Thursday, March 24, 2011

SCAD to Host 2011 ANRC National Intercollegiate Equitation Championship April 15 - 17

/PRNewswire/ -- The Savannah College of Art and Design will host the 2011 ANRC (American National Riding Commission) Intercollegiate Equitation Championship from Friday, April 15 through Sunday, April 17 at the school's equestrian center, the Ronald C. Warranch Equestrian Center, Highway 17, 3650 Speedway Blvd., Hardeeville, South Carolina. Admission to select events is free and open to the public.

The ANRC Intercollegiate Equitation Championship is a national championship where colleges showcase their most talented riders in a team competition judged and scored on both a written test and riding skills. Among the almost twenty schools scheduled to join SCAD in the competition are Virginia Intermont, Goucher College (MD), Centenary College (NJ), Georgia Southern, Otterbein College (OH) and Sweet Briar College (VA). Awards will be presented to both school and individual champions.

The first of three riding phases consists of the dressage sportif, the guiding of the horse through a series of complex maneuvers by slight movements of the rider's hands, legs and weight. The second phase is an equitation round over fences; and the final phase is the hunter trials phase which takes place over fences in the open field.

This is the first time SCAD has hosted this 34-year-old competition. SCAD has taken home the championship title six times in the past eight years, and has won the competition for the past three years.

Spectators are welcome Friday, April 15 through Sunday, April 17, 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. The schedule is as follows:

* Friday, April 15: Dressage sportif demonstration and competition.
* Saturday, April 16: Dressage sportif demonstration and competition.
* Sunday, April 17: Medal round phase over fences, hunter trials phase and award presentation.

There will be bleachers available for spectators to watch the competition. Food and drink will be available for purchase from Krusin Krepes.

For more information, call 912.344.6750.

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Saturday, March 19, 2011

Community invited to get buggy at UGA insect zoo

EVENT DATE: Apr. 1, 2011 10:00 AM - 3:00 PM 

Roach races, cricket spitting and insect eating will once again highlight the annual Insect Zoo put on by the University of Georgia entomology department and the H.O. Lund Entomology Club. The zoo, now in its 26th year, will be held from 10 a.m. until 3 p.m. April 1 at the biological sciences building on UGA’s campus in Athens, Ga.

The day will also include insect displays with everything from tarantulas and honeybees to scorpions and hissing cockroaches, insect trivia, a spelling bee, an insect eating contest and arts and crafts.

Besides the insect zoo, UGA’s Entomology Department works within the local community bringing living insects, centipedes, millipedes, scorpions and spiders and museum specimens from Georgia and other parts of the world to schools, libraries, organizations or community centers for interactive display.

For more information and an updated schedule of events, visit or e-mail Marianne Robinette at

By Stephanie Schupska
University of Georgia

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Wednesday, March 16, 2011

National Disaster Search Dog Foundation Rescue Teams Deployed to Japan

/PRNewswire/ -- The National Disaster Search Dog Foundation (SDF), a nonprofit, nongovernmental organization dedicated to recruiting rescued dogs and partnering them with firefighters to find people buried alive in the wreckage of disasters, deployed Canine Disaster Search Teams to Japan last week to assist with the rescue efforts in response to the powerful 8.9 earthquake that struck the island nation on March 11th.

Six canines and their firefighter-handlers trained by the National Disaster Search Dog Foundation are searching from dawn to dark, combing the wreckage in Ofunato City on the North East coast of Japan to find survivors buried alive in the rubble. Their base of operations is a gymnasium which California Task Force 2 shares with Virginia Task Force 1 and a British Task Force, our partners in the search effort.

The teams are 'delayering' areas at a time so that Task Force members can remove layers of debris after being searched. The dogs have been divided into groups in order to continue the search around the clock.

