Category Archives: Science and Environment

Dinosaurs, Astronauts, and Gin: Why You Should go to This Year’s Norwich Science Festival

By David Winlo

A palaeontologist, an astronaut and a plant scientist walk into The Forum. No, this is not the intro to a cracking science joke, but just three of the amazing guest speakers coming to this year’s Norwich Science Festival from the 21st to the 29th of October! If you’re not excited already (I for one was convinced at the word ‘dinosaurs’), read on, and you will find a reason… Continue reading Dinosaurs, Astronauts, and Gin: Why You Should go to This Year’s Norwich Science Festival

Advice for Biologically Inclined Freshers Part 2: Where to Go in Norfolk to See the Best Wildlife

By David Winlo

September is drawing nearer, bringing with it your chance to explore the nature in and around UEA. In my last article, I gave some tips as to where to go on campus to experience some nature. This time, we’re going to stray much further afield, and see what there is to see in the rest of Norwich and Norfolk.

With the exception of the green areas at UEA, I will admit that Norwich isn’t the best place to go and see wildlife. That’s not to say that if you’re out in the city, you can’t get away from the busy shopping streets and find a nice park to visit. I recently visited Eaton Park a few nights in a row. This was not to watch squirrels leaping through the trees, as Eaton Park is definitely more geared towards giving humans nice grassy areas to ‘leap about’ in, and so doesn’t contain many trees away from the edges and boundaries between areas. I didn’t even go to try and spot the fish in the fishpond, though that can easily add a little something to any biologist’s visit. No, I went to see bats, and see them I did! Not only did the hand-held detector I brought along not really cease chirping for any length of time after a certain point in the evening, I saw many of the bats I was detecting as they flew over the fishpond catching insects. I hadn’t seen many wild bats before starting my project, but after a few visits to Eaton Park, I can safely say I’ve seen more than my fare share in recent weeks.

There are other parks with other attractions around Norwich. Whilst they may not be the most purely natural places you’ve ever visited, any green area in a city is a good place to go to look for wildlife or just be closer to it when out and about. There’s Heigham Park, Earlham Park (which is very close to campus and most convenient for residents of the student village), and Chapelfield Gardens, the last of which always brightens my walks into the city, and is a good spot for a picnic on a sunny day. If plants are your thing, Chapelfield gardens and Earlham park in particular have a good number of trees as well as open areas, and make for good venues for tree-identification contests – or is it just my friends who do those?

The aforementioned bat-recording was not just done for fun, it was for part of my course. You’ll soon find some great green areas in and around Norwich in yours. Be it Lusty Hills, Bure Marsh, or, Swaziland… your course can take you to some really interesting locations (these are just some of the ones you might go to as an ecologist). Take the second of these as an example, and let’s see where else it can take us. Bure Marsh has been an SSSI – that’s a Site of Special Scientific Interest – since 1991, due to it being home to some very rare plants and animals, invertebrates in particular, as one of the few places in Britain where the green-eyed hawker persists. This is a dragonfly which in this country is very rare, protected by law, and tellingly known as the Norfolk hawker. Bird fans can also hope to see bitterns and marsh harriers here.

SSSIs like this provide great opportunities for fascinating trips out while at uni, and we have a hundred and sixty-three of them in Norfolk! Among the largest of these, at 18,079 hectares, is Breckland Forest, a huge habitat for many interesting bird species, including the elusive nightjar, as well as various plant and fungi species. Only forty minutes’ drive from campus, it could make a nice temporary habitat for intrepid BIO and ENV students as well!

With all these places to explore, whether you’re coming from within Norfolk or elsewhere in the country or the world, you can be sure you won’t be short of relaxing, beautiful, and fascinating natural areas to explore.

ImageNorfolk or Green Eyed Hawker. Aeshna isocelesby gailhampshire is licensed under CC BY 2.0.

Advice for Biologically Inclined Freshers: Where to Go on Campus to See the Best Wildlife.

