The Little Things – Gifts

Hello, welcome to the second episode of my new series called The Little Things. If you didn’t know this is a series all about small changes that you can make in your day to day life to help save the world. Today we’re going to talk about presents!

I’m currently in the full run up to christmas, that means buying a lot of presents for my friends and family! This year I wanted to make a real effort to make my presents to my loved ones help the world out in one way or another. So I’ve come up with a list of five presents you could get your loved ones that help the earth out!

1 – Elephant Pants! – If you know someone who loves there PJ’s more than life itself like me this might be the perfect present. The Elephant Pants sell loungers, harem pants, kimonos and all things comfy! But better yet a portion of every sale goes toward anti-poaching of ivory, wildlife and habitat protection, and research on curing elephant diseases. Made in Thailand, the seamstresses are paid double the average wage and are given healthcare benefits! You can shop them here.

Tyke Unisex Loungers

2 – Devocean! – Perhaps you’re after something for someone who loves shiny things well Devoted To The Ocean has you covered. With every purchase of there gorgeous jewelry or beach essentials 20 percent of the net profits go to charitable organisations attempting to clear up the ocean and keep it safe particularly for turtles! You can shop them here.

3 – Nuubia San Francisco – If you are looking for a sweet treat for someone you love then look no further! These premium chocolates are made with no palm oil! As such they’ve been labelled orangutan safe and cruelty free chocolates. All of their packaging is FSC approved, oh and they look delicious. With vegan and gluten free options how can you say no! Note! This is probably one for my american friends as they are american based!!! Either way you can shop here.

nuubia chocolates

4 – Lush – I’m a huge fan of lush and if you know a lushie in your life you could add a charity pot to their gift. Lush do a lot for charity but 100% of the price of this specific body lotion is donated to small grassroots organizations working in the areas of environmental conservation, animal welfare and human rights. You can shop it here.

5 – Traidcraft – If you still want more choices then have a look at Traidcraft! They’ve got everything from homeware, food and fashion! All of their wonderful items are made through fair trade co-operatives. For example the blue duvet set I’ve listed below is handmade in India using natural resources, and its stunning! You can shop all of traidcrafts beautiful things here.

Please do leave ideas for similar wonderful things in the comments below!

Happy Shopping and Happy Christmas!

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*Note – I have not been paid to mention any of the products in this blog post – I just think they’re all really cool!

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Have Yourself an Eco-Friendly Christmas!

Hello! It’s officially December and as I always take a bit of time off from blogging at the end of the year soooo that means it’s time to get christmassy! I have three posts that are all centered around christmas coming for you and today we’re talking about having an eco-friendly christmas!

Tip 1. Buy a real Christmas Tree but make it local!

Plastic trees are often made of non recyclable materials, so unless you plan to use it for a decade or more! Real trees are often purpose grown and in that time they can provide a habitat and will absorb CO2. However just pick it up from somewhere local and look for the FSC logo.

Tip 2. – RECYCLE RECYCLE RECYCLE

Christmas often means a whole heap of packaging! I understand that the easy option is to put all the junk in the bin but it makes such a difference if you recycle as much as you can. All of your wrapping paper should be going into the paper recycling!

Tip 3. Try and Cut Down Food Waste

Christmas is often a time for lots and lots of food. Make sure you try and make the most of every scrap of food you have. There are lots of fantastic leftover recipes out there but my personal favourite is a leftover pie! Or freeze things for a later date.

Tip 4. Get the lighting right!

My favourite thing about christmas is all the twinkly lights but not all lights are created equal. Certain lights will drain more energy which costs you more as well as the planet. Indoor LED fairy lights are a great option when decorating your home for Christmas. They don’t need much energy to run and are much more efficient than standard or even energy saving bulbs. LED lights generally don’t produce heat, making them ideal for decorating your Christmas tree and reducing the risk of fire hazard. Also utilize timers! All your Christmas lights should be on timers, from the strands adorning your trees to the lights outside. Don’t count on remembering to turn them off after a long day and plug the lights into a timer that remembers for you. Light timers can be found at any hardware store.

Tip 5. Presents!

There will be two more christmas themed posts coming up all about gift ideas for Biologists and for gifts that do good for the world. However, think about the presents that you receive and that you give. Try and keep packaging to a minimum and donate what you don’t use rather than throwing things away!

I hope you all have a wonderful christmas whatever you do!

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What is rewilding?

You might have heard of the word rewilding in the news surrounding conservation but what actually is it?!

