The Monthly Round Up: Svalbard Seeds, SophTalksScience and Stuff You Should Know

The Monthly Round Up

February is always a blink and you’ll miss it kinda month for me. This month was a busy one as I had a little holiday to Italy and came back with a cold which put me out of action writing wise. But I’ve also had two blogs come out on TheWoodlandTrust website which you can read here and here! Anyway here are what I’ve been loving in February!

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February

Favourite Science News Story Of The Month:

The Global Seed Bank now has just over 1 million packets of seeds! If you didn’t know about the global seed bank it is an initiative to collect as many seeds from as many plants as possible to stop plants becoming extinct. The vault is in Norway and keeps the seeds at an incredibly low temperature to preserve them. Read more about it here.

Favourite Blog I’ve read this Month:

The wonderful Sophie from Soph Talks Science has been absolutely killing it with her scicomm this month. I found it so difficult to pick a favourite of hers but I’ve landed on 10 Reasons why lab life is actually awesome. I miss being in a lab so much and all the fun times and this blog reminded me of that. It’s also a really uplifting blog if you’re feeling a little down about your life. Sophie is such a big inspiration for my own writing so please do go and check her out!

Favourite Scientific Fact I’ve Learnt This Month:

I think my favourite scientific fact I learnt about was all about how Bees get it on, you can read all about it in my Love in the Animal Kingdom blog!

Favourite Social Media I’ve Followed This Month:

Instagram – Ecoceanic

This is a brand that I absolutely love and their message of improving the worlds oceans is so inspirational! They have a fantastic instagram that you should really follow just for the posts about things you can do to improve the environment.

Twitter – TeaTime Science

This is a collection of phd students posting about their work which I absolutely love, their instagram is also fabulous!

Books I’ve Been Reading:

I took a little holiday to Rome this month and spent some time reading some cheery “chicklit” fiction books. This included  Some Kind of Wonderful by Giovanna Fletcher and now I’m reading The Beach Cafe by Lucy Diamond.

Podcasts I’ve Been Listening To:

Stuff You Should Know – HowStuffWorks

I’ve recently been listening to some of the extensive backlog of this podcast they have such a wide topic range but all of the podcasts are really well researched and have balanced arguments. I would really recommend the episode where they compare whether marijuana or alcohol is worse for you.

I’d love to know your answers to these questions so please let me know in the comments or on twitter!

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Top 10 UK Mammals

Top 10s

Mammals are often the main driver for conservation campaigns. You always see things like lions, tigers, pandas and elephants as the poster animals for organisations like the WWF. Well, if you didn’t know the UK has some pretty incredible mammals of its own. Here are ten of my favourites that are all native to the UK!

1 – Grey Seal – Halichoerus grypus

Grey seals are found all over the UK. They feed on all kinds of fish and live in large colonies. In the past the seals were once hunted almost to the point of extinction, particularly in the US. However now in the UK grey seals are protected under the Conservation of Seals Act 1970 however this does not apply in Northern Ireland. The picture below is of the seals in Stiffkey in Norfolk which I got to see as part of my masters degree!

Photo by Duncan Harris

2 – Greater Horseshoe Bat – Rhinolophus ferrumequinum

This fantastic bat species can be found across the UK. They can often be seen foraging in woodlands and pastureland and nest in underground caves. The best time to see most bats is in the summer around dusk. These bats have been in decline due to fragmentation of their habitats but there has been a massive effort to conserve the species and populations have been stabilizing in the UK.

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Photo by Prof. emeritus Hans Schneider

3 – European Otter – Lutra lutra

One of the most adorable mammals in the UK is the otter. They are found around many different kinds of aquatic habitat and feed on mostly fish, eels and crayfish. They were once only found in Scotland but with conservation of water systems signs of otters have been found throughout the UK.

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Photo by Bernard Landgraf

4 – European Badger – Meles meles

This fantastic mammal is instantly recognisable. Badgers are found across the UK in countryside and woodlands. They are a nocturnal species that feed on a wide range of animal and plant matter but their favourite is earthworms. They live in family groups of four to seven individuals and live in setts underground. They are fully protected by the law but recently periodic culls have been allowed in the aim to control the spread of bovine tuberculosis.

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Photo from Pixabay

5 – Wood Mouse – Apodemus sylvaticus

Otherwise known as the long-tailed field mouse or common field mouse, these guys are undeniably adorable. They live in woodlands and farmland. They have the perfect teeth to dig into all kinds of different seeds. Their upper front teeth have a smooth inner surface which distinguishes them from the house mouse.

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Photo by Hans Hillewaert

6 – Hazel Dormouse  – Muscardinus avellanarius

Now although all the mammals on this list are great I think this little mouse is my ultimate favourite! The Hazel Dormouse is the only species in this genus and is found in the south of England. It is also the only dormouse that is native to the UK. Dormice live predominantly in the trees and is found in hedgerows, deciduous woodland and farmland. It feeds on flowers, insects, seeds and fruits.

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Photo by Haruta Ovidiu

7 – European Hedgehog – Erinaceus europaeus

This mammal is distinctive feature of the UK countryside. It has been shown that hedgehogs thrive in many man-made habitats such as gardens, orchards and farmland. These prickly guests love it if you leave a section of your garden to grow a bit wild!

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Photo by Nicolas Zea P.

8 – Common Pipistrelle Bat – Pipistrellus pipistrellus

This bat is found all over the world but does make it’s home in the UK. They live in colonies of around 20-50 individuals in the summer and in the winter they go it alone or in small groups. It forages in a variety of habitats including open woodland and woodland edges, Mediterranean shrubland, semi-desert, farmland, rural gardens and urban areas. It feeds on small moths and flies.

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Photo by Evgeniy Yakhontov

9 – Eurasian Water Vole – Neomys fodiens

This water vole is quite large growing up to 10cm long. This species is semi-aquatic with water repelling fur. It occurs in a wide variety of wetland habitats, both freshwater and coastal, including lakes, rivers, streams, marshes, bogs, damp grasslands, humid woodlands, sea shores and intertidal wetlands. It is the most aquatic of all European shrews. It hunts on land and in water for invertebrates, including crustaceans, and occasionally takes small fish and amphibians.

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10 – Eurasian Beaver – Castor fiber

The beaver was once a UK mammal species but in the 20th Century it was hunted to extinction. However there have been several projects to reintroduce the Beaver! Beavers are adapted for a semi-aquatic life, using a variety of freshwater systems, including rivers, streams, irrigation ditches, lakes, and swamps. They generally prefer freshwater habitats surrounded by woodland, but may occur in agricultural land.

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Photo by Tomasz Chmielewski

I hope you’ve enjoyed this little list, there are so many mammals that didn’t make the list so there might be a part two! Send me a cheeky tweet or a comment with your favourite mammal!

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ThatBiologist Is Back

Miscellaneous

Honey, I’m home!!!

I’ve not posted here in such a long time but I have been writing and getting prepared for blogs right up until the end of this year.

I’ve had a little break to get myself into a new routine with my new job (!!!) but there will be more on that on Monday!

However, I have a little bit of house keeping to do on the blog. Just to let you all know I will be continuing to post blogs here on a Wednesday and a Sunday, but if that’s not enough for you I post regularly on my twitter, facebook and instagram that are all linked at the bottom of every blog post!

See you on Wednesday for an ever so slightly late Monthly Species blog!

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Becoming a master: So many hedgerows

BAM

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!

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The Disney Effect

Miscellaneous

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

Miscellaneous

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!

Under The Microscope

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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The Monthly Scientist: Mr November

The Monthly Scientist

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!

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Under The Microscope 7

Under The Microscope

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!

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