Becoming A Master – A few of my favourite things

Week 33

Hello! So this week I have been writing. I know that’s a huge surprise to you all! However as next week I am off for a holiday, I have had a lot to get done before I can have some time off. Unfortunately that leads to a slightly boring weekly update for you. So instead I thought I would show you a few of the things that make a week of being sat at my laptop a little more bearable.

Number 1 – Breaks! – I know it might seem obvious but its so important to take breaks! I try and do 40-50 minutes work then I have 10-20 minutes off. I try and take those breaks away from my laptop (rather than just flicking over to facebook) and on my feet as I spend the majority of my time at my desk sat down! Surprisingly this has meant my flat is really clean and tidy because that is my preferred break time activity!

Number 2 – All my plants – I have a fair few plants that sit on my desk along with some fresh flowers. I think it’s important that the spot you work in is one that you like to look at! So for me that means fairy lights, pictures of my loved ones and lots of plants!

Number 3 – Reaching goals – Okay, this might sound a little bit lame but I write a to do list every day and it’ll often have word count goals. When I get there like for example on Monday I wrote over a thousand words, it feels great!

Number 4 – Tea – Specifically vats of tea in mugs that look great – I feel like this one is self explanatory!

Number 5 – Seeing people – I know that for me and a few of my other friends can go into a work bubble and not leave the desk for days at a time. So this week I have forced myself out of the house to go see other humans! This included a group screening of the first episode of game of thrones. It was sooo good!

I have a feeling this turned into a how to survive a dissertation post but I’m okay with that! If you’re working on a big project I hope my tips will help you too! Just a quick reminder that there will be no blogs next week and I won’t be on the internet as I’m heading to the wonderful land of Wales!

ThatBiologist Everywhere!

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The Monthly Species: July

Hello everyone I know its not exactly near the end of the month yet but I will be taking next week away from all things internet so it’s time for the species of this month! It’s something that has been keeping me going this month and one little specimen of this species sits on my desk every single day it is of course!

Arabica Coffee

Image result for arabica coffee plant

Scientific Classification:

Scientific Name : Coffea arabica

Kingdom: Plantae
Division: Magnoliophyta
Class: Magnoliopsida
(unranked): Asterids
Order: Gentianales
Family: Rubiaceae
Subfamily: Ixoroideae
Tribe: Coffeeae
Genus: Coffea

Size: Wild plants can grow between 9 and 12 metres tall with open branching systems. In coffee plantations the growth is often more formalized.

Habitat: This species is endemic to the Yemen and Ethiopia. However now there are coffee plantations in Africa, Latin America, South east Asia and China.

Use’s: This wonderful plant accounts for 70% of the world’s coffee production! The coffee we know and love comes from roasting the seeds which are found in coffee berries. The berries are often picked by hand to make sure they’re ripe enough or the plants are shaken so that only ripe berries fall off and on to mats that are placed at the base of the bush.

Conservation: Coffee plantations have been the reason why forest habitats have been destroyed reducing habitats for many species. However, climate change affecting rising temperatures, longer droughts and excessive rainfall has affected the sustainability of coffee plantations.

The Coolest Thing Ever About This Species:

Coffee was the first food to ever be freeze dried!

ThatBiologist Everywhere!

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Becoming A Master – Back to GIS

Week 32

Hello and a very happy Sunday to you! So this week I have been using all my GIS skills once again but now I’m using them in my dissertation. If you didn’t know GIS stands for geographical information systems and is a really cool tool you can use to layer information that has a spatial element. Then you can build up the layers to see if there is a correlation between all of the information. I’ve talked about all the ins and outs with GIS before and you can read about it here if you’re interested.

In terms of GIS for my dissertation, I’ve been putting all my results from my field work onto a map to see if there is any connection between the biodiversity I’ve found and other spatial elements. Particularly when questioning whether the presence of trees in the hedgerows affect the general biodiversity. This is when I would show you my beautiful maps but I need to keep them to myself for a little while until my dissertation gets marked. However the basics behind it is I have mapped out the trees in my survey area as a layer and then I mapped over the biodiversity I found using the alpha biodiversity. This can then show me where the biodiversity is lower and if this happens to be where the hedgerows are dense with trees.

