Tuesday, 31 July 2012

Olympics Distraction

Aliaksandr Faminou, Pasians
            Aliaksandr Faminou, Pasians             (Photo credit: Peter J Dean)
I don't know about you, but I'm completely distracted by the Olympics this week.  The eventing competition is finishing up today with two rounds of showjumping.  These horses are amazing athletes, as are their riders.  This morning I came across an article about how the terrain on this year's cross-country course was more likely to result in significant depletion of glycogen stores than in previous years or competitions.  Glycogen is a complex carbohydrates that serves as the main energy source for muscles during anaerobic conditions (short, fast efforts usually; think sprinting).

You've heard of carbohydrate loading?  That's how muscle glycogen is increased.

English: Glycogen bonds
Glycogen (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Go here and check out this very interesting and well written read that applies to all animals (even us humans!).

Enjoy!  I'm off to weight in situ bags.

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Monday, 30 July 2012

Temple Grandin Interview

This year the joint annual meeting (JAM) kicked off with an interview of Dr. Temple Grandin by Janet Riley of the American Meat Institute.  If you are not familiar with Dr. Grandin's work, it is some of the most challenging and altering to the livestock industry in recent decades.  She focuses on animal welfare and behavior, making the necessary handling and transport procedures less stressful for the animals.

During the interview she answer questions relating to living with autism, animal welfare, making her movie in Hollywood, and getting more and better infomation to consumers and those who need it.

Here are a few great quotes:

"When we've got people who think bacon comes from wheat, we've really got a problem" 

"We need to clean up the house and then electronically open the barn doors and show the public what we do"

Dr. Grandin also said she has hope for animal welfare in the future. It's helpful to talk about bad practices and communicate with public.  This is a theme I've been hearing for several years.  I think that my generation of scientists and farmers is taking this to heart. There is no denying that there are bad apples in the livestock community.  We need to acknowledge that they are there and work to make them better or remove them.  We also need to show the world that most of us are in this field because we genuinely love animals.  We want to show you what we do and why we love it.

From on twitter: Temple Grandin, animal scientist, explains her life and career in JAM opening ceremony

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Friday, 27 July 2012

Travel to Phoenix

2731 Aeropuerto
 Rocking chairs in the Charlotte airport. (Photo credit: nickhall)
Just getting to ASAS every year is a adventure.  Between making sure I have the clothes and shoes and definitely don't forget the poster, to planning what presentations I'll see.  There's a lot going on and I love making the plans.  This year I flew out early  to attend the pre-conferece put on by the Nutritional Science Association and take part in the graduate student poster competition. 

Charlotte airport - IMG_1202
            Wonderful glass atrium in the Charlotte airport.             (Photo credit: Nicola since 1972)

But, to get there, I had to fly East to go West.  Fortunately, my layover in Charlotte was lovely.  I love all the windows and rocking chairs! Oh, and the musicians.  I almost wished for a longer layover.  As it was I had time to grab a late lunch and rush to my next plane, no time for pictures even.

Cloud sheep?
Then, it was on to Phoenix!  I love watching the scenery from the sky, especially when heading into place I have not been before.  I've spent most of my life East of the Mississippi, so Phoenix was a unique view.  My first thought was wow, it's so brown.  But over the 5 days I was there I began to see the shades or tan and cream and cocoa in that brown.  The mountains in the distance around the city were so lovely to see every day walking back and forth to the convention center each day.  It's a different and beautiful landscape.

Phoenix from the sky!

After 4.5 hours on the plane I was happy to be getting out.  It was a bit of a walk from the gate to luggage and about half way there I was completely distracted by the carpet when I realized the pattern had airplanes in it.  So neat!  I then promptly forgot about the carpet when I noticed the mountains!
Airplane carpet.

I stayed downtown, just a few blocks from the convention center at the Renaissance.  All week I wondered about the buttons on the elevator.  The lack of a 13th floor I understood.  Fairly standard for older buildings.  But for the life of me I could not figure out what they had done with floors 2-4.  On my last night in Phoenix I finally learned the answer to that mystery.  Those are their conference center floors and accessed by a separate set of elevators and escalators.  Interesting solution to keeping hotel activities separate.
Bad picture of the elevator missing floors.

