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!

Twitter

Facebook

Instagram

Why aren’t all plants green?

earlyspring13 025a

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!

Twitter

Facebook

Instagram

Becoming A Master – London For Scientists

Week 25

Hello!

So the past two weeks in my life I have been preparing for my field work for my dissertation. This has included meetings with my supervisor to get my methodology down and writing my risk assessment as well as starting my background research. However I have also been taking some down time before my field work begins (its starting tomorrow eeep). This has meant for me lots of sleep and spending quality time with my better half however I live (in my opinion) in the best city in the world. So I’ve been able to go out and explore London! So I thought with this blog I would suggest a few sciencey tourist spots for people to go and find and learn more about science!

For the Beginner: The Science Museum

The science museum is just a great place to get started with science. It has a bit of everything from technology to biology to engineering. What I totally love about the museum is it has loads of bits to interact with which is great for kids (and grown-up kids) and its also 100% free to go in. I went to there cosmonauts exhibition last year and it was one of my favourite exhibitions that I have ever been too.

For the all round Biologist: The Natural History Museum

If you’re in London you will seriously miss out if you haven’t been to the Natural History Museum. It’s a stunning building and again 100% free to go in but the queues to enter can be super long at peak times. But don’t just go for the dinosaurs! The dinosaur exhibit is by far their most popular exhibit but make sure you go upstairs for the real treasures. My favourite spot is at the top of the central staircase where they keep some extra special treasures. I won’t spoil it by telling you whats in there but just go, you won’t be disappointed!

For the Botanist: The Royal Botanical Gardens – Kew!

By now it is no secret that Kew is one of my favourite places in London. It’s this strangely peaceful spot in an increasingly busy city. This is the first on my list that is not free to enter but holds some incredibly rare plants and is beautiful all year round. It has something different to see every time I go and is a botanists heaven.

For the Medic: Florence Nightingale Museum and The Old Operating Theatre and Herb Garret

There are so many interesting medical museums in London. But two things that remain on my bucket list are these two. Old fashioned surgery is so interesting and without there advancements the modern surgery we see today might look very different. As for florence nightingale she is another fantastic woman that I cannot help but admire and want to learn more about.

For the Engineer: The Tower Bridge Tour.

London is full of engineering prowess. Its a city with so many different levels and its construction is something I have become increasingly more interested by. Tower Bridge in itself is a tourist destination and well worth a trip across but the tour provides even more insight. The engineering behind its movement is so beautifully simple and definitely worth a trip.

Obviously there are loads more and if you like your history of science be sure to look out for the blue plaques on the wall. You’ll be sure to see some of your favourite scientist’s names out and about.

I hope you’ve enjoyed this weeks update and I will be back next Sunday with an update on my first week of field work!

ThatBiologist Everywhere!

Twitter

Facebook

Instagram

 

The Little Mermaid: Are mermaids real?

“A mermaid has not an immortal soul, nor can she obtain one unless she wins the love of a human being”

Fairyology Episode 8

Image result for the little mermaid

Hello and welcome to another fairyology episode, this time I pose the question is it better down where its wetter? Todays fairy tale is of course the little mermaid. Now for a quick run down of the story. So the disneys version is a little bit different from the original fairytale but today we’re going to look at the original version.

Theres a mermaid that lives with her widowed father in an underwater kingdom. When she turns 15 she can swim to the surface. She then becomes obsessed with the world on land and falls in love with a Prince she rescues. She asks her grandmother about the humans and she then tells the young mermaid (Ariel) and she tells her that humans live for a shorter time than the mermaids 300 years but when they die their soul lives forever. Where as when a mermaid dies they turn into sea foam and disappear (have a think about that when you’re next paddling in sea foam!). Ariel decides she wants to live on the land so visits a sea witch. The sea witch gives her a potion that will cause her to become human but she will never be able to return to the mermaid world and the only way she will obtain a soul is if the prince marries her.

Ariel then takes the potion and becomes human. She becomes good friends with the prince but he doesnt recognise her as the mermaid who recognises him. He instead marries a princess who he sees as the one who rescued him. Ariel is now heartbroken. Her sister comes to the rescue with a knife for her to kill the prince. Ariel goes to do the awful deed but cannot bring herself to kill him. She chucks the knife into the water and her body turns to foam. BUT! She instead turns into an earth spirit??? and uses her 300 years doing good deeds. Yes well I now understand why disney simplified this tale!

So the science in this one has to be could mermaids be real?! There are a few theories on this one so lets get to it!

Theory 1. Manatees

The main theory behind mermaid sightings is that they were actually manatees. Now manatees hardly look like Ariel but often these sightings came from seamen. In the past often boats would carry limited supplies meaning these sailors were often highly dehydrated and suffered with scurvy. All this together meant they often started to see things and the manatees appeared to them as attractive women. So next time you see a mermaid just have a check that it isn’t a manatee and maybe have an apple with some water!

