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Finding a New Bird is Like Hitting the Lottery

As a biologist, finding a new species is a bit like winning the lottery. Not only is the new animal added to the pantheon of what is known about the animal world, the discoverer essentially become part of that history. In fact, sometimes the new animal is named after the discoverer as well. For one particular bird in the Australian area of the world, it may very well turn out to be the find of the new century.

Nature Can Definitely be a Bit Stubborn

The Zealandornis relictus simply doesn’t want to conform in terms of technical identification. The particular bird doesn’t fit, match or even resemble any of the existing bird families known to habitate the planet. For the expert on the matter, one Dr. Trevor Worthy, who operates out of Flinders University, the Zealandornis relictus is likely a descendent from a bird species that dates back some 16 million years ago at least. It’s part of a greater collection of animals that all made the area now known as Central Otago their home. Unfortunately, figuring out the details of exactly how the bird looked, functioned and what it most likely called a habitat is very much unknown.

The identification of the specific bird in question has followed all the typical identification processes one would have expected from the related scientific approach. This usually finds enough features to classify a bird within a recognized category. However, for the Zealandornis relictus, nothing seems to match, period. The bird itself is small, similar to mousebirds, but it didn’t fall in that category or of wrens either.

Working With Leftovers of Ancient History

The Zealandornis relictus isn’t alive today, basically just existing in the form of remains that Worthy and other researchers have been able to dig up from excavations and field studies in the area. The basis of what is known comes from a particular bone that doesn’t match any other kind of bird. The findings were published in a peer-reviewed journal, the Journal of Ornithology.

For biologists, the discovery of the Zealandornis relictus is a huge breakthrough that’s been working up to a crescendo for years, at least with regards to the people working on the project directly. To finally release the paper on the details they have known extensively for much of their lifetimes is a huge accomplishment, especially in reaching publication.

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Internment Camp Made Into a National Park for History

Shannon Jackson

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While the Nazis became notorious for the atrocities they committed during World War II, they were not the only country that rounded people up because of their heritage and put them in camps during the War. The U.S. infamously did the same with Japanese American citizens and residents who were, for all intents and purposes, regular Americans with homes, jobs and lives. They were packed up at threat of arrest, relocated, and lived in internment camps for years while their property and homes were taken and given to others in their communities.

Since those days more than 80 years ago, local students in Colorado have been dedicated to helping with the preservation of a local camp in their area. That effort is now going to pay off. The U.S. federal National Park Service has designated the Amache Internment Camp as the next national park, which comes with all the protection and preservation authority for the Camp that one would find at Yosemite, for example.

The designation effort is part of the National Park Service’s dedication to helping preserve American history, both the highlights as well as the low points. However, prior to the federal government stepping in, the hard work and elbow grease was managed for years by the local school district, student volunteers and one primary person as manager, John Hopper.

Hopper had been very familiar with internment camp history. With a background in social studies teaching, Hopper at some point in 1993 found himself translating a guest speaking event for students into something bigger. The idea went from an internment camp survivor’s speech into an effort of action and community service, helping preserve a local camp site for future history and consideration. Hopper helped lead the effort to grow a preservation society, and students were brought in to help with the tremendous amount of legwork basic repair and cleaning so often take. This went on for 30 plus years.

It took another 15 years before the Amache Camp was formally identified as a historic landmark, the first step required before a site becomes something bigger in the federal camp system. It then took another 16 years before the location was declared a national park in 2022 by President Biden. The announcement formally retitled the entire camp property from the local jurisdiction of Granada City to the National Park Service.

Hopper himself has gone through changes as well. Today, he is the dean of his school, but he still makes sure students are involved, volunteering and helping with the maintenance of the Camp. It’s a town’s legacy now with generations having worked there to preserve history. The locals even help with archaeology digs on the site run by the University of Denver. The effort is a lifelong dedication, but more importantly, Amache Internment Camp is a reminder of how fragile people’s rights are, particularly in a democracy.

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Conservation Measures by Indigenous Peoples Helps Restore Caribou Herd

Kelly Taylor

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Despite federal as well as provincial rescue undertakings, caribou populations remain on the decline throughout Canada, primarily as a result of human activities.

One herd of mountain caribou, the Kline-Za, situated in the central region of British Columbia, on the other hand, is experiencing an increase in numbers thanks to a cooperative recovery effort headed by Saulteau First Nations along with West Moberly First Nations, as recently discovered by researchers at the University of British Columbia Okanagan.

Using a combination of short-term recovery measures like predator reduction and caribou guardians in mother cages, the conservation effort led by the Indigenous stewards is working to achieve landscape-level protection to develop a self-sustaining caribou population.

Their hard work paid off.

Research in the Irving K. Barber Faculty of Science is conducted by a Liber Ero Fellow, Dr. Clayton Lamb, and a master’s in biology scholar Carmen Richter, in collaboration with Canada Wildlife Restoration Ecology Research Chair Dr. Adam T. Ford. Kline-Za caribou populations have roughly tripled in the last decade, according to the most recent study.

