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 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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The 2016 Business Meeting

Around this time last year I reflected back on 2015 on ThatBiologist, to be honest it seems like I was only writing that blog last week! Nevertheless here we are again. This year has seen a huge amount of growth for my little spot on the internet and also for me as a scicommer (science communicator). This year I’ve written way more blog posts than ever before and for that I am incredibly proud. I’ve written some really great series (well in my opinion). Such as the monthly scientist, the shark tank and I started Becoming A Master. So like last year I thought I would tell you my three most popular blogs from this year and then my three favourites.

Three Most Popular

I’m very happy to announce my most popular blog of this year (in terms of specific views) was Sleeping Beauty and The Pin Prick Coma. Fairyology was a silly idea I had and I’m so glad its been so well recieved.

In second place its another Fairyology. This one is Snow White: Could An Apple Kill? That blog post was fantastic to write because I got to go back to an old assignment and bring it to life again. I’m happy to let you know that there will be plenty more fairyologys coming!

In third place is an episode of BAM. The Little Things blog post was a great one to write mostly because I spent time researching peoples opinions and talking to different people. It was also inspired by an evening that made me incredibly grateful to be able to do what I do!

My Three Favourites

My favourites are in no particular order because they were so hard to pick in the first place. Nevertheless my first favourite is An Offer You Can’t RefuseThis platform does give me a great position to be able to say what I want to an audience that cares. So this piece about vaccination was important to me and I always like combining popular media with science.

In second place it is none other than Meeting Pickle. It was such a special day being able to get so close to penguins. Pickle was also such a charmer and I loved writing about how special he is.

In third place its my blog post for ThatBiologist does Halloween. I missed writing more about my favourite holiday of the year but this piece about how to make a zombie was pretty cool. I think next year I might just have to do another week of them!

In total I’ve written 99 blog posts this year which is crazy! I’ve doubled my views from that of last year and there’s only more good stuff to come. Next year I have lots more to give and I will tell you all about that in January. I’m so excited to keep on writing and sharing the world of Biology with you. If you’ve read any of my blogs or if this is your first one, thank you. This blog has given me lots of opportunites and I can only thank you for reading! I’m now going to go and have my annual christmas break but I will be back in 2017 with lots more to give.

Merry Christmas Everyone!!!

ThatBiologist Everywhere!

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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!

ThatBiologist Everywhere!

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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

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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!

ThatBiologist Everywhere!

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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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5 Truly Amazing Things about Cacti

Hello!

So a while back on my Facebook page, my good friend commented whether I had written anything about cacti, and I hadn’t so Charlotte here are 5 amazing things about cacti!

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Number 1: All cacti belong to the family Cactaceae.

This plant family then belongs to 127 different genera of Cacti. To put it simply there are a lot of different species of Cacti all coming in different sizes and shapes.

Number 2: The fruit of some cactus species, like Opuntia phaeacantha, can be eaten, being called prickly pear.

Exactly like in the jungle book! Cacti are in fact used for lots of different things, for food as I’ve just said but also as ornamental plants. The trunk of some cacti is used to make a type of Argentinian drum called bombo leguero.

Number 3: You can tell what type of pollinator the cacti wants to attract by the smell they produce and the colour of their flowers.

Cacti are pollinated predominantly by insects but also hummingbirds. Some species of cacti produce the scent of rotting meat to attract flies to pollinate them.

Number 4: Cacti gather and hold lots of water in their stems.

The water is gathered from a large root system. This way when the rain does come the cactus is able to gather as much as possible. They also can have a long tap root that goes down into the soil much further than the rest of the root system. All of this water can then be held in the stem. The water forms a thick liquid and although no longer looks like water it is drinkable and has saved lives!

Number 5: Many species of cacti are in decline.

Cacti do an amazing job at staying alive in some of the worlds toughest terraine, so why are they in decline? Well like so many other plants one reason is habitat decline. Given the desert conditions I didn’t think this would be an issue but more humans are moving into desert areas and decreasing the areas for cacti to grow. Secondly the more pressing issue for many cacti species is illegal trade. Many species are protected and it is illegal to take them away from their habitat. You wouldn’t think of cacti when it comes to cacti but its a very real issue and something that the worlds legislation needs to combat.

I hope this blog has been interesting for you and you’ve learnt some more about these wonderful plants. If you have anything you’d like me to write about just drop me a comment!

ThatBiologist Everywhere!

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ThatBiologist does Halloween Again

This time last year we were looking at all things halloween, although I’m not doing a full weeks worth of blogs I couldn’t not write on one of my favourite holidays of the year! So as a special blog this year I thought we might delve into the world of zombies.

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How to make a zombie?

We’ve all seen the zombie apocalypse movies, where some indeterminate disease plagues most of the global population in a matter of days. What I want to ask is how the hell would that happen?

Firstly we would need to find a disease which is capable of creating zombie like properties. Below is my list of criteria for the zombie, now I’ve tried to keep it to your general zombie as most zombie creations are slightly different for example World War Z zombies were nothing like Shaun of the Dead zombies:

  • Generally slow moving unless drawn to prey
  • Cannot speak
  • Unable to feel pain or really any emotion
  • Fondness for brains
  • Brain dead for the most part

Now we have the criteria now we need a disease that causes these symptoms. It also needs to be highly contagious. So what could that be?

Disease Option 1: Sleeping Sickness

This is a pretty horrific disease that starts out pretty tame then gets bad really quickly. Its real name is African Trypanosomiasis and its caused by the bite of an infected fly. The symptoms start out with a headache and muscle aches but escalate when the parasite invades the brain. This then causes slurred speech and causes irregular sleeping patterns. Eventually this causes the patient to go into a coma and die. It currently only affects people living in sub saharan africa but that tiny fly could easily cause an apocalypse if it fancied going on a world tour!

Disease Option 2: Rabies

You’ve probably heard of this one before. Rabies is a viral infection that targets the brain and nervous system. Symptoms for rabies include:

  • a high temperature (fever)
  • an irrational fear of water (hydrophobia)
  • sensitivity to light (photophobia)
  • fear of drafts of air (aerophobia)
  • confusion or aggressive behaviour

Sounds like a zombie cocktail to me! Its passed from infected animals through a bite scratch or lick to broken skin and as soon as the symptoms are present you’re a gonner. Although this is where this disease fails to make the zombie apocalypse happen in that it is incredibly rare for the disease to pass from human to human. So you’d have to set an apocalypse of infected animals free first.

Great! The perfect recipe for a zombie apocalypse however before you go and unleash this perfect storm a little word of advice. Don’t do it! We do not have a Brad Pitt/ Simon Pegg to save the world! Again however if you do end up in a zombie apocalypse the best thing I suggest to do is:

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Just a quick note before I sign off. Thanks for letting me be silly with science! My masters degree can get a little serious at times and this is a fantastic place to have fun with the science I love! Anyways enough soppyness! 

Stay safe and have a great Halloween!

ThatBiologist Everywhere!

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