Category: Science

  • Circadian clocks in the great outdoors

    We’re all aware of our natural body clock pattern: some people are early birds, some people are night owls, a phenomenon known as your chronotype. You can override this with alarm clocks and coffee, which is especially important for shift workers. But have you ever noticed your chronotype shift when you go on holiday, especially […]

  • Why does Mozambique have a picture of a coelacanth on one of its coins?

    Like the currency of many African countries, the notes and coins of Mozambique feature images of some of the majestic animals of Africa: the elephant, the rhino, the lion. But one Mozambican coin features a rather more obscure animal, the coelacanth.

  • Science in Africa with TReND, AuthorAID and a few connections

    Just over a year and a few months ago I moved to a small town in the northern provinces of Mozambique to support my wife in her work in community development and water and sanitation. I went with a willingness to help out where I could, but with no real background in development, what was […]

  • Surprised by the UK election results? What happened?

    The UK General Election result in May surprised me; I did not expect a Conservative majority, nor did I expect UKIP to get so many votes. But why was I surprised? Being in Mozambique, most of my UK news comes through the few news websites I visit (BBC News and The Guardian), Twitter and Facebook. […]

  • Shifting your clock: shift work and the circadian clock

    To many people, the phenomenon known scientifically as the circadian rhythm is bleeding obvious. We sleep in the night and are awake during the day, long-haul flights like those from the UK to Australia gives you jetlag, and night shifts are a right pain in the bum. Detailed explanations involving transcription-translation feedback loops and phase […]

  • Colourful Chameleons and Stripy Zebras – The Coolest Animals in Africa

    You can say all you like about lions or elephants being the coolest animals in Africa. They are awesome for sure but they’re not quite the top. I suggest that that title goes to the chameleon and the zebra. Why? They are just so unique: one changes colour as much as a fashion model, and […]

  • Mosquitos – fine-tuned by evolution to preferentially feed on humans

    Would you look at that! The story of mosquitos, cheese and body odour has taken another leap into scientific respectability with a paper being published in the pinnacle of journals, Nature. “Evolution of mosquito preference for humans linked to an odorant receptor” by McBride and colleagues was published towards the end of last year and […]

  • A genetic atlas of human history

    Two papers caught my eye recently that have taken advantage of the proliferation of whole genome sequencing techniques in recent years. With prices of sequencing whole genomes coming down and down, biologists are having access to vast amounts of data. The 1000 Genomes Project was one of the first to collect the vast amounts of […]

  • #ScienceAfrica Unconference 2014 – reaching the whole spectrum of society

    It was with great pleasure that I ‘virtually’ attended the second Planet Earth Institute #ScienceAfrica Unconference on the 18th November. From following on Twitter it seemed like an excellent day with good discussions and presentations. Since last year’s Unconference I have moved to Mozambique. In 9 months I have seen extreme rural areas and big […]

  • Plants, polyploidy and producing new species

    When I talk about my career and my interest in evolutionary biology, I often get asked, “How do you actually get new species?”. It’s not a stupid question; for people without a background in biology it really is very hard to imagine how the diversity of life we see today has formed from the types […]