Recycling In the Workplace

By Kathryn Cannon

Recycle

Photo Credit: Flickr by Kevin Dooley

While working in a small office in Port Allen, Louisiana as an administrative assistant I saw firsthand how much paper is thrown in the trash every day. I cannot even imagine how much paper larger companies could use and discard into the trash on a daily basis. Our office didn’t have a recycle program for recycle materials of any kind. I handled the mail that came into our office. We would throw out these thick catalogs on a daily basis along with other magazines no one had an interest in.

We are gaining awareness on how important recycling has become over the past several years not only for the environment but for ourselves as well. By recycling we can better our planet and the air we breathe. By recycling we can reuse materials more than once and keep it out of the growing landfills. My family has always taken recycling very seriously. In fact, we have more in our recycling bin on trash day than regular trash. It is mindboggling how much paper is used by office buildings ranging from messed up copies to discarded mail catalogs, or just small scraps of paper.

I couldn’t stand seeing all the paper going into the trash when we could recycle it and be able to reuse it in another form. Imagine the amount of trees we could save by trying to establish a small recycling program in our offices. So, I took it upon myself to start making a pile of recycled materials to take home with me. I would take things like catalogs, magazines, discarded paper, (paper with private information would go into the shredded bin which is recycled through a professional company) and bring them home to my own recycling bin once a week. Sometimes, I would take everyone’s plastic bottles home that would otherwise go into the trash. Recycling plastic is just as important as recycling discarded paper. It wasn’t much but every bit counts, and it made me happy knowing I was contributing to helping our environment.

Many companies do have a recycling system in place, but for those that don’t, there is a way you can start your very own. There is a national voluntary initiative called Recycling at Work that promotes the actions of businesses, government agencies, and institutions to increase recycling in the workplace. In fact you can even help recycling in your workplace by taking the Recycling at Work pledge. This will allow you to have access to free tools and resources to help you recycle more, encourage employee participation, and earn recognition.

Louisiana State University (LSU) is a great example to use because they have an excellent recycling program. They have recycling bins alongside trash bins at several locations all over campus. They have recycling bins for a variety of different things like plastic bottles, paper, and binders. inside of buildings and out. When we have home football games, giving people those options really makes a difference. Generally, if you provide the proper recycling container and make it accessible people will throw their plastic in the proper containers instead of just the regular trash. That is what we should try to incorporate in the work place everywhere.

recycle truck

Photo Credit: Flickr by Meriwether Lewis Elementary School’s in Portland, Oregon

 

References:

http://recyclingatwork.org/pledge-recycling-at-work/

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The Importance of Tropical Rainforests

By Kathryn Cannon

History of Tropical Rainforests

Flickr Photo Credit: rumpleteaser

Flickr Photo Credit: rumpleteaser

Tropical rainforests represents the oldest vegetative ecosystem still in existence. However, all vegetation, like that of the rainforest continues to evolve and change; so modern tropical rainforests are not identical with rainforests of the geologic past. They are a hot moist biome found near the Earth’s equator. The world’s largest tropical rainforests are in South America, Africa and Southeast Asia. Tropical rainforests tend to have fairly mild and/or warm climates and feature some of the highest levels of biodiversity around the globe. They are considered the “lungs of the Earth” because of the high amount of photosynthesis occurring in them. Rainforests once covered 14 percent of the earth’s land surface. Today, they only cover a mere 6 percent, and experts estimate that the last remaining rainforests could be consumed in less than 100 years. The tropical rainforests are a critical link in the ecological chains of our earth’s biosphere.

Current Status of Tropical Rainforests

More than half of the world’s estimated 10 million species of plants, animals and insects live in the tropical rainforests. They produce about 40 percent of the world’s oxygen. More than two-thirds of the world’s tropical rainforests left exist as fragmented remnants. The largest unbroken stretch of rainforest is found in the Amazon River Basin of South America. One-fifth of the world’s fresh water comes from here. Over half of this forest lies in Brazil, which holds about one-third of the world’s remaining tropical rainforests.

