Sugar, recreational drugs, otters, and really cool polar animals: Cheltenham Science Festival 2015

Researchers from Swansea University will team up with personalities including Lucy Cooke, BBC’s Talk to the Animals and Nature’s Boldest Thieves presenter, Simon Watt, co-presenter of Channel 4’s Inside Natures Giants, and Chris van Tulleken, presenter of BBC’s Trust Me, I’m a Doctor, for this year’s The Times Cheltenham Science Festival.

Cheltenham Sci FestivalThe University is again a Major Supporter of the UK’s largest and most prestigious science festival, which runs from Tuesday, June 2 until Sunday, June 7,and organisers have selected four of the University’s most innovative and exciting research areas to feature in the diverse programme of events, on the big topics of dinosaurs, the Universe, Back to the Future, and life.

This year’s Festival, which again features naturalist and one of TV's best-known wildlife presenters Steve Backshall as its guest director, will see participation from researchers from the University’s Department of Psychology in the College of Human and Health Sciences and Department of Biosciences in the College of Science.

On Friday, June 5, Psychologist Professor David Benton will take part in the Sugar: The Sweet Truth session, with NHS dietician Catherine Collins, and Professor Graham MacGregor, from Action on Sugar, which is highlighted as a Festival programme ‘Don’t Miss’ event. 

Psychologist Professor Andy Parrott will take part in The Effects of Recreational Drugs session, with BBC2 Trust Me, I’m a Doctor and Channel 4’s Medicine Men go Wild presenter Chris van Tulleken, and drug policy expert Niamh Eastwood, also on Friday, June 5.

On Saturday, June 6, ecologist and Otters expert Dr Dan Forman will demonstrate what makes these river creatures so fascinating.

And on Sunday, June 7, aquatic biologist Professor Rory Wilson will take part in the Penguins, Narwhals and Other Really Cool Animals session, with join Lucy Cooke, zoologist and National Geographic filmmaker and BBC Nature’s Boldest Thieves/Talk to the Animals presenter, and Simon Watt, biologist and co-presenter of Channel 4’s Inside Natures Giants.

Professor Richard B Davies, Swansea University’s Vice-Chancellor, said: “The results of the Research Excellence Framework (REF) 2014 showed that Swansea has achieved its ambition to be a top 30 research University – soaring up the league table to 26th in the UK.

“As a Major Supporter of the Festival again this year, we are delighted to share and celebrate some our world-class research, at this world-class science festival.

“Communicating and disseminating the impact and value of the work we undertake here in Swansea, in collaboration with our partners world-wide, is crucial.  Participation in the Festival again this year, highlighting the fields of psychology and biosciences, provides an ideal platform for us to engage with the public to do this.

“We are rightly proud of our researchers taking part this year and we look forward to what promises to be another exciting year for Swansea University at The Times Cheltenham Science Festival.”


Swansea University researchers feature as part of the following events this year: 

Sugar: The Sweet Truth (S074)

Date: Friday, June 5
Time: 1:30pm – 2:30pm
Venue: Town Hall, Pillar Room

Sugar is the latest dietary demon, but is it really as bad as the headlines suggest? How much is too much? How can we know how much we are consuming anyway? Separating fact from fiction and debating what should be done about it are NHS dietician Catherine Collins, Swansea University psychologist Professor David Benton and Professor Graham MacGregor, from Action on Sugar. 

Otters (S091)

Date: Friday, June 5
Time: 6:30pm – 7:30pm
Venue: Winton Crucible

Sunbathing, playing and catching fish sounds like an easy life, but there’s more than meets the eye to these treasured inhabitants of Britain’s waterways. The 1950s and 60s almost spelled the end for otters in the UK, but recent years have seen them swimming back into Britain. Ecologist and otter expert Dr Dan Forman, from Swansea University’s Department of Biosciences, who leads the Coastal Otter Project, shows what makes these river creatures so fascinating. 

The Effects of Recreational Drugs (S112)

Date: Saturday, June 6
Time: 4:15pm – 5:15pm
Venue: The Helix Theatre

What are the real facts about recreational drug use? Media headlines are full of conflicting reports about use, abuse and the effects of illicit substances. When you take an illegal drug, what actually happens to your brain and body? Doctor Chris van Tulleken, presenter of BBC’s Trust Me, I’m a Doctor and co-presenter of Channel 4’s Medicine Men go WildSwansea University psychologist Professor Andy Parrott and drugs policy expert Niamh Eastwood uncover some truths about drugs, their physical, social and mental impact. 

Penguins, Narwhals and Other Really Cool Animals (S145)

Date: Sunday, June 7
Time: 8:30pm – 9:30pm
Venue: Winton Crucible

Covered in snow with chilling temperatures year-round, Antarctica and the Arctic seem utterly inhospitable: but many animals thrive there and in the surrounding icy seas. Zoologist Lucy Cooke, aquatic biologist Professor Rory Wilson from Swansea University, and biologist and co-presenter of Channel 4’s Inside Natures Giants Simon Watt uncover six really cool animals — from penguins and seals, to narwhals and moose and polar bears and walruses — that inhabit the polar tundras.

For full details of the Festival’s full programme and ticketing information, visit http://www.cheltenhamfestivals.com/science/


Story by Bethan Evans