Archive for November, 2013

Still Life and Science

Still Life and Science

By EcoEvo@TCD | Perspectives

Can you draw? Can you draw well? Chances are if you’re a biologist the answer to at least one of these questions is ‘no’. You may have studied art at school, in the same way you took French or Literature, but you figured that as a budding biologist the days of declining verbs, finding meaning in poems or sketching a vase of flowers were far behind you. Then, one day you go to an undergraduate lab session and someone says ‘look at this specimen and draw what you see”. Draw? But I can’t draw! I know that [&hellip

Blog-tastic!

Blog-tastic!

By EcoEvo@TCD | Seminars

Andrew Jackson and I started a new module this year called “Research Comprehension”. The aim of the module is simple: to help students to develop the ability to understand and interpret research from a broad range of scientific areas, and then to develop opinions about this research and how it fits into the “big picture”. In our opinion, this is perhaps the most important thing an undergraduate can get out of their degree, because no matter what you do when you graduate, in most jobs you will be expected to read, understand and interpret data. Often this [&hellip

Kenya- A Summary through the vegetation

Kenya- A Summary through the vegetation

By EcoEvo@TCD | Perspectives

During the first week of November I travelled to Kenya to help out on the Tropical Field Ecology course, run by Ian Donahue in the Zoology Department.  Final year students from Zoology, Environmental Sciences, and Plant Sciences attended, and I was the postgraduate representative from the Botany Department.  While I should under no circumstances be considered a true Botanist-I study plant-animal interactions, and my botanical skills are mediocre at best- I did my best to learn about the amazing tropical flora of this region.  I’m sure others will write about the trip in detail, but I thought [&hellip

SQUIRREL PLAGUE! Or “Don’t hug a dead squirrel”

SQUIRREL PLAGUE! Or “Don’t hug a dead squirrel”

By EcoEvo@TCD | Perspectives

During my PhD I worked on the morphological evolution of New World monkeys, phyllostomid bats, Australasian possums, and ground squirrels. For some reason the only part anyone outside academia (and some people in academia) remembers is that I like squirrels. This means that whenever there is a squirrel-related news story, around half a dozen people send me a link and/or want my opinion. So this July I got sent a lot of copies of this story: “Squirrel infected with the BUBONIC PLAGUE closes major US campgrounds” (the Daily Mail clearly decided the words bubonic plague weren’t shocking [&hellip

Cape Vulture Conservation

Cape Vulture Conservation

By EcoEvo@TCD | Research

Conservationists try their best to stop endangered species sliding to extinction and keep the habitats of these life forms intact. Captive breeding programs, national parks, management of invasives etc. are all common measures in conservancy. But how do we know that these methods work? Perhaps an invasive species is actually serving as a food source for the conservation target, and, by killing off the former, we imperil the latter further still. Fortunately, we can avoid such disasters through experimentation and modeling, in other words, with some good science. Consider the case of the Cape Vulture (Gyps coprotheres) [&hellip

How Good is the Fossil Record?

How Good is the Fossil Record?

By EcoEvo@TCD | Perspectives

One of the projects I’ve been working on recently has concerned diversity in the fossil record. In broad terms I’m looking at how diversity has changed over the last 540 million years, a period known as the Phanerozoic which starts at the Cambrian explosion and continues to this day. I want to try and understand what causes the periodic increases and decreases in diversity. I’m not a palaeontologist, so this work has involved a massive learning curve in order to understand how we know what we know about the fossil record. What I’ve learned has led me [&hellip

Conference season madness!

Conference season madness!

By EcoEvo@TCD | Perspectives

Over the last month or so you’ll probably have noticed that a lot of posts on EcoEvo@TCD are essentially “what I did on my summer holidays” essays. Luckily, I think most of us did quite a lot of interesting and scientifically relevant things! My summer this year seemed to be full of conferences, so I thought I’d write a quick post describing them, and what I liked or disliked. This post was inspired by Britt Koskella’s excellent post on the same subject; although Britt attended NINE conferences this summer so is clearly completely insane. Over the summer [&hellip

Trophy Hunters

Trophy Hunters

By EcoEvo@TCD | Perspectives

It may be an inconvenient truth in these conservation-focused times but we owe a debt of gratitude to the trophy hunters; the army officers and colonial-types who killed animals for sport and prestige. Without their considerable efforts, the vaults of natural history museums would be devoid of the skeletons and skins which form the bases of both exhibitions and many PhD and MSc. theses. Of course, were it not for the over-zealous efforts of hunters perhaps many charismatic animal species wouldn’t be so endangered now but let’s focus on the positives here… Naturally, if you’re a hunter [&hellip

How do Lego cars evolve?

How do Lego cars evolve?

By EcoEvo@TCD | Reviews

The ESEB conference this August in Lisbon was not only about Drosophila and #superbock. Among the useful discussions and the interesting talks, a definite highlight came from our very own Kilkenny scaling man all about time perception and comparative analysis… Argh no I missed that one – apparently there was even a realistic Tiger Beetle hunting impression! There were at least eight overlapping talks at any one time and, as I had already seen Kevin’s talk, I went to listen to Folmer Bokma’s insightful talk instead. I felt Bokma’s talk was a good follow-up to Gene Hunt’s excellent [&hellip

Sea Serpents off the Port Bow!

Sea Serpents off the Port Bow!

By EcoEvo@TCD | News

Below the thunders of the upper deep, Far far beneath in the abysmal sea . . . [Tennyson, The Kraken] Strange things are stirring from the deep. Creatures from myths and legends, the sea serpents of old, are descending upon our shores to warn us of impending doom. . . Well, maybe not. But the news that not one but two mysterious oarfish have been found dead and beached in California recently has spread around the world, reminding people that the oceans still harbour creatures that are stranger and more alien to us than even the most [&hellip