Greetings everybody,

Hope you have all had productive weeks and if not hopefully you had some fun then! This week I was combatting with a myriad of ideas on what should be this weeks post. That was until I came across a TED video, and then my mind was made up. In todays post I will show you why the biggest challenge of the 21st Century is getting scientists from across the world to engage in teamwork. 

Lets start this off by looking at the Ebola outbreak. As of January 2016 the ebola endemic that had started in 2014 was declared as 'ended'. Is it time to break out the confetti and set of the fireworks in order to celebrate good times? Or not? 

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I was searching through my TED app and I came across a video on 'How we'll fight the next deadly virus'. This video that only lasted 10 minutes and 27 seconds, helped me understand the solution to combating the worlds problems. It focuses on this remarkable team in Kenema led by Pardis Sabeti and she shared her story from the frontline of battling Ebola in Sierra Leone. I will attempt to summarise her amazing experience as much as I can with justice. 

When Ebola reached Sierra Leonne, the only place able to handle this disease was a hospital located in Kanema.

Pardis collected 99 blood samples taken from infected Ebola patients, and shipped them of to her team in Boston. They were able to then sequence the genomes (the entire genetic makeup of an organism) for all 99 blood samples. 

What they found was alarming. The ebola virus was not just being transmitted from human to human, but was also mutating along the way. But, what does this mean? 

Essentially, every diagnostic, every therapy and every vaccine generated in response to an outbreak is based of the viruses genome sequence. Therefore, each time it mutates, it puts any preventative strategy back to square one. This places a massive delay on response time, and a higher amount of pressure to reach the cure before it decides to mutate again. 

Not wanting to delay progress any further Pardis decided to go against the scientific status quo. She published her results directly onto the world wide web and tagged it with one message. HELP! 

All four corners of the world answered! Fellow scientists wanting to learn, to engage, to participate and were joined by some of the worlds A- Team viral trackers. Just like that, there was this buzzing, energetic and motivated virtual community and right at the epicentre of it all was a shared need to safeguard humanity. 

During the early stages of the epidemic, they published 106 Ebola patient clinical records online. Then went one step further to use these to make an Ebola diagnosing app! With a 100% accuracy this was crucial for health professionals in the field. However, she needed more records in order to increase the validity of the app, and put out a plea on the internet hoping those records would come. 

Those records, never came. That scientific community went from being a community to going back to being an individual. This lack of willingness to share data publicly, letting it be open and be readily accessible, places a large limitation on what we are capable of doing and when we are capable of doing this, as a cause of this key events will be missed. The death toll was 11, 315 making it the biggest Ebola outbreak on record, could teamwork have lowered that number? We will never know. 

Were we prepared for the Zika Virus?

In the case of Ebola, it is very clear that in the absence of global team effort that Ebola thrived, so have we learnt from that outbreak and prepared for the Zika virus?

I will let you guys decide, heres some information for you. Zika was first discovered around 70 years ago, and below is the timeline of the Zika outbreak so far!: 

April 2007: Outbreak in the Micronesias Yap Island

15th May 2015: First case of local transmission in Brazil

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By October 2015: 2,700 babies are born with microcephaly (link between the two is suspected but not established)

24th December 2015: Brazil officially declares a state of emergency in relation to the Zika virus

20th January 2016: Cases of microcephaly have now risen to 4,000

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26th January 2016: Brazil admits that they are losing the fight against the Aedes mosquito.

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28th January 2016: WHO release an official statement that the Zika virus is spreading 'explosively'.

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In September 2015, WHO made a statement, highlighting the significance of any and all relevant data and results when the world is going though a 'public health emergency' and that this was to become the 'global norm'. In despite of this statement, the scientific community came together and made the decision to make all data and results regarding the Zika virus free to access and readily available. This decision was made around the 10th February 2016. My question to you guys is, looking at the timeline, when would you have called for such action? 

Have no fear... Team Science is here!

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First of... what is Team Science? Short answer, it is the movement towards interdisciplinary research. This shift in research started in 1983 when Brown and his colleagues pushed for a new way of carrying out research. As such, this would oppose the classic disciplinary approach that modern universities are built on. 

