Soapbox Science Ten Year Report

The year 2020 marked an important milestone for Soapbox Science; it was the project’s tenth year and a time to reflect on a decade of engaging with the public on the streets.

To mark this occasion we created a report, to collate all of the statistics and some of the stories from the many Soapbox Science events that have taken place.

The report is available to read here:

Foreword from Soapbox Science Co-founders Nathalie Pettorelli and Seirian Sumner

When we created Soapbox Science, we wanted to demonstrate that there was a need, and a niche, for public outreach platforms that challenge stereotypes about what sort of person a scientist is and what it means to be a scientist. We believed then, and still believe now, that the paucity of senior women and non-binary scientists in Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics and Medicine (STEMM), especially at top position levels, is unacceptable in a progressive 21st century world. Public engagement activities are often viewed as an unnecessary demand on a scientist’s time. Yet these activities have the potential to make a difference in a scientist’s career, by raising their profile and widening the reach of their work. Importantly, they can raise the visibility of under-represented groups, thereby providing accessible, visible role models for the next generations of scientists.

Since 2011, Soapbox Science has grown from one event in London to dozens of events worldwide, and has involved thousands of speakers, volunteers and organisers. With this report, we hope to showcase some of the key achievements of Soapbox Science by discussing its growth, reach, and impact on speakers and audiences.

Nothing would have been possible without the support and help of the communities we aim to serve. We would therefore like to extend our heartfelt thanks to all of the amazing people who make Soapbox Science possible. Firstly, to our Local Organising Teams for volunteering their time and working tirelessly to bring events and the spirit of Soapbox Science to their cities; to our speakers for coming up with engaging, fun and inspiring presentations and for having the guts to stand on boxes in crowded streets; to our volunteers for making sure events run smoothly and everyone has a good time; to our funders and supporters for making the events possible; and to our audiences for choosing to stop when they see us in their local streets and heckling our scientists with brilliant questions.

We finally would like to thank our Soapbox Science coordinator, Isla Watton, for her dedication to making this initiative a global success. Isla joined us in 2016, and has overseen the rapid expansion of Soapbox Science, developing processes and tools that enabled us to reach new continents and new audiences. Isla’s artistic background proved invaluable for strengthening our communication strategy and science communication training approach. Soapbox Science could not have a better person in charge.

Nathalie & Seirian

Soapbox Science Co-founders

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

It takes a village- the importance of building a support network during your PhD: Meet Rebekah Boreham

Rebekah Boreham is a PhD student in the Biosciences Department at the University of Exeter where she conducts research in ecotoxicology and environmental biology. Her work aims to further our ability to assess the prevalence and effects of chemicals in the environment resulting from human activity. Here we find out why it is important to play a game of rounders in the sand and get Rebekah’s friendship ‘must haves’ for getting the most out of your PhD.

‘It takes a village- the importance of building a support network during your PhD’

“Catch it!”- A rounders’ ball sails through the salty air and is caught by a first year PhD student in a dramatic dive into the sand. There’s a cheer from the remainder of the party who are sat chatting and building sand castles on the sunny Cornish beach. This is how the group of us- a mixed bag of postgrads at various stages of their research degree programmes- have decided to blow off steam. After a stressful few months of vivas, experiments and paper submissions, we’ve driven an hour and a half down the coast to spend a March weekend in Cornwall. This isn’t how I imagined embarking on the third year of my PhD, but so far I’m not complaining.

A sunny Sunday in Cornwall with lab mates. Photo courtesy of Will Davison

If there is one piece of advice I could bestow on any newly-minted PhD students, it’s this: make friends. Build a support network. PhDs can be the one of the most rewarding and stressful periods of your life and it’s important to have a close group of friends or family to help you stick out the rough parts as well as celebrate the highs. I’m just over halfway through my PhD and I can’t emphasise enough how much I have lent on my support network already.

A support network can be made up of anyone you like, but there are five key friends that I wouldn’t do without:

