Posts tagged increase
About four in five respondents reported satisfaction with their CU-Boulder education. A similar proportion would recommend CU-Boulder to a friend and nearly 98 percent of the seniors reported that their program of study met their educational goals.
The 2012 study is the latest edition of the senior survey, conducted 11 times since 1985 by CU-Boulder’s Office of Planning, Budget and Analysis, or PBA.
“The survey data clearly demonstrate that these students, from their perspective as seniors, judge the university in overwhelmingly positive terms,” said Michael Grant, CU-Boulder associate vice chancellor for undergraduate education. “CU-Boulder routinely invests a lot of time and energy in polling our senior students about their experiences, academic and otherwise, in order to continuously work toward improving those experiences.”
The online questionnaire was sent to 7,646 degree-seeking seniors and was completed by 2,890, or 38 percent, of the recipients. Comprising about 200 scaled items, plus four open-ended questions, the survey collected a massive amount of information including nearly 7,900 written comments.
The 2012 seniors’ ratings of CU-Boulder advising services were higher than those from any previous senior survey. The seniors’ satisfaction with numerous other CU-Boulder services, from libraries to information technology, was high and generally comparable to that of earlier cohorts.
“We use the survey results extensively to look at what’s popular and working well, to set goals to improve services, and even to pass along advice,” said Jim Davis Rosenthal, CU-Boulder director of orientation and director of the Office of Student Affairs Assessment. “Based on one of the survey questions, we are able to let incoming freshmen know what outgoing seniors wished they had gotten involved in. Other departments also use the results to encourage students to try opportunities they might not otherwise have considered. In a way, it’s like older siblings giving advice to their younger siblings.”
Large proportions of seniors said that if they were to start over at CU-Boulder, they would put more effort toward or spend more time on interacting with faculty (60 percent), career exploration (51 percent), and campus-related research projects, internships and applied experiences (45 percent).
Nearly two-thirds of seniors who expected to graduate by summer 2012 reported that their principal activity in fall 2012 was most likely to be paid employment, either full time (48 percent) or part time (15 percent). A combined 15 percent said they were most likely to be enrolled in graduate studies, professional school or other coursework. A combined 13 percent expected to go into military service, or pursue volunteer service, an internship, student teaching or travel.
The thousands of student comments included praise for various aspects of their major programs, suggestions for ways to enhance and improve major programs, and descriptions of ways in which their major program did or did not meet their educational goals.
One student wrote, “I feel that I am prepared to be an exceptional teacher after I graduate. The school had a lot to do with my preparedness.” Another wrote, “Excellent material, mostly great professors, and fantastic facilities all add up to a well-rounded education.”
The survey collects information on seniors’ satisfaction with their educational experiences at CU-Boulder and about their post-graduation plans. The survey’s findings are used primarily to provide systematic information for academic and service units to use in planning and improvement, and for use by prospective and current students, their advisers, and their families.
Preliminary results for the Seniors’ Future Plans Survey, which is separate from the comprehensive senior survey and which has been conducted each year since 2009, show a jump in full-time employment expectations. The initial data show that 54 percent of CU-Boulder seniors in 2013 expect full-time employment to be their principal activity after graduation, an increase from 48 percent in 2012. Expectations for part-time employment were reported by 15 percent of the 2013 seniors.
The 2012 questionnaire and comprehensive data from the senior survey, including summary reports from students in each of CU-Boulder’s schools and colleges and nearly 50 departments, are available athttp://www.colorado.edu/pba/surveys/senior/12/index.htm.
As a result of a state mandate to eliminate “List A” noxious weed species from all public and private property in Colorado communities, the City of Boulder is proposing an update to its existing weed ordinance to require property owners to remove the weeds from all properties.
“List A” weed species, as provided in the Colorado Noxious Weed Act, are plants that have yet to be well established in Colorado but are either present in small populations or are invasive in nearby states. There are two species of “List A” weeds that are of most concern within Boulder’s city limits: myrtle spurge and Japanese knotweed. The city was awarded a grant through the Colorado Department of Agriculture Noxious Weed Management Fund to assist in an educational plan.
“Early detection and eradication of these particular species can prevent them from becoming a major problem in Colorado,” said city Integrated Pest Management Coordinator Rella Abernathy. “Most of these plants are ‘escaped’ ornamental plants and many residents may not realize that they present a threat to the natural lands surrounding Boulder and are illegal to grow here.”
These noxious, invasive plants can negatively impact biodiversity, threaten endangered species, degrade native habitat, displace wildlife, increase soil erosion, damage streams and other wetlands and increase the risk and frequency of wildfires if allowed to spread. Boulder is in compliance with the Colorado Noxious Weed Act on city-owned properties but has not been enforcing the statue on private property.
The city will focus on education and outreach to notify the public of the requirements and to provide information for identification, environmentally-sound weed removal and suggested replacement plant options.
“A soft enforcement approach is being implemented with voluntary compliance being the goal and enforcement action being a last resort,” said Code Enforcement Supervisor Jennifer Riley. “However, ticketing is possible if property owners do not comply with repeated requests from officers to address illegal weeds.”
Education will begin with a “Purge Your Spurge” event on May 18 where residents are encouraged to pull their myrtle spurge and exchange it for free native plants. This event will occur as part of Boulder Community Day at the East Boulder Community Center, 5660 Sioux Drive, from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Other education efforts will include a webpage; fact sheets; media engagement; outreach to nurseries, landscapers and lawn care companies; and code enforcement officers who assist with education in the field.
“Identifying and removing noxious weeds from private property can take some effort, but it’s important to prevent these weeds from spreading to our neighbors’ yards and ultimately to natural areas,” said Abernathy. “Fortunately, only two of the weeds from the list are widespread within the Boulder city limits, myrtle spurge being the most common. We want to make sure people can easily identify the weeds, know how to remove them safely and know what native plants can be used to replace them.”
Myrtle spurge has been commonly used as a decorative plant. People should be aware that it contains a white sap that can cause skin irritation including blistering if touched. Those removing it should wear long sleeves, long pants, gloves and eye protection. Removing at least four inches of the root is recommended to prevent its return. It should be placed in a plastic bag and tightly fastened. DON’T compost noxious weeds as that will cause the weed to spread.
