Hello and welcome to my blog! My name is Caroline and I am a PhD student at the University of Sheffield. My research project focuses on Striga - a genus of parasitic plants that devastates harvests by infecting food crops. I am exploring the defence reactions that can make host plants more resistant against Striga. Due to my ongoing battles with anorexia, I haven't made as much progress as I would have liked but I am determined to finish the course.

This blog charts the ups and downs of life in the lab, plus my dreams to become a science communicator and forays into public engagement and science policy....all while trying to keep my mental and physical health intact. Along the way, I'll also be sharing new plant science stories, and profiles of some of the researchers who inspire me on this journey. So whether you have a fascination for plants, are curious about what science research involves, or just wonder what exactly I do all day, read on - I hope you find it entertaining!

Tuesday 23 July 2013

IUPS 2013: A fascinating diversion into bears...

I was fortunate enough to catch the last bit of a session led by Henry Harlow of the University of Wyoming, describing his work on hibernating bears. Amazingly, during their winter slumber, bears loose only 20% of their muscle mass, whereas equivalent confinement in humans (e.g. Remaining on a hospital bed for 150 days) results in 70% loss of muscle. How do they do it? During the 5 months of their hibernation, bears do not urinate at all: by using radioactive isotopes, Harlow and his colleagues showed that the urea is broken down by gut microorganisms to release ammonia, which is recycled into building muscles. This session almost made me regret moving away from zoology and animal physiology although the idea of performing surgical implants on hibernating bears doesn't appear entirely risk free to me. Although some may argue this research is purely 'academic interest' understanding the physiology of fasting in bears is highly relevant in a world where we are limiting the hunting season for polar bears through our impact on global climate.  A sobering thought for the bears' futures - can their remarkable physiologist help them pull through?

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