Monday, August 16, 2010

Today's, "In the News," and Experimental Design

Fungus Wiping Out North America's Little Brown Bat

One of North America's most common bats may be driven to extinction in the northeastern US in as little as 16 years. A disease known as white-nosesyndrome, caused by a fungus that grows on the nose, wing membranes, and ears of bats while they hibernate in caves and mines during the winter, is believed to have caused the deaths of 1 millionlittle brown bats in North America already. Bats play a vital role in the control of insect populations, and this bat in particular has been known to eat its weight in insects in a night. The loss of these bats could result in increased insect populations that damage crops and spread disease.More ... Discuss
Fungi are one of the groups of organisms, like plants and animals. They are their own group, however. At one time, they were grouped with plants. New research shows that they are separate. Well, here, we are looking at news on extinction of bats.

...[R]esearchers led by biology professor Thomas H. Kunz of Boston University report in Friday's edition of the journal Science that white-nose syndrome, caused by a fungus, could all but wipe out the little brown bat in the Northeast in 20 years.

The syndrome was first discovered near Albany, N.Y., in 2006, and since then bats have declined from 30 percent to 99 percent in various areas. The illness has been confirmed in 115 bat hibernating locations in Canada and the U.S., ranging as far south as Tennessee and west to Oklahoma, the researchers reported.

.Source: Accessed: August 16, 2010.

You might not like bats, but, did you notice the mosquitoes carrying Eastern equine encephalitis are up? Do you think that the decline in bats might be related? If you were a scientist, how could you design an experiment to find out?

Here's another link that might give you some background information as you write the background information for your experimental design:

Don't forget to go from the popular press and reach into the refereed journal articles.

Fungi are opportunists. They take advantage of a situation. If your immune system is down, you are more likely to get fungal infections, for example. Plants, on the other hand, have fungal diseases more routinely.
Can you design an experiment to see if good nutrition plays a role in preventing fungal disease?

Why do you think the bats are getting more fungal disease now? Are people also getting more fungal disease now?

What makes up good experimental design?

Think about that. We'll come back to it in future posts. First, come up with your ideas.

(c) 2010 J S Shipan

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