Thursday, December 6, 2012

Desmond Morris: Most Influential Biologists in 20th Century

He was born in 1928 at Purton, England. He finished his Bachelor’s at University of Birmingham and his Ph.D. at Oxford.
His studies were largely focused on behaviors of animals. He is a well known zoologist, ethologist (scientists who study animal behavior) and a sociobiologist.
His most influential work, the world famous best seller The Naked Ape, was published in 1967. In it he has discussed the behaviors of humans in relation to other animals, mainly other primates and he argues that man even after going through all the evolutionary and cultural transformations, still is an animal who is trying to fulfill its basic animal needs. This was a controversial book and gathered the attention of people from all over the world. He published a sequel to this in 1969 under the title The Human Zoo discussing the modern human behaviors and it’s resemblance to the behavior of animals in captivity. His work is considered as some of the earliest work on Sociobiology. Recently, in 2004 he published another well known book, The Naked Woman discussing the parts of female body and their importance in an evolutionary point of view.
Other than being an eminent biologist, he is a talented artist too. He has conducted many solo art exhibitions in Britain as well as other European countries.
He is un-doubtfully one of the greatest and most influential zoologists in all time.

Edward O. Wilson: Most Influential Biologists in the 20th Century

He was born in Alabama, United States on 1929. He completed his Bachelor’s and Masters at University of Alabama and his Ph.D. at Harvard University. He later joined Harvard as an academic and became a professor in entomology for the Department of Organismic and Evolutionary Biology.
He is a biologist with expertise on many disciplines. He is the World’s leading authority in Myrmecology (Scientific study about ants) and he is also considered as the Father of Sociobiology. He is an eminent researcher and a talented author.
He was interested in insects from his childhood and developed a strong liking towards ants. He did many researches on their diversity, ecology and behaviors later in his life and published the book The Ants in 1990 with his colleague Bert Hölldobler. This work won the Pulitzer Prize for General non-fiction in 1991.

He studied the evolutionary mechanism behind social behaviors such as altruism and aggression and developed the concept sociobiology, the scientific or systematic study of the biological basis of all forms of social behavior through his book, Sociobiology: The New Synthesis published in 1975.
He has authored many more books during his life time. His work On Human Nature (1979) also won him a Pulitzer Prize for General Non-fiction. He wrote an autobiography titled Naturalist in 1994. One of his recently published books, The Superorganism: The Beauty, Elegance, and Strangeness of Insect Societies (2009) which was written by him and Bert Hölldobler is considered as one of the best books on the subject.
He has been awarded by many science and civilian awards throughout his life.

Rachel Carsen: Most Influential Biologists in the 20th Century

(1907-1964) Born in Pennsylvania, United States. She completed her masters in zoology in 1932 and later joined the U.S. Bureau of Fisheries as a junior aquatic biologist.
She eventually became a well known marine biologist and authored three best selling and well known books exploring the life in sea from the shore to the depths. Under the Sea Wind (1941), Sea Around Us (1951) and Edge of the Sea (1955) were those three books and by the time she completed this trilogy she was better known as a full-time nature writer.

Her most influential work, The Silent Spring was published in 1962. This book which was based on her research regarding the environmental and health impact of chemical pesticides including DDT gained a huge attention from various communities. It inspired many environmental movements in the United States which later formed the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and also led to a national ban on DDT.
She died from a heart attack on 1964 and she was posthumously awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom (highest civilian award in US) in 1980.

Carl Woese: Most Influential Biologists in the 20th Century

He was born in 1928 at New York. He did his bachelor’s in mathematics and physics at Amherst College and Ph.D. in biophysics at university of Yale. Later he joined the staff of University of Illinoise where he still works.
Though he is a physicist by training he has contributed a lot as a microbiologist. He described the Domain Archaea based on phylogenetic taxonomy of 16S ribosomal RNA and introduced the three domain classification in 1977.
His major publication is his 1967’s work The Genetic Code: the Molecular basis for Genetic Expression.
He was awarded by the Leeuwenhoek medal (the world’s highest award in microbiology. Awarded once in 10 years by Royal Netherlands Academy of Arts and Sciences) in 1992.

Robert Whittaker: Most Influential Biologists in the 20th Century

(1920-1980) Born in Kansas, USA and did his doctorate at the University of Illinoise. Later he worked in several universities including the Cornell University.
He was one of the most prominent plant community ecologists. He innovated many methodologies to analyze patterns in succession, diversity, productivity and composition of land plant communities. He proposed the five kingdom classification in 1959 and classified the biota in to Monera, Protista, Fungi, Plantae and Animalia. He also suggested a biome classification based on temperature and precipitation.
He was awarded by the Eminent Ecologist Award in 1980 by the Ecological Society of America and he has been honoured by many more awards and honours.

Saturday, May 5, 2012

Field Notes

A field note of a field biologist is a very important part for his/her study. It must be taken with caution as it's your primary data storage for later analysis.
Every field note must start with date, time or time duration and the location. For some observations data on the exact location is also can be valuable. If an observation was made 100 m towards North from a known location X, the location is X and exact location is 100 m towards North from X. Apart from these data, data on weather conditions are also necessary for a field note as it affects on the environment, activities of organisms, your visibility (due to light intensity) and many other factors that can make a significant difference in your data.

After noting down these things, you can proceed in obtaining data required for your study. There are many things that are important in data gathering, but they vary from a study to study depending on the methodology. Thus it's not practical to state them all here.
Let's just see what we must note down when we need to identify an animal, as a lot of nature enthusiasts are interested in this. When we encountered an animal we can not identify, we have to note down several essential data on it. Such as size, shape, colour, habitat, micro habitat, behaviors and call if possible. In some cases we can measure the size accurately, if not make sure that you note down it comparing to a known object or an animal (length about a pen, slightly larger than a crow). For shape and colour we can make a sketch. Do not forget that a sketch is a sketch not a painting. You don't need to be an artist to draw a sketch and you really don't want to colour it. Just make sure that you draw it with correct proportions and colours can be indicated using arrows.
Both habitat and micro habitat are very important in identifying a species. Thus make sure that those data are obtained properly. For a fish a fast flowing stream can be it's habitat while bottom of the stream is it's micro habitat.
If you can observe the animal for some time, note down any data on it's behaviors. Some special behaviors can help in species identification.
Some species can be determined using one or few characters while you need different characters to identify another. (Usually colours and size is enough to identify a bird, but colour has less importance when identifying a frog) If you are sure of what to look at, you can give priority to observe that. If not, make sure that you gather as much data as possible as it'll give you a bigger chance in determining the species your looking at.