Flickr Photo Credit: Cliff In native region this is a rainforest medicine plant that was commonly used by the ancient Maya culture in Central America to treat pain and swelling in muscles and joints, rheumatism, backaches, etc. The Maya Indians in Belize still use the leaves in their steam bath rituals.

Flickr Photo Credit: Cliff
In native region this is a rainforest medicine plant that was commonly used by the ancient Maya culture in Central America to treat pain and swelling in muscles and joints, rheumatism, backaches, etc. The Maya Indians in Belize still use the leaves in their steam bath rituals.

Currently 121 prescription drugs sold worldwide come from plant-derived sources; one in four comes from a plant in the tropical rainforests. The National Cancer Institute (NCI) estimates that 70 percent of the anti-cancer plants identified so far are rain forest plants. If we lose the remaining rainforests that we have, we may lose our only source to find cures for known and future diseases.

Deforestation of Rainforests

As people clear large areas of tropical forests, entire species are vanishing, many of them unknown. Experts estimate that we are losing a certain amount of plant, animal, and insect species every single day due to rainforest deforestation. With all the lushness and productivity that exist in tropical rainforests, it can be surprising to learn that tropical soils are actually very thin and poor in nutrients. Nearly all the nutrient content of a tropical forest is in the living plants and the decomposing litter on the forest floor. After the slash-and-burn method of deforestation, the nutrient reservoir is lost. Flooding and erosion rates are higher, and soils often become unable to support crops in just a few years. Therefore, farmers have to repeat the cycle continuously of cutting down more rainforests. Another concern with the slash-and-burn method is the amount of carbon dioxide released into the atmosphere. This contributes to the greenhouse warming effect.

Flickr Photo Credit: Jagubal slash and burn method

Flickr Photo Credit: Jagubal slash and burn method

Despite the increasing awareness of tropical deforestation, our knowledge is still very limited. Tropical rainforests have long been home to indigenous people who have shaped civilizations and cultures based on the environment in which they live. Logging, mining and farming in the rainforests sometimes displace indigenous communities. This has been known to lead to violence in some cases. Left without land or other resources, native cultures often disintegrate. The benefits do not outweigh the risk of deforestation for the temporary solution for having land to grow crops or to graze animals on.

The Future of Rain Forests

Flickr Photo Credit: Patricia Barden

Flickr Photo Credit: Patricia Barden

Nearly half of the world’s species of plants, animals, and microorganisms will be destroyed or severely threatened over the next quarter century due to rainforest deforestation. Our world is now facing the greatest extinction crisis since the fall of the dinosaurs 65 million years ago. The future of over 50 percent of Earth’s plants, animals and human cultures will be determined within the next few decades. Since our lives are so dependent on the forest’s bounty, our future is at stake as well. Our goal going forward needs to be on how to change the course we are currently on.

Sources

http://www.biomedcentral.com/1741-7007/9/44.

http://environment.nationalgeographic.com/environment/habitats/rainforest-threats/

http://environment.nationalgeographic.com/environment/habitats/rainforest-profile/

http://nwf.org/Wildlife/Wildlife-Conservation/Biodiversity.aspx

Why We Are Spending Money on Restoartion of Coastal Habitats & Wetlands

By Kathryn Cannon

On August 29, 2005, Hurricane Katina ripped through the coastal wetlands and into the city of New Orleans. Most people remember only how New Orleans and the surrounding areas were affected but not how the coastal wetlands, barrier islands or marshes were also impacted.

“After hurricane Katrina we lost several thousand acres of marsh on several of our refuges,” said James Harris, Senior Wildlife Biologist for the Southeast Louisiana Refuges Complex. “It was converted from emergent marsh with vegetation and various forms of wildlife to open water.” Our coastal wetlands are important to our wildlife and even our way of living. Through coastal restoration programs funded by the state and other federal entities, the USF&WS tries to preserve and rebuild our coastal wetlands through various means.

