Posts by Yurong Yu

Explore the Homeland of the Emperor Penguin

Posted by on Apr 11, 2017 in All Posts, Featured Posts, Images, Science | 0 comments

Explore the Homeland of the Emperor Penguin

Spread the News:Share“Each winter, thousands of Emperor Penguins leave the ocean and start marching to a remote place in Antarctica for their breeding season. Blinded by blizzards and strong winds, only guided by their instincts, they march to an isolated region, that does not support life for most of the year…” – March of the Penguins The famous documentary March of the Penguins, directed by Luc Jacquet, earned the emperor penguin fanfare and admiration around the world. With their charismatic shape and loving nature, emperor penguins reside on the ice and in the ocean waters of Antarctica for the entirety of their lifespan, living on average from 15 to 20 years.  Satellite data has been used to help researchers better understand emperor penguin populations and how they respond to environmental variability, including the threat of a rapidly warming planet. But the information gleaned so far remains too limited to significantly help conservation efforts. Enter André Ancel, a researcher who led a team on a mission to study the remaining areas where emperor penguins might breed. His team recently published their findings in the journal Global Ecology and Conservation. March of the Penguins Official Trailer:   “The climate of our planet is undergoing regional and global changes, which are driving shifts in the distribution and phenology of many plants and animals,” Ancel writes in his paper. “We focus on the southern polar region, which includes one of the most rapidly warming areas of the planet. Among birds adapted to live in this extreme and variable environment, penguin species are the best known.” Even with their extreme adaption capabilities, emperor penguin breeding colonies are impacted by the fact that chicks often succumb to Antarctic elements. “Though they are one of the tallest and heaviest birds in the world, the survival rate of newborn emperor penguins is really low, only about 19 percent,” Shun Kuwashima, a PhD student at UCSC and self-declared penguin lover, explained. The purpose of Ansel et al.’s research was to predict how the species responds to climate change and to better understand the penguins’ biogeography, or geographical distribution. “There are only about 54 known breeding colonies,” notes Ancel, “many of which have not yet been comprehensively studied.” But finishing the research was a problem, considering that access to emperor penguin colonies remains limited. Getting accurate measurements on the size and location of the colonies relies on ground mapping and aerial photographs, which is “laborious, time consuming and costly,” according to Ancel. Even with the help of satellites, heavy cloud cover in the winter degrades the quality of images. Not to mention, the lack of light further complicates the collection of accurate data. In addition, the break-out of sea ice at the end of the breeding season can reduce the probability of detecting breeding colonies. Although the authors did not actually conduct any exploration or examine remote sensing data to locate new emperor penguin colonies, they used data on the location of known colonies to make their findings. Based on the behavioral patterns of penguins, including movement and dispersal, and on the availability of food, the researchers found “six regions potentially sheltering colonies of emperor penguins.” It is true that scientists have looked for emperor penguin colonies with satellite data in the past, but the method was limited. To make improvements and find potentially missing colonies, the team developed an approach for calculating separation distance between colonies. The approach determined the loxodromic separation distance (the shortest distance between two points on the surface of a sphere) between each pair of geographically adjacent colonies. Then, based on the fact that a breeding adult...

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The Yin and Yang of Glacier Animation

