Category Archives: environment

Methylene Blue-based sunscreen—anti-aging and coral reef safe

In any event, it’s time to start thinking about sunscreens (for those of us in the Northern Hemisphere.) One other thing, this is informational; it is not an endorsement. A March 1, 2022 Mblue Labs product announcement on EurekAlert (also on EIN Presswire) describes some of the research that went into this new sunscreen,

(Bethesda, MD – March 1, 2022) Mblue Labs releases the first sunscreen based on a recent study that found Methylene Blue, a century old medicine, to be  a highly effective, broad-spectrum UV irradiation protector that absorbs UVA and UVB, repairs ROS (Free Radicals) and UV irradiation induced DNA damages, and is safe for coral reefs. The research paper, “Ultraviolet radiation protection potentials of Methylene Blue for human skin and coral reef health ” was published in Nature’s Scientific Reports (5/28/2021) https://www.nature.com/articles/s41598-021-89970-2 [open access].

80% of today’s sunscreens use Oxybenzone as a chemical UV blocker, despite multiple studies that have shown it expedites the destruction of coral reefs. Several states and countries have now banned the use of Oxybenzone and its derivatives to stop the devastating effects on the world’s marine ecosystem. In addition, consumers focus primarily on the Sun Protection Factor (SPF) to prevent sunburns and potentially dangerous long-term health issues. However, SPF only measures UVB exposure, leaving sunscreen users vulnerable to UVA-triggered oxidative stress and photo-aging.

Our peer-reviewed study demonstrates that Methylene Blue is an effective UV blocker with a number of highly desired characteristics as a novel ingredient to be included in sunscreens. It shows a broad spectrum absorption of both UVA and UVB rays, promotes DNA damage repair, combats reactive oxygen species (ROS) induced by UVA, and most importantly, poses no harm to coral reefs.” says the study’s senior author Dr. Kan Cao, Founder of Mblue Labs, Bluelene Skincare and a Professor at the University of Maryland Department of Cell Biology and Molecular Genetics.

Mblue Labs and the University of Maryland have a pending patent on the property of Methylene Blue as an effective UV blocking agent that also delays skin aging and promotes DNA damage repair. The company’s first anti-aging sunscreen called “Bluevado SunFix”, contains the FDA approved, safe active ingredients Zinc Oxide and Titanium Dioxide, together with an optimized dosage of Methylene Blue. 

“Our Vision for this novel multifunctionsunscreen is deeply rooted in our concern for coral reefs – the rainforest of the ocean. We look forward to working with the industry and the FDA to get Methylene Blue included in the sunscreen monograph. We are confident that Bluevado SunFix not only delivers broad spectrum UVB/UVA protection and post sun repair, but also provides the full anti-aging benefits of our Bluelene Moisturizer with the same cosmetic elegance.”  says Jasmin EL Kordi, CEO Mblue Labs.

This research was supported by a National Science Foundation (NSF) Small Business Technology Transfer Grant (Grant: 1842745). This press release does not necessarily represent the views of the NSF. This study was conducted jointly by researchers at Mblue Labs and the University of Maryland.

About Mblue Labs + Bluelene

MBlue Labs provides revolutionary anti-aging technology to consumers around the world.  The company’s clinical skincare brand Bluelene uses patented ingredient Methylene Blue to repair and protect skin on the mitochondrial level. Mblue Labs’ recent research demonstrates Methylene Blue as the new retinol challenger for anti-aging treatments, in addition to its exciting properties as a new UV sunscreen.

I went looking for the new sunscreen (Bluevado SunFix) and found this,

$58.00

Bluevado SunFix is the first FDA-approved anti-aging sunscreen with Methylene Blue. Methylene Blue’s unique ability to promote skin cell health, repair/delay skin aging and protect against UVA and UVB radiation, is now captured in the bravado of this revolutionary SPF Day Cream.

Our innovative formulation blends Methylene Blue with proven minerals to outperform Oxybenzone, deliver cosmetic elegance, and protect our precious coral reefs from harmful substances. 

Methylene Blue is a preferred alternative to retinol for sensitive skin sufferers and with SunFix there is no retinol sun sensitivity.

Bluevado SunFix is proudly made in the USA and is formulated for ALL skin types.

Preorder now to reserve your SunFix. First shipments are available in mid-March [2022].

Application:

Use as a daily SPF Moisturizer. For sun protection apply 15mins before sun exposure and reapply after 40 minutes of swimming or sweating.

Benefits:

Broad-spectrum UVA/UVB sun protection 

Prevents pre-mature aging 

Repairs photo-aging DNA damage caused by UVA exposure

Reduces fine lines, crows feet, and wrinkles

Improves skin elasticity & firmness

Provides all-day skin hydration

Protects coral reefs

Free USPS shipping for all domestic orders over $34!

Ingredients:

Active Ingredients: Zinc Oxide 8.2%, Titanium Dioxide 2.8%   

Inactive Ingredients: Water (Aqua), Caprylic/Capric Triglyceride, C13-15 Alkane, Cetearyl Alcohol, Glycerin, Oryza Sativa (Rice) Bran Oil, Heptyl Undecylenate, Cetyl Alcohol, Argania Spinosa (Argan) Kernel Oil, Tocopheryl Acetate, Glyceryl Stearate, PEG-100 Stearate, Capryloyl Glycerin/Sebacic Acid Copolymer, Sorbitan Laurate, Butyrospermum Parkii (Shea) Butter, Cocos Nucifera (Coconut) Oil, Bisabolol, Xanthan Gum, Polyhydroxystearic Acid, Jojoba Esters, Polysorbate 60, Ascorbyl Palmitate, Citrus Aurantium Bergamia (Bergamot) Peel Oil, Pelargonium Graveolens (Geranium) Leaf Oil, Citrus Grandis (Grapefruit) Peel Oil, Lavandula Angustifolia (Lavender) Oil, Phenoxyethanol, Caprylyl Glycol, Methylene Blue. [emphasis mine]

Caution: For external use only. Keep out of reach of children. In case of irritation or allergic reaction, discontinue use and consult your physician.

There’s 3 fl oz or 90 mL of product in the tube and it’s SPF 21. (If memory serves, Methylene Blue’s placement at the end of the list ingredients means that it’s the ingredient that weighs the least.)

Again, I am not endorsing this product. That said, it does look interesting.

