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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Why do moths go towards the light?! – Saturday Questions!

Hello and welcome to day 8 of BEDA! It’s going well I think?

Todays blog post is actually a little bit of a cheat post. I wrote a few months a go about starting to write for the woodland trust which you can find here. I wrote a blog post not too long a go about why moths go towards the light! So you can go find out at this link –

https://www.woodlandtrust.org.uk/blogs/woodland-trust/2017/03/why-are-moths-attracted-to-light/

If you ever want to find any more of my writing its all in the about laura section!

HAPPY BEDA!

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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.

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5 Cool things about Octopuses!

Hello welcome to the third day of blog every day in April….

Today I have literally no time at all (so much so this got written weeks ago) however I still want to tell you 5 amazing things about the humble octopus! Let’s go!

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Number 1: There are approximately 300 recognized species of Octopus!

Number 2: All octopuses are venomous but only small blue-ringed octopuses are known to be deadly to humans.

Number 3: Octopuses have three hearts. Two pump blood through each of the two gills and the other pumps the blood through the rest of the body!

Number 4: Octopuses are really intelligent. They can use tools, open boxes and they can learn by observing another octopus. They are also amazing escape artists! In fact here is a video of an octopus escaping through a 1 inch diameter hole!

Number 5: Octopuses have been observed playing with toys! They even all have individual responses and temperaments. This has led to some theories on octopuses having individual personalities.

To summarise, octopuses are pretty cool. A truly fascinating group of species that I’m sure we’ll find lots more about in the future!

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6 in 60: Number 49 – Suns out Guns out!

Hello! I really hope its lovely and sunny with you today, because its time to go to the gun show! That’s right today we’re talking about muscles, just for a minute let’s go!

  1. Muscle can be defined as a band or bundle of fibrous tissue in a human or animal body that has the ability to contract, producing movement in or maintaining the position of parts of the body.
  2. There are three different kinds of muscle – smooth, cardiac, and skeletal muscle.
  3. There are more than 600 muscles in the body, doing everything from pumping blood to moving food through the intestines, to helping lift heavy objects.
  4. Muscles are the most dense thing in your body. They make up approximately 40% of your body weight.
  5. To take one step, you use 200 muscles.
  6. It takes 17 muscles to smile and 43 to frown.

1109_Muscles_that_Move_the_Tongue.jpg

Hope you’ve enjoyed todays episode. Make sure you check back here next Tuesday for a very special 50th episode of 6 in 60!

Sources

The first fact came from that dang dictionary. 2 and 3 came from this site. Fact 4-6 came from this degreed article.

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Mini Wiki 6b: More Organelles!

Last time on mini wikis I introduced you guys to the world of organelles, today we’re going to look at some of the organelles in cells. Let’s get started:

animal_vs_plant_cell

Nucleus

The nucleus is like the central console of the cell. It’s  a membrane bound structure that contains the cell’s hereditary (DNA) information and controls the cell’s growth and reproduction. Its the most prominent of all the organelles and can be seen using a normal microscope. (No fancy electron microscope to see these guys in action). The nucleus itself has quite a complex structure but that’s for another wiki.

2000px-Diagram_human_cell_nucleus.svg

Mitochondria

Otherwise known as “the powerhouse of the cell”. This is where ATP is created which can then be used all over the cell and is where all the cellular respiration takes place. It’s also involved in cell division, growth and death. Again mitochondria have an intricate structure. There is a theory that suggests mitochondria were once an organism all by its self. You can read about that here.

Structure-of-Mitochondria_cIvyRose

Endoplasmic Reticulum

These are like long tubes of membranes. Some have ribosomes dotted on the outside (Rough ER) and some regions don’t have them (smooth ER). It’s in charge of moving things as well manufacturing. Endoplasmic reticulum makes membranes, secretory proteins, carbohydrates, lipids, and hormones.

Ribosome

Ribosomes are on the smaller side of organelles, this has the job of protein production. Ribosomes are found suspended in the cytosol or bound to the endoplasmic reticulum.

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Cytoplasm

This is the gel-like substance within the cell membrane containing water, enzymes, salts, organelles, and various organic molecules.

Cell Membrane

Yes, this is an organelle. It’s the dividing border between cells as well as between organelles. It consists of a phospholipid bilayer, as well as proteins and cholesterol (yes you read that right). The proteins are used for communication with other cells and chemical compounds, as well as being used for transport over the lipid bilayer. Wherever you see a solid line in a diagram you can almost always assume its cell membrane.

