Life Science Archive

Faculty researcher Dr David Kirby was recently featured in an article and podcast for Nature Jobs, focusing on the role of The front cover of Dr Kirby's bookscience advisers in film and television. In his book, Lab Coats in Hollywood, science communication and film studies expert Dr Kirby looked at what draws scientists to the world of film. He interviewed 25 scientists to investigate how film producers used scientists on films such as Hulk, Finding Nemo, and 2001: A Space Odyssey.

According to Dr Kirby, in an age where stereotypes are closely scrutinised, producers and writers are often most interested in knowing what scientists are really like. The questions the scientists are asked, and the time the advisers are needed for, varies depending on the film or TV series.

After many years immersed in the world of Hollywood media, Dr Kirby feels he has learnt a great deal. For any scientist wishing…

View original post 126 more words


Life Science Archive

In a groundbreaking new book, Fossil Insects, Faculty scientist Dr David Penney and his colleague James E Jepson Crato reconstruction courtesy of Richard Bizley www.bizleyart.comshow the incredible diversity of fossilised insects around the world. Using stunning photographs and unique illustrations, the book brings to life an ancient world that was fictionalised in Jurassic Park, showing us what these fossils tell us about the ancient and modern worlds, and even the future of our planet.

Using pioneering methods and state-of-the-art technology, Dr Penney has drawn on his knowledge of entomology and palaeontology to discover some astonishing new facts about these fossilised creatures. He says:

“Insects are the most diverse group of creatures on the planet today. Many of them were around even before the time of the dinosaurs. Bringing together entomology and palaeontology through the study of insect fossils has great potential for revolutionising what we know about both subjects.”

In the book, the ancient insects are…

View original post 173 more words

Professor Daniel Davis longlisted for important science writing prize

Life Science Archive

Professor Daniel Davis’s The Compatibility Gene has been longlisted for the Royal Winton Prize for Science Books. The book discusses howDan Davis and his book our compatibility genes may influence finding a life partner as much as they influence our health and individuality.  The judges said:

“Davis wins you over from the start with touch points you can relate to and engaging descriptions. Dedication and a life spent in pursuit of his subject are evident on every page.”

Over 160 books were submitted for this year’s prize, and the judges faced a difficult task when whittling that number down to a longlist of twelve. The winning author will receive £25,000 and up to five shorlistees will be awarded £2,500. The shortlist will be announced on 19th September 2014.

Professor Nicky Clayton FRS, Chair of the judges, said:

“There really is a plethora of good science writing out there at the moment. I think this…

View original post 73 more words

Episode 3, Series 2 – Light

In the third episode of our new series we decided to talk about… light!
How does light affect us, our sleep, our eating habits and our moods? Could the shortening days and longer nights be at least in part responsible for winter depression?

Continue reading

Episode 2, Series 2

With our second episode you’ll hear that things are starting to change here. For a start, we’d like to introduce you to the two girls that will be presenting the podcast from now on, Greta Santagata and Ceri Harrop. Greta is the one with the weird Italian accent and Ceri has a fizzy, excitable “teacher’s voice”, as she defines it herself. Are two girl presenters going to make the show sound “too fluffy”, as our boss hinted at with a smile? We hope not. But feel free to comment below on the level of “fluffiness” of the show.

Continue reading

Episode 1, Series 2

Hello everyone, we’re back with the second series of the Life Sciences Podcasts, woop!
Some things have changed and many more will be changing. Stay tuned to find out!

In this first episode we talk to Professor Steven Reppert about the role of circadian clocks in the migration of the Monarch butterflies. We then meet a new faculty member, Dr Tucker Gilman, and find out what his research is about. And to finish, Prof Matthew Cobb and Dr Victoria Henshaw take us on a “smell” tour around campus and show us how smells can affect the perception of the urban environment we live in.

