Monday, July 31, 2017

nature on fire

Open Archive Day

It's wildfire season in the Northern hemisphere, so a good time to re-consider my feature from two years ago on how nature can live with fire, but humans have managed to turn it into a problem - partly by stopping it from happening.

My feature is on open access here:

Learning to live with landscape fires




A forest fire near Sydney, Australia, dwarfs a fire truck sent to contain it. (Photo: Stefan Doerr, Swansea University.)

Wednesday, July 26, 2017

what is life

the latest issue of C&I contains my review of a book called "What is life?" - sadly not Schrödinger's take on the matter though.

Free access.

Tuesday, July 25, 2017

fragmented forests

Brazil hosts a pioneering experiment designed to study the ecological damage done by forest fragmentation. After making some real progress in slowing down deforestation, however, the country is now once again speeding up the destruction of the Amazon rainforest. The lessons learned in decades of research in the Amazon clearly haven't made much of an impact on the people now in power.

Read all about it in my latest feature, which is now out:

Brazil's fragmented forests


Current Biology volume 27, Issue 14, 24 July 2017, Pages R681–R684

Restricted access to full text and PDF download

(will become open access one year after publication)

Magic link for free access
(first seven weeks only)

Oh, and I think this must be the 150th contribution in the series of features started in February 2011.



Research at the BDFFP has shown that forest fragmentation and edge effects significantly alter the abundance of bats. (Photo: Oriol Massana and Adrià López-Baucells.)

Monday, July 10, 2017

climate canaries

So I came across a story about albatrosses and how they are affected by ocean warming, and I wanted to do effects of warming more widely (other than corals), but all roads led to birds. Ocean warmings leads to more frequent extreme climate events, and it turns out that birds with their complex life cycles including migration, nest-building and parental care routines, are often quite vulnerable to these events. So they are our modern day coalmine canaries in a way.

All will be explained in my latest feature out now:


Volatile climate stirs bird life cycle


Current Biology Volume 27, Issue 13, pR623–R625, 10 July 2017


Restricted access to full text and PDF download
(will become open access one year after publication)


Magic link for free access
(first seven weeks only)




Sea birds like albatrosses are sensitive to changes in ocean temperatures. In one recent study, a well-studied population was shown to suffer from the increasing temperature variations but to benefit from recent warming bringing it closer to its temperature optimum. (Photo: Lieutenant Elizabeth Crapo/NOAA Corps. (CC BY 2.0).)

Tuesday, July 04, 2017

dvořák sonatina

I've just finished off the Dvořák sonatina op 100, having played all four movements over the last few months. I love it mainly for its echoes of the other "American" works, including the cello concerto and the New World symphony, which Dvořák wrote around the same time.

I started this adventure by buying a flute arrangement by James Galway, but soon realised he needlessly transposed the entire work as high up as physically possible, which in my ears doesn't sound very nice even if it is played competently, never mind when I try it. So I went back to the violin version (which is free online) and started from that, made it a bit more flutey with my teacher's help, looking at Galway's version for inspiration only where changes were necessary.

You can find a version that follows similar lines and uses the richer colours of the lower register here, played by Julien Beaudiment.

Next up: Albert Einstein's favourite Mozart sonata.

Monday, July 03, 2017

ecosystem service update

Open Archive Day

The ecosystem services concept aims to quantify the commercial value of all the natural resources we generally use without thinking, from the air that we breathe to the rain that waters our plants. The idea is that businesses have so far failed to protect these natural resources because they don't show up on balance sheets, and they appeared to be in unlimited supply, although we now know that they aren't and that in some respects we have already exceeded the capacity of our planet.

I learned about these things in 2011 and wrote a feature about them which is now openly accessible:


Valuing nature


The ideas have become more widely known since then but haven't quite managed to save the world as yet. It has also been criticised by some environmentalists, eg George Monbiot, on the grounds of turning nature into just another commodity.



Related Posts with Thumbnails