Buzzkill: Arabica coffee plantations under increasing threat from the effects of climate change

Note that this content is from an article I wrote as part of my BSc degree in 2014. The latest reports indicate that coffee production and consumption have both increased since the slump of 2013 – 2016, while prices have shown a downward trend. Despite this, I think that the article remains relevant especially concerning… Read More Buzzkill: Arabica coffee plantations under increasing threat from the effects of climate change

The Walking (Un)Dead: Zombie ants and the strange effects of parasitic fungi on ant behaviour​.

In the understorey of a tropical forest, a carpenter ant, of the species Camponotus leonardi, has descended from the canopy away from her regular foraging trails and staggers drunkenly along a branch. Her movements are jerky and conspicuous. She twitchily moves forwards and suddenly starts convulsing with such ferocity that she falls from the branch… Read More The Walking (Un)Dead: Zombie ants and the strange effects of parasitic fungi on ant behaviour​.

Faking it as a survival strategy

Cheats and Deceits: How animals and plants exploit and mislead. By Martin Stevens. Published by Oxford University Press (2016). Last year, on a trip to Devon, I saw my first ever oil beetle (Meloe proscarabaeus). She was beautiful. Her black carapace glistened violet and blue in the sunlight. She was gravid and crawling along the footpath in search of a place to… Read More Faking it as a survival strategy

Getting down and dirty with the Earthworm Society of Britain

I attended the Earthworm Society of Britain‘s annual general meeting at Cannock Chase Forest where I got to meet fantastic amateur enthusiasts, very knowledgable naturalists with a general interest in worms, and some hardcore earthworm specialists. It was an immensely enjoyable couple of days of field recording in various habitats found here including broadleaved woodland, grassland and heath… Read More Getting down and dirty with the Earthworm Society of Britain

What is the cause of the Zika outbreak in the Americas?

I recently read an article by Claire Bernish1 that said that the release of GM mosquitoes was the cause of the Zika virus outbreak in Brazil – this immediately set alarm bells ringing. As it turns out, any real evidence to support these claims was lacking and Christie Wilcox, writing for Discover magazine,2 has done a fantastic job in… Read More What is the cause of the Zika outbreak in the Americas?

Genetically modified insects and the precautionary principle

Last week the Guardian newspaper reported on the findings from the UK House of Lords’ science and technology committee into the development and use of GM insects. According to the committee’s chairman, Lord Selborne: “GM insect technologies have the potential not only to save countless lives worldwide, but also to generate significant economic benefits for UK plc, where… Read More Genetically modified insects and the precautionary principle

The Little Bombardier

Best stay out of the way. There are more than 500 species of Bombardier beetle (a form of ground beetle – Carbidae) in the tribes Brachinini, Paussini, Ozaenini, or Metriini all displaying the highly effective defence mechanism of releasing a superheated pulsing jet of noxious chemicals sprayed directly at would-be predators.  I have always been fascinated by the ammunition of… Read More The Little Bombardier

Deep-sea biodiversity. A taster.

I want to share an amazing experience with you and to start to think about some of the issues raised in thinking about deep-sea biodiversity. Back in 2012 I was incredibly fortunate to join an artist, Michelle Atherton, on a 4-hour-long submarine dive off the coast of Roatán, Honduras. We travelled up to 2,000 feet (610 metres) below sea level into the mesopelagic… Read More Deep-sea biodiversity. A taster.

What’s (not just) brown and sticky? Adaptive radiation in Stick and Leaf Insects in the order Phasmatodea.

The order Phasmatodea contains more than 3,000 extant species of insect found throughout the world, especially the warmer zones. These herbivorous (mostly arboreal) insects are most well-known for their crypsis, or camouflage, where their colour, shape and behaviour enable them to masquerade as twigs or leaves (hence their common names of stick and leaf insects).… Read More What’s (not just) brown and sticky? Adaptive radiation in Stick and Leaf Insects in the order Phasmatodea.