29/01/2010

THE COLOUR OF DINOSAURS
Two new dinosaur discoveries reveal more about the lives of these prehistoric creatures; Science in Action looks at how they will change the way we see dinosaurs. Research published in the journal Nature by Professor Michael Benton from the University of Bristol and his team show that dinosaur feathers may have been ginger and brown in colour. He was able to use a high powered microscope to look at a fossil of a dinosaur that has a ridge of feathers running over its head and down its back like a mohican. He found melanosomes, which in modern animals contain melanin, which gives skin, hair, fur and feathers their colour. Science in Action speaks to him and also visits Dr. Luis Chiappe at the Dino Lab at the Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County in California to find out how dinosaur models are made.

BIRD BIODIVERSITY
Time alone, trapped on a remote island could either be torture, or a welcome escape, depending on your view. For Professor George Divoky it has been a reality for nearly forty years. Every spring he moves into a cabin on Cooper Island, just off the coast of Alaska, where he studies black guillemots - pigeon sized seabirds.

Now, as he nears his fourth decade of study he's closing in on a record for running one of the longest seabird studies in the world. But last summer his life's work came dangerously close to an end. The warming climate of Alaska has brought new visitors to Cooper Island. In the last few years puffins have moved up from the south, and polar bears have taken to land as their sea ice disappears. Both species feed on guillemot chicks. But what drives Professor Divoky to return to the colony for so many years? We hear his highly personal account of daily life with is beloved guillemots.

Black guillemots are not a threatened species but that does not mean that losing this colony won't have an effect on these animals as a whole. As part of the International Year of Biodiversity we speak to Dr. Martin Fowlie from Birdlife International who explains that this a problem that many common animals are facing, because of changing habitats and human behaviour they are becoming less common and their numbers are dropping.

NASA SATELLITES AND KENYAN CATTLE
NASA satellites are being used to help Kenyan farmers insure their livestock against drought. The project is being piloted with thousands of herders in Northern Kenya, but could be rolled out to other arid areas of Africa. Traditionally it's been hard for them to get insurance, because of the logistical difficulties of sending an insurance agent to each remote farmer to verify every loss. Now satellite images are being used, not to count animals, but to assess how dry the ground is, and therefore how likely animals are do die in a drought.

Andrew Mude from the International Livestock Research Institute is running the project. He joined the programme from the BBC's studios in Nairobi.

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28 minutes

Last on

Sun 31 Jan 2010 04:32 GMT

Gravitational Waves

'Ripples' from black holes detected

Gravity and ripples in the fabric of space time - what do these mean for us?