The Monthly Species – August

So it is time for another species to get into the spotlight! This particular species we’re discussing today has the longest migration of its kind. It is also rather beautiful in my opinion! Today the species in the spotlight is the Globe Skimmer Dragonfly!

Pantala Flavescens - Wandering Glider

Scientific Classification:

Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Arthropoda
Class: Insecta
Order: Odonata
Infraorder: Anisoptera
Family: Libellulidae
Genus: Pantala
Species: P. flavescens

 

Size: This dragonfly is about 4.5cm in length and has a wingspan of 7.2cm and 8.4cm.

Diet: As with all dragonflies the globe skimmer is predatory and has a diet of all aquatic invertebrates and their larvae.

Life Expectancy: Their life expectancy isn’t actually known because of their vast migration (more on that later).


Reproduction: 
There isn’t much courtship with this species. But when mating does occur each clutch can contain between 500 to 2000 eggs. The eggs are laid in waters and the larval stage lasts between 38 to 65 days.

Conservation: It is currently listed in the IUCN red list as the least concern. However, the globe skimmer is a key species that supports the population of many migratory birds!

The Coolest Thing Ever About This Species: This dragonfly has the longest migration of any insect, it travels with the monsoon season from India to Southern and the East of Africa. That comes to around 14,000 kilometers! It is also known to be the highest flying insect having been seen at 6,200m above sea level in the Himalayas.

ThatBiologist Everywhere!

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Top 10 UK Trees

Hello! I’m back with another top 10 list, so far I’ve done top 10 Hedgerow plants and top 10 UK birds! For this list all of the trees are UK native species!

  1. Alder (Alnus glutinosa) – Alder is actually a pioneer species as it increases the fertility of the soil. Alder has a symbiotic relationship with with a nitrogen-fixing bacterium called Frankia alni. Fond in the root nodules, the bacterium absorbs nitrogen from the air and makes it available to the tree. Alder, in turn, provides the bacterium with sugars, which it produces through photosynthesis.Image result for Alnus glutinosa
  2. Crab Apple (Malus sylvestris) – I have my own crab apple tree that was given to my parents when I was born which is very special to me! These trees are unique in that they will often grow alone without any other crab apple trees close by! Image result for crab apple tree
  3. Elder (Sambucus nigra) – This tree is fantastic for wildlife. The flowers provide nectar for a variety of insects and the berries are eaten by birds and mammals. Small mammals such as dormice and bank voles eat both the berries and the flowers and many moth caterpillars feed on the foliage.Image result for elder tree
  4. Oak (Quercus robur) – One of my absolute favourite trees so much so I could write this whole post about just Oak! The trees are fantastic for biodiversity when solitary but also as part of forests. They provide fantastic hard wood which is used for all sorts of things and parts of the tree were even used in traditional medicine! Image result for oak tree
  5. White Willow (Salix alba) – All willow trees were seen as trees of celebration in biblical times but over time they are now often used as symbols of mourning. You see this a lot in poetry and literature, for example in Shakespeare’s Hamlet, Ophelia dies by drowning near a willow tree. Image result for white willow
  6. Yew (Taxus baccata) – I have written about Yew before which goes into more of it’s poisonous nature. Another fact about Yew trees is that given their dense nature they provide fantastic nesting opportunities for many of our smaller uk bird species, particularly the goldcrest and firecrest.Image result for yew tree
  7. Bay Willow (Salix pentandra) – This willow tree has leaves that look like Bay trees hense the name! All willow trees have a history with medicine as Salicilin is found in the bark of the tree. Asprin is derived from this compound but in olden times you could chew on the bark of willow trees to relieve pain!Image result for bay willow
  8. Scots Pine (Pinus sylvestris) – Scot’s pine is the national tree for Scotland and is vital to the unique Caledonian Forest that is a habitat for other rare species such as the red squirrel.Image result for scots pine caledonian forest
  9. Wild Cherry (Prunus avium) – Cherry trees are completely stunning and this species is native to the UK! There blossom is fantastic for nature as it’s early source of pollen and nectar. These trees are often used as ornamental plants but the wood is also very pretty and used to make ornamental pieces.Image result for wild cherry tree prunus avium
  10. Rowan (Sorbus aucuparia) – This species of tree was planted as protection against witches because this tree has red berries and the colour red was considered the best colour for fighting evil. This species grows well in high altitudes and the wood is strong and hard which makes it great for making furniture.

