Sunday, 30 June 2019
Sir David Attenborough made a 'surprise' appearance at Glastonbury and praised the event for banning single-use plastics for water-bottles (https://www.theguardian.com/music/2019/jun/30/david-attenborough-praises-glastonbury-for-going-plastic-free). This is helpful (every little counts) and his words might inspire the younger folk (as well as older festival regulars?) to make more substantial life-style changes that could help the planet. Nit-pickingly, one has to say that much more has to happen than simply changing drinking water containers. The carbon foot-print for attendees and head-line acts travelling to Glastonbury and back must be pretty substantial! It was also interesting to note that the festival was lauded as a spectacle by virtue of the flares thrown by the crowd!
Saturday, 29 June 2019
There has been a call to ban the 'cruel' practise of zoos and other institutions of tethering birds of prey for extended periods, preventing them from engaging in their 'natural behaviour' of flight (https://www.theguardian.com/world/2019/jun/28/charity-calls-for-total-ban-on-tethering-birds-of-prey). It is certainly the case that these animals need regular exercise to maintain their fitness and this is generally done with inanimate lures by people who use these animals in flight displays. One should note, however, that wild raptors generally have a life-style (as do many predators) characterised by long periods of rest interspersed by short bouts of vigorous activity when attempting a kill. I would agree that using very restricted caging is likely to detrimental to these birds. The complainants talk about the need to allow the birds to carry out their full range of natural behaviour, so-called 'environmental enrichment'. Naturalistic killing of vertebrates would not, however, be legal in UK zoos/ birds of prey centres and would be difficult to control without tethering. One must also caution that hand reared raptors are often imprinted on their human handlers and deviate from the naturalistic behaviour of their species (this makes it inappropriate to release them to the wild). This is a very difficult area in which sorting out the rights and wrongs is actually quite complex.
Friday, 28 June 2019
Thursday, 27 June 2019
Tuesday, 25 June 2019
https://www.theguardian.com/science/2019/jun/24/bacteria-found-in-gut-could-help-boost-physical-performance). A limited study on some Boston marathon runners suggests that they have increased populations of 'bugs' that break-down lactate (a cramp-causing metabolite increased by anaerobic respiration when oxygen levels are limited). Transferring the bacteria to mice also reportedly made them more 'athletic'. It could, of course, be the case that the guts of marathon runners provide a superior home for lactate busting bacteria!
Monday, 24 June 2019
Yet another one bites the dust! I knew Jack Cohen (pictured on the left with his ex-tutee, Nobel Prize winner, Paul Nurse) for around 50 years. He was described in his recent obituary (https://www.theguardian.com/science/2019/jun/03/jack-cohen-obituary) as a 'Reproductive Biologist' but I used to think of him as an Embryologist (I should have guessed that he had graduated from my old University, Hull, where such interests were once popular in the old Zoology Department). Jack was a larger than life character who straddled Science and Science Fiction (he ran SF events in the Midlands and was a friend of Terry Pratchett, of Discworld fame as well as advising many SF writers on convincing characteristics their alien life forms might have). All this and advising on IVF treatment as well! Jack, most notably was a real enthusiast for ideas and had a wicked sense of fun. Real 'old school'!
https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2019/jun/24/survival-of-natural-world-is-in-balance-says-wildlife-chief), all in the interest of supposed economic development, jobs and food. She seems to feel that mass extinctions of animals and plants is likely to continue, along with the effective destruction of the planet's ecosystems (particular species are like cogs in a complex mechanism). Her view that the 'young' are clearly apposed to these destructive trends appears to provide a chink of optimism but one has to ask whether this will amount to 'too little, too late'.
Sunday, 23 June 2019
https://www.theguardian.com/music/2019/jun/23/green-music-festivals-eco-environment) suggests that this is happening, most notably with drives to 'rehome' as many of the tents that are abandoned after the event as possible (although it is noted that many of these plastic items cannot be saved meaning they have to be incinerated). There are even attempts to generate totally recyclable cardboard shelters that can survive several days of heavy rain to replace cheap tents. Organisers of some festivals are also reported to be involved in attempts to minimise disposable plastic use, have moved to constructing compost-based toilets, have investigated improving the energy-efficiencies of electrical generators and have limited (or banned) meat and fish consumption at their events.
Saturday, 22 June 2019
https://uk.reuters.com/video/2019/06/21/pink-floyds-gilmour-sells-guitars-for-cl?videoId=565221828&videoChannel=118261). At the same time, some artists are refusing to work with institutions that receive funding from BP, on the basis that this petrochemical company is a major contributor to the release of greenhouse gases (https://www.theguardian.com/stage/2019/jun/21/mark-rylance-resigns-from-royal-shakespeare-company-rsc-over-bp-sponsorship). Artists supporting Science? Both activities (and others) are clearly helpful but one has to ask why such individuals feel the need to take these actions. Could it be that they don't trust our industrialists and politicians to do the right thing?
Friday, 21 June 2019
https://www.theguardian.com/world/2019/jun/21/canada-bans-shark-fin-imports-sale). It would be useful if other economies followed suit (as the financial rewards for obtaining these items are currently too tempting to fishermen).
Sad news about the death of Tim Halliday (https://www.theguardian.com/global/2019/may/13/tim-halliday-obituary-amphibians-global-decline ) a man who was a real advocate for urgent imperatives to attempt to reduce the rate of extinction (due to a mixture of climate change, habitat loss, pollution and fungal infections) currently faced by the world's amphibia. I remember teaching with Tim at Open University summer schools in the mid- 1970s and found him to be an innovative and enthusiastic Zoologist. I also reviewed the excellent book he edited in 2002 with Kraig Adler, The New Encyclopedia of Reptiles and Amphibians. Amphibians (and Reptiles?) will need to rapidly find new protectors (it is reported that Tim worried that he was becoming an 'extinction Biologist' rather than a conservator).
Thursday, 20 June 2019
Wednesday, 19 June 2019
Tuesday, 18 June 2019
Bees are very important insect pollinators. Some species are, of course, also commercially-important because they produce honey and bees-wa...
A combination of night rain and day-time sun has resulted in more Bynea blooms. The Southern marsh orchid ( Dactylorhiza praetermissa...
Flies (Diptera) can be quite impressive on a snow-white back drop. I show a number of candidates I have encountered on my travels.
The fuss about allegedly suspect data emanating from the East Anglia University Climatic Research Unit and the 'theft' of emails fr...