Archive | Biology RSS feed for this section

A Day in the Life of a Sea Turtle Biologist

29 Apr
Kristina Orrego is a  third-year journalism student at the University of Florida. Her interest in writing a feature story about a sea turtle biologist comes from having a passion and love for animals. Her career goal is to become a journalist at an online publication and write about important social issues and economics. In her spare time, she enjoys reading and cooking.

Kristina Orrego is a third-year journalism student at the University of Florida. Her interest in writing a feature story about a sea turtle biologist comes from having a passion and love for animals. Her career goal is to become a journalist at an online publication and write about important social issues and economics. In her spare time, she enjoys reading and cooking.

Editor’s note: This is part of a series of contributing bloggers beginning their careers as journalists/public relations professionals at the University of Florida. Please see my earlier post about getting journalists excited about science writing early on.

By: Kristina Orrego

For Blair Witherington, the beach is more than just a place where you can lay out a blanket and soak up some sun. It is in his field where he has the privilege and opportunity to interact with the animals he considers the most fascinating.

Witherington, a researcher with over 24 years of experience as a sea turtle biologist, worked with the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission’s Fish and Wildlife Research Institute since 1992. He recently accepted a new position as part of the faculty at the University of Florida, where he will be working for the Archie Carr Center for Sea Turtle Research.

This job will have him mostly stationed at Disney’s Animal Kingdom in Orlando, where he will be a part of the Kingdom’s conservation team continuing to research and do hands-on work with sea turtles.

His work as a researcher has allowed him to travel all over the world, participating in projects in the Atlantic Sea, the Florida Keys, the Sargasso Sea, located in the middle of the north Atlantic Ocean, and the Gulf of Mexico.

I recently caught up with Blair to learn more about his daily work as a sea turtle biologist and also what kind of advice he’d offer anyone who is thinking about entering this line of research.

Q. What is a regular day of work for you as a sea turtle biologist?

A. “A regular day isn’t always as exciting as one might think,” he said with a laugh. “A regular day is probably me sitting in front of the computer, trying to make sense of the data we’ve collected in the field. But every once in a while we have days in the field where we’re collecting that information and we’re out with the animals themselves. That’s always pretty exciting. But to tell you the truth, the times of discovery, when you’re really finding something out that is interesting to you or to anyone else… those are the times in front of the computer, as odd as it may seem. We go out into the field and we catch sea turtles in a lot of different ways and we see what they do, but it’s only after you sit down and try to make sense of the data that you really discover what’s going on, where you really find out how sea turtles live their lives, how many there are, and what their threats are.”

 Q. What are your favorite aspects of your job as a sea turtle biologist? What is the most rewarding thing about what you do?

A. “I enjoy discovery, as I was talking about. I certainly like going out in the field. It’s nice to, sort of, reinforce what you learn back in the lab and in front of the computer with what you see out in the real world with turtles. We test them in lots of different ways, and it’s kind of fun, really. It’s a challenge. We go offshore for 50 to 100 miles and catch young Yearling turtles out in the Sargasso out on the surface of the open sea. We also go to places like Florida Bay and catch much larger turtles. We catch them by hand… and these are 250-pound turtles. We follow them in boats and then jump into the water and grab them ‘and take them in for questioning’ so to speak. So that’s a challenge and interesting. I’d say probably my favorite part of the job is interpreting science for other people. I really like sharing stories about findings, sharing stories about sea turtles, because that’s the way that we save them. We get people to understand sea turtles. We get people to follow-up with them, and to know what each one of us needs to do in order to have sea turtles around in the future. It’s one thing for us to understand sea turtles, but if we don’t share that with anyone else, they’re not going to get saved.

