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It Pays to Be Different:Evolutionary Distinctiveness and Conservation Priorities

Tue, 15 Jul 2014 13:15:25 +0000

The world is currently experiencing an extinction crisis. A mass extinction on a scale not seen since the dinosaurs. While conservationists work tirelessly to try and protect the World’s biodiversity, it will not be possible to save everything, and it is important to focus conservation efforts intelligently. Evolutionary distinctiveness is a measure of how isolated [...]

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Synthetic Biology and Conservation

Mon, 07 Jul 2014 16:20:18 +0000

Synthetic biology, a hybrid between Engineering and Biology, is an emerging field of research promising to change the way we think about manufacturing, medicine, food production, and even conservation and sustainability. A review paper released this month in Oryx, authored by Dr Kent Redford, Professor William Adams, Dr Rob Carlson, Bertina Ceccarelli and CBER’s Professor [...]

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Measure Twice, Cut Once: Quantifying Biases in Sexual Selection Studies

Wed, 25 Jun 2014 10:44:30 +0000

Bateman’s principles are conceptually quite simple, but form the basis of our understanding of sexual selection across the animal kingdom. First proposed in 1948, Bateman’s three principles posit that sexual selection is more intense in males than in females for three reasons: 1) males show more variability in the number of mates they have (mating [...]

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Technology for Nature?

Mon, 16 Jun 2014 13:23:54 +0000

Many of our greatest technological advances have tended to mark disaster for nature. Cars guzzle fossil fuels and contribute to global warming; industrialised farming practices cause habitat loss and pollution; computers and mobile phones require harmful mining procedures to harvest rare metals. But increasingly, ecologists and conservation biologists are asking whether we can use technology [...]

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Nice Flies Don’t Finish Last: Meiotic Drive and Sexual Selection in Stalk-Eyed Flies

Thu, 12 Jun 2014 15:54:47 +0000

While it might seem as though our genes are all working together for our own good, some of them are actually rather selfish. Scientists have known about ‘selfish genetic elements’ for nearly a century, but research to understand their behaviour and effects is ongoing. Recent research in GEE reveals how sexually selected traits are signalling [...]

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Winter tidal storm surge at Blakeney Point

24 January 2014

Blakeney Point - Old Life Boat Houses

Blakeney point, home to the UCL ecological research station, lies on the North Norfolk coast.  In early December 2013, a tidal storm surge hit much of the East coast of the UK, including Blakeney.  The surge resulted in flooding of the research station, causing some structural damage to the building, the Old Life Boat House (right side of picture), as well as the National Trust “New” Life Boat House (left side of picture).  Not the first, but certainly one of the largest inundations the old building has withstood over its 100 plus years of existence.  The force of the deluge upturned furniture and fittings, and contents have sadly been ruined.

Tide Height Record on Pantry Door

While winter storm surges are a regular occurrence at Blakeney, the magnitude of the December surge was exceptional, with flood levels approaching those of the great storm of 1953 with a tide mark recorded in the Old Life Boat House of around 4 ft (see flood marks on the pantry door).  National Trust maintained boardwalks, which protect the fragile dune system from damage by summer tourists, have been ripped out by the floods.

Seal Pup on Dunes

Impacts of the storm on the coastal vegetation and wildlife may take some time to work out.  Dunes have certainly been washed away, and the freshwater marshes behind the shingle spit have been inundated with seawater.  During the winter months, the dunes around Blakeney are home to a large colony of breeding seals, numbering in excess of 1000 adults and pups between November and January.  Initial concerns about the fate of the pups proved unfounded, as many just moved further inland. The National Trust rangers who undertake long-term monitoring of the colony confirm that the majority of pups appear to have survived. 

Interior Damage

Remedial works and repair to the Old Life Boat House have been delayed due to difficulty accessing the site as a result of investigations into a helicopter crash in nearby Cley on 7 January. 

It is expected that contractors can get to the site next week in order to be able to complete the works in March and the start of the Little Tern breeding season, when restrictions will be put in place by the National Trust to prevent nesting disturbance. (above right: Interior damage 2013)

(below: 1920's big tide)

1920's Big Tide


(below:  Shoring-up after 1953 storm)

Repair Works 1953

Page last modified on 24 jan 14 11:39