Rewilding is a type of conservation work that is currently defined as leaving a defined area alone for natural processes to occur. The theory behind the movement is that by leaving an area entirely alone the natural order of things will return, with the change being long term.

One example of this has been on alpine grasslands such as in the Snowdonia National Park. Once upon a time this area would have various areas of grasslands with shrubs and at lower altitudes there would have been broad leaf forest. However, due to extreme overgrazing of these areas it is now reduced to only a few species of grasses. Rewilding movements in the area, have fenced off areas of land from sheep to allow for regrowth of shrubs. They are also working with farmers to encourage sheep to stay away from certain areas. So far these projects have moved slowly but are working to encourage biodiversity.

Another project from Rewilding Britain worked on The River Wandle in South London –

In 1805, the river Wandle, which flows through south London, was described as “the hardest worked river for its size in the world.” It was an urban sewer, poisoned by bleach and dyes from the 90 mills along its length. It was later straightened and canalised to speed water away from homes and businesses.

But in this urban rewilding project, the Wandle Trust is restoring the river to its former glory as a beautiful chalk stream. Almost all the world’s chalk streams are found in England. They are rare and threatened habitats.

The Trust has been putting back features that harboured life in the river, which had been pulled out by overzealous engineers. It runs community cleanups every month, enlisting local people to remove the junk dumped in the water. It has been creating passages through the weirs to enable eels to migrate upstream. Children in local schools have been raising trout to restock the river.

The children’s involvement has encouraged them to see the Wandle as part of their landscape and to start playing in it once more. The project is rewilding children as well as the natural world. And it provides a valuable wildlife corridor right into the heart of the city.

There have even been bigger projects suggested like reintroducing species to these rewilding areas, this has included larger mammals and even wolves. Rewilding is viewed by some as a necessity for the future of conservation and encouraging biodiversity as it is low cost and works very well. However, others see rewilding as a waste of potential land use and that it alienates land owners.

Conservation can often be a divisive issue and rewilding is no different. Let me know what your thoughts are in the comments!

Here are a few more links to other articles on rewilding if you are interested:

https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2017/jul/01/rewilding-conservation-ecology-national-trust

http://www.wildlifetrusts.org/rewilding

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Becoming A Master – The Hand In!

Week 36!

Hello! So here we are in the penultimate episode of this series! This week was all about finishing and handing in my dissertation! In the end I completely finished my piece of work on Tuesday, had it bound Wednesday and then I handed it over on Thursday!

In case you were wondering my final title of my dissertation was “Hedgerow management schemes and their effect on plant biodiversity, UK” but that’s all I can share with you until it’s marked! My final document was just over 15 thousand words but in terms of words that counted towards my word count it was 10,890 words and was 60 pages long. It is such an exciting yet daunting feeling handing over a solo piece of work that I have been working on for three months to be marked.

Image may contain: 1 person, smiling

In between all of the work, over the past few weeks I have also been going to interviews and applying for jobs so I can move on to another exciting chapter! Of which I will be able to speak more about very soon.

There’s just one more thing I have to do and then I will have finished all of my work for my master’s degree, but I will save telling you all about that for the finale!

See you then!

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ThatBiologist – Conservation Conversations

Fun fact, when I was designing the questions I wanted to include within the questions for conservation conversations I tested them a lot on my peers but also myself. To the point where I even wrote out a complete answer to each question. So if you were wondering what my answers to my questions about the life of conservationist were here you go:

IMG_1025As I start all of these off with an introduction I guess I should introduce myself. Hi my name is Laura, I am finishing off my masters degree on conservation. I love all things wildlife but have a particular passion for botany and the planty things. I’ve been writing here for a couple of years now as well as twittering in between and recently writing for the Woodland trust. You can find out the whole story on me in my about tab!

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

My favourite species is the venus fly trap. I adore botany and I love it when plants prove to be more than just green organisms. I love all the (often) hidden characteristics plants can have and venus fly traps are just spectacular. They have such sensitivity to the outside world and the adaptations they posses just to exist in nutrient depleted areas is outstanding. Personally I don’t see how any other species could beat it.

  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 loved nature ever since I could remember. I remember getting a copy of a book discussing how what we do as humans effects the world. It focused on climate change and I was horrified by what I was reading. Ever since then I knew I wanted to do something to help.

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

How beautiful nature is in every single way. As well as the awesome power for nature to continue in the face of every adversity which I think is very admirable. That power and beauty combined just fills me with so much hope that it can and will continue. All I want to do is help that process.

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

A job where I can practically help nature. I’m not fussy where I just want to do some good in this world.

