Royal Society’s Student Conference

7 December 2018

The team working on ASP's Royal Society Partnership Grant project were honoured and excited to be invited to exhibit their research at the Royal Society's student conference.

Representatives from Fitzharrys and Abingdon School were accompanied by our scientific partner, Tanesha Allen of Oxford University's Wildlife Conservation Research Unit, to the full day conference at the Royal Society in Carlton House Terrace, London. This is the world's oldest scientific society and a very prestigious venue for any scientific conference.

The day started with an introduction from the President of the Royal Society and Nobel Prize winner, Professor Venkatraman Ramakrishnan, followed by a keynote address by Professor Jim Al-Khalili.

The student teams were then whisked away from their teachers and scientific mentors and taken to smaller seminar rooms where they were asked to make spontaneous presentations on their projects to members of the Royal Society's partnership grant committee, amongst them several Fellows of the Royal Society, the most eminent scientists in their fields.

Meanwhile, teachers and scientific mentors were able to network and discuss projects together, with many of ASP's partner organisations such as The Institute for Research in Schools, The Young Scientists' Journal and Practical Action being represented at the event. In the afternoon, the project team took part in an exhibition of student projects, attended by several more FRS, other scientists and VIPs including representatives of the Goldsmith's Company who had sponsored travel and accommodation costs for students to attend.

The ASP's exhibit was very well received, with a large number of distinguished visitors attempting the 'smelly shirt challenge'. This involved sniffing three unwashed shirts and trying to identify characteristics of the owners, simulating the olfactory abilities of the project's target species, the European Badger.

Alarmingly 90% of those tested identified ASP Co-ordinator, Mr Jeremy Thomas, as female. Badgers would not make this mistake, also being able to sense the age, health and dominance of the individual through its scent marks.

This was a fantastic opportunity to show off our partnership work at a national level and to compare notes with other student researchers from all over the UK.

The next step in our project is to carry out initial research on wildlife distribution and behaviour at three local primary schools. Each project will be led by the trained, secondary mentors from Abingdon, Fitzharrys and Larkmead schools.

Initial results will be analysed at a project workshop in January, before further training by our research partner, Tanesha, which will eventually contribute data for her own D.Phil. project on the olfactory response of badgers.

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