By David Winlo

Hello and welcome to the University of East Anglia, and this, its online student life magazine, The Broad! If you’ve seen the university already on the internet or on one of its open days, you’ve probably seen an awful lot of concrete. Now don’t get me wrong, I do enjoy seeing the campus when I come in for lectures, but there can be times when particularly an ecology student like me, or another student of the BIO and ENV schools, can grow tired of man-made structures, and want to plan a little field trip for some respite.

Continue reading Advice for Biologically Inclined Freshers: Where to Go on Campus to See the Best Wildlife.

Citizen Science: What it is and How to Get Involved

By Luke Farnish

‘Stand on the shoulders of giants’. This is the slogan of Google Scholar, the Google search for scientific, peer-reviewed articles – and scientists do stand on the shoulders of the giants who came before them, those names immortalised by their incredible achievements. But, equally so, scientific understanding is built from a foundation of hard graft. To generate large datasets, scientists rely on the dedication of members of the public to record information for them. This is called citizen science.

Continue reading Citizen Science: What it is and How to Get Involved

The Science of Christmas

 

By Luke Farnish and David Winlo

It’s that time of year again. Secret Santas are being set up, house Christmas dinners being planned, and many a slightly frozen student is heading to Unio for a seasonal hot drink. In other words, it is December, and Christmas will soon be upon us. Here at The Broad we celebrate Christmas in various ways, and we scientists are no different. So here is a scientific explanation of some, if not all things Christmas.

Continue reading The Science of Christmas

An Alternate View

By Luke Farnish

Humans have always loved drawing maps, ever since the Greeks and their contemporaries began to explore the world, we have recorded the lands we have seen on sheets of paper. However, the most important fact about any map of the Earth is that it is wrong. It is impossible to completely accurately plot a spherical surface onto a flat rectangle; therefore, all maps are wrong. The issue is, our current most used projection is very wrong. This projection you will have seen on the walls of your old geography classroom is called the Mercator projection and was drawn up in 1569. Continue reading An Alternate View

The Science of Finding Dory: What it Got Right and Wrong

 

By David Winlo

This will not be your ordinary film review. I’m not going to discuss the plot of the film, how funny it was or whether or not it will make you cry. I’m here to look at it scientifically, whilst ignoring the talking sea creatures of course. So here are some things that were and were not scientifically accurate in Disney’s latest animated animal adventure.

Continue reading The Science of Finding Dory: What it Got Right and Wrong

Help a Hedgehog: Advice For Bonfire Builders

By Luke FarnishThere’s a chill in the air and the days are growing shorter which can mean only one thing: celebrations are just around the corner. As pumpkins and spider webs litter people’s front windows, many will be reciting that age old rhyme, ‘Remember, remember, the fifth of November’. As you dust off that box of sparklers you’re not sure will even light and sort through your clothes to see which you don’t mind burning on the guy, spare a thought for the hedgehogs of your neighbourhood. Continue reading Help a Hedgehog: Advice For Bonfire Builders

What an Age We Live In

By Luke Farnish

What time is it?

The answer may seem simple, just look over at your clock for the time, your calendar for the date and year. But for geologists, things are not so easy. The Earth’s geological history is split into segments of varying length, from aeons which can last five hundred million years or more to epochs and ages that can last just a few thousand. Pick up any off the shelf text book on geology and it should proudly claim that we currently live in the Holocene epoch, an epoch that began somewhere around ten to twelve thousand years ago. But now this view has begun to change.

Continue reading What an Age We Live In

When the Whales Came

 

By Luke Farnish

Few animals fill us with more awe than whales, the majestic but gentle giants of the seas. Seeing one of these magnificent creatures stranded on a beach is distressing, but so far this year thirty sperm whales have been stranded on beaches across the North Sea from France to Helgoland. The first to be washed up this year in the UK was at Hunstanton, not far from UEA on the north Norfolk coast. Unfortunately all the UKs washed up sperm whales have now died. 

Continue reading When the Whales Came