Tags Posts tagged with "Daniel Dunaief"

Daniel Dunaief

Photo from METRO

By Daniel Dunaief

Daniel Dunaief

Our world is filled with all kinds of new terms, like social distancing, face coverings and viral peaks. We could use a few new terms to describe the modern reality, which might give us greater control over the unsettling world around us. How about:

Zoom Staging: The process of setting up our best artwork and most intelligent books behind us. We might have read “War and Peace” or “Crime and Punishment” or “An American Tragedy” in college. It’s time to find those and put them on the shelves behind us, leading to a deep discussion about our favorite books as we wait for other people to join the calls. We could also add a few adorable pieces of incomprehensible artwork from our children that none of our coworkers would dare criticize.

Curbworld: Even though we’re opening up parts of the economy starting this week, we still can only do some retail shopping through curbside pickup. We have become a world that exists at the curb, where retail space goes untouched and where curbs have become the intersection of our outings and the stuff we bring home.

Googleversity: To some extent, we were living in this world before the virus, but search platforms have become a critical part of our children’s home learning environment. In addition to listening to a professor with a headset or air pods on, our children are also frantically searching the web in real time to answer questions about the War of 1812 or about theorems that sound vaguely familiar.

Coviracy Theories: The world was filled with conspiracy theories before President Donald Trump (R) came along and will have plenty of conspiracy theories after he leaves. Still, the preponderance of conspiracy theories related to the virus should have its own lexicon, as people have blamed everyone from foreign governments to incredibly rich and successful technology geniuses for the virus.

Insertcollege.edu: Up until now, people have graduated from colleges where they had unique, on site experiences. This year, that’s not the case, as distance learning seems to have become something of a commodity, with professors of all talent levels struggling to engage a group of people remotely. None of the books we have that are supposed to help with the college hunt — and we have plenty of them now with a high school junior and a college freshman in our midst — help us differentiate among the online platforms of the institutions of higher learning. It’s unclear how, if at all, any of these institutions stands out.

SWSD: Second Wave Stress Disorder. Over the last several weeks, we have heard plenty about a coming second wave. In fact, some colleges that are reopening their doors this fall, such as North Carolina State University, plan to start their semester early, go through fall break and then send students home for an extended break that they hope allows them to avoid a second wave at school.

91 Divoc Dreams: Given the dream world, it seems fitting that we reverse the order of COVID-19 to suggest the upside down world that haunts our dreams, which is a mixture of the realities of our daily fears, anxieties and discomforts blended with the imaginative world of science fiction drama that we beam into our bedrooms that distract and unnerve us.

Masksession: Some of us have become obsessed with the right not to wear a mask, even as others feel an urgency to ensure everyone wears masks. The mask discussion has become an obsession.

2020 No More: To finish the vernacular, we should no longer consider perfect vision to be 20-20 because, after all, 2020 sucks. We could change it to 21-21 or anything else, where we don’t need to link the perfect vision of hindsight to this imperfect year.

On Zoom screen, clockwise from top left, Committee member Hoi-Chung Leung; Committee Member Matthew Lerner; Eve Rosen; Committee Member Nicholas Eaton; Tamara Rosen; graduate student Cara Keifer; and Shira Yudkoff.

By Daniel Dunaief

On April 17, Tamara Rosen did something she had been anticipating for six years: she defended her graduate thesis.

Working in the lab of Matthew Lerner, who is an Associate Professor of Psychology, Psychiatry & Pediatrics in the Department of Psychology at Stony Brook University, Rosen had focused her efforts on the symptoms people with autism exhibit when they are anxious or depressed.

While the questions in her graduate thesis defense followed a pattern she anticipated, with professors asking her about the way she compiled her data and the conclusions she drew, the format wasn’t what she had expected.

Like so many other gatherings that had formerly been public events, Rosen’s thesis defense was broadcast by Zoom. The downside was that she wasn’t in the room with everyone, where she could have a discussion one on one. The upside was that her friends and family could tune in as easily as they do to work calls or other family gatherings. Indeed, Rosen’s mother, Marna; her step-mother Eve; and her father Dennis, all of whom share an appreciation for the work Tammy did for her thesis, watched the defense from start to finish, exulting in a landmark achievement.

“This was a really important day in our family’s history,” Dennis Rosen told his daughter, sharing the pride he felt for her.

“I always knew you were smart, but now I know you are brilliant,” her mother beamed.

