repetition is the mother of learning

Susanna: week 3

Bioassay after bioassay after bioassay has been my week. Take the insect out of container, put in test apparatus, take out of test apparatus and put back in container. Rinse and repeat. It is interesting to observe their behaviour, but completing each treatment for an appropriate number of insects is taking a lot more time that I originally thought it would. Therefore I have had to cut my treatments down from the intended 6 to 4 instead, and it seems unlikely that I will be able to complete the 4th one with all the insects.

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time waits for no man

Josh: week 3

So, the end of week three! That’s gone quickly!

This week, we moved on from the previous plot (6) and went on to sample another research plot (4) in the woodland adjacent to this. Ironically, the sampling of this plot turned out to be a lot more efficient than plot 6. This was due to an increase in soil moisture conditions as a result of Rain and obviously becoming more accustomed to equipment used to sample each grid section…Professionals!

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Never work with children, animals and… insects?

Blog 2  Susanna: week 2    

This week the equipment has been set up and I’ve been doing some practice bioassays to get a general idea of the behaviour of the insects. It has definitely been a challenge to get the insects in the Y-tube and back out; I now know for a fact I will never be an entomologist. The main problem is the springtails/Collembola, purely because they’re so easy to squish. The fruit flies/Drosophila melanogaster are relatively easy to handle, but the ants/Lasius niger are also quite difficult as they move pretty quickly. The process of starving all the insects has also been tricky as many of them just die, although it’s probably because of a lack of water.

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Optimism wins the day

woodland floor

Josh: week 2

It doesn’t seem like seven days ago today I was writing the first blog post for my Nuffield Placement. Seven days ago, I had come to the end of the planning section of my report, and felt all I had listed there was achievable, quickly and easily. As per usual, I was totally wrong. Let me guide you through this week’s activities!

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Do light intensity and tree cover affect soil Carbon storage?

Josh 2014 equiptment photo

Josh: week 1

A predominant concern of the scientific community and the public worldwide within the last decade can be summarised in two words: ‘Global Warming’. The increased awareness of all individuals to the terrifying effects of deforestation and increased carbon emissions has led to various passionate arguments against these activities; the world is sentencing itself to death! Despite the increased awareness of these activities, they are increasing year upon year. I have therefore decided to conduct my Nuffield research project on Soil Organic Carbon Storage in soils, and the effects of Tree cover and the consequent decrease in Light intensity upon this. My research will not only provide a basis for future students to develop my work, but will also reinstate the scientific fact that our woodlands are vitally important to the Carbon Cycle and therefore to the reduction of the Greenhouse gasses effect. Finally, The introduction of Ash Dieback (Hymenoscyphus pseudoalbidus) into British woodlands only serves to further increase the importance of my work, as a comparative figure for when the woodlands are struck by this fungal calamity.  Let me take you through the process!

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How is the prey of carnivorous plants attracted?

Susanna 2014 olfactometer

Susanna: week 1

Y-tube olfactometer with 2 chambers.

My name is Susanna Kenney, and I’m a 17 year old student about to start my final year of A-levels studying Maths, Biology, Chemistry and Physics. Currently I’m undertaking a Nuffield Summer Research placement with Dr. Jon Millett at the Department of Geography in Loughborough University in order to obtain valuable experience in a scientific environment. I will record my progress through this placement with a weekly blog.

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Nuffield Research Placements

This year I am hosting two students taking part in the excellent Nuffield Research Placement scheme. This scheme places A-level students with research labs during the summer between their two A-level years. The students undertake a small project that is part of the research of the lab. The scheme aims to be of benefit to the students (through experience of research and of HE) and to the researcher (an extra pair of hands and a brain to conduct useful research).

This year I am taking part in the scheme for the first time – I’m normally away on field work all summer so can’t commit. I have two students with me – Josh and Susanna. We are at the end of the first week (of four).  They have been working hard and so far this has been a positive experience for me, and hopefully for them.

Josh and Susanna will be writing weekly blog posts to record their progress.  The first to appear soon.

Colour isn’t key for carnivorous plants

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Drosera rotundifolia (Roundleaved sundew) at Thorne Moss, with captured prey

The widespread belief that carnivorous plants are brightly coloured to attract prey could be wrong, according to the latest research published by scientists at Loughborough University.

Many carnivorous plants are bright red in colour, which is widely hypothesized to attract prey or provide camouflage. But a new study, published today in Royal Society journal Biology Letters, monitored capture rates of natural and artificial carnivorous species Drosera rotundifolia(commonly known as Sundew) and found the colour of the plant made little difference.

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Funded PhD studentships

There is an opportunity to apply for a university funded PhD studentship supervised by Dr. Jonathan Millett. There are five available within the School of Social Sciences, Politics, Geography and History at Loughborough University.  I have put some very broad outlines for suitable projects below. If you are interested in undertaking a PhD in any of these areas please contact me and we can discuss an appropriate application. These studentships provide a stipend of £13,725 per annum plus home/EU tuition fees and are to start 1st October 2014. You should apply before 21st March 2014.

The official advert is here: http://www.jobs.ac.uk/job/AIE921/five-phd-studentships-in-the-school-of-social-political-and-geographical-sciences/

Further details are below.

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PhD studentship on dune grazing

We are inviting applications for a NERC funded CASE studentship to study the biodiversity, conservation and management of sand dune plant communities. The studentship will cover tuition fees plus an annual (tax exempt) stipend of £14,726, and will start in October 2014.  This project will be funded through the Central England NERC Training Alliance (CENTA), which is one of 15 Natural Environment Research Council (NERC) funded Doctoral Training Partnerships (DTP).

This project will be jointly supervised with Dr. Laurence Jones at the Center for Ecology and Hydrology (CEH) in Bangor.

Further details can be found here and below. If you would like to discuss the project informally please do not hesitate to contact Jon Millett (j.millett@lboro.ac.uk).

Also see other PhD opportunities here.

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bog, bog, bog, bog, bog, bog…

photo

I spent 14 days this summer travelling round the UK and Republic of Ireland visiting bogs.  I’m used to field working alone, but I was accompanied by two of our Geography students this year, George Foot and Julia Thompson, who made the experience considerably more pleasant. Continue reading

PhD studentships in Geography

The Department of Geography has secured 2 PhD studentships aligned with Loughborough University’s strategic research investment in ‘Water Resources’ and ‘Autonomous Vehicles’. Applications are now invited from exceptionally well qualified students who wish to embark on a full-time research degree programme commencing in Autumn Term 2013. Continue reading

My papers, distilled.


Wordle of me papers

I really like innovative data presentation. When done well, good data presentation can revolutionise our ability to navigate our way through a data rich world. It can also be beautiful. Harry Beck’s Tube map is so ubiquitous that it’s easy to forget what an excellent example of spatial data visualisation it is. Hans Rosling’s Gapminder graphs really bring data to life.

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Darwin’s “most wonderful plants in the world”.

Drosera figure from Darwin - Insectivorous Plants
Image from Insectivorous Plants (Darwin, 1875). Taken from: The Complete Work of Charles Darwin Online. (http://darwin-online.org.uk/)

I think that it is safe to say that Darwin was fascinated, if not obsessed by carnivorous plants. In a letter to Asa Gray Darwin wrote:

“[Drosera] is a wonderful plant, or rather a most sagacious animal. I will stick up for Drosera to the day of my death.”

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