Caption: Corals exposed to Methylene Blue remain healthy. Credit: Mblue Labs

BTW, Finding a product announcement on EurekAlert (online science news service sponsored by the American Association for the Advancement of Science [AAAS]) was a little unexpected but only because I was ignorant of their Content Eligibility Guidelines (scroll down to Business Announcements). Duly noted.

Sounds of Central African Landscapes; a Cornell (University) Elephant Listening Project

This September 13, 2021 news item about sound recordings taken in a rainforest (on phys.org) is downright fascinating,

More than a million hours of sound recordings are available from the Elephant Listening Project (ELP) in the K. Lisa Yang Center for Conservation Bioacoustics at the Cornell Lab of Ornithology—a rainforest residing in the cloud.

ELP researchers, in collaboration with the Wildlife Conservation Society, use remote recording units to capture the entire soundscape of a Congolese rainforest. Their targets are vocalizations from endangered African forest elephants, but they also capture tropical parrots shrieking, chimps chattering and rainfall spattering on leaves to the beat of grumbling thunder.

For someone who suffers from acrophobia (fear of heights), this is a disturbing picture (how tall is that tree? is the rope reinforced? who or what is holding him up? where is the photographer perched?),

Frelcia Bambi is a member of the Congolese team that deploys sound recorders in the rainforest and analyzes the data. Photo by Sebastien Assoignons, courtesy of the Wildlife Conservation Society.

A September 13, 2021 Cornell University (NY state, US) news release by Pat Leonard, which originated the news item, provides more details about the sounds themselves and the Elephant Listening Project,

“Scientists can use these soundscapes to monitor biodiversity,” said ELP director Peter Wrege. “You could measure overall sound levels before, during and after logging operations, for example. Or hone in on certain frequencies where insects may vocalize. Sound is increasingly being used as a conservation tool, especially for establishing the presence or absence of a species.”

For the past four years, 50 tree-mounted recording units have been collecting data continuously, covering a region that encompasses old logging sites, recent logging sites and part of the Nouabalé-Ndoki National Park in the Republic of the Congo. The sensors sometimes capture the booming guns of poachers, alerting rangers who then head out to track down the illegal activity.

But everyday nature lovers can tune in rainforest sounds, too.

“We’ve had requests to use some of the files for meditation or for yoga,” Wrege said. “It is very soothing to listen to rainforest sounds—you hear the sounds of insects, birds, frogs, chimps, wind and rain all blended together.”

But, as Wrege and others have learned, big data can also be a big problem. The Sounds of Central African Landscapes recordings would gobble up nearly 100 terabytes of computer space, and ELP takes in another eight terabytes every four months. But now, Amazon Web Services is storing the jungle sounds for free under its Open Data Sponsorship Program, which preserves valuable scientific data for public use.

This makes it possible for Wrege to share the jungle sounds and easier for users to analyze them with Amazon tools so they don’t have to move the massive files or try to download them.

Searching for individual species amid the wealth of data is a bit more daunting. ELP uses computer algorithms to search through the recordings for elephant sounds. Wrege has created a detector for the sounds of gorillas beating their chests. There are software platforms that help users create detectors for specific sounds, including Raven Pro 1.6, created by the Cornell Lab’s bioacoustics engineers. Wrege says the next iteration, Raven 2.0, will make this process even easier.

Wrege is also eyeing future educational uses for the recordings which he says could help train in-country biologists to not only collect the data but do the analyses. This is gradually happening now in the Republic of the Congo—ELP’s team of Congolese researchers does all the analysis for gunshot detection, though the elephant analyses are still done at ELP.

“We could use these recordings for internships and student training in Congo and other countries where we work, such as Gabon,” Wrege said. “We can excite young people about conservation in Central Africa. It would be a huge benefit to everyone living there.”

To listen or download clips from Sounds of the Central African Landscape, go to ELP’s data page on Amazon Web Services. You’ll need to create an account with AWS (choose the free option). Then sign in with your username and password. Click on the “recordings” item in the list you see, then “wav/” on the next page. From there you can click on any item in the list to play or download clips that are each 1.3 GB and 24 hours long.

Scientists looking to use sounds for research and analysis should start here.

World Conservation Society Forest Elephant Congo [downloaded from https://congo.wcs.org/Wildlife/Forest-Elephant.aspx]

What follows may be a little cynical but I can’t help noticing that this worthwhile and fascinating project will result in more personal and/or professional data for Amazon since you have to sign up even if all you’re doing is reading or listening to a few files that they’ve made available for the general public. In a sense, Amazon gets ‘paid’ when you give up an email address to them. Plus, Amazon gets to look like a good world citizen.

Let’s hope something greater than one company’s reputation as a world citizen comes out of this.

Phytoremediation with lupin and arsenic

Is anyone else reminded of Arsène Lupin? (More about Lupin later in this posing)

An August 24, 2021 news item on ScienceDaily describes research on soils and phytoremediation (decontamination by plants),

Pollution of soils with highly toxic arsenic is a worldwide problem generating substantial risks to human health and the environment.

In Canada, over 7000 sites contaminated with metals such as arsenic are considered ‘highly concerning’ by the government, with some past and recent mining operations and wood preservative facilities having left their mark on the environment by increasing soil arsenic levels by up to 1000 times the maximum regulatory health limits.

One way in which arsenic contaminated soils could be rejuvenated is to exploit natural mechanisms which have evolved in certain plants for contamination tolerance.

“The legume crop white lupin (L. albus) is one such arsenic tolerant plant species being studied as for sustainable remediation,” explains Adrien Frémont, lead author of the study and a doctoral student in biological sciences at the Université de Montréal. “The mechanism behind arsenic tolerance in white lupin is thought to be the release of plant chemicals directly into soil by roots, but the nature of these compounds is unknown and hard to study due to the complexity of these belowground interactions.”

Caption: The legume crop white lupin (L. albus) is one such arsenic tolerant plant species being studied as for sustainable remediation. Credit: UMONTREAL

An August 24, 2021 University of Montreal (Université de Montréal) news release (also on EurekAlert), which originated the news item, describes the work in more detail,

Root chemicals an undiscovered country

To study this, the team developed nylon pouches which could be placed close to roots in soil to capture exuded molecules without damaging the root system. The complex mix of molecules collected from these pouches were analysed using advanced (metabolomic) chemical profiling to identify the compounds capable of binding metals produced by the Lupin plants in response to high concentrations of arsenic. Some of these metal-binding molecules, phytochelatins, are known to be used internally by plants to deal with metal stress but have never before been captured as exuded into polluted soils.

