Staffs BioSciences Graduate Stories – Meet Dominic Moule

In the Biological & Biomedical Sciences department, we celebrate our graduate’s successes with them on graduation day but also as their journeys continue after they leave us. Once you become an alumni of Staffs and the Biology department you remain a part of our ever-growing family and we take joy in hearing from our alumni throughout their journeys. We value them and their thoughts on their experiences with us at Staffordshire University.
As part of our new series of Staffs BioSciences Graduate Stories, we’re pleased to introduce Dom who original studied our Biological Sciences BSc Hons course before transferring to our Biological Sciences MSci and graduating in 2018. Find out how Dom is getting on with his journey as he shares a little about himself and his experiences with us.

Tell us a little about
what you have been doing since graduation?

Since graduation, I have further developed my ecological skills, gaining a position as an ecologist at an independent company. Through this position, I have completed first aid qualifications, an Ecological Clerks of Work course ran by CIEEM, and attained my Professionally Qualified Person CSCS Card, enabling me to work at a managerial level on construction sites. I have gained a position as a Field Officer for the Staffordshire Badger Conservation Group, undertaking rescues of badgers in danger and patrols of potential badger baiting or wildlife crime areas.

I am also returning to South Africa in early February to continue assisting with wildlife conservation and particularly rhino protection. I’m now in the process of organising my enrolment to Kosiçe University in Slovakia to complete my doctorate in veterinary medicine, with a focus on wildlife.

How did your time at Staffordshire University prepare you for life after graduation?

By having a high calibre of academic achievement and publications amongst
staff meant I’m comfortable being around accomplished scientists.

What is
your favourite memory of studying at Staffordshire University?

Going to Africa was the biggest moment of my life, and I couldn’t have
done it without the help and support of the university.

What were the biggest
challenges you had to overcome and how did you overcome them, whilst you studied
with us?

I had to overcome stress and anxiety. I took my lectures and practical’s
as time away from rumination and overthinking and as a side effect, I feel I
became more passionate about my learning and development.

Would you recommend your course to others? If so, why?

I would! I really enjoyed my course, particularly the amount of free
reign my degree allowed me to take regarding module choice. I liked the
assessment styles of some modules as they gave you a rather grand question
which allowed you to tailor your answer to suit your passions and interests.

As part of your course you may have completed
a work placement. If so, could you tell us a little about your experience?

For my
undergraduate degree (before I changed to complete an MSci), I volunteered at a
veterinary surgery. This became apparent in a second-year module, however as I
had been already been volunteering there since I began university, I just
continued with this. My Masters placement was to a wildlife reserve in South
Africa. This was perhaps the most life-changing period in my whole life thus
far. It confirmed what I want to do in my career and where I feel I need to be
to make the most impact. I also made long lasting connections and I will never,
ever be out of South Africa for too long!

Secret Stoke – Tell us about your
favourite places in and around Stoke that student may not know about but should
check out.

Just near to Stoke is a beautiful place called Knypersley
Reservoir. The university’s Nature Reserve itself can be a rather beautiful
walk also.

It was fantastic catching up with Dom and what he’s been getting up to since leaving Staffs. We’re very proud of Dom and our biology alumni’s in all their achievements.

If you would like to keep up to date with Dom and his journey, be sure to check out his professional Instagram page @exoticbiologist for more photographs of his travels and the integral work he’s involved with in South Africa, veterinary school and beyond!

Facebook: @StaffsUniBio @StaffsLSE @StaffsUni

Twitter: @SUBioScience @StaffsLSE @StaffsUni

Instagram: @SUBioScience @StaffsUni @exoticbiologist

Teaching and Learning Conference

Tuesday 25th June 2019

This year’s Learning and Teaching conference focused on building the academic aspect of resilience, having the confidence to overcome problems that students often face in their learning, approaches to encourage a positive response by students to feedback, challenges and the fear of failure.

Trust Diya and Paul Orsmond gave a talk on ‘Resilience: a view from our BAME students’ as well as Dr Gavin McStay, Dr Sarah Williams and Paul Orsmond presenting ‘Resilience: authentic assessment and public engagement’ and how this is an integral part of teaching.

