Author Archives: Sarah Rose Peterson

Do parents have a favorite child?

Do parents have a favorite child?

Many children grow up with another sibling. In these families with multiple children, do parents have a favorite child or do they love their children equally?

Researchers from Pennsylvania State University conducted a study in which they interviewed 388 families once a year for three years. The families consisted of parents that were married who had two siblings that were four years apart or less. The parents were asked about how the children were doing academically and it was found that 48 percent of parents considered their oldest child most capable academically, whether or not the child was actually the smartest. 33% of the parents considered the youngest the most intelligent and 19% favored their children equally.

Jeffrey Kluger, author of “The Sibling Effect: What the Bonds Among Brothers and Sisters Reveal About Us”, says “It is my belief that 95 per cent of the parents in the world have a favourite child, and the other five per cent are lying.”

Since parents may lie when being interviewed or given a survey because they do not want to seem like they favor a child, researchers have found more findings by conducting observational studies.

British professors David Lawson and Ruth Mace published a study in which they watched 14,000 families. Their results showed that parents may actually have a favorite child. The younger siblings received less care and the older siblings were fed more. 65% of mothers and 70% of fathers showed that they preferred one child over the other.The older siblings also had higher IQ’s.

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So why do parents seem to favor the first born child?

Researchers propose that it might be that the parents have higher expectations for the eldest child. Another theory is based on Darwinian logic and states that the firstborn is favored more because it absorbs a lot more parental time and energy. Parents would want to protect that invested time, and therefore devote more care to the firstborn. Parents may also favor the oldest child because a study by Brigham Young University found that parents perceive that the less-favored child to be twice as likely to use alcohol and drugs.

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/parents-biased-toward-first-child_55a3d771e4b0b8145f730667

http://abcnews.go.com/Lifestyle/favorite-child-affect-sisters-brothers/story?id=30294681

http://mom.me/in-the-loop/7778-parents-really-do-have-favorite-child/

http://abcnews.go.com/Health/sibling-effect-parents-favorites-birth-order-counts/story?id=14627020

http://content.time.com/time/magazine/article/0,9171,2094371,00.html

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/women/mother-tongue/8943106/Why-all-parents-have-a-favourite-child.html

Does Fast Food Kill People?

A majority of people have eaten fast food in their lifetime and many people eat fast food everyday.

However, McDonald’s employees were recently told in their guidelines to avoid eating foods are high in fat, sugar, and salt (which is basically all of their menu items). Why would a restaurant encourage its own employees to not eat there?

Is this quick bite during a busy day at a fast food restaurant killing people?

In a study, researchers from the University of Florida fed rats a high-calorie, high-sugar diet to test whether or not fast food may kill people. After being fed food similar to items sold at McDonald’s and other fast food chains , the rats gained weight faster, were more likely to become diabetic, and had higher triglyceride levels. The study caused obesity, heart disease, and diabetes in the rats, which are some of the biggest causes of death in populations that eat an industrial diet.

In another study, researchers decided to not test rats, but to test themselves. The research participants, which were the researchers, lived on McDonald’s meals for 10 days. Prior to the experiment, it was understood that the human gut has about 3,500 microbial species, which are bacteria that protect against obesity, heart disease, and cancer. The results of the study showed that the diet of highly processed foods wiped out the number of these microbial species by one-third.

The main ingrediants in fast food that the rats and the researchers were fed were hydrogenated oils, low-quality meat- over-processed grains, and sugar. These are some of the worst foods people can put into their bodies because they have little to no nutritional content. The sugar in the food, which is mainly from artificial sweeteners, can cause problems such as alzheimer’s disease, brain tumors, cancer, depression, and kidney and liver problems. The trans fats in the food lead to serious diseases due to raising cholesterol, increasing fat, and leading to insulin resistance. Studies and several controlled trials found that the amount of Omega-6 in the bloodstream directly correlates with the risk of heart disease.

People need to stop eating junk food. “Junk Food Kills More Than Wars, Famine, Genocide”. Conditions linked to obesity kill 40% more people than wars, hunger, dictators, and murderers combined. According to School of Medical Sciences at the University of New South Wales, people are losing their natural preferences for healthy food and become addicted to unhealthy fats, toxic chemicals, hormones, and fillers. These trigger obesity and affect areas of the brain controlling motivational control and reward behavior.

So, the next time you are feeling hungry, save your health and skip fast food. It may keep you alive longer.

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Do people with pets live longer?

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“An estimated 60 percent of American households have at least one pet, with dogs and cats (165 million, combined) numbering more than half the human population.” Some people choose to buy a dog or a cat because they want companionship. Pets can not only improve the quality of their owners’ lives, but new findings show that they may also help them live longer.

The American Heart Association published research in the journal Circulation that analyzed whether or not people with pets live longer. The study found associations between pet ownership and low blood pressure, heart rate, and cholesterol levels.

Another study used participants who had high blood pressure and high stress jobs in which half of the participants agreed to adopt a dog or a cat. Six months later, the participants who got a dog or a cat had significantly lower blood pressure.

Both of these studies found that within the group of people who do have heart disease, the people who own a pet have lower death rates than those people who do not own a pet and are more likely to survive a heart attack.

In a study by the Minnesota Stroke Institute, which followed 4000 cat owners over a period of 10 years, it was found that being a feline owner can decrease the chance of dying from heart disease and could cut your heart attack risk by nearly one-third.

A Wilkes University study found that stroking a dog for 18 minutes caused a significant increase in secretory immunoglobulin A (IgA), your body’s natural antibody against invading germs. Another study found that people with pets make fewer doctor visits, especially for non-serious medical conditions.

