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Feb. 2nd, 2010 @ 08:08 pm What is life?

Since September i've been working on a project. I have neglected posting about it here because i wanted to really dig in and understand it myself before i felt ready to share or debate.

Basically I want to redefine what we consider to be alive as our reasons for excluding what most consider "inanimate objects" just doesn't make sense to me and I would argue don't make sense even according to our current ideas of what is alive. It also solves the question of when did life "arise" on the planet as its always been here, just in a way that is different than what we think of as life. The earth itself is alive, so instead of there being this almost mystical change over from "inanimate matter" into "life" we have simply an evolution from one form of life to another, molecules into single cell organisms. It makes a lot more sense science usually prefers the simpler explanation.

Anway i've done a lot of writing and a lot more thinking on the subject and most of it is posted on my blog which I welcome you to read, comment on and question with me.

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May. 10th, 2009 @ 05:26 pm Pay for review?
So, I've recently come across the journal Ideas in Ecology and Evolution. It seems like an interesting journal - basically an open access Trends in Ecology and Evolution. But what really makes me curious is their review system - pay for review. I've written a bit about it here and am curious what folk think.
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Sep. 7th, 2008 @ 05:00 pm COyou2 - Saving the planet one breath at a time
This site looks interesting, it's talking about personal carbon capture and storage as a strategy to prevent climate change:

"Did you know that human beings themselves are major emitters of carbon dioxide? We all know about reducing our electricity consumption and taking fewer flights, but isn’t all this a little pointless when one basic, everyday activity cancels it all out?

Each day every human being breathes out an average of 1 kg of CO2. That’s 0.38 tonnes a year. Now multiply that by 6.7 billion! That’s a lot of CO2.

COyou2 person carbon capture systems allow you to store that CO2 and do your bit to stop climate change. The COyou2 patented technology works by filtering the air you breathe out, capturing the carbon in a convenient lightweight backpack.

That’s why we all need to use personal carbon capture systems. At the end of the day, there are 21 million of us and only one government – so what are you waiting for?"

I've just ordered a catalogue, it's definitely worth checking out, after all, every little thing makes a difference. I never thought about human beings as being responsible for major carbon emissions, but I'm always looking for ways to lessen my carbon footprint.

What do you guys think?
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Jan. 20th, 2007 @ 08:46 pm Ecology Books
What's your favorite, and the best must have Ecology books you know of?
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Dec. 5th, 2006 @ 11:55 am (no subject)
So, I was rather struck to see the new Ecological Society of America Blog start up a few weeks ago. And of course, one of the first entries was all about how crazy and space aged the usage of blogs were. After reading the nytimes article on blogs, wikis, and the intelligence community, I was struck as to how useful similar ideas would be for ecologists, and science in general. So I posted the following comment, and I'd love to hear what you think, as well as maybe if some of you would post over there.

This is totally a pipe-dream (and I'm guilty of letting my own research blog lapse into disuse, but, well, thoughts?

(x-posted to _scientists_)

Blogs, wikis, and ecologistsCollapse )
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Nov. 3rd, 2006 @ 11:37 am (no subject)
So, I'm guessing by now some of you have seen the huge amount of coverage with headlines somethingn like "NO SEAFOOD BY 2048!" - it's even in The NY Times. What's interesting is that fisheries collapse around the world - not news (well, to those paying attention). Moreso, the 2048 date was a throwaway line from one piece of analysis from this paper in Science. The paper is more focused on the consequences of marine biodiversity loss in the oceans, and uses metaanalysis to show that experimental data is in concordance with what we are seeing in field patterns - that diversity leads to increases in functions and services, and that MPAs and other things that increase and preserve diversity lead to recover of fisheries.

abstractCollapse )

I'm heartened that after the "hook" some news agencies are also reporting the main result of the paper, but not everywhere. Interesting how a little piece that is almost tangential to the main point of a major ecological advance can become what gets passed on to the public.
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Oct. 24th, 2006 @ 01:37 pm MEDECOS XI
The 11th International Mediterranean Ecosystems Conference - MEDECOS XI - will be held in Perth, Western Australia, Australia in 2007 (2nd - 5th September). The scientific program will feature oral and poster presentations covering important contemporary topics of global interest (eg global change, conservation of threatened species and ecosystems, restoration ecology) while the social program will include a welcome reception, wine session, cocktail party and conference dinner. Given Perth's location in a global biodiversity hotspot, the accompanying pre- and post- conference field trips are guaranteed to be conference highlights, showcasing some of Western Australia's unique flora and fauna, ancient landscapes and striking coastline.

