The THE SOCIETY OF BIOLOGY MAGAZINE
VOL 60 NO 1
'People have cast me as a sort of snarling attack dog. Which I'm not'
AN EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEW WITH
BEST MAGAZINE DESIGN
PARADISE LOST Protecting wildlife in Mozambique
PARLIAMENTARY DEBATE Should there be more scientist MPs?
WILLIAM ALFORD LLOYD The man who brought aquariums to Britain
New from Garland Science The Molecules of Life provides an integrated physical and
problems-driven approach, the text explains the DNA, RNA, proteins, glycans, lipids, and terpenes) as
Physical Biology of the Cell, by Rob Philips, Jane Kondev, Julie Theriot and Hernan Garcia takes key cell
TheBiologist THE SOCIETY OF BIOLOGY MAGAZINE
Volume 60 No 1 February/March 2013
IN THIS ISSUE 10 Science in parliament
Should there be more scientists in parliament? Our panel of experts debates the pros and cons.
12 The right chemistry
Elizabeth Granger explains why collaboration between disciplines has been key to her work on motor proteins.
16 Richard Dawkins
The evolutionary biologist talks about his most important work, his career so far, and the future of human evolution.
22 Unhappy hunting ground
Wildlife security consultant Peter Coals describes his experience battling poaching in Mozambique.
4 38 42 44
24 Who was… William Alford Lloyd?
Ray Ingle looks into the life of the little-known entrepreneur who introduced public aquariums to the UK in the 19th century.
28 Thinking big
Conservationist Dr Richard Campen explains how the Government’s latest conservation policy can work in practice.
Society news Member news Branch events Branch news
Regulars Cover photo: Richard Dawkins by Will Amlot
3 8 15 32 34 47 48
Nelson’s Column Policy update Biofeedback Spotlight Reviews Crossword Final Word Vol 60 No 1 / THE BIOLOGIST / 1
THE BIOLOGIST Vol 60 No 1 February/March 2013
TheBiologist A WINDOW ON THE LIFE SCIENCES
© 2013 Society of Biology (Registered charity no. 277981) The Society permits single copying of individual articles for private study or research, irrespective of where the copying is done. Multiple copying of individual articles for teaching purposes is also permitted without specific permission. For copying or reproduction or any other purpose, written permission must be sought from the Society. Exceptions to the above are those institutions and non-publishing organisations that have an agreement or licence with the UK Copyright Licensing Agency or the US Copyright Clearance Centre. Access to the magazine is available online; please see the Society’s website for further details.
ASTROBIOLOGY MARS AND BEYOND
MISSION TO MARS
Exploratory robot Curiosity has been acquiring data from the red planet since August.
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J Preston explains Researcher Dr Louisa the only field from the latest thinking yet to prove its of the life sciences astrobiology subject matter exists: imaginings of a in 1965 shattered these at Instead, we were n Monday 6 August lush Earth-like world. place scarred by 6:31am GMT, a cheer faced with a rocky the world the Moon. resonated around impact craters, like to Mars by leap forward in The first landers sent as we took a giant home, with there is life understanding whether NASA drilled the message covered system. NASA’s landscape, solar the in barren a of elsewhere images rocks. These ered Mars car-sized, nuclear-pow in red dust and scattered the only rover, Curiosity, 2, are Science Laboratory landers, Viking 1 and the dusty to another planet gracefully landed on spacecraft ever sent primary mission for signs of alien Martian surface. Its specifically looking or are there no conclusive signs is to determine whether life. They turned up environments on and Mars became have been habitable of biological activity cold, a today: of the red planet. the world we think planetary bombarded with Curiosity, a robotic nearly airless planet, to Gale Crater, a geologist, was sent hostile radiation. of ancient crater found just However, observations 154km-wide impact Here, minerals landers led to the south of Mars’ equator. river deltas by these were found potentially lifeless such as clays and sulphates theory that, although outcrops, or a land with flowing forming layered rocky now, Mars was once high a 5km an ocean. Significant strata, at the base of water and perhaps inside the crater. ice and within mountain rising from amounts of water, as are gentle exist in the top The slopes of this mountain hydrated minerals, to trundle its way locally, liquid water enough for Curiosity surface layer; and, mission is and flows up once its initial 98-week emerges from the ground or evaporating. with information complete. Together briefly before freezing past, Mars floor and the indicates that in the This gleaned from the crater it will enable t reminiscent of the basal layered deposits, had an environmen the had conditions scientists to learn about that have Earth, and as such are environmental conditions conducive to life. Scientists that life in and whether these existed in the crater intrigued by the possibilityhave gained life. favoured may have conditions would the form of microbes tell us whether on Mars, when it Ultimately, it can also a hold in ancient times and potentially essential for life warmer, molecules and organic wetter the at MARINEwas MAMMAL exists deep S in the subsurface are preserved here. still is life thereTHAMES SURVEY springs or beneath The question of whether outside underground anywhere on Mars, or indeed the ice caps. last great wonders Earth, is one of the the 1900s, popular of humanity. Since Neighbourhood watch focused on the idea that Mars search for life, not solely culture has spread In 2012, over This 400 seals fastcrisscrossed the cornerstone of a were was an inhabited planet, in the is an spottedMars, Thames built by estuary and off and exciting field of by canals of liquid water growing the Kent and 4’s flyby MarinerEssex coasts, civilisation. including advanced these grey
seals at Leigh-on-Sea
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Astrobiology is all about the hunt, the discoveries, the dead ends and the challenge to imagine other forms of life
allowed the river’s diverse fauna to the majority reported return: over 120 fish species have been around the Docklands area. found in the Thames, including carp, eels and seahorses. But, unbeknownst Sammy sightings to many Londoners, the river contains The Thames Marine several species of marine Mammal Survey mammals, has received over 650 such as harbour and grey seals. reports of the observations of almost Harbour seals have 1,000 animals, established including ‘Sammy seals’, colonies in the mouth of the harbour porpoises and bottlenose and can often be spotted estuary dolphins. further upstream, regularly Marine mammals have been seen venturing into along the entire tidal central London. One stretch of the seal in particular – river, reaching 55 miles known locally as ‘the Docklands seal’ upstream to Teddington in south-west or, more commonly, ‘Sammy the seal’ – London. Seals make up over has achieved celebrity 75 percent of total status in the sightings of marine waters around Canary mammals in the Wharf. survey, providing ZSL The ambiguity of the with information name ‘Sammy’ on the health of the conveniently covers seal population. uncertainty as to its identity, as this superstar Seals are particularly well suited to seal, attracted this by the wilful or accidental kind of survey as they spend a significant amount the nearby Billingsgate donations of of time on land and fish market, has often interact more been spotted in many confi guises, both male humans than cetaceans dently with and female, grey and harbour. ‘Sammy’ might. Through these sightings is not a lonely seal lost in London; since ZSL is able to identify haul out sites 2004, ZSL’s Marine Mammal – areas where seals choose to rest, has recorded an impressive Survey breed and list of public socialise, mammal sightings such as the sandbanks in the Thames, with near Southend. As well as public sightings,
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the Zoological Society carries out an annual ‘moult count’, tasked with carrying counting the out post mortems animals when they are out of the on marine mammals BIOGRAPHY stranded water, shedding their UK coast. These examination on the summer coats. This gives ZSL the s provide best estimate of the invaluable information on causes of total number of seals. death, disease, contaminant Using both boat and s, reproductive patterns aerial surveys in and 2012, over 400 seals provides useful baseline diet. This were sandbanks in the Thames spotted on data to help detect outbreaks of disease or unusual off the Kent and Essex estuary and increases in mortality. coasts. This reveals larger numbers ZSL’s work provides of seals in the valuable data area than have ever Alex Zalewski been recorded. for seal conservation and enables In addition, the ZSL is Tidal Thames scientists to advise seal tagging on the location of Conservation programme uses GPS potential marine conservation technology to Project intern at track seals and provides zones in the south-east. ZSL information on the Zoological relies on the the location of haul Society of London. out sites, feeding involvement of the general public, who grounds, diving patterns He is a recent raise awareness of and seal the marine movements. Ongoing graduate of the mammals in the Thames analysis of this MSc marine data is likely to reveal and related to their conservation issues information vital environmental for their conservation . Thankfully, . protection Sammy the seal is a The numbers of animals great representative and programme at sighted are has helped ZSL encouraging, and Bangor University. the Thames has identify where most human-seal re-established itself interaction occurs, as an important and in habitat for marine mammals. advised on best practice turn ZSL has However, the Thames for these wonderful creatures viewing remains a thriving metropolitan without causing them harm. river, supporting The Thames developmenthe expansion and t of London and, as Enlisting the public’s such, Marine help continues to endure Undertaking a range of regular scientifi Mammal pressures that affect monitoring of the Thames c the Survey has environmental health throughout the year is expensive. of the The received High levels of shipping, river. frequent Thames users, public and industrial activity, pollution and be over 650 commercial or recreational,they coastal reports of the development all represent risks present an opportunity to collect data that observations condition of the Thames and theto the would otherwise be unobtainable. wildlife it supports. of almost Harbour seal By improving public interest, ZSL populations in the 1,000 UK have also been hopes to increase the number of people affected by the phocine animals, scanning the Thames distemper virus for marine spotted along (PDV). In 1988, PDV killed 48 percent mammals and thereby gather more of the harbour seal population in information and increase the entire England, and a second understanding of the outbreak tidal stretch claimed creatures. This DECEMBER 2012 another 22 percent VOL 59 NO 5 will also develop the of the river in 2002 public’s confidence (SMRU, 2004). Seal LOGY.ORG inSOCIETYOFBIO numbers in species identification ISSN 0006-3347 – in 39 percent England have shown of sightings the public signsMAGAZINE of recovery SOCIETY OF BIOLOGY THEsince, were unable to but the deaths of thousands determine seal species, of and confidence seals led to the creation is limited further when of the UK identifying Cetacean Strandings porpoises and dolphins. Investigation Programme (CSIP). Major gaps in our knowledge exist A partnership between regarding trends over time and Natural History Museum, ZSL, the potential changes in the composition Environmental MonitoringMarine of the Thames marine and the mammal Scottish Agricultural community. We are College, CSIP is lucky to have such extraordinary wildlife in the but we still know relatively Thames, How to recognise little about the two main UK seal it. We need a greater species at a glance understanding of the size and health of the marine Common Seal REFERENCES mammal populations, and how these Kowalik, R. Seahorses animals use the river and estuary. and Pipefish in the Public sightings, such Thames Estuary as Sammy the www.london21.org/ seal, provide information Harbour crucial in page/35/show/1291 Head Profile securing a future for porpoises, (2007). Head Front these river bottlenose mammals. So if you Submerged Back SMRU. Scientific see a seal, you dolphins and know what to do. Report 1999-2004. Grey Seal seahorses Sea
VOL 59 NO 3
www.zsl.org/uk-europe www.facebook.com/ zslmarineandfreshwaterco nservation
Mammal Research Unit. www.smru.standrews.ac.uk/ documents/SMRU_ Scientific_Report.pdf (2004).
gy New horizons in astrobiolo
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Professor Richard Dawkins was hitting headlines when Brian Cox was still in short trousers
hysics may have Professor Brian Cox but biology has enjoyed its own poster boy (or should that be poster man?) for far longer. Professor Richard Dawkins is one of the few living biologists with widespread name recognition and it’s easy to understand why. Since the success of his first popular science book, The Blind Watchmaker, almost 30 years ago, Dawkins was hitting headlines when Cox was still in short trousers. Decades later and he continues to share his understanding of genetics and is also uncompromising and unafraid to share his views – be they on religion or evolutionary biology. This forthright approach may have made him somewhat of a Marmite character in public, but I suspect for readers of The Biologist it’s more love than hate, and you’ll definitely enjoy our managing editor’s exclusive interview with him on page 16.
Interestingly, the book Dawkins considers his most significant work is not the one that first springs to mind. Editing The Biologist always brings something new to my attention. This issue it’s a job I didn’t know existed: a wildlife security consultant. Conservation biologist Peter Coals has worked as a wildlife security consultant in Africa and, on page 22, he shares his experiences dealing with poachers, illegal traders and driving a car with a pangolin as a passenger. It may have reinforced my suitability for a predominantly desk job, but his account is also a fascinating glimpse into the reality and difficulties of wildlife conservation in Mozambique. Another example of conservation on the ground can be found on page 28. Dr Richard Campen, from England’s Peak District National Park, is a regular contributor to The Biologist. This time he examines how the Government’s plans to make
conservation projects “bigger, better and joined” can work in practice. Our ‘Who was…?’ features are always popular, often unearthing little known individuals. Ray Ingle chose William Alford Lloyd, a Victorian entrepreneur who increased the UK’s awareness of aquatic conservation in the 19th century by introducing public aquariums (page 24). Finally, it’s good to hear from Elizabeth Granger, winner of the New Researcher prize at the Society’s Science Communication Awards. Liz describes how inter-disciplinary collaboration has had unexpected benefits in her laboratory, on page 12. Collaboration across the sciences is nothing new, of course. Francis Crick studied physics, James Watson was a zoologist and Rosalind Franklin a chemist. As 2013 marks the 60th anniversary of their discovery of the structure of DNA, we’ll be paying tribute to this achievement in our next issue.
Sue Nelson, Editor
Vol 60 No 1 / THE BIOLOGIST / 3
Society news Get Set… Demonstrate!
Top honours for Society members and Fellows
he Society is launching a nationwide search for science demonstration videos as part of National Science and Engineering Week 2013. The British Science Association is teaming up with the Society of Biology and other partners to generate a wave of inspiring science practical demonstrations in UK secondary schools. The best entries to Get Set Demonstrate by teachers or technicians will win a prize for their school. Nominations must be received by 1 April.
The team behind the competition is searching for demos that other science departments will be inspired to follow with safety and confidence. The top-rated demonstrations will be transformed into high-quality free video resources for other teachers and technicians. To find out more and to nominate a video, visit www. britishscienceassociation.org/get-set Get Set Demonstrate has been funded by The Gatsby Charitable Foundation.
Society makes hay in Brussels
Barbara Knowles attending the hay meadows meeting in Brussels .
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The team is searching for demos that others will be inspired to follow
he Society’s senior science policy adviser, Barbara Knowles, recently visited the European Commission in Brussels. The Society sponsored a seminar addressing how to halt the decline of Europe’s hay meadows. The meeting resulted in a range of recommendations to ensure European countries deliver the EU policies put in place to protect hay meadows. See the Society website for a full report.
r Miles Parker FSB, Professor James Prosser FSB and Vivienne Heys MSB were all recognised in January’s New Year Honours list. Dr Parker is director of strategic evidence and analysis at DEFRA and was awarded an OBE for services to improving Government science. Professor Prosser, personal chair in microbiology at the University of Aberdeen, was awarded an OBE for services to environmental science. Miss Heys, departmental superintendent at the Royal Veterinary College, received a British Empire Medal for services to higher education and animal health. She is also chair of the Society’s Beds, Essex & Herts branch. Jon Kudlick, director of membership, marketing and communication at the Society, said: “We are delighted to see our Fellows and members, and so many areas of science, represented on the New Year Honours list. Biologists make lasting contributions to science and science education, and it is rewarding to see their work recognised.” Professor James Prosser FSB becomes an OBE.
DAVID HATFULL, DIEM PHOTOGRAPHY
Charles Darwin House.
Essex primary science teacher scoops award
he inaugural Society of Biology Primary Science Teacher of the Year prize has been awarded to Kulvinder Johal (pictured) from Northbury Junior School in Barking, Essex. The award, presented at a meeting of the Association for Science Education in Reading, recognises Kulvinder’s outstanding and inspirational teaching of biology within the primary school curriculum. As winner, she also receives one of the AstraZeneca Science Teaching Trust Primary Science Awards. Kulvinder, who confessed to being shocked and amazed at the honour, paid tribute to the school’s head. “My head teacher is very supportive and I can go to him with ideas and thoughts
and – a bit like the man from Del Monte – he says yes,” she said. “We have signed onto Mission X: Train like an Astronaut (a six week fitness and nutrition challenge) which I am very excited about and which the whole school will work on.” Society chief executive Dr Mark Downs said: “Kulvinder is an experienced primary school teacher currently working with a Year 6 class. She is making a real difference to the self-esteem and learning of her pupils. She has helped the school gain two Primary Quality Marks, including silver for science.” “I enjoy teaching science,” said Kulvinder, “and want the pupils to enjoy lessons so we as a school make them as practical as we can and as hands-on as we can.”
Leading bioscience teachers shortlisted
he finalists of the Society’s Higher Education Bioscience Teacher of the Year Award 2013 have been announced. They are: Professor Tim Birkhead, University of Sheffield; Dr Anne Goodenough, University of Gloucestershire; Dr Jane Saffell, Imperial College London; Dr Elizabeth Sheffield, University of Manchester; and Dr Chris Willmott, University of Leicester. The finalists will now produce a www.societyofbiology.org/newsandevents
short case study which highlights how they have enhanced bioscience student learning. These case studies will be made available on the Society’s website following the announcement of the winner at the Heads of University Biosciences (HUBS) learning and teaching Spring Meeting in April 2013. For more information please visit the website, www.societyofbiology. org/HETeacherOfTheYear
Society AGM coming up This year’s AGM will take place on Thursday 2 May 2013 at Charles Darwin House, London. Professor Martin Humphries will provide the Charter Lecture, followed by lunch. It will start at 11:30 (with refreshments from 11:00).
Attendance and voting
We make lessons as practical and handson as we can
Up to two representatives from each Member Organisation of the Society can attend the AGM. However, just one representative from each full Member Organisation is entitled to vote, and supporting Member Organisations may not vote. Members from all grades are entitled to attend, but only those at member grade MSB and above are eligible to vote.
Welcome and minutes CEO report Receive and approve council’s and committees’ reports Confirmation of honorary treasurer and honorary secretary Receive and consider the annual report and accounts Appoint auditors and authorise council to fix their remuneration AOB (notified in writing at least 48 hours in advance to the chief executive) To attend, please register via mySociety (https://myaccount. societyofbiology.org). Alternatively please write to Natasha Neill at the address found on page 2. Information on voting and current council vacancies has been circulated to all members and Member Organisations.
Vol 60 No 1 / THE BIOLOGIST / 5
SOCIETY NEWS LIFE SCIENCES CAREERS CONFERENCES/SIR COLIN SPEDDING/BIOLOGY WEEK/TRAVEL GRANTS
We’re getting set for Biology Week 2013
Life Sciences Careers Conferences 2012-13 T he Society’s Life Sciences Careers Conferences will again head to three universities across the UK in 2013 after last year’s successful events. Over 500 delegates attended the conferences at the University of Birmingham, Queen’s University Belfast and the University of Leeds.
Key messages from speakers were for graduates to be flexible, to research organisations and to network. Although times are tough, the UK life sciences industry currently has a £50bn turnover and more than 4,000 companies, so jobs do exist. Speaker presentations are available at www.societyofbiology.org/lscc
OBITUARY Sir Colin Spedding Hon FSB 1925-2012
pro-vice-chancellor of the university. He contributed in many ways to agriculture, but in particular animal welfare. He became everybody’s favourite chair for tricky committees thanks to his sense of humour and tolerance, but also because he was always on top of his brief. Early in his ninth decade he confessed he had retired from five committees that year. When I congratulated him on taking things easier, his eyes twinkled… and he admitted that he had accepted the chair of seven new ones. Remaining fit until well into his seventies, he regularly walked from Paddington to South Kensington – never taking the tube and never, ever a taxi. His garden in Hurst, Buckinghamshire, backed onto a primary school, and he loved to invite pupils to see his experiments. He published books not only on science, but also jokes and ideas for school children. He was President of The Institute of Biology from 1992 to 1994 and chaired the editorial board of The Biologist for several years.
eading agricultural academic and former editor of The Biologist, Professor Sir Colin Spedding, passed away just before Christmas, aged 87. Colin was one of the loveliest men I have worked with. He had a delightful puckish sense of humour and fun which he would deploy at just the correct moment. For someone who held such a wide variety of posts, Colin’s origins were hardly propitious. He left school at 14 without much in the way of paper qualifications. Like many of his generation, World War II changed his horizons. After three years in the Royal Navy, he joined the Grasslands Research Institute, leaving to become professor of agriculture and horticulture at the University of Reading. He went on to become
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Sir Colin published The Second Mouse Gets the Cheese, a book of proverbs, in 2005.
Sir Colin received many academic and civil honours, and he was knighted in 1994. He will be missed. A service for Sir Colin will take place on Friday 22 March in Reading Minster of St Mary the Virgin, Reading, at 11:00. Alan Malcolm FSB
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A lecture held during last year’s conference at Leeds University.
ollowing the success of the first ever Biology Week, the Society is pleased to announce that Biology Week 2013 will take place from 12-18 October. In October last year, members, companies, universities and schools organised a range of events for audiences from young children to professional scientists. The Society also arranged a series of events including a world record attempt and a parliamentary reception. We are keen to hear from anyone who would like to get involved. An external working group is being set up to help develop event collaborations and partnerships. For more information about Biology Week 2013, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org
Society travel grant winners announced T he Society is pleased to announce the winners of the Autumn 2012 travel grants. They are Charlotte Forbes, Kimberley Smith AMSB, Samuel Logan AMSB, Sienna Gray and William Joyce. Each received £500 to support them on an overseas biology project.
osie Slade, who was awarded a travel grant in February 2012, describes her experience in Honduras. “Last summer I travelled to the Merendon Mountains in north-west Honduras. I worked alongside a research organisation called Operation Wallacea, and planned to study the effects of forest disturbance on jewel scarab beetle populations. “Unfortunately, when I arrived I discovered the jewel scarab population had plummeted since last year, and there weren’t even enough to base my research on. I knew I would witness deforestation, and we’ve all seen on television swathes of cleared forest, but when I saw for myself the vastness of the destruction, I couldn’t quite believe my eyes. I even witnessed trees going down as we trekked between camps. “With so little time to redesign the experiment, I changed the focus of my study from jewel scarabs to dung beetles – functionally important to the ecosystem and great indicators of habitat health. I hope to show with my completed results how varying levels of forest disturbance affect their abundance and diversity. “This time last year, when my university supervisor suggested that I could go anywhere and study anything, I found it hard to believe. Now, having undertaken the most challenging, rewarding and eye-opening expedition of my life, I feel I can achieve anything I put my mind to.”
The grant winners are undertaking a diverse range of projects around the world. Charlotte is heading to Madagascar to investigate African swine fever virus, while William is travelling to Denmark to research the functional significance of the undivided heart in turtles.
Each student received £500
Every year the Society awards travel grants to young biologists, enabling them to carry out fieldwork or attend conferences abroad If you are a Student Affiliate, Associate (AMSB) or Member (MSB) then you can apply for one of the next ten £500 grants. The deadline for applications is the 29 March 2013 and full details are available on the Society’s website at www.societyofbiology.org/ travelgrant
Josie holds a green-throated mountain gem hummingbird.
The new website aims to help the teaching community find learning resources
LEFT: The level of destruction at the Operation Wallacea site is clear to see. BELOW: During a light trapping one evening Josie was lucky enough to see a jewel scarab which is endemic to Honduras, Chrysina spectabilis.
Vol 60 No 1 / THE BIOLOGIST / 7
Food for thought
While food in the UK is plentiful, 40% of what we eat is imported, so what is the Government doing to safeguard production and ensure a long-term, sustainable supply?
cience and technology has played a crucial, and in the UK, largely successful, role in feeding the growing populace. Certainly, in the West, we have access to an abundant, diverse diet through a combination of home-grown and imported foodstuffs. Food supply is underpinned by predictable weather patterns and the ready availability of water, land and fuel. But emerging new threats and pressures demand innovative strategies. There is a growing consensus that the ‘perfect storm’ highlighted by the Government’s chief scientific adviser Sir John Beddington – a rapidly increasing population causing greater competition for food, water and energy – will be exacerbated by climate change, increased urbanisation, greater meat and dairy consumption and competition with biofuel crops for land. This was illustrated by the food price spike of 2008, where prices
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of staple foods rocketed and 36 countries experienced food crises. At least 40% of the total food we consume in the UK is imported, and we have a further reliance on imports for animal feed for our livestock. The UK must plan to safeguard domestic food production, and enable research that applies equitably overseas.
The Society wants to champion the importance of research and development in agriculture and food production through our policy work with special interest groups and task forces. The Natural Capital Initiative (see right) provides a forum for informed discussions on how an ecosystem approach might be implemented in practice, while the UK Plant Sciences Federation focuses on plant science research including that relevant to tackling food insecurity in the UK and abroad. We regularly respond to Government consultations on CAP reform and related themes, such as the commercialisation of research. We need the expertise of our members – to be informed of our activities and get involved, our email newsletters carry regular updates.
The Government has released several consultations in this area. The Department for Business, Innovation and Skills has gathered evidence on best use of the UK’s agricultural technology, and DEFRA consulted widely on its Green Food Project, a joint initiative between Government, industry and environmental stakeholders to strategise how to improve the environment and increase food production. More recently, a commissioning group made up of key stakeholders
Jackie Caine MSB Science Policy Officer
in agriculture has asked for expert opinion on its report ‘Feeding the Future – Innovation Requirements for Primary Food Production in the UK to 2030’, which discusses how the UK can best use technologies and value ecosystem services in food production. Preventable food waste must also be addressed to ensure long-term food security. For producers and suppliers, this means reducing pest damage in the field and post-harvest storage, and improving transport, packaging and longevity of food post-processing. There is also waste in the home, with consumers creating an estimated 7.2 million tonnes of food waste each year. The Government’s 2011 Review of Waste Policy sets out a series of actions designed to help move towards a zero waste economy in England.
All of these initiatives are set against a background of EU legislation that makes up the Common Agriculture Policy (CAP), established in 1957 to increase agricultural productivity, stabilise markets and ensure a fair standard of living to producers. The CAP is due for reform in 2013, and aims to simplify payments to farmers, promote growth and employment, support young farmers and encourage uptake of agrienvironmental initiatives. However, the detail of the reform has been highly contentious for farmers and environmentalists, and the European Parliament is currently working its way through 7,500 amendments. The food security problem is by no means fixed, and governments must be willing to act on recommendations from stakeholders. The holistic tenor of recent Government consultations is hopeful; support of novel technologies and valuation of ecosystem services and natural capital are increasingly considered crucial to agriculture and land management, and with them comes the prospect of truly sustainable food provision.
investment decisions. The Natural Capital Declaration is a commitment by over 41 financial institutions to start to integrate natural capital considerations into business strategies, financial products and services. The declaration was launched at Rio+20 in June 2012, and shows the recognition by many in the sector that virtually every economic activity has an impact directly or indirectly on natural capital. Subsequently, financiers should be working with environmentalists to value and use it sustainably if they are to protect their bottom line. The UN Principles of Responsible Investment is another demonstration of this progressive shift in the attitudes of institutional investors, as they begin to prioritise the impact of ‘environmental, social and governance (ESG)’ issues on their investment portfolios.
After Rio+20 many financiers pledged to work with environmentalists to use natural capital sustainably.
Should the natural world stay priceless?
Effects of degradation
Ecosystems are regularly underpriced on balance sheets
Governments across the globe are beginning to assess the economic value of natural products and processes and incorporate them into policy decisions
n the UK, environmental leaders are pioneering a process of ‘natural capital accounting’ where the value of ecosystems and their services are embedded into national accounts as a component of total wealth. To support this, the UK recently appointed the DEFRA Natural Capital Committee (NCC) – a group of ecological and economic experts who will help the Government understand the value of nature and prioritise actions to improve the environment. Understandably, there is some trepidation about sticking a price tag on habitats, with some warning that monetisation could lead to trade and exploitation of the natural world. But Government officials, business executives and financial markets
make decisions in monetary units, and it is precisely because of this that the essential contribution of ecosystems and their biodiversity to our society and economy is so often under-priced on balance sheets.
The private sector
Some of the more forward thinking private companies across the world are also increasingly recognising the profit and risk posed through poor environmental management and, importantly, how the benefits they accrue from ecosystem services underpin many aspects of their operations and supply chains. A number of initiatives have been established recently to encourage the private sector to consider natural capital in business and
Robert Pollard, Natural Capital Initiative intern. The Natural Capital Initiative is a partnership between the British Ecological Society, the Centre for Ecology and Hydrology, the Society of Biology, and the James Hutton Institute. For further information go to www. naturalcapital initiative.org.uk
The Natural Capital Leaders Platform was set up by Cambridge University to enable non-financial sector companies with a global influence to address the impacts of natural capital degradation on their businesses, customers and wider society. The members have agreed to a statement of intent to operate their businesses within the natural limits of ecosystems, and to identify and address the way their business impacts the environment. In November, the NCC chair, Professor Dieter Helm CBE, identified the need to align all this public and private progress in the UK. The NCC will work directly with the Government Office of National Statistics and the corporate accounting bodies (ACCA and ICAEW) to facilitate a transition in how we perceive growth. The Economics of Ecosystems and Biodiversity (TEEB) also recently assembled a coalition of global business leaders who recognise how depleting the ecosystems and resources their companies depend on can lead to material financial risks. Natural capital and ecosystem services underpin our societal and economic functions, and should be valued accordingly by all sectors if we are to ensure a sustainable future. As Pavan Sukhdev, study leader at TEEB, put it: “We are consuming natural capital, when we should be living off the interest.” Vol 60 No 1 / THE BIOLOGIST / 9
OPINION SCIENCE IN PARLIAMENT/ASH DIEBACK
Should there be more scientists in parliament? POLICY LATES DEBATE
Four scientists share their thoughts during the Society’s first ‘Policy Lates’ series of evening debates
Dr Jack Stilgoe
Lecturer in social studies of science and blogger on science and technology When people demand more scientists in parliament, they typically make a number of not-very-good arguments. The first is representation: parliament should represent the society it is purported to represent. But that isn’t an argument for a disproportionate number of scientists. The second argument is that scientists are experts. But, as the astrophysicist Martin Rees says, “most specialists outside of their specialism are depressingly lay”. Some scientists recognise this, but some speak way outside their area of expertise. The third is the idea that we make better politicians: that scientists are open minded, ask difficult questions, and use evidence instead of ideology. There is something in this, but it doesn’t mean scientists should be acting as politicians instead of simply working with them. The dangerous thing is all of these arguments distract us from the central problem of science policy: there is a black hole where Government and parliament should have a capacity to use science in a good way. If we focus on individual scientists as the standard bearers for science policy in parliament, then we forget the vital institutions and discussions that need to happen all the time for parliament to make sensible decisions.
Dr Phillip Lee MP
Conservative MP for Bracknell, GP, and member of the Energy and Climate Change Select Committee What strikes me about Westminster and Whitehall is that there really is an absence of people with an understanding of science. It concerns me because the major strategic challenges we face have a
10 / THE BIOLOGIST / Vol 60 No 1
Dr Jennifer Rohn
Cell biologist, novelist and founder and chair of Science is Vital
I think science – Brian Cox withstanding – is invisible from public life. Where are the famous scientists on TV? It’s an invisible profession. Scientists are very hard workers and keep their heads down in their labs. They are reluctant to move into public life. Having hardly any scientists in parliament is a problem – they do have special skills like being very tenacious and asking difficult questions. Scientific problems are at the root of a lot of things and so maybe you do need more scientists than the average number among the population. I think having more people in parliament just with a degree or PhD in science would be great.
scientific element – ageing, energy and access to food and water. Our job as politicians isn’t to come up with the clever ideas, but you do need to understand the implications and how practically it will impact people. Climate change is a classic: it’s not complicated, it’s 17th-century physics. Yet there are members of my own party who dismiss it. I’ve not met a single one who dismisses it and understands the science. I’m not calling for a House of Commons
packed with engineers and scientists entists but hink we I think could uld do with h a few more. re.
To hear a podcast from this event, visit www.societyofbiologyblog.org/category/podcasts/
NO Dr Evan Harris
Former Liberal Democrat MP for Oxford West and Abingdon, writer on science policy
ROBERT SHARP/ENGLISH PEN/WIKIMEDIA
To get policy right we need people who understand what is strong and what is weak evidence; how to do a proper controlled trial of policy where there isn’t evidence, and a basic understanding of statistics. You can’t do that by relying on scientists going into parliament – a few more will make no difference. We should be concentrating our efforts to ensure all parliamentarians have a correct understanding of evidence and how to take advice. I would even go further and say there is a problem with scientists in parliament. Those who are specialists in their fields are much harder to get information to on related areas because they think they are experts. If you are not briefed properly but argue from a position of authority – “I am a professor, and you are wrong” – then that is extremely damaging – for example, when Liam Fox (a former GP) gave credence to the idea that MMR was less safe than individual vaccinations. Besides, what evidence do we have that scientists use evidence more than other parliamentarians when making policies?
Ashes to ashes
The spread of ash dieback disease towards the end of last year will lead to the death of many ash trees in the UK. James Brown and Michael Shaw ask if this disaster could have been avoided, and how we ensure it is not repeated
ike most tree diseases, the 1 epidemiology of chalara dieback in ash is poorly understood. The fungus Hymenoscyphus pseudoalbidus infects new host trees as ascospores, Diseased discharged in early saplings summer by tiny toadstools typically formed on fallen twigs display dead tops and/or in the previous autumn. side shoots. These spores can be dispersed on the wind over very long distances, but little else is known about the infection process. The danger that H. pseudoalbidus presents to ash trees in the UK should have been recognised from the damage it did in the Baltic countries and Scandinavia. Given the Europe-wide pandemic of ash dieback (it has been spreading across the continent since the 1990s), it would almost certainly have arrived in Britain eventually, and may indeed have arrived in eastern England as wind-borne spores. But the current distribution map1 shows that people helped it to spread, as seedlings bought from the continent have been planted all over the country. The international trade in trees greatly exacerbates the problem of managing plant diseases. An imported tree brings with it a whole Michael Shaw (top, University of population of microorganisms on Reading) is the its foliage, roots and soil, among 2013 president them possibly pathogens to which of the British native trees are highly susceptible. Society for Plant Of pathogens and insect pests Pathology. James Brown (below, recognised as serious threats to John Innes Centre, economic or ornamental trees in Norwich) was the the UK, 10 have arrived in the last president in 2012. 10 years2. No doubt halting the global trade REFERENCES in trees would reduce the spread of 1 http://www. forestry.gov.uk/ exotic diseases. This does not seem chalara#Distribution to be politically possible in the UK, 2 http://www.forestry. so we must try to mitigate its effects. gov.uk/forestry/infd6abl5v We require increased vigilance, new 3 http://www.bspp. tools for detection and management org.uk/society/bspp_ of disease, a better understanding plant_pathology_ audit_2012.php of pathogens’ biology and, finally,
greater willingness to restrict trade when a risk is perceived. Plant pathology is a science that rarely makes much impact on the public consciousness: most of us are well fed and have little need to appreciate the science that secures our food supply. While the Government has rightly responded to ash dieback as an emergency, the day-to-day job of controlling a wide range of pests and diseases is a continuous, long-term challenge. Yet support for applied plant pathology has declined year on year over three decades, with forest pathology hit particularly hard. There is also a looming shortage of expertise in the UK. The British Society for Plant Pathology published an Audit of Plant Pathology Education and Training in the UK3 by pure coincidence in the same week that ash dieback became hot news. Fewer than half the UK universities that offer biology provide teaching in plant pathology and where they do, this may be as little as one or two lectures. Only one in seven UK universities offers any practical teaching in plant pathology. We are simply not training enough students with the expertise needed. There are welcome signs that the Government understands the need for a long-term commitment to reviving training in plant pathology – and indeed other minority sciences which are vital to our national wellbeing – and we strongly encourage action to restore the UK’s expertise in plant pathology and reverse the decline in university teaching in particular. The science required to control tree diseases is unlikely to win a Nobel Prize, but it may well help protect our green and pleasant land. Vol 60 No 1 / THE BIOLOGIST / 11
OPINION COLLABORATIVE RESEARCH
Working with PhD students and post-docs in other fields of science, such as Anna Salter (left), has helped Elizabeth Granger (right) in her work on motor proteins.
