Mar 23
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Earth Hour 2013

Horsfield's tarsier © Doug Wechsler / gettyimages.com*Pond bat © Dietmar Nill / naturepl.com

SATURDAY 23rd

MARCH   8:30  PM

EARTH  HOUR  2013

 *

 

Don’t miss it! For one hour only – your chance to show your support to protect our amazing planet!

This Saturday 23rd March, 8:30 pm local time marks the beginning of the 8th annual WWF Earth Hour. As we switch off our lights for one hour, we are asked this year to think about our energy usage and the desperate need to move from burning high-carbon fossil fuels to using clean renewable energy. This action is symbolic of the fact that ‘together our individual actions add up to make a difference collectively’.

7,001 towns and cities in 152 countries are taking part, so join us and millions of others on Saturday to show your support for the switch to renewable energy.

Aye-aye close-up

This aye-aye will be able to see us all the better in the dark …

 

Mar 22
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ARKive on the Road: The Big Bang Fair 2013

Last week saw the ExCel centre in London host the 5th annual Big Bang Fair, the largest celebration of science, technology, engineering and maths (STEM) for young people in the UK. The aim of the fair is to introduce young people to the wide range of career opportunities available in STEM subjects and quite simply show them how awesome STEM can be. Once again, the ARKive team were delighted to attend, and spent four fun-filled days engaging with the next generation of scientists.

Claire at stand

Over the course of the event, 65,000 visitors descended upon the show floor to take part in all that the Big Bang has to offer, including 60 interactive activity stands and 88 workshop sessions from 180 different organisations. Along with the hordes of children, parents and teachers, the Big Bang Fair also welcomed a famous face or two, including David Cameron, Professor Brian Cox, TV Presenter Liz Bonnin and Business Secretary Vince Cable who opened the fair on Thursday morning. Of course, the two most exciting VIPs in attendance were our very own science superheroes Root and Flora, members of Team WILD’s elite conservation task force.

Brownies

Picnic area at lunch

Root and Flora’s mission at the fair was to help the rest of the ARKive team recruit new members for Team WILD, an exciting new online game which aims to introduce young people to both environmental issues and potential job opportunities in conservation. Through the power of stickers (number distributed: 1,661), word quickly spread around the fair and the number of Team WILD recruits rose rapidly. The new team members soon proved themselves to be of a high calibre, achieving some very impressive high scores. Due to these incredible scores, Team WILD decided to award one special commendation to the top scorer in each of the four mini-games. These prestigious awards go to the following rookie recruits:

Root FloraJungle
Daniel Nichols: 1,237

Aquatic
George Murray: 2,278

Deforested
Elliott: 2,297

Savannah
James: 2,319

 

Massive congratulations to everybody at the fair who came along to take the Team WILD challenge. For those of you who didn’t get a chance to play on the day, or for those of you who want to try and smash your current high scores, why not head over to our Team WILD page and give it a go! If you need any convincing, Team WILD was described by one young fan as being ‘like Super Mario, but with animals’…what could be better?!

Superman

Missed out on The Big Bang Fair this year? Keep an eye on the official website for information about next year’s fair and for details on other similar events near you. See you all next year!

The ARKive STEM Team

Mar 22
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World Water Day 2013

World Water Day logo

Earth’s most precious resource?

Water is essential to life on Earth. However, our insatiable demand is putting water, one of our most precious natural resources, at risk.

The enormous growth in the human population over recent decades is placing a huge strain on the world’s freshwater reserves, with our global consumption of water for food production, energy, industrial and domestic uses beginning to reach what are thought to be unsustainable levels. Similarly, rapid urbanisation, pollution and climate change are all exacerbating the problem, further threatening one of the world’s most vital resources.

World Water Day 2013

To draw attention to the importance of freshwater and the need for sustainable management of the world’s freshwater resources, the United Nations (UN) has designated 22 March ‘World Water Day’.

Held annually, World Water Day gives people all around the world the opportunity to take action to raise awareness on water issues and improve the management of the world’s water resources. In 2013, in reflection of the International Year of Water Cooperation, World Water Day is also dedicated to the theme of cooperation around water.

See how you can get involved!

Great crested grebe courtship display

To celebrate International Year of Water Cooperation, World Water Day is also dedicated to the theme of cooperation around water. This courting great crested grebe pair have clearly got the hang of the importance of sharing our finite freshwater resources!

Calling all budding young filmmakers in the UK!

Celebrate World Water Day at the Wildfowl and Wetlands Trust with the launch of ‘Hot Water’, a competition with a mission: Can young people create a film that will transform our water-wasting ways?

To kick things off on World Water Day, Cool It Schools is launching ‘Hot Water’. Young people from all over the UK are invited to create an inspirational, behaviour-changing film of TV advert length (no more than 50 seconds) that will aim to help put a stop to our bad water habits once and for all.

Find out more about the ‘Hot Water’ competition and see how you can enter.

