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Discovering Biology

"Biology isn’t confided to the world of molecules and genes, it’s also about whole organisms and the environment too"

The great thing about biology is that there’s always something new to discover whether you’re a student, a teacher or a researcher in a university.

Just think, in the last 20 years, we have deciphered the human genome so now we can pinpoint a faulty gene in just a few hours rather than the months and years it once took. Understanding our genes is just a small part of understanding how they direct our bodies. Once it was said that genes could not be changed, but the exciting new field of epigenetics is revealing how genes are affected by the environment inside and outside the body. It’s been revealed that there are mini control mechanisms that can switch a gene on or off and studies of identical twins, with identical DNA, suggest that differences in personality such as whether a person has an optimistic or pessimistic nature are only about fifty percent due to genetic factors. Throughout our lives, it seems our genes are adjusted up and down rather like a dimmer switch, in the process known as epigenetics.

Identical Twins

Identical twins have identical genetic make up so can giveus information about apsects of our lives which are not exclusively controlled by genes

But biology isn’t confided to the world of molecules and genes, it’s also about whole organisms and the environment too. A major concern for the whole world is plastic waste in our oceans. Take a short walk along any beach you’ll see plastic bottles, polystyrene packing and plastic bags. Some of it is illegally dumped at sea, or is debris from fishing nets and lines, but most comes from the land, from litter and industrial waste. At sea, floating plastic is carried by giant ocean currents and has formed huge islands of plastic in some parts of the world. Plastic spreads everywhere and takes years to decay.

Plastic Waste

All marine life is affected either by tiny plastic fragments which accumulate inside filter feeders or clog up gills, or by larger pieces of plastic which choke young birds and wrap around whales and turtles.

Last month San Francisco banned the sale of water in plastic bottles! Citizens must carry their own bottle which they can refill free of charge from taps throughout the city; a small but important step in the right direction. And, in an exciting new development students have produced a prototype design for a biodegradeable container called the ‘Ooho’ made from edible algae and calcium chloride which has already been listed as a winner at the annual Lexus Design awards in Boston and will be shown at the Milan Design week from 8th April. The young designers made a double membrane to enclose and protect frozen water so when the ice melts , the container keeps its shape and the water stays clean and fresh inside. There’s no plastic waste and Oohos are much cheaper than conventional bottles. The only problem is that no one has worked out how to close the Ooho once it has been opened, but that’s the next challenge for the team!

What you will learn in schools and read in your textbooks has to be continuously undated to keep pace with new discoveries which appear almost every week. The IB Biology course is reviewed regularly so students are always well informed. You’ll be able to read about epigenetics, plastic pollution and much more in the latest edition. And remember, biology is for life, not just for exams!

has 20 years' experience of teaching IB Biology and has written over 30 science books. She is currently an independent consultant in science education. - See more at: /uk/subject/science/biology/biology-for-the-ib-diploma-(second-edition)#sthash.NYgv0XOF.dpuf
has 20 years' experience of teaching IB Biology and has written over 30 science books. She is currently an independent consultant in science education. - See more at: /uk/subject/science/biology/biology-for-the-ib-diploma-(second-edition)#sthash.NYgv0XOF.dpuf
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Brenda Walpole

Brenda Walpole has 20 years experience of teaching IB biology and has written over 30 science books. She is currently an independent consultant in science education.

Brenda Walpole has 20 years' experience of teaching IB Biology and has written over 30 science books. She is currently an independent consultant in science education. - See more at: /uk/subject/science/biology/biology-for-the-ib-diploma-(second-edition)#sthash.NYgv0XOF.dpuf
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Related Resource

Biology for the IB Diploma (second edition)

Brenda Walpole, Ashby Merson-Davies and Leighton Dann

Covers in full the requirements of the IB syllabus for Biology for first examination in 2016.

Published/Available: March 2014

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