Tag Archives: University

It’s Not Easy Being Green: Why You Should Study Conservation Biology

By Tobias Chalcraft

To quote Kermit the Frog, ‘it’s not easy being green’. As climate change and related environmental crises increasingly decorate the media, there’s a growing demand for more people to take on a more sustainable mindset. Hannah Hall, 21, is starting her march to the front line of this cause via undergraduate studies in Conservation Biology, here in Plymouth.

When asked what guided her towards her chosen area of study, Hannah said, “I’ve always had a keen interest in conservation and ecology, ever since I was a child watching David Attenborough documentaries, an interest I feel as though many people my age share. So, when I found out I could study a course at university which allowed me to learn more about these wonderful places I had seen on TV growing up, I couldn’t think of anything more perfect”.

When hearing about the material covered on her course, including cellular genetics, ecosystem services and population ecology, it is safe to say that Conservation Biology goes way beyond gardening. “The first year allows for everyone to be on the same level of knowledge, covering subjects such as introduction to biology, animal and plant physiology and evolution. The depth and content of these subjects is similar to what is covered at A-Level biology but acts as a nice refresher into the area after a long summer break”.

In the second year of the course, Hannah highlighted that the material moved more specifically towards conservation, covering “ecology, principles of conservation, methods of conservation, animal behaviour and optional modules” as well as a field trip to Mexico.

Overall, Hannah hopes her course will allow her to pursue a career in research, as she aims to undertake both a masters and PhD after completing her degree next summer. However, her current plan does not involve sticking around in the UK. As deterioration increases in less developed tropical countries, Hannah wants to move abroad in order to work towards a more sustainable development in these exploited areas by seeing “how governments can work with the local people and conservationists, that allows a substantial income but also retains the quality and biodiversity of the surrounding environments”.

So, why should others study Conservation Biology in Plymouth? “This course is great for teaching transferable skills. The tutors, professors and lecturers are extremely supportive and are available to talk to almost whenever. They also give a keen focus on current issues and problems”. There is also a big focus on current affairs, as Hannah recommended that prospective students “get themselves up to date on current conservation and ecology issues in the UK and around the world”, as this can demonstrate an interest in the course and help to get the most out of lectures. 

To compliment her first two years of university education, Hannah is about to conclude a placement year in which she has spent time in both Nepal and Peru. In her final month in South America, Hannah now looks towards her final year of undergraduate studies. “I am planning to write my dissertation on seed germination trials of an endangered Adean plant called Puya raimondii under different temperature regimes, as these plants are very sensitive to climate change”. However, permits and permissions are required to export the seeds from Peru to England and due to the difficulty in obtaining these permits, experiments on plants closer to home may have to be carried out instead.

If her dissertation is of good enough quality, Hannah’s dissertation supervisor seeks to publish her work in a scientific journal, making her a published academic before even achieving her undergraduate degree.

When asked what drives her studies, Hannah replied, “Since I have started my degree, I have been extremely lucky to travel to countries such as Mexico, Thailand, Nepal and Peru and not only seen the pristine, tidy, clean and seemingly perfect areas which are made so to attract tourists but also, what I call behind the scenes. In Thailand and Peru, I saw large areas of rainforest cut down to make way for agricultural crops and animals. In Nepal, I saw how poverty stricken the rural communities were and how heavily they rely on crop agriculture as income, but which in current years is becoming less reliable as monsoon seasons become shorter and temperatures change. Knowing that I have the skills needed to make an actual change to this world, whether big or small, makes me strive to do the best that I can!”

Perhaps with more Conservation Biologists promoting a more pro-environment development of our planet, there may be less of an excuse for good ol’ Kermit to sing his aforementioned lyric. 

For those interested in studying Conservation Biology at University of Plymouth, you can follow Hannah on Twitter @Hannah_Con_Bio to find out more about the course or to ask her any questions.

Considering Calling Clearing? Why Wait?

