AmeriScan: August 9, 2001

IOWA FISH FARMER FINED FOR VIOLATING WILDLIFE LAWS

AMANA, Iowa, August 9, 2001 (ENS) - The owner of an Iowa fish farm has been sentenced to home confinement for killing protected birds and introducing nonnative fish.

As part of a plea agreement, Myron Kloubec, owner of Kloubec Fish Farms in rural Amana, pleaded guilty to four counts of illegally possessing and transporting nonnative fish without a permit, and one count of killing federally protected migratory birds.

In May 1998, Kloubec directed his employees to bring breeder bighead carp from Randolph County Fish Farm in Missouri to his Iowa fish farm with the intention of raising the species in one of 63 ponds on the complex. These carp spawned, creating about one million bighead fry that were later returned to ponds at the Missouri farm.

Kloubec knew it was illegal to possess, import or export bighead carp without a permit, but did not apply to the state for the required permit.

Kloubec had applied for a permit to bring black carp into Iowa in 1992 and 1993. In both cases, permission was denied by the Iowa Department of Natural Resources, citing potential dangers to native fish species should the carp be introduced into state waters.

Despite the prohibitions, Kloubec bought 1,000 live black carp from a fish farm in Arkansas in May 1998, and transported them to the Randolph County Fish Farm in Missouri. He took 200 of the black carp to Iowa where he personally stocked them into ponds at his Amana farm.

In July 1998, Kloubec illegally imported 10,150 live gold sea bass fry to Iowa from Taiwan.

Iowa and Missouri state laws limit the exotic species available to commercial fish farms. The possession of the black carp, bighead carp and gold sea bass violated sections of the Lacey Act, a federal wildlife protection law that prohibits trade in species protected or banned by state laws.

Kloubec also pleaded guilty to one violation of killing protected migratory birds. In June and July 1998, Kloubec was observed shooting birds flying over his ponds, killing at least two terns and one kingfisher. The birds are protected by the federal Migratory Bird Treaty Act.

Kloubeck was fined $13,654, which will be paid into the Lacey Act reward fund, an account that pays rewards to persons who provide information to law enforcement agencies about violations of federal wildlife laws. Besides serving six months home confinement, Kloubeck will serve three years probation.

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FLORIDA NURSE ARRESTED FOR DUMPING BIOMEDICAL WASTE

TAMPA, Florida, August 9, 2001 (ENS) - A Nokomis, Florida nurse caught illegally dumping biomedical waste in the ocean was arrested Wednesday, by the Florida Department of Environmental Protectionís Division of Law Enforcement in conjunction with the Sarasota County Sheriff's Office. Carolyn Stone Curry was charged by the Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) with one count of felony pollution, punishable by a fine of not more than $50,000 or by imprisonment for up to five years or both; and one count of nuisance injurious to health, a misdemeanor punishable by imprisonment not longer than 60 days.

The Sarasota County Sheriff's Office charged her with seven counts of obtaining controlled substances by fraud.

The Department of Environmental Protection was notified on July 25 by the Sarasota County Health Department that medical waste was seen washing up onto the shores of Blackburn Point Park, Little Sarasota Bay, in Nokomis. The Department's Bureau of Emergency Response was called to the scene to conduct a clean-up of the biomedical waste.

Officials recovered 570 items of medical waste including: 10 syringes with end caps, 322 sharps, one scalpel, nine vials, and 228 tubex injectables. It is unknown if more waste will wash ashore later.

Curry admitted to acquiring waste drugs illegally from the hospital and using the drugs herself. She then deliberately disposed of the biomedical waste at Blackburn Point Park.

"The deliberate dumping of biomedical waste has the potential to tremendously impact all life and that cannot be tolerated," said DEP Law Enforcement Director Tom Tramel.

The investigation was conducted in conjunction with the Sarasota County Health Department, the Florida Department of Environmental Protection's Bureau of Emergency Response, the Florida Department of Environmental Protection's Bureau of Environmental Investigations, the Sarasota County Sheriff's Office Pharmaceuticals Diversion Unit, and the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration Diversion Investigators.

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HOT PEPPERS PACK AN EVOLUTIONARY PUNCH

GAINESVILLE, Florida, August 9, 2001 (ENS) - The zing in a chili pepper helps the plant spread its seeds more efficiently, a new study reveals.

Working with the ancestor of most varieties of chili pepper plants, a University of Florida researcher has shown that the plant relies on its spiciness to ensure the survival of its species.

