New hydrophone surveys of migration gateways to the Arctic show that recent extremes in sea ice loss has opened new waters to humpback and fin whales that once ranged through the far north only in summer. And as climate change drives the ice into further retreat, such “summer” species may begin competing with bowhead whales that once had the habitat to themselves, according to research presented at the Society of Marine Mammalogy’s Biennial Conference in San Francisco this week… Jennifer Francis, a Rutgers University research professor and plenary speaker at the conference, sees potential connections between rapid Arctic warming and unusual weather patterns and climate extremes elsewhere on the globe. For instance, a so-called “warm blob” that turned the ocean off the West Coast of the United States unusually warm for more than a year may have been especially strong and persistent because of the atmospheric patterns taking hold over the Arctic, which is warming much faster than the planet as a whole.
Researchers Create Heartier Catnip Breed For Specialized Commercial Farmers
A bigger more hearty catnip plant – whose enriched oil not only promises to drive cats crazy with pleasure but also may be a safer, more effective mosquito repellent – has been developed for specialized commercial farmers by Rutgers University… The Rutgers New Jersey Agricultural Experiment Station (NJAES), which has spent more than a decade developing the new breed, CR9, for the insect repellant and pet toy industries recently licensed the product to Ball Horticulture, an Illinois company that will produce the seeds for commercial farmers… “In the past catnip wasn’t grown much because the plant itself was never developed to generate commercially acceptable yields from its leaves and flowers which produce its aromatic volatiles oils, and thus, wasn’t profitable” said James Simon, professor in the Department of Plant Biology and Pathology at the Rutgers School of Environment and Biological Sciences who led the plant breeding in the development of the new catnip variety… Catnip oil has also been shown to repel flies, cockroaches, termites, dust mites and deer ticks and is being suggested as an organic pesticide for peach orchards and potato fields. The problem is that it has been too expensive to use as a repellent.
Tracking a Rarely Seen, Endangered ‘Ninja’ Shark in the Philippines
Rutgers marine scientist Thomas Grothues is well known for his expertise in tracking fish. He was recruited last year by a colleague from England to track a rarely seen shark species in the Philippines… The underwater adventure – in which Grothues pl…
World-Famous, Yet Nameless: Hybrid Flowering Dogwoods Named by Rutgers Scientists
Garden lovers and horticulturalists now have two new species names to add to their vocabulary and memory. The world’s most commercially successful dogwood garden trees have finally received proper scientific names decades after their introduction into horticulture. The big-bracted, or flowering, dogwoods are beloved trees with cloud-like branches blossoming in early spring in white, sometimes red or pink. The new scientific names are published by a team of American scientists in the open-access journal PhytoKeys… So, why do we need formal names? “Crucial to communication in all parts of our lives is the naming of objects and phenomena,” explains Mr. Mattera, a Rutgers University graduate student in the School of Environmental and Biological Sciences. “Humanity needs words to tell other people what we are talking about, and the words need to have uniform and clear meanings,” he adds. Before their publication these horticultural plants largely lived in a taxonomic no-man’s land and could not easily be placed into horticultural databases… Co-author Dr. Lena Struwe, a botanist also at Rutgers University, explains that “Even artificial hybrids created by the fusion of species from separate pieces of the Earth are living, evolving things that need scientific names so they fit into our encyclopedias of life.”
Sardines, Anchovies, Other Fast-growing Fish Vulnerable to Dramatic Population Plunges
A Rutgers marine biologist studying the rise and fall of fish populations worldwide recently made a counterintuitive discovery: ocean species that grow quickly and reproduce frequently, such as sardines, anchovies and flounder, are more likely to experience dramatic plunges in population than larger, slower growing fish such as sharks or tuna… “Rabbits are doing pretty well compared to rhinos,” said Malin Pinsky, assistant professor of ecology and evolution in the School of Environmental and Biological Sciences. “Mice thrive while lions, tigers and elephants are endangered.”… For example, this effect is apparent in sardines off the coast of southern California, whose populations have fluctuated naturally for thousands of years. But these fluctuations are not enough to explain why so many fast-growing fish species have collapsed in recent decades – meaning a drop to less than 10 percent of historical levels.