Image result for rowan tree

I hope you’ve enjoyed this quick romp through some UK trees! The woodland trust has lots of fantastic information on different tree species and where to find them if you are looking for more!

ThatBiologist Everywhere!

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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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Top 10 UK Birds

Hello! Today I want to introduce you to some of my favourite bird species. Birds are just the most fascinating things to watch and ever since my parents put a bird feeder in their garden I’ve learnt a lot about the different bird species. So without further a do here are 10 of my favourites!

  1. Barn Owl (Tyto alba) – Barn Owls are my favourite owl, aside from being the most beautiful owl they are also impressive hunters with incredible hearing. This hearing means they can catch prey with sound alone! Barn owl hovering
  2. Robin (Erithacus rubecula) –  Male robins can actually be quite an aggressive and territorial bird with other birds which can lead to fatalities. Over winter each robin will have a territory of approximately half a hectare. Robin on flower pot
  3. Buzzard (Buteo buteo) – These birds are one of the most widespread in the UK and can live up to 12 years old. They are an amazing bird of prey and if ever you get a chance to see them hunting its well worth a watch!Buzzard in flight head on
  4. Moorhen (Gallinula chloropus) – These little pond dwelling birds hold a special place in my heart because the lake at Bath Spa University had loads of them. They were the first bird species I could properly identify. I mean it also helps that they are adorable! Image result for moorhen
  5. Swan (Cygnus olor) – I feel like this list wouldn’t be complete without Swans. Again there was a resident pair at Bath Spa Uni that had signets ever year. They were very protective of their nests as swans are and I once had to run defence for my friend who was working on the lake and distract the swan!Mute swan swimming
  6. Crow (Corvus corone) – I have had my issues with crows in the past but they still are incredibly intelligent animals! They can recognise faces and even hold grudges! Image result for carrion crow
  7. House Sparrow (Passer domesticus) – Sparrow populations have declined by up to 62% in the last 25 years and now they are on the IUCN red list. House sparrow (female)
  8. Goldfinch (Carduelis carduelis) – These are undeniably one of the most stunning bird species on this list and can be seen almost everywhere in the UK apart from the very north and west of Scotland.Image result
  9. White-tailed eagle (Haliaeetus albicilla)- This is the largest UK bird species and went extinct in the 20th century from hunting and egg-collecting but has since been reintroduced. They are truly fantastic birds of prey and stunning to watch. Image result for white tailed eagle uk
  10. Blue Tit (Cyanistes caeruleus) – Another beautiful little bird that are a delight to sit and watch. In the winter they have family flocks that can be up to 20 birds in size!

Image result

Hope you’ve enjoyed this little foray into the avian world! What’s your favourite bird let me know in the comments!

ThatBiologist Everywhere!

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Becoming A Master – A Week In The Life

Week 31

Hello everyone, this week has been a busy one and instead of writing this on a Sunday and reflecting on the week just gone I’ve written a little each day. Hopefully this will show you that in my life currently there is no daily routine and every day is a little different.

Monday: Today I’ve been running a few errands, getting the shopping in and such as well as catching up on the emails I missed from being at home. I also spent a lot of today researching and writing for The Woodland Trust. I really love the volunteering I do for them as I just learn so much! If you’d like to see the work I do for them here are a few links:

Wild Orchids in the UK

Why Do Nettles Sting?

How to forage wild garlic!

Tuesday: Today I’ve been running through my statistics focusing on finding statistically significant results. These are important as when something is statistically significant you can say with more confidence that one thing is affecting another. This can be difficult to show in ecology as there are lots of variables out in the outside world!

