A Very Brief Introduction to Ecology

This is a transcript of an information sheet I have knocking around. No idea where I got it from.

Ecology
from the Greek Oikos meaning ‘home’+ology meaning ‘study of’
Quick definition
the study of the distribution and abundance of organisms in their environment
Ecology as a science
employs the scientific method to establish principles and theories about the living world.
Sources of evididence
field observations and measurement; field manipulations and experiment; laboratory and microcosm experiments; computer simulations and models;historoc data;genetic data;commercial and official data

Levels of organisation

AutoEcology
the ecology of individual species in their environment
Population Ecology
processes determining growth, decline, fluctuation of stability in populations (groups of same species individuals)
Community Ecology
study of groups of organisms living together.
Ecosystem Ecology
study of groups of organisms and the non-biological environment in which they live
Related disciplines
evolutionary biology; conservation biology, restoration ecology; economics

Key Concepts

Individuals Populations Communities & Ecosystems
Niche Growth rate
Carrying capacity
Succession
zonation
Facilitation
Cometition
Density dependence Community assembly
Biodiversity
Mutualism Metapopulation
Predation/herbivory
Disturbance
Species area relationship

Books

Popular science

  • E.O. Wilson The Diversity of Life
  • Paul Colinvaux: Why big fierce animals are rare – a little dated now but a good general accessible intro to ecological principles
  • David Quamman: Song of the Dodo – highly recommended journalistic account of the biology, biologists and travels associated with conservation science
  • Richard Dawkins: The Ancestors Tale

Academic

  • M. Begon etal (1996) Ecology: Individals, Populations and Communities
  • C.J. Krebs (2001) Ecology: the experimental analysis of distribution and abundance
  • ibid (1999) Ecological Methodology
  • W.J Sutherland Ecological Census Techniques: a handbook

Web resources

Tree of life

Conservation Evidence

JNCC UK Biodiversity Action Plan [this links seems to be broken]

Naturenet

 

Dennis Potter/Doctor Who

So the story goes, as was revealed some years ago now, that Dennis Potter, a television script-writer with a staggering reputation, once submitted a script, storyline, or at least an idea to Doctor Who during the early years of the show.

It makes sense. Potter had flirted with writing for TV in the years immediately before Doctor Who began, but it wasn’t until the series became established, around 1965, that Potter settled on writing television drama as a viable career. Potter did not in the event contribute to the series, instead making a name writing inventive and emotive single dramas for adults, such as Where the Buffalo Roam, and Son of Man, before going on to make several towering contributions to television drama in the seventies and eighties.

So what is the the great lost Dennis Potter Doctor Who story about? Legend has it it’s about a schizophrenic, a delusional who hallucinates or believes himself to be a time-traveller. How modern, how very Potter to take something fundamental to the series format and twist it in such an interesting way. What would happen if such a person met ‘real’ time travellers? What would happen to such a person if they ‘really’ get to travel in time? What kind of dramatic journey does that entail? What does that do to a character? What does that do to the audience? Thinking about it it undermines, in interesting ways, the very core of the programme. In Doctor Who, how can we be sure an hallucination of time travel remains just an hallucination; how can mental time travel be just a delusion in Doctor Who?

Time travel has always been possible in dreams.
Madame Vastra, The Name of the Doctor

And if that is true, how can we be sure of anything? Perhaps the Doctor himself is just a very advanced type of schizophrenic whose delusions and hallucinations have somehow become his physical milieu?

Potter’s ghost remains an influence on the series. Certainly Russell T Davies was influenced as a writer by Potter. And when considering some of Steven Moffat’s ground-breaking work on the series, I think of the brilliant conceit in his 2008 episode Forest of the Dead, in which a character begins to realise she’s trapped in a virtual reality because she notices the edits in the television drama programme she’s in. I almost can imagine Potter thinking: I wish I’d thought of that.

Prequel Smequel.

