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UK pollinating insect numbers, Tracking whales using barnacles, Sleep signals

Marnie Chesterton explores UK pollinating insect numbers, tracking whales using barnacles and sleep signals.

One of the longest running insect pollinator surveys in the world, shows that a few generalist pollinators are on the increase, whereas specialist insects are declining. Using data collected by volunteers across Great Britain to map the spatial loss of pollinator insect species, the study by the CEH (Centre for Ecology and Hydrology) measured 353 wild bee and hoverfly species across the country. The results showed that on average, each 1km2 survey patch lost an average of 11 species from 1980-2013. CEH's Professor Helen Roy and Dr Claire Carvell explain to Marnie Chesterton how volunteers can take part in the next survey.

Want to know where a whale has been? Just ask the barnacles on its head! Barnacles hitchhike on whales, and they’ve been doing this for millions of years. When barnacles grow they add to their carbonate shells using compounds from their surroundings. As the whales migrate, the barnacles take up compounds from the different oceanic locations. A bit like filling in a travel diary, or collecting passport stamps. If you can decipher the chemical code laid down in the barnacle shells, you can work out where the whale has been on its oceanic migrations. This is what researcher Larry Taylor, at University of California Berkeley, has been doing and he says that the information can even be found in fossilised whales (and barnacles.)

The patterns signals in our brain make when we are falling asleep are quite hard to study. But thanks to a few people who manage to fall asleep in an FMRi scanner, we now know there are multiple stages of sleep. Professor Morton Kringlebach, a professor of neuroscience at the University of Oxford likens the pattern of brain activity, as it enters the various sleep stages, to the choreography of a dance. His friend, Dr. Milton Mermikides at the University of Surrey, goes one further. As a composer and academic expert in jazz, he thought the pattern of brain activity was like chord changes in jazz music. So he put the sleepy brain to music. Marnie listens to the soporific tones and asks if people with disordered sleep, such as insomnia or restless leg syndrome would make different music?

Producer: Fiona Roberts

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28 minutes