Archive for the ‘Current Events’ Category

Have Australians lost their fight against imported fire ants?

Despite $215 million being poured into eradication programs nationally, fire ants have claimed territory in an arc from Logan City, between Brisbane and the Gold Coast, to near Grandchester, about 80km west of where the first outbreak was found at the Port of Brisbane in 2001.

Authorities now concede a new and even more expensive long-term campaign might be needed to stop them threatening our lifestyles.

I am curious as to how fire ants threaten the Aussie lifestyle, though. Do they eat Vegemite?

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Debbie: Sean Hannity Bugs Entomologists, Belittles-Bug Collection

Bug Girl: Fox News Fail

Hannah: Defending the land grants

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Watch beetle guru Anthony Cognato trying to deal with Fox News ignoramus Tucker Carlson:

It isn’t news that Fox News isn’t, um, news. Nor is it news that Fox can’t grasp the benefits of public investment in knowledge creation- perhaps because actual knowledge is anathema to their business model. But I digress.

I’m going to complain instead that Cognato missed out (or was edited out) on a major talking point to counter Fox’s bluster.  Fox pretends Cognato just sidled up to suckle at the stimulus teat while the getting was good. A university welfare queen, or something.  But that’s simply not trueNone of the NSF proposals funded under the stimulus were submitted as stimulus projects. Carlson showing up and acting like a royal asshole in these institutions misses the point. The scientists followed regular NSF channels, and to act as though the scientists themselves are slyly ripping off the taxpayers is, well, just being an asshole.

Cognato did a solid job in justifying the existence of Michigan’s entomology collections. But. Some preparation to nail down concise talking points would have better helped counter Carlson’s direct challenges.  Scientists aren’t trained to speak in talking points, and when direct challenges are answered with a more conversational tone the segment is easy for the post-editing team to manipulate to their narrative.

In particular:

  • Michigan’s sole positive economic sector is Agriculture. The insect collections comprise the primary information base about a large threat to productivity of said economic sector.
  • $200,000 is chump change- it’s way less than Sean Hannity’s salary- and a small price to pay for maintaining the integrity of the collections.

Interestingly, Fox never let the facts that the grant was being used to salary several people and to order equipment from American scientific supply companies (who also employ people) get in the way of their narrative.  The segment undercut their story, yet they pressed ahead anyway.

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The Great Ant Escape

Incidentally, what’s up with the obvious photoshop job in the accompanying image? It looks like a chorus line.

*update* – it seems they’ve swapped the image out for a more sensible one.  The original is here.

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We here at Myrmecos Blog don’t care to voice our opinion of talk show host Glenn Beck. But we are rather enamored of dung beetles, those gorgeously ornamented insects who prevent the world from being buried in feces.

Thus, we were pleased to find the following Facebook project in our inbox this weekend:

Can This Dung Beetle Get More Fans Than Glenn Beck?

If you’re on facebook, and you like dung beetles, now’s your chance to become a fan.

h/t Jesse.

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A first glance at Obama’s proposed 2011 budget, and I feel relief.  Given earlier rumors of a freeze on discretionary spending I had feared the worst, but it seems our government is investing heavily in science as way out of the current economic mess.  The National Science Foundation (NSF) may see an 8% increase- great news for biologists!  NSF is the primary source of support in this country for basic science, including myrmecology.

Incidentally, the New York Times’ graphics department deserves a raise. Their simple interactive summaries of complex issues are absolutely brilliant- the 2011 budget graph is no exception.

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I don’t have anything to add about the horrific earthquake that hasn’t already been said elsewhere.

But, I’ve added a donation button to the right sidebar for Doctors Without Borders, an excellent non-profit group already working in Haiti when the quake hit. They are apparently operating out of makeshift clinics in the absence of functioning hospitals. Click on the button to help; other donation options are listed here.

*update* Highly Allochthonous explains the tectonics of the quake.

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In reading various web reactions to news that the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act contained nearly 1 million dollars for ant research at Arizona State University and the University of Arizona, it seems there’s a lot of confusion about how something like ant behavior winds up getting a stimulus check.  Here’s an explanation.


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The Republican Party speaks:

GOP senators on Tuesday highlighted “pure waste” in the billions of stimulus funds spent this year, including money for fossil research in Argentina, puppet shows and to protect cruise ships from terrorist attacks…

What does the Republican Party consider wasteful? Science, apparently: (more…)

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Every year my part-time photography business does a little better than the year before.  A few new clients, a few new venues, a few more visitors to my web sites.  It’s not a meteoric rise by any measure, but considering the current economic situation I am counting my blessings.

Naturally, of course, when business is good I muse about expanding it.  What would it take to become a full-time professional photographer? (more…)

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