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George is supported admirably by Gilli Claycomb, whose maps, excellent tree labels and extensive botanical and plant lore knowledge are central to the appreciation of this extraordinary gem of bio-conservation. In around Francis Hammond, then headmaster of the local Grammar School, decided to plant an arboretum in a plot he had bought at the end of his own garden. In he was able to obtain fine young trees from commercial nurseries with a strong emphasis on non-native species of suggested medicinal values.

When he died in there were as many as 2, trees and shrubs in the collection, which must have been one of the finest small arboreta in the country. This arboretum can be considered a living laboratory of economic botany and phytotaxonomy. Here visitors can benefit from seeing, touching and learning about a select collection of mainly unusual trees, some of which are distinctly rare in cultivation. Much more important may be that many can furnish sources for pharmacognosy, which is staging something of a resurgence of interest as more and more ailments and their pathogens become resistant to the chemists' and now biotechnologists' ever more costly attempts to overcome them.

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The labelling of the trees and shrubs is informative to the Linnean binomial level and the geographically native origins of each are given. The non-use of family names may somewhat mask the relevance of plant family affiliations with physiologically active biochemical metabolites.

Those associations are just what the modern researchers, and those of the last fifty years or so have followed in their searches for new useful molecular structures of actual or potential value. The excellent well illustrated guide to the arboretum, with Gilli Claypole's map in centrefold, is well worth detailed study. Walking in pleasant gardens with a notebook is, I think, a good habit for lifelong botanical self-education. This reviewer's notebook overflowed. The farm is situated on the outskirts of the village, a few miles south of Lincoln and high up on the Lincoln Escarpment, where it overlooks the broad expanse of the Trent valley to the west.

The programme for the day was in three parts: a bird-ringing session, a formal talk and — most important — lunch! There was also the opportunity for some of us to carry out specific wildlife surveys — in my case, snails. Donna showed the group how she and Ian captured birds, checked their species, age, sex by blowing feathers away from the cloaca and ringed status — and, if un-ringed, ringed them while we watched. Twelve birds of ten species were caught, including a juvenile pied wagtail Motacilla alba and six re-traps.

Also of interest were several nesting great tits Parus major. Back in the Overtons' garden, local celebrity-biologist and 'slug-man', Chris du Feu gave a very witty and thought-provoking talk entitled 'Little People in the Wildlife Classroom', about the need to get younger generations interested and involved in the natural world.

His audience made him work for his supper with a lively question-and-answer session. The Overtons had laid on a superb cold buffet — which gave the assembled naturalists the opportunity to meet and mingle. Everyone present agreed that the latest 'lunch on the edge' had been a great success — although a few more birds would not have gone amiss. It is hoped that, later in the year or perhaps next year, a Bioblitz [in which a weekend is given over to producing a complete species list of an area] will be organised at Hilltop Farm by the Lincolnshire Naturalists' Union.

We've already made a start on the slugs and snails — and on the birds, of course. Competitors, family members, teachers and judges for the Schools event crossed paths with guided tours for prospective undergraduates giving an extra buzz to a normally quiet Saturday morning. In the junior section pupils had prepared posters on the theme "Extreme biology" whilst the older students submitted essays. How different were their interpretations and hence what a challenge for the teams of judges!

Whilst parents and teachers exchanged supportive smiles with the apprehensive students, they in turn waited to be quizzed by the judges on their approach and content of their poster or essay. This, the most testing aspect of the competition, is what makes it so special.

Having relaxed over lunch, everyone was eagerly anticipating the lecture to follow when Dr Shaun Cowley from the Department of Biochemistry would talk on "Stem cells: from the origins of life to tissue regeneration". Decisions made, the winners were congratulated. Junior prize winners. The two runners up were Freya Hartshorn with "Where do we draw the line" and Aditi Pandey with "The extremes of medical treatment: Nanotechnology and robotic surgery".

Senior prize winners. With the excitement of the end of term over, a small group of us were treated to a special tour of some of the facilities at Moulton College. Especially instructive was meeting one of the associate lecturers, Jessica York, in the Equine Therapy Centre.

Her current research aims to provide quantitative analysis of the way horses move when exercising through different depths of water. Reporting on some of her results later in the symposium, it was obvious how this will promote best practice when using the aqua-treadmill to rehabilitate and exercise horses. Next stop was the Sports Therapy Centre with its state-of-the-art facilities including a 25m, six lane swimming pool with moveable floor and a whole body cryotherapy chamber. We walked through the latter trying to imagine what it would be like when set at C to C.

Using extremely cold temperatures for short periods has been shown to naturally stimulate the body to decrease inflammation and pain and promote healing as a result. Moving on, we caught a glimpse of canine hydrotherapy and some posh grooming before touring the Animal Welfare Centre. We saw Meerkats on the lookout in the winter sun, porcupines, tropical birds, rabbits and guinea pigs, tree frogs, an array of different reptiles and even a civet. Credit: Moulton College. Some of the many different areas of research at the college were highlighted in the afternoon symposium. From "Why did the harvest mouse cross the road?

