‘Forest School’ grows respect for Nature

Hannah Brett CBiol MSB, is an ecological consultant who works with the Heart of the Wildwood charity, Oxfordshire, promoting outdoor learning and a holistic educational approach. The Society of Biology’s Regional Grant Scheme is supporting their Forest School for children and parents, throughout 2015.  

heart of teh woodlandActivities at the Forest School include cooking stick bread on the fire, climbing trees, building dens, learning to use tools and mini beast hunting. We also offer some craft activities such as weaving and making bug hotels.

As Ecohab consultants are experienced ecologist specialising in botany, participants of Forest School learn about native plant species and local wildlife whilst on nature walks. We are also preparing and planting organic vegetables in raised beds on an allotment site within the reserve. Read more »

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How can plants change the world?

Dr Joseph Buhagiar FSB is a lecturer at the University of Malta. He received the first overseas award of the Society of Biology’s Regional Grant Schemeplants

It all started with an email from David Urry on 6th January pertaining to the Regional Grant Scheme for 2015. Not that I am usually idle but the title for this year really caught my attention – Biology: Changing the World.

I wrote to David and asked if a member from outside of UK would be eligible for the call and he said that I was more than welcome to apply. So in the few remaining days to the deadline (12th January) we came up with a great application entitled: ‘How Plants Can Change the World’ since we wanted to use our Argotti Botanic Gardens as a backdrop to our own open day. Well, imagine our surprise when we were informed that we actually got the grant. Read more »

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Genetically engineered mosquitoes – the invention of the year?

By Professor Luke Alphey FSB, The Pirbright Institute.
Professor Alphey is a finalist for the European Inventor of the Year Award 2015.

AlpheyEach year hundreds of millions of people are stricken by dengue. Though there are thousands of species of mosquito, just one is to blame for major outbreaks of dengue – the Aedes aegypti mosquito. This highly invasive mosquito is in more than 100 countries and is still spreading.

There are no licensed vaccines or specific drugs for dengue, so the only way to control the disease is to control the mosquito that spreads it.  Unfortunately the available tools just aren’t working adequately, and the mosquitoes are becoming resistant to the pesticides we use. Those chemicals can also harm helpful insects like bees and butterflies. So there’s an urgent need for better methods. Read more »

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Science must be a key priority for the next Government

By Dr Laura Bellingan FSB, director of science policy at the Society of Biology

Election Day 2015 is almost upon us. While it is interesting to contemplate the tangled bank of possible outcomes beginning with the simple casting of a single vote (many times over) even Darwin might not bet on the endless forms of Government evolving to be most beautiful and most wonderful.

There has been a great deal of activity by the science community in the run up to the election and plans for follow up. The aim is to keep science in the frame and on the mind of the candidates as a centrally important issue to ensure the UK’s health and wealth. The Society of Biology has been playing its part in this throughout, supporting and delivering a number of activities to compliment and reinforce the key message and encourage involvement. Read more »

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What are ‘three-parent babies’ and is this an important medical advance?


A mitochondrion

Professor Nigel Brown FSB, President of the Society for General Microbiology, is writing an article each month for The Bridge, a local magazine delivered to every home in the villages of Corsley and Chapmanslade in Wiltshire.

There have been many comments in the news over recent weeks about so-called ‘three-parent babies’. This rather alarmist description is better expressed as ‘mitochondrial donation’ and it has been the subject of debate in Parliament, where it was agreed that it should be permitted in the UK to prevent mitochondrial disease.  The UK is the first country in the world to allow this.

Read more »

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Make your job applications stand out

artin Chalfie gives careers advice to stuentsBy Rebecca Nesbit

Many early-career researchers are haunted by fears about their future of employment. The stats aren’t reassuring – fewer than 1 in 200 science PhD students become professors. But there are exciting next steps to be found, and here are some ways for aspiring academics to increase their chances of success.

For a start, anyone committed to a research career shouldn’t limit themselves to applying for advertised post-docs. By contacting academics you’d like to work for you create your own opportunities. You’re in a position of power – you are free to approach whoever you like. Read more »

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Book review: Can Science Fix Climate Change?

Grace Paget, science writer, reviews ‘Can Science Fix Climate Change?’ by Mike Hulme (Polity Press).

Nominations for our Book Awards 2015 are now open.

indexHulme effectively establishes the debate surrounding the issue of tackling climate change in his book Can Science Fix Climate Change? and explores the emerging technology that is set to resolve it. After thoroughly taking the reader through the science behind geo-engineering and the different techno-fixes that are being proposed by climate scientists, it is clear that Hulme has an axe to grind with the advent of radical technology in this panic culture he describes.

The book successfully presents the pressing issue that is climate change and its author, a Kings College London Professor, pays careful attention to the sense of emergency that, almost like no other uncertainty, enables the media to strike fear into almost anyone who will listen. Read more »

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Code of a Killer: deciphering the science

By Professor David Hornby FSB, Department of Molecular Biology and Biotechnology, University of Sheffield and Director of Research and Innovation, Liverpool Life Sciences UTC

code_killerLast night I watched the concluding part of the ITV drama Code of a Killer, in which the Leicestershire police, led by DCS David Baker, (David Threlfall) sought the help of Alec Jeffreys (John Simm) to identify the rapist and murderer of two young girls in the early 1980s. I discussed the background to the science in an earlier blog post, but here I’ll talk about the scientific climate of technology and discovery surrounding molecular genetics in the late 1970s – early 80s. Read more »

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