A fossil recently discovered on the Isle of Wight has been revealed as a first of its kind to be found in the UK. The fossil belonged to an ancient flying reptile which would have soared through the skies of southern England 100 million years ago.
The fossilised jaw fragment was found by an amateur fossil hunter on Sandown beach, Isle of Wight. The delicate fossil was identified as a tapejarid (a type of medium-sized crested pterosaur) by scientists at the university of Portsmouth, recognisable by the characteristic shape of the jaw and minute holes in the jaw, which experts think were used to detect prey. The fossil has been donated to the IoW dinosaur museum for future display.
So, what did this animal look like? These pterosaurs were small to medium sized and lived around 100 million years ago, during the cretaceous period. With more curved wings than other species, they are well known for the large bony crests on their heads. It is very likely that these crests would have been highly colourful in real life, almost twice the size of the skull, and probably used to communicate and attract partners, much like many bird species such as pheasants and birds of paradise. There has been much debate concerning the diet of these animals, but it is thought that they fed on plant material, especially considering that flowering plants were diversifying around the time these creatures appeared.
The fossil is a key finding for our understanding of these creatures; before the discovery of this specimen, the tapejarids were only known from Brazil, Morocco and China, and this find not only demonstrates a very wide distribution of these pterosaurs, but also showcases the diversity of mesozoic species on the island and surrounding area.
Antarctica is arguably one of the most barren, extreme environments on the planet, with only one permanent terrestrial resident – the Emperor penguin. However, wind the clock back 90 million years, and the continent was far from a frozen wasteland. New evidence has suggested that this icy continent was largely covered in tropical swamp forest, during the time of the Dinosaurs.
The cretaceous period, which spanned from approximately 145 to 66 million years ago, was a very warm period in earth’s history, with an almost worldwide greenhouse climate, and an abundance of vegetation and tropical forests. Antarctica at this time was mostly covered in a swampy, tropical forest and there were no glaciers at the south pole.
Scientists at the Alfred Wegener institute, Germany, made this discovery by analysing sediment cores drilled from the seafloor in West Antarctica. These cores show a glimpse of the past environment in Antarctica, with sediments nearer to the bottom of the core representing older geological time. At three metres down on the core, representing the late cretaceous period, the sediment composition changed drastically, composed mainly of a coal-like material, soil, roots and pollen. The team identified over 65 types of plant material, indicating the presence of an ancient conifer forest.
So, what exactly lived in these forests? The forests would have likely been very similar in plant structure to some of the forests in modern-day New Zealand, dominated by towering tree ferns, cycads and coniferous trees. At this time in history, flowering plants had only recently evolved so were likely rare in these forests. Biogeochemical evidence from the sediment cores also revealed that microscopic photosynthetic life such as algae and cyanobacteria were common in warm lakes and rivers.
These forests were dominated by a variety of dinosaur species, which filled many of the ecological roles of forest ecosystems today. There were giant herbivorous dinosaurs such as the long necked Austrosaurus, and Muttaburrasaurus, a close relative of the Iguanadon, whose remains are commonly found on the Isle of Wight. There were also carnivorous dinosaurs such as Cryolophosaurus and Australovenator, and the tiny herbivorous Leaellynasaura, which likely lived in small groups in the forest. Primitive mammals shared the forests with the dinosaurs; they were furry, egg laying species which were likely similar to modern echidnas and platypus. It is also known that the river networks around these forests were home to a giant salamander-like amphibian called Koolasuchus, belonging to an ancient lineage of animals over 250 million years old.
The discovery of these polar forests is not only an exciting advance for palaeontology, but also shows us how key carbon dioxide levels are in the shaping of an environment. It is known that the tropical climate during the cretaceous period could have only been possible if carbon dioxide levels were much higher than today, so this discovery could give an insight into the future environmental implications of increased carbon dioxide levels in the near future.
The Purbeck heath habitat is an incredibly important natural area for Dorset’s wildlife, providing habitats for a great variety of species. The heathland area comprises a number of habitats, including heathland, sand dunes, salt marsh, Reed beds and woods, and these habitats are home to a myriad of amazing species, such as warblers, bats, butterflies, lizards and even carnivorous plants.
An idea generated by a group of seven landowners joining forces and combining several chunks of land together, the super national nature reserve (NNR) in Purbeck heath will be the first of its kind in the UK, and it is hoped that by combining this natural land, it will be easier to manage, and will make it much easier for animals to navigate through the environment.
