AccliPhot Public Outreach
AccliPhot ER Antonella Succurro organisied a discussion panel in the frame of the World Exposition in Milan, Italy.
Feeding the Planet, energy for life
This year the World Exposition came to Milan, Italy, and chose the ambitious theme of feeding the planet. We are foreseen to reach 9 billion inhabitants of the Earth by 2050 and thinking our current style of life and technology will be sufficient and sustainable is non-sense. So what can us as scientists do?
We met for discussion with the general public for three evenings at the prestigious Collegio Ghislieri, Pavia, Italy, founded in 1567 by Pope Pius V to promote excellence in study. Prof. Rino Cella (Università di Pavia) and Matteo Pavan (Microlife) presented on the first evening what mircoalgae are and their applications to the food industry. The next week students and citizens learned about the potential of microalgae as cleaners of waste water and carbon-neutral energy source from Dr. Paolo Longoni (Geneva University) and Prof. Simonetta Pancaldi (Università di Ferrara and Alga&Zyme Factory, a start-up born from the collaboration between Ferrara and Pavia universities). On the last meeting the topic focused on something more familiar to the people of the northern Italy: rice. Dr. Roberto Magnaghi (General Director Ente Nazionale Risi), Prof. Gian Attilio Sacchi (Università degli Studi di Milano) and Dr. Giampiero Valè (Director CRA-RIS) explained to the public the current challenges in rice economy and genetic research.
The final picture we all got from these presentations is that there is still a lot of work ahead of us to understand nature and bring science out of the lab for every-day applications. But the impression is also that projects like AccliPhot are already on the good path to address these challenges, contributing to fundamental aspects of the knowledge needed to develop a sustainable world and we won't stop when the ITN is over!
Three AccliPhot members presented at this years >Fete de la Science< in Paris, France.
On 9th October 2015, ESRs Giulio Stella and Lucilla Taddei as well as PI Angela Falciatore talked to high school students about diatoms at the "Fete de la Science" at UPMC in Paris. The title of the presentation was " Les stratégies uniques du phytoplancton marin pour faire face aux variations environnementales" (unique strategies of marine phytoplankton to face environmental changes).
It was a talk in which they presented photosynthesis and marine food chains, diatoms and marine phytoplankton in general, how they sense the environment, their role in the regulation of atmospheric CO2, the relationship with symbiotic bacteria and how they sense light changes and can adapt to these changes.
AccliPhot took part in the Scientifica 2015, the Zurich Science day
Since 2011, ETH Zurich and the University of Zurich have been opening their main buildings for one weekend a year, inviting the general public in to see science “as it happens”. The fourth edition of Scientifica, played around the theme “Light”, was a great success: 25,000 visitors took advantage of the weekend of September 5 and 6 to experience many different aspects of doing science.
As Accliphot ESR and member of the Plant Biochemistry group (at ETHZ) Martina Zanella had the chance to participate to the event with a stand dedicated to the topic „From Light to Food“ where, together with other colleagues researchers, they engaged the public in experiments to show the importance of light for plants.
Thanks to an in house build machinery capable of monitoring in real time the CO2 taken up by different plants, and being able to modulate intensity and quality of the light source by means of coloured filters, they were able to literally show to the audience the role of light in driving carbon fixation in plants.
The system allows us to monitor up to 8 plants in parallel so our guests were able to see how different specie like Arabidopsis, Rice, Wheat, Ice plant, Corn and also a tiny Oak tree, make photosynthesis at different rates accordingly to their size and their metabolism.
To show an additional role of light for photosynthetic organisms, the phototaxis phenomena, liquid cultures of Chlamydomonas were exposed to unidirectional light, allowing for the visualisation of a wave of algae swimming towards the light source. Thanks to the microscope at their disposal they were also able to let the public spy the Chlamydomonas movements on microscope slides and to make them appreciate the physiology of this fascinating unicellular algae.
AccliPhot took part in the 3rd international "Fascination of Plants Day"
The Institute of Quantitative and Theoretical Biology of HHU Düsseldorf organised a fascinating activity for school kids in frame of this year’s Fascination of Plants Day!
