• IMG_0496
    30 Mar 2015 • Research

    Using a ‘Big Brother’ Approach to Help Combat TB in Badgers and Cattle

    Badgers are a very common mammal in Ireland, but few of us have actually seen one of these iconic creatures in the wild. That’s because they are nocturnal, mostly coming out of their setts only at night to forage, patrol their territories and meet the opposite sex. They have found themselves at the centre of unwanted attention in the UK over the past few years as a result of controversial culls, which have been designed to reduce the threat of their spreading tuberculosis (TB, caused by Mycobacterium bovis) to cattle. In addition to criticism from animal welfare [&hellip

  • 800px-Human_pidegree
    27 Mar 2015 • Perspectives, Reviews

    Evolution is – surprise! – Darwinian!

    I sometime come across papers that I missed during their publication time and that shed a new light on my current research (or strengthen the already present light). Today it was Cartmill’s 2012 Evolutionary Anthropology – not open access, apologies… Cartmill raises an interesting question from an evolutionary point of view: “How long ago did the first [insert your favorite taxa here] live?”. This question is crucial for any macroevolutionary study (or/and for the sake of getting a chance to be published in Nature). If one is studying the “rise of the age of mammals” (just for [&hellip

  • Jurassic_Park_poster
    22 Mar 2015 • Perspectives

    Is the medium a monster?

    “Dinosaurs have become boring. They’re a cliché. They’re overexposed” – Stephen Jay Gould Dinosaurs have always been inextricably linked to popular culture. Despite going extinct 65 million years ago at the end of the Cretaceous period they pervade our society. Dinosaur exhibits are the main attractions of natural history museums and outside of this setting, they can be found in films, documentaries, books, toy shops etc. A new discovery of one of these animals frequently adorns our newspapers. Even the word dinosaur has entered our everyday language as a metaphor to describe something as hopelessly outdated. Because of this pervasiveness there [&hellip

  • nine_to_five
    20 Mar 2015 • Perspectives • 1 Comment

    A Day in the Life of a PhD Student

    We thought it might be interesting to share what the daily life of a PhD student actually looks like. So here are three perspectives on the average day. Adam A typical day for me begins between 8 and 9. I start out by checking my emails for correspondence and any interesting new papers that have been published. You typically have content alerts set up to send directly to your email account. As the blog administrator, I often upload new posts to our site in the morning. I’ll usually be in the middle of composing a paper given [&hellip

  • Extra-Extra-Read-All-About-It
    16 Mar 2015 • Perspectives

    War of the Words – The Conflict between Science and Journalism, Part 2

    In a previous post I outlined some potential areas of conflict between scientists and the journalists who are reporting on research. Here I want to continue my look at this relationship. First off let’s start by looking at some surprising results from the social science literature which show that more often than not scientific findings are accurately reported. One study by Peters et al. (2008) reported, “interactions between scientists and journalists are more frequent and smooth than previously thought.” Another study, this time of science coverage in the Italian press, found that “There is almost invariable agreement [&hellip

  • Pieter_Bruegel_the_Elder_-_The_Tower_of_Babel_(Vienna)_-_Google_Art_Project_-_edited
    13 Mar 2015 • Research

    Do you speak Yamnaya?

    I bet you do! One nice non-biological thing you can do with phylogenetics (unlike beers) is study the evolution of languages. If you aren’t familiar with evolutionary linguistics, it’s basically the same principles that we use to study the descent with modification of organisms but applied to words. Even though words do not evolve in a biological way, we can still apply similar phylogenetic principles by just adjusting the evolutionary models. OK but let’s go back to my assumption (that you do speak Yamnaya). Since you are reading this blog post that I’m trying to write in [&hellip

  • World War Two. England. 1938. The family at home, tuning in to hear the news on the radio news. They have gas masks at the ready.
    9 Mar 2015 • Perspectives

    Radio skills for scientists

    The Irish Academy of Public Relations recently hosted a free event, “Radio Skills – A Special Evening for the Science Community” at the FOCAS Research Institute in DIT. The points raised and ensuing discussions provided interesting insights into relationships between scientists and journalists. Ellen Gunning, director of the Academy, chaired the evening. From her experience of teaching public relations and interview skills, she described how many scientists are like Guards (the police) in how they deal with the media. Both professions are trained to communicate in a very impartial, specific and direct way with an unhealthy dollop of [&hellip

  • star-trek-spock1
    6 Mar 2015 • News

    An obituary to Leonard Nimoy

    Being a Trekkie for as long as I can remember, Friday’s news of the passing of Leonard Nimoy certainly saddened me. Even though I have moved on and haven’t really followed Star Trek since the original airing of Deep Space Nine back in the late nineties, it had a profound impact on my life, including my decision to go into science. Nimoy’s most famous role, Mr. Spock, probably was the most iconic of the original, if not all, Enterprise crew. His impact on modern science can be seen as profound, since you’ll have a hard time, especially [&hellip

  • (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