 Q. How would you compare yourself now to when you first started out as a sea turtle biologist?

A. “I think, as is the case of most students, when I first began I thought I knew a lot. Now as I’ve gotten older, I’ve realized that I don’t know very much at all. I’d like to think I’ve learned a lot, but the more I learn, the less I realize I really know. I’ve come to realize that the world is a very large and complex place, and it’s a struggle to really make sense of it. There are a lot of mysteries still [when it comes to sea turtles] and every other thing Earth. Over the years I’ve learned a lot about sea turtles, their environment, the people who affect their environment and who can help save sea turtles. It’s a very complex relationship. The more I learn, the more complex it seems.”

 Q. So, you’d say that the connection between sea turtles and human beings is the most important thing you’ve learned over the years?

A. “Yes I think so. It’s easy to get discouraged about environmental issues sometimes. When I was young I was very optimistic and that’s one of the most important things about youth–youthful people are very optimistic and idealistic. I’d like to think I’m still that way. I struggle to be that way. You know, the more you learn the ugly truth, the more you can get discouraged, but you shouldn’t be. You should stay optimistic, idealistic, aim high, try to do the very best you can and solve problems. Even though there are very big problems there are solutions to them. And those solutions are going to come about with a whole lot of hard work. You’ve got to keep pressing ahead. I’ve tried to gain wisdom and not be discouraged by it. Tried to stay optimistic.”

Q. What sort of key advice would you give to someone who aspires to also become a sea turtle biologist?

A. “I would say to be optimistic, but don’t have such high expectations that you become discouraged when the going gets tough. Everyday is not out in the field, with the wind blowing through your hair and having fun with the animals that you find interesting. Sometimes it’s very mundane stuff– it’s entering data and doing analyses. You have to love all of that to persevere. Don’t have expectations that you’re going to be out in the sea every single day, that’s not going to be the case. You have to love every aspect of the work, including the mundane stuff– sitting back in front of the computer, trying to make sense of it all.”

Advertisements

Skin cancer doesn’t go away in the winter

27 Dec
Felicity Dryer is a health enthusiast living in Southern California and encourages everyone to protect their skin all year round. She loves writing about personal health and fitness, nutrition and skin care, and you can find more of her writing samples here: https://felicitydryer.jux.com/

Felicity Dryer is a health enthusiast living in Southern California and encourages everyone to protect their skin all year round. She loves writing about personal health and fitness, nutrition and skin care, and you can find more of her writing samples here: https://felicitydryer.jux.com/

By Felicity Dryer

While the summer months tend to make us worry more about developing skin cancer than any other time of the year, the fact of the matter is that UV rays from the sun can easily reach us on cloudy and hazy days as well. These rays reflect off surfaces of the water, cement, sand and snow, which is why you might often see a friend come back from their ski trip with a red face!

But burned skin should be no laughing matter. In fact, the more we spend our days in the sun unprotected, the more we are putting ourselves at risk to developing skin cancer– the most common type of cancer in the United States. By reducing your exposure, protecting your skin with sunscreen and proper clothing and even avoiding those tanning salons during the colder months, you will certainly be helping your skin out.

Let’s take a closer look at this infographic to find out what else you can do to avoid skin cancer:

Click to Enlarge Image
Skin Cancer

Skin Cancer On The Rise
Skin Cancer on the rise in U.S. Your skin matters, get educated. Skin cancer is the most common form of cancer, of all cancers in the U.S. 50% are skin cancer.
Brought To You By NorthWestPharmacy.com

Editor’s picks for 2013

2 Dec

banner_final2.jpgI know we still have a month left in 2013.

But with finals and holiday break coming up, I felt it would be appropriate to make a “Best of” post highlighting some of my favorite posts. Since a majority of the blog is written by me, I feel this aggregation serves as a reflection on the type of science writing I have done and the posts I enjoyed the most. But, I’ve also had some amazing guest bloggers this year and will also be including some of their posts as well. So check out the stories below in case you missed them! Thank you to all my loyal followers.

P.S. Once my thesis is over, expect big things!