Eight school classes of kids aged 8-11, among them three classes from international schools and in total more than 200 pupils, attended the workshop organised by the Institute of Jun.-Prof. Oliver Ebenhöh.
In the 3 hour workshop, local fellows Anna Matuszynska and Antonella Succurro, ESR Fiona Moejes (DOMMRS) and various other students of the HHU demonstrated and explained through presentations and jointly performed live experiments some fascinating plant mechanisms and functions as well as their significance for the scientific world to the kids.
Fotos: HHU / Anke Peters
After the workshop the kids really went “fascinated by plants” back home with some instructions for “do it yourself” experiments to stay even longer in though with plant science. If you are interested, you can find those instructions here (in German).
The whole workshop was a complete success and the feedback of the teachers was amazing positive. Therefore it is more than likely that the Institute will repeat this workshop after a certain time.
The Press release of the HHU regarding the workshop can be found here (in German).
The Fascination of Plants Day 2015 was launched under the umbrella of the European Plant Science Organisation (EPSO). The goal of this activity was to get as many people as possible around the world fascinated by plants and enthused about the importance of plant science for our life.
Are plants like scientists?
In a collaboration with Dr Ahmad Mannan from the University of Aberdeen ESR Anna Matuszyńska created the project named ‘Are plants like scientists?’ inviting more than 200 children to the exciting world of plant biology. The objective of this project was to encourage cross disciplinary thinking, share knowledge, and inaugurate an interest in biophysics. They have prepared a project where they blurred the lines between different scientific fields so as to raise awareness of the ubiquity of the laws of physics. Through presentation and live experiments, Anna and Ahmad demonstrated how plants adapt to various physical perturbations for survival and how they sense their environment. Moreover, to encourage continued interest outside the classroom, they have designed a set of simple plant experiments that children will be able to repeat on their own. Anna created a dedicated space on her website where all educational materials are put together (including flyer, step-by-step manual and presentation).
*Photos with acknowledgement of the Discovery Day at Satrosphere Centre, Aberdeen
Brookes Science Bazaar 2015
Brookes Science Bazaar is a fun filled science event designed for children aged 5-12 and is organised every year since 2009 at the Oxford Brookes University as part of the Oxfordshire Science Festival. This year more than 1500 wild and very excited crowd of children invaded the university to find out what researchers do there and to have a hands-on experience on some of the experiments themselves.
There were 5 different activity zones across the university each with separate theme designed to engage children and educate them with scientific facts. Some of the activities included a computer game to model chromosomes, finding out how much fat and sugar is in our food, learning about the effects of radiation, making a DNA bracelets etc.
On the occasion ESR Kailash Adhikari and ESR Dipali Singh along with other colleagues also helped children to become a plant biologist for the day. This particular activity was designed to teach children about the importance of plants and photosynthesis. Children were also demonstrated how some of the plant species are genetically modified to produce better yield. The most exciting part of the activity was a chance for them to put on a pair of colourful gloves and infiltrate the plant leaves with genetically modified DNA samples (of course clean tap water was used on the day for health and safety reasons) and view the cells under a microscope. A brief highlights of the day can be found here.
ESR Fiona Moejes participates in the iWish Foundation Event at Fota Wildlife Park to inspire girls to investigate opportunities in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM). She gave a 15min talk to present her path to Science and she had a stall showing a number of organisms they have at DOMMRS (seaweed, algae, sea urchins, sea cucumbers and mussels).
We are very pleased to announce the release of our AccliPhot Newsletter Issue 1.
The MC-ITN PHOTO.COMM coordinated by Poul Erik Jensen is topical related to AccliPhot. Thus both ITNs can benefit from each other’s knowledge and it was agreed that students of either AccliPhot or PHOTO.COMM are welcome to attend the training events of the other ITN.
Up to now AccliPhot has hosted two PHOTO.COMM fellows David Malatinszky and Ulrich Johan Kudahl at the Theory Workshops 1 and 2, respectively. Further Oliver Ebenhöh has accepted an invitation to join the Scientific Advisory Board and therefore has attended the Midterm Review of PHOTO.COMM. During this meeting the idea of a common Final Conference arose which has been very well received by the members of both ITNs. At the moment we are in the first planning steps together with PHOTO.COMM.