I’m using a similar technique to show the affect of badger damage on hedgerows. Badgers will often use the hedgerow to build part of their sets. This can often lead to lots of the plant life being destroyed. So I’m using GIS to see if that is an issue on my sample site too!

GIS is one of those tools that never fails to provide you with a fantastic figure and is a great skill for any budding biologist out there to learn!

ThatBiologist Everywhere!

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Skip Class Not Concealer – My thoughts…

Ooo an extra blog post from me this week! Well there’s been something happening online particularly on instagram that I wanted to throw my two cents in.

Benefit Cosmetics is a brand that I love a lot, they were the first slightly more expensive brand that I bought from and their makeup is flawless. Then this happened…

Image result for skip class not concealer benefit

You might be thinking, oh it’s just an advertising campaign it’s not going to do any harm. I however did take some offence to this. This brand is literally telling women that their looks are more important than their education! That is so unbelievably not okay!

I believe this is particularly damaging for young women. I remember being in school where how you looked was extremely important and there were girls in my class that would miss the first 10 minutes of class because of touch ups in the bathroom. To have a brand reinforce this behaviour as not just a good thing but a necessary thing is awful.

If I had skipped class for the sake of putting some make up on my face I might not have done so well in my classes. I might have ended up not being able to get a good degree in a subject that I love and I might not have ended up doing a masters degree at one of the top university’s in the country (Bit braggy, but you see my point).

I feel like brands have a duty to encourage education not down play it. Education is so incredibly important because the stuff you learn at school does set you up for what can be an incredible future.

Thanks to many people complaining about this branding from the looks of things benefit has had to pull the advertising campaign!

Finally, just as a quick side note to any young girls who are reading all of this, just go and have look at the #womeninstem on instagram and just see all the truly stunning women who are spending their life working hard and never skipping class!

Thank you for reading this slightly different post! See you all on Sunday!

Top 10 UK Birds

Hello! Today I want to introduce you to some of my favourite bird species. Birds are just the most fascinating things to watch and ever since my parents put a bird feeder in their garden I’ve learnt a lot about the different bird species. So without further a do here are 10 of my favourites!

  1. Barn Owl (Tyto alba) – Barn Owls are my favourite owl, aside from being the most beautiful owl they are also impressive hunters with incredible hearing. This hearing means they can catch prey with sound alone! Barn owl hovering
  2. Robin (Erithacus rubecula) –  Male robins can actually be quite an aggressive and territorial bird with other birds which can lead to fatalities. Over winter each robin will have a territory of approximately half a hectare. Robin on flower pot
  3. Buzzard (Buteo buteo) – These birds are one of the most widespread in the UK and can live up to 12 years old. They are an amazing bird of prey and if ever you get a chance to see them hunting its well worth a watch!Buzzard in flight head on
  4. Moorhen (Gallinula chloropus) – These little pond dwelling birds hold a special place in my heart because the lake at Bath Spa University had loads of them. They were the first bird species I could properly identify. I mean it also helps that they are adorable! Image result for moorhen
  5. Swan (Cygnus olor) – I feel like this list wouldn’t be complete without Swans. Again there was a resident pair at Bath Spa Uni that had signets ever year. They were very protective of their nests as swans are and I once had to run defence for my friend who was working on the lake and distract the swan!Mute swan swimming
  6. Crow (Corvus corone) – I have had my issues with crows in the past but they still are incredibly intelligent animals! They can recognise faces and even hold grudges! Image result for carrion crow
  7. House Sparrow (Passer domesticus) – Sparrow populations have declined by up to 62% in the last 25 years and now they are on the IUCN red list. House sparrow (female)
  8. Goldfinch (Carduelis carduelis) – These are undeniably one of the most stunning bird species on this list and can be seen almost everywhere in the UK apart from the very north and west of Scotland.Image result
  9. White-tailed eagle (Haliaeetus albicilla)- This is the largest UK bird species and went extinct in the 20th century from hunting and egg-collecting but has since been reintroduced. They are truly fantastic birds of prey and stunning to watch. Image result for white tailed eagle uk
  10. Blue Tit (Cyanistes caeruleus) – Another beautiful little bird that are a delight to sit and watch. In the winter they have family flocks that can be up to 20 birds in size!

Image result

Hope you’ve enjoyed this little foray into the avian world! What’s your favourite bird let me know in the comments!

