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These Bacteria Might Make A Better Mosquito Repellent

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A bacterial compound might make for a better natural mosquito repellent. (Credit: MNStudio/Shutterstock)

In the search for new compounds to fight off mosquitos, researchers have struck pay dirt in an increasingly common location: Soil bacteria.

A pair of molecules produced by a species of insect-infecting bacteria appear to convince mosquitos not to feed on human blood, researchers from the University of Wisconsin-Madison report Wednesday in Science Advances. The find could eventually serve an alternative to chemical insect deterrents like DEET.

The researchers were looking at a genus of bacteria known as Xenorhabdus, which lives symbiotically with a species of dirt-dwelling nematode that parasitizes insects. Xenorhabdus live inside the nematodes, and though scientists don’t quite know how, the microscopic worms can’t successfully infect and utilize their insect hosts without the bacteria.

To help it with this task, Xenorhabdus produces an array of compounds known as secondary metabolites — compounds that aren’t directly necessary for survival, but which grant the bacteria extra abilities. Scientists have recently been looking at secondary metabolites in a range of microbial species to search for things that might have useful properties.

The Wisconsin researchers turned their attention to Xenorhabdus, and because they knew it was specialized to infect insects, they thought it might be a good place to look for potential mosquito deterrents. That hunch turned out to be accurate. Extracts from the bacteria kept three species of mosquito from coming near food or from actually feeding on it in the lab. Further analysis revealed two molecules known as fabclavines to be the likely repelling agents.

In tests, the two fabclavines were as good or better than DEET and picaridin — two commonly-used artificial mosquito repellents — at keeping mosquitoes from both landing and feeding. This included Aedes aegypti mosquitos, which can spread Zika, dengue, chikungunya and other infectious diseases.

Mosquitos spread diseases when they pierce our skin to sip blood, so preventing them from feeding — instead of killing them outright — would be enough to protect humans. There haven’t been any tests of the fabclavines on humans yet to see if they’re safe for use, and the researchers say that further work lies ahead to pin down whether both compounds or just one of them are necessary to deter mosquitos.

It’s also unknown whether these compounds would be cheaper and easier to produce than DEET, another consideration for getting them to market. But, they could serve as effective organic alternatives to DEET, which is largely considered safe, though it’s not recommended for infants and there’s evidence that it can harm some species of fish.

Yet again, it’s proof that when it comes to human problems, nature might already have a solution.

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Ecology

Yukon and Northern BC First Nations tackle climate change using Indigenous knowledge and science

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YUKON, June 18, 2021 /CNW/ – The Government of Canada is working together in partnership with Indigenous and Northern communities in finding solutions to adapt to the impacts of climate change in the North.

Today, Minister of Northern Affairs, Daniel Vandal, along with Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Economic Development and Official Languages (Canadian Northern Economic Development Agency), Larry Bagnell, highlighted progress on three unique, Indigenous-led projects that are helping communities in Yukon and Northern British Columbia adapt to the challenges posed by climate change.

The Minister and Parliamentary Secretary met virtually with Carcross/Tagish First Nation (C/TFN) to learn about their community-led climate change monitoring program. C/TFN has partnered with Tsay Keh Dene Nation (TKDN) and Chu Cho Environmental of Prince George, British Columbia, to build a community-led monitoring project that examines environmental data and Indigenous knowledge to create a holistic picture of how the climate is changing across C/TFN and TKDN traditional territories. The project combines tracking of current and historical climate trends with knowledge shared by Elders while also providing opportunities for youth mentorship and climate change awareness.

The Taku River Tlingit First Nation (TRTFN) is also leading a unique project to assess the impacts of climate change within their traditional territory. Climate change is causing many of the culturally significant ice patches to melt, exposing organic artifacts to oxygen and leading to rapid deterioration. The TRTFN ice patch mapping project will involve performing archaeological assessments to prevent the degradation of artifacts. Research will be guided by traditional knowledge, Elders and oral histories, when available, and heavily involve community, Elders, youth and Knowledge Keepers.

The Pelly Crossing Selkirk Development Corporation is leading the Selkirk Wind Resource Assessment project through the installation of a Sonic Detection and Ranging (SODAR) system. The initiative includes a feasibility study leading up to the construction of a renewable energy facility, including wind, solar and battery energy storage. Expanding clean energy within the region will have direct benefits for communities, including reduced reliance on diesel, job creation and revenue generation for Selkirk First Nation. 

These projects are delivering important environmental, social and economic benefits that lead to healthier, more sustainable and resilient communities across Yukon and Northern British Columbia. They also build community clean energy capacity and help to avoid the impacts of climate change.

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Ecology

Atlantic Provinces Ready For Aquaculture Growth

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Aquaculture is an important economic driver for rural, coastal and Indigenous communities, and Atlantic Canada is well positioned to increase aquaculture production as global demand for sustainably sourced seafood grows.

That is why the ministers responsible for aquaculture in the Atlantic provinces have agreed to the ongoing development and management of their industries based on common principles. A new memorandum of understanding has been signed by the four ministers, which extends the previous agreement signed in 2008.

“In a time when food security is especially important, it is good to see our aquaculture industry has grown steadily and is poised for continued growth in 2021 based on environmentally responsible, science-based policies and practices,” said Keith Colwell, Minister of Fisheries and Aquaculture for Nova Scotia. “Our Atlantic partnership continues to help the industry grow sustainably.”

Cooperation between the provinces and the aquaculture industry has led to improvements in pest management, environmentally sustainable aquaculture methods, aquatic animal health and policies to support the shared use of marine and freshwater resources. It also aims to align regulation and policy between the provinces to make the regulatory requirements easier to understand by industry and the public.

Each province has a comprehensive and robust legislative and regulatory framework to ensure environmental sustainability, economic prosperity and public accountability. The provinces update their legislation and regulations regularly. Nova Scotia revamped its regulatory framework in 2015; New Brunswick received Royal Assent for a new Aquaculture Act in 2019 and is working on the supporting regulations; Newfoundland and Labrador completely revised its aquaculture policy in 2019; and Prince Edward Island has recently drafted a new Aquaculture Act.

The ministers have agreed to continue to use science-based evidence for management decisions, thereby increasing public and investor confidence in the Atlantic Canadian aquaculture industry.

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Ecology

COMING SOON: A Healthy Environment and a Healthy Economy 2.0

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We all want the same thing: a clean and responsible energy future for our children and future generations while continuing to enjoy a high standard of living.

On December 11, 2020, the Prime Minister announced a new climate plan which he claimed will help achieve Canada’s economic and environmental goals.

The proposed plan by Environment and Climate Change Canada (ECCC) entitled “A Healthy Environment and a Healthy Economy” will have an initial investment of $15 billion of taxpayer’s money. It is built on 5 pillars of action:

  1) Making the Places Canadians Live and Gather More Affordable by Cutting Energy Waste

2) Making Clean, Affordable Transportation and Power Available in Every Community

3) Continuing to Ensure Pollution isn’t Free and Households Get More Money Back

4) Building Canada’s Clean Industrial Advantage

5) Embracing the Power of Nature to Support Healthier Families and More Resilient Communities  

In my paper, “A Healthy Environment and a Healthy Economy 2.0” I will objectively critique each pillar in the government’s new climate plan and provide alternative solutions to the same issues.

  This is an alternative plan that supports workers, protects lower income earners and creates economic growth while respecting the environment and focusing on the dignity of work.

  This plan abandons virtue-signaling projects and relies on Canadian ingenuity to build our economy and restore Canada’s role of responsible leadership in the world.

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