The job of the Search Dogs is to find live victims, conscious or unconscious, in the debris left by the earthquake and tsunami. All rescue personnel will be awaiting a "Bark Alert" from the dogs, letting them know there is someone in need of rescue. Equally important is the dogs' ability to "clear" an area, i.e. determine that there is no one alive in the wreckage, and the rescue crews can move on to the next site. Everything the teams have learned during their intensive training will be put to use in saving lives.

"Every minute counts as the teams work to find people buried beneath the rubble," says SDF Founder, Wilma Melville. "After the Haiti deployment, this is a battle-seasoned group. If there are people still alive in the rubble, the dogs will find them. I am so proud of every canine and handler out there combing the debris for signs of life, and feel confident in their abilities knowing they have had the best training possible and are at their highest skill level."

SDF is the only organization in America dedicated to partnering rescued dogs with firefighters and providing them at no cost to fire departments to find people trapped in the wreckage of disasters. They have rescued hundreds of dogs, many on the brink of euthanasia, and turned them into highly skilled rescuers.

Their 71 teams have responded to 76 disasters, including the World Trade Center attacks, Hurricane Katrina, and the Haiti earthquake— where they helped bring 12 people to safety. Each time the teams deploy they come back with crucial lessons that are shared with all Search Teams to sharpen training techniques and tactics and enhance emergency response in our country and abroad.

SDF will train 21 new teams in 2011 (at a cost of $15,000 per team) to be ready for the next local, national or international disaster. SDF receives no government funding and relies solely on support from individuals, private foundations, and companies to provide this critical resource—at no cost to fire departments or taxpayers.

About The National Disaster Search Dog Foundation (SDF)

The Search Dog Foundation is a nonprofit whose mission is to strengthen emergency response in America by teaming rescued dogs with firefighters to find people trapped in the wreckage of disasters. Since its founding in 1996, SDF has rescued hundreds of dogs, many on the brink of euthanasia. They have trained 117 Search Teams, 75 of which are currently active.

For more information about the Search Teams or to make a donation to turn rescued dogs into rescuers, help form our new 2011 teams, and provide the highest-level training to our existing teams: visit, and follow the teams on Facebook and Twitter.

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Tuesday, March 15, 2011

It's Today! Adopt the Internet Day

More than 320,000 pets are waiting for homes on  Help Petfinder Adopt the Internet today and find forever homes for as many as possible!

Petfinder Adopt-the-Internet Day

As a matter of record, I did find one of my three adopted pets by using Petfinder.  It was a great way to begin the search for just the perfect dog to help fill my heart with love after the loss of our old gal.  After looking at hundreds of available dogs while sitting in the comfort of my home, we selected the final candidates and started visiting the little tykes.

I am pleased to say our little Buddy, aka Fufala, stole our hearts as soon as he came out to greet us.  We've had the pleasure of his love and devotion for almost 4 years now.

Would I use Petfinder again?  You betcha!

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As coastal fisheries decline, major source of nutrients for entire ecosystem is lost

A new study by researchers at the University of Georgia and Florida International University has found that the elimination of large marine predators through overfishing and habitat alteration removes a vital source of nutrients for coastal ecosystems.

The study, currently in press in the journal Ecological Applications, shows that the influence of these large marine species goes far beyond their role as predators.

“The effects are not just top-down,” said study co-author Jacob Allgeier, a doctoral student in the UGA Odum School of Ecology who led the study with Craig Layman of Florida International University. “When you eliminate these large predators, you also eliminate a major source of nutrients for algae and plants in the food web, especially in tropical and sub-tropical coastal areas.”

Working at study sites on Andros Island, the largest island in the Bahamas, the team, which included UGA associate professor of ecology Amy Rosemond, compared populations of gray snapper – an abundant and economically important species – from areas that experience varying levels of human impact, specifically overfishing and habitat alteration. One group of sites was located on the west coast of Andros, an area with virtually no human impacts. The other sites were on the island’s east coast, home to most of Andros’s population. Those sites were affected by fishing and habitat fragmentation in the form of roads that cut off interior wetlands from the ocean. The study sites, deep tidal creek mouths lined with mangrove trees, were otherwise similar.