Best of Layman’s Terms Media, 2013 (no particular order)

Breast cancer vaccines are nothing new: By Dorothy Hagmajer   “Am I going to die?”  That was Susan Foster’s first question when her doctor told her she had breast cancer.Continue reading

Science in the city: In the basement of the emergency medicine corridor of UF Health Jacksonville, Robert Wears, M.D., a professor in the department of emergency medicine, scans engineering books and medical journals, taking notes on his cluttered desk. He is carefully piecing together the historical puzzle of hospital safety.—> Continue reading

Eat, love and die. The short, but meaningful lives of love “bugs: Miss Plecia is all dolled up. She has been stuffing herself full of organic material and nectar in her swampy-syle pad for the past 20 days with hopes of finding her lifelong mate.—> Continue reading

What exactly is pus? Find out in 15 seconds.Wendy Corrales joins us this week to explain the gross, gooey liquid that plagues teenagers–pus!—-> Continue reading

What’s the deal with Dengue Fever? If you live in Florida, don’t ignore.As a Floridian I have somewhat become immune to the feel of a mosquito bite. The annoying quick itch sensation is quickly thwarted by the thoughtless reflex of my hand slapping the affected area and then quickly scratching up and down for a few seconds. After that, I pretty much forget about the bite.—> Continue reading

Scientist uses Instagram videos to explain anatomy concepts in 15 secondsI am always looking for people who share a passion for science and genuinely want to get others excited about it too, which is one of the main reasons I’m studying science communication. While I was in D.C. for the Science Online Climate Conference, I stayed with my friend Steph who introduced me to Wendy Corrales via Facebook. She showed me her videos and I was cracking up.—> Continue reading

UF researcher says T cells the answer to cancer vaccines: John “Bobby” Goulding, Ph.D., a postdoctoral fellow in the department of pathology, immunology and laboratory medicine at the University of Florida, is in a scramble to help create safe and effective vaccines to prevent and fight human respiratory viruses.—>Continue reading

Rebecca Burton is the founder and editor of Layman's Terms Media. Started in 2011, this blog has been used to exercise Rebecca's love of science writing. These posts were selected based on how much was learned throughout the writing process, or the stories that were simply the most fun.

Rebecca Burton is the founder and editor of Layman’s Terms Media. Started in 2011, this blog has been used to exercise Rebecca’s love of science writing. These posts were selected based on how much was learned throughout the writing process, or the stories that were simply the most fun.

What’s for dinner? Island fish, brah: Study shows Hawaiian restaurant menus hold clues to reef healthMost of us look at menus simply to make a quick decision about what we are going to consume in the near future and at what price. We then give it back to our server and the menu is most likely forgotten. –> Continue reading

Abusive mothers’ DNA and the economy could share the blame with Florida DCF for recent child deaths: The Florida Department of Children and Families has been under fire for the past couple of years for failing to stop child abuse and neglect, resulting in thedeaths of seven childrenwho the department said were in “no immediate danger.” —> Continue reading

Wearing goggles to surf: Kook status or Florida Red Tide?: I took a deep breath in. Smelling the saltwater has always been my ritual before starting the process of unloading my surfboard. But, this time I did not feel refreshed or enlightened by the beach breeze. My eyes started to water.—> Continue reading

Native Florida wildlife caught on camera: By Michael Stone Wildlife photographer Michael Stone, a graduate student in science/health communications at the University of Florida, posts the different species and subspecies he sees in his online catalog.—> Continue reading

Great whites use stored liver oil to power through ocean “road trips”Bears, sea lions and whales rely on their external blubber to power through hibernations and migrations. For them, a little extra flab is crucial to their survival.—> Continue reading

 Sea turtles are Gulf travelers, scientists sayGulf Loggerheads were always thought to be homebodies. After the females nested, they would make a home at their local beach. They would never travel too far from familiarity.—> Continue reading

