Food vibrations


A buff-tailed bumblebee approaches a flower of the buzz-pollinated buffalo bur. © Vallejo-Marín.

By Mario Vallejo-Marin

It is often said that bumblebees should not be able to fly. Their heavy bodies and relatively small wings provided an early challenge to aeronautic buffs in explaining how these furry insects were able to take off, let alone manoeuvre in the air while searching for food among flowers. Yet, bumblebees are accomplished flyers, and their success in the air is in part due to strong thoracic muscles that allow them to beat their wings faster than a neuron can fire. But these flight muscles are also responsible for a little known trick that only bees can do: they can pollinate flowers using high frequency vibrations. Read More

Posted by Ana Nuno. Text also posted at Imperial College Conservation Science

Some time ago I blogged about my PhD research on managing social-ecological systems under uncertainty. I used the conservation of harvested ungulate species in the Serengeti, Tanzania, as a case study to investigate the importance of considering multiple types and sources of uncertainty when making conservation decisions. Far from being simply an interesting academic question, I’d argue that the need of acknowledging the social-ecological context and uncertainty in which conservation interventions take place has never been greater. Hear me out… Read More

The Ustyurt Plateau, Uzbekistan: a globally-important example of the semi-arid biome. Image: A. Esipov

The Ustyurt Plateau, Uzbekistan: a globally-important example of the semi-arid biome. Image: A. Esipov

Uzbekistan isn’t a country that necessarily springs to mind when thinking about pioneering conservation. Nestled in the heart of Central Asia, it’s one of two double-landlocked countries in the world (handy pub quiz knowledge right there), and is best known for its silk road cities and Muynak’s collection of fishing boats stranded in desert following the Aral Sea disaster. Read More

Yes, the situation is pretty bleak and scary; lions have now declined in many parts of Africa NB1_4579_1and a recent study in PLoSOne showed that lions only occupy 25% of their historic range. BBC reports “Lions facing extinction in West Africa” with similar headlines in The Independent and the Daily Mail. It is worth pointing out that the PloSOne paper found that the total operating budget and budget per km2 of a protected area was positively correlated to lion persistence, indicating that shortage of money is a major problem for protected areas in Africa. Most people would probably agree that it would be good to provide more money for conservation of charismatic mega-fauna and biodiversity as a whole. Read More

(Credit: Ben Hall, Rex Features)

When I first decided to write a blog post about the conservation benefits of eating wild food, venison was the first thing that sprang to mind. With no natural predators remaining to keep populations in check, deer numbers are currently estimated at around 1.5m, more than any other time on record. Read More

How many internal research days, symposia, PhD student conferences and the like are perceived as a little dull with only tiny snippets of new stuff presented, with mediocre talks reflecting minimum excitement, and above all low attendance by members of staff often only sneaking in for their own students?

This was not the case at the Biological and Environmental Sciences (BES) Winter Symposium 2013 held 3-4 December organised by Matt Tinsley. Read More

Whan you think of forests in Scotland and Northern England then you are most likely to think of the vast, rolling swathes of coniferous forest that cover the hills and upland areas.  But think forests in general, especially those which are best for biodiversity and it is large, semi ancient broadleaved woodlands which spring to mind.    Read More

As conservationists, we endeavour providing increasingly better solutions for conservation issues, based on reliable information and robust understanding of the dynamics of the systems under consideration. However, despite our efforts in collecting data and learning about our study systems, increasing predictability and improving conservation implementation, conservation is both uncertain and dynamic. Read More

Invasive alien species (IAS) have been the focus of many a debate recently (, with research in this area flourishing. Indeed for job creation purposes (make space for me in approximately 2.5 years!) the attention invasive alien plant species (IAPs) in particular are now receiving, is very welcome. Read More

The plan for this blog was intended to be a description and summation of the British Council sponsored conference I recently attended in the beautiful and inspiring Doñana national park in Spain. But instead I’m going to describe an experiment I carried out whilst there. Read More