Allgeier said that tropical and sub-tropical coastal waters are typically low in nutrients. “That’s why places like the Bahamas have such clear water,” he said. “That’s also why the fish are so important there. They recycle the nutrients they take in from the food that they eat, making them available for lower-level organisms, like algae, that form the base of the food web.”

The researchers found significantly higher fish densities at the sites that experienced no human impacts, which led to much higher quantities of nutrients being recycled at these sites: 4.6 times more nitrogen and 5.4 times more phosphorus.

“We were surprised at the quantity of nutrients supplied by the fish,” said Allgeier. “The density of the fish is high, but still it was surprising that this one species does so much.”

Not only that, they found that the size of the fish differed greatly between impacted and unimpacted sites. Unimpacted sites had eleven times more snapper that were over twenty-five centimeters in length than did impacted sites. According to Rosemond, reduced fish size is a hallmark of high fishing pressure.

The team’s findings point to the complexity of nutrient cycling in coastal ecosystems. “The implications of fish in nutrient cycling may not be as important in nutrient-rich environments,” Allgeier said. “But a lot of people live in areas with nutrient-poor coastal waters, near the equator and along the coasts.”

Allgeier said that the east coast of Andros is home to roughly 10,000 people. “What that means is that these are conservative estimates, compared to what you would see in more populous areas like Jamaica or Haiti. We need to learn a lot more about how the ecosystem will function as fisheries in these areas continue to decline.”

In a related paper currently in review in the journal Ecology, Allgeier and Layman continue their investigation into the mechanisms by which fish excretion enhances algal growth through a series of experiments using artificial reef habitats.

The study’s other co-authors were Craig Dahlgren of the Perry Institute of Marine Science and Lauren Yeager of Florida International University. Funding for the study was provided by the National Science Foundation.

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Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Finalists for Fourth Annual Dogs of Valor Awards Announced

The Humane Society of the United States is pleased to announce the Top 10 Finalists in the fourth Annual Dogs of Valor Awards. The awards honor dogs who have exhibited an extraordinary sense of courage or resolve by heroically helping a person in need.

Online voting for the People’s Hero award will open Friday (March 4)  at and will run through Friday, March 11 at 5 p.m. EDT. One lucky People’s Hero voter will be randomly selected to receive a $100 gift certificate for The HSUS’ online store, Humane Domain.

The Valor Dog of the Year will be chosen by a panel of celebrities, including Charlotte Ross who has played a tough cop on NYPD Blue and shown her lighter side in Glee; Chris Riggi, who is best known for his roles on Gossip Girl and his version of Twilight’s werewolf Jacob in Fox’s parody, Vampires Suck; and Jon Prescott, who will be starring in the upcoming film The One and will also appear in Maladies.  Both films are scheduled for release in 2011.

All winners will be announced March 14.

The finalists are:

Ceili (Portland, Ore.) – Stalled her owner as he tried to go upstairs to bed by nipping at his shorts and pulling off his shoe, preventing him from being alone when he had a massive heart attack.
Coco (Summerfield, Fla.) – Barked and clawed at his owner to alert him that the tractor-trailer in which they were sleeping was being consumed by flames.
Diamond (Hayward, Calif.) – Barked and alerted her owner when his second floor apartment was on fire, giving him just enough time to escape the flames and save his two daughters.
Effie (Pine City, Minn.) – Strained on her leash and pulled her owner 50 yards to a 94-year-old man who was unconscious and bleeding in his driveway.
Emmett (Boise, Idaho) – Drew attention by running around and barking right before his owner was about to snowmobile over a live wire than had fallen during a snow storm.
Gangsta (Selden, N.Y.) – Barked hysterically to get her family’s attention when their daughter suffered a violent seizure in the shower and collapsed unconscious in a tub of scalding water. 
Sarge (Forsyth, Ill.) – Woke his owner by barking and then led him to his daughter’s room where there was an intruder lurking inside.
Sirus (Conneaut, Ohio) – Was shot after he aggressively barked until he was let outside, giving his owners time to hide their baby and grab a gun before intruders kicked their way into the home.
Wyatt Earp (Royal Oak, Mich.) – Alerted neighbors by barking incessantly when his 72-year-old owner collapsed and lost consciousness from dangerously low blood sugar during a winter evening walk.
Yogi (Austin, Texas) – Ran around and barked furiously until he got help for his owner who hit a bump and flipped over the handles of his mountain bike, paralyzing him from the chest down.

