July 29, 2005


JUNEAU, Alaska-- Wallowing and snorting as they jockey for position on the rocks, the 2-ton walruses aren't the prettiest reality show stars.

But two cameras installed at the Walrus Islands State Game Sanctuary off Alaska's southwest coast are giving scientists and Web surfers alike the chance to watch the mammals rest and play in their natural environment.

Joe Meehan, a Fish & Game lands and refuges coordinator, said the "walrus cams" on Round Island in Bristol Bay, an arm of the Bering Sea, provide an essential research tool for wildlife biologists and entertainment for wildlife enthusiasts.

"Monitoring walrus populations is a difficult and expensive task that requires observers at each remote location," Meehan said. "Web cameras may ultimately allow for more accurate and economical walrus counts."

The department has staff on the island counting walruses every day.

Web users see a live stream from the cameras set a quarter of a mile apart above the shore. The cameras look down on the rocky beach and catch the action of a half-dozen or more Pacific walruses in their everyday lives.

In North America, the Pacific walrus inhabits only remote areas of the Bering and Chukchi seas, according to the Alaska SeaLife Center Web page, making it difficult to observe the walruses in their natural habitat firsthand.

Walrus counts on the islands vary significantly from year to year, Meehan said. In 2000, about 8,500 were counted. This year, the highest count so far is 2,300.

The lower numbers are probably not a sign of a declining population, but many have likely relocated to "haulouts" in Bristol Bay that were used through the mid-1900s until commercial harvesting drove the walruses away, he said.

The islands are also home to sea lions and about a quarter of a million sea birds.

To watch online, visit www.alaskasealife .org / New / research / roundisland.php - - ASSOCIATED PRESS

Quick Takes

Your personal heat index

At first glance, Chaney Instrument Co.'s new personal comfort monitor seems an indulgence. It tells you what you already know: Baltimore's summer heat is stifling.

But once you try this little gadget, you may get hooked. For $39.99, the monitor calculates the temperature and humidity to give you a heat index. That's the temperature that your body actually perceives.

On a recent day, for example, the heat index was a dangerous 103 degrees, even though the thermometer read 96 degrees. That's an important difference, especially for young children and elderly individuals, who can easily succumb to heat-related illnesses.

The device, available at www.chaney, clips to your belt like a beeper. And it's easy to read, showing you when to proceed with caution.

Bottom Line: This could be a good investment for people who have health conditions that make Baltimore's sticky summers potentially dangerous. -- Mary Beth Regan

Did you know...

Heatstroke can result from heavy work in hot environments, usually accompanied by inadequate fluid intake. The main sign of heatstroke is a markedly elevated body temperature -- generally greater than 104 degrees -- with changes in mental status ranging from personality changes to confusion and coma. -- Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research

In Brief

JHU leads in research money

For the 25th straight year, the Johns Hopkins University received more research money than any other academic institution in the country, according to a new National Science Foundation ranking.

The university performed $1.24 billion in scientific, medical and engineering research in fiscal year 2003. The university was also first on NSF's list of federally funded research expenditures, with $1.107 billion on research funded by agencies such as the National Institutes of Health, NASA and the Department of Defense.

The University of California, Los Angeles, which spent $849 million in research and development, was second, and the University of Michigan ranked third, with $780 million.

Johns Hopkins remains the only university ever to cross the $1 billion threshold on either list; it did so first in 2002.

Circumcision and HIV

Male circumcision significantly reduces the chances of female-to-male transmission of the AIDS virus, according to a new study French researchers announced this week.

The study, conducted in South Africa, found that circumcision reduced the risk of men contracting AIDS during heterosexual intercourse by about 65 percent.

The study was conducted between 2002 and 2005 with more than 3,000 healthy, sexually active males between 18 and 24 in Orange Farm, South Africa, where about 32 percent of the female population was HIV positive. About half of the subjects were circumcised by medical professionals, and the rest remained uncircumcised. All of the men received counseling on AIDS prevention. But after 21 months, 51 members of the uncircumcised group had contracted HIV, the AIDS virus, while only 18 members of the circumcised group had gotten the disease.

Prostate cancer signs

Slight increases in blood levels of a protein associated with prostate cancer, the most commonly diagnosed malignancy in U.S. men, might signal greater risk of dying from the disease, researchers found.

In a study of 358 deaths from the disease, the mortality rate shot up twelvefold for patients whose level of the protein, known as prostate-specific antigen, or PSA, rose more than 2 points in the year before the original cancer diagnosis, researchers said this week in the Journal of the American Medical Association.

A rise of more than 2 "places a patient into a high-risk category for cancer death," even with surgery or radiation therapy, according to the research, led by Anthony D'Amico, 44, a radiation oncologist at Brigham & Women's Hospital in Boston. -- From staff and wire reports

Baltimore Sun Articles
Please note the green-lined linked article text has been applied commercially without any involvement from our newsroom editors, reporters or any other editorial staff.