Comment »Posted on Saturday 7 February 2009 at 4:09 pm by Jacob Aron
In Biology, Climate Change & Environment, Weekly Roundup

The weekly roundup has grown so big this week that it has spilled into Saturday – and that’s even with some stories not making the cut!

Up the creek with no sign of a paddle

People do some strange things in the name of science. Daniel Bennett spent seven years searching the rainforests of the Philippines for the faeces of the rare butaan lizard, a relation of the giant komodo dragon. It’s understandable then that he was rather upset when he found that his 35kg bag of poo had been thrown away by a Leeds University lab technician. He made the discovery on his return to start the third year of his PhD.

“I was surprised to find my desk space occupied by another student,” he said. “My personal effects had been carefully stowed in boxes, but there was no sign of my 35kg bag of lizard shit.

“To some people it might have been just a bag of lizard shit, but to me it represented seven years of painstaking work searching the rainforest with a team of reformed poachers to find the faeces of one of the world’s largest, rarest and most mysterious lizards.”

The university, after a 16 month wait, offered Bennett £500 compensation which he turned down in favour of legal action. He says the loss of the bag left him “reeling” and has changed his life forever. Although he was able to complete his PhD, the depression at his loss severely affected him.

Time for climate change

I came across this rather nifty timeline of climate change at the Met Office’s website. It begins in 1824, when the French physicist Joseph Fourier (inverter of a wonderful mathematical tool, the Fourier series) realised that the atmosphere can trap heat from the Sun, warming the Earth in much the same way as a Greenhouse.

From there we move through a 1938 prediction by engineer Guy Stewart Callendar that the burning of fossil fuels was responsible for warming the planet, the Kyoto Protocol, and a number of other important landmarks in the history of climate science. The timeline speculatively ends in 2100, with world temperatures expected to rise between 1.8-4.0 °C – depending on the action we take in the meantime.


I join the Daily Mail in being a sucker for some pretty picture of animals. They’ve got some great snaps of a kingfisher diving for fish in an ice river in Land Hessen, central Germany.

The kingfisher grabs its underwater prey. Photographer: Gisela Delpho/Picture Press.
The kingfisher grabs its underwater prey. Photographer: Gisela Delpho/Picture Press.

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