The Olympics might be over, but that doesn’t mean that gymnastics have to take a backseat. For those in the Northern Hemisphere it is that time of year where the squirrels are 1) chonky and 2) scampering about to top up their cache for the winter – often making death defying leaps and bounds in the process. A cool research project set out to look at just how athletic squirrels are – and lets just say they could definitely make it to the national gymnastics team!
Acrobatic squirrels learn to leap and land on tree branches without falling
These gymnastic skills are important to help minimise what would be life (not career) ending injuries for squirrels as they navigate their way through the canopies. The cool part though? Its not just skill, there’s also some learning involved in making and surviving these acrobatic leaps. Squirrels learnt how to account for the ‘bendiness’ of branches when judging their leap – but also have the needed skills to correct should they have miscalculated before making the leap.
Tanya Strydom is a PhD student at the Université de Montréal, mostly focusing on how we can use machine learning and artificial intelligence in ecology. Current research interests include (but are not limited to) predicting ecological networks, the role species traits and scale in ecological networks, general computer (and maths) geekiness, and a (seemingly) ever growing list of side projects. Tweets (sometimes related to actual science) can be found @TanyaS_08.
Image Credit: W Carter, CC BY-SA 4.0, Image Cropped
Milk, cheese and ice cream…if these words make your mouth water rather than induce a panicked search for the nearest bathroom, you’re one of humanities’ recently evolved lactose-tolerant specimens.
Image Credit: Pentapfel, Pixabay licence, Image Cropped
Fascination with nature drives a huge chunk of tourism worldwide. The plains of Africa, the Amazon Rainforest, the Swiss Alps and their associated species are huge economic drivers for their respective countries, and they (ideally) increase people’s appreciation of nature. There are plenty of great examples of ecotourism as a pathway for both education and conservation.
Yet when an industry is driven by money first, nature second, of course there are going to be manifold examples of businesses deprioritising the natural phenomena they are associated with, often to the direct detriment of that phenomena. Think the masses of pollution now found around Mt Everest, or the damage caused by avid snorkellers on the Great Barrier Reef. I’ve had my own experience with tourist companies deliberately spreading misinformation about the reef – more on that at this link.
Professors Amy Austin, Eva Plaganyi, Anne Sverdrup-Thygeson, Prue Addison and Johanna Schmitt (not pictured) share their views on gender equity in ecology (Image Credit from left: Amy Austin, CSIRO, NMBU, Synchronicity Earth; All images cropped, CC BY-SA 2.0)
In Part Two of our ongoing look at gender equity in ecology, four prominent female ecologists share their thoughts on how gender equity in ecology has progressed, and where it needs to go from here.
For Part One of this series, click here.
Image Credit: Thomas Haaland, CC BY-SA 2.0, Image Cropped
Previously on this site I’ve summarised an article I wrote linking some concepts from behavioral ecology with evolutionary biology. Now I’m back to say a bit more about what behavioral ecology actually is. Being introduced to the field of behavioral ecology was what sparked me to actually consider a career in science. It’s a fascinating and beautiful field, and I hope I can show you why!
The great tit (Parus major) needs to gain more than 10 % of its body weight in pure fat every evening, in order to survive a cold winter night (Image Credit: Frank Vassen, CC BY 2.0, Image Cropped)
Short-term insurance versus long-term bet-hedging strategies as adaptations to variable environments (2019). Haaland, T.R. et al., Evolution, 73, 145-157.
Why do animals behave the way they do? Behavioral ecology is a field of research trying to explain the ecological rationale of animal decision making. But quite often, it turns out the animals are doing the ‘wrong’ thing. Why don’t all animals make the same choice, when there clearly is a best option? Why do animals consistently do too little or too much of something?
Image Credit: Tumisu, Pixabay licence, Image Cropped
In the latest edition of our ongoing look at how ecology has changed over the last half-century, 5 experts talk technology, modelling, and the study of humans. But we also cover some of the pitfalls of recent leaps forward, including the loss of appreciation for species physiology.
You can also check out parts one, two, and our special on fish ecology.
Image Credit: Gremlins, 1984
We kick down the kitchen door and go to bloody war with the Mogwai, from 1984’s Christmas classic Gremlins. Dave gives China tips for invasion, Sam says the word ‘tarsier’ too much and Adam can’t resist showing off how much Mandarin he doesn’t know.
5:52 – History of the Gremlins
18:02 – Movie Any Good?
21:40 – Physiology of a Mogwai
44:11 – Ecology of a Mogwai
1:02:32 – The Gremlins vs. Gollum
You can also find us on iTunes and Google Play.
Spreading of the Australian yabby has led to decreases in other local species. But what happens when these species meet? (Image Credit: Daiju Azuma, CC BY-SA 2.5, Image Cropped)
Insight into invasion: Interactions between a critically endangered and invasive cray fish (2018) Lopez et al., Austral Ecology, doi:10.1111/aec.12654
When we talk about invasive species, often the first thing that pops into our minds are things like feral cats, wild pigs, vicious newcomers that wipe out species or transform vast areas. But often what we focus on less are species which arrive and simply outcompete the locals.
The yabby (Cherax destructor) is one such invader. An Australian species, it has been introduced to new waterways through the country and is now threatening other species, including the Falls Spiny Crayfish (Euastacus dharawalus) in eastern New South Wales, Australia. The introduction of the yabby has resulted in a decreasing habitat range for the crayfish, but what sort of mechanisms are causing this? This experiment aimed to document interactions between the two species.