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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ThatBiologist does Halloween Again

Miscellaneous

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

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How to make a zombie?

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

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

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

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

Disease Option 1: Sleeping Sickness

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

Disease Option 2: Rabies

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

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

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

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

Image result for go to the winchester

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

Stay safe and have a great Halloween!

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Becoming A Master – In The Lab Late One Night

BAM

Week 3

As you might have guessed from this weeks title I’ve spent quite a bit of time this week in one of my favourite places! The Lab! It feels like forever since I last donned my coat and glasses so it was great to be back.

My week started with water chemistry using a spectrometer, that might sound complicated but all we were doing was measuring the nitrates and phosphate levels in the water samples we took from the ponds last week. Such fun! I’d love to insert a picture of me in my full PPE here but some of the chemicals we were using were quite nasty and my phone is my precious. Tuesday and Thursday were filled with lectures in preparation for a field course that I will be travelling to when you’re reading this. So I’ll leave talking about that til next week (such suspense!)

However my favourite thing I did this week was invertebrate identification! We took the inverts last week in Norfolk and this week we put them under a microscope to identify them. I love how by using the microscopes you can see just how detailed these guys are.
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That’s all from me this week folks! Hope you all have had great weeks too!

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Snow White: Could An Apple Kill?

Fairyology

“How I wish that I had a daughter that had skin as white as snow, lips as red as blood, and hair as black as ebony.”

Fairyology Episode 3

599936-snow_white1_large.jpgToday we turn our attention to the well-wishing, house-cleaning, magic-mirroring princess. It’s Snow White! Now if for some strange reason you’ve been living under a rock for the post 2000 years and don’t know this particular princess let me give you a little run down of the story.

A queen wished for a daughter that had everything in the quote above. Luckily for this queen her wish was granted and they called the baby Snow White however she died shortly after giving birth. So her king had to look after Snow White. Then the king gets remarried, now you must know that this isn’t going to be good. Snows step mother has this mirror and it’s magic. Her step mum talks to the mirror everyday and asks it who is the fairest of them all. Now all while snow is growing up it always says the she is the fairest. Until (dun, dun duuuuuhhh) it says that Snow is now the fairest! So the evil step mum orders Snow killed. The man charged with this actually just squirrels her away into the woods where she lives with seven dwarfs. The evil queen finds out and then goes hunting for her. After several failed plots she succeeds with a poison apple which puts Snow into a deep sleep. Lucky for Snow her boyf comes to her rescue and wakes her with true loves kiss. Happy ending woohoo! (1)

But let’s rewind one hot second, a poisoned apple! Thats a biology goldmine! What could’ve poisoned it! Well as per usual I’ve come up with some theories, let’s get stuck in!

Theory 1 = Poison Hemlock

1Now way back when I did a post on poison hemlock, it sparked my series the poisons
collection. So I won’t go into the intricacy’s of this wonderful poisonous plant instead I’ll skip to how this plant could be linked to the poisoned apple. This plants poisons are slow working but they are also extremely potent. When consumed the poisons cause paralysis which works well with the story of Snow going into a deep sleep. All parts of the plant contains the poisons so you wouldn’t need much to lace the apple for it to take effect. (2) From history this plant has been used to kill lots of people most famously Socrates! (3) This could have easily been the perfect plan for the evil queen, so how did she survive with this theory? Well clearly the Prince gave snow the antidote with his kiss. Whatever lip balm he uses I want it!

Theory 2 = Deadly Nightshade

300px-Atropa_belladonna_003
Another plant that has been featured on the poisons collection in this post. Deadly Nightshade grows across Europe (where Snow White is set). It has some really edible looking berries, filled with poison that again causes paralysis. It’s said that the effects work quite quickly. Although the most potent part of the plant is considered to be the root; a handful of berry juice inserted into the apple would be enough! (4).

Theory 3 = The Apple Itself? 

Did you know that apple seeds contain cyanide! Yeah however due to the hard coating outside the seed the body rarely even sees the cyanide even if you do swallow a seed. So how would this work for cyanide to be the poison in the apple? Firstly the evil queen would have to produce a really really seedy apple. The amount of cyanide in each seed is so minimal you would need alot of seeds to do any harm. Secondly she would have to make the coating on the seeds weaker in some way or made sure snow chewed it very thoroughly. Then and only then would the cyanide be able to do some damage. Yeah that’s probably not that likely!

In conclusion I really hope you’ve enjoyed this episode, it was inspired by a poster I did way back in my third year of my bachelors degree. Til’ next time check out my links below and come say hi on your social media of choice!

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Sources

(1) = http://gb.imdb.com/title/tt0029583/plotsummary

(2) = http://www.thepoisongarden.co.uk/atoz/conium_maculatum.htm

(3) = http://www.eyewitnesstohistory.com/socrates.htm

(4) = http://www.thepoisongarden.co.uk/atoz/atropa_belladonna.htm

(5) = https://www.theguardian.com/technology/2015/oct/11/cyanide-in-fruit-seeds-how-dangerous-is-an-apple

 

Meeting Pickle

Miscellaneous

Hello! Today I want to tell you about a very special day I had in August, the day that I met Pickle.

Pickle is a Humboldt penguin that lives at Newquay Zoo. I got to meet him as part of the

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Me and Pickle (BFF’s)

penguin feeding experience there alongside my other half. Pickle is quite a special penguin in that he was raised by humans and has since struggled to fully ascertain that he is in fact a penguin and not a human. He falls in love with humans when he meets them and sings to them like penguins sing to their penguin partners. When I sat down next to him he let me stroke his feathers and snuggled into me, it was truly an amazing experience to see a penguin so close and to see them all so happy. Aside from meeting pickle I got to meet all the other penguins living there, who did not care for humans without fish and I learnt a lot about these penguins and other species of penguin from the keeper. One thing I thought that was really interesting was most penguins live in warm climates, Humboldt penguins are native to Chile and Peru. They also have salt glands to get rid of salt from the ocean which they sneeze out (Penguin sneezes are the cutest thing). Feeding them was so much fun and it was great to learn that at Newquay zoo they have a fantastic breeding programme. Either way I thought I had to let you guys know all about Humboldt penguins so below is there profile! Enjoy!

Humboldt Penguin

Image result for humboldt penguin

Scientific Classification:

 

Order: Sphenisciformes

Family: Spheniscidae

Genus: Spheniscus

Species: humboldti

Scientific Name: Spheniscus humboldti

Size:

They are medium-sized penguins, growing to 56–70 cm long and a weight of 3.6-5.9 kg. Baring in mind the biggest penguin (the emperor penguin) grow to about 122cm tall and have a weight of up to 45kg.

Diet:

They eat fish, mainly anchovies, krill and squid.

Life expectancy:

On average they live around 20 years in the wild however at Newquay zoo they have a penguin called Mother who is 28 years old!

Reproduction:

Humboldt penguins make nests in between cracks and crevices in rocks, at the zoo they had ones made from fibreglass for them. Females lay one or two eggs. When chicks hatch after a 40 day incubation period, both parents take in turns to care for them. After about two months, the chick is left alone during the day while both parents hunt for food. Most of the time it is one male and one female taking care of the chicks however in Germany two adult male Humboldt penguins adopted an egg that had been abandoned by its biological parents. After the egg hatched, the two male penguins raised, protected, cared for, and fed the chick in the same manner that regular penguin couples raise their own biological offspring.

Conservation Status:

It is currently under the IUCN red list classed as vulnerable. The population of Humboldt penguins is declining, caused partly by over-fishing, climate change, and ocean acidification. The main reason for their decline is due to habitat destruction, and in the over collecting of guano (that’s the accumulated excrement of seabirds, seals, or cave-dwelling bats which is used as a fertiliser) by humans. Removal of guano means that penguins cannot build there nests up adequately to protect their chicks, leaving them exposed to predators and severe weather conditions. However in August 2010 penguins in Peru and Chile were granted protection under the U.S. Endangered Species Act.

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Becoming A Master – In the beginning

BAM

Welcome to my new series Becoming A Master! This series (which I’ll shorten to BAM) is all about my journey through my masters degree. I want to share what its like week to week studying a masters degree in Conservation and I want to share all the new science I’m learning with you guys. I have no idea how this series will work out and thats so exciting, most of my blogs I write a couple weeks in advance but this series will be as live as I can. These will be coming to you every Sunday!

Week 1.

