Researchers concerned about prey and predator species in post-fire logging areas


UBCO researchers concerned about prey and predator species in post-fire logging areas
UBCO researchers say post-fire salvage logging destroys removes important regenerating habitat for a variety of species including the snowshoe hare. Credit: Angelina Kelly.

New research from UBC Okanagan shows that salvage logging on land damaged by wildfires has negative impacts on a variety of animals.

While post-fire salvage logging is used to mitigate economic losses following wildfire, Karen Hodges, a biology professor in the Irving K. Barber Faculty of Science, says the compounded effects of wildfire and post-fire salvage logging are more severe than what wildlife experience from fire alone.

Wildfires have been increasing in prevalence and severity in recent decades, Hodges says, and salvaging trees after a fire is a common practice. However, the scale and intensity of post-fire logging removes important regenerating habitat for a variety of forest species.

“When trees are removed from a newly burned landscape, birds and mammals lose the last remnants of habitat,” she adds. “Salvage logging decreases forest biodiversity and changes ecological processes of post-fire forest regeneration. Mosaics of regenerating forest are changed through the removal of standing and downed trees, which would naturally remain on the landscape following fire.”

Hodges notes while BC’s logging industry is heavily regulated, harvesting differs between normal harvests and post-fire logging. More frequent wildfires mean an increase in post-fire salvage logging.

“Salvage logging is often done urgently as harvesters attempt to get burned timber to market before the wood deteriorates,” she says. “Salvage logging is also done at larger scales and intensities than a standard harvest. This post-fire harvest means wildlife species that can manage after a wildfire do not rebound as quickly from this second disturbance.”

UBCO researchers concerned about prey and predator species in post-fire logging areas
Landscape left untouched after a wildfire can regenerate and create protective cover for red squirrels and the snowshoe hare, but important species that coyotes, lynx, bobcats and owls depend on

Pandemic may delay several NASA astrophysics missions


WASHINGTON — Several NASA astrophysics missions in various stages of development are likely facing delays because of the coronavirus pandemic, an agency official said.

At a Sept. 21 meeting of the Astronomy and Astrophysics Advisory Committee, Paul Hertz, director of NASA’s astrophysics division, said the agency anticipated a number of missions, big and small, will suffer delays, although it may take time to determine the exact effects on the schedule.

“All of our missions in development are proceeding, however, they are suffering reduced efficiency because of the pandemic,” he said. That includes a reduced pace of work to incorporate social distancing and related measures, as well as travel restrictions. “Disruptions to the supply chain are affecting us now, and that will be a ripple effect that we won’t know the full extent for quite a while.”

NASA’s biggest astrophysics mission, the James Webb Space Telescope, has already seen its launch slip seven months to the end of October 2021 because of pandemic-related issues. Hertz said the mission was sticking to that revised schedule, with acoustics testing of the spacecraft completed and vibration testing now underway.

At the small end of the scale is the Imaging X-ray Polarimetry Explorer (IXPE) spacecraft, an Explorer-class mission that was to launch next May. That launch has now slipped to at least September because of delays in assembly of the spacecraft caused by the closure of the Marshall Space Flight Center for three months due to the pandemic. Hertz said a formal revised launch date for IXPE should come after a review scheduled for October.

Other missions in development may also be delayed, although by how much is not yet clear. That includes the Nancy Grace Roman Space Telescope, NASA’s next flagship astrophysics mission that was previously known as the Wide-Field Infrared Survey Telescope (WFIRST).

ISS moves to avoid space debris


The International Space Station
Diagram of the International Space Station (ISS).

Astronauts on the International Space Station carried out an “avoidance maneuver” Tuesday to ensure they would not be hit by a piece of debris, said US space agency NASA, urging better management of objects in Earth’s orbit.

Russian and US flight controllers worked together during a two-and-a-half-minute operation to adjust the station’s orbit and move further away, avoiding collision.

The debris passed within about 1.4 kilometers (nearly one mile) of the ISS, NASA said.

The three crew members—two Russians and an American—relocated to be near their Soyuz spacecraft as the maneuver began so they could evacuate if necessary, NASA said, adding that the precaution was taken “out of an abundance of caution.”

The astronauts were able to return to their normal activities after the procedure, according to NASA.

