Oxford University Press's
Academic Insights for the Thinking World

Animal of the month: 10 facts about lions

Lions have enchanted humans since early Antiquity, and were even represented in European cave paintings from 35,000 years ago. They are regularly the main characters in folklore and allegory, appearing everywhere from African folktales to the Bible. It is not hard to see why lions are so ubiquitously revered. Their fearsome yet stunning appearance, combined with their endearing hunting tactics and formidable roar, answers any questions as to why early societies named the lion ‘King of the Beasts’, and indeed explains why this name is still used today.

Read More

Innovation: in and out of the Budongo

In 2014, PLOS Biology published an article about a cousin of ours, a member of the Sono Community of wild chimpanzees in the Budongo Forest in northwestern Uganda. In a video shared in relation to the study, an alpha male, NK, gathers moss from a tree trunk just within his reach, a prize he will use to lap up water in a nearby pool.

Read More

Animal of the Month: 4 figures behind orca captivation beyond Blackfish

“You become responsible, forever, for what you have tamed.” – Antoine de Saint-Exupery, The Little Prince (1943). The 2013 release of the documentary Blackfish revolutionized the way the world has since focused on orcas. Yet orca captivity in the United States and Canada predates the documentary by almost five decades. So who was behind the plight of these orcas? Using Jason M. Colby’s Orca: How We Came to Know and Love the World’s Greatest Predator,  we compiled a list of figures behind the half century of orca captivity beyond Blackfish.

Read More

Shark Week 2018

With their huge, sharp teeth and menacing demeanor, it’s no wonder this ocean predator has long struck fear into the hearts of many. Thanks to films like Jaws and Sharknado, sharks have gained a reputation for killing and eating humans, yet there are under 100 unprovoked shark attacks each year, and even fewer fatalities—you’re more likely to be killed by lightning or a bee sting than you are by a shark!

Read More

Animal of the Month: 5 facts you should know about misnomered orcas

For centuries, orcas have accrued a myriad of different names: Orcinus orca (which translates roughly as “demon from hell”), asesinas de ballena (whale killers), Delphinus orca, grampus, thrasher, blackfish, killer whale, to name a few. The names of these animals are overtly violent, but what do we actually know about the alleged “demons from hell”? This month, we want look at the facts about killer whales, and debunk the centuries-old mystery and fear surrounding orcas.

Read More

Smoke from wildland fires and public health

Firefighters, forest managements, and residents are preparing for another fire season in the western part of the United States. Wildfires burn large expanses of forested lands in California, but it’s not just rural Californians who need to worry about effects of such fires. Residents in urban areas and neighboring states experience the through smoke from hundreds of miles away.

Read More

Angling for less harmful algal blooms

Blooms bring to mind the emerging beauty of spring—flowers blossoming and trees regaining their splendor. These blooms, unlike spring flowers, are odorous, unpleasant, and potentially toxic. They deter families from engaging in water-related recreational activities such as going to the shore. They discourage anglers from going fishing, which, in turn, affects those who depend on the local fishing economy.

Read More

An interactive view of the giraffe

Giraffes are some of the best-known, well-loved animals of the African safari. But today, many variations of these long-necked herbivores are listed as vulnerable or endangered due to habitat depletion and poaching.

Read More

Bridging partisan divides over scientific issues

The current era in the Western hemisphere is marked by growing public distrust of “intellectual elites.” The present U.S. administration openly disregards, or even suppresses, relevant scientific input to policy formulation.

Read More

Gulls on film: roadkill scavenging by wildlife in urban areas

The impact of roads on wildlife (both directly through wildlife-vehicle collisions, and indirectly due to factors such as habitat fragmentation) has likely increased over time due to expansion of the road network and increased use and number of vehicles. In the UK, for example, there were only 4.2 million vehicles on the roads in 1951, compared to 37.3 million by the end of 2016.

Read More

Orangutans as forest engineers

Orangutans quite literally are “persons of the forest,” at least according to their Malay name (orang means “person” and hutan is “forest”). But this is more than just a name. As well as their distinctively “human” qualities, these large charismatic fruit-eaters are also gardeners, forest engineers responsible for spreading and maintaining a wide array of tree species.

Read More

Top 10 facts about the giraffe

This June, people around the globe are marking World Giraffe Day, an annual event to recognise the bovine dwellers of the African continent. While these long-necked herbivores remain a firm favourite of the safari, there remains much about the giraffe which is relatively unknown. In order to celebrate our Animal of the Month, we bring you 10 amazing facts about the giraffe.

Read More

History books for Dads [reading list]

In recent years, consumer surveys have shown an upward trend in Father’s Day gift-giving. According to the National Retail Federation, U.S. Father’s Day spending in 2017 hit record highs: reaching an estimated $15.5 billion. This change could be related to nature of modern fatherhood: today’s dads report spending an average of seven hours per week on child care (nearly triple what fathers reported 50 years ago). To celebrate Father’s Day, we put together a video collection of books we think dads will love. More details about each book can be found in the list below. If you have any reading suggestions for Father’s Day, please share in the comments section!

Read More

The global plastic problem [podcast]

June 5th is World Environment Day. It is the UN’s most important day for encouraging worldwide awareness and action for the protection of our environment. World Environment Day is the “people’s day” for doing something to take care of the Earth—locally, nationally, or even globally. This year’s host is India and their theme of “Beat Plastic […]

Read More

What you need to know about plastic pollution

“There’s a great future in plastics,” Mr. McGuire said to recent-grad Benjamin Braddock at his graduation party in one of the most iconic films of the twentieth century, the Graduate. This scene captures more than just the mere parting words of some career advice the older generation tends to give young people at their graduation parties, it signals something more cultural—indeed, more industrial—that had been so prevailing at the time, and so worrisome now.

Read More