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Steingraber, Boland and Micklem Sentenced to 15 Days in Jail for Protesting Methane Gas Storage

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Steingraber, Boland and Micklem Sentenced to 15 Days in Jail for Protesting Methane Gas Storage

Renowned author, biologist and advocate Sandra Steingraber, PhD, U.S. Air Force veteran Colleen Boland (retired) and avid environmentalist Roland Micklem headed to the Chemung County jail Wednesday evening after pleading guilty and refusing to pay a fine in New York's Reading Town Court. Judge Raymond Barry issued the maximum jail sentence of 15 days.

Sandra Steingraber, PhD and U.S. Air Force veteran, Colleen Boland (retired) are spending 15 days in the Chemung County jail after pleading guilty in New York's Reading Town Court and refusing to pay a fine.

Steingraber, Boland and Micklem were arrested for blockading the gates of Texas-based Crestwood Midstream’s gas storage facility on the shore of New York’s Seneca Lake. They are part of the “We Are Seneca Lake” campaign working to stop the major expansion project at Crestwood's methane gas storage facility where plans are underway to store highly pressurized, explosive gas in abandoned salt caverns on the west side of Seneca Lake.

Micklem, who will not have to serve his full sentence, was released yesterday afternoon for health reasons. "I'm a die-hard environmentalist and I think that if we do not protect our environment, we are all history. A man's got to do what a man's got to do," said the 86-year-old.

Yesterday nine more people were arrested for trespassing while blockading the gates of Crestwood, including winery owners and local business leaders, which shut down the facility for more than seven hours. To date, there have been 61 arrests involving 56 individuals in the last four weeks. Today, 12 more people are blockading the gates at the Crestwood facility. More than 600 citizens have signed a pledge to resist the Seneca Lake fracked-gas infrastructure project.

"We Are Seneca Lake is a campaign that was born on October 23, the date of our first blockade, after we learned that approval had been granted by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) to expand the storage of methane in crumbling salt caverns that underlie the west bank of Seneca Lake," said Steingraber. "In granting this approval, the federal government swept aside demonstrable evidence for reckless risks, including methane leakage, salt cavern collapse and salination of our lake. From Hutchinson, Kansas to Bayou Corne, Louisiana, salt cavern storage of gas has brought death, water contamination and economic ruin to communities."

Veteran Colleen Boland, author Sandra Steingraber and Roland T. Micklem arrested for blockading an Amrex Chemical Truck at the gates of Crestwood Midstream in Reading, New York on Oct. 29.

"My sister Anna and I are owners of Regional Access, a local, organic, and natural food distributor/food hub. Our father Gary Redmond started this family business, with a mission of promoting more sustainable and equitable local food systems," said Asa Redmond, a local business owner and the drummer for the Sim Redmond Band who was arrested yesterday. "I know from first-hand experience how important the local food and wine economies are to this area. That's why I am here with my family and friends to stand up against the proposed expansion of gas storage and industrialization of this beautiful area we all call home for our families and businesses."

Watch Steingraber explain why people are fighting so hard to stop Crestwood:

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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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