It may not be that unusual in a Doctor Who drama for the audience to be shown reveals before the Doctor.  What does strike me as unusual in some of Moffat’s Who is that the audience finds out things that the characters will never know. The final shot of ‘The Girl in the Fireplace’ reveals a crucial piece of information that makes sense of the events of the story for the audience, after the Doctor has left the story admitting he still has no idea just why Madame de Pompadour was fixated upon by the droids of a ship from the future. That the ship bears her name is revealed only to us.

Of course normally the Doctor knows more about what’s going on than anyone in the room, and in the unfolding of ‘arc’ mysteries that span seasons, we tend to experience key reveals along the way with him: in The Sound of Drums, as the Doctor, Jack and crucially Martha realise the Master is Harold Saxon, the pieces of the season-long puzzle fall into place for us at the same time. Likewise the Doctor discovers River Song’s identity as Melody Pond at pretty much the same time we do, leaving her hapless parents to represent those members of the audience who really need it spelling out.

In the Current Epoch of the show, known as Nu-Who, single episode stories strung in a loose arc has been the norm, with RTD stating his Bad Wolf scenario was only ever meant to be a bonus thread not affecting the comprehensibility of the individual episodes, not expecting it to be picked up by the Guardian and the mass audience (used, as has now become a cliche, to watching TV with an eye to ongoing arcs). Bad Wolf became a brief natIonal talking point. But again, it’s all fairly straightforward narrative exposition. We find out the solution to the Bad Wolf mystery with Rose, and subsequently, with the flabbergasted Doctor as Rose tells him ‘I am the Bad Wolf’ and promptly saves his ass which he was confidently expecting to experience extermination very shortly.

With the ongoing saga of Clara Oswin Oswald, the knowledge available to the audience comes in different ways.

In this new scene acting as a teaser for the new series, and focusing on the search for Clara, picking up from the  end of the Xmas special, again we are left knowing more than the Doctor. I won’t say too much, but suffice to say there’s a charming use of one of Moffat ‘s box of tropes – just playing with the audience, teasing them as to whether the obvious and almost inevitable pay-off. In this case, the pay off implies to me that the Doctor will never know what we find out in the second to last shot. Because he doesn’t need to. It’s not a detail he ever needs to know. The meaning of this particular unfolding of the Oswin story is left to us to decide. I suspect it always will be.

The Bells of St John: A PREQUEL

http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/p016r6pw

By the way, I must observe this usage of the term ‘prequel’ in more detail.

The term prequel was surely invented to capture the ambiguity of a follow-up movie (normally called a sequel) which relates prior events. The first notable example I can remember in popcorn land is Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom, which I believe is meant to be set before Raiders of the Lost Arc. Lucas really exploited the form with his Star Wars prequels depicting the first, descending half (?) of the story of Anakin Skywalker. And of course the most obvious current ‘prequel’ would the Hobbit movies.

But in book form, The Hobbit was written and published before the Lord of the Rings’s three volumes. To call it a ‘prequel’ would be to apply a new word to something it doesn’t even describe. Nor can the Dr Who episodes ‘Utopia’ or even ‘Mission to the Unknown’ adequately be called prequels to what they introduce.

This latest addition to Doctor Who shouldn’t be called a prequel’. In my view it is both wrong, draining  the meaning of the word of any of its delicious irony, and for that reason, looks silly. A marketing term used to market something it was originally not intended to market. Namely, a Prologue.

Oh well. Thank the goddess they didn’t call it a Minisode this time.

The Bells of St John: A Prologue

>http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/p016r6pw

The Fannish World of Arthur C Clarke

Notes from reading Odyssey: The Authorized Biography of Arthur C Clarke, by Neil McAleer.

In my ongoing attempt to digitise interesting bits of information recorded on paper and kept by me, before finally sending them on their way, the following text has been transcribed from notes made some time in the late 1990s. I was researching the history of fandom, for my undergraduate dissertation, and took particular interest in “sf professional’s” involvement with fandom, and in the ways fandom and the sf subculture might have influenced life outside itself, while grasping towards a ‘neo-tribal’ (after Maffesoli) interpretation of how and why fandoms form.

