SWBio DTP Agriculture and Environment Research Theme Events 2019

This year the ‘Aggies’ took a break from the Green Man Festival and got together for two activities, a Coding Camp in rural Devon, and the SEB Conference in Seville.

Working on their R code with Dan Bebber

The Coding Camp was held at a beautiful farmhouse near Bigbury-on-Sea over a weekend in June, with the aim of sharing knowledge and experience of R programming for data analysis and graphics. At the beginning of the data camp, students gave short presentations about their PhD projects, their current datasets and outlined the planned statistical analyses. Projects varied from algae herbicide tolerance evolution, image analysis of animal brains to bioinformatics. Students shared their datasets and codes, and we critically discussed these as a group. This was a great opportunity to help students familiarise themselves with different datasets, statistical tools and evaluate experimental designs.

On the second day, students were given a plant pathogen distribution dataset as an ‘R Markdown’ file to analyse in R Studio software. The file type was new to the students, which contained metadata, text description and codes to generate the analyses, graphs and reports. This data was also used to introduce model optimisation and different techniques to deal with multiple variables. After a model optimisation exercise, we reviewed a chapter written by one of the students on modelling. Students showed each other how to use Color Oracle software to make graphs accessible to colour-blind readers and also demonstrated LaTeX software to write up PhD theses. On the last day of the data camp, students worked in pairs which encouraged further team-building and future cross-university collaborations.

Tom Chaloner receives his Young Scientist Award for best presentation in the Plant/Cell category

In July, a group of Aggies attended the Society for Experimental Biology (SEB) Conference in Seville, one of the largest biological sciences events in Europe. We rented a beautiful Palazzo in the centre of the old city, travelling to the huge FIBES exhibition centre to give talks and hear about the latest developments in our fields. All of us gave presentations of our work, and for several students this was the first experience of a major international scientific conference. Congratulations in particular to Tom Chaloner who won the Young Scientist Award in the Plants/Cell Category for his talk on temperature relations of plant pathogenic fungi.

The students found the experience extremely rewarding. Award-winner Tom Chaloner said “Seville not only allowed me to showcase my research at an international conference, but also gave me the opportunity to network with a diverse mix of researchers. The conference exposed me to many areas of research and gave me many ideas I now want to try out back in Exeter!”.

For Faye Watson, “Seville was great for theme bonding and creating friendships it would have been hard to make at just the normal cohort activities. It was great to have cohort support at my first conference”.

Alex Coulton said “From in-depth stomatal mechanisms to the fascinating behavioural responses of narwhals to industrial shipping, SEB Seville offered something for everyone. This was an excellent opportunity to expand our scientific knowledge and to network with researchers from across the globe. Thank you to the SWBio BBSRC DTP, particularly Dan Bebber and Sam Southern for facilitating this experience”.

Glyndwr Jones said “Attending the SEB conference this year was a great experience. I had the opportunity to present my research to other scientists in my field and discuss ideas for me to consider for my future work. Additionally, I got to experience what it means to be part of an international community of scientists and met people who may become potential collaborators.”

Bethany Eldridge presents her data on root adhesion to a packed audience