Bristol’s Festival of Nature is an annual celebration of natural history. Over 150 organisations put together displays and activities, from the Wildlife Trust singing about badgers to the BBC getting kids talking about climate change on the big screen. This year the University of Bristol marquee was full of people learning about how bees communicate with flowers, how diseases spread and the creatures of the deep. Two SWDTP students got involved and organised stands based on their own research.
Sarah’s research is about how the plants prevent water loss from their leaves by developing waxy coatings on their surfaces and by breathing through tiny closable pores. Sarah met with the University’s Centre for Public Engagement team to discuss creative ways to get people interested in how plants use water. The University’s Botanic Garden provided her with cacti and succulents that live in extremely dry environments, which contrasted nicely with the ‘unsinkable plants’ which float on ponds. They had microscopes for people to look at stomata, the tiny pores on the leaves that allow it to breathe, which were brought to life by a giant inflatable model next to it that opened and closed. Sarah said that ‘it was really exciting to talk to people about my research and its importance for a future where water will be a precious resource’.
Anna’s PhD project is linked with Food Security and ways in which we can increase food production to meet growing demand. Her team’s stall had the theme of ‘Genetic Futures’ with activities about DNA and genetically modified crops. Visitors could make DNA necklaces with phenotype beads and DNA extracted from their own cheek cells or fruit. This was mainly aimed at younger ages but lots of adults joined in too! They also had a stall promoting discussion about GM crops which raised important issues and encouraged a variety of arguments from both sides.