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HOW NORTH TEXAS SCIENTISTS BATTLE ENVIRONMENTAL PROBLEMS IN THE AIR, ON LAND, IN THE WATER

 HOW NORTH TEXAS SCIENTISTS BATTLE ENVIRONMENTAL
 PROBLEMS IN THE AIR, ON LAND, IN THE WATER
 /NOTE TO EDITORS: Any of the following five stories may stand alone./
 DENTON, Texas, March 24 /PRNewswire/ -- Across the nation and around the world, scientists are battling to identify and solve environmental problems on many fronts. Studies at the University of North Texas are an example.
 Rescuing Endangered Species Of Birds
 Birds of certain feathers aren't flocking together in parts of Texas.
 As mature cedar trees in the Hill Country are cut down for new development, the once-populous golden-cheeked warbler, which feeds on insects found only in the bark of older trees, is becoming an endangered species.
 Meanwhile, birdwatchers must hunt to find the red-cockaded woodpecker in the Piney Woods and the black-capped vireo of the Edwards Plateau.
 The work of UNT landscape ecologists, however, may build up population of the three endangered species. Through infrared satellites, ecologists in the Center for Remote Sensing and Landuse Analysis, a part of the Institute of Applied Sciences are pinpointing vegetation in the state that could become habitats for the birds.
 "Our work with the golden-cheeked warbler really became a hot potato in Austin because privately-owned land was set aside for the birds," says Dr. Sam Atkinson, center director. "This means that Farmer Jones can't sell his own land."
 Before locating habitats, ecologists must determine how close the birds can live to people without being disturbed, he says.
 "There seems to be specific areas that are in the habitat of the red-cockaded woodpecker, but, for some reason, the birds don't live there," he says.
 Fuel From Trash
 Thanks to a University of North Texas chemist, the tons of fast food containers, plastic soda bottles and other garbage which Americans discard every year may soon be used for fuel.
 Dr. Kenneth Daugherty is a pioneer in the refuse-derived fuel (RDF) process, which blows calcium hydroxide into landfill waste to produce pellets.
 The cigar-shaped pellets burn like coal but leave no emissions harmful to the environment. They can be used in smelts, utility companies and other industries.
 According to Daugherty, RDF is the answer to America's overflowing landfills, since more than half of the garbage left after recycling would be used to make the pellets. Only noncombustible glass and dirt would be landfilled.
 In addition RDF is a less expensive solution to waste disposal than mass burning, landfills or curbside recycling. A ton of pellets can be manufactured for $50 a ton, while mass burning can cost $100 dollars a ton, landfills up to $150 a ton and curbside recycling $200 a ton.
 Earthworms -- Warning System For Soil Toxins
 Although many people view it as a lowly nightcrawler, the earthworm could actually save you from serious illness.
 That's the conclusion of three UNT biologists who have used the earthworm to identify soil toxins and the toxins' effect on humans.
 Because earthworms, which have an immune system similar to a human's, live for years and ingest soil, they serve as an early warning signal to dangerous levels of toxins that injure, but don't kill, humans, say Drs. Arthur Goven, Lloyd Fitzpatrick and Barney Venables.
 The scientists discovered that an earthworm's immune responses, like production of antibodies to neutralize bacteria, are inhibited when the worm is exposed to organic compounds like herbicides and pesticides. Sperm production is also inhibited.
 Heavy-metal compounds like lead, meanwhile, restrict the worm's digestion.
 The scientists are now taking their technique to the Texas coast to see if polychaetes, marine worms that live in freshwater sediments, can provide similar information about water and sediments polluted by the petrochemical industry.
 Determining Pesticides' Effect On Fish
 By recreating field conditions, scientists in UNT's Water Research Field Station are determining how aquatic life will be damaged by pyrethroids should the wind blow the cotton pesticides into water or if Texas' mighty thunderstorms wash them from cotton fields into creeks and rivers.
 "We can assess not only what happens to the chemical once it is in the water, but how long it stays before it breaks down into non-toxic components, how much gets into the sediment and how long it stays in the sediment," says Dr. Jim Kennedy, station director. "We also look at what happens to fish and insects that are exposed to the chemical."
 The station's outdoor ponds are filled with bluegills, flathead minnows and insects. After pesticide is applied to the water over several months, the fish are harvested, studied for any traces of pesticides and examined for stunted development.
 Beginning this summer, the station will test a chemical that is intended for use in fire ant control on Galveston and Matagorda Islands on the Texas coast.
 Kennedy says this research will be of interest to ecologists, as the fire ants are driving away the islands' nesting shorebirds.
 Study Global Warming Impact Of Crops
 How could global warming impact a country's food production to decrease the country's population?
 That's just one of the questions Dr. Miguel Acevedo and his staff in UNT's Environmental Modeling Laboratory hope to solve by examining South America's maize and bean crops.
 An environmental model includes math equations representing temperature changes, birth and death rates, crop production and other factors, says Acevedo, who studied the impact of climate change as a participant in Venezuela's PAN EARTH Case Study Team.
 "If maize is by far the most important crop of a country, a significant percentage of change in the crop would have an impact on the population," he says. "And temperature changes would have an impact on the crop."
 Acevedo is also directing a study on the impact of deforestation on savannahs -- tropical grasslands containing scattered trees and drought- resistant undergrowth.
 -0- 3/24/92
 /CONTACT: Nancy Andersen of University of North Texas, 817-565-2108/ CO: University of North Texas ST: Texas IN: SU:


SM -- NYEFNS2 -- 0837 03/24/92 06:52 EST
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