Many thanks, Moulton, for a fascinating day. Professor Richard James, of the University of Nottingham, gave his perspective on the somewhat alarming scenario that the world may be approaching a time when antibiotics have little value as therapeutic agents.

Over-use, misuse and insufficient incentives to develop new products all contribute. In his early career, James pictured above with members of the branch committee was fascinated by the many different mechanisms through which antibiotics exert their effects, and soon realised that bacterial resistance to antibiotics would be an increasingly serious problem.

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He championed the call for additional research until in , he launched the Centre for Healthcare Associated Infections CHAI at Nottingham amidst charges of being a sensationalist and scaremonger. Beta-lactamases are rapidly making the penicillin-based antibiotics redundant and resistance is growing even to the carbapenems, which are known as the antibiotics of last resort against some key gram-negative pathogens. As more antibiotics are used the selection pressure intensifies and as people move so does resistance.

Transposons, together with the ease by which plasmids bearing resistance genes can be transferred between pathogens, mean that resistance develops far quicker than we can respond.

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Hopes were raised between and when targeted gene-based technologies were introduced. Costing billions, but with no new antibiotics on the market, the search continues via the old method of random screening. Potential solutions include a tax on every use of antibiotics. However, this would have to be introduced in all antibiotic using countries and yet not disadvantage the poor.


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Rapid molecular diagnostic tests are vital, as is co-ordinated international action. More education, no prescribing before microbiology results are available and, of course, stopping the routine use of antibiotics in agriculture. With record numbers in the audience, Professor James fielded many thought provoking questions, but made it clear that there are no easy answers. A warm welcome awaited the small group of would be botanists eagerly anticipating a wildflower walk in the grounds of Moulton College.

Brian Laney, a self-taught botanist with over 25 years' experience, led us through the afternoon's mini 'bioblitz', identifying the flora of different plant communities in the gardens and conservation area. Brian is involved with the local conservation efforts for species such as Shepherd's Needle Scandex pectin-veneris and Subterranean Clover Trifolium subterraneum , both of which were shown to the group during an introduction by Adrian Stockdale senior lecturer in horticulture.

One lawn produced a good number of species due to the mowing regime, including Wall Speedwell Veronica arvensis , Lesser Trefoil Trifolium dubium and Thyme-leaved Speedwell Veronica serpyllifolia. While wandering along the edge of one particular field the group spotted Grey Field Speedwell Veronica polita , a species much overlooked in the county, while Cuckooflower Cardamine pratensis was recorded in damper ground.

Whether close up with the hairy leaves of Common Mouse-ear Cerastium holosteoides or musing on the hidden meaning behind the name of the purple flowering Selfheal Prunella vulgaris , the hours sped by and everyone agreed that they had learnt something from Brian. Lunch on the Edge was hosted at the award-winning Hilltop Farm on the cliff edge overlooking the Trent Valley. The morning, led by Donna Staples, began with successful bird ringing - 31 catches of twelve species, including a marsh tit.

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Paul Learoyd, chief executive of the Lincolnshire Wildlife Trust, delivered an excellent presentation on conservation in Lincolnshire. Over 60 years the Wildlife Trust in Lincolnshire has made astounding strides, purchasing reserves and saving species, but perhaps more importantly working with others to enhance wildlife habitat throughout the county. With over 25, members locally, the Wildlife Trusts also work together to influence central government in their policies.

Lincolnshire has taken a particular lead in seeking to establish coastal and marine parks, work which continues. View a slide show of some of the animals seen. Photos courtesy of Clare Adams. As National Science and Engineering Week drew to an end, the East Midlands branch enjoyed another successful schools competition held at the University of Leicester. It a lovely spring day and showcased the flair, hard work and dedication of some 28 students from regional schools and colleges. Whether in poster, essay or podcast format their task was to 'Explore the Future' - what would the future hold in biological terms?

Judges, teachers, parents and students, ensured a lively atmosphere and much discussion as students were quizzed on the content and background of their work. Much debate ensued, even after lunch, whilst Dr Salvador Macip from the Department of Biochemistry gave his short lecture entitled 'The Quest for Immortality'. Following the theme of exploring the future, Dr Macip seemed in no doubt that we would be able to extend our lifespan.

Getting rid of old cells might be the answer, especially as new research had identified a drug that targets and destroys older cells, thus preventing their damaging effect on neighbouring cells. However, Dr Macip posed an interesting question — 'Do we want the power of immortality on our small and already full planet? Sarika Patel below center won first prize in the Junior Section with her poster on 'Vertical Farming' and Hannah Erlebach below left was runner up with 'Genetics: Engineering the Future'.

Emily Cooke was highly commended for her 'Terraform: The Future? The day drew to a close with the awarding of a very special prize to Hannah Musson, a Year 13 student who had entered this competition for 4 years running! The book tokens she received would come in useful, we hoped, when she embarks on her degree at the University of Leicester.

Dr Anne Pullen and Dr Gareth Starbuck delivered a lively lecture examining the current situation of giant panda management practices. The pregnancy or lack of! Anne and Gareth considered all aspects of the giant panda's management, from issues with habitat destruction, ongoing conservation efforts, genetic issues and the obvious and topical issues relating to reproductive efforts in captivity.

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