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Thursday, 26 July 2012

Back and Busy

I got back from Phoenix last Thursday and jumped right into the last research project for my PhD on Friday.  It's been crazy since this project involves a week of living at the farm 24/7.  But, that should mean plenty of time to write.  I've got plans for everything from Temple Grandin, to exotic cats to immunology.  

My boys settling in for the night.  They are rockstars!

Wednesday, 25 July 2012


Gotta love seeing that face at work every day.  He's a sweetheart.

Monday, 16 July 2012

Quick News from Phoenix

Phoenix as seen from South Mountain
Phoenix as seen from South Mountain (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
This week I'm at the annual American Society of Animal Science meeting.  This year we are in Phoenix, AZ.  The mountains in the distance make for an amazing view.  I'm trying to remember to take pictures and notes of my trip so that I'll have lots of the latest research to write about here.  I'm sure there will be lots of fun stories and information in the weeks to come.

But, for now, just a quick note to say that today was awesome.  I presented my poster at the graduate poster competition during the American Society of Nutrition sponsored pre-conference event yesterday.  And, as a complete surprise, I won first place.  Crazy-ness.  I was just having fun explaining my last project.  Apparently that appealed to the judges.  Woohoo.

I now return you to your regularly scheduled quiet.  I'll be back to normal on Thursday and hope to start writing more regularly next week.
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Monday, 9 July 2012

Playing with Fire - Part 1

Propane (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
For most of last week I spent my days at the research farm burning propane.  Sounds awesome right?  It is, well, except for that one time I singed off an eyebrow*.  You may ask why I burning propane would be a part of getting a degree in animal nutrition.  It's really only important if you are an energeticist working with an indirect calorimetry system.

Did I loose you there?  An energeticist is a person (like me) who studies how energy is used and stored in the body.  Indirect calorimetry is simply a way of measuring how much energy is being used and what the source of that energy is.  It involves comparing the air that is breathed in to the air that is expired.  The technique can be used for any animal, even people.  Measuring the amount of oxygen disappearance and carbon dioxide appearance lets me calculate heat production, which we can equate to energy use.  

So, what does all this have to do with propane?  Well, by burning a known amount of propane I can calculate the amount of CO2 and O2 that should be consumped and used based on the complete combustion reaction**:

Propane (1-C3H8) + Oxygen (5-O2) --> Carbon Dioxide (3-CO2) + Water (4-H2O)

I compare these theoretical amounts to the amounts that my computer system records.  This is called a percent recovery and tells me if the equipment is functioning properly.

That's the basics of testing calorimetry equipment.  Any questions?  I'll talk about the test-burn itself in part 2.

*Wow did I look funny.  I'm much more careful about checking to see why the flame has gone out before relighting.  It might be that airflow has stopped and the propane has built up in the box. 

**  Gah, why won't blogger let me use subscripts?
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Monday, 2 July 2012

Goats on Statten Island?

An illustration of the future Fresh Kills Park.
An illustration of the future Fresh Kills Park. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Yes indeed, there are goats on Statten Island.  In Freshkills park to be precise.   This park used to be the largest land fill in the world.  It was closed in 2001 and is now being developed into a 2,200 acre park.  The development will be on going for the next 30 years, but it's getting started now.

A large portion of the park is being developed into a  wetlands area.  The only problem?  That area is currently overrun by the invasive plant phragmites.

Phragmites. (Photo credit: Maryland Dept. of the Environment)
Pharagmites is an extremely long lived plant that grows up to 18 feet tall.  Unfortunately, it's also not easy to get rid of.  Freshkills park is trying to avoid using herbicides to kill these plants, so they are trying something a bit different.

Enter the goats.  Twenty Anglo-Nubians.  They will be at the park for 6 weeks this summer, munching as much phragmites (and anything else they find) as they can. 

 Using goats to tackle difficult plants isn't anything new.  This technique is call targeted or prescribed grazing.  Many animals have been used to deal with excessive, unwanted vegetation; from Asian carp in overgrown streams, to cattle grazing kudzu.  Growing up in Georgia, we had kudzu all over the farm.  It always amazed me to see how the cattle would choose to eat it over the grass at times.  Horses didn't seem to like it though.  But, kudzu is a story for another day.

For now, if you are in the area, go see the goats at Freshkills park and admire some truly natural weed control at work.
A Nubian (aka Anglo-Nubian) goat attempts to e...
An Anglo-Nubian goat attempts to eat their prize ribbon at a Scottish fair. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

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