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!

ThatBiologist Everywhere!




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ThatBiologist – Conservation Conversations

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?


  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!

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!