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

Being told that a project I was working on won an international award and seeing the project continue to flourish years after I’ve finished working on it.

  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?

I am desperate to see bioluminescence at work. I think it’s one of the most fantastical things in the universe and kinda makes me believe that magic is real.

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

Conservation is a long process and a team sport. There is no quick fix when the environment is damaged. Just because you recycle that water bottle does not mean you fix climate change but if everyone recycles more and does it for a long period of time it does have an affect. By working as a team we can make this planet a better place. (Looking back on this answer it seems even more true with Trump removing the USA from the Paris agreement. I have lots to say on this so just wait for another blog post.)

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

I’d make single use plastic products illegal. Water bottles, straws, plastic bags and those stupid 6 pack plastic rings are unbelievably damaging to nature and so pointless. If I could remove them forever I would do it in a heartbeat. (more on this soon)

Now for a little favourites quick round!

  1. Favourite sound?

The birds in the morning when the rest of the world is quiet.

  1. Favourite fact?

In October of 2014 Cards against humanity bought a 6 acre island and named it Hawaii 2 and it is now left to preserve the wildlife there. If only every card game did the same, I’m looking at you Uno.

  1. Favourite snack?

Chocolate – Specifically cold dark chocolate.

  1. Favourite word?

Brilliant

  1. Favourite curse word? 

Horse Sh*t

  1. Least favourite word?

Never. I was told once that I would never do well at university, here I am now nearing the end of my masters. Don’t let anyone ever tell you that you can never do something because of course you can. You can do what ever you want. Whether you should is another matter 😉

And finally…

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

Buy a reusable water bottle and take it everywhere with you. It’s great for your body if you drink more water, it’ll save you money and it’s far better for the environment if you don’t buy the non-reusable ones. By taking one little step to being a better earth citizen you may find you want to make more of those steps.

I hope you’ve enjoyed my answers to these questions. There will be more guests in the future I promise!

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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

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Clayton Lamb – Conservation Conversations

2I’m back with another episode of conservation conversations. My interviewee this time is a population ecologist. He’s working on the limits to grizzly bear population growth in British Columbia (BC). Clayton Lamb has some truly amazing stories so without further a do here are his answers to my questions.

 

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

I’ve always liked sheep. Bighorn and thinhorn sheep.  I like the habitat they inhabit.  It’s the same habitat I like to be in.  High mountains, open grass or alpine meadows.  They are gregarious and majestic animals.  Mountain goats are neat too, but no thanks on the cliff walking.  I clearly like bears.

  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 grew up in an outdoors-oriented household. Even as a kid I’d always ask: why are there many fish here, but none there? Or, how many moose could live in this swamp, what would they eat? It was this natural curiosity, paired with outdoor skills learned growing up, that allowed me to integrate well with biologists and gain valuable experience at a young age.  Eventually leading I enrolled in a BSc. And finally a PhD, both of which focused on wildlife ecology and the conservation of animals and their habitats.

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

I still spend a lot of time outside in the mountains and I am inspired to better understand and protect wilderness and the wild animals that inhabit these landscapes. I spend a good portion of my year behind binoculars observing animals, or handling them for research, these moments always remind me how important it is to protect these valuable resources.
And coffee. Lots of coffee at my computer. (I know that feeling).

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

Pass my PhD candidacy exam. It’s not clear, at the moment, that there is anything else to strive for.  On a larger scale, I am starting up a GPS telemetry project to track the rates and causes of grizzly bear mortality in a sensitive region of BC.  I look forward to working with stakeholders on this project to learn more about these bears and to seek creative solutions to the mortality problem. And then get a real job one day.. eeek.

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

I have had many academic highlights since starting my PhD, including publishing a pair of grizzly bear ecology papers in 2016 and receiving a Vanier Canadian Graduate Scholarship, Canadas most prestigious scholarship. However, when I think back to my time as a biologist/researcher, highlights usually consists more of time afield studying animals. One highlight was spending 6 weeks in Oregon, USA collecting American pika hair using non-invasive hair snares made from packing tape. We had amazing weather, and it was so enjoyable laying in warm talus slopes all day, rolling packing tape around my finger and wondering which rock crevice I should stick it in to collect hair off of a passing pika. We would have friendly competitions to see who caught more hair samples each day. I learned a lot about pika that summer.

  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?

I’ve stood in wild country in northern British Columbia, yet untouched by humans. I’ve hiked multiple days in a single direction and never seen a trace of another human. It is remarkable to stand on a mountain in the northern Rockies and think that the nearest road or highway is 100’s of kilometres to the east. In this area I have watched wolverine play on snow patches only 50 meters from where I was sitting.
I would like to see the animals and habitats of Africa one day.

