BLUE SKIES BIOLOGY

Blue Skies Biology is BOM’s engagement programme running alongside ‘Atmospheric Encounters‘ – a new exhibition by the HAB (high altitude bioprospecting) team in May 2021. Blue Skies Biology will consist of workshops and seminars exploring astrobiology with girls schools in Birmingham, to highlight the many fascinating opportunities and career pathways not traditionally covered by the national curriculum.

We have focussed on Astrobiology as an interdisciplinary field that covers the different STEM subjects (Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics) and exemplifies why creativity is an important part of scientific discovery, to encourage more young women and girls to pursue alternative STEM career pathways. Blue Skies Biology will run from June to July 2021 – we are very excited to present Blue Skies Biology at the same time as NASA rover Perseverance touches down on Mars, and plans for a new Space Centre in Birmingham are being announced.

The Blue Skies Biology project aims to;

  • Promote ‘blue skies thinking’ and problem-solving skills in STEM subjects
  • Present topics not covered by the standard national curriculum, and enrich learning experiences
  • Hear from leading female astrobiologists working in the field today
  • Inspire young women and hard to reach beneficiaries into a range of STEM subjects and career pathways
  • Engage SEND learners into choosing STEM subjects and careers

Dr. Melissa Grant and PhD Student Maria Muchova demonstrate the Bento Lab to participants

Seminars from leading astrobiologists working in the field today will discuss the journeys and opportunities they have had in STEM careers. Alongside these, HAB team members Dr Melissa Grant, biochemist and BOM Fellow alumni; and Dr Oliver de Peyer, a senior laboratory research scientist at the Francis Crick Institute and former NASA astrobiologist, will lead practical workshops complementing their research and expertise;

Bioprospecting – Learners will be invited to see our new ‘Atmospheric Encounters’ exhibition in BOM’s gallery space. The exhibition will demonstrate the findings of the HAB (High Altitude Bioprospecting) device in the search for life in Earth’s stratosphere. There will be an introduction by HAB team Scientist Dr Melissa Grant to the exhibition and workshop, which will see learners learn how to prepare settle plates for microbiology, then collect samples from the air by different methods used by the HAB team, including windsocks and remote-controlled drones.

DNA Sequencing – Learners will examine the Petri dishes they created and collected samples for signs of microbial growth. They will use microscopes to count cultures and analyse what they have found using a Bento Lab and PCR sequencing methods. Samples will also be sent for laboratory-grade analysis to identify the various species found in the atmospehere.

Microbes in the World – Using the data collected and images of bacterial growth found by learners they will produce artworks to document findings using various printing techniques. They will explore the importance of creativity and the role art plays in the HAB team and Dr Grants own artistic practice alongside their microbiology background.

Martian Sand – Participants will learn about the characteristics of living things, what defines life, and how to look for it on other planets. They will then apply what they have learned to explore mystery samples and find out which contain life.

This video is the first in a series of 3 Blue Skies Biology videos. Collecting and Sampling Microbes features Dr. Melissa Grant and a group of young women talking about the importance of investigating microbes. It also features footage of them collecting microbes using drones and sampling them on microscope plates.

This video is the second in a series of three Blue Skies Biology videos. Creativity with Microbes features Dr. Melissa Grant and a group of young women talking about the importance of creativity and imagination to open discussion and engagement with STEAM. It also features footage of them creating felted microbes and crafted Petri dishes which illustrate their learning.

This video is the last in a series of three Blue Skies Biology videos. Scientists of the Future features Dr. Melissa Grant and a group of young women talking about the importance of career pathways for women in STEM professions. It also features footage of them learning how to use a Bento Lab to identify, problem solve and review DNA sequencing of microbes that they grew.

We are looking forwards to schools joining these workshops over the Summer Term. Pupils are asked to complete this short questionnaire about what they already know about astrobiology before their sessions begin.

For more information please contact laurie@bom.org.uk

Supported by Millennium Point Trust