After the call, Rosen saw her mother and stepmother overwhelmed with emotions, shedding tears for an achievement she sometimes needs to reassure herself really happened.

Rosen’s work focused on how anxiety and depression, two conditions that mental health professionals are concerned are becoming more prevalent amid the viral pandemic, have different symptoms in the population of people with autism spectrum disorder than they do for those who are not on the spectrum.

Based on prior research, Rosen wanted to account for the different symptoms in her follow-up analysis.

Prior studies have found that the traditional models of anxiety and depression do not adequately fit youth with autism. Others had suggested, but not tested, the notion that the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual model of these symptoms provides an ineffective model of anxiety and/or depression symptoms because of the influence of autism symptoms.

That is why Rosen specifically examined the influence of autism on these conditions in one of her analyses.

Among other findings, Rosen said that autism influences anxiety and depression. The prevalence of anxiety and depression is higher compared to the general population.

There are a range of clinical implications for her work, Rosen said.

Her work validates what clinicians are doing, which is to take the profile of autism into account when they treat anxiety.

Rosen moved to Colorado last July to start her internship year at JFK Partners at the University of Colorado School of Medicine, where she is also starting her post-doctoral clinical fellowship. She is treating clients with autism and anxiety and depression, which she said is in her “wheel house” of expertise.

Rosen is grateful for the support she received from Lerner and the program at Stony Brook. “It was great training,” she said.

Matthew Lerner. Photo from SBU

By Daniel Dunaief

Though hampered by the pandemic in their direct contact with people who have autism, the founder of The Autism Initiative and research director Matthew Lerner along with the Head of Autism Clinical Education Jennifer Keluskar at Stony Brook University are managing to continue to reach out to members of the community through remote efforts. In a two-part series, Times Beacon Record News Media will feature Lerner’s efforts this week and Keluskar’s work next week.

Through several approaches, including improvisational theater, Matthew Lerner works with people who are on and off the autism spectrum on ways to improve social competence, including by being flexible in their approach to life.

In the midst of the ongoing pandemic, he has had to apply the same approach to his own work.

Lerner, who is an Associate Professor of Psychology, Psychiatry & Pediatrics in the Department of Psychology at Stony Brook University, recognizes that it’s difficult to continue a project called SENSE ® Theatre (for Social Emotional NeuroScience Endocrinology), where the whole function of the process is to provide in-person social intervention.

The SENSE Theater study is a multisite National Institute of Mental Health-funded project focused on assessing and improving interventions to improve social competence among adolescents with autism. The core involves in person intervention through group social interaction.

Matthew Lerner with his sons Everett,6, and Sawyer,2. Photo by Chelsea Finn

That, however, is not where the effort ends.“There are arms of that study that are more educational and didactic,” Lerner said. “We’re starting to think about how we could capitalize on that.”

In the ongoing SENSE effort, Lerner is coordinating with Vanderbilt University, which is the lead site for the study, and the University of Alabama.

Stony Brook is in active contact with the families who are participating in that effort, making sure they know “we are doing our best to get things up and running as quickly as possible,” Lerner said.

The staff is reaching out to local school districts as well, including the Three Village School District, with whom Lerner is collaborating on the project, to ensure that people know the effort will restart as soon as it’s “safe to be together again.”

Lerner is also the founder and Research Director of The Autism Initiative at SBU, which launched last year before the pandemic altered the possibilities for in-person contact and forced many people to remain at or close to home for much of the time. The initiative provides programs and services for the community to support research, social and recreational activities and other therapeutic efforts.

The Stony Brook effort initially involved video game nights, adult socials and book clubs. The organizers and participants in the initiative, however, have “stepped up in a huge way and have created, in a couple of weeks, an entirely new set of programming,” Lerner said.

This includes a homework support club, guidance, webinars and support from clinicians for parents, which address fundamental questions about how to support and adapt programs for people with autism. The group is keeping the book club active. The initiative at least doubled if not tripled the number of offerings, Lerner suggested.

Additionally, SBU has two grants to study a single session intervention adapted for teens with autism. The project has been running for about nine months. Lerner said they are looking to adapt it for online applications. For many families, such remote therapy would be a “real boon to have access to free treatment remotely,” he said.

Lerner had been preparing to conduct a study of social connections versus loneliness in teens or young adults with autism. Since COVID-19 hit, “we have reformulated that and are just about to launch” a longitudinal a study that explores the effects of the lockdown on well-being and stress for people who have autism and their families.

