Here I will share some quick looks at various areas of environmental science, conservation, and places to start exploring more.
Populations of small mammals in the UK are under threat from habitat loss and fragmentation, as well as predation by non-native species
Sustainability at Warwick partnered with Warwickshire Mammal Group to survey the small mammal populations on the University of Warwick campus. From 22 Longworth traps (a humane live catch-and-release trap containing bedding and food), we found 7 wood mice, 2 shrews, and 1 vole - a great result and a promising look at population numbers on campus!
Fly agaric (Amanita muscaria) are well known mushrooms, instantly recognisable to more people as the classic fairytale toadstool. These mushrooms are widely distributed in North America, Europe, and Asia, and often found growing in forests.
Fly agaric mushrooms are toxic and shouldn't be eaten. However these mushrooms are eaten by certain animals, including reindeers and some insect species. These fungi forms mutually beneficial relationships with the roots of some trees. The fungus helps trees to absorb nutrients and water from the soil and in return, the fungus benefits from sugars produced by the tree. If you're interested in learning more about these relationships, I recommend "Entangled Life" by Merlin Sheldrake.
Recently I was part of a moth trap opening. This is only the second time I have been involved with moth surveying, but I loved it this time just as much as the first. Moths are often overlooked in favour of butterflies and are thought of as little brown pests that make holes in your clothes. However moths come in a beautiful array of colours and patterns, and have a lot of importance in the environment. Here's three reasons we shouldn't be so quick to forget about moths.
Pollination. Moths are important pollinators for lots of plants, including those that bloom at night, which helps these plants produce fruits and seeds.
Biodiversity. There are around 160,000 species of moths worldwide, and 2500 in the UK alone. They are important for lots of ecosystem food chains.
Nutrient Cycling. Moths help to breakdown organic matter like dead plants and animals. This helps the nutrients to go back into the environment, which is a crucial part of nutrient cycling.
Agriculture and Climate Change
My work focuses on NOy gases, which is an umbrella term for reactive nitrogen oxides including nitric oxide (NO), nitrogen dioxide (NO2), nitrous acid (HONO), and nitric acid (HNO3). NOy gases are important, but currently quite overlooked greenhouse gases which contribute to the decline of air quality, climate change and can exacerbate respiratory illness in humans. Nitrous oxide (N2O) is a nitrogen oxide, and also a greenhouse gas, but is not usually included as an “NOy species”. N2O has a higher global warming potential than CO2. In these photos, you can see Brassica napus plants, which are commonly known as rapeseed, which is a very important crop. You might see bright yellow fields this time of year, which is the crop flowering. N2O is naturally produced in soils but many studies have linked agricultural land to increased N2O emissions. This is due to the addition of synthetic nitrogen-based fertilisers, which increase the available nitrogen in the soils for plants to use, but also increase the nitrogen available for soil bacteria to use to produce N2O. The good news is that N2O emissions have been decreasing over the past few decades as through research and improvement of management practices that mean we are able to use less fertilisers to grow crops.