A new study has found the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources has underreported wolf poaching.
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Study: Girls doubt women can be brilliant
A study published this week in the journal Science suggests that girls as young as 6 can be led to believe men are inherently smarter and more talented than women, making girls less motivated to pursue novel activities or ambitious careers.
That such stereotypes exist is hardly a surprise, but the findings show these biases can affect children at a very young age.
“As a society, we associate a high level of intellectual ability with males more than females, and our research suggests that this association is picked up by children as young 6 and 7,” said Andrei Cimpian, associate professor in the psychology department at New York University. Cimpian coauthored the study, which looked at 400 children ages 5-7.
In the first part of the study, girls and boys were told a story about a person who is “really, really smart,” a child’s idea of brilliance, and then asked to identify that person among the photos of two women and two men. The people in the photos were dressed professionally, looked the same age and appeared equally happy. At 5, both boys and girls tended to associate brilliance with their own gender, meaning that most girls chose women and most boys chose men.
But as they became older and began attending school, children apparently began endorsing gender stereotypes. At 6 and 7, girls were “significantly less likely” to pick women. The results were similar when the kids were shown photos of children.
Interestingly, when asked to select children who look like they do well in school, as opposed to being smart, girls tended to pick girls, which means that their perceptions of brilliance are not based on academic performance.
“These stereotypes float free of any objective markers of achievement and intelligence,” Cimpian said.
In the second part of the study, children were introduced to two new board games, one described as an activity “for children who are really, really smart” and the other one “for children who try really, really hard.” Five-year-old girls and boys were equally likely to want to play the game for smart kids, but at age 6 and 7, boys still wanted to play that game, while girls opted for the other activity.
“There isn’t anything about the game itself that becomes less interesting for girls, but rather it’s the description of it as being for kids that are really, really smart.”
As a result, believing that they are not as gifted as boys, girls tend to shy away from demanding majors and fields, leading to big differences in aspirations and career choices between men and women. “These stereotypes discourage women’s pursuit of many prestigious careers; that is, women are underrepresented in fields whose members cherish brilliance,” the authors wrote.
It is unclear where the stereotypes come from.
Parents, teachers and peers and the media are the usual suspects, Cimpian said.
But it is evident that action must be taken so that these biases don’t curtail girls’ professional aspirations.
“Instill the idea that success in any line of work is not an innate ability, whatever it is, but rather putting your head down, being passionate about what you are doing,” Cimpian said, adding that exposure to successful women who can serve as role models also helps.
Toy companies like Mattel, maker of the Barbie doll, have taken steps to try to reduce gender stereotypes. Mattel’s “You can be anything” Barbie campaign tells girls that they can be paleontologists, veterinarians or professors, among other careers. The campaign also holds out the possibility that a girl can imagine herself to be a fairy princess.
Rebecca S. Bigler, professor of psychology at the University of Texas at Austin, described Cimpian’s study “as exceptionally nice work.”
She suggested that the stereotypes develop in early elementary school when students are exposed to famous scientists, composers and writers, the “geniuses” of history, who are overwhelmingly men. Bigler said it is important to combine that knowledge with information on gender discrimination.
“We need to explain to children that laws were created specifically to prevent women from becoming great scientists, artists, composers, writers, explorers, and leaders,” Bigler added. “Children will then be … more likely to believe in their own intellectual potential and contribute to social justice and equally by pursuing these careers themselves.”
Study: Racial disparities found in police traffic stops
A study of statewide police traffic stops in Vermont, the second-whitest state in the country, has found racial disparities in how police treat drivers.
Black drivers were four times more likely than whites to be searched after traffic stops, and Hispanic drivers were nearly three times more likely, according to the University of Vermont study, Driving While Black and Brown in Vermont. At the same time, black and Hispanic drivers were less likely than white and Asian drivers to be found with contraband that leads to an arrest or citation, according to the report, which was based on 2015 data.
Black and Hispanic drivers also were more likely than white drivers to get traffic tickets versus warnings, and black drivers were twice as likely as white drivers to be arrested after stops, the study said.
“Almost all of the agencies in our study exhibit disparities in traffic policing to one degree or another,” said study co-author Stephanie Seguino, a professor in the university’s Department of Economics. “In other words, the results are not uniquely attributable to one or two agencies, but it’s really a widespread problem in terms of policing.”
