For a long time New Zealand has been seen by many people as a country that champions the environment. Around the world adverts declaring "100% Pure New Zealand" are seen to show case the amazing natural beauty of the country and the green view of its inhabitants. Growing up in the UK, where the environment has be degraded beyond repair in many areas and where 'Wilderness' no longer really exists, I had always had admiration for New Zealand and its people. A lot of their past conservation programs and fisheries policies have been seen as progressive, but today my illusion was shattered. I have been made aware of two things that show that the greeness, on which New Zealand reputation rests upon, is slowly slipping away: New Zealand was the country to vote against protecting the critically endangered maui's dolphin; a proposal to protect the Ross Sea was thwarted on the basis that it was "not consistent with the Government's economic growth objectives". The Ross Sea proposal was also a week one, protecting all areas except the valuable fishing grounds (which need protection the most). It saddens me that New Zealand's environmental policies may one day look like those of its Antipodean cousin, Australia. Australia may be a lot of good things, but a leader in sustainable environmental policy is not one of them.
I have found a good link to share with everyone about a topic I feel very strongly about:
After many years of government funded scientific research, which has shown that culling badgers is either ineffective or actually increases the spread of TB, the government is still going along with a cull. The only way that a cull will work is to get rid of all badgers. A more viable option, and a more effect option, is to test cattle and monitor their movement.
It just makes me sad that with all this evidence, paid for by the tax payer, that the government is still going ahead with it.
A cool new study by Lee et al. (2012) has just come out in Biology Letters. The study investigates the benefits of emasculation in spiders (N. malabarensis), were either half or all of the genitalia is removed during mating. The removal causes males to become either full or half eunuchs, therefore unable to mate with any more females. This may seem like a bad situation, but 75% of males are eaten by the female. However, it is still a evolutionary paradox that a male will give up the opportunity for future matings. In this species of spider, males will often mate-guard females in order to ensure paternity. Lee et al. mention three hypotheses to explain this behaviour (mating plug, better fighter and the remote copulation hypothesis (as females will often eat males)). Previous work had found that eunuchs were better competitors in fights against intact males and that eunuchs were more mobile (Ramos et al. 2004; Kralj-Fiser et al. 2011). This study investigated the effect of genital (palp) removal on male endurance, by comparing intact, half and full eunuchs. They found that by removing the spiders' genitals, resulting in a 4% (half-eunuch) and 9% (full-eunuch) decrease in body mass, that males endurance was improved. So, not only are males more agile but they can fight for longer once their genitals have been removed. This study also highlights the trade-offs in the evolution of genital size, if they are too big how can you compete with other males?
Lee et al. (2012) Emasculation: gloves-off strategy enhances eunuch spider endurance. Biol. Lett. doi: 10.1098/rsbl.2012.0285
Ramos et al. (2004) Overcoming an evolutionary conflict: removal of a reproductive organ greatly increases locomotor performance. PNAS 101, 4883–4887
Kralj-Fiser et al. (2011) Eunuchs are better fighters. Anim. Behav. 81, 933–939
All of my field work is carried out during the summer months, when hope abounds with the bounty of new life in the Kalahari. My main focus is on fledglings, so I get to see them all grow, develop and learn the skills they will need to survive in the harsh environment they inhabit. Although through the summer a few of the fledglings die and some nest are predated, the overall feeling at the end of the field season is that the population has grown. That is why it is really sad when we get news that during the winter, which is very harsh, lots of the birds have died (especially the dominant females). I just found out that the dominant female of one of my favourite groups, BMBO of Ngai Tahu, has died, and this adds to the death of CGMX from Xhosa. But all is not lost, I will soon be heading up to the Kalahari to help train the new babbler assistant and this will be the start of summer and of hope. So bring on the rain, the flush of insects and the nestlings
This is for my friend Jamie Samson, who is starting his PhD on ground squirrels. He is a great guy to work for, lots of energy and some cool research ideas. Plus you get to work at the same place as the babbler project and meerkat project, so it's a great place to network and find potential PhD/MSc projects.
Here is his advert.
Cape ground squirrel project: A volunteer is required for a period of 12 months to help undertake a long-term research project on Cape ground squirrels in the Kalahari Desert, South Africa. This project has been set up by Cambridge and Zurich University and is based at the Kalahari Meerkat Project, a world-renowned research station. Students with at least BSc in biology/ecology or zoology are preferred. Successful applicants must have an interest in field work and previous experience working in challenging environments and with wild animals. The applicant will be heavily involved in habituation of new groups as well as collection of weights and observational data. There is also an opportunity for the applicant to undertake a small research project on the squirrels.
Volunteers are provided with accommodation and paid a monthly allowance to cover their food. A return flight to South Africa and insurance will have to be organised and funded by the applicant, but costs for internal travel by bus (Johannesburg to Upington) will be reimbursed, you will be collected from Upington and taken to the study site.
If you are interested in this position, please send a CV and a short letter stating your motivation to apply, and two names acting as referees to: firstname.lastname@example.org
The closing date for applications is the 10th September and persons shortlisted must be available on either the 17th or 18th September for a Skype video interview. http://behaviourandcognition.blogspot.com/p/volunteer-vacancy-cape-ground-squirrels.html
I am a behavioural ecologist, my main interests revolve around familial conflicts and their resolutions. However, my scientific interests are fairly broad.