Below are the Public Lecture Series we ran in 2016.
Living on the Edge: Life in high salinity environments
11th October 2016
Dr André Antunes
Nature never ceases to amaze in both its astonishing resourcefulness and enormous flexibility. The long-standing assumption of life as being picky and frail has been clearly disproven. The advent of modern microbiology in the last few decades, only possible with the new tools provided by molecular biology, gave us a whole new perspective of Earth’s biosphere. Microorganisms were shown to be (by far) the dominant forms of life in our planet and discovered to populate and thrive in virtually every corner of our planet, including several inhospitable ones, previously thought sterile due to the harshness of their conditions.
Organisms that populate, and prosper under “extreme” environmental conditions, ranging from subfreezing polar deserts, to the sulphurous, boiling waters of a hot spring, to concentrated brines and abyssal environments, are usually called extremophiles (literally meaning “extreme loving”). The discovery of new extreme environments and their study expand our knowledge on the evolution, diversity, and resilience of Life. Furthermore, they also provide precious analogues for Life on Mars, and beyond.
This seminar will present an overview of the latest findings, current challenges, and future perspectives when studying the biology of unusual extreme environments, with a focus on research on high salinity locations and the deep-sea anoxic brines of the Red Sea. These are considered to be some of the harshest environments known on our planet due to the conjugation of high salinity, increased temperature, high concentration of heavy metals, high pressure and anoxia. Such conditions make them a privileged location for novel discoveries in the field of microbiology and biotechnology.
Prenatal programming- you are what your mum eats
25th October 2016
Dr Jayne Charnock
Jayne is a Lecturer in Biology, with a special interest in pregnancy and its related diseases. Her research has previously focused on the development and role of the placenta and the treatment of Fetal Growth Restriction (FGR). Impaired development of the placenta is strongly associated with a number of pregnancy complications and poor neonatal health, as well as having important implications for the life-long wellbeing of the baby. Jayne will discuss how maternal diet, amongst other factors, is known to directly impact on baby’s health and even their childhood behaviour. Come along to find out how eating too much liquorice whilst pregnant could cause ADHD in infants, why a mum’s low protein diet is linked to heart disease in adulthood, as well as all of the more useful things you can do with a placenta in a laboratory, (opposed to eating it) after delivery! Jayne will discuss her plans to research how external factors such as nutrition, during the very earliest stages of pregnancy, impact on the developing placenta, and therefore the baby, with important implications for IVF procedures.
Small size, big impact: the challenges in controlling mosquitoes
6th December 2016
Dr Clare Strode
Despite their small size mosquitoes have had and continue to have a huge global impact on the transmission of diseases such as malaria, dengue fever and more recently Zika virus. Some species such as Aedes aegypti have exploited human habitats to live as close as possible to their food source. By exploring the biology and ecology of the mosquito we will look at the challenges associated with their control, including how they have genetically adapted in the face of insecticide-based control methods. We will also look at how increasing globalisation and potentially climate change have helped the spread of mosquito vectors across the world. Finally we will investigate the risk of invasive mosquitoes being introduced in the UK and the role researchers at Edge Hill University are playing in this latest challenge.