Aspen tree beaver attacks replicated in seed growing bid

Media captionA Shropshire tree company hopes an experiment will produce more aspen seeds

For Springwatch I'm looking at the work of Shropshire company Forestart, who gather the seeds of native trees from all over the country to sell on to nurseries for them to grow into new plants.

You might assume trees tend to produce their seeds in the autumn, season of mellow fruitfulness and all that.

But in fact some trees choose to produce and drop seeds much earlier in the year, in the spring. Most notably the willow and the less familiar aspen.

These are usually solitary trees and their Latin name Populus tremula gives a clue to their appearance.

They have leaves that flutter and tremble in the breeze in a way which looks a bit like a wagging tongue.

Read full article Aspen tree beaver attacks replicated in seed growing bid

Polecats numbers grow but many don't recognise them

  • 2 June 2016
  • From the section England
Polecat Image copyright Vincent Wildlife Trust
Image caption Up close you can see the white fur around the muzzle which is a useful way to spot a polecat

The polecat isn't just surviving it's doing really well with numbers increasing according to surveys by the Herefordshire based Vincent Wildlife Trust. But would you recognise one if you saw one? Here's a simple spotters' guide.

The trust is that most of us are going to catch a glimpse of a polecat either dead beside the road or perhaps as a flash of something furry as it dashes out of the way of your car.

Furry sausage

Read full article Polecats numbers grow but many don't recognise them

Building a bat language database for a new bat detector

Media captionUniversity researchers hope a sound library can help to protect bats

Bats are some of my favourite mammals, but they are so hard to film.

They tend to fly fast and in unpredictable patterns; and of course, they are active at night. This behaviour doesn't just cause problems for us TV reporters, it also makes life difficult for scientists studying bat numbers.

Read full article Building a bat language database for a new bat detector

Can you solve an insect mystery that scientists can't?

  • 31 May 2016
  • From the section England
Media captionUniversity researchers have spent 15 years trying to answer aphid queries

One of the great things about my job is you discover just how little we actually know about the natural world. And because as humans we tend to focus on the furry and (to a lesser extent) feathered bits of that world, most of the really big gaps in our knowledge are to do with insects.

Take the giant willow aphid or Tuberolachnus salignus. As you can see, it's a pretty large aphid with a shark-style fin on its back.

Read full article Can you solve an insect mystery that scientists can't?

Ripples spread from discovery of gravitational waves

An aerial view of the LIGO experiment in Louisiana. You can see both of the laser beam pipes heading off from the main building.
Image caption This aerial view of the LIGO experiment in Louisiana shows both of the laser beam pipes heading off from the main building

Three months ago scientists announced they had discovered evidence for the existence of gravitational waves. Ripples in the very fabric of our reality that nicely proved something Einstein suggested a century ago and also gave us an entirely new way to study the universe.

These big physics discoveries always involve huge teams of researchers from right across the planet, but the University of Birmingham has a key role, both in building the detector itself and in analysing the data it produces.

Read full article Ripples spread from discovery of gravitational waves

Birmingham researchers build a new test for prostate cancer

  • 15 April 2016
  • From the section England
Prostate-specific antigen or PSA Image copyright Birmingham University
Image caption Higher levels of PSA in your blood are a sign of cancer. Traditional tests detect the green protein, but the new one detects a sugar, shown as dark red

If you have any doubts or worries about your prostate, then it's important to go to your doctor and get tested.

The good news is that there's a simple blood test that can be carried out before anything more invasive is done. The bad news is the test is, as one cancer survivor told me, a bit "rubbish".

Read full article Birmingham researchers build a new test for prostate cancer

Fitting slugs with tracking devices for the first time

  • 24 February 2016
  • From the section England
Slugs and tracking device
Image caption Two slugs keep a close eye on a tracking device

At Harper Adams University they are fitting tracking devices to slugs.

The aim is to learn more about the behaviour of a species that experts say could cause millions of pounds of damage to crops if left untreated.

Read full article Fitting slugs with tracking devices for the first time

Tackling the problems cause by nasty tasting medicines

  • 18 February 2016
  • From the section England
Young scientists at Thinktank
Image caption Can drugs be palatable for children? This young researcher is unsure

The University of Birmingham has recruited some young scientists to help create more palatable medicines for kids.

About 90 children aged five to 12 will spend half-term at the city's science museum helping out with research into a new form of drug.

Read full article Tackling the problems cause by nasty tasting medicines

The hidden crisis in rural schools

Handsworth Wood Girls' Academy in Birmingham.
Image caption GSCE Schools in central Birmingham are working with disadvantaged pupils better than in rural areas

There's a hidden crisis in our education system and it affects our poorest and most vulnerable kids.

If you come from a disadvantaged background then your exam results depend on where you live.

Read full article The hidden crisis in rural schools

Mysteries of murmuration revealed thanks to you

  • 23 November 2015
  • From the section England
Image caption A murmuration can involve millions of starlings

A starling murmuration is an amazing sight.

At their largest you can get millions of birds wheeling about the sky just as the sun starts setting.

Read full article Mysteries of murmuration revealed thanks to you