AAV: from ‘Almost A Virus’ to ‘An Awesome Virus’: In 1965, adeno-associated virus (AAV) was discovered while hitching a ride into the cell with adenovirus, which is a virus that causes the fretted pink eye, cold sores and sore throats.—> Continue reading

The Skinny on Good Fats and Bad Fats: How both will affect your health: By Megan Khan Karen Diet trends come in waves. One decade we see the rejection of carbohydrates, and we shun animal products the next. Some of you reading this right now may remember the low fat craze of the 90’s–it was then that fat got a bad rep. The reputation has stuck so much that “fat” is now considered an insult.—> Continue reading

Will tiny drones cure Floridians’ cynicism toward hurricanes? Most residents of Florida–a state constantly pummeled by tropical storms and hurricanes—have become overly cynical of the often hyped-up weather news warning that the latest tropical action in the Gulf of Mexico or off the coast of the Atlantic Ocean could be deadly. —> Continue reading

Croaking Cuban frogs Create Competition in South Florida: Southern Florida, particularly the more metropolitan areas such as Miami and Ft. Lauderdale are definitely not known for being quiet areas. The constant honking of horns, people yelling in multiple languages and bold headlines of bizarre news events make South Florida a melting pot of noise. —>Continue reading

Why Nemo would face an inevitable mid-life crisis: A finding Nemo 2 would not be Disney friendlyIf you’ve seen the movie Finding Nemo, and didn’t like it–shame on you! Pixar movies always have the right amount of humor, recognizable voices and great graphics that make them appealing to both children and adults. Their sequels are almost always just as profitable as the originals, and they’re ability to make animation seem like reality is superb! But, although I love this movie, there are serious factual flaws.—>Continue reading

Monkeys in Florida? iPhonatography from a jungle in Central FloridaAs I pondered ideas on what to do on Memorial Day Monday, I decided I needed to explore the land-locked area of Florida I often complain about, being a spoiled coastal girl who is accustomed to living near a beach. A friend mentioned a trip he took where he saw wild monkeys on an island in the middle of Silver River, near Silver Springs, Fla. After doing some preliminary research (mainly hear-say from Gainesville locals) I found out that  Silver River was the filming site the early Tarzan movies. Some of the monkeys escaped, bred and hence that is why there are wild monkeys in Florida.—> Continue reading

When did eating become so confusing? Tips to simplify your diet: By Megan Khan Karen There are hundreds of diets that are said to make you healthier than you have ever been, rejuvenate your body, avoid certain cancers, help you fit in your high school jeans and the list goes on. From the Atkins diet to the current “juicing” craze, we are fed heaps of “truths” about certain diets that are usually based on a tiny kernel of truth and a whole lot of anecdotal “evidence.”—> Continue reading

Warning: Smoothies can cause sphenopalatine ganglioneuralgiaIt’s that time of year again. Summer. Hot. Humid.The urge to swap that hot coffee for a refreshing smoothie may overcome you. But beware, drinking cold drinks can cause a condition called sphenopalatine ganglioneuralgia.—> Continue reading

What do hula-hoopers, big-wave surfers and composers have in common? A state of “flow”For those of you who do follow my blog, you may have realized I’m a pretty big hoop enthusiast, who also enjoys an everyday runner’s high. Although the physical benefits of running and spinning a circle on various parts of my body may seem obvious, it’s the mental state I’m in when I go on a 5-mile run, or do a freestyle hoop-dance to a 10-track playlist that brings me back after a long workday.—> Continue reading

Be swamp-conscious: Pet owners should be aware of deadly pathogen in Gainesville: By Jackson Presser Pythium insidiosum is common in stagnant, swampy water (lakes/ponds with water temperatures ranging from 68F-95F) worldwide, and the very type of water that is a staple of Gainesville and surrounding areas.  Pythiosis affects its host depending on how it is introduced. Dogs, horses, cattle and other mammals can be infected simply by wading or drinking water that has been tainted with the infection. —> Continue reading

To study or to sleep? A college student’s dilemma

27 Nov
Rachael Holt is a sophomore majoring in journalism at the University of Florida. Her interest in sleep medicine comes from her father who is the director of a sleep clinic in her hometown of Tallahassee, Fla. Rachael is passionate about writing and hopes to use her communication skills to  become a teacher one day.