  1. The Work Friend for practical help. From answering a question about paperwork (a PhD is surprisingly bureaucratic!) to assisting you on a marathon 16-hour sampling day. Starting a PhD can feel very much like being thrown in the deep end, a peer who is going through it with you- or better yet, is even just a few months or years ahead of you- can be a valuable guide and a helpful pair of hands.
  2. The Work Friend with an empathetic ear. For me, my PhD is turning into the most rewarding, but also one of the most stressful, times of my life. There are certain frustrations that only a fellow postgrad can understand- from a strained relationship with a supervisor, to a P value you just can’t get to budge below 0.06- never underestimate the power of a good vent to a friend in the same boat.
  3. The Non-Work Friend. Whether they are friends or family, keeping in close contact with someone from outside of work can help you gain perspective and remind you that the PhD is not your whole life. It can be difficult sometimes but it’s important to remember that you are not your research. Your self-worth must not be tied to the outcome of your work. I’m the first of my family to do a postgrad degree and it can be wonderfully refreshing to talk to my parents who have nothing to do with scientific research. Sometimes it takes a friend totally removed from the world of academia to remind you that you have a life outside of the lab.
  4. The Mentor. If you’re lucky, this person could also be your supervisor, but this might not be the case. Building a relationship with some kind of senior researcher in your field is well worth your time. They can be invaluable for providing insight, career advice, or to champion you and put you forward for career opportunities. The main thing I’ve valued my mentor for is ‘the resilience talk’; when everything in your project seems to be going wrong, it’s important to remember that sometimes that’s just how science goes- and it’s especially comforting to hear that from someone who’s been dealing with science for years. If you do have questions about what to look for in a supervisor, I recommend a blog post by The Thesis Whisperer.
  5. The Twittersphere. If all else fails: reach out to the online community! As well as networking for career opportunities or to share news, twitter and other social media platforms are helpful for connecting with the wider scientific community. A selection of my favourite blogs and twitter accounts (which include @thoughtsofaphd, @Tessa_M_Hill or @ithinkwellHugh) can be helpful in providing advice or amplifying the voices of other women in research. Plus postgrads come up with the best memes.
Hour 12 of sampling zebrafish brains. Photo Rebekah Boreham

I chose a happy memory of bonding with my cohort to open this post because I wanted to reflect the joy and optimism. But the fact is that the most intense bonding has happened at the lowest moments, when two of us are trapped in the lab at midnight just trying to get the last samples into the freezer, or when a friend just needed to vent because their paper has been sat on their supervisor’s desk for two months and the deadline is sneaking up.

When I was an undergrad considering a PhD, one of the most common warnings I kept hearing is that a PhD is a lonely experience because no one else is doing your exact project and no one else will know the answers but you. In that respect they would be right, a PhD can be lonely, but there are so many people in the same metaphorical boat as you. I would argue that this has been the least lonesome period of my life; I feel like I am part of a wonderful community of like-minded people who can share my frustrations, but also share my drive and my obsession with the natural world. They say it takes a village to raise a child. I feel like it’s taken a village to turn me into a scientist.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

The understanding of wasp insect societies: meet Cintia Akemi Oi

My name is Cintia and I am Brazilian. I do not look like a “typical Brazilian” because I have Japanese grandparents that flew out of Japan to become immigrants in Brazil. But what most people do not know is that Brazil is a multicultural country, and São Paulo state composes the biggest Japanese community outside Japan.

My parents gave a lot of support for me and my two older sisters to always study and to go to college, they always said we need to be independent. For my parents I always dedicated everything I succeed!

For my studies, I was always in love with animals in general, then I enrolled as a bachelor’s in Biology. During my studies, my passion with insects flourished, and for my Master thesis I worked with orchid bees. My project back then was related to urban population genetics and mark recapture of Euglossine bees in the cities. They are the most beautiful bees in the world with their metallic colours. I tagged them to follow them in nature.

I had good mentorship during my master’s and then a dream of mine was to pursue an academic career. I waited around two years to get a scholarship and to be admitted to a PhD program abroad. I chose to come to Belgium, following my promoter which was a leader in the study of social insect societies.

From bees I changed to wasps, from Brazil I moved to Belgium, from Portuguese speaking country I came to a Flemish university which uses English in the higher-level education, but the university is in the Dutch speaking part of Belgium.

My PhD research aimed to characterize and study experimentally if the wasp queens in social species produced pheromones to tell the workers that she is present in the nest and those pheromones maintain division of labour in place. Therefore, I worked mainly with behavioural ecology, chemical ecology and identification of queen pheromones. In 2016, I got my PhD and since then, I work as a postdoctoral researcher. I focused my research to comprehend the physiological links of why some individuals reproduce, and if this due to hormonal changes. Also, I still investigate if these hormonal changes affect how the individual smells, and this can be used for communication.

