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David Horsley

Wildlife Lectures & Photography

Learn Biology Through Wildlife and Natural History

First given to Sheringham WEA Sept-Dec 2011

Course Unit and Content Useful links and Quizzes
1) Introduction

A familiarization with some basic concepts: 
What is life? MRSGREN with examples from local environments
Pro and Eukatyote Cells.
Comparison of Plant and Animal Cells, significance of the differences.
The tree of life – classification of some familiar organisms.
5 Kingdoms with examples

Try a quiz which gives an overview of the material covered

Try a picture quiz on some of the species covered in this Unit

What GCSE kids need to know about Plant and Animal cells

An interactive model for plant and animal cells

A useful comparison of Pro- and Eukaryote cells

2) Invertebrates   

An exploration of some of the vast variety of organisms in this group that that might be met locally in the garden, the countryside, the beach, or perhaps on a plate.
Key concepts in animal kingdom – body layers and cavities, symmetry, segmentation
Major phyla – to show common organisms and a few interesting points about biology and ecology
Porifera - Sponges
Cnidaria - Sea Anemones, Jellyfish, Corals
Platyhelminths - Flatworms
Nematodes - Roundworms
Annelids Segmented Worms
Molluscs Octopus, Bivalves, Snails etc
Echinoderms - Sea Urchins Starfish etc
Arthropods excluding Insects
Invertebrate Chordates and the Evolution of Vertebrates


A fairly comprehensive introduction to all the invertebrate phyla

Sponges from the Tree of Life project, use this site to find out more about other phyla

The Shape of Life website on Cnidaria, plus links to other material

University of Berkley site on Platyhelminths. (Again this site has all the invertebrate groups)

Earthlife Website on Annelids PLUS a fantastic animation of Earthworm locomotion

Try the BBC for info on Molluscs and Arthropods

Natural History Museum key to UK Woodlice ID

A site for Echinoderms - Oceanic Research Group

Download this PowerPoint presentation about Invertebrate Chordates and the evolution of Vertebrates

My Quiz on this Unit

3) Insects

Insect structure – head, thorax, abdomen and appendages
Life cycles and significance
Apterygotes and Pterygotes
Major Orders – structures for ID and one or two interesting local examples


A very good site on the classification of insects and details of insect orders

Find out about UK Bees, Wasps and Ants at BWARS

The Natural History Museum's Bumblebee ID guide

The website of the Dipterists Forum - the society devoted to fly study. You will need to register, but it is free

The Hoverfly Recording Scheme -if you want to get involved with hoverflies then this is the site

Find out all about UK moths at this site, and another superb site entirely devoted to Norfolk Moths here.

UK Butterflies website

Beetles are dealt with photographically at this site and there are details of Ladybirds at the UK Ladybird Survey

Orthoptera (Grasshoppers etc) are dealt with at the Orthoptera recording scheme and This is a good photographic ID site

Dragonflies are dealt with at the British Dragonfly Society

An insect picture quiz

A mixed muli-choice and short answer insect quiz

4) Everything you wanted to know about plants but were afraid to ask

What do plants do?
The plant cell and it’s significance to this
Photosynthesis and leaf structure
Water and plants
Route of water through the plant and specially modified cells to achieve this
Xylem and Annual Rings
Root structure
Adaptations to plants living in arid conditions – in UK!
Plant Reproduction
Flower structure
Pollen and Ovule formation – revisit meiosis
Pollination and fertilisation
Plant Hormones
Auxin and tropisms, apical dominance and pruning
Gibberellin and internode extension in prep for Mendel’s peas


5) The case of the polish swan- an introduction to genetics

Polish swans – the problem to be explained
Variation (discontinuous and continuous) and examples
Mendel and his work
Monohybrid cross and explanations
Backcross - the 1:1 ration
Ddyhibrid cross (optional)
Continuous variation and explanation of Mendel’s Peas
Inheritance and Environment with discussion of possible human implications
Modern understanding of Genes and DNA
DNA structure and replication
Protein Synthesis


Read Mendel's original paper in English

An explanation of Mendel's results using modern terminology - a chance to go through it again

There is a fun exercise and simulation at the Kennel Club's site breeding labradors of different coat colour!

Read this blogspot which tells you in rather more detail about Polish swans

These BBC pages give a review of what GCSE students need to know about

This is one of hundreds of sites that show you how DNA works at a higher level than GCSE. Try it and then google some more if you can cope!

This is a superb site which takes you through protein synthesis at a level you should be able to understand

Try the QUIZZ on this topic

6) Understanding Darwins Great Idea 1

Historical background and the journey of the Beagle
Some of the evidence for Evolution presented by Darwin
Malthus and significance of his work
Essence of Darwin’s theory
Post Darwin
De Vries and Mutation
Chromosome theory
Sources of Variation – Mutation and Meiosis
Natural Selection Today
Sickle Cell Anaemia polymorphism
Clines, explanation and examples incl. Arctic Skua.
Selection on Continuous variation
            Directional and Bergman’s rule (refer to size and Surface area from unit 1)
            Stabilising selection human birth-weights
Sexual Selection
            Male adornment, fighting, lecking
Sexual reversal phalaropes


Read anything Darwin ever wrote at Darwin Online - a fantastic resource

Or try All about Darwin

The OU site on Evolution has a couple of videos on the Galapagos and Darwin

Find out what GCSE kids need to know about Evolution at BBC Bitesized

Understanding Evolution from the University of California at Berkley gives a fairly readable account of the sort of thisngs we have coverered

If you want some more detail of where evolution stands today download this document!