For detailed conference information, please visit http://www.medecosxi2007.com.au. For additional information, the organising committee can be contacted via medecosxi2007@bgpa.wa.gov.au.

MEDECOS XI will immediately precede the International Society for Seed Science Meeting: Seed Ecology II (http://www.seedecology2007.com.au). For those with an interest in both fields, the structure provides an opportunity to attend both MEDECOS XI and Seed Ecology II.

The organising committee extends an invitation and looks forward to your attendance at MEDECOS XI.
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Jun. 30th, 2006 @ 10:26 pm (no subject)
Hello again!

One of my projects is to design a henhouse for about a dozen free range hens.

Does anyone have any gems of wisdom regarding hen behavioural ecology etc.?

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I <3 NZ
Jun. 23rd, 2006 @ 09:46 pm (no subject)
Hi, someone asked more about the reserve I'm working on this summer, so I thought I'd make a post to elaborate.

It's an island that's been inhabited for various purposes for at least 800 years, so there's two cottages and one main house, as well as several studios that are now used for storage. The last owners acquired it because the owner before them wanted to make sure it wouldn't be turned into a holiday resort or similar so offered them a private mortgage in the sixties, and they lived on it permanently until they died (the youngest of the two sisters died two years ago), with helpers visiting frequently to help maintain it. Now there's one couple who live here permanently, one warden, and summer volunteers (of which so far I am the only one).

The island is very small, only a mile in circumference, with the south-facing side largely grasses and scrub (where 4 Hebridean rams are currently free to roam, although I think we're sending two off and getting 10 ewes sometime this summer) backing down to a rocky shore where we get black-backed and herring (I think?) gulls nesting and the occasional seal. On the north-facing side, there's a largely deciduous woodland at the top where we've got a few tree nurseries that I keep clear from the ivy which is otherwise abundant and then heavily managed living areas (lawns, buildings, lots of non-native garden plants, all continually battling against goose grass and ivy). On the corner of one lawn is a pond, in which we've currently got 10 ducklings. The coast is rocky with sandy/shale inlets and a sandy/shale beach, so we get oystercatchers and some small waders, as well as a good share of trash (facing the mainland).

Our drinking water is from a spring, and we use rain water collected in drain butts for everything else (flushing the toilet, washing clothes, etc.). There's a frame to start building a compost toilet as at the moment our disposal is not the most environmentally friendly of methods (pipe out to the sea), but there's quite a lot of paperwork and middlemen that need to be overcome before that will actually become functional. The showers are solar heated, which works very well, but we keep them to a minimum anyway (otherwise there's a tub and a hose outside, or always the sea!). As you can see, we've amazingly got not only electricity, but also broadband, which is powered by a diesel generator that's turned on in the evenings and mornings.

Funding is by visitors. We have a boat that comes in whenever the tide allows and there's customers willing. We show them around, tell them a bit about the history, and they pay us a landing fee and sometimes buy some postcards, books written by the late owners, or painted stones. The island is owned by Cornwall Wildlife Trust, but the warden is the only employee I've seen so far, and I gather there's quite a lot of miscommunication between mainland and island, so the Trust works in mysterious ways as far as we're concerned. Another effect of this lack of communication seems to be difficulty in arranging volunteers like me due to finding funding for travel expenses etc. (I paid my own in the end, and pay for all my food, although my bed in the 6-bed bunkroom is free), and the current problem of trying to get a new boat so we can be less reliant on the tide to get visitors in. We've got an organic vegetable patch growing lettuce, cucumber, squash, tomatoes, soft fruit, beans, peas, artichokes, etc., which should help us be more self-sufficient.

And what do I do? Weeding the vegetable patches takes up a lot of time. One of our big weeds is Russian vine, which coils itself around anything that gets in its path and has actually engulfed quite a large area just above the vegetable patch. It's quite a hardy bugger, and pops up everywhere with deep, annoying roots. We've tried laying down carpets over areas of vine, but they just break through. An annoying feature is that it seems to be capable of resurrecting itself on seemingly dead bits. You get little buds of new vine growing on old stuff that's been chopped down, so this will have to be an ongoing endeavour. We get lots of ground-creepers popping up too. So the vegetable patches need constant care not to descend into ruin. At the moment they're pretty good, and we've already got lettuce, radishes and artichokes ready to go. We also grow pots of herbs in the kitchen (gas oven from canisters).

