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Whom can we hear singing in European cities?
It is a well-established fact that urbanisation causes fragmentation of the landscape and habitat loss. Moreover, urban environment presents a challenge for wildlife, as it is a dynamic system that changes easily. It is therefore important to understand how urbanisation affects ecosystems in which an increasing number of people are now living. A large international team of scientists, including Jiří Reif from the Institute of Environmental Studies, surveyed birds across 17 cities in 10 European countries. The team asked a quite simple question: Which urban characteristics affect different facets of avian diversity and how?
Are we afraid of spiders as a taxonomical group or is their categorisation unimportant?
When you react to a stimulus, neural pathways that enable various responses to different situations are created. The neural circuits responsible for these quick reactions are one of the oldest we possess and mediate responses that are among the fastest. The question is, how deeply is the fear of spiders imprinted within us? Is it a result of natural selection, learning, and reflexes or are there other reasons for this common phobia? Even newborns react negatively to spiders and children aged 9 to 13 respond more negatively to crawling invertebrates than those that fly. There has to be a reason for this! Research into the fear of spiders and other creatures is moving forward thanks to Eva Landová, Markéta Janovcová, and Professor Daniel Frynta’s team from the Faculty of Science, Charles University.
Case: Waste
Do you sort waste? Or do you throw everything in the municipal solid waste bin? Have you ever thought about what happens then? If it is not placed in landfill, which is increasingly being abandoned due to the highly negative impact on the environment, it is processed. However, municipal solid waste is more difficult to treat because it is composed of a variety of materials. An expert team, led by Vojtěch Pilnáček and Libuše Benešová from the Institute for the Environment, Faculty of Science, Charles University, therefore focused on the possibilities of making optimal use of biodrying technology
Unicorn horn – what else can we find in a painkiller more than 200 years old?
People have always experienced pain, so the effort to suppress it with various forms of medication is nothing new. Until the discovery of modern analgesics, opium (dried latex from unripe poppy) was the main component of pain killers. Such medications were mainly based on an alcoholic solution of opium prepared by Paracelsus in 16th century. In the 18th century in particular, complicated mixtures of various substances were popular. An analysis of drugs from that period is now extremely valuable for analytical chemists. One such study of an 18th century preparation has been conducted by a team led by doc. Karel Nesměrák from the Faculty of Science, Charles University.
Fairy tales from the sea near the mouth of the river: How climate change has affected oysters
Once upon a time, in a place far, far away, on the very border of the Outer and Central Western Carpathians lies the fascinating paleontological locality of Hôrka. It is no ordinary locality as its geological profile has provided a wealth of interesting findings due to the presence of the often-neglected Upper Cretaceous oysters. This scientific article is based on long-term research by palaeontologist Jakub Rantuch from the Institute of Geology and Palaeontology (IGP), Faculty of Science, Charles University. It is no coincidence that this work was awarded the Zlatko Kvaček Prize for the best article by a doctoral student at IGP.
Goodbye birds…?
Just venture outside, close your eyes, and listen to the sounds of nature, especially birds singing... Maybe this will become history if society continues to develop in the same direction. The sounds of nature have changed dramatically across North America and Europe over the past 25 years. But in what way? An international team of experts led by Catriona A. Morrison and Simon J. Butler from the University of East Anglia, which included Jiří Reif from the Department of the Environment, Faculty of Science, Charles University, analysed bird songs across North America and Europe. The results of this international study were recently published in the prestigious journal Nature Communications.
Socio-economic aspects of golf courses in Czechia
The spectrum of research topics at the Faculty of Science of the Charles University is extremely broad and even covers studies on the dynamics of the golf market. Dana Fialová (Department of Social Geography and Regional Development) and Přemysl Štych (Department of Applied Geoinformatics and Cartography) participated in a study led by Jiří Sláma from the University of South Bohemia which analysed the development of golf courses in the Czech Republic between 1990 and 2019.
To Cyprus for the sea? Why not for the bats?
As well as being a wonderful place for a vacation, the Mediterranean islands also contain a high diversity of bats. Why is this? It is because the islands provide the animals with a variety of habitats to live in. Regrettably, these areas are currently facing several ecological threats. A group of authors, including Assoc. Prof. Petra Benda from the Faculty of Science, Charles University, conducted an acoustic study, focusing on echolocation, to determine the habitual preferences of certain bat species.
What factors determine trends in tree growth in a changing climate?
Forests play a key role in our ecosystem. Their impact on the carbon cycle and the Earth’s climate is crucial. Approximately 20% of all CO2 emissions are absorbed by forest ecosystems. Loss of forest areas and/or disruption of their vitality has negative effects on carbon sequestration in biomass. The influence of individual factors on tree growth is thus a topical and extremely important scientific topic. A group of experts led by Jiří Mašek from the Department of Physical Geography and Geoecology, Faculty of Science, Charles University, have investigated the influence of factors (other than climate) on tree growth trends.