By Mitch Gregory

Clearing. That dreaded word that every A-Level student shudders at the sound of, especially on Results Day. Clearing is so often associated with failure, rejection, and as a last resort; but how far from the truth that is!

I’ve been working in the University of Plymouth’s call centre for Clearing this year, and as a result I’ve seen would-be-students given another chance to go to University and study something they’re really passionate about, even when their A-Level results told them they couldn’t. The misconception that Clearing is for the desperate students who want to go to University and the desperate lower-tier Universities trying to fill their spaces is inaccurate. Throughout the Clearing process the University makes sure they’re filling their spaces with students who they see potential in, and similarly the student is just as critical and rigorous with their choice of University as they were in the first instance when they made their application on UCAS Track.

So how do you do it? Are you considering phoning up a University Clearing service in a change of heart bid to get into University, but unsure how or when or what to say? Let’s see if I can help.

When you phone up Clearing all you need are your grades and an idea of what course you’d like to study. Your helpful call-handler (who is probably a student at the university already!) will take some details from you and check that the course is available and you fit the entry requirements in some way. If that all goes smoothly then voila! You’re given an invitation to apply to the University via UCAS Track and hopefully, all being well, you’re accepted! Even if you don’t quite meet the requirements for your course – maybe you don’t have that elusive B in a science or your GCSEs were a bit lower than the University would like – they don’t give up on you just yet. You’ll probably be put through to an Academic from that course, or maybe through to another section of the admissions team for their consideration. They may take into account your work experience or offer you a Foundation course so that you can learn the basics before starting your BA/BSc/BEng. The absolute last resort is that the University has nothing available, but even then there’s always another University just down the road!

All I really wish to say is that CLEARING IS OKAY. If you’re going through, or considering going through, Clearing, it isn’t the end of the world. Instead it is the start of something that will probably change your life. I’m about to go into my third-year of University and although I didn’t go through Clearing, I know a lot of my friends did. When you’re all there studying together and having the time of your life, whether you went through Clearing or not is irrelevant.

Opinion: Are we living in our very own apocalypse?

By Lily Smith

As an English Literature student at Plymouth University I have the opportunity to read and study a wide variety of books and genres. We’re taught to analyse, look for the deeper meaning, examine the context. This year I’ve taken a module called ‘Apocalypse and the Modern World’ and enjoyed it so much it became a starting point for my dissertation.

Consequently, I’ve recently been reading a lot more apocalyptic texts, including Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale. The novel is set in the apocalyptic setting of the Republic of Gilead. Fertility rates have plummeted ‘past the zero line of replacement’ and so-called Handmaids (fertile women) have been placed in the homes of those deemed worthy to reproduce. I cannot recommend this book highly enough; Atwood’s writing is sublime and the topic so interesting and scarily accurate in our ever-changing political climate. Atwood’s clever style of writing gives us glimpses into the laws and ways of Gilead in which abortion has been outlawed and those who go against authority are subjected to public punishments and shaming.

Is anything sounding familiar? I’m the first to admit I’m not exactly politically minded but I don’t think the recent US abortion ban has passed many of us by. Five American states including Alabama and Georgia have recently banned abortion to some degree; removing the right for a woman to make a decision about her own body. The abortion ban is based on pro-life arguments in which the “baby’s” right to life is considered before the circumstances of the pregnancy and the wants of the woman. This has of course sparked debate on at what point a fetus should be regarded as a human life and has resulted in various bans being more or less extreme than others. Alabama is seen as having one of the most extreme bans, with doctors who perform abortions facing possible charges of 99 years of imprisonment.

Abortion was made legal in most US states in 1973 (via Roe v. Wade), meaning that abortions rights in the US have been recognised for a noticeably short time period spanning less than 50 years. Human rights group Amnesty International conducted an independent poll and found that 73% of Americans support the right to obtain an abortion and therefore disagree with the ban. This sentiment can be witnessed by many people my own age via their social media platforms.

