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What Kyrsten Sinema’s Historic Win Could Mean for the Environment

Politics
What Kyrsten Sinema’s Historic Win Could Mean for the Environment
Democrat Kyrsten Sinema campaigning for Arizona Senate seat on Oct. 21. Bill Clark / CQ Roll Call / Getty Images

A little less than a week after the midterm election, Democrat Kyrsten Sinema has edged out Republican Martha McSally to become Arizona's first female Senator and the first openly bisexual member of Congress, The Guardian reported. She is the first Democrat to win an Arizona Senate seat since 1976.


Sinema, who has served in the House of Representatives since 2013, has moved to the right since her early days as a Green party activist. During the 2018 midterm campaign, she promoted herself as an independent aisle-crosser in the tradition of late Arizona Republican Senator John McCain.

"As long as I've served Arizona, I've worked to help others see our common humanity & find common ground. That's the same approach I'll take to representing our great state in the Senate, where I'll be an independent voice for all Arizonans," she said in a tweet announcing her win.

But even if she has distanced herself from her Green party roots—the environment does not feature among the "priorities" listed on her Senate campaign page—Simena's win is likely a net positive for the environment. As a Congresswoman, she earned a 2017 score of 80 percent and a lifetime score of 78 percent from the League of Conservation Voters. Her opponent, McSally, also a House member, earned a 2017 score of 11 percent and a lifetime score of 6.

When The Arizona Republic asked both candidates about their stance on climate change, the two gave markedly different answers.

In response to the questions from The Republic, Sinema said she supports "thoughtful and reasonable approaches to reduce climate pollution while ensuring Arizona families and businesses have affordable, reliable energy to power our economy into the future."

She said she has supported more solar energy development and "common sense policies like the renewable tax credit, energy efficiency incentives, and state-level renewable portfolios that reduce emissions and provide a smooth transition to cleaner sources of energy."

McSally, on the other hand, took the opportunity to criticize steps taken by former President Barack Obama to reduce U.S. greenhouse gas emissions. She did not deny climate science, but still said she had "fought against" regulations meant to address it.

"Crushing regulations, such as the Obama administration's Clean Power Plan and the Waters of the United States, only serve as federal overreaches that further burden Arizona's small businesses and farmers and harm those in poverty with increased utility bills," McSally said in an email.

However, Sinema's desire to emphasize working with Republicans has sometimes caused her to waffle on the causes of climate change. In a televised debate with McSally, a listener asked the candidates if they believed climate change was a "man-made problem" and what they would do to combat it, particularly when it comes to preserving Arizona's water.

"Well, I do believe that climate change is real, and I think it doesn't make a lot of sense for us to spend time debating how we got to the place that we are today. What does make sense is for individuals who have the ability to make a difference moving forward to work together to make that difference," she said. She then promised to work with Arizona Senator Jon Kyl, the Republican appointed to fill in for McCain after his death, on water conservation in the state.

McSally did not answer with her opinion on climate change specifically, but talked about the importance of water before moving on to address issues related to the military and to criticize Sinema for anti-war statements made in 2003.

You can see the video here:

McSally and Sinema debate for U.S. Senate seat in Arizona: climate change www.youtube.com

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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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