The Monthly Species: December

Hello! So this is my penultimate post of the year, it’s been a crazy and fantastic year for ThatBiologist but I shall save that for my business meeting post. Today I’m going with everyone’s favorite parasite as my final species of the month. It’s European Mistletoe!

Scientific Classification:

Kingdom: Plantae
(unranked): Angiosperms
(unranked): Eudicots
(unranked): Core eudicots
Order: Santalales
Family: Santalaceae(Viscaceae)
Genus: Viscum
Species: V. album

Size: Mistletoe grows in a shrub high up in trees. It has stems that are approximately 30-100cm with dichotomous branches with opposite leaves!

Diet: Mistletoe is a hemiparasite. This means it grows on trees and uses the trees for water and nutrients. However being a plant it does photosynthesise producing sugars for the plant to use. It is most commonly found on broad-leaved trees such as apple, lime, hawthorn and poplar.

Uses: Mistletoe has been used as the base flavor for a liqueur. It has also been used as an alternative medicine!

The Coolest Thing Ever About This Species:

There are lots of myths, legends and traditions surrounding Mistletoe. The most common tradition is that you must kiss if under some mistletoe at Christmas time.

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The Little Things – Gifts

Hello, welcome to the second episode of my new series called The Little Things. If you didn’t know this is a series all about small changes that you can make in your day to day life to help save the world. Today we’re going to talk about presents!

I’m currently in the full run up to christmas, that means buying a lot of presents for my friends and family! This year I wanted to make a real effort to make my presents to my loved ones help the world out in one way or another. So I’ve come up with a list of five presents you could get your loved ones that help the earth out!

1 – Elephant Pants! – If you know someone who loves there PJ’s more than life itself like me this might be the perfect present. The Elephant Pants sell loungers, harem pants, kimonos and all things comfy! But better yet a portion of every sale goes toward anti-poaching of ivory, wildlife and habitat protection, and research on curing elephant diseases. Made in Thailand, the seamstresses are paid double the average wage and are given healthcare benefits! You can shop them here.

Tyke Unisex Loungers

2 – Devocean! – Perhaps you’re after something for someone who loves shiny things well Devoted To The Ocean has you covered. With every purchase of there gorgeous jewelry or beach essentials 20 percent of the net profits go to charitable organisations attempting to clear up the ocean and keep it safe particularly for turtles! You can shop them here.

3 – Nuubia San Francisco – If you are looking for a sweet treat for someone you love then look no further! These premium chocolates are made with no palm oil! As such they’ve been labelled orangutan safe and cruelty free chocolates. All of their packaging is FSC approved, oh and they look delicious. With vegan and gluten free options how can you say no! Note! This is probably one for my american friends as they are american based!!! Either way you can shop here.

nuubia chocolates

4 – Lush – I’m a huge fan of lush and if you know a lushie in your life you could add a charity pot to their gift. Lush do a lot for charity but 100% of the price of this specific body lotion is donated to small grassroots organizations working in the areas of environmental conservation, animal welfare and human rights. You can shop it here.

5 – Traidcraft – If you still want more choices then have a look at Traidcraft! They’ve got everything from homeware, food and fashion! All of their wonderful items are made through fair trade co-operatives. For example the blue duvet set I’ve listed below is handmade in India using natural resources, and its stunning! You can shop all of traidcrafts beautiful things here.

Please do leave ideas for similar wonderful things in the comments below!

Happy Shopping and Happy Christmas!

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*Note – I have not been paid to mention any of the products in this blog post – I just think they’re all really cool!

Biology Presents!

Hello! Is it too soon… can I really start talking about christmas! Well as I’ve been shopping since October, I guess so! I have a few christmassy posts lined up until I go for my Christmas break and today I thought I’d give some recommendations for presents for the biological people in your life!

1 – A Cellfie Mug

I love this cute mug that is perfect for any biologist! You can get it here.

2 – Women in Science: 50 Fearless Pioneers Who Changed the World 

This book is most certainly on my christmas list. I love celebrating women in STEM and this book does that as well as being simply beautiful. You can get this book on amazon here.

3 – DNA Bookmark

What’s more perfect to go with a Biology book than a biology themed bookmark! This beautiful creation is from etsy and can be personalised with your loved ones initials. You can get it here!

4 – DNA Art?!

