Some carnivorous plants hold ‘pools’ within the plant consisting of rainwater and secreted substances such as sugars, used to lure and trap insect prey. Microscopic analysis of this fluid collected from pitcher plants (Sarracenia sp.) and bromeliads (Brocchinia sp.) growing in BU’s Biodome has revealed a rich diversity of single-celled microorganisms. These microbes, less than half a millimetre in length, are known as ciliates and distinguished by hair-like cilia that they use for locomotion and feeding.
Ciliates are incredible important grazers, feeding on bacteria, algae and organic matter, and are crucial part of the microecosystem within the bromeliad and pitcher plant pools, which also includes algae, bacteria and insect larvae and copepods that also grow in such pools, playing an important role in energy transfer from microbes to animals.
One of the microbes found within the pools was the the ciliate Euplotes, pictured about. Copyright Jack Dazley
Katie’s recent work in Africa is driven by her passion for African wildlife, where her research focuses on ecosystem level conservation, environmental education and sustainable development. She was honoured to be personally invited by the Science Diplomat of the U.S. Embassy to represent Bournemouth University as a subject matter expert at the London Zoohackathon 2017, hosted by the Zoological Society of London. She advised coders how to identify technological solutions to the illegal wildlife trade from her experience in the field. Following this, Katie recently published an article for the U.S. Embassy (read here) and is now delighted to join a team of experts on the Global Animal Protection, as part of the renowned wildlife charity, World Animal Protection (find out more here). Katie works with Professor Genoveva Esteban as a Research Associate in the Department of Life and Environmental Sciences (SciTech).
Research Associate Katie Thompson was honoured to meet the BBC wildlife presenter and lifelong conservationist Saba Douglas-Hamilton at her talk ‘Life with Elephants’ last week. It was a fantastic opportunity to meet fellow conservationists, and Saba herself to talk about the incredible research work they lead across the African continent. Her father founded the renowned NGO, ‘Save the Elephants’ where Katie visited their research station in April 2017 in Kenya. Further research developments have lead Katie to liaise with directors from ‘Elephants Alive’, their partner charity in South Africa. She continues to develop close links with these NGOs and the Life and Environmental Sciences Department at Bournemouth University, with research focusing on elephant conservation and their impact on the ecosystem.
Undergraduate students in the department of Life and Environmental Sciences investigated the diversity of phytoplankton and zooplankton in Southampton water as part of their third-year Biological Oceanography module. Using the research vessel RV Callista at the National Oceanography Centre Southampton (NOCS), samples were collected at 5 locations, or “stations”, between Calshott and the Itchen River. Environmental data was collected at each station using an array of sensors, measuring parameters such as temperature, salinity, chlorophyll and oxygen concentration. Phytoplankton were collected at two depths at each site, representing deep and shallow water. Zooplankton was caught using a plankton net, with a 120µm mesh to catch zooplankton in the net. These samples were subsequently analysed back at the university.
Trawls and grab samples were also used to investigate the benthic (bottom dwelling) communities living on the seabed and to analyse the oxygen conent of the sediment. Benthic animals found included starfish, fish such as gobies and flounders, cuttlefish, crabs and ‘moss animals’ (bryozoans).
Back at BU, the phyto- and zooplankton samples were analysed using microscopy. A variety of diatoms and dinoflagellates were found in the phytoplankton samples, and barnacle larvae, copepods and the larvae of marine worms were found in the zooplankton samples. Microbes too small to be seen under the microscope were counted using flow cytometry, a technique used to identify cyanobacteria and other minute cells.
The study demonstrated the great diversity of planktonic and benthic life in Southampton water, and highlighted the importance of monitoring and understanding the microscopic life of the sea since the microscopic life , as the base of the food web, is crucial in sustaining the larger and better understood forms of marine life.
Photo credit: Katie Thompson
For my MSc Biodiversity Conservation placement in 2016, I studied marine mammals in Brazil and terrestrial mammals in South Africa. The placement in Brazil was introduced to me by Dr Luciana S. Esteves (Global Engachement Leader at the Department of Life and Environmental Sciences), who liaised with the project managers at “Cetáceos da Costa Branca” of the Universidade do Estado do Rio Grande do Norte (PCCB/UERN) to make this experience possible.
The placement involved daily monitoring marine wildlife, recording sightings of endangered marine species, rescuing stranded organisms, and carrying out necropsies with veterinarians. I participated with the disclosure of semi-annual results of data recordings to coastal communities, which involved me visiting various projects within the region to raise awareness of the conservation efforts that are ongoing within the area.
I presented my work from the masters course to researchers who then requested my designs for publication in a field guide, to aid with identification methods. These illustrations are currently being showcased with marketing materials at academic events within the local community.
For any further information please contact Katie Thompson on email@example.com or Genoveva Esteban firstname.lastname@example.org.
Bournemouth University Research Associate Katie Thompson joined a group of volunteers in April 2017 to initiate a Sustainable Green Toilet Project in Kenya, with the charity ACEF. The aim of this project is to build a new toilet facility for 800 school children (including over 100 orphans) who attend and live at the Brainhouse Academy, a school situated in one of the world’s largest slums (Mathare North) in Nairobi, Kenya.
As well as replacing the existing toilets with newer, cleaner toilet facilities which are equipped with hand washing facilities and lighting, these ‘green’ toilets will also feature an energy recovery system which will produce biogas: a clean and renewable gas which can be safely used for cooking and lighting the school.
This project will deliver multiple benefits including improved sanitation and treatment of toilet wastes to protect the local environment and reduce the risk of children catching deadly diseases, while producing a biogas which will be used in the school’s kitchen to replace the wood and charcoal fires. The project will act as a beacon of sustainable technology within the slum which could be replicated to improve the lives of thousands.
The planning and development stages have begun, with the aim of constructing the toilets early 2018, where BU Research Associate Katie Thompson continues to be involved in. If you would like to know more about the project and keep up to date with any advances then follow our blog via: http://www.wessexportal.co.uk/conservation/ or contact Katie Thompson on email@example.com or Genoveva Esteban firstname.lastname@example.org.
Over the Summer of 2017, project manager Katie Thompson has been working to redesign and improve the Wessex Portal to include a global conservation theme. The site has been enhanced to target a global audience, still focussing on key themes such as public engagement but also to include a global conservation section.
This new project was one of the outcomes of a recent visit to Kenya and South Africa by WP manager Katie Thompson, who developed collaboration with a school and charity organisation. These international trips focused on wildlife research and environmental education. Katie Thompson liaised with students and teachers, and is working to initiate an environmental club, with participation from the school. Children from the schools will be able to showcase their work online via the WP website and social media pages. This will be shown in the updated WP ‘Conservation Forum’ section of the website with public input (http://www.wessexportal.co.uk/conservation/).
An upcoming visit to South Africa next month will aim to build on these relationships, and expand upon organisations to collaborate with and expand outreach to international countries.
If you would like more information, then please do not hesitate to contact either Katie Thompson email@example.com or Genoveva Esteban firstname.lastname@example.org (Principal Investigator) Join our website, and follow us on FB and twitter for regular updates.