The West Midlands Big Bang Fair

Tuesday 18th June 2019

This year Staffs hosted the West Midlands Big Bang Fair again and welcomed 3000 students from Key Stages 2-4 across the county to our Stoke campus for a day full of STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts and Mathematics) lectures, workshops and stand activities to get involved with and inspired by. Not to mention the final judging and awards for all entries into the STEAM underwater competition of how to address the current issue of plastic waste in our waters.

The Biological and Biomedical Sciences team were very busy amongst the buzz of activity on campus, delivering workshops and interactive stands throughout the day. Ian Davis along with ERASMUS students Mariona and Laia were in full flow educating students on biomedical science and investigating diseases, proudly celebrating Biomedical Science Day 2019. Eleanor Atkins along with some of our brilliant specialist technicians ran workshops throughout the day of a taster into being an Eco Detective. This workshop saw students being hands-on in investigating incidences of dead fish being discovered in the Dee Estuary, testing samples collected from the river Dee and the estuary itself to identify the pollutant and its source, all technics which would be used by The Environmental Agency. Continue reading

Staff Research Conference

Wednesday13th June 2019

The Staff Research Conference is also held annually and follows on from the PGR. Just like the PGR the Staff Research Conference allows staff members to present the research they are undertaking to fellow staff, post and undergraduate students. Several of our brilliant academic staff members presented throughout the day.

Head of department Dr Angela Preistman along with Dr Dave Skingsley and Dr Richard Halfpenny presented on the Entomological collaborations underway with Tri-services Environmental Health Officers. This collaboration follows a successful bid to supply the MoD (Ministry of Defence) with training, identification and guidance on entomology for Environmental health officers, who are deployed around the globe to support military and humanitarian aid. The afternoon sessions saw talks from Dr Gavin McStay on Mitochondrial respiratory chain assembly in health and disease. PhD student Eleanor Atkins presented her collaborative work with Dr Richard Halfpenny of the improvement of biodiversity and wellbeing value of urban road verges through the inclusion of hedges and wildflowers.

This work is developing on from Eleanor’s thesis research that she presented at the PGR. Paul Orsmond spoke about his work on turning consultancy into collaborative research while Dr Kevin Reiling presented his research into using ‘Feeding astronauts’ as a vehicle for delivering the Primary Science curriculum effectively to nurture scientific thought and curiosity.

Biological & Biomedical Sciences Recent Events

The last few weeks have seen a buzz of activity on campus at Staffordshire University with the Staff and Post-Graduate Research Conferences and The West Midlands Big Bang Fair. The Biological and Biomedical Sciences department have been busy getting involved, proudly presenting their research progressions and engaging thousands of students from various schools and colleges to the breadth and importance of biology.

PGR Conference

Wednesday 12th June

The PGR Conference is hosted annually at the university to showcase the post-graduate research being carried out from all schools across the university. We saw two of our PhD students informing other post-graduates and staff members of their research.

Eleanor Atkins presented her work on the biodiversity value of urban hedges highlighting the biodiversity in urban hedges, the public perceptions of urban hedges and the importance of habitat availability for invertebrates and vertebrates in urbanisation for the ever-growing population. Elle also spoke about the good practice guide she has put together on managing urban hedges for aesthetics and biodiversity, which details cost-effective small changes that would benefit biodiversity. Elle touched on her survey findings that suggest the general public found hedges which were less managed more aesthetically pleasing then over managed hedges cut and shaped regularly. These more ‘rugged’ hedges which were aesthetically pleasing have more biodiversity than those over managed.

Eleanor Harrison presented the beginning of her research into soil microplastics. Speaking about the need for research into terrestrial microplastics as current research and media attention is centred around marine macro and microplastics which is an issue but studies of plastics in soil and the effects that it may have on agricultural, environmental and human health aspects are lacking. Ellie is in the early stages of her PhD but has already begun testing the effectiveness of methodologies in separating the microplastics from the organic matter in soil samples to be able to analyse the samples. Ellie is now in America with colleagues from the School of Law, Policing and Forensics, taking part in a expedition of the Hudson River with the Rozalia Project, sampling soil from river banks along the way and analysing them for microplastics, mainly nurdles (small plastic pellets roughly the size of a lentil) which are used industrially to make plastic products.

Staffs BioSciences Student Stories – Meet Gemma (BSc (Hons) Human Biology)

In the Biological & Biomedical Sciences department we always want to hear from our students throughout their course as we value them and their thoughts and experiences with us at Staffordshire University.

