Let's meet the quizzers

05 May 2020

Interview with 

Sam Virtue, Ella Gilbert, Eleanor Drinkwater, Hamish Symington

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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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