The city’s weed ordinance is expected to be modified through a City Manager rule change, which will be published in the Daily Camera on May 3, as well as on the city’s website. Public feedback will be accepted until May 20. The rule is anticipated to go into effect on June 1, 2013.
For more information or to provide feedback on the proposed City Manager’s rule, contact Rella Abernathy at 303-441-1901.
– CITY OF BOULDER NEWS RELEASE –
The Earth’s climate zones are shifting at an accelerating pace, says a new study led by a scientist at the CU’s Cooperative Institute for Research in Environmental Sciences.
The acceleration of change means that the species inhabiting each zone have less time to adapt to the climatic changes, said lead author Irina Mahlstein, a CIRES scientist who works at NOAA’s Earth System Research Laboratory in Boulder, Colo. “The warmer the climate gets, the faster the climate zones are shifting. This could make it harder for plants and animals to adjust.”
The study is the first to look at the accelerating pace of the shifting of climate zones, which are areas of the Earth defined by annual and seasonal cycles of temperature and precipitation, as well as temperature and precipitation thresholds of plant species. Over 30 different climate zones are found on Earth; examples include the equatorial monsoonal zone, the polar tundra zone and cold arid desert zone.
“A shift in the climate zone is probably a better measure of ‘reality’ for living systems, more so than changing temperature by a degree or precipitation by a centimeter,” said Mahlstein.
The scientists used climate model simulations and a well-known ecosystem classification scheme to look at the shifts between climate zones over a two-century period, 1900 to 2098. The team found that for an initial 3.6 degrees Fahrenheit of warming, about 5 percent of Earth’s land area shifts to a new climate zone.
The models show that the pace of change quickens for the next 3.6 F of warming as an additional 10 percent of the land area shifts to a new climate zone. The paper was published online in the journal Nature Climate Change on April 21.
Certain regions of the globe, such as northern middle and high latitudes, will undergo more changes than other regions, such as the tropics, the scientists found. In the tropics, mountainous regions will experience bigger changes than low-altitude areas.
In the coming century, the findings suggest that frost climates — the coldest climate zone of the planet — will largely decrease. In general, dry regions in different areas of the globe will increase, and a large fraction of land area will change from cool summers to hot summers, according to the study.
The scientists also investigated whether temperature or precipitation had a greater impact on how much of the land area changed zones. “We found that temperature is the main factor, at least through the end of this century,” said Mahlstein.
John Daniel at the NOAA Earth System Research Laboratory and Susan Solomon at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology co-authored the study.
-CU press release
More may be eligible, with the expansion of heating assistance program , but applications are due by the end of April.
There is still time for Boulder County residents to apply for winter heating assistance through the Low-Income Energy Assistance Program (LEAP),
LEAP helps low-income residents who meet income criteria and other eligibility factors pay their winter heating bills. The program is designed to pay the highest benefit to households with the highest heating costs.
“Energy costs have continued to increase throughout the recent economic downturn,” said Theresa Kullen, an eligibility manager with Boulder County Department of Housing and Human Services (BCDHHS). “We want to make sure that people know this help is available, because it can make the difference between whether or not someone can also afford groceries or a visit to the doctor in a given month.”
In addition, Boulder County residents who may not have previously qualified for heating assistance may now be eligible. The Boulder County Department of Housing and Human Services (BCDHHS) continues to oversee local expansions of the Heating Assistance Program and can provide help for households with income limits higher than those in LEAP.
Boulder County residents who were previously ineligible for LEAP due to income limit reductions may now qualify for help with heating bills through the Heating Plus program. This new program has gross monthly income limits of 185 percent of the Federal Poverty Level (for a family of three, this amounts to about $3,000 per month).
Those who want to find out more about whether they qualify or want to apply for the assistance should email Erica Penz at Boulder County LEAP, or call 303-682-6783. Boulder County will continue to accept applications through April 30, 2013.
The study, to be published in the May issue of the Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, found that participants given more powerful roles in two experiments attributed fewer uniquely human traits — characteristics that distinguish people from other animals — to their peers who were given less powerful roles.
“I think a lot of us have the intuition that some powerful people can be pretty dehumanizing,” said Jason Gwinn, a doctoral student in the Department of Psychology and Neuroscience and lead author of the study. “But our goal was to test if power, when randomly assigned to ordinary students, would have that effect. That would say something about power itself rather than about the sort of people who have the drive to take power.”
The researchers enlisted about 300 CU-Boulder students taking an introductory psychology course to participate in two experiments. In the first experiment, students were assigned to be either a manager or an assistant for a mock hiring task. The assistants were asked to review resumes for an open job and then list the strengths and weaknesses of each applicant. The managers then reviewed the list made by their assistants and made a final decision about whom to hire.
In the second experiment, participants were asked to play a game and were assigned to be either an allocator or a recipient. For the game, one allocator and one recipient were tasked with splitting a pot of money. The allocator, the higher-power role, made the first offer, suggesting how the money be split. If the recipient, the lower-power role, accepted the offer, both people received their share of the money. If the recipient declined the offer, neither person received any of the money.
At the end of each experiment, the participants were asked to rate each other on 40 traits. The result was that students in higher-power roles assigned fewer uniquely human traits to the students in lower-power roles than vice versa. Examples of traits considered to be more uniquely human, as defined and tested in a 2007 Australian study, include being ambitious, imaginative, frivolous and insecure. Examples of traits that are less uniquely human — those that could be used to describe a pet as well as a friend, for example — include being passive, timid, friendly and shy.
The question of whether power leads to dehumanization has part of its roots in the renowned Stanford Prison Experiment conducted in 1971. Twenty-four male students were randomly assigned to play the role of either inmate or guard in a mock prison in the basement of the Stanford psychology building. During the study, the guards were psychologically abusive to the prisoners, many of whom passively accepted the abuse, despite the fact that the participants knew that they were all students at the same elite university.
Though the guards were described as dehumanizing the prisoners, the term “dehumanization” was well defined at the time and the experiment was not designed to allow the researchers to confidently state that it was the increase in power that lead to the dehumanization. By contrast, Gwinn’s study, now available online, was designed specifically to test the relationship between power and dehumanization.
