Save The Sharks

The Shark Tank

I hope you’ve thoroughly enjoyed this week of shark related blogs, I’ve loved writing them! Today we’re looking at what we can do to help the sharks out and whats currently being done.

Shark Conservation

Unlike other species we can’t take sharks out of the ocean and put them into captive breeding programmes. The sharks just don’t survive so all the shark conservation has to be done out in the ocean. However there is lots being done to help out our shark friends.

Legislation – By far this is the biggest way we can help the sharks. Using the law we can protect the waters they swim in as well as making it illegal to catch them for sport. This is also the best way we can stop sharks being caught and used for food as well as beauty products. The only issue with this is that often legislation has loop holes but it has been shown to help!

Ecotourism – Sharks still have a pretty bad rep, mostly thanks to the film and tv industry. Now if you’ve been reading this weeks blogs you know that this is simply not true. Well ecotourism is also a great way to do the same! If sharks have a better reputation then we can get more voices putting pressure on their governments to protect them! As well as this often ecotourism ventures will put some of the money back into more shark conservation efforts.

Knowledge – By learning more about sharks we know how to help them better. This can be done by putting more money into research. There are lots of studies going on worldwide tagging lots of different species of shark and tracking them.

How can you help?

You don’t have to be a marine biologist or conservationist to help out the sharks. There are things you can do right now to help them even if you live no where near the ocean!

  1. First things first, don’t eat shark! It’s not only bad for the shark if you eat them but it’s also bad for you. Shark meat has really high levels of mercury in it. Eating a lot of mercury can lead to damage to your vital organs and immune system.
  2. Keep shark out of your beauty products. If they contain the ingredient Squalene that is shark liver oil.
  3. Don’t buy shark products! Leave their teeth where they should be.
  4. Don’t support businesses that use sharks. Like restaurants that serve it or beauty companies that use the oils.
  5. Be aware of where your seafood comes from. Sharks often get caught up in nets and die needlessly. So look on the packet for dolphin and shark friendly seafood!
  6. Keep informed, the more you know about sharks the better and then share what you know to get more people on the shark train!

I’ve really loved writing about my favourite group of species. Shark conservation is so important to me because I want to keep all the sharks around for more people to see. They are a huge part in the marine ecosystem and must be protected. Back to normal programming next week!

More articles from the Shark Tank

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The Monthly Scientist: Mr July

The Monthly Scientist

This month in the 6 in 60 series we’ve been talking all about the wonderful world of bacteria, catch up here if you’ve missed any. Therefore I thought it was only right to give this man the monthly scientist.

Dr Theodor Escherich

200px-Escherich,_Theodor

Born: 29 November 1857

Died: 15 February 1911

Noted for: Discovering the E Coli bacteria.

Why scientist of the month?

Escherich was a German-Austrian paediatrician and he believed that some of the illnesses that the children he treated were suffering from came from bacteria. From there he began to research the bacteria growing inside the human colon and there he found E. Coli. Although he first called it “bacterium coli commune”, his discovery in 1885 led to more discoveries in the world of microbiology. He also linked his discovery to gastroenteritis and infant diarrhoea. This was incredibly important in the world of public health. From this discovery and the work of other microbiologists antibiotics have been created and there is now a better understanding of how important bacteria really are.

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6 in 60: Number 38 – Coral Reefs

6in60

Coral Reefs have to be one of the must stunning habitats on this planet, one minute to admire them and learn something more. Let’s go:

  1. reef composed mainly of coral and other organic matter of which parts have solidified into limestone.
  2. Approximately 500 million people worldwide depend upon reefs for food and to protect coastlines from storms and erosion.
  3. Coral reefs provide habitat, spawning and nursery grounds for economically important fish species; provide fishing, recreation, and tourism jobs  and income to local economies; are a source of new medicines, and are hotspots of marine biodiversity.
  4. A 1000km long coral reef has been discovered recently at the mouth of the Amazon river. The reef consists mainly of sponges and rhodoliths, red algae that deposit calcium carbonate in their cell walls. Unlike coral, rhodoliths can thrive in low light.
  5. Warmer ocean temperatures caused by El Niño (a weather pattern in the pacific ocean) and global warming can lead to coral bleaching.
  6. Corals have multiple reproductive strategies – they can be male or female or both, and can reproduce either asexually or sexually. Asexual reproduction is important for increasing the size of the colony, and sexual reproduction increases genetic diversity and starts new colonies that can be far from the parents.