The Purbeck heath area is home to a variety of important species, some of which are unique to the area, and many have very small, fragmented habitats with a dwindling population. As such, this nature reserve will play a key role in connecting their habitat and hopefully sparking population growth. One such species which will greatly benefit from this land integration is the pearl-bordered fritillary butterfly; this species was once thought extinct in Dorset, it is estimated that around 15 individuals are living amongst the Purbeck heaths, and they all occupy a very small area at present.
However instead of merely preserving this habitat, many changes will be made to create a dynamic habitat, allowing a great diversity of species to establish themselves. For example, grazing and trampling by cattle, pigs and other ungulate mammals will be encouraged in order to stimulate ecological succession in the environment. This behaviour is hoped to maximise biodiversity in this habitat. Also, anthropogenic changes to the plant assemblages in the area, such as removing the non-native Scots pine and encouraging growth of native flora, will encourage many insect species to thrive.
Dorset is home to a variety of carnivorous plant species, found mainly in nutrient-poor boggy peat habitats, and have evolved to feed on insects and other invertebrates to supplement their nutrient levels. It is hoped that this super reserve will see a boom in these species, including sundew plants, aquatic bladderworts and butterworts.
Among the many species in this new habitat, bird species are amongst those expected to thrive. The Dartford warbler is one such species, preferring in gorse heathland, and feeding on invertebrates such as spiders. The Purbeck heaths are a key habitat for the naturally rare Dartford warbler stronghold in Britain, so the development of this area will be key for the species. The heathland is also home to a variety of other bird species, such as Osprey, Marsh Harrier, Stonechat and Merlin. Reptiles are also key species, mainly in the sand dune and heathland habitats, indeed all six species of native reptiles can be found here, including smooth snakes, sand lizards and slow worms.
This project is a landmark step in landscape-scale conservation, and the important that this plays in maintaining Dorset’s native biodiversity and providing a home for wildlife.
Women’s Day 2020: Life
and Environmental Science Researchers
Dr Catherine Gutmann Roberts is a postdoctoral researcher in fish
migration ecology. Postdoc researching migration ecology and phenology across a
range of taxa, but with a keen interest in freshwater and diadromous fishes.
She is interested in all aspects of aquatic ecology and conservation, enjoys
working with citizen scientists (anglers) to collect data and samples. She also
has a passion for science communication and public engagement in research.
Victoria Dominguez Almela is assessing the
‘dispersal-enhancing’ traits of non-native fish species in their invasion range to quantify the importance of trait plasticity in driving
natural rates of diffusion. Progress to date has included completion of
swimming performance using flume tanks (as shown in the picture) and functional
response experiments. Results are promising, but work is still in progress!
Professor Amanda Korstjens and her mother pictured here, who was 78 years
young when she went to Indonesia on a Student Environment Research Team (SERT) training trip with Bournemouth University
students. Her research topics include: I. How climate and human disturbance
influence primate distribution patterns and survival; 2. Eco-tourism,
conservation, disease transmission and human-wildlife conflicts; 3. The
evolution of mating strategies and female sexual signals, esp. in red colobus
monkeys. You can find all her brilliant research activities on the Landscape
Ecology and Primatology (LEAP) website: https://go-leap.wixsite.com/home
Professor Anita Diaz and some of the
Purbeck Wildlife Student Environment Research Team (SERT) are based at Bournemouth
University. The SERT project helps research what habitat management most helps wildlife
conservation on the Purbeck Heaths National Nature Reserve. It runs each year,
mentored by Anita Diaz and working in close collaboration with the National
Trust. They also collaborate with a range of other conservation organisations
including the RSPB and Back from the Brink.
Nature Volunteers website https://www.naturevolunteers.uk/ is a HEIF funded project
that connects people wishing to volunteer to help nature with volunteering opportunities
offered by conservation organisations all over the UK. It is also a research
tool that helps us, and conservation organisations understand what people who
are new to nature volunteering are looking for and what encourages their
Dr Alice Hall is a postdoctoral researcher
working at Bournemouth University. She specializes in marine biology and
ecological engineering. Her work focuses on building multifunctional structures
which can perform their primary function and also provide suitable habitat for
marine life. She is currently working on
an Interreg Atlantic Project called 3DPARE which is 3D printing concrete
artificial reef units for use in the Atlantic region.
Katie Thompson is doctoral researcher
in African Elephant conservation. Her research focuses on ecosystem level
conservation environmental education and sustainable development. Ultimately,
she aims to use this knowledge to facilitate improving long term management of
wildlife and their natural habitats, through high impact research and outreach
Professor Genoveva Esteban’s research
interests focus on biodiversity at the microbial level in order to understand
and predict the functioning of aquatic systems by characterising microbial
biodiversity at local and regional scales, and by defining the role played by
microbes in the natural environment and food webs. Her research is two fold:
(1) she leads a successful programme that aims to link science with
conservation through research on `cryptic’ biodiversity in freshwater
ecosystems; (2) characterisation at molecular and morphological levels of the
rare aquatic microbial consortia that thrive in wet woodlands, some being new
species to science. She is also a dynamic Science, Technology, Engineering and
Mathematics (STEM) Ambassador.