Gwinn cautions that the researchers cannot yet say whose perspective is being changed by the power differential imposed on participants in the CU study. It’s possible that being in a position of less power makes a person see those in power as more human rather than the other way around, or that both people are affected.
“We haven’t pinned down why this happens,” Gwinn said. “We don’t know whose perception is being affected.”
Charles Judd and Bernadette Park, both professors in CU-Boulder’s Department of Psychology and Neuroscience, co-authored the study.
CU-Boulder amphibian study shows how
biodiversity can protect against disease
The richer the assortment of amphibian species living in a pond, the more protection that community of frogs, toads and salamanders has against a parasitic infection that can cause severe deformities, including the growth of extra legs, according to a new study by the University of Colorado Boulder.
The findings, published Feb. 14 in the journal Nature, support the idea that greater biodiversity in larger-scale ecosystems, such as forests or grasslands, may also provide greater protection against diseases, including those that attack humans. For example, a larger number of mammal species in an area may curb cases of Lyme disease, while a larger number of bird species may slow the spread of West Nile virus.
“How biodiversity affects the risk of infectious diseases, including those of humans and wildlife, has become an increasingly important question,” said Pieter Johnson, an assistant professor in the Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology and lead author of the study. “But as it turns out, solidly testing these linkages with realistic experiments has proven very challenging in most systems.”
Researchers have struggled to design comprehensive studies that could illuminate the possible connection between disease transmission and the number of species living in complex ecosystems. Part of the problem is simply the enormous number of organisms that may need to be sampled and the vast areas over which those organisms may roam.
The new CU-Boulder study overcomes that problem by studying smaller, easier-to-sample ecosystems. Johnson and his team visited hundreds of ponds in California, recording the types of amphibians living there as well as the number of snails infected by the pathogen Ribeiroia ondatrae. Snails are an intermediate host used by the parasite during part of its life cycle.
“One of the great challenges in studying the diversity-disease link has been collecting data from enough replicate systems to differentiate the influence of diversity from background ‘noise,’ ” Johnson said. “By collecting data from hundreds of ponds and thousands of amphibian hosts, our group was able to provide a rigorous test of this hypothesis, which has relevance to a wide range of disease systems.”
Johnson’s team buttressed its field observations both with laboratory tests designed to measure how prone to infection each amphibian species is and by creating pond replicas outside using large plastic tubs stocked with tadpoles that were exposed to a known number of parasites. All of the experiments told the same story, Johnson said. Greater biodiversity reduced the number of successful amphibian infections and the number of deformed frogs.
In all, the CU-Boulder researchers spent three years sampling 345 wetlands and recording malformations — which include missing, misshapen or extra sets of hind legs — caused by parasitic infections in 24,215 amphibians. They also cataloged 17,516 snails. The results showed that ponds with half a dozen amphibian species had a 78 percent reduction in parasite transmission compared to ponds with just one amphibian species. The research team also set up experiments in the lab and outdoors using 40 artificial ponds, each stocked with 60 amphibians and 5,000 parasites.
The reason for the decline in parasitic infections as biodiversity increases is likely related to the fact that ponds add amphibian species in a predictable pattern, with the first species to appear being the most prone to infection and the later species to appear being the least prone. For example, the research team found that in a pond with just one type of amphibian, that amphibian was almost always the Pacific chorus frog, a creature that is able to rapidly reproduce and quickly colonize wetland habitats, but which is also especially vulnerable to infection and parasite-induced deformities.
On the other hand, the California tiger salamander was typically one of the last species to be added to a pond community and also one of the most resistant to parasitic infection. Therefore, in a pond with greater biodiversity, parasites have a higher chance of encountering an amphibian that is resistant to infection, lowering the overall success rate of transmission between infected snails and amphibians.
This same pattern — of less diverse communities being made up of species that are more susceptible to disease infection — may well play out in more complex ecosystems as well, Johnson said. That’s because species that disperse quickly across ecosystems appear to trade off the ability to quickly reproduce with the ability to develop disease resistance.
“This research reaches the surprising conclusion that the entire set of species in a community affects the susceptibility to disease,” said Doug Levey, program director in the National Science Foundation’s Division of Environmental Biology, which helped fund the research. “Biodiversity matters.”
The sheer magnitude of the recent study also reinforces the connection between deformed frogs and parasitic infection, Johnson said. Beginning in the mid-1990s reports of frogs with extra, missing or misshapen legs skyrocketed, attracting widespread attention in the media and motivating scientists to try to figure out the cause. Johnson was among the researchers who found evidence of a link between infection with Ribeiroia and frog deformities, though the apparent rise in reports of deformations, and its underlying cause, remains controversial.
While the new study has implications beyond parasitic infections in amphibians, it does not mean that an increase in biodiversity always results in a decrease in disease, Johnson cautioned. Other factors also affect rates of disease transmission. For example, a large number of mosquitoes hatching in a particular year will increase the risk of contracting West Nile virus, even if there has been an increase in the biodiversity of the bird population. Birds act as “reservoir hosts” for West Nile virus, harboring the pathogen indefinitely with no ill effects and passing the pathogen onto mosquitoes.
“Our results indicate that higher diversity reduces the success of pathogens in moving between hosts,” Johnson said. “Nonetheless, if infection pressure is high, for instance in a year with high abundance of vectors, there will still be a significant risk of disease; biodiversity will simply function to dampen transmission success.”
CU-Boulder graduate students Dan Preston and Katie Richgels co-authored the study along with Jason Hoverman, a former postdoctoral researcher in Johnson’s lab who is now an assistant professor at Purdue. The research was funded by NSF, the National Geographic Society and the David and Lucile Packard Foundation.
To view photos and a video about the research, visit http://freshwatersillustrated.org/link/AmphibianDeformities.
Creeping climate change in the Southwest appears to be having a negative effect on pinyon pine reproduction, a finding with implications for wildlife species sharing the same woodland ecosystems, says a University of Colorado Boulder-led study.