Lerner is looking at how the pandemic has enhanced the importance of resilience. He said these kinds of studies can perhaps “give us some insight when we return to something like normalcy about how to best help and support” people in the autism community. “We can learn” from the stresses for the community of people with autism during the pandemic.

To be sure, the pandemic and the lockdown through New York Pause that followed hasn’t affected the entire community of people with autism the same way. Indeed, for some people, the new norms are more consistent with their behavioral patterns.  “Some autistic teens and young adults have said things to me like, ‘I was social distancing before it was cool,’” Lerner said.

Another teenager Lerner interacted with regularly went to the bathroom several times to wash his hands. When Lerner checked in on him to see how he was doing amid the pandemic, he said, “I was made for this.”

Lerner also said people who aren’t on the spectrum may also gain greater empathy through the changes and challenges of their new routines. People find the zoom calls that involve looking at boxes of people on a full screen exhausting. After hours of shifting our attention from one box to another, some people develop “zoom fatigue.”

Lerner said someone with autism noted that this experience “may be giving the rest of us a taste of what it’s like for folks on the spectrum,” which could provide insights “we might not otherwise have.”

Even though some people with autism may feel like the rest of the world is mirroring their behavioral patterns, many people in and outside the autism community have struggled with the stresses of the public health crisis and with the interruption in the familiar structure of life.

The loss of that structure for many with autism is “really profound,” which is the much more frequent response, Lerner said. “More kids are telling us they are stressed out, while parents are saying the same thing.” In some sense, the crisis has revealed the urgency of work in the mental health field for people who are on and off the spectrum, Lerner said.

The studies in autism and other mental health fields that come out of an analysis of the challenges people face and the possible mental health solutions will likely include the equivalent of an asterisk, to capture a modern reality that differs so markedly from conditions prior to the pandemic. There may be a new reporting requirement in which researchers break down their studies by gender, age, race, ethnicity, income and “another variable we put in there: recruited during social isolation.”

METRO photo

By Daniel Dunaief

Daniel Dunaief

The weapons and uniforms are different, but the goals are the same: to protect the interests of Americans everywhere and to save lives.

Every year, Memorial Day presents an opportunity to honor the men and women who served our country in the military, as we appreciate their courage and sacrifice during battles against a range of enemies.

This year, we have a large group of people who are laying their lives on the line for the benefit of society. They are the first responders, who arrive at the homes of people stricken with symptoms of a disease that can make breathing difficult, that can give them a fever for days or even weeks.

They are the nurses who not only take the pulse and blood pressure of their patients, but also provide a human connection when those with the virus can’t have friends and family visit.

They are the doctors who use the best medicine at their disposal to provide comfort until a new standard of care is developed or a vaccine is created.

They are also the police and fire rescue teams that set aside their personal concerns about interacting with members of the community who might be sick to help strangers and the family members of those strangers.

Without these health care workers prepared to help in the struggle against a virus that never takes a weekend off or for which chicken soup, sleep or a hot shower are inadequate to ameliorate the symptoms, Long Islanders would be struggling on their own, infecting each other, and dying at even higher levels.

At the same time, people who work in other fields have been vital to the ongoing functioning of our society in the midst of the pandemic. The people who deliver packages and the mail have connected us to an outside world we can’t visit. They travel through our neighborhoods, wearing gloves and masks and bringing everything from Mother’s Day cards for the mothers and grandmothers we dare not visit lest we are an unsuspecting carrier of the deadly disease, to the paperwork we need to sign.

Those who work in grocery stores stock the shelves with the necessities and luxuries we snap up every week, as we continue to feed families huddled in our homes. Bus drivers and transit workers enable first responders, grocery store clerks, and others to get to and from their jobs.

In addition to accepting their normal responsibilities, these people also go to their jobs in a new normal that requires many of them to wash their clothing and shower before they interact with their family, which some of them only do while wearing masks.

Some of them have died in the line of duty. They have made the ultimate sacrifice because their difficult jobs haven’t provided them with an immunity from a virus that threatens everyone.

This Memorial Day, we should honor the fallen from past wars, the soldiers who fought in Europe 75 years ago, the ones deployed to Iraq and Afghanistan, those who trudged through the jungles of Vietnam, and the patriots who ensured our freedom during the founding of the country.