Jessica Bone is a marine biologist and
Research Assistant for the Marineff project and based at Bournemouth University
(UK) where she also studied both my Bachelors and Masters degrees in marine
ecology. She has enjoyed the interdisciplinary element of Marineff as it has
given her the opportunity to learn more about engineering and materials science
which has complemented my contributions in designing the Marineff pool. She is
also responsible for the Marineff newsletter. Having grown up and studied on
the south coast of the UK, she champions British marine wildlife and has a soft
spot for the intertidal invertebrates. She is also a secretary for the Poole
Harbour Study Group.
With so many reports and news stories about the environmental issues we currently face, including climate change, biodiversity loss and plastic pollution, which problems should cause us most concern and how can we tackle them?
A Bournemouth University (BU) academic will talk at RNLI College on Thursday 13 February to address these issues in the first of a series of free public lectures. BU’s Professor of Marine Biology and Conservation, Rick Stafford, will launch the Fusion Professorial Lecture Series with his talk, ‘Addressing the environmental crisis: from reusable coffee cups to political reform, what really works?’
Rick, from the Department of Life and Environmental Sciences, said: “It’s vital we address the environmental crisis properly in the very near future. This talk will bring together my research over the last two years and present a timely message that it’s not too late to act, and give a positive vision of what the future could be like if we do.”
Using his research, Rick will demonstrate that plastic pollution is a real threat, but has been overemphasised in order to maintain the economic and political status quo. His findings also show that climate change and biodiversity loss need large systematic changes in economic and political thinking to be successfully tackled, although nature-based solutions such as tree planting and a respect for nature are also important.
Rick will demonstrate the benefits to biodiversity and society of changing our approach to economics, and show that necessary changes will be advantageous to most people, both in developed and developing countries.
Rick added: “It’s very timely, and hopefully it will inspire people to support the necessary changes we need at local, national and international levels.”
The Fusion Professorial Lecture Series is free and open to the public, with six planned throughout the year, and cover a wide range of topics from BU academics.
Rick Stafford’s research began studying rocky shores, and developed into mathematical and computer models of animal behaviour. He currently works on topics as diverse as marine protected areas, fisheries, artificial reefs, as well as climate change and biodiversity loss.
The free to attend lecture takes place on Thursday 13 February, 6:30pm, and is ticketed. You can register for tickets on Eventbrite.
“Short-distance dispersal enables introduced alien species to colonise and invade local habitats following their initial introduction, but is often poorly understood for many freshwater taxa. Knowledge gaps in range expansion of alien species can be overcome using predictive approaches such as individual based models (IBMs), especially if predictions can be improved through fitting to empirical data, but this can be challenging for models having multiple parameters. We therefore estimated the parameters of a model implemented in the RangeShifter IBM platform by approximate Bayesian computation (ABC) in order to predict the further invasion of a lowland river (Great Ouse, England) by a small-bodied invasive fish (bitterling Rhodeus sericeus). Prior estimates for parameters were obtained from the literature and expert opinion. Model fitting was conducted using a time-series (1983 to 2018) of sampling data at fixed locations and revealed that for 5 of 11 model parameters, the posterior distributions differed markedly from prior assumptions. In particular, sub-adult maximum emigration probability was substantially higher in the posteriors than priors. Simulations of bitterling range expansion predicted that following detection in 1984, their early expansion involved a relatively high population growth rate that stabilised after 5 years. The pattern of bitterling patch occupancy was sigmoidal, with 20% of the catchment occupied after 20 years, increasing to 80% after 30 years. Predictions were then for 95% occupancy after 69 years. The development of this IBM thus successfully simulated the range expansion dynamics of this small-bodied invasive fish, with ABC improving the simulation precision. This combined methodology also highlighted that sub-adult dispersal was more likely to contribute to the rapid colonisation rate than expert opinion suggested. These results emphasise the importance of time-series data for refining IBM parameters generally and increasing our understanding of dispersal behaviour and range expansion dynamics specifically.”
Are you ready for the #BigGardenBirdWatch taking place on 25-27 Jan. You can Sign-up today and get access to Big Garden Extra. Here you can access exclusive articles, downloads and celebrity interviews. Watch this video to find out more:
Bringing together conservation organisations and local business
The interest in the future of our wildlife and related environmental issues is driving a great deal of behavioural changes, for example 72% of miliennials are willing to spend more on products from companies committed to positive social and environmental impact. In the US, those companies whose employees were given time to undertake charitable environmental work, found that 76% of staff felt better about their employers.
