My path to conservation science

Terry McGlynn recently wrote about the path that took him into a career in science, inspired by an older post by Meg Duffy. Terry felt that it could be useful for people to share their stories and I agree: all too often it seems like scientists present an image of having been driven since birth to work in research, and in their current field. Maybe for some of us that’s true, but I suspect that for most of us it’s not, and I found it slightly daunting to be wrongly thinking that most of my competitors at each stage had decades worth of advantage over me. Hopefully this is useful to someone: ecologists aren’t born, they’re made over time. Read the rest of this entry

Unpaid internships help to enforce classist separation in conservation and academia

Unpaid internships have been in the news this week, after an intern for the UN; David Hyde, revealed that to volunteer for a position with them he had to camp in a nearby park as he couldn’t afford a roof over his head. This was most likely a publicity stunt, but one that took place to raise awareness of an important issue. After a bit of discussion on twitter with a colleague (the fantastic James Borrell, check him out if you haven’t already) about their views on it, I decided to write this.

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Hello world!

After a sizeable break, we’re back! This website has been defunct for some time now, but we feel its come time to breathe some new life into it. Read the rest of this entry

Chlorination or chloramination? What is best for the drinking water industry

It is common knowledge that chlorine and its compounds are used to disinfect water before it is fit for human consumption, and this has been the case since a cholera outbreak in Maidstone, UK, in 1897, was cured by disinfecting the water.

As science and technology have advanced though, so has our understanding of the water we drink and it’s health implications. Currently, it would appear that although chlorination of drinking water is eliminating waterborne diseases and viruses, it can actually create carcinogens in our drinking water.

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Fragmented nature

When you think of nature, what is it that comes to mind? For most westerners it could be epic, unspoilt, wild beauty. For those of a slightly more pessimistic mindset it may be something less idyllic, perhaps mother earth being slowly devoured by her ungrateful children.

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Rhinos, their impacts on savannah and the ghosts of ancient poos

Photos of mutilated rhino corpses have become all too familiar to conservationists lately. Sadly Rhino horn has been making a comeback on the east-Asian black market, mainly fuelled by the myth that it is effective at curing various minor ailments, such as hangovers and fevers, as well as major diseases such as cancer.

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‘Cannibal rats’ would actually nosh on mice

News outlets went berserk a fortnight ago (hey, this still counts as ‘topical’, right?) when a story went viral on the possibility of a ghost ship of cannibal rats crashing into the UK’s coast. The sodding prime minister was even asked about it at PMQs.

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Tiny, wimpy, scorpions

Scorpions are badass, we all know that. With two mean pincers at the front to hold you in place with, before then inflicting you with their venomous sting; these small creatures are the stuff of some sensitive types’ nightmares, and would terrify us all if they were the size of their ancient ancestors which at up to 2.5 meters long were likely the largest arthropods that ever lived. Read the rest of this entry

Mammoth Steppes

Many people know about the large beasts that wandered Europe and Asia during the last ice-age (Pleistocene megafauna to you, natch), but few realise that these animals were the architects and beneficiaries of a giant habitat that no longer exists anywhere in the world.

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A couple of updates

I wrote a couple of bits across the last year related to worrying news stories; this last fortnight has seen further happenings in both stories, and I’ve been a lazy bugger writing-wise, so I’ve done a joint update.

In April, animal researchers broke into a psychiatric animal facility in Milan, and, because Italy is a ridiculous place sometimes, part of the deal allowing them to walk away scot-free (having caused several million Euros of taxpayer-funded damage) was to take some of the animals with them. Some of these animals were immuo-compromised, and as such required careful treatment to make sure they didn’t die; as such, their enclosures were specially designed, and their handling precisely controlled. Below is a picture of where animals from the lab were kept after their liberation:

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 Source: Nature News Blog

Fan-bloody-tastic. The compassionate liberators showing such care for the animals they’ve saved, by putting them in a load of tubs in a bathroom. Certainly, the animals will be suffering far less crammed together in someone’s bog than they did in their individual cages in a controlled atmosphere. The lady who posted this on Facebook ensured she contacted Nature News, having seen this plastered on their blog, to assure them that this was a temporary step, before movement to more suitable accommodation. So that’s alright, then. Viruses and bacteria are well-known for their honourable respect of temporary weakness, and never exploit it.

So things in Italy remain such that they resemble the scientific equivalent of the drunken pervy uncle at a wedding. They should have elected that clown bloke, he’d personify their country’s current world status perfectly. However, in the USA, some brighter flowers bloom, science-wise at least (this isn’t the forum to discuss possible gross miscarriages of justice). A year ago, I wrote a piece condemning the top-dog nation in the world for allowing anti-intelligent views to persist in the face of evidence, with the pathetic excuse that mentally-deficient rednecks should have as much right to decide what is true as evidence-based investigations. In particular, I was irked by the passage of anti-evolutionary laws by the Tennessee legislature. This month, the Next Generation Science Standards, a programme of science education reform across the States (for which I am taking all credit) has started kicking in. Five state education boards – Rhode Island, Kentucky, Kansas, Maryland and Vermont – have accepted the standards, with several more to vote in the next few months. The battle to stop lying to American children about evolution and climate change is far from over, with other states to be won over, and legal challenges to be defeated in those states that have accepted already. There are powerful people, including Kentuckian Senator Mike Wilson (R – of course), who are opposed to teaching children established scientific opinion, and these are not foes to be written off lightly. The passage of 11 anti-evolution/climate change bills in the States in 2013 alone shows that this has become a war for the minds of American children; both sides have fired their opening volleys long ago, but the bloodiest battles are just beginning…