As part of our new series of Staffs BioSciences Student Stories, we’re pleased to introduce Gemma who is currently on our Human Biology course. Find out how Gemma is getting on with her studies as she shares a little about herself and her experiences with us.

I’m a part time student and a full-time mum to three children. I decided to come to university as a hobby in the beginning, I hadn’t thought about a career at the time. Now I can honestly say it is one of the best decisions I made. I’m about to start my final year and I’m so proud for what I’ve achieved in the past four years. The people I’ve met along the way have been fantastic. I’m truly happy that I decided that this was right for me.

Why did you choose to study Human Biology with Staffordshire University?

My honest answer is distance from school in case they rang, and I had to leave. With that said I’m glad I chose Staffs. The lectures and technical staff are fantastic, any problems or questions I’ve had they’ve always been happy to help in any which way they can. A massive thank you to all the Bioscience staff. Continue reading

Wildlife In The Garden

by Dr Dave Skingsley (aka the ‘bugbotherer’)

With summer started (honestly!) many people turn to the public green spaces around them (such as gardens, parks, towpaths, the moorlands) for a place in which to relax. It’s only then, when listening to the natural world, that people become aware of the background buzz of the workers toiling in these places. The question many are now asking (Hallman et al 2017) is has that noise become quieter? The evidence is mounting that there are fewer insects in the ‘wilder spaces’ but that private green spaces such as home gardens provide places where insects (and I must admit to favouritism here) can call home, or a workplace. Just a quick search of the internet shows most of the wildlife charities (links below) recognise the value of garden green spaces and the needs to, just ever so slightly, rewild them.

All of these charities recognise some key ideas to help insects and thus all the other creatures (including humans).

So what can you do with the space outside your house, flat, parking lot.

Try some of these approaches

Bird boxes

These offer shelter and spaces for those nesting places lost to tree felling and hedgerow removal. Birds, and all the other wildlife would prefer the hedgerows and trees but if they have been lost where could they go? Old bird boxes are often colonised by bees. Check out the RSPB’s advice on creating a wildlife-friendly garden.

Dunnock on Bramble Continue reading

Big Bang Fair West Midlands 2019 – Biological Sciences Edition

The Big Bang Fair invites students and companies from around the West Midlands to celebrate all things STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts and Mathematics). This is the second year that Staffordshire University has hosted the Big Bang Fair, after a very successful first year. This year was even bigger and better than before!

This year the event was an astonishing success with a whopping 3000 visitors on campus! There were all sorts of workshops and activities in which the students visiting could get involved with. One of the most popular stands in the event was ran by two PhD students about plastics in the ocean. Visitors were offered biodegradable glitter face painting as part of their activity. At one point there were over 30 students queuing to have their faces painted!

Another very popular stand at the event was the virtual reality activity. The VR stand was ran by our Psychology Department to show how the brain could be tricked into thinking you are walking along a plank suspended in the air, rather than the reality that you were stood on the floor. This was not only popular with the students but also with their teachers as well, everyone wanted to experience it! 

Continue reading

Staffs BioSciences Student Stories – Meet Thaleia, BSc (Hons) Forensic Biology

In the Biological & Biomedical Sciences department we always want to hear from our students throughout their course as we value them and their thoughts and experiences with us at Staffordshire University.

As part of our new series of Staffs BioSciences Student Stories, we’re
pleased to introduce Thaleia who is currently on our BSc (Hons) Forensic
Biology course. Find out how Thaleia is getting on with her studies as she shares
a little about herself and her experiences with us.

I’m from Greece and live in Stoke-on Trent. I work for a hospitality agency located in Cardiff. My only family in the UK is my boyfriend who lives in Cardiff, so I spend most of my free time volunteering, reading books and judging crime-related movies based on my knowledge.

Why did you choose to study Forensic Biology with Staffordshire University?

Staffordshire University was one of my first five choices due to factors like the RSB (Royal Society of Biology) accreditation, the high employability rates and the high ranking in biosciences. I received positive answers from all five Universities I applied for, so I had to think of further factors in order to decide which one to choose. Staffordshire University seemed more demanding in terms of skills that we will have to develop throughout the course, therefore I accepted the challenge. Continue reading