One of the reasons some police officers use to explain the higher rate of searches of black drivers versus white drivers is concerns about the opioid crisis and drugs coming in from out of state, and there’s a racial component to those perceptions, Seguino said. But the study found white and Asian drivers were more likely than black or Hispanic drivers stopped to be found with contraband.
Vermont, which has a population of about 625,000, was 94.8 percent white the year the policing study was done, according to U.S. Census figures. Only Maine, at 94.9 percent, was whiter. Blacks made up 1.3 percent of the Vermont population, Hispanics 1.8 percent and Asians 1.6 percent.
The study looked at traffic stop data from 29 departments across Vermont, following a 2014 state law that required police to collect such race information. But many agencies had missing data in key categories, said co-author Nancy Brooks, of Cornell University, who said more work is needed to improve the data quality.
Police treatment of drivers varied among departments, the study found.
In Rutland, for example, police searched black drivers at a rate of more than six times that of white drivers while white drivers searched were found with contraband at a higher rate than black drivers.
Rutland police Chief Brian Kilcullen, who has been on the job since November 2015, said he was somewhat surprised by the findings.
“You start with awareness, and that’s what this does,” he said of the report, adding that the police department has done training sessions.
Burlington police Chief Brandon del Pozo said his department is seeing an improvement in the rate at which searches lead to contraband, called the hit rate, meaning police are doing fewer unnecessary searches.
To reduce the racial disparities, the report’s authors recommend creating a standardized system for collecting data, giving officers feedback on their performance during stops, supporting police departments in giving frequent training sessions on bias and monitoring disparities annually.
Brexit uncertainties threaten brain drain for UK science
Like many foreign scientists in Britain, Joanna Bagniewska was devastated when Britons voted to leave the European Union. The biology lecturer, a Polish migrant who found Britain a welcoming place to build her academic career over a decade, is suddenly seeing her job security and research prospects up in the air.
“I’m worried that after my current contract finishes, one of the prerequisites could be a permanent residence card,” she said. “I’d like to apply for EU grant money, but how much longer will it be available for?”
Britain’s top universities have long been among the world’s most sought-after destinations for study and research, drawing the brightest minds from all corners of the globe. But since Britons voted in June to leave the 28-nation EU, many in the science community say the U.K. risks losing the money, the international influence — and crucially, the talent — to sustain that enviable position.
More than one-tenth of research funding at British universities has come from the EU in recent years. Some fields — such as nanotechnology and cancer research — are more dependent on EU funding than others, according to a report by technology firm Digital Science. From 2007 to 2013, Britain received 8.8 billion euros ($9.4 billion) in direct EU investment in research.
Bagniewska is not just anxious about herself — she’s upset for her students’ future too, for the opportunities that both Britons and foreigners will likely miss out on when unfettered mobility between Britain and Europe can no longer be taken for granted.
“They were just getting excited about doing their masters and Ph.Ds in other countries. And then Brexit happened and they just got trampled,” she said.
Scientists and researchers argue that being part of the EU has given British science a huge boost because it allows Britain to recruit the best talent across Europe and take part in important research collaborations and student exchanges without being constrained by national boundaries. The bloc’s freedom of movement means its 500 million people can live and work visa-free in any member state.
No one knows yet what form Britain’s exit from the EU — commonly known as Brexit — is going to take, but immigration was a key issue for “Leave” voters. Many believe some limit should be put on the number of EU citizens moving to Britain.
Prime Minister Theresa May has vowed to reassert control over British borders. She has offered no firm guarantees for the rights of Europeans already living in Britain, an uncertainty that weighs heavily over the 32,000 Europeans who make up 16 percent of the academic workforce in British universities. Many universities say the rhetoric over immigration control is also jeopardizing recruitment of researchers and students from further afield.
Scientists for EU, an advocacy group, says it has received over 400 letters from researchers describing how Brexit has already impacted their life and work. Some are losing doctoral students who pulled out of studentships and job offers. Academics are putting plans to relocate to Britain on hold. One said their employer, a London university, immediately imposed a temporary hiring freeze, citing uncertainties about student recruitment and research income.
