— Virginia Acha (@GinnyatABPI) January 8, 2016
On January 8th, IIB’s Prof Greg Hurst attended the Association of Science Educators (ASE) annual conference in Birmingham. The ASE is the annual gathering of primary and secondary educators – teachers, trainee teachers and professionals involved in curriculum design and delivery.
Greg contributed to a one day symposium ‘Science in the Real World’ sponsored by the Society of Biology, with a representative of various learned societies giving 40 minute talks where research in one area of the curriculum is highlighted and updated to its current practice and applications. He represented the British Ecological Society, where he has served on the Education committee for the last four years.
His talk was about the importance of microbiomes in the biology of individual animals, and from this their impact on animal population and communities in natural population. Highlighting first of all how human digestion and physiology is a product of both the animal and the microbes within their gut, he then gave case studies of a wider range of animals where microbial function was even more key. Microbes allow desert rats to feed on the toxic creosote bush in the Mojave, aphids to eat plant sap devoid of amino acids, and tse tse flies to live on blood, that lacks B vitamins. Many ways of life that exist would not exist without symbiosis with microbes.
The talk provoked a lively discussion, with questions ranging from the role of breast feeding in initiating microbiomes (Answer: no man should ever tell a woman how to feed their baby), through to the big question: why can’t/don’t animals carry out these metabolic functions for themselves?