The complete stories can be viewed online at

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Monday, March 7, 2011

Pets Unleashed Their Inner Party Animal at the 18th Annual Beggin'(R) Pet Parade

Thousands of eager sniffers discovered millions of exciting smells at the 18th annual Beggin' Pet Parade on Sunday, Feb. 27.

As one of the world's premiere pet events, the Beggin'(R) Pet Parade attracted more than 8,000 pets and 80,000 people looking for a tail-wagging good time. Pets unleashed their inner party animal with fun games, including "Thick Cut Bead Toss" and a photo booth.

Best of all, the 2011 Beggin'(R) Pet Parade helped to raise funds for the homeless pets at the Open Door Animal Sanctuary. More than $12,000 was raised to benefit this St. Louis animal sanctuary.

One of the highlights of the Beggin'(R) Pet Parade was the coronation ceremony to select the 2011 Beggin'(R) Court. Five lucky costumed canines were chosen to be the King, Queen, Prince, Princess and Jester.

And back by popular demand, the best group costume title of "Most Loyal Subjects" was awarded to the pack of pets whose collaborative costume efforts were heads and tails above the rest. The Beggin'(R) Court represented the spirit of the celebration through the memorable, fun-loving personalities and elaborate attention-getting costumes. All five of the canine court members took home royal titles, along with prizes including a year's supply of Beggin(R) Strips.

For more information about the parade, visit or .

About Nestle Purina Pet Care

Nestle Purina PetCare promotes responsible pet care, community involvement and the positive bond between people and their pets. A premiere global manufacturer of pet products, Nestle Purina PetCare ispart of Swiss-based Nestle S.A., the world's largest food company.

Thursday, March 3, 2011

A Helping Paw: Trained Therapy Dogs Aid with Chronically Ill Patients

Editor Note:  This is just so fantastic!  Anyone know of any Georgia hospitals who offer this service?

/PRNewswire/ -- Lexi trots down the hall of the inpatient oncology unit at Northwestern Memorial's Prentice Women's Hospital and is greeted with smiles, cheers, and even a few tears. The anticipated visitors sense the excitement, but understand Lexi is there to do her job and she gets right to work visiting 54 year old cancer patient Leonard Pal. Lexi is not your typical visitor; she's a Golden Retriever bringing distraction and cheer to very sick patients. The visits are part of a new animal-assisted therapy program launched at Northwestern Memorial Hospital in conjunction with the Canine Therapy Corps in Chicago.

"Who wouldn't mind getting a visit by a beautiful red head," said Pal about the five year old Golden Retriever. Pal is being treated for colon cancer which has metastasized to his liver. He's in and out of the hospital undergoing tests and receiving medicine to manage his pain. "This is the highlight of my day; I was waiting for her all morning," added Pal as Lexi cozies up to his bedside.

The program began this summer on the oncology unit of Prentice Women's Hospital, part of the Robert H. Lurie Comprehensive Cancer Center of Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine, where Lexi, Willow and Piper, the newest dog in the program, visit cancer, palliative care and hospice patients. The program has been so well received, that it has been recently expanded to include visits with patients in the women care unit as well as the surgical floor where many of the patients have paralysis and are in the hospital long-term.