Dr. Lamb cites the move by the Indigenous stewards as the reason for the herd’s survival. When a West Moberly Elder characterized the herd as ‘the sea of caribou,’ it had dropped to only 38 animals by 2013, according to the report.

Currently, there are more than 110 horses in the herd.

According to Dr. Lamb, “This study is a novel, community-driven, paradigm change in conservation in Canada.” For centuries, indigenous people have been actively stewarding the environment, but this strategy is novel in the level of collaboration between western scientists and indigenous peoples to achieve positive results on the land as well as place an endangered species on the path to recovery.

A member of the Saulteau First Nations, Richter, adds that indigenous groups have banded together for the benefit of the caribou.

The recovery of these caribou is a top priority for us.” The mother caribou inside the pen receives a steady supply of lichen from the community each year, while other members of the community reside on the mountaintop with the animals. After some time, she hopes that the herds will once again revert to a sustainable size.

Dr. Ford is the first to admit that additional effort, as well as time, will be required to properly revive Kline-Za, despite the partnership’s accomplishments thus far.

As part of the process of decolonizing conservation, “this work is also a crucial component of decolonizing the conservation mindset, which has historically attempted to exclude the opinions of Indigenous people,” he continues.

Many Canadian caribou herds have already been wiped off by caribou losses of more than 40% during the past few decades. Despite the findings of this study, Dr. Ford maintains that there is a brighter future ahead.

Indigenous peoples can play a critical role in conservation, he says. “This is truly a phenomenal success.” “I believe our success opens opportunities for joint stewardship among multiple districts and organizations. I am hopeful. The more of us working together, the more we can accomplish.”

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The Swimming Swami

Renee Yates

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What do you do with a monk past his 125th birthday who wants to keep serving his neighbor, even if that person has leprosy? Well, if he happens to be in India, the government gives him an award and honorary title a century and a quarter after he was born. Swami Sivananda started living in the year 1896. He has technically lived through the turning of two centuries, been through an amazing life, and he’s still going thanks to an extremely disciplined life based on yoga and self-deprivation. The result is that he has lived long enough to see at least five generations and be honored as a national hero in India.

A Work of Humility in a Person

As simple as he is every day, Swami Sivananda appeared barefoot in front of President Ram Nath Kovind to accept his award. He walked up to the stage without help, and then the 125-year-old man also bent down to honor Prime Minister Narenda Modi as well. Clearly, the younger politicians should have been doing the work instead of Swami.

Living daily as a monk in Varanasi, Sivananda was destined to the monk life at a young age. By the age of six, he was already an orphan, which practically meant death without a family to feed and raise him. Even when his parents were alive, all they could feed him was some form of rice. However, the boy was taken in by Guruji’s Ashram, located in West Bengal. And, during that window, Sivananda learned and was exposed to the yoga expertise and religious practices of Guru Omkarananda Goswami. Part of those lessons was the understanding of his role to serve his fellow humans every way he could, a central tenant to Sivananda’s beliefs.

Physical Proof of Mind over Body

Clearly, Sivananda’s dedication to yoga has served him well. He’s living proof that it really does help control the body, and his longevity is a strong argument about the value of enlightenment. Additionally, despite being well over a century old, Sivananda’s physical strength continues to be amazingly solid, easily able to handle the rigor of his yoga exercises for hours every day. There’s no comfort provided despite Sivananda’s seniority; he sleeps on a floor mat and a flat wood board for a pillow. Sivananda has no medical issues from his choice of life, and he’s physically capable of completing his yoga exercise daily without assistance.

The celebration of Swami Sivananda’s accomplishments was a national event, televised and recorded for widespread viewing. However, for Sivananda, all he wanted to was to use the event to help convince people to help each other more. Even in the ultimate honor of the man’s life, Swami Sivananda gave the moment to the service of others.

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Curators at the Baltimore Museum are its own Security Guards and Art Fanatics Love it!

Kevin Wells

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They’ve been working at the Baltimore Museum of Art as guards for years, Chris Koo as well as Traci Archable-Frederick.

When a news reporter asked, “You’ve pretty much visited all the halls in this museum?”

Archive-Frederick agreed, saying, “Each hall, always behind the curtains, yeah.”

In contrast, they claim that most visitors only see their uniforms and not the people who wear them, during this time. “To be frank, I don’t believe a lot of folks realize we’re here,” joked Koo. “Many of us anticipate that tourists will question us more about the art instead of asking us where the restroom is. So, in a way, the museum is casting a long shadow over all of us.”

That may be about to change with the debut of an exhibition today, says Koo. Security guards, not museum curators, created a show called “Guarding the Art” at the museum.

When someone says, “We would like you to assist with curating this display,” do you think, “I’m not competent to do that?” The reporter questioned.

The answer was an emphatic “yes,” as Koo giggled. “Because the museum’s other departments are separated from security. At first, we were terrified. We’ve come a long way since then, don’t we?”