Theory 2. Hoaxes

Mermaids that have been “found” in the past were often pretty horrific. They were very popular in freak shows of the victorian era and were “obviously” hoaxes. If you’re brave enough feel free to go and have a look at the photos online but often these were a combination of monkeys with fish. Yeah, its gross…. moving on!

Theory 3. “Of course they’re real they just haven’t been found yet.”

Mermaids are so fantastical and genetically having half human half fish is just not going to happen. However my mermaid lovers out there should always remain hopeful! The ocean is such a mystery to scientists even now so I’m just waiting for the documentary where Ariel makes her first appearance!

Hope you have enjoyed this silly foray into fairyology! See you all next time!

ThatBiologist Everywhere!

Twitter

Facebook

Instagram

Start of Something New – Becoming A Master

Week 24!

Hello, so this week I’ve actually had some time to rest up after the assignment but on Friday I started my final stage of the degree. This is the term I will complete my dissertation, so I had my first meeting with my dissertation supervisor who agreed on my project. I’m completing my research on the biodiversity in hedgerows and so on Saturday I went and did a preliminary check on the hedgerows I want to analyse.

It’s the start of the next big project for me and I’m really excited to get going with it!

Unfortunately once again its a short blog post but there will be more next week when the prep work begins!

ThatBiologist Everywhere!

Twitter

Facebook

Instagram

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!

Twitter

Facebook

Instagram

Holly Langridge – Conservation Conversations

hollyToday I’m bringing you another episode of Conservation Conversations. This time with the wonderful Holly! She is a Research Technician for the Soil and Ecosystem Ecology Lab at the University of Manchester, and writes for a conservation blog in my spare time. The blog is called I Fucking Love Conservation is a multi-platform blog highlighting worldwide conservation projects and news. Fun fact was that this very blog was one of my main inspirations in getting into writing!

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

The hazel dormouse (Muscardinus avellanarius), because as well as being insanely cute, I studied them for my MSc project. I’m particularly interested in small mammals anyway, and I found out how interesting dormice physiology and natural history are when I studied their locomotion and gap crossing abilities with the captive individuals at Wildwood. I got to work up close with a few dormice that had been brought in due to injury, and had been rehabilitated to either be released or used in a captive breeding program.

  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 cared about animals and the environment for as long as I can remember and I’m sure there are millions of tiny experiences that influenced the choice, but the decision to study it and pursue it seriously as a career came on a college fieldtrip to an FSC centre. I was stood in a courtyard when tens of lesser horseshoe bats emerged from the stable and flew around my head, checking out what I was. They were so close to my face I could feel the air from their wings flapping. Rather than being freaked out like most of the other students in the courtyard, I felt incredibly calm and privileged to be there. Since then, I’ve just known I wanted to work in conservation. I came to another cross-road after I finished my BSc, when choosing a masters. I was leaning towards the Environmental Management and Sustainable Development course, having reasoned it was more likely to lead to stable employment. Then we went on a family day out to Monkey Forest in Threntham and I felt that spark of inspiration again, and realised I wouldn’t be happy in the long run doing sustainability. I emailed the university to switch to the Conservation Biology course that same night, and it’s one of the best choices I ever made. There’s nothing else I can imagine doing.

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

For me, it’s a bit like air. I don’t need inspiration to remember to keep breathing. But you’re right, it’s not an easy area to work in, so sometimes I do just need to recharge my batteries. I have two very different methods for this, the first is a serious TV binge session (but who doesn’t need one of those every now and then!), where I can become absorbed in a series and switch my brain off. The second is best described by the Japanese phrase “shinrin-yoku”, or “forest bathing”. I love spending time in nature and I’ve always particularly loved mature woodland. Being out in the mottled sunshine, listening to the birds, getting away from the hustle and bustle – I find it very energising. I tend to go for gentle walks rather than hardcore hikes, sometimes with a picnic, ID book or friend in tow.

I also find real life stories and anecdotes from the sector inspirational. I remember during my undergraduate degree, I’d fallen behind a bit in my 3rd year after a serious illness, and was researching eagles for an assignment. I was looking for facts and figures but came across this first-person story from a ranger. It’s a bit fuzzy because I read it some 8 years ago, but I think his job was to locate new nests and tag/weigh the chicks. To his surprise, he found a nest, so he set up the tree climbing equipment and shimmied carefully up to the nest when the adult had left. But while weighing one chick, the other plopped over the edge of the nest and fell softly to the ground. He retrieved it, but as he climbed back up to the nest with the chick stowed safely in a bag, in one of those moments where you know what is going to happen but are powerless to stop it, the second check jumped overboard too. Cue another chick rescue and very tense climb hoping they’d both stay in this time. It was humorously and engagingly written, with enough detail to be informative too. It’s a small thing, but laughing along to that story really helped remind me why I was studying ecology and conservation. Since reading that, I’ve been writing and collecting conservation and biology anecdotes, first for my own blog and now for I Fucking Love Conservation, under the #ConservationTales tag.