Try this fun simulation of being a predator on peppered moths but read the historical stuff first

Find out more about Bergman's and other Ecogeographic rules at Wikipedia

There is a good lot of detail here about Sexual Selection

try the Quizz on this unit

7) Understanding Darwins Great Idea -2

Origin of Species
What is a species? Concept of gene pool
Speciation by splitting a gene pool
Scenarios when isolates join
Allopatric Speciation
Land bridges – Camelids
Ice ages – Melodious and Icterine warbler
Founder Effect – Galapagos finches, Mockingbirds, Scottish Island mice and wrens
Instantaneous Speciation - Spartina
Significance and Importance of Sexual Reproduction
Advantages and mechanisms for promoting outbreeding in plants
Reproductive strategies in animals- promiscuity, monogamy, polygamy
Reproductive Isolating Mechanisms (with examples)
Hybrid sterility – mules


Read an account of what is a species and the process of speciation here

A simulation of Allopatric Speciation (requires flash)

Deatails of the different types of speciation

This seems to be the most informative account of the evolution of the South American camelids

This article suggests that Vikings brought House Mice to mainland UK

Googling Reproductive Isolating Mechanisms produces a lot of stuff but I think Wikepedia gives the best starting point.

Try this gap-filling exercise on speciation

8) Relationships

Feeding relationshipsFood chains and webs – trophic levels
Energy flow and significance of pyramids
Significance of decomposers and saprotrophic nutrition
Inter and Intraspecific
Competitive Exclusion Principle
British finches
Shag and Cormorant
            House Sparrow, Coot, Cattle Egret, Epiphytes
            Rhizobium and the Pea family – ecological significance
            Cnidarians and algae
Mycorrhiza – Fly agaric, Heather, Orchids
Blue butterflies and ants – the spectrum between mutualism and parasitism
Endo and Ecto parasites
Rat fleas, rats and humans
Kleptoparasitism – Cuckoos, skuas, Cowbirds
Parasitic wasps and flies
Parasitic plants – Dodder, mistletoe, broomrapes


9) Understanding Climate Change and its impact on Wildlife

Climate change
Basic premise, believer, sceptic or denier
Climate and weather
Explanation of Greenhouse effect – a fact!
Natural Forcings
Anthropogenic forcings
Looking out how these explain climate data we can see
Impact on Wildlife
Sea Ice melt – polar bears, barnacle geese, kittiwakes
Ice cap melting - sea level rise turtles and flooding
Distribution Changes – winners and losers
Dartford Warbler, Grouse, Ptarmigan, Egrets Cetti’s Warbler
Sand Lizard
Warming Waters and seabirds
Guillemots, Kittiwakes and sand eels
Migration timing and strategy
            Early arrivals
Changes in migration strategy overwintering nearer to UK blackcaps and greenshank
Iceland phenological study
Arrival time and mismatch with food supply
Changes in Breeding season amongst residents – golden plover and great tit
Can plants move?
What can we do? Discussions of options


Visit the IPCC site (Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change). You can view their 4th assesment which was completed in 2007 The fifth one is due this year. This body is highly regarded and the data they produce can be relied upon.

View some video representations of Global Climate change - temperature anomaly at NASA's site. They are very convincing

The US Climate Change Science Program (2012 the hottest on record!) site

The US Environmental Protection Agency's site has a lot of good stuff

The UK's Met Office site's section on Climate Change

See what the UN has to say with its 2009 compendium

A Guardian article giving the latest Carbon dioxide figures

DEFRA's website UK Climate Projection allows you to investigate the impacts of changes in carbon dioxide on a variety of things like winter temperature, sea level change etc at a UK and regional level. Lots to play at here.

A Europe-wide assessment of the impact of climate change

The RSPB and other agencies ran a recent conference called Climate Change: Biodiversity and People in the Front Line. Download the conference report here and look at the chapter by Chris Thomas on Nature Conservation at +4 deg C

You can download a a pdf from the JNCC's site on Biodiversity and Climate Change - a summary of impacts in the UK

THE BTO site is a good point to start when looking at climate change impacts on birds

If you are interested in Phenology - recording dates of natural events then look at the National Phenology Network's Natures Calendar run by the Woodland trust. It is long term studies like this that have shown the powerful impacts of climate change on wildlife in Britain.

David MacKay's book Sustainable Energy without the Hot Air is available frre as a downloadable PDF or readable chapter by chapter online. There is also a 10 page summary pdf. It is the best thing I have seen on the pro's and cons of sustainable energy and it includes some very interesting analysis. If you are going to read anything, then read this!

10) Wild About Norfolk

Areas in Norfolk where wildlife conservation takes place and is worthwhile expanding via living landscapes.
Key idea is to pick up on biology learned so far in the course. As many iconic species for each habitat as time will allow

North Norfolk Coast
Mudflats, significance of the wash for waders
Vegetated shingle
Sand Dunes
Coastal Saline/Freshwater lagoons
Deciduous Woodland
Wood Pasture
Coppice woodland
Chalk Grassland
Floodplain and Grazing Marsh
Heaths and Acid Grassland (Breckland)
Mesotrophic Lakes – the Broads
Chalk Streams

See Norfolk Wildlife Trust's website to find out about their work and about Living Landscapes

The Wildlife Trust's website for more on Living Landscapes

See my page for my Habitats in Britain course and look up details of the various habitas mentioned on the left