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Rich writes about fascinating creatures and biological issues that affect our everyday lives. Subscribe and get your free ebook at www.biology4everyone.com.

Translating plant language to understand what they would tell us if they could

Photo by Tony Pham on Unsplash

When I or my partner walk around our yard we look at the plants and wonder things like, do they need to be watered? Are they getting enough fertilizer? Are the slugs bothering them?

There’s all sorts of magazines and online resources that will tell you to look for this or that. Or if you see the leaves turn this colour it means they need this nutrient or there’s too much of that one.

But what if the plants could just tell us what they want?

“Hey, I’m thirsty! Can you please water me now!”

A couple of years ago…


Pharmacy leech jar, England, 1830–1870. Credit: Science Museum, London. Attribution 4.0 International (CC BY 4.0)

Our past, present and future with these slimy creatures that love to suck out our blood

My partner and I went on a camping trip in BC’s Interior region this past summer. One of our overnight camps was on a small remote lake up in the mountains that just a few locals seemed to know about. A Mom and her young son were paddle-boarding it. When we asked them if it was ok to swim in they said “Yeah, but you have to pick the leeches off when you come out.”

Yuck! We DID NOT swim in it!

I don’t know about you but the thought of having leeches sticking to me and sucking my blood…


Photo by Juliane Liebermann on Unsplash

Flowers are your friends.

I never stop hiking. Different seasons just mean you need different upper body gear to keep warm and different footwear to ensure you don’t careen down the side of some steep snow slope or slip on a section of icy trail.

Each of the seasons has its particular beauty to appreciate. Here in the Pacific Coast rainforest where I live, one of my particular joys is being welcomed by Spring with its profusion of new green growth and flowers.

And I have to say, I’m always more than a bit surprised at how many people who hike the trails have…


Photo by Krista Mangulsone on Unsplash

How quickly do you trust someone?

How quickly do you trust someone? Is it a spur of the moment- this feels right- kind of thing for you or do you take your time? Or a mix of both?

A couple of weeks ago, I attended an online panelist discussion. One of the presenters, Dr. Dana Hubler, a Northern BC family physician, talked about treating Indigenous people and other folks who have experienced a long history of racist discrimination in Canada’s healthcare system. …


What a lovely batch of quotes and insights. There are so many wonderful writers out there and it's totally true, you have to write about the things you know about and love! That's what keeps me going!


A Proterocladus antiquus fossil dating back 1bn years. The image was captured using a microscope as the fossil itself is 2mm long. Photograph: Virginia Tech/PA and was taken from an article in The Guardian.

And is it possible that they last long enough to become fossilized even after the cell has died?

Did you know that there is a branch of scientific study called taphonomy? I sure didn’t.

It’s pretty amazing to realize that there’s just so much out there we don’t know! And never will. But I have to admit, when I do find something new and unusual that I’m interested in or think I should know something about, I’m both humbled and excited.

And taphonomy* just became one of those areas for me.

From Wikipedia: “It’s the study of how organisms decay and become fossilized or preserved in the archaeological record… The term taphonomy was introduced to paleontology in 1940…


Photo by J E W E L M I T CH E L L on Unsplash

Caregivers for elderly / chronically ill spouses were patient partners on a research team that studied stress in patients with chronic critical respiratory illness.

“I just, feel that they, they forget that this is where the people live.”

“They don’t take the time. They don’t see who I am. I’m invisible.”

“It feels like, they just left you in a room, room to die.”

These are some of the feelings that patients communicated in a recently published study from a Fraser Health research team that also included two Patient Partners as members of the research team.

Umm… did you say Patient Partners? I’ve never heard of any patient called a partner, before.

Frankly, I’m not surprised. Welcome to patient-oriented research.

What?! You never heard…


Photo by Jukan Tateisi on Unsplash

For laypersons who know nothing about DNA, sequencing and genes!

Have you ever wondered what all the big fuss was about genes and sequencing? Or, for that matter, what the heck does it mean when someone says they had their DNA sequenced? Or maybe you got your DNA sequenced for one of the genealogy sites to find relatives and they tell you that you probably came from such and such a place and these people might be related to you, 3rd cousin three times removed?!

If this sounds like you or you’d just like to increase your knowledge about DNA and genome sequencing, this article will give you enough of…


Image by Aaron J. Bell, Science Source

How does the single-celled organism, Tetrahymena, manage to have 7 different sexes and tell them apart?!

You’re an alien on another planet and you walk into the local joint hoping that maybe you’ll meet someone to partner with. And you see 7 different genders and the only one you can’t successfully mate with is one that’s the same as you!

Nice! Lots of choices!

Next scenario.

You’re not an alien and you’re not walking into a bar. You’re a single-celled creature cavorting around in some pond water on planet Earth. And there’s 7 different genders and the only one you can’t successfully mate with is one that’s the same as you!

Nice! Lots of choices!

But…


Medical tricorder image is taken from this site.

Believe it or not, the first versions of medical tricorders are starting to appear and they look nothing like what we saw on Star Trek, yet!

Of course, they’re not called tricorders but if you’ve ever seen a Star Trek episode, as soon as you see one of these, you’ll know that it’s just the first version and the real “one” is not far off.

And if he was stranded someplace in the Gamma quadrant with an alien life form without his tricorder, Dr. Julian Bashir would be happy to have one of these!

So what is all the hullabaloo about?

It’s a new open-source application called iGenomics that currently only runs on iPhones and unless you have a portable device that can sequence DNA, it…

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