Rachael Holt is a sophomore majoring in journalism at the University of Florida. Her interest in sleep medicine comes from her father who is the director of a sleep clinic in her hometown of Tallahassee, Fla. Rachael is passionate about writing and hopes to use her communication skills to become a teacher one day.

Editor’s note: This is part of a series of contributing bloggers beginning their careers as journalists/public relations professionals at the University of Florida. Please see my earlier post about getting journalists excited about science writing early on.

By Rachael Holt

It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to know that not enough sleep is bad.

We’ve all looked at ourselves after a desperate all-nighter.  Pale, pimple-dotted skin and baggy eyes are common symptoms of sleep deprivation.

But, did you know that staying up too late studying for your next anatomy exam can actually hurt your grade?

According to studies conducted by the University of Florida and the National Sleep Foundation, sleep deprivation has a negative effect on health, fact retention and the ability to focus. Continue reading

Movember coming to an end, Dollar Shave Club asking for donations

24 Nov

moEditor’s note: I received an email from the Dollar Shave Club asking me to help promote their cause on Layman’s Terms Media. Because this is a science and health blog, their cause seemed fitting. Check out the press release below to see how you can help fight prostate and testicular cancer while receiving discounts on razors!

Dollar Shave Club is raising money for the Movember Foundation to fight prostate and testicular cancer and mental health challenges. We are running a campaign that results in a $10 donation for every single Movember referral.

Here’s what you do to start earning that Movember MOola:

1. Register your Movember page at dollarshaveclub.com/movember
2. We’ll send you a unique proMO code.
3. Share your proMO code on your blog and tell your readers to use it when they sign up at dollarshaveclub.com.
4. Your readers get great razors for a few bucks a month, you raise money for Movember without begging for donations. Everyone wins.

Now get growing!

 

 

Hypnosis and therapy help school-related stress, experts say

8 Nov
Craig Kissoon is a sophomore majoring in journalism at the University of Florida. He is an avid writer and has blogged for the Independent Florida Alligator. After taking two psychology courses in high school, he became fascinated by physiological psychology and how peoples’ thoughts and attitudes can affect their physical wellbeing. He believes working with the mind and the body is the key to achieving optimal health. He plans to pursue an outside concentration in psychology. He hopes to become a writer or to work in advertising or public relations after graduation. He would like to combine his passions for communications and psychology by writing about mental healthcare and treatments.

Craig Kissoon is a sophomore majoring in journalism at the University of Florida who has blogged for the Independent Florida Alligator. After taking two psychology courses in high school, he became fascinated by physiological psychology and how peoples’ thoughts and attitudes can affect their physical wellbeing. He believes working with the mind and the body is the key to achieving optimal health. With an outside concentration in psychology, he hopes to combine his passions for communications and psychology by writing about mental healthcare and treatments.

Editor’s note: This is part of a series of contributing bloggers beginning their careers as journalists/public relations professionals at the University of Florida. Please see my earlier post about getting journalists excited about science writing early on.

By Craig Kissoon

Imagine retreating into a moment of pure relaxation where work and classes were nothing more than distant concerns.

With stress levels and responsibilities rising for college students in Gainesville and across the country, experts are recommending mind-body therapies for students suffering from stress-related problems.

A University of  Florida study, recently published in the European Journal of Integrative Medicine, found that hypnosis and therapy may benefit patients suffering from functional bowel disorders, such as irritable bowel syndrome.