Of course, they had to put in a lot of work to get to this point. Every aspect of the project was overseen by the crew, from the wall color to the artwork. From the Museum’s permanent collection, the people involved each chose one or more artwork that felt meaningful to them on an individual level.

Mark Rothko and Philip Guston were two of the artists that Koo selected. “Black Over Reds,” Rothko’s 1957 piece, “really impacts you in a very profound, emotional sense,” he stated.

“Resist #2,” artwork in the form of a collage, depicting protests against racism, by Mickalene Thomas, was chosen by Archive-Frederick as a more contemporary piece.

How do you feel about it now that it’s on the wall?” A reporter inquired.

In response, Archive-Frederick said, “No regrets, none whatsoever”. “This piece makes me feel as though I did it myself, such is my pride in it. Everything I intended to say about the current state of the globe and the United States is being expressed here.”

In collaboration with museum curator Asma Naeem, trustee Amy Elias came up with the show’s concept.

He said: “Guardians have a greater affinity for art than anyone else at the museum.” “They’re all over it, keeping an eye on it, day and night.”

She remarked, “Although it’s a basic concept, the issue it raises is profound: What is the purpose of art? What is the purpose of museums, and why are they important? Who has the right to discuss art? Overall, this show is sending a message that artwork is for anyone.”

If you have inquiries related to a piece of art, go no farther than the individual who is standing beside it.

“Now that we’ve accomplished this, other guests who arrive here will perceive us in a whole new context,” Archive-Frederick added.

A reporter inquired, “You’re not a shadow anymore? “.

“It’s over now,” she exclaimed, laughing heartily.

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Maldivian Researchers Uncover Enchanting Rose-veiled Fairy Wrasse

Shannon Jackson

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While there are scores of marine species located off the Maldives coastline, a new addition has been formally defined by a Maldivian researcher—and it’s been titled after the nation’s national flower.

In honor of its pink tints and the national flower of the Maldives, the newly discovered Rose-Veiled Fairy Wrasse was given its name in the native terminology, which means “rose.”

For the Hope for Reefs effort to be able to study and conserve coral reefs around the world, Easterners came from the Sydney University, Maldives Marine Research Institute (MMRI), the Field Museum, as well as the California Academy of Sciences to cooperate on the finding.

According to Biologist and co-author of the research Ahmed Najeeb in the article presented in ZooKeys, “it’s always been international scientists who have referenced species found throughout the Maldives without much participation from native scientists, including those that are unique to the Maldives”. When it comes to this project, “It’s a new experience for me, and it’s great to be a part of something for the first time, especially working with top ichthyologists on a gorgeous and elegant species.”

Cirrhilabrus rubrisquamis, a juvenile specimen from the Chagos Archipelago, was originally thought to be the adult version of C. finifenmaa, a new species discovered in the 1990s based on a single specimen from the archipelago.

Scientists examined the multicolored wonder in greater detail in this new study, measuring and counting features like the hue of male adults, the tallness of each spine underpinning a fin on its back, as well as the quantity discovered on different parts of its body. They also looked at the juveniles, which were also studied in greater detail. C. rubrisquamis specimens were compared to these data and genetic analyses to affirm that C. finifenmaa is a distinct species.

As a result, the recognized distribution of each wrasse has been drastically reduced, which is a major matter when determining preservation priorities.

Lead scientist Yi-Kai Tea of the University of Sydney says “what we previously assumed was one broad species of fish, is two distinct species with possibly considerably smaller distributions.” For conservation and biodiversity management, taxonomy is critical. “This illustrates why characterizing new species, as well as taxonomy in a broad sense, is essential.”

“There are a lot of these animals… According to co-director of Hope for Reefs Dr. Luiz Rocha, “it indicates how much biodiversity there is still left to be characterized from coral reef ecosystems.

A Hope for Reefs team collaborated with the MMRI to conduct the first surveys of the Maldives’ “twilight zone” reefs last month, within which they discovered new records of C. finifenmaa and at least eight possible new organisms yet to be characterized. The “twilight zone” reefs are the practically uncharted coral environments unearthed between 50-150 meters (160-500 feet) below the ocean’s surface.

This kind of worldwide collaboration is critical to the researchers’ efforts to better understand and protect the Maldives’ coral reefs’ regenerating potential.

Rocha informed the California Academy of Sciences that “nobody knows these seas better than the Maldivian people.” Cooperation with local researchers as well as divers strengthens our research. Continuing our partnership with MMRI and the Ministry of Fisheries, we’ll be able to better understand and safeguard the reefs of the island nation.”

Expanding our understanding of this subject is made possible by collaborating with institutions like the Academy. There are already plans for future collaborations,” Najeeb declares. It will allow us to better comprehend the depths of our oceans and the creatures that live there, thanks to our collaboration. We can better safeguard them if we have greater knowledge and evidence to support our claims.

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