Trackers

From planets to particles, tracking movement is carried out by scientists from all disciplines. We chatted to two of our postgraduate interns, Kim and Mat, about their tracking-themed activity which will be on show as part of the Science Sunday Big Birthday Bash on 19 June.

1. Who are you and what do you do?

Kim: I’m Kim Wood, a PhD student at the University of Glasgow. My research focuses on the use of stable isotopes to uncover information on the diet, health and movement of wildebeest in the Serengeti.

Mat: I’m Mat and I research the interaction between high power ultrasonic waves (waves that vibrate just a bit faster than the ones you can hear) and material microstructure. In my spare time I like to go rock climbing and campaign for human rights.

2. Have you done public engagement before? What made you want to get involved?

Kim: I’ve been lucky enough to get involved in a quite a bit of public engagement work in the past, mostly centred around zoology and conservation; from teaching tourists about turtles on Greek boat trips to helping produce biology-themed articles for theGIST magazine here in Glasgow. I wanted to get involved with Glasgow Science Festival, as it’s a great opportunity to develop my hands-on science communication skills in a setting that is very different from my day-to-day academic environment.

Mat: I’ve always really enjoyed teaching and thinking up ways to make science more accessible to people who might not initially think they are interested in it. There is a lot of public engagement in the human rights work that I do, and I thought that bridging the gap between that work and my research would be really fun.

3. Describe your activity to us. Why should we come along?

Our theme is ‘tracking in science’ and we look at how and why scientists need to be able to measure movement at different scales, from planets to particles. For the activity itself, you will become detectives, tracking different animals using all of your senses. You will have to identify birds, frogs, fish and predators using different tracking techniques. The skills you will learn are used by scientists for a huge range of things in everyday research – you will even be able to use them to search for other animals in the wild.

4. 2016 is Scotland’s Year of Innovation, Architecture and Design. What innovation could you not live without?

Kim: Google – the know-it-all’s holy grail! Honestly, I can’t imagine how people survived without it. I’m a fan of medical and criminal procedural dramas and I watch them equipped with my smart phone, ready to double check any ‘facts’ I’ve not heard before. Ditto with spelling – if I come across a word I’ve not seen previously, I google the spelling/definition and copy it out into a little notebook!

Mat: I have arthritis and therefore couldn’t live without the advances biologists and medics have made in targeting specific drugs to treat it. The recent advances in this medicine have been a game-changer for people with arthritis and other autoimmune diseases, enabling us to get on with what we want to do just like everyone else!

5. Impress us with your favourite science joke or fact

Despite the impressive length of a giraffe’s neck, they contain only 7 cervical vertebrae (neck bones) – the same amount as a human! The bones are simply elongated in the giraffe, and each can be up to a foot long. Google a picture! This is compelling evidence for evolution and the constraints that anatomy may impose on it.

Join Kim and Mat on 19 June from 10:00-16:00 in the Hunter Hall, University of Glasgow. For more information, visit our website.

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