The lead authors of the study Oliver Grundmann, a clinical assistant professor at the UF College of Pharmacy, and Saunjoo Yoon, an associate professor at the UF College of Nursing, reviewed 19 clinical trials to examine the benefits of yoga, hypnotherapy, cognitive behavioral therapy and biofeedback in treating these disorders.

Functional bowel disorders occur when the stomach and bowels are not working properly and include symptoms such as stomach pain and bloating.

Yoon said the results of the study, while promising are not conclusive. More studies are needed to better show the advantages of this kind of therapy.

Cognitive behavioral therapy, a form of talk therapy where a therapist challenges their patients’ negative thoughts, helps patients feel more positive about their condition while hypnotherapy aims to reduce pain. The results of the study showed hypnotherapy had an immediate effect on abdominal pain while cognitive behavioral therapy was able to lighten mood and change bowel symptoms.

Amanda Lawson-Ross, a counselor at the UF Counseling and Wellness Center, said she was not surprised by the results of the study.

“The whole premise is there is a mind-body connection,” Lawson-Ross said. “Stress can agitate abdominal problems.”

Lawson-Ross said when people are stressed, they enter flight-or-fight mode and blood flows from their abdomen to larger muscles. Their bodies release hormones, and their digestion shuts down, she added.

Keeping calm regulates the body when people are stressed, Lawson-Ross said. She said she has helped people with irritable bowel syndrome reduce migraines, muscle tension and nausea.

“Hypnosis is a great way to alleviate stress,” Lawson-Ross said.

During hypnotherapy, patients listen to practitioners who help them focus inwardly on a calm or positive moment or setting. Lawson-Ross compared hypnosis to meditation in its ability to help people achieve deep relaxation.

“Anxiety is the most common concern,” Lawson-Ross said. “You have great, bright students who want to do well.”

Lawson-Ross said she notices a lot of students come to the CWC during exams and drop/add period. People might be dismissive of mind-body therapies and alternative medicines because they do not pay attention to mind-body connections, often for the sake of convenience.

Anxiety is the most common concern, said Amanda Lawson-Ross who is a therapist at the University of Florida Counseling and Wellness Center. She said she sees a lot of students, usually around exams and drop/add period. She listed a few of the services the center offers to UF students. An online anxiety program Biofeedback Individual therapy Group therapy Couples therapy Information about these programs and how to join them are available at the University of Florida Counseling and Wellness Center’s website.

Anxiety is the most common concern, said Amanda Lawson-Ross who is a therapist at the University of Florida Counseling and Wellness Center. She said she sees a lot of students, usually around exams and drop/add period. She listed a few of the services the center offers to UF students.
An online anxiety program
Biofeedback
Individual therapy
Group therapy
Couples therapy
Information about these programs and how to join them are available at the University of Florida Counseling and Wellness Center’s website.

“People want a quick fix,” she said.

Kathryn Broker, a senior geology major at UF, said she would never use hypnosis as a therapy treatment.

“I’m a very scientifically minded person. If I had any type of physical condition, I would rather use Western medicine,” Broker said.

Broker said she was hypnotized before.

“You become eager to please whoever is giving commands,” she said of her experience.

Kyle Burns, a junior international studies major at UF, said he was surprised by the results of the study but felt it made sense.

“I’m too stubborn,” Burns joked when discussing whether or not he would be receptive to hypnotherapy.

Some students said they are open to the idea of mind-body therapy.

“I don’t find [the study’s results] surprising,” said Sara Ladwig, a junior telecommunication major at UF. “If you feel like something can help you, it can.”

Ladwig added she is a perfectionist who tends to get nervous about a bunch of different things. “I do better if I can relax.”

Freshman Amanda Beauchamp said hypnosis and cognitive behavioral therapy is worth a try.

“I think it’d be interesting to see if it would work for me. I’d look forward to doing it,” she said.

Could dust bring the next pandemic as quickly as birds?

