Category Archives: The Natural World

Attenborough on Darwin: The Tree of Life

This is on my shopping list for sure – and one of those rare occasions I miss British TV. Attenborough kicks the Year of Darwin off with his new documentary, The Tree of Life. Sadly the BBC iPlayer thingy is only available in the UK, though I’m sure some will know how to fool it – if you hurry there are a few days left to download it!

Here’s the man himself (Attenborough, not Darwin – that would be cool) in an interview with Nature magazine:

And if you’re up for an interesting quick read, here are the Top Ten Myths of Darwin from The Rough Guide to Evolution blog.

Nature’s YouTube Channel (and some others)

On the heels of the NewScientist YouTube channel we have the offering from Nature. Where NewScientist provides a news-style clip of current Science headlines, Nature’s YouTube channel takes the approach of a video background to articles published in their journal. So far they have ten videos, though they provide useful background to articles such as the Antikythera mechanism, whale evolution and this one on sequencing the platypus genome:

It’s an encouraging trend to see these journals reach out into internet video publishing – cheap, easy and a great starting place for students getting involved in science. Let’s hope Nature can keep their channel going longer than ScientificAmerican, who started strongly but seem to have given up.

Of course, the bees knees of YouTube channels so far are NationalGeographic, with 847 videos to date. Here’s a gratuitous Great White clip:

JoVE

JoVE

Another great channel (though not on YouTube) is the Journal of Visualised Experiments – actually publishing scientific research papers as videos. A good idea, and some really effective videos – especially for letting us see what is going on in the experiment or operation.  Unfortunately, their videos can’t be embedded, so get yourself on over there and have  a look.

Now comes the question of citing online videos in your work – and here is the answer! (pdf)

Other ‘tube’ resources worth a look are DNAtube and TeacherTube.

ReefCheck – International Year of the Reef

2008 is International Year of the Reef (IYOR) and ReefCheck is an organisation devoted to monitoring and protecting the health of reefs around the world. As part of the IYOR activities, ReefCheck have released their Year of the Reef song, and you can see it on their site or on YouTube:

If you head over the to the ReefCheck.org website, you’ll find a wealth of great resources for education and action regarding the reefs. Particularly useful for students may be the WRAS (web reef advisory system), which is a collection of fact sheets on factors impacting reef ecology.

For people with a more active interest in the reefs (and for IB students interested in racking up some CAS credits), check out the EcoAction pages and see what is available there. You might want to get involved in the EcoMonitoring Program and take part in global reef research.

Also, if you hurry, you could get in on the action for the photo contest (closes 31st August).

One of the coolest things (for me, anyway) about ReefCheck is their presence on the Indies Trader, the vessel of the Quiksilver Crossing which is carrying world-class surfers around the globe searching for the best unsurfed waves on the planet. They also get to check out ‘untouched’ reefs in order to create a baseline against which they can compare the order of damage sustained by other reefs. To see some of their highlights, click here.

ActionFiguresTV has a tour of the Indies Trader here:

Now here’s Sebastian from the Little Mermaid singing the best Disney song ever:

The Great Turtle Race

Sea turtles make huge journeys across the Pacific, to and from egg-laying sites. Turtles laying eggs  in Indonesia paddle (and use currents) all the way to California to forage for jellyfish, and leatherbacks from Costa Rica travel right down to the south Pacific.

Some researchers have been using GPS technology to track migrations to see if their route is the same each year:

There is even an annual event called The Great Turtle Race (this year is the second – The Olympiad!)

Head on over to their website to find out more about sea turtle conservation and visit some of their links.

There’s even a flash game or two to play, or a sea turtle survival lesson from Bridge: National Marine Educators Association

And, of course, there is a facebook group devoted to the race.

This is all organised by the leatherback trust.

Shark vs Octopus – National Geographic Videos

1. Place bets.

2. Play video.

3. Oh yeah.

National Geographic have been playing the YouTube game for two years now and have posted over 600 videos on their channel. Just put ‘science’ into the search box to filter the videos.

150 years since ‘On the Origin of Species’

Darwin’s theory of natural selection was finally published (and sold-out) in November 1859. The idea had been in his head, and a talking point of others, for years before. We’re still talking about it today.

Here’s a clip from a BBC documentary called Legacy about the impact of Darwin’s ideas:

The Guardian newspaper has a great page devoted to Darwin, including key excerpts from ‘On the Origin of Species…‘ and an article by Richard Dawkins.

You can download the full text of the first edition in pdf format from the University of New South Wales, or read it online at Talk Origins.

Social Behaviour

Attenborough and the eusocial naked mole rat. Good to see him get stuck in with a shovel.

Here’s a clip of chimpanzees grooming from www.arkive.org:

I couldn’t find a good clip of ant social behaviour that explained colony structure. Instead, here’s Vicky Pollard doing her thing as an example of anti-social behaviour:

“Where’s the baby?”

“Swapped it for a westlife CD.”

“How could you do that?”

“I know, they’re rubbish!”

Honey to the Bee

Here’s a Nature video podcast special on bees and their social structure:

Here’s a focus on the waggle dance as a means to locate food:

Here’s a focus on the waggle dance, though embedding has been disabled.

Nature again, with their importance to science and agriculture:

Mate Attraction: Bird of Paradise

It almost doesn’t look real, but this we chappy comes direct from Attenborough – so it must be true!

BBC’s Planet Earth is awesome. I wish my telly was bigger than 14″

Eaten Alive/ Monsters Inside Me: Parasites

This clip from Animal Planet has a couple of good examples of parasites in action*:

Animal Planet have some clips of their site: Monsters Inside Me (YouTube channel here)

And this one from the BBC’s Planet Earth shows the Cordyceps parasite take over an ant:

This clips from NewScientist shows the jewel wasp turning a cockroach into its slave/zombie/mobile dining centre – scary!

*Sadly, the best clips have been removed from GoogleVideo. You can buy the 3-part series from Discovery, for the bargain price of $449.85. I still don’t understand why some producers have to charge such a ridiculous fee for their programmes – surely that restricts their use in education? Hats off to all the documentary makers who post them up for free after a while (such as The 11th Hour and SuperSizeMe).

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