Finding the right chemistry Postgraduate researcher Elizabeth Granger stresses the importance of collaboration at all levels, after finding that chemists were key to her research on motor proteins 12 / THE BIOLOGIST / Vol 60 No 1
ost researchers in the later stages of their career are aware of the importance of collaboration. Whether it is with other labs, different departments or just sharing ideas and reagents, collaboration can make research more efficient and be useful for all parties involved. But collaboration is not just for established researchers. It can also be an incredibly positive experience for researchers in the early stages of their career. Our own lab, at the University of Manchester, has benefited greatly from working with non-biology scientists, including collaborations with physics and chemistry labs, and post-docs with non-biological backgrounds. On a practical level these collaborations provide the opportunity to harness specialist analytical skills and knowledge. They also give us access to
equipment not available in our faculty, such as cameras that run at very rapid frame rates which we are using for live cell imaging. On a fundamental level, though, these collaborations help tackle biological problems from a different angle and can give a refreshing insight into research questions. Protein transport I am part of a research group at the university’s Faculty of Life Sciences, led by Professor Viki Allan, where we are working on microtubule associated motor proteins. These proteins ‘walk’ along the network of microtubules within cells to transport various cargoes to their cellular destinations. If a cell were a city, microtubules would be the railway network and motor proteins would be the cargo trains. Organelles and other cargo can hitch a ride to their destination and jump off when they get to where they’re going. I’m interested in a particular motor protein called dynein, which moves towards the centre of most non-polarised animal cells by ‘walking’ towards the minus end of the microtubules. One focus of my work is to look at how dynein plays a role in transporting other cell organelles such as endosomes and lysosomes. These organelles are responsible for transporting extracellular components recently taken up by the cell and either recycling or degrading them. When cells are deprived of nutrients they can undergo a cell survival process called autophagy. During autophagy, membranes from organelles, such as the endoplasmic reticulum, break off and wrap around proteins. They can even engulf entire organelles like the mitochondria. After a time, lysosomes fuse with these autophagic compartments and introduce lysosomal enzymes that can break down and degrade proteins. This allows cells to recycle the amino acids that are produced from this protein degradation. The process can continue until the cell’s external environment returns back to its normal nutrient levels. Autophagy has been implicated in many disease processes, including myopathy, cancer, and metabolic, genetic and neurodegenerative diseases; it is an important and potentially beneficial area of
research. As part of my PhD I am trying to work out what role (if any) dynein-driven transport of endosomes and lysosomes plays in autophagic fusion events, and how this may affect the autophagy process as a whole. Calling on a chemist Around a year ago I wanted to adapt a method in a paper that used magnetic particles to isolate endosomes and lysosomes. Unfortunately, I couldn’t get hold of these particles commercially and even if I could find a company that would synthesise them for us, it would cost thousands of pounds. At this point I learned how useful talking to other scientists can be. I contacted a chemistry PhD student I knew, Mark Holden, and asked him if he would look at the papers that detailed the synthesis for me. It was a bit of a long shot as I knew he worked in a completely different area of chemistry, but I only half understood these papers and needed some pointers. After looking over them it turned out it was – in chemistry terms – a simple synthesis. Once Mark talked me through the papers and more he’d found online (it seems burying the specifics of methodology in an irritating paper trail of references isn’t a trick confined to biology), I also discovered he had the equipment to do it. My supervisor bought the reagents and I headed over to the chemistry lab. After a fun day mixing colour-
Get out there and talk about your research with others
Elizabeth Granger is a PhD student at the University of Manchester and the winner of the Society’s 2012 New Researcher Science Communication award.
changing iron chlorides and making super-magnetic sludge, we finally produced the end product: magnetic nano-particles. Since synthesising these particles I have been able to use them to isolate early and late endosomes and analyse the motor proteins present on their surface. Without the collaboration with Mark and help from the chemistry department this would not have been possible. It’s good to talk By nature I am chatty, and this has proved extremely useful throughout my PhD. A few weeks ago in the microscope room, I got chatting to a member of another lab. I mentioned how over-expressing a certain protein gave rise to a strange phenotype in which I got huge membrane clusters. Out of interest, she looked at my images and mentioned that they looked similar to some autophagic membranes she’d been working on. After lending me some reagents to check the composition of my odd membranes, it turned out they were in fact autophagic. My project has now taken a new and exciting turn and without her input and kind donations of reagents I may not have taken the same route. Most principal investigators or lead scientists know the importance of collaboration, but I would urge any early stage scientists like myself to get out there and talk about your research with others – you may well be surprised at how useful it can be.
Post-doc developmental biologist Laura Jones has also contributed to Elizabeth’s research.
Vol 60 No 1 / THE BIOLOGIST / 13
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TheBiologist THE SOCIETY OF BIOLOGY MAGAZINE
VOL 59 NO 5
LOOKING FOR LIFE ON
MARS New horizons in astrobiology
BEST MAGAZINE DESIGN ANIMAL BEHAVIOUR
SERIAL KILLERS The police technique used to track sharks
THE PANDA DEBATE Choosing which species to save
MISTLETOE Are Christmas kisses under threat?
Send your comments to Biofeedback, Society of Biology, Charles Darwin House, 12 Roger Street, London WC1N 2JU or email biologist@ societyofbiology.org The Biologist reserves the right to edit letters where appropriate.
Biofeedback Letters, news and views from our readers
Another difficulty for school biology (‘Education and Evolution’, The Biologist, Vol 59 (5) 13) is that the words ‘evolution’ and ‘evolve’ are used with different meanings. Latin evolutio means unroll, and was used to mean ‘read’ when books came in papyrus rolls which had to be unrolled. In 16thcentury English, the simplification of mathematical problems was called evolution, meaning unrolling. Gas is ‘evolved’ when metal filings are dropped in acid. In biology, ‘evolution’ was, and sometimes still is, used to mean descent with variation – not by natural selection, but, say, by the process proposed in Jean-Baptiste Lamarck’s theory. Since Darwin’s time, ‘evolve’ is often used to mean change for the better, such as Professor James Williams’s own “the challenge now will be to evolve an examination system that is fit for purpose”. Darwin used ‘evolve’ only as literally the last word in The Origin of Species, and ‘evolution’ only much later and rarely, probably because he did not care for the ‘unrolling’ metaphor. Perhaps the term ‘evolution’ should be replaced by ‘natural selection in biology’, which is clumsier, but less ambiguous. Donald Rooum MSB
THE PRICE OF POLICY
Sir David King’s review of the Randomised Badger Culling Trial found that culling would have a significant effect on reducing TB in cattle (‘It’s Never Black and White’, The Biologist, Vol 59 (5) 10). The Review was later rejected by a Commons Select Committee on the grounds that it did not take economics, effort or levels of difficulty into consideration. Am I missing something here? Surely, ethical questions
notwithstanding, the whole problem revolves around the costs – of Bovine TB – to the farming industry of producing milk and beef. What is the point of conducting such a review if it does not factor in the economics? And, while we are on the subject of economics, does the Society know how much this apparently futile review cost the taxpayer? Andrew King CBiol MSB
In the last issue I was pleased to read a fellow entomologist, Professor Simon Leather, berating the Society for paying scant attention to the invertebrates (‘Biofeedback’, The Biologist, Vol 59 (5) 12). What else did I find? On page 14 is the report on the Save the Panda debate, with a “range of experts”. None of them appears to have an interest in invertebrates, although “ugly creepy crawlies” are mentioned. Many invertebrates are far from ugly, with striking colours and forms. On page 28, however, there is a potentially life threatening instance of entomology Anopheles ignorance, with the mosquito picture of a “malariacarrying mosquito”. The only mosquitoes known to transmit human malaria are from the genus Anopheles. The mosquito pictured is a Culicine, perhaps Culex quinquefasciatus, as it has short maxillary palps whereas Anophelines have maxillary palps that are as long as the proboscis. Dr Brian Taylor CBiol FSB Editor’s Response: A specialist publication always strives to be accurate. In this case our
publishers requested an image of a malaria-carrying mosquito from a photographic agency and assumed, understandably, that the one received was exactly that – as did we. Unfortunately, no one at the Society spotted this error and the agency has been informed of its mistake.
RE-VIEW THE REVIEW
It is not good form for an author to object to a review of his own book, but where a fundamental error has occurred it becomes imperative to do so. In his review of Capitalism versus Planet Earth, Derek Charlwood writes that “Ibrahim’s thesis is that profit levels inevitably fall as business grows” (The Biologist, Vol 59 (5) 44). The book states almost ad nauseam (in fact no fewer than 47 times) that what falls as business grows is the rate of profit; it is not called ‘the tendency of the rate of profit to fall theory’ for nothing. As the book explains, a fall in the rate of profit does not necessarily result in a fall in profit. The ‘tipping point’ is reached when capital is unable to expand fast enough to compensate for the fall in the rate of profit, profits begin to tumble and capital enters a critical zone. Fawzi Ibrahim, author, Capitalism versus Planet Earth CORRECTION: In the last issue we reported that Elizabeth Granger, winner of the New Researcher prize at the Society’s Science Communication Awards, had been nominated for showing young people how forensic evidence was used in court. This was actually done by Philippa Garner, who was shortlisted for the award. Elizabeth was awarded the prize for the science workshops and communication materials she developed for young people throughout 2011-12. Vol 60 No 1 / THE BIOLOGIST / 15
INTERVIEW PROFESSOR RICHARD DAWKINS
I do get a bit bored being cast as a controversialist all the time
16 / THE BIOLOGIST / Vol 60 No 1
LIFE, THE UNIVERSE & EVERYTHING Evolutionary biologist Professor Richard Dawkins talks to Tom Ireland about science, religion and how he wants to clear misconceptions around his work
scientific point of view which I think inspired me. I drifted into the biology stream at school and it wasn’t until I got to university that I became deeply, passionately interested. I was always interested in the more philosophical aspects – I was never a boy naturalist to my regret.
How did you become interested in science? I rather drifted into it. My father was educated in science and had a
How did you move from working as an evolutionary biologist to become a spokesperson for atheism across the world?
Which do you enjoy more – discussing science and researching evolutionary theory or debating religion and campaigning? I see them as aspects of the same thing. I do get a bit bored being cast as a controversialist all the time and yes, I do rather relish the opportunity to talk about science and uncontroversial things.
Vol 60 No 1 / THE BIOLOGIST / 17
he Selfish Gene, published in 1976, established Professor Richard Dawkins as a leading figure in evolutionary theory and popularised the idea that replicating genes are the central force behind evolution, not individual organisms or species. Now perhaps best known for his criticism of creationism and religion, his 2006 bestseller The God Delusion sold over two million copies in English alone. Dawkins’ campaigning work since has made him religious groups’ number one adversary. When we meet at his Oxford home, the man some see as the devil incarnate is padding round in his socks, searching for his shoes and calling out for his fluffy white dog, Tycho.
INTERVIEW PROFESSOR RICHARD DAWKINS
I think it’s part of the same thing, the exercise of reason. The question of the existence of supernatural gods can be seen as a scientific question. There’s also the fact that in my own field, educators are under attack from religious propagandists who wish to replace the theory of evolution with creationism. Not all religious propagandists do, of course, but in America an alarming number of people do. Do you think any decent scientist should be an atheist? Clearly there are some decent scientists who are not atheists, and I find that hard to understand. To some extent many come clean about it and compartmentalise it – they don’t allow themselves to think about the contradiction, which I’m sure they must feel. For many of them, they are not really religious at all anyway. Einstein, for example, was thought to be religious but he used the word as a sort of poetic allusion for that which we don’t understand. Why do you feel that your 1982 book, The Extended Phenotype (which introduced the idea that a gene’s phenotype can influence far more than just the body and cells of an organism), is your most significant work as a biologist? I suppose it’s the nearest to an original contribution that I’ve made. As it says at the beginning, it’s not research, as in finding out new things about animals. It was a new way of looking at a familiar subject. I think it’s revealing and helpful, and clarifies things. It is still science, but it’s something close to what philosophers do – slightly turning things on their head and looking at things in a different way. In the extended phenotype theory (EP) you use animal artefacts, like the caddis fly larva’s case or termite mounds, to illustrate that genes can influence things far outside the individual and still be a phenotype. What is the most ‘long-distance’, i.e. most extended, phenotype found in nature? As an artefact, a beaver dam. That is an extended phenotype of beaver genes – and the lakes it creates can be acres across. It is a phenotype, in that it varies genetically and is useful to the beaver. I later developed the idea that much of animal communication – where one animal influences the behaviour of another – can be seen as a 18 / THE BIOLOGIST / Vol 60 No 1
phenotype. So in that way the entire singing territory of a bird could be considered as a much less obvious idea of a phenotype. Do you consider the technology and infrastructure that has built up around humans to be extended phenotypes of our genes? Not really, no. It’s tempting to do that, to regard buildings as extended phenotypes, for example. But in order to make that plausible, you’d have to say that there are genetic differences which affect those phenotypic differences. So you’d have to find genetic differences between architects of different buildings, for example. In a way that destroys the concept I think by making it too wildly and implausibly ambitious. But I have no doubt at all that there are genetic differences between beavers that manifest themselves as different sizes and types of dams and therefore lakes. How is human technology influencing evolution? It is exerting a huge effect on the ecology of the world. Humans dominate the world to such an extent now that those species of animal
You could see the internet as a kind of embryonic super-brain of the future, I suppose, rather like the origin of complex nervous systems way back
equipped to exploit that – gulls and pigeons, for example – are increasing in number over those that can’t, but also surely are evolving themselves within that niche. Life-saving medicine obviously must change selection pressures acting on humans which must influence our evolution. But I wouldn’t go on to say that is a bad thing. I am in favour of life-saving medicine! [Our increasing use of computers] can be seen as evolutionary in a very broad sense, but it will make very little difference genetically and physically – it is more of a dramatic cultural shift. You could see the internet as a kind of embryonic super-brain of the future, I suppose, rather like the origin of complex nervous systems way back.
confirmed or strengthened your thoughts on EP as a theory? It’s not the kind of work that needs confirming, it’s more about work that has been inspired by it. I went to a very good conference in Copenhagen in 2008 (the European Science Foundation) organised by the excellent David Hughes, and he convened a range of distinguished, clever people from various disciplines – genetics, ecology, animal behaviour – who discussed the applications of EP in these various fields.
Will we discover that human behaviour is influenced in more ways than we realise by parasitic and viral genes operating within us? Probably, yes. I think you’d have to expect that, knowing how powerful parasites like viruses are in influencing the behaviour of other species.
We are losing species at an everincreasing rate because of human activity. Is this a tragedy that must be stopped or is it another phase of the evolution/extinction cycle that has played out for millions of years? It is both. But I’ll give you an emotional answer now: I think it is a tragedy. So I’m not giving a scientific judgement, that’s an emotional judgement for which I’m not ashamed. Of course I want species like the black rhino and elephants and whales and other creatures that are going extinct to be saved.
In the time since it was published, has there been any work that has
You were credited with the use of the term ‘meme’ as a way of explaining
The Biologist’s Tom Ireland talks to Professor Dawkins at his Oxford home.
Vol 60 No 1 / THE BIOLOGIST / 19
INTERVIEW PROFESSOR RICHARD DAWKINS
Richard Dawkins’ life and times 1941 Born Nairobi, Kenya 1959-62 Studies zoology at Balliol College, Oxford 1970 Made a fellow of New College, Oxford 1976 Dawkins’ first book The Selfish Gene is published, establishing him as a leading force in evolutionary theory 1982 The Extended Phenotype is published. Dawkins considers it his most significant contribution to science
how units of our culture can survive and spread among humans in a Darwinian way. Do you think ‘memetics’ is a valid scientific field? I haven’t done new research on it myself, but I’m pleased that others have taken it on – Susan Blackmore and Daniel Dennett, for example; there are quite a few books on memes now. I am interested in the arguments about whether it is a decent analogy to genes, and I think some of the objections to it are easy enough to dispel. But I never really visualised it as a way to understand human culture. It was originally just to drive home the point that anything could be subject to Darwinian selection, not just genes – anything where you have self-replicating information. I think it’s clear that memes are selfreplicating information in a way that genes are. But whether that gives rise to interesting evolution [of culture], I’m not sure. 20 / THE BIOLOGIST / Vol 60 No 1
How do you feel about the way you are seen by the public? Would you rather be known for your scientific books than as a sort of pantomime villain who hates religious faith? I’m irritated by what I see as a misperception of the way I am. People who clearly haven’t read anything I’ve written have cast me as a sort of snarling attack dog, which I’m not. It’s partly down to being put into that sort of situation [arguing with religious ideologues], but also being incessantly asked about it by journalists. It’s also because the religious lobby haven’t really got any arguments and the best they can do is to misrepresent those on the other side. Do you ever think there’ll be a fully secular world where religion has no influence over science teaching? Yes. I am encouraged by countries in Scandinavia and, to some extent, this country – religion does seem to wither
1986 The Blind Watchmaker, a strong critique of the theory of intelligent design, is published 1995 Appointed as the first Simonyi Professor for the Public Understanding of Science at Oxford 2006 Dawkins’ critique of organised religion The God Delusion is published Founds the Richard Dawkins Foundation for Reason and Science (RDFRS) 2012 Presents Channel 4’s Sex, Death and The Meaning of Life
on the vine when education is thorough and good, and also when there’s less poverty and greater provision of social welfare. There is a demonstrated correlation where the more a country looks after its citizens – healthcare, care for the elderly, welfare – the less religion you get. That works across countries and across states in the US. Was 9/11 a factor in strengthening your resolve to try and dissuade people of religion? Yes, I think there was a sense that the gloves are off now. Of course I’m not suggesting that all religion does terrible things, but it proved it can provide a licence for decent people to do terrible things and think they are doing good, in a way that bank robbers, for example, don’t. The 9/11 conspirators actually thought they were righteous and doing a good thing. Do you think the public understands evolution better than when you started out in your career? (Dawkins was Oxford’s Professor for Public Understanding At Oxford of Science from in 1976. 1995 to 2008.) Those who have read my books do tell me they do. I have done TV and radio too, so people who have been exposed to my work – I would like to think – understand evolution better than they did. I don’t know about the country as a whole. People write to me in quite large numbers about my books, and Tweet about it, but I couldn’t put a figure on it. What areas excite you in terms of future breakthroughs in evolutionary theory? The origin of life. The origin of the first self-replicating information is key to the whole process. It’s a somewhat baffling question and is a problem of chemistry rather than the biology I am used to. I would like to see that solved – perhaps it won’t be with total certainty, but I would hope to see a theory so beautifully plausible that it kind of has to be true. One would hope for a chemical model that makes us say “yes!”. That would be wonderful.
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EXPERIENCE POACHING IN MOZAMBIQUE
AN UNHAPPY HUNTING GROUND Peter Coals describes his experience as a wildlife security consultant in northeast Mozambique
n African ground pangolin is curled up in a large wicker basket on the back seat of my Land Rover. It was confiscated from an illegal wildlife trader following my undercover operation. As the illegal trader left the police station in the city of Pemba scot-free, the Portuguesespeaking Ministry of Agriculture officer shook his head. “We can do no more,” he said. “It always happens like this.” North-east Mozambique is a hidden tropical world of mangrove islands and expanses of white coral sand fringing the ocean. It sounds like paradise, but its forests are falling silent. The trade in pangolins is dominated by southeast Asian buyers as their body parts are used in Asian traditional medicine. A surge in industry and business in the city has attracted companies and workers, many from China. Though pangolins are used locally as food and in African traditional medicine, this trader was looking to make more money from expatriates than he could by selling to locals. After meeting in the depths of the city, the wildlife trader believed that I would return bringing money. Instead I brought officers from the police, national park and Ministry of Agriculture to confiscate the pangolin and arrest the trader. At the police station I learned that he would not face further legal action and would not have to pay the fine that should have been imposed. The police didn’t seem to mind; what few laws protect wildlife are seldom enforced. Despite regularly providing evidence of wildlife crime to the park office, many officials are relatively unconcerned by, and dismissive of, this activity. What is one local wildlife trader, poacher or logger anyway? 22 / THE BIOLOGIST / Vol 60 No 1
Peter Coals AMSB is a conservation biologist and wildlife security consultant. He is an Associate member of the Society and is also a Fellow of the Royal Geographical Society.