Julie Maguire was interviewed for "Success story video for Marie Sklodowska-Curie Principal Investigator" at the Irish Universities Association Dublin, Dublin, Ireland. To watch the video of the interview, please follow the link.
Public talk "Synthetic biology and the future"
The future of biofuels, exploration into the use of algae and beyond, were discussed at a one-off free talk on March 25th called "Synthetic Biology and the future", at Satrosphere Science Centre from 7pm. Oliver Ebenhoeh, from the University of Aberdeen, took the audience on a journey through the world of synthetic biology to explore the way the things we use to wrap up our sushi (algae) could have another, globally important, role in the future of energy.
“La science appelle les jeunes”
A high‐school student was hosted in the lab of Michel Goldschmidt-Clermont as a part of “La science appelle les jeunes”. ESR Federica Cariti supervised the student during his stay.
Euronews : Futuris: Sea fuel (MABFUEL and AccliPhot)
Euronews produced a short documentary about seaweed farming at the DOMMRS and its potential to use for the production of biofuel. DOMMRS is an independent commercial research station and one of our three industrial partners in the AccliPhot Consortium. Research work at the station includes consultancy, commercial trials and participation and coordination EC projects. MABFUEL is supported by the European Community Framework Programme 7, Marie Curie Industry-Academia Partnerships and Pathways, and co-ordinated at the Daithi O'Murchu Marine Research Station. Both AccliPhot and MABFUEL are looking at the feasibility of using algae (micro and/or macro) as a feedstock for producing bio-fuels.
Follow this link to see the video on the euronews website.
Sea Water Could Hold Key to Fuel Demands - First Minister hails University-led project
The answer to society's fuel demands could literally be all around us according to Aberdeen scientists - in fact it makes up two thirds of the planet's surface.
An international research team led by the University of Aberdeen is hoping to make biofuels out of microscopic algae found in the world’s oceans and seas.
Currently biofuels are created from crops and land-based vegetation – something project coordinator Dr. Oliver Ebenhoeh, from the University of Aberdeen’s Institute of Complex Systems and Mathematical Biology, says is not sustainable.
He said: “We need to find efficient ways of supplying our energy demand in a way that doesn’t compete for valuable resources like arable land or fresh water.
“We can’t just put corn in your car’s gas tank because it’s being used to feed millions already - it won’t be sustainable. This is one of the key motivations to look into marine microalgae.
“Cultivating algae using water that can’t be used for irrigation, like salt water or brackish water, makes sense because it’s so vast – it’s all around us and there’s no competition to use the land to grow other things.”
The AccliPhot project is due to run for four years and is backed by €4million of EU funding and involves 12 partners from across the continent.
Today First Minister Alex Salmond praised the initiative.
He said: "Scotland is leading the way in the energy sector, with our world class oil and gas industry now allied to a vibrant renewables sector that is harnessing the power of our boundless wind and water resources to bring jobs and investment to our country and ensure we can power our nation on a sustainable basis.
"The AccliPhot project could herald another exciting development in Scotland's energy story with the team at the University of Aberdeen using cutting-edge techniques to support the development of a sustainable biofuel from microscopic algae.
"In many ways, these researchers are ideally placed to undertake this work, being based in a city that has a magnificent heritage in the offshore industry. I would like to extend my best wishes to the team for this exciting project and I look forward to hearing the results."
The team will try to understand more fully how plants and microalgae respond to changes in light and other conditions and use that information to make new products.
Whilst the main focus is on biofuels the study could also yield breakthroughs in antibiotics, nutritional supplements or even produce chemical compounds used in the cosmetics industry.
Dr Ebenhoeh added: “We’re hoping to understand the principles that guide these changes to environments and then see if this can be scaled up to industry scale. If that is successful then the applications are enormous because then you can really look into targeted pharmaceuticals or precursors for the chemical industry.”
Micro algae eat nothing but carbon dioxide, light and some minerals. Cells of microalgae typically measure between a few to several hundred micrometers across and can be grown in vast numbers in giant 10,000 litre water tanks called photo-bioreactors. So if they can be successfully cultivated to make biofuels they could contribute hugely to the planet’s energy consumption.