That’s all for now but might have to write up more on the wonders of coral reefs. After all the more we learn about them perhaps the more people will want to protect them. Happy Biologying guys!

Sources

The first is just a straight definition from the dictionary. Facts 2,3 and 5 come from the NOAA (National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration). Fact 4 comes from the new scientist article. Fact 6 comes from the ocean portal at the Smithsonian, got loads of stuff there about coral reefs if you wanted to know more!

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6 in 60 – Number 36: Fishing

6in60

For all of my blogs on ocean life I thought I’d list 6 things you don’t know about fishing!

trawler_2

  1. Fishing is one of the most popular outdoor recreational activities in the United States. While participation has decreased slightly in recent years, more than 55 million Americans still took at least one fishing trip in 2013.
  2. One of the chief consequences of industrial fishing is that some species have been overfished to the point of near extinction.
  3. Ghost pots are when crab pots are left and forgotten about in the ocean and they can often attract turtles. A single ghost pot was discovered in Georgia that contained more than 130 deceased turtles.
  4. Some bad fishing practices such as bottom trawling has been linked with degradation  of ocean beds and depleted water quality.
  5.  In 2008, up to one third of the total fish catch in UK waters was found to be discarded. Most that are discarded do not survive after being thrown back into the sea so discarding is a waste of resources as well as a conservation threat.
  6. In 1992 the once thriving cod fishing industry came to a sudden and full stop when at the start of the fishing season no cod appeared. Overfishing allowed by decades of fisheries mismanagement was the main cause for this disaster that resulted in almost 40.000 people losing their livelihood and an ecosystem in complete state of decay

The Sources

Fact 1 comes from this site. Fact 2 and 3 comes from environmentalscience.org and fact 4 comes from greenliving. Fact 5 comes from the sustainable sea coalition. That’s also where I got the rather lovely picture of the boat from. Fact 6 on overfishing comes from overfishing.org. Well seemed like an appropriate website to me!

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6 in 60- Number 35: Boil Em’ Mash Em’ Stick em in a stew!

6in60

If you know the quote for the title you already know what I’ll be on about! If not well of course it’s the humble Potato! Let’s go:

  1. The Inca Indians in Peru were the first to cultivate potatoes around 8,000 BC to 5,000 B.C
  2. The word potato comes from the Spanish word patata.
  3. One of the main causes of the Great Famine in Ireland between 1845 and 1852 was a potato disease known as potato blight. The shortage of potatoes led to the death of around 1 million people who were dependent on them as a food source.
  4. Potatoes are a member of the nightshade family, which also includes tomatoes, capsicum and the poisonous belladonna.
  5. Good news for fans of mash: humans can apparently survive on a diet of just potatoes, and milk or butter, which contain Vitamin A and D, the only vitamins missing from the humble spud.
  6. The biggest potato ever grown was 8lb and 4oz beating the previous record by 9oz. I know you wanna see this beast so here’s a picture:

big-spud_1708079c

See and you didn’t think there was anything interesting to be said about them!

The Sources

Fact 1 came from “potato goodness” bit strange but I’ll roll with it. Fact 2 and 3 comes from this site. Fact 4 and 5 comes from a lifestyle article on yahoo.

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Mini Wiki 3: RNA

Mini Wiki

Last time on mini wikis we looked at DNA well now we’re going to look at DNAs little brother RNA. Or if you want to use the full title that’s Ribonucleic Acid. As always you can always skip to the bottom for our 5 things you have to know about ribonucleic acid.