First, why wasps? Because they are good models to understand social behaviour, as we have species that range from solitary to social behaviour. They are also understudied compared to bees. Wasps perform important ecosystem services as for example as pest-controls, and they are not only sting machines. But I must admit that they are fearless in defending their nests. Of course, I was the predator, because I needed the queen and I tried everything to collect the whole nest in the field and then I got stung a lot. I used protection, bee suits, but extra layers of protection came with the experience of each of the sting. Loose tick sweaters, plus loose thick pants, long boots etc.. The European social wasps are clever, and they can find a weak spot in your bee suit. To guarantee the sting does not happen often, I must be sure to tape any hole that a tiny wasp can crawl to sting and try to be as fast and efficient I can. Everything I learned I passed on to the next students, less and less we got stung when we got to the field. But in fact, I developed an allergy, but I am in treatment, so do not worry! I still can do a lot of research with them and I will never blame the wasps!!

I can say that the most fascinating part of my research is to go to the field and get insights of the behaviour of these extraordinary insects. In Belgium, most of the field work for social wasp was done in people’s houses as wasps often nest in the garden, bushes, shed or attic. Spreading advertisement locally, we get phone calls, and we go to remove the nests for free to conduct our research. With this contact with people, you can also talk about science, I am grateful for the people that welcome us in their houses to get rid of the wasps’ nests, but also contributed to the research I did. I love my job!

I not only worked with European social species, but my research provides me the opportunity to go back to Brazil and establish a collaboration there, and in New Zealand where the European wasps are considered invasive. Here are some photos to show how cool it is.

I liked to have some other side projects: bee hotels project, sex pheromones in wasps, solitary species, foraging behaviour, ant and bee experiments. I am biased, but I think the insects are easy to work with, they are fascinating animals that can teach us a lot and you can find them anywhere, meaning that there is so much to discover!

Because of my background, I think women and minorities need to be resilient in science. Developing countries need more grants and funding, developed countries need more inclusion. Having the incentives as the Soapbox Science initiative, provides me support to be resilient and to encourage others that we can make a difference. I advocate for more women in science and women should have a welcome environment to be able to have a healthy balance between work and family.

Woman in Science, come and join us!

This is me and this is my story! 

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

How to select a good talk title for Soapbox Science: 10 Top tips and things to remember from Orode UV Aniejurengho

This list will help you clarify if your talk title is suitable for Soapbox Science.

Written by one of the Soapbox Science Lagos, Nigeria, organisers: Orode UV Aniejurengho.

  • 1. Soapbox Science is a novel public outreach platform for promoting women & non-binary scientists and the science they do.

  • 2. Scientist is used in a general way and includes those involved in science, technology, engineering, maths and medicine research (STEMM). PhD students, lecturers, professors, STEM professionals, entrepreneurs – you can take part in Soapbox Science.

  • 3. The main aim of Soapbox Science is to bring your cutting-edge science to the public, in an accessible, fun and unintimidating way.

  • 4. We want the public to be aware of research that is taking place or done by women in science – we find that this creates awareness of career opportunities in STEMM, inspires young ones towards careers in STEMM, gives an opportunity to see people who look like them, e.g., from BAME backgrounds, doing fabulous research, could minimise the spread of false information as the general public hears direct from you the researchers.

  • 5. Your talk must be scientific, consider research you are currently doing or have completed e.g., from your PhD, Your Post-doc. If your talk title is motivational – this is not suitable, it is best to consider submitting this for consideration to be published as a blog post on the global Soapbox Science website.

  • 6. The title should be easy to understand by the general public (not an expert in your area, but the people who have not had the opportunity /inclination/ means to meet a scientist or learn about science that happens in their local area). Example title – How are drugs personalised for you?

  • 7. For your talk/presentation there is no middle-man, no PowerPoint slide, no amphitheatre – just you remarkable scientists.

  • 8. Props can be used to demonstrate certain aspects in your talk, we find that where relevant, this can promote understanding for your listeners. Examples of props used by past speakers have included giant DNA, interactive experiments, mannequins, giant superbugs, plants, salt, balloons, confetti. The list is varied, and guidance can be provided by the organising team.

  • 9. Your local organising team will usually arrange some training in designing talks, understanding what Soapbox Science is etc. We encourage you to take advantage of this, previous attendees have commended the training and we find that the talks of those who attended the training is more engaging.

  • 10. If the event is Online, you will be guided by the organising team on structure etc.

The general public always enjoy engaging with the research in different areas of STEMM that the speakers present, and there are always a wide range of questions.

It can be a nerve-racking experience but all speakers at the end usually enjoy the process of rethinking how they communicate the complexities of their work to the general public. Amongst some speakers we find collaborations being set up.

