Science and Technology

KNAU and Arizona News
5:00 am
Tue August 4, 2015

Clearer Satellite Imagery Improves Wildfire Mapping

This Aug. 3 map shows fire activity detected by VIIRS in the last 6, 12 and 24 hours. Yellow spots indicate all fires detected since January 1.
Credit USDA Forest Service Active Fire Mapping Program

The U.S. Forest Service now has a better view of wildfires from space, thanks to a new agreement with NASA.

The agreement gives wildland fire managers access to data from a satellite imaging system called VIIRS (Visible Infrared Imaging Radiometer Suite). In the daytime, VIIRS can theoretically detect a flaming fire just 50 square meters—about the size of a small house. At night, VIIRS can detect a fire five times smaller. That’s an improvement on current technology, called MODIS, which routinely detects wildfires about 1,000 square meters in size.

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KNAU and Arizona News
5:00 am
Fri July 31, 2015

Wildlife Biologists Give Pronghorn Antelope a Safe Crossing

A pronghorn antelope near Interstate 40.
Credit Melissa Sevigny

Pronghorn antelope are native to the American West. But the landscape they roam is increasingly fraught with peril. Highways and railroad tracks block their movement and make it difficult for pronghorn to find food, water and mates. Even simple cattle fences act as barriers. Now, wildlife biologists and volunteers have created a program to help pronghorn cross those boundaries.  

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KNAU and Arizona News
5:00 am
Wed July 29, 2015

Threatened Frog Delays Grazing Plan at Fossil Creek

Chiricahua leopard frog.
Credit Jeff Servoss/U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service

The U.S. Forest Service must reexamine a plan for allowing cattle to graze near Fossil Creek on the Coconino National Forest. A court has ruled the current plan jeopardizes habitat for the threatened Chiricahua leopard frog.

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KNAU and Arizona News
5:00 am
Tue July 28, 2015

Study Defends Young Age of the Grand Canyon

The view from the south rim of the Grand Canyon.
Credit Melissa Sevigny

New research supports the long-held hypothesis that the Grand Canyon is as young as six million years. That’s what geologists originally believed before a different study claimed it was tens of millions of years older.

The study was conducted by geologists at Arizona State University. It compares the western Grand Canyon with the Grand Wash Cliffs. It found that the canyon is steeper than the cliffs, which suggests erosion started more recently.

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KNAU and Arizona News
5:00 am
Wed July 15, 2015

Flagstaff Scientists Celebrate Pluto Flyby

Planetary scientists with Flagstaff ties speak to KNAU from Laurel, Maryland during the Pluto flyby. From left to right: Simon Porter, Will Grundy, Marc Buie, Cathy Olkin, and W. Lowell Putnam, IV, the great-grandnephew of Percival Lowell.
Credit Kevin Schindler

When NASA’s New Horizons spacecraft flew by Pluto yesterday, KNAU’s Melissa Sevigny was patched into mission operations in Maryland. She was talking to some of the Flagstaff scientists who were there to celebrate the big event. It was a reunion for past and present planetary scientists of Lowell Observatory, where Pluto was discovered 85 years ago. 

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KNAU and Arizona News
5:00 am
Mon July 13, 2015

Flagstaff Artists Inspired by New Horizons Mission to Pluto

NASA received this image of Pluto from New Horizons on July 8.
Credit NASA/Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory/Southwest Research Institute.

Tomorrow NASA’s New Horizons spacecraft will make its closest approach to Pluto and collect the first-ever close-up images of the dwarf planet. In Flagstaff, where Pluto was discovered, scientists will be waiting to analyze those photographs and other data. But they’re not the only ones. Artists are creating their own interpretations of Pluto, and they’ll use New Horizons for inspiration. 

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KNAU and Arizona News
9:37 am
Fri June 26, 2015

Inventory of Native Pollinators Aids Climate Change Research

A pan trap at the mixed conifer site below the San Francisco Peaks.
Credit Melissa Sevigny

Honeybees have been in the news lately because they’re disappearing. They’re crucial to food production, but they’re not native to North America. Now some scientists are turning their attention to the importance and health of native pollinators. Researchers are using the elevation of the San Francisco Peaks to study how local insects might respond to a warming global climate.

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KNAU and Arizona News
5:46 am
Thu January 22, 2015

Brain Food: NAU Bark Beetle Researcher Fights Back With Fungus

NAU entomologist Rich Hofstetter tests his "fungal spray" on bark beetles
Credit KNAU/Bonnie Stevens

Growing microscopic organisms in a lab to conduct biological warfare might sound like the makings of a science fiction movie. But in the case of the bark beetle, it's real. An entomologist at Northern Arizona University is using a fungus to combat the beetles' deadly attack on forests across the West. As Arizona Public Radio's Bonnie Stevens reports, the fungus is the latest in a string of unconventional methods to stop the bugs' rampage.

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KNAU and Arizona News
5:00 am
Thu January 15, 2015

Brain Food: The Human Microbiome

If you’re one of those people who puts on weight while another person eating the same meal doesn’t, blame your gut! Greg Caporaso says it’s all about the microbiome — or the microbes living in our bodies — that determines how many calories we extract from food and also, how susceptible we are to disease.

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KNAU and Arizona News
5:00 am
Thu August 21, 2014

Brain Food: Soft Ticks and Relapsing Fever

Soft ticks are carriers of the tick-born relapsing fever. It is treated by antibiotics and is similar to but milder than Lyme disease.
Credit pathmicro.med.sc.edu

Soft ticks are arachnids, like spiders. They live in pine and hardwood forests and thrive on the blood of mice, squirrels, chipmunks and sometimes birds. They don’t usually feed on humans, but, as in the case that closed Camp Colton near Flagstaff recently, it does happen once in awhile. Northern Arizona University Forest Entomology Professor Rich Hofstetter explains.

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