10 Cell Membrane Structure

Golgi Complex/Apparatus

The Golgi apparatus is the “manufacturing and shipping center” of a eukaryotic cell.

The Golgi apparatus, sometimes called the Golgi complex or Golgi body, is responsible for manufacturing, warehousing, and shipping certain cellular products, particularly those from the endoplasmic reticulum (ER). Depending on the type of cell, there can be just a few complexes or there can be hundreds.

116252-120-E654E669.jpg

In conclusion, obviously there are more organelles to go over and we will be looking into those in part c. For now if you want to see more Mini Wikis just click here.

Sources

Bailey, R.. (2016). Organelles. Available: http://biology.about.com/od/cellanatomy/ss/organelles.htm. Last accessed 24th Aug 2016.

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6 in 60: Number 47 – Blood

I thought for the next 3 blogs we would look back into the human body and look at blood, skeletons and muscle. Enjoy!

  1. Blood can be defined as the fluid that circulates in the principal vascular system of low red blood cell counthuman beings and other vertebrates, in humans consisting of plasma in which the red blood cells, white blood cells, and platelets are suspended.
  2. Blood pH is held from 7.35 to 7.45 making it slightly basic.
  3. There are four main blood groups (types of blood): A, B, AB and O. Your blood group is determined by the genes you inherit from your parents. Each group can be either RhD positive or RhD negative, which means your blood group can be one of the eight types
  4. Scientists have estimated the volume of blood in the human body to be eight percent of body weight.
  5. The body contains approximately 0.2 milligrams of gold that is most diffused with our blood. However, you would need to bleed 40,000 people dry just to collect enough blood to make an 8-gram souvenir.
  6. Coconut water can be used in emergencies as a replacement for blood plasma. This is because coconut water possesses identical properties to that of human plasma, and since it can be safely injected directly into the bloodstream.

Sources

I got the first from just a standard dictionary (yes I still use them!). The second fact is from medicnet but you can find this all over the internet. The third fact comes form this nhs page. The last three facts come from medical daily which can be found here.

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6 in 60: Number 45 – Famous Scientists

I’ve written a lot about scientists in my monthly scientist series, catch it here if you’ve missed it. Today I thought I’d go and throw 6 of my favourite facts about 6 of my favourite scientists, simple, let’s go!

  1. Marie Curie was the youngest of five children and was born to poor school teachers.
  2. Unlike most researchers, Jane Goodall named the animals that were part of her studies, normally numbers were assigned in order to remove the possibility of the researcher becoming attached to the subjects.
  3. Galileo enrolled to do a medical degree at the University of Pisa but never finished, instead choosing to study mathematics.
  4. In honor of his work and influential contributions, Louis Pastuer was made a Grand Croix of the Legion of Honor, a prestigious French order.
  5. Alexander Graham Bell didn’t have the middle name “Graham” until he turned 11 when his father gave it to him as a birthday present. He’d earlier asked to have a middle name like his two brothers.
  6. In his early years Edwin Hubble was a skilled athlete as well as a bright student, competing and achieving highly in track and field

Hope you’ve enjoyed this eclectic mix! Next week will be a ThatBiologist special, we’re going to be dipping into the world of Sharks in The Shark Tank with a new blog every day!

the shark tank
Coming Next Week

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6 in 60: Number 44 – Salmonella

The last 6 in 60 on bacteria is all about salmonella, having a week away next week but there will be something new for the week after!

  1. It was discovered by an American scientist named Dr. Salmon, and has been known to cause illness for over 125 years.
  2. Salmonella is a rod shaped gram-negative bacterium of the Enterobacteriaceae family.
  3. Salmonellosis is the name for when you are infected by Salmonella bacteria.
  4. You usually get salmonellosis by eating contaminated food. Salmonella bacteria live in the gut of many farm animals and can affect meat, eggs, poultry and milk.
  5. Typhoid fever is caused by Salmonella typhi.
  6. Swansea university have developed a way of shrinking prostate cancer cells using a harmless strain of salmonella bacteria.

The Sources

Facts 1 and 3 comes from the CDC page. Number 2 comes from this medical guide. Fact 4 comes from the nhs page. Fact 5 is from the nhs page on typhoid fever. Fact 6 is relatively new information but here is the bbc article on it.

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