BioBlog

Human evolution – how do we accommodate new discoveries in our teaching?

Alison Campbell Jul 31, 2017

What follows is loosely based on a workshop I ran at this year’s Biolive/ChemEd secondary science teachers’ conference. (A most excellent conference, by the way – kudos to those organising & presenting.) I’ve added a bunch of hotlinked references. Back when I was in 7th form (or year 13 – i.e. a rather long time ago), the description of … Read More

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A close encounter of the antivaccine kind

Alison Campbell Jul 12, 2017

It’s a bit concerning to hear of outbreaks of mumps in Auckland & the Waikato, as this suggests that in some areas the number of vaccinated individuals in the population has fallen below what’s needed to maintain herd immunity: see Siouxsie Wiles’ excellent post on this. One of the admins on my local suburb’s Facebook page … Read More

Nomenclature nonsense, chemical fail

Alison Campbell Apr 11, 2017

On the stuff page today, Dr Libby was asked how someone could reduce their exposure to chemicals. While she distinguished between ‘natural’ & ‘synthetic’ chemicals, sadly, ‘natural’ doesn’t always equate to ‘safe’ or ‘good for you’ (as the list of plants growing in the Poison Garden in the UK makes clear). Similarly, there may be no difference … Read More

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The ‘fishing’ chimps of Bakoun

Alison Campbell Jan 09, 2017

I’m currently supervising a graduate student who’s writing a review of the literature on tool use in wild chimpanzees. This has become a most enjoyable interaction: it’s a topic I’ve been interested in for quite a while now, so the supervision role is an excuse to extend my own knowledge, and it’s great helping the student to enhance their own … Read More

Melibe Engeli – the strangest thing I’ve seen in ages

Alison Campbell Dec 20, 2016

I mean, really – have you ever seen something like this before? Melibe engeli is a type of sea slug, and a most unusual one. Its body is partly translucent, and has projections called cerata, themselves covered with smaller projections called papillae, down both sides. The animal is an active hunter – but what a hunter. It lacks the … Read More

“Killer neandertals” – a wild claim that doesn’t want to go away

Alison Campbell Nov 07, 2016

A while ago now (6 years ago, in fact! How time flies when you’re having fun), I wrote a piece about some fairly wild claims made about Neandertals. Rather surprisingly this post continues to attract occasional comments from those who firmly believe in the idea that Neandertals were cannibalistic, brutish savages rather than our very close cousins, an idea … Read More

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Parts of our genome are actually viral

Alison Campbell Nov 04, 2016

I’ve just come across a most excellent article by the Genetic Literacy Project. In it, Nicholas Staropoli notes that a proportion of the human genome actually has viral origins. This might sound a bit strange – after all, we tend to think of viruses as our enemies (smallpox, measles, and the human papilloma virus come to mind). But, as … Read More

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