"We are excited to be able to provide a welcomed break in the day for patients, many of whom are in the hospital for long term care. Interacting with the dogs has a noticeable impact on their mood and enhances their well being," said Patricia Murphy, RN, MSN, director of oncology nursing at Northwestern Memorial.

Research suggests that visits with animals may improve patient outcomes, decrease length of hospital stay, help with confusion, depression and manage pain symptoms.

"It's never fun to be at the hospital. It's uncomfortable to have needles in your arm and scary to undergo tests, but when I see the dogs I forget about my treatment. They ease the burden of being in the hospital and really make a big difference in my day," said Pal.

Interaction with animals has also been shown to reduce blood pressure, increase sensory stimulation, inspire a sense of purpose, increase social interactions with staff and reduce loneliness by creating a sense of companionship.

If a patient is unable to receive a visit from the dogs because of infection control, open wounds or compromised immune systems, the dogs are trained to stand in the doorway and wave to the patient.

"Anyone who has a pet knows the joy they bring to our lives. Sharing that joy is so rewarding," said Judith Jaffe, trained dog handler for Canine Therapy Corps and Willow's owner.

Lexi and Willow not only bring a smile to the faces of patients like Pal, but visitors and the hospital staff are always excited to see the pups. "The oncology unit can be very stressful for staff, families and the patients. The dogs bring great energy and happiness when they come to visit. It really brightens everyone's day," said Jessica Palis, RN, clinical coordinator at Northwestern Memorial.

If interested in learning more about how you can get involved please visit Canine Therapy Corps.

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Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Are Atlantans Visiting Some of the World's Last Turtles?

New report lists species housed at Zoo Atlanta among the planet’s rarest

One might assume that an animal with a shell has one of nature’s greatest built-in security systems. If that were true, there might not be a need to identify 2011 with the conservation imperative, “Year of the Turtle.” But according to a new report issued by a consortium of conservation groups, many of the turtles currently housed at Zoo Atlanta are among the last of their kind.

Issued by the Wildlife Conservation Society, the Turtle Survival Alliance and the Turtle Conservation Fund on February 21, 2011, the report included an alarmingly long list of turtle species now at risk of extinction. Three of the 25 species listed at “extremely high risk of extinction” are represented at Zoo Atlanta: the McCord’s box turtle; Burmese star tortoise; and Sulawesi forest turtle. An additional six identified as “very high risk” – the Pan’s box turtle; Arakan forest turtle; flat-shelled spider tortoise; radiated tortoise; common spider tortoise; and Georgia’s own bog turtle – are also represented at the Zoo.

“The rate at which we’re seeing turtles decline in the wild makes it hard to make much distinction between words like ‘extremely’ and ‘very,’” said Dwight Lawson, PhD, Deputy Director at Zoo Atlanta. “And the fact that there’s a Georgia species on that list makes it clear that this isn’t just a phenomenon seen in far-off parts of the world.”

While the bog turtle is most threatened by habitat loss, most of its endangered cousins around the world are declining as a result of extreme over-harvesting for food, particularly in Asia, where high demand for turtle meat has already resulted in extinction of some species. Zoo Atlanta is an active partner in the Turtle Survival Alliance (TSA), an international conservation initiative composed of public and private sector animal management and zoological organizations, academics and veterinarians. TSA manages collaborative breeding programs and husbandry of turtles at partner facilities worldwide, including Zoo Atlanta.

“We want our Members and guests to appreciate turtles for their beauty and diversity, but we also want them to understand the plight facing turtles in the wild,” said Lawson, who currently serves as Vice President of TSA. “The story we tell here at Zoo Atlanta isn’t one of gloom and doom. It’s a message of hope for the things we as individuals can do in our own lives to put an end to unsustainable trade of wildlife around the world and here in the U.S.” Zoo Atlanta is a recognized center of excellence for the care and study of vanishing reptiles and amphibians. The World of Reptiles is home to more than 500 individual animals, many of them endangered or critically endangered. Guests interested in learning more are encouraged to visit Trader’s Alley: Wildlife’s Fading Footprints, an interactive series of educational exhibits devoted to the global problem of the wildlife trade.

