Future research priorities for conservation management in the Masai Mara

GroupPicture_MasaiMaraWorkshopThe Masai Mara in southern Kenya offers some of the most spectacular wildlife sightings on the planet. Exceptionally high densities of large predators and the annual wildebeest migration attract a large number of visitors each year. However, in recent years scientist witnessed a drastic decline in many wildlife populations. Human population growth seems to be the key driver of these changes and the major challenge in upcoming years will be the coordination of land use to ensure development as well as conservation goals.

In September 2017, the Mara Herbivore Project organized a workshop to identify research priorities to support the conservation management of the Masai Mara National Reserve and the adjoining conservancies. The invited participants included protected area managers and research programme directors from the Masai Mara National Reserve, Kenya Wildlife Service, Enonkishu Conservancy, Maasai Mara Wildlife Conservancies Association, Kenya Wildlife Trust, Mara Predator Project, Peregrine Fund, Hyena Project, and of course the Mara Herbivore Project. After a day of brainstorming and intense discussion, we voted on the importance and urgency of 35 research questions raised within three main categories: (i) habitat & species management, (ii) management of tourism & exploitation and (iii) livestock management & human wildlife conflict. Ranked highest by all participants was the question how habitat fragmentation due to increased fencing of private land effects wildlife populations in the Masai Mara. Many species in the area conduct seasonal movements in response to differences in monthly rainfall and currently there is no knowledge on how these spatial dynamics are affected by fencing. Other important questions were related to the strategic location of new wildlife areas, the impact of tourism infrastructure on wild populations and the effect of livestock management on resource availability within the reserve.

To raise awareness for the urgent threats the team led by Jakob Bro-Jorgensen published an article in SWARA, a magazine published by the East African Wildlife Society. It is aimed at non-specialists with a general interest in the problems experienced in today’s wildlife and habitat management.  The team hope that the article encourages a debate on the sustainability of current land-use practices, and that it leads to a closer cooperation between managers, researchers, and local communities in preserving the wider Masai Mara ecosystem.

 

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Dementia Public Engagement Day

On Wednesday 23rd May, scientists from Team Madine and Team Turnbull went on a mission to educate the public about dementia research as part of dementia awareness week, at the Alzheimer’s Research UK North West public engagement event hosted at the Institute for Dementia (University of Salford). The event was a hive of activity and a cornucopia of fun! Through the media of Lego®, giant KerPlunk!, cells and real brains members of the public were introduced to all things dementia, including how diet can affect your dementia risk, the development of novel inhibitors of dementia-associated proteins and the links between dementia and other diseases.

Kiani Jeacock, James Torpey (Madine group) and Scott Guimond (Turnbull group) showcased the fantastic research happening at the University of Liverpool through informative posters and a ‘Draw for Dementia’ activity. People were invited to draw the first thing that came to mind when they heard the word “dementia”, which resulted in some really interesting and thought-provoking work!

On the day, they also met people who had dementia themselves or who had friends or family with dementia. This was an educational experience for the scientists too, as it highlighted the translational aspect of their work and emphasised the importance of research into these poorly-understood conditions.

Overall it was a well-organised and enlightening day, and events like these are fantastic for both researchers and the general public alike.

Thanks to ARUK and the Institute for Dementia for hosting!

 

Warrington Collegiate Student Work Placement

Louis O’Brien, a student from Warrington Collegiate, sitting their BTEC Level 3 National Diploma in Applied Science, applied to do a work placement in the lab of Natasha Savage.

Louis worked with Natasha for a full week during February 2018. They did a variety of experiments and simulations together:

  • Plasmid Preparation. Bulking up plasmids using bacteria, performing a midi plasmid prep.
  • Cell culture. Growing up 3T3 cells from frozen, ready for plasmid transfection.
  • Time Course Imaging. Bacterial colonies, grown from swabs of Louis’s phone, were put in suspension and filmed under a light microscope to observe their proliferation.Polarity Simulations. Louis ran simulations of cells breaking symmetry. By changing reaction strengths Louis worked out the key molecular components.