Disciplines such as Biology, Chemistry, Physics and the countless number of other disciplines that fall in the realm of Science, really gained their popularity and power after the Second World War. Ever since then, the discipline have become more and more specialised. Just look at Botany; Organic chemistry; Biochemistry or Developmental Biology. 

It has worked so far I suppose, so why would we get scientists from different disciplines and put them in a team... together? In a nutshell. 21st Century Problems are - tricky. They fail to fall neatly into one discipline. Climate change alone cannot be solved by one branch of science, neither can, public health issues such as that seen in Ebola along with the ones yet to make a debut. And contrary to belief, (this may wound some peoples egos) one person is not equipped with all the knowledge and skills needed to solve our global problems. But thats ok! Because, together we can... and we will. 


OK lets round this up for you guys! We are facing a lot of challenges and it seems as though we are navigating through a lot of unchartered territories. I believe, there are a lot more surprises that mother nature has in store for us, whether it be the countless number of microbes lying in wait, or, perhaps the next danger could be bioterrorism. No idea. Little way of predicting what is to come.  
However, its not all bad news. Scientists have to start practicing the fine art of collaboration and teamwork, and with innovative technology, we will win these battles. And why? Because together we are a force to be reckoned with!

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That is Biobunch,
Over and out

Greetings, let us carry on with the subject of moths. Upon hearing the word "moth" it invokes images of drab brown insects that munch our clothes. Still there's plenty more to these generally-nocturnal fliers than meets the eye. 
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These insects are extremely diverse with over 160,00 species in the world. Hopefully our previous post which provided you with differences within the misunderstood moths and their more elegant and more appealing butterfly cousins was knowledgeable. When thinking of what to write for today's post, we thought of the most obvious choice "most beautiful moths of the world" but that seemed over done and instead we decided to embark on a road to weirdness. And the results lie here in a form of a post which consists of strange facts about moths and some strange moths themselves. 
Greetings everybody, 

Conservation status: Least Concern. 

Habitat: Originally, the Grey Wolf was the worlds most widely distributed mammal, living throughout the northern hemisphere. Present distribution is more restricted: wolves occur primary in wilderness and remote areas, especially in Canada, Alaska and northern USA, Europe, and Asia. 

Height: 80-85cm (Average adult at the shoulder)

I have decided to give you crash course on wolf pack order... your welcome. Lets start then...

Alpha pair: 

Write at the top of the pack are the alpha female and male. Both of these individuals make all the decisions for the continued wellbeing of the pack. 
Interestingly, the alpha female even though being smaller and faster than the alpha male rarely partakes in hunting due to the risk of her getting hurt. That doesn't stop her from expressing her alpha status in the situation though as she will govern the operations from the sidelines. She often initiates pre-hunt preparation as well as letting the mid ranking wolves know what species will be hunted depending on the season. 


These guys are the pack enforcers, easily recognisable as they are the biggest and most daring of the entire pack. As the muscle of the pack they rely heavily on their strength acquired through their access to high quality meat to carry out their role of protector and disciplinarian. 
Betas do not just outsize the alphas, they also out howl them to. Betas are capable of howling for about 3-4 times longer than an alpha! The purpose of this is to add elements of strength and continuity to the packs howl. 

Lower ranks: 

Otherwise known as the mid-ranking wolves. Their entire role is to create an illusionary effect of there being more wolves in the pack than there actually are… sneaky. 
They fulfil this role in several ways: 
  1. Each member varies their diet, thereby ensuring that their individual scent markings never stay the same- thus suggesting the illusions of more wolves. 
  2. When the pack initiates a howl they punctuate it with a variety of sounds ranging from yips to whines. Ultimately this makes it harder for neighbouring packs to accurately quantify how many members are present in that pack. 
  3. Lastly, they are naturally cautious to everything new or novel in their home territory. Both the Alphas and Betas rely on this.  

This last group bring the pack to completion.

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The Hunters: 

20-25% smaller than adult males, hunters are often females and as such are much quicker on their feet. Additional speed proves useful when in hot pursuit of prey or cutting of escape routes for a chosen target. 