If you know a true DNA connoisseur how about this!  This company makes artwork from your own DNA, I think it would hang beautifully next to some qualification certificates! Have a look at it here.

5 – Air Plant and Shell combo

This is perfect for those that aren’t great with plants but would love a houseplant. This is a combination of an air plant growing in a shell, I think it would look perfect on any bathroom counter top! You can have a look here.

On Sunday there will be some more present recommendations but with a different twist so stay tuned!

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Have Yourself an Eco-Friendly Christmas!

Hello! It’s officially December and as I always take a bit of time off from blogging at the end of the year soooo that means it’s time to get christmassy! I have three posts that are all centered around christmas coming for you and today we’re talking about having an eco-friendly christmas!

Tip 1. Buy a real Christmas Tree but make it local!

Plastic trees are often made of non recyclable materials, so unless you plan to use it for a decade or more! Real trees are often purpose grown and in that time they can provide a habitat and will absorb CO2. However just pick it up from somewhere local and look for the FSC logo.

Tip 2. – RECYCLE RECYCLE RECYCLE

Christmas often means a whole heap of packaging! I understand that the easy option is to put all the junk in the bin but it makes such a difference if you recycle as much as you can. All of your wrapping paper should be going into the paper recycling!

Tip 3. Try and Cut Down Food Waste

Christmas is often a time for lots and lots of food. Make sure you try and make the most of every scrap of food you have. There are lots of fantastic leftover recipes out there but my personal favourite is a leftover pie! Or freeze things for a later date.

Tip 4. Get the lighting right!

My favourite thing about christmas is all the twinkly lights but not all lights are created equal. Certain lights will drain more energy which costs you more as well as the planet. Indoor LED fairy lights are a great option when decorating your home for Christmas. They don’t need much energy to run and are much more efficient than standard or even energy saving bulbs. LED lights generally don’t produce heat, making them ideal for decorating your Christmas tree and reducing the risk of fire hazard. Also utilize timers! All your Christmas lights should be on timers, from the strands adorning your trees to the lights outside. Don’t count on remembering to turn them off after a long day and plug the lights into a timer that remembers for you. Light timers can be found at any hardware store.

Tip 5. Presents!

There will be two more christmas themed posts coming up all about gift ideas for Biologists and for gifts that do good for the world. However, think about the presents that you receive and that you give. Try and keep packaging to a minimum and donate what you don’t use rather than throwing things away!

I hope you all have a wonderful christmas whatever you do!

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The Monthly Species: November

If you weren’t aware although I am a botanist by trade I absolutely adore sharks! I ever dedicated a whole week to them last year which you can find here. I therefore had to include one on my Monthly Species list! So today we’re talking about the Bull Shark!

Image result for bull shark

Bull sharks get their name from their short, blunt snout, as well as their pugnacious disposition and a tendency to head-butt their prey before attacking. They are medium-size sharks, with thick, stout bodies and long pectoral fins. They are gray on top and white below, and the fins have dark tips, particularly on young bull sharks.

Scientific Classification:

Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Chondrichthyes
Order: Carcharhiniformes
Family: Carcharhinidae
Genus: Carcharhinus
Species: C. leucas

Size: 7 to 11.5 ft long with the largest verified shark being 12 foot long and they weigh between 200 to 500 lbs.

Diet: Given their fast and agile nature, Bull sharks will eat almost anything they can catch. This includes fish, dolphins and other sharks. They do not go after humans specifically however bull sharks are often in turbid waters of bays where humans are common. This combination leads to some human attacks.

Life Expectancy: 16 years in the wild
Reproduction: 
They have a gestational period of 10 to 11 months and pups are born alive. Bull sharks do not raise there young but instead will bear them in protected costal regions commonly referred to as nurseries.

Conservation: According to the IUCN Bull sharks are classed as Near Threatened on the red list. This is mainly due to the sharks being hunted for their meat and for their fins. 

The Coolest Thing Ever About This Species: There are a lot of cool things about bull sharks. They have been seen leaping up river rapids, salmon-like, to reach inland lakes. This can mean they can be found up to 2500 miles in land!! Secondly Bull sharks are among a few sharks that can survive in both saltwater as well as freshwater. They can do this because they’ve developed “super kidneys” that can remove large amounts of a salty compound called urea from the bloodstream.