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

I would love to get some practical tropical ecology experience, particularly in Central or South America. Working as a research assistant on a project involving small to medium mammals or bats would be a dream. Basically, I’m looking for an adventure, while I’m still young enough to make the most of it! Rather than trekking through the jungle I would like to be based at a research station but those sorts of roles are few and far between, and tend to be filled by word of mouth pretty fast.

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

Working for at the UoM with two fantastic academics has been great. Even though it’s working on roots which are really not my specialism, being part of such a prestigious lab group, carrying out research at the forefront of our scientific knowledge and getting to do really interesting tasks was just brilliant.

  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?

It’s hard to choose when there are so many incredible things to see. I would have to pick the classic aurora borealis, or maybe bioluminescent waves. I think seeing lenticular clouds in person, in some beautiful mountainous region, would be incredible too.

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

That if we don’t make some serious changes soon and start all taking responsibility, it may be too late. And not just for some obscure species, the negative effects will hit humans too.

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

I would make humans less selfish. It seems like a simple enough thing but really it would be entirely changing our base instincts, removing something that has conveyed an evolutionary advantage for so long. But a lot of our problems with each other and the world come from people behaving selfishly; the need to acquire more, the whole capitalist system, the inability to put the needs of other species above or even equal to our own, the refusal to make any sacrifices now to safeguard the future of the planet for our children and the millions of other species that inhabit the earth. Many conflicts and political decisions also stem from selfishness, whether the guilty party is thinking only of themselves, of their family, of their political party or of their country even – if they aren’t thinking of the whole world then it’s selfish. It’s prevalent it in everyday life too, any time someone absent-mindedly litters (assuming it’s someone else’s problem), tries to get on a train before letting people off (because their need for a seat is more important than all the people waiting to get off) or undercuts a row of cars on a slip road politely filtering into a queue, to force their way in further ahead. If we could change that mindset, I think the situation for conservation and conservationists would really improve.

Now for some favourites!

  1. Favourite sound?

Woodland birdsong with trickling water

  1. Favourite fact?

Less time separates the existence of humans and the Tyrannosaurus rex than the T-rex and the stegosaurus.

  1. Favourite snack?

Chocolate

  1. Favourite word?

Discombobulated

  1. Favourite curse word? 

In terms of frequency of use, probably “fuck”.  But I actually prefer “frak”.

  1. Least favourite word?

YOLO

And finally…

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

Work small changes into your behaviour, and encourage friends to do the same. Just recycling, buying less, being a responsible consumer and letting your local councillor or other elected representative know you care about conservation issues, can accumulate into real change over time.

Thank you so much to Holly for answering these questions in such an insightful way. I really suggest going and checking out I Fucking Love Conservation. If you want more from Holly herself and I think you should for sure! Then shes on twitter with @Ecology_Holly

ThatBiologist Everywhere!

Twitter

Facebook

Instagram

The Monthly Species: April

Hello and welcome to Day 24 of BEDA, the end is in sight! Today I’m bringing you one of my favorite plants in the whole world. Fun fact when I go to Kew I always make a trip to the carnivorous plants room because they are just that cool! It is of course the Venus Fly Trap.

Dionaea muscipula

Venus_Flytrap_showing_trigger_hairs

Scientific Classification:

Kingdom: Plantae
Clade: Angiosperms
Clade: Eudicots
Order: Caryophyllales
Family: Droseraceae
Genus: Dionaea
Species: D. muscipula

Size: Plants are built with a rosette of four to seven leaves. Each stem reaches a maximum size of about three to ten centimeters. The longer leaves with robust traps are usually formed after flowering. Flytraps that have more than seven leaves are colonies formed by rosettes that have divided beneath the ground.

Habitat: Bogs and wet savannah, or areas are nutrient poor. Its actually only native to North and South Carolina in the US. However it has been transplanted to several locations across the world.

Conservation: The species are currently classed as vulnerable in the IUCN red list. In North Carolina there is a law stating that the removal of naturally growing venus fly traps are is a felony.

The Coolest Thing Ever About This Species:

The coolest thing about venus fly traps is of course there carnivorous capabilities. The venus fly trap is adapted to living in poor nutrient soils because it gains nutrients from the insects. The leaves have very sensitive adapted trigger hairs that when they feel pressure the movement is activated. This then closes the two leaves together and the poor insect is trapped. Digestive enzymes are then released which then turns the insect into a kind of mush and the plant can then obtain the nutrients. It’s a bit gory but I find it so cool! I’m sure that says alot about me in some way!

ThatBiologist Everywhere!

Twitter

Facebook

Instagram

Becoming A Master – Deadlines, Deadlines Everywhere!

Hello!

So it has not been a great week for BEDA. Mainly because my deadlines came and tapped me on the shoulder and then I went into a little bit of hibernation. I am nearing the end and next week I’m free. But for now I better get back to it because I’ll be honest I’m at the green stage of this beautiful diagram.

Facebook-Creativity-at-its-finest-064900.png

I’ll be back next week!

ThatBiologist Everywhere!

Twitter

Facebook

Instagram

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!

 

ThatBiologist Everywhere!

Twitter

Facebook

Instagram