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Suffolk Wildlife Trust

UK Nonprofit Hires Its First Hedgehog Officer

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Suffolk Wildlife Trust

Alexandra North, a 25-year-old conservationist in the UK, just landed a position coveted by animal lovers around the world. She’s the first Hedgehog Officer hired by the Suffolk Wildlife Trust, according to the BBC.

The unique position made international news when the trust began searching for a candidate earlier this summer, and North beat out candidates from countries as close as France and as far as Nepal. Some Taiwanese stories reportedly pegged the £24,000-per-year (about $31,400) position as a £2.4 million ($3.1 million) one, which might account for some of the surge in applications.

Even at the actual salary, it’s a pretty sweet gig. North, who has been working for a nonprofit called Birdlife International, will be organizing volunteers to make the hedgehog-rich town of Ipswich more friendly to the spiky creatures.

The plan is to establish a network of safe routes and places for hedgehogs to feed, nest, and hibernate in Ipswich, where 2500 wild hedgehogs have been observed in the past two years. A 2015 survey [PDF] estimated that UK hedgehog populations have declined 50 percent in rural areas over the past 15 years due to habitat loss from development, and as a hedgehog boomtown, Ipswich is the perfect place to kickstart efforts to save the animals.

[h/t BBC]

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This High-Tech Material Can Change Shape Like an Octopus
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Octopuses can do some pretty amazing things with their skin, like “see” light, resist the pull of their own sticky suction cups, and blend in seamlessly with their surroundings. That last part now has the U.S. Army interested, as Co.Design reports. The military branch’s research office has funded the development a new type of morphing material that works like an octopus’s dynamic skin.

The skin of an octopus is covered in small, muscular bumps called papillae that allow them to change textures in a fraction of a second. Using this mechanism, octopuses can mimic coral, rocks, and even other animals. The new government-funded research—conducted by scientists at Cornell University—produced a device that works using a similar principle.

“Technologies that use stretchable materials are increasingly important, yet we are unable to control how they stretch with much more sophistication than inflating balloons,” the scientists write in their study, recently published in the journal Science. “Nature, however, demonstrates remarkable control of stretchable surfaces.”

The membrane of the stretchy, silicone material lays flat most of the time, but when it’s inflated with air, it can morph to form almost any 3D shape. So far, the technology has been used to imitate rocks and plants.

You can see the synthetic skin transform from a two-dimensional pad to 3D models of objects in the video below:

It’s easy to see how this feature could be used in military gear. A soldier’s suit made from material like this could theoretically provide custom camouflage for any environment in an instant. Like a lot of military technology, it could also be useful in civilian life down the road. Co.Design writer Jesus Diaz brings up examples like buttons that appear on a car's dashboard only when you need them, or a mixing bowl that rises from the surface of the kitchen counter while you're cooking.

Even if we can mimic the camouflage capabilities of cephalopods, though, other impressive superpowers, like controlling thousands of powerful suction cups or squeezing through spaces the size of a cherry tomato, are still the sole domain of the octopus. For now.

[h/t Co.Design]

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Animals
25 Benefits of Adopting a Rescue Dog
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According to the ASPCA, 3.3 million dogs enter shelters each year in the United States. Although that number has gone down since 2011 (from 3.9 million) there are still millions of dogs waiting in shelters for a forever home. October is Adopt a Shelter Dog Month; here are 25 benefits of adopting a shelter dog.

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