Backyard Chickens May Not Live as Well as People Think

Close up of backyard chicken with sticktight fleas.

A backyard chicken with sticktight fleas. Photo credit: Amy Murillo

Researchers at UCR have found backyard chickens are more likely than chickens on commercial chicken farms to be infested by ectoparasites, which are parasites such as fleas, lice and mites that live on the exterior of an organism. Their work was published online Jan. 11 in the Journal of Medical Entomology.

The research comes at a time when several states, including California, have banned or limited the use of isolated “battery cages” in favor of enriched cages or cage-free operations. The European Union has also banned battery cages. And a bill that would have banned those cages in the United States was introduced in Congress but failed to pass.

The researchers – Amy C. Murillo, a graduate student and Bradley A. Mullens, a professor of entomology – believe that these more open, cage-free or free-range type habitats increase the risk of acquisition and transmission of ectoparasites.

Such infestations increase stress on the chickens and may cause economic damage such as decreased egg production and feed conversion efficiency, the researchers said.  The researchers also note that there is no risk to humans who eat eggs or the meat of infested chickens. Read more about the research here.

UCR Scientist Publishes Paper on Iron Availability from Atmospheric Dust in Oceans

Timothy Lyons

Timothy Lyons

In the oceans today, iron can be a limiting nutrient for marine primary productivity, which in turn influences atmospheric carbon dioxide. Atmospheric dust is a key source of iron to the ocean. But not much is known about the process that enhances iron availability from dust.

A team of scientists, including Tim Lyons, a distinguished professor of biogeochemistry in the Department of Earth Sciences at UC Riverside, are changing that with a paper published in November, “Extreme eolian delivery of reactive iron to late Paleozoic icehouse seas,” in the journal Geology.

The biogeochemical impacts of iron-rich dust to the oceans are relatively well known for Earth’s recent record but unexplored for deep time, despite recognition of large ancient dust fluxes, particularly during the late Paleozoic roughly 300 million years ago. Lyons and colleagues report a unique iron relationship for Upper Pennsylvanian mudrock of eolian origin that records lowstand (glacial) conditions within a carbonate buildup of western equatorial Pangaea (now the western United States).

“The study carries important implications for the controls on atmospheric CO2 levels during icehouse versus greenhouse intervals in Earth’s history and thus our understanding future climate,” Lyons said.

New Book Highlights UCR Team’s Research in Video Bioinformatics

Video bioinformatics, which enables the intelligent analysis of live imaging data at varying spatial and temporal resolutions, provides an understanding of the dynamic and continuous nature of biological processes. It promises to be an important research tool to address challenges in many areas of life and computational sciences.

The first book to review this emerging interdisciplinary field was published in December by Springer. Titled ‘Video Bioinformatics: From Live Imaging to Knowledge,’ the book was edited by Bir Bhanu, distinguished professor of electrical and computer engineering at the University of California, Riverside, and Prue Talbot, professor of cell biology and director of the Stem Cell Center and Core at UCR. The book integrates expertise from the life sciences, computer science and engineering to enable breakthrough capabilities in understanding and quantifying continuous life processes. Most of the chapters reference a video that can be viewed on YouTube.

The book was produced as part of an NSF-funded Integrated Graduate Education Research and Training (IGERT) program in video bioinformatics at UCR. Some chapters deal with work that keynote speakers presented at retreats sponsored by this program while most of the chapters describe the work done by Ph.D. fellows selected to participate in the IGERT program, who were supported by UCR faculty from across campus.

Researchers Create Exceptionally Strong and Lightweight New Metal Composite

Suveen Mathaudhu

Suveen Mathaudhu

A team of researchers, including UC Riverside’s Suveen Mathaudhu, has created a super-strong yet light structural metal with extremely high specific strength and modulus, or stiffness-to-weight ratio. The work, recently published in Nature, was led by researchers from UCLA’s Henry Samueli School of Engineering and Applied Science.

The new metal is composed of magnesium infused with a dense and even dispersal of ceramic silicon carbide nanoparticles. In the future, these discoveries could be used to make lighter airplanes, spacecraft, and cars, helping to improve fuel efficiency, as well as in mobile electronics and biomedical devices. The researchers noted that magnesium is an abundant resource and scaling up its use would not cause environmental damage.

To create the super-strong but lightweight metal, the team found a new way to disperse and stabilize nanoparticles in molten metals. Mathaudhu, who is an assistant professor of mechanical engineering in UCR’s Bourns College of Engineering, implemented advanced metal processing techniques to enhance the materials even further to record strengths.

“The ability to break the strength ceiling in ultralight magnesium alloys will allow it to potentially replace heavier materials, such as titanium, steel and aluminum materials in transportation applications,” Mathaudhu said, “and reduce our dependence on fossil fuels through increased fuel economy.”

UCR Assistant Professor Advocates for More Publicity on HPV Vaccination

Brandon Brown

Brandon Brown

Brandon Brown, an assistant professor of clinical sciences in the Center for Healthy Communities in the UCR School of Medicine, is advocating for more publicity on the important role that human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccination plays in preventing HPV disease and its consequences.

In a “Letter to the Editor” in the January 2016 issue of The Pediatric Infectious Disease Journal, Brown and a colleague at UC Irvine report that a pilot study they conducted in early 2015 in Orange County, involving six pediatricians, found that parents who chose to vaccinate their children against HPV cited physician recommendation and publicity around the importance of vaccinating against HPV disease as major influencing factors.

The most common reason parents gave for not vaccinating their children against HPV was that the parents wanted to learn more about the vaccine, which enhanced publicity on HPV vaccination could help address. Nearly a third of the parents said their child was too young for the vaccine (even though the children were in the proper age range).

“All of which suggests that publicizing the role of HPV vaccine in fighting HPV disease would constitute an important public health strategy,” Brown said.

The study, the first to consider reasons for both accepting and refusing HPV vaccine during the office encounter, surveyed 101 parents about reasons they either agreed or refused to begin vaccinating their children to protect the latter against HPV disease.

HPV is the most common sexually transmitted infection in the United States, and most commonly spread during oral/vaginal/anal sex. Nearly all sexually active men and women get it at some point in their lives. HPV is the cause of cervical and other cancers.

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