Imitating art imitating life

By Gina Degtyareva, a biology undergraduate at the University of Bristol 

My heart was split between arts and sciences for a long time until I was choosing my A-levels I realised that they can be combined in many ways. One of these ways is wildlife and nature photography. I love this area of photography because I love biology and it enables you to explore and learn about the creatures of the world without leaving your home. Our environment is constantly changing and photography also gives you the chance to capture moments that will never be repeated. Read more »

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What makes a good conservation photograph?

By Davide Gaglio, amateur photographer and student at the Percy FitzPatrick Institute of African Ornithology

Describing what photography is for me is already a very difficult task. When we narrow the topic to ‘conservation photography’ it becomes even more challenging. Is not easy to judge when a photograph including wildlife or a natural resource is able to convey protection of the environment effectively.

For acclaimed National Geographic photographer Joel Sartore the ‘nature photograph’ shows a butterfly on a pretty flower. The ‘conservation photograph’ shows the same thing, but with a bulldozer coming at it in the background. In agreement with that, I think an image aiming to raise awareness of environmental issues should not only document the issue but must include the right mixture of originality, drama and beauty. Read more »

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The macro-problem of microplastics

By Matt Turley AMRSB, NERC-funded PhD student at the University of Brighton and policy intern at the Royal Society of Biology

The presence of plastics, particularly microplastics, in the environment has received increasing attention in recent years, with the UK government launching an inquiry last month (closing 15 April). Microplastics are particles of plastic smaller than 5mm, often containing a range of toxic chemicals. They are not new pollutants, but it is only recently that we have begun to understand the scale of the problem. They are introduced to the environment either directly, such as via toiletries or cleaning products, or indirectly via the breakdown of larger plastic products, of which around 300 million tonnes are manufactured globally. Read more »

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The proof is in the shoeprint

By Gina Degtyareva, communications intern at the Royal Society of Biology

Has anyone ever told you that you have a distinct walk? Or that they can recognise you by your stride? Well that can actually be quantified and measured in your shoeprint.

It is common knowledge that fingerprints are unique to an individual and are a good way of identifying a person, but have you ever thought about the information that can be recovered from your shoeprint? It’s not just the brand and style of shoe that can be discerned. Although this is useful information it is limiting due to the finite number of styles and many people owning the same shoes.

Footprints are the third most common type of evidence found at a crime scene. Forensic analysis of footwear prints is a fast growing field employing various imaging techniques to gain specific information from a shoe print so it can help in the identification of a suspect. By making images of shoe prints from a crime scene you could estimate the height, weight and gait of a suspect from the unique wear patterns on the sole of their shoe. You could also estimate roughly how fast a suspect was moving and even with how much force they kicked a surface. The shoeprints starts to become a rich and useful piece of evidence. Read more »

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People with disabilities in STEMM: challenges and future directions

By Gabriele Butkute, science policy assistant at the Royal Society of Biology

I recently attended the Future directions in STEMM for people with disabilities conference, organised by the STEMM Disability Advisory Committee (STEMM-DAC) of which the RSB is a member. It taught me a great deal about disability support, compassion and resilience.

Disability in the United Kingdom 2014: Facts and figures a report by the Papworth Trust, provides us with a lot of useful information to assess the scale of the issues surrounding disabilities in the country, and I find most of the findings worrying:

It is clear that the problems disabled people face while studying and in a workplace are huge and they deprive us of talent that people of all abilities and can bring.

Inclusion of people with disabilities in STEMM education and employment was the main topic of the conference, which raised issues regarding recruitment, induction, outreach and technical skills development. Read more »

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What is an alternative to impact factors?

Rebecca Nesbit MRSB has put together videos of advice from Nobel Laureates speaking at Nobel Prize Inspiration Initiative events.

Impact factors are flawed – we all know that, we all agree. But where do we go from here? They are a simple way to judge a researcher, and this is very welcome if you are comparing lots of applicants for jobs or grants. Read more »

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The ‘EU effect’ on our environment

Opinion piece by Matt Turley AMRSB, NERC-funded PhD student at the University of Brighton and policy intern at the Royal Society of Biology

A panel debate held this week by WWF-UK, RSPB and The Wildlife Trusts, following the release of their commissioned report by the Institute for European Environmental Policy, aimed to draw attention to the influence of UK membership of the EU, on our environment.

EU membership brings with it significant environmental policies. These are not simply aimed at the conservation of our protected and endangered species or habitats; they are also aimed at improving air quality for human health, reducing greenhouse gas emissions, and improving the sustainability of water and energy use. For example, the Renewable Energy Directive and the Energy Efficiency Directive, have overarching aims of moving towards a low-carbon economy, the EU Water Framework Directive is aimed at achieving good ecological status in surface waters, the EU Bathing Waters Directive dictates monitoring and protection of beaches, and the Marine Strategy Framework Directive is focused on protecting marine environments.
Read more »

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Young scientists question MPs and Ministers

By Harriet Gliddon, PhD student at Imperial College London

The House of Commons Science and Technology Committee and the Royal Society of Biology recently hosted the fifth Voice of the Future event. This is a unique event, where the normal select committee format is reversed, and MPs and civil servants answer the questions of early career researchers.

The event was opened by the wonderfully charismatic Speaker of the House of Commons, John Bercow. He gave a real sense of occasion to the event and was profuse in his thanks to Dr Stephen Benn, director of parliamentary affairs at the RSB, for organising it.

Session One began with an introduction from Sir Mark Walport, Government Chief Scientific Advisor, before the questions started. Read more »

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Newton’s Apple: bridging the gap between scientists and lawmakers

By Michael Wood, policy intern at the Royal Society of Biology and the Biochemical Society

It appears that there is a considerable level of disconnect between those who work in science and those who work in politics, and that until very recently this lack of engagement had not been tackled. For this reason, a group of science researchers, science communicators and parliamentarians formed Newton’s Apple. Set up in 2006, this charity aims to bridge the gap between scientists and lawmakers. Read more »

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