Wasp Venom Can Save Lives. But the Supply Chain Is Shaky.
Venom is crucial to make medicines for those with severe allergic reactions to wasp, hornet, and yellow jacket stings.
One morning in the fall of 2019, Zach Techner stepped into a heavily woven white beekeeper’s suit, pulled on rubber boots and thick orange gloves, and wrapped duct tape around his cuffs and along the zipper. He slid safety glasses over his eyes and a netted hood over his head and zipped it shut. He was preparing to collect one of the most dangerous wild creatures in the United States: yellow jackets.
Techner carried a portable vacuum he had MacGyvered into a wasp-sucking machine to a low thicket of blackberry brambles. A dozen of the flying insects made large descending loops towards their nest in the ground. Over the next 45 minutes, he siphoned the yellow jackets — uninjured but surely a little upset — into a plastic juice jug. He stored the trapped insects beneath a layer of dry ice in a cooler to kill them quickly — and avoid damaging the proteins in their venom.
Wasp collecting isn’t always so uneventful, Techner warned. Yellow jackets can attack — especially in the fall when colonies swell and food is scarce — with sharp stings or by contracting their abdomens to spray their venom in their assailant’s eyes. “When you’re in the middle of a nest and there are thousands of them attacking you, hitting the veil, the venom can still get into your eyes,” he said. “It hurts really bad. It can be blinding.”
Europe’s triumphs and troubles are written in Swiss ice
Pollen frozen in ice in the Alps traces Europe’s calamities, since the time Macbeth ruled Scotland
NEW YORK TIMES
As plague swept through Europe in the mid-1300s, wiping out more than a third of the region’s population, a glacier in the Alps was recording the upheaval of medieval society.
While tens of millions of people were dying, pollen from the plants, trees and crops growing in Western Europe were being swept up by the winds and carried toward the Alps.
They became trapped in snowflakes and fell onto the region’s highest mountain, the Monte Rosa massif. Over time, the snow flattened into ever-growing layers of ice, storing a blow-by-blow record of regional environmental change.
This is your brain on trees
THE GLOBE AND MAIL — Green space helps people feel less depressed and fatigued, and science is still exploring all the other ways it lifts our spirits. In a global crisis, we could all use more time in nature.
Quebec oceanographer Louis Fortier became a leader in Arctic research
THE GLOBE AND MAIL — Dr. Louis Fortier wasn’t one to let an opportunity slip through his fingers — especially not at the eleventh hour… Dr. Fortier died on Oct. 4, 2020, from complications related to leukemia. He was 66.
… read more Quebec oceanographer Louis Fortier became a leader in Arctic research
How Ron Pittaway developed his acclaimed winter finch forecast
LIVING BIRD MAGAZINE, Winter 2020 — Pittaway has made it his mission to lend some predictability to winter finch sightings by compiling intelligence from his network of naturalists across Canada and the U.S. and analyzing the data to reveal his predictions.
… read more How Ron Pittaway developed his acclaimed winter finch forecast
Guardians of the North
AUDUBON — Thaidene Nëné, declared this summer, is a milestone for an Indigenous-led conservation movement that can help keep carbon in the ground and protect crucial habitat as the planet warms.
Researchers pull together to get fuller picture of Greenland sled dog
ARCTIC TODAY — For more than 10,000 years, dogs have been an integral part of Arctic culture. They have guided sleds across frozen seas, barked warnings of polar bears and sniffed out seal breathing holes.
… read more Researchers pull together to get fuller picture of Greenland sled dog
Even small reductions in warming matter to the Arctic
A difference of half a degree Celsius would make a huge difference in the future of the Arctic. A carbon sequestration project in Iceland offers hope of keeping warming under control.
… read more Even small reductions in warming matter to the Arctic
Butterflies in the storm
Battling rising seas and creeping asphalt, scientists race to save two endangered species.
With warming temperatures, Canada’s Arctic glaciers are melting faster
Researchers in two separate studies documented dramatic changes beginning in the 1990s after decades of stability.
… read more With warming temperatures, Canada’s Arctic glaciers are melting faster
Cost of Arctic fieldwork limits research
Funding sources are often insufficient to cover expenses, limiting scientists from understanding how Arctic ecosystems are responding to climate change.
The Arctic Ocean is beginning to look and act more like the Atlantic. It’s a shift that threatens to upend an entire food web built on frigid waters.
Nations put science before fishing in the Arctic
Nine nations and the European Union have reached a deal to place the central Arctic Ocean (CAO) off-limits to commercial fishers for at least the next 16 years.
… read more Nations put science before fishing in the Arctic
Arctic dogsledding culture is slipping through the cracks
Warming temperatures and shrinking sea ice threaten a way of life.
… read more Arctic dogsledding culture is slipping through the cracks
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