Issue date: 27 September 2004

ISSUE DATE: 27/09/04

The University of the West of England and the University of Bristol, have joined forces to develop a series of fascinating web pages to link up with the latest natural history blockbuster from the BBC’s Natural History Unit British Isles: A Natural History, which starts on 29 September on BBC1 at 9pm.

This site includes details of 'The Great British Snail Hunt', a survey that will provide vital clues about the state of the environment in Britain.

Frank Burnet, UWE’s Professor of Science Communication who is involved in the project says, “When people watch these programmes it often sparks an interest in science and the natural environment. We want to make the most of that spark and recruit people onto science based courses – particularly the environment where more students are needed. The aim is that the additional material on the website will be the beginning of a learning pathway and will encourage viewers to take their interest further. The science expertise of the University of Bristol and UWE is a winning combination!” http://www.science.uwe.ac.uk/Env/

Television series such as The Blue Planet, The Life of Mammals and Walking with Dinosaurs made by the BBC’s Natural History Unit, based in Bristol, excite public interest and create a greater interest in studying science. For example when the Blue Planet was broadcast, there was a big increase in the number of people applying to study Marine Biology the following year.

The pages, under the headline ‘Scientists - How do they know that?’, are written so that the latest research and most expert knowledge is made available to a wide audience in an easily understandable form. The pages can be found at http://www.open2.net/naturalhistory/how.html

People can explore the nature of the Earth itself in ‘Dynamic Earth’; find out how scientists turn into detectives when they uncover the secrets that fossils have kept hidden for millennia in ‘Palaeobiology’; and learn how the tiniest creature can cause catastrophic consequences when it turns up in the wrong location in ‘Invaders’.

At the launch in Bristol of the ‘British Isles’ series, John Willis, Director of BBC Factual and Learning Programmes, praised the ‘fantastic web content’ developed by the partners.
Professor Patricia Broadfoot from the University of Bristol said ‘We are proud to be part of an exciting project. It’s all about inspiring more people to appreciate and understand what an amazing country the British Isles is.’


Editor’s notes

The University of Bristol in Association with UWE won the contract against stiff competition – they beat 33 other universities, including Leeds and Cambridge. In order to win the contract they had to deliver presentations to a panel of representatives from the BBC, the Open University and The Natural History Museum.

The team at the heart of this new initiative are: Professor Mike Benton (Professor of Vertebrate Palaeontology, Department of Earth Sciences, University of Bristol), Dr Jane Memmott (Senior Lecturer in Terrestrial Ecology, School of Biological Sciences, University of Bristol), Professor Frank Burnet head of UWE’s award winning Graphic Science Unit and Professor Angela McFarlane (Professor of Education, University of Bristol).

The BBC has already called upon expertise at UWE for forthcoming programmes. UWE’s Neil Willey has contributed to a taster module on Bioremediation, using his research on the abilities of plants to clean contaminated soil by drawing contaminates up through their roots and into their leaves.

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