Penny Thoughts

Tag: science

Microbial Art- Combining Science and Art

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As a biologists I have spent too many hours than I’d care to admit in the lab. For a lot of that time I was trying to think of ways to find some fun in the rather dull and controlled environment. If only I had found these amazing pieces of art sooner.

A lot of work I have done has dealt with growing cells on petri dishes. This is not the most exciting of activities, but some very talented artists and scientists have found a way to make art from growing cell cultures.

The work is know as Microbial art and has been put together by  Dr. T. Ryan Gregory. It is a collection of various artists and scientists’ works brought together to show the beauty that is present in a normally “invisible” world.

I love this idea of using pretty dull lab procedures to make really individual pieces of art. Here’s a few I found when looking around the website.

image8_1This and the photo at the top of this post are by Dr Ben Jacob and you can see all of his work here. These pictures may look like paint or ink, but it is in fact made up of billions of living bacterial cells.

This picture is great as it shows the art within the petri dish itself rather than snapshots of portions of the dish like Dr Ben Jacobs and the below Erno-Erik Raitanen’s work. This piece is one of a collection of works done by the iGEM team in Osaka using  Salmonella Typhimurium bacteria that are expressing proteins that lead to fluorescence.

bacteriogram2This piece is by a Finnish artist called Erno-Erik Raitanen. This is another great piece of work using bacteria and growing them on a film negative with gelatin on the surface. The bacteria eat the gelatin and that leads to the amazing patterns seen in the photos. The film negatives are then developed and the beautiful results can be seen here.

These are only a few pictures from a huge collection that can all be found of the microbial art website. Have a browse about, some of the results are incredible. These pieces are bridging the gap that exists between science and art, and have really opened my eyes to the beauty that is hidden away from us normally.

Interactive Cell Signalling Experience

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http://www.cellsignal.com/reference/landscapes/mitochondria.html

The above url will send you to a website full of nice clear diagrams outlining the steps and molecules involved in lots of cell signalling pathways. Some representations are a little more interactive than others, including the one I have linked to. Aspects of processes outlined in this link are apoptosis (cell death), the degradation of cellular proteins via a pathway involving regulatory proteins called ubiquitin and respiration in the mitochondria. The picture itself provides an interactive opportunity to see the 3D structure of these molecules involved and where these processes take place. The way they have presented this cellular landscape is beautifully done and still maintains accuracy in terms of the processes and molecules involved. They are putting these really quite complex processes into a context that enables you to see more clearly what is going on and where it is happening in relation to other such processes. I really enjoyed having a good explore through these diagrams and pictures and it is nice to see these pathways being represented in a new and exciting way.

Could Young Blood Stop you from Ageing?

Research in the US has shown that injecting old mice with young blood leads to improved muscle strength, brain function and stamina; potentially reversing the effects of ageing.

3 studies were published last week in Science, all reporting on the rejuvenating effects of young blood in older mice. The young blood led to the appeared reversal of age-related declines in memory, learning, stamina and the function of many organs including the heart and brain.

Ageing is the underlying cause of a huge number of health problems. As our bodily systems slowly go into decline with age, health problems like dementia, cancer, heart disease and diabetes become more and more common. By learning more about the ageing process and its links with various health problems, we could predict, or even prevent many cases. Therefore, this research carried out in the US is of great importance.

In each study the researchers used a process called heterochronic parabiosis, which essentially involves joining two mice together; think conjoined twins. This process is carried out by making an incision on one side of each mouse and then allowing the wounds to heal in such a way that the two mice become joined. This process results in the joining of the two mice’s blood supply.

The researchers joined young mice (3 months) with older mice (18 months) and studied the effects of the new shared blood supply.  They found that brain function increased in the older mouse, as not only did the mice grow more neural connections (how brain cells communicate), these connections were also stronger. This means better communication between the cells in the brain of the older mouse.

Villeda, lead author of one of the papers told the Guardian “There’s something about young blood that can literally reverse the impairments you see in the older brain.”

From these initial findings Villeda went on to directly inject older mice with young blood plasma (blood without red blood cells), and what he found was remarkable. He tested the young and old rats’ memory and ability to learn using a water maze and testing their ability to remember a threatening environment.

The old rats injected with young blood plasma performed just as well as the six-month old rats in the maze task. Even more remarkably, the older rats performed as well as the three-month olds in remembering a threatening environment.

These results suggest that there is something in the blood of young rats that is essentially reversing or halting the ageing process in older rats.. so what is it?

