Oxford University Press's
Academic Insights for the Thinking World

Disaster or disturbance: environmental science of natural extremes

Hurricane Harvey. Hurricane Maria. Natural disasters that will go down in the history of certain communities as ‘the big one’. Hurricanes and floods are disasters for human communities because of the loss of life and property and the damage to infrastructure. When I consider the recent hurricanes as an environmental scientist, however, I do not see them just as disasters.

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Lionfish: the perfect invader

The invasion of the Caribbean by Indo-Pacific lionfishes happened seemingly overnight. In the early 2000s, the first papers were published about lionfish sightings in places like Florida, half a world away from their native range—by 2010, they were almost everywhere in the Caribbean, and even now, they continue to expand the edges of their invasive Atlantic range.

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Animal of the month: 10 facts about bats

Bats are often portrayed in popular media as harbingers of doom and the embodiment of evil. They’re consistently associated with death, malevolent witches, and vampires. Batman, with his bat-like attributes, is easily the most sinister superhero in the league. Most people will have seen or heard about this creature, but what do we really know about them? So this month, ending on All Hallows’ Eve, we are celebrating this misunderstood mammal.

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Biology Week 2017: 10 facts about fungus

Organised by the Royal Society of Biology, Biology Week (7-15th October) is a nationwide celebration of the biological sciences, from microbes to photosynthesis, from yeast to zooplankton. The 8th October is UK Fungus Day, so to celebrate this, and Biology Week as a whole, we’ve put together a list of things you may not know about fabulous fungus!

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Pushed to extremes: the human cost of climate change

However, a parallel and equally disturbing trend is happening ecologically in the US, with the rejection of climate change science and the withdrawal from the Paris Accord. Though climate change may at first appear to be a separate issue from the xenophobia and anti-refugee mindset, they are more inextricably tied to one another than we are led to believe.

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Why solar and wind won’t make much difference to carbon dioxide emissions

We all like the convenience of electrical energy. It lights our home and offices, and drives motors that are needed in heating, ventilation, and air conditioning systems that keep us buildings comfortable no matter what the temperature is outside. It’s essential for refrigeration that secures our food supply. In short, it makes modern life with all its comfort and conveniences possible.

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Following the trail of a mystery

What would you think, when crossing a Himalayan glacier, if you found this footprint? Clearly some animal made the mark. This print is in a longer line of tracks, and shows not just one animal. The print looks like a person’s … but that gigantic toe on what is a left foot has the arch on the outside of the foot. Big toe on one side, the arch on the other, three tiny toes? And the longer line of footprints suggests that a family of mysteries walked the route.

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The switch to electric cars

Much has been written about autonomous, driverless vehicles. Though they will undoubtedly have a huge impact as artificial intelligence (AI) develops, the shift to electric cars is equally important, and will have all sorts of consequences for the United Kingdom. The carbon dioxide emissions from petrol and diesel cars account for about 10% of the global energy-related CO2 emissions

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Back to biology: a reading list

Autumn is here and it’s time for students to head back to University. To help our biology students ease back into their studies, we’ve organized a brief reading list. Whether you’re studying human biology, ecology, or microbiology – these selections will help undergraduate and graduate students get back into the swing of things this new school year.

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How to fight climate change (and save the world)

The ice caps are melting. Within a few years the North Pole will likely be ice-free for the first time in 10,000 years, causing what some call the “Arctic death spiral.” In the following excerpt from A Farewell to Ice, Peter Wadhams explains what we can do today to fight climate change. What can we do, both individually and collectively, to try to save the world? There is a massive list, of course, but I will pick out a few actions that might make a real difference.

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Which reptile are you? [quiz]

Reptiles have inspired some of the most recognizable characters in popular fiction including the gold-hoarding Smaug, the iconic dragon trio from Game of Thrones, and the mascot of Hogwarts’ most infamous house, Slytherin. How do your personality traits match up to those of our reptilian comrades? Find out which reptile you most closely resemble!

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“The law is my data”: The socio-legal in environmental law

When I left practice to start my PhD, I was made to do a master’s degree in research methods as a condition of my doctoral funding. The ‘made’ in that first sentence is wholly intentional. I was quite clear, and quite vocal, that I had no interest in, and no need to study, methods. I knew exactly what form my PhD was going to take: an analysis of EU chemicals regulation using a new governance lens.

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Microbiology in the city of arts and sciences

This year saw the biggest Federation of European Microbiological Societies (FEMS) Congress to date, with over 2,700 delegates from 85 countries, including Australia, North America, and South Korea gathering in Valencia, Spain. Not only was it the biggest, it was also the most engaged; over 3,000 abstracts were submitted, over 220 delegates received FEMS Congress Grants to be able to attend, and nearly 250 speakers.

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The ultimate quiz on environmental law and climate change

Climate change is one of the most controversial issues facing society today. The withdrawal of the United States from the Paris Agreement on Climate Change marked a pivotal point for the fight against environmental destruction. Barack Obama, 44th President of the United States, stated, “There’s one issue that will define the contours of this century more dramatically than any other, and that is the urgent threat of a changing climate.”

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Ecosystem-based mitigation and adaptation

Payments for ecosystem services (PES), also known as payments for environmental services (or benefits), are incentives offered to farmers or landowners in compensation for proper land-management that provides ecological services. Among these benefits we can mention conserving animal and plant species, protecting hydric resources, conserving natural scenery, and storing carbon.

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Is science being taken out of environmental protection?

In 1963, dying of breast cancer and wearing a wig to cover the effects of radiation treatments, Rachel Carson appeared before a congressional committee to defend her indictment of pesticides. She had rattled the chemical industry with Silent Spring, which urged caution at a time when Americans were buying dangerous products that the scientific community had itself made possible.

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