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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ThatBiologist – Conservation Conversations

Fun fact, when I was designing the questions I wanted to include within the questions for conservation conversations I tested them a lot on my peers but also myself. To the point where I even wrote out a complete answer to each question. So if you were wondering what my answers to my questions about the life of conservationist were here you go:

IMG_1025As I start all of these off with an introduction I guess I should introduce myself. Hi my name is Laura, I am finishing off my masters degree on conservation. I love all things wildlife but have a particular passion for botany and the planty things. I’ve been writing here for a couple of years now as well as twittering in between and recently writing for the Woodland trust. You can find out the whole story on me in my about tab!

  1. Starting off with something simple, what is your favourite species and why?

My favourite species is the venus fly trap. I adore botany and I love it when plants prove to be more than just green organisms. I love all the (often) hidden characteristics plants can have and venus fly traps are just spectacular. They have such sensitivity to the outside world and the adaptations they posses just to exist in nutrient depleted areas is outstanding. Personally I don’t see how any other species could beat it.

  1. So now I’m going to quiz you about your career in this sector, firstly why did you decide to get into conservation?

I’ve loved nature ever since I could remember. I remember getting a copy of a book discussing how what we do as humans effects the world. It focused on climate change and I was horrified by what I was reading. Ever since then I knew I wanted to do something to help.

  1. Sometimes working in conservation or the environment sector can be difficult, what inspires you to keep going in your career?

How beautiful nature is in every single way. As well as the awesome power for nature to continue in the face of every adversity which I think is very admirable. That power and beauty combined just fills me with so much hope that it can and will continue. All I want to do is help that process.

  1. What’s next on your career bucket list?

A job where I can practically help nature. I’m not fussy where I just want to do some good in this world.

  1. What’s been your career highlight so far?

Being told that a project I was working on won an international award and seeing the project continue to flourish years after I’ve finished working on it.

  1. Our world is pretty amazing with lots of wonderful things happening in the natural world. What natural phenomenon would you like to see or have seen?

I am desperate to see bioluminescence at work. I think it’s one of the most fantastical things in the universe and kinda makes me believe that magic is real.

  1. If you could let the general public know one thing about conservation what would it be?

Conservation is a long process and a team sport. There is no quick fix when the environment is damaged. Just because you recycle that water bottle does not mean you fix climate change but if everyone recycles more and does it for a long period of time it does have an affect. By working as a team we can make this planet a better place. (Looking back on this answer it seems even more true with Trump removing the USA from the Paris agreement. I have lots to say on this so just wait for another blog post.)

  1. Now if you could change one thing about how the world works what would you change and why?

I’d make single use plastic products illegal. Water bottles, straws, plastic bags and those stupid 6 pack plastic rings are unbelievably damaging to nature and so pointless. If I could remove them forever I would do it in a heartbeat. (more on this soon)

Now for a little favourites quick round!

  1. Favourite sound?

The birds in the morning when the rest of the world is quiet.

  1. Favourite fact?

In October of 2014 Cards against humanity bought a 6 acre island and named it Hawaii 2 and it is now left to preserve the wildlife there. If only every card game did the same, I’m looking at you Uno.

  1. Favourite snack?

Chocolate – Specifically cold dark chocolate.

  1. Favourite word?

Brilliant

  1. Favourite curse word? 

Horse Sh*t

  1. Least favourite word?

Never. I was told once that I would never do well at university, here I am now nearing the end of my masters. Don’t let anyone ever tell you that you can never do something because of course you can. You can do what ever you want. Whether you should is another matter 😉

And finally…

  1. What’s your best piece of advice for someone who wants to do better for the environment?

Buy a reusable water bottle and take it everywhere with you. It’s great for your body if you drink more water, it’ll save you money and it’s far better for the environment if you don’t buy the non-reusable ones. By taking one little step to being a better earth citizen you may find you want to make more of those steps.

I hope you’ve enjoyed my answers to these questions. There will be more guests in the future I promise!