Corruption, inactivity and lack of expertise are barriers to preventing wildlife crime
Nothing. Did they want big solutions to the big problem engulfing the region’s wildlife? They would be waiting a long time if they did.
catch antelope – hauling them into the air and breaking their long, fragile legs, leaving them to thrash out their lives in agony in the ever tightening grip of the wire – to the menace of Erosion of life armed gangs killing elephants for This is precisely the problem: a their ivory tusks. reluctance to consider the small scale. Bamboo thickets are cleared to There are no ‘big busts’, and scant provide building materials for local pickings for glory hunters. This work is houses. Vast forest giants like stara grind. Every day poachers and chestnuts and pod-mahogany are traders kill a few more animals, felled both by local teams and wearing away at the resilience of mechanised outsider operations strained populations. It is the wholesale providing timber planks to feed erosion of life. Corruption, inactivity growing demand in the city. and lack of expertise and knowledge in This destruction is not for law enforcement procedures and subsistence. Local communities do wildlife conservation are significant not lack food and are not hunting barriers to the prevention of wildlife sustainably. It seems that every crime at all levels. individual both inside the reserve and Overexploitation is out is cashing in on natural frequently cited as a resources on every scale, principal factor in motivated by greed, a lack global biodiversity of understanding and loss. Part of this education, and takes the form of the growing illegal wildlife use inequalities and poaching. Hunting between regional and poaching have led to the MOZAMBIQUE communities. demise of many large mammals, such as the black rhino, from much Exploitation of their ranges across Africa. Before The effects of 1960 they numbered 70,000 unsustainable individuals. Today there are fewer exploitation of flora and than 5,000. fauna, and what will happen Black rhino, zebra, wildebeest and if widespread poaching in eland were last seen in the region in the protected areas continues, are clear to mid-1990s, long before I first came. see. Outside the park all wildlife has The remaining elephants, buffalo, been killed and large trees felled. The sable antelope, lion, spotted hyena and scrubland has been raked by massive painted dog that roamed through the fronts of fire that sped across the reserve and wider national park are landscape leaving great scars of in decline. The exact nature of the fall swirling ash and blackened dirt in in numbers cannot be measured in their wake. many remote areas, as they lack the What little official law enforcement expertise and capacity for quantitative that exists is dampened by a social monitoring. The reserve had next to no and political climate that protects reliable data on population numbers, the poachers and ostracises the and neither did the wider national rangers on the ground. The park. It was just scant information community rangers’ familiarity gleaned from my talks with the few with the area is also their undoing. village elders who still remembered the They are torn between duty and times before the war of independence social obligations. They have to work and the civil war. against their friends, family and The variety of poaching threats acquaintances from the villages. ranges from snares set by locals to Yet this area is their life, income
Zebras have not been seen in north-east Mozambique for more than a decade.
and future. If it is destroyed they will have nothing. I was contracted to lead the ranger unit; providing a credible deterrent to the ever-present threat. I removed snares, confiscated bush meat, machetes and logging tools, and chased away the armed elephant poachers. Confusion reigns and loyalty is negotiable – you just have to work out the price and currency. It is not surprising – as the private reserve management back in Europe did not provide enough money to pay the rangers for weeks on end. The communities only see the nature of the reserve as resources that could be turned into money, and it’s hard to blame them when it’s so difficult to make a living. Community benefits provided by the reserve are few and there are not enough tourists to provide a sustainable living. As poaching continues, and animal numbers fall, the incentives for tourists to visit declines, locking the area into a downward spiral. Every life ended in a snare, on a spear, or ripped through with bullets is another step closer to the forest falling silent forever. Humans will endure. In unprotected areas, where the farmable topsoil has been washed away by summer rains, people sell rocks dug out of the ground for a pittance to make a living.
Peter rescued this pangolin, which had been hunted for use in traditional Asian medicine. PETER CO ALS
Paradise lost It is a world away from a past of verdant forests with abundant game shaded by tall trees. But every time animals or plants are removed from protected areas without repercussions, the message is sent that it isn’t important. This battle is not going to be lost with a bang, but through inactivity, greed and corruption. Little by little, it will slowly slip through our fingers. There is no quick solution, and there are no easy decisions. But by reforming law and tackling corruption, improving education, providing training and genuine alternative sustainable employment, somewhere in the middle perhaps we can regain paradise.
Hunting and poaching have led to a decline in numbers of many African mammals such as the black rhino.
Vol 60 No 1 / THE BIOLOGIST / 23
BIOGRAPHY WILLIAM ALFORD LLOYD
WHO WAS… WILLIAM ALFORD LLOYD?
Ray Ingle profiles the little-known Victorian entrepreneur who introduced public aquariums to the UK and helped improve awareness of aquatic diversity
WA LLOYD, 1871. COURTESY OF NATURAL HISTORY MUSEUM, LONDON
he 18th of November was a public holiday in 1852, so that the British public could watch the funeral procession of the Duke of Wellington. William Alford Lloyd, a bookshop employee with an interest in natural history, chose to visit the Zoological Gardens (now London Zoo) instead. He had barely enough money for the admission fee and walked there and back – no vehicles were allowed on the streets that day. He was drawn to a ‘Fish House’ under construction, due to open the following spring. It was seeing a living pike in one of the tanks that apparently set his mind on a career as an aquarist. Years later he wrote that his decision on that day “turned the current of all my remaining life”. Born in 1824, Lloyd’s interest in natural history probably began in 24 / THE BIOLOGIST / Vol 60 No 1
Merionethshire, North Wales, where at five years old he was taken to live with his father’s relatives to improve his health. He returned to London aged 11 but could only communicate with his Welsh-speaking father and struggled to relearn English, an effort that may have caused a lifelong stammer. After becoming an apprentice to a bookbinder at 14, Lloyd developed a passion for deeply instructive reading on a wide range of subjects, including natural history. On Christmas Day 1848, Lloyd married Amelia Alford. Following the birth of his daughter in 1851, Lloyd worked at a second-hand bookshop that enabled him to earn enough money for the family to rent upstairs rooms in Clerkenwell. Lloyd worked a 12-hour day for six days a week at the bookshop and
THE CRYSTAL PALACE FOUNDATION
A German wood engraving from 1872 of the main saloon of Lloyd’s Crystal Palace Marine Aquarium.
Vol 60 No 1 / THE BIOLOGIST / 25
BIOGRAPHY WILLIAM ALFORD LLOYD
Lloyd’s aquarium shop on Portland Road, London.
was unable to attend the opening of the Fish House. He was free only on Sunday when the gardens charged an extra admission premium that he could not afford on his meagre salary. In despair he wrote to Professor Richard Owen, a council member of the Zoological Society of London, explaining his circumstances and requesting a complimentary Sunday ticket. Fortunately Owen complied. During a further visit to the gardens he met the society’s secretary, DW Mitchell, who had conceived the Fish House project. Mitchell’s advice inspired him to begin his own experiments with fish keeping. After some unsuccessful attempts, Lloyd learned how to keep fish alive and sent observations about his aquatic inmates to Edward Newman, the editor of The Zoologist. Lloyd’s detailed observations impressed Newman, and his study on the respiratory behaviour of the aquatic snail Lymnaea stagnalis was accepted for publication in 1854. Later Lloyd read Philip Gosse’s The Aquarium: an Unveiling of the Wonders of the Deep Sea, and the chapter on management of a marine aquarium inspired him to try his hand at keeping marine specimens. Despite living far from the coast, and always being short of money, he devised ingenious solutions. He made artificial sea water from salts prepared by a Holborn chemist, and discovered that oyster shells discarded 26 / THE BIOLOGIST / Vol 60 No 1
by local stall vendors could house small living anemones. He would carefully transfer the anemones into jars of sea water, feeding them on morsels of oyster flesh. Regular water changes were needed, and discarded water was emptied into a large, covered earthenware foot-pan standing in a dark corner of the room and later reused. By these methods, he successfully maintained his anemones and recognised that by storing large amounts of water in this way it could be reused. Lloyd later extended the concept of water storage, using large volumes of circulating water in his designs of public aquariums. Setting up an aquatic business With basic knowledge of aquatic management, Lloyd set up an aquatic business, using a downstairs room to display his wares. He contacted collectors for supplies of marine specimens, asked Professor Owen for support, and advertised his enterprise in the scholarly journal Notes and Queries. He worked at the bookshop to finance this venture; his wife dealt with customers during his absences. A combination of lack of experience and customers who disregarded his advice led to initial failures, but Lloyd learned from mistakes and soon was able to confidently advise on aquarium matters. The business grew and Lloyd moved to new premises in Portland Road, Regent’s Park, using all his capital to convert part of the
Ray Ingle is a retired taxonomist from the Natural History Museum, London, where he studied and developed methods for rearing crustacean larvae.
This account of WA Lloyd’s life is based partly on research notes compiled for an uncompleted biography on Lloyd when the author was on the staff of the Natural History Museum. However, Bob Alexander’s excellent biography on Lloyd was published in 2012 and the author gives full acknowledgement for details on Lloyd’s life. Alexander’s biography of Lloyd is available online at www.parlour aquariums.org.uk
ground floor into a shop to display his stock and to advertise his business. Lloyd now left his employment to supervise the completion in 1856 of The Aquarium Warehouse. Business flourished and he published a catalogue illustrating various aquariums. A supplement contained detailed practical advice about maintaining aquariums and no doubt promoted his reputation as the London aquarist and adviser. He continued to write for The Zoologist. Now regularly consulted on aquatic matters, Lloyd declined an invitation in 1860 to write a book due to the pressure of his work. He was also supervising the installation of aquariums in the Jardin d’Acclimatation Paris, setting up his patented aquariums, underground water reservoirs, and a newly invented device involving compressed air for circulating aquarium water. He also tried growing seaweeds, recognising the importance of algae as a part of marine aquarium management. Paris’ public aquarium opened in 1861. But by 1861 interest in “parlour aquariums” had also declined. Business sales were poor and he had little money to spare; profits had been invested to expand the business. Now in financial difficulty and not in good health, he took a stand at the 1862 London Exhibition on Industry and Art, convinced that the aquarium was a serious educational tool demonstrating basic scientific
principles that must be observed for successful maintenance. His exhibit gained him a medal but did nothing to save his failing business and on the 21st of July 1862 he was declared bankrupt. Undaunted, he had learned of a proposed public aquarium in Hamburg and wrote to the project’s director for the job of aquarium superintendent. Professor Owen provided a supporting testimonial. Lloyd secured the post and his family moved to Hamburg. Building on his successes in Paris, he constructed a large 5,000 gallon underground reservoir in Hamburg, confident that this volume would suffice to stabilise aquarium water temperature. Compressed air and steam engine-driven pumps circulated the sea water in numerous tanks, filtered through fine sand and sack filters before entering the reservoir; both were innovations. This aquarium, then the largest and most modern in Europe, was opened in 1864 and was a continued success. On the continent other large aquariums were built, some probably based on Lloyd’s design and maintenance methods. During his tenure at Hamburg he published numerous observations on the aquatic inhabitants ranging from seaweeds, hermit crabs and spider crabs, to sea anemones, barnacles, corals, dog-whelks, sponges and fishes. This apparently settled period in his life may have been helped by a working knowledge of German acquired during his early years.
The first aquarist
loyd was the first aquarist to develop the ‘closed systems methods’ for successfully maintaining multiple aquariums and the first to recognise the importance of large settlement reservoirs, aeration, temperature control and filters for achieving water quality. He would not have been aware of detailed biological aspects of the water chemistry of his systems (most of this
Lloyd’s ‘Compound Aquarium’. This shows all the concepts of his marine circulating closed systems sold for private residences, which later formed the basis of public aquariums he designed.
information became available only during the following century). However, he recognised the importance of vegetation in the aquarium and tried to culture seaweeds. He was an avid experimenter and intelligent observer, quickly learning from mistakes and, above all, highly capable of visualising, calculating the requirements of, and successfully designing, large-scale aquatic closed systems.
Its success further enhanced his status as an aquarist and he corresponded with many prominent naturalists of the day. The British naturalist Philip Gosse became his close friend and somewhat overshadowed Lloyd because the public identified Gosse as the “aquarium man” through his numerous popular publications. Nevertheless, it was Lloyd to whom Gosse always turned for practical advice on aquatic management. Lloyd’s advice was also sought internationally by figures such as Felix Anton Dohrn, who planned to establish a zoological workstation at Naples which later became the first laboratory for the study of marine organisms. Lloyd was involved in the entire design of this aquarium’s system and all of the equipment was sent to Italy from England. Public aquariums were now being opened in various towns in England,
Return to England In 1868 Lloyd sought a post back in England and wrote to Professor Owen offering his services to the Zoological Society as curator of its aquarium. Nothing came of it but two years later Owen recommended Lloyd as superintendent of a public aquarium to be built by the Crystal Palace Aquarium Company Limited at Sydenham. For the official opening he published a detailed and illustrated account of this new marine aquarium in Nature and also in the official handbook. The Crystal Palace Aquarium had 20,000 gallons of sea water distributed between 38 aquariums and 22 stock tanks. Aerated water was pumped into these from an 80,000 gallon reservoir by steam-driven pumps and through vulcanite and hard india-rubber pipes. All machinery was duplicated to secure continuous water flows. DO YOU HAVE AN OPINION ON THIS ARTICLE? CONTACT US AT BIOLOGIST@SOCIETYOFBIOLOGY.ORG
which kept Lloyd busy as a consultant. However, some questioned his need for such large reservoirs. In 1876 the marine biologist William Saville-Kent announced his doubts concerning the efficiency and cost-effectiveness of these large, dark chambers. These disagreements became particularly public during the installation of the Royal Aquarium at Westminster – Lloyd claimed that large reservoirs were essential to stabilise water temperatures and maintain water quality. A number of public aquariums involving SavilleKent soon developed problems. Decline in interest By the late 1870s there was a decline in visits to public aquariums and by 1878 the Crystal Palace Aquarium Company was in financial crisis and unable to pay Lloyd his annual salary. He secured a contract to design and build the Aston Aquarium in Birmingham and was appointed as superintendent. He determined this should be his best work, using steamdriven pumps to circulate water, a steam generator for electric light over each tank and, for the first time, artificial sea water prepared on site. The Aston Aquarium opened in July 1879 but within six months was in financial trouble and Lloyd was again unemployed. He returned home to Lower Norwood, found part-time work at the Crystal Palace and with publishers Cassell & Company, and wrote a book on aquarium management. It was never published. While writing in his study on the 13th of July 1880 Lloyd collapsed and died, probably from a severe stroke. He was 54 and his estate, valued at under £400, was left to his wife. Nevertheless, his bold inventiveness ensured the ongoing success of the many public aquariums of the past and his concepts are still followed for public aquariums today. We owe much to this enterprising Victorian aquarist and naturalist. Vol 60 No 1 / THE BIOLOGIST / 27
CONSERVATION PRESERVING THE PEAK DISTRICT
A helicopter drops heather brash for use in moorland restoration, just one of the initiatives of the Moors for the Future conservation programme. 28 / THE BIOLOGIST / Vol 60 No 1
THINKING IN CONSERVATION The Peak District’s Dr Richard Campen explores how the Government’s ambition to make conservation ‘bigger, better and joined’ can work in practice
MOORS FOR THE FUTURE PARTNERSHIP
his season a peregrine falcon (Falco peregrinus) chick successfully fledged from a windswept rocky ledge in England. Close by, previously at risk and increasingly rare, species-rich meadows will soon be declared part of a Site of Special Scientific Interest. Both locations are in England’s Peak District National Park. These are good news stories, but it is a shame that such events require so much publicity and energy. The breeding success of birds of prey and saving hay meadows should be a routine part of a diverse and thriving landscape. Conservation, even in an area designated as a national park, can often be a struggle and, with many diverse and sometimes competing interests, there will always be challenges. It is increasingly important that conservation is managed on a large scale and at a strategic level to ensure our landscape is resilient to adverse change and development. Making Space for Nature (the Lawton Review) called for a step change in nature conservation and describes the essence of what needs to be done to secure ecological resilience and coherence as “more, bigger, better and joined”. We must heed the recommendations of the review. Policy in practice What should “more, bigger, better and joined” look like in practice? The Dark Peak landscape character area (PDNPA, 2009) is roughly a third of the 1,500km2 national park, situated at the southern tip of the Pennine Hills.
Higger Tor is one of the dominant landmarks of the Dark Peak region.
Conservation needs to be managed on a large scale and at a strategic level to ensure our landscape is resilient to change
For conservation on this scale to work, partnerships are essential. Since 2003 a partnership programme hosted by the Peak District National Park Authority, called Moors for the Future, has been operating across the majority of the Dark Peak area. The partnership currently includes statutory bodies, local authorities, voluntary organisations and utilities companies. The programme has restored over 5km2 of eroded moorland using thousands of tonnes of heather brash (the cut stems of Calluna vulgaris are used to stabilise peat soils and provide a source of seeds), billions of heather and grass seeds, thousands of dwarf shrub plants and cotton grass (Eriophorum angustifolium) and deploying over 100 miles of biodegradable netting to stabilise sloping peat soils. It has also provided a wide range of education and
interpretation projects, moorland research work, community events and bird surveys. By 2015 the programme is expected to have delivered projects costing around £15m. Funding is drawn from the Environment Agency, DEFRA, the Heritage Lottery Fund, utilities companies, private moorland owners, the National Park Authority and other sources. The programme is contributing to wildlife conservation and ecosystem services in a huge number of ways: habitat restoration, facilitating adaptation to climate change; protecting the carbon stored in peat soils; improving the quality of water collected from the moorland catchments; reducing flood risk; and providing opportunities for people to connect with nature. Vol 60 No 1 / THE BIOLOGIST / 29
CONSERVATION PRESERVING THE PEAK DISTRICT
There is a great deal of activity to manage and protect. It is a complex area with many stakeholders, interests and expectations in relation to environmental, social and economic goals. The funding will pay for habitat restoration of heathland and blanket bog, new native woodland and wildlife-rich grassland; and improvements to the links between these wonderful places and the surrounding urban communities. A “more, bigger, better and joined” approach has already resulted in some recent developments that, hopefully, are set to improve nature conservation. Twelve new Nature Improvement Areas (NIAs; DEFRA, 2012a) have been announced to improve the quality and connectivity of ecological networks through partnerships, with £7.5m of funding available across the 12 areas up to 2014. They will cover around 5,000km2, or 3.84% of the area of England. So far, 48 new Local Nature Partnerships (LNPs) have been announced with the aim of managing natural systems “for the benefit of nature, people and the economy”. The vision for LNPs includes influencing
MOORS FOR THE FUTURE PARTNERSHIP
An EU monitor surveys the work of the Moors for the Future team.
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decision making in relation to natural, social and economic outcomes by close working with local authorities and Local Enterprise Partnerships and Health and Wellbeing Boards. The former are designed to provide strategic leadership for sustainable private sector growth and jobs in an area (BIS, 2012) and the latter (Department of Health, 2012) are aimed at improving health and wellbeing of local populations and to reduce health inequalities. The National Park Authority has a particular role to play in leading and facilitating the landscape-scale approach to ecosystem services. Led by the Authority, the partnership-focused National Park Management Plan (PDNPA, 2012) provides the overarching framework for this with its links to other key strategies such as the Landscape Strategy and Action Plan (PDNPA, 2009). Important challenges The National Park Management Plan and the efforts of various projects all form part of the decisions we take today that will shape the future of the Peak District Landscape.
Dr Richard Campen CBiol FSB is director of operations at the Peak District National Park Authority and an associate lecturer at the Open University, where he teaches practical environmental science.
