Let's meet the quizzers

Let's meet the scientists playing the Naked Scientists pub quiz...
05 May 2020

Interview with 

Sam Virtue, Ella Gilbert, Eleanor Drinkwater, Hamish Symington


Circle of hands holding each other by the wrist


Katie Haylor and Phil Sansom meet the scientists playing the Naked Scientists pub quiz...

Katie - Playing alongside you down the line are: animal behaviour scientist Eleanor Drinkwater, hello! Eleanor, can you hear us?

Eleanor - Yes, yes I can.

Phil - Then we've got physiologist Sam Virtue! Hello Sam!

Sam - Hi Phil.

Katie - Also on the line is climate scientist Ella Gilbert...

Ella - Hello!

Phil - And plant and pollinator researcher Hamish Symington. Hi Hamish!

Hamish - Hi there, how are you doing.

Katie - Now Eleanor, you've been on the show a fair few times before, but are you a regular pub quizzer?

Eleanor - I am enthusiastic but terrible, I'm afraid! Mostly enthusiastic.

Katie - What can you bring to the table though? What's your expertise? Tell us about what you're interested in.

Eleanor - I must admit that I'm a bit of a bug nerd. So if you have any questions about invertebrates, or insects, or preferably insect personality, then I'm really your go-to.

Phil - Eleanor does that come up much in pub quizzes?

Eleanor - Unfortunately not, I'm still waiting for my moment. But not yet.

Katie - What's your particular area of interest when it comes to bugs?

Eleanor - I study woodlice in particular. I'm interested in how different woodlice have different personalities, and that affects how they interact and how the different groups of woodlice interact.

Katie - What kind of personalities do woodlice have?

Eleanor - Oh my goodness, so many types of personalities. They have fabulous personalities. You get some which are shy, and some which are bold and explorative; some of which kind of like company, others of which don't like company; so next time you see a woodlouse, I hope that everybody has a greater appreciation for their brilliant personalities.

Phil - Let's move over to Sam. How do you tend to do when it comes to a pub quiz?

Sam - Well I haven't actually had a chance to do them for a long time as I've moved out to the countryside, but I used to do alright at a pub quiz. Fortunately my specialist round was usually the sport, which I'm not sure how much of that's going to be on today's show.

Phil - You'll find this as the rare pub quiz that doesn't have any sporting questions. Do you not have a village local that does a quiz?

Sam - It's a nice idea, but sadly I also have two small children, so finding time to disappear off for several hours of an evening is rather gone now.

Phil - Tell me, what area of science have you got up your sleeve today?

Sam - So I'm an animal physiologist, so if you have any questions about why mice get fat I might be quite good at those. But otherwise my more general area is on diabetes and obesity.

Phil - Funnily enough, we do have two whole rounds of questions on how mice fat, would you believe it?

Katie - You should be so lucky...

Sam - It's going to be really embarrassing when I get everything wrong.

Phil - Let's move over to Ella. Ella, welcome to the program. What's your science area?

Ella - I'm a climate scientist, but I also work at the British Antarctic Survey, so I'm interested in anything polar. So think cold thoughts.

Ella - Are we talking polar wildlife, polar atmosphere? What's your area?

Ella - I've got my head in the clouds mostly. So I'm an atmospheric physicist, I do things like climate modeling. So I'm interested in wind, weather, clouds... a lot of clouds, I'm going to be honest. And anything kind of climate related.

Katie - Do you have a favourite pub quiz team name? Bearing in mind we are pre-watershed...

Phil - Because some of those team names are a bit... you know...

Katie - Some of them are a bit cheeky. Do you have a favorite sciencey one?

Ella - Generally I just go for the ruder the better, which I feel like may not be that appropriate...

Katie - No...

Ella - ...and always have to have a terrible pun: Cirrusly Bro.

Phil - 'Cirrus-ly'?

Katie - Ah, that's really good. We are such a fan of a pun here on the Naked Scientists.

Phil - That's a real groaner.

Ella - Well I can always provide banter, puns, and terrible dad jokes. You can count on me.

Katie - Tell us a bit more about what you're researching at the moment.

Ella - I'm looking at an ice shelf called Larsen Sea. It's on the Antarctic Peninsula, and it's the little bit that sticks out. And I'm interested in what's making it melt.

Katie - Do we know?

Ella - Ah, that would be a spoiler. You have to read my research to find that out.

Katie - Ah, okay. Any snippets you can give us?

Phil - Can I put in a guess? Is global warming helping?

Ella - Nail on the head!

Phil - I'm good at pub quizzes.

Katie - Phil you're not allowed to win the quiz. That was cheating. Let's move on, shall we? Hamish, where are you?

Hamish - Hello!

Katie - Hello. What's your particular research bag?

Hamish - So I am looking at what it is that bees like about flowers to try to make flowers better at being pollinated, under the umbrella of crop security.

Katie - Oh, I see. So foodstuffs, right?

Hamish - Foodstuff, exactly, yeah. In particular I'm looking at strawberries. Or at least I was before lockdown; students aren't allowed back at the university at the moment. So all of my plants went in the bin.

Katie - Oh no, that's such a shame! Because it's kind of getting to strawberry season... is it? May, June?

Hamish - Yeah. Ideally now at this time I would have a polytunnel in the Botanic garden with several hundred strawberry plants in it, which I could measure the hell out all. But sadly I'm not allowed that, so I can't be doing my research. So when I get back I'll be able to do some more stuff to do with bees and pollination in the lab.

Phil - Hamish, is this figuring out: what is it that bees like the most when it comes to something like pollinating strawberries?

Hamish - Yeah, that's the idea. We're going to have several billion more people in the world over the next few decades, and there is a general decline in insects around the world. We rely on pollination for about 75% of the crops that we grow. So those two things together don't really... they don't really fit. So if we can try to make flowers better at being pollinated - so first of all, more attractive to insects, but also more efficient at being pollinated when those insects get there - then we can make better use of the insects which already exist to help make our food.

Phil - Now that's not the only thing you do; you're also quite a quizzical person, right? Am I right that you make crosswords?

Hamish - Yes. I set cryptic crosswords as well under the pseudonym of 'Soup'.

Phil - That's a hard, hard thing to do, at least in my book.

Hamish - It's quite fun...

Katie - I promise, full disclosure, we haven't recruited Hamish to do a cryptic crossword for you guys; you are the contestants. So he's not one up already.

Hamish - Yeah. I find setting them quite fun. I often find it easier than solving them because at least I already know the answers.

Katie - Oh right, I see. Phil, you looked like you were going to say something.

Phil - No, no. I've always wanted to do cryptic crosswords, but I've never had the skillset that you have to build up to actually start answering the questions. So I'm very, very impressed.

Hamish - If only you had an enormous amount of time in which you weren't able to do any work or something.

Phil - Now's the time, huh?

Hamish - Yeah, exactly.


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