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The Real Meaning of Science with Liz Bonnin

On Thursday 6th November, I had the pleasure of interviewing BBC Television presenter Liz Bonnin. Liz has presented many TV programmes over her career, from BBC Bang Goes the Theory since it first aired in July 2009 and Operation Snow Tiger to specials like the BBC Horizon Series to BBC Stargazing Live. She’s used her Biochemistry background to inspire people of all ages into science.

“…when I’m sent to do anything to do with science or natural history, it’s pretty much a stand out moment for me, it’s like a dream come true…”

Throughout Liz’s TV career she’s had countless stand out moments, she mentioned a number of events which stand out in her memory, one of which was the ambitious challenge she had last year where she went to Norway for BBC’s Stargazing Live on the hunt of the Aurora. The challenge combined an incredible amount of luck with a huge amount of technology to capture the aurora live from an aeroplane in the couple of minutes she’d be on air.

Throughout the interview she talked about many of the experiences that she’d had the amazing opportunity of doing. She’s managed to use her biochemistry background to do lots of programmes on the intelligence and behaviours of animals – doing these programmes she’s encountered grey whales in Mexico that came up to the boat and present to their calves and play around the boat and like to be scratched. She’s filmed a programme on Siberian tigers and been lucky enough to see the Amur Tiger in Russia. One of the endangered species in the world, there’s between 350-400 tigers left in the world. The Indigenous peoples of the Russian Far East forbid killing the tigers, whom they called “Amba”, and considered that a meeting with the striped cat was a sign of bad luck.

The world of science is full of inspirational people, some that get ample media coverage and plenty of unsung heroes in science. In particular, Liz mentioned a Russian Scientist called Viktor Luckureski. Liz said that he’s “obsessed with tigers and leopards… one of the most passionate generous kind…human being that I’ve ever met”, as she said it’s people like this who work long hours, dedicating their lives to protecting our natural world and yet they gain next to no credit for their work who are the real heroes of science. One example of this was where she talked about the big BP Oil Spill. Liz did a piece on the spill for BBC Bang Goes the Theory where she travelled to the Gulf of Mexico. She mentioned one hanger that was incredibly humid, with very very hot temperatures where there were all these scientists working tirelessly both night and day to save the thousands of birds that had been affected. In this massive ‘factory’ these pelicans were all being washed, warmed and fed, while the crew were filming they were just getting on with it – again, with no recognition.

I also asked Liz about how we can make the image of science better in schools, to her the appeal of science all comes so naturally, she said that “science by its very nature doesn’t have to be sold because it’s just so cool”, science shouldn’t have to be a ‘subject’ because it’s about describing the world around you. Many people see science as the old science where there’s an old man in a lab coat and zero creativity, but as Liz mentioned there’s hundreds of jobs you can do as far as science is concerned, but we need to reignite people’s curiosity for the world.

“It’s almost like reminding people what they were like when they were children and they couldn’t stop asking questions and they were so excited about the world, that’s what scientists are, and that’s what us science communicators are trying to do is remind them of their of their childish enthusiasm and curiosity about the world.”

To view the full transcript of this interview and the accompanying audio you can view it here – http://ysjournal.com/2014/11/the-real-meaning-of-science-with-liz-bonnin/

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