“We’re really excited to see how matching new root-soil sampling approaches with advanced metabolomic profiling can yield such unexpected discoveries”, notes Frémont. “We know that plants can drastically change soil properties and can transform or immobilise soil pollution, but the chemistry underlying how they achieve this, and in particular the makeup and function of root-exuded compounds, is still very much an undiscovered country.”
 

Plant roots directly altering polluted soils

The next steps of the research are to branch out into more detailed analysis of the precise chemical reactions taking place at the root-soil interface, including exploration of different plant species, interactions with microorganisms and the challenge of diverse soil pollution.

As Dr. Nicholas Brereton, University of Montreal and the study’s senior author, mentions: “It can be a real challenge to research the complex interactions going on belowground between plants and soil, but these findings are rewarding in telling us that natural mechanisms have evolved in plants to deal with this type of pollution. Although we’re still only just beginning to scratch below the surface of how these plant root strategies work, as we learn more, we can potentially utilise these natural processes to improve soil health and help to alleviate some of the most persistent anthropogenic damage to our environment.”

Here’s a link to and a citation for the paper,

Phytochelatin and coumarin enrichment in root exudates of arsenic-treated white lupin by Adrien Frémont, Eszter Sas, Mathieu Sarrazin, Emmanuel Gonzalez, Jacques Brisson, Frédéric Emmanuel Pitre, Nicholas James Beresford Brereton. Plant Cell & Environment DOI: https://doi.org/10.1111/pce.14163 First published: 15 August 2021

This paper is behind a paywall.

For anyone interested in phytoremediation, I have a March 30, 2012 posting about it and there’s this Wikipedia entry. Depending on the circumstances, you might also consider phytoremediation as a form of phyto-mining, i.e., using plants to recover metals from mine tailings (see my March 5, 2013 posting).

Arsène Lupin

There are two of them (the first and the latest ones) being mentioned here; but there are many versions of Arsène Lupin in manga, anime, movies, etc.

The first fictional Arsène Lupin was created in 1905 by Maurice Leblanc. Here’s a description (on the Normandie tourisme website) of the first Lupin in an article about the latest Lupin, a series streamed on Netflix.

Maurice Leblanc was born in Rouen in 1864. Fascinated by legends of witches, Celts, Romans and the Vikings growing up, Leblanc would go on to develop a deep knowledge of and love for the region around Rouen, known as the Pays de Caux. After working in a factory in Rouen by day, writing only in his spare time, Leblanc eventually left his home town to study in Paris, where he then started working as a journalist for several publications including Le Figaro. Fate then struck, as publisher Pierre Lafitte launched the magazine Je sais tout and commissioned Leblanc to write a series of new crime stories where the hero would be a sort of French anti-Sherlock Holmes.

Who was the original Lupin? Not unlike Lupin in the TV series, the Arsène Lupin of the books was a thief, a master of disguise, a rascal but never a killer, a hit with the ladies and a righter of wrongs who takes from the rich, a French Robin Hood if you like. He takes on a multitude of personas in the books, constantly changing his looks and his name – examples include Prince Paul Sernine, Raoul d’Andrésy, Horace Velmont and Don Luis Perenna. In the [Lupin] series [2021], this is echoed by Assane’s alter-egos Paul Sernine, Luis Perenna and Salvatore813, as well as his choice of name for his son, Raoul. Yet superman Lupin, both in the books and on screen, always manages to triumph somehow over his enemies, even when all seems lost, through bending the rules, outsmarting the police and sheer self-belief.

You can find out more about the latest Lupin in its IMDb entry,

Inspired by the adventures of Arsène Lupin, gentleman thief Assane Diop sets out to avenge his father for an injustice inflicted by a wealthy family.

The television series starring Omar Sy was a huge hit in France and has been seen worldwide.

Salmon science camps

This story led me to a much larger international story about funding, which is usually not an exciting topic but this time, it was different.

First, there are the Salmon Science Camps.

A January 25, 2022 University of British Columbia (UBC) news release (also on EurekAlert and received via email) announces new funding for a STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) education initiative that focuses on Indigenous youth, salmon, and science,

Imagine a summer camp where you can watch grizzly bears catch salmon in streams, while learning about the migration and preparation of the fish hovering in the water at your feet.

Welcome to the Salmon Science Camp for Nisga’a youth, run by Dr. Andrea Reid (she/her), principal investigator of the Centre for Indigenous Fisheries at UBC. With new funding from the multi-institutional $24 million Ărramăt Project, Dr. Reid plans to expand these camps and open doors to scientific learning.

What are the Salmon Science camps?

We started these camps in 2016, with funding from the Gingolx Village Government Education Department and NSERC [Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada] Indigenous Science Ambassadors Program, focusing on Nisga’a Nation youth aged four to 17 years old in Gingolx, my grandmother’s home village in British Columbia, at the base of the Alaska Panhandle. Each summer since, we charter boats and hire buses to get young people out onto the land and water where they follow the salmon life cycle, through all parts of the watershed from spawning grounds to the ocean and back again.

They learn to identify plants and animals, meet technicians working for the Nisga’a fisheries and wildlife department, learn from Elders who carry important stories about hoon (salmon) and how we care for them, and get to play and experiment with different scientific tools, from radio telemetry technology to underwater drones to water testing toolkits!

The Gingolx Village Government education manager Renee Garner said youth return from a day on the water feeling connected to one another. One student told her they had learned how the spirit bear got its name: fish cannot see their paws in the water, making them like ghosts and great hunters, something she would never forget.

What will the Ărramăt Project allow you to do?

Led by the University of Alberta, the Ărramăt Project is focused on strengthening human health and well-being through conservation and sustainable relationships with biodiversity. As one of 51 co-applicants from around the world on the recent New Frontiers in Research Fund Transformation grant awarded to this Indigenous-led project, my work will include expanding the camps to involve youth from the three other Nisga’a Nation villages: Gitlaxt’aamiks, Gitwinksihlkw, and Laxgalts’ap. We also want to create exchanges with neighbouring Nations, so camp attendees can learn about their different relationships with fish, including preparation methods and how they differ across cultures and environmental contexts. These exchanges will also promote cross-cultural learning and relationship building, bringing Indigenous youth together from across the province. All our activities build on the fundamental idea that salmon health and human well-being are inextricably linked, and we all need to do our part to ensure a better future for us all.

