Disco Shorts

From Minnesota Alumni Magazine Winter 2016

Drones flying overhead cause bears acute stress, according to a study by University of Minnesota researchers. Wildlife researchers have increasingly used unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV), commonly called drones, to observe animals in their natural settings. Until now, researchers thought bears were taking these encounters in stride, since they rarely startle or run away when a drone comes near. But the new study reveals that despite the bears’ calm demeanor, their heart rates soar, a sign of acute stress.

The highest rate increase recorded was in a sow whose heart rate jumped approximately 400 percent, from 41 beats per minute to 162. Researcher Mark Ditmer in the University’s Department of Fisheries, Wildlife, and Conservation Biology called the increase “shocking.”

The researchers fitted free-roaming black bears in northwestern Minnesota with GPS collars and cardiac biologgers. The collars sent the researchers an email with each bear’s location every two minutes while the biologgers captured every heartbeat. Then Ditmer and his colleagues programmed a drone to fly to the bear’s most recent location. All of the bears in the study responded to drone flights with elevated heart rates. Researchers say the data make it clear that the additional stress on wildlife from UAV flights needs to be taken into account when developing regulations and best scientific practices.

The study was published in the August issue of Current Biology.

Contrary to conventional opinion, overweight adolescents’ dissatisfaction with their bodies isn’t an incentive to lose weight, according to a study by researchers in the University of Minnesota’s School of Public Health. The study found that overweight adolescents who feel good about their bodies do not gain as much weight over time as their peers who are dissatisfied with their bodies.

Low body satisfaction during adolescence places young people at risk for a number of negative health outcomes, including depression and the development of eating disorders. Researchers say the study confirms the importance of positive body image in adolescents.

The study was published in the September 15 Journal of Adolescent Health.

Lesbian, gay, and bisexual (LGB) adults are more likely than their heterosexual peers to believe they will need long-term care. That’s the conclusion of new research conducted at the School of Public Health at the University of Minnesota.

This study follows a January 2015 study in Health Affairs, which found that 60 percent of Americans ages 40 to 65 underestimate their future long-term care needs. In reality, only 30 percent will not need care. [See Spring 2015 Minnesota].

The study found that LGB adults have higher rates of disability and are more likely to have a close relative who has needed long-term care, both of which were associated with a greater likelihood of expecting to need care for oneself. Additionally, LGB adults were less likely to expect family to provide care and more likely to expect to use a nursing home or assisted living.

Prior to this study, little was known about whether sexual orientation was a factor in expectations around long-term care.

The findings were published in the September 17 issue of the American Journal of Public Health.

With logging interests and conservationists usually at odds, an unlikely partnership in Russia highlights the benefits of collaboration. Research conducted jointly by the Wildlife Conservation Society, the Russian Academy of Sciences, and the University of Minnesota analyzed the vital role that logging company OAO Amgu plays in ensuring the survival of Blakiston’s fish owls, whose numbers are estimated to be just 3,000 to 5,000 worldwide.

Researchers canvassed nearly 8,000 miles in far eastern Russia and found only 19 percent of the fish owls’ habitat was protected in nature reserves, while 43 percent was leased to logging companies. OAO Amgu has been working with biologists to identify select areas the owls need for nesting and hunting. Researchers estimate that if parent company Terneyles also continues to help conserve habitat, the number of protected fish owl territories will triple.

The study was published in the September issue of Bird Conservation International.


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