It is clear that there are three important challenges to landscapescale conservation. One is to achieve large-scale programmes focused on ecosystem services with the conservation and protection of wildlife and natural systems at the heart of them, even if it is not convenient in terms of desired social and economic outcomes. We must accept that conserving the integrity of natural systems is essential to everything we do. The Lawton Review was concerned with the resilience and coherence of England’s ecological framework through a “step change” to conservation. Even with so much work still to do, Moors for the Future shows what can be achieved when stakeholders are focused. In particular, we must be careful not to risk wildlife conservation in the pursuit of economic development: this means not treating nature just as a commodity. Nature has an intrinsic value, as well as being useful to us, and we cannot separate ourselves from ecology. We want to conserve the environment but we also want to consume goods and services it provides.
Dark Peak: Wilderness at the heart of England A sparsely settled area of millstone grit rock and peat soils form the high moorland (up to 630m above sea level) of the Dark Peak, which makes up roughly a third of the total area of the Peak District National Park. It is cut by steep-sided valleys, some of which have been flooded as reservoirs. In addition to developing through natural
processes, the area has been especially affected by human activities for over 8,000 years: the national park is almost surrounded by large urban conurbations such as Sheffield and Manchester. It is estimated that around half the population of England is within a one-hour drive from the park, so one way or another
hundreds of thousands of people depend on the area for the natural services it provides, from water supply to relaxation and enjoyment (such as walking, climbing, paragliding, mountain biking). Other land uses include sheep grazing, red grouse (Lagopus lagopus scotica) shooting and a limited amount of forestry.
The strangely shaped Bleaklow Stones in the Dark Peak area.
MOORS FOR THE FUTURE PARTNERSHIP
The second challenge is to connect people with nature, especially those in urban conurbations. Conservation bodies such as the National Trust, the National Park Authority and the RSPB all have programmes to engage young people and communities in their work and to promote opportunities for understanding and enjoyment of nature. The third challenge will be to engage more landowners and more people from the farming community. Moors for the Future and the Peak District NIA benefit from the support of some farmers (including tenants) and landowners, but there are others who could join the partnerships. This would be particularly the case for areas of the Peak District dominated by improved meadows (such as the White Peak), where there are many, often small, farms. Farming is, after all, one of the most important influences on the appearance of the landscape and its biodiversity.
Workers prepare to spread brash, the cut heather stems that are used to stabilise peat soils.
coherence and resilience of that landscape and its ecosystems. The aspirational goal would be for similar landscape-scale programmes covering other parts of the Peak District. Areas outside the national park should also be managed in this way. In order to do so, perhaps it is time to start talking about bio-regions and put nature where it belongs: at the very centre of all our decisions.
Working hand-in-hand In the Peak District, Moors for the Future and the NIA will work hand-inhand, thanks to the commitment of partners. It is not certain what the future of NIAs post-2014 might be, but it is clear that the functional â€˜unitâ€™ of the NIA probably ought to be the entire Dark Peak in order to ensure DO YOU HAVE AN OPINION ON THIS ARTICLE? CONTACT US AT BIOLOGIST@SOCIETYOFBIOLOGY.ORG
BIS (2012) http://www.bis.gov.uk/policies/ economic-development/leps [accessed 17 December 2012]. DEFRA (2012a) http://www.defra.gov.uk/ environment/natural/whitepaper/nia/ [accessed 17 December 2012]. Department of Health (2012) http:// healthandcare.dh.gov.uk/hwb-guide/ [accessed 17 December 2012]. Natural England (2012) http://www. naturalengland.org.uk/ourwork/ conservation/designatedareas/aonb/ default.aspx [accessed 17 December 2012]. PDNPA (2009) Landscape Strategy and Action Plan; The Dark Peak http://www. peakdistrict.gov.uk/__data/assets/pdf_ file/0004/90823/landscape-strategydark-peak.pdf [accessed 17 December 2012]. URS Scott Wilson (2011) Barriers and Opportunities to the use of Payments for Ecosystem Services, a report for Defra http://randd.defra.gov.uk/Document.aspx? Document=PESFinalReport28September20 11(FINAL).pdf [accessed 17 December 2012].
FURTHER READING AND LINKS www.moorsforthefuture.org.uk www.peakdistrict.gov.uk/ learning-about www.50things.org.uk www.rspb.org.uk/reserves/ guide/d/dovestone
Other moorland projects across the Dark Peak: www.easternmoors.org.uk www.sheffieldmoors.co.uk
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BIOINFORMATICS Bioinformatics is the application of information technology to biological problems, most commonly the analysis of DNA, RNA and protein sequences or structures. It relies heavily on the use of IT, mathematics, and statistics to capture, store, and analyse complex biological information. Why is bioinformatics important? Recent advances in molecular biology and genomic technologies have led to an explosion in the amount of biological information generated by biologists. This has led to a huge demand for specialist tools to store, organise, view, index and analyse such data. Bioinformatics can generate new understanding in genetic interactions, metabolic pathways and drug development. It is crucial to the development of software and technology that assists biologists’ research. Some believe that to work in any biology-related field in the future, biologists will need certain competencies in bioinformatics. What careers are available? The IT, pharmaceutical and biotechnology industries are all in need of bioinformatics graduates to help develop products like research software or drugs. There is a high demand in the ‘omics’ research fields (such as genomics, proteomics and glycomics) for competent analysts and computing solutions to process
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the large quantities of data produced by researchers. Big employers in the UK include the major pharma companies, the European Bioinformatics Institute, the MRC’s Human Genome Mapping Project Resource Centre, and the Wellcome Trust Centre for Human Genetics. Smaller companies are using bioinformatics too, including those involved in agricultural applications, industrial organisms and personal care products. There is generally thought to be a shortage of expert statisticians working in many areas of biology and bioinformatics. How do I get into a career involving bioinformatics? Universities tend to run postgraduate courses in bioinformatics for those with a computer science or bioscience background. Some, such as Imperial, Cranfield or Manchester universities, offer master’s courses in bioinformatics or the related computational biology and systems biology. There are many shorter practical training courses to teach scientists how to use specific software tools. Where can I find out more? You can find information and announcements on bioinformatics research, industry and education on www.bioinformatics.org or go to www.embnet.org to join a network for those working in bioinformatics research or industry.
AT A GLANCE
Name Professor David Jones Profession Head of the Bioinformatics Group at University College London and director of the Bloomsbury Centre for Bioinformatics Qualifications PhD biochemistry from University College London; MSc biochemistry from King’s College London; BSc physics, Imperial College Interests Protein structure prediction and analysis, simulations of protein folding
Underlying complicated equations are very simple ideas
INTERVIEW How did you get into bioinformatics? The word bioinformatics didn’t exist when I was a PhD student in 1989. This sort of work was being done of course, but the word didn’t appear until the early 1990s. My first degree was in physics, and I wanted a career in science, but was also really interested in computing. I saw a programme on the discovery of the DNA helix and it suddenly occurred to me that biological problems could be approached theoretically, with maths, and computationally. I took biophysics modules in my third year and did my master’s and PhD in biochemistry. I became fixated with protein folding and that was it really. I thought, “I can do everything here” – computing, physics and answering questions in biology. What are you working on at the moment? Predicting and simulating the way proteins fold, based on their amino acid sequence, is the area I personally spend most time on – I think if you do a PhD its central question never leaves you unless someone solves it completely. But my lab is looking at many other really interesting things like protein and gene function. What does this protein or gene actually do? What is the definition of the function of a gene? It’s a much less simple question. What is the bread and butter equipment of a bioinformatician? In the early days you needed special graphics systems that cost a bomb. But most of what we do now can be done on a standard PC. Some calculations require high-throughput computers, which we have here at UCL. But again, once you get the data back, much of the analysis can be done on a standard machine. What sort of person makes a good researcher in bioinformatics? I don’t know; in my group the best bioinformaticians come from a
(Above and below) Examples of 3D protein structures from Professor Jones’ lab at UCL.
variety of backgrounds. There are people from biology and chemistry backgrounds who have picked up the relevant skills, as well as physicists and computer scientists. I have a joint appointment across the computer science and biology departments, so I get to interact with colleagues in both departments. I can’t emphasise how important good statisticians are: it’s the difference between getting numbers and results. What would you say to biologists who are daunted by the complex mathematics involved? People overestimate how difficult it is to tackle these problems without a maths or physics degree. It’s about getting the right data and using the right tools. Underlying the complicated equations and programs are very simple ideas.
be the design of new proteins that are not found in nature and have novel functions. You could put proteins together that could never work in a cell or from different organisms, modifying biology for endless industrial or medicinal uses; you could create a new biological machine. The iGEM competition (www. igem.org) – where undergraduate teams get together to come up with novel synthetic biology projects like this – shows it’s already happening. If I’d seen this when I was an undergraduate I’d have given all the money I had to get involved.
What areas excite you in terms of future applications? A lot of funding is being directed at synthetic biology. If I could pick another problem to work on it would Vol 60 No 1 / THE BIOLOGIST / 33
Reviews William Hogarth’s ‘Gin Lane’ depicts the evils of gin consumption, and was reproduced by Samuel Davenport, circa 1806, for his collection of Hogarth’s work.
Our regular round-up of books published in the fields of biology and related sciences
manufacture and use. There are sections on Saccharomyces cerevisiae and other producers; the biochemistry of fermentation; barley and other grasses; sources of sugar such as grapes, apples and honey; and finally the anthropology and archaeology of booze. The only quibble I have with this highly original work is the assertion on the jacket that alcohol has played a role in the civilisation of our species. Observations in any town centre in Britain on a Friday or Saturday night would soon modify this judgement. Dr Bernard Dixon OBE
Animal Physiology 3rd Edition
BOOZOLOGY: THE AGE OF ETHANOL
Alcohol and its Role in the Evolution of Human Society
Alcohol and its Role in the Evolution of Human Society “This book looks at the significance of alcoholic beverages in the advancement of mankind”
Ian S Hornsey Royal Society of Chemistry Publishing, £29.99 Two 19th-century lithographs reproduced in this excellent book highlight just one of the many ways in which alcohol, its production and consumption have affected the development of human society. One shows Peruvian women chewing maize in order to convert the starch into sugar by amylolysis, after which they used the semi-digested material to brew chichi. The other picture is of their menfolk drinking and enjoying the product. There was an almost
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total separation of roles on the basis of gender. Ian Hornsey, founder of Nethergate Brewery, modestly describes his book as an attempt to provide a basis for further research into the significance of alcohol in the advancement of mankind, for example in the transition of humans from hunter-gatherers to farmers. Nevertheless, he himself goes a long way towards this goal. While he has chosen not to include distillation, Hornsey reviews not only the many different ways in which people use, perceive and react to alcohol, but also the archaeological, anthropological, historical and scientific context of ethanol
Richard W Hill, Gordon A Wyse, Margaret Anderson Palgrave Macmillan/ Sinauer Associates, £51.99 The production of a textbook that encompasses even the core aspects of the whole of animal physiology is a huge task. Furthermore, there is always the danger that when addressing too broad a range of material the text will lose depth. Animal Physiology succeeds admirably in providing its readers with both a breadth and depth of material that is always interesting and well presented. The text never feels lightweight. The integration of experimental findings into the text provides not only source material, but good examples that can be followed by students. Indeed, there is a strong emphasis on teaching and student use throughout. In common with other books in this field, a conceptual approach is adopted. The first part is devoted to introductory material, followed by five thematically organised parts addressing the key aspects of physiology. The text is richly and informatively illustrated using the currently popular soft-colour style. Each chapter is well referenced citing up-to-date sources. Most of these are accompanied by a brief description of what can be found in each reference.
In keeping with most textbooks, there is an accompanying website for students and instructors providing access to e-books and other resources. Man is an animal that is not excluded from this text. Set alongside animal examples, this means that the human physiologist is provided with useful comparative material, not least for teaching purposes. Dr Stephen Lewis
Genes, Cells and Brains: The Promethean Promises of the New Biology
Hilary Rose and Steven Rose Verso, £16.99 Alarm bells rang on reading the Marxist propaganda in the prologue of Genes, Cells and Brains. My fears were confirmed when the book’s first pages were dedicated to a description of Jim Watson’s arrogance: this book is politically motivated. Only later did I notice that the publisher is “the imprint of New Left Books”. I tried to keep an open mind and look for potentially genuine criticisms alongside those that were unjustified or irrelevant, but I found they weren’t backed up by adequate evidence. I am willing to believe this book touches on genuine failings of the bioscience industry, but if I am to agree that the human genome project was a waste of money I need to read about its successes and its failures to deliver. Instead the description focuses on fallings out between the people behind the project. This is a common theme. The detailed accounts of history are full of what seem to be insults without coming to the point. Darwin is one of many on the receiving end. They state, for example, that EO Wilson’s work fosters racism. I recently reviewed Wilson’s The Social Conquest of Earth (see page 36) and found it to be overtly anti-racism. In fact ,Wilson calls for “the liberation of humanity from the oppressive forms of tribalism”. Aspects of the chapter on neuroscience were far more informative, perhaps unsurprising given that Steven Rose is a neuroscientist. It raises valuable ethical questions and describes some of the research covered by Bruce Hood’s The Self Illusion. So there is some food for thought in this book, it is just a shame that it’s hidden amongst weak and irrelevant arguments. Dr Rebecca Nesbit MSB
Genomics and Bioinformatics
Tore Samuelsson Cambridge University Press, £29.99 Bioinformatics has proven to be a valuable branch of modern biology, especially as sequence data on DNA, RNA and protein increases at a rapid rate. As the author points out: “Biology has been transformed into an incredibly data-rich science.” There are already specialised technical works on the use of bioinformatics. However, people new to the field are often overwhelmed by the complexity of the databases and the computer language. Recognising this, Samuelsson has devised a wellstructured, step-by-step approach. All the software files are easily available via the book’s website, so a reader can quickly get to grips with different aspects of the subject. Each chapter deals with a different use of bioinformatics, ranging from human disease to gene technology, giving the reader up-to-the-minute information in bite-sized chunks. The topics show the interdisciplinary nature of bioinformatics and are introduced in a readable manner, so the novice is not swamped with detail. This is followed by a description of the computational steps needed to obtain relevant data. There are helpful exercises at the end of each chapter and also valuable appendices, including a guide to the use of Unix and Perl, as well as descriptions of the major types of software. Dr Leighton Dann
High Nature Value Farming in Europe
Rainer Oppermann, Guy Beaufoy, Gwyn Jones (Eds) Verlag Regional Kultur, £40.00 The term High Nature Value Farming (HNVF) emphasises how crucial low intensity farming is to European biodiversity conservation. Such farming is mainly traditional highlabour practice, with low output on marginal land – predominantly semi natural pastures, meadows and orchards. These areas are important for their conservation value and for culture, recreation, leisure and tourism, as well
as for traditional foods, fabrics and other goods. However, HNVF tends to be unprofitable and consequently is declining fast across much of Europe. Unless means can be found to inject new financial support, it will disappear and it has proved extremely difficult to provide finance through the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) of the European Union. Here three editors and 106 authors have reviewed HNVF in 35 European countries. The text is profusely illustrated with colour photographs, providing a vivid impression of the variety of marginal farmland and the biodiversity it supports. The individual country reviews indicate that very different support systems are favoured and would be appropriate. Nevertheless, there are suggestions as to how the CAP and other support systems could be modified or developed to ensure that HNVF can be maintained along with all the benefits to society which it provides. This is a visually attractive and stimulating book which should be read by a wide audience. People need to appreciate what they may lose unless more money goes to HNVF. Dr John C Bowman FSB
High Nature Value Farming in Europe “A visually attractive, stimulating book which should be read by a wide audience”
The Ethics of Animal Research: Exploring the Controversy
Jeremy R Garrett (Ed) MIT Press, £18.95 Books on the ethics of animal experimentation have appeared with increasing regularity over the last 40 years, so one might be forgiven for thinking there is little more to be said. Even so, a schism persists between strong opponents of such research, on grounds of animal rights or unwarranted animal suffering, and those who cite its regrettable necessity in the interests of human welfare. Both perspectives appeal to ethical theory to justify their stance, and each side seems ultimately immovable in their convictions. Perhaps inevitably, this collection of 16 essays covers much familiar territory. But, as someone whose 50-year career has spanned both sides of the fence, I believe it also includes contributions that break new ground. Christina Bellon, for example, notes that the absolute submission of research animals to experimenters’ objectives, in terms of power, Vol 60 No 1 / THE BIOLOGIST / 35
The Ethics of Animal Research “This collection includes essays that break new ground”
dependency and vulnerability, poses previously largely overlooked questions about the conduct of research. Where feasible, assigning higher priority to caring for animals after their use, responding more to their behavioural needs and opening up research facilities to public inspection, could be routes for promoting better conditions for animals, greater public understanding, and (because of economic considerations) more urgent efforts to seek alternatives to animals. While unquestionably radical, this approach might effectively challenge the current impasse. Professor Ben Mepham FSB
The Mayflies of Europe
The Mayflies of Europe looks in detail at 369 species of the mayfly.
Ernst Bauernfeind and Tomáš Soldán Apollo Books, £125.00 No reference book covering all European mayflies has been published since Eaton’s 1883-85 monograph. Since then, many new species have been discovered and a vast body of research has been carried out. This is a much needed book. The introduction clarifies the geographical areas covered and defines technical terms helpfully. Line diagrams in the introductory chapter explain detailed anatomy clearly and
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outlines the biology, behaviour, ecology, distribution, diversity and classification of mayflies. Altogether 369 species of 49 genera and 19 families are dealt with in detail. Accounts of species follow a common format, which includes identification, distribution records, notes on the biology and ‘remarks’ about type material, variations and other useful information. Many colour photographs are provided of live specimens in their habitats, both larvae and adults, along with micrographs of male genitalia and scanning electron micrographs of eggs to aid identification. Recent changes in nomenclature are discussed, as well as gaps in current knowledge and possible pitfalls concerning identification. A comprehensive index, checklist and more than 2,500 references allow further information to be found about European mayflies. The authors should be congratulated on producing a major reference work which is likely to be an essential tool for mayfly researchers, as well as being of interest to other entomologists, freshwater biologists and naturalists. Dr Sue Howarth CBiol FSB
The Social Conquest of Earth
Edward O Wilson WW Norton, £18.99 Ants and humans are amongst a tiny number of species to achieve true eusociality (the highest level of social organisation where individual group members have different roles). This book considers the reasons for the evolution of eusociality, and the nature of social behaviour in humans. A prerequisite for the development of eusocial societies, found in insects, shrimps and mammals, is a central nest site. Defending the nest against predators while others in the group go hunting is the beginning of a division of labour between members of the group. In his study of evolution, Wilson sheds light on what it means to be human. It is in our nature to question who we are, and for thousands of years humans have invented stories about our creation. Such myths often strengthened the bond between tribal members, but they shed no light on why we are here. Instead, Wilson aims to do this with science.