By Life Sciences Podcast Posted in Podcast

Episode 14 – A podcaster’s passions: Amazing animals and science media


Welcome all to the final podcast of the series, and my final episode with the Life Sciences podcast team. I’ve been extremely lucky over the past year to be immersed in science communication at the University of Manchester and have been able to share my passion for the research conducted here in the Faculty of Life Sciences through the medium of podcasts and this blog. Therefore, although slightly self-indulgent, this episode is all about a science podcaster’s passions. As a zoology graduate myself, these passions include amazing animal adaptations and science communication.

I discuss with Dr Gina Galli how some water-dwelling vertebrates have evolved the remarkable ability to survive for extended periods of time in the absence of oxygen. These species offer a particularly unique insight into molecular mechanisms that could protect against human-related diseases associated with severe hypoxia. I was then able to speak with Dr Jonathan Codd about the cost of breathing and locomotion in the Svalbard ptarmigan, an arctic species adapted to live in extremely harsh conditions throughout the year. Finally, we hear from the prolific science writer and blogger Ed Yong, speaking about his passion for science communication and blogging with Quentin Cooper, a successful science presenter and journalist, at a PhD conference held at the university earlier this year.

Living without Oxygen and Life in the Freezer: The freshwater turtle and the Svalbard ptarmigan

freshwaterturtleFor most animals, severe hypoxia or anoxia (defined as the complete absence of oxygen) is synonymous with death. In humans, for example, ischemia, which is the disruption of a continuous supply of oxygen to tissues, can result in loss of consciousness within seconds. In fact, even in the most hypoxic-tolerant mammals, the maximal level of tolerance for the cessation of breathing is a mere two hours. With the exception of deep-sea diving mammals and animals living at high altitude, there is little selection pressure for the evolution of anoxia tolerance in mammals or birds, as environmental oxygen levels are plentiful. However, for the water-dwelling lower vertebrates, continuous access to oxygen can be limited. With oxygen concentrations much lower in water and a slower diffusion rate, waters can become hypoxic or anoxic very easily. Some species of lower vertebrates, including some fish, amphibians and reptiles, therefore have evolved physiological coping mechanisms to this environmental stress, developing a high level of anoxia tolerance. Freshwater turtles of the genera Chrysemys and Trachemys are excellent examples of this; they have evolved a remarkable ability to survive unharmed for an extraordinary length of time in an anoxic environment due to their life history. These animals can overwinter under ice in ponds for several months, preventing them from accessing the water surface to breathe air, and hence have to remain in the anoxic water.

ginaWe find out about the strategies employed by both the freshwater turtle and crucian carp that enable them to survive for extended periods of time in the absence of oxygen with Dr Gina Galli. These animals evade the detrimental consequences of anoxia, including a reduction in production of ATP leading to a mismatch between ATP supply and demand, and the generation of toxic end-products from anaerobic respiration such as lactic acid through a variety of different means. We discuss both whole-animal adaptations and potential cellular mechanisms that confer protection against such detrimental effects following oxygen deprivation.


From living without oxygen to life in the freezer, we speak to Dr Jonathan Codd about his research looking at the energetic cost of locomotion in the Svalbard rock ptarmigan  (Lagopus muta hyperborean). The Svalbard ptarmigan is a non-migratory bird that inhabits the arctic archipelago of Svalbard year round. This species experiences extreme photoperiodic and climatic conditions and is therefore highly adapted to live in this harsh environment. A unique trick seen in these birds is their ability to double and then half their body mass throughout the course of the year through the deposition, prior to onset of winter, of fat stores. Jonathan’s research has looked into whether this fat, although crucial to the birds’ survival, places any constraints on both their breathing and locomotion. As these birds can still move energetically efficiently with this additional mass, we discuss with Jonathan the mechanisms that may be utilised by these birds to allow for efficient locomotion.


Domesticated birds are often selected for rapid growth rates and increased edible muscle mass however, unlike the ptarmigan, these traits often come with associated health problems. Jonathan highlights how understanding the ventilatory mechanics and locomotor biomechanics of the ptarmigan, a bird with naturally-occurring increases in body mass, can be applied to investigating the underlying causes of welfare issues in poultry.

Hear more about Jonathan’s research looking at the Svalbard ptarmigan here: