Luckily, museum curators around the world have had the good sense to hold onto massive plugs of earwax pulled from dead whales over the centuries.Thanks to those plugs, scientists have now discovered a record, hidden in earwax, of how human activities have stressed out whales over the past century and a half. Stephen Trumble, a comparative physiologist at Baylor University, and his colleagues published the findings this month in Nature Communications.It turns out we’re incredibly stress-inducing—from whaling to war to climate change, our actions have been affecting whales, even if we don’t interact with them directly.In the new study, hormone profiles from 20 fin, humpback, and blue whales revealed a tight connection between whaling activities and stress from the late 19th century to the 1970s, when legislation dramatically reduced the hunting of whales.Hunting wasn’t the only source of stress that the researchers saw, either. From 1939 to 1945, elevated cortisol levels indicated that the whales’ stress levels were high, even though fewer whales were being harpooned. But there was another stressor at the time: global war. “We suspect this increase in cortisol during World War II is probably a result of noise from planes, bombs, ships, et cetera,” says Trumble.After about 1970—and especially after 1990— the researchers saw a worrying trend: Cortisol levels also increased rapidly alongside rising water temperatures. This suggests that climate change, too, is stressing the whales.
Assistant to the Secretary for Rural Development Anne Hazlett today announced that USDA is investing $501 million in 60 projects to help improve health care infrastructure (PDF, 170 KB) and services in rural communities nationwide. “Creating strong and healthy communities is foundational to increasing prosperity in rural America,” Hazlett said. “Under the leadership of Secretary Sonny Perdue, USDA is committed to partnering with rural leaders to improve quality of life and economic development through modern and accessible health care.”Hazlett made today’s announcement as part of USDA’s commemoration of National Rural Health Day, which is held annually on the third Thursday of November to focus on the specific health care issues facing rural communities. The Department is investing in 60 projects through the Community Facilities direct loan program. These investments will expand access to health care for approximately 2 million people in 34 states.
The Republican-controlled House passed a bill to drop legal protections for gray wolves across the lower 48 states, reopening a lengthy battle over the predator species. Long despised by farmers and ranchers, wolves were shot, trapped and poisoned out of existence in most of the U.S. by the mid-20th century. Since securing protection in the 1970s, wolves have bounced back in the western Great Lakes states of Michigan, Minnesota and Wisconsin, as well as in the Northern Rockies and Pacific Northwest.The Fish and Wildlife Service is reviewing the wolf’s status and is expected to declare they’ve recovered sufficiently to be removed from protection under the Endangered Species Act.The House bill would enshrine that policy in law and restrict judicial review of listing decisions. The measure was approved, 196-180, and now goes to the Senate, where prospects are murkier.
Killer whales display personality traits similar to those of humans and chimpanzees, such as playfulness, cheerfulness and affection, according to new research.
For the first time in seven years, rural America’s population is growing. The annual U.S. Department of Agriculture report “Rural America at a Glance” found the increase — only 0.08 percent — mainly in scenic rural areas like the Rocky Mountains, more densely populated rural areas and rural communities that are within about an hour’s drive of a major city. Essentially, places where people still have access to urban amenities or can go hiking, biking, fishing or skiing.Rural Midwestern counties continue to lose people, and are getting older. Jon Cromerty, one of the USDA report’s lead authors, said these things are connected.With some rural communities, he said, folks are aging in place while younger people keep leavinga. Fewer people means fewer jobs to keep other young people around. And to top it off, there’s a shrinking labor pool as residents retire, making it difficult to attract new businesses.
n the heart of central Florida lies Silver Spring State Park—a large patchwork of forests and wetlands with a spring-fed river flowing through it. One of Florida’s first tourist attractions, the park was once known for its scenic vistas and native wildlife. But for the last 80 years, the park’s biggest draw has been its monkeys.That’s right—Silver Spring State Park is home to at least 300 rhesus macaques, a monkey native to south and southeast Asia. The animals are breeding rapidly, and a new study estimates that the monkey population will double by 2022 unless state agencies take steps to control it.The study, published October 26 in the journal Wildlife Management, claims that such an increase could put the health of the park and its visitors in serious jeopardy—because, among other problems, the monkeys carry a rare and deadly form of herpes virus called herpes B. It’s extremely, extremely rare for herpes B to spread from a monkey to a human, but when it does, it can be fatal.
Both nature and humans share blame for California’s devastating wildfires, but forest management did not play a major role, despite President Donald Trump’s claims, fire scientists say. Nature provides the dangerous winds that have whipped the fires, and human-caused climate change over the long haul is killing and drying the shrubs and trees that provide the fuel, experts say.“Natural factors and human-caused global warming effects fatally collude” in these fires, said wildfire expert Kristen Thornicke of the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research in Germany.Multiple reasons explain the fires’ severity, but “forest management wasn’t one of them,” University of Utah fire scientist Philip Dennison said.
In states where Republicans won close governors’ races, rural GOP support was a big part of the pattern. The Democrats who won gubernatorial races in Wisconsin and Kansas made rural more of a contest and protected their metropolitan advantages.The performance of Democratic candidates in Wisconsin and Kansas looked quite different than the races in Florida and Georgia. In Wisconsin (see graph at the top of the page), Democrat Tony Evers beat incumbent Republican Governor Scott Walker 2 to 1 in the core counties of major metro areas. Evers also won medium-sized metropolitan areas. Although Republican Walker managed to win a solid lead in the small metros and rural areas, his performance lacked the sharp rise in popularity as counties became more rural.The Kansas gubernatorial contest also lacked the characteristic Republican rise in popularity among rural voters. Democrat Laura Kelly won major metropolitan counties (both core and suburban), the suburbs of medium-sized metropolitan areas, and the rural counties located farthest from metropolitan areas.
Without a doubt, rural voters lean right: two-thirds of rural residents (68%) consider themselves to be conservative or moderate, over 50 percent (52%) approve of Donald Trump’s job performance, and when it comes to generic House candidates, Republicans hold a 10 point margin (43-33). However, polling also strongly suggests that small-town folks feel the system is rigged for the powerful and wealthy, and a clear majority (77%) of rural residents think Congress is giving tax breaks to the wealthy instead of investing in rural areas.Over 75% think politicians blame new immigrants or people of color to divide and distract from the real source of our problems instead of delivering for working people.Two out of three (67%) support offering free tuition to local community colleges and trade schools, and a similar number (64%) want Medicare to cover all Americans. Over half (54%) back an increase of the minimum wage to $15 an hour, and only 38 percent support outlawing abortions.But despite the popularity of progressive policies among small town voters, a majority of rural Americans (55%) don’t think Democrats are fighting for their community.
The Show Me State elected a Republican U.S. senator and, by roughly the same margins, turned around and approved ballot initiatives that reform elections, raise the minimum wage, and legalize medical marijuana.