James Harris Photo Credit: Katie Cannon

James Harris Photo Credit: Katie Cannon

The Southeast Louisiana Refuges Complex is a branch with the United States Fisheries & Wildlife Services. Harris specializes in restoration of coastal habitats including marsh and barrier islands. He has constructed numerous small-scale sediment diversions at Delta NWR, which is one of the 8 National Wildlife Refuges covered by the Southeast Louisiana Refuges Complex. They have also restored marsh using dedicated dredge disposal within the complex.

Off the coast of Louisiana, there are barrier islands, marshes and coastal wetlands. Barrier islands are a coastal landform of offshore deposits of sand or sediment. They are a long and relatively narrow islands running parallel to the mainland. They serve to protect the coast from erosion by surf and tidal surges, and act as a barrier to storm surges from hurricanes. However, every 38 minutes, another football field of wetlands disappears into the sea, taking with it nature’s best storm protection and water filter, as well as a cradle for sea life.

The Gulf of Mexico’s coastal wetlands have an abundance and variety of wildlife. They are home to 132 federally listed species, 95 of which are endangered. The Gulf region provides habitats for millions of waterfowl, shore birds, song birds, herons and egrets. The coastal wetlands are home to hardwood forests, cypress swamps, coastal marshes, estuaries and barrier islands.

If Louisiana continues to lose her barrier islands and coastal wetlands, it will have an enormous effect on our way of life. “There are a huge number of species negatively impacted by the loss of coastal habitats,” Harris commented. We use these habitats for cultural recreation such as fishing, photography, hunting, education and wildlife observation. “Then we get into what’s really important to a lot of Louisianans – the seafood. The seafood industry is the main source of income for many south Louisianians,” Harris said. “The coastal habitats are extremely important as they serve as nursery areas for shrimp, fish, blue crabs etc., and it would not only impact us, but the nation as a whole.”

Demonstrating Google Earth Photo Credit: Katie Cannon

Demonstrating Google Earth Photo Credit: Katie Cannon

The million dollar question is how we stop the excessive land loss of our coastal wetlands, marshes and barrier islands without ultimately causing further damage to our already fragile ecosystem. The USF&WS is creating ways to lessen the damage done by hurricanes, erosion and rising sea levels by using a process called sediment diversions. River diversions are one of the fundamental tools available for coastal restoration in Louisiana. Under certain scenarios, they offer an efficient and effective means of building new land, provide a substrate for wetland growth and vegetation regrowth, and provide an opportunity for enhancement of ecological diversity. “We are getting better, if you will, at designing projects and designing restoration to take advantage of the natural processes that either sustains what we’ve built or makes it more resilient to storms,” Harris said. “So that a storm may damage it, but hopefully it won’t completely wipe it away again.”

Harris demonstrated on Google Earth how they use the program to look backward and forward over a period of years to see how the land was and how it develops via satellite photos. When they create a sediment diversion they use Google Earth to map out where the diversion will go and view the progress that is made over a period of time.

Google earth without sediment diversion Photo Credit: Katie Cannon

Google earth without sediment diversion Photo Credit: Katie Cannon

Google Earth with sediment diversion Photo Credit: Katie Cannon

Google Earth with sediment diversion Photo Credit: Katie Cannon

The coastal marshes of Louisiana are extremely important both from the natural resource side and from the human side. “These areas are culturally important and that can’t be discounted when you’re talking about people. People are most comfortable when they have a sense of place – a sense of protection if you will – and these marshes and barrier islands and all these habitats provide that,” Harris said. “It’s what protects us. It is what not only protects our livelihood, but it protects our houses and infrastructure; so it’s tremendously important.” If we have the ability to make the environment better, we should do it by any means necessary.

Sources:

http://www.bioone.org/doi/pdf/10.2112/JCOASTRES-D-12-00252.1

http://www.fws.gov/gulfrestoration/

http://www.thefreedictionary.com/barrier+island

Mosquitoes, Graveyards and Science, Oh My!