We should also honor the fallen victims of the virus who were on the front lines, armed with personal protective equipment such as gloves, gowns and face coverings. 

When we wave our flags and honor those who gave their lives, we should pray for and thank the heroes of the last few months as well. They put themselves in harm’s way and inspired the rest of us with the same kind of courage we celebrate each year from our armed forces.

By Daniel Dunaief

It’s not exactly a Rembrandt hidden in the basement until someone discovers it in a garage sale, but it’s pretty close.

More than two decades ago, a Malagasy graduate student named Augustin Rabarison spotted crocodile bones in northwestern Madagascar, so he and a colleague encased them in a plaster jacket for further study.

David Krause, who was then a Professor at Stony Brook University and is now the Senior Curator of Vertebrate Paleontology at the Denver Museum of Nature & Science, didn’t think the crocodile was particularly significant, so he didn’t open the jacket until three years later, in 2002.

When he unwrapped it, however, he immediately recognized a mammalian elbow joint further down in the encased block of rock. That elbow bone, as it turned out, was connected to a new species that is a singular evolutionary masterpiece that has taken close to 18 years to explore. 

Recently, Krause, James Rossie (an Associate Professor in the Department of Anthropology at Stony Brook University) and 11 other scientists published the results of their extensive analysis in the journal Nature.

The creature, which they have named Adalatherium hui, has numerous distinctive features, including an inexplicable and unique hole on the top of its snout, and an unusually large body for a mammal of its era. The fossil is the most complete for any Mesozoic mammal discovered in the southern hemisphere.

“The fossil record from the northern continents, called Laurasia, is about an order of magnitude better than that from Gondwana,” which is an ancient supercontinent in the south that included Africa, South America, Australia and Antarctica, Krause explained in an email. “We know precious little about the evolution of early mammals in the southern hemisphere.”

This finding provides a missing piece to the puzzle of mammalian evolution in southern continents during the Mesozoic Era, Krause wrote.

The Adalatherium, whose name means “crazy beast” from a combination of words in Malagasy and Greek, helps to broaden the understanding of early mammals called gondwanatherians, which had been known from isolated teeth and lower jaws and from the cranium of a new genus and species, Vintana sertichi, that Krause also described in 2014.

The closest living relatives of gondwanatherians were a group that is well known from the northern hemisphere, called multituberculates, Krause explained.

The body of Adalatherium resembled a badger, although its trunk was likely longer, suggested Krause, who is a Distinguished Service Professor Emeritus at Stony Brook. 

Krause called its teeth “bizarre,” as the molars are constructed differently from any other known mammal, living or extinct. The front teeth were likely used for gnawing, while the back teeth likely sliced up vegetation, which made probably made this unique species a herbivore.

The fossil, which probably died before it became an adult, had powerful hind limbs and a short, stubby tail, which meant it was probably a digger and might have made burrows.

Rossie, who is an expert in studying the inside of the face of fossils with the help of CT scans, explored this unusually large hole in the snout. “We didn’t know what to make of it,” he said. “We can’t find any living mammal that has one.”

Indeed, the interpretation of fossils involves the search for structural and functional analogs that might suggest more about how it functions in a living system. The challenge with this hole, however, is that no living mammal has it.

Gathering together with other cranial fossil experts, Rossie said they agreed that the presence of the hole doesn’t necessarily indicate that there was an opening between the inside of the nose and the outside world. It was likely plugged up by cartilage or other soft tissue or skin.

“If we had to guess conservatively, it would probably be an enlarged hole that allowed the passage of a cluster of nerves and blood vessels,” Rossie said. 

That begs the question: why would the animal need that?

Rossie suggests that there might have been a soft tissue structure on the outside of the nose but, at this point, it’s impossible to say the nature of that structure.

The Associate Professor, who has been a part of the research team exploring this particular fossil since 2012, described the excitement as being akin to opening up a Christmas present.

“You’re excited to see what’s in there,” he said. “Sometimes, you open up the box and see what you were hoping for. Other times, you open the box and say, ‘Oh, I don’t know what to say about this [or] I don’t know what I’m looking at.’”

For Rossie, one of the biggest surprises from exploring this fossil was seeing the position of the maxillary sinus, which is in a space that is similar across all mammals except this one. When he first saw the maxillary sinus, he believed he was looking at a certain part of the nasal cavity, where it usually resides. When he studied it more carefully, he realized it was in a different place.