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Mini Wiki 10 – The Finale

Hello welcome to the final episode of the Mini Wiki series. For this one I thought I’d go back through the episodes on cell biology and give you my top 10 pieces of information.

10 – THE CENTRAL DOGMA

The central dogma is the process where we go from DNA to proteins. The three stages of the central dogma are replication, transcription and translation.

9 – DNA

The four nitrogen bases that make up DNA are Adenine (A), Thymine (T), Cytosine (C) and Guanine (G). The bases come in two types purines (A & G) and pyrimidines (T&G). The bases then pair up with 1 purine and 1 pyrimidine nucleotide. A & T pair together with 2 hydrogen bonds and C & G pair together with 3 hydrogen bonds. This then causes the double helix shape with the phosphate and sugar groups being on the outside (known as the sugar phosphate backbone) and the bases being on the inside.

8 – RNA

Firstly RNA is a linear molecule unlike the double helix of DNA. RNA does not contain the nitrogenous base Thymine, it is replaced with the base Uracil. Finally, RNA can be found outside the nucleus unlike with DNA.

7 – Animal Cell

Animals cells are essentially sacks of cytoplasm, they are bordered by a cell membrane and within the cytoplasm you have organelles. The cell membrane keeps everything that the cell wants in inside and everything else out. The organelles all have their own function to keep the cell going and the cytoplasm is where the majority of the cells chemical processes take place.

6 – Plant Cell

There are a number of different ways plant cells are different from animal cells. Firstly plant cells have a cell wall. This is outside of the cell membrane that provides protection and structure, it’s made of predominately cellulose. This leads on to another difference and that is shape, plant cells have a more rigid rectangular shape compared to animal cells, which tend to be more varied. Plant cells also contain one central large vacuole, animal cells have smaller vacuoles that are more doted around. The other main difference is plant cells contain chloroplasts which are essential for the process of photosynthesis.

5 – Organelles

Why are organelles called organelles? The world organelle is a diminutive from the Latin organum meaning“instrument,” in Medieval Latin this means “organ of the body”.

4 – More Organelles 

The nucleus is like the central console of the cell. It’s  a membrane bound structure that contains the cell’s hereditary (DNA) information and controls the cell’s growth and reproduction. Its the most prominent of all the organelles and can be seen using a normal microscope. (No fancy electron microscope to see these guys in action). The nucleus itself has quite a complex structure but that’s for another wiki.

3 – Cell Cycle

You can look at the cell cycle as having three distinct phases. Interphase, Mitosis and Cytokinesis. We will cover mitosis and cytokinesis next time for this mini wiki we’re focusing on the phases within interphase.

2- Mitosis

There are 5 stages to mitosis. They are prophase, prometaphase, metaphase, anaphase and telophase.

1- Meiosis 

The definition of meiosis is a type of cell division that results in four daughter cells each with half the number of chromosomes of the parent cell, as in the production of gametes and plant spores.

I hope you have enjoyed this series and I definitely will be continuing to write about cell biology in upcoming blog posts!

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The Little Things – Water Bottles

Hello and welcome to a brand new series! This series is called The Little Things! We see a lot of news about how much of a dire state the world is in and it really is. But often these problems seem too big for one person to attempt to fix. That’s where this series comes along, all of these posts will be tiny changes that you can make in your everyday life that will benefit the world in the long run. Today we’re going to be talking about water bottles. I’ve spoken about the use of single use plastic bottles before in an episode of Becoming A Master which you can find here but today I want to go into more detail! (If you don’t have time to read the whole thing skip to the bottom to find a helpful infographic!)

Image result for plastic water bottlesWe all know that drinking water is incredibly important for your health and general well being. According to the NHS you should be drinking between 6 and 8 glasses of water a day and more if you are more active.

As many of us are busy working people having portable water containers is a must so you can try and drink enough water. In comes the handy plastic water bottle that you can get from almost anywhere! Not to mention that they are cheap! But I’m afraid that’s where the benefits end.

There are three main issues when it comes to using single use water bottles.

Issue 1 – To make water costs a lot of water!

