Challenging Habitat Blog

If it wasn’t so tragic, it could be a fun story.

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Nature is full of beauty and wonder, and autumn is change – dormancy as well as emerging signs of life beneath the surface.

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Hello my friends, it is time to introduce my new venture to you.

I have left the University of Plymouth to set up as a freelance science communicator and environmental educator. Based on over 20 years of experience in academia, I’m leaving the large institution to work with smaller groups of people and organisation.

That’s exciting!

‘Challenging Habitat’ remains a title that is close to my heart because of its flexibility of imagination…it means different things to all of us, and that’s just right for my new business.

Check out what that’s all about at

This blog will remain a space for my personal ruminations.

A couple of years ago I got involved with the charity Seas Your Future and to incorporate elements of ocean science and citizen science into sail training on the tall ship Pelican of London.

It is the UN Ocean Decade and eco magazine is publishing a series of stories and a special issue to mark the occasion…this is one of my contributions that tells our story.

Starfish from a Scottish loch, August 2020

What? Not enough CO2 ?

There is too much CO2 in the atmosphere.

There appears to be not enough CO2 in industry, at the moment.

Perhaps the question how to get the suppliers of CO2 back into production, so that carbonated beverages and meat remain plentiful on supermarket shelves, is the wrong one to ask.

I’d like to ask:

How much CO2 is produced and released by the food and drinks industry?

Can we develop processes in the food and drinks industry that don’t require CO2?

What’s the future of the gas industry and CO2 production in a decarbonised economic anyway?

Time for R&D and an opportunity to look afresh at a broken system, renew, refresh, replace…rather than just patching it up and waiting for the next breakdown.

On the river before the rest of the household stirs.

Reflections on a summer of sun and rain, new and old, labour and fruit, adventure and stability, whirlwind activity and calm.

So many good things and experiences to be grateful for and nourish the mind.

It’s lovely blackberry time in the Cornish hedges and it occurred to me:

To get the sweetest fruit, you have to be patient, allow space and time to grow and ripen.

Now and then you check and taste to choose the right moment.

Then you step off the path into the thicket and accept the stings of nettles and scratches of thorns as you stretch and reach for the best…

…and you know you’ll come back for more.

It’s just as for many good things in life :)

I’ve lived in the UK for 28 years and today I passed through a popular holiday town in coastal Devon.

I had heard of amusement arcades and all-year fairgrounds and the nostalgia that leads one generation to take the next one along.

What I hadn’t realised is the totally unreformed indulgence in the plastic-fantastic world of tackiness that is promoted as ‘good fun for all the family’.

Plastic fantastic in front of an amusement arcade.

The next generation will not thank profiteering entrepreneurs for wasting precious resources on producing and shipping half way around the world worthless plastic toys for 5 minutes of amusement, while the world is burning and flooding with the effect of man-made climate change.

The irony of it: a ride in the shape of a recycling van next to the offerings of plastic toys that aren’t recyclable…

When are we going to learn that some things are not justifiable anymore?

(And don’t get me started on the massive impact of the growth in SUV numbers, most of which never go off road and into the mud or on the ice.)


There is a discussion out there whether some billionaire or other can call themselves an astronaut after getting to the edge of space (or a smidgen beyond) in their own craft.

The world is burning.

The world is flooding.

People are dying because of the impacts of a change in climate that is a direct result of our burning of fossil fuels for the last 200 years.

For me, the debate about space tourism should be about sustainability.

Not about labels.

For me, the question is about the balance between self-gratification and the common good.

Not about gaining wings.

For me, blasting into space to then exclaim your love of the planet is a little off the mark – don’t these people think?

Okay, none of us are perfect: we drive cars and go on holidays, we eat meat and imported fruit out of season, we use single-use plastic and internet server time…we buy stuff we want, not need…

So, this question is important: where do we, as individuals, draw the line between pleasure and sustainability?

The Antarctic Quest 21 expedition is gathering momentum in more than one way:

  • scientific and expedition equipment is being accumulated
  • transport logistics are being arranged
  • the crowd funding effort has exceeded the initial target of £30,000 and new rewards are made available for the final push to reach the ‘stretch’ target of £50,000
  • …and lots of other things continue to happen in the background…

And still, more scientific projects are added to the expedition portfolio: the team is collecting data for NASA’s GLOBE project, and we are talking with another scientist from the University of Plymouth about sampling to help elucidate the biogeography of the Antarctic continent, with focus on invertebrates. A potentially exciting addition to the strong emphasis on climate change and pollution research you can already read more about here.

Only a few days left to support this expedition through our Crowdfunding Page – you can donate or purchase one of the exclusive rewards, which now includes a fabulous, signed, photo book charting the journey across the ice!

I’ve been living in England for some 28 years and mostly it’s been a positive experience.

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If you want to get an impression of how much work is behind those modelling results we are seeing on the news most days?

I’ve started to narrate some of the most recent peer-reviewed publications of the scientists for which the Antarctic Quest 21 expedition will collect data…the first one is about Dr Andrew Smedley’s work on how sunlight interacts with bubbles in blue ice.

Read it here:

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