Sunday, 28 August 2016

Mushroom Cloud


We are used to being reminded of the dangers of bacteria developing resistance to antibiotics and what this might mean to human health (return to a pre-antibiotic era). Mycologists are now suggesting, however, that human fungal diseases are developing resistance to the very limited range (around 4) of anti-fungal agents (https://www.theguardian.com/society/2016/aug/27/millions-at-risk-as-deadly-fungal-infections-acquire-drug-resistance). They believe that this is linked to the over-use of anti-fungals by farmers on their crops. People with impaired immune systems (AIDS sufferers and people undergoing organ transplantation) may be especially at risk.

Seeing the Changes 1112





End of season stuff at Pembrey with a bracket fungus peeping from the wood holding back the dunes. In the woodlands there was much Common toadflax (Linaria vulgaris); Soapwort (Saponaria officinalis) and the last few Burnet rose (Rosa pimpinellifolia) blooms.

Saturday, 27 August 2016

Building on Bush


Hawaiian-born President Obama has just approved a great enhancement of the size of the Papahanaumokuakea protected marine reserve set up by President Bush (https://www.theguardian,com/environment/2016/aug/26/obama-to-create-worlds-largest-protected-marine-area-off-coast-of-hawaii-papahanaumokuakea). This will make it the world's largest such reserve with an area of more than 150 million hectares. That sounds a decent size. I expect that fisher-folk will be a tad irritated but this seems a timely response given current environmental challenges.

Milk of Human Kindness?


Studies have suggested that oligosaccharides (short chain sugars) in human and cow's milk reduce the viability of a meningitis-causing agent (Neisseria meningitidis) in in vitro studies (www.ncbi.nim.nih.gov/pubmed/16177210).  Some people have suggested that the sugars (contained in the milk of about 50% of humans) encourage 'friendly bacteria' that compete with the disease agent. This has already led to the sugars being sold as dietary supplements online.

Friday, 26 August 2016

Seeing the Changes 1111




Heavy rain at night, so Little japanese umbrellas (Coprinus plicatus) unfurled in Loughor. With the afternoon sunshine, Rampling fumatory (Fumaria capreolata) bloomed in Bynea.

Tuesday, 23 August 2016

Birder's Bonus 171



Bird activity around Mumbles Lifeboat. A rather knackered Gannet (Sula bassana) rested and 2 Rock pipits (Anthus spinoletta petrosus) busily worked the sea edge.                                                                          

Monday, 22 August 2016

Tangled Up in Blue


It's funny how we ancient academics have to be reminded about changes in technology 'downstream'. I used to mark GCSEs (in the olden days, when they were merely GCEs) and was frequently appalled by the writing (as well as being amused by occasional statements e.g. "In the earthworm, the number of segments increases towards the anus") . There is now a report suggesting a new problem for markers (https://www.theguardian.com/education/2016/aug/22/exam-markers-complain-about-students-blue-ink-scribbles). Candidates are now always instructed to complete their papers in black biro or black ink so that the scripts can be scanned before being sent to examiners for them to use their computers in marking. Apparently, some students ignore the instruction and use blue or green ink, which doesn't scan at all well. An indistinct scan, combined with poor hand writing is very difficult to interpret and could jeopardise the mark.