It can take up to three litres of water to produce 1 litre of bottled water. It also takes up a huge amount of energy to make the bottles and transport them! 250ml of oil is used for every 1 litre of bottled water

Issue 2 – The Environment

As has been highly featured in Blue Planet Two, plastic presents a huge problem for our oceans. Many animals will eat the plastic and die, fish can get stuck in the plastic and filter feeders suffer from the ingestion of micro-plastics. Plastic is everywhere in our world and lots of our water bottles end up in the ocean.

Issue 3 – Reusing plastic water bottles can be harmful to you!

Many people will reuse the single use bottles however this can be harmful. Firstly because many do not appropriately wash these bottles which makes for a nice breeding ground for bacteria. Secondly if these bottles are exposed to heat like from being in a hot car or gym class, it can release a chemical compound called bisphenol A otherwise known as BPA. This can mimic the reactions of a chemical called oestrogen. In humans expose can be linked to different diseases but scientists are still unsure of how much BPA can cause different reactions. However, BPA can also affect many animals (linking back into my last point!).

So what’s the little thing you can do to help?!

Fairly simply exchange in your single use plastic bottle for a refillable one. They are all over the shops and come in lots of different designs! I have even found some stackable water bottles for those of you who want to keep your bottles in the fridge. The best ones however are made from stainless steel and will last you a lifetime!

This simple change can really help because you are saving water, energy and that plastic doesn’t end up in the ocean!

I hope you’ve enjoyed this first episode of the little things! Let me know on twitter whether you use a refillable water bottle and send me a picture!

The Plastic Water Bottle Effect Infographic

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Mini Wiki 9

Hello, it has been over a year since the last mini wiki episode. However, to make up for that I have 2 episodes to finish of the series for you!

Whats the definition of meiosis?

“a type of cell division that results in four daughter cells each with half the number of chromosomes of the parent cell, as in the production of gametes and plant spores.”

What is meiosis used for?

Meiosis is used for sexual reproduction and produces haploid cells different to each other and the parent cell. Or in other words its the process to make sperm cells and eggs that are different from each other. They make cells that have half the amount of genetic material needed so when a sperm and an egg combine it has the correct amount of genetic material.

What are the stages of meiosis?

The stages of meiosis are kind of like mitosis except it happens twice!

Image result for stages of meiosis

What happens after meiosis?

You have four haploid cells (i.e cells with half the amount of genetic information) that are all different from one another.

Hope this guide has been easy and quick for you to use!

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Happy Tuesday!

Hello and Happy Tuesday!

Just jumping on here quickly to let you know that I was interviewed by the lovely Rebecca from An Anxious Scientist! This was for her Meet A Scientist series which I absolutely love. Rebecca is definitely a writer I go to for inspiration for my own blog so it was such an honor for her to ask.

If you would like to go and read the blog and go and check out Rebeccas beautiful website and shop then just click HERE!

See you all tomorrow!

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Bonus Becoming A Master – How to choose a masters degree

Hello! So in my last bonus BAM I shared what I wish I had known before I started my masters degree. If you didn’t know I have recently finished my masters degree in Conservation at UCL which I documented with weekly posts that you can find here. So without further a do here is my 5 steps to finding your perfect masters.

Step 1: Do you really want to do a masters?

This might sound like a silly question but you need to consider it carefully. First ask yourself why you want to do a masters degree? If it’s because you don’t have anything else to do maybe consider something else like work experience or volunteering. Masters are financially expensive and will take up a huge amount of time even if it is for just a year. However, if you want to further your learning, increase your chances for a particular career path or get into academics then go for it!

Step 2: Do Your Research

It might sound silly but make sure you research the opportunities available! Masters degrees can be super specific so have a wide look at what masters are available on your topic area. And! Perhaps more importantly which universities those masters degrees are being held at. Each masters degree is going to be a little different so take your time when looking into them.

Step 3: Open Days!

Once you’ve found a few degrees that you like the look of see when there next open days are. Open days are the perfect opportunity to find out the details of the course, meet lecturers, look at the university and find out where the masters students have gone on to.

Step 4: More research

Now you’ve hopefully found the courses that you like the most, go back and do that bit more research. This time look at the opportunities available at the course for careers. I know it sounds ridiculous but knowing where you could go after your masters will really help you in the long run because that year goes quickly!

Step 5: Prepare for your application

Now when it comes to applying for the degrees, make sure you have everything you need before you begin. This includes transcripts from undergrads and your references. And of course always make sure you get your application in on time to have the best success!

Good Luck!

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