What are the hospitalisation costs associated with childbirth? Does the method of conception matter?
A gradual increase in the age of mothers at childbirth has been observed in Czechia in recent decades. However, postponing childbearing has certain negative consequences. One notable problem is that of infertility and an associated increase in the use of assisted reproductive technologies, one of the most common of which is IVF (in vitro fertilisation). What are the costs associated with childbirth and the subsequent rise in hospitalisations caused by the increased health complications connected with IVF? Tereza Havelková, Luděk Šídlo, Jiřina Kocourková and Anna Šťastná from the Department of Demography and Geodemography, Faculty of Science, Charles University, have conducted detailed research on this topic.
What do we know about Aristolochia toxicity?
Aristolochia are aromatic decorative plants that grow all around the world. Most species can be found in the Mediterranean and in Asia. These plants contain biologically active compounds named after the genus – aristolochic acids I and II. Both cause mutations leading to carcinogenic growth and are classified as group 1 carcinogens. However, their interactions with each other within live organisms have been underexplored. An international team of scientists, with the main contribution provided by the research group of Professors Marie Stiborová and Petr Hodek from the Faculty of Science, Charles University, decided to change this.
Popular Science: Stories of Ukrainian migrants
They are the biggest group of foreigners in Czechia. But do we know their fates? Family and relationships with their homeland are factors that form the financial behaviour of the migrants. Eva Janská with colleagues from the Department of Social Geography and Regional Development and the Centre of Theoretical Studies of Charles University analysed the financial consequences of migration based on interviews.
Popular Science: The work of anthropologists in commercial archaeology
While excavating human remains in commercial archaeology, anthropologists are often limited by financial and time constraints and the collection of meaningful information is therefore rather difficult. That is why technologies and work methodology need to be quicker, cheaper and simpler and the collaboration between anthropologists, archaeologists and developers needs to be better to achieve maximal results. Erika Průchová from our faculty and her colleagues examined these field techniques and their effectiveness during the recent excavation of three cemeteries in Karlín, Prague.
Popular Science: Community Gardens in Prague
In the cities of North America and Western Europe, community gardens have been developing for more than a hundred years. Previously, allotment gardening had also been present in Eastern Europe, while community gardening has occurred recently. Jana Spilková from the Department of Social Geography and Regional Development of our faculty shows the similarities and differences between Prague and the cities, where this phenomenon was born.
Popular Science: The phenomenon of farmers’ shops in Czechia
What are the reasons of the recent expansion of farmers’ shops in the Czech Republic? Are all the goods sold there from Czechia? What are the problems faced by the owners of the shops? We can read about these and other topics in the article written by Marie Syrovátková from the Department of Social Geography and Regional Development from the Faculty of Science of the Charles University.
Popular Science: Ageing is more pronounced in male face than in women
Ageing or senescence is a natural part of our lives, even though we often try to hide it. First senescence changes start to manifest on the human face as early as at the age of twenty. Knowledge of the facial ageing process can be crucial for face appearance predictions for long-term missing persons.
Popular Science: Does our immune system have the ability to fight off obesity?
Human adenoviruses are common pathogens that cause mild gastrointestinal, ocular or respiratory symptoms. Infections are commonly observed in young children. One virus from this group, Adenovirus 36, is associated with obesity and antibodies against it are more prevalent in overweight and obese individuals than in normal-weight individuals.
Popular Science: Do you want to be more attractive to delicate female noses? Take a dose of garlic!
Garlic is one of the favourite ingredients in within Euro-Asian cuisines, giving food a special pungent, spicy flavor and a bit of sweetness. It is a product also well-recognized for its medical purposes, and already Ancient Egyptians used garlic and onion regularly to promote good health. However, all the goodness brought to a human comes to the death point we try a kiss after a meal full of this ingredient. The garlic breath coming out of the mouth can be unbearable. But what about the regular body odour, mostly of the axillary origin? Every single one of us has some, and it can be perceived by the others either pleasantly or unpleasantly, depending also on person’s diet.
Popular Science: Even partial river restoration can help
Now and in the past, humans mainly try to control river bodies by straightening and fortifying river channels. River network modifications can result in negative impacts, such as extreme floods or droughts, because the water is quickly drained from the basin and not retained in the landscape. There is a degradation of water quality and physical river habitat quality. Milada Matoušková and Kateřina Kujanová from the Department of Physical Geography and Geoecology are concerned about the state of the rivers.
