UWE conjures up new tricks at Festival of Nature

Issue date: 28 May 2009

festival of nature Festival of Nature 2009, Bristol Harbourside, 5, 6 and 7 June 2009

The University of the West of England is once again taking centre stage at the Festival of Nature at Bristol's Harbourside on 5, 6 and 7 June 2009. A UWE Festival tent will host a range of activities linked to this year's festival theme that will focus on Charles Darwin.

Researchers from UWE's Science Communication Unit will perform a range of science tricks aimed at engaging children and adults alike in a variety of experiments designed to excite, educate and inspire. A team of roboticists from the Bristol Robotics Laboratory will also show off some of UWE's famous swarming robots.

Science technicians have an array of exciting activities led by UWE's Sara Hicks. Sara explains, “We are going to be looking at human characteristics and genetic traits and building a festival genetic profile. We will ask people to fill out questions like Can you roll your tongue, smell freesias or taste the bitterness in grapefruit pith? Being able to do any of these is all down to genetic traits and we'll add responses to a chart. There are other activities related to genetics that we will be encouraging people to try at home. One that the children love is Does eating asparagus make your wee smelly? But we can't really do this trick in a Festival setting!

“Festival goers will also get a chance to learn about using plants as universal indicators. Did you know that red cabbage turns pink if you squirt lemon juice on it and blue if you add kitchen cleaning spray? The spice turmeric also demonstrates a single PH point change turning red when sprayed with alkaline kitchen spray and back to bright yellow if subsequently squirted with lemon.

“We will have demonstrations on beneficial micro-organisms like with mould on Roquefort cheese and fermenting demos showing the effect of yeast in bread making and beer brewing.

“There will also be a range of practical demonstrations investigating forensic entomology using lice and experiments showing how colour can have a surprising impact on our sense of smell.”

Other UWE experts will be on hand to discuss a range of ideas like air quality, the evolution of ideas, human nature and plant evolution.

Dr Fiona Matthews represents UWE on the Bristol Natural History Consortium who organise the Festival of Nature, she said, “The Festival is a fun, lively event for Bristol and it's important that UWE is involved because we have many interesting projects which fit the bill. The Festival brings together all the key players in the city to put on an event that celebrates all the good things about nature and the environment. There are lots of hands on activities making this an inspirational family day out.”

The Festival of Nature is the UK's largest celebration of the natural world, and this year's event will give residents of and visitors to the city a chance to experience, enjoy and connect to the natural world – and all completely free-of-charge.

With 2009 being the bicentenary celebrations of Charles Darwin, the Festival will be one of the few locations to feature the British Council's international Darwin Now exhibition, giving visitors the opportunity to explore the ideas that lie at the heart of evolutionary theory and the impact that they continue to have today. The centrepiece is the iconic, interactive Darwin Now tree logo which encourages visitors to leave their thoughts on Darwin and the exhibition.

Other highlights will include talks by high profile speakers on nature-related issues – including James Wong, ethno-botanist and presenter of the BBC2 series 'Grow Your Own Drugs' and Stephen Moss, Series Producer at the BBC Natural History Unit. There will also be the chance to watch sneak previews of the forthcoming 'Human Planet' production by the BBC, as well as material from already successful series including 'Nature's Great Events' and 'LIFE'

More information is available from the Festival of Nature website at www.festivalofnature.org


Editor's notes

Last year's Festival welcomed over 25,000 visitors. The Festival has attracted over 120,000 people since it began helping to ensure Bristol's worldwide reputation for natural history communication. The Festival intends to engage the widest possible audience in the UK's biggest celebration of the natural world.

The Bristol Festival of Nature is run by the Bristol Natural History Consortium, collaboration between the following organisations: Avon Wildlife Trust, the BBC Natural History Unit, Bristol City Council, Bristol Zoo Gardens, Defra, Environment Agency, Natural England, the University of Bristol, the University of the West of England, Wildfowl & Wetlands Trust and Wildscreen Trust.

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