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Half male, half female bird banded at Powdermill
Avian researchers at Powdermill Nature Reserve netted quite the surprise on September 24: a rose-breasted grosbeak with the fuchsia feathers of a male on the right side of its body and the lemony yellow plumage of a female on the left. The banding team immediately knew it had captured a common migrating songbird with a rare condition known as bilateral gynandromorphism, wherein an animal not only is half female and half male, but those characteristics are split down its midline. “One of the crew said it was ‘like seeing a unicorn,’” says Annie Lindsay, the reserve’s bird banding program manager. This uncommon phenomenon is an example of a fascinating genetic process that few people ever encounter. Over nearly six decades, only five birds banded at Powdermill have been documented as gynandromorphs. In birds, the rare condition occurs when an egg cell has two nuclei stuck together and both sets of genes are fertilized in a single bird body. Female birds, like humans, have two ovaries, but only the left one is functional in songbirds. Since the grosbeak’s left side is female, it’s possible that it could reproduce, though it would have to behave like a female to attract a mate.
Crucial support for PA’s cultural community
All four Carnegie Museums received relief funding under the COVID-19 Cultural and Museum Preservation Grant Program, totaling $1.4 million. The support comes from a program that Pennsylvania carved out of its federal CARES Act funding in recognition of the vital role that museums and other cultural institutions play in the communities they serve. More than 35 cultural organizations in the region are sharing $6.2 million in funds, helping to offset some of the revenue lost while attractions were closed to the public and, after they reopened, ongoing lost revenue due to the slow recovery of on-site visitation rates and limited ability to provide food service and rental space.
Carnegie Science Center teamed up with an engineering professor at the University of Pittsburgh to create HEADS UP!, a display highlighting how the HVAC systems at the four Carnegie Museums act as a face mask for their buildings’ air circulation. While research is still determining how much of a role air filtration may play in the spread of COVID-19, the display shows how the right filters can help by trapping particles carrying the virus. Also, at all four museums, the amount of outdoor air introduced into ventilated areas has been increased by up to 15 percent in non-collection storage areas.
Remedying legacy pollution
The Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection will fund the much-needed replacement of an outdated abandoned mine drainage treatment system and the rehabilitation of an old strip mine site at Powdermill Nature Reserve. A partnership with Loyalhanna Watershed Association and Indiana University of Pennsylvania, the three-year project will improve water quality in a mile-long stretch of nearby Laurel Run. It will also help Powdermill make good use of the old mine site. For education purposes, the team will restore part of the land to what it looked like when the operator shut down mining in the late 1940s. In another section, they’ll create a habitat for the golden-winged warbler, a bird that is in steep decline.
Browse 300-plus unique items from all four Carnegie Museums stores online, including archival-quality prints and museum-branded items. Holiday shopping made interesting, and easy!
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