Our characteristics of altruism and selfishness, Wilson argues, are the product of multi-level selection. Group selection for altruism competes with individual selection for selfishness. This is a fascinating topic, and Wilson provides explanations for many aspects of our life, from religion to language. The book itself is at times repetitive and at times hard to understand, but it’s definitely a recommended read. Dr Rebecca Nesbit MSB
Exploring Immunology: Concepts and Evidence
Gordon MacPherson & Jon Austyn Wiley-Blackwell, £85.00 As immunology is a discipline that overlaps medical and life sciences, there is great demand for high quality textbooks to serve the lucrative tertiary education market. By aiming to be comprehensive references for use throughout a university degree, the popular texts available provide a steeper learning curve than some students find comfortable. A niche is therefore open to a book that targets a predominantly first year undergraduate audience, who often enter higher education with only the most basic understanding of the principles of immunology. It is against this backdrop that Wiley-Blackwell launches Exploring Immunology. What this trim volume does well is engage students to assimilate novel terminology and to comprehend, synthesise and, when used fully, even evaluate intellectually demanding concepts. Once the basic tenets are established, the book discusses cutting edge ideas and areas where knowledge is incomplete. It integrates information from experimental analysis and clinical observation. This is a worthy publication which adds a new dimension to the crowded immunology bookshelf – a carefully planned and skilfully crafted foundation course. It spans the gulf between degree-level teaching of immunology and the formative experience of immunity that is presented in the secondary school curriculum and in outreach activities at science festivals. I recommend it highly to all aspiring immunologists. Dr Andrew Taylor-Robinson CBiol FSB
Society of Biology prize-winning prints now available
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Member news Our regular round-up all about you, our Society members
Social Notices Our chief executive, Dr Mark Downs, will be holding informal sandwich lunches with groups of 40-50 members and smaller groups of 10-15 Fellows. Places are available on a first come, first served basis. To reserve a place, please contact Zoë Martin at zoemartin@societyofbiology. org or call 020 7685 2564. 12 March Fellows’ Lunch, London 12:30–14:00 Charles Darwin House 10 April Members’ Lunch, London 12:30–14:00 Charles Darwin House 9 May Fellows’ Dinner, London 19:00–22:00 Charles Darwin House 14 May Fellows’ Lunch, Edinburgh 12:30–14:00 Edinburgh, location TBC 17 July Fellows’ Lunch, London 12:30–14:00 Charles Darwin House 17 September Fellows’ Lunch, Bristol 12:30–14:00 Bristol Zoo 24 October Members’ Lunch, London 12:30–14:00 Charles Darwin House
2 May 2013 11:30 (refreshments from 11:00) Charles Darwin House, London Professor Martin Humphries will give the Charter Lecture, followed by lunch and the AGM. To attend, please register via mySociety (https: //myaccount.societyofbiology.org). Alternatively, write to Natasha Neill at the address on page 2, or email email@example.com
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NEW MEMBER PROFILE
Comedy, comms and crayfish
Dr Zara Gladman MSB I help organise Glasgow Science Festival (which will run from 6-16 June this year) and work as a public engagement officer for the Clyde River Foundation, a charity that delivers outreach projects about freshwater ecology in schools. I have a BSc Hons degree in zoology and a PhD in ecology, both from the University of Glasgow. My PhD investigated the impact of invasive, non-native crayfish on native biodiversity in Scotland.
I hope to get involved with public engagement events in my area
I joined the Society as an intern last year and was thrilled to work alongside people who shared my enthusiasm for engaging the public about biology. By joining, I hope to get involved with public engagement events in my local area. Science communication is a growing field and I’ve been lucky enough to participate in a number of innovative projects, including Bright Club, a comedy show by university researchers, and the first ever Biology Week. I’m excited to see what the future holds!
As a child I was fascinated by animals. I obsessively collected Wildlife Fact File guides and David Attenborough was my hero. A school trip to the Isle of Arran fostered my love for fieldwork and inspired me to apply for zoology at university. Predicting how climate change will interact with species invasions is an
emerging challenge for ecologists. Climate change may also force conservationists to develop new approaches for managing endangered species, including translocations or ‘assisted migrations’, which could prove controversial.
Zara entertaining at a school.
I enjoy watching (and occasionally performing) stand-up comedy, drinking White Russians in my favourite pub, and cooking.
John Blackman Northwood MSB
Alexander Fleming, who discovered the antibiotic effects of penicillin, is my most inspirational biologist. Penicillin and other antimicrobials have been instrumental in the development of modern medicine.
I’m a principal scientist at Quotient Bioresearch, a contract research organisation specialising in early stage and specialist drug development services. My role is to lead the molecular biology division within bioanalytical sciences, expanding our capabilities and areas of application. I obtained my applied biology BSc at Kingston University where I took part in an exchange programme at Grand Valley State University, Michigan, USA. I also did an MSc in biomedical sciences at Kingston. I chose my BSc because it was broad and I hadn’t decided what to specialise in. In the US, I did an internship in a commercial microbiology lab and this was the deciding factor in choosing microbiology.
My role is to lead the molecular biology division within bioanalytical sciences
Alison Hines AMSB I work as a trainee healthcare scientist in haematology at the Bristol Royal Infirmary (BRI), part of the NHS Healthcare Scientist Training Programme. There is both a scientific and clinical aspect to the training, which involves specialised techniques in the laboratory, as well as attending haematology clinics.
The most exciting advance for the future of drug development and medicine is the ability to stratify patients and their diseases for targeted therapy by gene expression or whole genome sequencing. The use of molecular biomarkers to predict therapeutic outcomes and monitor disease progression will have a major influence over the next 10 years. I joined the Society for the continuing professional development programme, with the aim of becoming a Chartered Biologist. I enjoy walks in the forest with my wife and (soon to be) three children, sailing dinghies and photography.
I graduated with First Class Honours in applied biomedical sciences from the University of the West of England. During my degree I completed a 12-month sandwich placement in the haematology laboratory at the BRI as a trainee biomedical scientist. After my placement, I knew I wanted to follow a career in healthcare science. An inquiring mind from a young age, always wanting to know how the body and the world worked, led to a deep interest in science. As I got older, I became more focused on human biology. Bioscience is fascinating and constantly evolving, which makes it such an exciting area. I was proud to win the Society of Biology Top Student Award for academic performance in my degree, which gave me the opportunity to become a member. I feel that being part of the Society will widen my area of scientific interest, and help me to become a better scientist. Knitting is therapeutic – recently I knitted over a hundred mini woolly hats for charity. I am part of a knitting and crafting group and enjoy comparing creations for inspiration.
Professor Linda Greensmith FSB
I run a multidisciplinary research group at the UCL Institute of Neurology (IoN) investigating the underlying causes of neuromuscular disorders such as motor neurone disease. We use both in vitro and in vivo models of these disorders to try and identify what goes wrong. Using this information allows us to identify and test novel compounds to determine if they can modify the signs of disease in these models. I studied physiology as an undergraduate at UCL, followed by a PhD in neuroscience and work as a post-doc at Imperial College. I was awarded a Wellcome Trust Fellowship in 1996 to improve my skills in molecular biology and appointed the Graham Watts Senior Research Fellow at the IoN in 1999, supported by a bequest to fund research into the underlying causes of motor neurone disease. I was appointed as a professor in 2009 and in 2011 I became head of the Department of Motor Neuroscience and Movement Disorders at IoN. What I find exciting is the challenge to find effective therapies for the range of neurodegenerative conditions that are likely to become an increasing burden on our ageing population. I joined the Society to keep up to date with important developments in the whole range of bioscience subjects, and to support its educational activities. I have recently taken up sailing and whenever the weather and time permit I want to be out on the waves – there is no quicker way to forget day-to-day stresses!
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MEMBER NEWS NEW MEMBERS LIST JANUARY 2013 ELECTION
New, Transfer & Chartered Members Affiliate Amy Abbott, Khadijah Abdel-Illah, Rukiya Abdi, Faisa Abdisamad, Jonathan Abrahams, James Aburn, Emma Ackerley, Grace Adams, Layla Afkhami, Amal Ahmed, Mobeen Akhtar, Rabina Akhtar, Mariya Al Hinai, Hannah Alderman, Caroline Anderson, Ryan Anderson, Emma Ankers, Connor Arkinson, Damilola Arulogun, James Ashley, Tamsin Ashton, Jennifer Atkins, Megan Atkinson, Jillian Augustine, Lydia Bach, Sarah Baker-Falkner, Hannah Bancroft, Daniel Band, Rashida Baptiste, Samantha Barker, Emily Barrington, Emily Barrow, Robert Barry, Chantelle Bartlett, Natasha Barttelot, Nicholas Baxter, Emma Beaton, Hannah Beavis, Ashleigh Begg, Afia Begum, Christopher Bell, Cheryl Bennett, Lauren Bennett, Sophie Bennett, Alexandra Bercow, Carl Bethell, Stacey Bethell, Safina Bi, Laura Bibby, Matthias Biber, Farhat Bibi, Clare Birch, Evtim Bitrakov, Mariequette Bituin, Katie Bjerkan, Philipp Boersch-Supan, Allen Bolivar, Daniel Bolt, Douglas Borland, Stephanie Bourgeois, Kaouthar Bouzinab, Amy Bowman, Lucy Bown, Matthew Boyd, Lucy Boyer, Matthew Brennan, Natalie Brennan, Tom Brewer, Nicholas Brice-Bennett, Charlotte Bridge, Andrew Brignall, Sam Brocklehurst, Eloise Brown, Emma Brown, Sophie Brown, Ella Browning, Jake Bull, Cristina Bullock, Charles Bulman, Julian Burton-Pierce, David Butcher, Gabriele Butkute, Rebekah Butler, Toby Buttress, Thomas Caddick, Morelia Camacho-Cervantes, Anna Cameron, Cheryl Camilleri, Adina Caparnagiu, Michael Carmona Jones, Kate Carney, Christopher Carroll, Leona Carruth, Darren Carty, Tom Cawthorn, Damian Chadwick, Alex Chambers-Ostler, Ming Chung Chan, Yu-Ting Chan, Elizabeth Chapman, Joseph Chappell, Mona Chauhan, Phillipa Cheesman, Pei-pei Chen, Daniel Cherry, Anthony Cheung, Natascha Child, Katrina Chin, Edwin Chiwaridzo, Siu Tsun Chong, Jordan Clark, Elizabeth Clark-Lim, Sigourney Cockburn, Paul Coleman, Fern Coll, Josie Collins, Catreena Collister, Linden Condon, Hilary Conlan, Sarah Connolly, Alex Cook, Andrew Cooke, Letitia Cookson, Megan Coombs, Emily Coop, Francesca Cooper, Jessica Cooper, Ryan Cooper, Alice Copperwheat, Matthew Cotter, Shivonne Cracknell, Lauren Craigen, Andrew Crimmins, Joseph Cripps, Paul Cromie, Zoe Cross, Ana Cruz, Erin Cubitt, Mollie Curran-French, Elizabeth Cwilewicz, Robyn Daeres-sam, Shantelle Dandy, Jack Daniell, Anna Daniels, Alice Darbyshire, Rosemary Darko, Gwen Davidson, Danielle Davies, Dee Davis, William Dawson, Caroline de Klee, Maria De Sousa, Jake Delaney, Sophie Dennis, Andrew Denton, Darren Dickinson, Breanne Dilks, Seline Dilmec, Deirdre Dinneen, Charlotte Dixon, Eleanor Dixon, Emily Dixon, Stuart Dixon, Sean Dobson, Ruth Doherty, Margaret Mary Donnelly, Amber Dorey, Matt Dowty, Max Drakeley, Sanusi Drammeh, Jacqueline Dreelan, Christopher Duncan, Aleksandra Dylewska, Lawrence Eagling, Rohan Eapen, Jennifer Easley, Emma Eaton-Dykes, Eric Edmonds, Carmel Edwards, Madeleine Emms, Charlotte Evans, Ellen Evans, Fiona Evans, Hannah Evans, Jack Evans, Matthew Evans, Olivia Evans, Scott Evans, Bradley Fairclough, Alex Fall, Adna Farah, Adam Farrier, Joe Fawcett, Sarah Fenn, Billy Ferrara, Eleanor Fewings, Al Firth, Karl Fisher, Jessica Flanagan, Thomas Flint, Charlotte Forbes, Ben Ford, Robert Fordham, Alexandra Formela, William Forster, Bethany Foster, Emily Fulda, Kiran Gadhave, Daniel Gallagher, Kevin Gallagher, Natasha Ganecki, Erica Gardiner, Max Gardner, Reanna-Kate Garraghan, Jasmine Gartshore, Rachel Gater, Girma Gebre, Stuart Geddes, Jay Ghumania, Oliver Glenister, Natalie Glew, Sadio Gollop, Amber-Jade Goodenough, Andrew Goodsell, Peter Goonajee, Mark Graham, Megan Graham, Joanna Grainger, Neale Grant, Danielle Gray, Emma Graystone, Kyle Green, Antonia Gregory, Carina Gsottbauer, Kathryn Hadfield, Alicia Hague, Georgia Haines-Woodhouse, Gerard
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Haley, Aaron Hall, Cassandra Hall, Stephen Hall, Loryn Halliday, Naimah Hameed, Rebecca Handford, Tharindi Hapuarachchi, Alessa Hardwick, Anya Harris, Sarah Harrison, Ben Harvey, Fevziye Hasan, Lauren Hatfield, Matthew Hawkes, Jocelyn Head, Laura Heading, Patrick Healy, Anne-marie Hemmings, Chloe Henderson, Terence Henderson, Suzie Hills, Laura Hinchliff, Reshma Hirani, Natasha Ho, Heather Hobson, Joshua Hodgson, John-Paul Hogan, Rebecca Holdsworth, Jorden Holmes, Mandy Holmes, Tayah Hopes, Evan Hopkins, Shane Houston, Aimee Howard, Charlotte Howard, Matthew Hoyle, Anna Hughes, Eoin Hughes, Ryan Hull, Francesca Hutchinson, Gabrielle Hutchinson, Eve Ibbotson, Mariam Ibragim, Stacey Ikhine, Nelson Iley, Harriet Imrie, Ashleigh Irwin, Ali Izzat, Joanna Janus, James Jarrold, Mozhgon Jeddi, Alex Jemmett, Jarrad Jenkins, Liam Jenkins, Sophia Jenkinson, Silje-Kristin Jensen, Mikael Jhutti, Chloe Anne Johnson, Rebecca Johnson, Sophia Johnson, Erin Johnston, Caitlin Jones, Lisa Jones, Rebecca Jones, Alice Jordan, William Joyce, Zanna Karsan, Agathe Kauzeni, Lisa Keane, Emer Kelly, Imogen Kelso, Jessica Kennnell, Rebecca Kettridge, Youssef Khalil, James Kirby, Rebecca Kirk, Bernadette Kirkham-Maccallum, Neil Kirkpatrick, Josh Knight, Natalie Koch, Lucy Kucharik, Ivana Kusa, Bethany Kuszlewicz, Jessica Kuzmanoska, Lok Hei Kwan, Yun-San Kwok, Hemali Lalji, Anthony Lam, Danielle Langton, Jagpreet Lar, Andy Lau, Anna Lavery, Elodie Lawley, Laura Leacock, Elizabeth Learmonth, Paul Leckey, Lauren LeFevre, Kieran Leigh-Moy, Stephanie Leonida, Joseph Letchford, Samuel Letherby-Gribble, King Yi Leung, Sean Lewin, Coralie Lewis, Esther Lie, Esther Lie, Penelope List, Llinos Lloyd, Christopher Lodge, Alexander Lord, Leon Loughran, Eleni-Anna Loundras, Kate Lowes, Taylor Lura, Agata Lustyk, Camille Lyle, Kirsty Lynas, Colin Magee, Bethan Mainwaring, Lorraine Mak, Deepak Malhi, Pegah Maneshi, Kerry Marker, Charlotte Marsh, Shamiso Marufu, Daisy Maryon, Naoko Masumoto, Naunehal Matharu, Lauren Mattingley, Mary Maurer, Emily Mawbey, Jonathan Maxwell, Rachel McBrinn, Ciara McCormack, Fionnuala McCully, Christopher McDougall, Matthew McGoldrick, Fiona McKay, Kimberley McLaughlin, Shane McLaughlin, Lorraine McLean, Calum McLuckie, Clare McMorrow, James Meiring, Stacey Melia, Alistair Middlemiss, Sarah Midgley, Eleanor Miller, Helen Millott, Colette Mitchell, Lara Mizrahi, Lara Mizrahi, Andrea Mooney, Christopher Mooney, Christopher Moore, Kaveh Moravej, David Morgan, Rebecca Morgan, Guy Morley, Thomas Moseley, Conor Mulholland, Michael Mullan, Christina Mulvenna, Jessica Murray, Sarah Murtagh, Phillipa Myram, Amy Nash, Martha Nash, Eoghan Nevin, George Newell, Rebecca Newton, Tom Nicholson, Ksenija Nikolajeva, John North, Joseph Lochlainn, Tara O’Neill, Sara-Xaali O’Reilly Berkeley, Lauren Oakes, Timothy Oconnor, Oyindamola Ogunleye, Olayinka Ogutuga, Adetoye Ojeniyi, Richard Oliver, Damola Olusegun, Frances Osis, Emily Owen, Claire Ozber, Ross Pallett, Alice Palmer, Daniel Palmer, Jacob Palmer, Federico Paoletti, Fernando Pardo, Kasia Maria Parfitt, Kelly Park, Ashley Parkes, Florence Parkinson, Sanya Parveen, Hemalvi Patani, Kirsty Patrick, Richard Patton, Ruha Peera, Tim Penny, Victoria Penson, Daniel Perfitt, Roberta Peters, Christopher Petrie, Brian Phelan, Louise Phillimore, Elisha Pickett, Emma Pickup, Lorcan Pigott-Dix, Galatia Politopoulou, Sarah Pottinger, Tamires Powell, Emma Power, Lorna Powerll, Lee Pozo, Liam Pressley, Louise Price, Laura Pritchard, Sophie Pritchard, Danielle Prowse, Kerstin Pryke, Hannah Puddephatt, Jessica Purnell, Joe Pybus, Adele Pyle, Roberta Quarshie, Amelia Qureshi, Farah Raja, Sindhee Ramsahye, Michael-Thomas Ramsey, Arthur Ramshaw, Rohit Rana, Vijayeta Rana, Sophie Rance, Jennifer Rawsthorn, George Renney, Laura Rhodes, Marcus Rhodes, Jessica Richardson, Nicholas Richardson, Samantha