By Kathryn Cannon

Research is formalized curiosity. It is poking and prying with a purpose. -Zora Neale Hurston

While walking through a graveyard, you wouldn’t think to look for insects known to suck human blood. However, that is precisely what Dr. Christofferson and her graduate assistant Ania do. They will go into a graveyard looking for a certain wild type of mosquito, A. albopictus. These mosquitoes love to feed and breed in the dirtiest water they can find. Where better to search than a graveyard full of dirt, decaying leaves and water collected in the vases located by headstones? This kind of environment is where they thrive and the perfect place for Dr. Christofferson to collect specimens for her research.

On September 18, 2015, I had the privilege of shadowing Dr. Christofferson a professor and researcher at LSU. I went for a day to see how she conducts her field research and lab work. Dr. Christofferson said, “I am interested in population level hypotheses.” She looks at transmission. She studies various factors that affect whether or not the transmission of a virus to humans will be successful or unsuccessful and whether the virility of the virus will increase in intensity or decrease in intensity. She also looks at how the virus affects the mosquitoes she exposes. For example how long will it take them to become infected, how many become infected and how long do they live afterwards etc. She explains how she looks at the dynamics of the virus in the population.

Field Research

Field Research Photo Credit :Katie Cannon

We arrived at the Baton Rouge graveyard to collect specimens they will need for lab studies. It was a pretty day to be outside considering how hot Louisiana’s weather normally is around this time of year. Another student and I observed as Dr. Christofferson and Ania started looking for larvae and pupae in the vases located at the gravestones. They would use a pipette to suck up a water sample to see if any larva or pupa were present. Ania and Dr. Christofferson were so enthusiastic when they found a vase full of mosquito specimens.

Ania expressed her enjoyment by saying, “Oh so many!” several times throughout the day; she had a “the more the merrier” mentality. Dr. Christofferson mainly uses two main locations for her samples, a cemetery in Baton Rouge and several locations in New Orleans. Every once in a while she will include Lafayette. She collects two different types of mosquitoes from the wild. The Baton Rouge graveyard mosquito is A. albopictus and the New Orleans mosquito is Aedes aegypti.

In the bottom of one vase Dr. Christofferson found a frog and was very enthusiastic about it. She kept saying “Better than teeth.” She was referring to the time they went to a New Orleans graveyard where they found a set of denture teeth. Oh the things you can potentially find while conducting field research! In the video below you can see her reaction to finding the frog. This is exactly why Dr. Christofferson loves to be in the graveyards looking for insects.

Sorting Mosquito Specimens Photo Credit: Katie Cannon

Sorting Mosquito Specimens
Photo Credit: Katie Cannon

After we filled up a couple buckets of specimens we were ready to head back to the lab. The Biosafety Level 2 lab is where they keep the larva and pupa stages. Once they emerge into an adult the mosquitoes will be moved into another lab. The lab looks just like any other lab I have been in. It has the microscopes, supplies, and instruments they need. I did notice there was a constant humming noise coming from one of the machines. When we entered the Biosafety Level 2 lab Dr. Christofferson said, “Let’s get this party started.” We then began the sorting process. The larvae went in one container and the pupae in the other. Right when Dr. Christofferson turned on the radio the “Wiggle” song by Jason Derulo ft. Snoop Dogg came on. According to Dr. Christofferson it is their larva song and she cranked up the radio.

After the specimens are separated they keep the left over “dead people water” for about five days in case there are more larvae they potentially missed. Sometimes they are not visible to the naked eye until after they reach a certain point. I asked why they call it “dead people water.” Dr. Christofferson and Ania both started laughing. Ania told me, “Just because we got it in a graveyard.” Dr. Christofferson made the comment, “And it stinks like dead people.” Everyone started laughing. Dr. Christofferson’s enjoyment is evident in her research and her enthusiasm is contagious.