Adam Durrant, a British entrepreneur who founded an aerospace startup supplying climate data to airlines and aircraft manufacturers, says he’s now considering moving some of his business to a EU country outside of Britain. Part of the reason, he says, is that Brexit will likely make hiring the right people much harder than before.
“In the future, it probably means that people would be less interested to come to the U.K. to work,” said Durrant. “There’s a huge question mark over my company and my own personal future. I will certainly retain a U.K. presence, but my company’s focus of gravity may shift elsewhere.”
Scientists say some U.K.-based researchers are already being excluded from joint bids for EU funding to minimize the risks for their colleagues.
Paul Crowther, head of physics and astronomy at the University of Sheffield, said a researcher from his department was dropped from an EU grant proposal as a precaution following the Brexit referendum. The vote “put the U.K.-based researchers in a very awkward position” and their participation in EU-funded programs could “compromise the project,” he was told.
“The erosion of U.K. involvement in EU networks has already begun, with both the U.K. and EU science worse off,” Crowther said.
Apart from a loss of grant money, Brexit will likely cause British scientists and research centers to miss out on shared databases and infrastructure.
“Large-scale efforts like studies of rare genetic diseases, the building of large facilities, are areas that multinational collaborations do much better,” said Venki Ramakrishnan, a Nobel Prize-winning biologist and president of Britain’s prestigious Royal Society.
The EU is an important source of research funding for Britain, which lags behind many developed countries in state investment in science. In 2014, Britain’s government spent under 0.5 percent of its GDP on research — below the European average, and half that of South Korea.
May’s government is clearly aware of the jitters. She has promised to increase annual investment in research by 2 billion pounds ($2.4 billion) by 2020, in hopes her country can remain a world leader in science and innovation.
Durrant is doubtful that’s enough to make a big difference.
“Two billion a year spread across everything isn’t going to go very far,” he said.
Similar anxieties are being felt at the undergraduate level. The 125,000 European students studying at British universities now pay the same fees as locals and have access to the same government loans. Officials have promised this will not change for those applying next year — but no one knows what will happen after that.
Fewer European students appeared to be applying for some of Britain’s most competitive university courses, including medicine and places at Oxford and Cambridge. In September, the admission service UCAS reported a 9 percent drop in EU applications for British undergraduate courses starting in 2017.
Some argue that Britain could become like Switzerland, an “associate” EU state that is opting out of free movement of people while still taking part in limited European science projects.
“It’s not all doom and gloom — but it will be harder,” Ramakrishnan said. “We could make a go of it outside the EU. But for that to happen, we have to attract talent and fund science. And those two things are critical.”
Reason to chirp: Audubon announces annual Christmas Bird Count
For the 117th year, the National Audubon Society is organizing its annual Christmas Bird Count. Between Dec. 14 and Jan. 5, tens of thousands of bird-loving volunteers — citizen scientists — will participate in counts across the Western Hemisphere.
The data continues to contribute to one of only two large existing pools of information notifying ornithologists and conservation biologists about what conservation action is required to protect birds and the places they need.
The Christmas Bird Count is the longest-running wildlife census in the world.
Each individual count takes place in a 15-mile-wide circle and is led by a compiler responsible for organizing volunteers and submitting observations to Audubon. Within each circle, participants tally all birds seen or heard that day — not just the species but total numbers to provide a clear idea of the health of that particular population.
“It’s never been easier to be a citizen scientist and it’s never been more important to be one,” said David Yarnold, president and CEO of the National Audubon Society. “Birds and the people who watch them are noticing changes. Using the data gathered by more than a century of Christmas Bird Counts, Audubon will keep protecting birds and the places they need. I’m incredibly proud of the volunteers that contribute to this tradition.”
Christmas Bird Count data have been used in more than 200 peer-reviewed articles, including Audubon’s landmark Birds and Climate Change Report, which found that more than half of the bird species in North America are threatened by a changing climate.
When combined with other surveys such as the Breeding Bird Survey, it provides a picture of how the continent’s bird populations have changed in time and space over the past hundred years.
The long term perspective is vital for conservationists, informing strategies to protect birds and their habitat, and helps identify environmental issues with implications for people as well.