The answer to that very important questions is Creb; a protein that regulates the brain. The young blood plasma actually increases the activity of Creb which in turn switches on the genes that create neural connections.

However, young plasma isn’t just improving learning and memory in mice. Further studies have shown that injected young blood also increases blood flow in the brain by encouraging blood vessel growth. There was also an increase in the growth of neural stem cells which later become new brain cells. It has also been found that young blood makes older mice stronger and boosts endurance due to increased muscle function. The young blood also led to the older mice gaining a greater sense of smell.

So this is all very exciting, but what happens if you do the opposite, and inject young mice with old blood? Well, interestingly the younger mice show the opposite results; they show decreased brain and muscle function and perform less well in memory and learning tasks. So the process works both ways.

So what does this all mean for us? According to Villeda, “The evidence is strong enough now, in multiple tissues, that it’s warranted to try and apply this in humans”. This potential research is however, not expected to take place until three to five years from now.

This is all very promising, and if the same is found in humans there could be a dramatic reduction in the onset of age-related health issues, which would be particularly important as the aged population in the UK continues to grow. Preventing the onset of these diseases would save a huge amount of money and potentially work to prevent the potential impeding public health crisis.

However, we cannot know for sure the impacts of this study on humans until clinical trials are carried out. So don’t go stitching yourself to your children just yet.. there is plenty more we don’t know.

 

National Geographic Pollen Photography

Pollen — Photo Gallery — National Geographic Magazine

Found these amazing shots of pollen and pollination on National Geographic. Just a reminder of how intricately beautiful life can be. There is a whole microscopic world unavailable to our normal vision but these kinds of pictures allow us to peak into the world of the small.

The above photo is by Martin Oeggerli and shows the pollen grains of a venus fly trap. The photo below, also by Oeggerli, shows small pollen grains (yellow) attached to the stigma of a geranium. This meeting will eventually lead to fertilisation of the plant.

Pollen — Photo Gallery — National Geographic Magazine

Another one of my favourites from this collection of photos is below and shows a single pollen grain of the Indian Mallow plant. It is covered in spikes which aid in attachment to bird feathers etc to enable dispersal of this pollen grain to other Indian Mallow plants.

Pollen — Photo Gallery — National Geographic Magazine

We may have stunning pieces of human made art but  it seems that we should start looking more into the world around us, and the visual beauty that surrounds us everyday.

Follow the link to see all of the amazing photos as I’ve only included a few favourites.

Pollen — Photo Gallery — National Geographic Magazine.

Hubert Duprat: Combining Nature and Art

Caddis fly larvae live in the world’s waterways and build themselves protective casings from what they can source in their surrounding environment. Normally this includes small rocks, dirt and vegetation, however, Hubert Duprat left these caddis flies no choice but to choose from some of the finest materials around. The resulting cases, as can be seen, are a one of a kind piece of work sculpted by these larvae.

Hubert provided these flies with the building blocks and the larvae acted as the architects, putting together these parts and creating some stunning results.

Caddis fly larvae aren’t exactly the most beautiful of creatures, and although impressive, their usual casings are rather unexciting. But stick them in a container of gold, pearls and gemstones and you come to appreciate more the skill and work that is put in by these larvae in their incessant need to cover themselves in stuff.

It may seem as if Hubert simply pimped out these fly larvae but even myself, not being a massive bug fan, have to admit to quite fancying a couture caddis..

Destiny’s Childless: The Pill’s Wanted and Unwanted Effects

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The pill has been letting women grab life by the balls instead of washing those of unwanted children for over 50 years. Roughly 100 million women worldwide take the pill and this has led to improved quality of living across the globe, huge reductions in numbers of deaths during childbirth and an understandably massive decrease in the number of unwanted pregnancies.

The pill acts by changing hormone levels to trick the body into thinking that it is already pregnant. This stops eggs being released from ovaries and leads to various gruesome sounding things like increasing your cervical mucus. The main aim is to make the womb a pretty inhospitable place for eggs.

So the pill has been having its way with women’s wombs for a long time and has played an important part in allowing women to have better educations and explore further into the working world. It’s unlikely that many female CEOs and even Destiny’s Child could have been such independent women if it weren’t for contraceptives like the pill.

However, along with these many female-empowering outcomes of the pill, there is evidence that the pill may be altering other choices that females make, including their choice of potential suitors and their sexual tendencies.

