Tuesday, February 09, 2010

At War in the Forest: A Ballad of Bark Beetles

Bark beetles have killed nearly 80 million ponderosa, piƱon and lodgepole pines in Arizona and New Mexico and tens of millions more across the West over the past decade. Years of punishing drought left the trees unable to protect themselves against the attacks, which carve ugly scars into forests, weaken the surrounding ecosystem and heighten wildfire danger.

Forest managers can apply insecticide to individual trees or small stands, but forestwide treatments are impractical and would be wildly expensive and potentially risky to other plants and wildlife.

Enter Reagan McGuire, a research assistant who wondered what would happen if the beetles were blasted with noise, creating an acoustic stress that might change their behavior. He sold Hofstetter on the idea, and the experiment was hatched at NAU's School of Forestry lab.

They collected tree trunks infested with bark beetles and sandwiched slices of the trees between clear plastic plates, creating what looked like the old ant farms once sold in the back pages of magazines.

Working in the lab, McGuire piped in the music through tiny speakers, the sort you might find in a singing greeting card. He watched the reaction of the beetles using a microscope. The rock music didn't seem to annoy the bugs, nor did Rush [Limbaugh] in reverse.

McGuire and Hofstetter decided to try something different. They recorded the sounds of the beetles and played them back, manipulating them to test the response.

Suddenly, every little thing they did seemed to provoke the beetles.

"We could use a particular aggression call that would make the beetles move away from the sound as if they were avoiding another beetle," Hofstetter said.

When they made the beetle sounds louder and stronger than a typical male mating call, he said, the female beetle rejected the male and moved toward the electronic sound.

Even more surprising was what the beetles did to each other. The researchers manipulated the sounds and, at a certain point, the male stopped mating and tore the female apart, McGuire said.

"This is not normal behavior in the natural world," he said. _AzCentral

Al Fin botanists and entomologists respond to McGuire: No shite Shirlock! If it were normal behaviour in the natural world, there would be no bark beetles at all by now. It is your job to make it common behaviour in the pine forest. Otherwise, give back all those grants!

Biomass companies had better grab up as many dead pines as they can, while they last. If the bark beetles are driven to distraction by the manipulation of their own sounds, pine forests may have a few years to recover -- until the next deadly pest comes along.

Saturday, February 06, 2010

Who Pulls the Strings In US Politics

I need to clean up the coding for the table below, but you can see which side of the fence was favoured by the top 100 US political donours for the period between 1989 and 2010. Notice how many groups at the very top are either labour unions or plaintiff's attorney groups -- and how much they favour their boys.

The US is heading for a showdown between the corrupt DP:Union:Attorneys coalition, and an apolitical grassroots movement that says "a pox on both houses." The anger is deeply rooted, and the villains are beginning to lose their protective big media smokescreen.

Heavy Hitters

Top All-Time Donors, 1989-2010

View party split for:

RankOrganizationTotal '89-'09Dem %Repub %Tilt
1AT&T Inc$44,214,96044%55%
2American Fedn of State, County & Municipal Employees$41,941,81198%1%  
3National Assn of Realtors$35,595,51848%51%
4Goldman Sachs$31,437,82564%35%
5American Assn for Justice$31,424,02990%9%  
6Intl Brotherhood of Electrical Workers$31,407,50797%2%  
7National Education Assn$30,097,06792%6%  
8Laborers Union$28,978,40092%7%  
9Service Employees International Union$27,933,23295%3%  
10Carpenters & Joiners Union$27,767,68389%10% 
11Teamsters Union$27,728,12492%6%  
12Citigroup Inc$27,101,05850%49%
13Communications Workers of America$27,025,39699%0%  
14American Federation of Teachers$26,282,49198%0%  
15American Medical Assn$26,282,44639%60%
16United Auto Workers$25,774,50298%0%  
17Machinists & Aerospace Workers Union$25,105,77798%0%  
18National Auto Dealers Assn$24,344,80832%67%
19United Parcel Service$24,183,69136%63%
20United Food & Commercial Workers Union$24,123,33398%1%  
21American Bankers Assn$22,414,96641%58%
22National Assn of Home Builders$21,864,65536%63%
23EMILY's List$21,239,16899%0%  
24National Beer Wholesalers Assn$21,038,34532%67%
25Time Warner$20,041,51071%27% 
26Microsoft Corp$19,980,55653%46%
27JPMorgan Chase & Co$19,886,97051%48%
28National Assn of Letter Carriers$19,404,53488%11% 
29Verizon Communications$18,609,60240%58%
30Morgan Stanley$18,535,07946%53%
31Lockheed Martin$18,365,24742%56%
33FedEx Corp$17,985,16640%59%
34General Electric$17,938,61951%48%
35National Rifle Assn$17,303,09617%82% 
36Credit Union National Assn$17,264,86448%51%
37Bank of America$17,061,68847%52%
38Ernst & Young$17,057,23644%55%
39Sheet Metal Workers Union$17,027,91397%2%  
40Pfizer Inc$16,536,08230%69%
41American Dental Assn$16,497,70446%53%
42American Hospital Assn$16,489,78053%46%
43Operating Engineers Union$16,344,30085%14% 
44Plumbers & Pipefitters Union$16,329,61194%5%  
45Blue Cross/Blue Shield$16,246,81840%59%
46International Assn of Fire Fighters$15,959,64382%17% 
47Deloitte Touche Tohmatsu$15,949,77035%64%
48Air Line Pilots Assn$15,698,52784%15% 
50Natl Assn/Insurance & Financial Advisors$15,071,35542%56%
51AFLAC Inc$14,855,51944%55%
52Merrill Lynch$14,334,93037%61%
53Union Pacific Corp$14,288,19824%75% 
54Boeing Co$14,049,73247%52%
55United Transportation Union$13,636,19588%10% 
56United Steelworkers$13,608,75199%0%  
57Reynolds American$13,358,52724%75% 
58Ironworkers Union$13,201,67592%7%  
59BellSouth Corp$12,993,78245%54%
60American Institute of CPAs$12,900,91242%57%
61Credit Suisse Group$12,420,84044%54%
62American Postal Workers Union$12,004,47395%4%  
63National Rural Electric Cooperative Assn$11,990,07152%47%
64General Dynamics$11,729,03446%52%
65American Financial Group$11,444,32518%81% 
67Walt Disney Co$10,968,14867%32%
69Altria Group$10,933,45139%60%
70Exxon Mobil$10,663,97314%85% 
71Natl Active & Retired Fed Employees Assn $10,496,00077%22% 
72MBNA Corp$10,059,00617%82% 
73Human Rights Campaign$9,954,62990%9%  
74UST Inc$9,938,81121%78% 
75Freddie Mac$9,871,74043%56%
77National Restaurant Assn$9,738,14516%83% 
78Southern Co$9,716,04431%68%
79Prudential Financial$9,502,99948%51%
80MetLife Inc$9,502,69255%44%
81American Academy of Ophthalmology$9,383,53852%47%
82National Cmte to Preserve Social Security & Medicare$9,237,49980%19% 
83Eli Lilly & Co$9,139,43429%70% 
84CSX Corp$9,088,02931%68%
85Associated General Contractors$8,884,94114%85% 
86American Maritime Officers$8,855,22146%53%
87Amway/Alticor Inc$8,823,8010%99%  
88National Cmte for an Effective Congress$8,707,94099%0%  
89General Motors$8,540,29537%62%
90Archer Daniels Midland$8,304,11443%56%
91Seafarers International Union$8,277,64484%14% 
92American Airlines$8,153,03547%52%
93MCI Inc$8,093,47246%53%
94American Council of Life Insurers$7,665,50437%62%
95Marine Engineers Beneficial Assn$7,435,12774%25% 
96Bristol-Myers Squibb$7,273,86221%77% 
97Enron Corp$6,581,65728%71% 
Based on data released by the FEC on January 10, 2010.

Feel free to distribute or cite this material, but please credit the Center for Responsive Politics.