“All cars have some things in common,” said Rossie, who is interested in old cars and likes to fix them. The common structural elements of cars include front and back seats, a steering wheel, and dashboard. With the maxillary sinus “what we found is that the steering wheel was in the back seat instead of the front.” 

A native of upstate Canton, which is on the border with Canada, Rossie enjoyed camping growing up, which was one of the initial appeals of paleontology. Another was that he saw an overlap between the structures nature had included in anatomy with the ones people put together in cars.

A resident of Centerport, Rossie lives with his wife Helen Cullyer, who is the Executive Director of the Society for Classical Studies, and their seven-year-old son.

As for the Adalatherium, it would have had to avoid a wide range of predators, Krause explained, which would have included two meat-eating theropod dinosaurs, two or three large crocodiles and a 20-foot-long constrictor snake.

Stock photo

By Daniel Dunaief

Daniel Dunaief

I love my neighbors. I never knew who most of them were, but I do now. I see them almost every day and they are friendlier than most of the people I’ve ever worked with. Then again, they haven’t been sitting at their desks, waiting for me to file a story, to fix some error, or to explain how I could have ended the previous sentence with a preposition.

I don’t just love my neighbors. I love the trees that reflect the different types of spring lighting that falls on them throughout the day, as I take my exhausted dog for yet another long walk. The singing of the birds? I can’t get enough of it. In fact, the other day, I heard three birds, all singing their repetitive songs. Meanwhile, a woodpecker was banging his head against a tree, searching for his insect prey while providing a percussion background to the sounds of the other birds chirping. Incidentally, why haven’t clever scientists studied woodpeckers to see how they recover from nonstop concussions? How can they fly straight after all that pounding?

So, my neighbors can’t always update me on their lives, because A. they don’t always have time to chat with the guy who walks his big, white dog too many times a day, and B. they want to make sure they stay at least six feet away from me, which isn’t so easy when said big white dog pulls me and him
towards them.

They do a fantastic job of updating me on their lives with the signs that grace their lawns. I’ve read about birthdays, new babies, graduations, among many other milestones and celebrations limited by our red light, green light, one-two-three game with a virus that doesn’t seem to have turned away long enough for us to do much moving.

Anyway, I was just thinking about the signs my neighbors don’t put on our lawns, but that might reflect their current reality. Here’s a list of a few:

— No one told us we’d be entertaining three kids under 5 years old indefinitely.

— Yes, I’m working on the lawn again.

— Don’t make fun of my makeup. Yours doesn’t exactly look great, either.

— Do you want to buy any knives from our cute and enterprising daughter who just finished college finals and needs something to do (okay, we might put that one on our lawn).

— I see you staring at my house, while you’re pretending to look at the trees.

— I’m celebrating nothing today. How about you?

— If you miss sports too, try to hit this sign with a ball and win a lollipop.

Lord of the Flies might have been fiction. This is real. Don’t, under any circumstances, knock on our door.

— This invisible fence isn’t for a dog. Keep off the lawn.

— Does anyone know what day it is?

— Hopefully, this sign will distract you from the peeling paint on our shutters.

— We’ve been binge watching Stranger Things and can’t come to the door right now because we’re in the Upside Down. Please leave a message.

— No, wrong house. The neighbor down the street and to the left is the happy one.

— We know it sounds weird, but it’s our version of modern music.

Finally, I’d like to share an actual, handwritten sign that from a neighbor who had clearly had enough of the rest of us, with our stupid dogs on stupid leashes every day.

— No poop zone (I can’t believe I have to say this).

Centre ValBio staff members distribute face masks to the Malagasy people.

By Daniel Dunaief

Long Islanders are pitching in to protect the people of Madagascar, called the Malagasy, from COVID-19. They are also trying to ensure the survival of the endangered lemurs that have become an important local attraction and a central driver of the economy around Ranomofana National Park.

Patricia Wright, a Distinguished Service Professor at Stony Brook University and founder and executive director of the research station Centre ValBio (CVB), is working with BeLocal to coordinate the creation and distribution of masks. They have also donated soap, created hand washing stations at the local market, and encouraged social distancing.

BeLocal, an organization founded by Laurel Hollow residents Mickie and Jeff Nagel, along with Jeff’s Carnegie Mellon roommate Eric Bergerson, is working with CVB to fund and support the creation of 200 to 250 masks per day. BeLocal also purchased over 1,800 bars of soap that they are distributing at hand washing stations.