In an article in the July 26 issue of the journal "Nature," Josh Tewksbury, a UF postdoctoral researcher in zoology, and coauthor Gary Nabhan, an ethnobotanist at Northern Arizona University, conclude that mammals, sensitive to the chemical that makes peppers taste hot, avoid the Capsicum annuum pepper.

Birds, however, are unaffected by the chemical, known as capsaicin, and eat the peppers. This is essential for the plant, since birds release the seeds in their droppings ready to germinate. If mammals ate the seeds, they would crunch them up or render them infertile, the researchers report.

"The upshot is that it's very beneficial for the pepper to have mammals avoid its fruit and have birds attracted to them," Tewksbury said.

Plants that produce poisonous or undesirable fruits ≠ the edible reproductive body of a seed plant - have long puzzled biologists. Evolutionary theory says the main reason that plants create fruits is to encourage animals to eat them, so that the animals will disperse the plant's seeds.

Why, biologists wonder, would plants go to the trouble of making a fruit, only to use chemicals to deter an animal and potential seed distributor?

Evolutionary biologist Dan Janson proposed in the late 1960s that plants may use chemicals to deter some animals without deterring others, selecting only preferred seed distributors. Known as "directed deterrence," this theory received very little attention and was never observed in nature, and it gathered dust until Tewksbury and Nabhan decided to see if it might hold true in chili peppers.

Using video cameras trained on chili pepper plants in a southern Arizona field, the researchers discovered that birds - in particular, the curve billed thrasher - were the only animals eating the small, red peppers. Pack rats and cactus mice, the dominant fruit or seed eating mammals in the area, avoided the peppers altogether.

The team then fed an unusual pepper - one that lacks capsaicin - to packrats, mice and birds in labs. Analyzing the droppings of the birds and rodents, the researchers discovered that the birds passed the seeds whole and capable of germinating.

The rodents, however, chewed up most of the seeds, and any that remained were too damaged to germinate.

"From the pepper's perspective, it's very beneficial to get pooped out as a seed underneath a shrub, particularly a shrub that has fleshy fruits itself, and that's just where the thrashers deposit the seed," Tewksbury said.

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ENERGY DEPARTMENT PROMOTES WIND POWER IN ILLINOIS

CHICAGO, Illinois, August 9, 2001 (ENS) - The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) is taking a number of steps to help increase electricity generation from wind in Illinois, including distribution of an Illinois wind resource map and sponsoring an Illinois wind energy workshop this fall.

The Illinois wind map, developed by scientists at DOE's National Renewable Energy Laboratory, identifies locations in central and northern Illinois with sufficient wind resources to support commercial wind power generation. The department projects that Illinois wind resources could support development of up to 3,000 to 9,000 megawatts of wind power peak capacity - enough electricity to serve up to two million homes.

"Illinois' abundant wind energy potential is poised to be harnessed, offering an enormous opportunity for power producers and suppliers to meet the state's growing demand for power with this renewable and clean energy source," said Energy Secretary Spencer Abraham.

The Illinois Wind Workshop, to be held November 27 in Lisle, Illinois, will highlight the economic, energy and environmental benefits to Illinois from wind project development. The workshop also will detail steps consumers, power companies and the industry can take to promote and develop wind energy in the state.

Highlights will include detailed discussions of Illinois wind resources; expected economic benefits and processes for developing wind projects along with technical issues such as transmission; and details about wind projects now under development or planned in Illinois which, when completed, will provide 80 to 100 megawatts of new renewable energy capacity.

For more information on the Illinois Wind Workshop or for a copy of the wind map, visit: http://www.eren.doe.gov/windpoweringamerica

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GLOWING MOLECULES REVEAL METAL POLLUTION

PROVO, Utah, August 9, 2001 (ENS) - A team of Brigham Young University (BYU) researchers has created molecules that glow in the presence of certain metal pollutants, paving the way for an early warning system that can alert regulators to the contamination of drinking water and waste streams.

Because excesses of certain metals in a person's diet pose a health threat, BYU researchers devised the molecules as an improved method of detecting and monitoring increased metal levels caused by mining, smelting, fossil fuel combustion and industrial use. Their work appears in the July issue of the American Chemical Society's "Journal of Organic Chemistry."

