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CONTENTS Volume 67 No 3 June/July 2020


ROYAL SOCIETY OF BIOLOGY 1 Naoroji Street, London WC1X 0GB Tel: 020 3925 3440;

EDITORIAL STAFF Editor Tom Ireland MRSB, @Tom_J_Ireland Editorial assistant Emma Wrake AMRSB Chair of the Editorial Board Professor Alison Woollard FRSB Editorial Board Dr Anthony Flemming MRSB, Syngenta Professor Adam Hart FRSB, University of Gloucestershire Dr Sarah Maddocks CBiol MRSB, Cardiff Metropolitan University Professor Shaun D Pattinson FRSB, Durham University Dr James Poulter MRSB, University of Leeds Dr Cristiana P Velloso MRSB, King’s College London Membership enquiries Tel: 01233 504804 Subscription enquiries Tel: 020 3925 3464; The Biologist is produced on behalf of the Royal Society of Biology by Think Publishing Ltd, Capital House, 25 Chapel Street, London NW1 5DH; 020 3771 7200 Printed by Full Spectrum, Basildon Group art director Matthew Ball Senior designer Felipe Perez Production editor Sian Campbell Sub editor Kirsty Fortune Group account director John Innes ISSN 0006-3347 Advertising in The Biologist represents an unparalleled opportunity to reach a large community of professional biologists. For advertising information contact; 020 3925 3464 Views expressed in this magazine are not necessarily those of the Editorial Board or the Royal Society of Biology. © 2020 Royal Society of Biology (Registered charity no. 277981) The Society permits single copying of individual articles for private study or research, irrespective of where the copying is done. Multiple copying of individual articles for teaching purposes is also permitted without specific permission. For copying or reproduction for any other purpose, written permission must be sought from the Society. Exceptions to the above are those institutions and non-publishing organisations that have an agreement or licence with the UK Copyright Licensing Agency or the US Copyright Clearance Center. Access to the magazine is available online; please see the Society’s website for further details. This magazine is sent in biodegradable wrap that can be composted or placed with food waste. Cover: Sir David Attenborough, courtesy of Sam Barker/Contour by Getty Images

ON THE COVER 14 Interview Sir David Attenborough celebrates his long relationship with life science




TWITTER @RoyalSocBio



UP FRONT 04 Society News The latest news from the Society and its policy team

08 Opinion Why we need to watch our language when it comes to ‘invasive’ species; the highs and lows of lecturing in lockdown

FEATURES 10 Silk sensations Using synthetic biology to produce custom spider silks with extraordinary properties

18 Activism The biologists taking direct action on climate change

22 Back to school Will a natural history GCSE help engage today’s pupils with nature?

26 Pandemic response Tom Ireland explores how biologists have rallied to fight COVID-19

30 C4 photosynthesis Could we bioengineer trees to sequester more carbon?

REGULARS 34 Members RSB members on deep-sea worms, malaria and science policy

38 Book reviews 42 Branches 45 Obituaries 47 Crossword

48 Museum piece Bees! At the Museum of the Earth



Vol 67 No 3 / The Biologist / 1

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