You may wonder whether we can separate the cake of life’s three main ingredients: genes, environment, and developmental variation. This remains a goal of many researchers. But just as we can’t un-bake a cake to produce flour, eggs, and sugar, we can’t completely separate out the factors that make you an individual. Things are complicated because genes, environment and developmental variation interact.
You may not know it, but Australia is facing an extinction crisis. With the worst rate of mammalian extinction in the world, over 1,700 species of animals and plants are currently at risk of becoming extinct in Australia. The future of biodiversity conservation relies on multiple factors, including removing native animals from the dangers of introduced predators, changing the culture of clearing land, and having support of the government, conservationists, and society as a whole. These changes would help populations to recover, however when the gene pool of a species has bottlenecked so much, even if the population size increases, their genetic health will remain poor. To avoid the current health problems such as all koalas having chlamydia and Tasmanian devils having infectious facial tumours, genetic rescue is potentially the solution. With Dr Weeks and his colleagues leading the way, endangered and threatened Australian flora and fauna will hopefully flourish once again.
People often say that we are not born racist, however the truth is actually more complicated: new-born infants exhibit no preference for faces of various ethnic groups, however from the age of 3 months, infants begin to take longer to scan faces – indicating that they are thinking more about appearances – and exhibit a preference for faces of their parents’ (and own) ethnic group(s). These findings imply that while we may not be born racist, our perceptions of ethnic differences are learned during early development as a result of exposure to own- versus other-race faces. In this reflective piece, Catriona Nguyen-Robertson considers the neuroscience of racism as presented to the Society by Dr Larry Sherman, drawing parallels to her own experience as an Australian with a mixed heritage of Vietnamese and Scottish parentage.