strange behaviors

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  • Richard Conniff

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    Every Creeping Thing: True Tales of Faintly Repulsive Wildlife: “Conniff is a splendid writer–fresh, clear, uncondescending, and with never a false step; one can’t resist quoting him.” (NY Times Book Review)

    The Species Seekers:  Heroes, Fools, and the Mad Pursuit of Life on Earth by Richard Conniff is “a swashbuckling romp” that “brilliantly evokes that just-before Darwin era” (BBC Focus) and “an enduring story bursting at the seams with intriguing, fantastical and disturbing anecdotes” (New Scientist). “This beautifully written book has the verve of an adventure story” (Wall St. Journal)

    Swimming with Piranhas at Feeding Time by Richard Conniff  is “Hilariously informative…This book will remind you why you always wanted to be a naturalist.” (Outside magazine) “Field naturalist Conniff’s animal adventures … are so amusing and full color that they burst right off the page …  a quick and intensely pleasurable read.” (Seed magazine) “Conniff’s poetic accounts of giraffes drifting past like sail boats, and his feeble attempts to educate Vervet monkeys on the wonders of tissue paper will leave your heart and sides aching.  An excellent read.” (BBC Focus magazine)

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The Next Big Thing #10: Gluttons for Greenhouse Gases

Posted by Richard Conniff on December 27, 2013

The nightmare climate scenario is that melting permafrost in the Arctic will unleash massive quantities of methane, a greenhouse gas potent enough to spin the planet into catastrophic and irreversible warming. But researchers have also identified microbes called methanotrophs that proliferate as the permafrost thaws. They consume methane and keep it from entering the atmosphere. So far, scientists haven’t characterized most of these species, much less figured out how they work.

“But if we know what kinds of microorganisms are the first responders,” says Janet Jansson, a microbial ecologist at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, “we can learn how to help them. Do they need nutrients? Are there ways we can tweak the environment to get them to grow and do the things we want them to do?”

The bottom line: In the Arctic and elsewhere, Earth’s fate may rest with obscure species we have, until now, tended to dismiss or even despise. And in the end, our long history of waging war on microbes may turn out to have been a misguided attack on our own best hope of salvation.

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