The new study showed that pinyon pine seed cone production declined by an average of about 40 percent at nine study sites in New Mexico and northwestern Oklahoma over the past four decades, said CU-Boulder doctoral student Miranda Redmond, who led the study. The biggest declines in pinyon pine seed cone reproduction were at the higher elevation research sites experiencing more dramatic warming relative to lower elevations, said Redmond of CU’s ecology and evolutionary biology department.
“We are finding significant declines in pinyon pine cone production at many of our study sites,” said Redmond. “The biggest declines in cone production we measured were in areas with greater increases in temperatures over the past several decades during the March to October growing season.”
The cones in which the pinyon seeds are produced are initiated two years prior to seed maturity, and research suggests the environmental stimulus for cone initiation is unseasonably low temperatures during the late summer, said Redmond. Between 1969 and 2009, unseasonably low temperatures in late summer decreased in the study areas, likely inhibiting cone initiation and development.
The study is one of the first to examine the impact of climate change on tree species like pinyon pines that, instead of reproducing annually, shed vast quantities of cones every few years during synchronous, episodic occurrences known as “masting” events. Redmond said such masting in the pinyon pine appears to occur every three to seven years, resulting in massive “bumper crops” of cones covering the ground.
In the new Ecosphere study, the researchers compared two 10-year sequences of time. In addition to showing that total pinyon pine cone production during the 2003-2012 decade had declined from the 1969-1978 decade in the study areas, the team found the production of cones during masting events also declined during that period.
Some scientists believe masting events evolved to produce a big surplus of nut-carrying cones — far too many for wildlife species to consume in a season — making it more likely the nuts eventually will sprout into pinyon pine seedlings, she said. Others have suggested masting events occur during favorable climate conditions and/or to increase pollination efficiency. “Right now we really don’t know what drives them,” Redmond said.
“Across a range of forested ecosystems we are observing widespread mortality events due to stressors such as changing climate, drought, insects and fire,” said CU’s Barger. “This study provides evidence that increasing air temperatures may be influencing the ability of a common and iconic western U.S. tree, pinyon pine, to reproduce. We would predict that declines in pinyon pine cone production may impact the long-term viability of these tree populations.”
Wildlife biologists say pinyon-juniper woodlands are popular with scores of bird and mammal species ranging from black-chinned hummingbirds to black bears. A 2007 study by researchers at the University of Northern Arizona estimated that 150 Clark’s Nutcrackers cached roughly 5 million pinyon pine nuts in a single season, benefiting not only the birds themselves but also the pines whose nuts were distributed more widely for possible germination.
For the new study, Redmond revisited nine pinyon pine study sites scattered throughout New Mexico and Oklahoma that had been studied previously in 1978 by Forcella. Both Forcella and Redmond were able to document pinyon pine masting years by counting small, concave blemishes known as “abscission scars” on individual tree branches that appeared after the cones have been dropped, she said.
Since each year in the life of a pinyon pine tree is marked by a “whorl” — a single circle of branches extending around a tree trunk — the researchers were able to bracket pinyon pine reproductive activity in the nine study areas for the 1969-1978 decade and 2003-2012 decade, which were then compared.
Pinyon pines take three growing seasons, or about 26 months, to produce mature cones from the time of cone initiation. Low elevation conifers including pinyon pines grow in water-limited environments and have been shown to have higher cone output during cool and/or wet summers, said Redmond. In addition to the climate-warming trend under way in the Southwest, the 2002-03 drought caused significant mortality in pinyon pine forests, Redmond said.
“Miranda’s ideas and accompanying results will be of value to ecologists and land managers in the deserts of the Southwest and beyond,” said Forcella, now a research agronomist in the USDA’s Agricultural Research Service. “The work is evidence that the University of Colorado continues to cultivate a cadre of high-caliber graduate students for which it rightfully can take tremendous pride.”
Pinyon nuts, the Southwest’s only commercial source of edible pine seeds today, were dietary staples of indigenous Americans going back millennia.
For more information on CU-Boulder’s ecology and evolutionary biology department visit http://ebio.colorado.edu.
CU-led study shows pine beetle outbreak
buffers watersheds from nitrate pollution
A research team involving several scientists from the University of Colorado Boulder has found an unexpected silver lining in the devastating pine beetle outbreaks ravaging the West: Such events do not harm water quality in adjacent streams as scientists had previously believed.
According to CU-Boulder team member Professor William Lewis, the new study shows that smaller trees and other vegetation that survive pine beetle invasions along waterways increase their uptake of nitrate, a common disturbance-related pollutant. While logging or damaging storms can drive stream nitrate concentrations up by 400 percent for multiple years, the team found no significant increase in the nitrate concentrations following extensive pine beetle tree mortality in a number of Colorado study areas.
“We found that the beetles do not disturb watersheds in the same way as logging and severe storms,” said Lewis, interim director of CU’s Cooperative Institute for Research in Environmental Sciences. “They leave behind smaller trees and other understory vegetation, which compensate for the loss of larger pine trees by taking up additional nitrate from the system. Beetle-kill conditions are a good benchmark for the protection of sub-canopy vegetation to preserve water quality during forest management activities.”
A paper on the subject was published in the Jan. 14 issue of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
“The U.S. Forest Service and other agencies have established harvesting practices that greatly mitigate damage to forests caused by logging, and they deserve credit for that,” said Lewis. “But this study shows just how important the survival of smaller trees and understory vegetation can be to stream water quality.”
In waterways adjacent to healthy pine forests, concentrations of nitrate is generally far lower than in rivers on the plains in the West like the South Platte, said Lewis. Nitrate pollution is caused by agricultural runoff from populated areas and by permitted discharges of treated effluent from water treatment facilities.
“In Colorado, many watersheds have lost 80 to 90 percent of their tree canopy as a result of the beetle epidemic,” said Lewis, also a faculty member in CU-Boulder’s ecology and evolutionary biology department. “We began to wonder whether the loss of the trees was reducing water quality in the streams. We knew that forestry and water managers were expecting big changes in water quality as a result of the pine beetle outbreak, so we decided to pool our university and federal agency resources in order to come up with an answer.”