There is a lot of data supporting that people with pets live longer. However, research still has to account for third variables. Some third variables include:

-personality of the owner and the pet

-the attachment of the owner and the pet

Research in the question on whether or not people with pets live longer is difficult because of the participants and other variables such as: Dog owners may live longer because they are more likely to exercise since they have to walk the dog. Sick people may tend to not get pets. Healthier people may want to get a pet. New research by the University of Sydney is trying to limit the variables and test the exercise, psychological, and social benefits of owning a dog to see if dog owners live longer, are less likely to develop heart disease, and more able to beat depression. The research from this large longitudinal study may change the theories. However, according to the current data, it is advisable to get a pet because people with pets have a higher chance of living longer.

http://www.health.harvard.edu/blog/a-dog-could-be-your-hearts-best-friend-201305226291

http://www.berkeleywellness.com/self-care/preventive-care/article/can-pets-help-you-live-longer

http://www.whiskas.com/CatsCorner/Article/Cat-Lovers-Live-Longer

http://www.doctoroz.com/blog/mao-shing-ni-lac-dom-phd/live-longer-pets

http://pets.webmd.com/ss/slideshow-pets-improve-your-health

http://www.news.com.au/lifestyle/health/owning-a-dog-may-help-you-live-longer-happier-study/story-fneuz9ev-1227503426955

Do couples with children die earlier?

Do couples with children die earlier?

Couples with children have to deal with sleep deprivation, diminished income, continual caregiving, worrying, etc. With all of these factors that add stress to daily life, I would hypothesize that parents with children live shorter lives.

However, according to multiple studies, none of the data supports my hypothesis. Professor Esben Agerbo conducted a longitudinal study based on this question in which he followed 21,276 couples who had or tried to have children. He found that women who did not have a child were four times more likely to have died in comparison to those who did have a child. His data also showed that fathers with a biological child were twice as likely to die earlier and men who adopted were half as likely to die early as men who had no children.

In addition, another study from the Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health found that couples who have children- their own or adopted- live longer than couples who do not have children. Women who had children and adoptive mothers were four times less likely to die early from heart disease, cancer, and accidents in comparison to childless women. Michael Eisenberg of Stanford University also found that childless married men had a higher risk of dying from heart disease.

So why do parents with children and the added stress of supporting them live longer?

Due to third variables, such as age, spirituality, education levels, social class, income, and underlying illnesses, there is never a definite answer. Some researchers speculate that parenthood increases longevity due to health behaviors. For instance, they say that some parents try to get to bed earlier because they know that have to get up earlier to help the children. Other researchers theorize that fertility problems may share some of the same origins as other health issues.

According to the data found in the studies, although it is not a guarantee, if you have children, you have a higher chance of living longer.

https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/iage/201410/having-children-beneficial-living-longer-0

http://www.cbsnews.com/news/couples-with-children-shown-to-live-longer-mentally-healthier-lives/

http://www.forbes.com/sites/melaniehaiken/2014/07/07/women-who-have-babies-later-live-longer-study-says/

http://www.webmd.com/parenting/news/20121204/secret-longer-life-children

Is it better to take notes in a notebook or on a computer?

In 3/6 of my classes at Penn State, computers are not allowed. Interestingly, I have higher grades in the classes without computers. Is that just a coincidence? Or is it actually better to take notes in a notebook than on a computer?

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Taking notes on laptops is increasingly more common because it allows students to do more:

-access information from the Internet

-collaborate on projects online

-take more notes.

However, researchers have conducted studies that suggest that taking notes on computers less effective for learning in comparison to taking handwritten notes.

Two researchers, Mueller and Opennheimer, “conducted three different studies, each addressing the question: Is laptop note taking detrimental to overall conceptual understanding and retention of new information?” In the studies, Mueller had students take notes in a classroom and then tested the students on their memory for factual details, their understanding of the concepts, and their ability to generalize the information. One half of the students took the notes on a laptop and the other half of the students took notes in a notebook. Although the students who used the laptops were able to take more notes, Mueller found that students who used laptops to take notes performed worse on the conceptual questions.

Mueller also noticed that students who write notes on paper process the information and then write down just the important details. “They listen, digest, and summarize so they can succinctly capture the essence of the information.” On the other side, students who use a computer takes notes verbatim, meaning they write down every word. Thus, the student’s who use laptops have impaired learning because it is lower level of processing.

In another study by Mueller, she looked at the content of notes. After studying hundreds of students notes from Princeton and UCLA that ranged in topics, it was found that “high verbatim note content was associated with lower retention of the lecture material.”

Taking notes by hand not only improves comprehension of the material, but it also improves test scores. In a study in 2003, researchers from Cornell had half the students in a class use laptops and half of the students not use laptops during a lecture. After the lecture was over, the student who did not use their laptops during the lecture performed better on a the quiz.

According to the data from the different studies, students should try to take notes by hand instead of using their laptops.

http://www.psychologicalscience.org/index.php/news/releases/take-notes-by-hand-for-better-long-term-comprehension.html

http://pss.sagepub.com/content/early/2014/04/22/0956797614524581.abstract

http://www.scientificamerican.com/article/a-learning-secret-don-t-take-notes-with-a-laptop/

http://www.theatlantic.com/technology/archive/2014/05/to-remember-a-lecture-better-take-notes-by-hand/361478/

http://www.nbcnews.com/feature/freshman-year/best-way-take-notes-class-isnt-your-laptop-research-finds-n416831

https://hbr.org/2015/07/what-you-miss-when-you-take-notes-on-your-laptop

Does Chewing Gum While Taking a Test Increase Concentration?

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A majority of high schools ban students from chewing gum to avoid the possibility of sticky desks and chairs. However, by trying to maintain clean classrooms, the schools may be failing to realize the possible benefits of chewing gum.

Does chewing gum while taking a test actually increase concentration?

According to Kate Morgan’s study, chewing gum may actually be beneficial to students’ concentration, alertness, and memory.

Her study at Cardiff University used 38 participants. The participants in the experiment completed 30 minute audio tasks in which they listened to a list of numbers that were read out in random and then were asked to detect number sequences. The results of the study showed that experimental group of participants, the ones who chewed the gum, had quicker reaction times and higher accuracy levels than the participants who did not chew gum (control group). The results also showed that participants who did not chew gum performed better at the beginning, but worse at the end. Morgan believed that this result showed that chewing gum helps people focus on tasks that need continuous monitoring over a longer period of time.

But does it depend on the gum type?

