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CLIP 13629

The maths behind natural pesticides that help biodiversity

The maths behind natural pesticides that help biodiversity

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Key Info
  • The maths behind natural pesticides that help biodiversity
  • Duration: 09:49
  • The world is teeming with life but human activity is affecting biodiversity and one culprit is chemical pesticides. At Swansea University, Stefan Gates explores the maths involved in scientific discovery with Professor Tariq Butt and Dr Minshad Ansari. They show him a unique trial of a naturally occurring fungus that is an environmentally friendly alternative to chemicals and they use maths to prove it is effective. Stefan learns how they prepare test solutions of the fungus by measuring small volumes, using averages and standard form. They conduct the trial on little larvae called Galleria and we see how Minshad collects the data on how many have been killed by the fungus and presents the results on the concentration required for 50% mortality. Stefan accompanies Minshad on a hunt for new fungus strains and then heads off to Dorothy Stringer High School in Brighton. There he follows a Bird Walk with a group of students who are collecting data on bird populations to see if the biodiversity is changing. He discusses the results for the first four years of the project with two students. Finally he leaves them planting saplings to attract butterflies and promote biodiversity in their area. First broadcast in the Learning Zone on BBC2 in March 2012 as part of the series Ecomaths.
  • Subject:




  • Keywords: Species, biodiversity, pesticide, fungus, fungi, measure, measuring, problem, solve, solving, trial, experiment, calculate, calculations, fraction, percentage, estimate, average, graph, data, handling, collect, interpret, present, standard, form.
Ideas for use in class
  • This example from Swansea is a rare insight into scientific research that allows students to see how scientists use maths when collecting and interpreting data. Discuss with students why is it important to be precise or correct when doing experiments or maths calculations, particularly when thinking about environmental issues. Ask why the scientists prepare the trial in sterile conditions and why they repeat processes and take averages. Then consider the school bird walk and ask what are the factors they need to take into account in collecting their data and to enable comparison year on year? Standard form is used when looking at big and small numbers. Ask students to look out for the range of numbers used in the fungus trial, and find the biggest and smallest numbers. Why is it good to use standard form for these numbers? What benefits does this have for the scientists? Note that you could include units of measurement in this activity. At Dorothy Stringer High School they also collect data from their pond and the field where they have been planting trees to attract the butterflies. Think about what longitudinal data they could gather about biodiversity from these other environments. How could this be analysed and presented? In what ways might you collect longitudinal data in your school? How could you contribute to wider surveys on biodiversity? Collecting data over a long period of time gives an experimental probability. Looking at data on species numbers and habitats, ask students to estimate the chance (probability) of seeing one of these species when out for a walk? Which species are you more likely to see in your region of the country? What is your best chance? Maths in the real world.
Background details
  • Clip language : English
  • Aspect ratio : 16x9

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