Why are these camps important?

These camps open a door to science and immersive learning experiences for Indigenous youth that might not necessarily be available due to the location of Gingolx, and they get to see a whole range of Nisga’a citizens as experts and scientists. This might mean they begin to see science as a future avenue for themselves, and view caring for salmon in the way Nisga’a have always done as not only an act of stewardship, but a truly scientific practice that is based on observation, experimentation, and other systematic ways of building knowledge about the world in which we all live. The camps demonstrate for youth that Indigenous science is science – it’s just as valid and important as conventional academic knowledge.

Interview language(s): English (Reid)

Congratulations to Dr. Reid!

Funding—have patience, it gets more interesting

Anyone who reads my postings with regularity will know I don’t often give compliments to funding agencies or the Canadian federal government for that matter. This time I have to offer kudos.

Breaking it down

As the news release notes, the salmon science camps got their start in 2016 with the Gingolx Village Government Education Department and the NSERC (Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada) Indigenous Science Ambassadors Program.

(I found two different webpages for the Gingolx (Village Government) Education Department, this and this.)

NSERC has two programmes, the NSERC Student Ambassadors which was started in 2018 according to their webpage and the NSERC Indigenous Student Ambassadors, which does not include any history on its webpage.

It’s not clear as to whether the salmon science camps will continue getting the Gingolx/NSERC money now that a new agency and a new funding programme have become involved.

New agency

As noted in the news release, the Ărramăt Project (led by the University of Alberta) is funded under the New Frontiers in Research Fund, which itself was launched in 2018. From the About the New Frontiers in Research Fund webpage, Note: Links have been removed,

Launched in 2018, the New Frontiers in Research Fund (NFRF) funds interdisciplinary, high-risk / high-reward, transformative research led by Canadian researchers working with Canadian and international partners. The NFRF is designed to support world-leading innovation and enhance Canada’s competitiveness and expertise in the global, knowledge-based economy.

This fund seeks to inspire innovative research projects that push boundaries into exciting new areas and that have the potential to deliver game-changing impacts.

To meet its goals, the NFRF program is innovative in its design and implementation. Its novel merit review processes reflect the objectives of each funding opportunity, and the program offers flexibility in the use of grant funds to support international collaboration.

The NFRF is under the strategic direction of the Canada Research Coordinating Committee. It is administered by the Tri-agency Institutional Programs Secretariat, which is housed within the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council (SSHRC), on behalf of Canada’s three federal research funding agencies: SSHRC, the Canadian Institutes of Health Research [CIHR] and the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council.

The NFRF has a budget of $275 million over five years (2018-19 to 2022-23), and will grow to have an annual budget of $124 million beginning in 2023-24.

The NFRF is split into four streams: Exploration, Transformation, International, and Special Calls. The Ărramăt Project has been funded as part of the Transformation stream. (For more about the Canada Research Coordinating Committee, the NFRF, and funding opportunities, go here, scroll down and you’ll see what you’re looking for on the right side of the screen.)

Fanfare: the Ărramăt Project

There’s a brief January 12, 2022 announcement on the Denakayeh website and here’s a PDF version of the announcement,

“There are very few places left on earth where nature and Indigenous Peoples
are not under stress. We urgently need solutions that can ensure health and well-being for future generations.” (Danika Billie Littlechild)

Biodiversity decline is a major issue in Canada and globally. Species extinctions, along with problems of land and water quality, are not just environmental issues. These losses are also leading to impacts on human health and well-being, particularly for Indigenous Peoples. As more and more lands, rivers, plants, and animals are lost and degraded, disease risks and food insecurity will become more common. Indigenous cultural practices, languages, and knowledges are threatened; however, they can also guide us towards necessary transformation.

“Conventional policy approaches don’t help us understand and address the linkages between environmental losses and human health problems like zoonotic diseases (e.g., COVID19). We have to get out of our disciplinary and bureaucratic silos and recognize that these ecological losses are interconnected to human health. They also cause economic and social stresses on families and communities.” (Brenda Parlee)

Ărramăt is a new project funded for 2021-2027 by the New Frontiers Research Fund Transformations Program (NFRF-T) in Canada, that is being launched in response to this global biodiversity and health crisis.

“The Ărramăt Project is about respecting the inherent dignity and interconnectedness of peoples and Mother Earth, life and livelihood, identity and expression, biodiversity and sustainability, and stewardship and well-being. Arramăt is a word from the Tamasheq language spoken by the Tuareg people of the Sahel and Sahara regions which reflects this holistic worldview.” (Mariam Wallet Aboubakrine)

Over 150 Indigenous organizations, universities, and other partners will work together to highlight the complex problems of biodiversity loss and its implications for health and well-being. The project Team will take a broad approach and be inclusive of many different worldviews and methods for research (i.e., intersectionality, interdisciplinary, transdisciplinary). Activities will occur in 70 different kinds of ecosystems that are also spiritually, culturally, and economically important to Indigenous Peoples.

The project is led by Indigenous scholars and activists Danika Billie Littlechild (Carleton University), Mariam Wallet Aboubakrine (former President of the United Nations Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues), and Sherry Pictou (Dalhousie University). John O’Neil (former Dean of the Faculty of Health Sciences at Simon Fraser University) and Murray Humphries (Co-Director for the Centre for Indigenous Peoples’ Nutrition, and Environment at McGill University), are also Co- Principal Investigators of the project. The University of Alberta is the lead institution for the project (led by Brenda Parlee, Nominated Principal Investigator).

“The research builds on the momentum and opportunities created in Treaties, by the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC), the National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women, Girls and Two-Spirit People (MMIWG2S), and the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP). We want to harness that momentum in ways that can create fundamental change to the status quo around biodiversity and health.” (Sherry Pictou)

Over half of the $24 mil research budget will go directly to Indigenous governments and organizations to lead their own work in ways that respect, protect, and elevate the knowledges and Indigenous ways of life. Cultural security and social justice for women and those of the 2SLGBTQQIA+ and ancestral gender diverse communities, will be central to the work of this Team as they address fundamental questions of common concern. How can food security be strengthened for Indigenous Peoples? What are Indigenous-led approaches to conservation that support wild species and agrobiodiversity? What are the best practices for decolonizing education and science? How can we include the voices of Indigenous youth? How can we address the widespread and recurring violence against Mother Earth and Indigenous Peoples? Can we foster healthier relationships to nature? How can we emotionally and spiritually heal from the stresses and losses caused by colonial practices (e.g., residential schools), land and resource development, and climate change?