5 Nov
Calli Breil is a master's student in the science and health communications program at the University of Florida, and is planning to graduate  in 2014.  Calli is particularly interested in writing about pathogens.  You can find her at callibreil.com, on LinkedInhttp://www.linkedin.com/in/callibreil and https://twitter.com/CalliBreil.

Calli Breil is a master’s student in the science and health communications program at the University of Florida, and is planning to graduate in 2014.  Calli is particularly interested in writing about pathogens and disease.

By Calli Breil/Contributing blogger 

(blog, Twitter, LinkedIn)

Dust and dirt can travel thousands of miles, across oceans, land and just about anywhere the wind can carry them.  In fact,  50 million metric tons of dust travel from Africa to Florida every August and September.  The common equivalent to 50 million metric tons is 100 empire state buildings!

So, we get a lot of dust from Africa, who cares?

Well, if we aren’t going to worry about the potentially toxic dust, perhaps we should worry about the microorganisms that cling on to dust particles for a free trip.

People have known for many years that microorganisms can travel the world through dust plumes. But, the real question is, “What is the risk?”

Although not equivocally proven, there have been theories that the foot-and-mouth outbreak in England in 2001 could have been caused from these dust plumes.

Why could it have been the dust plumes? 

Well, that year there happened to be an extraordinary amount of dust (that could potentially carry disease) traveling to northern England.

Why couldn’t it just have been a normal outbreak of the disease? 

England hadn’t seen the disease for years.  The outbreak also happened to break out ten days after the dust plumes hit – the exact incubation period for the infection.

If you doubt how troublesome the outbreak was, just know that it cost $1 billion dollars to slaughter the animals that were (or could have been) infected, as well as the massive amounts of revenue lost.

The risk is no laughing matter.

Topsoil across the globe can carry millions of bacteria, hundreds of thousands of fungi, and millions of viruses per gram of soil.

Once this soil is tossed into the air, it is like a salad of potential harm.  After all, about 50 percent of childhood diseases are respiratory (Griffin, 2007).

Some argue (and they would be right) that we don’t actually know if these dust plumes cause disease.

It is highly speculative, because there is no concrete evidence that ties the dust plumes to a disease outbreak – just very strong correlations.  But others have been much more… direct… about their conclusions.

For example, the Guardian reported that dust storms and plumes are “thought to  be responsible for spreading lethal meningitis spores through semi-arid central-arid Africa, where up to 250,000 people, particularly children, contract the disease each year.”

The same article brings up the fair point that scientists are now believing there is a link between dust and influenza, Sars, foot-and-mouth (as I have mentioned above) and other respiratory diseases.

Fortunately, new research is trying to find what other diseases could be transmitted through dust plumes.

For example, Andrew Schuerger’s DART (Dust at Altitude Recovery Technology) has helped find that pathogens responsible for problems in wheat, cacao beans, elm, flower and fruit rots and nail infections diseases are all found in these dust plumes.  In fact, some pathogens that are seen in pulmonary infections are also found in dust.

The real question is, “Do these pathogens get us sick?”

After all, there are tons of pathogens all around us. But not all of them are dangerous.

The point is that these dust plumes could be responsible for many outbreaks that we haven’t discovered the cause of, such as the foot-and-mouth outbreak in England.  And we won’t know until scientists, like Schuerger at the University of Florida, find out what the real risk is to us, our communities and our industries.

References:

Vidal, J. (2009).  Dust storms spread deadly diseases worldwide.  The Guardian.  Retrieved from http://www.theguardian.com/world/2009/sep/27/dust-storms-diseases-sydney

Griffin, D.W. (2007).  Atmospheric movement and microorganisms in clouds of desert dust and implications for human health.  Clinical microbiology reviews.  P. 459-477.  Doi: 10.1128/CMR.00039-06

Special thanks to Andrew Schuerger, who works in the plant pathogens department at the University of Florida, for sparing time to talk at the Science Writers Conference 2013.