ThatBiologist Everywhere!

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Becoming a Master – Desk Work and Podcasts

Week 28

Hello!

So this week I am now back in London to begin all things statistics. However most of this week has been spent reading papers and actually sorting out my data. For each of my hedgerows I had a different piece of paper with the data on it as well as a notebook with different notes and ideas. So this week all of these notes have needed to go into my computer. It sounds just as dull as it is. That being said it has to be done so as a way to stop myself going insane I have been listening to a lot of podcasts.

I find that I almost work better to podcasts than music as they can be less distracting. They are also a great way to learn a lot about science! Here are my two current favourites.

Science Brunch – These two amazing ladies post podcasts discussing amazing scientists. Hearing the stories of these inspiring people has been keeping me going through the piles of paperwork.

Level Up Human – This podcast is a really interesting concept. What would you add to humans to improve human kind as a whole? Its hosted by Simon Watt alongside lots of other great guest hosts. The ideas that come out of these podcasts are insane and weird and I love it!

I’m building up my repertoire of podcasts thanks to a lot of lovely suggestions on twitter. They are literally saving me from the boredom of paper work. Please tweet me or drop a comment on your favourite podcasts and I will check them out!

ThatBiologist Everywhere!

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Disney Effect Part 2 – Where is Nemo?

Hello! So during in VEDA I introduced the idea of the disney effect affecting the conservation of certain species. For today’s blog I thought I could take a look at the case study of clown fish. Clown fish are delightful fish that live near sea anemones hense why they can also be called anemonefish. There are 28 different species and they come in a large range of colours. Orange clownfish and the most famous kind are the species Amphiprion percula and A. ocellaris. They are really popular aquarium fish and here is kind of where our story begins.

The clownfish are obviously they key characters in finding Nemo. The film was released in 2003 and the film did incredibly well with great ratings and this led to a few different affects.

The first was that it pushed a spotlight on to the ocean and how its treated. It brought ocean protection into the media because the general public was made aware of how important and diverse the ocean is. The pressure from the public is always extremely powerful for the environment to get policies pushed forward. Although ocean protection has been important there was a notable rise in the interest to protect the oceans when the movie came out.

The other main affect was that many people wanted their very own nemo or dory. The demand for these fish went through the roof and to supply this demand many clownfish were removed from the wild. This happened to an extent where there was local extinction particularly in south east Asia. Now many of the fish you see available to purchase are bred in captivity however the damage of local extinction affected the coral habitat as a whole.

The power that disney has to affect public opinion can be massive. Luckily with the release of finding dory there was a larger affect to improve the message of conservation within the movie. Nevertheless the lessons learned from the affect that finding nemo had should be remembered with any future disney project.

Let me know what you think, is disney doing a good thing by putting these messages into their films or is it irresponsible because it can affect the population of a species on a global scale?

Til next time!

ThatBiologist Everywhere!

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Becoming a master: So many hedgerows

Week 27

Hello! So the past two weeks have been consumed by all things fieldwork (and a friends wedding). Doing fieldwork is one of my favourite things about being a scientist. It feels like real science even though all of the work that I do is real science. I love getting up close with nature and I learn a lot in a really short space of time. However as I’m writing this now I’ve completed all my fieldwork for this piece of work so I thought I’d tell you my top 5 things I’ve loved about the past 3 weeks of field work and 5 of my least favourite things!

Not So Great Things About Fieldwork

  1. The Elements – I’ve had all weathers whilst doing this work, I’ve been in torrential rain and bright (burning) sunshine. All weathers have there downsides and it can make things a bit tricky when trying to identify a plant you think you’ve never seen before.
  2. Working Alone – Some of my fieldwork I’ve had to do alone and this sucks because I have to carry all my equipment by myself and it takes a lot of self motivation to stay out in the rain when you’re by yourself!
  3. Stinging nettles – They were everywhere and I had so many stings on my hand at one point that it didnt stop tingling for a good day and a half.
  4. Rabbit Holes – Now I’ll never win a competition at being the most graceful but over the past 3 weeks I’ve fallen into more rabbit holes than I can count. Sometimes falling into stinging nettles!
  5. Long days – When I’ve been out and about I tend to stay out! Then when I came home I made a point of putting all my data into my computer  there and then so it couldnt get lost. All this made for a very sleepy laura!