“Maneuver Burn complete. The astronauts are coming out of safe haven,” NASA chief Jim Bridenstine said on Twitter.

The threatening scrap was actually a piece of a 2018 Japanese rocket, astronomer Jonathan McDowell said on Twitter. The rocket broke up into 77 different pieces last year.

The ISS usually orbits roughly 260 miles (420 kilometers) above the Earth, at a speed of about 17,000 miles per hour.

At such a velocity, even a small object could seriously damage a solar panel or other facet of the station.

The International Space Station—seen here on August 26, 2020—performed a maneuver on September 22, 2020 to ensure it gets out of
The International Space Station—seen here on August 26, 2020—performed a maneuver on September 22, 2020 to ensure it gets out of the way of a piece of space debris

This type of maneuver is necessary on a regular basis. NASA said 25 such maneuvers had occurred between 1999 and 2018.

Bridenstine wrote on Twitter that this was the third such maneuver on the ISS just this year.

The operations could become even more frequent as Earth’s orbit becomes

NASA astronaut to cast her ballot 200 miles above Earth


NASA astronaut Kate Rubins said on Friday that she plans to cast her next vote from space – more than 200 miles above Earth. Rubins is just outside Moscow in Star City, Russia, preparing with two cosmonauts for a mid-October launch and a six-month stay at the International Space Station.

“I think it’s really important for everybody to vote,” Rubins told The Associated Press. “If we can do it from space, then I believe folks can do it from the ground, too.”

NASA Astronaut Voting
This photo provided by NASA shows Expedition 64 prime crew member NASA astronaut Kate Rubins during a news conference prior to her launch from the Baikonur Cosmodrome at the Gagarin Cosmonaut Training Center (GCTC) in Star City, Russia.

Andrey Shelepin / AP

Most U.S. astronauts live in Houston. Texas law allows them to vote from space using a secure electronic ballot. Mission Control forwards the ballot to the space station and relays the completed ballot back to the county clerk.

Astronaut David Wolf was the first American to vote from space in 1997, the same year the law was passed.  

“It’s critical to participate in our democracy,” Rubins said. “We consider it an honor to be able to vote from space.”

Rubins also voted from space in 2016, when she completed two successful spacewalks

Shane Kimbrough also cast his vote from the International Space Station the same year. At the time, Kimbrough told reporters before he left Earth that he is “pretty much apolitical,” but that he was excited to be able to say “I voted from space.”

Rubins, the first person to sequence DNA in space, plans to work on a cardiovascular experiment and conduct research using the space station’s Cold Atom Lab.

While she’s there, she’ll celebrate the 20th anniversary of continuous human presence on

NASA tests Artemis spacesuits underwater for possible moon landing


  • NASA is developing new spacesuits for its planned missions to the moon.
  • Astronauts are testing the spacesuits in a giant pool: the Neutral Buoyancy Lab in Houston, Texas.
  • The pool mimics the feeling of microgravity and serves as a training ground for astronauts learning how to do spacewalks. 
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NASA is racing to get astronauts back to the moon in 2024. But before that can happen, the agency needs to perfect its spacesuits.

NASA has already designed the new suits that astronauts will wear on its Artemis moon missions. Now it’s testing the suits to make sure people can actually walk in them and perform complex tasks, like handling tools and checking equipment.

Many of those tests happen underwater.

At NASA’s Neutral Buoyancy Lab in Houston, Texas, astronauts-in-training wear spacesuits in a giant pool to simulate what they’ll feel like in microgravity.

The pool is 202 feet long, 102 feet wide, and 40.5 feet deep. It contains 6.2 million gallons of water — more than enough to fill nine Olympic-sized swimming pools. 

Navy SEAL NASA astronaut training

Chris Cassidy is lowered into the Neutral Buoyancy Lab for a training session, March 24, 2009.

US Navy

According to astronauts, the pool does a surprisingly good job of preparing them for space.

“When I did my first spacewalk, shortly after we went out the hatch, the sun set and it got dark, and it felt exactly like I was in the pool,” astronaut Nick Hague said on an episode of NASA’s “Curious Universe” podcast in April.

An astronaut’s training ground

The Neutral Buoyancy Lab is designed to mimic microgravity, rather than zero gravity, because that’s what astronauts on the space station experience. The weightlessness they feel comes from being in constant free-fall — the station is essentially falling perpetually in a