NC scientists aid teachers at Nov. 13 event

N.C. teachers to mingle with scientists

SciREN – the Scientific Research and Education Network – is a series of free workshops that bring together STEM researchers and teachers. The researchers bring with them classroom-ready lesson plans based on their latest work; teachers come to meet with scientists, make connections to bring that science (and often the scientists) into their classrooms.

The program, led by a group of graduate students from UNC Chapel Hill, N.C. State and Duke University, works to integrate STEM lessons into North Carolina classrooms. K-12 teachers from more than two dozen counties have already registered.

For the past several years, the workshops have been staged at the UNC Institute of Marine Science in Morehead City; this year’s event – set for Nov. 13 – will be held in Raleigh at the N.C. Museum of Natural Sciences from 5:30-8:30 p.m.

More than 100 scientists in engineering, math, computer science, ecology, astronomy and physics will be there. Any educator or researcher may attend free of charge.

Details/registration are at Staff reports

The early chimp gets the figs

How do chimpanzees get enough food when times are lean? They wake up earlier. By studying wild chimpanzees in the Tai National Park in Ivory Coast, researchers at the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology in Leipzig, Germany, discovered a clear example of how great apes can acquire the extra energy needed to maintain large, high-maintenance brains. They found that chimpanzees make their sleeping nests more en route to breakfast sites where they can find fruits – where they will encounter competition from other daytime fruit-eaters. Moreover, the researchers found that the chimps leave their nest earlier ( often in the dark, when leopards are more likely to attack) to get these fruits before others, especially when the breakfast sites were far away.

The researchers also learned that females chimps positioned their sleeping nests more in the direction of the next day’s breakfast sites that had more sought-after but short-lived fruit such as figs. By analyzing departure times and nest positioning as a function of fruit type and location, researchers found evidence that chimpanzees plan their breakfast time, type and location after weighing multiple pieces of information.

Get vitamin D to breathe easier

Asthma, which inflames and narrows the airways, has become more common in recent years. While there is no known cure, asthma can be managed with medication and by avoiding allergens and other triggers. A new study by Tel Aviv University researchers points to a convenient, free way to manage acute asthmatic episodes – catching some rays outside.

According to a paper recently published in the journal Allergy, boosting vitamin D levels could help manage asthma attacks. The researchers found that vitamin D-deficient asthmatics were at a higher risk of an asthma attack.

Researchers measured the vitamin D levels of 307,900 Israelis between 2008 and 2012. Researchers also took into account key predictors of asthma, such as obesity, smoking and other chronic diseases. Of some 21,000 asthma patients in Israel studied, those with a vitamin D deficiency were 25 percent more likely than other asthmatics to have had at least one flare-up in the recent past.