Popular Science: Armed plant pathogens
Since plants are sessile organisms, it may seem that they are very vulnerable to pathogens and diseases. This could not be further from the truth! All plant populations are constantly threatened by enormous number of different pathogens, but only few plants will show any symptoms or eventually die, because plants have evolved very complex defence. How does it look and how do parasites bypass it? Our biochemists had a look on an example of that.
Popular Science: How old is too old? Ideal age of parents according to children
What should be the ideal age of parents at childbirth? Many people deal with the question by starting a family, a team of scientists affiliated to the Department of Demography and Geodemography of Charles University in Prague-Jiřina Kocourková, Boris Burcin and Tomáš Kučera and Hana Konečná from the Faculty of Health and Social Sciences of the University of South Bohemia decided to focus on this topic professionally. A unique feature of this research was the fact that its respondents were children. The team has published the results of their work in Reproductive Biomedicine Online.
Popular Science: Impressions from an Expedition to Azerbajjan
I have had the opportunity to join an expedition of researchers from departments of zoology and parasitology of our faculty to Azerbaijan at the end of the June. It was an expedition indeed – for two weeks we explored local nature, places rarely or sometimes never before visited by teams of researchers. The expedition was led by RNDr. Miroslav Švátora, CSc. and from zoology department represented by doc. RNDr. Daniel Frynta, PhD., Milan Kaftan, Mgr. Barbora Kaftanová, Mgr. Zdeněk Lerch and Iveta Štolhoferová, from parasitology department by doc. RNDr. Jan Votýpka, PhD. and Barbora Kykalová.
Popular Science: Leishmanias under microscope
Leishmania are single-celled protozoa not very well known in our country. In southern latitudes, however, it is a feared parasite that annually takes the lives of hundreds of thousands of people. This alarming fact has prompted European scientists to join together to control this epidemic. Research within the EuroLeish network happens to be taking place at the Faculty of Science - Charles University.
Popular Science: Transformations of mining areas
The landscape in northwest Bohemia has been heavily modified by man. We can see rapid development, mainly in the strip mining of brown coal. Scientists from the University of Life Sciences together with Dušan Romportl, a member of the Department of Physical Geography and Geoecology, the Faculty of Science, Charles University, analysed changes in the forest cover using a Geographic information system (GIS).
Popular Science: Immigrants - Where are they heading in the USA and Australia and how will it be in the future?
Nowadays Europe, the old continent, is talking about a huge wave of immigrants and their distribution to the individual countries. The authors analysed the data from two traditional immigrant countries, the USA and Australia. Josef Novotný and Jiří Hasman from the Department of Social Geography and Regional Development, the Faculty of Science, tested a method for the prediction of the development of the distribution of migrants and the population structure of the regions.
Popular Science: Man and nature are connected vessels
All of us are aware that humankind tries to preserve cultural heritage. However, how can geomorphologists contribute? Every significant site and building is established in a specific environment. Natural processes at the site are very important for us and are worth watching. This is a reason why the LACUNHEN scientific network was founded. The Faculty of Science is member of it, specifically Vít Vilímek from the Department of Physical Geography and Geoecology.
Popular Science: Will we lose the views in the Giant Mountains and Jeseníky Mountains?
The highest mountains in the Czech Republic have a lot of views of the Czech basin as well as to the Polish lowlands. This is thanks to the timberline which we can find on the highest places in the Czech Republic. Will the timberline remain in the future? Václav Treml and Tomáš Chuman from the Department of Physical Geography and Geoecology, the Faculty of Science, Charles University are interested in the dynamics of forests and the treeline in the Giant Mountains and Jeseníky Mountains.
Popular Science: Who decides on the economy? The role of the state and multinational organizations in the automotive industry in Slovakia
Slovakia has been experiencing economic growth in recent years. One of the causes is the rapid development of the automotive industry. It is not easy to say if this path is without problems. In his article Professor Petr Pavlínek from the Department of Social Geography and Regional Development and also from the University of Nebraska analysed developments in the automotive industry in Slovakia with regard to the role of the state and its industry policy in this process.
Popular Science: The Jatunraju Glacier – lying and waiting?
Geomorphologists Adam Emmer and Vít Vilímek from the Department of Physical Geography and Geoecology have long been interested in the mountainous Cordillera Blanca area in Peru. Together with their colleagues from the Institute of Rock Structure and Mechanics and Peruvian scientists they studied recent and past changes to the Jatunraju Glacier and if these changes can affect the stability of Perón Lake, which is dammed by lateral moraines.
Popular Science: Do we know how newly introduced cultural crops are influencing the soil?
Soil is an important provider of ecosystem services, among the most important of which include the possibility of food production and the mitigation of climate change effects. This is made possible through carbon sequestration and nutrient cycling, which are processes primarily driven by soil biota. However, the intensification of agricultural production caused by the growing demand for biofuels reduces the soil biota.

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