Thursday, January 9, 2014

Is nature important to you, alternatives to animal testing and dog bites in the US

White's Creek Wetland in Annandale. You can see turtles, a variety of birds and native plants here. It is a little oasis smack-bang in the midst of suburbia.
Here at SAT we're all for a bit of research, especially the non-invasive kind. PhD candidate Lucy Taylor is looking at whether nature impacts the wellbeing of urban residents. 

She writes:

I’m sure many of you would be familiar with the supporting research. For example, green space has been found to influence mental health and life satisfaction with exposure to vegetation being associated with improved mood and cognition. Spending time in natural spaces helps us recover from stress and can provide an inoculation effect against daily stressful events. While mental health is important, research suggests that our physical health is impacted by the presence of green space as well. Vegetated areas can mitigate extreme temperatures in urban environments, protecting vulnerable members of the population from heat waves or cold snaps. Encouraging physical activity via a walk through the park, particularly in areas with lower socio-economic residents, can help to mitigate cardiovascular disease, the leading cause of death worldwide. And with pollution now found to be a leading cause of cancer, so the mitigating effects of green spaces become critical in cities and industrial areas. In addition, there is research on the benefits of green exercise’, our relationships with companion animals, and even the presence of indoor plants.
Nature can impact our wellbeing anywhere, but because residents of cities make up more than half of the world’s population, and because cities are some of the most degraded environments on earth, the risks to urban residents’ health are particularly numerous. I will be comparing the survey results with biodiversity indicator information and census data for each city using GIS using a comparative ecology of cities. My study sites are Sydney and Melbourne (Australia), and Auckland and Wellington (New Zealand).
To participate in Lucy's research, visit her site and complete the survey (it should take 10-15 minutes, and its not painful at all - it asks questions about how interact with and value nature, what you know about nature, whether you live with companion animals and which species, how you rate your wellbeing and a few very general and non personal demographic style questions. 

A moment with nature at Bondi Beach, Sydney.
You can also volunteer to be part of a focus group, held in Sydney, Melbourne, Auckland or Wellington, in September-November this year.

Animal testing

Every year, about $3 billion is spent worldwide on animal tests to ensure the safety of consumer products - including drugs, chemicals, food and cosmetics. While pesticides and drugs are extensively tested, food additives are mostly not, and the testing of cosmetics is banned in some parts of the world. But what are these animal tests worth when a common, relatively safe drug like aspirin fails most of them?
Good question.

Professor Thomas Hartung, Director of the Centre for Alternatives for Animal Testing, will be giving a public lecture at the University of Sydney on Monday February 10 from 5.30-7.30pm. For more info or to register visit here.

Dog bites

Uluru, the site of this country's most famous (and controversial) dog attacks. 
Having been at the site of one of Australia's most famous dog attacks recently, I was very interested to read this piece on Scott Weese's Worms and Germs blog on dog bites in the US. It is based on Gary Patronek et al's Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association paper which looked at 256 dog bite fatalities in the US from 2000-2009.

Warning sign for visitors arriving at the Ayers Rock (Uluru) Resort airport.
In some situations attacks came out of the blue, but some factors may have prevented attacks including supervision of kids around dogs, desexing and addressing (rather than burying one's head in the sand about) previous aggressive behaviour.