It is no wonder then, that businesses are working to adopt green credentials, visible to both their customer base and their employees, in order to drive success.
Through networking and showcasing, delegates at this conference, will explore problems for local wildlife conservation. There will be a focus on local case studies, and opportunities to seek new collaborations and find potential solutions.
This years key speakers, Dr Anjana Khatwa and Ben Hoare, will address one of the most important resources within any sector – the workforce, and principally the issue of societal representation in the conservation sector.
This conference will therefore look at two strands:
Encouraging links between conservation organisations and business to encourage partnerships and the provision of support/resources in the mutual interest of preserving the local environment
Employability, skills and diversity within the conservation sector (in Dorset)
The Importance of Wildlife Conservation in Dorset
Professor Rick Stafford – Bournemouth University
The Future Workforce: The Impact of Work Placements
Julie Gill, Placement Coordinator – Bournemouth University
Frances Jenkins, Placement Coordinator – Kingston Maurward College
Case Study, Short Film: Hengistbury Head Placement Scheme
Does Nature Conservation Represent Society
Key Speaker: Ben Hoare, Editorial Consultant, BBC Wildlife Magazine
Privilege and Permission: Being Brown in a White Landscape
Key Speaker: Dr Anjana Khatwa, Learning and Earth Science Specialist
Go Wild – Collaborate!
Introduction by Luke Rake, Principal and CEO of Kingston Maurward College
Nature Volunteers: Matching opportunities with resources
Rachel James, Wild Paths, Dorset Wildlife Trust
Ali Tuckey, Durlston Country Park
Puff Storey, 3 Sided Cube, Tech For Good
Lottie Forte J.P. Morgan, Volunteering and Community Relations
Guest Speaker Panel Q&A
Networking Opportunity and Buffet
A full programme will be published to attendees nearer the conference
Please arrive at 13:00 for a prompt 13:15 start
Refreshments and a buffet dinner will be provided
Pre-booking of parking is required and once the spaces have been booked, no further parking on campus will be available.
Accommodation: The University has preferential rates with a number of local hotels, please quote Bournemouth University when booking to access these rates. (Preferential rates are subject to availability and will be advised by the hotel at the time of booking)
Please note that before placing an order, you will be asked to agree to Bournemouth University’s terms and conditions (see below). Please read these terms carefully and make sure you understand them before ordering any Products.
Share your sustainable ideas and real-world solutions at our Living Labs roadshows.
BU is launching its ‘Living Labs’ initiative with two roadshow events that all staff – both academic and professional & support – and students are invited to.
Living Labs embeds sustainability through knowledge, engagement, collaboration and innovation. Within a BU context they are an opportunity for staff and students to research and test sustainable solutions to real-world challenges using our facilities on campus.
Current examples of Living Labs are the vegan menu offers in the Terrace Café or the honeybee colony that live on top of the Fusion Building. Another is the Biodome which provides a year-round controlled climate so research can be carried out, and offers a permanent base for students and staff to conduct experiments into a range of forensic, ecological and wildlife projects.
The Living Labs roadshows are being held as we want to find out about all the brilliant ideas and concepts we know our staff and students have. Whether you have an idea for a new product or marketing campaign or would like to use data from the university grounds themselves for research, we want to hear from you.
The roadshows will introduce the Living Labs concept and share successful Living Labs projects at BU. The event will involve presentations from those who have been involved with past projects, in addition to a collaborative workshop to suggest, discuss and maybe start a new project. It will be an excellent opportunity to meet and innovate with members of the BU community.
There will be a replica roadshow Wednesday 11 December in CG11, Talbot Campus for those who cannot attend.
Stepping into Nature aims to help people be happier and healthier by connecting with nature.
This 3-year project funded by the National Community Fund uses Dorset’s natural and cultural landscape to provide activities and sensory rich places for older adults, including those living with dementia and their care partners. Our nature-themed activities – both indoors and out – help people find new places to go, learn new skills and meet like-minded people.
Stepping into Nature’s main areas of activity are:
Working with local organisations such as Dorset Wildlife Trust, Dorset Forest School and Dorset History Centre to support and fund the delivery of inclusive activities inspired by or within nature.
Providing funding for communities and organisations to help create more inclusive, accessible and enjoyable green spaces.
Training staff and volunteers, particularly those within environmental organisations, to become dementia friendly.
There are some exciting activities you can get involved with throughout January: