Leeds Big Data Week (big data for conservation biology)

I’m excited to be a part of Big Data Week this year. For those of you who aren’t familiar with the phenomenon of big data, IBM has a pretty good definition.  In essence, we are collecting huge amounts of data by virtue of living in a technologically advanced world, and those data are collected rapidly in a diverse range of formats. The challenge now is what to do with all of it! Big Data Week, which is running from 22-28 April 2013, is an international movement that was established in 2011 to connect businesses, data scientists, and technology groups to explore novel social, political, technological and commercial applications of big data.  Leeds Data Thing is my local big data group, formed in 2013 to provide a venue for the discussion of local big data applications.  They are putting on a range of events for BDW 2013, and I have volunteered to give a short presentation at one of those events.

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Beetles on flowers

Image

I took this photo while I was teaching on a field course in Spain earlier this month (harder work than it sounds).  It was a nice opportunity to try out my camera (which I have been trying and failing to do on this blog) as spring is in full swing over there.  I was amazed by the diversity of animals that I only found on flowers (although part of that might have been that the flower-dwellers were more noticeable…), but I was surprised to see what look like two different life history stages of potentially the same species on a single flower.  Does anybody know what this beetle is…?

UPDATE 21/7/13: My friend Patrick suggests that it could be Cryptocephalus rugicollis.  Looks like a good call to me!

Launch of a new project: the West Yorkshire Ponds Project (WYPP)

I feel that I should demote myself from “blogger” to “occasional blogger”…  But I have an excuse!  Exciting things are happening, and I have been involved in some new projects which have taken up a considerable amount of time.  Aside from a massive EU grant application (which has taken an inordinate amount of time to produce 25,000 words), I have also been finalising the launch of the West Yorkshire Ponds Project (WYPP, click the image to go to the page):

WYPP is the beginning of a new research project that I have had in the pipeline for some time.  The aim is to spread knowledge about the value of urban wetlands (focusing on the West Yorkshire region for now) while seeking collaborations with which to advance that knowledge.  Feel free to browse around the www.wypp.org site to find out more about the value of ponds (flood prevention, pollution reduction, biodiversity enhancement), and how school ponds can bring nature within reach of the most inner-city of schools.

I’d appreciate feedback or comments on the site, and I’d love to hear from anyone in the West Yorkshire area who might be interested in working with me on this project.  It is going to be very community-oriented so the more the merrier!

My PhD thesis in the ten hundred most used words

Calopteryx splendens femaleInspired by this xkcd comic, and facilitated by this online tool, people have been summarising all kinds of ideas using the 1,000 most common words.  Naturally PhD students have latched onto this as a source of procrastination and, in a show of solidarity, I decided to join them (this was during my lunch break – honest!).  Here’s my PhD thesis:

My work looks at how animals change as the world gets warmer.  My animal is like a fly but it has four flying bits, eats other animals, and has big eyes.  By looking at where people saw these animals in the past, I figured out how the place and time at which they appear changes with how hot it is.   I found that they appear earlier when it is hot, which is interesting because these animals spend most of their lives in water.  Animals in water had not been shown to change when they appear in this way before.   I also looked at the ways in which we look at changes in where animals appear and showed the best way to look at this problem.  Last, I looked at how the form of these animals changes as they move when it gets hotter.  I found that the animals that had moved a long way had a form that made it easy for them to move (like big flying bits).  In short, the changes shown by the animals that I looked at can be used to build a case for a warming world.

52 Weeks of Photography: Week 4 (Dave the spider)

First, a warning to anyone who doesn’t like spiders: I was trying out my macro again, and there are some pretty big close-ups…   Now that that’s over with, this week I wanted to try out a new toy.  I had been hoping that my new light box would arrive for last week’s macro attempt, […]

52 Weeks of Photography: Week 2 (An Early Morning)

So originally this was going to be a post full of wonderful sunrise photographs.  Unfortunately, a combination of cloudy British skies and a slope that refused (no matter how much I willed it) to turn to face the south-east  conspired against me.  Instead, I had a good chance to try out my macro attachment.  I […]

52 Weeks of Photography: Week 1 (Tropical World)

Right, week 1 of my photography “project”.  To ease myself in, my partner and I decided to go to “Tropical World” in Leeds.  This is an indoor zoo with aquaria, meerkats, and (most importantly) a butterfly house.  “Great”, I thought, “fish [or butterflies…] in a barrel!”  However, the butterfly house itself seemed only to contain […]

52 weeks of photography

OK, so my plan is to get out and actually use the rather expensive camera that I treated myself to last year (a Canon Rebel T2i).  I’m ramping up for a summer of insect photography, but for now I will settle for whatever nature happens to be around.  My idea is to post seven photographs […]

Climate change denial: my part in its downfall

In March 2012 I was involved with a project that sought to make public some poor science that was being taught at a Canadian university.  I have been busy with other things since then (like getting a job…) but now I find myself with a few minutes to reflect on the experience.  I have a tendency to write long posts which I’m sure nobody ever reads, so I’m going to write three short posts on this topic.  In this post I’ll talk briefly about some of the negative response that was raised to the project, primarily by the researcher who developed the course, Tim Patterson.  It is worth noting that the course is being taught again in January 2013.  I’ll follow this up with posts on (i) a response to some criticisms, (ii) experiences with the media, and (iii) advice for skeptical campaigns in general.

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