Scientists from the University of East Anglia (UEA) will be taking centre stage at Norwich Science Festival, which begins on Saturday (11 February).
The first day of the festival coincides with International Women and Girls in Science Day, and this year the next generation of scientists will be getting inquisitive about insects, courtesy of a female academic who has been recognised nationally for her teaching in biosciences.
Senior Lecturer in Biology at UEA, Dr Kelly Edmunds, will be taking part in the festival for a second year running and has been shortlisted for the Royal Society of Biology’s Higher Education Bioscience Teacher of the Year award.
This year on International Women and Girls in Science Day, Kelly will be launching a whole new national citizen science project, at the festival: the National Pitfall Network. This project is in partnership with the Norfolk Wildlife Trust and Zoological Society of East Anglia and aims to help us better understand how populations of ground-dwelling insects are changing.
The stand in the Explorium at the Forum in Norwich will be giving out insect trapping kits so children and families can head home armed with the equipment they need to become citizen scientists and start collecting data for a national study looking into how climate change may be affecting ground dwelling insects.
Kelly, who is passionate about teaching science and getting the next generation of students involved, said: “Science underpins life. We are learning more about the world around us all the time but there are still so many questions to answer.
“We need people who are curious, who like to explore, who enjoy figuring things out and solving problems to follow those interests and explore the world around them, to explore science. Because science is life, science is for everyone. And it holds the key to many of the problems that we face now and will in the future.”
Kelly is also developing a linked project, ‘It’s Raining Beetles’, which uses a collection of more than 5,000 beetles, to engage children and the public with beetles and help to understand how beetle populations have changed over time.
Kelly is one of three teachers shortlisted for the HE Bioscience Teacher of the Year Award which recognises the UK’s outstanding and innovative learning and teaching practices in the biosciences, with the winner being announced on Tuesday 21 March.
She said: “I am absolutely delighted to have been shortlisted. This is recognition for myself and also for the amazing work that my colleagues and I put into supporting and enthusing our students about biology.
“I was always a curious child and had lots of questions that I wanted answers to. I particularly enjoyed learning about physiology and how the human body worked. I had two great biology teachers who brought the subject to life and made the subject make sense to me.”
Kelly came to UEA to study Zoology and Physiology and very quickly developed a passion for zoology. In her final year of study she volunteered to go to Mauritius for six months saving endangered bird species. She ended up spending nearly 5 years working in Mauritius on endangered species eventually coordinating their largest international field programme and undertaking Masters research. In March, Kelly will be speaking at the British and Irish Association for Zoos and Aquariums for an International Women’s Day conference on her career in conservation and the highs and lows she has faced.
Kelly said: “Female role models inspired me to pursue my career into science and that has taken me on amazing journeys around the world. I hope through events like the Norwich Science Festival, I can help to inspire the next generation of female scientists to follow their curiosity and pursue their dreams.”
Norwich Science Festival features over 50 UEA academics and Kelly is one of a number of inspiring female scientists at UEA showcasing their research, from climate change to computer programming to volcanoes.
Find out more about these events:
Lauren Flannery (HSC) will be giving a talk exploring the role of speech, language Therapists and the ways they improve lives.
Prof Jenni Barclay (ENV) will be running an activity stand using a ‘magma disco’ to demonstrate how magma moves and the challenges this causes.
Lisa Crossman (BIO) is running events to show how coding is used in the international space station along with opportunities to programme your own Minecraft, lights or squishy circuits.
Learn how to speak up about climate change at Beth Derks’ (PPL) workshop.
Dr Harriet Cooper (MED) chairs a talk, Humans and their ‘bodyminds’ with three UEA academics Claire Moran (HSC), Dr Beccy Collings (IIH) and Dr Sabina Dosani (LDC) offer perspectives on the emerging field of Medical and Health Humanities, highlighting what it teaches us about the complex relationships between our bodies and minds.
And TV zoologist Jess French will be joining Prof Ben Garrod, UEA’s Professor of Evolutionary Biology and Science Engagement, for the now legendary animal dissection on a yet to be revealed animal that died of natural causes.
A full list of events can be found on the Norwich Science Festival website.