Y’know what I just said about these coming on a Sunday… well I know this post is coming out on Sunday but I’m currently writing this on the Thursday. It’s all I’m going to be able to cover for the moment as tomorrow I’m off to Norfolk on my first field course! I’m so excited to be back out in the field and you guys can all read about it next week. Anyway back on to what I’ve been up to.
Well as in the start of most courses this week has mostly been about admin. A lot of safety and generally trying to negotiate my way around my new building. UCL itself is a far bigger university than my university for my undergrad. Luckily I’m spending most of my time in the geography department.
It’s also been a lot of meeting new people which has been great so many different scientists with all sorts of different backgrounds and things to share and discuss.
I wish I could tell you some more scientific stuff in this blog entry but I really don’t think you’re going to want to hear a chat about plagiarism, although important it’s not the most interesting stuff.
So I will leave this entry here and I can’t wait to tell you all about my first field course!
Til next time!
Happy Biologying!

Edit: I know this is a late blog mostly because my signal in Norfolk is awful but here is my view currently.
image

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The Monthly Scientist: Miss August

The Monthly Scientist

Hello, this year is disappearing so fast! Today we’re celebrating a fantastic scientist, without her research we might not know as much about cancer as we do today. Of course today we are honouring…

Marie Curie

ImageGen

Born: 7 November 1867 in Warsaw, Poland

Died: 4 July 1934, age 66.

Noted for: First research into the treatment of tumours with radiation and the discovery of radium and polonium.

Why scientist of the month?

Curie began life as a teacher but her scientific career started when she moved to Paris and met her future husband Pierre Curie. In July 1898, the Curies announced the discovery of a new chemical element, polonium. At the end of the year, they announced the discovery of another, radium.

Pierre died in 1906 and Marie took over his teaching post, becoming the first woman to teach at the Sorbonne. The Curie’s research was crucial in the development of x-rays in surgery. During World War One Curie helped to equip ambulances with x-ray equipment, which she herself drove to the front lines.

If all that wasn’t enough she is also the only person who has ever won Nobel Prizes in both physics and chemistry. As well as her research into the treatment of tumours with radiation was essential to what we know about cancer and how we treat it now.

Yet again, Curie is among the wonderful scientists that know how to perfectly turn a phrase so to conclude this is my favourite Marie Curie quote.

“I am among those who think that science has great beauty. A scientist in his laboratory is not only a technician: he is also a child placed before natural phenomena which impress him like a fairy tale.”

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Save The Sharks

The Shark Tank

I hope you’ve thoroughly enjoyed this week of shark related blogs, I’ve loved writing them! Today we’re looking at what we can do to help the sharks out and whats currently being done.

Shark Conservation

Unlike other species we can’t take sharks out of the ocean and put them into captive breeding programmes. The sharks just don’t survive so all the shark conservation has to be done out in the ocean. However there is lots being done to help out our shark friends.

Legislation – By far this is the biggest way we can help the sharks. Using the law we can protect the waters they swim in as well as making it illegal to catch them for sport. This is also the best way we can stop sharks being caught and used for food as well as beauty products. The only issue with this is that often legislation has loop holes but it has been shown to help!

Ecotourism – Sharks still have a pretty bad rep, mostly thanks to the film and tv industry. Now if you’ve been reading this weeks blogs you know that this is simply not true. Well ecotourism is also a great way to do the same! If sharks have a better reputation then we can get more voices putting pressure on their governments to protect them! As well as this often ecotourism ventures will put some of the money back into more shark conservation efforts.

Knowledge – By learning more about sharks we know how to help them better. This can be done by putting more money into research. There are lots of studies going on worldwide tagging lots of different species of shark and tracking them.

How can you help?

You don’t have to be a marine biologist or conservationist to help out the sharks. There are things you can do right now to help them even if you live no where near the ocean!

  1. First things first, don’t eat shark! It’s not only bad for the shark if you eat them but it’s also bad for you. Shark meat has really high levels of mercury in it. Eating a lot of mercury can lead to damage to your vital organs and immune system.
  2. Keep shark out of your beauty products. If they contain the ingredient Squalene that is shark liver oil.
  3. Don’t buy shark products! Leave their teeth where they should be.
  4. Don’t support businesses that use sharks. Like restaurants that serve it or beauty companies that use the oils.
  5. Be aware of where your seafood comes from. Sharks often get caught up in nets and die needlessly. So look on the packet for dolphin and shark friendly seafood!
  6. Keep informed, the more you know about sharks the better and then share what you know to get more people on the shark train!