ThatBiologist Everywhere!

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Becoming A Master – A Week In The Life

Week 31

Hello everyone, this week has been a busy one and instead of writing this on a Sunday and reflecting on the week just gone I’ve written a little each day. Hopefully this will show you that in my life currently there is no daily routine and every day is a little different.

Monday: Today I’ve been running a few errands, getting the shopping in and such as well as catching up on the emails I missed from being at home. I also spent a lot of today researching and writing for The Woodland Trust. I really love the volunteering I do for them as I just learn so much! If you’d like to see the work I do for them here are a few links:

Wild Orchids in the UK

Why Do Nettles Sting?

How to forage wild garlic!

Tuesday: Today I’ve been running through my statistics focusing on finding statistically significant results. These are important as when something is statistically significant you can say with more confidence that one thing is affecting another. This can be difficult to show in ecology as there are lots of variables out in the outside world!

Wednesday: Today I’ve been continuing with my work on Tuesday but also developing my reasons why I’m finding certain results. Stats can sometimes leave you with more questions than answers! I’ve been developing theories and working out what I want to say with my dissertation. This has somewhat left me with a few moments of yelling into a pillow when I don’t know which way is best! – All the fun of a masters I guess!

Thursday: The statistics continued today and I managed to answer some questions that I had from yesterday. I also collated all the work I’ve done so far for my meeting tomorrow.

Friday: Today I had a meeting with my supervisor for my dissertation. He gave me lots of ideas about how to use all the data analysis I’ve doing to create a succinct and convincing story. Which is great because I have a lot of editing to do!

After my meeting I went to go and give blood for the first time! I’ve always wanted to do this because I have no reason why I cant do it and every time someone gives blood they can save three different lives. It’s an incredible thing to do so go and do it if you can. It didn’t hurt nearly as much as how I’d built it up in my head and the nurses were totally lovely!

Saturday: So today I wrote up everything from my meeting and got to some planning. Although I did spend the afternoon on the sims… everyone needs a break!

Sunday:  I’m currently writing this just before I’m about to head out to spend some time with friends and my wonderful other half. We’re heading to the pottermore pop up shop in London and I am so excited! If you are also a potter fan let me know in the comments!

Hope you’ve enjoyed this update!

ThatBiologist Everywhere!

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The Monthly Species: June

Hello friends! So it is the end of June, once again I’m astounded that we are now half way through the year. But! Today we are talking about a mushroom. Fungi aren’t my favourite topic of conversation but I couldn’t resist because this one is so so cool. It’s sometimes referred to as Lion’s mane or bear’s head tooth fungus. It is Hericium americanum! 

Image result

Scientific Classification:

Kingdom: Fungi
Division: Basidiomycota
Class: Agaricomycetes
Order: Russulales
Family: Hericiaceae
Genus: Hericium
Species: H. americanum

Size: The fruiting body (the fleshy bit) can grow from about 15-30cm big. That in the range of mushrooms is big!

Diet: It lives off of decaying broad-leaved trees. It is thought that this may be init ally a parasitic fungus.

Distribution: It is found as the name might suggest in america. Specifically in North East america.
Hericium americanum, picture by Josh DotyReproduction: Fungus reproduce with spores which can be many different colours. This fungus has a white spore print.

Conservation: These fungi are quite common in the states however they are a prized find. They are an edible fungi and can be quite expensive because of how big they are!

The Coolest Thing Ever About This Species:

The shape of the fruiting body is simply stunning. The ice crystal shapes when combined with many fruiting bodies can look like a frozen waterfall!

ThatBiologist Everywhere!

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Becoming A Master – Alpha Diversity

Week 30

Hello friends! This week I have been all about the alpha diversity statistics so I thought I would tell you about how and why I’m doing it. Alpha biodiversity is effectively a way of working out the biodiversity in a local area. This can be done within a quadrat or within sections of a transect. For my dissertation I am looking at the alpha biodiversity of each of my hedgerows in my study.

To do this I’m using some software called EstimateS and I put in my results and then it uses different formula to find different alpha biodiversity scores. There can be different scores as lots of different studies have developed different mathematical formula to work out the biodiversity. Each formula is more effective for different types of study. For example a study looking at insect species richness may find a different formula gives a more accurate representation of alpha biodiversity than a study looking at salt marsh plants. I have four different formula to choose from and hopefully by next week I will have settled on one to use.

