Rabbits, pets or pests

Rabbits are a common sight in the countryside and in peoples back gardens. Some are a childs adorable companion while others are seen as a pest, vermin to be removed or destroyed. Over the years there have been many ways in which authorities have attempted to curb the spread of rabbits. Australia is a country which has had some of the worst problems of what can be termed an invasive species. In response to the spread of rabbits they infected the population with myxomatosis in 1950. The disease, which causes tumours to grow around the eyes and genitals, depleted their…

Adventures at West Boldon Lodge

West Boldon Lodge is an environmental education centre in South Tyneside run by Groundwork, with programs for children, youthes and adults. Covering 13 hectares it comprises a variety of habitats, including wetlands, woodlands and grasslands. A couple of months ago I signed up to do some voluntary site maintenance, kindly they asked if I’d like to do something a bit more scientific as well so I took up the offer to wander their site and do some survey work, by the end they will get a list of species and I’ll have gained a lot more field and identification experience, as…

The devil is in the genes…

While searching through topics for a university project I came across details on the Australia Zoo website of a horrific disease spreading through the populations of Tasmanian devils known as Devil Facial Tumour Disease (DFTD).  First described in 1996 this cancer is one of the very few instances where it is transmissible, meaning it can be passed on to others members of the species if tumorous tissue is transferred into the targets body.  This can occur due to the low diversity in their genetics, especially the Major Histocompatibility Complex (MHC), which means that the devils own immune system is unable…