    Louis doing bacterial work for time course imaging. Growing 3T3 cells from frozen stocks. DNA extracted using midi plasmid prep.

Farm Urban’s Future Food Challenge – launch Event – Speed Date a Scientist

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150 year 9 pupils from local schools visited the University of Liverpool for one day in
February to take part in the Farm Urban Future Food Challenge Launch Event. During
the launch event students engaged in a number of activities, including speed dating
scientists.
The speed date scientist event was great fun. The scientist sat at a dating table and awaited the students. Students arrived in groups of around 6. During a 5 minute period the scientist introduced themselves and their work, after which the students were free to ask any questions they wished. Questions ranged from, ‘Is being a scientist hard?’ to ‘Do you think there is a god?’ Once a conversation started it could go anywhere from eprogramming humans to the origin of names. The event was great fun for all.

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Pint of Science

The Pint of Science events around Liverpool ran for three nights (14-16 May 2018), all evenings were sold out!

The Centre for Cell Imaging’s technician, Jen Adcott, took to the stage at LEAF on Bold Street on the first evening of #Pint18 to present a two minute shot talk about ‘The science of imaging, a technician’s perspective’.

Jen took on the challenge, initially not realising that PowerPoint slides were not permitted for the shot talks, only small props that could be carried on stage… adding to the challenge of giving her first public talk, by discussing microscopy without being able to show any images!

The training provided by Steve Cross, organised by the University of Liverpool, was a huge help, and it was great to see how everyone’s talks progressed following the training.

Jen talked about how technicians support scientists in imaging. She demonstrated the use of different microscopes using a laser pointer to show the principle of the laser scanning confocal microscope, with the addition of a cylindrical lens (glass stirrer borrowed from lab B!) to turn the laser beam into a Lightsheet, as used in Lightsheet imaging.

 

Unfortunately due to broadcasting issues Jen’s talk was just missed off the live Facebook feed. The recording from the night started from the third talk in, and can be viewed here. Feedback from the event was very positive, with many people stating that ‘the shot talks were the highlight of the night!’

Jens advice for anyone thinking about taking part in the Pint of Science events is

“Do it! It’s great fun, although slightly nerve racking. It’s great to be a part of an event like Pint of Science, meeting new people, learning new things, and talking science. The support and training was fantastic! I was nervous that a technician giving a talk may not go down well with a room full of people wanting to hear science, but later at the bar I had people coming up to me wanting to learn more about the microscopes – it was great! And made me realise that anyone working in science, no matter at what level can take part in events like this.”

 

Plants, Microbes and Climate Change at Ness Botanic Gardens’ Family Science Fair

 

di and georgeThe annual Family Science Fair, held during British Science Week on the 10th March, was one of Ness Botanic Gardens’ largest public engagement events. This year, the event attracted over 1000 visitors. Amongst these, many families took the opportunity to visit Ness, and came in for an afternoon of fun, science-oriented hands-on activities, demonstrations or talks. Members of Raj Whitlock’s research group (Christoph Hahn, Di Yang, Toby Irving, Yuan-Fu Chan) ran a stall themed around “Plants, Microbes and Climate Change”. Both kids and “bigger kids” learned about soil microbes and where they live, what they do, but also how climatic changes might affect belowground ecosystems. We introduced some of the most important soil microbial species that help to maintain the health of plants, using an interactive poster. One of our aims was to reveal the belowground world of soil as an interacting and extremely diverse network of microbes that has strong effects on the plants above. To help our visitors understand how this belowground world fits together, we prepared observation pots (“rhizotrons”) and a big tank containing plants rooted into see-through Phytagel. Visitors of all ages were amazed to see intricate the root networks of plant roots growing into a translucent gel. Many visitors also took part in a competition to guess the number of microbes present in 1 g of soil, with a chance to win a cuddly toy (plushy) version of the common cold or flesh-eating disease. The day was an extremely positive one, and widely appreciated by visitors, some of whom did not want to leave the exhibition! There is just under one year to wait until the next Family Science Fair at Ness…team whitlock

Meet the Scientists

On Saturday 17th March IIB led the Meet the Scientists Event at the World Museum. Activities included stands led by the CCI and Madine group from IIB along with other stands from Life Sciences, ITM and IGH.