Posted by on Mar 29, 2017 in All Posts, Art/Culture, Featured Posts | 0 comments

The Yin and Yang of Glacier Animation

Spread the News:SharePororo the Little Penguin is an animated cartoon series that is widely viewed in Korea. “It’s like the Sesame Street of Korea,” said Kyung Hyun Kim, a professor of East Asian languages at the University of California Irvine. “It is very popular among children.” In the animation, Pororo plays with his six close friends, including Poby, a polar bear who lives near a glacier. Their stories, largely set in a snowy forest, offer children important lessons on life. The animation’s popularity is shown by the nickname the children in Korea have given Pororo— ‘Poresident’, or ‘Pororo president.’ Pororo’s image can be found on 1,500 different products, from chopsticks to children’s clothing. Recently, a group of researchers conducted a study on the unprecedented success of Pororo the Little Penguin. Yeo-Jin Yoona and Han Chae are two of the leading authors on the paper published in the journal of Integrative Medicine Research. Their study focused on the biophysical features of seven of the animation’s characters. An episode of Pororo the Little Penguin, dubbed in English here. “Our intention was to select one of the most successful recent animations. How well animation characters are designed to reflect realistic physical appearances and personalities can explain its success,” Yoona told GlacierHub. “Animal characters can be good to study to understand children’s point of view.” Moreover, Yoona described how animation characters were “created to embody distinctive personality and body image.” Yet, prior to the recent study, those features had not been analyzed with objective measures based on East-Asian theory. “The purpose of this study was to analyze the biopsychological features of seven animation characters in Pororo the Little Penguin with clinically validated and standardized measures of Sasang typology,” the paper explains. Sasang typology is a classification scheme used in traditional Korean medicine that dates back to 1894, when western medicine had not yet been introduced in Korea. People tended to use “yin and yang” to explain everything in the world, including human beings themselves. Chae, a professor at the School of Korean Medicine at Pusan National University, elucidated the classification scheme further: “The Sasang typology divides people into four categories: Tae-Yang or ‘greater yang,’ Tae-Eum or ‘greater yin,’ So-Yang or ‘less yang,’ and So-Eum or ‘less yin.’” This typology then explains individual differences in susceptibility to a certain disease. The typology was inherited by modern Korean medicine and applied to broader perspectives. It can be used to classify people’s personality, strengths, and weaknesses. For instance, in the animation, Poby, the polar bear that lives on a glacier, enjoys fishing, playing drums and photography. Although Poby is the largest character in the animation, he also has a gentle nature, talks slowly, and is kind to all of his friends. Because of his good temper, he takes responsibility when it comes to doing chores in the village, usually trying his best to keep everyone else safe and happy. It is no surprise that Poby is popular among kids, and even has his own webpage! There are also Poby figures available for purchase on Amazon. Poby’s contrasting traits and personality are easily identifiable in the animation. The contrasts in his personality were indicated in the results of Yoona’s study. Interestingly, Korean medicine believes those with a larger body should have a Tae-Eum or “greater yin” type character. But Poby’s calm, gentle, and thoughtful demeanor identify him as a So-Eum or “less yin” type. In this way, he shows the complexity of a human being in the real world. In a movie, there can be simple characters like Pororo and also more complicated characters like Poby. Poby’s unique personality brings a balance of Yin-Yang temperament to the seven main characters in...

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Snow Bacteria, A Pandora’s Box?

Posted by on Mar 14, 2017 in All Posts, Featured Posts, Science | 0 comments

Snow Bacteria, A Pandora’s Box?

Spread the News:ShareRemember the famous scene in the movie “The Day after Tomorrow” when the flood comes, along with storms and a tsunami, and hundreds of people are killed at the dawn of a new ice age? In that scene, the bacteria once frozen in the world’s glaciers is released due to global warming. It turns out that fateful scenario may one day come true, according to recent research by Yongqin Liu, a scientist at the Institute of Tibetan Plateau Research (ITPR) in China. You might be surprised or confused about how bacteria could survive in extremely cold conditions for thousands of years. The reason bacteria and other viruses can remain dormant in the ice layer is because some bacteria are cold-adapted. Glaciers can serve as excellent locations for such bacteria to survive during long periods of extreme cold. “A frozen condition is not optimal for most creatures on earth, but it does provide a satisfactory living environment for some microorganisms,” said Liu.   In the last few decades, scientists at the Institute of Tibetan Plateau Research have been studying snow bacteria in the Tibetan Plateau. Liu is one of the leading scholars on the team. For instance, earlier in 2008, she conducted research about snow bacterial abundance and diversity at the Guoqu Glacier and the East Rongbuk Glacier. By using a special approach (16S rRNA gene clone library and flow cytometry), Liu and her colleagues observed different patterns of seasonal variation at the two glaciers. They found that bacterial diversity at the glaciers also exhibits different responses to various environmental conditions. In an interview with GlacierHub, Liu explained, “Currently, we are focusing on the diversity of snow bacteria from glaciers in the Tibetan Plateau environment. Our latest paper was about snow bacteria on the Zangser Kangri Glacier. We managed to identify the major sources of the bacteria and make a comparison of snow bacterial abundance between the Zangser Kangri Glacier and other glaciers of the Tibetan Plateau.” Liu is one of many scientists fascinated with snow bacteria. But others might feel it is irrelevant to their modern life since these bacteria remain in a deep and frozen sleep. Shuhong Zhang, a researcher at Cold and Arid Regions Environmental and Engineering Research Institute of the Chinese Academy of Sciences, believes otherwise. “One impact of climate change is the rapid shrinking of glaciers,” Zhang writes in an article. “This results in microorganisms getting deposited into glacial snow or ice and being exposed to new environments such as glacier forelands.” Shlomit Paz, a scientist from University of Haifa, also found that the West Nile virus, one of the world’s most widely distributed viruses, could be propelled by global warming. “Recent changes in climatic conditions, particularly increased snowmelt and glacier retreat, contributed to the maintenance of the West Nile Virus in various locations in southern Europe, western Asia, the eastern Mediterranean, the Canadian Prairies, parts of the USA and Australia,” Paz writes. “As predictions show that the current trends are expected to continue, for better preparedness, any assessment of future transmission of West Nile Virus should take into consideration the impacts of climate change.” So perhaps one day, without actions taken to mitigate climate change, a Pandora’s box will be opened. In the ancient Greek myth, all the evils fly out of the box. And now, climate change may set lethal bacteria and viruses free, posing a new, catastrophic threat to human beings. Spread the...

