Category Archives: Opinions

The Freshwater Fiend’s Guide to Horror Movies

I have seen things.

Instead of my normal procrastination for the past week (too much Twitter), I’ve spent every moment not buried in my thesis finalisation preparing one of the most unpleasant blogging pieces since I started this website. It’s the sort of thing that makes me ashamed whenever I publish something by one of the fantastic team of EcoMass authors. Because their amazing work now has to share ranks with this.

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What Exactly Does Ecosystem Collapse Mean?

The transition of a coral reef to an algal reef as a result of bleaching and overfishing is one of the most readily identifiable examples of a local ecosystem collapse (Image Credit: Stop Adani, CC BY 2.0, Image Cropped)

Fifth of countries at risk of ecosystem collapse, analysis finds

It’s a bleak headline, and one which was plastered all over my Twitter and Facebook feeds at the start of this week. I’m used to grim news about the environment. It’s part of my job. So there’s nothing particularly surprising about this title.

What it does represent though, is another use of a somewhat sensational term that is ill-defined by scientists and poorly understood by the public. We’ve written about such terms in the past, biodiversity and functional extinction being two examples. Here, I’m referring to ‘ecosystem collapse‘. I get the draw to such a term: people need to be alarmed about climate change and the ongoing loss of biodiversity our planet faces. Ecosystem collapse sounds really alarming.

So I thought I’d swim around in the literature a bit and see if I could figure out what we mean when we talk about ecosystem collapse.

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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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An Attempt To Understand Painlessly Killing Predators

Image Credit: Larissa Uhryn, CC BY-SA 4.0, Image Cropped

I just want to start this article off by saying that I had TWO amazing pieces scheduled for today, and I’ve put them both off for next week (my apologies to Yi-Kai Tea and Charlie Woodrow). I’ve done so because the start of this week saw a paper come to Ecology Twitter’s attention that is just plain wild (excuse the pun).

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Venturing Into The Earth’s Great Unknown: The Mesopelagic Zone

Deep-sea species like the ones seen here are not well studied, yes their habitats are under threat now, before we've even been able to identify many of them (Image Credit: Rawpixel Ltd., CC BY 4.0)

Drawing of deep-sea fishes by ‘Résultats des Campagnes Scientifiques’ (1889) by Albert I, Prince of Monaco (1848–1922). (Image Credit: Rawpixel Ltd., CC BY 4.0, Image Cropped)

If you were asked what the largest and most common habitat on Earth is, you may intuitively think of forests, grasslands or deserts. When you think of the least explored regions, pictures of some far-off rainforest may come to mind.

Introducing: the deep sea, covering over 70% of our planet, and arguably the most unexplored environment on Earth, which is simultaneously highly vulnerable and currently threatened by human activities.

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Environmental DNA Provides Lessons On Life

Using eDNA, we can figure out where shy animals like this platypus live without disturbing them (Image credit: Amber Noseda, Great Ocean Photography, CC BY 2.0)

As an undergraduate student, more than twenty years ago, discussions of species often referenced ‘lumpers’ and ‘splitters’. Some biologists were more likely to ‘lump’ all variation within a single species while others attributed variation to distinct subspecies, and ‘split’ organisms as such. Back then, we talked about biomes such as forests and grasslands but the term ‘microbiome’ barely existed. Now, even the concept of an organism is questioned as some scientists argue that the individual cannot be separated from the microbiome it hosts. Thanks to advances in molecular biology, every organism is now an ecosystem.

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From Tiny Polyps to the Origin of Stem Cell Research

Polyps of Schuchertinia allmanii. (Image Credit: Luis Martell, CC BY 4.0)

Polyps of Schuchertinia allmanii. (Image Credit: Luis Martell, CC BY 4.0, Image cropped)

Earth is a fountain of incredible abundances and varieties of life-forms, with many of them still undiscovered. Biodiversity is a key pillar for our life as we know it, and we are not only a small fraction of it, but also use and harness this richness for the benefit of our own species’ advancement. Many human advances are based on other organisms’ attributes and talents, which is why we use certain species as “model organisms” when pioneering scientific breakthroughs. One example of such a specific form of life has helped us make some serious inroads into forms of regeneration and even immortality over the last few billion years ago, and leading us to great discoveries in science.

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Field Experiences: Changing Lives, One Ecology Student at a Time

Bachelor students studying ecology collect data on a field course with the Norwegian University of Science and Technology. (Image credit: Caitlin Mandeville, CC BY 2.0)

The first time I remember really thinking that I could be an ecologist was during a three-day trip to a field station in northern Wisconsin as part of my college limnology course. Sure, I already loved my ecology classes and learning about nature. But actually being a scientist? Real scientists, I thought, were people like my professors and graduate teaching assistants, who peppered their lectures with captivating tales of their own research.

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On The Brink: A Demand For More Ecology Board Games

This weekend I’ve got some friends coming around to play Evolution: Climate with my wife and me. I’ve never been much of a board game type, but my friends learned recently that if you slap an ecology (or comic book) theme on anything I’ll be there with bells on. Evolution looks like it’ll be fun, but first I wanted to get weirdly passionate and talk about a childhood game that really drove me towards ecology as a kid.

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On The Trail Of The World’s Fluffiest Alien: The Musk Ox

Image Credit: Hannes Grobe, CC BY-SA 2.5, Image Cropped

Last month I found myself in the middle of Norway’s Dovre mountains. It’s a gorgeous region, with picturesque landscape stretching out well beyond the limits of human vision, which applies to a lot of Norway in all honesty. My family chose Dovre as our stopover though, because it’s the home of the musk ox.

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