Entomology, chemical ecology, evidence-based environmentalism and science in general. I like big bugs and I cannot lie.

Sunday, 3 August 2008


As you are all no doubt aware after putting up with months of my excited squeaking, in January next year I’ll be heading out to The Gambia in order to do my bit for the country’s economy by buying many, many beautiful clothes, to listen to a lot of good music and to be able to convincingly assert upon my return that the scars my pet dog gave me on my leg were in fact caused by a lion. If I have any time in between these activities I’ll be working on trachoma.

For those of you who haven’t yet had it explained to you in grisly detail, possibly while you were trying to eat, trachoma is an eye infection that causes scarring of the inner eyelids, which eventually makes them turn up and under, dragging the eyelashes across the cornea whenever the infected person blinks, slowly and painfully sending them blind. It’s spread by a fly with a pretty name and some extremely unattractive habits, Musca sorbens (sounds like a grape-based iced dessert, at least to me). This fly seems to be preferentially attracted to the eyes of children, so children and the women who care for them are most at risk. My PhD involves trying to find the odour components that attract these flies, in the hope of making traps which would at least allow their numbers to be estimated more accurately than they can be at present.

I’m setting up this blog because I suspect that while I’m out there my time on the internet will be limited, so while I will try to respond to emails a blog might be a more efficient way of going about it. So point your feed readers here, ladies, gents and anyone in between in anticipation of thrilling tales of my exploits dynamiting rhinos and feeding sponges to leopards (Tintin in the Congo has a lot to answer for, in many ways). Alternatively of course bandwidth issues may prevent me from posting at all until I'm invalided back home with malaria of the toenails, in which case I apologise for the ensuing four months worth of posts you'll have to sit through on whatever drivel pops into my head. This may include knitting, coeliac disease, slug control and my incipient paranoia that I am developing hairy knees after years of waxing above and below them but shaving the painful kneecap area. You have been warned.

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