Normally, when women are not on the pill, they experience alterations in their mate preferences through their menstrual cycle. Research has shown that when women are ovulating, and therefore fertile, they show a strong preference for more masculine and dominant men. Whereas when women are not fertile they shift their preference to more feminine ‘good father’ type men who can look after them and provide them with resources, be it sandwiches or diamonds. So these changes in women’s instincts lead to the exploitation of men for either their potential to shower you with resources or to provide their fantastic genes.

This cycling has been put down as one of the key reasons why women tend to cheat more on their partners when ovulating. Women also tend to act in a more sexually promiscuous way when ovulating, so single men of the world, maybe it would be in your benefit to show some interest in the ladies’ menstrual cycles. However, these women are generally going to be seriously fertile, so kids… use protection.

Preference changes also occur in men in response to ovulating women. It has been shown that men are actually more attracted to women when they are ovulating, be it because the women are acting more confidently or that men are picking up on some kind of pheromone-type signal. So, what better way to test this idea than send a load of awkward scientists to a strip club? They basically looked at female stripper wages throughout their menstrual cycles and found that they earned on average $150 more when they were ovulating. This pretty ridiculous sounding fact is true; it’s been proven using numerous beloved statistical techniques. Therefore, I conclude that ovulation makes me (and all you other women) $150 sexier. So thank you to you ovulation for fuelling that questionably sexy dancing in clubs all over the world for many years to come.

All this normal cycling is altered when women are on the pill. Instead of having a change in mate preference, women on the pill are generally stuck in the ‘good father’ preference. As women don’t actually ovulate when on the pill, the switch in preference to dominant, sexy, genetically matched men does not occur or does to a much lesser extent.

The kinds of relationships that form when women are on the pill therefore tend to be with ‘good father’ type males. Questionnaires of these couples showed that they actually tended to be happier in their relationship and therefore they often lasted much longer than couples that met when the woman was not on the pill. However, a huge majority of these couples stated that they were disappointed with their sex lives and weren’t really very attracted to their partners.

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There are even further issues. Say, there is a lovely couple that got together when the girl was on the pill. They go through life fulfilling numerous dating and romantic clichés until finally he pops the question. What wonderful news! NO. Following this apparent joyous news the inevitable baby conversations are going to come up, and the decision to come off the pill commences. Problem 1: when women come off the pill they show a strong preference for the masculine, sexy male type. This is not the type of man our scenario husband is. This means that these kinds of couples have an increased chance of splitting up at this point when the woman comes off the pill. Problem 2: If the couple do stay together, questionnaires have shown that these couples are more dysfunctional, unhappy and have unfulfilling sex lives. So your options here are either, never have children, stay on the pill forever and continue with your lovely relationship, stop taking the pill and break up with partner or finally stay with your partner and grow into an old bitter couple that probably hate each other.

These problems aren’t even the end of it. As more women are on the pill than ever before, more woman are having to face these potential situations, and many are choosing to stay with their “good father” partner and having their children. These men are not as well matched genetically as those men they would naturally chose to make babies with and it has been suggested that this may lead to some detrimental health impacts in the future. Basically, those men that are better matched genetically have more genetic dissimilarities, particularly in term of genes involved in immunity. Therefore, if more women are having children with poor genetically matched men, there are likely going to be more children with worse immune systems than if women were picking men naturally without the pill’s interference. This could mean more allergy prone children and the potential increase in for example, cases of asthma. With the future for health looking already increasingly bleak with ever increasing waste lines and pint glasses, the addition of more sickly children is not ideal.

But please don’t worry, this is not the case for every woman and these negative health effects aren’t predicted to be severe. Also, if you did meet your partner while on the pill, don’t panic! This is not the case for everyone, you may be the lucky exception.

Are You A Slave To Your Inner Parasite?

You would think that you’re in total control of your thoughts and behaviours, but for some, this is not always the case..

These pretty pathetic looking purple things to the left are parasitic individuals known as Toxoplasma Gondii. The parasite causes Toxoplasmosis and can infect many hosts, but I will mainly be concentrating on the cat/rat life cycle and the potential to impact humans.

Basic Lifecycle of T. gondii:

Let’s start with the feline host. If an infected cat (pet or wild) defecates it releases oocysts into the environment. Oocysts are spores which contain the parasites; they can be very long lasting in the environment and become infective within a few days. If a rat comes along and ingests food contaminated with these oocysts, the parasite has entered its next host. Within the rat the oocysts quickly develop into tachyzoites which are the mobile and asexual form of the parasite shown here in the picture. These move through the rat until they locate neural or muscle tissue where they develop into bradyzoites (tissue cysts).

