The WAU Department of Forestry is challenging the claims of insurance companies who promise high returns on investments in teak wood plantations in Costa Rica. The investments are backed by the Worldwide Fund for Nature and claim to prevent the destruction of the rain forests. Interest rates of between fourteen and eighteen percent are advertised, based on the production of approximately six hundred cubic metres of hardwood over a period of twenty years. The department is critical of the research upon which these rates are based. Yet scientists are hesitant to label these promised interest rates as fraud. Dutch investment company Ohra is already suing critics, using the figures from a survey authorised by the Dutch Ministry of Agriculture. However, Professor Oldeman declared the quality of this research dubious. The Department of Forestry wants to do research on the teak wood plantations itself, but is not allowed in at the moment. If money dictates the terms, one can expect such behaviour," says forester De Graaf.
One out of five researchers who work with laboratory animals, develop allergic responses including a runny nose or asthma. Scientists used to think that such an allergy was due purely to the researchers' sensitivity: one is susceptible, the other not. WAU epidemiologist A. Hollander discovered that the concentration of allergens also influences the number of scientists who develop allergic reactions. The impact of high doses of the urine from rats, which contains the most powerful allergen, is seven times stronger than the impact of low doses of this allergen. Measures which can be taken to decrease allergic reactions among scientists include the installation of cookers, reducing the number of laboratory animals in one room and cleaning it more often, Hollander concludes.
Microbiologist A. van Egeraat has been awarded an honourary Master of Education degree by the Wageningen University Funding Foundation. The award was presented for the first time at the event marking the university's anniversary on March 8. It is intended for teachers who deliver high quality lectures. What is Egeraat's secret of success? The lecture should never be the same, but needs to be continuously adapted to the current situation. I treat my students as my children: if they do something wrong, I scold them; and I praise them if they do something good." For Egeraat, the big lecture room is a stage - a bit of theatre to oblige and amuse the students is important.