What does RNA do?

RNA is often compared to a copy from a reference book, or a template, because it carriesRNA-diagram.jpg the same information as its DNA template but is not used for long-term storage.  There are three types of RNA that’s messenger RNA (mRNA), transfer RNA (tRNA), and ribosomal RNA (rRNA). RNA then goes on to make proteins for use in the cell (1).

How is RNA made?

RNA has the same ingredients as DNA in that each ribonucleotide base contains a ribose sugar and a phosphate backbone with a nitrogenous base. The four nitrogenous bases found in RNA are adenine (A), cytosine (C), guanine (G), and uracil (U). It’s made from DNA in a process called transcription using the enzyme RNA polymerase. I went on about that way back when in Mini Wiki 1.

How is RNA different from DNA?

  • Firstly RNA is a linear molecule unlike the double helix of DNA (1).
  • RNA does not contain the nitrogenous base Thymine, it is replaced with the base Uracil (2).
  • RNA can be found outside of the nucleus unlike DNA and the lack of a paired strand allows RNA to fold into complex, three-dimensional structures(2).
  • RNA also plays an important role in regulating cellular processes–from cell division, differentiation and growth to cell aging and death (3).

5 things you need to know about RNA

  1. RNA carries the same genetic information as DNA but it works like a photocopy.
  2. RNA is made from four nucleotide bases, A,C,U and G.
  3. RNA can be found outside of the nucleus.
  4. There are three types of RNA.
  5. RNA is used to make proteins.

References

(1) = http://www.nature.com/scitable/definition/ribonucleic-acid-rna-45

(2) = http://exploringorigins.org/rna.html

(3) = http://www.rnasociety.org/about/what-is-rna/

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A Biologists Birthday

Miscellaneous

This week I celebrated my 21st birthday (man I’m getting old). The day was great and full of biology and I thought I would write a little bit about it.

Starting off the day saw me being a part of my boyfriend’s dissertation survey. His dissertation is about the effect of energy drinks on students. This meant doing a memory task, a reaction time test and having my heart rate taken. Then drinking a frankly vile drink waiting for half an hour and repeating the three tests. Obviously as the study is ongoing I don’t really know whether there was a difference but it certainly kicked off my day in a biological way.

Then the next step in my day was to go for coffee with my best friend. Starbucks in Bath is our normal hang out place but coffee is so wonderfully biological also. As well as the coffee plant being of extreme interest

Then it was back to university for my normal three hour session of marine biology. Clearly this would be biological! The lecture involved three different sections. The first section was about marine pollution; it’s a scary topic pollution when you realise just how much goes on. We got to talk about oil spills which is a topic that first turned my attention towards the human effects on the world. When you see the shocking sites of all these beautiful birds covered in black oil it’s hard for it not to take some sort of effect. The second topic was part of our peer lectures scheme where one of the students in my class does a 5 minute presentation. This one was on a very weird little creature called the nautilus. Very strange looking creatures that have been around for a lot longer than I. In fact fossil records show that nautiloids have not evolved in over 500 million years. The last topic was on marine biotechnology. It is quite incredible how much has been developed from the marine environment and how much we have left to discover. I would love to go into more detail about marine biotechnology here but then this blog post would become a dissertation so I shall save it for another day.

I returned home after my lecture and went to my room where my boyfriend had put two bouquets of roses either side of my bed and given me another living rose plant. Roses are my favourite flowers and I’m currently writing a paper on the rose family. The whole rose family is economically important because it stretches from cherries and similar fruit back to roses themselves. It’s a fascinating family and one I’m enjoying learning about.

My birthday ended with dinner out with my friends and housemates in Bath. Now with it being my birthday alcohol was consumed. Alcohol also opens up a whole other world of biology so I think I’ll save talking about it for another day.