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The Nannies: 

Considered to be the ‘chosen ones’ these male or female individuals are hand selected by the alpha female herself to care and educate her pups once weaned, in order for her to return to her high rank. 
Pups are taught by the nannies of the pack to lower their heads out of respect to a more dominant member of the pack. They are taught this by nannies snapping the air beside the muzzle forcing them to look down to avoid the bite. 

The Omega wolves: 

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Otherwise known as the’Cinderella wolf’ due to the misconceptions of these individuals being mistreated and of lowest rank. However, this is not correct! They are essential for the continued survival of the pack. 
Omegas are responsible for defusing tensions between pack members. They do this by mastering how to draw attention to themselves by playing games. 
Similar to that of the beta, omegas also add character to the packs howl. The omega is the most tuneful of them all, capable of reaching a combination of high and low notes thereby introducing harmony to the groups howling sessions and calming them down when they are all on the defensive. 

Hope you enjoyed the species of the week post as much as I enjoyed researching for it! 

Until next week, have a lovely weekend
Over and out! 

Greetings everybody!

Its the best time of the week again it is POST day! Oh yeah and it is Friday...

Moving along did you guys catch Beyonces performance at the Superbowl? If you answered yes, then you may recall that as usual Beyonce put on a fierce show and it got me thinking, where does one seek such inspiration to be so naturally fierce. I found my answer from the female bosses of nature, check it out! 

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Killer Whales:

Easily recognisable from iconic movies such as Free Willy, Killer Whales otherwise known as Orcinus orca are the first animals of the post to be mentioned for leading ladies. These giant dolphins, live in pods ranging from five to fifty members all being extremely social with one another to help form long lasting ties. 

Interestingly, all pods are matriarchal, meaning, they are lead by the female line. Ever male and female remain with their maternal pod for the rest of their lives. Some pods have even be found to still be lead by who they suspect is the grandmother to the pod!

Killer whales have a strong female support group, where a birthing mother is never left on her own. At the very least, one female member of the maternal pod will play the role of midwife when the baby makes its debut. This midwifery role played by other female members is key, as it is crucial that the baby is carefully directed to the surface of the water to take its first breath.

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It is near to impossible to mention killer whales without mentioning their high levels of intelligence. There are three types of killer whale: resident, transient and offshore, each of these types differ in their diets and where they live. As such, the juveniles found in each type are automatically enrolled into a ‘hunting school’ like programme where they are passed on knowledge on key hunting strategies such as stunning prey with tail strike or wave washing seals of ice. Check out this video below of a matriarch and her pod working together to bring down a seal.

Following on with today's theme we are putting the spotlight on the Queen of the Jungle, Lionesses:

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Previous research has shown that a pride of lions is led by the females, with the male being a temporary but essential section in the life of a lioness. Looking at a pride of lionesses, the concept of sisterhood has never been made clearer. All lionesses within a pride are related to one another by birth whether they be a grandmother, mother, daughter, sister, cousin, or aunts.
Unlike male lions, lionesses spend their lives on their natal territory, with relationships formed from birth. Not ones to leave a sister behind, if one was to fall ill, or injured on a hunt her female led support network will provide her with food and look after the cubs. Sense of sisterhood even stretches into all lionesses synchronising when they are in heat, resulting in all of them birthing at the same time! However, this means that all the adult females can suckle each other's cubs. Sisterhood!

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Of course, rearing cubs is not the entire life of a lioness, they are also the prides only source of food as male lions rarely partake in this activity. Close knit ties aids in their hunting strategies, as they rely on teamwork to bring down prey larger than themselves. United, a pride of lionesses also have the power to see off lone wandering males threatening their territories whilst the male lions keep off other wandering male coalitions. Check out the BBC video clip below!

Kings and Queens of their kingdoms, formed through the stability of the pride, a stability shaped through the lionesses rearing the future generation, feeding the members and maintaining the territory in the absence of the males.

Using the words from Sasha Fierce herself in Run the World (Girls) Lionesses are:

One of the biggest matriarchal societies in nature is found to be in our very own European honey bees. 

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Each colony is made up of hundreds of committed workers all infertile daughters ruled over by a single queen bee. Every worker plays their part in extending and maintaining their hive, at the same time as raising their sisters and making foraging trips for nectar and pollen, that’s a lot of work! 
Each worker bee has a lifespan of about four-five weeks, during this time they move from carrying out duties in the nest to using their wings in nectar-gathering ventures, so, like a graduation ceremony almost.