Last year, the 116th Christmas Bird Count included a record-setting 2,505 count circles, with 1,902 counts in the United States, 471 in Canada and 132 in Latin America, the Caribbean, Bermuda and the Pacific Islands.
In total, 76,669 observers in 2015 tallied up 58,878,071 birds representing 2,607 different species — about one-quarter of the world’s known avifauna. About 5 percent of the North American landmass was surveyed by the Christmas Bird Count.
“From Alaska’s Arctic coast to Tierra del Fuego, and from Newfoundland to Los Angeles, the 117th CBC is a tradition that everyone can participate in,” said Geoff LeBaron, Audubon’s Christmas Bird Count director. “Adding observations to more than a century of data helps scientists and conservationists observe trends that will help make our work more impactful.”
A disturbing finding from last year was the continued decline of the Northern Bobwhite, the only native quail in the eastern United States. Record low numbers of this species were observed from the Midwestern states to the Mid-Atlantic and down to Florida.
Meanwhile the Eurasian Collared-Dove, introduced to the Bahamas in the 1970s from its native Europe, was observed in record high numbers from North Carolina throughout the Midwest and northward to the Great Lakes and southern Canada.
These two species are of great concern as Audubon embarks on its 117th count.
Beginning on Christmas Day in 1900, Frank M. Chapman, founder of Bird-Lore — which evolved into Audubon magazine — proposed a new holiday tradition that would count birds during the holidays rather than hunt them.
Conservation was in its beginning stages in that era, and many observers and scientists were becoming concerned about declining bird populations. So began the Christmas Bird Count. 117 years later, the tradition continues and still manages to bring out the best in people.
The Audubon Christmas Bird Count is a citizen science project organized by the National Audubon Society. There is no fee to participate and the quarterly report, American Birds, is available online.
Counts are open to birders of all skill levels and Audubon’s free Bird Guide app makes it even easier to chip in.
On the Web
For more about the Christmas Bird Count, go online to www.christmasbirdcount.org.
Study: Sexist men more likely to have mental health problems
Men who behave like promiscuous playboys or feel powerful over women are more likely to have mental health problems than men with less sexist attitudes, according to a study released this week.
The analysis found links between sexist behavior and mental health issues such as depression and substance abuse, said the study which appeared in the Journal of Counseling Psychology, published by the American Psychological Association.
“Some of these sexist masculine norms, like being a playboy and power over women, aren’t just a social injustice but they are also potentially bad for your mental health,” said Joel Wong, an associate professor of counseling psychology at Indiana University Bloomington and lead author of the study.
Its release comes on the heels of the election to the U.S. presidency of Donald Trump, whose comments about women that emerged during the election campaign were condemned by many as sexist and misogynist.
The research synthesized results of more than 70 U.S.-based studies involving more than 19,000 men over 11 years.
This involved looking at 11 norms generally considered by experts to reflect society’s expectations of traditional masculinity including a desire to win, risk-taking and pursuit of status, Wong said.
The traits, or norms, most closely linked to mental health problems were playboy behavior, or sexual promiscuity, power over women and self-reliance, he said.
“Men who have trouble asking for directions when they’re lost, that’s a classic example of self-reliance,” Wong said.
Also, men who exhibited those attitudes were also less likely to seek mental health treatment, the study said.
The researchers said there was one dimension for which they were unable to find any significant effects.
“Primacy of work was not significantly associated with any of the mental health-related outcomes,” said Wong in a statement.
“Perhaps this is a reflection of the complexity of work and its implications for well-being. An excessive focus on work can be harmful to one’s health and interpersonal relationships, but work is also a source of meaning for many individuals.”
Reporting by Ellen Wulfhorst, Editing by Belinda Goldsmith. Published via Thomson Reuters Foundation, the charitable arm of Thomson Reuters, that covers humanitarian news, women’s rights, trafficking, property rights and climate change. Visit http://news.trust.org.
UW-Madison to review impact of voter ID law in the state
A comprehensive UW-Madison study is underway to determine if Wisconsin’s new voter ID law played a role in the lowest statewide turnout for a presidential election in more than two decades.
The study will review the impact of the state’s voter ID law, considered by some as among the most restrictive in the nation.
