Science Briefs: Annual Christmas Bird Count begins in NC

The red knot (Calidris canutus) is a medium sized shorebird. Last year, 1,200 of them visited Ocracoke Island in December.
The red knot (Calidris canutus) is a medium sized shorebird. Last year, 1,200 of them visited Ocracoke Island in December. wikipedia

Audubon North Carolina invites birdwatchers to participate in a venerable citizen science survey: the annual Audubon Christmas Bird Count. Beginning Monday and continuing through Jan. 5, North Carolina’s birders and other nature lovers will collect data that will help shape the future of birds and climate science nationwide.

North Carolina is a top-performing state in the Christmas census. Last December, the state’s 51 participating geographic groups collected the most tallies of any state for 15 individual species. Among the most important species recorded in-state last year was the endangered red knot. CBC participants recorded 1,600 red knots along the coast, including more than 1,200 at Ocracoke Island.

Data compiled by volunteers across the state will record every individual bird and bird species seen in a specified area.

The Audubon Christmas Bird Count began in 1900 and is organized by the National Audubon Society. There is no fee to participate and the quarterly report of results – American Birds, is available online.

Anyone can volunteer, and Audubon’s free Bird Guide app makes it even easier to chip in. Details: Staff reports

Hello Barbie (and other ethical dilemmas)

The John J. Reilly Center for Science, Technology, and Values at the University of Notre Dame has released its fourth annual list of emerging ethical dilemmas and policy issues in science and technology for 2016. This list is designed to get people thinking about potential ethical dilemmas before controversial science or technology goes mainstream.

The ethical dilemmas and policy issues for 2016, presented in no particular order:

▪ CRISPR/Cas9 – technology for gene editing.

▪ Rapid whole genome diagnosis – a way to record and catalog the genomes of newborns in order to improve disease detection.

▪  Hello Barbie – a new Barbie that wants to record conversations she has with your child.

▪ Digital labor rights – a discussion of the tension between anonymous workers and anonymous bosses.

▪ Head transplants – a procedure that one doctor has promised to develop by 2017.

▪ Disappearing drones – drones that deliver payloads and then disappear into thin air without any indication of who sent it.

▪ Artificial wombs – the potential to grow a human fetus outside of a woman’s body is creating concerns with women’s rights advocates.

▪ Bone conduction for marketing – Verizon already has the technology to transmit ads to your brain through your bones, as well as your skin.

▪ Lethal cyber weapons – a potentially lethal computer program capable of causing a real explosion.

▪ Exoskeletons for the elderly – technology that aids labor but postpones retirement.