What about our Queen Bee? Well, when the colony reaches a certain colony size she founds a new colony leaving behind an heir, the next Queen Bee. In order to commit completely to her role of birthing the next generation, she gets all the sperm she would require to produce offspring for the rest of her life (5 years)  in one sexual encounter.

There are so many examples of leading women in nature such as hyenas and many human societies also. However, I thought one example of an ideal world that we are all striving towards is equality of the sexes, in such case Wolves are second to none for this.

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Wolves have achieved a perfect balance whereby the close knit pack of about 8-12 individuals are ruled over by an alpha female and alpha male. These highest ranking individuals together make the best decisions to protect both the pack and their territory. I am not going to talk about them too much know as they will be featured in a species of the week post very soon!

Nonetheless, in terms of nature's power couple wolves are definitely in the top 5!

That wraps it up again! Have an awesome weekend guys and remember to keep up with my twitter account.

Over and out
Greetings everybody, 

First of, Happy Friday! This week was the week of the hashtag for science, we had #WorldWetlandsDay, #WorldCancerDay, #WeCanICan and of course we had #NatureAlert. The last one was set up to combat the EU parliaments move to review the Nature Directives. Through a mixture of us all getting on social media and using the #NatureAlert and the Strasbourg European Parliament report we all managed to slim down the chances of the Nature Directives being changed. The Strasbourg report discussed in a great depth of detail the Mid Term Review of the 2020 Biodiversity strategy, and having read through every page I decided to present to you guys some of  the points made in the report. 
(The points chosen here are not by any means those of highest priority just simply the ones I wished to discuss and I would urge everyone read it them selves)

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Safeguarding Biodiversity is crucial if we have any hope of achieving our targets by 2020, especially as it directly relates to several of the Sustainability Development Goals and Aichi Target 11. The continued loss of our Biodiversity will also hit the economy as 1/6 jobs within the EU depend on some aspect of nature! 

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Lack of information was a major topic of concern within the report: 

  1. Believes the cause for the slow progress made by the Member States on the implementation and enforcement of the EU environmental legislation is due to a lack of data detailing what stage of implementation they are at.  
  2. Inadequate knowledge on the amount of funding and finance invested in nature conservation by each of the Member States. 
  3. Challenge was set for the Commission and Member States to invest in more data collection as well as long term monitoring of both species and their habitats, particularly focusing on areas with limited or no data on them. Inadequate knowledge on the amount of funding and finance invested in nature conservation by each of the Member States

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Sections of the report highlighted the role that sustainable agriculture and forestry have to play in maintaining biodiversity: 

  1. To date the effectiveness of the reconstructed CAP (Common Agricultural Policy) on the improvement of agricultural biodiversity has shown no significant development, however it is still in its early stages of development. 
  2. Called all Member States to provide aid to farmers and forestry operators on how to achieve the 2020 targets. 
  3. Member States have been asked to release data detailing whether or not they provide permission for the use of pesticides and fertilisers in the Ecological Focus Areas following the enforcement of EU regulations. 
  4. Pollinators will benefit from the proposal of a European Initiative launch that will focus on how pesticides implants are affecting bees and other pollinators especially those that are neonicotinoid based. 
  5. But why so much attention and calls to action for EU's pollinators, perhaps, its because the monetary value for our pollination services is estimated at €15 billion a year! 

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In the conclusion of the report, the possible review of the Nature Directives was officially opposed due to several resulting factors. Firstly, the modification of these directives would threaten achieving the 2020 Biodiversity strategies as it would bring about an extensive period of legal confusion. Overall, the directives show a high degree of adaptability in light of any technological and scientific advances, so there is no need to change them. 

Alright then, that was my highlights of the report pretty awesome right? But the thing I wanted to leave you guys with is...


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The report quite literally stated the following....
[We urge] EU leaders to listen to the half a million citizens who have called for our strong nature protection laws to be upheld and better implemented.

#NatureAlert allowed all of us to come together and show just how much power we have over international level policy! Well done to every single one of you who let your voice be heard. 

Thats Biobunch, 
Over and out
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