I just want someone to stroll with me through the woods to collect bones and pick up roadkill and talk about taxidermy 24/7 and share my love for zoological collecting and wild animal studying is that too much to ask for

I talk much about taxidermy with friends but i try to make it not too much because i don’t wanna annoy someone….. I always feel Bad when i Start talking and talking and talking about taxidermy and cant stop. It’s just a big Part of my life and it’s the thing that makes me the Most happy, beside living animals.

Nurture impacts nature: Experiences leave genetic mark on brain, behavior

New human and animal research released today demonstrates how experiences impact genes that influence behavior and health. Today’s studies, presented at Neuroscience 2013, the annual meeting of the Society for Neuroscience and the world’s largest source of emerging news about brain science and health, provide new insights into how experience might produce long-term brain changes in behaviors like drug addiction and memory formation.

The studies focus on an area of research called epigenetics, in which the environment and experiences can turn genes “on” or “off,” while keeping underlying DNA intact. These changes affect normal brain processes, such as development or memory, and abnormal brain processes, such as depression, drug dependence, and other psychiatric disease — and can pass down to subsequent generations.

Today’s new findings show that:

  • Long-term heroin abusers show differences in small chemical modifications of their DNA and the histone proteins attached to it, compared to non-abusers. These differences could account for some of the changes in DNA/histone structures that develop during addiction, suggesting a potential biological difference driving long-term abuse versus overdose (Yasmin Hurd, abstract 257.2, see attached summary).
  • Male rats exposed to cocaine may pass epigenetic changes on to their male offspring, thereby altering the next generation’s response to the drug. Researchers found that male offspring in particular responded much less to the drug’s influence (Matheiu Wimmer, PhD, abstract 449.19, see attached summary).
  • Drug addiction can remodel mouse DNA and chromosomal material in predictable ways, leaving “signatures,” or signs of the remodeling, over time. A better understanding of these signatures could be used to diagnose drug addiction in humans (Eric Nestler, PhD, abstract 59.02, see attached summary).

Other recent findings discussed show that:

  • Researchers have identified a potentially new genetic mechanism, called piRNA, underlying long-term memory. Molecules of piRNA were previously thought to be restricted to egg and sperm cells (Eric Kandel, MD, see attached summary).
  • Epigenetic DNA remodeling is important for forming memories. Blocking this process causes memory deficits and stunts brain cell structure, suggesting a mechanism for some types of intellectual disability (Marcelo Wood, PhD, see attached summary).

“DNA may shape who we are, but we also shape our own DNA,” said press conference moderator Schahram Akbarian, of the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai, an expert in epigenetics. “These findings show how experiences like learning or drug exposure change the way genes are expressed, and could be incredibly important in developing treatments for addiction and for understanding processes like memory.”

I don’t think this one is on this blog

Here is a Tawny-owl (Strix aluco). Done with watercolour, coloured pencils, graphite, a tiny bit of acrylic and infinite patience (well maybe not).

I was very happy with the result of this pic. Later was used on the field guide about birds from Dunas de S. Jacinto.

Tomorrow is the start of Russia’s controversial Winter Olympics. The above photo of Putin and Grom (aka Thunder) aired on state TV. Putin was calming the savage beast after it attacked journalists during a press event publicizing claims that the Winter Olympics will improve the environment. Putin, who frequently does animal photo-ops, said: “I like animals, it seems I have a feeling for them… We liked each other.”

Perhaps he and Grom bonded over their mutual hatred of the fourth estate (zing)!

In less cuddly news: Sochi has a stray dog problem and, despite animal-rights protests, will cull the “biological trash.” That phrase comes from the owner of the company in charge of the cull. He warned: “The dogs could attack spectators… or spread rabies or perhaps run onto a ski slope just as a jumper is coming in for a landing at 130 km/h.”


“17 Photos of Putin Schmoozing With Animals.” The Daily Beast.

Kedmey, Dan. “Sochi Plans to Cull Stray Dogs.” Time - Sports. 3 Feb. 2014.

Mezzofiore, Gianluca. “Russia: Putin Tames Leopard That Attacked Journalists in Sochi Reserve.” International Business Times - Politics. 4 Feb. 2014.

Reliability of neuroscience research questioned

New research has questioned the reliability of neuroscience studies, saying that conclusions could be misleading due to small sample sizes.

A team led by academics from the University of Bristol reviewed 48 articles on neuroscience meta-analysis which were published in 2011 and concluded that most had an average power of around 20 per cent – a finding which means the chance of the average study discovering the effect being investigated is only one in five.

The paper, being published in Nature Reviews Neuroscience, reveals that small, low-powered studies are ‘endemic’ in neuroscience, producing unreliable research which is inefficient and wasteful.

It focuses on how low statistical power – caused by low sample size of studies, small effects being investigated, or both – can be misleading and produce more false scientific claims than high-powered studies.

It also illustrates how low power reduces a study’s ability to detect any effects and shows that when discoveries are claimed, they are more likely to be false or misleading.

The paper claims there is substantial evidence that a large proportion of research published in scientific literature may be unreliable as a consequence.

Another consequence is that the findings are overestimated because smaller studies consistently give more positive results than larger studies. This was found to be the case for studies using a diverse range of methods, including brain imaging, genetics and animal studies.

Kate Button, from the School of Social and Community Medicine, and Marcus Munafò, from the School of Experimental Psychology, led a team of researchers from Stanford University, the University of Virginia and the University of Oxford.

She said: “There’s a lot of interest at the moment in improving the reliability of science. We looked at neuroscience literature and found that, on average, studies had only around a 20 per cent chance of detecting the effects they were investigating, even if the effects are real. This has two important implications - many studies lack the ability to give definitive answers to the questions they are testing, and many claimed findings are likely to be incorrect or unreliable.”

The study concludes that improving the standard of results in neuroscience, and enabling them to be more easily reproduced, is a key priority and requires attention to well-established methodological principles.

It recommends that existing scientific practices can be improved with small changes or additions to methodologies, such as acknowledging any limitations in the interpretation of results; disclosing methods and findings transparently; and working collaboratively to increase the total sample size and power.

In Hopkins basement, bats and owls offer clues into brain function

In one corner of the basement of Ames Hall at the Johns Hopkins University, Cynthia Moss opened the door of a room where about a dozen Egyptian fruit bats dozed inside a milk crate attached to the wall.

“Come on, sweeties,” she said, stirring them up, and they raced in circles around her head.

Adjacent to the climate-controlled bat rooms live 14 barn owls, whose spaces are quieter and where the floors are littered with the remains of bloodied mice — a recent meal — and droppings. Shreesh Mysore often places the owls, tummies down, inside a box-like apparatus and places little headphones over their ears as part of his research into how the birds focus their attention.

The two professors, who work in Hopkins’ department of psychological and brain sciences, share an interest in the study of attention and hope to find ways to collaborate. They believe their work may lead to a better understanding of how blind people navigate the world, or the cause of disorders such as attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder, schizophrenia and autism.

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Waiting for my plane to carry me back home to Seattle! ;o) Something was up with my sensitivity setting so I just used a dead flat brush I use for filling…at first I hated it…but then I ended up kind of liking the results! Its a little more rough and I think it captures the lion’s strength and solidity. Happy accidents…and Happy Holidays!