This year's Darwin day lecture was delivered by Professor Nick Davies FRS (Cambridge University). In his talk, entitled ‘Cuckoo – cheating by nature’, Prof Davies described one of nature’s most intriguing stories to a packed lecture theatre at the Bath Royal Literary and Scientific Institution. Captivating photographic and video footage showed how some cuckoo species lay their eggs in the nests of other birds and how little warblers are tricked into feeding enormous cuckoo chicks. In his talk, Prof Davies described how 30 years of elegant field experiments have revealed a continuing evolutionary arms race in which escalating host defences have selected for remarkable cuckoo trickery, including different guises in female cuckoos, forgeries of host eggs and manipulative begging by cuckoo chicks. This is a fascinating corner of Darwin's "entangled bank" where organisms are continually adapting to keep up with changes in their rivals. Many thanks to all those who helped to make this event such a great success.
Yesterday was the 208th anniversary of Charles Darwin’s birthday, and what better way to celebrate it, than to children learn about natural selection, sing happy birthday to Darwin and eat some delicious cake?
The Bath Royal Literary and Scientific Institution (BRLSI) very kindly hosted Dr. Paula Kover (a reader in the Milner Centre for Evolution), Lucy Eaton, Lauren and Amy (final year Biology undergraduates doing research in science education) to run a workshop on Inheritance and evolution, called “The evolution show”. The children, volunteers and us had a great time, playing Chinese whispers with DNA sequence to learn about mutation, building birds and seeing how mutation and inheritance can make the bird become better at flying with the help of natural selection. The children loved seeing the tree of life, that shows the evolutionary relationship among all major groups of organisms, and discover that a T.rex barbecue was likely to taste like chicken!
Organizing workshops for young children (audience were 8 to 10 years old) is always a big challenge, because it needs to make evolution accessible and fun. This time, it involved a lot of last-minute laminating, photo copying, and a mad dash around all the local supermarkets for numbered candles (Have they gone out of fashion?). But it was all worth it, since 69% of the children attending the workshop gave us a score of 9 out of 10, or higher. Also, the undergraduate students that helped had a good experience, and are ready for some more teaching of evolution to young kids in primary schools this term.
Measuring how far the bird flew.
Digging for fossils
Exploring evolutionary trees
Third year BSc Biology students, Romy Rice and Noemie Engel, write about their experiences on placement from September to December 2016 working for the Maio Biodiversity Foundation in the Cape Verde islands.
In September 2016, we embarked on an adventure to Maio, a seemingly uneventful little island in Cape Verde with only 8,000 inhabitants, which turned out to be one of the most lively places we have ever experienced. With untouched beaches stretching for kilometres, vibrant yet quaint villages, and incredibly friendly people, we immediately fell in love with the place. We worked for a local NGO, the Maio Biodiversity Foundation (FMB), carrying out fieldwork for 3 months with a small shorebird, the Kentish Plover, as part of our university placement year.
Does your research look to understand water and its role in the environment and health? Then Waterscapes is the project for you!
Whether you're investigating water-related issues from a physical or social sciences perspective, Waterscapes will provide you with an opportunity to engage with diverse publics across the Bath and Bristol areas.
Following receipt of a grant from the Natural Environment Research Council (NERC) and in conjunction with Bristol Natural History Consortium and the Milner Centre, we're offering a range of developmental and engagement opportunities for researchers from postgraduate level up:
Learn how to develop water-based activities for Festivals, trialling these at Bath Taps into Science in March and the Festival of Nature in June
Come along to an evening debate in Bath, Bristol or Keynsham to discuss a variety of water topics
Network with other water-interested groups, people and researchers
Reflect on the challenges and experiences of undertaking water-based public engagement activities
1) Getting ready for festivals
Wednesday 8th February 12.30 - 3.30pm OR Thursday 16 February 12.30 - 3.30pm. Register here: http://www.bath.ac.uk/learningandteaching/rdu/courses/pgskills/training/RP00441.html
Gain expert advice on how to deliver engaging, water-based public engagement activities that you can then trial at Bath Taps into Science and the Festival of Nature.
In this practical workshop we’ll take you through a process for devising public engagement activities. Using real-world examples and hands-on activities, participants will devise a brand new engagement activity which could be used in a Pathways to Impact section of a grant.
The course will also help you think about how to evidence public engagement for the “research and scholarship” strand of promotion and probation criteria.
2) Getting ready for festivals: Drop-in session
Thursday 9 March, 12.30pm - 4pm
An informal opportunity for you to bring along your draft water-based public engagement activities for feedback from our Festival experts. If you'd like to take advantage of this opportunity, please email Dr Helen Featherstone (Head of Public Engagement) at: firstname.lastname@example.org
A series of debates with panels of experts are planned as below. Attendance is free and you'll be able to register soon.
