
The Altai Mountain skull is extraordinarily well preserved, said Hodgins, enabling scientists to make multiple measurements of the skull, teeth and mandibles that might not be possible on less well-preserved remains. "The argument that it is domesticated is pretty solid," said Hodgins. "What's interesting is that it doesn't appear to be an ancestor of modern dogs."
The UA's Accelerator Mass Spectrometry Laboratory used radiocarbon dating to determine the age of the Siberian skull.
Radioactive carbon, or carbon-14, is one of three carbon isotopes. Along with naturally occurring carbon dioxide, carbon-14 reaches the surface of Earth by atmospheric circulation, where plants absorb it into their tissues through photosynthesis.
Animals and humans take in carbon-14 by ingesting plants or other animals that have eaten plants. "Carbon-14 makes it into all organic molecules," said Hodgins. "It's in all living things."
"We believe that carbon-14 production is essentially constant over time," said Hodgins. "So the amount of carbon-14 present in living organisms in the past was similar to the levels in living organisms today. When an animal or plant dies, the amount of carbon-14 in its remains drops at a predictable rate, called the radioactive half-life. The half-life of radiocarbon is 5,730 years."
"People from all over the world send our laboratory samples of organic material that they have dug out of the ground and we measure how much carbon-14 is left in them. Based on that measurement, and knowing the radiocarbon half-life, we calculate how much time must have passed since the samples had the same amount of carbon-14 as plants and animals living today."
The researchers use a machine called an accelerator mass spectrometer to measure the amount of radioactive carbon remaining in a sample. The machine works in a manner analogous to what happens when a beam of white light passes through a prism: White light separates into the colors of the rainbow.
The accelerator mass spectrometer generates a beam of carbon from the sample and passes it through a powerful magnet, which functions like a prism. "What emerges from it are three beams, one each of the three carbon isotopes," said Hodgins. "The lightest carbon beam, carbon-12, bends the most, and then carbon-13 bends slightly less and carbon-14 bends slightly less than that."
The relative intensities of the three beams represent the sample's carbon mass spectrum. Researchers compare the mass spectrum of an unknown sample to the mass spectra of known-age controls and from this comparison, calculate the sample's radiocarbon age.
At 33,000 years old, the Siberian skull predates a period known as the Last Glacial Maximum, or LGM, which occurred between about 26,000 and 19,000 years ago when the ice sheets of Earth's last ice age reached their greatest extent and severely disrupted the living patterns of humans and animals alive during that time. Neither the Belgian nor the Siberian domesticated lineages appear to have survived the LGM.
However, the two skulls indicate that the domestication of dogs by humans occurred repeatedly throughout early human history at different geographical locations, which could mean that modern dogs have multiple ancestors rather than a single common ancestor.
"In terms of human history, before the last glacial maximum people were living with wolves or canid species in widely separated geographical areas of Euro-Asia, and had been living with them long enough that they were actually changing evolutionarily," said Hodgins. "And then climate change happened, human habitation patterns changed and those relationships with those particular lineages of animals apparently didn't survive."
"The interesting thing is that typically we think of domestication as being cows, sheep and goats, things that produce food through meat or secondary agricultural products such as milk, cheese and wool and things like that," said Hodgins.
"Those are different relationships than humans may have with dogs. The dogs are not necessarily providing products or meat. They are probably providing protection, companionship and perhaps helping on the hunt. And it's really interesting that this appears to have happened first out of all human relationships with animals."

Ottawa to reintroduce iconic bison to Banff National Park

from the calgary herald

Banff could be the next home where the buffalo roam.

Federal Environment Minister Peter Kent is scheduled to make an announcement Friday with details about reintroducing “an iconic Canadian animal” to Banff National Park, which government officials have confirmed is bison.

Kent, minister responsible for Parks Canada, is expected to provide details on a public consultation process for the animal’s reintroduction to Banff.

While officials have not specified the breed of bison, the most recent Banff park management plan, from 2010, includes details on the reintroduction of the plains bison, described in the document as “a keystone species that has been absent from the park since its establishment.”

Last year the Eleanor Luxton Historical Foundation held a public meeting on its own plan to reintroduce plains bison to the park. The plan indicated that the Bow Valley and Red Deer Valley could support modest bison herds.

Harvey Locke, a Luxton foundation director, said Wednesday he’d be thrilled to see bison make a return.

Bison were hunted to near-extinction in the 1800s, during European settlement of the West.

“It’s a species that speaks to a terrible mismanagement of nature in the 19th century,” Locke said.

Since then the species has made a managed comeback, and is not widely distributed in the wild, he said.

Reintroduction of bison has been discussed since 1997, when the park’s buffalo paddock was closed following the Banff-Bow Valley study, which looked at maintaining the park’s ecological integrity while providing appropriate access to visitors.

“Bison is a native species to the Canadian Rockies,” Locke said. “For the park to be complete, it needs wild bison.”

Dave Ealey, spokesman with Alberta Sustainable Resource Development, said his department encourages efforts to re-establish the ecological balance of the park.

But the department, which is not involved with Friday’s announcement, is also interested in seeing what Parks Canada’s plans are for keeping the animals within park confines.

“These are large animals and the consequences of large, free-roaming bison in parts of the province, if they expand outside the national park boundaries, could be significant,” Ealey said.

There are ranchers not too far from the borders of Banff who could come into close contact with the large animals. Bison could also end up on public land frequented by industrial and recreational users.

And the animals could be a road hazard, depending on where they are released in the park, Ealey said, adding bison lingering on the roadways has been a problem for motorists at Elk Island National Park, east of Edmonton.

Alberta Sustainable Resource Development has extensive experience with bison re-establishment programs, specifically in the Hay-Zama area in northwestern Alberta, Ealey said.

“We’ve been doing ongoing work to try to manage the numbers of that particular population effectively because they just blossomed as a population success story,” he said. “Those are the sort of things we’re aware of when it comes to wildlife management and those types of reintroductions. So we’d like to know a little more about how that’s being approached (in Banff).”