Vermont Research News: Vaccines, birds, climate change and more

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Vermont Research News: Vaccines, birds, climate change and more

Tue, 12/03/2019 - 9:16am -- tim

Vaccine Religious exemptions
In 2016, Vermont eliminated its personal belief exemption for the required vaccination of kindergartners. A recent study, which looks at the proportions of kindergartners with religious exemptions before and after 2016, finds that Vermont’s mean proportion of kindergartners with religious exemptions increased sevenfold after its elimination of personal belief exemptions. This data suggests that parents claim religious exemptions in the absence of a personal belief alternative.

Rain and the Bicknell Thrush
For over 30 years, Mt. Mansfield has been a site for researchers to better understand the behavioral patterns of the Bicknell Thrush (Catharus bicknelli). A recent report which used data collected on Mt. Mansfield between 2001 and 2014 examined population declines finding a significant correlation between the bird's survival rates and seasonal fluctuation of fir mast. High-production years, known as mast years, lead to ~11% higher survival the following year. The Bicknell Thrush also thrived in years of increased rainfall, due to increased numbers of insects to eat. 

Wolf animosity
57% of Vermont hunters have negative attitudes toward wolves, according to a recent survey. Additionally, nearly 80% of surveyed hunters saw no advantages to the reintroduction of wolves to Vermont. However, this number dropped to 49% if the hunting of wolves was allowed. The study found that many of the reasons for these negative attitudes were based on inaccurate knowledge and information about wolves, pointing to a need for more education about wolves to the Vermont public.

R-lessness decreases among young people
Did you ever notice how Vermonters drop the t in “Vermont” or in “mountain?” A new book examines changing speech patterns, finding for example that younger speakers in Vermont have near-zero levels of r-lessness, while older speakers have much higher levels. East-west differences in the New Hampshire/Vermont border region have also vanished for younger speakers. Read more in New England English, a new book from Oxford University Press excerpted here.

Fear of falling
Vermont continues to have one of the nation’s highest fall rates and its rurality may be a contributing factor, according to a recent study. The data suggests that Vermonters living in rural areas of the state are at higher nutritional risk. However, rural residents had a significantly lower fall prevalence than in metropolitan areas. 

Fish cancer in Memphremagog
Brown Bullhead (Ameiurus nebulosus) fish in the Vermont portions of Lake Memphremagog have skin cancer, according to a recent survey. The malignant melanoma presented as large, raised, black growths and lesions, were observed in over 30% of the fish collected for the study. Further research is needed to understand the cause of these mutations, ranging from increased UV exposure to pathogens or chemical contaminants.
Carbon monoxide poisoning
Vermont has the second-highest annual age-adjusted rate of emergency room visits for unintentional carbon monoxide poisoning according to a recent CDC study. The study utilized a new tracking program to collect data from 26 participating states between the years of 2010-2014.
Non-native bees harmful to Vt bees
2015, Vermont awarded legal protection to three native species of bumblebees; listing them as either threatened (Yellow-banded Bumble Bee, Ashton’s Cuckoo Bumble Bee) or endangered (Rusty-patched Bumble Bee). Honey bees are not native to North America and have introduced a number of viruses that hurt native bee populations. A recent Vermont study confirms that honey bees deposit viruses on flowers while foraging, and that native bumblebees near apiaries are at a greater risk of contracting “honey bee viruses”.
Emergency preparedness increases
Vermonters between the ages of 18 and 35 have a higher level of emergency preparedness than previous generations as a result of technology, according to a recent study that surveyed young adults in New England. The study advocates for further research into implementing the use of technology for emergency preparedness education.
Breast cancer clinical trials
Vermont is among the four states with the lowest number of clinical trials for breast cancer, according to a recent analysis of the registry for phase 3 & 4 clinical trials in the US for females with breast cancer between 2011 and 2015. This data highlights the need for better allocation of resources and efforts across the nation when conducting clinical trials.
Paleoindian travel patterns 
Recent discoveries regarding the transformation of Lake Champlain from saltwater to freshwater, known as the Champlain Sea event, may point to Paleoindian migration patterns in the region. According to the article, Paleoindians may have entered what is now the Champlain Basin via a route similar to that taken by Samuel de Champlain, 12,000 years later.
Tick research
New tick research examined the microbiota of I. scapularis nymphs in southern Vermont – a region of the US with some of the highest rates of reported Lyme disease. The researchers examined the ticks for human pathogens and entomopathogenic fungi among other variables. The findings “offer considerable promise for the discovery of microbial taxa that may influence the transmission of tick-borne pathogens” the researchers write.
Labor Market changes
Public Assets’ latest report on Vermont’s labor market finds that the number of Vermonters seeking work is increasing while unemployment remains at or near record lows.
The Vermont Historical Society’s 2019 list of new books includes new books on Vermont’s judicial system by Paul Gillies and an auto-biography by Madeline Kunin as she explores turning 80. Seven Days profiles of new Vermont books always tempts the reader with their short takes on new books – including most recently a review of legislator Dave Larsen’s experiences as a small town representative and Pat Esden’s fictional story of a witches coven in Burlington’s South End.   A new book on Senator Aiken is profiled by VTDigger here.
Young people are increasing their advocacy as the planet warms. Earlier this month, youth leaders took over the Statehouse to pressure the Vermont Legislature and Gov. Phil Scott to take action on climate change. The students, ranging from elementary school to college, focused on solutions in areas from agriculture to transportation. The most recent episode of our podcast, Mudseason examines the state's environmental education system and how it may motivate our youngest residents. 
Amy Seidl, Senior Lecturer in the Rubenstein School, takes us through the way she communicates with Vermonters about climate change, drawing on their pre-existing experiences and observations. 
Copyright © 2019 Center for Research on Vermont, All rights reserved. 
The Vermont Research News is a bi-monthly curated collection of Vermont research -- focused on research in the Vermont "laboratory" -- research that provides original knowledge to the world and research that adds to an understanding of the state's social, economic, cultural and physical environment.

Send your news items to Newsletter Editors Eliza Giles or Richard Watts. University of Vermont.