Psychologists at St. Lawrence University performed an experiment to see whether or not the type of gum had any effect on the concentration levels. 159 students were tested on cognitive tasks and half of the participants chewed gum (both sugar-free and sugar-added) and half of the participants did not chew anything. The researchers found that those who were randomly assigned to chew gum outperformed the control group. The chewing-gum group also remembered 25 to 50% more than the control group. The researchers also noticed that the performance difference was the largest and the effect of the chewing gum was the strongest when the participants had been chewing gum for 15 to 20. As for the sugar content of the gum, it had no effect on the results of the tests.

Although the scientists are not sure why chewing gum improves attention, many have hypothesized that it may be due to the increased heart rate and blood flow during gum chewing. Since gum increases the flow of oxygen to parts of the brain in charge of attention, it may make people more alert and improve reflexes. Other researchers say it is due to “mastication-induced arousal”, which means that the act of chewing keeps people fully focused on a task.

Even though the studies still cannot control for third variables such as personal intelligence, the takeaway from whether or not chewing gum increases concentration is that you should chew gum. However, since the gum’s effects are not long lasting, save the gum for the hardest questions!

http://www.bps.org.uk/news/chewing-gum-helps-you-concentrate-longerhttp://www.theglobeandmail.com/life/health-and-fitness/health/can-chewing-gum-really-help-students-focus/article16002410/http://www.medicaldaily.com/chewing-gum-helps-concentration-tasks-244618http://psychcentral.com/news/2013/03/11/chewing-gum-can-help-maintain-concentration/52474.htmlhttp://www.scientificamerican.com/podcast/episode/gum-chewing-may-improve-concentrati-13-03-26/http://www.wired.com/2011/11/the-cognitive-benefits-of-chewing-gum/http://www.livescience.com/17520-chewing-gum-test-performance.html

 

Alcoholism: College Students vs. Non-College Peers

During the emerging adulthood stage, alcohol use is very common and the risk for alcohol dependence peaks. Consequently, alcohol use disorders are found to be more common in young adults during this stage of development than in any other age group. About 9% of young adults (ages 18-29 years old) meet the criteria to be labeled as an alcoholic. An alcoholic, is a person who cannot control their consumption of alcohol, even when drinking affects their work, social, financial, and academic life.

Studies have found that college students drink more than their peers who do not attend college. In a national survey, , 60% of college students reported drinking in the past month and of those who drank, 40% of them drank very heavily. With such a high drinking rate for college students, are college students more prone to becoming alcoholics than their non-college peers?

My personal hypothesis on this question would be that college students who drink more are more likely to become alcoholics than their non-college peers.

In the study “Alcohol Use and Related Problems Among College Students and Their No college Peers: The Competing Roles of Personality and Peer Influence”, four college students and four non-college students (all 22 years of age) were asked to complete online surveys. The surveys measured the participant’s alcohol consumption, personality, and social norms. The results supported part of my hypothesis by showing that college students did drink more heavily than non-college students. However, the other results did not support my hypothesis in that they found that the non-college students experienced more alcohol related issues, even though they reported consuming alcohol less heavily. This is a reverse association because the data that college students drink more heavily than non-college peers leads us to expect that the college students would have more problems with alcohol control.

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In a cross sectional survey, , researchers compared the prevalance of alcohol use disorders in college students with non-college peers. This study tested a large and representative US national sample with participants ranging in ages from 19 to 21 years old. It found that although US college students suffered more alcohol related problems (death, injury, assault, and sexual abusue), they were less likely to receive a diagnosis of alcohol dependence (alcoholism).

The third variables that could have had an effect on both of these studies are self- regulation (having control over thoughts, emotions, and behaviors) and sensation seeking (preference for risk and new things). A person who rates lower in self-regulation and higher in sensation seeking is an individual who has a personality more closely linked to the personality type of an alcoholic. Studies have show that a person who ranks higher in self-regulation and lower in sensation seeking is more likely to go to college and be goal-oriented.

The high level of alcohol use during emerging adulthood may be due to young adults finally moving away from parent restrictions. Young adults in this stage do not yet have full responsibilities of being an adult. College students may also drink more heavily and have more alcohol related problems because there is the view that their peers are drinking more and there are more opportunities to party within an environment that encourages heavy drinking. However, as these young adults gain more adult roles such as employment, marriage, and parenthood, studies show that they often reduce their drinking. Once out of this “heavy drinking” environment and stage of life, studies show that college students tend to stop their harmful drinking practices more quickly than their non-college peers.

http://www.collegedrinkingprevention.gov/niaaacollegematerials/panel01/highrisk_04.aspx

http://pubs.niaaa.nih.gov/publications/aa68/aa68.htm

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/15753245

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3125885/

http://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/alcohol-use-disorder/basics/definition/con-20020866

http://pubs.niaaa.nih.gov/publications/CollegeFactSheet/CollegeFactSheet.pdf

 

Puppies Needed During Finals Week

Finals week is a very stressful time for college students. No one wants their grades to drop after a whole semesters worth of work. According to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America (ADAA), about 80% of college students experience high levels of stress. Many universities try to help reduce student’s stress by giving out free food, having extra fitness classes, and providing activities for students to participate in during their study breaks. It has also become quite common for universities to bring puppies to campus during this stressful week!

Puppies are extremely cute and most people on campus would of course want to pet a little puppy. But, why do campuses bring them during finals week? Do they actually help reduce the stress of students?

Studies do show that interaction with puppies helps depression, lessens anxiety, and affects the levels of stress hormones cortisol and oxytocin. Petting and playing with puppies increases a human’s level of oxytocin, which is a hormone that reduces anxiety and blood pressure. Students become less anxious when interacting with a puppy because it diverts their attention. In addition, research shows that playing with a puppy decreases the stress hormone cortisol and increases the happiness hormone, endorphins.

