12 December 2018

Over four hundred primary school children enjoyed the joint ASP/ATOM Festival/Science Oxford Abingdon Christmas Lecture this year, given by BBC science presenter Greg Foot and entitled 'Deep Ocean Lab'.

Greg described his journey to the deep ocean in a submersible off the coast of Bermuda and also explained the physics of buoyancy, the absorption of light in the ocean and the adaptations of the strange creatures encountered at depth.

In an interactive presentation he was fully engaged with the audience, asking and answering an almost continuous stream of questions. The children really enjoyed seeing photos of some bizarre and scary creatures from the deep and Greg even brought a real specimen of a newly discovered species, the hairy chested Hoff Crab, named after David Hasselhoff.

In the evening, Greg presented a second talk for the general public on 'Everest Lab', in which he described his experiences assisting medical scientists with experiments on hypoxia at Everest Base Camp. This was a real insight into the scientific process, starting with the genuine puzzle of why some people suffer more than others when deprived of oxygen.

Through a series of careful steps, Greg explained the many investigations carried out and shared the tentative results of the study, which seemed to indicate that efficient blood oxygen transport systems in the body were the most important factor in dealing well with low oxygen levels.

Nepalese Sherpas appear to have a more complex micro-circulatory system than lowland people, a discovery that has led the researchers to develop new treatments to increase blood circulation in hypoxic patients in hospitals.

Both Greg's talks illustrated why he is one of the up and coming stars of science communication, with careful explanations of relevant science crafted into the exciting and amusing stories of his adventures. One member of the evening audience commented later in an e-mail:

'Thank you so much for the invite to attend last evening – a great talk and so pleased to see the real interest Greg created for both students and their parents. You are all doing such good things in terms of encouraging kids to go down the STEM route – best I have ever seen.' (Mike Rodd FIET CEng, Director Kennett and Avon Canal Trust).

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