Guest Post: Great British Bioscience Festival 2014 – Anisha Chandar, Media Officer, BBSRC

On 14-16 November, the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC) is partnering with London Science Festival to bring you the Great British Bioscience Festival (GBBF).

19 engaging and exciting bioscience exhibits funded by BBSRC will be heading to Museum Gardens in Bethnal Green to showcase the best of British bioscience.

A variety of interactive hands on activities will be on offer, covering a wide range of bioscience topics such as taking the pain out of injections, nature’s factories and how to make fish oils in GM plants. Each display will be delivered by a team of leading researchers who will be on hand to explain the science behind the exhibit.

What’s on?

This free festival will be the culmination of a year long series of events funded by BBSRC as part of its 20th anniversary programme. Take a look at some of the exhibits that will be at the festival below:

How do we catch infections? University of Manchester

Image: ‘Examining parasitic worms’ © University of Manchester

What is the biggest global killer of people under 50? Infection, yet many people are unaware of how they are transmitted. Research at the University of Manchester is focusing on the biology and immune response to four common parasites – Toxoplasma, whipworm, malaria and schistosomes.

This exhibit will focus on explaining how people can catch infections, the global significance of infection and how they can be prevented.

What to expect?

• Videos of infection routes of common parasites to man (life cycle) and their significance in the world
• Make giant jigsaws of infection transmission routes
• Make interactive parasite themed art (Rangoli)
• Build an interactive feedback electronic “wall”
• Contribute to an infection themed book

Animal cultures: Nature’s second inheritance system, University of St Andrews

Image: ‘A young chimpanzee learns from her mother inspecting a parasite put on a leaf’ © Catherine Hobaiter

It’s easy to think that human culture completely separates our species from others. BBSRC-funded research has instead revealed cultural processes of varying complexity in primates, birds and fish. At the exhibit take part in innovative experiments, taking the role of a chimp to learn new tool use from others, or trying your hand at being a crow, using tools to catch insect grubs.

Many bugs make light work, University of the West of England

Image: ‘Bioluminescent bacteria producing their own light (photographed in the dark)’ © University of the West of England

The exhibit by researchers at the University of the West of England uses bacteria that produce their own light as tiny sensors, to look directly at the way that living organisms respond to chemicals and physical treatments. Genetically modified bacteria will be on show with light producing genes to look at the effectiveness of treatments. Visit the blackout tent and add household antibacterial products to glowing bacteria to see how rapidly the light is reduced.

Running, jumping, flying; the science and art of animal locomotion, Royal Veterinary College

Image: ‘Understanding V formation in Ibises (if you look closely you can see data loggers on their backs)’ © Markus Unsöld

Researchers in the Structure & Motion Lab at the Royal Veterinary College investigate the biomechanics of animal locomotion using innovative technology and pioneering techniques. The research ranges from investigating how elite animal athletes (human, cheetah, racehorse etc) achieve their remarkable performance, to investigating hunting and ranging behaviour tracked using enhanced GPS (as featured on Horizon ‘Secret Life of the Cat’).

Meet the makers of animal tracking and activity monitoring technology and collars used for studying wild cheetah and lions, as well as RVC’s artist in residence Geoffrey Harrison. Hop, skip and jump on a pressure pad to see how your feet respond to movements, and see beautiful, detailed scientific illustrations by artist and scientist Dr Julia Molnar.

For a full list of the exhibits that will be at the festival, visit: www.bbsrc.ac.uk/society/exhibitions/gb-bioscience-festival

Keep up to date with the festival on twitter by using the hashtag #GBbioscifest.

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