Wildlife artist Jessie Jordan is volunteering her time to help the Malagasy people.

All administrators for regional government in the national park area near CVB, which is in the southeastern part of the island nation, have received masks. The groups have also given them to restaurant owners and anybody that handles food, including vendors in the market.

At the same time, CVB has received permission to become a testing site for people who might have contracted COVID-19. At this point, Wright is still hoping to raise enough money to buy a polymerase chain reaction machine, which would enable CVB to perform as many as 96 tests each day.

The non-governmental organization PIVOT, which was founded by Jim and Robin Hernstein, has also helped create screening stations to test residents for fever and other symptoms of the virus. As for the masks, BeLocal and CVB are supporting the efforts of seamstresses, who are working 7 days a week.

Jessie Jordan, a wildlife artist based in Madagascar who has been living at CVB for several weeks amid limited opportunities to return to the United States, has been “busy collaborating with local authorities and contributing masks, soap and hand washing stations to the community.”

At this point, Jordan said people were concerned about the economy, but not as afraid of the virus. “The local health centers are less busy right now because of confinement measures and people are scared of testing positive,” she explained in an email.

The Malagasy who benefit from the national park economically through tours and the sale of local artwork have suffered financially. Social distancing in the cities is “nearly impossible,” while Jordan said she has heard that some people in the countryside don’t have access to TV or radio and are not aware of the situation.

As of last week, Madagascar had 132 confirmed positive cases of the virus. Through contact tracing, the government determined that three people brought COVID-19 to the nation when they arrived on different planes. The country had 10 ventilators earlier this month for a population that is well over 23 million.

BeLocal researched the best material to create masks that would protect people who worked in the villages around Ranomafana. “We researched templates and materials and worked together with CVB to choose the best material that would be available,” Leila Esmailzada, the Executive Director of BeLocal, explained in an email.

BeLocal organized a team that reached out to Chris Coulter, who had started making soap several years ago. Coulter has worked with local officials to make soap.

“We knew Coulter from a few years ago” from an effort called the Madagascar Soap Initiative to get soap into every home and make it accessible, explained Mickie Nagel, the Executive Director of BeLocal. “We hope the people making it right now will consider turning this into a business.” Before Madagascar instituted restrictions on travel, BeLocal and CVB had purchased several sewing machines.

Representatives from BeLocal and CVB have been conducting hand washing and social distance education efforts to encourage practices that will limit the spread of COVID-19.  Government officials have also shared instructions on the radio and TV, Wright said. When the mayor of Ranomofana Victor Ramiandrisoa has meetings, everybody stands at least six feet apart.

CVB has produced picture drawings in Malagasy that are plastered on the sides of cars that describe hand washing procedures and social distancing. “We also have educational signs in the post offices, restaurants and in the mayor’s offices that we paid for,” Wright explained. She said the government, CVB and BeLocal are all educating people about practices that can limit the spread of the deadly virus.

“Organizations in Ranofamana are collaborating with the local government on efforts to prevent the spread of COVID-19,” Esmailzada wrote. “The local government recently began conducting PSA’s along the road and in main markets about hand washing, mask wearing and social distancing and CVB staff are leading by example.”

As for the lemurs Wright, whose work was the subject of the Imax film “Island of Lemurs: Madagascar,” said the country has taken critical steps to protect these primates.

“The government of Madagascar is assuming the worst and is not allowing anybody into the park,” Wright said. The president of Madagascar, Andry Rajoelina, has closed national parks to protect the lemurs, Wright said.

The lemurs have the support of conservation leader Jonah Ratsimbazafy, who earned his PhD while working with Wright at Stony Brook University. Ratsimbazafy is one of the founding members of the Groupe d’Etude et de Research sur les Primates, which is a community based conservation organization that protects lemurs. 

Wright and others are concerned the virus may spread to lemurs. Several lemurs species have the angiotensin converting enzyme, or ACE2, that forms the primary point of attachment for the virus in humans.

Indeed, scientists around the world are working to find those species which might be vulnerable to the virus. According to recent research preprinted in bioRxiv from a multi-national effort led by scientists at the University of California in Davis, several species of lemur have high overlap in their ACE2 inhibitors. This includes the endangered aye-aye lemur, which is the world’s largest nocturnal primate, and the critically endangered indri and sifaka.

