The battle of the sciences

These last two weeks I have been lucky enough to be at two workshops that could not have been more different. One was surrounded by the high mountains of the French and Swiss Alps and the other one close to the flat muds of the Wadden Sea at the Danish-German border. Both landscapes are equally inspiring and I was massively looking forward to broadening my horizon and being inspired by two workshops in such great settings.

Wadden Sea








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You might think that having the ability to fly makes bats highly mobile animals, but this is not necessarily the case. The shape of their wings is often a telling feature on this matter: species with long narrow wings are usually well adapted to fly fast across open spaces (like Noctule bats); other species with shorter and wider wings are not that well designed for fast flight over long distances, but rather for good maneuverability (like Brown long-eared bats), which comes in very handy when getting hold of your dinner depends on your ability to glean invertebrates off the vegetation in a cluttered woodland or even catch them while they fly. Roosting preferences are important too, and while some species are quite fussy about their requirements and only roost in trees, others have adapted to life in the city and quite happily use human-made structures (e.g. houses and bridges) as their homes. These differences in wing morphology, feeding and roosting ecology are linked to how species perceive their landscape and how sensitive they are to changes in their environments.

Brown long-eared bat being released after trapping session in a woodland.

Brown long-eared bat being released after trapping session in a woodland.

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The British Ecological Society has a special interest Tropical Ecology Group (BES-TEG), there for all us “tropicologists” to get together, whether it’s via social media or through the annual BES-TEG meeting for early career researchers. This annual meeting is generally organised by PhD students and hosted at their university. A fellow PhD student – Rebekah Mayhew – and I organised this year’s BES-TEG meeting at the University of Stirling, 3-4th September 2015. Read More

Remember Attenborough’s soothing voice on a Sunday night? For many watching nature on TV at an early age kick-started a passion for wildlife and future careers in the fields of conservation and biology. In June’s Conservation Conversation we discussed nature documentaries and science: what we think is good about them now in terms of science communication, and where we think they could go in the future to contribute more. Nature documentaries and their presenters have a huge following; tapping into that following would be invaluable for communicating science to a broad spectrum of people. Read More

We all know that access to sufficient clean water is vital for sustaining life. For us humans, the ideal scenario is that everyone can go to a tap in their house, turn it on, and an endless supply of clean water pours out. But currently more than 700 million people worldwide do not have ready access to an improved water source, and instead rely on other water sources including lakes, streams, and unprotected hand dug wells. While access to piped water is on the highest rung of the “water ladder”, these other sources are of more variable quality. I’ve recently been working on a project which looks at the role that shallow hand dug wells play in water supply in urban settlements in western Kenya.

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Whether you’re delighted or horrified by the UK general election result, the new government represents the collective will of everyone who put a cross on a piece of paper on May 7th. Apart from voting at elections and sending the odd campaign letter to my local MP I do little to involve myself with how government makes decisions. In fact I didn’t know there was much more I could do. Turns out, the government wants to know what we think, they even take time to ask us through policy consultations. Read More

Polling station. Credit: Paul Albertella

Polling station. Credit: Paul Albertella

I’m sitting down to write this shortly after the UK General Election result, which has surprised many. Your surprise may be positive or negative but if you’re Nick Clegg you may well be pondering if your five years of cooperation with David Cameron’s Conservatives turned out so well after all. I don’t think the electorate thought so.

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Come and join us during the next 2 days for an exciting programme of PhD student talks and invited speakers from the Universities of DurhamGlasgowNewcastleSt Andrews and Stirling, together with the British Geological Survey and the Centre for Ecology & Hydrology,

IAPETUS Doctoral Training Partnership Conference & Workshop

Stirling Court Hotel

20th to 21st April 2015

Download the IAPETUS conference programme

The experience of a press release.

I am interested in understanding the role that parasites play in biological invasions using the harlequin ladybird (Harmonia axyridis) as a model invasive species in the UK. While sampling in London last Autumn, I discovered dramatic increase in the number of harlequin ladybirds that had the sexually (and sometimes socially) transmitted parasitic fungus Hesperomyces virescens (unfortunately no common name…). This led me to wonder how far has this fungus spread in the UK and what species can you find it on. To try and find this out we developed a public survey, encouraging the recording of large overwintering groups of ladybirds, especially those in the South East of England where I found the fungus in the field. For more information about the fungus, click here.

Hesperomyces virescens (photo: Katie Murray)

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When non-human things get in the way.

By Zarah Pattison

I was outraged by a BBC news presenter who quite candidly announced on National television, “Can we really live alongside these animals?”


Beaver on the River Otter in Devon © Dave Land

The presenter was referring to the Devonshire beavers who have taken up residence along the River Otter. These beavers had arrived unannounced and seemingly flourished in their new home. It is not certain how long they have been occupying the area, between 3-5 years has been estimated. What if it was longer? The fate of humans has not been doomed during that time. I have not seen any evidence of the struggle between human and beaver played out, such as that of a threat to our societal rights. Read More