Despite a 1950s prudishness with the words fanzine and fandom (enclosing these terms in quotes) the book informs on Clarke’s involvement in fandom. The told story fits the standard pattern; entry via the letter columns of the early prozines, but after Clarke meets friends by chance who are into sf. From couple to neo-tribe, from normal social intercourse to the symbolic perdurability of the ‘scene’ – the BIS and Terra Novae.

Clarke therefore seems constructed by fandom.

Fandom as a pathfinder for capitalism may be suggested by p.83. In the US for the first time, Clarke has cocktails with Clifton Fadiman in the Plaza Hotel (ref: Clarke [ed] 1959 ‘Introduction’, Across the Sea of Stars). Fadiman writes:

Clarke is…otherwordly. He spoke of space satellites…interplanetary cruises as other men would discuss the market or the weather. As he explained how, within a decade, three space stations…would make possible (indeed one fears inevitable) simultaneous world-wide broadcasting, our right-hand neighbor (a V-P of CBS) went into a kind of catalepsy…

To understand a mind like Clarke’s we must realise that during the last 50…especially the last 25 years a new mental species has emerged among us. They are the men who in a real sense live in the future…for whom the present is merely a convienient springboard.

pp89-90
At the first televised political party convention [nationally? - seems to have been the 1952 Republican Convention http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=1146322] Chairman Joe Martin talks of space travel in opening address. Clarke commented: “Maybe one of the elves or gnomes had got Martin’s special ear in a smoke-filled room”. (ref to the Elves, Gnomes and Little Men’s St Chowder and Marching Society, where Clarke had just been).

A Fragmented Tower

la torre, with cat

I confess I hoard information. This fragment of notes comes from my undergraduate days. It occasioned me to perform Old Testament research twice.  Once was related to a 16th century socio-economic pamphlet referencing the Plagues of Egypt. The other came when I was interested in researching the Tower of Babel

So here, transcribed from the original paper, is my note. I’ve transcribed it as it appears on the back of a letter, kept for years in my files, and now discarded.

I’ve added links next to the obscure references, transforming my hand-written note into a hypertext marvel of the modern age. Enjoy!

Tower of Babel

Gen xi, 1-9

KRAMER ‘Man’s Golden Age: a parallel to GEN XI’, Journal of Oriental Studies
pp191-4 [google search]
JAOS 63of [this must be a reference to the Journal of the American Oriental Society]

Parrot, La Tour de Babel 1953 [a facsimile of this book, in English, exists online as a .pdf at the University of Chicago]

ET The Tower of Babel (1955)

Expository Times

Nought is so unintelligent as fear
For, while it speaks with obscure stammering lips,
It comprehends not what is plainly said.
You cannot Parley with it. Thus it will fare
Ever with their temerity who think
To storm and raze the Unknown. Preposterous Towers
Absolute wreck, and tounge’s confusion.-
Such, through all change of circumstance and time,
Will be their brief and doleful history!

NOEMA
Have you no sure conception how the Tower
Was overthrown? Whether a frolic troop
Of Seraphim invisible rode by,
And with the point of their light-poised spears
Tilted, and down it went? Or lightning real,
With thunder in reserve succesive launched
By Heaven’s almighty Captain, smote its front,
And routed its pretenders?
Who shall say? I saw no armoured Seraphim, nor heard Thunders unparalleled or lightnings strange,
But only complete sickness of the air,
Clouds vomiting fire, and with deep rumblings vexed,
To which the Earth responded; and the Tower
Collapsed in their commotion. It may be
that one of Nature’s mindless accidents
The ruin wrought, or that the Unseen Power
Made that loud music with man’s folly chime,
And with a fixed [coinncidence/countenance?] rebuked
[his/this] weak extravagance. We cannot know.
Even in that star whose denizen I was
Ere Earth’s more blest inhabitant I turned,
God’s face was all as dim as seems it here