Bullet, a 3-year-old golden retriever who serves a therapy dog, receives attention from all directions during a stress relief break in the Friends Room on the third floor of the Vernon R. Alden Library on Tuesday, April 27, 2015. (Tyler Stabile/Ohio University Libraries)

In a study analyzing the psychosocial and psychological effects of human-animal interactions, researchers proposed that oxytocin plays a major role in making human and animal interaction beneficial for stress relief. After reviewing 69 studies (meta-analysis), the researchers found that being around a pet, such as a puppy, has many benefits- mood, stress, heart rate, fear and anxiety, mental and physical health, etc and were able to conclude that that pets do have a positive effect on humans. One of the studies provided direct evidence that interaction with a dog positively affected endocrine responses. The specific study compared the effects of 20 minutes of quiet rest to 5 to 20 minute interaction with a dog. Before, during, and after the interaction or rest time, cortisol, epinephrine, and norepinephrine were collected. The data showed that cortisol levels (stress levels) were significantly reduced. In another study that was reviewed in this study, it was documented that the levels of oxytocin, prolactin, phenylacetic acid, and dopamine were significantly increased after 5 to 24 min of petting a puppy.

Last year at Penn State, Schreyer Honors College had a program called “Pause for Paws”, which was a pet therapy session that let students come play with dogs. The Student Health Center also had a “Fun For Finals” event last year that gave students the chance to play with puppies! Make sure to check the activity calendar this year before finals to see where the puppies will be. Petting the puppies will not only be a great study break, but it will also help you reduce your anxiety about finals!

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If you need a break from studying, here is a video of puppies! ‘Too Cute’: Finals Week Cuteness (VIDEO) – Huffington Post

Sources

http://videos.huffingtonpost.com/too-cute-finals-week-cuteness-517764409

http://www.cnn.com/2013/12/19/health/students-therapy-dogs/

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3408111/

http://dogtime.com/trending/16319-top-8-health-benefits-of-having-a-pet

http://dogtime.com/trending/16765-puppy-room-to-help-stressed-out-college-students

http://onwardstate.com/2013/04/24/the-sad-truth-about-penn-states-finals-week-puppy-room/

http://onwardstate.com/2013/04/26/puppies-for-finals-week-ask-and-you-shall-receive/

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/05/12/colleges-turn-to-dogs-to-help-finals-stress_n_1512156.html

http://www.usnews.com/education/articles/2009/12/16/colleges-try-to-take-the-stress-out-of-finals

http://swingingbridge.messiah.edu/2015/05/student-stress-during-finals-week/

What is the most beneficial study break?

When I was looking over the other blogs on the class page, I scrolled over the post “Are Study Breaks Beneficial” and was immediately drawn into reading it. As a college student with homework to finish and exams to study for, I found this topic extremely relevant to my own life and was inspired to do more research on it. The post covers that study breaks are indeed beneficial, but I wanted to know what type of study break is the most beneficial? Is there one or multiple? Should I sleep or go workout? Should I go on social media or eat food?

Many sources say that different methods work for different people. However, they all say that a person’s study break should involve an activity that does not make it difficult to transition back to studying. Some activities that are recommended are taking a walk, stretching, cleaning, calling a friend, showering, cooking, and meditating. Activities that people should avoid are snacking on junk food, taking a nap, watching television, drinking too much caffeine, and eating huge meals.

Taking a break helps our brain to recover from stress, strain, and boredom. In the blog post I read, it was said “MIT recommends that working for 50 minutes with a ten minute break is the most beneficial and efficient way for one to study.” In data I found, a productivity app known as Desktime measured the performance of workers and found that the highest performing employees worked for 52 minutes and then took a 17 minute break. The 17 minute break was not spent sitting down, but was spent away from the computer by either walking outside, doing exercises, or talking to other workers. The data showed that the most productive employees do not always work the longest hours at the office because most of them manage their energy efficiently.

Researchers Emily Hunter, Ph.D, and Cindy Wu, Ph.D also conducted a study to test what break activities work best to maximize brain recovery during work. In the study, they surveyed 95 employees that ranged in ages  from 22 to 67. Over the course of one work week, each participant (employee) was asked to document their break time. In this study, the null hypothesis is that the workday break activities did nothing. The alternative hypothesis would be that workday break activities changed recovery. The results found that the most beneficial time to take a workday break is midmorning and that the better breaks incorporated activities that employees preferred.

Although there is no specific data yet that shows a specific type of break that works best, it is important to choose a break that increases energy, motivation, and concentration. It is also important to know the difference between ineffective and effective breaks. Social media increases stress and is therefore not a beneficial break. A study from Princeton University found that exercising is a great way to spend a break. The study found that people who exercise form more neurons that release GABA. The emission of this neurotransmitter calms the brain and reduces anxiety.  A nap, which increases productivity and academic focus, is also a beneficial as long as it is only 10 to 20 minutes.

Overall, althought there is not a specific break that is best to take, it is important to take one that allows you to release stress and move around for about 10 minutes!

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Sources

http://psychcentral.com/news/2015/09/10/not-all-work-breaks-are-created-equal/92068.html

http://psychcentral.com/news/2011/02/09/taking-breaks-found-to-improve-attention/23329.html

http://www.fastweb.com/student-life/articles/energizing-study-break-ideas-what-to-avoid

http://web.mit.edu/uaap/learning/study/breaks.html

http://www.theatlantic.com/business/archive/2014/09/science-tells-you-how-many-minutes-should-you-take-a-break-for-work-17/380369/

http://www.fastcompany.com/3035605/how-to-be-a-success-at-everything/the-exact-amount-of-time-you-should-work-every-day

http://www.onlineschools.org/science-of-study-breaks/

http://sites.psu.edu/siowfa15/2015/10/16/are-study-breaks-beneficial/#comment-4911

http://www.cbsnews.com/news/new-study-sheds-light-on-exercises-impact-on-brain/

How do the squirrels on campus survive the winter?

Students walk around in North Face parkas and snow boots during the winter and can barely deal with the chilly, fifteen-minute walk to class. So, how do the Grey Squirrels seen so often around Penn State’s campus survive the negative temperatures without warm clothes, heaters, and blankets?

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Many people assume that the grey squirrels on campus hibernate since they are rarely seen during the winter. However, that is not true. Ground squirrels hibernate, but not grey squirrels. Instead of hibernating during the winter, grey squirrels actually spend a majority of their time sleeping in tree nests and come out only during the morning and evening.

The grey squirrels prepare for the winter by storing acorns, nuts, berries, and even tree bark in shallow holes near the trees. They are also prepare by maximizing their food consumption and body mass.

