Tuesday, 20 August 2013

Chytrid and amphibians

A paper published by Rob Puschendorf and Ben Phillips from Australia called “Do pathogens become more virulent as they spread? Evidence from the amphibian declines in Central America”, re-examines prevalence data on the amphibian chytrid Batrachochytrium dendrobatidis (Bd) and amphibian population decline across 13 sites from southern Mexico through Central America and show that, in the initial phases of the Bd invasion, amphibian population decline lagged approximately nine years behind the arrival of the pathogen, but that this lag diminished markedly over time.  In total, their analysis suggests an increase in Bd virulence as it spread southwards; a pattern consistent with rapid evolution of increased virulence on Bd’s invading front. The impact of Bd on amphibians might, therefore, be driven by rapid evolution in addition to more proximate environmental drivers.

Atelopus varius - Harlequin Frog

Histo image of chytrid

Citation: Phillips, B. L., & Puschendorf, R. (2013). Do pathogens become more virulent as they spread? Evidence from the amphibian declines in Central America. Proceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences, 280(1766), 20131290. doi:10.1098/rspb.2013.1290

This story has also been covered here, here and here.

Friday, 16 August 2013

Miguel Franco in the British Ecological Society's list of 100 most influential papers

The British Ecological Society was founded in 1913, so is celebrating its 100th year with a Festival of Ecology. As part of the celebrations, the society asked ecologists across the world to nominate their most influential paper published in the society's journals and regular publications (click on "Read more", below, to see which). The results are now in, and the 100 most influential papers are available to view in an interactive pdf. It's a great selection of classic papers, with some real favourites of mine. I'm happy to say that Miguel Franco, one of our conservation biology lecturers, has made the list with a brilliant paper on plant demography.

Silvertown J, Franco M, Pisanty I & Mendoza A (1993) Comparative plant demography - relative importance of life-cycle components to the finite rate of increase in woody and herbaceous perennials. Journal of Ecology, 81: 465-476.

You can download the full text from the interactive pdf. But please look at the rest of the papers in the list. It really is a fantastic way of broadening your ecological understanding.

And here's to the next 100 years!

Thursday, 15 August 2013

Wednesday, 14 August 2013

Adventurous Dining - Entomophagy

For those of you who fancy a slightly different dining experience, Peter Gorton (of Gorton’s restaurant in Tavistock) is offering University staff a chance to sample a range of tropical dishes with an entomological flavour. He has devised a four course meal in which UK farmed insects appear in every course. In some courses the insects will be evident and others they will provide a culinary background.

Monday, 12 August 2013

My Andean Adventure

by Nick Holmberg

Discovering the beautiful ruins of Machu Picchu in Peru.
When I heard there was a possibility of going on a work placement in Ecuador and Peru, I knew it was something I had to do. The prospect of discovering a new country, a new culture and more importantly, working in natural habitats that I had never seen before was too exciting to pass up. Paul Ramsay, my supervisor and coordinator of the trip, explained that my work would consist of several short placements with various organisations and NGOs, allowing me to gain experience in different fields. So I packed my bags and boarded a plane to the other side of the world!

As soon as I arrived in Quito, the capital of Ecuador, I realised that South America was very different to any other country I had ever been to and that the next 8 months were going to be unlike anything I had ever experienced before!

Saturday, 10 August 2013

Spotlight on Conservation Biology

Our Conservation Biology degree does exactly what it says on the tin! From a theoretical basis in the science of biodiversity and biology the course teaches you about how we can help to conserve and maintain biodiversity on the planet from conserving species threatened with extinction to managing and restoring ecosystems for biodiversity. Plymouth is in an excellent position geographically and we make use of the wide range of natural laboratories on our doorstep as well as our excellent teaching laboratories and facilities. Click here to get much more information on the course starting in September 2013.

Spotlight on Environmental Biology

With clearing coming up next week and A-level students starting to think about university applications, we thought it might be useful to give a little insight into a couple of our courses outside the formal setting of the University course pages.

Our Environmental Biology degree is an exciting course to study giving a good background in Biology, Biodiversity and Ecology and relating those to the contemporary issues of climate change and the impact that Man has on the planet. We are really keen on practical skills and the course offers a unique mix of field and lab work which allows our students to go on to good jobs in the environmental sector where skills attained during your degree in areas such as Ecotoxicology, Microbiology and Biochemistry can be combined with field Biology and Ecology. Given the breadth of the degree, there are numerous employment and further study opportunities. Our lab facilities will give you access to cutting edge techniques like genomics and proteomics as well as the classics of lab biology. We also have excellent links with local, national and international organisations that will give you the opportunity to interact with biology professionals and if you want to take the opportunity, you can undertake a placement year at the end of your second year.

Monday, 5 August 2013

Developments in the department

From the first of August, the EEB group is now (mostly) in the new School of Biological Sciences in the new Faculty of Science and the Environment. Visit our new website: https://www1.plymouth.ac.uk/schools/bio/Pages/default.aspx or follow us on our twitter account: @plymouthbiol