Study co-author and CU-Boulder Research Associate James McCutchan of CIRES said the new results should help forest managers develop more effective ways to harvest timber while having the smallest effect possible on downstream ecosystems. “This study shows that at least in some areas, it is possible to remove a large part of the tree biomass from a watershed with a very minimal effect on the stream ecosystem,” he said.
Understory vegetation left intact after beetle outbreaks gains an ecological advantage in terms of survival and growth, since small trees no longer have to compete with large trees and have more access to light, water and nutrients, said McCutchan. Research by study co-author and former CU undergraduate Rachel Ertz showed concentrations of nitrate in the needles of small pines that survived beetle infestations were higher than those in healthy trees outside beetle-killed areas, another indication of how understory vegetation compensates for environmental conditions in beetle kill areas.
The researchers used computer modeling to show that in western forests, such a “compensatory response” provides potent water quality protection against the adverse effects of nitrates only if roughly half of the vegetation survives “overstory” mortality from beetle kill events, which is what occurs normally in such areas, said Lewis.
Other study co-authors included Leigh Cooper, Thomas Detmer and Thomas Veblen from CU-Boulder, John Stednick from Colorado State University, Charles Rhoades from the U.S. Forest Service, Jennifer Briggs and David Clow from the U.S. Geological Survey and Gene Likens of the Cary Institute of Ecosystem Studies in Millbrook, N.Y.
The severe pine beetle epidemic in Colorado and Wyoming forests is part of an unprecedented beetle outbreak that ranges from Mexico to Canada. A November 2012 study by CU-Boulder doctoral student Teresa Chapman showed the 2001-02 drought greatly accelerated the development of the mountain pine beetle epidemic.
The researchers measured stream nitrate concentrations at more than 100 sites in western Colorado containing lodgepole pines with a range of beetle-induced tree damage. The study area included measurements from the Fraser Experimental Forest near Granby, Colo., a 23,000-acre study area established by the USFS in 1937.
The new study was funded by the USFS, the USGS, the National Science Foundation, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and the National Park Service. CIRES is a joint research institute between CU-Boulder and NOAA.
Colorado business leaders’ optimism is modest going into the first quarter of 2013 with uncertainty surrounding the country’s political and economic environments, according to the most recent quarterly Leeds Business Confidence Index, or LBCI, released today by the University of Colorado Boulder’s Leeds School of Business.
For the first quarter of 2013 the LBCI, conducted by the Leeds School’s Business Research Division, posted an overall confidence reading of 51.3, down slightly from 51.6 in the fourth quarter of 2012. A reading greater than the neutral mark of 50 indicates positive expectations and one less than 50 indicates negative expectations going forward
Business leaders are optimistic about all of the metrics of the quarterly index except for the national economy and industry hiring plans. The other categories measured include the state economy, industry sales, industry profits and capital expenditures.
“For months, drags on the national economy have included the European debt crisis, the slow rate of employment growth and the resolution of the federal debt crisis,” said economist Richard Wobbekind, executive director of the Business Research Division. “While Colorado business leaders have stronger confidence in the local economy than the national economy, they’re proceeding very cautiously.”
Confidence in the state economy, which is at 55.5 points for the first quarter of 2013, outstrips that of the national economy, which posted a reading of 47. The outpacing of confidence in Colorado’s economy compared to the national economy is a 30-quarter trend, based on LBCI results.
Business leaders’ sales expectations for the first quarter rose to 54.4, up from 53.2 last quarter, and are buoyed by 44.1 percent of LBCI respondents who anticipate an increase in the first quarter versus only 25.2 percent who predict a decline. Meanwhile, leaders’ profit expectations fell to 51.6, down from 52.2 for the last quarter of 2012.
Hiring expectations have slipped into negative territory at 49.3, down from 51 in the last quarter of 2012, while capital expenditures remain close to neutral at 50.1.
Boulder County Commissioners adopt 2013 budget
The county’s mill levy and general operating budget to remain flat for 2013
Boulder County, Colo. – The Boulder County Commissioners have adopted a budget of $319.6 million for 2013, down from $321.7 million in 2012.
The 2013 budget represents a nearly flat comparison to the one adopted in 2012, based largely on the fact that the county is in its second year of a biannual property reappraisal cycle. With property values assessed only every other year, the second year in the cycle rarely reflects much of a change in the property tax portion of the county’s projected revenue stream.
The real difference in the budget this year is reflected through a reduction in carryover funds from the year prior and the annual adjustment of revenues in funds other than the General Fund (such as the Road & Bridge Fund and Capital Expenditure Fund) which fluctuate year-to-year based on their designated purpose and funding sources.
In keeping with a flat budget, the County Commissioners have worked hard to bring expenses in line with revenues for 2013, all the while continuing to support programs popular with county residents.
As in past years, the careful and deliberate process of evaluating program requests by elected offices and departments in a public forum has led to sound fiscal decisions that allow the county to function at a high level and continue to provide excellent service to county residents with essentially no increase to the General Fund.
“The 2013 budget is a culmination of more than six months of productive discussion and input from our non-profit leaders, elected officials and department heads who work closely every day with members of the public to figure out how best to meet the needs our community,” said Cindy Domenico, Chair of the Board of County Commissioners. “We are pleased to adopt this fully balanced budget which serves as a guiding document for carrying out the values of our residents.”
Commissioner Deb Gardner said she was pleased to adopt a budget that “balances the long and short term needs of the county and works within a sustainable context to make sure that the county will stay on track for years to come in responding to the priorities set forth by the residents of Boulder County.”
Commissioner Will Toor remarked on the complexity of the county budget and praised the efforts of county leaders and staff for continuing to implement and expand on highly-desired programs for residents, even within a fiscally-constrained framework.
“Whether we look at the strong support for our non-profit community and our human services safety net programs, or the extension of the popular EnergySmart program,” which faces an end to its federal grant in mid-2013, “or the continued improvement of our county’s transportation network, including all modes of transportation, we’re very pleased with the ability to support incremental expansions of these programs despite the fiscal constraints we’re under,” said Toor.
The County Commissioners thanked staff and everyone from the public who participated in the budget process, acknowledging that the collaborative effort in creating next year’s budget made for a much better document through their efforts.