Richardson, Imogen Rimmer, John Ritson, William Roberts, Cameron Robertson, Elspeth Robinson, Victoria Rockell, Julie Rocque, Chris Rogers, Lucinda Rogers, Sean Rogerson, Ben Rolfe, Anthea Roper-Nield, Jordan Rose, Victoria Rose, Scott Ross, Isobel Routledge, Mia Rowe, Lisa Ruff, Katie Rule, Kay Russell, Tessa Russell, Pooja Sainani, Maria Sajjad, Gregory Salt, Manickam Sanjeevan, Emily Sansam, Mohit Santilal, Anmol Sawhney, Laura Schmidt, Mama Ntrina Sekyi-Djan, Brooke Sessions, Roshana Shah, Orie Shaw, Joanne Sheldon, Danika Sheppard, Emily Sheraton, Simon Chi Chin Shiu, Ifthekar Siddequi, Marcus Silverman, Harijeet Singh, Abigail Skinner, Nicole Slavin, Sandra Smieszek, Felicity Smith, Bertone Socorro, Katrina Soor, Kayleigh Spellar, Natalie Spencer, Robert Stanley, Kathlyn Stanley-Quist, Rachel Stapley, Chaido Stathopoulou, Paul Steckelberg, Sarah Steele, Helen Stephens, Justine Stephens, Maggie Stevenson, Phillip Stockton, Jessica Stonestreet, Edward Strickson, David Stringer, Natasha Stubbs-Davies, Sarah Sturdy, Kimberley Summers, Laura Sutton, Marie Swamba, Kathryn Swarbrick, Christopher Swift, Adam Syanda, Rani Tabasum, Jennifer Taft, Meriem Taleb, Pui Ying Tam, Wai Lap Tam, Peter Tasker, Helena Tattersall, Acacia Taylor, Charlotte Taylor, Nyree Taylor, Thomas Taylor, Keshiv Thakur, Ashok Thomas, James Thomas, Lily Thomas, Charlotte Thompson, Rowan Thompson, Hannah Tilley, Sophie Tinsley, Tom Toner, Anya Tooley, Kimberley Toothill, Marcia Townsend, Cheryl Trew, Paul Trimmer, Matthew Trist, Matthew Troote, Rebecca Turner, Stephen Turner, Emily Tye, Chisom Umeobi, Thomas Underdown, Nivetha Vamathevan, Jessey Van OostendeSwanepoel, Divya Venkatesh, Eleanor Vesty, Charlotte Walker, Thomas Walker, Kai Waloen, Bryony Walsh, Clarissa Walters, Oliver Walters, Jing Wang, Samuel Ward, Alex Warne, Laura Watson, Sam Weaver, Kirsty Webb, Jake Wells, Joshua West, Tegan White, Teresa Whiteley , James Whiteside, Kerri Whiteside, Ashleigh Wilcox, Alexandra Wilkinson, Claire Williams, George Williams, Jessica Williams, Kate Williams, Sophie Williams, Tamara Williams, Emma Louise Williamson, Christine Wilson, Chloe Wiltshire, Kayleigh Winter, Arnaud Wolfer, Ka Wing Wong, David Wood, Jenna Woodward, Christopher Wooster, Laurence Wootton, Emma Wright, Kate Wright, Rachel Wright, Marzona Yeasmin, Pui Yee Yip, Peter York, Blair Young, Christine Young, Freya Young, Anson Yu, Christa Yuekselsoy, Gergo Zalatnai, Jessica Zierhofer, Sebina Zisa-Davies. Associate (AMSB) James Andrews, Alberta Anomah, Philip Austin, Adil Bader, Ian Baldwin, Adam Beech, Siham Bortcosh, Alexander Bowman, Sophie Britton, Caitlin Burns, Francesca Carlisle, Darren Churchward, Richard Clark, Emily Coode, Martin Coupe, Helen Currie, Nicolas Dalliere, Charlotte Davies, Emma Davies, Hamish De Baerdemaecker, Stuart Desjardins, Jessica Devonport, Lisa Edwards, Kalem Flanagan, Adelina Gavrila, Girma Berahnu Gebre , Valerio Gelfo, Georgia Georgiou, Daniel Giblin, Benjamin Goodall, Allon Gould, Andrew Gray, Laetitia Gunton, Adam Harding, Grace Harley, Richard Harrison, Jennifer Hayward, Natalie Haywood, Anne-Laure Hepp, Nicholas Holmes, Julie Hope, Daniel Hunter, Maxwell Kaplan, Shirley Keeton, Emma Kleppang, Heidi Knight, James Leaf, Tanya Leslie, Stephen Mansbridge, Jennifer Martin, Victoria Martin, Lucia Martin Lopez, Sue McCarthy, Claire Metcalf, Julia Morrison, Catriona Munro, Emma Murphy, Joanna Murray, Felicity Muth, Huda Nuamah, Przemyslaw Ociepa, Ashleen O’Kane, Helen Orbidans, Zigmunds Orlovskis, Andrew Pearce, Matthew Pearson, Philip Peart, Beth Penrose, Holly-Anna Peterson, Robert Pickering, Aurelien Pommier, Daniel Power, Greg Pridgeon, Daniella Rabaiotti, Mohammed Rasool, Sophie Robinson, Gavin Rutledge, Rebecca Saleeb, Carys Scholefield, Ahmad
Sharif, Kimberley Smith, Graeme Sneddon, Georgina Snelling, Thomas Spence, Lauren Sumner-Rooney, Gabriel Svobodny, Nicola Talbot, Nigel Taylor, Tara Thrupp, Hannah Train, Abhishek Trehan, Lucy Watson, Nigel Wells, Amy Whetstone, Leigh Williams, Leanne Wright, Yuxin Wu, Huma Yousuf. Member (MSB) Marja Aberson, Christopher Aiken, Than Aung, Christopher Aylward, Ian Baines, Ethan Baldry, Pallavi Banerjee, Michael Jimmy Bassey, Carlo Berti, Sarah Boffey, Clare Buckland, Elaine Cadogan, Kirandeep Chana, Mike Clease, Richard Clemence, Johnathan Connell, Bertha Corcuera, Alejandro Correa, Philip Cranley, Jon Curwen, Michael Dodd, Kwabena Duedu, Andrew Duggan, Peter Elliott, Beatrix Fahnert, Paul Farrington, Ian Faulkner, Jeremy Frith, Kay Greenshields, Achuta Guddati, Ryan Guest, James Hall, Emily Harris, Lauren Headland Jones, Gareth Hughes, Zaharah Ibrahim, David Jones, Philip Jones, Mustak Kapadia, Elizabeth Kemp, Sharad Kholia, Hon-Hung, Ken Kwok, Andrew Lambert, Kar Tat Eddie Lee, Susan Lee, Nathan Leishman, Gillian Lewis, Armelle Logie, Claire Lonsdale, Dee Marshall, Karen McDaid, Jane McKenzie, Anthea McRiley, Jamilah MohdSalim, Lorraine Mooney-Drummond, Minal Pandya, Vikesh Patel, Suresh Pillai, Matthew Price, Joanne Priestley, Amar Rahi, Jonathan Ratcliffe, Camilla Robinson, Alfred Rogers, Chester Sands, Fraser Scott, Jo-Anne Sewlal, Kit Hang Siu, Richard Spencer, Julie Stamford, Benjamin Swift, Hei-Man Vincent Tang, Jane Thompson, Dawn Trueman, Dale Tucker, Hector Valero Garcia, Will Vincent, Sarah Willoughby, Peter Wilson, Zena Wilson, Nazia Yamin, George Zouganelis. RSciTech Ian Baldwin, Christopher Claxton, Shivonne Cracknell, Adam Fletcher. RSci Deborah Lee Bolton, Alice Daish. Chartered Biologist Member (CBiol MSB) Gemma Bray, Hannah Brett, Adam Byron, Fernando da Mata, Louise Foster, James Higgins, Nicholas Humphreys, Henry McLaughlin, Hiroki Mori, Vydeki Shanmuganathan. Chartered Scientist Member (CSci MSB) Raymond Boughton, Ian Cox, Kay Greenshields, Michael Jones, Jonathan Lipman, Philip Richardson, Paul Ritchie, Parco M Siu. Fellow (FSB) Marios Adamou, Asif Ahmed, Stuart Allen, Roger Anderson, Graham Boulnois, Phil Boyd, Steven Burr, George Christophides, David Coggan, Mahomed Dada, Mark Darlison, Claire Edwards, Dylan Edwards, Clifford Elcombe, Sebastien Farnaud, Claude Gagna, Neville Hall, Thomas Hietzker, Anna Hine, Bruce Hood, Theresa Huxley, Jacqueline Johnson, Leslie Kent, Sandra Kirk, Nick Lane, Alan Muir, Kevin O’Dell, Peter Okorie, Andrew Owen, Sharon Pearsall, Ole Petersen, Jennifer Potts , Dan Quinton, Paul Ramsay, Rona Ramsay, Alan Raybould, Julie Roberts, Stephen Rutherford, Fergus Ryan, Jon Sayers, John Schwabe, Crispian Scully, Frank Sengpiel, Steven Setford, Cliff Sharp, Michael Shipston, Anita Simmers, David Skydmore, Karen Smith, Alan Spivey, Michael Stear, Katherine Steele, Molly Stevens, Charles Streuli, James Stutchbury, Roger Tabor, Gareth Thomas, Nicholas Topley, Charlotte Uhlenbroek, Iain Valentine, Anthony Whetton, Andrew Wilkie, Clifford Wood, David Wraith, Iain Young. Chartered Scientist Fellow (CSci FSB) Clifford Collis, Douglas Cross.
RJBE_46_4_OC_TandF 11/15/2012 7:07 PM Page 1
ISSN 0021-9266 ISSN 0021-9266
Volume46 45 Volume
Number 43 Number
September 2012 2011 December
ERIDOB ISSUE Contents
Note from the EditorStudents’ learning outcomes and learning experiences through playing a Serious
David Slingsby Educational Game Number 2 June 2011 Meng-Tzu EditorialCheng and Len Annetta
Development and application of a two-tier multiple-choice diagnostic test for Authenticity in biology education: benefits and challenges David Slingsby understanding of cell division and reproduction Volume 46 Number Number September Anat Yarden andhigh Graca S.students’ Carvalho Volume 45 23 school June 2011 2012 Ertugrul Sesli and Yilmaz Kara
HIV/AIDS content knowledge and presentation strategies in biology for effective Anat Yarden and Graca S. Carvalho Children’s attitudes use towards animals: in everyday lifeevidence from the RODENTIA project
Volume 46 Number 4 December 2012 Volume 45 Number 3 September 2011
Children’s attitudes towards animals: evidence from the RODENTIA project Conceptual ecology of evolution acceptance among Greek education students: Maria Joa˜o Fonseca, Nuno H. Franco, Francis Brosseron, paper the contribution of knowledge increase
´lio Borlido-Santos Fernando Tavares, I.Efstratios Anna S. Olsson and Athanasiou, Katakos andJu Penelope Supporting learning Kyriacos of high-school genetics using authentic research practices:Papadopoulou the teacher’s role Case Studypaper Research
Research paper Research Paper Authenticity in biology education: benefits and challenges
Research Paper Note from the Editor
Maria Joa˜o Fonseca, Nuno H. Franco, Lindelani Mnguni and MiaFrancis Abrie Brosseron, Research paper Fernando Tavares, I. Anna S. Olsson and Ju´lio Borlido-Santos Research Paper
Journal of of Biological Biological Education Education Journal
Journal of Biological Education
JournalofofBiological Biological Education Education Journal
Journal of Biological Education
ISSN ISSN 0021-9266 0021-9266
CanAnat the effectiveness Hadas Gelbart and Yarden of different forms of feedback be measured? Retention and 129 Supporting learningfor of written high-school genetics using authentic practices: the student preference and verbal feedback in level 4research bioscience students
teacher’s role Phil Buckley Research paper
Hadas Gelbart and Anat Yarden Practical Developing a pedagogy of risk in socio-scientific issues
An interdisciplinary experiment: azo-dye metabolism by Staphylococcus aureus
Research paper Ralph Levinson, Kayleigh Phillip Kent, David Robert Pratt, Smith Ramesh and Brocklesby, andKapadia Duncan Sharp Cristina Yogui Developing a pedagogy of risk in socio-scientific issues Practical Ralph Levinson, Phillip Kent, David Pratt, Ramesh Kapadia and
Research paper Book Reviews € Zabel and Harald Jorg Gropengiesser
The reasoned arguments of a group of future biotechnology technicians on a controversial Research paper socio-scientific issue: human gene therapy
The reasoned arguments of a group of future biotechnology technicians on a controversial 150 socio-scientific issue: human gene therapy
Laurence Simonneaux and Habib Chouchane
Laurence Simonneaux and Habib Chouchane
Research paper Towards an inter-language of talking science: exploring students’ argumentation in relation to authentic language Towards an inter-language of talking science: exploring students’ argumentation in relation Clas Olander andtoA˚authentic ke Ingerman language
Clas Olander and A˚ke Ingerman
Volume Volume45 46 Number Number3 4 September December2011 2012
45 Number 2 June2012 2011 Volume Volume 46 Number 3 September
Volume 45 Number 3 September 2011
€ Zabel and Harald Gropengiesser Jorg Research paper
Learning progress in evolution theory: climbing a ladder or roaming a landscape?
Vladan Ondrˇ ej and Petr Dvorˇ ák Learning progress in evolution theory: climbing a ladder or roaming a landscape?
Bioinformatics: a history of evolution in silico Research paper Cristina Yogui
MAGENTA CYAN CYAN MAGENTA
Journalofof Journal BiologicalEducation Education Biological Journal of Biological Education is firmly established as the authoritative voice
Journal in ofthe Biological is firmly established as the world ofEducation biological education. The journal aims toauthoritative bridge the gapvoice between in the world of biological education. The journal aims toand bridge the gap between research and practice, providing information, ideas opinion, in addition to critical research and practice, ideasand andteaching. opinion, in addition to critical examinations ofproviding advances information, in biology research examinations of advances in biology research and teaching. Through the coverage of policy and curriculum developments, the latest results research into of thepolicy teaching, and developments, assessment of biology are brought Throughofthe coverage andlearning curriculum the latest results to the fore. of research into the teaching, learning and assessment of biology are brought to the fore. Each volume of JBE contains four issues and members of the Society of Biology can subscribe forcontains just £40 afour year.issues Contact JBE@societyofbiology.org forof more details. Each volume of JBE and members of the Society Biology can www.tandfonline.com/rjbe subscribe for just £40 a year. Contact JBE@societyofbiology.org for more details.
www.tandfonline.com/rjbe Published on behalf of the Society of Biology by Routledge
Published on behalf of the Society of Biology by Routledge
Branch events Dates for your diary: what’s going on in your local area
East Midlands PROFESSOR LIZ SOCKETT LECTURE
Tuesday 26 February 2013 Predatory Bdellovibrio bacteria kill pathogens: Can they be our allies in a world of increasing antibiotic resistance? Liz’s lecture will be at the University of Leicester. For further details contact Dr Cas Kramer firstname.lastname@example.org or Dr Ron Dixon email@example.com
REGIONAL SCHOOLS BIOLOGY COMPETITION
The Yorkshire branch will be visiting the Himalayan Garden and Sculpture Park, Ripon.
For more details and to book a place on an event, see Branch Contacts, far right, unless stated otherwise.
Devon & Cornwall PROFESSOR DAVID NICHOLS LECTURE
Saturday 23 February 2013 14:00 Starfishes have five arms, while seaanemones and corals have multiples of four. Some use colour for camouflage, but others for advertisement or warning and yet others use light in their defence. A lecture on a fascinating variation of echinoderms will be held in The School of Biosciences, Geoffrey Pope Building, University of Exeter. Refreshments are provided. Everyone is welcome and more details will be available on the branch website. 42 / THE BIOLOGIST / Vol 60 No 1
STEPPING OUT IN SPRING
Saturday 27 April 2013 14:00 Horticulturist and plant historian Caradoc Doy will lead this illustrated talk and guided walk in the grounds of the University of Exeter. Caradoc was trained at Pershore College of Horticulture and has become an authority on the history of the Veitch Nurseries. Meet in the Seminar Room, School of Biosciences, Geoffrey Pope Building, University of Exeter.
LUNDY ISLAND VISIT
Tuesday 2-9 July 2013 Members will be staying on Lundy Island this summer and welcome those who would like to come along. The boat goes over on Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday and Saturday of that week.
Saturday 16 March 2013 There will be a series of biology poster, essay and podcast competitions to celebrate National Science & Engineering Week (15-22 March 2013). Prize giving will take place at the University of Leicester. For further details contact Dr Cas Kramer firstname.lastname@example.org and to register your school to enter please contact email@example.com
London WALKING ISLINGTON’S MEDICAL HISTORY
Friday 13 April 2013 13:00 Starting at Angel Underground Station (Northern Line) the walk will last one to two hours and explore many of the historical medical sites in Islington, such as the first GP surgery and an early pharmacy. Also we will visit London Fever Hospital, once the main facility for London’s fever patients. The walk is free, but please book online via the mySociety area of the Society’s website. For details email firstname.lastname@example.org
North Western BURTON MERE RSPB
Saturday 9 March 2013 Booking is essential for this guided walk on Burton Mere wetlands. Further www.societyofbiology.org/branches
details and prices are available on the branch pages of the Society’s website.
NATURAL HISTORY PHOTOGRAPHY DAY
April 2013 A photography day on Hilbre Island. Further details and prices are available on the branch pages of the Society’s website.
ANNUAL SCHOOLS QUIZ
Wednesday 19 June 2013 This year our popular quiz will be held at UCLAN, Preston. Communications will be made with past participants; new schools are always welcome to the competition.
Scotland ANNUAL PETER WILSON LECTURE
Thursday 21 February 2013 The Royal Society of Edinburgh is hosting The Evidential Basis for Food and Environmental Policy lecture by Professor Ian Boyd, chief scientific adviser to DEFRA. Food and environmental policy are arguably the most important for any government because of the duty to ensure that there is a sufficient supply of the basic commodities for life. Further details are available on the branch website.
Thames Valley FUNCTIONAL FOODS LECTURE
Corner (south of the Village of Meare, Somerset) at OS grid reference ST 449397. Contact Mark Howard at email@example.com or 01179 423688 to book. Please give a contact telephone number in case of bad weather.
Yorkshire ARE HUMANS STILL EVOLVING?
Wednesday 20 February 2013 17:30 Is human evolution over? Have the great advancements in technology and medicine weakened natural selection’s grip over us? Professor Steve Jones is a well-known proponent of the view that human evolution has drastically slowed down or even stopped altogether. We welcome him to share his views and arguments over this scientificallycontentious discussion. Members’ price is £2 and for non-members £3. Richard Robert’s Auditorium, The University of Sheffield, 117 Brook Hill, Sheffield S3 7HF.
RETIRED MEMBERS LUNCH
Thursday 14 March 2013 12:00 We will meet at The Farthings Restaurant, Leeds City College, Thomas Danby Campus, Leeds LS7 3BG. For £5 members will get a three-course lunch and coffee. Contact Cliff Beddows for further details: firstname.lastname@example.org
HIMALAYAN GARDEN AND SCULPTURE PARK
Thursday 7 March 2013 19:00 Professor Bob Rastell, Department of Food and Nutritional Studies at Reading, will be speaking about the development of biotechnological manufacturing methods for functional food ingredients such as probiotics. This annual joint lecture with the Royal Society of Chemistry is at Harborne Building, University of Reading, Whiteknights Campus.
