A few years ago, I wrote an article for Ensia about how popular media tend to separate science and nature stories as if they’re unrelated categories. Most major online news websites have separate pages for ‘Science’ stories (predominantly technology, space and medical research) and ‘Environment’ stories (mostly pieces on nature, wilderness, environmental activism, or cute wildlife, sometimes with a few pieces on climate change thrown in for good measure). Continue reading
‘Tis the season for Christmas blogs: but what about the archives?
The cultural traditions of Christmas, like every aspect of our lives, are embedded in stories of science…botany, ecology, chemistry, entomology etc. If you blog about science and nature, Christmas-themed posts can easily become an annual habit.
Unfortunately, because of our distracted relationship with the internet, many timeless Christmas posts are read once and discarded, just like the wrapping paper and festive napkins at the end of the big day.
So here are a few Christmas posts from the archives that you may have overlooked, or might just enjoy reading again! Continue reading
Bees and breaking buds
Long-time readers of my blog know that I think natural history notes are one of the most important parts of the scientific literature! Sadly, very few journals will publish them.
Luckily the Ecological Society of America does appreciate the value of natural history observations. I first submitted this note to Frontiers in Ecology and Environment for their Natural History Notes series. Unfortunately, the Frontiers series was about to close and they weren’t taking any submissions. But the editor suggested I submit my note to Ecology, where they were just about to start a new series called The Scientific Naturalist. So here it is.
Unfortunately it’s not open access and doesn’t have an abstract. So I’ve written a shorter note about my short note below; please email me if you’d like a copy of the original. Continue reading
The Wilderness: Amy Eleanor Mack
Stories build a relationship between subject and audience that is deeply emotional and personal. Art can enhance the audience’s nature connection, and stories about natural systems and wildlife can determine how the reader connects with those systems. This is particularly true for children.
Australia has a wonderful heritage of nature writers, many working before nature writing was ‘a thing’. The national collection of Australian children’s books about native wildlife is inspiring. Even more inspiring, many of Australia’s best nature stories were written in the early-mid 19th century, and mostly by women. Continue reading
Natural history mystery: Party lights for nocturnal bees
It’s true, nocturnal bees exist. Bees are generally considered a day-active creature, but there are many species around the world that have evolved to love the night…perhaps because their favourite flowers open at night, or maybe they just prefer to feed in peace and quiet!
Because bee species, like most insects, are very sensitive to cold temperatures, most of these nocturnal bee species are found in tropical and sub-tropical areas. One species is known from Australia and it’s found in north and central Queensland. It’s likely that others exist, but they either haven’t been found or night activity hasn’t been observed yet. Continue reading
Tarzan on Ecosystem Services
They are singing the legend of Tarzan…They speak of his power over the animals of the jungle. Because his spirit came from them. He understood them. And learned to be as one with them.
Last week I watched The Legend of Tarzan (2016) because I was trapped on a plane for 4 hours. It really wasn’t that bad, despite the scathing reviews it has received. All the outraged critics must have had very high expectations. It’s just a bit of Hollywood fun that is very enjoyable if you don’t take it all too seriously. And there are some nice historically-accurate details to counteract the fantastical story.
As the credits rolled, it struck me that it also provides some good examples of ecosystem services. Continue reading
Building local citizen science networks
This post was co-authored with Bindi Vanzella, Regional Landcare Facilitator for Riverina.
Citizen science is a great way for non-scientists to contribute valuable information to scientific knowledge. It’s a new term – people have been doing citizen science for centuries under different names. But it’s all the same valuable contribution.
Citizen science isn’t about volunteers doing all the hard work for scientists. Yes, the origins of this recent term are in academia. But many citizen science programs are based foremost on engagement and education, with data collection as a secondary aim.
And engagement and education tend to work best when they are based locally or regionally. Many species have local or regional ranges, and the social and cultural connection of a species can change across larger geographic scales. Continue reading
Your garden is an ecosystem!
Birds, bees and bugs: your garden is an ecosystem, and it needs looking after.
This piece is part of a great series on The Conversation about the science behind gardening. My article focuses on gardens as wildlife-friendly habitat, particularly for pollinators. Also check out the other articles in the series!
Read the rest of my article here.
© Manu Saunders 2016
Species that are ‘known unknowns’ to science
Last spring, I found a new bee in a tiny urban reserve near my house in Albury. I identified it to genus Megachile, but that was as far as I got. I had never seen anything like it. After some research, and help from local bee enthusiast Karen Retra, we identified it as Megachile semiluctuosa.
I submitted my sighting to the Atlas of Living Australia (ALA), which is the main online, publicly-available database of Australian biodiversity records. My sighting was the first record of M. luctuosa for the Albury region – the nearest recorded sighting was about 200 km north of here.
Yes, I got a bit excited. But this is more likely an indication that few people are out looking for bees, rather than evidence of range expansion. ALA has records of this species from across most Australian states, but nearly 70% of them are from central New South Wales, mostly from a research project conducted by CSIRO researchers. Continue reading
Beyond the Birds and the Bees
The latest edition of Wildlife Australia magazine is out, including an article I wrote on unusual plant-pollinator relationships from Australian ecosystems. I had so much fun writing this piece about Australia’s unique flora and fauna. From nectar-loving lizards to hairy katydids, there are lots of interesting ecological stories out there to discover!
You can download a pdf of the article here. If you enjoyed this story and want to read more like it, I recommend subscribing to Wildlife Australia, one of the best nature magazines still printing.
© Manu Saunders 2016