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Interior Adviser to Join BP After Pushing to Open National Monuments to Fossil Fuel Development

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Interior Adviser to Join BP After Pushing to Open National Monuments to Fossil Fuel Development
A part of Bears Ears that was lopped off partly due to the work of Downey Magallanes, who will move to BP after Labor Day. U.S. Bureau of Land Management

A Department of the Interior (DOI) official who played an important role in opening public lands to fossil fuel interests has left the federal government to accept a job at BP, The Washington Post reported Monday.

Former DOI Deputy Chief of Staff Downey Magallanes led the review that resulted in Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke's plan to shrink the Bears Ears and Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monuments in Utah by 85 and 46 percent respectively, Think Progress pointed out.


"Her prior work on behalf of oil, gas and coal, her family's ties to the coal industry, and the fact that she is headed to BP all point in one direction: that she came to Interior with an agenda to promote fossil fuel development over the interest of the American public," Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance legal director Stephen Bloch told The Washington Post in an email.

Documents made public in March and June confirmed that allowing access to coal, oil and gas reserves was a large part of the decision to reduce the monuments' size, as was enabling mining, Think Progress reported.

Magallanes also worked on regulatory reform and offshore oil drilling, according to The Washington Post. Her father worked as a lobbyist for Peabody Energy Corp. for 14 years, according to The Hill.

The Trump administration's ethics pledge bans former employees from lobbying either their former agencies or anyone in the executive branch for five years after departure, but anonymous sources told The Washington Post that Magallanes will work with Congress. BP has confirmed she will be part of its government affairs team.

Magallanes met three times with BP officials between Jan. 30 and Aug. 31, 2017 while working for DOI, according to an official calendar obtained using the Freedom of Information Act.

On March 16, 2017 she met with BP government and regulatory affairs division officials and on April 25 she met with both BP Exploration (Alaska) and members of the Western Energy Alliance including Colorado-based BP government affairs official Sam Knaizer.

Magallanes' departure was announced by E&E news Aug. 24, according to Think Progress.

"Downey was an incredible asset and I trusted her to carry out some of the Administration's highest priority projects," Zinke said in a statement reported by The Washington Post. "She will be missed in our office and I wish her all the best."

Magallanes also spoke with excitement about her work at BP, which will begin after Labor Day.

"I am grateful to Secretary Zinke and President Trump for giving me the chance to serve in the Department of the Interior," she said in an email to The Washington Post. "I look forward to this incredible new opportunity with BP."

Meanwhile, Native American and environmental groups are fighting in court to reverse the shrinking of the Utah monuments.

"We'll be working to undo that mischief long after she's gone," Bloch told The Washington Post.

A net-casting ogre-faced spider. CBG Photography Group, Centre for Biodiversity Genomics / CC BY-SA 3.0

Just in time for Halloween, scientists at Cornell University have published some frightening research, especially if you're an insect!

The ghoulishly named ogre-faced spider can "hear" with its legs and use that ability to catch insects flying behind it, the study published in Current Biology Thursday concluded.

"Spiders are sensitive to airborne sound," Cornell professor emeritus Dr. Charles Walcott, who was not involved with the study, told the Cornell Chronicle. "That's the big message really."

The net-casting, ogre-faced spider (Deinopis spinosa) has a unique hunting strategy, as study coauthor Cornell University postdoctoral researcher Jay Stafstrom explained in a video.

They hunt only at night using a special kind of web: an A-shaped frame made from non-sticky silk that supports a fuzzy rectangle that they hold with their front forelegs and use to trap prey.

They do this in two ways. In a maneuver called a "forward strike," they pounce down on prey moving beneath them on the ground. This is enabled by their large eyes — the biggest of any spider. These eyes give them 2,000 times the night vision that we have, Science explained.

But the spiders can also perform a move called the "backward strike," Stafstrom explained, in which they reach their legs behind them and catch insects flying through the air.

"So here comes a flying bug and somehow the spider gets information on the sound direction and its distance. The spiders time the 200-millisecond leap if the fly is within its capture zone – much like an over-the-shoulder catch. The spider gets its prey. They're accurate," coauthor Ronald Hoy, the D & D Joslovitz Merksamer Professor in the Department of Neurobiology and Behavior in the College of Arts and Sciences, told the Cornell Chronicle.

What the researchers wanted to understand was how the spiders could tell what was moving behind them when they have no ears.

It isn't a question of peripheral vision. In a 2016 study, the same team blindfolded the spiders and sent them out to hunt, Science explained. This prevented the spiders from making their forward strikes, but they were still able to catch prey using the backwards strike. The researchers thought the spiders were "hearing" their prey with the sensors on the tips of their legs. All spiders have these sensors, but scientists had previously thought they were only able to detect vibrations through surfaces, not sounds in the air.

To test how well the ogre-faced spiders could actually hear, the researchers conducted a two-part experiment.

First, they inserted electrodes into removed spider legs and into the brains of intact spiders. They put the spiders and the legs into a vibration-proof booth and played sounds from two meters (approximately 6.5 feet) away. The spiders and the legs responded to sounds from 100 hertz to 10,000 hertz.

Next, they played the five sounds that had triggered the biggest response to 25 spiders in the wild and 51 spiders in the lab. More than half the spiders did the "backward strike" move when they heard sounds that have a lower frequency similar to insect wing beats. When the higher frequency sounds were played, the spiders did not move. This suggests the higher frequencies may mimic the sounds of predators like birds.

University of Cincinnati spider behavioral ecologist George Uetz told Science that the results were a "surprise" that indicated science has much to learn about spiders as a whole. Because all spiders have these receptors on their legs, it is possible that all spiders can hear. This theory was first put forward by Walcott 60 years ago, but was dismissed at the time, according to the Cornell Chronicle. But studies of other spiders have turned up further evidence since. A 2016 study found that a kind of jumping spider can pick up sonic vibrations in the air.

"We don't know diddly about spiders," Uetz told Science. "They are much more complex than people ever thought they were."

Learning more provides scientists with an opportunity to study their sensory abilities in order to improve technology like bio-sensors, directional microphones and visual processing algorithms, Stafstrom told CNN.

Hoy agreed.

"The point is any understudied, underappreciated group has fascinating lives, even a yucky spider, and we can learn something from it," he told CNN.

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