Photography by ThatBiologist – Kew Gardens – 17/09/2017

A series of photos from a walk around Kew Gardens on an autumnal day. All images taken on my iphone.

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ThatBiologist Is Back

Honey, I’m home!!!

I’ve not posted here in such a long time but I have been writing and getting prepared for blogs right up until the end of this year.

I’ve had a little break to get myself into a new routine with my new job (!!!) but there will be more on that on Monday!

However, I have a little bit of house keeping to do on the blog. Just to let you all know I will be continuing to post blogs here on a Wednesday and a Sunday, but if that’s not enough for you I post regularly on my twitter, facebook and instagram that are all linked at the bottom of every blog post!

See you on Wednesday for an ever so slightly late Monthly Species blog!

ThatBiologist Everywhere!

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Some Thanks

So I hand in my dissertation tomorrow. It’s not quite the end of my masters but it definitely feels like it! So I hope you won’t mind this won’t be particularly about biology because I have to thank some people.

This degree has been emotionally, mentally and occassionally physically draining. I’ve put my heart and soul into it and it’s a wonderful feeling to be nearing the end of such a crazy year. I know it might sound cliche but I really really really would not have gotten through it without my wonderful group of people and I have to say thank you.

Firstly to my incredible parents. I wouldn’t have been able to do the course without your support and I cannot thank you enough for letting me have this opportunity. Your constant support throughout this year and my entire life is so important to me and I love you so much.

Secondly to my other half. He doesn’t get a mention here but he is my rock in life. I can’t believe how lucky I am to have him and really he’s just incredible. I love you and I always will.

Thirdly to my siblings. You forever make me laugh and smile and you remind me not to take myself too seriously. You guys are amazing!

To my inner sanctum, it has been a total pleasure getting to know you all this year. You are all so incredibly smart and I know that whatever you guys want to do in life you’ll succeed at. In 5 years time you can be sure we’ll be running the world. But seriously I thought this year could end up being a little lonely and it definitely hasn’t been with you guys around.

To Danielle, Amanda and Becca. My wonderful course friends, can you believe that from rooming together in Norfolk we have finally finished it. Thank you for being such great people to share ideas with and moan about how tough its been. I can’t wait to see where we all go from here.

And thank you to all the wonderful twitterati that have been a great source of enjoyment and support! Then finally thank you to anyone who has taken the time to read my blogs, it’s wonderful knowing that my words are reaching someone!

ThatBiologist Everywhere!

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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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