|The work of the Darwin Centre:|
Marten Lewis, manager of the Darwin Centre, with youngsters working on the sea shore
The Darwin Experience
Pembrokeshire South East Group members were delighted to welcome Marten Lewis, Manager of the Darwin Centre to their June meeting. Much had been heard of the current work of the Centre and Marten was able to set this in the context of its inception and future plans.
In 1994 the Centre was conceived and established in Cardiff by Professor Anthony Campbell of Cardiff Medical School and funded from Professor Campbell's work in the field of bioluminescence. Though this research was initially undertaken in the furtherance of pure scientific research, it was later realised that Professor Campbell's research had a vitally important role to play in the field of medical diagnostics – bioluminescence could be used as a marker in the microscopic examination of cells in the human body. This diagnostic technique is now used over 700 million times a year.
The Centre moved to Pembrokeshire in 1999, where Professor Campbell had bought a large country house and had developed laboratory and lecture room facilities. The aim is to make detailed cutting edge research available to the general public. The name Darwin Centre reflects the professor's profound admiration for Charles Darwin's approach to scientific research – intense attention to detail in all subjects studied and constant repetition of experiments – the perfect scientific process.
Marten explained how the Centre had greatly expanded its role in the year 2000. Funding was received from the Millennium Lottery Fund to take the ethos of the Centre into schools. Since that time the school agenda has become much more important, with Marten and his staff helping schools to deliver the curriculum. The aim is also to make science enjoyable and to increase awareness of the natural world and the importance of sustainability.
This process has now been underpinned by most generous financial support from Dragon LNG and the assistance of Pembrokeshire College with the free use of many of its facilities.
Many themes are covered by the choices offered to schools. Evidence of past climate change can be studied in coastal cliffs, kick samples can be taken from the beach and evidence of cleanliness of water can be deduced from water samples. Material taken from the beach is taken back to the classroom for further analysis and graphs drawn to illustrate conclusions. The work of the Centre is truly inter-disciplinary.
The financial support from Dragon LNG has also meant that television personalities such as Ellie Harrison of Country Tracks and Miranda Krestovnikoff of Coast can be brought to Pembrokeshire schools to generate even more enthusiasm amongst the children.
Children of all abilities are catered for, from those with behavioural problems to those who are specially gifted. In the case of the latter assistance is given by the Centre to Pembrokeshire County Council's Buzz programme.
Though most of the work currently is with 9 to 11 year olds, older children and community groups are still catered for, with a variety of eminent speakers being brought to the area, most recently with Lord Julian Hunt, former head of the Meteorological Office and expert on climate modelling.
All talks, events and trips are free of charge – a guiding principle of the Centre.
It was pleasing to note, said Marten, that the Darwin Centre was now receiving wider recognition for its work. Not only was it featuring regularly in local press and radio coverage, but a presentation had been given to the House of Lords. Furthermore international interest was increasing in the Centre's work, with Chile, Brazil, Australia and the Galapagos Islands all keen to follow their example. He had even visited a school in Las Vegas to spread the message.
Plans for the future were exciting. These included establishing a database put together by schools from all over the world of the main features of their local natural environment.
The Centre's programme has generated much enthusiasm from children, teachers and headteachers, and has been acknowledged in a report by Estyn, the school inspectors, as being a key feature in progress in science in Pembrokeshire schools.
The Chair thanked Marten for the insight he had given the meeting into the fascinating work his team was undertaking in Pembrokeshire schools and wished him well with his future projects.
The meeting was reminded that the AGM for PSEEG would be held on Thursday 21st July, when the Vice-Chair, Neil Sefton would be addressing the subject of behaviour change.
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|25th February 2011||Preparing for Floods: A talk by Richard Wickes of the Environment Agency|
|14th January 2011||The Way Forward for Wind?: A talk by Steve Hack of Seren Energy|
|12th November 2010||How Green is your Castle?: The National Trust & Global Warming|
|15th October 2010||Challenge of the Rising Sea: The effects on the Pembrokeshire coastline|
|10th August 2010||The beautiful Welsh coastline: Response to possible rising sea levels|
|18th June 2010||Visit to Costain at Canaston Bridge: Not Costing the Earth|
|16th April 2010||Feed in Tariffs: Power to the People|
|12th March 2010||Heat Pumps & Photo Voltaic Panels: Prepare for the Goodlife|
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|4th December 2009||Sustainable Community Ventures: Regeneration in Pembrokeshire|
|13th November 2009||Community Initiatives: Sustainable Wales leads by example|
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