Cryptic but important genetic differences within species

different-races-dr-rosedaleAs Charles Darwin noted, the physical differences between individuals of a species are  important for their future survival and success (or not). However there are also many not so obvious differences (known as cryptic variation) between individuals that give us important insights into the evolutionary and ecological history of a species. This information is important for how we make use of and conserve a range of our native biodiversity.

Some of the obvious and cryptic differences between human races (Dr Rosedale)
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Tales from the forest – Teak



Teak is one of the most valuable timber trees in the world, but where did it originally come from…

Teak tree – from Jalan Jati -a project on memories of wood, trees and people and has been captured on film, exhibitions and books. (Woodprint collage – Ranjang Jati (Teak Bed) Woodprint of a 1930’s teak bed found in a Singapore junk store with reproduction of a printout of the DNA profile. Collage on Paper with charcoal. 240 cm x 150 cm. Image Lucy Davis)

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The sexual frustration of the isolated tree


Habitat clearance is threatening global biodiversity. In many places, isolated trees are all that remains of once extensive forest. So what happens to these trees and how can they survive in their new, highly modified environment without becoming the ‘living dead’?

The world’s most isolated tree, an acacia in Nigeria, used for decades as a marker by Tuareg traders and caravans, was recently knocked down by a drunk truck driver who thought it was a mirage

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The maladapted future is here – it’s just not evenly distributed*



Why do we need to take urgent account of current climate maladaptation in ecological restoration…..


* paraphrased quote from cyberpunk essayist, William Gibson

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CSI trees – how forensic science is helping combat illegal logging

Sister City (Part II)

Forensic science has achieved infamy, thanks to television dramas like CSI. But it isn’t just about solving human crimes. Scientists are also using evidence from wood to help solve murders, but in this case the victims are the trees themselves, and the crime is illegal logging.


Abby and Co solving crime through forensic science in NCIS (CBS)

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WTF acronym buster: REDD+ and GCF

about-redd-940x410REDD+ (Reducing emissions from deforestation and forest degradation) is nothing new, but how exactly does it help reduce deforestation and green house gas emissions and will it be given a new lease of life through the Green Climate Fund (GCF).

The concept of REDD was extended with a ‘+’ to more specifically focus on the role of conservation, sustainable management of forests, and enhancement of forest carbon stocks in developing countries

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Science can identify illegally logged timber – so lets start implementing

EPSON MFP imageScience  can  identify the source of timber and verifying legality. So it should be a simple case to apply the science to new international legislation that aims to limit illegally logged timber in global supply chains. Well not quite,  the application of  science requires understanding of the timber industry and supply chain dynamics. A new paper helps identify how science can help eliminate illegal logging.

Artists impression of illegal timber in supply chains. The image plays on the idea of identification by arranging logs into a visual barcode – DNA barcoding is also a method of species identification. A single red log dripping  blood depicts the environmental and societal damage caused by illegal logging and the fingerprints highlight our ability to now identify these types of products in global supply chains (attribution: Little Bones and the Environment Institute) .


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Islands in the sky

hallelujah-mountains-avatar-5849Roof top gardens aren’t just a quasi hipster architect’s dream concept, but really help insulate and cool buildings, capture rainwater and provide locally sourced food. Scientists are now extending their uses  to help conserve endangered plant species.

The Hallelujah Mountains from Avatar – floating islands that circulate slowly in  magnetic currents like icebergs at sea (image from

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What are ecovillages?

A global movement is underway to design and live in ecovillages, but what are they and what can they offer?

The original ecovillage? The hobbit hovels of Hobbiton (image from

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Conserving the fertile crescent

2833666-fertile-valley-ladkh-0The fertile crescent is the birth place of modern agriculture,  where humans changed from shifting nomads to become settled farmers. But in a world where biodiversity is being lost, how do we conserve the future adaptability of crops from this region, and others, to ensure we can keep feeding the world?

The fertile crescent – an area in ancient Mesopotamia (present day southern Iraq, Syria, Lebanon, Jordan, Israel and northern Egypt) of unusually high soil fertility and plant diversity  (image –

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