Things that make fieldwork the best thing ever!

  1. The Views!!! – I’ve been working in Cornwall, which just so happens to be one of the most stunning places in the UK (although I am ever so slightly biased). Even in the pouring rain I could look up from my work and see the most stunning views of cornish countryside. I’ve been posting lots of pictures on my instagram if you want to take a look!
  2. Learning – The best way to learn how to identify plants is to get out in nature. I’ve learnt so much over the past three weeks about the names of different plants and their characteristics and it is so rewarding!
  3. Having my field assistants! – Luckily my sister and both of my dogs were able to come out with me on some of my days out and about. My sister is a fabulous assistant and I cannot thank her enough or I would have probably been out in the field for another three weeks getting it done. And my dogs are the cutest things you’ve ever seen and never fail to make me laugh.
  4. Its so much fun! – I love being out and about in nature whether its work or just walking around so I loved these past few weeks!
  5. My glorious data set – I now have the most stunning and massive dataset that I think I’ve ever created by myself and I love it!

Anyway I am now back in London for stage 2 of the project which is statistics. I can’t say I’m all that excited as stats has never been my forte but I’m excited to see what my data really says!

See you all soon and thanks for reading!

ThatBiologist Everywhere!

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The Monthly Species: May

It’s the end of May already! This months species has been in the news for reintroduction in Denmark. This is of course the grey wolf.

Canis lupis

VHawAWe

Scientific Classification:

Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Mammalia
Order: Carnivora
Suborder: Caniformia
Family: Canidae
Genus: Canis
Species: C. lupus

Size:

Grey wolves can measure up to 160cm in length and 85cm from shoulder height, however these sizes vary globally.

Diet:

As wolves are known globally diets do vary dependent on which continent they are found. That being said wolves generally feed on herbivorous mammals for example deer, goats and even bison. Wolves have been known to supplement this diet with berries and vegetable matter. This can include things like blueberries and melons but again varies on the location.

Life Expectancy:

Generally 7-8 years in the wild but wolves have been known to live up to 12 years or longer in remote locations and in protected areas.


Reproduction:

Breeding season occurs once a year late January through March. Pups are born blind and defenseless and there can be between 4 and 7 pups per litter. The pack cares for the pups until they fully mature at about 10 months of age when they can hunt on their own. Once grown, young wolves may disperse. Dispersing wolves have been known to travel 50 to 500 miles.

Conservation: 

Wolf populations worldwide decreased in the 19th century mainly through hunting. The populations are threatened from habitat loss and continued conflict with humans. On the other side populations have began to increase through an increase in protected areas and wolf populations have began to grow in places which were recently extinct from wolves.

The Coolest Thing Ever About This Species:

Wolves have unique howls, like fingerprints, that scientists (and other pack members) can use to tell them apart.

ThatBiologist Everywhere!

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The Future of ThatBiologist

Hello and welcome to this ominous sounding blog!

I have been writing here for just over two years! I love every second of it and everyone’s support particularly on twitter has been phenomenal. Now before you think anything too wild I am not leaving or stopping in anyway! I actually want to grow my blog and take thatbiologist to new platforms. I’ve been working on a podcast series that I really want to develop as well as keeping up with new content here!

To do all this I need some funds. I’d love to own my domain here and become thatbiologist.com as well as keep everything free for the masses! So if you do enjoy my content and would like to support it you can donate to my new patreon page. By doing so not only will you be helping me here but you’ll also get sneak behind the scenes access to what I’m up to.

Thank you for your continued support! Happy Biologying everyone!

ThatBiologist Everywhere!

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