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Buzz Show

To start this interview is 100% the Zootopia version of the Graham Norton show – featuring Bunnydict Cumberbatch because why not (we’re pretty sure that’s his real name anyway). On the docket for tonight’s interviews – Graham the Gerbil/Hamster looks into the history of the human-biting ‘London Underground mosquitoes’ – more specifically how they probably did not evolve in London. Check out the lead author’s thread below for a more in-depth take!


Tanya Strydom is a PhD candidate at the UniversitĂ© de MontrĂ©al, 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.

Catfished

First, to clear the air, yes we know catfish don’t have cat ears but he’s on his way to a masquerade ball!

Second, it comes highly recommended that you check out the entire thread that inspired this comic (see below) because mussels are absolute legends when it comes to making lures to, well, lure in some unsuspecting fishies.


Tanya Strydom is a PhD candidate 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.

Hippocracy

The idea that we should live in a predator and stress free (for herbivores) has been doing the rounds again these last few days. Apart form it being a very-bad-no-good idea to remove all predators from a system its also easy to forget that herbivores can be just as big of a source of stress for other herbivores as the threat of predation.

I mean we know that herbivores sometimes order off of the meat menu (Omnomnomivores anyone?), can bully smaller species off of/away from resources, and can be a general menace to society ‘just because’. To put it simply there is always going to be something causing an individual some type of stress out there (even from their own species). Saying that predators are the problem is not a sustainable way of thinking, and is also an overly simplistic view of ‘predation’. From the view of a plant herbivores are predators are they not?

For an earlier take on when this issue cropped up last year, check out the link below.

Read More: An Attempt To Understand Painlessly Killing Predators


Tanya Strydom is a PhD student at the UniversitĂ© de MontrĂ©al, 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.

PORTFOLIOCEAN

Its always cool when we can marry two wildly different fields to try and solve a problem. In this case researchers took a mathematical framework (Modern Portfolio Theory- originally developed to help investors that are risk-ad verse to maximise returns) and applied it to help identify the coral reefs that are most likely to ‘do well’ under future climate change.

One pretty neat result of the study is that the researchers took into account the various risks and identified 50 areas that are resilient to different risks of climate change predictions – i.e. we wouldn’t be putting all our eggs in one basket, and we’d be ‘diversifying’ our ‘investment portfolio’.

The Guardian did a pretty neat breakdown here: Nobel-winning stock market theory used to help save coral reefs

And those interested in the research article can find it here: Risk-sensitive planning for conserving coral reefs under rapid climate change


Tanya Strydom is a PhD student at the UniversitĂ© de MontrĂ©al, 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.

Bear-ly Moving

It’s Fat Bear Week!

An annual (as chosen by the fans) competition to find the bear who had the most summer gains in preparation for their winter downtime. As they won’t be coming out to forage during the winter months, the bears need to spend the summer months not only regaining that which they lost the previous winter but also shoring up their reserves for the coming winter. This means finding foods that are rich (fatty) and plentiful – salmon happen to tick both of these boxes and are one of the highly sought after snacks over the summer time.

Read More: Fat Bear Week

Check out the before and after shots of these cuddly teddies below!

Fat Bear Week 2021: Before-and-After Pictures of the Contenders

Although this year’s winner has already been voted for (all hail Otis) there is always next year to pick out your bracket and vote for the bear that you think deserves the honours of being the Fat Bear Champion.


Tanya Strydom is a PhD student at the UniversitĂ© de MontrĂ©al, 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.

Gym Nut

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 UniversitĂ© de MontrĂ©al, 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.

Icebreaker

Tool usage – something typically associated with (but definitely not exclusive to) primates. Yet polar bears are also a part of the DIY club and will sometimes turn to using rocks or chunks of ice to help them in taking down their prey. They have (as far as reports go) not yet gotten so far as to use catapults, but who knows…

Although knowledge of this behaviour isn’t really new (it has been observed and noted by Inuit hunters for generations) it does serve as a reminder that other animals can be just as handy should the need arise. Although tool use (or just ‘clever’ behaviour in general, such as tricking their prey to come closer) by bears isn’t something that’s observed often, it does occur and suggests that bears would probably rank high in what we would term ‘intelligence’. That being said, as long as we don’t have polar bears starting to use more ‘refined’ tools to do their hunting I’m happy – the idea of them ‘tossing’ about rocks is scary enough!

The review by Ian Stirling’s team that compiled different accounts of tool use by Polar Bears can be found here: https://doi.org/10.14430/arctic72532

Deer in the LED-Lights

A recent photo showcasing the reflective reindeers in Finland has been making the rounds on the interweb. Although that specific photo turned out to be photoshopped (the reindeer looked particularly menacing/terrifying as its horns gave off a red glow similar to that of a neon sign outside the bar) the act of spraying reindeers with reflective paint is very much real.

Reindeer are an important part of animal husbandry in Finland – which means that these reindeer have monetary value and a loss of life is a loss of income for someone. These reindeer are also free roaming (unlike livestock in many countries which are kept in fenced pasture) which means that they are more likely to potentially run into hazards. Cars – more specifically collisions with cars – account for around 4,000 reindeer deaths every year. In 2014 the Finnish Reindeer Herders Association started experimenting with ways to make reindeer more visible to motorists – especially in the darker winter months.

Turns out the antlers are a pretty handy place to spray said reflective tape since it provides 360Âș visibility to motorists (as opposed to painting only the sides of the reindeer). And although the paint might not give off a creepy red aura reminiscent of demonic Rudolph its still pretty cool and will probably catch your attention while driving.


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.

Crossings4Ewe

Okay so maybe the wolves aren’t literally helping deers to cross roads in Wisconsin, but they are helping to keep them away from the motorways and (by extension) preventing them from becoming another roadkill statistic.

With the return of wolves to Wisconsin, their prey species have had to change their behaviour to minimise the risk of becoming the next item on the menu. One of these changes has been to avoid roadways and other human structures, since these cleared areas make ideal wolf hunting grounds. They do of course also catch the odd deer, but it is the added ability to scare the deer away from roadways which makes wolves a more efficient prevention technique for deer collisions than the traditional approach of keeping deer population down through hunting.

Wolves are a polarising topic – with divided opinions as to if they should be re-introduced to the wild or not. This landscape of fear that the wolves create is clearly a tick in the win column for having wolves around. As twitter user @edyong209 points out; the wolves could actually be helping us solve a human engineered problem by keeping the deers at bay.

The original article discussing the economic benefits can be found here: https://doi.org/10.1073/pnas.2023251118

Street Urchins

Sometimes dinner turns into a mob and bites back.

Well at least that’s what it looks like…

In a shocking turn of events a common sun star (starfish species) was gobbled up by a group of sea urchins (their natural prey species) at a research station in Sweden. Which is just a little bit out of character for the vegetarian lawnmowers that are sea urchins – although make no mistake they can vacuum up a kelp forest if given half the chance.

Although the ‘why’ as to what drove the sea urchins to turn on the starfish (a case of hunger perhaps, or an attempt to remove the threat of predation) remains unclear, the interesting thing is that although the sea urchins have a comparatively simple nervous system (they don’t even have a true brain), they are still able to execute an organised form of attack. This attack strategy has been termed ‘urchin pinning’ by the research team and is usually instigated by one individual that starts the ‘attack’ and is then joined by the other sea urchins who begin munching away at the starfish. They start at the tips and moving inwards, leaving the starfish unable to get away…

The original research article can be found here: https://doi.org/10.1111/eth.13147

A note for sensitive readers: Although many starfish were harmed in the making of this comic they are expected to make a full recovery (physically at least).

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