The Alaska Department of Fish and Game’s annual moose count is under way after a two-day delay caused by inclement weather.
The aerial survey, conducted by state officials in the Interior each year in October and November, began Friday. The surveys help biologists develop population trends, figure out harvest rates and quotas and determine whether the state is meeting population management objectives, Fish and Game biologist Don Young told the Fairbanks Daily News-Miner (http://bit.ly/s6h3aV).
Using GPS-equipped airplanes, pilots fly grid patterns over specific areas while biologists count any moose they see in the area. Those numbers are extrapolated to come up with a unit-wide population estimate.
This year, the department is focusing its efforts on two game management units: 20C southwest of Fairbanks, and 20A south of the town across the Tanana River.
The department does moose surveys every year in unit 20A, one of the most heavily hunted areas in the state where about 5,000 hunters kill some 1,000 moose a year. But the other unit, where only about 130 moose are harvested annually, will get the most comprehensive survey yet, Young said.
“We did a composition survey three or four years ago but this will be the first population estimate that I’m aware of,” he said. The survey is needed so the Board of Game can consider various management proposals.
Biologists are hoping to have the counts finished in both unit 20C and unit 20A by the first week in December, which is when bull moose typically start shedding their antlers. It’s also too dark to do much at that point, Young said.
Biologists in Tok conducted moose surveys last week and surveys were being conducted in the Delta and Galena areas this week, Young said.
Barents Observer 2011-11-01, original article here.
Russia’s Arctic territories will become a separate object of state policy. A federal law on this subject is expected to be prepared in 2012.
– The place and role of the northern territories in the country’s socio-economic development pre-determine the need to single out the Arctic zone as a separate object of state policy, a draft concept of the law reads, according to RIA Novosti.
The draft concept has been prepared by the Ministry of Regional Development and has been handed over to the Government for approval. The final law will be prepared in 2012 as part of Russia’s state program for economic and social development of the Russian Arctic in 2012-2020.
The authors of the draft believe that development of the Arctic zone should be a top national priority, like development of Siberia used to be:
– The Arctic is a veritable storeroom of natural resources – 27 million square kilometers of the Continental Shelf where 70-75 percent of the mineral and biological resources of the world’s oceans and seas might be concentrated.
The Russian Arctic zone includes the entire Murmansk Region, the Nenets, Yamal-Nenets and Chukotka Autonomous Areas, as well as some parts of Karelia, the Komi Republic, Yakutia, the Arkhangelsk Region and the Krasnoyarsk Territory. The Arctic zone’s territory also includes coastal lowlands of the Arctic Ocean, basins of rivers flowing into the Arctic seas, indivisible administrative-territorial entities, as well as major resource-production complexes being serviced by the Northern Sea Route.
ScienceDaily (Oct. 19, 2011) — Original article here
While most studies have concluded that a cold climate led to the short lower legs typical of Neandertals, researchers at Johns Hopkins have found that lower leg lengths shorter than the typical modern human’s let them move more efficiently over the mountainous terrain where they lived. The findings reveal a broader trend relating shorter lower leg length to mountainous environments that may help explain the limb proportions of many different animals.
Their research was published online in the American Journal of Physical Anthropology and will appear in print in the November issue.
“Studies looking at limb length have always concluded that a shorter limb, including in Neandertals, leads to less efficiency of movement, because they had to take more steps to go a given distance,” says lead author Ryan Higgins, graduate student in the Johns Hopkins Center of Functional Anatomy and Evolution. “But the other studies only looked at flat land. Our study suggests that the Neandertals’ steps were not less efficient than modern humans in the sloped, mountainous environment where they lived.”
Neandertals, who lived from 40,000 to 200,000 years ago in Europe and Western Asia, mostly during very cold periods, had a smaller stature and shorter lower leg lengths than modern humans. Because mammals in cold areas tend to be more compact, with a smaller surface area, scientists have normally concluded that it was the region’s temperature that led to their truncated limbs compared to those of modern humans, who lived in a warmer environment overall.
However, Higgins’ group adds a twist to this story. Using a mathematical model relating leg proportions to angle of ascent on hills, he has calculated that Neandertals on a sloped terrain would have held an advantage while moving compared to their long-legged cousins, the modern humans. Because the area Neandertals inhabited was more mountainous than where modern humans tended to live, the researchers say that this assessment paints a more accurate picture of the Neandertals’ efficiency of movement as compared to humans. “Their short lower leg lengths actually made the Neandertals more adept at walking on hills,” explains Higgins.