Overall, Soapbox Science has been described by both speakers and attendees as exciting! We look forward to hosting you as a speaker and supporting you to prepare an engaging and inspirational scientific presentation.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

OPTIMIZING WATER FOR AGRICULTURE USING REMOTE SENSING/GEOGRAPHICAL INFORMATION SYSTEM- Meet Dr. Esther O. Makinde

Summary

Water and land productivity for agricultural purposes are essential in addressing food security in Nigeria owing to its population. This rapidly growing country is unique in its location on the West Africa region because it cuts across the Sahel, Sudan, Guinea and Tropical Rainforest agro-ecological zones. However, the availability of water for sustainable agriculture all year round is a major challenge. Although, the surface water found in lakes, rivers and stream; and the subsurface water (also referred to as groundwater) located underground in large aquifers [1] is available across Nigeria to combat these challenges, has not been utilized. Agricultural surface and subsurface water use is particularly important in regions with increasingly variable water supplies like Nigeria, acting as a natural insurance mechanism and powerful climate change adaptation option [3]. Geospatial techniques comprising of Remote Sensing (RS), Geographical Information System (GIS) and Global Positioning System (GPS) is been used to assess, delineate, map and identify the location of surface water and potential subsurface water targets in a  more convenient, cost effective than invasive methods and efficient way [2, 4]. In today’s world, the solution to sustainable agriculture lies in adopting these unique techniques.

References

[1] Huggett, J. (2005) Fundamentals of Geomorphology, Routeledge, Oxon

[2] Elbeih, S.F. (2015) An overview of integrated remote sensing and GIS for groundwater mapping in Egypt. Engineering Applications and Water Division, National Authority for Remote Sensing and Space Sciences, 23 Joseph Tito st., El-Nozha El-Gedida, Cairo, Egypt. Ain Shams Engineering Journal, Elsevier 6, 1–15 http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.asej.2014.08.008

[3] CGIAR: Research Program on Water, Land and Ecosystems (2017) Agriculture and groundwater: feeding billions from the ground Up. https://wle.cgiar.org/event/agriculture-and-groundwater-feeding-billions-ground

  • Makinde, E.O. and Oyelade E. O. (2019) Land cover mapping using Sentinel-1 SAR and Landsat 8 imageries of Lagos State for 2017.Environmental Science and Pollution Research, Springer 1-9. https://doi.org/10.1007/s11356-019-05589-x
Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

COMMUNICATING BIO-ROLE RESEARCH METHODOLOGIES IN PLASTIC WASTES MANAGEMENT THROUGH SOAPBOX SCIENCE 2020 EVENTS- Meet Dr. Omotola Esther Dada

Introduction

I am Dr. Omotola Esther Dada. I am Omotola Esther Dada, a Senior Lecturer and Acting Head of Department of Biological Sciences, Elizade University, Ilara-Mokin, Ondo State. A Fellow of the

Association of Commonwealth University (ACU), United Kingdom.

Preamble

As one of the First Cohort of 38 Scientist across the globe that was sponsored by Association of Commonwealth University (ACU), United Kingdom; I had the privilege to carry out my post-doctoral research in the year 2019 at Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR), Pretoria, South Africa. The Post-doctoral research focused on microbial biodegradation of plastic wastes both in soil and marine environments using the American standard Testing Methods (ASTM).

Bio-role in Plastic Waste Management Research

Plastic or polymer pollution is a challenging issues across the globe. Due to their extensive industrial and domestic applications, there is an ever-increasing trend towards the production and consumption of plastics. A wide spectrum of these polymers is non-biodegradable with few exceptions. However, the use of bioplastics have been suggested as a feasible solution to problem of petro-based plastics. Many countries of the world have used various methods such as recycling to reduce the debacle of plastic pollution. Some methods may be successful, however, the use of biocontrol to handle bioplastic wastes is a green and affordable method which can be employed by identifying potential microbes that are responsible for the biodegradation of plastic wastes.

In carrying out the microbial biodegradation of plastic wastes in vitro, the soil or aquatic burial degradation test is important. The rate of microbial degradation of plastic wastes samples such as renewable resource-based bioplastics polybutylene succinate (PBS) blended with starch films could be compared to non-biodegradable petroleum-based Polyethylene films. In addition, a biodegradable material cellulose such as microcrystalline cellulose powder can be used as positive reference material and Blank.

The test material of 0.5 g were cut into 2 cm by 2 cm sizes and sandwiched respectively in between the mixture of the compost soil and perlite in sterilized respirometric jar with 1000 ml capacity.  Every 2-3 days incubation time, the amount of carbon dioxide evolved and percentage rate of biodegradation were assessed using titration method. During the biodegradation test, to analyze the behaviors of the materials before and after incubation, the test samples were characterized by DSC, TGA, FT-IR and SEM. Consequently, the mineralization study for plastics should be designed to achieve an ideal extent of biodegradation by providing sufficient aeration and humidity to the soil environment.