The diversity of Indigenous Peoples, knowledges, and interdisciplinary Team expertise will be mobilized through the project to produce action at local to global scales of decision-making. Dene, Nisga’a (Canada), and Batwa (Uganda) aim to produce new models of conservation for ‘species at risk’ [emphasis mine]. Other groups such as the peoples of Treaty 8 and Treaty 3 (Canada), Yawanawà (Brazil), and Aymara (Bolivia) will focus on improving land and water security. Alternative economic and livelihood strategies (e.g., Indigenous Guardians) that benefit people and nature will be a focus for Indigenous Peoples in regions such as northern Canada, the Sahara and Sahel regions, and Thailand. The knowledge and customary strategies of Māori (Aotearoa-New Zealand) will contribute to the reconnection communities to their land and seascapes and regeneration of their cultural-ecological systems. The knowledges of Nêhiyawak (Cree), Sámi, and Tribal Peoples of India will be a foundation for action to rewild or restore cultural values and uses of other degraded landscapes. More than 140 projects will be funded on these and other themes over the 6 years.

“It is an honour and a profound responsibility to be part of this Indigenous-led project. It is unique from many other large projects in its embrace of governance models like ethical space, Indigenous research methodologies, and Indigenous Knowledges.” (John O’Neil)

“I am excited to see the work reveal how Indigenous Knowledges and stewardship practices define both the origins and contemporary centres of ecological research, biodiversity science, and conservation biology.” (Murray Humphries)

By 2027, the project will have produced a diversity of holistic and actionable solutions for improved stewardship and care for people and the planet.

“Strategies for biodiversity conservation have not historically been positive for Indigenous Peoples. They have a very small voice, if any, at the tables of decision-making. We don’t just want to be token members of the colonial structures that currently exist, we want to decolonize and Indigenize decisions about nature and health. Everyone needs to be accountable. We will not give up on Mother Earth and the possibility of renewing, strengthening, and elevating the health and well-being of Indigenous Peoples, their lands and waters, and all beings who rely upon them.” (Danika Billie Littlechild)

The compliments and getting back to the salmon science camps

The Ărramăt Project’s scope is breathtaking and necessary. Bravo!

I want to recognize the funding agencies (SSHRC, NSERC, and CIHR). Bravo!

Plus the Gingolx Village Government Education Department. Bravo!

And, I want to acknowledge one other group (from the Acknowledging New Frontiers in Research Fund Support and Communicating the Value of your Research webpage),

Federal support for research is an investment by the people of Canada [emphasis mine]. It is important for taxpayers to know how research dollars are being spent. By demonstrating the value of your research, New Frontiers in Research Fund (NFRF) award recipients help strengthen public understanding of and support for high-risk, high-reward, interdisciplinary and international research.

Finally, Brava Dr. Reid! I don’t imagine it was easy to start your project and keep it running.

Canadians and their government have a great deal to grapple with in regard to indigenous people and much of it quite ugly. This funding doesn’t negate the past or absolve anyone of their sins but it does point to new possibilities for our relationships with each other and with our planet. (For anyone unfamiliar with the history of the relationship between the Canadian government and its Indigenous peoples there’s this essay on Wikipedia. Also, here’s the Residential Schools in Canada essay in the Canadian Encyclopedia and and there’s more here on the federal government’s Residential schools in Canada webpage.)

Not to get too carried away with grand visions, here’s a science salmon camp video,

Small steps, eh?

‘Find the Birds’ mobile game has a British Columbia (Canada) location

Adam Dhalla in a January 5, 2022 posting on the Nature Conservancy Canada blog announced a new location for a ‘Find the Birds’ game,

Since its launch six months ago …, with an initial Arizona simulated birding location, Find the Birds (a free educational mobile game about birds and conservation) now has over 7,000 players in 46 countries on six continents. In the game, players explore realistic habitats, find and take virtual photos of accurately animated local bird species and complete conservation quests. Thanks in a large part to the creative team at Thought Generation Society (the non-profit game production organization I’m working with), Find the Birds is a Canadian-made success story.

Going back nine months to an April 9, 2021 posting and the first ‘Find the Birds’ announcement by Adam Dhalla for the Nature Conservancy Canada blog,

It is not a stretch to say that our planet is in dire need of more conservationists, and environmentally minded people in general. Birds and birdwatching are gateways to introducing conservation and science to a new generation.

… it seems as though younger generations are often unaware of the amazing world in their backyard. They don’t hear the birdsong emanating from the trees during the morning chorus. …

This problem inspired my dad and me to come up with the original concept for Find the Birds, a free educational mobile game about birds and conservation. I was 10 at the time, and I discovered that I was usually the only kid out birdwatching. So we thought, why not bring the birds to them via the digital technology they are already immersed in?

Find the Birds reflects on the birding and conservation experience. Players travel the globe as an animated character on their smartphone or tablet and explore real-life, picturesque environments, finding different bird species. The unique element of this game is its attention to detail; everything in the game is based on science. …

Here’s a trailer for the game featuring its first location, Arizona,

Now back to Dhalla’s January 5, 2022 posting for more about the latest iteration of the game and other doings (Note: Links have been removed),

Recently, the British Columbia location was added, which features Sawmill Lake in the Okanagan Valley, Tofino on the coast and a journey in the Pacific Ocean. Some of the local bird species included are Steller’s jays (BC’s provincial bird), black oystercatchers and western meadowlarks. Conservation quests include placing nest boxes for northern saw-whet owls and cleaning up beach litter.

I’ve always loved Steller’s jays! We get a lot of them in our backyard. It’s far lesser known bird than blue jay, so I wanted to give them some attention. That’s the terrific thing about being the co-creator of the game: I get to help choose the species, the quests — everything! So all the birds in the BC locations are some of my favourites.

