Content tagged biology

Termites - African Engineers

posted on 2019-05-20

I've been around termites all my life – their tall mounds and annoying habit of chewing books were a constant companion of life in Zambia. I always found them moderately interesting: their mounds are impressive, but usually I saw them as little more than a source of food for my perennial favourites, the ants. This week, however, I read a paper that showed me a little bit more about just how cool these little critters actually are.


Conservation Optimism

posted on 2019-05-13

“These lectures always make me depressed”, a colleague of mine said as we walked out of the tropical biology course last Thursday. “Why?”, another asked. “Because every time, they show you just how badly we're messing up nature.” The rest of the group had to agree: studying ecology can be horribly depressing at times. Species are disappearing faster than we can count them, whole ecosystems are collapsing right in front of our eyes, and we don't seem to be able to do very much about it. So how do we deal with this desparate outlook? And is there any cause at all for optimism?


Rezension: Darwin - Abenteuer des Lebens

posted on 2019-05-06

Sieben Monate reiste Jürgen Neffe um die Welt, der Reiseroute folgend, die seinerzeit Darwin an Bord der Beagle nahm. 2009 erschien dann sein Reisebericht: “Darwin – Das Abenteuer des Lebens”. Eine gut geschriebene 500-Seiten Reportage über Gott und die Welt, nur leider nicht die im Titel versprochene Darwin-Biografie…


Mechanistic Modelling in Ecology

posted on 2019-04-22

Few words in science are as imprecise as the term “modelling”. It is a term applied to a whole range of techniques, which often have nothing at all in common. Small wonder, then, that many of my ecologist colleagues don't know what I mean when I say that I am doing “mechanistic modelling”. This is an attempt to clear up that misunderstanding, and to explain where ecological modellers like myself fit into the wider landscape of ecological research.


Project Ecologia

posted on 2019-04-08

Six years ago, I was looking for a new programming project. My dream was to create a self-sustaining “virtual world”, a little ecosystem inside my computer. This was long before I knew there actually was a field called “ecological modelling” (which I now happen to work in), but the idea intrigued me. So I set about the task with all the confidence of one year's programming experience. I failed. But a year later, I picked up the pieces and started over, eventually producing a graphical ecosystem simulator – Ecologia.


Communicating Science

posted on 2019-03-25

“What can we do to communicate our research to the public?” This was the question for a discussion session with some of my colleagues last week. Many scientists see the need for this kind of communication, but few know how to go about it, and even fewer actively do it. After all, how do you explain your work on, say, a channel protein of the Venus Flytrap to your neighbour, and why should he bother listening? It is a challenge. But believing that it's worth the effort to try, here are some general principles we found.


Die Freuden der Vogelbeobachtung

posted on 2019-03-16

In meinem Bachelorstudium habe ich einen Freund kennengelernt, der begeisterter Ornithologe ist. Nach Vorlesungen brach er oft mit seinem Fernglas und einem Notizbuch zu Vogelspaziergängen auf und war bald im ganzen Lehrstuhl als unser Vogelexperte bekannt. Ich fand das immer ziemlich cool, konnte es aber nie so ganz verstehen – was fand er nur an den Vögeln? Nun, vor ein paar Monaten hat mich der “Orni-Virus” auch infiziert. Und mittlerweile verstehe ich etwas besser, warum Vögel zu beobachten so viel Spaß macht.


The National Park Game

posted on 2019-02-20

Last year the school I was teaching at organised a field trip to the Kafue National Park for our grade 9 students. It was a fantastic opportunity to have fun camping, enjoy time together as a class, and of course to marvel at the astounding nature and wildlife we have in Zambia. Accompanying the trip as the class' biology teacher, I thought about how to bring across the importance and challenges of conservation work in a park like this. In the end, I hit on the idea of a role-playing game: let the students step into the shoes of a (fictional) park's stake holders, and argue it out for themselves. Fourteen students in charge of developing a national park – what would they do?


My Journey to the Ants

posted on 2018-11-26

Ants have always been some of my favourite animals. As a child, I spent hours watching their work and their wars - watching and wondering. In fact, I know few biologists who are not fascinated by ants. I simply had the good fortune of growing up in a place where I had plenty of ant life to see. Having been back in Zambia for a few months, I was able to continue my observations. Here is a “best-of” reel: a small glimpse into the world of African ants.


Rezension: Mein Leben für die Natur

posted on 2018-11-23

Josef H. Reichholfs “Mein Leben für die Natur - auf den Spuren von Ökologie und Evolution” ist eine genauso faszinierende wie anregende und streitbare Lektüre. Das 2015 erschienene Buch bietet Auszüge aus einem halben Jahrhundert Naturbeobachtungen, aufbereitet wie eine Doku und gekonnt verwoben mit ökologischen Überlegungen und gesellschaftlichen Kommentaren.


MooBreeder - a simple breeding game

posted on 2018-11-22

Recently I have been doing some teaching at a secondary school. Accordingly, I have been on a constant look-out for ways to make my lessons more engaging. So when the topic of selective breeding came up in one of my Key Stage 3 biology classes, I thought I might be able to turn the whole thing into a game.


Unless otherwise credited all material Creative Commons License by Daniel Vedder.
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