Archive for January, 2013

Let the games begin!

Let the games begin!

By EcoEvo@TCD | News

  We the blog declare that a month of games will commence from tomorrow. The aim is to achieve the most hits for a blog post in a day. The prize will be worth that of a King’s Ransom and will be revealed in good time. Cry havoc, and let slip the blogs of war! Scribe Adam Kane: kanead[at]tcd.ie Photo credit wikimedia commons       &nbsp

Intelligent Design: Part One – a brief explanation and history

Intelligent Design: Part One – a brief explanation and history

By EcoEvo@TCD | Reviews

Trinity College Theological Society recently held a talk by Dr Alistair Noble titled ‘A Scientific Case for Intelligent Design’ which I attended as, possibly, the only biologist in the room. It was a fascinating, if deeply frustrating, experience. Before I get into the details of the talk, a brief explanation of intelligent design may be necessary. . . Intelligent design (ID) is the ‘theory’ that certain features of the universe, including life, are best explained by invoking a creator. I put ‘theory’ in quotes because in a scientific theory is a very particular beast. It must have [&hellip

Good-bye Guinea worm?

Good-bye Guinea worm?

By EcoEvo@TCD | Perspectives

The media is all abuzz about the Carter Centre’s recent announcement that 542 cases of guinea worm infection were reported in 2012. That is a remarkable achievement, considering that 3.5million cases where the reported when the Carter Centre began their eradication programme in 1986. The guinea worm (Dracunculus medinensis) is a particularly gruesome parasitic nematode that causes painful and debilitating disease. It is one species no one will be too sorry to see go. Well no one except the folks at the (tongue in cheek) Save the Guinea worm Foundation. Perversely, considering our track record of causing [&hellip

Punch it in the face! Coping with cuteness…

Punch it in the face! Coping with cuteness…

By EcoEvo@TCD | Perspectives

Why is it that the first things that happen upon seeing a pudgy baby panda, fluffy penguin or tumbling kitten are usually utterances of “squeezing it”, “eating it” or “smushing it”!? We’ve been talking quite a bit about ‘cuteness’ in the department for a while now; what makes an animal cute, animals exploiting that inbuilt ‘cuteness measure’ we seem to have (*cough* Cats *cough*!!), there was even talk of making a ‘cuteness coefficient’ to see how closely mammals and birds illicit the same responses. While we agreed that the degree of cuteness is definitely a personal thing, [&hellip

Men are from Earth and women are from Earth

Men are from Earth and women are from Earth

By EcoEvo@TCD | Perspectives, Reviews

We love to explore and our adventures into outer space represent the acme of our derring-do. But when we leave our cozy planet we put an awful lot of stress on our minds and bodies. The billions of years of evolutionary pressures exerted on our ancestors all took place within the confines of Earth so a sudden dose of zero gravity is completely alien to us. Some of the effects of space travel will give even those among you with the right stuff cause for pause. There are the obvious perils like the terrifying oxygen-less vacuum of space [&hellip

Anatomical enablers in the evolution of grasses

Anatomical enablers in the evolution of grasses

By EcoEvo@TCD | Research

A paper just published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences USA (including Trevor Hodkinson, Botany, School of Natural Sciences, TCD; Trinity Centre for Biodiversity Research) highlights the role of leaf anatomical change in the evolution of a type of photosynthesis (classified as C4) that has allowed a large group of grass species to dominate warm regions of the world and become important crops such as maize, sorghum and sugarcane. C4 photosynthesis is a series of anatomical and biochemical modifications to the typical C3 pathway that increases the productivity of plants in warm and dry [&hellip

The Perks of Zoology; Field Work in the Greek Islands

The Perks of Zoology; Field Work in the Greek Islands

By EcoEvo@TCD | Research

One of the many things I love about Zoology is the opportunity to work away from a desk. As an undergraduate I enjoyed field courses and summer projects in the not so exotic wilds of Ireland and Cambridgeshire – great experiences but not quite a match for the glamour of the recent TCD trip to Kenya! Last summer, however, I was fortunate enough to expand my zoological horizons by working as a field assistant in the Greek Islands. I travelled to the remote island of Folegandros, one of the quieter tourist destinations in the Cyclades, to assist [&hellip

Another piece in the trophic puzzle

Another piece in the trophic puzzle

By EcoEvo@TCD | Research

The food chain is a concept that many non-biologists are familiar with. Ecologically-speaking, this should be referred to as a food web, because there is rarely one prey species for a given predator or one predator of any given species. The biochemistry of metabolism and digestion means we can reconstruct the diet of a member of a given food web with some basic information about the stable isotopes in its tissues and the stable isotope values of the available prey. Simply put, “you are what you eat”. Carbon isotopes generally reflect the “where” of the diet and [&hellip

Unlocking your potential with the British Ecological Society

Unlocking your potential with the British Ecological Society

By EcoEvo@TCD | Seminars

At their Annual Meeting in December just gone, the British Ecological Society held a special event for PhD students and Post Docs entitled “Unlocking Your Potential – Keys to a Successful Career in Ecology”. The purpose of the meeting, as you might have guessed, was to provide early career ecologists with advice on how to go about attaining and maintaining a career in the diverse field of ecology. This was not a meeting on how to survive your PhD, although as you can imagine, there were some small tips. The meeting, craftily held in a bar, featured [&hellip

Hey Tree of Life! How's it growing?

Hey Tree of Life! How’s it growing?

By EcoEvo@TCD | Reviews

Following the influence of science writers such as S.J. Gould, I always try to look back at the historical perspectives of what I’m studying. These days I’m playing with 3Gb trees so I was delighted by Mindell’s 2013 Systematic Biology publication about the Tree of Life. The idea of placing species into the so called Tree of Life emerged before the Origin of Species with works such as Augier’s Arbre Botanique (1801) (Fig. 1) and Eichwald’s tree (1829 – possibly inspired by Pallas’s 1766 work) (Fig. 1). But the spreading of such trees began only after publications [&hellip