Environment

A look at the natural world around us.

Virginia Tech

Scientists at Virginia Tech are one step closer to controlling a species of mosquito that carries deadly disease. It’s not a pesticide or repellant, it’s a gene that can literally change the gender of a mosquito from potentially deadly females to harmless males.

Sex matters in mosquitos, because it is females only which bite to nourish their young. That’s how they can spread disease.  Bio Chemistry Professor Jake Tu is part of the team that discovered the elusive gene called NIX, which can change female mosquitos and their offspring into males. 

You’ve probably seen it in your garden, along roadways, just about everywhere: Garlic Mustard.  It’s an invasive plant that stealthily out-competes native species, threatening the diversity of forests in many parts of the country. But what if there were a recipe to change that?

They don’t call it garlic mustard for nothing. Rachel Collins is Associate Professor of Biology at Roanoke College. 

“The chemical that it’s making that smells like garlic is one of these herbivore defense chemicals like basil and all the other yummy flavors in bail and mint.”

For two years, the state of Virginia has been begging cattle farmers to keep animals out of streams on their property - offering to pay the full cost of fencing to prevent pollution of rivers and, ultimately, the Chesapeake Bay. 

Irvin White raises cattle in Central Virginia - calling recently weaned calves to the feeding trough as part of his evening routine.  From the beginning, he’s seen good reason to fence his farms - to keep cows out of the streams where they like to drink and cool off when the weather turns warm.  After all, those streams are loaded with bacteria.

A recent survey showed 28% of Virginians have a hard time getting fresh fruit and vegetables in their communities.  What’s more, half of kids said they would head for a fast food restaurant or convenience store if given $5 for food. 

To counter those problems, a group of teachers is taking Richmond kids to the farm, where they dance, sing and discover the wonders of compost. 

Photo by Drew Gallagher

Last week, 30 students began an unusual protest – riding bicycles along the path of a proposed natural gas pipeline.  

Kendall King with the Virginia Student Environmental Coalition says protesters wanted to increase public awareness of plans for the 550-mile underground pipeline that would link fracking sites in West Virginia to customers in North Carolina.

Pages