Are you ready for some of the cutest pictures EVER? I spent a lot of time around the kindergarten recently since there isn’t any breeding going on. These are Long Xin, Xi Mei, Shui Xiu, and Si Xue’s cubs from last years breeding.
When we arrived in China this year, we immediately noticed a difference in how much smog there was. The long corridors of the airport terminals were hazy and our line of sight was reduced to a few hundred feet. We couldn’t tell if it was our mind playing tricks on us or if there was a nearby fire.
What we would later learn is that it was all smog. Unusually high temperatures, low winds and an ever increasing population that require energy, equals more pollutants in the air. Beijing, Shanghai, Chengdu and Ya’an are all blanketed in a thick layer of irritating smog. The bigger the city the worse it seems.
So where does this smog come from? Here in China it comes from automobiles, coal burning power plants and factories. The majority of which is from coal with a new power station coming on line each week. 1.2+ billion people living in a blossoming economy are all looking for energy and coal is their least expensive option.
This does not bode well for the air quality, nor does it contribute to the protection of vital habitat of multiple endangered species, such as the Giant Panda. The Panda’s main source of food is bamboo, and when you burn coal the emissions are released into the air and deposit back onto bamboo leaves and enter the their food chain. Of which, they can then transfer to their offspring. It’s quite a wicked cycle.
The healthier the pandas are the better their chances are for reproductive success. Cleaner air = healthier pandas = more pandas. We should have a better understanding of how the pandas are being affected by the pollution from our toxicology results within a few months. So stay tuned!
Both Meghan and I were approached by a few kids from the local high school and asked if we could come and lecture for a few hours on what we do in China.
It was quite a treat to learn about the lives of the students and how they all seem to think that biologist don’t make any money. Very true. After telling them about our research we asked them what they wanted to do after high school. The majority said that they wanted to be doctors, but a few simply wanted to be able to travel the world.
We also learned that it costs them about 3000RMB per year to attend school as a junior and senior. With the average monthly income of about 2000RMB per month, their parents are spending a significant amount of their overall income on a single child’s schooling. I can’t imagine having two or three in school at the same time.
The rest of the day was spent answering questions about life in America and how much certain items cost, such as computers, iphones, rent and cars. We brought a few english magazines and three dozen snickers bars, of which they engulfed as soon as we left the room. It was very nice for them to invite us to speak about our lives as international researchers and we plan to give one more lecture before leaving.
The extreme difficulty in obtaining permits to transfer biological samples back to the United States from China has caused our mercury project to use a lab here in China. We are very pleased to have made contact with one of China’s foremost Methylmercury experts, Prof. Feng Xinbin of the Chinese Academy of Sciences in Guiyang, China, who is currently analyzing all of our samples. We expect to have results within a few months.