Commissioners certify mill levy
The Commissioners also today certified a mill levy of 24.645 mills, the same as the last two years, which is projected to generate property tax revenues of $134,612,456 in 2013 (up only slightly from $134,408,021 in 2012). The county’s mill levy amount represents roughly 29 percent of a property owner’s total average property tax bill within Boulder County. Other taxing entities that receive property tax revenues include (from 2012 data): school districts (53%), cities and towns (11%), and “other” fire, water and special districts (7%).
For a copy of the funding package for 2013, visit: www.bouldercounty.org/gov/budget.
CU Boulder research team finds massive crevasses and bendable ice affect stability of Antarctic ice shelf0
Gaping crevasses that penetrate upward from the bottom of the largest remaining ice shelf on the Antarctic Peninsula make it more susceptible to collapse, according to University of Colorado Boulder researchers who spent the last four Southern Hemisphere summers studying the massive floating sheet of ice that covers an area twice the size of Massachusetts.
But the scientists also found that ribbons running through the Larsen C Ice Shelf – made up of a mixture of ice types that, together, are more prone to bending than breaking – make the shelf more resilient than it otherwise would be.
The research team from CU-Boulder’s Cooperative Institute for Research in the Environmental Sciences presented the findings Dec. 6 at the American Geophysical Union’s annual meeting in San Francisco.
The Larsen C Ice Shelf is all that’s left of a series of ice shelves that once clung to the eastern edge of the Antarctic Peninsula and stretched into the Weddell Sea. When the other shelves disintegrated abruptly – including Larsen A in January 1995 and Larsen B in February 2002 – scientists were surprised by the speed of the breakup.
Researchers now believe that the catastrophic collapses of Larsen A and B were caused, at least in part, by rising temperatures in the region, where warming is increasing at six times the global average. The Antarctic Peninsula warmed 4.5 degrees Fahrenheit since the middle of the last century.
The warmer climate increased meltwater production, allowing more liquid to pool on top of the ice shelves. The water then drained into surface crevasses, wedging them open and cracking the shelf into individual icebergs, which resulted in rapid disintegration.
But while the meltwater may have been responsible for dealing the final blow to the shelves, researchers did not have the opportunity to study how the structure of the Larsen A and B shelves may have made them more vulnerable to drastic breakups – or protected the shelves from an even earlier demise.
CU-Boulder researchers did not want to miss the same opportunity on the Larsen C shelf, which covers more than 22,000 square miles of sea.
“It’s the perfect natural laboratory,” said Daniel McGrath, a doctoral student in the Department of Geography and part of the CIRES research team. “We wanted to study this shelf while it’s still stable in order to get a better understanding of the processes that affect ice shelf stability.”
McGrath worked with CIRES colleagues over the last four years to study the Larsen C shelf in order to better understand how the warming climate may have interacted with the shelf’s existing structure to increase its vulnerability to a catastrophic collapse.
McGrath presented two of the group’s key findings at the AGU meeting. The first was the role that long-existing crevasses that start at the base of the shelf and propagate upward – known as basal crevasses – play in making the shelf more vulnerable to disintegration. The second relates to the way a type of ice found in areas called suture zones may be protecting the shelf against a breakup.
The scientists used ground penetrating radar to map out the basal crevasses, which turn out to be massive. The yawning cracks can run for several miles in length and can penetrate upwards for more than 750 feet. While the basal crevasses have been a part of Larsen C for hundreds of years, the interaction between these features and a warming climate will likely make the shelf more susceptible to future disintegration. “They likely play a really important role in ice-shelf disintegration, both past and future,” McGrath said.
The research team also studied the impact of suture zones in the ice shelf. Larsen C is fed by 12 distinct glaciers, which dump a steady flow of thick ice into the shelf. But the promontories of land between the glacial outlets, where ice does not flow into the shelf, allow for the creation of ribbon-like suture zones, which knit the glacial inflows together and which turn out to be important to the ice shelf’s resilience. “The ice in these zones really holds the neighboring inflows together,” McGrath said.
The suture zones get their malleable characteristic from a combination of ice types. A key component of the suture zone mixture is formed when the bottoms of the 12 glacial inflows begin to melt. The resulting freshwater is more buoyant than the surrounding seawater, so it rises upward to the relatively thinner ice zones between the glacial inflows, where it refreezes on the underside of the shelf and contributes to the chaotic ice structure that makes suture zones more flexible than the surrounding ice.
It turns out that the resilient characteristics of the suture zones keep cracks, including the basal crevasses, from spreading across the ice shelf, even where the suture zone ice makes up a comparatively small amount of the total thickness of the shelf. The CIRES team found that at the shelf front, where the ice meets the open sea, suture zone ice constitutes only 20 percent of the total thickness of the shelf but was still able to limit the spread of rifts through the ice. “It’s a pretty small part of the total ice thickness, and yet, it still has this really important role of holding the ice shelf together,” McGrath said.
Other CU researchers involved in the Larsen C project were Konrad Steffen, former director of CIRES; Ted Scambos, of CIRES and CU-Boulder’s National Snow and Ice Data Center; Harihar Rajaram, of the Department of Civil Engineering; and Waleed Abdalati, of CIRES.
Colorado will continue on the road to recovery and add a variety of jobs in 2013 across almost all business sectors following a positive year in 2012, according to economist Richard Wobbekind of the University of Colorado Boulder’s Leeds School of Business.
Wobbekind’s announcement is part of the 48th annual Colorado Business Economic Outlook Forum presented Dec. 3 by the Business Research Division of the Leeds School.
The comprehensive outlook for 2013 features forecasts and trends for 13 business sectors prepared by more than 100 key business, government and industry professionals.
“For the state, we see a very positive environment for 2013,” said Wobbekind, executive director of the Business Research Division. “We’re seeing a wide array of jobs being added and they’re diversifying our state economy.”
Overall, the forecast calls for a gain of 42,100 jobs in 2013, compared with a gain of about 47,900 jobs this year. All sectors of the Colorado economy are predicted to grow in 2013 with the exception of the information sector, which includes publishing and telecommunications.