It’s been another heavy computer week but I did head home to Cornwall this weekend (why this blog is a little late) to run around the fields and check up on my hedgerows.

Hope you’ve enjoyed this little update and a little lesson on statistics!

ThatBiologist Everywhere!

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Top 10 Hedgerow Plants

Hello! I have been working on my dissertation for my masters which is all about hedgerows and their conservation. This has meant I’ve got to know the plants in Cornish hedgerows really well so without further a do here are 10 of my favourites!

  1. Red Campion (Silene dioica) – This is one of the most common wild flowers I found as part of my research. Traditional medicines used the seeds to treat snakebites and its genus name comes from the greek word sialon which means saliva.
  2. Stinging Nettle (Urtica dioica) – Easily the plant I was most aware of in my research because I had all the stings to prove I had found it. However, stinging nettles have their place in the hedgerow and provide an excellent habitat and food source for lots of my favourite butterflies.
  3. Hawthorn (Crataegus monogyna) – This was one of the main shrubs I found in my hedgerows. It can be extremely dense but provide food and habitat for up to 300 different species of insect. It was once said that if you brought a hawthorn blossom into your house illness and death were to follow so perhaps admire this plant from afar.
  4. Blackthorn (Prunus spinosa) – Another common hedgerow shrub also known by the name of sloe bush. It’s berries are commonly made into sloe gin but another interesting fact is that blackthorn wood was associated with witchcraft.
  5. Buttercup (Ranunculus repens) – Otherwise known as the species with the best latin name I have ever heard of. I commonly found creeping buttercup at the bottom of hedgerows. It used to be a favourite game of mine and my friends at primary school to hold a buttercup flower underneath each others chins and if you could see the yellow reflection of the flower it meant you liked butter. Not particularly sure why that mattered but it’s still a delightful little flower.
  6. Sycamore (Acer pseudoplatanus) – Fun fact sycamore trees are actually my favourite tree. They have the most beautiful colours in them all year round as the young leaves and stems are red before going green. They are actually an introduced species in the UK but they have been here since the 17th century. They can live for up to 400 years so I think the Sycamore is here to stay!
  7. Fools Parsley (Aethusa cynapium) – This one wasn’t very common so I definitely had to dig around to find it but I did! In some areas it grows quite commonly but every hedge is different.
  8. Dogs Violet (Viola riviana) – This is another very sweet wildflower that I found in my research. If you do happen upon a violet looking flower it’s more than likely going to be this one.
  9. Hazel (Corylus avellana) – This is another very common hedgerow tree. It provides an excellent resource for many other species but often suffers when cut back to vigorously. The stems are very bendy in spring so much that they can be bent into a knot without breaking!
  10. Hogweed (Heracleum mantegazzianum) – This species was introduced to the UK in the 19th century as an ornamental species and has since escaped from gardens and can be found in lots of areas. I found some specimens in the base of my hedgerows but was always careful of them as the sap from this species can cause irritation and even blisters.

If you fancy finding out more about hedgerows I’m talking a lot about them in my becoming a master series which comes out on Sundays!

See you soon!

ThatBiologist Everywhere!

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Becoming A Master – Procrastination Queen

Week 29

Hi friends, I’ve tried to start this blog in several different ways and none of them seem to be working. I think it’s mostly because I don’t have much to say as I haven’t done much on my masters this week. *Hangs head in shame*. This has happened for a couple reasons, firstly I’ve been doing plenty of writing for the Woodland Trust. Their blog is one of the most comprehensive for all things wildlife and its a total honor to be writing for them. I’ve also been pre-writing a lot of blogs for this internet space so I can try out some other creative projects.

It has also been beautifully sunny here in London and I have been staring out of the window like a puppy so I have been going on a few outdoor runs. I used to hate exercising but I found a new app called Zombie Run and I am now addicted to it!

Really all the spells out is….

Image result for procrastination spongebob meme

Hopefully next week I’ll have some tips on how to beat this and a complete list of things I’ve done to get this masters degree done! But for now shall we just sit, have a cup of tea, pop on the telly and forget we have stuff to do!

ThatBiologist Everywhere!

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