The black oystercatcher is another underappreciated species. I’ve seen them along the coasts of BC, where they are relatively common. …

To gauge the game’s impact on conservation education, I recently conducted an online player survey. Of the 101 players who completed the survey, 71 per cent were in the 8–15 age group, which means I am reaching my peers. But 21 per cent were late teens and adults, so the game’s appeal is not limited to children. Fifty-one per cent were male and 49 per cent female: this equality is encouraging, as most games in general have a much smaller percentage of female players.

And the game is helping people connect with nature! Ninety-eight per cent of players said the game increased their appreciation of birds. …

As a result of the game’s reputation and the above data, I was invited to present my findings at the 2022 International Ornithological Congress. So, I will be traveling to Durban, South Africa, next August to spread the word on reaching and teaching a new generation of birders, ornithologists and conservationists. …

You can find the game here at FindtheBirds.com and you can find Thought Generation here.

For the curious, here’s a black oystercatcher caught in the act,

Black oystercatcher (Photo by Tracey Chen, CC BY-NC 4.0) [downloaded from https://www.natureconservancy.ca/en/blog/find-the-birds-british-columbia.html#.YdcjWSaIapr]

Two (very loud) new species in Australia: the Slender Bleating Tree Frog and the Screaming Tree Frog

Slender Bleating Tree Frog (H.B. Hines) [downloaded from https://www.newcastle.edu.au/newsroom/featured/screaming-for-attention-surprise-discovery-of-two-new-and-very-loud-frog-species]

A November 22, 2021 item on phys.org announces two ‘new to science’ frog species in Australia,

Scientists from the University of Newcastle [Australia], Australian Museum, South Australian Museum, and Queensland National Parks and Wildlife have found and described two new, very loud frog species from eastern Australia: the Slender Bleating Tree Frog, Litoria balatus, and Screaming Tree Frog, Litoria quiritatus.

Published today [November 22, 2021] in Zootaxa, the newly described Slender Bleating Tree Frog is present in Queensland, while the Screaming Tree Frog occurs from around Taree in NSW [new South Wales] to just over the border in Victoria.

Scientifically described with the help of citizen scientists and their recordings through the Australian Museum’s FrogID app, the new frog species were once thought to be one species [emphasis mine], the Bleating Tree Frog, Litoria dentata.

A November 22, 2021 University of Newcastle press release, which originated the news item, has a great headline and more details about the ‘new’ frog species (Note: Links have been removed; Curious about what they sound like? Check out Dr. Jodi Rowley’s Nov. 22, 2021 posting for the Australian Museum blog for embedded video and audio files),

Screaming for attention: Surprise discovery of two new – and very loud – frog species

..

Australian Museum herpetologist and lead scientist on the groundbreaking FrogID project, Dr Jodi Rowley, said that the Bleating Tree Frog is well known to residents along the east coast of Australia for its extremely loud, piercing, almost painful call.

“These noisy frog bachelors are super loud when they are trying to woo their mates,” Rowley said.

The scientists analysed many calls submitted to the FrogID project from across Queensland and NSW to differentiate between the calls.

“Our examination revealed that their calls differ slightly in how long, how high-pitched and how rapid-fire they are. The Slender Bleating Tree Frog has the shortest, most rapid-fire and highest pitched calls,” Rowley explained.

Chief Research Scientist of Evolutionary Biology, South Australian Museum, Professor Steven Donnellan said that genetic work was the first clue that there are actually three species.

“Although similar in appearance, and in their piercing calls, the frogs are genetically very different. I’m still amazed that it’s taken us so long to discover that the loudest frog in Australia is not one but three species,” Professor Donnellan said.

“How many more undescribed species in the ‘quiet achiever’ category are awaiting their scientific debut?”

The three species vary subtly in appearance. The Slender Bleating Tree Frog, as its name suggests, is slender in appearance, and has a white line extending down its side, and males have a distinctly black vocal sac.

The Screaming Tree Frog isn’t nearly as slender, doesn’t have the white line extending down its side, and males have a bright yellow vocal sac. In the breeding season, the entire body of males of the Screaming Tree Frog also tend to turn a lemon yellow.

The Robust Bleating Tree Frog is most similar in appearance to the Screaming Tree Frog, but males have a brownish vocal sac that turns a dull yellow or yellowish brown when fully inflated.

Professor Michael Mahony of the University of Newcastle’s School of Environmental and Life Sciences – who over his long career has developed a cryopreservation method, the first genome bank for Australian frogs – said the three closely-related species are relatively common and widespread.

“They are also all at least somewhat tolerant of modified environments, being recorded as part of the FrogID project relatively often in backyards and paddocks, as well as more natural habitats,” Professor Mahony said.

Dr Rowley noted that these new frog species brings the total number of native frog species known from Australia to 246, including the recently recognised Gurrumul’s Toadlet and the Wollumbin Pouched Frog.

“The research and help from our citizen scientists highlights the valuable contribution that everyone can make to better understand and conserve our frogs,” Rowley said.

Here’s a link to and a citation for the paper,

Two new frog species from the Litoria rubella species group from eastern Australia by J. J. L. Rowley, M. J. Mahony, H. B. Hines, S. Myers, L.C. Price, G.M. Shea, S. C. Donnellan. Zootaxa, 5071(1), 1–41. DOI: https://doi.org/10.11646/zootaxa.5071.1.1 Published November 22, 2021

This paper appears to be open access.

You can find out more about the FrogID project here (I first mentioned it in an August 2, 2021 posting featuring a sadder frog story).

Nanomaterial shapes and forms affect passage through blood brain barrier (BBB)

I meant to get this published a lot sooner.

There seems to be a lot of excitement about this research. I got an embargoed press release further in advance than usual and now the embargo is lifted, it’s everywhere except, at the time of this writing (0920 PDT July 6, 2021), on the publisher’s (Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences [PNAS]) website.

A July 5, 2021 news item on Medical Express announces the news,

Nanomaterials found in consumer and health-care products can pass from the bloodstream to the brain side of a blood-brain barrier model with varying ease depending on their shape—creating potential neurological impacts that could be both positive and negative, a new study reveals.

A July 5, 2021 University of Birmingham press release (also on EurekAlert), which originated the news item, delves into the details,

Scientists found that metal-based nanomaterials such as silver and zinc oxide can cross an in vitro model of the ‘blood brain barrier’ (BBB) as both particles and dissolved ions – adversely affecting the health of astrocyte cells, which control neurological responses.

