Kim Goodsell was running along a mountain trail when her left ankle began turning inward, unbidden. A few weeks later she started having trouble lifting her feet properly near the end of her runs, and her toes would scuff the ground. Her back started to ache, and then her joints, too.
This was in 2002, and Kim, then 44 years old, was already an accomplished endurance athlete. She cycled, ran, climbed, and skied through the Rockies for hours every day; she was a veteran of Ironman triathlons. She’d always been the strong one in her family. When she was four, she would let her teenage uncles stand on her stomach as a party trick. In high school, she was an accomplished gymnast and an ardent cyclist. By college, she was running the equivalent of a half marathon on most days. It wasn’t that she was much of a competitor, exactly—passing someone in a race felt more deflating than energizing. Mostly Kim just wanted to be moving.
So when her limbs started glitching, she did what high-level athletes do, what she had always done: she pushed through. But in the summer of 2010, years of gradually worsening symptoms gave way to weeks of spectacular collapse. Kim was about to head to Lake Superior with her husband, CB. They planned to camp, kayak, and disappear from the world for as long as they could catch enough fish to eat. But in the days before their scheduled departure, she could not grip a pen or a fork, much less a paddle. Kim, a woman for whom extreme sports were everyday pursuits, could no longer cope with everyday pursuits. Instead of a lakeside tent, she found herself at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota.
After four days of tests, Kim’s neurologist told her that she had Charcot–Marie–Tooth disease, a genetic disorder that affects the peripheral neurons carrying signals between the spinal cord and the extremities. It’s rare and carries a varying suite of symptoms, but Kim’s are typical, starting at the feet and heading upward. The neurologist explained that as her neurons died, the surviving cells picked up the slack by sprouting new branches—a workaround that masked the underlying degeneration until the rate of cell death outpaced the rate of compensation. Hence Kim’s crash.
The neurologist told her to come back in a year so he could check how quickly the disease was progressing, but it would certainly progress. Charcot–Marie–Tooth has no cure.
The Goodsells drove home, and Kim, exhausted, slept for two days. When she woke up, she got to work. “My reaction to things that I have no control over is to find out as much as I can about them,” she says. She started by reviewing her clinic notes, and quickly she noticed something odd: there was hardly any mention of her heart.
The idea is good - add optics to your smartphone to turn its camera into a portable digital microscope. In the past several years I've seen several designs of varying quality. I just saw an Apple ad that features one by ProScope - specifically the Micro Mobile. Other models by the company are well designed and built - my dermatologist uses one - so this one is worth consideration if you are in the market. A nice feature is you can purchase $20 adapters so it isn't tied to one device that is likely to be obsolete in a year or two. Check out the videos on the lower right side of the page.
Bats are mammals (like us) that have modified their hands and fingers to create wings for powered flight. Despite their description in many languages meaning blind or flying mice (murciélago, Fledermaus), they are neither blind nor mice. Bats are more closely related to cats and dogs than to rodents. Although most bats are around 20g (the weight of a squash ball), bats range in size from the tiny bumblebee bat at under 2g to the flying fox at a whopping 1.5Kg. Out of the 1,200 or so species, one in every five species is threatened with extinction in the next 50 years. Some bat species in North America have undergone dramatic declines in the last few years owing to a new disease (White-nose syndrome) that is threatening populations to extinction.
Many people believe that monitoring the status of bat populations can help tell us about the health of a natural environment as a whole; the bats serve as an early warning, like a canary in a coal mine. This is because bat species are distributed all over the world, and provide lots of services to humans through controlling pests by eating vast quantities of insects and pollinating and dispersing commercially important crops (for example bananas, tequila). Bat biology also makes them sensitive to human impacts, for example they typically only have one offspring a year and so bat populations take a long time to recover after disturbance. Many species are also very sensitive to climate and migrate or hibernate in different seasons, making them particularly vulnerable to climate change.
Although it is really important to monitor bat populations, it is difficult to do with traditional visual surveys as bats are mostly small, nocturnal and very hard to catch. More recently, a growing number of bat surveys are been done acoustically because bats ‘leak’ information about themselves into the environment. This is because they use sound to find their way around, hunt for food and to socialise. Over 1000 species of bats use sound in this way, with the rest of the species (Old World fruit bats or flying foxes) relying more on their eyes and noses to find food.
When bats are using sound to find their way around or to hunt, they emit a call and listen and interpret echoes as the call bounces off objects in the environment (echolocation). As a bat gets closer to its prey, the bat needs more information and calls get closer together ending in a ‘feeding buzz’. Bats tend to use ultrasonic frequencies for their calls (above 20 kHz) because shorter wavelengths are more likely to hit and bounce off smaller objects, and so give the bat more detail about its environment. However, higher frequency sounds tend to not travel as far as sounds of lower frequency, so there is a trade-off between hearing in fine detail and hearing long distances. Calls that bats use for socialising are not used for echolocation but communication, and these calls tend to be lower in frequency and have a more complex structure. Only under a third of all the echolocation calls of bats worldwide are known and even less is understood about social calls. Perhaps only 5% of all species social calls have been recorded.
The YardMap Network is a citizen science project designed to cultivate a richer understanding of bird habitat, for both professional scientists and people concerned with their local environments. We collect data by asking individuals across the country to literally draw maps of their backyards, parks, farms, favorite birding locations, schools, and gardens. We connect you with your landscape details and provide tools for you to make better decisions about how to manage landscapes sustainably.
YardMap is also the world’s first interactive citizen scientist social network. When you join you are instantly connected to the work of like-minded individuals in your neighborhood, and across the country. Together you can become a conservation community focused on sharing strategies, maps, and successes to build more bird habitat.
THE SCIENCE OF YARDMAP
What kinds of questions are we seeking to answer with your help?
What practices improve the wildlife value of residential landscapes?
Which of these practices have the greatest impact?
Over how large an area do we have to implement these practices to really make a difference?
What impact do urban and suburban wildlife corridors and stopover habitats have on birds?
Which measures (bird counts? nesting success?) show the greatest impacts of our practices?