Dr Ebenhoeh says his team will be able to tackle the research in a way no one else has because of the diverse background of the team members.
He commented: “One of our unique points is our multidisciplinary approach. We have theoreticians with a background in mathematics and physics, working together with biologists and biochemists and three of our partners perform industrial research. This unique composition will help us form a tight connection between academic and industrial research. We hope to make a considerable contribution to the understanding in this field.”
Notes to Editors
University of Aberdeen (project co-ordinators); University of Verona; University of Geneva; French National Centre for Scientific Research; Pierre and Marie Curie University; The Martin Luther University of Halle-Wittenberg; ETH Zurich; Oxford Brookes University; Cellectis ; Daithi O'Murchu Marine Research Station (DOMMRS); University of Nantes; Fermentalg
Max Planck Institute of Molecular Plant Physiology; INRA, Bordeaux
AccliPhot is funded by €4million through the Seventh Framework Programme of the European Union. The consortium is a Marie-Curie Initial Training Network.
The AccliPhot project is still recruiting researchers – applications are welcomed by highly motivated individuals. Further information can be found the AccliPhot website at www.accliphot.eu
Issued by the Communications Team, Office of External Affairs, University of Aberdeen, King's College, Aberdeen. Tel: (01224) 272014
Issued on: 04 February 2013
Contact: Euan Wemyss
Scientists harvest algae as global fuel for the future
Scientists hope to harvest oceans in biofuel bonanza
Aberdeen scientist aiming to turn sea water into biofuel for cars
stv Aberdeen City 05 February 2013
Biofuels: Dr Ebenhoeh has worked out a formula that could turn sea water into fuel.University of Aberdeen
Sea water is generally considered the enemy of most motorists, causing our beloved cars to corrode and rust in the salty sea air.
But it could soon be the catalyst that gets us from A to B if the theories of a team of scientists, led by the University of Aberdeen, pan out.
The same stuff that makes up two thirds of the world’s surface is also home to microscopic algae that an international team believe could be the basis for a new biofuel to power our gas guzzling vehicles.
Biofuels are currently created from crops and land-based vegetation, such as corn – something that the AccliPhot project coordinator, Dr Oliver Ebenhoeh, says is not sustainable.
Dr Ebenhoeh, from the university’s institute of complex systems and mathematical biology, said: "We need to find efficient ways of supplying our energy demand in a way that doesn’t compete for valuable resources like arable land or fresh water.
"We can’t just put corn in your car’s gas tank because it’s being used to feed millions already - it won’t be sustainable. This is one of the key motivations to look into marine microalgae.
"Cultivating algae using water that can’t be used for irrigation, like salt water or brackish water, makes sense because it’s so vast – it’s all around us and there’s no competition to use the land to grow other things.
"We’re hoping to understand the principles that guide these changes to environments and then see if this can be scaled up to industry scale. If that is successful then the applications are enormous because then you can really look into targeted pharmaceuticals or precursors for the chemical industry."
Micro algae eat carbon dioxide, light and some minerals. Cells of microalgae typically measure between a few to several hundred micrometers across and can be grown in vast numbers in giant 10,000 litre water tanks called photo-bioreactors.
Dr Ebenhoeh hopes that if they can be successfully cultivated to make biofuels they could contribute hugely as a solution to the planet’s energy crisis.
The project is due to run for four years and is backed by €4m of EU funding and involves 12 partners from across the continent.
First Minister Alex Salmond welcomed the development, adding: "Scotland is leading the way in the energy sector, with our world class oil and gas industry now allied to a vibrant renewables sector that is harnessing the power of our boundless wind and water resources to bring jobs and investment to our country and ensure we can power our nation on a sustainable basis.
"The AccliPhot project could herald another exciting development in Scotland's energy story with the team at the University of Aberdeen using cutting-edge techniques to support the development of a sustainable biofuel from microscopic algae."
The team will try to understand more fully how plants and microalgae respond to changes in light and other conditions and use that information to make new products.
Whilst the main focus is on biofuels, the study could also yield breakthroughs in antibiotics, nutritional supplements or even produce chemical compounds used in the cosmetics industry.