I also have to tend the paths that bring visitors around the island, which has meant lately raking off mown grass to try and encourage shorter species. Hopefully more of the shorter species will encourage rabbits, which at the moment are absent, but would help to control the more dominant tall grasses and enhance biodiversity. Also trimming back nettles and putting out markers for holes so they don't trip and sue us. The paths mean we don't have to worry about people stumbling into nesting areas (although one of the path does get quite close, resulting in menacing gull swoops - the entire coast of the island seems to be full of ducklings, oystercatcher and seagull chicks).

We've also got a lot of Sycamore on the island, which is non-native and commonly discouraged. There's some argument actually over this, as some people say sycamore outcompetes other native species, but some studies suggest there's actually a greater abundance of native species regeneration under sycamore than native species and there might be some kind of alternation between sycamore generations and I think it was elm generations. I don't have the sources for this at hand right now, but I'll put them up when I get back. But anyway, here the general outlook is sycamore is bad, so some of it has been taken out and tree nurseries of native species have been put in instead. I have to clear these every few days to make sure they don't get swamped by ivy, goose grass or Russian vine, etc., and keep their root area clear from other plans, e.g. nettles (which are very abundant).

There have been several rat infestations in the past, including one instance where the inhabitants of the island had a rat feast, and everyone was encouraged to sample the rats smothered in onions. Mmm. Luckily, at the moment we don't have any, but we keep track of them by bait stations distributed around the island, which are checked regularly. They contain bait blocks, and we record whether any have been taken and replace them when necessary. If we do get rats, I suppose we'll also be laying rat poison. We also get the occasional deer swimming over and wreaking havoc on our saplings with their antlers, but our management strategy for that is chase them off if we see any.

I also mow the lawns. The warden's currently experimenting with different lawn lengths, so we've got odd patches of taller lawn where we've got more wildflowers, e.g. birds-foot-trefoil, clover. Mowing's also supposed to give you greater plant biodiversity which then translates into insect etc. biodiversity, as with rabbits. There's quite an extensive network of hedges around the island, mostly introduced garden species, but we keep them in a wide-base shape so wildflowers are encouraged to grow round the bases.

And I help with visitors. This means bringing the portable jetty up and down the beach, although we have a quad bike and a mini-tractor to help with that (and also diesel loading), and showing them round, and trying to get them to part with their money. On the whole they just wander about by themselves, and we have posts marking the paths etc.

One idea that I've had to encourage visitors is to create a display of things you tend to find down at the beach and what they are, how they get there (shells, trash, seaweed, etc.). I'd love to build a rock-pool aquarium but we don't really have the means to do that (firstly, no tank, and secondly, it would require the generator being on all the time).

It's actually not terribly wild, in that it supports people like me and is obviously managed according to the needs of people (for instance the vegetable patch). But it is certainly home to a variety of wildlife (we have ornithologists who come over every so often to conduct surveys, and I think there are lepidopterists as well although I haven't seen them yet), and I think that it's actually better that it should be inhabited by people *AND* exhibit high biodiversity. I don't think maintenance of nature reserves should be confined to the upper class - it is possible to live sustainably in such a way that we can still derive pleasure from the environment.
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Jun. 21st, 2006 @ 08:39 pm (no subject)
Hello, I'm new to this community.

My name's Hannah, I'm about to finish my honours year BSc Biological Sciences (Ecology), and I'm currently working on a marine reserve in Cornwall, England, for the summer.

My particular interests are in estuary and foreshore ecology, anything to do with New Zealand esp. flightless birds and the effects of introduced predators, and indigenous land management techniques esp. regarding aquatic systems and effects of pollution. Particularly I'd like to do more research into the latter, but finance constraints make it hard for me to go too far afield. My hero at the moment is Rajendra Singh, and I'd love to learn more about adopting more traditional approaches to land management and self-sufficiency.

Hopefully this coming year I'll be writing for the Ecological Society's magazine at my uni, so I'll probably bounce some ideas off whoever's reading this. Until then, I've not got much access to journals etc. but I'll be updating about my work on the island on my journal, add me if you'd like to read it.



Oh! And a couple books that have really inspired me regarding ecology: Camping With The Prince (And Other Tales Of Science In Africa) by Thomas Bass about shadowing various biologists in Africa, and Shadows In The Sun by Wade Davis about an ethnobotanist's studies.
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I <3 NZ