The agents of natural selection cause evolutionary changes in population gene pools. They include a plethora of familiar abiotic and biotic factors that affect growth, development, and reproduction in all living things.
Everyone knows that in June 1962, Rachel Carson published a series of articles that became Silent Spring, the eloquent book that launched the American environmental movement.
“Statistics,” as an old saying has it, sometimes “are used much like a drunk man uses a lamppost: for support, not illumination” This sounds bad, but is it? And if so, why? cientists sometimes use statistics to support an argument because statistics appear to lend authority that otherwise may seem lacking.
The recent brutal heat waves on the Indian subcontinent, in western North America, and in western Europe are instructive reminders of an often forgotten challenge for an urbanizing human population in a warming world: alleviating urban heat stress. Cities are durable and costly to change, so what we do now to reduce risk in a future with more numerous and more dangerous heat waves that will directly affect future generations.
My first experience of an academic conference as a biology books editor at Oxford University Press was of sitting in a ballroom in Ottawa in July 2012 listening to 3000 evolutionary biologists chanting ‘I’m a African’ while a rapper danced in front of a projection of Charles Darwin
Effective wildlife conservation is a challenge worldwide. Only a small percentage of the earth’s surface is park, reserve, or related areas designated for the protection of wild animals, marine life, and plants. Virtually all protected areas are smaller than what conservationists believe is needed to ensure species’ survival, and many of these areas suffer from a shortage of
Today, the amount of global genetic data is doubling on the order of every seven months. This time span has shortened significantly over the past years as the field of genomics continues to mature. A recent study showed genomics is starting to compete with the data outputs of digital giants like Twitter and YouTube.
In the late eighteenth century, against a troubled background of violent change on the continent and rising challenges to the Establishment at home, botanists were discovering strange creatures that defied the categories of ‘animal, vegetable, and mineral’.
Many of us probably tend to take fish for granted, as it’s a fairly sustainable resource—at least, that’s what we’d like believe. It’s difficult to imagine that we could even come close to depleting what seems to be limitless; after all, the earth is mostly covered in water. But as Ray and Ulrike Hilborn discuss in an excerpt from their book, Overfishing: What Everyone Needs to Know, there is reason for concern in our flippancy towards our complex ecosystem.
A river is a natural, living, organic whole, a hydrological and ecological system. It flows; that is its defining characteristic. As it flows, it performs many functions. It supports aquatic life and vegetation; provides drinking water to human beings, their livestock and wildlife; influences the micro-climate; recharges groundwater; dilutes pollutants and purifies itself; sustains a wide range of livelihoods; transports silt and enriches the soil; maintains the estuary in a good state; provides the necessary freshwater to the sea to keep its salinity at the right level; prevents the incursion of salinity from the sea; provides nutrients to marine life; and so on. It is also an integral part of human settlements, their lives, landscape, society, culture, history, and religion.
NASA’s New Horizons probe swept past Pluto and its moons at 17 km per second on 14 July. Even from the few close up images yet beamed back we can say that Pluto’s landscape is amazing. Charon, Pluto’s largest moon, is quite a sight too, and I’m glad that I delayed publication of my forthcoming Very Short Introduction to Moons so that I could include it.
Did you learn about Mrs Gren at school? She was a useful person to know when you wanted to remember that Movement, Respiration, Sensation, Growth, Reproduction, Excretion, and Nutrition were the defining signs of life. But did you ever wonder how accurate this classroom mnemonic really is, or where it comes from?
Early this week the spacecraft New Horizons began its flyby of Pluto, sending a wealth of information to back to Earth about Pluto and its moons. It’s an exciting time for astronomers and those intrigued by the dark dwarf planet. Pluto has special significance because it is the only planet in our solar system to have its status as a planet stripped and downgraded to a dwarf planet.
Within a year, we have been able to see our solar system as never before. In November 2014, the Philae Probe of the Rosetta spacecraft landed on the halter-shaped Comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko. In April 2015, the Dawn spacecraft entered orbit around the largest of the asteroids, Ceres (590 miles in diameter), orbiting between Mars and Jupiter. And in July, the New Horizons mission made the first flyby of the dwarf planet Pluto, making it the most distant solar-system object to be visited. Other spacecraft continue to investigate other planets.
Modern industry is foundational for contemporary society. Yet, its dependence upon fossil fuels, primarily, and upon other chemicals, secondarily, threatens to destroy that very same society. One should note, at the outset, that those industrial processes do not so much create greenhouse gases, as they are termed, but rather release them. Global warming threatens to restore our planet to an ancient equilibrium – an equilibrium that was home to tropical plants and dinosaurs, but not to man.
Environmental sustainability includes an ‘if’. The ‘if’ is implied, but invariably left unstated. Sustainability means ‘ability to endure across time’. When used as a matter of physical limitation, no ‘if’ is implied or needed.