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Popular Science

Popular Science: What is the fate of proglacial lakes?
Proglacial lakes currently represent one of the major environmental threats. Global warming and the increased rate of mountain glaciers melting could lead to the lake filling up and to a subsequent outburst, which is often accompanied by catastrophic consequences. The retreat of mountain glaciers has also raised concerns about water sources. This important topic is of concern to Kristýna Falátková, Miroslav Šobr and Bohumír Janský from the Department of Physical Geography and Geoecology, together with Martin Slavík and Jiří Brunthans from the Department of Hydrogeology, who in their current research focused on the Adygine glacial moraine complex in the Tien Shan Mountains.
A dog or a wolf?
There is a well-known saying that ‘a dog is man’s best friend’ and nowadays we often see that it can be true. Even though dogs are our best friends, there are still a lot of things we do not know about them. For example, when did they become our best friends? In other words, when did wolves begin their transformation from a feared predator into our best friend, the dog? A team of scientists, including Martina Lázničková-Galetová from Hrdlička Museum of Man (Charles University, Faculty of Science) and Moravian Museum in Brno, tried to find an answer to this question. With the help of the latest technology the scientists analysed the microstructure of teeth samples from the Předmostí Palaeolithic site. This study follows up research focusing on the evidence of one of the earliest occurrences of domestications of wolf.
Forest protection against Impatiens glandulifera invasion
Impatiens glandulifera is one of the most successful invasive plants in Europe. In the past, its occurrence was associated mainly with riverbanks because running water facilitated further spread. In the last 20 years, however, I. glandulifera has begun to appear also in forests. What conditions influenced this sudden change during the invasion, what effect can its presence have on the forest ecosystem and how can its spread be stopped? A group of experts from the Institute of Botany of the CAS and our Faculty took a closer look at this issue.
Popular Science: Frequency of fog in the Czech Republic. What is the trend?
Fog is very important for the environment and for human society. In particular, it brings moisture to the landscape and cleans the atmosphere. However, it can be dangerous due to low visibility conditions and because of the formation of acidic fog associated with air pollutants. Yet, not enough attention was devoted to detailed research into fog. Scientists led by Iva Hůnová therefore focused on a comprehensive study of the occurrence of this important atmospheric phenomenon in the Czech Republic from a long-term perspective.
What is the bird species diversity in traditional fruit orchards?
Agriculture intensification and other anthropogenic changes in landscape affect bird populations negatively. Birds are pushed out of the landscape, which ultimately has an adverse effect on the ecological balance in nature, in turn affecting humans. With that said, is every man-made habitat indeed unsuitable for diverse bird populations? Experts together with Dušan Romportl from the Department of Physical Geography and Geoecology focused on the issue of bird species diversity in small areas used as orchards.
No more bottles of beer? Czech adolescents drink less alcohol
Alcohol has been relatively accessible and attractive for teens in the past. In the last decade, however, alcohol consumption among adolescents in Europe has begun to decline. Ladislav Kážmér from the Department of Social Geography and Regional Development, together with Pavla Chomynová from the National Institute of Mental Health, analysed the main causes of this decline.
Popular Science: Education and Research in the Pandemic Times
How did the lock-down affect the life of scientists? We asked several questions of two members of our Faculty – Petr Tureček (theoretical biologist, postdoctoral researcher) and Lukáš Kratochvíl (evolution biologist, professor).
Popular Science: The Devil’s Own
Scratchy eyes, irritated skin, eczema, headaches, asthma, cancer and even death. These are the main health risks caused by formaldehyde. This organic compound is extensively produced industrially worldwide, as it is part of a large number of products. If you have any of the symptoms mentioned above and would like to find out if the cause is, for example, new furniture, look at the new methods of rapid detection of formaldehyde in wood-based products, which were developed with contributions from Pavel Dvořák and Vlastimil Vyskočil from the Department of Analytical Chemistry.
Testosterone does not make big fighters – at least in chameleons?
While body size is one of the biggest differences between sexes (i.e. sexual dimorphism) in chameleons, little is still known about the mechanism of its evolution. Scientists assumed that male sex hormones play a major role in the ontogeny, as it is thought to be in most vertebrates. However, a study done in geckos suggested otherwise. Three scientists from the Department of Ecology of Charles University’s Faculty of Science led by prof. Lukáš Kratochvíl have carried out a study in chameleons to find out how male gonadal androgens impact the ontogeny of sexual dimorphism.
Popular Science: Snow cover, tell me how much water will there be in the summer?
Dry periods that have been observed not only in our country, but also in other Central European countries in recent years, have several causes. They are associated mainly with higher air temperatures and lower precipitation or its different distribution during the year. However, the accumulation of snow cover also plays a crucial role. These changes have been studied in more detail by hydrology experts together with members of the Department of Physical Geography and Geoecology from our faculty.
Popular Scienc: Who lives in birds’ feathers?
An international scientific team including a member of our faculty described new host relationships between Mallophaga (taxon Ischnocera: Philopteridae) and birds. New observations show that life and evolutionary relationships of Mallophaga are much more complicated than we could conceive before.
Popular Science: How do women react when confronted with the threat of infidelity, and does this correlate with the quality of their relationships?
That is the question that Jitka Lindová, Kateřina Klapilová, Adéla Vobořilová and Barbora Chlápková from the Faculty of Humanities and the National institute of mental health (NUDZ) and Jan Havlíček from our Faculty attempted to answer in their study.
Popular Science: Is an old killifish reproductively more proficient than a young one?
Asking a similar question in humans would seem a nonsense, as everybody can imagine that the reproductive performance of an old man or woman is lower than when they were young. But the situation is different in organisms that still grow after reaching maturity, like fish for example. There, the evolutionary theory of aging predicts an increase of reproductive fitness with age. What is then, however, the situation in fish that live only for a short period, such as killifish? This is the question addressed by a two-person Czech team that included Jakub Žák from the Department of Zoology of our faculty.
Popular Science: A friend in the attic, an enemy on the ground floor – ozone: the challenge of man’s future?
Stratospheric ozone – the ozone layer – is crucial for life on Earth. However, its occurrence in the troposphere, especially the ground-level ozone, has a highly adverse impact. Fundamentally, ambient ozone has harmful effects on human health, vegetation and entire ecosystems. Nowadays, it along with aerosol and benzo[a]pyrene are among the most serious pollutants for ambient air quality in the Czech Republic and in Europe. This is why Iva Hůnová from the Institute for Environmental Studies together with her team focused on detailed research into the occurrence of ambient ozone throughout the Czech Republic from a long-term perspective and in the context of seasonality.
The Ordovician struggle for a solid base in a sea of soft sediment: focused on the conulariids of the Prague Basin
For a large part of sessile animals, whether current or long-extinct, a hard base is a prerequisite for a full-fledged life. In ancient times, there was a bitter struggle for space to attach to on the seabed. Jana Bruthansová from the Department of Geology and Palaeontology, Faculty of Science, Charles University, has published an article in the prestigious journal Palaeogeography, Palaeoclimatology, Palaeoecology about sessile organisms on conulariids.
One bear, please! or Bear trade in the Czech Republic
No, it is not a mistake and it should not be beer, the Czech favourite alcoholic drink. It should not even be a teddy bear. Even though it may surprise you, in the Czech Republic, there exists quite a high demand for various bear species and/or their body parts originating from abroad. The details of the current il-/legal trade have been summarised in a study led by Chris R. Shepherd and co-authored by three members of the Institute of Environmental Studies of the Faculty of Science of the Charles University – Jitka Kufnerová, Tomáš Cajthaml and Jaroslava Frouzová.

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