But the researchers also believe that their discovery will help to design safer nanomaterials and could open up new ways of targeting hard-to-reach locations when treating brain disease.

Publishing its findings today in PNAS, an international team of researchers discovered that the physiochemical properties of metallic nanomaterials influence how effective they are at penetrating the in vitro model of the blood brain barrier and their potential levels of toxicity in the brain.

Higher concentration of certain shapes of silver nanomaterials and zinc oxide may impair cell growth and cause increased permeability of the BBB, which can lead to the BBB allowing easier brain access to these compounds.

The BBB plays a vital role in brain health by restricting the passage of various chemical substances and foreign molecules into the brain from surrounding blood vessels.

Impaired BBB integrity compromises the health of the central nervous system and increased permeability to foreign substances may eventually cause damage to the brain (neurotoxicity).

Study co-author Iseult Lynch, Professor of Environmental Nanosciences at the University of Birmingham, commented: “We found that silver and zinc oxide nanomaterials, which are widely used in various daily consumer and health-care products, passed through our in vitro BBB model, in the form of both particles and dissolved ions.

“Variation in shape, size and chemical composition can dramatically influence nanomaterials penetration through the (in vitro) blood brain barrier. This is of paramount importance for tailored medical application of nanomaterials – for example targeted delivery systems, bioimaging and assessing possible risks associated with each type of metallic nanomaterial.”

The BBB is a physical barrier composed of a tightly packed layer of endothelial cells surrounding the brain which separates the blood from the cerebrospinal fluid allowing the transfer of oxygen and essential nutrients but preventing the access of most molecules.

Recent studies found nanomaterials such as zinc oxide can accumulate on the brain side of the in vitro BBB in altered states which can affect neurological activity and brain health. Inhaled, ingested, and dermally-applied nanomaterials can reach the blood stream and a small fraction of these may cross the BBB – impacting on the central nervous system.

The researchers synthesised a library of metallic nanomaterials with different particle compositions, sizes, and shapes – evaluating their ability to penetrate the BBB using an in vitro BBB model, followed by assessment of their behaviour and fate in and beyond the model BBB.

Co-author Zhiling Guo, a Research Fellow at the University of Birmingham, commented: “”Understanding these materials’ behaviour once past the blood brain barrier is vital for evaluating the neurological effects arising from their unintentional entry into the brain. Neurotoxicity potential is greater in some materials than others, due to the different ways their shapes allow them to move and be transported.”

The research team tested varied sizes of cerium oxide and iron oxide, along with zinc oxide and four different shapes of silver – spherical (Ag NS), disc-like (Ag ND), rod-shaped (Ag NR) and nanowires (Ag NW).

Zinc oxide slipped through the in vitro BBB with the greatest ease. The researchers found spherical and disc-like silver nanomaterials underwent different dissolution regimes – gradually transforming to silver-sulfur compounds within the BBB, creating ‘easier’ entry pathways.

Zinc oxide is used as a bulking agent and a colorant. In over-the-counter drug products, it is used as a skin protectant and a sunscreen – reflecting and scattering UV radiation to help reduce or prevent sunburn and premature aging of the skin. Silver is used in cosmetic and skincare products such as anti-aging creams.

There’s still a long way to go with this research. For anyone who’s unfamiliar with the term ‘in vitro’, the rough translation is ‘in glass’ meaning test tubes, petri dishes, etc. are used. Even though the research paper has been peer-reviewed (not a perfect process), once it becomes available there will be added scrutiny from scientists with regard to how the research was conducted and whether or not the conclusions drawn are reasonable. One more question should also be asked, are the results reproducible by other scientists?

Here’s a link to and a citation for the paper,

Biotransformation modulates the penetration of metallic nanomaterials across an artificial blood–brain barrier model by Zhiling Guo, Peng Zhang, Swaroop Chakraborty, Andrew J Chetwynd, Fazel Abdolahpur Monikh, Christopher Stark, Hanene Ali-Boucetta, Sandra Wilson, Iseult Lynch, and Eugenia Valsami-Jones. PNAS 118 (28) e2105245118 DOI: https://doi.org/10.1073/pnas.2105245118 Published: July 13, 2021

This paper appears to be open access.

Graphene in art preservation and restoration

A July 5, 2021 news item on phys.org announces a new technology for preserving and restoring your paintings,

The exposure of colors used in artworks to ultraviolet (UV) and visible light in the presence of oxidizing agents triggers color degradation, fading and yellowing. These degradation mechanisms can lead to irreversible alteration of artworks. Protective varnishes and coatings currently used to protect art paintings are not acceptable solutions, since their removal requires the use of solvents, which can affect adversely the underlying work surface.

A team of researchers from the Institute of Chemical Engineering Sciences of Foundation for Research and Technology-Hellas (FORTH/ ICE-HT), the Department of Chemical Engineering of the University of Patras, and the Center for Colloid and Surface Science (CSGI) of the University of Florence, led by Professor Costas Galiotis, had the innovative ideato use graphene veils for the protection of paintings against environmental degradation.

A July 2, 2021 Foundation for Research and Technology – Hellas (FORTH) press release, which originated the news item, provides more details,

Since its isolation in 2004 by Geim [Andre Geim] and Novoselov [Konstantin Novoselov] from the University of Manchester (Nobel Prize in Physics in 2010), graphene has been termed as a ‘wonder material’ due to its exceptional properties that have already been used in many applications and products. The graphene veil used in this work is a flexible, transparent film, produced by the technique of chemical vapor deposition. It has a monoatomic thickness and, since there are no size limitations in the other dimensions (length and width), it can cover any required large surface areas.

The results from measurements performed in the above mentioned laboratories, showed that this membrane is impermeable to moisture, the oxidizing agents and other harmful pollutants and also can absorb a large amount of harmful ultraviolet radiation. Finally, in contrast to other protective means, it is demonstrated that these graphene coatings are relatively easy to remove without damaging the surface of the artworks.