“We are worried that lemurs might get the virus,” Wright said.

Photos courtesy of Jessie Jordan

Photo from SBU (copyright ©2013 Warner Bros. Entertainment Inc.) by Drew Fellman

By Daniel Dunaief

Small primates on an island nation off the southeastern coast of the African continent need about a million dollars.

That’s how much it might take to keep Ranofamana National Park, where Centre ValBio is located, afloat financially until people develop a vaccine.

Patricia Wright, who founded CVB, has spent the last 36 years studying a wide range of lemurs, even as she has integrated her efforts into the life of the Malagasy.

While she won conservation awards in the United States, including the 2014 Indianapolis Prize for Conservation from the Indianapolis Zoo, Wright has also won three medals of honor from the government of Madagascar as she has taken steps to improve the economic and physical health of the people who live around Ranomofana.

Now, with tourists who might be carriers of COVID-19 excluded from the national parks, lemur conservation, the tour guides who provide colorful commentary about the world-renowned primates, and the artists who provide local flavor and collectibles for visitors are all under duress.

The tour guides are “local residents and are incredible,” Wright said. “They are locally trained.” Indeed, many of those who share the natural riches of the region used to be loggers when they were younger. 

“We’re talking about people and about critically endangered lemurs,” she added.

Wright often highlights the positive feedback loop between conservation and the local economy, which has created job opportunities even as it has enabled the country to attract tourists from around the world who celebrate the land of the lemur. 

Building on her experience with delivering medicine to people around the national park, Wright plans to bring a polymerase chain reaction machine to Centre ValBio to test people for COVID-19.

Wright is seeking financial support from those who would like to ensure that the sifaka lemur, named after the “shi-fa” alarm call it makes when it feels threatened; the aye-aye lemur, which is the largest nocturnal primate in the world; and the indri lemur outlast the devastating effects of a virus that threatens the lives of people throughout the world.

Someday, when the smoke has cleared and people can look at what’s left in the world, Wright hopes Ranomafana Park and its lemurs are not only one of the survivors, but are also a rare, ecological site that calls to visitors from all over the world eager to celebrate the cultural richness of the Malagasy as well as the lemurs and other rare creates calling to each other from the rainforest.

Those interested in donating to this effort may visit the CVB web site at Welcome to Centre ValBio at Stony Brook University. 

 

Johness Kuisel with her granddaughter Caroline

Kyle Barr – Deborah Barr

Kyle Barr, right, with his mom Deborah and his twin brother, Kris

She was working even when she wasn’t. After coming home from her job as a secretary for an attorney in Riverhead, my mom would fret about what my family was going to eat for dinner. It didn’t matter if most of the people left in the house were self-sufficient, Mom was going to make something for everyone, she was going to vacuum the floor, she was going to start the laundry, and by 10 p.m. she would be snoring on the couch, as if her batteries were depleted and no amount of coaxing would get her to restart without a recharge.

I think I’ve got my sensibilities toward work from you, for either good or ill. By your example, I finish what I start, even in times like this. I don’t do things halfway, because each thing should be treated with care.

That is, at work, at least. I know you would still be ashamed to see the way I keep my home.

 

Courtney and Caroline Biondo – Johness Kuisel

Johness Kuisel with her granddaughter Caroline

To us, Johness is Mom and Granny. 

My mom is the driving force not only of my life, but for 44 years has been the heart and soul of Times Beacon Record newspapers. She is the epitome of class. She teaches me to always be my very best and always put forth my very best effort, more importantly as a mother myself.

Our Granny is the one to watch college football with on Saturdays, the NFL on Sundays and basketball during the week. Granny is always up for a trip to the beach to lounge in the sun and collect shells. Granny likes to sit with a cat in her lap after a long day and sip a Bloody Mary. Granny teaches us to never give up, because you’re often closest to succeeding when you want to forfeit. She teaches us to explore through travel and to always be eager to learn new things.

 

Daniel Dunaief – Leah Dunaief

Daniel Dunaief with his mom Leah 

When I was young, my mother started these papers. When I called her at work, Mrs. Kuisel answered, much as she does now. “Can I speak to my mom?” I asked. Mrs. Kuisel asked me who my mother was because so many mothers worked at the papers. The question is one I’m happy to answer every day. I’m proud to say that who I am and who my brothers are begins with being numbers 1, 2 and 3 sons of Leah Dunaief. Sure, my younger brother and I might argue about the order of importance, but we are all grateful to have learned numerous important lessons, including never to wear jeans in the ocean or to use apple juice to clean our faces, from a woman we’re fortunate to call mom. I wish her and all the other moms dealing with the ever-fluid new normal a happy Mother’s Day.