When comparing the Leeds School forecast to employment outlooks for other states, Colorado is expected to be in the top 10 states for job growth in 2013 and perhaps in the top six or seven, according to Wobbekind.
Even with positive job growth projected for the state, Wobbekind said uncertainty from national and international factors will play a role in slowing growth during the first and second quarters of 2013. More momentum will occur in the second half of the year.
“Resolution of the so-called fiscal cliff and the resolution of the European debt crisis will have impacts on the national economy and that will filter down to the state level,” said Wobbekind. “Once that uncertainty gets resolved, we then expect business investments to start flowing again and consumers to start making decisions based on a known environment. We think the recovery will be quite a bit smoother after that.”
The strongest sector for projected job growth in Colorado in 2013 is the educational and health services sector. The sector is expected to add 7,600 jobs in 2013.
In addition, other leading growth sectors for 2013 include the professional and business services sector with 7,400 jobs added and leisure and hospitality with 5,000 workers added, mostly in the areas of accommodation and food services.
The trade, transportation and utilities sector is the largest provider of jobs in Colorado. It includes everything from wholesale and retail trade to a variety of transportation features such as the Denver International Airport and gas pipelines, as well as utilities. The sector is expected to grow 1.4 percent in 2013 with the addition of 5,600 jobs.
The construction sector is expected to grow by 6,300 jobs in 2013 — up from a 2,800-job increase this year — and produce $12.6 billion in total value of construction. While the biggest surprise in the sector is the demand for infrastructure work, the number of new multifamily units built is a contributing factor to the increase, among others.
Commenting on the overall forecast, Wobbekind said, “It’s great to be giving positive news to people year after year. Confidence levels nationally are at their highest levels in five years. We’re really starting to see a lot more optimism on the part of the average person on the street about the future.”
Colorado’s unemployment rate is expected to decrease from 8 percent in 2012 to 7.4 percent in 2013, which is comparatively better than the national unemployment rate.
Colorado’s population grew by 1.4 percent, or 71,000 people, in 2012 and is projected to increase by 1.5 percent, or 77,500 people, in 2013. Roughly half of the increase will derive from net migration, or the increase of people moving to the state.
To view the entire economic outlook for Colorado in 2013, including an overview of each of the state’s major economic sectors, visit http://leeds.colorado.edu/BRD and click on the Colorado Business Economic Outlook 2013 icon.
A University of Colorado Boulder-led team has discovered two prime targets of the Hepatitis B virus in liver cells, findings that could lead to treatment of liver disease in some of the 400 million people worldwide currently infected with the virus.
CU-Boulder Professor Ding Xue, who led the studies, said scientists have been looking for cellular targets of the Hepatitis B virus, or HBV, for more than three decades. Infections from HBV promote hepatitis (inflammation of the liver), cirrhosis (scarring of the liver) and liver cancer and can be transmitted through blood and bodily fluids, unprotected sex, unsterile needles and from infected mother to offspring during birth.
Xue said scientists have known for some time that HBV encodes a pathogenic, tumor-promoting protein known as HBx, but how it works has remained largely unknown. In two new studies, Xue and his colleagues showed that the “host targets” of HBx in human cells are two small cell proteins known as Bcl-2 and Bcl-xL, both of which are well-known cell death inhibitors but which have not previously been implicated in HBV infection.
HBx uses a particular “motif,” a small string of protein building blocks known as amino acids that resemble those seen in some cell death-causing proteins, to interact with the Bcl-2 and Bcl-xL targets and stimulate an elevation of calcium in the host cell. The calcium elevation then triggers both viral HBV replication and cell death, said Xue.
When the researchers introduced gene mutations into the motif, HBx binding to the Bcl-2 and Bcl-xL proteins and viral replication were prevented. Similarly, when either Bcl-2 or Bcl-xL proteins were “knocked out” or weakened in human liver cells, HBx was less able to cause an increase in calcium and viral replication inside the infected cells.
“Our most important findings are the identification of the motif itself and the two HBx host targets,” said Xue of CU-Boulder’s molecular, cellular and developmental biology department. “Now we can start thinking about new drug targets to treat HBV.”
Two papers on the subject led by Xue were published online Oct. 22 in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. In addition to major CU-Boulder co-authors Xin Geng, Brian Harry, Qinghua Zhou, Yan Qin and Amy Palmer, a group led by Professor Ning-Shao Xia from the National Institute of Diagnostics and Vaccine Development in Infectious Diseases at Xiamen University in China collaborated on one of the studies.
The World Health Organization estimated in July that about 600,000 people die annually from acute or chronic HBV infection, which is most predominant in Asia and Africa.
In one of the PNAS studies, the authors used a tiny roundworm known as C. elegans, a widely used animal model in biomedical research, to identify HBx host targets within the cell. Xue and his team showed that HBx can induce cell death in C. elegans through a protein known as CED-9, mimicking an early stage of liver infection by HBV.
Previous work had shown CED-9 in C. elegans is a homolog of the human Bcl-2 protein — a different protein in a different animal that has a similar function. Despite the stark differences between roundworms and humans, scientists estimate 35 percent of C. elegans genes have human homologs.
“Our results suggest that C. elegans can serve as a good animal model for identifying crucial host factors and cell signaling pathways and aid in development of strategies to treat HBV-induced liver disorders,” said Xue. “I think the use of C. elegans will galvanize the field of HBV study, which has been in search of a good animal model for three decades.”
Simple animal models like fruit flies and roundworms have been critical for understanding fundamental biological processes such as aging, cell death and the regulation of gene expression. “Many would not have considered using C. elegans as a model to study HBV, but the genetic ‘tools’ of C. elegans are ideal for the identification of viral host targets, even though C. elegans is not a native host for the virus,” said CU’s Harry. Harry is pursuing both a Ph.D. degree in MCD Biology at CU-Boulder and an M.D. at the CU School of Medicine on the Anschutz Medical Campus in Aurora through the Medical Scientist Training Program.
“Both studies show that if you create two mutations in this small HBx motif, it takes away its ability to bind to Bcl-2 family proteins. This wipes out viral replication and host cell death caused by HBx expression,” said Harry.