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

The facts and research are only one piece of the puzzle. Scientists and Conservationists can provide rigorous, evidence-based recommendations for conserving the natural world, but if the public strongly opposes these recommendations they are unlikely to be acted upon. If you feel strongly about a cause, contact your local politicians and express your concerns. Make your voice heard.

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

I think human capacity to see the “big picture” is limited. We treat the natural world as a commodity that we have a right to.  Indeed, we are a part of the system, but have no ownership over it.  This mentality is unlikely to yield long-term profits.

Now for some favourites!

 

  1. Favourite sound?

Bull elk bugle

  1. Favourite fact?

Beavers eat their own poo

  1. Favourite snack?

Apple with peanut butter

  1. Favourite word?

Veracit. Being devoted to conveying the truth.

  1. Favourite curse word? 

Kittywampus. Not a curse word, but substitutes nicely for “that thing is crooked as F**k”

  1. Least favourite word?

Rejected. In an academic publishing sense.

And finally…

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

Small actions, multiplied over many people have large impacts. We are currently outstripping the resources on earth at an unsustainable rate.  With a burgeoning human population there are two options to reduce net consumption: reduce population size, or reduce per-capita use of resources.  The latter is likely the most feasible option in the near term.  Recycle, be aware of the products and foods you buy.  Be an active and engaged consumer.

1

Thank you so much to Clayton for answering my questions! I know I feel inspired! If you’d like to hear more about Claytons work I’d highly suggest following him on twitter at @ClaytonTLamb or @Wild49Eco.

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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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Alex Evans – Conservation Conversations

alex-evansToday I’m so excited to share another episode of conservation conversations. My guest today is completing his PhD at the University of Leeds in the energetic’s of animal locomotion. Alex Evans has been focusing on how birds and beetles fly. Something that I happen to think is pretty cool. Anyway here are his answers to my questions!

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

My all-time favourite species is unquestionably the secretary bird. As a large terrestrial raptor with long legs and fancy crest, the secretary bird is iconic throughout Southern Africa for hunting snakes and kicking their skulls in. I first saw a secretary bird at San Diego zoo about 7 years ago, and I was instantly fascinated by it. Since then, I’ve become a bit obsessed with them – I have a secretary bird on my phone wallpaper, my work desktop and I’ve even got a LEGO secretary bird on my desk watching me work at all times. (Stunning) There was some great research done by Steve Portugal last year on the force and speed of their kicks and it further confirmed how awesome they are. Unsurprisingly, I’m also a big fan of seriemas and their ‘terror bird’ ancestors, a group of giant prehistoric flightless birds that ran around South America gobbling up horses. I have a thing for big carnivorous birdies.

  1. So now I’m going to quiz you about your career in this sector, firstly why did you decide to get into conservation?

From secondary school onwards, I knew that I wanted to get involved with the life sciences, largely due to many visits to natural history museums and many more David Attenborough documentaries. I started off doing my undergraduate degree in Biology, but switched to Zoology after the first year to focus on animals and went on to do an MSc in Biodiversity & Conservation. Following on from my MSc, my PhD project was initially an investigation into the ecophysiology of migrating birds, but has since developed into a wider exploration of how effectively animals can convert the energy from their food into physical movement. It’s become less focused on conservation and more focused on fundamental research, but I feel that the more we learn about how energy from the environment is utelised internally by birds for foraging, migrating, hunting or escaping predators, the more we can understand about their behaviour and ecology.

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

There’s still so much to be done. Once I’ve finished my PhD, I know that I’ll have started to ask more questions than I’ll have answered, and that’s good motivation to keep exploring the field.

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

Getting my first scientific paper published! I am just about to send a paper based on my MSc dissertation back to a journal following reviewer’s comments, so I’m very excited for that to go ahead! Fingers crossed!

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

I recently won an award for giving the best PhD summary talk at a research symposium organised by my funding body. It was so nice to feel appreciation for the hard work I’ve put into the last few years and it definitely felt good to share my research with people from outside the bubble of my department.

  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?

There’s so many exotic locations and wild animals I would love to see first-hand, but there’s still loads to see here in the UK. I’ve never seen a live badger, largely because I’d usually rather be tucked up in bed when they’re out and about, but that’s an animal I would love to see here in the wild. For Christmas I got a book with the 100 best bird-watching spots around the world, so I may or may not be planning my honeymoon with a few of those in mind as well…

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

Everyone can do their small part to conserve the natural world. Making your garden hedgehog-friendly or building solitary bee hotels are two quick and easy ways you can improve the availability of habitats for local wildlife in a time when natural spaces and green corridors are dwindling.