"Methods of tracking metal in water currently exist, but they're labor intensive and can be very slow," said coauthor Paul Savage, associate professor of chemistry. "This research will let us create a sensor that continually measures metal in a sample of water as it flows by, making it easier to respond to any problems more quickly."

The article describes how the team designed and created the molecules in the laboratory and reports how the molecules respond to zinc in the presence of ultraviolet light. The team has also published two papers about synthetic molecules created to indicate the presence of mercury and cadmium.

To detect metals in water like zinc, the BYU researchers first created compounds that seek out and bind to metal ions - atoms with extra electrons. Next, they created small molecules that attach to the metal binding compounds.

The small molecules reveal the presence of bound metal ions by acting as fluorescent reporters - when ultraviolet light is shined on them, the reporters glow. If no metal ion is bound, the compounds remain dark.

The color of the glow depends on the type and concentration of the metal ions present. Plans are underway to develop a device that will allow industrial plants and water treatment facilities to track the concentration of metal ions in water and waste streams over time, Savage said.

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ZONE MANAGEMENT PLANNED FOR DRY TORTUGAS NATIONAL PARK

KEY WEST, Florida, August 9, 2001 (ENS) - A new management plan for Dry Tortugas National Park in Florida will divide the park into different zones protected for different uses.

The plan is intended to protect coral reef habitat and improve the visitor experience for the increasing numbers of visitors who now travel to this remote offshore National Park about 70 miles west of Key West.

"This plan has been developed with broad public outreach and a great deal of participation with the State of Florida, fishing organizations and interest groups," said Interior Secretary Gale Norton. "As it goes into effect in harmony with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's (NOAA) Tortugas Ecological Reserve, we will create the third largest coral reef protection area in the world."

Under the new plan, Dry Tortugas National Park will be divided into several zones:

The Historic Preservation zone will be the focus of the greatest visitor activities, including guided tours, historical interpretation, bird watching, photography, picnicking, boating, snorkeling, scuba diving and recreational fishing.

The Natural/Cultural zone will be managed to improve natural resource quality and allow visitors to experience remoteness and solitude with opportunities for swimming, scuba diving, recreational fishing and viewing wildlife.

The Research Natural Area zone will allow the protection of marine and terrestrial habitats, fish spawning beds and pristine coral reefs. Fishing, and the use of anchors, will not be permitted and scientific research and other educational activities consistent with the management of this zone will require advance permits from the National Park Service.

Special Protection zones would be established in areas requiring protection from human impact, such as sea turtle and bird nesting areas, shallow or sensitive corals and submerged cultural resources.

"During the past 15 years, the number of visitors to Dry Tortugas National Parks has increased more than four times over," Secretary Norton explained. "This plan will allow a better visitor experience at the same time that it protects unique natural treasures above and below the sea."

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TURNING SOYBEAN OIL INTO CAR PARTS

PEORIA, Illinois, August 9, 2001 (ENS) - Researchers at the National Center for Agricultural Utilization Research in Peoria, Illinois, and from the University of Arizona in Tucson, have developed polymer slurries containing soybean oil for use with a new technology for making parts or other objects without using molds. The technique is called solid free-form fabrication.

The researchers are seeking an industrial partner to conduct feasibility studies of the technology for making parts for automobiles or heavy equipment.

Solid free-form fabrication technology builds materials by the repetitive addition of thin layers of slurry, which in this case contains soybean oil, fiber, and a gelling agent, says Linda McGraw of the U.S. Agriculture Department (USDA). The building process is controlled by a computer program that contains specifications for the desired object.

The system functions like a three-dimensional pen plotter, explains McGraw. A motorized syringe is filled with slurry and then mounted on an x-y drive. The computer program tells it to "write out a thin stream of slurry" as it moves over a support surface and traces out the first layer of the object. The syringe then moves up one step and writes the next layer. Successive layers form a solid part after curing.

Chemist Sevim Erhan, head of the USDA Oil Chemical Research Unit, and postdoctoral research associate Kevin Liu have made this technique environmentally attractive by substituting biodegradable soybean oil for petroleum resins.

"Soybean oil can replace the lion's share of petroleum based resin used in parts manufacturing," says Erhan.

They developed polymer slurries using soybean oil as a base for making composites. Combining soybean oil with glass, carbon, or mineral fibers produces composites just as strong as those made from petroleum based resins for less cost.

The USDA has applied for a patent on behalf of inventors Erhan, Liu, and Paul Calvert of the University of Arizona at Tucson.