Newsflash: Endangered plants in Europe, mathematics education, and more…

Quick updates

At Utrecht University’s Faculty of Science, we are committed to keeping you informed about the latest developments, breakthroughs, and achievements that shape our academic landscape. In this newsflash, you will find quick, bite-sized updates on a range of topics that we wish to share with you in addition to the other, more extensive articles in our newsfeed.

Overview of endangered plants in Europe needs to be improved

The Netherlands has one of the highest proportions of endangered plant species in Europe, which is concerning. The good news is that in the Netherlands, at least we are well aware of the fact that many plants are not doing well, as the Dutch red list of plants, which documents threatened species, is quite complete. But a recent study published in the scientific journal Biological Conservation, co-authored by Utrecht botanist Anastasia Stefanaki, reveals that not all European countries have such a complete overview. This is partly because less attractive or difficult-to-classify plant groups are often not assessed.

Cornfield flowers are among the most endangered plant species in the Netherlands. Image: Martin Smit

Countries that have a complete overview report a higher proportion of endangered plant species. Countries with incomplete data therefore risk overlooking lesser-known plant groups when implementing biodiversity conservation measures. Since a lack of funding is often a key reason for incomplete red lists, the researchers are urging policymakers to allocate funds so that countries can produce complete and regularly updated overviews.

Stefanaki also emphasizes that being on a Red List does not automatically grant a species protection. It is up to individual countries to determine how they use the information on the lists. Currently, less than ten percent of endangered plant species in Europe are prioritized for conservation measures.

Finalist Lin Rietveld met een zelfgehaakte RNA-streng
Finalist Lin Rietveld with an RNA strand she crocheted herself

PhD candidate UIPS in Breaking Science final

On Wednesday, May 29, eight finalists will compete for first place in the Breaking Science 2024 pitch competition. Representing the Faculty of Science is Lin Rietveld, a PhD candidate at the Utrecht Institute of Pharmaceutical Sciences (UIPS). "I didn't expect to make it to the finals, but I am thrilled to have been chosen," she says enthusiastically.

In her pitch, Rietveld will discuss her research on developing a method to study the effects of drugs on RNA. She explains that her participation was driven by a desire to clearly convey her work to friends and family without losing focus. "Throughout the finals, I've learned not only how to give a compelling presentation but also how to discern what information is essential when explaining my research," she adds.

Paul Drijvers in NRC: Mathematics education needs innovative solutions

The quality of mathematics education in the Netherlands is the subject of an often heated debate. Paul Drijvers, professor of mathematics education at Utrecht University, writes in NRC (in Dutch) that a back-to-basics approach is not the right way to address declining results. In today's world, other skills are at stake.

Drijvers contends that, globally, the understanding of basic mathematical skills has evolved over the past few decades. It is no longer just about performing basic operations, but also about critically analyzing statistical data and solving problems. Therefore, part of the solution lies in finding a balance between practicing and automating basic skills, while also developing numeracy and problem-solving abilities.