I think it can be quite outstanding when you go through a day and figure out just how much is connected because aside from all of the things that was biologically related, my whole body was working hard to get me through the day, mitochondria creating ATP. Muscles using it to get me from place to place. My brain sifting through all the things that my sensory organs were sending it. It is truly incredible. Either way I couldn’t think of a better way to spend my birthday.

A Short History Of Poison Hemlock

The poisons collection

As a part of a recent project for university, I along with a group of my peers were looking into poisonous plants. I found the topic both fascinating and frightening however I only had a limited word count and wanted to pay a bit more attention to my favourite poisonous plant; Hemlock.

In 339BC the greek philosopher Socrates was sentenced death. His crime was of corrupting the yo2uth of Athens. His avid student Plato witnessed his death. The story goes as follows: Socrates was brought a drink. He drank the drink and then walked around his cell until his legs felt heavy, then he lay down. A guard asked whether he could feel his feet and legs, he replied that he could not. A short while later Socrates became silent and he died. Within the drink was the infamous poison from the poison Hemlock plant.

From the family Apiaceae, Conuium maculatum is a highly poisonous herbaceous flowering plant. The plant is a perennial (meaning to live for more than two years unlike and annual that lives for 1 or biennials that live for 2) and native to Europe. It grows within fields and pastures, preferring wet soils and coastal areas. It is easily confused with parley due to the lacy look of the plant.

The plant has five alkaloids making it incredibly deadly. The poison has bee1n said to work from the outside in. A complete mad man by the name of John Harley stated that “There was a distinct impairment of motor power.” He was a British doctor and took small amount of the plant experimentally and published his findings in 1869. It is now known that the poison has paralysing effects. Starting off by the numbing of the limbs and eventually paralysing the lungs.

I think the most horrifying thing about this plant is that it is said to have no effect on the brain. This meaning that you have to endure this horrible process entirely conscious.

Most deaths from the plant are due to misidentification. Most recently a lady from Washington state died in 2010 after eating a salad containing poison Hemlock. Between 1972 and 1990 there were 17 cases of hemlock poisoning. Although this was due to wild birds eating hemlock and being unaffected by it. Then the birds were eaten and due to the toxins remaining active one person died from respiratory failure and three died from kidney failure.

This all being said the key difference and thing to look for when trying to avoid the tragic deaths of those previously mentioned would be to look at the stems of the plant. Poison Hemlock stems are hollow and speckled with purple blotches. The leaves when crushed have an odour described as smelling of parsnips or of mice and on that note I’ll leave you.

See you next week!

If you are interested in the wonderful world of poisonous and dangerous plants I highly recommend Amy Stewarts book “Wicked Plants”. It is such a readable and entertaining book.

Welcomes and Introductions

Miscellaneous

Once upon a time in a faraway land known as Bath, there lived a biology student. Entering her final year she discovered that she really had no idea as to what she wanted to do after university finished so thought blogging would be a good idea.

As in all fairy tales not all of the above is true but my name is Laura Cottam and I am a third year studying my bachelor’s degree in biology. I study at Bath Spa University but I do have some idea what I want to do when I officially decide to enter the adult world.

The real story behind the start of ThatBiologist comes from my own personal love of writing and an assignment set for one of my modules. The assignment involves writing blog posts under the theme of nature conservation in context of the wider world. So I set up a blog called the farmer’s daughter which looks at the relationship between conservation principles, ideas and events and how they relate into the life of agriculture. I love writing them and wanted to start writing more and on wider topics and so ThatBiologist was born.

I’ve been blogging for a while on topics that surround my life over on lalathroughlife.tumblr.com but this space is particular to my love of science. This is also an area for me to learn and grow as a science writer and a space for me to express my own thoughts on what I think of the current science topics. The third and final thing I want to do in this space of the internet is break down science. Too often is it tied up in mysterious terminology that I can’t even understand. So I intend to break these stories and concepts down into more colloquial terminology.

I guess that’s enough from me for now but if you want to find out more about me go and check out the About Me section and check back here soon.

Until the next time…