Located in Tifft Nature Preserve along the Lake Erie shoreline in South Buffalo, “Bat Cloud” is a high-tech habitat for bats.
Our favorite superhero Batman is always scouring the streets, searching for crimes to stop and people to save.
However, this time it’s the bats that could use some help.
A fungal infection known as “White Nose Syndrome” hit upstate eastern New York in 2006. The fungus, which afflicts brown bats, causes them to emerge from hibernation early and, as a result, starve and freeze to death.
The U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service estimates that the disease so far has killed nearly 7 million bats, mostly in the Northeast and Midwest.
White Nose Syndrome — named for the white fungus encircling the noses of some of the afflicted bats — generally falls within the purview of biologists and mycologists.
But Joyce Hwang, assistant professor of architecture at the University at Buffalo, thought there was a need for an architectural intervention and began designing wildlife habitats that could exist within areas populated by humans.
Her solution: the “Bat Cloud”.
While it sounds like one of Batman’s expensive toys, it is actually a group of self-sustaining pods — homes for the bats — that hang together from cables. Each pod is made of stainless steel mesh in an all-weather insulating blanket. They collectively form a “cloud” that resembles a cluster of roosting bats.
The upper portion of the pod serves as the bats’ roosting area and the lower portion is filled with soil and native plants. Bat guano (dung) collects in the bottom of the pods and fertilizes the plants, which attract insects, a principle food source for bats. The pods also allow for slow water drainage.
Hwang’s first design of unique living environments for bats was “Bat Tower,” installed in 2010 in Griffis Sculpture Park in East Otto, Cattaraugus County. Bat Cloud, she says, is a natural extension of her first project.
The cloud hovers above a stand of eastern cottonwood trees in Tifft Farm, a 264-acre woodland nature refuge on Lake Erie. It was installed at the refuge in May to provide a habitat for bats, and help the public see their plight as crucial, not only to the bats’ well-being, but to their own as well.
“Bats are seen as ‘bad’ animals, but they are very helpful,” Hwang says, pointing out that the loss of bats, which eat a vast number of disease-carrying insects, weakens ecosystems and provokes an increase in the use of chemicals for insect control.
Biomedical engineering is an emerging field of research that applies engineering principles to medicine.
UB recently celebrated the first graduating class from its Department of Biomedical Engineering, a milestone for the fast-growing program that focuses on developing medical devices and therapies for diabetes, cancer and other illnesses.
Most of the 12 undergraduates are expected to immediately enter the workforce. But most plan to attend UB’s new biomedical engineering graduate program. Starting this fall, UB will offer MS and PhD degrees in biomedical engineering.
Biomedical engineering is an emerging field of research that applies engineering principles to medicine. Examples include the development of the pacemaker and prosthetic limbs, as well as creating artificial organs and ultrasounds.
Students come from a variety of backgrounds, including engineering, medicine and pharmacy. Such was the case with North Tonawanda native Jessica Utzig, who transferred into the department from the School of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences two years ago, and graduated last month.
“There are so many avenues to pursue, but I’m really interested in devices,” said Utzig, a summer intern at Greatbatch in Akron who plans to enter UB’s biomedical engineering graduate school later this year.
The UB department is a collaboration between the School of Engineering and Applied Sciences and the School of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences. Created with the support of the John R. Oishei Foundation, which provided $3 million toward its establishment, the department is expected to advance and support the Buffalo Niagara region’s already strong medical device industry.
Enrollment has climbed steadily since UB launched the department two years ago. Fifty-six students were enrolled in 2010, the number rose to 137 the following year, and it is expected to reach 195 students this fall.
JB, now 4, receives physical therapy and takes steroids as a treatment.
The problems began before JB turned 2. He was, by appearance, a healthy boy. But something wasn’t right.
Worried, his parents consulted with doctors and came home with painful news: Their son had Duchenne muscular dystrophy, a genetic disorder that causes a child’s muscles to waste away.
The disease afflicts only boys, and most victims are in wheelchairs by the time they’re 12. Later, the heart and diaphragm deteriorate, making it difficult to breathe. Few patients survive beyond their 30s.
Smokers who ate more fruit and vegetables smoked fewer cigarettes per day, waited longer to smoke their first cigarette of the day and scored lower on a common test of nicotine dependence.
If you’re trying to quit smoking, eating more fruits and vegetables may help you quit and stay tobacco-free, according to a new study by University at Buffalo public health researchers.
The research is the first longitudinal study on the relationship between fruit and vegetable consumption and smoking cessation.
The UB study found that smokers who consumed the most fruit and vegetables were three times more likely to be tobacco-free for at least 30 days than those consuming the lowest amount of fruits and vegetables. These findings persisted even when adjustments were made to take into account age, gender, race/ethnicity, education, household income and health orientation.
Researchers also found that smokers who ate more fruit and vegetables smoked fewer cigarettes per day, waited longer to smoke their first cigarette of the day and scored lower on a common test of nicotine dependence.
Several explanations are possible, such as less nicotine dependence for people who eat a lot of fruits and vegetables. Or the fact that higher fiber consumption from fruits and vegetables make people feel fuller, since smokers sometimes confuse hunger with an urge to smoke.
And, unlike some foods which are known to enhance the taste of tobacco, such as meats, caffeinated beverages and alcohol, fruits and vegetables may worsen the taste.
The UB researchers caution that more investigation is needed to determine if these findings replicate and if they do, to identify the reasons why fruit and vegetable consumption may help smokers quit. They also want to research how other aspects of one’s diet affect smoking.
UB swimmers prepare to race Michael Phelps, Natalie Coughlin and other Olympic champions.
Brittney Kuras has stopped shaving her legs.
No, it’s not a statement about femininity. Kuras is a swimmer for the UB Bulls, and the hair on her legs will create drag, which slows her progress through the water.
The purpose of this practice: prepare the Bulls for what Head Coach Andy Bashor describes as an event they’ll remember for the rest of their lives — the U.S. Olympic trials.
Eight UB swimmers have qualified for the trials along with Kuras – Mallory Morrell, Meili Carpenter, Matt Schwippert, Phil Aronica, Mike Dugan, Matt Hogan and Alie Schirmers – earning a spot at events held in Western New York and beyond since 2010.
The swimming portion of the trials — which takes place June 25-July 2 in Omaha, Neb. — will feature roughly 1,800 athletes. A typical race includes several heats that feature up to 140 competitors. The diving trials are scheduled June 17-24 near Seattle.
Because the season began in October, the swimmers are in peak physical shape; they practice six days a week, routinely arriving at the pool before dawn. Practices focus on technique and mental preparation, such as getting good starts and keeping a steady pace.
It’s attention to detail like this that has helped UB swimmers and divers set 20 university records during the past three seasons. It also led the men’s team to its first MAC championship in 2011. UB is the first university other than Eastern Michigan and Miami (Ohio) to claim the honor since 1979.