Issue 20 | June 2014
What’s the first thing that pops into your mind when you read the word population? Most likely it’s the ever-increasing human population on earth. The term population isn’t just used to describe humans; it includes other animals, plants and microbes too. In this issue, we learn more about how populations grow, change and move, and why understanding them is so important.
Download the PDF, browse through the individual articles, check out our multimedia content and consider our lesson ideas. We’ve also picked out content from other issues that we think is especially relevant.
Foundations of populations
Our primer explains why it’s important to study populations
A snapshot of populations around the world
Studying populations in place
Using statistics to study populations
Epidemiology looks at a population’s health
Studying populations through genetics
Finding life where you least expect it
Fields of scientific study often overlap, and population studies are a case in point
Changes big and small
The implications of persistent population growth
Humans, like members of all populations of plants and animals, are in competition with one another for the Earth’s resources
Abiotic and biotic factors influence ecosystem and population change
What’s Darwin got to do with it?
The role of migration and travel in population change
How are populations and disease intertwined?
Organisms must compete for survival
Some species are natural partners, or even bedfellows
What efforts are humans making to preserve biodiversity?
How do humans and plant populations interact?
Bacteria communicate with each other using quorum sensing
Understanding host–pathogen interactions
Childhood vaccination against infectious diseases has saved countless lives. The main beneﬁciary, of course, is the child who gets vaccinated
Find out for yourself
Watch or download our video on population sampling techniques
Watch or download our animation, which demonstrates the range of methods that can be used to investigate different populations in a woodland ecosystem
Set up your own population study with our short guide
Help the data you collect to reach their full potential
How researchers try to reduce bias
Why the design of your experiment will depend on the question you’re asking
This approach to science involves members of the public – from schoolchildren to birdwatchers and fishermen – taking part in scientific research
Excellent resources on practical fieldwork, be it a handy how-to guide or a bit of advice on investigating specific animals or habitats
What are the challenges of investigating bacterial populations?
Using data on human populations
In the UK 12-year-old girls are offered the vaccine – why? Read on and decide what you think about this population problem
Why are our antibiotics not working? What will happen if this continues? Debate and discuss this issue
How do you cope with the combination of soaring populations and ageing populations?
Are genetically modified crops a good or a bad thing? Decide what you think
A population study is a scientific investigation that looks at a group of individual plants or animals of the same species living in a given area or habitat
Real Voices interviews
Meet Rupert, a PhD student at the University of Aberdeen studying crayfish populations
Meet Philip, an apple farmer from Chelmsford, Essex
Meet Tejovathi and Gopal, a married couple living in Chandanagar, Hyderabad, India
Activities and lesson ideas
Each issue of 'Big Picture' comes with a sprinkling of Fast Facts, fascinating snippets of information on the topic covered.