If this rat, containing potentially huge numbers of tissue cysts is ingested by the cat, the parasite has returned to another feline host. In the cat, the bradyzoites eventually develop into the oocysts and are released into the environment and so completing the life cycle.

For an illustrated version of the Toxoplasma Gondii life cycle or any other parasitic life cycle DPDx do great, visual diagrams.

Changing Behaviour

It is common to underestimate the effects single celled organisms can have on our health and wellbeing, I mean, what can one cell do that is so bad? Well the answer to that is A LOT. To help ensure that their life cycle is completed the parasites change the behaviour of the rat host. Rats have innate instincts and characteristics which cause them to avoid potential predators like cats. For example, if a rat can smell the odours given off by cats they will actively attempt to get as far away from this smell as possible or take shelter in a safe place. However, when infected with the Toxoplasmosis parasite this instinct changes, and rats instead are attracted to this smell and will persue it to get closer to the feline in question. So the parasite is actually changing the brain of the rat host so that its normal instincts are not only forgotten but also replaced by completely different and life threatening ones.

M. Berdoy,  J. P. Webster and D. W. Macdonald conducted a study investigating these behavioural changes brought about by the T. gondii parasite. The rats tended to show much more risky behaviour when infected with the parasite than without and in doing so increased their chances of being caught and eaten by a cat. These changes to the brain are considered to be the work of the bradyzoites in the neural tissue in the brain. By altering the behaviour of the rat host so that it is no longer as acutely aware of risky behaviour, places and stimuli means that the parasite is increasing its likelyhood of getting into its next host and surviving. The parasite has taken control of its host and is driving them to danger and potential death to ensure its long term success.

Changing Human Behaviour

The prevalence of Toxoplasmosis in the human population is between 20-80% depending on the region, which is potentially a very large proportion of some populations. It is predicted that roughly 80% of French people are infected, which is a huge amount of people. Cats are a hugely popular pet across the globe and have become one of the most widely invasive species in existence. With our relationship with cats becoming increasingly close the T. gondii parasite has found itself inside humans instead of its normal host range. Humans can become infected in a number of ways for example, by ingesting contaminated water or food (spores or cysts in undercooked meat), through organ transplants or from their mothers via the placenta.

alg_road-rageSo it comes to question whether these odd behavioural changes brought about by the parasite could potentially occur in us humans when infected. This concept has been studied quite a few times, but one good study was done by J. Flegr et alin which they performed a personality test (specifically Cattell’s questionnaire) on 224 men and 170 women. They found that the men and women who did have Toxoplasmosis did have altered behaviour. The characteristics that were seen to change as a result of the infecti0n were “Superego strength” (conscientious, moralistic), “protension” (suspicious/ jealous), “affectothymia” (outgoing/ warm), “shrewdness” and a “high strength of self sentiment” (controlled/ over powering). These behaviours are being brought upon by the parasitic cysts found in the brain tissue and like in rats are leading to more risky behaviours. Another study by J. Flegr et al. looked further into this concept at more specific situations and found that people infected with T. gondii are significantly more likely to get involved in car crashes than uninfected people.

Toxoplasmosis in Foetuses:

Besides these personality changes, an infection with Toxoplasma has no serious effects on those infected unless you are immunosuppressed. The big issues come in pregnancy. A normal infection is controlled by cells of the adaptive immune response, including crucially, cytotoxic T cells. These act by destroying cells that are infected with the parasite and so regulate the infection. The problem is that foetuses do not have these cells as they cannot be passed from mother to foetus, but the parasites can. Therefore, the infection cannot be controlled in the unborn child and this can have severe effects. If the mother has a T.gondii infection before or soon after conception the foetus is in nearly all cases miscarried. If an infection occurs later in pregnancy the chance of still birth is hugely increased. If the child does survive birth it is likely that the child will soon die and if not they  generally will have impaired vision and severe learning difficulties.

As these effects are so severe there are measures in place to detect T. gondii infections so don’t worry too much! Women are routinely checked for the infection when pregnant. If a woman does have an infection it is generally caught before the parasite could have spread to the foetus. These women are given drugs like spiramycin to control the infection and decrease the chance of spread to the foetus.

So next time you’re feeling particularly aggressive or risky maybe take some time to consider whether it is in fact you driving these emotions or if your inner parasite is taking control..

