• (c) Cuneo Estate; Supplied by The Public Catalogue Foundation
    2 Mar 2015 • Perspectives

    What do professors do?

    Whenever I go home I repeatedly deal with the age old question non-academics ask academics: what do you actually do? I always find this a tricky question no matter who asks. Some people have tried to make it easier by asking me to describe a typical day or week, but this doesn’t really help as it changes a lot from week to week! In 2014 I attended five conferences and two workshops, did two weeks of fieldwork in (cold and wet!) Madagascar, and gave four seminars at different universities. I also worked on at least ten completely [&hellip

  • 1280px-Cavernas_venado-28
    27 Feb 2015 • Perspectives

    Land – spare or share?

    The debate on what is better for the environment and by extension many ecosystem services, high intensity conventional farming using large amounts of fertiliser and pesticides on mostly homogenous areas or low intensity possibly organic farming in a heterogeneous landscape seems to be a no-brainer. High intensity farms are pressing into natural habitats, pesticides are impacting pollinators and natural pest controls such as beetles or spiders (Hole et al., 2005, Biological Conservation) and the overuse of fertilisers are contaminating ground and surface water leading to eutrophication and even drinking water pollution. However, on a larger scale this [&hellip

  • cuddle time
    22 Feb 2015 • Research

    Badgery Fieldwork

    One of the best things about my PhD has got to be the fieldwork. My project involves analysing the GPS data of a population of badgers to find out where they forage, how big their territories are, who lives with whom and how they disperse. This means putting GPS collars on them twice a year. Badgers have a bit of a bad rep, one they really don’t deserve. Contrary to popular opinion they are not vicious beasts that, once clamped on to your foot, won’t let go until they hear the bones crack (people say this to [&hellip

  • Ostrich,_mouth_open
    20 Feb 2015 • Perspectives

    Ostrich Knees

    Dear Dr. Jeal, Why is it that when a mammal kneels down its legs bend forwards, but when an ostrich bends down its legs bend back? – Junior Sophs. The question you ask is quite curious, but I don’t think you’re on the right track, Saying “knees of a mammal bend forward, while knees of an ostrich bend back.” But I quite see the cause of your problem, and it’s really quite simple you see, As the bend in the leg of an ostrich is more like an ankle than knee, The true knee of an ostrich [&hellip

  • earnest
    16 Feb 2015 • Perspectives • 1 Comment

    The importance of being Earnest – The case of climate change

    In Oscar Wilde’s comedy “The Importance of Being Earnest”, Cecily and Gwendolen want to marry a man named Ernest simply because of the name’s connotations. They are so fixated on the name that they would not consider marrying a man who was not named Ernest. The name, sounding like “earnest”, shows uprightness, inspires “absolute confidence”, implies that its bearer truly is honest and responsible. A name can truly be very important when it embodies the communication of a message. Surprisingly (or not) it is also important when dealing with international treaties and initiatives. An example is the [&hellip

  • 627
    13 Feb 2015 • Perspectives

    Trip to the tropics: rising water in the Rift Valley lakes

    We drive out of the compound just after dawn; a convoy of four vans full of final year science students and staff. We heard lions calling beyond the fence last night, and we haven’t gone 500 meters before we see them: two males strolling off to the left. Within hours, we will have seen herds of buffalo, jackal, giraffe, vervet monkey, baboon and, most impressively, both black and white rhino, among many other birds, reptiles and mammals. The tourist in me is delighted to see so much so quickly, but there is a good reason why the [&hellip

  • Vincent_van_Gogh_-_Old_Man_in_Sorrow_(On_the_Threshold_of_Eternity)
    9 Feb 2015 • Perspectives

    Stress Busting

    Inspired by recent reports of rising mental health problems in academia plus an acute increase in stress around the department this summer when many PhD students were writing up, we decided to run a “Dealing with stress” seminar at NERD club (ironically this session was canceled previously due to the PIs being “too stressed” to run it!). It turned out to be a really positive experience, and I’d definitely run something similar again. Here is what we found out! What is stress and why is it bad? Stress is an “adverse reaction to excessive pressure”. Short term [&hellip

  • birds-of-paradise
    6 Feb 2015 • Reviews

    The more the better?

    These days I’m writing up the discussion of my sensitivity analysis paper on missing data using the Total Evidence method (more about it here and here). One evident opening for proposing future improvement on my analysis is the obvious “let’s-do-it-again-with-more-data” one… But a recent Science paper by Jarvis et al made me reconsider that. Is more the always better? Jarvis and his numerous colleagues just published one of the biggest bird phylogenies that contrasts with the previous reference one (by Jetz et al in Nature). In Jetz’s paper, the authors were interested in the relations among modern [&hellip

  • Hold-the-front-page!
    2 Feb 2015 • Perspectives

    War of the Words – The Conflict between Science and Journalism, Part 1

    Science journalists have a vital role to play in modern society, typically acting as gatekeepers of scientific knowledge for the public. According to the sociologist Peter Conrad (1999), “Science journalism is an increasingly important wellspring of public understanding of science.” Science journalists are an interesting subset of journalists in that they depend on press releases of areas of scientific research for their stories. The broadcaster Toby Murcott (2009) says that science journalism has a “rhythm” that tracks the publication of notable science journals like Science and Nature. “As press releases describing research arrive in our inboxes they [&hellip

  • 640px-Benzopyrene_DNA_adduct_1JDG
    30 Jan 2015 • Perspectives • 1 Comment

    New Year, New Understanding of DNA

    It’s the time of year for New Year’s resolutions and improving oneself. As a scientist, there are always about a million things to do to become a better researcher, but this year my resolution, and the one I hope all our readers adopt, is to become a better science communicator. Whether this means tweeting better links or publishing more frequently, the role of communication in science can’t be overstated. You don’t have to be a researcher to engage in scientific communication either, and it can be as simple as mentioning something you read or heard to a [&hellip