Rutgers Tomato Reinvented With Even More Flavor
A new tomato that combines the nostalgia-inducing flavor of an heirloom with the durability of supermarket varieties is Rutgers’ answer to anyone who wonders what happened to the flavorful Jersey tomatoes of the past… The Rutgers New Jersey Agricultural Experiment Station (NJAES) has tested hundreds of plants to try to create a new version of the luscious tomato – that carried the Rutgers name – and was popular from the Depression through the 1960s… “What people remember as the Jersey tomato was really the Rutgers tomato,” said Tom Orton, a professor in the Department of Plant Biology and Pathology. “It was ubiquitous. People grew it in their backyards. It had a high flavor that explodes in your mouth and makes you say ‘wow, that is really good.”… The project to recreate the Rutgers tomato was made possible by the discovery eight years ago that Campbell’s Soup Co. had retained derivatives of the original Rutgers parent seeds. The original tomato was released in 1934 as the result of a collaboration between the Camden-based company and the university.
Study Finds Nearly a Third of the Bass Population That Spawn as Females Become Males
Rutgers marine researchers and New Jersey fishermen are piecing together the details of the strange, gender-bending sex lives of black sea bass- a study that could improve understanding of the bass population and help the beleaguered recreational fishing industry… “It sounds crazy, right? But from an evolutionary perspective, it’s a perfect way to keep balance in a population,” said Olaf Jensen, an assistant professor with Rutgers’ Department of Marine and Coastal Science leading the project. “If it’s operating out in nature, maybe we don’t have to worry so much about fishing pressure removing the big males and skewing the sex ratio.”… The idea for the project started in 2010, when Jensen was talking to Eleanor Bochenek, director of the Fisheries Cooperative Center at Rutgers Haskin Shellfish Research Laboratory, who works with fishermen and other people who make a living on the water.
Food for Thought: Use More Forages in Livestock Farming
Small-scale livestock farming in the tropics can become more intensive yet sustainable if more and better forage is used to feed the animals being reared. This could benefit farming endeavours in rural South Asia, sub-Saharan Africa, Central America and the Caribbean, and see a move away from the increased reliance on grain-based feeds, say scientists at CIAT (International Center for Tropical Agriculture) and Thomas Rudel of Rutgers University in the US, in Springer’s journal Ambio… Rudel and his associates at CIAT argue that the “LivestockPlus” program could be a way forward by increasing the use of forages to feed livestock, which is often reared on small farms, in the tropics. Its agricultural research and extension efforts help to intensify in sustainable ways the management of forage grasses and legumes, shrubs, trees, and animals… “In addition to enhancing the food security of poor consumers by reducing global demand and prices for grains, forage-focused sustainable intensification would improve the productive capacity of poor producers who raise crops and livestock on small landholdings in rural South Asia, sub-Saharan Africa, and Central America.”, says Rudel.
Recycled Water, Salt-Tolerant Grass A Water-Saving Pair
Plants need water. People need water. Unfortunately, there’s only so much clean water to go around- and so the effort begins to find a solution… Luckily for people, some plants are able to make do without perfectly clean water, leaving more good water for drinking. One strategy is to use treated wastewater, containing salt leftover from the cleaning process, to water large areas of turf grass. These areas include athletic fields and golf courses. Golf courses alone use approximately 750 billion gallons of water annually in arid regions… “We found through a series of experiments that salt tolerance in perennial ryegrass is highly controlled by additive genetic effects rather than environmental effects,” said Stacy Bonos from Rutgers University. “This is great news for breeders because we now know salt tolerance can be more easily bred for.”
Scientists Discover a Bacterium That “Breathes” Uranium and Renders it Immobile
A strain of bacteria that “breathes” uranium may hold the key to cleaning up polluted groundwater at sites where uranium ore was processed to make nuclear weapons… A team of Rutgers University scientists and collaborators discovered the bacteria in soil at an old uranium ore mill in Rifle, Colorado, almost 200 miles west of Denver. The site is one of nine such mills in Colorado used during the heyday of nuclear weapons production… “After the newly discovered bacteria interact with uranium compounds in water, the uranium becomes immobile,” said Lee Kerkhof, a professor of marine and coastal sciences in the School of Environmental and Biological Sciences. “It is no longer dissolved in the groundwater and therefore can’t contaminate drinking water brought to the surface.”