The review will focus on Dane and Milwaukee counties, which have the highest percentage of minority and low-income voters in Wisconsin, according to a news release announcing the analysis.
About 66 percent of voting age people in Wisconsin cast ballots on Nov. 8. That turnout was down nearly four percentage points compared to 2012 and was three points behind the predictions from state election officials.
Most counties in Wisconsin saw a decline in turnout, but the drop was particularly dramatic in Milwaukee County, where nearly 50,000 fewer votes were cast this year compared to 2012.
Preliminary exit polling showed that turnout fell off most among young voters and African-Americans.
In Dane County, turnout was up slightly in real numbers, but down roughly 2 percent from four years ago among registered voters.
“Overall there were few problems on election day,” Milwaukee County Clerk Joe Czarnezki said in a press statement. “However, there were reports of voters who showed up to the polls with the wrong form of photo ID, while others simply did not go to the polls because they feared they did not have proper ID. This study will move us from anecdotes to facts.”
Pop consumption falls beyond expectations after soda tax
As voters consider soda taxes in four cities, a new study finds that some Berkeley neighborhoods slashed sugar-sweetened beverage consumption by more than one-fifth after the Northern California city enacted the nation’s first soda tax.
Berkeley voters in 2014 levied a penny-per-ounce tax on soda and other sugary drinks to try to curb consumption and stem the rising tide of diabetes and obesity.
After the tax took effect in March 2015, residents of at least two neighborhoods reported drinking 21 percent less of all sugar-sweetened beverages and 26 percent less soda than they had the year before, according to the report in the October American Journal of Public Health.
“From a public health perspective, that is a huge impact. That is an intervention that’s more powerful than anything I’ve ever seen aimed at changing someone’s dietary behavior,” senior author Dr. Kristine Madsen said in a telephone interview.
Madsen, a professor of public health at the University of California at Berkeley, said the drop in sugary drink consumption surpassed her expectations, though it was consistent with consumption declines in low-income neighborhoods in Mexico after it imposed a nationwide tax on sugar-sweetened beverages.
The Berkeley results also pleasantly surprised Marion Nestle, a professor of nutrition, food studies and public health at New York University.
“I hadn’t expected the effects to be so dramatic,” she said in an email. “This is substantial evidence that soda taxes work.”
The soda industry has spent millions of dollars defeating taxes on sugary drinks in dozens of U.S. cities. But the tax passed easily — with 76 percent of the vote — in Berkeley. In addition to soda, the measure covers sweetened fruit-flavored drinks, energy drinks like Red Bull and caffeinated drinks like Frappuccino iced coffee. Diet beverages are exempt.
In June, the Philadelphia City Council enacted its own tax on sugar-sweetened beverages. The 1.5-cent-per-ounce tax is set to take effect in January, although soda trade groups have sued to try to block the measure.
Meanwhile, voters in Boulder, Colorado and the Bay Area cities of San Francisco, Oakland and Albany will vote on whether to tax their sugary beverages on Nov. 8.
San Francisco voters also considered a soda tax in 2014, but it failed to garner a two-thirds majority needed for approval.
Public health officials and politicians point to the Berkeley study as proof of the power of an excise tax to wean people off sweetened drinks.
“The study is another tool highlighting how effective a tax on sugary beverages will be on changing the consumption rate,” San Francisco Supervisor Malia Cohen told Reuters Health.
“Just like tobacco, these are commodities we can live without that are killing us,” she said. Cohen wrote the San Francisco ballot measure.
Researchers surveyed 873 adults in Berkeley and 1,806 adults in nearby San Francisco and Oakland before and a few months after imposition of the soda tax.
Sweetened beverage consumption increased slightly in San Francisco and Oakland at the same time it dropped in Berkeley, the study showed. In Berkeley, water consumption spiked 63 percent, compared to 19 percent in San Francisco and Oakland, after the tax took effect.
The researchers attributed the surge in water consumption to a heat wave. But the American Beverage Association saw it as example of the study’s flaws.
In a statement, Brad Williams, an economist working for the trade group, criticized the research for using “unreliable and imprecise methodology” and producing “implausible” results.
The association’s criticism may hold grains of truth, Nestle said. But she largely dismissed it. “Obviously, the ABA is going to attack the results. That’s rule number one in the playbook: cast doubt on the science,” she said.
