Author Archives: Charlie Woodrow

Welcome to the Jungle: Living With Your Study Species

At the start of the pandemic, working from home became essential for many of us – breaking down the physical separation of work and life and instead creating one very long day at the office. For many research groups, this meant having to make key decisions on what to do with vital animals, plants, and tissue cultures. For me, it meant over a year living with hundreds of bush crickets. Now that the summer has returned and more COVID restrictions have been lifted, the insects recently returned to our lab. Here I share some thoughts on this element of the last year, and what I have learnt about time management in academia.

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Bog Off! Why Is Peat Still Being Sold In Garden Composts?

A natural peatland in the North Yorkshire Dales, UK. Much of the UK’s peat is imported from Europe and Ireland. (Image Credit: Charlie Woodrow, CC by 2.0)

The COVID pandemic has disrupted all aspects of our lives, and forced many to pick up new hobbies to stay happy and occupied. Among these new hobbies is gardening, with stores across the UK seeing increasing demand for potted plants and horticultural products. But while gardening may seem like an eco-friendly past time, many of the products sold for home-use have multiple direct and indirect negative environmental effects, and among the worst of these is peat-rich composts. But what is peat? And why should you avoid gardening products that contain it?

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Polly Want A City? Population Boom Sparks Call For Cull Of London’s Invasive Parakeets

When someone imagines London, they probably visualise Big Ben, Buckingham palace, and an overly patriotic use of the Union Jack. What they probably don’t picture is flocks of bright green parrots occupying every tree branch and streetlamp in view. However, urban populations of invasive parrot species are becoming more readily observed globally, and in London, there are fears the population may be growing too fast!

Earlier this year, the UK saw headlines announcing that the government has been advised to cull the iconic birds following a recent increase in numbers. But with their bright colours making them a unique addition to the fauna of the city, and their nonchalant nature towards locals and tourists, many are opposed to the cull. So what is the right thing to do when we get attached to an invasive species? And are parrots on their way to becoming the next globally distributed ‘pest’?

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Fear and Hope for Britain’s Mammals: An Overview

Look to the wilderness of Northern Europe and you will find brown bears, grey wolves, wild cats, and some of the best remaining strongholds for large mammals on the continent. Look to the UK on the other hand, and you see a state of overgrazed grasslands, skeletonized hedgerows, and monocultured forests. In the face of the global extinction and climate crisis, even the most praised of Britain’s mammals are facing decline, as the IUCN red list declares one in four species at risk of extinction, and the persecution of wild populations continues. 

In this article, I offer a brief summary of some of the UK mammal species that have experienced their share of ups and downs throughout 2020, and hopes for UK mammal conservation for the future.

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Evolving Ears: A Bug’s Guide

A katydid, proudly displaying the front legs in which it houses its ears (Image Credit: Charlie Woodrow, CC BY 2.0)

Insects are famously one of the most diverse groups of organisms, with over one million species discovered, adapted to nearly every niche on the planet. This diversity has allowed  for the evolution of an incredible mix of shapes and sizes, behaviours, and other features. Perhaps the most frequently re-occurring of these traits are their ears, with current estimates stating they have evolved up to 20 times independently, on almost every imaginable part of the body. So just what makes it so easy for insects to evolve ears? And why should we study them?

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