But the group didn’t stop there. “In our field, if you want to prove an adaptation to the environment, like mountains leading to shorter leg lengths, you can’t just look at one species; you have to look at many species in the same situation, and see the same pattern happening over and over again,” says Higgins. “We needed to look at other animals with similar leg construction that existed in both flat and mountainous areas, as Neandertals and humans did, to see if animals tended to have shorter lower leg length in the mountains.”
The researchers decided to study different types of bovids–a group of mammals including gazelles, antelopes, goats and sheep–since these animals live in warm and cold environments on both flat and hilly terrain. The group took data from the literature on bovid leg bones and found that they fit the pattern: mountainous bovids, such as sheep and mountain goats, overall had shorter lower leg bones than their relatives on flat land, such as antelopes and gazelles, even when they lived in the same climates.
Investigating closely related bovids brought this trend into even sharper relief. Most gazelles live on flat land, and the one mountainous gazelle species examined had relatively shorter lower legs, despite sharing the same climate. Also, among caprids (goats and sheep), which mostly live on mountains, the one flat land member of the group exhibited relatively longer lower legs than all the others.
“Biologists have Bergman’s and Allen’s Rules, which predict reduced surface area to body size and shorter limbs in colder environments,” says Higgins. “Our evidence suggests that we can also predict certain limb configurations based on topography. We believe adding the topic of terrain to ongoing discussions about limb proportions will allows us to better refine our understanding of how living species adapt to their environments. This improved understanding will help us better interpret the characteristics of many fossil species, not just Neandertals.”
Funding for this research was provided by the Johns Hopkins Center of Functional Anatomy and Evolution.
This study was completed by Ryan Higgins and Christopher B. Ruff, Ph.D., also of the Johns Hopkins Center of Functional Anatomy and Evolution.
Stone Pages Archaeo News 19 May 2011
Original article here
Analysis of subtle chemical variations in reindeer teeth suggest the Neanderthal employed sophisticated hunting strategies similar to the tactics used much later by modern humans. Kate Britton, an archaeologist now at the University of Aberdeen, and her colleagues wanted to find out more about adult reindeer remains from a 70,000 year old layer at the Jonzac Neanderthal hunting camp site in France – a rock shelter believed to have been used over a long period of time – by looking at the teeth and their chemical composition.
Teeth are made of calcium, phosphorus, oxygen, strontium and other elements, but not all the atoms of each element are the same. Some atoms, or isotopes, are heavier than others and may have slightly different chemical properties. Says Britton, “Strontium in your bones and teeth is related to the food and water you consume… to the underlying soil and rocks of a particular area.” It’s possible to look at the strontium isotopes and find out if the animals ate and drank always in the same area, or if they moved around.
The reindeer have similar strontium isotope patterns, suggesting they moved from one area to another and back again while their teeth were developing. “The reindeer were probably travelling through the area during their annual migrations,” Britton says. The Neanderthal were probably aware of the reindeer migration patterns and planned their stays to make the most out of the moving herd. “This sophisticated hunting behaviour is something we see much later in the Upper Palaeolithic amongst modern human groups, and it’s really fascinating to see that Neanderthals were employing similar strategies,” concludes Britton.
Ottawa Citizen – Original article here
Deana Stokes Sullivan, Postmedia News May 24, 2011
A huge floating island of ice that broke off the Petermann Glacier near Greenland last August could add some excitement this summer during Newfoundland and Labrador’s tourist season.
“It’s tracking pretty close to Labrador. Our best estimate is it’s probably going to ground up there and break up,” says Charles Randell, president and chief executive officer of C-Core, a Newfoundland research and development company with ice engineering expertise.
Icebergs from the fractured ice island are expected to appear off Newfoundland’s Northern Peninsula toward the second half of July and into August. If they don’t break up or melt, they’ll make the usual trek around the province’s coastline.
That’s a bit later than the normal iceberg season, but coincides with the province’s prime tourist season, “so it should be a good year for iceberg tourism,” Randell said.
The Petermann glacier generated a lot of interest last year when it calved what started out as a 251-square-kilometre ice island. Recently, it was estimated to be smaller, at about 64 square kilometres.