 

Rita J. Egan – Rita M. Egan

Rita Egan with her mom Rita

When I was a kid in Queens, more mothers were beginning to go to work full time, outside of the home. My mother was no different. At first, she worked as a cashier at Alexander’s Department Store, but she knew she needed to make more money, and she soon took a night class to brush up on her typing and shorthand. After a few different jobs, she eventually found herself working for Con Edison in its transportation department. She lived in Queens when she first began working there but eventually moved out to Smithtown. She would be up before the sun, even leaving before sunrise to catch the train, and while she soon became part of a carpool, the more convenient ride didn’t stop the early morning rush to be at the office by 7 a.m. I may not have inherited my mother’s knack for getting up before the crack of dawn, but I would like to think I take after her when it comes to getting up every morning and doing whatever it is that needs to be done, even when times are rough.

While Mother’s Day may be celebrated a little bit differently this year, here’s hoping we can all find some way to celebrate all the special women in our lives.

METRO photo

By Daniel Dunaief

Daniel Dunaief

Derek has eaten more pizza in the past six weeks than he has in the previous three years. Heather feels like an insect, trapped late in the night in the electric glow of her screen. Steve drinks too much Coke Zero and Eliene stays up way too late and wears the same pants too often.

In response to email questions, several Long Islanders shared their healthiest and least healthy habits during the lockdown.

Derek Poppe, who is a spokesman for County Executive Steve Bellone (D), has been able to work off some of the pizza he’s eating at lunch by running outside, which he started doing after the gym he has attended for seven years closed seven weeks ago.

“I have also tried my hand at meditation which has been incredible since, really, from the time we wake up to when we go to bed, we are surrounded by all things COVID-19,” Poppe wrote in an email.

Bellone, meanwhile, rides his Peloton stationary bike early in the morning or late at night. The county executive also sometimes runs at 10:30 p.m. before beginning to prepare for the next morning’s meetings and radio calls.

Bellone’s least healthy habits include ramping up his consumption of Coke Zero.

Sara Roncero-Menendez from Stony Brook, meanwhile, walks around her neighborhood on sunny days. When the weather gets rough, she does YouTube yoga. She’s also been crocheting and cross-stitching, getting a head start on holiday gifts.

“It’s been a good way to keep busy and actually have something to show for it at the end,” Roncero-Menendez wrote.

Like many others in New York and around the world, Roncero-Menendez has spent too much time glued to her screens and also hasn’t been sleeping well.

Karen McNulty-Walsh from Islip does 30 minutes of yoga, takes her dog for walks, and gets out of bed regularly between 6 and 7 a.m. each morning.

Pete Genzer from Port Jefferson Station has been cooking dinner every night, which is “good in terms of eating healthy food, and I also really enjoy cooking so it’s mentally stimulating and relaxing.”

Genzer’s least healthy habit is “sitting in the same, non-ergonomic chair all day long doing work and attending virtual meeting after virtual meeting.”

Larry Swanson and his wife Dana, who live in Head of the Harbor, enjoy their daily walks with their aging Chesapeake Bay retriever Lily. Dana is growing food in the yard and has found it a “new, interesting and nice experience being with her grumpy old husband for so much for the time,” Larry Swanson wrote.

Indeed, in the 56 years of their marriage, the Swansons have never spent as much time as they have together during lockdown.

Dana’s unhealthiest habit is watching the news.

Heather Lynch from Port Jefferson said she feels like the insect trapped in the glowing screen. On the positive side, she continues to work out every day, which she describe as more of an addiction than a habit.

Eliene Augenbaum, who lives in the Bronx and works on Long Island, has eaten home-cooked food and had deep conversations with friends. On the unhealthy side, she stays up too late, wears the same pants, and shops for vacations and shoes that are of little use during lockdown.

A friend from New York City, who makes her own meals and walks her dogs, takes her temperature several times a day, has eaten her emergency, huge bag of Chex mix in one sitting and obsesses over why everyone else has medical-style masks on the street while she’s seeking viral protection behind a pillowcase wrapped around her head.