The Biologist says goodbye to plastic wrap

This week, when unwrapping your lovely new edition of The Biologist, you might notice a slight difference: the clear protective polythene wrap has been replaced with a milky, biodegradable envelope. This fully compostable biopolymer, known as Mater-Bi,  is composed of natural corn starch and vegetable oils. We will no longer use polythene, which is only sporadically recycled by UK councils. Read more »

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Top tips for an Athena SWAN application

Following our workshop in March, we asked attendees for feedback on the challenge of applying for an Athena SWAN award, and what advice they could give to future applications. I’ve collected these into three ‘top tips’ for those considering an application.

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Athena SWAN applications: Turning data into action

The importance of data in preparing an Athena SWAN application was one of the key messages to the delegates at our Athena SWAN workshop, held in March.

Our speakers all agreed on the importance of obtaining good diversity data – both quantitative and qualitative – as a basis for any departmental or institutional Athena SWAN award application.

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Adding folic acid to your flour

The early days and weeks following conception are critical to human life. During this period an embryo goes from being a tiny ball of identical cells to a complex array of specialised cells and structures, ready to develop into the organs that will support life.

The formation of the spinal cord and brain occurs during the first 28 days of pregnancy as a flattened sheet of cells curls up to form a cylinder called the neural tube. From this tube the brain begins to develop at one end, and at the other, the spinal cord forms. In one or two of every 1000 pregnancies this formation doesn’t happen properly, and produces a neural tube defect (NTD).

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Using citizen science to understand more about house spiders

Citizen science describes projects whereby members of the public work with researchers to provide useful and interesting scientific data. In the last five years or so, the approach has seen a big growth in all sorts of areas of science.
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Athena Swan Biosciences Best Practice Workshop

On 7th March 2018, we held our second Athena SWAN Biosciences Best Practice Workshop, timed to lead in with International Women’s day on 8th March.

If you weren’t able to attend on the day, footage of parts of the event are able to watch over on the RSB YouTube channel.

The Athena SWAN Charter was established to advance the representation of women in STEM and now offers awards to higher education institutes to recognise their commitment to progress on gender equality more broadly. It is run by the Equality Challenge Unit (ECU), which works to support equality and diversity for staff and students in higher education institutions in the UK.
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Travelling to China to discuss Begonia biodiversity

Thanks to the generous support of the Royal Society of Biology, I was able to attend the 19th International Botanical Congress (IBC) in Shenzhen, China, this July.

Held every six years, the IBC is the largest regular gathering of plant scientists, and this year was no different, with a record 7,000 delegates in attendance.

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Orchids, bears and the Galapagos: one travel grant recipient shares her story

Ecuador is declared the ‘Land of Orchids’, and for good reason. This small diverse country in South America has over 4,200 species of orchids owing to the vast number of climatic conditions provided by different habitats in the coastal regions, the Andes and the Amazon basin.

Ecuador is therefore the perfect place to host the 22nd World Orchid Conference, which has run triennially since 1954. For this reason, with the kind support of the Royal Society of Biology from their early career travel grant, I found myself in Guayaquil, Ecuador in early November 2017.
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Engaging young people with science: a science capital approach

For our last Policy Lunchbox, we were joined by Professor Louise Archer, the Karl Mannheim Professor of Sociology of Education at the UCL Institute of Education.

Louise’s talk focused on the Aspires2 longitudinal study and the Enterprising Science research and development project. Both projects seek to understand what shapes aspirations, engagement and participation in young people.
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#iamabiologist: using twitter to bring those working in the biosciences together

#iamabiologist studying the movement ecology of wild grey seals (Halichoerus grypus) using telemetry devices. This forms part of my doctoral work investigating the impacts of marine renewable energy developments on grey seal movement and behaviour in tidal environments.

I was extremely excited to get involved with the #iamabiologist Biology Week Twitter campaign. I think it is fantastic that the Royal Society of Biology are able to facilitate the dissemination of academic research into the public domain, and through such a casual and easily accessible platform like Twitter.
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