During the winter, the grey squirrels survive by eating their stored food and by keeping their body temperatures fairly constant. Gray squirrels are homeotherms, which means that they are warm-blooded animals that can maintain a stable body temperature throughout a wide range of environmental conditions by regulating metabolic processes of heat production and heat loss. This act of regulating their temperature is their way of having homeostasis or balance in the body.

To keep their temperature level in check, which should be between 98 and 102 degrees, the sensors in the blood vessels are constantly reporting the body temperature back to the hypothalamus in the brain. Squirrels keep their body temperatures stable (within homeostasis) by sleeping in a communal arrangement. This is a form of conduction, in which heat can be transferred between the two squirrels that are touching. Squirrels are also endotherms, which means that they can create their own heat through metabolism. This explains why the squirrels maximize their food consumption in preparation for the winter. When it is really cold in the winter, the squirrels will also use shivering to keep warm, as it is a way of generating heat.

The following diagram shows how a squirrel’s body regulates temperature. As can be seen in it, the hypothalamus is in charge!

biobook_animalmovement_graphik_53

Squirrels do not get hot chocolate from Starbucks, but they do get survival skills to keep them alive.

http://publish.illinois.edu/wildlifemedicalclinic/squirrels/

http://www.psu.edu/dept/nkbiology/naturetrail/speciespages/graysquirrel.htm

https://www.whatdosquirrelseat.org/do-squirrels-hibernate/

http://www.shmoop.com/animal-movement/temperature-regulation.html

http://www.lpzoo.org/blog/nature-boardwalk-lincoln-park-zoo/what-do-squirrels-do-winter

http://www.knox.edu/news/news-archive/knox-senior-researches-how-campus-squirrels-survive-winter

http://i.dailymail.co.uk/i/pix/2012/11/13/article-0-15F71940000005DC-717_634x431.jpg

 

 

 

Is Winter Depression a Real Thing?

 

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Since I am from Southern California, I am used to 90 degree summers and 65 degree winters. It is usually always sunny outside and rarely rains, even to the point that California is currently in a severe drought. As I have been told and have experienced over the last few weeks at Penn State, Pennslyvania’s weather is very different from that of my hometown. I have also been told that this means not only an adjustment for my wardrobe, but also possibly my level of happiness during the colder months. Is Winter Depression a real thing? If it is, is it something I should be worried about?

According to the Mayo Clinic, seasonal depression is in fact a real thing. Seasonal affective disorder (SAD) is a form of depression and a mood disorder that is related to the changes in seasons and the shortening of daylight hours. People with SAD show symptoms that typically start in the fall and continue throughout the winter, as this disorder follows a regular pattern. During these seasons with reduced sunlight, your body’s circadium rhythm, which is a 24 hour- internal clock that responds to light and darkness, can be affected. One theory is that the reduced sunlight during the fall and the winter consequently reduces serotonin levels. Without normal serotonin levels regulating a person’s mood, the result can be feelings of depression and ultimately start symptoms of seasonal affective disorder or “Winter Depression”.

Many people with SAD report feeling depressed for most of the day and for multiple days in a row. They also report having low energy, sleeping problems, and difficulty concentrating. Many also experience changes in their appetite and have thoughts of suicide. People with SAD specifically during the Winter report oversleeping, being more irritable, and gaining a lot of weight due to craving foods high in carbohydrates.

Most doctors will recommend that people suffering with Seasonal Affective Disorder need to get outside early in the morning to get natural light. Treatment options include antidepressants such as Bupropian (Wellbutrin)  or light therapy. Light therapy usually improves symptoms within just a couple days of sessions. However, researchers have continued to question whether or not the placebo effect plays a key role in light therapy. In one experiment done by Charmane Eastman, PhD, 96 participants who had SAD were randomly assigned to 1 of 3 treatments for 4 weeks to test the placebo effect on light therapy. The treatments exposed participants to 1.5 hours of either morning light (light boxes), evening light (light boxes), or a morning light placebo (from generators not light boxes). The results of the study showed that there were no difference between the real light and placebo after the 4 weeks of treatment. The study also showed that the bright light therapy had a specific antidepressant effect after 3 weeks.

So now that I know “Winter Depression” is a real thing, should I be worried about it affecting me? According to data from WebMD, I should be a little worried about this disorder because data shows that this disorder is more common for people living in northern latitudes. Women are also more likely than men to suffer. However, this may be due to hormonal factors being a third variable because SAD is less common in women after menopause. I can help avoid seasonal affective disorder by spending some time outside every day and continuing to stay involved with friends and social activities. It is also important to eat a well balanced diet for energy and to exercise for at least 30 minutes a day five times a week. Although being a female living in northern latitudes increases my chances of being affected, I should not be too worried because SAD only affects 3% of the US population.

Sources:

https://newsinhealth.nih.gov/issue/Jan2013/feature1

http://www.webmd.com/depression/features/seasonal-affective-disorder?page=3

http://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/seasonal-affective-disorder/basics/definition/con-20021047

http://archpsyc.jamanetwork.com/article.aspx?articleid=204290&resultclick=1

http://psychcentral.com/lib/10-things-you-dont-know-about-seasonal-affective-disorder/2/

http://www.cnn.com/2013/12/26/health/winter-depression/

http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnnnext/dam/assets/121106092312-seasonal-disorder-sad-winter-woman-story-top.jpg

 

 

 

 

 

Does Listening to Classical Music Make You Smarter?

In 1991, an idea known as the Mozart Effect was first introduced. The Mozart Effect was defined as “a set of research results indicating that listening to Mozart’s music may induce a short term improvement on the performance of certain kinds of mental tasks known as “spatial temporal reasoning.” Was the Mozart Effect correct? Does listening to classical music make you smarter? The public quickly accepted this idea that listening to classical music would make them smarter and many parents began playing classical music to their children. A Gallup Poll even showed the extent of the parent’s blind trust in that “85 percent of Americans …believed that children in music programs were likely to have better grades and achieve higher test scores.”