Xue said there currently is no effective treatment for chronic HBV carriers, although some people with chronic HBV are treated with interferon and anti-viral drugs. But such treatments are either unavailable or too expensive in developing countries where most of the HBV infections are occurring. “That’s why these new findings could have profound clinical and pharmaceutical implications for the treatment of HBV patients,” he said.
Harry said the Hepatitis B vaccine, which was developed in 1982, is administered around the world and has been shown to work well in preventing new infections. “The problem is that once you are infected, there is no effective way to remove the virus from the body,” he said. “When the virus replicates in liver cells, it causes cycles of cellular damage, inflammation and tissue regeneration, resulting in the accumulation of genetic mutations and liver cancer.”
HBV is 50 to 100 times more infectious than the HIV virus, according to WHO officials. In China and other parts of Asia, most people acquire HBV during childhood and 8 to 10 percent of the adult population is chronically infected. “Because of this, understanding how HBV and HBx cause pathogenesis can have dramatic clinical impact,” said Xue.
Funding for the two PNAS studies was provided by the National Institutes of Health grants F30 NS070596 and R01 GM059083, GM079097, GM088241 and GM084027. Additional funding came from the China National Science Foundation and the Burroughs Wellcome Fund.
Leading quantitative conservation biologist named CU’s first Colorado Chair in Environmental Studies0
The University of Colorado Boulder has hired its first Colorado Chair in Environmental Studies, an endowed chair awarded to Daniel Doak, a conservation biologist known for his quantitative analysis of how different government policies could affect the populations of species ranging from sea otters, California condors, corals and rare plants.
The endowed chair in environmental studies was made possible by $4 million in gifts made anonymously in 2009 and 2010 toward the chair.
Sharon Collinge, professor and director of the CU-Boulder Environmental Studies Program, called Doak a perfect match. “He epitomizes what we’re looking for,” she said.
Doak is especially skilled in interdisciplinary research, she said. He brings expertise in policy to his analyses of risks of energy development, for example. And he is widely cited for his research in quantitative conservation biology, which combines sophisticated computer modeling with varying policy scenarios to project changes in populations of rare species.
For instance, the Proceedings of the National Academies of Science recently published a study co-authored by Doak concluding that the California condor is chronically endangered by lead exposure from hunters’ spent ammunition.
While the free-flying condor population has risen in the last three decades, that increase has been achieved through captive breeding, monitoring and veterinary care, the study found. Meanwhile, the primary threat to the endangered bird — lead poisoning from bullets and shotgun shells lodged in carrion — has gone largely unmitigated, the study said.
Doak and his fellow researchers found no evidence that California’s 2008 partial ban on lead ammunition yielded any decrease in lead exposure and poisoning in condors.
Since 2007, Doak has served as a professor of zoology and physiology at the University of Wyoming. Previously, he was a faculty member at the University of California, Santa Cruz. His research has been funded by the National Science Foundation, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, U.S. Forest Service, California Department of Fish and Game and the U.S. Bureau of Land Management. Scholarly papers have cited his work more than 3,000 times since 1998.
Doak said he was drawn to CU-Boulder’s Environmental Studies Program because of its breadth, spanning disciplines ranging from biogeochemistry to political science to philosophy. This interdisciplinary focus is necessary to confront some of the world’s most intractable problems, Doak and Collinge said.
“That’s the only way we can really address and resolve some of the major environmental challenges that we face,” Collinge said.
Working with experts from a wide range of disciplines, Doak added, provides a motivation and opportunity “not once a year but every day to confront your own ignorance and thus to appreciate and learn new ideas and approaches.”
It is not that interdisciplinary work is always best, he added. “We need to train ourselves and our students to determine when the problem we are confronting requires an interdisciplinary approach. If you want to build a bridge that won’t fall down, you don’t need an interdisciplinary team. You need a good engineer.”
The critical question, he said, is the following: “Is this problem a nail that requires a hammer, or is this a problem that requires a lot of tools? And most environmental problems require an entire chest of tools and the different people who know how to use them.”
Collinge said students sometimes grasp this distinction better than professors do. “Students who are interested in the environment understand very deeply that they have to know something about politics and policies and how we make choices and why we make choices,” she said. “They’ve essentially pushed us, encouraged us to provide that broad and deep training for them.”
Of the donor’s gift, Collinge said, “This was incredibly generous. And we are really grateful.
“For me, it validates or speaks to the importance of what we’re doing,” she said. “With more than 1,000 undergraduate majors in environmental studies and 50 graduate students, enthusiasm was abundant even before the gift that enabled the endowed chair.”
Starting on Sept. 17, 2012 and going through the end of the month, officers from the Boulder Police Department will increase safety enforcement at city crosswalks as part of “September Crosswalk Safety Weeks.” At its Sept. 18 meeting, City Council will be designating Sept. 17 – 28 as September Crosswalk Safety Weeks as part of the ongoing “Heads Up: Mind the Crosswalk” public education campaign. Police at the University of Colorado will also be stepping up enforcement on and around the campus.
Earlier this year, several new ordinances went into effect. The three ordinances in the Boulder Revised Code are:
- “Stop at crosswalk required” [7-4-77] stipulates that when one vehicle stops to yield for a person in a crosswalk, another vehicle going the same direction in an adjacent lane cannot overtake and pass that vehicle.
- “8 mph speed limit for bicycles in a crosswalk” [7-5-5] establishes a speed limit of 8 mph for bicyclists during the immediate approach, entry and traversal of any crosswalk that spans a roadway.
- ”Pedestrian obedience to traffic signal required” [7-5-15(f)] targets the use of flashing crosswalks (those with flashing yellow crosswalk signs) by requiring a person crossing to enter the crosswalk with the warning device activated.
Boulder police, along with officers from the University of Colorado Police Department, will focus their safety efforts on high-incident crosswalks, many of which are on or near the university campus.
Police will also be keeping an eye on school zones. At the same time, the Boulder Valley School District is educating students about crosswalk safety with activities such as assemblies, art projects and events planned during the designated Crosswalk Safety Weeks.
Fines for breaking these ordinances range from $50 to $125. Drivers may also receive points against their license.