Saturday 18 May 2013 11:00 A visit to the spectacular woodland garden which shows off azaleas, rhododendrons, magnolias, cornus and other Himalayan plants in their natural setting, 850 feet above sea level. Meet at the Himalayan Garden and Sculpture Park, The Hutts, Grewelthorpe, Ripon HG4 3DA. Admission price £6. Further details at www.himalayangarden.com
AGM WITH ROYAL SOCIETY OF CHEMISTRY
STARLING ROOST SPECTACULAR AND RESERVE WALK
Thursday 7 February 2013 14:00-17:30 A guided walk through the RSPB Ham Wall Nature Reserve with former assistant warden, Mike Johnson. We may stray from the old railway track so bring suitable footwear. Meet at the Natural England Car Park at Ashcott www.societyofbiology.org/branches
Wednesday 22 May 2013 18:00 This year the annual meeting jointly arranged with the local branch of the RSC will feature Professor Charles Lacey discussing Drug Development. It will be hosted at the Chemistry Department, University of York and attendance is free. Further details will be available on the branch pages of the Society’s website.
BRANCH CONTACTS BEDS, ESSEX & HERTS Dr Theresa Huxley email@example.com DEVON & CORNWALL Miss Christine Fry firstname.lastname@example.org EAST ANGLIA Miss Amanda Burton email@example.com EAST MIDLANDS Mrs Rosemary Hall firstname.lastname@example.org KENT, SURREY & SUSSEX Dr David Ware kentsurreysussex@ societyofbiology.org LONDON Mr Ken Allen email@example.com NORTH WALES Dr Rosemary Solbé firstname.lastname@example.org NORTH WESTERN Mr Glenn Upton-Fletcher email@example.com NORTHERN Dr Michael Rowell firstname.lastname@example.org NORTHERN IRELAND Dr David Roberts email@example.com SCOTLAND Dr Jacqueline Nairn firstname.lastname@example.org THAMES VALLEY Ray Gibson email@example.com WESSEX Ms Rachel Wilson firstname.lastname@example.org WEST MIDLANDS Ms Debbie Dixon email@example.com WESTERN Ms Joan Ashley firstname.lastname@example.org YORKSHIRE Mr Paul Bartlett email@example.com Vol 60 No 1 / THE BIOLOGIST / 43
BRANCH NEWS EVENT REPORTS
Branch reports A round-up of our members’ activities
Amphibian Breeding Unit, and Giraffe Quarters. We loved feeding the giraffes – and meeting the recently born baby. Some chose to visit the state-of-the-art greenhouses, featuring vertical hydroponic growing systems (Verticrop), the produce of which formed part of our tasty lunch. Christine Fry MSB
East Midlands FABULOUS FUNGI
Devon & Cornwall UP CLOSE AND PERSONAL
Some of the Devon & Cornwall members at the Giraffe Quarters, Paignton Zoo.
19 October 2012 An eclectic mix of about 40 members visited Paignton Zoo. Dr Amy Plowman, head of field conservation and research, introduced us to the zoo’s scientific work and trust, and members caught up over lunch to exchange ideas and discoveries. We then formed groups for exclusive behind the scenes visits to our chosen areas – the Avian Breeding Centre, Bio-secure
28 October 2012 Ray Halstead, expert mycologist and county recorder for Lincolnshire, led the annual public foray at Whisby Nature Park. About 25 of us soon found mushrooms and toadstools aplenty. The yellowing knight (Tricholoma scalpturatum) was one of the first finds although it needed to be taken home for positive identification. The snowy waxcap (Hygrocybe virginea) was discovered south of the railway line in some short grass and clouded agaric (Clitocybe nebularis) was found in the leaf litter under an oak tree. In the woodland we came across brown rollrim (Paxillus involutus) and, growing from the base of an old stump, the oyster mushroom (Pleurotus ostreatus). The latter is prized for its culinary value; the former most certainly not! A large and very old brown birch bolete (Leccinum scabrum) was handed to Ray but, much to the disappointment of some of the youngsters, it wasn’t stuffed full of maggots – as they often are – when he sliced it through. Ray Halstead
AGM & LECTURE
22 November 2012 Nottingham Trent University hosted our Annual General Meeting, where 44 / THE BIOLOGIST / Vol 60 No 1
we accepted the chairman’s and treasurer’s report and agreed the budget for 2012-13. A special mention was made for Dr Pat Horton’s contribution to branch life as she announced her retirement from the committee. Dr Horton devoted considerable time to ensuring that the branch ran smoothly and recently finished a stint as treasurer in challenging times. Dr Horton’s position of treasurer has been taken by Dr Cas Kramer from the University of Leicester. The evening concluded with a lecture on The Performance Animal: A scientific approach, by Dr Jacqueline Boyd and Cassie White of Nottingham Trent University. It was interesting to hear how the scientific approach to enhancing the performance of elite athletes was being applied to horses and dogs. Performance mapping is not new to the equine world but lags behind the modern sports science applied to humans. Looking at the performance of canine athletes is a young, but rapidly developing, science. David Ashworth CBiol MSB
Kent, Surrey & Sussex ZOMBIEISM
17 October 2012 The strange phenomenon of ‘zombieism’ entertained students at Sutton High School for Girls. Dr Anna Tanczos, from the University of Surrey, gave an engaging and informative presentation linking zombie tales to sodium transport channels. The story starts at the Albert Schweitzer hospital in Deschapelle, Haiti, with the appearance of a desperately sick man called Clairvius Narcisse. Shortly after his arrival he was declared dead and then buried. Around 18 years later he reappeared, and claimed not to have been dead but paralysed and that he remembered being buried. It seems likely that Clairvius had been poisoned by tetrodotoxin, a toxin produced by symbiotic bacterial species such as Pseudoalteromonas www.societyofbiology.org/branches
tetraodonis and Vibrio alginolyticus and present in a number of animals, including puffer fish. Dr Tanczos explained that though the existence of zombieism is much disputed, tetrodotoxin is a known inhibitor of voltage gated fast sodium channels in nerve cell membranes, blocking nerve pathways and preventing muscular contraction. The toxin is usually fatal but occasionally it can cause total paralysis. The topic provoked plenty of discussion. Dr David Ware CBiol FSB
11 November 2012 Professor Maurice Moss led 30 members and guests in search of fungi amongst the autumn leaves in Sheepleas, Surrey. A range of wood-rotting species were identified, such as the razor-strop fungus (Piptoporus betulinus) and the artist’s bracket (Ganoderma applanatum), named because when the lower surface is scratched it changes from light to dark brown, producing clear lines. Another common polypore, the turkey tail fungus (Trametes versicolo), relates to the white to brown bands on the upper surface of its fruiting body. We also found, on an old tree stump, the small conical agaric, bleeding fairy helmet (Mycena haematopus) which, when cut, exudes a red dye. The magpie fungus (Coprinus picacea) discovered among beech leaves is possibly poisonous and certainly unpleasant as it is reported to produce the volatile compound skatole, found in human faeces. There was also the parasol mushroom (Macrolepiota procera), known as a delicacy, and the slimy milk-cap (Lactarius blennius), with
its pale olive green/grey convex cap. A full list of the fungi identified is available on the branch website. Dr David Ware CBiol FSB
London HERBAL MEDICINE
22 November 2012 Simon Mills, an authority on herbal medicines, gave a stimulating insight into them, comparing ancient ideas with modern treatments. Simon discussed a wide range of plants and spices with health promoting properties, including turmeric, wormwood and black pepper. He argued that modern approaches to healthcare and treatments – the search for the ‘magic bullet’ – missed the original ideas and purposes of herbal medicines, where the body’s pattern of responses was more important than the illness itself. Disease and constitutional maladies were understood in simple terms related to hot, cold, damp or dry. For example, cold by itself is survivable, but cold and damp lead to illness. Treatment is to use warming spices such as ginger and cinnamon, two of the most valuable and sought after commodities in the days of the seafaring trade. Finally, when asked which herbal treatments he recommended for a long and healthy life, Simon replied “chocolate and red wine”, something everyone agreed could be a herbal treatment of choice. Dr Cliff Collis CSci CBiol FSB
Northern Ireland WHAT’S ALL THE BUZZ ABOUT?
16 October 2012 Our Biology Week lecture, held jointly with the County Armagh Wildlife Society, featured Dr Mark Brown, reader in ecology and conservation at Royal Holloway University and an international expert on social insects. His particular interest is in bumblebees and he treated a packed audience to a fascinating lecture on this endangered genus. Mark explained the phylogeny of bees in the Apidae family; only a few are social and these include the honey bee and bumblebee. The
Members in Northern Ireland were treated to a lecture on bumblebees by Dr Mark Brown, pictured second from left.
bumblebee has an advantage over other bee species in that it can generate extra heat in its body, allowing it to fly even in very cool conditions. However, the annual nature of its life cycle, with only the mated females hibernating, leaves the species sensitive to loss. The horticultural industry is dependent on the availability of sufficient insect pollinators. Conservationists are concerned that over the last 30 years the number of bumblebees has dropped considerably, due to competition from other bee species and parasites. Bumblebees normally thrive in wild areas populated with a wide variety of flowering plants, but this habitat is now disappearing due to widespread land-use changes and urbanisation. Dr Brian Green CBiol MSB
North Western MARINE DAY
24 October 2012 Oh, I do like to be beside the seaside! Especially during Biology Week… Together with Blackpool and The Fylde College and Sea Life Blackpool, our branch sponsored a Marine Day in Blackpool. The morning comprised of workshops: Katrin Lohrengel, from Sea Watch, helped identify cetaceans native to British waters; Dr Dan Exton, from the conservation organisation Operation Wallacea, demonstrated techniques involved in underwater surveys of coral reefs; and Glenn Upton-Fletcher shared his experiences of photographing wildlife. Matt Clough, who is responsible for shark tagging in the Mersey estuary and Liverpool Bay, gave our first lecture of the afternoon. He explained the importance of the research and the species that have been recorded in the area. Dr Exton then described the varied research opportunities Vol 60 No 1 / THE BIOLOGIST / 45
BRANCH NEWS EVENT REPORTS
invasive veterinary treatment without resorting to anaesthetics. Similarly, patterns of behaviour that maintain activity and fitness are encouraged: the tigers must jump into a large pool in their enclosure to drag ashore chunks of horsemeat tied to wooden rafts. The tigers and jaguars had been rescued from garages and backyards in the UK. Most people are familiar with conservation projects undertaken by zoos such as Whipsnade and Marwell but not of the work of ‘small’ zoos (fewer than 100,000 visitors annually) such as Sandown. We all came away with an extremely good impression – not just of Sandown Zoo itself – but also of its contributions to education and overseas conservation projects. Jack Coughlan CBiol MSB
available for students through Operation Wallacea. Delegates spent the early evening at Sea Life Blackpool – without the general public. Aquarists were on hand for informal tours around the aquariums, laboratories and quarantine area. The day concluded with a wine and cheese supper in view of the sharks, who showed little interest in the tasty Lancashire Creamy. Jean Wilson FSB
Thames Valley MAD COWS AND MOBILES
16 October 2012 In an interesting lecture, Professor Colin Blakemore discussed how public understanding of science has progressed over the last couple of decades – from mad cow disease to mobile phones. Interpreted by the public as a failure of science, the BSE scandal marked the beginning of the public losing interest in science. Colin described how the communication of science then became a duty of scientists. He concluded by stating that science can be good for society, and that there is a positive association with scientific advances and progression, especially in terms of human health. He noted that there is an increasingly positive image of scientists as experts in their fields. Dr Kerry Broom FSB
Wessex SANDOWN ZOO
15 September 2012 Branch member Tracy Dove, Sandown Zoo’s education and conservation officer, hosted our visit to the zoo on the Isle of Wight. Wessex has a dozen or so members on the island but this was the first time in the branch’s 40-plus years we have organised an event there. Tracy outlined Sandown Zoo’s history, ethos and activities, ranging from breeding programmes and international field conservation projects through to public education. A guided tour of the animal collection followed and the zoo’s vet discussed welfare aspects and explained how large cats could be trained, using a sort of Pavlovian conditioning, to accept routine non46 / THE BIOLOGIST / Vol 60 No 1
Norma Broadbridge MBE, who gave a talk on the Galapagos Islands to West Midlands members. The tortoise shell she is sitting on is empty and in a visitor centre and Norma is following all the conservation rules!
West Midlands THE GALAPAGOS – A BIOLOGIST’S DREAM
18 October 2012 We celebrated Biology Week 2012 with a talk on the Galapagos Islands at the University of Birmingham. Norma Broadbridge MBE fascinated us with maps, slides and quotes from Charles Darwin in an account of her journey through the islands. Darwin’s words made us smile; he clearly did not consider either the
islands or their wildlife beautiful. Alien species introduction and hunting by sailors have changed the islands’ flora and fauna from Darwin’s day. Conservation of indigenous species includes captive raising and release programmes. Visitors mainly tour the islands by boat, going ashore for visits each day, and Galapagos National Park imposes a ‘don’t touch the wildlife’ policy. The resulting animal indifference to visitors guarantees sightings at close quarters (a biologist’s dream), including the famous land and marine iguanas, though the Galapagos finches are more elusive. Pam Speed MSB
Yorkshire DEVELOPMENT IN ALL DIRECTIONS
10 November 2012 Over 70 people came to the University of Sheffield to hear about research developments in evolution, embryology and experimental medicine. Our co-hosts for the meeting had set up a living demonstration of newly fertilised zebra fish eggs under the microscope and individual cells could be clearly observed dividing and re-dividing. Dr Tanya Whitfield, of the MRC Centre for Developmental and Biomedical Genetics, described the development of the embryo, with video footage. We learnt how work on zebra fish has relevance to humans, for example the hedgehog signalling pathway – one of the key regulators in cell development in all bilaterians. Dr Paula Rudall of Kew took us in an entirely different direction: on the evolution of flowers. Dr Vincent Cunliffe discussed the work with zebra fish at the MRC Centre in Sheffield in more detail, illustrating his talk with images of the developing nervous system. Finally, Professor Peter Holland of Oxford University gave us an historical perspective on the classification of organisms. After a gallop from Bonnet through Cuvier we arrived (of course) at Darwin. The talks gave a clear demonstration of how initial nonapplied research with no particular purpose, except the extension of knowledge, can lead to important practical results in both the understanding of and approach to practical issues today. Clive Tiney CBiol MSB www.societyofbiology.org/branches
UK PlantSci 2013 University of Dundee 16th – 17th April
Keynote speakers Charles Godfray (University of Oxford) David Baulcombe (University of Cambridge) Annual Conference of the UK Plant Sciences Federation www.plantsci2013.org.uk
WIN A £25 BOOK TOKEN
Pit your wits against our synapse-sizzling biology brainteaser Across 1 4 9 10
Famous actor joins church (6) Gran involved in change of address (8) I will shortly leave artillery (6) Not viable – collapses without oxygen (8) 11 He gets thrown by pet pony (9) 13 Climb (5) 14 Terribly cold isn’t it around top of Norway (8) 15 It turns up in beer tent (4) 18 Tiny temperature and almost all use Kelvin (4) 20 After this place it’s terribly tidy (8) 24 Right path coming back (5) 25 My boss is one to get upset (9) 27 Litmus deployed by us (8) 28 Continue taking care of (6) 29 Wriggling eel gets into knots somehow (8) 30 Time to publish (6)
Volume 60 no 1 compiled by Doug Stanford 1
How to enter
15 16 19 22
Down 1 Ecosystem starts to suffer without a major predator (5) 2 Ran lest might become hunter’s trophy (7) 3 Sort of elementary vehicle, good French one, first in class (8) 5 Occurs when front of ship goes in to ram (6) 6 Sort of vacant expression when girl takes over guy’s heart (6) 7 Start broadcast outdoors (4-3) 8 Former partner with time merely upset? Not just merely (9) 12 Jaw from Tibetan animal reportedly (4) 14 Exotic trees isn’t what one likes to spend time on (9)
without a definition. One answer is an abbreviation. Down answers provide the normal combination of a definition and a cryptic indication.
16 Very small part of bigger machine (4) 17 Saying double helping of fruit makes you unwell (8) 19 One nurses treated at the start of the day (7) 21 Some curtains I design for interiors (7) 22 Everyone wanting cure that gets rid of cold – that is appealing (6) 23 Does up place to give the appearance of being genuine (6) 26 It’s said scents smell for example (5)
To be in with a chance of winning a £25 book token please send us your completed puzzles by Friday 8 March 2013. Please include your name, address and membership number with your entry – an email address would be handy too. Post your entries to: Crossword, The Biologist, Society of Biology, Charles Darwin House, 12 Roger Street, London, WC1N 2JU.
Well done to last issue’s winners, Dr Adam Byron CBiol MSB and Mr Brian Robert James Morgan CBiol MSB. Book tokens on the way.
Last issue’s solution Vol 59 No 5
Our usual crossword format with all the across answers being from the world of biology and clued Vol 60 No 1 / THE BIOLOGIST / 47
FINAL WORD DR MARK DOWNS FSB, CHIEF EXECUTIVE, SOCIETY OF BIOLOGY
We have the opportunity to learn from collaboration and, where needed, lead the debate
aking the Society more active, internationally, is important. As with biology, we have the opportunity to learn from international collaboration and, where needed, lead the debate. Most of the core challenges in biology, such as climate change or food security, require global solutions and professional bodies can play a key role. As a Society with a broad membership, we have a pretty good sense of what other learned societies do across the UK. But until recently our contact with likeminded organisations around the world has been far too limited. As a starting point, we have established links with the American Institute of Biological Sciences (AIBS). Like the Society, it has both individual and organisational members and I was delighted to speak at one of their recent strategy sessions. One of the first things that struck me in the US was the similarity in its structure and challenges. Much of the debate was the same as a meeting of Society Member Organisations â€“ open access and the impact on learned society publishing, academic freedom and libraries; evidence based
48 / THE BIOLOGIST / Vol 60 No 1
policy and influencing elected politicians; diversifying and growing membership; and helping with professional development and careers. But, unlike many Membership Organisations, and the Society of Biology itself, a glaring difference is the income received from government contracts at AIBS. In the same way that many UK charities have become reliant on large Government contracts for care or other service delivery, AIBS relies on a substantial contract to organise and operate peer review of US public biology funding. Being at the heart of a fair and robust peer review system that deals with the detail of US public funding is clearly attractive, but the risk of failing to renew terms every five years is a constant challenge. AIBS is not only keen to work more closely with us on global issues such as GM, stem cell research and sustainable development, but also on the mutual recognition of professional qualifications across the Atlantic. This could benefit members in both organisations, and weâ€™ve already made a start in North America by mutually recognising Chartership Status with the Canadian College of Applied Biology, where being registered is an employment requirement.
Recognising qualifications across international boundaries is an obvious area in which the Society can work with colleagues in European Union member states. But, a collective European voice on key policy areas is also critical. To influence the agenda in Brussels we need to join forces with other biology groups across the EU, and with more than 70% of our domestic legislation originating in Europe, there is a significant incentive. The Society has already been involved in a range of EU activity, from the Common Agricultural Policy to the Directive on the Use of Animals in Research, but links with sister organisations have been ad hoc and need to be strengthened. Our membership of the European Countries Biologists Association (ECBA) has been the historic route to EU collaboration, but it has lost direction and drive in recent years and is in urgent need of a facelift. To set the ball rolling, the Society is hosting a meeting of key ECBA members this month, after a very positive meeting with German colleagues in December. We hope this will be the start of a far more active role for the Society at a European level, and an increasing influence globally.
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