Becoming A Master – Conferencing!

Week 34

Hello! So this week I am back after a wonderful holiday to Wales! It was fantastic to get away from my laptop screen and get outside but this week I am back to it! I’m in my final month of writing my dissertation and as you might imagine its a lot of perfecting what I’m doing to produce the best possible piece of work. However, I am also looking at where I’m going next and job applications are always on my to do list! This week I got the opportunity to present what I’ve been up to!

I am taking a break from blogging again next week to get all my work finished before my final deadline! So see you all very soon!

ThatBiologist Everywhere!

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What makes something native?

In conservation and biology in general there is a lot of talk over whether a species is native. This can often be quite a divisive issue because when species are not native they can often be removed or not be a part of policy making. This then means that when conservation plans are put into place a decision must be made as to whether a species is native or not.

So how do you decide whether something is in fact native?

A seemingly easy way of doing this is whether a species has been living in a location for a long time. However due to the wonderful nature of the world trying to pick a starting point in time and figure out what was living there can be a tricky task. For example certain plant species have always been in the UK such as Oak trees. They are therefore classed as native. Other plant species have been brought into the UK. This can happen for lots of different reasons whether its because the plant has a medical property that humans can use or it could be that they are just pretty. Many of these species have a specific few years when they were brought in. One example of this is Rhododendron ponticum which was brought in as an ornamental plant from Spain in 1763. Its since become an invasive species and out competes a lot of native species and such its regarded as a non-native species. However some research suggests that this species was growing in the UK before the last ice age. Obviously this was a long time ago but this does then pose the question of is it a native species as it once was many years a go.

It is a complicated question that I couldn’t answer in a simple blog post. However, most native species are defined as species that originated in their location naturally and without the involvement of human activity or intervention. This definition works for the majority of cases but should be called into question every once in a while!

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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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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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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Becoming A Master – Field Work Beginnings

Week 26

Hello! So this week in my life I have finally begun my field work. I’m working on a project looking at the conservation of hedgerows. I’m doing this by looking at the biodiversity in the hedgerow and then comparing this with the management system of them. To look at the biodiversity I’m conducting a floral assemblage study which basically means identifying the species of the plants growing in the hedgerows and then identifying there percentage cover.

Unfortunately the weather wasn’t great here in Cornwall in the beginning of the week. This meant a few difficulties like trying to keep paper dry and wearing lots of layers so I don’t freeze! I’ve also had to bring lots of specimens home to identify in the dry with all the technology to help me.

However on Thursday, there was beautiful warm sunshine which was much easier  (and more enjoyable) to work in. I even found some little Great Tit chicks which was a great find! I have also been trying to keep up with keeping my notes in order on my computer and updating them every day after coming in from the fields. This way my notes don’t get too garbled and I remember what the squiggles mean.

All in all its been a good first week of field work and has been very productive! More fun to come next week! If you’d like more pictures of my antics, the best place for that is my instagram!

ThatBiologist Everywhere!

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Why aren’t all plants green?

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As part of my time off I took yet another visit to kew gardens with a friend who had never been before. Every time I go I learn a little something different and this time I was wondering about colours of plants. Most plants are green in colour but not all! Today I thought we would explore why this is?

Why are plants green?

Plants are green because their cells contain chloroplasts which have the pigment chlorophyll. This pigment absorbs deep-blue and red light, so that the rest of the sunlight spectrum is being reflected, causing the plant to look green.

What other plant colours can you get?

Think of a colour any colour, you can almost definitely find a plant that colour! Often the colours are found in the flowers but some plants have different coloured leaves too!

Why do plants have different colours?

Often the colours are an adaptation to attract different pollinators. The colours come from different chemicals that absorb different wavelengths of light leaving different colours behind!

Hope you feel like you’ve learnt something a little different this Wednesday! See you on Sunday!

ThatBiologist Everywhere!

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Scicommers

Hello and welcome to the last spotlight Thursday of BEDA. I thought this time I would cast the spotlight on Scicommers. Scicomm is short for science communication and scicommers are the people who just that. I totally adore the Scicomm community and I spend large amounts of time when I’m not writing, reading and listening to more scicomm, so I thought I would share three of my favourites.

SciShow – This was what got me totally hooked into this wonderful world. It’s a youtube channel that does a little bit of everything in science and they’re all in wonderfully animated digestible chunks!

The Scientific Beauty – I aspire so much to be as glamourous as Sophie who runs Scibeauty. It’s a great blog (shes also brilliant on twitter) that combines beauty with science. She also has killer style and is finishing up her PhD. If you love your makeup and your science this is the place for you.

Dr Mike – He’s another huge inspiration and has helped me out so much with a cheeky retweet here and there. He makes scicomm podcasts that are informative and fun. I particularly like listening to them when I’m in the lab to keep me going and his series actual living scientist is by far and away my favourite!

So there we have it three amazing sources that covers all sorts of different topics in the scientific world. Hope you enjoy them too if you go and check them out!

ThatBiologist Everywhere!

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Nature Documentaries You Have To Watch

It’s another spotlight Thursday! For this episode I thought I’d turn our attention to Nature Documentaries. They’re how a lot of people fall in love with the natural world. They provide inspiration as well as being important educational sources. I happen to be a little bit of a nature documentary junkie and thought I’d share some of my favourites.

Planet Earth – The sequel has only recently been shown but the original series is just as good!

Sharkwater – I love sharks, I spent an entire week last year talking all about them. I’ve watched what feels like hundreds of shark documentaries. Blue planet is amazing as is Shark but my favourite is sharkwater.

The Ivory Game – This is all about ivory trade. Illegal animal trade can be damning for species and ivory is a big seller still. This documentary can be a little grim but its really informative about why illegal animal trade is important.

Hope you enjoy my recommendations if you do choose to watch them. If you’ve got any good documentaries you think I should watch leave me a comment or send them in a tweet for me!

 

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The Disney Effect

Good Morning and welcome to another week. Today I wanted to talk to you about the Disney effect. This might not sound like a scientific issue but I promise you it is. So, let me explain, the idea behind the Disney effect is that when we see scientific issues presented in Disney movies we’re more likely to care about the issue.

This theory came about initially from the film Bambi. The film was a huge success and it raised awareness of conservation issues. From the film, there was an increase in protected areas and hunting bans put in place.

A similar effect came from the film Finding Nemo. In this case, it was all about protecting marine areas. Again, the film was a roaring success and more people started to educate themselves about how we needed to protect “nemo” in the way of protecting his habitat. Finding Nemo also brought to light the damaging effects of fishing by showing it from the fishes eyes. Then with the films sequel Finding Dory the issue of plastics in the ocean was shown with dory herself struggling to get out of a plastic ring.

Although the Disney effect is not always the best thing. When Finding Nemo came out some people just wanted a nemo for themselves. This caused a demand for clown fish and that demand was fulfilled causing the wild population of clown fish to decline. Similar reports have come from Finding Dory with Blue Tang fish.

It provides an interesting debate. Are these films a good thing? Or does the damaging effect on certain species outweigh the good? Let me know in comments!

See you all tomorrow and just keep swimming!

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