Tag Archives: Michaelmas 2015

Science isn’t everything – the importance of interdisciplinarity in conservation policy-making

CITES roleplayCITES role-play, 4/12/2015. Credit to Jenny Wong.

On Friday, our BCM class participated in a CITES (the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora) role-play workshop. Our simulation was as follows: a proposal to list Cedrela odorata on Appendix II of CITES. Each student was either a delegate from a country or an NGO. As an ‘NGO delegate’ I was in favour of the listing, and on revision of the science I thought it would be a piece of cake to have the listing voted through, as it was the logical conclusion when taking into account the degree to which the species has been declining in recent years. However, it proved to be completely impossible to overcome the economic and political concerns of the developing countries involved. Continue reading Science isn’t everything – the importance of interdisciplinarity in conservation policy-making

Pleistocence Park – Coming to Nature Near You Soon

You’ve Waited 11,700 Years. Now it’s Here. Pleistocene Park.

Had enough of the Holocene? Sick of talk of the Anthropocene? Have no fear – scientists have come up with the latest, newest, shiniest attraction park for you: Pleistocene Park. Once the experimental version has delivered some interest, some dollars, maybe even some mild signs of success, they will be more than happy to expand it into Pleistocene Park. Ladies and gentleman, the park is open. Continue reading Pleistocence Park – Coming to Nature Near You Soon

Rewilding: The Elephant in the Room

Why shouldn’t Europe have a Serengeti or two? This is a question posed by George Monbiot in his 2013 article in the Guardian newspaper. Every continent except for Australia and Antarctica were home to huge populations of Proboscideans, more commonly known as elephants! North America had the Mammoth, South America had their own Mastodon and Europe had the straight-tusked elephant, a close relative of the Asian elephant. Continue reading Rewilding: The Elephant in the Room

Is eating red meat sustainable?

Understanding the effects of our Diets

Before moving to the UK, I had never really asked myself whether my diet was sustainable. I had always tried to eat healthy, but for personal reasons. However, upon learning that different types of food were linked to different volumes of carbon footprints, I realised that my eating habits were having a direct impact on climate change."Fruits and Vegetables laid out on a table" by USDA is licensed under CC BY 2.0 Continue reading Is eating red meat sustainable?

Taking the lion’s share of sand

I have a confession to make: I’ve always been fascinated by origins of street names! Streets are often numbered, named after dignitaries or in extreme cases- from body parts.

On free days of my undergraduate degree, I usually rode around Penang Island on my motorbike in search of good food in the many streets of this UNESCO World Heritage Site. The rationale behind the name of Penang’s Beach Street- a popular food haunt of mine, puzzled me every time. After all, there wasn’t any beach in sight. Alas a quick search on Google enlightened me that Beach Street was named because it bordered the actual beach in 1880, and that reclamation works up until 1904 has moved the street about 500m inshore! Continue reading Taking the lion’s share of sand

Environmental Restoration in Ethiopia – The Return of a “Thing With Feathers”

My B.C.M. classmates and I were sitting on a panoramic hilltop in the New Forest National Park, peering over the endless greenery while Dr Paul Jepson was nearing the end of his talk on the centuries of plunder that this landscape had endured. But how could the natural wealth we were seeing with our eyes be so at odds with the stories of extraction entering our ears?

“The key word here,” he concluded, “is resilience”. Continue reading Environmental Restoration in Ethiopia – The Return of a “Thing With Feathers”

From the cookbook to the Red List: the unsustainable tradition of frog consumption

The male moor frog turns from brown to blue during the mating season. The red-eyed tree frog has three eyelids. Marsupial frogs have their young developing in pouches. The goliath frog can weigh up to 3.25kg. Frogs exhibit an incredibly advanced level of parental care. In short, frogs are very cool.

Apart from being amazing, anurans (and generally, amphibians) are vital for the functioning of a healthy ecosystem. Being predators and prey, connecting land and water, they are a key part of the food chain and sustain a rich biodiversity. Amphibians are also natural pest controllers, eating insects that can be a problem for crops or cause widespread disease. Alarmingly, according to the IUCN “nearly one-third (32%) of the world’s amphibian species are known to be threatened or extinct” and “at least 42 % of all species are declining in population, indicating that the number of threatened species can be expected to rise in the future”. Continue reading From the cookbook to the Red List: the unsustainable tradition of frog consumption

All Creatures Great and Small

There often seems to be a juxtaposition between the concerns of professional conservationists and those of the general public when it comes to the conservation of species. During my undergraduate degree, I had many lectures that highlighted the distribution of species between different taxa. The majority of recorded species on earth are insects, and the order Coleoptera (beetles) alone contributes more than 350,000 species to the diversity of life. This fact lead to an infamous and possibly apocryphal story about J.B.S. Haldane, one of the founders of population genetics. When asked what his studies of creation had allowed him to conclude about the nature of a Creator, he is said to have answered ‘An inordinate fondness for beetles’.

Continue reading All Creatures Great and Small

Why the past matters: megafaunal extinctions, excretions and global nutrient depletions

The paper, “Global nutrient transport in a world of giants”, published just this August, has exciting implications for ecology and conservation. I would argue that the findings of this research and related work provide 1) historical support for a trait and ecosystem process based approach to conservation, 2) support for the potential benefits of rewilding, and 3) insight into possible solutions for dealing with phosphorus depletion. Continue reading Why the past matters: megafaunal extinctions, excretions and global nutrient depletions

In defence of keeping (some) animals in captivity

As a Zoology graduate, I had a surprising experience when visiting Chicago’s Lincoln Park zoo this summer: I came across an animal that I was completely unfamiliar with. Was it a furry cow? A stocky deer? The sign informed me that it was a Sichuan takin, or a “large goat antelope” from the Tibetan plateau. Discovering the existence of a group of mammals that I had never come across in my 21 years on the planet – not to mention three years at university – illustrated the important educational role of zoos more clearly than any scholarly evaluation. In an opinion piece for BBC Wildlife magazine, Chris Packham endorsed zoos as places of learning – before calling for them to “cut (most of) the ‘captive breeding for release’ crap”. Continue reading In defence of keeping (some) animals in captivity