Announcing the ReelLife Science 2013 Primary School Winners

After much deliberation from our Special Guest Judges, we’re delighted, as part of Science Week 2013, to announce the Top Three videos at Primary School level in the very first ReelLife Science video competition.

In third place, under the “Our Bodies” category, we have a video about our Five Senses, focusing on the sense of touch. The video was made by the Junior and Senior Infants class in Belmont National School, Milltown, with the help of their teacher Ms. McGrath. The video covers the topic extremely well, with wonderfully demonstrated examples of all our senses, as well as some lovely poems about our sense of touch. The school runs a fantastic blog about all of their activities, including science and maths projects, school visits and tours, and have already featured their wonderful ReelLife Science video there! Ms. McGrath will receive over €100 worth of scientific equipment and resources for her school’s Science program.

In second place, under the “Keeping Healthy” category, we have a video about dealing with germs, featuring a catchy musical number called “Germ Busters”. The video was made by the students in Cloghans Hill National School, Tuam under the guidance of their teacher Ms. Mangan. This instructional video classifies the germs we are likely to meet on a daily basis, and shows us the benefits of handwashing and disinfection. Like Belmont NS, the school runs a really informative blog about all of their activities, as well as a dedicated page for their wonderful garden, and a Twitter feed with almost 100 hundred followers. Let’s see if we can get them a few more… Ms. Mangan will receive over €150 worth of scientific equipment and resources for their school’s Science program.

Finally, in first place, under the “Habitats” category, we have a video as Gaeilge about Seed Dispersal called “Scaipeadh siolta i Rosmuc”. This memorable video was made by the 5th and 6th class students in Scoil Mhuire Rosmuc, under the direction of their teacher Ms. Ni Chonaola. The wonderfully produced video comes with an extremely impressive script, to which Ms. Ni Chonaola was kind enough to provide an English translation for non-Irish speakers. The students took a very specific topic in Seed Dispersal and Germination, and produced three very amusing and informative sketches demonstrating different methods of dispersal. Furthermore, they performed some experiments of their own on the various seeds they found, identifying the different traits associated with them, based on their method of dispersal.

Overall, this outstanding production proved a worthy winner of the inaugural ReelLife Science competition. We hope the 5th and 6th class students in Scoil Mhuire Rosmuc enjoy spending their €250 on promoting science and science communication in their school.

Honourable mentions go to two other videos, a School Survey carried out by Mr. O’Meachain’s 4th and 5th class students in Gaelscoil Riabhach, Loughrea and a “Tour de Body” performed by Mr. McNamara and Ms. Glynn’s 5th and 6th class students in Scoil Padraig Naofa, Claregalway.

As with the videos mentioned above, these two videos have been selected by the judges to be shown to the general public at the Galway Science and Technology Festival exhibition on November 24th.

Well done to everyone who took part.

If you liked these videos, please share them with your friends to show them how Science can be fun at any age!

The Secondary School winners can be viewed here.

ReelLife Science is supported by the EXPLORE Innovation Initiative and the College of Science at NUI Galway, as well as the “I’m a Scientist…Get me out of here, Ireland” program. Additional prizes were kindly supplied by Lennox Educational, Medical Supply Company and Junior Scientist, in the form of annual subscriptions to their Primary School science magazine.

VIDEO: Introduction to ReelLife Science and Two Simple Science Experiments

The ReelLife Science team has been busy this week making a video introducing the ReelLife Science competition as well as having some fun in the lab with some easy-to-do experiments, that are ideal for the classroom.

Check out the video here

First, we show you how to make a homemade lava lamp, with just some water, cooking oil, food colouring and an Alka-seltzer tablet.

screenshot a

Next, we show you how to make an Oobleck (a non-Newtonian liquid made from cornflour and water) and then how to make it dance!

Dancing Oobleck
Dancing Oobleck
Dancing Oobleck Close Up
Dancing Oobleck Close Up

Convergent EVOLUTION: “Are Dolphins and Bats more related than we think?” by Cariosa Switzer

Continuing our series of articles written by NUI Galway Biotechnology undergraduate ReelLife Science team members, Cariosa Switzer introduces the concept of Convergent Evolution:

Convergent evolution is one of the most interesting topics studied within the field of evolution. It occurs when completely diverse species develop similar traits, habits or appearances, despite living in habitats that can be separated by thousands of miles. Their habitats usually have comparable aspects, such as climates or vegetation or the existence of predators. Dry regions of South Africa have a wide selection of succulent plants, some of which look very similar to American cacti, as both have evolved to endure minimal water levels. An example of animals that are linked by convergent evolution is the Honey Possum, native to Australia, and species of butterfly found all around the world. Both have evolved a long tongue for taking nectar from flowers (see below).

Honey Possum. Photo credit
Honey Possum. Photo credit
Painted Lady. Photo credit
Painted Lady. Photo credit

Echolocation is a type of biological sonar used by both dolphins and bats, and is a well-known example of convergent evolution. Although it may seem that bats and dolphins do not live in similar environments, in fact, they both live in areas where visibility is poor. For bats it is in dark caves and for dolphins it is murky waters. These animals use sounds to “see”, by emitting calls into their environment and listening to the echoes bouncing back from animals and objects nearby. From the strength and delay in hearing the echo they are able to determine how close they are to these objects.

Echolocation. Image credit
Echolocation. Image credit

Scientists from Queen Mary University of London studied whether bats and dolphins had genetic similarities (i.e. a similar “genotype”) as well as being physically alike (i.e. a similar “phenotype”). In their paper, which was published by the scientific journal Nature, they describe how they looked at the genomes (collection of an organism’s genes) of 22 mammals including bottlenose dolphins, bats that echolocate, bats that don’t echolocate, humans, horses, dogs and mice. This study has been the largest search for evidence for genetic convergence ever undertaken.

Through this research, the team of scientists were able to prove that there is evidence of convergent evolution in nearly 200 different areas of the genome. This is a huge amount, as one of the leading biologists in this research, Joe Parker indicated – “A few dozen would probably have surprised us”.

This discovery is proving fundamental to our knowledge of convergent evolution, as it was previously assumed that the similarities were mainly physical, however, now, a whole new door has been opened in the study of convergent evolution.

If you want to see for yourself how bats use echolocation why not try out this game?

Cariosa Switzer