Duck Feeding, Dog Poo and Goldfish Dumping: The Nightmares of Public Parks

I must apologise.. I have rather been neglecting my blog recently. I got back to university and have had to jump immediately into my final year project.. so I have been a little overwhelmed.

I’ve been doing tonnes of research so as soon as I come to terms with the endless pages of notes I’ll try to get posting regularly again.

My dissertation is on what works to maintain biodiversity in urban areas. Being that I live in London while I study, it has been something I’ve thought about since arriving at Imperial two and a half years ago. I’ve always looked at the paved streets and concrete buildings and thought that you couldn’t really be further from nature. The idea of looking into the horizon is pretty unexciting when I am at home in Leicester. However, in London I find that I go 8 weeks without really seeing the horizon at all.

It all sounds a bit depressing, but don’t get me wrong, I absolutely love living in London. The constant hustle and bustle and vibrancy of the people and surroundings keeps me busy wherever I go. But there is no place in London I prefer than Hyde Park.

Being at Imperial has its perks; I’m probably only ever a 2 minute walk from Hyde park. Recently with the weather picking up I’ve been nipping there at lunch times to enjoy the sunshine in a more green and pleasant place than my computer labs.

Being that part of my dissertation is about how London parks manage their grounds to maintain biodiversity, I feel I have some kind of excuse to spend a little more time there than I probably should.

But saying all that, this week I have learnt a lot about how much work goes into maintaining the urban parks of our world. The constant pressure from the incessantly growing urban matrix means our parks are hugely vulnerable and are in a constant war against pollution and people.

Things that I’m sure we are all guilty of doing can have really detrimental effects on our much beloved parks and green spaces. Feeding the ducks, letting our dogs poo all over the place, littering, building dens, making fires, going off the paths, and trampling through meadows and bushes are things that many of us do with only the smallest tingling of mild guilt.

However, these relatively minor behaviours have big impacts on our parks that are already under constant fire from the “big problems” of air, noise and water pollution.

Something I have found surprising is just how bad feeding the ducks is.. I mean I thought I was helping them out. Apparently if you feed park birds and mammals too much bread it fills them up very quickly and means they don’t eat other food. The bread basically leaves no room for the animals to eat the foods that actually provide them with the nutrients they need. Also excess feeding leaves a lot of food on the ground and this attracts pests like rats and foxes, and nobody wants that.

I am not a dog owner so the idea of picking up a dog’s poo has never really been something I’ve worried about. We all know that dog poo is damaging to the environment in many ways; yet I seem to spend my life hop, skipping and jumping these piles of joy whenever I’m walking around London.

In many of the parks in London they have acid grasslands. These are basically ecosystems that are made up of plants that require very little soil nutrient content to survive and thrive. These are rare habitats in urban areas and are being managed to maintain their existence and to enable this ecosystem to thrive in our challenging urban environment.

Dog poo is a big threat to these grasslands as they provide nutrients to the soil, like a stinking, doggy  fertiliser. This added nutrient alters the soil and makes it increasingly unsuitable for the acid grassland plants. It also means that more common species of plants (often weeds) can colonise the area now that there is more nutrient in the soil. If this continues, these less specialist species can spread and take over the rare acid grassland. This is only one example of the damage to the natural environment that can occur when people let their dogs release their load in our green spaces.. pick up your poop.

Not only do we humans let our dogs do their business all over our urban parks, we also discard of our unwanted pets in them.. what a great idea! I’m sure some people probably think they are doing their poor neglected pet a favour by releasing it into a natural environment.. this is not true.. at all.

I spoke to a wonderful lady at Greenwich Peninsula Ecology Park about her experiences in the urban-based park and she shared some brilliant insight into the difficulties of maintaining these precious spaces. She mentioned that one big problem they have is people releasing unwanted pets like goldfish and terrapins into their lakes and ponds. As multiple goldfish had been dumped they bred and now have increased rapidly in number. Some of their lakes are riddled with these household pets. Yes, goldfish are lovely, but that is when they are in a fish tank fully equipped with fake shrubbery and bubbling treasure chests. The lakes and ponds on Greenwich Peninsula are not where these fish belong and they are eating everything.

The staff at the ecology park are doing their best to control these unwanted gold guests, but with their continued breeding and people’s continued ignorance it is proving relatively difficult. Working with locals and informing them about where they should take their unwanted pets is helping; so hopefully this amazing wetland will be goldfish free in the near future.