Citizen science data reveal links between migration and disease in monarch butterflies

A University of Georgia study that enlisted the help of hundreds of citizen scientists from across the U.S. and Canada has found that parasite infections in monarch butterflies increase during the summer breeding season, a finding that could help improve conservation efforts.

The researchers, led by postdoctoral associate Rebecca Bartel of the UGA Odum School of Ecology, studied populations of monarch butterflies in eastern North America, which migrate up to 1,500 miles each fall, and measured levels of parasitism in monarchs at their breeding grounds, at points along their migratory route, and at overwintering sites in Mexico. Their findings are featured as the cover story in the current issue of the journal Ecology.

According to Odum School associate professor Sonia Altizer, one of the study’s authors, the finding that parasite infections build up during the summer breeding season is likely due to the fact that parasites accumulate on host plants—milkweeds—in patches used by monarchs.

“Monarch population density increases from early to late in the breeding season, increasing opportunities for parasite transmission,” Altizer said. “Monarchs from sites that were more densely populated had a higher prevalence of infection.”

Altizer said that parasite prevalence decreased as the fall migration progressed. In addition, the prevalence of infection among monarchs wintering in Mexico was lower than for summer breeding or fall migrating monarchs. “This is likely because heavily infected monarchs are weeded out of the population during the arduous fall migration journey,” she said.

“Migration is a strong selective force for many different animals,” said Jaap de Roode, an evolutionary biologist at Emory University and a co-author of the study. “It’s important to understand how the movement of these animals affects their disease risk.”

Understanding the interaction between migration and infectious disease is fundamental to conservation efforts for many species. But the logistical challenges involved in collecting samples across the geographic scope of a species’ range, from breeding to overwintering sites, can be enormous.

The two citizen science projects the team drew upon were MonarchHealth, launched in 2006 and run from UGA, and the Monarch Larva Monitoring project, which began in 1997 and is run through the University of Minnesota. Altizer said that MonarchHealth volunteers capture wild monarchs, collect parasite samples using non-destructive methods, and send them to UGA for analysis. MLMP volunteers count monarch eggs, caterpillars and adults in wild milkweed patches during the spring and summer.“No single person could monitor monarchs across hundreds of sites simultaneously as the volunteers can,” she said.

Bartel agreed that the contributions of the citizen scientists were invaluable. “It allowed us as scientists to accomplish research objectives such as data collection across a broader geographic area than would otherwise have been possible,” she said. “It was also a way to engage people from a broad spectrum of ages and backgrounds in the scientific process and an exciting way to practice science education on the ground.”

According to co-author and University of Minnesota associate professor Karen Oberhauser, the project is unique in that it combines data from two different citizen science projects, using data from MonarchHealth volunteers to assess disease status of the insects, and data from MLMP volunteers to assess monarch density. This collaborative effort benefited both the research and the volunteers. “Volunteers from both projects were exposed to the bigger picture of monarch biology, and many have decided to contribute data to both projects as a result of this collaborative analysis,” Oberhauser said.

The team’s findings could help direct conservation efforts. Bartel said that lessons learned from the monarch system could be applied to help predict threats of infectious disease to other wildlife. “Many migratory species—whether insects, birds, mammals, or fishes—are suffering severe and often sustained population declines, with habitat loss and climate change disrupting their migration patterns,” she said. “Some of these species provide critical ecosystem services, including crop pollination, nutrient cycling and pest control. Because migration can affect their level of parasite infection, understanding the interactions between human activities, migration and infectious disease is crucial.”

Funding for the study was provided the National Institutes of Health and the National Science Foundation.

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