Oxford University Press's
Academic Insights for the Thinking World

“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.

Read More

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.

Read More

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.”

Read More

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.

Read More

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.

Read More

Valuing our ecological futures

Most people care about their potential futures. But there’s a threat to some of these possible futures. In 2016, globally we experienced the hottest consecutive year on record since 2000, with 2017 looking to break the record again. At the current rate of warming climates, along with other environmental concerns, living on the Earth will become more difficult, if not impossible, by the end of the century.

Read More

10 facts about fungi

Fungi play an important role for a balanced life of flora, fauna, and humans alike. But are they important for us humans, and how are fungi related to animals? Nicholas P. Money, author of Fungi: A Very Short Introduction, tells us 10 things everyone should know about fungi, and the role they play in the world.

Read More

Deep in the red

Yesterday, the second of August, was Earth Overshoot Day for 2017. This date “marks the date when humanity’s demand for ecological resources and services in a given year exceeds what Earth can regenerate in that year.” As of today, we carry a planetary-sized debt. We are running in the red. This most horrible of days only started in 1971. Before that, humans did not have the population size nor the technological capacity to ‘out-eat’ our larder.

Read More

A research journey from jungles to genomes

One of the goals of our trip was to search for a butterfly called Heliconius tristero (or Heliconius timareta tristero as it is now more correctly known), which had been described in 1996 from just two specimens collected in this area. Almost anyone who has visited the jungles of tropical America is likely to be familiar with the ‘postman’ or Heliconius butterflies.

Read More

The first humans

The discovery in Jebel Irhoud, Morocco of human fossils with modern facial features, similar to ours, has been a wonderful surprise, even outside the world of anthropology. The discoveries have been published in the journal Nature by Jean-Jacques Hublin and collaborators. The fossils are associated with tools from the Middle Stone Age, the technique immediately preceding the Upper Pleistocene.

Read More
BioScience cover

Society is ready for a new kind of science—is academia?

In her 1998 essay in Science, Jane Lubchenco called for a “Social Contract for Science,” one that would acknowledge the scale of environmental problems and have “scientists devote their energies and talents to the most pressing problems of the day.” We were entering a new millennium, and Lubchenco was worried that the scientific enterprise was unprepared to address challenges related to climate change, pollution, health, and technology.

Read More

Could you survive a snake bite?

With increased numbers of people travelling to exotic places, there is also an increasing awareness of tropical diseases. However, there are a number of tropical diseases, such as snake bite, which are often overlooked as major issues. Snake bite is an on-going global problem, and is often neglected as an important public health concern. Many are unprepared and uninformed when it comes to snake bites, which can have fatal consequences for humans.

Read More

Anniversary of Goodall at Gombe Stream [reading list]

Tomorrow, 14 July, is the anniversary of when Jane Goodall first arrived on the shores of Gombe Stream Chimpanzee Reserve in western Tanzania in 1960. Jane Goodall is a famous primatologist and ethologist, and has dedicated her life to researching and understanding primate behavior. During her time at Gombe Stream, Goodall observed chimpanzees making and using tools, the first observations of any wild animal to do so.

Read More

Radio telescopes to detect gravitational waves

Sensationally detected for the first time by the LIGO instrument in 2015, gravitational waves are ripples in space-time – the continuum of the universe – that propagate outward from astrophysical systems. The question is: can we find more of these gravitational waves and do it regularly? Some years ago we have devised a method of finding far more of them, and from weaker sources, than is possible with present techniques with the help of radio telescopes and natural astrophysical masers.

Read More

How can we save the pollinators?

An often-cited estimate is that one-third of the food you eat comes from insect pollinators. Many of the fruits and vegetables that you enjoy develop their fruit and seed primarily through insect pollination services. Other sometimes overlooked benefits of pollinators are the ecological services that they provide. For example, insects pollinate many plants that provide erosion control, keeping our waterways clean.

Read More

The biological ironies of transgender debates

Transgender issues have made significant headlines in the United States. Not long ago, North Carolina struggled to repeal a 2016 law that required people to use only public restrooms that matched the sex on their birth certificate, not their lived gender identity. Only weeks earlier, the US Supreme Court declined to hear a case from a Virginia student on the same issue.

Read More