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Biodiversity: what on earth is it?

Visit  Natural Environment Research Council website

30 August 2006

What: Public discussion with leading biodiversity experts and interactive exhibition
When: Thursday 7 September, 17.45-19.30
Where: Origins Room, The Forum, Norwich, NR2 1TF
Note: Speakers available for interview in advance – please see below

What happens if bacteria become resistant to existing antibiotics? How does biodiversity provide us with medicines? What impact do current farming methods have on wildlife? These are just some of the questions you will have the chance to discuss with world-leading experts speaking at the Biodiversity: what on earth is it? discussion event.

The event will be chaired by local broadcaster Anna Hill, presenter of BBC Radio 4’s Farming Today and On Your Farm.

Alongside the evening discussion, which showcases the global work of local biodiversity researchers, there will also be an opportunity for people to view an interactive biodiversity exhibition which is currently touring the UK.

The exhibition explains what biodiversity is, how it is changing and how it is affected by human activity. Biodiversity: what on earth is it? Exhibition will be at The Forum for the whole of September.

The event and exhibition are organised by the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC) and the Natural Environment Research Council (NERC) as part of this year’s BA Festival of Science.

Professor Julia Goodfellow, Chief Executive of BBSRC, said: “This is an exciting opportunity to share some of the research which the two research councils are funding to help understand more about the underlying biological processes that generate and maintain biodiversity, as well as to hear peoples’ views.”

The speakers at the evening event and their topics are:

Professor Mervyn Bibb, John Innes Centre, Norwich – Harnessing natural biodiversity to develop new antibiotics

Microbes, particularly bacteria, are the oldest forms of life on earth. Without them we could not breathe or digest food. Most antibiotics are made from microbes and these are used to fight the minority of bacteria that cause infectious disease. However, some of these harmful bacteria are evolving to become resistant to conventional antibiotics.

Professor Bibb will explain how he and his team are using a technology called metagenomics to uncover a vast reservoir of untapped biodiversity with the aim of generating new classes of highly effective antibiotics.

Dr Pete Carey, Centre for Ecology and Hydrology, Monks Wood, Huntingdon – Biodiversity in a farmed landscape

Across Europe land use is changing as a result of agricultural activity and climate change. This changing landscape is impacting on wildlife and the distribution of different species.

Dr Carey will explain how long-term surveys are used to monitor these changes as well as describing the pressures on one of the most diverse landscapes in Europe - the Picos de Europa in northern Spain.

Speaking before the discussion event, Professor Bibb commented: “I am really looking forward to taking part in this event. I think it is very important for the people of Norwich to have the chance to find out more about the vital role biodiversity plays in our everyday lives and to raise questions important to them. They will also hear first hand how local researchers are tackling some of the big biodiversity issues.”

Admission to Biodiversity: what on earth is it? Exhibition and Discussion is free of charge. For more information telephone 01793 413368.

The speakers are available for interview before the event.

Images of the speakers are available on request.


Notes to editors

The BA (British Association for the Advancement of Science) aims to promote openness about science in society and to engage and inspire people directly with science, technology and their implications.  Established in 1831, the BA organises major initiatives across the UK; these events include the annual BA Festival of Science and National Science Week.

The BA Festival runs from 2-9 September 2006. Tickets for the main and city programme can be booked online or by calling 020 7019 4963.  Tickets for the 8-13 yr olds programme can be booked by calling 01603 450042.  Tickets for the 14-18 yr olds programme can be booked by calling 020 7019 4945.


The Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC) is the UK funding agency for research in the life sciences. Sponsored by Government, BBSRC annually invests around £380 million in a wide range of research that makes a significant contribution to the quality of life for UK citizens and supports a number of important industrial stakeholders including the agriculture, food, chemical, healthcare and pharmaceutical sectors.

About NERC

NERC is one of the UK's eight Research Councils. It uses a budget of about £370m a year to fund and carry out impartial scientific research in the sciences of the environment. It is addressing some of the key questions facing mankind, such as global warming, renewable energy and sustainable economic development.


Matt Goode, Head of External Relations

tel: 01793 413299

Tracey Jewitt, Media Officer

tel: 01793 414694
fax: 01793 413382