Unlike the parents who simply accepted the idea, researchers reacted to “The Mozart Effect” by conducting more experiments that tested whether or not listening to music (the environment’s role: nurture) played an impactful role towards intelligence (gene’s role: nature). In one specific case, researchers from the University of California- Irvine tested spatial temporal reasoning in which thirty-six students were given a series of mental tasks to complete after listening to either ten minutes of silence, ten minutes of relaxation instructions, or ten minutes of Mozart. The results concluded that even though students who listened to the Mozart music actually performed better at the spatial tasks and tasks involving creating shapes with their minds, the so-called “Mozart Effect” only lasted on average 15 minutes. Therefore, the results of this study were able to conclude that listening to classical music does lead to temporary improvements in brain abilities and activity, but, since the improvements are not long-lived, it does not affect intelligence.

In another case, Lois Hetland of Harvard University did a study in which she replicated previous Mozart effect studies. (Science is an error detection system with organized skepticism.) Her results found that the experimental group, the group of participants who listened to classical music, actually did perform better than the control group, the group of participants who did not listen to classical music. Many other studies on the idea of “The Mozart Effect” found similar “mixed” results. http://lrs.ed.uiuc.edu/students/lerch1/edpsy/mozart_effect.html#The%20Mozart%20Effect%20Studies

These “mixed” results are due in part to the third variables. For instance, although the participants were randomized in the studies, an individual participant could have had different learning interests and weaknesses that affected the results. In addition, other third variables such as chance, gender, musical taste, innate spatial ability, and personal ability could have also had an effect on the results.

In her article “Does Listening to Mozart Really Boost Your Brainpower? ”, Claudia Hammond wrote “that classical music could make children more intelligent, but when you look at the scientific evidence, the picture is more mixed.” After researching the different studies, I can confirm that she could not be more correct. There is nothing wrong with people listening to classical music, but there is not enough data (and too many third variables) to prove that it will actually make them smarter.

During the first week of class, Andrew told us that science is anti-authoritarian. The fact that the public had accepted the Mozart Effect so quickly and blindly shows the lack of understanding that science can be challenged by anyone and the importance for people to never blindly accept information, but, instead, challenge it by forming their own hypotheses and testing them.

Sources:

http://lrs.ed.uiuc.edu/students/lerch1/edpsy/mozart_effect.html

https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/your-musical-self/201005/the-mozart-effect-doesnt-work

http://everydaylife.globalpost.com/classical-music-affect-average-students-test-scores-15259.html

http://www.bbc.com/future/story/20130107-can-mozart-boost-brainpower

http://i.telegraph.co.uk/multimedia/archive/01411/music_1411325c.jpg

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mozart_effect

 

 

 

Are drinking fountains safe to drink out of?

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In an effort to be environmentally friendly and as a way of staying hydrated throughout the day, I have been using the water fountains around campus to fill up my reusable water bottle. The water is usually cold and tastes fine. However, with the amount of people I hear coughing and sneezing in my classes, I worry about getting sick due to possible bacteria. Are drinking fountains safe to drink out of? Or should I look into buying a Brita filter instead of risking getting sick?

Thirteen year old Kyleray Katherman questioned the same thing after his school banned plastic water bottles and left students to only drink out of drinking fountains. In a study that gained national attention, Katherman tested and compared how clean the water fountain was in comparison to his schools toilets. He used cotton swabs and petri dishes to test the bacteria content at both campus water fountains and toilets and found that the water fountains had way more bacteria than the toilets.

The National Sanitation Foundation, which tests elementary schools for bacterial content, also found that more bacteria was in drinking fountains, not bathrooms. In their study, 2.7 million bacterial cells were found per square inch.

Many schools receive their drinking water from nearby water systems, which work to reduce the corrosiveness of the water. This water is tested on a regular basis to meet federal and state standards. However, the water pipes and plumbing at the school still can affect and contaminate the water with harmful bacteria.

There are many damaging pathogens that live in water fountains, which cause people to get sick. E-coli, legionella, and coliform are three types of bacteria found in water fountains. Drinking water also contains viruses, chemicals, and metals. These types of bacteria can cause stomach problems and pneumonia-like symptoms such as headaches, vomiting, and diarrhea.

Surprisingly, even a dog’s bowl is safer to drink out of than a water fountain. In a study done by the Toronto Star comparing bacteria count, the water fountain had 4,529 bacteria and the dog bowl only had 172 bacteria.

I will definitely not be drinking out of a water fountain ever again. However, if you find yourself needing to refill your water bottle or are just simply dehydrated, make sure to let the water run for a couple of seconds before you drink it. Water that sits for a long time in a water fountain may have traces of lead or other metals.

http://water.epa.gov/infrastructure/drinkingwater/schools/upload/epa816b13002.pdf

http://www.nrdc.org/greensquad/library/water_drink.asp

https://wetap.files.wordpress.com/2010/11/water-fountains-vs-bottled-water_13441_600x450.jpg

http://abcnews.go.com/GMA/story?id=3293080&page=1

http://www.divinecaroline.com/self/wellness/fountain-filth-what-germs-lurk-water-fountains

http://www.thestar.com/news/investigations/2010/08/28/investigation_finds_filthy_spouts_on_public_drinking_fountains.html

http://www.ehow.com/list_7328273_kind-found-public-drinking-fountain_.html

Is Green Juice Healthy?

Green juice has definitely become one of the top food trends in 2015. With a market estimated at $100 million a year and with major support from celebrities, it does not seem as though the juicing trend will ever stop. But should it? Is green juice as healthy as the advertising has made it appear?

According to five experts in the TIME magazine article “Should You Drink Green Juice?”, green juice is definitely a trend that should continue. With a typical recipe containing ingredients such as apples, cucumbers, kale, lemon, ginger, and celery, green juice is actually very healthy and is a great way to get your daily intake of vegetables. “A store-bought, veggie-heavy green juice can contain 36% of your daily recommended potassium and 20% of daily vitamin A, with 12 grams of natural sugar, no fat and 4 grams of protein.”

In addition to nutritional benefits, green juice has numerous health benefits:

  1. Heart Health

In one study done at Yonsei Health Center Yonsei University, thirty-two men were given less than a cup of green juice a day for three months to see whether or not green juice might improve cholesterol. The study found that the cholesterol was improved by 52%.