Labeling Photo Credit: Katie Cannon

Labeling Photo Credit: Katie Cannon

Ania demonstrated what they do with the larvae and pupae after separating them. She took out a pan in the refrigerator that the larvae are kept in until the pupa stage. The pupas are put into a container with a screen placed over it and a hole cut into the top to add more pupas once they are developed from the larva stage. She will label the container with information from where they collected the specimens, the date and their generation. Ania said, “The more generations they spend in the lab the less they are like whatever is in the field; so you have to keep track of that.” Ania commented, “The process goes faster with four people.” I can believe that. While trying to separate the larvae from the pupae I kept commenting how fast they move. They twitch this way and that way. Below is video footage of just what I mean.

Mosquitoes hatch from eggs and they molt three times in a process called instars. They will then form into a pupa and after 2-3 days they will emerge from the aquatic stage as an adult. If the mosquito gets its wings wet after emerging, it is doomed from the beginning. A mosquito can live around 18 days depending on temperature, humidity and other factors in the wild. In the lab they can live up to a month because everything is controlled. If you have felt a mosquito bite your arm and squished it with blood coming out as a result you killed a female. Only females will bite a human for the blood source, males need only nectar.

Dr. Christofferson teaching Photo Credit: Katie Cannon

Dr. Christofferson teaching
Photo Credit: Katie Cannon

I asked Ania how she liked conducting this type of research. She said, “Its supper fun. I love it! It reminds me of when I was a kid at the beach and I would find little ponds of seawater with crabs and fish. I would collect them in a bucket.” An interesting fact I learned from Dr. Christofferson was how to tell the males from the females. A researcher can tell the males by how their antennas look like bunny ears and how fluffy they are. Females are not so fluffy and after females feed they sit on the wall like a fly. Dr. Christofferson started saying, “Help me, help me,” in a sing song voice. She said, “Y’all were too young for that.” I asked, “To young for what?” She said, “The Fly.” I asked, “The movie?” She said, “Yeah!” I said, “Oh no, I am not too young I saw it.”

Once the mosquitoes reach adulthood they are transferred to the Biosafety Level 3 lab. I was unable to view the lab due to regulations. Each infectious agent has been labeled by the USDA or CDC as one of four levels. Level 3 and above need to be in a regulated lab with minimal traffic and follow regulations set by the CDC. The CDC is one of the major operating components of the Department of Health and Human Services. Dr. Christofferson explained, “Because we catch our own mosquitoes in the wild we go ahead and do our infected work in the BSL3 as an extra precaution just because if they got out they could potentially cause a viral outbreak.” In the BSL 3 lab they have to wear a full hazmat suit to help prevent contraction of any disease.

One would not think mosquitoes could be interesting. However, getting hands-on experience I can say personally it was a rewarding and extremely fun day. Dr. Christofferson and her graduate assistant Ania brought humor and passion to a serious study that benefits the human population. Scientific research is a balance between field work and the lab. When you bring the fun out in science anything can become interesting to the average person including mosquitoes.

Below is a slide show of all the pictures I took:

Dr. Christofferson has a webpage describing some of her work. http://www.epiresponse.com/#!about-arboviruses/c1cn3

Links:

http://www.cdc.gov/about/organization/cio.htm

http://www.cdc.gov/dengue/resources/30Jan2012/comparisondenguevectors.pdf

You tube: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hiP14ED28CA

Out of Darkness (Assignment One)

By Kathryn Cannon

The mind is a powerful force. It can enslave us or empower us. It can plunge us into the depths of misery or take us to the heights of ecstasy. Learn to use the power wisely. – David Cuschieri

One word can change your entire perception without you realizing the significance it holds. That word is Anti-NMDAR encephalitis. This disease transforms a person you once recognized into one with an altered state of self being. The eventual progression of the disease dwarfs those it touches into a childlike state. Researchers are unclear as to the cause of the disease with the exception of a teratoma tumor. A teratoma tumor (video) forms in a woman’s ovaries.