[downloaded from https://phys.org/news/2021-07-graphene-paving-methods-art.html]

Before getting to the link and citation for the paper, here’s the abstract, which helps fill n a few more details,

Modern and contemporary art materials are generally prone to irreversible colour changes upon exposure to light and oxidizing agents. Graphene can be produced in thin large sheets, blocks ultraviolet light, and is impermeable to oxygen, moisture and corrosive agents; therefore, it has the potential to be used as a transparent layer for the protection of art objects in museums, during storage and transportation. Here we show that a single-layer or multilayer graphene veil, produced by chemical vapour deposition, can be deposited over artworks to protect them efficiently against colour fading, with a protection factor of up to 70%. We also show that this process is reversible since the graphene protective layer can be removed using a soft rubber eraser without causing any damage to the artwork. We have also explored a complementary contactless graphene-based route for colour protection that is based on the deposition of graphene on picture framing glass for use when the directapplication of graphene is not feasible due to surface roughness or artwork fragility. Overall, the present results are a proof of concept of the potential use of graphene as an effective and removable protective advanced material to prevent colour fading in artworks.

And now, a link to and a citation for the paper,

Preventing colour fading in artworks with graphene veils by M. Kotsidi, G. Gorgolis, M. G. Pastore Carbone, G. Anagnostopoulos, G. Paterakis, G. Poggi, A. Manikas, G. Trakakis, P. Baglioni & C. Galiotis. Nature Nanotechnology (2021) DOI: https://doi.org/10.1038/s41565-021-00934-z Published 01 July 2021

This paper is behind a paywall.

Clean up soil and water or deliver drugs with nanobots

Nanobots/nanorobots/nanoswimmers or whatever they’re called, could prove to be quite useful for environmental remediation efforts or medical delivery systems according to a June 29, 2021 news item on Nanowerk (Note: One link has been removed),

CU Boulder [University of Colorado at Boulder] researchers have discovered that minuscule, self-propelled particles called “nanoswimmers” can escape from mazes as much as 20 times faster than other, passive particles, paving the way for their use in everything from industrial clean-ups to medication delivery.

The findings, published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (“Mechanisms of transport enhancement for self-propelled nanoswimmers in a porous matrix”), describe how these tiny synthetic nanorobots are incredibly effective at escaping cavities within maze-like environments. These nanoswimmers could one day be used to remediate contaminated soil, improve water filtration or even deliver drugs to targeted areas of the body, like within dense tissues.

A June 29, 2021 University of Colorado at Boulder news release (also on EurekAlert) by Kelsey Simpkins, which originated the news item, explains what makes these nanobots different,

“This is the discovery of an entirely new phenomenon that points to a broad potential range of applications,” said Daniel Schwartz, senior author of the paper and Glenn L. Murphy Endowed Professor of chemical and biological engineering.

These nanoswimmers came to the attention of the theoretical physics community about 20 years ago, and people imagined a wealth of real-world applications, according to Schwartz. But unfortunately these tangible applications have not yet been realized, in part because it’s been quite difficult to observe and model their movement in relevant environments–until now.

These nanoswimmers, also called Janus particles (named after a Roman two-headed god), are tiny spherical particles composed of polymer or silica, engineered with different chemical properties on each side of the sphere. One hemisphere promotes chemical reactions to occur, but not the other. This creates a chemical field which allows the particle to take energy from the environment and convert it into directional motion–also known as self-propulsion.

“In biology and living organisms, cell propulsion is the dominant mechanism that causes motion to occur, and yet, in engineered applications, it’s rarely used. Our work suggests that there is a lot we can do with self-propulsion,” said Schwartz.

In contrast, passive particles which move about randomly (a kind of motion known as Brownian motion) are known as Brownian particles. They’re named after 19th century scientist Robert Brown, who studied such things as the random motion of pollen grains suspended in water.

The researchers converted these passive Brownian particles into Janus particles (nanoswimmers) for this research. Then they made these self-propelled nanoswimmers try to move through a maze, made of a porous medium, and compared how efficiently and effectively they found escape routes compared to the passive, Brownian particles.

The results were shocking, even to the researchers.

The Janus particles were incredibly effective at escaping cavities within the maze–as much as 20 times faster than the Brownian particles–because they moved strategically along the cavity walls searching for holes, which allowed them to find the exits very quickly. Their self-propulsion also appeared to give them a boost of energy needed to pass through the exit holes within the maze.

“We know we have a lot of applications for nanorobots, especially in very confined environments, but we didn’t really know how they move and what the advantages are compared to traditional Brownian particles. That’s why we started a comparison between these two,” said Haichao Wu, lead author of the paper and graduate student in chemical and biological engineering. “And we found that nanoswimmers are able to use a totally different way to search around these maze environments.”

While these particles are incredibly small, around 250 nanometers–just wider than a human hair (160 nanometers) but still much, much smaller than the head of a pin (1-2 millimeters)–the work is scalable. This means that these particles could navigate and permeate spaces as microscopic as human tissue to carry cargo and deliver drugs, as well as through soil underground or beaches of sand to remove unwanted pollutants.

Swarming nanoswimmers 

The next step in this line of research is to understand how nanoswimmers behave in groups within confined environments, or in combination with passive particles.

“In open environments, nanoswimmers are known to display emergent behavior–behavior that is more than the sum of its parts–that mimics the swarming motion of flocks of birds or schools of fish. That’s been a lot of the impetus for studying them,” said Schwartz.

One of the main obstacles to reaching this goal is the difficulty involved in being able to observe and understand the 3D movement of these tiny particles deep within a material comprising complex interconnected spaces.

Wu overcame this hurdle by using refractive index liquid in the porous medium, which is liquid that affects how fast light travels through a material. This made the maze essentially invisible, while allowing the observation of 3D particle motion using a technique known as double-helix point spread function microscopy.

This enabled Wu to track three-dimensional trajectories of the particles and create visual representations, a major advancement from typical 2D modeling of nanoparticles. Without this advancement, it would not be possible to better understand the movement and behavior of either individuals or groups of nanoswimmers.

“This paper is the first step: It provides a model system and the imaging platform that enables us to answer these questions,” said Wu. “The next step is to use this model with a larger population of nanoswimmers, to study how they are able to interact with each other in a confined environment.”

Here’s a link to and a citation for the paper,

Mechanisms of transport enhancement for self-propelled nanoswimmers in a porous matrix by Haichao Wu, Benjamin Greydanus, and Daniel K. Schwartz. PNAS July 6, 2021 118 (27) e2101807118; DOI: https://doi.org/10.1073/pnas.2101807118

This paper is behind a paywall.