Filed under: Science

Science and Conservation on the River

Science and Conservation
Mark Bradfield of BBOWT (Berks, Bucks & Oxon Wildlife Trust) led a walk this morning as part of the Atom Science and Technology Festival. Passing through the lock he showed us a leaflet with paw prints so that we may now be able to tell a badger from a dog, and a mink from an otter. Mark was also interested to find that two of the earliest Lock keepers on the heritage board were Bradfields – possibly his ancestors.

He told us a lot of things on the way including what BBOWT is doing to control invasive animals like mink that are a real danger to Water Voles.
Science and Conservation
At the weir near swift ditch he identified some otter spraint (droppings), probably left as a territory marker. Otters are starting to make a comeback, and often eat the American Signal Crayfish (an invasive creature).
Science and Conservation
Mark also told us how important backwaters are for protecting fish from getting swept away. Backwaters and reed beds also help prevent flooding as not all the water goes down one fast channel.
Science and Conservation
He praised the reed beds over the other side of the river where a heron was stalking fish.

There was light snow falling throughout the day, and it was chilly. So after the ninety minute walk it was good to get back in the warmth. I visited the Community Shop (Free Space) where lots of children were enjoying making crystals as part of the Science Festival. The Market Place activities were not possible today because of the wind, but there are still lots of indoor talks and activities for the next week. See

Please correct anything I got wrong in quoting Mark.

Leave a Comment March 17, 2018

Abingdon-on-Thames Science Festival starts on the Market Place

Science Festival
Abingdon-on-Thames Market Place was bustling with young scientists, and their parents, trying to find what makes things tick. There were a good variety of stalls to help them at the start of the two week Science Festival.
Science Festival
Enthusiastic scientists introduced particle physics with lego bricks and pressure physics with balloons.
Science Festival
The Abingdon Naturalists Society had come along with mini beasts fetched by pond dipping earlier in the day. The beasts would be returned to their ponds so long as they had not been eaten by bigger beasts.
Science Festival
They had also gathered samples of moss and fungi from near the River Ock – also to be replaced later in the day. David G told me that the fungi here include: Scarlet Elf Caps, Turkey Tails, Artist’s Bracket Fungus, and Peeling Oyster Fungus.
Science Festival
There were space explorers with telescopes and pictures they had taken of new and decaying stars from the Abingdon Astronomical Society.
Science Festival
There were robots – mini versions of what are used to help maintain the tokamak at the Fusion Research Laboratory in nearby Culham.
Science Festival
St Helen and Katherine School were there making super-cool liquid nitrogen ice-cream,
Science Festival
and had objects from the anatomy lab.

Elsewhere there were children walking round with brain caps showing their occipital, parietal and temporal lobes. Oxford University are doing research into the brain and the effect of strokes. And there were also stalls I could not get near as they were crowded with kids.

More of what is on during the Science Festival can be seen at

2 Comments March 10, 2018

Atom Science Market

The ATOM Festival talks this year have been very successful with ticket sales exceeding expectations.
The Market Place activities also went well. It was a dry, warm and sunny day today with blue skies.
Abingdon Astronomical Society were there with telescopes and information of what to look out for in the sky at night.
Culham Centre for Fusion Energy had robots people could operate, and under a dark cover a plasma ball, to demonstrate some of the technologies and science they use as they look to generate energy from fusion.
A group at Sandford Lock are looking for investors to finance a hydro to generate electricity.
The Abingdon Naturalist Society had lot of pondlife for people to observe.

One of their new projects involves nesting boxes for swifts to try and halt the decline of the swifts’ population. They also do interesting talks.

Other stalls included: a sample of the blackest material yet made; and nano surfaces that waterproof mobile phones and make water roll about like drops of mercury. There were lots of very interesting things going on, and it seemed especially family friendly.

5 Comments March 25, 2017

Bionic Hearing

As part of the Oxford Science Festival there have been a series of talks at the Amey Theatre at Abingdon School over the last few days.
Bionic Hearing
On Saturday evening we went to hear Professeur Ian Shipsey talk on ‘Bionic Hearing:The Science and the Experience’.

The most common cause of deafness is damage to the sensitive hairs of the inner ear (cochlea). For most people with hearing loss a hearing aid is the best and cheapest remedy and works by amplifying sound. For people with severe hearing loss, the cochlear implant or “bionic ear” developed in the late 1990s is the best approach. Over 200,000 people worldwide have regained their hearing using this device. An external microphone and digital sound processor transmit sound to an internal receiver that sends signals to 10 electrodes implanted into different points on the cochlear from high to low tones.

As one of the beneficiaries Professeur Ian Shipsey spoke movingly about regaining his hearing in 2002, after 12 years of deafness, and hearing his child’s voice for the first time. Professeur Shipsey is a Professeur of Physics but he hopes by doing these lectures on Cochlear Implants to reach others who can benefit from the procedure.

It was fascinating to hear sentences spoken, and music played, as he hears them with his implant.

Leave a Comment July 3, 2016

Chance to see Mercury Crossing the Sun from North Abingdon

Abingdon astronomical society are holding an observing event to watch Mercury crossing the face of the Sun. The transit starts at 12:12BST and ends at 19:40BST on 9th May 2016.

Abingdon Astronomical Society will have a number of specialist telescopes for viewing the Sun, giving you several different views of our nearest star. So do go and join members of the society at the Abingdon United Football and Social Club on Northcourt Road to enjoy this rare astronomical event. In the event of bad weather there will be no observing, so please check their website in case of cancellation.

(Picture taken at Clubs and Societies Day of the Abingdon Astronomical Society stall with Mercury transit image superimposed)

1 Comment May 8, 2016

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