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Archive - Jan 7, 2014

Sage Grouse Threatened by Pole-Perching Ravens

A new study by the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS), Idaho State University, and the U.S. Geological Survey suggests that habitat fragmentation and the addition of makeshift perches such as transmission polls in sagebrush ecosystems are creating preferred habitat for common ravens that threaten sensitive native bird species, including greater sage grouse (image). The study appears in the January issue of the journal The Condor: Ornithological Applications. Authors include Dr. Kristy Howe of the Wildlife Conservation Society and Idaho State University, Dr. Peter Coates of the U.S. Geological Survey, and Dr. David Delehanty of Idaho State University. The authors looked at 82 raven nests on the U.S. Department of Energy's Idaho National Laboratory land in southeastern Idaho, a sagebrush steppe ecosystem where ravens increased in numbers eleven-fold between 1985 and 2009. The study area has been subject to various alterations such as the addition of transmission lines, roads, and other human construction. Results showed that 58 percent of raven nests were located on transmission poles, 19 percent were in trees, and 14 percent were on other human-made towers. A 31 percent decrease in the likelihood of nesting by ravens was observed for every one kilometer increase in distance away from a transmission line when compared to unaltered areas. The authors noted that the transmission poles are taller than any other object in the study area and that nesting in or near them may afford the raven myriad advantages including a wider range of vision, greater attack speed, and easier take-off. Nesting on the poles may also gain them greater security from predators, range fires, and heat stress.

TGen and Collaborators Receive $4 Million Grant to Focus on RNA Biomarkers of Brain Injuries

In an effort to lower medical costs, identify patients at risk for injury, and speed patient recovery, scientists will attempt to identify a molecular signal that indicates severity of brain injury during a $4 million, five-year federal grant to Barrow Neurological Institute at St. Joseph's Hospital and Medical Center, Phoenix Children's Hospital, and the Translational Genomics Research Institute (TGen) (image). TGen made this announcement in a press release dated December 4, 2013. Additional partners in the study include the University of California, San Francisco and Stanford University. The molecular profile - comprised of extracellular RNAs- could help identify which patients are most at risk for vasospasm after hemorrhagic stroke. Hemorrhagic stroke can occur as: subarachnoid hemorrhage, or the bleeding into the area between the brain and a thin membrane that covers it; ruptured brain aneurysm, which is an abnormal bulge or ballooning in the wall of an artery within the brain. By identifying RNA molecular markers, a new standard of individualized care could be established, enabling medical teams to respond more rapidly to quickly changing health conditions, and allowing earlier intervention to prevent a secondary injury from occurring. "We hope this study will lead to less injury, less testing and cost, and shorter stays in the hospital," said Dr. Yashar Kalani, M.D., Ph.D., a resident physician in Neurological Surgery and assistant professor at the Barrow Neurological Institute and one of the study's principal investigators. Additional investigators at Barrow include Drs. Robert Spetzler, Peter Nakaji, Felipe Albuquerque, and Cameron McDougall. Vasospasms are characterized by bleeding in the brain that causes irritation and nearby blood vessels to spasm and narrow.