Wednesday: Today I’ve been continuing with my work on Tuesday but also developing my reasons why I’m finding certain results. Stats can sometimes leave you with more questions than answers! I’ve been developing theories and working out what I want to say with my dissertation. This has somewhat left me with a few moments of yelling into a pillow when I don’t know which way is best! – All the fun of a masters I guess!

Thursday: The statistics continued today and I managed to answer some questions that I had from yesterday. I also collated all the work I’ve done so far for my meeting tomorrow.

Friday: Today I had a meeting with my supervisor for my dissertation. He gave me lots of ideas about how to use all the data analysis I’ve doing to create a succinct and convincing story. Which is great because I have a lot of editing to do!

After my meeting I went to go and give blood for the first time! I’ve always wanted to do this because I have no reason why I cant do it and every time someone gives blood they can save three different lives. It’s an incredible thing to do so go and do it if you can. It didn’t hurt nearly as much as how I’d built it up in my head and the nurses were totally lovely!

Saturday: So today I wrote up everything from my meeting and got to some planning. Although I did spend the afternoon on the sims… everyone needs a break!

Sunday:  I’m currently writing this just before I’m about to head out to spend some time with friends and my wonderful other half. We’re heading to the pottermore pop up shop in London and I am so excited! If you are also a potter fan let me know in the comments!

Hope you’ve enjoyed this update!

ThatBiologist Everywhere!

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The Monthly Species: June

Hello friends! So it is the end of June, once again I’m astounded that we are now half way through the year. But! Today we are talking about a mushroom. Fungi aren’t my favourite topic of conversation but I couldn’t resist because this one is so so cool. It’s sometimes referred to as Lion’s mane or bear’s head tooth fungus. It is Hericium americanum! 

Image result

Scientific Classification:

Kingdom: Fungi
Division: Basidiomycota
Class: Agaricomycetes
Order: Russulales
Family: Hericiaceae
Genus: Hericium
Species: H. americanum

Size: The fruiting body (the fleshy bit) can grow from about 15-30cm big. That in the range of mushrooms is big!

Diet: It lives off of decaying broad-leaved trees. It is thought that this may be init ally a parasitic fungus.

Distribution: It is found as the name might suggest in america. Specifically in North East america.
Hericium americanum, picture by Josh DotyReproduction: Fungus reproduce with spores which can be many different colours. This fungus has a white spore print.

Conservation: These fungi are quite common in the states however they are a prized find. They are an edible fungi and can be quite expensive because of how big they are!

The Coolest Thing Ever About This Species:

The shape of the fruiting body is simply stunning. The ice crystal shapes when combined with many fruiting bodies can look like a frozen waterfall!

ThatBiologist Everywhere!

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Becoming A Master – Alpha Diversity

Week 30

Hello friends! This week I have been all about the alpha diversity statistics so I thought I would tell you about how and why I’m doing it. Alpha biodiversity is effectively a way of working out the biodiversity in a local area. This can be done within a quadrat or within sections of a transect. For my dissertation I am looking at the alpha biodiversity of each of my hedgerows in my study.

To do this I’m using some software called EstimateS and I put in my results and then it uses different formula to find different alpha biodiversity scores. There can be different scores as lots of different studies have developed different mathematical formula to work out the biodiversity. Each formula is more effective for different types of study. For example a study looking at insect species richness may find a different formula gives a more accurate representation of alpha biodiversity than a study looking at salt marsh plants. I have four different formula to choose from and hopefully by next week I will have settled on one to use.

It’s been another heavy computer week but I did head home to Cornwall this weekend (why this blog is a little late) to run around the fields and check up on my hedgerows.

Hope you’ve enjoyed this little update and a little lesson on statistics!

ThatBiologist Everywhere!

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Top 10 Hedgerow Plants

Hello! I have been working on my dissertation for my masters which is all about hedgerows and their conservation. This has meant I’ve got to know the plants in Cornish hedgerows really well so without further a do here are 10 of my favourites!

