Tag Archives: technology

The Anthropocene: A Human-Dominated Age on the Horizon

The impact of our species on the conditions and fundamental processes on Earth is unmistakable. From carbon emissions to the cities that dominate skylines to the plastics that swirl around in our seas, the evidence of our existence can be found anywhere. And now, a group of geologists considers our impact so drastic that a new epoch – the Anthropocene – should be declared. Whilst this change has gained support in much of the scientific community, others say that the Anthropocene is more about sensationalism or pop culture than science, as clear evidence for a new geological time is lacking. So whilst much of the scientific community, the general public and the media have already embraced the Anthropocene, the search for hard evidence for the start of a human-dominated age continues.

Read more

Tim Robertson: The World of Ecological Data

When I was a child, I’d often study books of Australian birds and mammals, rifling through the pages to see which species lived nearby. My source of information were the maps printed next to photos of the species, distribution maps showing the extent of the species range. These days, many of these species ranges are declining. Or at least, many ecologists believe they are. One of the problems with knowing exactly where species exist or how they are faring is a lack of data. The more data we have, the more precise an idea we get of the future of the species. Some data is difficult to collect, but yet more data has been collected, and is simply inaccessible.

At the Living Norway seminar earlier this month I sat down with Tim Robertson, Head of Informatics and the Global Biodiversity Information Facility. GBIF is an international network that works to solve this data problem worldwide, both by making collected data accessible and by helping everyday people to collect scientific data. I spoke with Tim about the journey from a species observation to a species distribution map, the role of GBIF, and the future of data collection.

Read more

Andrew MacDougall: Finding Ecological Solutions for the Farming Industry

The farming industry has had a strange relationship with ecology over the years. They have been maligned by claims they shoot native species, suck up water greedily from nature and the people, and pollute our countryside with pesticides, all whilst producing the food many of us subsist on. So why haven’t ecologists worked with them more closely?

At the recent NØF 2019 Conference, Tanja Petersen and I sat down with Canadian ecologist Professor Andrew MacDougall, who has been working with the farming industry for the past six years to quantify their contribution to ecosystem services. We talked about the often damaging public perception of farmers, how his stereotypes were challenged by working with them, and the biggest problems the industry will face heading into the next fifty years.

Read more

The Changing Face of Ecology: ASFB Edition

I speak to another group of influential researchers on how ecology has changed over the recent decades

I speak to another group of influential researchers on how ecology has changed over the recent decades (Image Credits: Jarod Lyon, Gretta Pecl, CSIRO, CC BY-SA 2.0)

I’m 29. It’s not like that makes me uniquely qualified to give me the youth’s perspective on ecology today. But it does make me 100% unqualified to talk about how ecology has changed in recent decades. So when I was at the recent Australian Society for Fish Biology Conference (a line you’ll surely be sick of if you’ve been keeping up with my recent interviews), I decided to get some uniquely fishy perspectives on how our discipline has changed over the last 20-30 years.

The following commentaries are naturally from fish biologists. If you’d like a broader perspective on the changing face of ecology, check out Part One and Part Two of this series. You can also find the full interview with all the scientists below by clicking on their names.

Read more

Episode 7: The Monsters of Doctor Who

We pick apart the flaws of the monsters from one of our favourite TV shows, Doctor Who (Image Credit: Doctor Who Spoilers, CC BY 2.0)

We pick apart the flaws of the monsters from one of our favourite TV shows, Doctor Who (Image Credit: Doctor Who Spoilers, CC BY 2.0)

We bash down the doors of the TARDIS and ruthlessly mock the Doctor’s rogue’s gallery. We discover that Dave loves Peter Capaldi, Sam reveals a strange fetish and Adam tries to justify the moon being an egg.

Topics covered:  Parasitism, species dispersal, behavioural ecology, the moon

6:30 – What is the Doctor?
11:44 – The Vashta Nerada (Silence in the Library/Forest of the Dead)
19:34 – The Alien Stingrays (Planet of the Dead)
30:34 – The Flood (Waters of Mars)
41:40 – The Krafayis (Vincent and the Doctor)
50:49 – Moon Egg F***er (Kill the Moon)
1:01:00 – Swimmy Long Boi (Thin Ice)
1:08:12 – The Doctor Who Royal Rumble

Paul Hebert: The Inventory of Life

I spoke to Professor Paul Hebert, the "grandfather of DNA barcoding", on his attempt to classify all muticellular life

Humans have always tried to categorise the world around us. From our early interpretation of the four elements to Linnaeus’ revolutionary system in the 1700s, we’ve always sought to understand better the life that we share the planet with. On my visit to the University of Guelph this year, I was able to sit down with a scientist who is attempting to classify all multi-cellular life.

Professor Paul Hebert is Scientific Director of the International Barcode of Life project, a consortium whose goal it is to document all life on our planet. I spoke with the man nicknamed the “father of DNA barcoding” about the magic that has revolutionised biodiversity science in the last 50 years, and how it’s being used today.

Read more