(1) Waste Water & Water Waste
Monday 6 March, 6.30 - 9pm, Watershed, Bristol BS1 5TX
How can we deal with existing litter and prevent the littering of our waterways?
Which pollutants are entering waterways, what are the risks and what can be done about it?
What is 'waste water runoff' and what can be done to prevent it?
(2) How water shaped Bath
Monday 13 March, 6.30 - 9pm, Brunswick Room, Guildhall, Bath BA1 5AW
What's the history of flooding in Bath?
Is flooding a solely natural phenomenon and to what extent can human activities create it?
How has Bath's architecture developed to stop, prevent or escape from flooding?
(3) Healthy Water
Thursday 23 March, 6.30 - 9pm, Keynsham Community Space, BS31 1FS
How are antibiotics and other pharmaceuticals impacting local river sources?
What risks does this pose for the health of farmed animals, and the wider ecosystem?
Rowers, boaters, wild swimmers and anglers: how can we safeguard the waterways for leisure and wellbeing?
Bristol Natural History Consortium are arranging a series of stakeholders planning days for people to discover all the opportunities to be part of the Festival of Nature.
Bring your own fresh ideas and suggestions to help shape the programme, and meet some of the 200+ organisations that get involved each year over a spot of lunch.
Thursday 9 February, 10.30am - 12.30pm - Keynsham: Book your tickets here.
Tuesday 7 March, 2.30 - 5.30pm - Bristol: Book your tickets here.
Thursday 16 March, 10am - 12pm - Bath: Book your tickets here.
If you have any questions about any of the above, please do contact Dr Helen Featherstone (Head of Public Engagement) at: email@example.com
As announced last year, the University of Bath has founded The Milner Centre for Evolution, after receiving a generous £5 million donation from Bath alumnus Dr Jonathon Milner. The centre is partnered with the University of Oslo's Centre for Ecological and Evolutionary Synthesis (CEES), which has been at the forefront of ecological and evolutionary research for a number of years. This partnership will enable collaborations between experts from the two universities, and also give young scientists the opportunity to travel and perform research in different environments. As such, I am very grateful to the University of Bath for awarding me funding for a five week research stay at the University of Oslo (CEES), under the Future Research Leaders Incubator Scheme.
So, why am I here? Some of you may have heard about a relatively new field of research into bacterial communities - such communities are known as a 'microbiome'. These microbiomes are generally comprised of many bacterial species, and so are shaped by the interactions between these species, their hosts, and the environment. It has recently been estimated that there are as many bacterial cells living in or on our body as human cells 1. Just think about that for a second. These bacteria are not merely passengers within our bodies, rather they play an important role in maintaining our health. There is increasing evidence that imbalances in our microbiome are linked with poorly understood diseases, such as irritable bowel syndrome, Crohn's disease, and some cancers 2. Although much of this research is uncertain, it shows great promise in helping us to understand these diseases. Despite active research into the human microbiome, there has been little focus on microbiomes from other organisms. I am spending my time in Oslo studying the cod microbiome (in particular the Atlantic cod).
Why are cod important? Atlantic cod are widely consumed, commercially important fish; as a result their numbers have repeatedly suffered from overfishing. They are long-lived (up to 25 years), large (up to 2m long, and 95 kg in weight), and wide-ranging. Populations are found off the shores of the Northeastern USA, Greenland, and most of Northwestern Europe from the Bay of Biscay to the Arctic Circle. Some populations are coastal, whilst others, such as the Northeast Arctic cod (referred to as skrei, a Norwegian name meaning the wanderer) live much further out to sea. These populations are genetically distinct, and show adaptations to their different environments 3–5. But what about their microbiomes? Do different populations vary in their microbiomes? If so, do these differences help to protect against different environmental stresses? Could we use this information to improve monitoring of the health of cod populations? These are the questions I am trying to answer during my stay. This is made possible by combining bacterial genomics expertise at the University of Bath with cod genomics expertise at the University of Oslo.
- Sender, R., Fuchs, S. & Milo, R. Revised estimates for the number of human and bacteria cells in the body. bioRxiv 036103 (2016). doi:10.1101/036103
- Cho, I. & Blaser, M. J. The human microbiome: at the interface of health and disease. Nat. Rev. Genet. 13, 260–270 (2012).
- Sodeland, M. et al. 'Islands of divergence' in the Atlantic cod genome represent polymorphic chromosomal rearrangements. Genome Biol. Evol. (2016). doi:10.1093/gbe/evw057
- Berg, P. R. et al. Adaptation to Low Salinity Promotes Genomic Divergence in Atlantic Cod (Gadus morhua L.). Genome Biol. Evol. 7, 1644–1663 (2015).
- Karlsen, B. O. et al. Genomic divergence between the migratory and stationary ecotypes of Atlantic cod. Mol. Ecol. 22, 5098–5111 (2013).