photo credit Jim Sheely

photo credit Jim Sheely

This illness is known to have several stages which can cause difficulty in giving the correct prognosis. It starts off with fever, headaches, vomiting, etc. It then progresses to psychiatric traits such as: anxiety, insomnia, hallucinations, paranoia and withdrawal as described in the article “Clinical experience and laboratory investigations in patients with anti-NMDAR encephalitis.” Further regression results in loss of motor skills, becoming mute, short-term memory loss and a lack of awareness. In many cases people are misdiagnosed by psychiatrists for the symptoms they portray. Following the psychiatric manifestations, the person normally displays abnormal movements and autonomic instability evidenced by constant saliva, irregular breathing, high blood pressure, smacking of lips, etc. For example a patient can display a robotic like movement without showing actual awareness of the capricious action. Research has shown that the antibodies of the patient attack the brain from within further compounding a successful diagnosis. It has taken a lot of guessing, trial by error, and a consensus of research to form a conclusion.

8244551263_a931e251c1_nSusannah Cahalan, a journalist for the New York Post, wrote her own memoir Brain On Fire – My Month of Madness. Cahalan wrote in Brain On Fire, “The break between my consciousness and my physical body was now fully complete. In essence, I was gone… This was the beginning of my lost month of madness.” She is not alone in her feelings of losing her entire self to an unknown force attacking her from within, pulling her away from everything that is familiar. Many women who experience the same symptoms go through these exact emotions of feeling foreign in one’s own body.

Imagine that you are coming out of a deep coma. Your sense of who you are, where you are and the time is like a puzzle. You see pieces but you don’t know how they fit together. Cahalan describes it as the world gradually coming into view. It begins as a pin hole of light with the diameter gradually expanding. You are coming out of a state of darkness in which you were ensnared. In the treatment stage about 75% of patients recover fully or may have slight disabilities. For recovery to be complete every individual must go through the stages of illness in reverse order for healing to occur.

In many stories, including Susannah’s, patients with this disease explain how self-conscious they are after recovering. They do not feel comfortable in their own skin along with forgetting how to socialize in a public setting. Recovery from these side effects takes time. Relapses are a known occurrence with this disease, especially for people who did not have a teratoma tumor. “No one knows why certain people, those without teratomas especially, get the disease, and there is no basic understanding of how it is triggered,” Cahalan wrote in Brain on Fire. Sonia Shaheen was the first person in Canada diagnosed with anti-NMDAR in 2008. She has had four known relapses already and is still currently battling the illness. Anti-NMDAR encephalitis is now becoming more widely known thanks to Susannah’s book and the non-profit organization Autoimmune Encephalitis Alliance that she set up. She has her own website at www.susannahcahalan.com with a section provided for people to share their stories involving anti-NMDAR encephalitis.

It is the opinion of the contributing authors of the article “Clinical experience and laboratory investigations in patients with anti-NMDAR encephalitis” that future studies should clarify timing of the immune response, the best treatment approach, and strategies to accelerate the process of recovery. Recommendations for further research include studies on the effects of the anti-NMDAR antibodies at the cellular, synaptic and circuit levels. It has been suggested that further studies involving animals would be necessary to fully understand how the antibodies affect brain functions. It is obvious that more research needs to be conducted linking the neurological and psychological components of this disease instead of focusing the research on them individually.

Works Cited:
Cahalan, Susannah. Brain On Fire My Month of Madness. New York: Simon & Schuster Paperbacks, 2012.
Prof Josep Dalmau, MDa, , , Eric Lancaster, MDa, Eugenia Martinez-Hernandez, MDa, Prof Myrna R Rosenfeld, MDa, Prof Rita Balice-Gordon, PhDb. “Clinical experience and laboratory investigations in patients with anti-NMDAR encephalitis.” ScienceDirect (2011): 63-74.

http://www.sciencedirect.com.libezp.lib.lsu.edu/science/article/pii/S1474442210702532
www.susannahcahalan.com

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kTHoTMr_0U8

Update 9/18/2015 – Edited by Paige Jarreau