I’ve really loved writing about my favourite group of species. Shark conservation is so important to me because I want to keep all the sharks around for more people to see. They are a huge part in the marine ecosystem and must be protected. Back to normal programming next week!

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3 Weird and Wonderful Sharks

The Shark Tank

Happy Wednesday everyone, hope you’re having a good week. Today we’re going to look at three rather intriguing sharks that you might not have heard of before, after all there are four hundred species of shark.

the shark tank

Shark 1 – Thresher Shark

Thresher sharks are certainly different looking. They have a long unique tail that they use like a whip to stun and catch their prey. There are three different types of thresher sharks, the common, the pelagic and the bigeye. They’re big too, being known to grow up to 20ft long and weighing in at over 500 kilograms.

175897-thresher-shark-malapascuaThresher sharks have to stay clean to survive. They often get sick from pea-sized parasites called copepods, which attach themselves to the shark’s gill filaments. In order to rid themselves of these parasites, thresher sharks come to cleaning stations. These cleaning stations are almost like car washes for sharks and other large fish. The small fish that live there, like the cleaner wrasse, feed on parasites and dead skin while the sharks cruise patiently. The wrasse can even go into the sharks’ mouths to clean extra food and bacteria from their teeth. The sharks and large fish hold off on eating the fish that are cleaning them. It’s as if there’s a truce between predator and prey at these cleaning stations, allowing the threshers to get clean and the wrasse to get breakfast!

Thresher sharks are found all over the world, with common threshers being the most widespread, followed by pelagic and bigeye thresher sharks. The Monad Shoal near the Philippine Island of Malapascua is reported to be the only place on Earth where divers can spot thresher sharks on a regular basis.

Threshers are known to be solitary creatures and have a vulnerable status on the IUCN red list. There status is partly due to their tails getting stuck in fishing nets and then they unfortunately drown. Threshers live mainly on a diet of schooling fish as well as squid and cuttlefish. Below is a video of these amazing sharks at work.

Shark 2 – Epaulette Shark

p02q7y1mMost sharks live in the deeper parts of the ocean but this one negotiates the tricky territory of coastal reefs. The Epaulette shark lives on the Great Barrier Reef in Australia and has some really cool tricks to cope with the changing water levels and high temperatures.

Epaulette sharks range in size from about 70-90cm the largest epaulette shark found was 107cm. They have a diet of mostly crab and other small creatures found on the reef.

Unlike any other shark, the Epaulette has an uncanny ability to walk. It uses its fins as prototype legs to crawl over the exposed reef between rockpools that contain its prey. But no shark can breathe out of water. This is not a problem for the epaulette shark though, as it can survive 60 times longer without oxygen than humans can! In order to do this the little shark slows its breathing and heart rate and powers down its brain. Below is a video of the Epaulette shark showing off its amazing talents with the amazing David Attenborough.

Shark 3 – Hammerhead Shark

Now you’ve probably heard of these bulldozer sharks but how much do you really know about them other than their feature head shape.

Shark_Hammerhead5

First thing you might not know is that hammerhead sharks actually belong to a group of sharks in the family Sphyrnidae, so named for the unusual and distinctive structure of their heads, which are flattened and laterally extended into a “hammer” shape called a cephalofoil. Hammerheads are found worldwide in warmer waters along coastlines and continental shelves. Unlike most sharks, hammerheads usually swim in schools during the day, becoming solitary hunters at night.

Species of hammerhead range in size but can grow up to 6 metres long and weigh in at 580 kilograms. Hammerheads have disproportionately small mouths and seem to do a lot of bottom-hunting. There wide head allows them to have better binocular vision – all the better to track fast-moving prey like squid with far more accuracy than sharks with close-set eyes. Speaking of food the great hammerhead usually feeds on a variety of bony fishes. It may also consume other (usually smaller) sharks, crabs, skates and as previously mentioned squid. Perhaps its most unusual prey is the stingray, due to there sharp barb of tail this can make them tricky for the sharks. Although the main threat to the hammerhead sharks is humans but more on that on Friday for now lets look at them in action.

So which shark did you like the best? Let me know down in the comments or on one of the many social medias I have! See you tomorrow! Also huge thanks to the sharkopedia website over at discovery for helping me learn more about these wonderful creatures!

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6 in 60: Number 45 – Famous Scientists

6in60

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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