Public health experts believe soda helped drive American obesity rates to among the highest in the world. The U.S. spent an estimated $190 billion treating obesity-related conditions in 2012.
Diabetes rates have almost tripled over the past three decades, while sugary beverage consumption doubled.
Study: Catastrophic declines in wilderness over past 20 years
Researchers reporting in the journal Current Biology show catastrophic declines in wilderness areas around the world over the past 20 years.
They demonstrate alarming losses comprising a tenth of global wilderness since the 1990s – an area twice the size of Alaska and half the size of the Amazon. The Amazon and Central Africa have been hardest hit.
The findings underscore an immediate need for international policies to recognize the value of wilderness areas and to address the unprecedented threats they face, the researchers say.
“Globally important wilderness areas — despite being strongholds for endangered biodiversity, for buffering and regulating local climates, and for supporting many of the world’s most politically and economically marginalized communities — are completely ignored in environmental policy,” says Dr. James Watson of the University of Queensland in Australia and the Wildlife Conservation Society in New York. “Without any policies to protect these areas, they are falling victim to widespread development. We probably have one to two decades to turn this around. International policy mechanisms must recognize the actions needed to maintain wilderness areas before it is too late. We probably have one to two decades to turn this around.”
Watson says much policy attention has been paid to the loss of species, but comparatively little was known about larger-scale losses of entire ecosystems, especially wilderness areas which tend to be relatively understudied.
To fill that gap, the researchers mapped wilderness areas around the globe, with “wilderness” being defined as biologically and ecologically intact landscapes free of any significant human disturbance. The researchers then compared their current map of wilderness to one produced by the same methods in the early 1990s.
This comparison showed that a total of 30.1 million km — around 20 percent of the world’s land area — now remains as wilderness, with the majority being located in North America, North Asia, North Africa, and the Australian continent. However, comparisons between the two maps show that an estimated 3.3 million km — almost 10 percent — of wilderness area has been lost in the intervening years. Those losses have occurred primarily in South America, which has experienced a 30 percent decline in wilderness, and Africa, which has experienced a 14 percent loss.
“The amount of wilderness loss in just two decades is staggering,” according to Dr. Oscar Venter of the University of Northern British Colombia. “We need to recognize that wilderness areas, which we’ve foolishly considered to be de-facto protected due to their remoteness, is actually being dramatically lost around the world. Without proactive global interventions we could lose the last jewels in nature’s crown. You cannot restore wilderness, once it is gone, and the ecological process that underpin these ecosystems are gone, and it never comes back to the state it was. The only option is to proactively protect what is left.”
Watson says the United Nations and others have ignored globally significant wilderness areas in key multilateral environmental agreements and this must change.
“If we don’t act soon, there will only be tiny remnants of wilderness around the planet, and this is a disaster for conservation, for climate change, and for some of the most vulnerable human communities on the planet,” Watson says. “We have a duty to act for our children and their children.”
Manatees dying of mysterious syndrome
Manatees are again dying from a mysterious syndrome in Florida’s Indian River Lagoon.
Florida Today reported that at least nine manatees have died since May.
The syndrome first appeared in 2012 and is tied to them eating stringy seaweed instead of their usual diet of seagrass, which has been dying off because of microalgae blooms.
Researchers are stumped because the majority of manatees that eat the seaweed don’t seem to be affected by it.
Biologist Martine deWit of the Fish and Wildlife Research Institute said the suspicion is that something about the change in diet makes some manatees susceptible to complications.
Since 2012, more than 100 manatees have died in the Melbourne area because of the syndrome.
Tests rejected a hypothesis that a toxin that affects the seacows’ nervous system was hampering the marine mammal’s ability to surface, causing it to drown. No toxins were detected.
“It appears that the nutritional value itself may not be a problem,” deWit told the paper. “The suspicion is that there is a different composition of the diet that makes the animal susceptible to complications.”
But more tests are needed to figure out what the connection is.
“Whatever causes their gut (to get) upset makes such a chain reaction in the body that they acutely react to that,” deWit said. “We have lots of pieces of the puzzle that we’re putting together … The majority of the animals are eating this and survive.”
On the Web
Learn more about Florida manatees.