A blog for the spineless

Just tripped other another campus blog, “I’m a chordata, urochordata.” It’s the research blog of Jarrett Byrnes, a graduate student in population biology studying invasive species on the shoreline.

Sac county animal shelter hit by Parvovirus

Sacramento county animal shelter has had a number of cases of highly-infectious parvovirus recently, and has suspended dog adoptions until next week, the Sacramento Bee reports.

The county shelter is working with vets from the UC Davis Shelter Medicine Program to deal with the outbreak.

Kate Hurley, director of the school’s shelter medicine program, said she doesn’t believe a new, vaccine-resistant strain of parvo is the culprit.

“We would see a much more widespread outbreak if it was completely vaccine-resistant,” she said. “This is constrained to animals with shaky vaccine background.”

Holiday gift to yourself: a lower power bill

Replace your old holiday lights with new light-emitting diode (LED) lights, put them on timers, and save yourself some money this Holiday season. That’s one of the “Top Ten Ways to Save Energy in your Home” (pdf) from the California Lighting Technology Center at UC Davis.

LED lights come in vibrant colors, stay cool to the touch and use less than one-fourth the electricity that old-style incandescent lights used, says center director Michael Siminovitch.

You can get a plug-in timers for as little as $5 at a home-supply stores. Using a timer to switch lights off automatically can cut energy use substantially.

Railyard air worse than freeway

Air downwind of the Roseville railyards poses a cancer risk, according to a study conducted by UC Davis professor emeritus Thomas A. Cahill and his son, Thomas M. Cahill, a professor at Arizona State University. The study was sponsored by the Sacramento chapter of Breathe California.

Leaders of the study said the exhaust from idling Union Pacific locomotives contains five to six times more of the most potent cancer-causing particles than emissions from diesel-powered trucks on freeways.

And those particles are smaller, allowing for easier passage to the deepest recesses of the lungs where they can cause the greatest harm, the scientists said.

Earthquake forecasting symposium

“Advances in Earthquake Forecasting” is the topic of a one-day symposium in New York Jan. 23 organized by Risk Management Solutions. One of the speakers will be UC Davis professor John Rundle of the Center for Computational Science and Engineering, who will be talking about his group’s work on predicting the timing and location of large earthquakes by looking at patterns of smaller ones. Other speakers include scientists from the U.S. Geological Survey, China, Japan, Europe and New Zealand.

RMS provides products and services that help financial markets quantify risks.

Upcoming: National Academy of Sciences on “Science, Evolution and Creationism”

The National Academies are releasing a new booklet on “Science, Evolution and Creationism” in January. It’s an update of the 1999 booklet “Science and Creationism.

This book provides clear explanations and intriguing examples that emphasize the strength of the science of evolution and the lack of scientific controversy surrounding whether evolution has and is continuing to occur. It is an excellent resource for understanding how evolution is central to many other areas of science and why evolution and not creationism should be taught in the science classroom.

Predicting hip fracture

Researchers led by UC Davis internist John Robbins have developed a computer program for predicting the likelihood of a woman having a hip fracture over the following five years. Drawing on data from almost 100,000 women enrolled in the national Womens’ Health Initiative, the tool draws on multiple factors such as age, weight, smoking, ethnicity and physical activity to predict which women are at high risk.

The work is published today in the Journal of the American Medical Association, which also put out a press release about it. You can also watch a news video about it here; the video was actually produced by JAMA’s press office and broadcast with a new voiceover.

Ayer reviews Black on Nixon

Law professor emeritus Jack Ayer reviews a new biography of Richard Nixon by press magnate Conrad Black. Ayer writes that Black mostly excuses the ethical lapses of Nixon’s career; but then he has problems of his own, like his upcoming sentencing for fraud.

A former business journalist and bankruptcy judge, Ayer has described bankruptcy, finance and commercial law as “a grandstand seat at the human comedy.”

Engineering drought-resistant plants

UC Davis researchers and colleagues at the RIKEN Plant Science Center in Japan; Biology Department Technion in Haifa, Israel; the University of Nevada, Reno; and Hebrew University of Jerusalem have genetically engineered tobacco plants that can survive on 70 percent less water than conventional plants.

“Because climate change is altering rainfall patterns,” said Eduardo Blumwald, professor of plant science at UC Davis, “agriculture must adapt by using strategies that range from changing traditional farming practices to developing genetically modified crops that can better tolerate drought and make more efficient use of irrigation water.”

Davis Turkey Terror Update

Three tom turkeysDespite a plan to relocate them, as of earlier this week the flock of about 30 wild turkeys is still living in the area around the Davis City Cemetery, according to comments on the Davis Wiki.

This recent (Oct 25) photo is from the Davis Wiki.

Happy Thanksgiving guys!