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!

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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!

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Under The Microscope – The Finale!

Hello! I hope you’ve enjoyed this series, it’s been fun to put together!

If you are wondering last weeks image was of tooth brush bristles!

So to honour the great images I’ve put together a little gallery of everything we’ve seen. Hope you’ve enjoyed it!

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Under The Microscope 9

Hello budding biologists! I hope you’ve enjoyed these up close and personal pictures.

If you were wondering what last weeks picture was, well it was actually straight up dust!

On to this week, it’s the last picture so make sure to leave a comment on what you think this is as well as what your favourite pictures been.

UTM9.jpg

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5 Things You Didn’t Know About Christmas Trees

Hello!

So I haven’t posted anything yet that’s Christmas themed however I’m in the midst of writing three assignments so forgive me if this post is a little brief! Nevertheless here are 5 things you didn’t know about Christmas trees!

Number 1: Christmas trees are grown for 7 years on average before being cut down

Number 2: You can rent a christmas tree! If you want a greener option you can buy a living tree and rent it for the holidays and then give it back!

Number 3: Evergreen trees became the most popular christmas tree variety because they represented fertility and life.

Number 4: Christmas trees used to be decorated with real on fire candles! As you can imagine this was a huge fire risk and caused a lot of damage particularly in the victorian era.

Number 5: Around 8 million christmas trees are sold every year in the UK

Hope you’re getting into the festive spirit wherever you are! To finish here is a picture of my christmas tree!

Merry Christmas!

 

The Monthly Scientist: Mr November

Imagine you’re going to have to have surgery in 1800, say for example your leg has a nasty wound and the only way forward is to amputate. Now surgery back then could have easily meant the end of your life. Not necessarily through the surgery itself but it would have been more than likely you would have developed an infection. Nasty ones at that, all that started to change with this months scientist:

Dr Joseph Lister

hommedia

Born: 5, April 1827

Died: 10, February 1912

Noted for: Pioneering antiseptic techniques in surgery

Why scientist of the month?

I’ll be honest, I’m really glad that medicine has come on as much as it has. One of the most important advances in medicine has been the antiseptic technique. This basically means that microbes that cause infections are tried to be kept to an absolute minimum. This is partly down to Lister, he was a surgeon that believed (correctly) microbes carried in the air that caused diseases to be spread in wards. People who had been operated on were especially vulnerable as their bodies were weak and their skin had been cut open so that germs could get into the body with more ease.

So he came up with a method to try and combat this. Everything had to be thoroughly cleaned in his surgeries including the wound itself. Then he went further by devising a machine that pumped out a fine mist of carbolic acid into the air around an operation. Using this method the number of patients that died in his surgeries greatly reduced. Like going from a 45% death rate to 15%! This gradually became common practice and then further advancements were made in the antiseptic technique to get us where we are today.

So I personally would like to thank Joseph Lister for making surgery far safer than in the 1800s!

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Under The Microscope 7

Hello! Hope you have had a wonderful week! Are you getting excited for christmas or is it still too early for all that!

Anyway last week’s under the microscope was an image of ear wax on a cotton bud.

But what about this week well if you think you know what this is let me know in comments!

UTM7

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Mini Wiki 8 – Mitosis

In this mini wiki we’re going to step away from what the cell is made up of and look a little at mitosis! Otherwise known as cell division, it how we grow and get bigger, its also how we can mend ourselves. Yeah it’s pretty cool. Hopefully this guide will make it super simple for you. We looked at what happens before mitosis in last times mini wiki so if you want catch up on that one or any other wiki click here.

38-mitotis-phases

Whats the definition of mitosis?

“a type of cell division that results in two daughter cells each having the same number and kind of chromosomes as the parent nucleus, typical of ordinary tissue growth.”

What is mitosis used for?

As the definition suggests mitosis is the process of dividing the cell into two cells that are identical.

What are the stages of mitosis?

There are 5 main stages of mitosis. At each stage different events take place to let the cell divide. Remember before all this occurs the genetic material has already been duplicated in interphase.

Prophase

Prophase is the longest stage of the mitotic cycle. It starts with the nucleus membrane breaking down. Then the centromeres go to each end of the cell and create the mitotic spindle. This works like a web of long thin fibres. The chromosomes condense into compact structures. So it looks like this:

Image result for prophase

Prometaphase

In the centre of each chromosome they have a centromere and during prometaphase the spindle fibres attach on to the centromere. There the chromosomes are led to the centre of the cell.

Metaphase

This is when all the chromosomes line themselves up along the metaphase plate. This is the centre of the cell.

Image result for metaphase

Anaphase

This is the shortest stage when the two sister parts of the chromosome are pulled apart to each end of the cell. This means each new daughter cell has exactly the same genetic material.

Image result for anaphase

Telophase

This is like the reverse stage of prophase. The nuclear membrane reforms around the two sets of DNA. The spindle fibres disintegrate and chromosomes start to uncoil.

Image result for telophase

What happens after mitosis?

After mitosis you have cytokinesis where the cells becomes two daughter cells.  In plants a cell plate forms along the line of the metaphase plate; in animals there is a constriction of the cytoplasm. The cell then goes back into the interphase stage.

Image result for cytokinesis

5 things I need to know about mitosis!

  1. Mitosis is a type of cell division that creates two identical cells.
  2. There are 5 stages to mitosis. They are prophase, prometaphase, metaphase, anaphase and telophase.
  3. The genetic material condenses to form chromosomes so its easier to move around
  4. The centromere creates the mitotic spindle to move the chromosomes around.
  5. After telophase the cell divides in a stage called cytokinesis

Hope this guide has been easy and quick for you to use! If you want to see more mini wikis click here.

Sources

American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fifth Edition. Copyright © 2011 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.

University of Leicester. (Unknown). The cell cycle, mitosis and meiosis. Available: http://www2.le.ac.uk/departments/genetics/vgec/schoolscolleges/topics/cellcycle-mitosis-meiosis. Last accessed 1st November 2016.

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