Posts by Simon Harold

Executive Editor for the BMC-series journals

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A shock of change felt down the generations

BioMed Central CC-BY

Analysis of 19th century harvest records from an isolated Swedish community reveals that female grandchildren have an increased risk of death from heart disease if their paternal grandmother experienced a drastic change in food availability in their childhood.

Staying stress free, keeping fit, eating well – these are all things we’re advised to do to keep our hearts healthy. But have you ever thought about whether what your parents and grandparents did could be affecting you too? New research has suggested that the diet experiences of even your grandparents could have an effect on your own health.

Food shortage and famine are clearly not good for you. Associations between higher risk of cardiovascular disease and stroke among adults who suffered famine …

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BMC Ecology launches its 2014 Image Competition

Image Credit: Benjamin Blonder

There is grandeur in this view of life”*. Let’s see it.


After the success of last year’s competition, BMC Ecology once again wants to see—and share—your images of the natural world. The “BMC Ecology Image Competition 2014” is open to everyone affiliated with a research institution, from Undergraduates to Emeritus Professors. Whether your research is based in the field, the lab, or a computer, we want to see how you see the science of ecology.

Entries should depict a specific ecological interaction, and be submitted to one of five categories that reflect the breadth of the field.

To be in with a chance to have your images featured in the journal, across BioMed Central’s social media accounts, and possibly international …

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The devil may be in the detail, but the longview is also worth a look

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Giraldo et al. BMC Evolutionary Biology 2008, 8:324

It’s always pleasant to find examples of when open access allows researchers to more readily find articles. Sometimes they don’t like what they find.

This week, we were surprised to come across a publication mentioning BioMed Central’s role in recent changes to the way in which new species are recognised. Much has been written about recent updates to the International Code of Zoological Nomenclature (ICZN) allowing electronic publication of the scientific names of animals, and for a bit of background we can do no better than direct you towards an interview with Frank Krell, Commissioner of the International Commission on Zoological Nomenclature and Chair of the ICZN ZooBank Committee, published in BMC Evolutionary Biology.

These efforts to move the …

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Clever camouflage and “riotously coloured floral genitalia”: it’s the winners of the BMC Ecology Image Competition

Overall Winner: Moritz Muschick (University of Sheffield)

BMC Ecology is delighted to announce the winning images in its very first Ecology Image Competition. We were truly overwhelmed by the positive response to the competition, which received more than 200 individual entries from researchers across the world.

In an accompanying Editorial, guest judge Dr Yan Wong and the journal’s Editorial Board outline what they found most striking about their choice of winning images – and discuss some of the ecological stories behind these stunning pictures.

Click on the links below to browse through the winning entries, together with some of the most highly commended images that didn’t quite make it to winning the top prize. All of these winning images have been released under a Creative Commons …

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BMC Psychology launches!


On Wednesday 27 February, the newest addition to the BMC-series portfolio was launched. This marked a significant milestone for the BMC-series family of open access journals, as it was the first truly new journal since 2008.

View the story “BMC Psychology Launches!” on Storify

How do you water a plant in zero gravity?


Scientists shoot plants into space in an attempt to unearth the mysteries of root growth

Gel. Gel is the answer. By growing experimental plants on plates filled with nutrient gel instead of pots of soil, researchers have been able to capture on camera the growth of roots in space, without having to worry about watering them on their journey into orbit.

And you can see exactly what happens to them here:


In fact, the plants in these experimental chambers grow along the surface of the gel, not through the substrate as they would in soil. This allows visualisation of growth behaviour in two dimensions, captured in this time-lapse video that was run over the course of 15 days whilst in orbit on the …

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BioMed Central journals supporting Peerage of Science


BioMed Central journals BMC Biology, BMC Ecology, BMC Evolutionary Biology and Frontiers in Zoology now welcome manuscripts that have been reviewed through the community peer-review initiative Peerage of Science.

This initiative aims to not only bring greater accountability and openness to the traditional peer-review process, but also to reward reviewers for the quality of their reviewing. By decoupling from journals the process of finding and assessing reviews, the founders hope to be able to create a more efficient experience for researchers as they try to find a suitable home for their research.

Speaking to BioMed Central, co-founder Janne-Tuomas Seppänen says:

As one of the original founders of the initiative, I am very happy to see more open

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Last chance to enter the BMC Ecology Image Competition


There are now less than 2 weeks left to submit your entries to the BMC Ecology Image Competition!

More than 100 images have now been submitted from all over the world, so be sure to send in yours before Saturday 1st December to be in with a chance of winning.

The competition is open to everyone affiliated with a research institution, and we consider all images from photos to data visualizations. Entries should be submitted to one of five categories that reflect the editorial sections of the journal. The winner of each category will be chosen by each of the journal’s Section Editors and the categories are:

Behavioural and physiological ecology

Conservation ecology and biodiversity research

Community, population, and macroecology

Landscape ecology

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Silent Spring or: How we learned to start worrying and question pesticide use

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Today marks the 50th anniversary of the publication of Silent Spring, Rachel Carson’s landmark—and controversial—book investigating the effects of pesticide use on the environment. In a special Editorial in BMC Ecology to mark the occasion, David Pimentel, Emeritus Professor of Ecology at Cornell University, offers a personal reflection of the impact of the work, which was published when he was still a graduate student in the 1960’s.

Re-reading the book today is to be immediately struck by the historical context in which it was composed. While it’s lasting legacy may ultimately have been a more thorough look into the use of chemicals such as DDT, tellingly, the first substance mentioned in its pages is the radioactive …

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How to genetically modify a better garden


You like pretty flowers but your immune system hates their pollen? You wish your pretty flowers would bloom for just that little bit longer? Well, science is making it happen.

In a new article published today in BMC Plant Biology, Begoña García-Sogo and colleagues from the Instituto de Biología Molecular y Celular de Plantas (IBMCP) and BIOMIVA S.L. in Spain outline a method to produce longer-lived and pollen-free Pelargonium plants – probably better known as geraniums or storkbills to the everyday gardener.

To do this, they employ the help of a soil-dwelling bacterium called Agrobacterium tumefaciens that can more usually be found infecting crop plants, where it induces damaging tumours known as galls.

But this pathogenicity is key.

In the wild, …

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