Such widespread disapproval leads to the question: how have these laws been passed? The Washington Post suggests that abortion bans have been spurred on by evangelical supporters (who made up a majority of Trump’s election votes) and the appointment of pro-life judges. Much of Atwood’s novel hints at a religious precedent leading to its apocalyptic setting, which scarily mirrors debates within the US. Are we, therefore, living in our very own apocalypse? An apocalypse shaped by the political climate and shifts in those in positions of power and decisions.

Perhaps more importantly, we should be asking what we can do to help. Abortion is not just an issue debated in the US but discussions are taking place closer to home in Northern Ireland and across the globe. Ultimately every woman should have the freedom to make a decision about her own body. By supporting groups such as Amnesty International and the Centre for Reproductive Rights we can create a conversation, be heard and demand a response.

You can find out more about these groups here:

https://reproductiverights.org/
https://www.amnesty.org/en/what-we-do/sexual-and-reproductive-rights/

The Life of a Cardiac Physiology Student

By Katie Stote

Imagine being an undergraduate student, in your second year at university, operating technology which is crucial to a live operation happening on a real patient. As a second year undergraduate Cardiac Physiology student, that is just one of Kayleigh Slocombe’s day to day responsibilities while on placement at Derriford Hospital. As a humanities student, I had never even heard of ‘cardiac physiology’ before meeting Kayleigh. When Kayleigh begun to tell me about her course, specifically her role on placement at Derriford Hospital, it quickly became clear to me that this undergraduate course deserved more recognition. To find out more about the life of a Cardiac Physiology student at the University of Plymouth, Kayleigh was kind enough to sit down with me for an interview.

“Being on placement in my first year was quite different to second-year. In the first year, the placement was a lot shorter than second-year, so the main thing I was doing was ECG’s (a test which measures the electrical measure of your heart to check it is working correctly) and shadowing. Now in second year, there is a lot more responsibility and one-on-one time with the hospital staff. My responsibilities this year include: making sure the defibrillators in the Cath Lab (where tests and procedures regarding the heart, arteries and veins are conducted) are working, ensuring the emergency trolley is all stocked, including emergency temporary pacing boxes (so that if a patient’s heart stops beating we can put in a temporary pace maker), and I also make up pressure bags which are used to take pressure from inside the blood vessels and heart.”

“When the patient comes in, I put an ECG on them and a SATS probe to check their oxygen saturations. Throughout the procedure in the Cath Lab, I’ll be watching the screens, making sure nothing is going wrong, noting all the medications and equipment used, whilst one of the qualified cardiac physiologists observes me. Outside of this, we also lead a variety of other procedures to test heart physiology and function. These include equipping patients with monitors, which are like ECG’s but will stay on the patient for 24 hours or a week. When the patient brings their monitor back, I analyse the data to then hand on to the doctor. I am also responsible for calling the emergency arrest number if the doctors are unable to get a patient out of a cardiac arrest, to get another team down to help with the patient”.

Despite the struggle of leading a very different lifestyle to her friends whilst attending her placement, Kayleigh has not let this stop her from making the most out of her experience. She has even decided to base her dissertation research on a live trial which is starting at Derriford Hospital in July, which could reshape the future of stent implantation by creating more effective and efficient treatments for patients with narrow arteries. Kayleigh explained, “What’s good is that this does need researching, so my research will actually be useful to the hospital. It’s a good feeling that with the everchanging services that the Derriford Cardiology Ward offers, even as a student I can be a part of that and potentially make a difference.”

Finally, Kayleigh told me what inspires her about her course and her future career: “I think my course is a hidden gem, because it is a really specialised, specific course but at the same time you have loads of different pathways and opportunities you can take after graduation; you aren’t just tied down to one career path. As science and technology is advancing, cardiac physiology can only grow. Our specialism is technology and diagnostics, so with all of these technological developments it is so exciting, we have no idea where this area could grow from here.”