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

I would put an end to any discussion that climate change is not happening. The fact that it has become a political issue is beyond absurd. It is happening, we’re causing it and we can all help to do something about it if we’re not too busy fighting over its existence. (I completely agree!)

Now for some favourites!

  1. Favourite sound?

When I finish up a plate of mac n’ cheese and think it’s all gone, then my wife says “there’s more in the kitchen…”. Pure music to my ears.

  1. Favourite fact?

Hmm, not sure if I have a favourite – but animal penis facts are always a winner. Echidna penises are like little trees, with one shaft and four heads, which they alternate between when bonking. Look them up, you won’t regret it.

  1. Favourite snack?

I love me a good cookie.

  1. Favourite word?

I always used to like ‘cornucopia’ but I don’t think I’ve had a reason to say it for years.

  1. Favourite curse word? 

I’m a fan of immature mashups like pissfart and shitdicks.

  1. Least favourite word?

Ugh, I know it’s not really a word but I can’t stand people saying “at the end of the day” to justify doing anything they want, it just grates on me.

And finally…

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

I think the first and most important step is to inform yourself and don’t just rely on the news as your only source of information about the environment. There are plenty of great science websites, social media forums, blogs, podcasts, YouTube videos and many more forms of media that share the latest conservation discoveries and discussions. A lot of important conservation issues often go overlooked (take the EU referendum as an example) because people are unaware of the environmental impact of their choices.

Thank you so much to Alex for answering these questions. I feel like I now know all I need to about echnida penises! If you want to hear more from Alex and his tales of living that PhD life then I strongly recommend you following him on twitter at @alexevans91. Or you can find more of him at his blog Bird Brained Science.

ThatBiologist Everywhere!

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Becoming A Master – A Chat About Big Game Hunting

Week 20

Hello! Welcome to another update of how my process of becoming a master of science is going. I am technically on my Easter break at the moment and generally any period classed as a break means I’m just working harder than ever. This week I’ve been working on my assignments due at the end of April. I have four to do totaling in at a maximum word count of 8000 words. Unfortunately that does tend to make me a little bit of a hermit to the outside world so I don’t have that much to report in terms of what I actually did this week. I sat at my laptop for a good 8 hours every day! I’m not complaining though, its really interesting work!

That being said I want to talk about a documentary I watched this week! It was a part of the series called Brainwashing Stacey. I am a huge fan of Stacey Dooleys documentaries so whenever I see one pop up on iplayer I tend to give it a watch immediately. This one was about big game hunting. That if you don’t know is when very rich people buy at auction opportunities to go to places like Africa to hunt big animals like wildebeest, zebra and lions. An example that hit the news big time was Cecil the Lion who was killed by a dentist. Stacey had the opportunity to follow one of these hunts and yes the show does get a little gruesome at times. Here’s where this hit me though is that the hunters said they were doing this for the conservation of the animals….

My first reaction went a little like this…

Image result for wait what meme

There side of the argument was that by killing a few animals for a very high price (we’re talking millions of dollars for one hunt) they could feed that money back into the care of the other animals. This meant using the money to pay for rangers to protect the land and stop illegal poaching. The other side of the argument was that the meat from the animals that were killed was then given for free to an orphanage and that the kids would go hungry if it wasn’t for that meat. On the other side of things the animals were often not killed cleanly and after they were shot the man who owned the ranch had to track the animals for several hours to put the animal out of its misery.

Personally I couldn’t get past the idea that the hunters were doing this for the fun of killing animals and nothing more. They often take pictures with these dead animals (which I’ve deliberately not included in this blog its far too disgusting to me) and there method of killing them and the heads of these animals often end up on their walls as a trophy. Killing animals is a part of life for many people and I eat meat so maybe this is hypocritical for me to say. However, if they have all this money and want to see it put to protecting animals and conservation purposes why not just give the money to the ranch directly and not go hunting.

If you are interested I think the documentary is on the BBCs iPlayer for a little while longer and it’s well worth a watch. This topic certainly makes for an interesting conversation and one I’d love to continue. Feel free to let me know your thoughts in the comments or on twitter. Do you think big game hunting is a good thing if it gives millions of dollars for the conservation of not just the animals but the ecosystem they live in? Do you think its just a bit of a con to let people kill beautiful animals? Please let me know!

ThatBiologist Everywhere!

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