  1. Diabetes

Dr. Lydia Bazzano, a physician and director of the Center for Lifespan Epidemiology Research at the Tulane University School of Public Health and Tropical Medicine, conducted a study to see the association between green juice intake and the development of diabetes. Over the course of 18 years, 71,000 female nurses aging from 38 to 63 years old self-reported their food intake. The study found that drinking green juice was linked to reducing the risk of getting type 2 diabetes.

  1. Weight Loss

In one study, adults who drank at least eight ounces of vegetable juice lost four pounds over the course of twelve weeks. The other adults who did not drink the juice in the study only lost one pound. The study’s results proved that decreasing overall carbohydrate intake has an impact on weight loss.

  1. Brain Health

In a study from the American Journal of Medicine, researchers tested whether the consumption of green juice decreased Alzheimer’s disease in the Kame Project cohort. Their longitudinal research study found that participants who drank green juice more than three times a week, were 76% percent less likely to develop Alzheimers disease.

green-juice

With so many vegetables and fruits that contain antioxidants, vitamins, and minerals, green juice is a very healthy option and a great trend to be a part of. However, even though many people know about green juice and have heard of its health benefits, a majority of people still choose to not drink it because of its color. In a survey by Jamba Juice, their study revealed that 28% of people “fear the look” of green juice and 32% of people involved in the survey also said green juice is their least favorite type of juice. However, despite the negative reputation, 32% of people in that study said they believe that green juice is the healthiest option. It is important to remember that even though green juice may not look the best, it will make you feel energized and improve your body’s health!

 

Sources Used:

http://www.vogue.com.au/beauty/wellbeing/galleries/11+models+and+celebrities+share+their+green+juice+and+smoothie+recipes,33461

http://time.com/3818098/green-juice-kale-healthy/

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/18548846

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2453647/

http://articles.mercola.com/sites/articles/archive/2014/04/19/juicing-benefits.aspx

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/16945610

http://ir.jambajuice.com/phoenix.zhtml?c=192409&p=irol-newsArticle&ID=1898889

image- http://consciousco.co/site/wp-content/uploads/2013/10/green-juice.jpg

 

Tylenol or Advil?

With school, sports, and jobs, people do not exactly have time to take sick days off. Instead of resting and allowing their bodies to naturally recover, many people make the choice to take prescription drugs such as Tylenol and Advil. Both of these drugs are miraculous healers that take effect within an hour and allow people to carry on with their daily, busy schedule. But is one of them better? Should more people take Tylenol when they are sick or should more people take Advil when they get ill?

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Tylenol is a pain reliever containing the active ingredient acetaminophen, which works to raise the body’s pain threshold. Tylenol can be used to reduce fevers and provide relief from colds, headaches, minor pains, menstrual cramps, and arthritis. Some side effects of acetaminophen include severe liver damage, difficulty sleeping, and vomiting.

Unlike Tylenol, Advil contains ibuprofen, which is an anti-inflammatory drug containing aspirin and naproxen sodium. Advil can be used to treat fever, headaches, minor arthritis pain, menstrual cramps, and inflammation. Advil can cause side effects involving gastrointestinal problems, such as a internal bleeding and stomach cramps.

In survey for U.S News, hundreds of pharmacists were asked which prescription drug they recommended most. The results were: 27% of pharmacists said Tylenol, 24% of pharmacists said Excedrin, and 23% said Advil. The results are published in the Pharmacy Times OTC Guide and U.S. News’ Top Recommended Health Products.

Tylenol is the #1 doctor recommended brand of pain reliever in the United States. Zahid Bajwa- director of the Headache Institute at Boston PainCare Center and secretary of the American Academy of Pain Medicine- concludes that Tylenol was ranked number one because of its minimal side effects in comparison to those of Advil (stomach irritation, heartburn, dizziness, nausea and vomiting).

However, although Tylenol is ranked #1 due to its fewer side effects, Advil is stronger and lasts longer. In a study in the Archives of Pediatrics & Adolescent Medicine, it was found that ibuprofen in Advil reduced fevers better than acetaminophen in Tylenol at two, four, and six hours after taking the recommended dosage.

So the next time you get sick, make sure you consider thoroughly which pain reliever best suites you and your illness. By understanding the side effects of pain relievers, you can make sure you recover faster to get back to your daily schedule.

 

 

Sources Used:

http://www.tylenol.com/home

http://www.advil.ca/en

http://www.nydailynews.com/life-style/health/best-headache-medicine-tylenol-excedrin-advil-article-1.1378007

http://www.parents.com/health/hygiene/childrens-health-myths/

http://www.everydayhealth.com/drugs/tylenol

http://health.clevelandclinic.org/2013/09/acetaminophen-vs-ibuprofen-which-works-better/

http://www.drugs.com/advil.html

image- http://jacksonville.com/sites/default/files/imagecache/superphoto/editorial/images/images/mdControlled/cms/2011/03/30/806795713.jpg

 

 

Do zoos help or hurt animals?

When I was in elementary school, one of my favorite things to do on the weekend was to go to the zoo. As an animal lover, I loved being able to learn about and see the wild animals walk around right in front of me. However, as I have gotten older and articles on PETA’s website and documentaries such as Blackfish (see trailer) have hit the mass media, I have questioned whether or not I should ever go to a zoo again.

Does living in an artificial environment actually help the wildlife or hurt them?

On one side of the debate, defenders of zoos argue that they are morally correct in keeping animals for educational and entertainment purposes. These supporters believe that zoos are helping to save the endangered species by educating the public on them. By informing the public, it is their belief that visitors will foster an appreciation for the wildlife and want to help protect them. The Association of Zoos and Aquariums was founded in 1924 as a nonprofit organization focused on promoting conservation, education, science, and recreation is zoos and aquariums. They also argue that the enclosed environment is safer than the wild because the animals will not be at risk of starvation due to lack of nutrition and will not be hunted by poachers or eaten by other predators. According to National Geographic, “100,000 Elephants (Were) Killed by Poachers in Just Three Years” and “Central Africa has lost 64% of its elephants in decade”. Defenders of zoos continue to point out that they are helping species instead of hurting them by boosting their populations through Species Survival Plan Programs (SSP).

