Focus on Research
Penn State Intercom......September 13, 2001

University stalks hunter survey

–Many hunters told us they donęt like to harvest

By Jeff Mulhollem
College of Agricultural Sciences

Researchers in the College of Agricultural Sciences are conducting several studies with the state's deer hunters to learn what they think about habitat, hunting practices and various management approaches. deer2clip

In one study, Grace Wang, a human dimensions specialist in the School of Forest Resources, is overseeing a survey of deer hunters' attitudes and opinions about habitat. More than 1,000 randomly selected hunting license buyers around the state were asked where they hunt, why they hunt where they do and what kind of success they have.

The survey was sent out last March. Sixty-one percent of survey recipients have returned questionnaires. Tabulated results will be used by the Pennsylvania Game Commission, which is funding the research. The commission wants to know what hunters think about a variety of issues, Wang said.

"The opinions of deer hunters are important," she said, "because hunting is so big in Pennsylvania, both economically and socially."

Wang says that the questions on the survey came from focus groups primarily made up of hunters. She says her research team learned a lot from meetings with focus group participants.

"Many hunters told us they don't like to harvest does. That's a problem for the Game Commission," she said, "because there are so many more does than bucks."

Approximately 1 million hunting licenses are sold in the state annually. In recent years it has become clear that hunter numbers are decreasing and the deer population is increasing statewide, noted Wang, who collaborates with other University wildlife and forestry scientists on research for the Game Commission.

In some places in Pennsylvania, the buck-to-doe ratio may be as high as one buck to 10 does, according to Gary San Julian, professor of wildlife resources. The ratio varies greatly across the state, but wildlife scientists believe it is too high in most regions.

"Normally when deer are born, there are an equal number of males and females," San Julian said. "But we have put those numbers way out of kilter by the way we hunt deer, because every year 80 percent of all bucks are killed. We need to get the buck-to-doe ratio down to a more normal level of 2- or 3-to-1."

The College of Agricultural Sciences will be conducting two more deer-hunting-related surveys in the coming months. One will be a statewide follow-up effort to paint a more detailed picture of hunters' attitudes on issues including doe hunting, antler restrictions, hunting success and hunting area fidelity; the other will help determine why so many property owners post their land against public hunting.

Gary Alt, Game Commission Deer Management Section supervisor, will use the University's research to tailor the state's deer-management plan.

A final report of survey results from the statewide hunter attitude survey will be presented to the Game Commission board at its January meeting.

You can reach Jeff Mulhollem at

Protein plays role in
how plant cells holds water

Researchers at Penn State and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill have discovered that a protein in plant guard cells impacts how well a plant holds water. Eventual application of the researchers' work could help control the amount of water in a plant and lead to more ecologically friendly, effective and efficient means to raise crop plants.

In response to drought, sunlight, and other stimuli, guard cells control the opening and closing of microscopic stomatal pores on leaves of plants through which the plant gives off water vapor and oxygen to the atmosphere and takes in carbon dioxide for photosynthesis. Guard cells thereby moderate the amount of water and carbon dioxide in the plants. Sarah M. Assmann, professor of biology, and Xi-Qing Wang, a postdoctoral scholar, along with collaborators at the University of North Carolina, discovered that by altering a specific protein in the guard cells those cells had less control over the amount of water lost by the plants through their stomatal pores.

"The potential agricultural significance is being able to regulate stomatal apertures," Assmann said. "From a farmer's perspective, finding a way to maximize photosynthesis and yield, and a way to minimize irrigation, which can be expensive, would be important."

For more about this story, go to

New discoveries
from Chandra

At a meeting titled "Two Years of Science with Chandra" in Washington, D.C., astronomers using the Chandra X-ray Observatory announced their discovery that multimillion-degree gas radiated as X rays in the Rosette Nebula, a colorful star-forming region, is one of the long-sought sources of energy and elements in the Milky Way. The team, led by Leisa Townsley, senior research associate in astronomy and astrophysics, found the most massive stars there produce winds thousands of times more energetic than previously recognized, which slam into each other, creating violent shocks that infuse the region with 6-million-degree gas. A color photo is available on the Web at, along with more information about this discovery.

Also at the conference, Eric Feigelson, professor of astronomy and astrophysics at Penn State, and his team reported that exotic isotopes present in the early Solar System -- which scientists have long-assumed were sprinkled there by a powerful, nearby star explosion -- may have instead been forged locally by our Sun during the colossal solar-flare tantrums of its baby years. The isotopes can form in the X-ray solar flares of young stars in the Orion Nebula, which behave just like our Sun would have at such an early age. The finding, based on observations by the Chandra X-ray Observatory, has broad implications for the formation of our own Solar System.

For the full story, check the Web at

In addition, for the first time, a rapid X-ray flare has been observed from the direction of the supermassive black hole that resides at the center of our galaxy. This violent flare captured by NASA's Chandra X-ray Observatory has given astronomers an unprecedented view of the energetic processes surrounding this supermassive black hole.

A team of scientists led by Frederick K. Baganoff of MIT detected a sudden X-ray flare while observing Sagittarius A*, a source of radio emission believed to be associated with the black hole at the center of our Galaxy.

Gordon Garmire, professor of astronomy and astrophysics, is the principal investigator of Advanced CCD Imaging Spectrometer (ACIS), which was used in these observations.

For the full story, check the Web at

The ACIS instrument was developed for NASA by Penn State and MIT under the leadership of Garmire. NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Ala., manages the Chandra program, and the Smithsonian's Chandra X-ray Center controls science and flight operations from Cambridge, Mass.