Randell said icebergs are a regular occurrence, but ice islands — very large tabular icebergs like this one — are a bit of an anomaly, so C-Core’s engineers and researchers take advantage of any opportunity to learn more about them by tracking them, analyzing their melt rates and probability of breaking up.
It could just stay off Labrador and melt, Randell said, but most likely it will break up into more conventional icebergs “and give us more of the sorts of things that we’re used to seeing here.”
C-Core has been involved with tracking icebergs using satellite imagery for about 14 years. It’s a partner in an iceberg tracking website, www.icebergfinder.com, with Hospitality Newfoundland and Labrador, the provincial Department of Tourism, Culture and Recreation and the Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency.
Most of the iceberg sightings published on the website have originated from space, using satellite data provided by the Canadian Space Agency and European Space Agency and technology to locate icebergs off the coast of Newfoundland and Labrador.
NUUK, Greenland – Here, just south of the Arctic Circle, where the sea ice is vanishing like dew on a July morning, the temperature isn’t the only thing that’s heating up.
Across the region, a warming Arctic is opening up new competition for resources that until recently were out of reach, protected under a thick layer of ice. As glaciers defrost and ice floes diminish, the North is being viewed as a source of not only great wealth but also conflict, diplomats and policy experts say.
In recent months, oil companies have begun lining up for exploration rights to Baffin Bay, a hydrocarbon-rich region on Greenland’s western coast that until recently was too ice-choked for drilling. U.S. and Canadian diplomats have reopened a spat over navigation rights to a sea route through the Canadian Arctic that could cut shipping time and costs for long-haul tankers.
Even ownership of the North Pole has come into dispute, as Russia and Denmark pursue rival claims to the underlying seabed in hopes of locking up access to everything from fisheries to natural-gas deposits.
The intense rivalry over Arctic development was highlighted in diplomatic cables released recently by the anti-secrecy website WikiLeaks. Messages between U.S. diplomats revealed how northern nations, including the United States and Russia, have been maneuvering to ensure access to shipping lanes as well as undersea oil and gas deposits that are estimated to contain up to 25 percent of the world’s untapped reserves.
In the cables, U.S. officials worried that bickering over resources might even lead to an arming of the Arctic.
“While in the Arctic there is peace and stability, however, one cannot exclude that in the future there will be a redistribution of power, up to armed intervention,” a 2009 State Department cable quoted a Russian ambassador as saying.
Concern over competition in the Arctic was partly behind an extraordinary diplomatic gathering recently in Greenland’s tiny capital Nuuk. This year’s meeting of the eight-nation Arctic Council drew seven foreign ministers, including Russia’s Sergey Lavrov and Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, the highest-ranking U.S. diplomat to attend an Arctic Council session. Accompanying Clinton was a second U.S. Cabinet member, Interior Secretary Ken Salazar.
Clinton and her aides sought to call attention to climate change during the visit, highlighting new studies that show Arctic ice melting far more rapidly than scientists had believed. But Clinton also promoted a message of international cooperation in the Arctic.
“The challenges in the region are not just environmental,” Clinton said in Nuuk following talks with her Danish counterpart, Lene Espersen. “The melting of sea ice, for example, will result in more shipping, fishing and tourism, and the possibility to develop newly accessible oil and gas reserves. We seek to pursue these opportunities in a smart, sustainable way that preserves the Arctic environment and ecosystem.”
Clinton’s presence at the Nuuk meeting was intended to show U.S. support for the Arctic Council as a critical forum for cooperation and to resolve conflicts. With strong backing from the Obama administration, the council approved the first legally binding treaty in its history, a pact that sets the rules for maritime search and rescue in the region. Although modest in scope, the treaty, authored mainly by Russia and the United States, was hailed as a template for future agreements on issues ranging from oil-spill cleanup to territorial disputes.
Significantly, the eight member nations voted to establish a permanent secretariat to the council, to be located in Tronso, Norway. Clinton asserted that the region’s powers must recognize the council as the “preeminent intergovernmental body, where we can solve shared problems and pursue shared opportunities.”
“The opportunities for economic development in the Arctic must be weighed against the need to protect its environment and ecosystems. And governments will not always see eye to eye on how to achieve this balance,” Clinton said. “That’s why this council is so important.”
In the diplomatic cables obtained by WikiLeaks, there was no dispute about rapid warming under way. The predominant questions revolved around how the region’s newly accessible resources would be carved up.