These are only a couple examples of how our behaviours can directly damage the areas we love so much. Urban parks and green spaces keep us happy and provide an oasis in an otherwise grey and polluted environment. Let’s respect these places we love; they are struggling enough as it is.

 

Sustainability: Fashion or Function?

As I’m currently doing a project on the maintenance of biodiversity in urban areas, words like “sustainability”, “ecosystems”, “biodiversity” are popping up all over the place. These terms are generally all wonderfully defined, fully equipped with a visual aid and chart of the writer’s choice.

After reading my first few reports and papers I started to realise that people are throwing these words around like their going out of fashion. It seems that saying that you’re being “sustainable” is the new cool. People like these words; it makes them sound future-thinking, caring and wordly. Really I think it’s a whole load of crap.

In most cases these words are being thrown out with really very little understanding of what is going on. It seems that the sustainability club is the new jock club of political life. Politicians absolutely love it. As much as I like Boris Johnson it seems that he can hardly go 2 minutes without mentioning being  “sustainable”, and “green”.

Don’t get me wrong, I think it is brilliant that politicians and policy makers are being more considerate of the environment; it sets a good example for our future. But really they’re just trying to stick a tiny tiara of “sustainability” on the massive turd that is our past. Maybe they think that if they say sustainability enough times the huge damage we humans have done to our environment will vanish in a poof of smoke.

I came across a google program called Ngram Viewer where you can type in a word and see how much it has been used in literature over time. If you want to have a play follow this link. I typed in these new environmental buzzwords and found something rather funny. There has been no mention of these words anywhere up until about the 1960s and 1980s.

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These words are getting people ever so excited; everyone wants a piece of them. They are  like the shiny, new iphones of the word world.. people can’t wait to show off just how sustainable they are being and how much they truly care for these ecosystems they know very little about.

Hopefully there will be some substance behind the politician’s new favourite words. But it still seems to me that the people who are actually making the difference are the conservation charities and organisations. Governments and councils are still realistically more interested in developing their growing economies than helping out the natural world that we have been shitting on for the last few hundred years.

Herbert Girardet: Regenerative Cities

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For my final year project I’m investigating what measures are and can be employed in cities to maintain biodiversity. I was recently allocated this and luck would have it, that two days later I get an email saying that Herbert Girardet was coming to Imperial to talk about regenerative cities.

Girardet has worked in urban development for many years and is the co-founder of the World Future Council. He has released numerous books including “Creating Sustainable Cities” and  “Cities People Planet“. He has also directed more than 50 documentaries, working all over the world. All of this and his receipt of the UN Global 500 Award for outstanding achievements in environmental science suggest just how much influence this man has had in the field of sustainable cities over the years.

So as you can imagine, I was pretty excited about going to this talk and therefore, managed to arrive far too early and ended up sat alone in the lecture theater for about 15 minutes before anyone else trickled in.

Girardet was a great speaker and he oozed with the confidence that comes with many hugely successful years in his field. He started by outlining how our cities have developed across the world and how, even though applicable at the time, this type of development cannot continue forever. Delving into the threats that face us now and are inevitably set to worsen in the future, he emphasised the importance of changing the ways our cities function and develop.

Using numerous cities, including Adelaide, Australia, as examples he has been heavily involved in, he showed how cities could be, shifting from a linear system on resources in and waste out, to a more circular system with the regeneration and reuse of resources. I won’t dive into all of these methods Girardet explained but you can find a little more information on this website.

Girardet’s main message has now switched from his previous idea of sustainable cities to regenerative cities, saying that now, simply being sustainable is not enough. We need to start giving back and enabling regeneration of our environment, not just sustaining present levels.

After the talk there was a short Q&A session, but unfortunately there was no time for my question. However, he was hanging around afterwards so I managed to grab him then. He was huddled within a group of students which I managed to barge my way into. I asked him whether he thought that these actions and the move to becoming more proactive than reactive was realistically going to happen before we reach the ever looming point where our effects on our planet are completely irreversible. Unfortunately, like myself, he did not. It’s a rather pessimistic end but people like Girardet have spent the majority of their lives trying to take actions to reduce our effects on the world, however there is only so much scientists can do.

We need big cultural changes across the globe and actions to be taken now rather than when it is too late. One thing I have learnt recently is that scientists need to concentrate efforts on policy makers, politicians and governments before any serious action can be taken to attempt to resolve our greedy attitudes to the world we live in and the resources it provides.