  1. Red Campion (Silene dioica) – This is one of the most common wild flowers I found as part of my research. Traditional medicines used the seeds to treat snakebites and its genus name comes from the greek word sialon which means saliva.
  2. Stinging Nettle (Urtica dioica) – Easily the plant I was most aware of in my research because I had all the stings to prove I had found it. However, stinging nettles have their place in the hedgerow and provide an excellent habitat and food source for lots of my favourite butterflies.
  3. Hawthorn (Crataegus monogyna) – This was one of the main shrubs I found in my hedgerows. It can be extremely dense but provide food and habitat for up to 300 different species of insect. It was once said that if you brought a hawthorn blossom into your house illness and death were to follow so perhaps admire this plant from afar.
  4. Blackthorn (Prunus spinosa) – Another common hedgerow shrub also known by the name of sloe bush. It’s berries are commonly made into sloe gin but another interesting fact is that blackthorn wood was associated with witchcraft.
  5. Buttercup (Ranunculus repens) – Otherwise known as the species with the best latin name I have ever heard of. I commonly found creeping buttercup at the bottom of hedgerows. It used to be a favourite game of mine and my friends at primary school to hold a buttercup flower underneath each others chins and if you could see the yellow reflection of the flower it meant you liked butter. Not particularly sure why that mattered but it’s still a delightful little flower.
  6. Sycamore (Acer pseudoplatanus) – Fun fact sycamore trees are actually my favourite tree. They have the most beautiful colours in them all year round as the young leaves and stems are red before going green. They are actually an introduced species in the UK but they have been here since the 17th century. They can live for up to 400 years so I think the Sycamore is here to stay!
  7. Fools Parsley (Aethusa cynapium) – This one wasn’t very common so I definitely had to dig around to find it but I did! In some areas it grows quite commonly but every hedge is different.
  8. Dogs Violet (Viola riviana) – This is another very sweet wildflower that I found in my research. If you do happen upon a violet looking flower it’s more than likely going to be this one.
  9. Hazel (Corylus avellana) – This is another very common hedgerow tree. It provides an excellent resource for many other species but often suffers when cut back to vigorously. The stems are very bendy in spring so much that they can be bent into a knot without breaking!
  10. Hogweed (Heracleum mantegazzianum) – This species was introduced to the UK in the 19th century as an ornamental species and has since escaped from gardens and can be found in lots of areas. I found some specimens in the base of my hedgerows but was always careful of them as the sap from this species can cause irritation and even blisters.

If you fancy finding out more about hedgerows I’m talking a lot about them in my becoming a master series which comes out on Sundays!

See you soon!

ThatBiologist Everywhere!

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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!

ThatBiologist Everywhere!

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Disney Effect Part 2 – Where is Nemo?

Hello! So during in VEDA I introduced the idea of the disney effect affecting the conservation of certain species. For today’s blog I thought I could take a look at the case study of clown fish. Clown fish are delightful fish that live near sea anemones hense why they can also be called anemonefish. There are 28 different species and they come in a large range of colours. Orange clownfish and the most famous kind are the species Amphiprion percula and A. ocellaris. They are really popular aquarium fish and here is kind of where our story begins.

The clownfish are obviously they key characters in finding Nemo. The film was released in 2003 and the film did incredibly well with great ratings and this led to a few different affects.

The first was that it pushed a spotlight on to the ocean and how its treated. It brought ocean protection into the media because the general public was made aware of how important and diverse the ocean is. The pressure from the public is always extremely powerful for the environment to get policies pushed forward. Although ocean protection has been important there was a notable rise in the interest to protect the oceans when the movie came out.

The other main affect was that many people wanted their very own nemo or dory. The demand for these fish went through the roof and to supply this demand many clownfish were removed from the wild. This happened to an extent where there was local extinction particularly in south east Asia. Now many of the fish you see available to purchase are bred in captivity however the damage of local extinction affected the coral habitat as a whole.

The power that disney has to affect public opinion can be massive. Luckily with the release of finding dory there was a larger affect to improve the message of conservation within the movie. Nevertheless the lessons learned from the affect that finding nemo had should be remembered with any future disney project.

Let me know what you think, is disney doing a good thing by putting these messages into their films or is it irresponsible because it can affect the population of a species on a global scale?

Til next time!

ThatBiologist Everywhere!

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