Mar 21
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In the News: Cloning brings back extinct frog that gives birth through mouth

Scientists in Australia have successfully cloned embryos of a unique but extinct species of frog that gives birth through its mouth.

Gastric brooder

The subject of this ground-breaking research is the southern gastric-brooding frog, also known as the platypus frog, one of only two known amphibian species that swallows its eggs and broods its young in its stomach. Following this remarkable behaviour, this strange amphibian, once a native of Australia’s rainforests, would then give birth through its mouth.

Unfortunately, this intriguing amphibian species went extinct in 1983, although the reasons for its disappearance remain unclear, with loss of habitat, pollution and parasites all being put forward as possible causes. This new and exciting research by scientists at the University of Newcastle, Australia, has sparked the possibility that this unusual species, once thought lost forever, could exist once again.

Southern gastric-brooding frog image

The southern gastric-brooding frog went extinct in the 1980s

Lazarus Project

The team of researchers on the aptly named ‘Lazarus Project’ were able to recover cell nuclei from samples of frozen frog tissue which had been collected in the 1970s. These nuclei were then implanted into fresh eggs from a related, extant frog species, the great barred frog, after which some of the eggs developed into an early embryo stage. Although none of these embryos survived for longer than a few days, the results are both ground-breaking and encouraging, with the scientists believing that this research could eventually lead to the resurrection of the extinct frog.

We are watching Lazarus arise from the dead, step by exciting step,” said University of New South Wales Professor Mike Archer, leader of the Lazarus Project. “We’ve reactivated dead cells into living ones and revived the extinct frog’s genome in the process. Now we have fresh cryo-preserved cells of the extinct frog to use in future cloning experiments.”

Golden toad image

The golden toad is also thought to have gone extinct in the 1980s

Archer and his team are confident that the hurdles faced by the Lazarus Project are technological and not biological, and that the project will ultimately be successful.

Importantly, we’ve demonstrated already the great promise this technology has as a conservation tool when hundreds of the world’s amphibian species are in catastrophic decline,” he said.

While bringing a biological curiosity back to life would, in itself, be a remarkable and exciting achievement, the work being carried out may also have wider-reaching implications. The southern gastric-brooding frog’s ability to shut down the secretion of its digestive acids has long fascinated scientists, and further research into this incredible trait could prove useful in developing treatments for gastric ulcers in humans.

The cloning of the southern gastric-brooding frog was announced a few days ago at the TEDx DeExtinction event in Washington, DC, which was attended by researchers from across the globe working towards resurrecting other extinct species including the woolly mammoth, dodo, Cuban red macaw and New Zealand’s giant moa.

Read more on this story at abc News – Frog that gives birth through mouth to be brought back from extinction and Mongabay – Scientists clone extinct frog that births young from its mouth.

View photos and videos of the southern gastric-brooding frog on ARKive.

 

Kathryn Pintus, ARKive Text Author

 

Mar 20
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In the News: World Sparrow Day 2013

Today marks World Sparrow Day, a day to celebrate and take action for the once-common house sparrow.

Photo of male house sparrow drinking from shallow puddle

Male house sparrow

Often colloquially known as the ‘Cockney sparrow’, the house sparrow is well known to many people as a common and widespread small bird. Of the world’s 26 true sparrow species, it is the house sparrow which has colonised the world as a result of global trade, and is now found on almost every continent.

However, although once a familiar sight in many areas, the house sparrow has undergone a dramatic decline in parts of its range. In the United Kingdom alone, its population has dropped by a staggering 71% since 1977, and sharp declines have also been noted in other countries.

Photo of dead house sparrow carried by domestic cat

House sparrows face many threats, from pollution to predators

The exact reasons for these declines are unclear, but may include a combination of pollution, a reduction in food availability, a loss of suitable habitat and nesting sites, increased predation and disease. Urban noise has also been linked with sparrow declines, possibly as it prevents the adult birds from hearing the hunger calls of their chicks.

Celebrating sparrows

The idea for World Sparrow Day, which was first celebrated in 2010, came from the Nature Forever Society, who saw its potential for making a positive difference to the fate of the house sparrow. It is hoped that the day can help convey the message about the need to conserve this and other common bird species, as well as marking a day of celebration of the common biodiversity which we can often take for granted.

Photo of tree sparrow feeding in winter

The tree sparrow is another sparrow species which is in decline in parts of its range

Those involved hope to inspire as many people as possible to join the celebrations and get involved in the conservation of house sparrows and their habitats. Suggested actions include talking about sparrows on social media websites and highlighting their plight, as well as creating sparrow habitats and providing sparrows with nest boxes and feeding stations.

World Sparrow Day is therefore a chance for everyone to rise to the challenge of saving this once-common and much-loved small bird.

 

Find out more about World Sparrow Day at World Sparrow Day and the Nature Forever Society.

You can also find out more about the day at RSPB News – World Sparrow Day.

View photos and videos of sparrow species on ARKive.

Liz Shaw, ARKive Text Author

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