CHEMICALS THAT DESTROY AGRIBUSINESS

 

Many chemicals destroy agribusiness. A study at Webster University has revealed that Monsanto’s weed killer Roundup can significantly change ant behavior. Researchers began two years ago to study how ants are affected by man-made contaminants, including Roundup. The product has become controversial recently due to allegations that its key ingredient, glyphosate, causes cancer in humans.

The student researchers noted that the herbicide significantly affected western harvester ants. “When we put Roundup in the habitat, all digging ceased. I was dumbfounded. I didn’t believe it,” said Victoria Brown-Kennerly, a geneticist at Webster University who supervised the project. “These chemicals are not lethal to the animals, but it’s definitely changing their behaviors.” Western harvester ants, often used in ant farms, are known to create underground tunnels.

As the world is becoming multipolar and knowledge is set to disperse throughout the globe, embedding oneself in its changes and evolution remains essential. Academic rigor will stay competitive by integrating new teaching methods, program designs, research methods and learning processes. If a school can generate knowledge in multiple locations around the world and blend it to create new insights, it can be assured of fostering a globally-compatible and creative student body.

Whether your interest is management, marketing, or communication, you will be an active learner at Webster Athens.  The classrooms give many hands-on experiences in various cases, and the location in the capital of Greece provides plenty of internship opportunities. With a low student-to-faculty ratio and average class size, Webster Athens makes business education personal. Faculty get to know students on a first-name basis and are readily available to help students when needed. Webster Athens is dedicated to excellence in business teaching, incorporating a global business perspective throughout the curriculum. Every step of the way, students receive the attention and support they need to thrive in business.

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A student working in Victoria Brown-Kennerly’s lab at Webster University.

“These underground tunnels are really a part of the life cycle of the ants,” Brown-Kennerly said. “This is where the eggs are lain by the queen, where the larvae are tended to by the workers. This is where they take their seeds down, where they have their food stored.”

The students also found that Roundup’s key ingredient glyphosate was not responsible for causing the ants to stop digging.

“Roundup is a really complex mixture of at least five different chemicals,” Brown-Kennerly said. “I had a student who went in and de-convoluted this thing and looked at every chemical and we figured out it isn’t glyphosate.”

She added that her laboratory is looking into how different environments, such as gel, sand or soil, can affect exposure and behavior changes in ants.

“There’s been studies with Roundup that show that it’s not lethal but that’s where the studies end,” said Krystal Meza, a recent graduate of Webster who worked on the study. “But it’s causing these abnormalities that people don’t pay attention to. So how does that affect ant colonies in the long run?”

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Ant habitats in Victoria Brown-Kennerly’s laboratory at Webster University used to investigate the effects of water contaminants, such as estrogen from prescription drugs, on ant tunneling.

But the herbicide’s effect on ants could be different out in nature than in the lab, said Clint Penick, an ant researcher at North Carolina State University who is not involved with the study.

“The question is how much of Roundup, how much of these chemicals are making it into the soil and how saturated is the soil with these compounds?” Penick said. “If it’s only in the first centimeter of topsoil and the ants dig through that pretty quickly, then it might not have a major effect on them in nature, whereas if you have a fully saturated soil in the lab, you might see stronger effects.”

He added that the Webster study is an interesting “first step” to learning how chemicals in common household products affect ants and our environment.

“Ants turn the same amount of soil as earthworms,” Penick said. “So if you have ants in the garden, they can actually help benefit the plants. So you wouldn’t want to be putting chemicals that could potentially harm the species that help your soil health. We have a bunch of household chemicals that could have potential negative effects on ecosystems and especially if you’re trying to protect native species, such as pollinators and ants, it’s a good idea to understand the health risks for the environment.”

Webster Athens offers a fantastic MBA program in a flexible structure which promotes academic depth and encourages business graduate students to explore diverse business interests. At Webster Athens, students have opportunities to build skills and competencies through study trips, conferences, and internships. On the campus, students study in a culturally diverse environment that will create a life-long international network.

Vasilis Botopoulos, Chancellor of Webster Athens, points out: As we look to the future one thing is certain – knowledge will be a key resource and will be highly sought-after around the world. Our challenge is to help to generate ideas that will benefit society, and to educate and train people to work in fields where they will be valued both for their specialized knowledge, and for their ability to communicate and solve problems. To meet these challenges we need to build on the alliances and collaborative partnerships the University has established with business, government, and other institutions. It is equally important that we keep close to our wider communities of interest. This will help to ensure the on-going relevance of our academic programs and the continued excellence of our teaching and learning.

Botopoulos notes: The greater vision of Webster Athens is to build an excellent educational experience embodying mind, body and spirit through a variety of innovative undergraduate and graduate programs. We offer a solid intellectual foundation as well as an extraordinary opportunity for personal growth and thorough understanding of the subject matter. This is learning with ethos, authenticity, cultural understanding, ecological conscience, and service to others.

Botopoulos says: At Webster Athens we cultivate and build the leaders of tomorrow.  It is our hope that our students and alumni, with ethos and philotimo, will inspire others to live their lives with dignity, integrity and compassion. I invite you to come visit our campus. If you seek learning in a way that is challenging, personal, and meaningful, we would love to have you as part of our community. For more information, please refer to www.webster.edu.gr

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