Lichen Outreach in Blyth

Small boy: Are you a tree inspector?

Me: No I’m looking at lichens

SB: What’s a lichen?

Me: Come and see

Then a dozen small boys, aged 10 -12 playing on scooters came to see the lichens on the sycamore and cherry trees in the B&M car park in Blyth. I showed them how to use the hand lens to look at the few lichens there were. They saw Xanthoria and Physcia, mostly, looking like whole worlds through the hand lens.

SB2: Wow! I’m not being funny but they actually look amazing! (can’t remember his exact words, wish I could)

We chatted about algae and fungi (they said they knew about these from school) and pollution indicators. They all took turns to look. I said to take a photo and they had the great idea of taking it through the hand lens (see above). 

SB3: I’m going to show that to Dr XXX (teacher’s name) and I might get a GOLD MARK. Yeah!

I hope Dr XXX gave them all gold marks. I was only in Blyth cos I had to drive to pick up my phone that I’d carelessly left on the coach after fieldtrip. Feeling guilty about carbon footprint of driving all that way. Hope my sharing a bit of lichenology with 12 young boys mitigates.

TEA – Teaching Education Awards

Absolutely brilliant to be nominated and then shortlisted for a TEA this year for employability. How do you feel when you don’t win? Of course Chris who won, has done an amazing job with Stu Brew – so no surprise and well deserved. But still, I can’t pretend it would not have been nice to walk home with a glass teapot.

Then Phoebe, 4th year MEnv came to see me this afternoon. She said she was sorry I didn’t win. I asked her if she nominated me and she said, ‘we all nominated you’ – we sent a message round to say, ‘let’s all nominate Helen’ and we all did. Do you know, that was like a hundred glass teapots to me 🙂

Agrics (2nd yr) assessing grassland

Give the agriculture students a spade and a field to look at and they will be happy, as evidenced in this photo, though I’m not sure where they have hidden their spade. They were deciding whether to enter the fields into Countryside Stewardship, convert to arable (there used to be turnips here) or whether they needed to introduce more rye-grass. This is a small farm near Brampton, Cumbria.

Also pictured, talking to the group, is Hannah Davis, PhD student and former Organic Agriculture MSc. I can honestly say that I would not have survived the last year or two without her ability to turn her hand to anything I ask her to do at any ridiculous amount of  short notice. Thanks, Hannah. 

Masters in Environmental Science – Presentations

It is such a pleasure to watch our 4th year MEnv students present their dissertations.  As first years they were conscientious and engaged so their hard work and enthusiasm have paid off as they present these high quality, high impact pieces of research. Jackson audited and made recommendations regarding sustainability at Barbour (an enormous task), Gabby investigated paper cup recycling at Newcastle Uni and Phoebe researched bio-stimulants as alternatives to conventional fertilisers to promote sustainable agricultural production. Their slides are of such high quality and the confidence with which they stand before their audience and present their work and answer questions cannot be faulted. I feel pretty proud of them, but their families can be prouder still.