The CCI had a large team, and all worked together brilliantly on the Seeing is Believing stand! The team included:

Violaine See (CCI staff): Preparation of samples for imaging, and assistance at the event.

Dave Mason (CCI staff): Preparation of samples, imaging of samples, produced posters for the event, and assistance at the event.

Marco Marcello (CCI staff): Organisation of virtual reality tours of microscopy images, with Virtual Arcade

Daimark Bennett (CCI staff): Preparation of samples for imaging, and assistance at the event.

Raphael Levy (CCI staff): Preparation of samples for imaging, and assistance at the event.

Anne Herrmann (Postdoctoral researcher): Imaging of samples, preparation of printed materials for the drawing microscopy station.

Sophie Cowman (PhD student): Filmed and produced a tour of the CCI facility, which was on display during the event.

Rebecca Kelly (PhD student): Preparation of CCI postcards, set up and take down of stand, and assistance at event especially for the match the picture quiz.

Claire Kelly (PhD student): Set up and take down of stand, and assistance at event especially for the virtual reality microscopy tour.

Hammed Badmos (PhD student): Preparation of samples, and assistance at event especially for the microscope demonstrations.

Jen Francis (PhD student): Assistance at event especially for the microscope demonstrations.

Sumaira Ashraf (Postdoctoral researcher): Set up and take down of stand, and assistance at event especially for the microscope demonstrations.

Jen Adcott (CCI Staff): Organisation of the Seeing is Believing stand and co-ordinator of activities, imaging of samples, designed and produced the match the picture quiz and microscopy stickers, and assistance at the event.

Feedback from the CCI stand, seeing is believing:

Violaine See – “It was great, and the activities were all very popular. What I really liked about our exhibit is that it was real science. Well done Jen A for leading this, the result was absolutely awesome. Well done Jen F, Hammed, and Sumaira for guiding the kids with the microscopes with so much patience and enthusiasm. Dave has been an absolute star with the colouring sheets and at explaining what we do with microscopes. Rebecca and Claire have been fantastic with the quiz and virtual reality. An amazing team effort. I feel very fortunate to have you all around, you are amazing.”

Daimark Bennett – “Fantastic effort by everyone and great activities – it was great to see how busy it was even later on. The VR clearly went down a storm and everything from the stickers to the CCI movie looked really professional and well put together. It really is hard to convey the science when it’s so chaotic but I think the exhibit was pitched at the right level. In any case, my daughter, who is not easy to impress, gave the thumbs up 🙂 Well done everyone!”

Jen Adcott – “It’s great to work with such a fantastic team of people! The day was busy, and the CCI stand seeing is believing was hugely popular with many repeat visitors. I am looking forward to meeting more future scientists at the next events.”

The Madine group ran 2 activities ‘How does the heart work?’ and return of the popular ‘A lego treasure hunt for new medicines!’ with the help of PhD students James Torpey and Nathan Cumberbatch, MRes student Kiani Jeacock and undergraduate volunteers.  Visitors enjoyed learning how blood is transported around the body by watching blood cells flow around the giant circulatory system (borrowed from IACD created with a Wellcome Trust Public Engagement award, granted to Dr Valentina Barrera). Children of all ages were keen to take part in the Lego treasure hunt around the museum to find the correct drug that fit the Lego protein molecule, and be rewarded with a Lego Scientist to take home. Thanks to members of the group for their help and enthusiasm when describing the drug development process through the use of Lego.