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On the other side, animal activists argue that we do not have the right to confine animals in cages for public entertainment or education. These activists believe that instead of teaching children factual information about these animals, zoos are teaching children that it is okay to imprison animals for our entertainments. Defenders of animal rights support their argument with studies of animals suffering from stress and boredom due to confinement. Since captive animals have no control over their unnatural environment, many face deterioration in both their physical and mental health and start to exhibit abnormal behaviors in captivity, such as pacing, circling, bar biting, swaying, and vomiting. Bill Travers, the co-founder of the Born Free Foundation, came up with the term “zoochosis” to describe the abnormal behavior of animals in captivity. Other studies show that some animals in captivity do not live as long as those in the wild. According to PETA, a survey with the records of 4,500 elephants found that an African elephant in captivity lives on average 16.9 years and an African elephant in the wild lives on average 56 years. No cage or drive in zoo can match the freedom of the wild. Animal activist and UN Messenger of Peace, Jane Goodall says, “The voice of the natural world would be, ‘could you please give us space and leave us alone to get along with our own lives and our own ways, because we actually know much better how to do it than when you start interfering.”

After analyzing the information from both sides, I have gained a deeper understanding of both the defenders of the zoos’ perspective and animal activists’ perspective. I personally believe that zoos do educate children and help save animals that could possibly die in the wild. However, I want animals to exist in their natural environments and I do not support the psychological damage zoos cause animals to have. In the future, I will most likely not visit any zoos, but instead support animals through donating to PETA and other organizations that work towards helping animals live healthy lives.

Sources Used:

PETA- http://www.peta.org/about-peta/

Blackfish- https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8OEjYquyjcg

AZA- https://www.aza.org/public-benefits/

National Geographic- http://news.nationalgeographic.com/news/2014/08/140818-elephants-africa-poaching-cites-census/

AZA- Species Survival- https://www.aza.org/species-survival-plan-program/

Image- http://www.howmanyarethere.net/wp-content/uploads/2013/12/2003_12_15_mogo_zoo_-_122_2281.jpg

PETA- http://www.peta.org/issues/animals-in-entertainment/animals-used-entertainment-factsheets/zoos-pitiful-prisons/

Jane Goodall Quote- http://www.azquotes.com/quote/854394

 

 

Do high heels damage your feet?

If you are walking around downtown State College on a Friday night, you are bound to see about a hundred girls walking, or at least attempting to be walking, in six-inch platform heels. If you asked any of them if their shoe choice was comfortable, you would most likely get a response along the lines of “No. My feet hurt, but at least my outfit looks cute.” In a survey by The American Podiatric Medical Association, researchers found that nearly half of all women wear high heels, and of those women who wear heels, 71% complain that their shoes hurt their feet.

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(image- www.huffingtonpost.com)

A majority of women do not realize that their nights of wearing pumps, stilettos, and wedges to enhance their appearance have many long-term effects and health risks. According to osteopathic physician Natalie A. Nevins, heels can overwork your leg muscles and create poor posture. Heels can also cause lower back pain, nerve damage such as sciatica, ingrown toenails, osteoarthritis of the knee, and plantar fasciitis.

In a study on the effects of heel height, Lee Yung-Hui and Hong Wei-Hsien of the National Taiwan University of Science and Technology were able to confirm that wearing heels can increase the risks of joint disorders, lower back pain, and plantar fasciitis. Ten healthy females aging 20 to 28 years old volunteered for their study and consented to wear heels heights of varying heights while walking on a treadmill. After conducting 450 trials, their hypothesis was confirmed as the data results proved that increasing heel height does increase pressure, impact force, and perceived discomfort.

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(image- www.tanglewoodfootspecialists.com)

In addition, a research report from the Journal of Orthopaedic & Sports Physical Therapy confirmed that the postural alignment of the head, spine, pelvis, and knees are all impacted by the wear of heels. Fifteen female college students wore heels of different inclinations in this experiment and had their postures measured over the course of six randomized trials.

From the research on the long-term effects of heel wear, it can be understood that receiving a compliment on your black heels is definitely not worth the pain for years to come. However, if you are going to wear heels, WebMD and the American Podiatric Association advise to get the best fitting high heel that has cushion, a thicker heel for balance, a more gradual arch slope, and has an open toe to relieve pressure.

For additional information on the damage heels do to your feet over time, here is a short video summarizing the effects.

 

 

Sources Used:

http://www.apma.org/Media/PRdetail.cfm?ItemNumber=13076

http://www.osteopathic.org/osteopathic-health/about-your-health/health-conditions-library/womens-health/Pages/high-heels.aspx

http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0003687005000050

http://www.jospt.org/doi/abs/10.2519/jospt.1995.21.2.94#.Vecg8rQirlI

http://www.webmd.com/women/features/tips-to-avoid-foot-pain-from-high-heels?page=3

http://www.howcast.com/videos/510231-how-to-avoid-foot-pain-injuries-from-wearing-heels-foot-care/

 

SC 200

I chose to enroll in this course after reading the description on the University Bulletin. I found it extremely refreshing that a science based course actually wanted its students to learn to appreciate science in our world today, instead of just wanting students to memorize numbers and put formulas together.

I do not dislike science. I just have never been very passionate about it. In fact, I ironically wanted to be a veterinarian last year. However, after doing an internship at a local veterinary office, I realized that I was more interested in just being with the animals than actually learning the science required to major in veterinary studies.

I am not planning on being a science major because I found my passion in journalism. I love to write and I love learning about current events in the news. I am majoring in broadcast journalism in the College of Communications in hopes of becoming a news anchor.

Although I still do not plan on becoming a veterinarian, I am really looking forward to gaining an appreciation for science through this course.

I earned my veterinary internship through my animal rescue work with Friends of Orange Counties Homeless Pets. This is a picture of just one of the forty dogs I was able to find loving homes for.

If you are ever looking for a dog to adopt or are interested in helping the organization, please check out Friends of Orange Counties Homeless Pets at http://www.fochp.org.

 

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