Goblins, orcs and Uruk Hai: taxonomy and Tolkien

Tolkien knew the value of naming. More than that, he knew the value of understanding and labeling diversity. Tolkien was not satisfied with simply mentioning pipeweed, he needed to mention several varieties (Longbottom Leaf, Old Toby, Southern Star), each with its own properties. I have commented on the subspecies of hobbits that…

Craft beers and crafty bugs

I have to admit a certain fondness for craft beers. I particularly like the big tasting American pale ales but will generally try any old thing that I come across. There is certainly a large diversity of craft beers around and it taps into that collector gene that gets you excited…

Balancing the risks and benefits of biological control

Biological control against introduced pests in New Zealand have been used constantly since the late 19th century. However, it is much harder to introduce new agents now due to regulations set by the New Zealand Governments Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), previously known as the Environmental Risk Management Authority (ERMA). Biological control…

It’s all about the birds, but what about the bugs?

Predator control by poisons is considered a must by many in New Zealand. This is a touchy subject to approach as people’s opinions tend to be polarised with arguments for and against. These are particularly focused on how humane these controls are, and the risk to non-target species, especially birds….

Concerning Hobbit subspecies: Tolkien and the taxonomy of damselflies

Tolkien was a taxonomist. At least, he had thoughts like that of a taxonomist. A taxonomist is someone who thinks about taxa, about how to make sensible groups out of individuals, especially about what constitutes a species. Without taxonomy the world is just a place full of individuals and biology…

Gollum and the carpet beetles: One man’s meat is another man’s poison

When it comes to pest species we spend a lot of time thinking about how they forage. Usually pest species cause most of their problems through what they eat. This generates a lot of research on either finding out what makes them stop eating something (to protect what they are eating)…

Ecoblitzing Cambridge

Over the last few days we ran a successful ecoblitz at St Peters School in Cambridge. How does an ecoblitz differ from the more common bioblitz, I hear you ask? In a bioblitz we arrive at a location and try to record all of the biodiversity at that site, typically…

On the value of bespoke collections: regional natural history collections are important too!

  Around my home I have several books that I am currently reading. Beside my bed there is TH White’s The Once and Future King (a classic that I am finally getting around to read), Fables 20: Camelot (the only comic series I read these days) and Clive James’s Poetry…

Rowan Emberson: entomologist

Rowan Emberson has been awarded a Lincoln Medal for his services to entomology. Rowan was a senior lecturer in the department when I first started at Lincoln University. He became a valued colleague with several shared postgraduate students that we supervised. To me, Rowan is one of the last gentlemen…

Carpet Die-m: chemical warfare beneath your feet

In which we control wool eating insects. I like the quote from the Australian philosopher of science Kim Sterelny “Outside the barrier surrounding an [organism], we find a war against all. The space between skins is a no-mans land, controlled by no-one; designed for no-one; littered with the detritus of…