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Photo Friday: The Qilian Mountains

Posted by on Mar 10, 2017 in All Posts, Featured Posts, Images | 0 comments

Photo Friday: The Qilian Mountains

Spread the News:ShareLocated at the border of Qinghai Province and Gansu Province in China, the Qilian Mountains are the outlier of the Kunlun Mountains. Since the range is at the south of Hexi Corridor (the historic route from eastern China to other countries in Asia), it is also known as “Nanshan.”There are notable mountains in the mountain chain, including the Grand Glacier, Torey Mountains, Shulenan Mountains, and the Danghenan Mountains. The Shulenan Mountains, for example, sweep down to Qinghai Province and spread for 350 kilometers. The average height of the mountain tops is about 5000 meters. The middle of Shulenan Mountains is also the highest area of Qilian Mountains with three mountain tops higher than 5500 meters. At these high elevations, there are well-developed glaciers in the area including eight major glaciers. Snow covers the mountain tops all year long and livestock herds graze in the well-watered valleys. Learn more about Qilian mountains here and view GlacierHub’s collection of images.             Spread the...

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Ice-core Evidence of Copper Smelting 2700 Years Ago

Posted by on Feb 28, 2017 in All Posts, Featured Posts, Science | 0 comments

Ice-core Evidence of Copper Smelting 2700 Years Ago

Spread the News:ShareThe mysterious Moche civilization originated on the northern coast of Peru in 200-800 AD. It was known for its metal work, considered by some to be the most accomplished of any Andean civilization. But were the Moche the first Andean culture to originate copper smelting in South America? While the Moche left comprehensive archaeological evidence of an early sophisticated use of copper, the onset of copper metallurgy is still debated. Some peat-bog records (records of spongy decomposing vegetation) from southern South America demonstrate that copper smelting occurred earlier, around 2000 BC. The question motivated Anja Eichler et al. to launch a massive study of copper emission history. The details of the findings were subsequently published in a paper in Nature. Eichler, an analytical chemistry scientist at the Paul Scherrer Institute in Switzerland, and her team presented a 6500-year copper emission history for the Andean Altiplano based on glacier ice-core records. This is a new methodology applied to trace copper smelting. “Copper is often referred to as the ‘backbone of Andean metallurgy – the mother of all Andean metals,’” Eichler explained to GlacierHub. “However, in contrast to the early copper metallurgy in the Middle East and Europe, very little information existed about its onset in the Andes.” The ice-core they used for their research was drilled at the Illimani Glacier in Bolivia in 1999, nearby sites of the ancient cultures. It provides the first complete history of large-scale copper smelting activities in South America and revealed extensive copper metallurgy. Illimani is the highest mountain in the Cordillera Oriental and the second highest peak in Bolivia. When asked about how she started her research, Eichler told GlacierHub, “I got involved in the project in 2012. At that time, PhD students and a post-doc had already obtained exciting findings and secrets revealed by ice-core records. We started looking at copper and lead as traces from copper and silver mining and smelting in the Andes.” The results of Eichler et al.’s study suggest that the earliest anthropogenic copper pollution occurred between 700–50 BC, during the central Andean Chiripa and Chavin cultures, around 2700 years ago, meaning that copper was produced extensively much earlier than people originally thought. “For the first time, our study provides substantial evidence for extensive copper metallurgy already during these early cultures,” said Eichler. One of the most challenging parts of the research is that copper can show up in the ice core from natural as well as human sources. Eichler’s team accounted for this by calculating the copper Enrichment Factor, which is applied widely to distinguish the natural and anthropogenic origin of metal. The principle of this methodology is to measure the occurrence of different metals. If copper appeared naturally due to wind erosion, it would be found in association with other metals that co-occur with it naturally. However, according to Eichler’s findings, there was only copper in central Andean Chiripa and Chavin cultures, without cerium or the other metals that occur with it in natural deposits. Hence, it was anthropogenic. The Chiripa culture existed from 1400 BC to 850 BC along the southern shore of Lake Titicaca in Bolivia,  near Illimani Glacier. Soon after the Chiripa, came the Chavin culture, a prehistoric civilization that developed in the northern Andean highlands of Peru from 900 BC to 200 BC, named for Chavín de Huantar, the principal archaeological site where their artifacts have been found. Copper objects from these earlier cultures are scanty. The reason why there is no sufficient archaeological evidence of copper usage, according to Eichler, is that very often artifacts were reused by subsequent cultures. “It is known that metallic objects cast by civilizations were typically scavenged from artifacts of their predecessors,”...

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