• Question: have dicoverd enything new lately

    Asked by jodjosters123 to Cassie, Greg, Karen, Sofia, Tommy on 18 Nov 2013.
    • Photo: Karen Bacon

      Karen Bacon answered on 18 Nov 2013:

      I’m in the middle of writing up a lot of work that I did over the last couple of years – by which I mean I’m writing about my experiments in the form of scientific articles that I will then send to a journal and hopefully get published, so I haven’t made any new discoveries in a while. I am also working on trying to figure out how plants use nutrients differently when the atmosphere has more or less carbon dioxide in it, so hopefully I’ll have an interesting discovery there in a few months!

    • Photo: Sofia Franco

      Sofia Franco answered on 18 Nov 2013:

      The latest discovery we made was actually one of the funniest! Well….barnacles have babies (called larvae) that swim around until they find a good place to live…when they do, they just get stuck to it and transform themselves into adult barnacles! The ones that I work with (called Pollicipes) have really picky babies and just like to get stuck to their parents and nothing else! We tried everything, from glass, to plastic, to plastic, to rocks and nothing convinced the babies to set….one day we glued some structures in nature and when we returned there were dozens of little babies stuck to it! How was this possible? What was this magical material that they liked? The glue!!!! It was quite incredible to think that we looked for so long, when what they actually liked was the glue or the shape the glue created! Now we will use this to attract them in the future!

    • Photo: Thomas Doherty-Bone

      Thomas Doherty-Bone answered on 19 Nov 2013:

      This depends on what you mean by recently.

      For recent experiments, preliminary results suggest that invasive decapods (crabs, crayfish) breakdown leaf litter in water faster than the native. This is still preliminary and a journal reviewer has yet to tell me if my methods were right or wrong (yes, we get peer-reviewed, or “it didn’t happen”). An for field experiments, it appears that leaf litter breakdown and overall ecosystem productivity seems to be the same for invaded vs uninvaded ecosystems, but the results need more thorough analysis and interpretation – early days still.

      I have helped describe a new species of frog and several new species of earthworm from Cameroon. There are more to come, watch this space.

      If not discovering new species to science, I have also found species in countries where we didn’t know they existed. I have also confirmed that one frog restricted to one lake does not occur in other nearby lakes, helping to focus conservation efforts.

      This year, I have co-authored a series of scientific papers on a disease that makes amphibians go extinct, called amphibian chytrid fungus. One paper was the discovery that this pathogen infects caecilian amphibians, a type of “legless newt” (but still very far removed from a newt) that lives in the soil in the tropics. They are very weird creatures. But now we know this disease affects these animals, so we can prepare for the worst. Another discovery was that while this same disease is thought to be indigenous to Africa, it has never been recorded to West Africa (Africa west of Nigeria). So this means the frogs living there could be naive to this pathogen and could decline if it gets inadvertently introduced.

      But, I discover things for myself that are not new to science a lot of the time. When setting up my pond experiments, when I had only water in there for a month, the water went cloudy, which means it was full of phyoplankton (microscopic plants). I added about a litre of water sourced from many different ponds, lakes, streams, rivers. A week later, the water was clear. This was because the small zooplankton (tiny, microscopic animals) had eaten up the plankton. Pretty neat to see with my own eyes, but still fundamental to water quality management.

    • Photo: Cassandra Raby

      Cassandra Raby answered on 20 Nov 2013:

      So I’ve put a little list of the types of things I have found from my research…

      Well after weighing the baboons we can see that the fatter and healthier you are then the less diseases you have.

      I also found that how many parasites the baboons have depend on the time of year…
      That’s why I’m looking at how the weather affects this – and this could give us clues into climate change!

      I also have just helped discover what species of testate amoeba are in the Amazon! These amoeba live in peat bogs, and can tell us about the climate in the past. (And a new species was discovered!!)

      Exciting stuff! 🙂