Besides, this test requires that the carbon dioxide output from the reference material should be more than 70% and for blank this should be 20% during both the plateau phase and at end of the test. Fragments of the test bioplastic samples were withdrawn and subjected to analytical characterization. The weight loss, changes in chemical structure, microbial degradation on the bioplastic film surfaces are revealed after the biodegradation testing procedures.

SUMMARY OF BIO-ROLE IN IN PLASTIC WASTES MANAGEMENT

The test is designed as a respirometric biodegradation test method using biometer flask.

The criteria and the requirement above are necessary to assess the validity of any biodegradability test. Hence, deviations from these criteria shall be regarded as a null or invalid test. The standard test method is reliable and can be used to test all polymers from natural and synthetic origin, copolymers or mixtures that contain additives such as plasticizers, colorants or water-soluble polymers. Consequently, this test method is designed to achieve an ideal extent of biodegradation by providing sufficient aeration and humidity to the environment.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

FROM IMAGERY TO ACTUALITY: INTERROGATING AFRICAN VIRGINITY DISCOURSE IN TUNDE KELANI’S MOVIES- Ojemola, Adeyoola Mercy

In African culture generally, virginity is associated with innocence from sexuality; it is ascribed the position of the pride of every woman and considered never to be trivialised. It is a symbol of communal glory and pride as it is usually related to marriage. In some African settings, any woman who marries a virgin gets to enjoy social benefits of reward from the husband, his family and sometimes, the bride’s family also gets rewarded for proper child upbringing. Among the Yorubas in Nigeria, the joy of the husband is publicly displayed by presenting the blood stained white cloth that proves the virginity status of the new bride. The bride is given payment for her virginity through money, clothing and accessories or even a specially made food delicacy for the bride. Any bride whose husband cannot show a proof of his bride’s virginity becomes a laughing stock in the community. Sometimes, at the absence of blood-proof as a virgin upon marriage, the husband is free to return the bride to her father’s house and also allowed to express his anger and disappointment along with his family. Should she not be returned, she is left to a marriage absent of joy. To avoid this, the entire community will join hands in ensuring that their daughters were not ‘spoilt’ (deflowered) as only damaged (spoilt) goods are returned to the seller.

However, there is a digression from this collective view on virginity protection in the present day Nigeria and extensively Africa, as the reputational value in virginity has gone through a decline. A common factor to this revealed that this retrogression in value among Africans is as a result of the various changes occurring in social practices such that virginity became a considered stigma of backwardness and being antisocial. Various studies in this regard pointed that virginity has lost its significance due to sexual revolution, technology and cogent changes in social-cultural relations. One of such changes is attributed to education, the prevalence of civilisation through exposure to the television and films, increases in adolescent sexuality and a generally slacked sexual behaviour in the society. Hence, there is an emerged redefining of virginity as a shift from its original interpretation and the cultural purpose of its existence.

In the film Narrow Path by Tunde Kelani, an auteur indigenous filmmaker in Nigeria, virginity was depicted as a priceless pride belonging to the female gender which should only be given out on a marital bed. Awero, the heroine of the story was tantalised by the various gifts she got from Dauda, a city boy. Awero was robbed of her irreplaceable gift (virginity) to her would-be husband, Odejimi, as a result of meeting Dauda in the dark to collect a city gift. She didn’t inform anyone of this predicament as it was a shameful thing to her, her family and their entire community. On the night of marital consummation, the expectant Odejimi had no blood stained cloth to proof his bride’s chastity. Awero was returned to her father’s house while the unmarried ladies in her village lamented at their misfortune of probably not getting a husband because of Awero’s shame. This shame was Awero’s because of her desire to cultivate the lifestyle of ‘city/modern girls’ and Dauda treated her just as a ‘city/modern girl’ would have been treated. According to Nnazor & Robinson (2016) in ‘Virginity Rituals and National Development: Harnessing a Traditional Virtue to Address Modern Challenges in Africa’, this interchange is said to be influenced among the Yorubas by the infiltration of the British colonisation that introduced western liberalism, individualism and sexual freedom. This invariably reduced the pride attached to virginity, as pre-marital sex and pregnancy during courtship became the order of the day.

Regardless, it is to be noted that not all African women are victims of this infiltration scenario as some still jealously guard it regardless of being ‘city girls’. This is also adequately depicted in three of Tunde Kelani’s films, Arugba, Magun and Campus Queen with Adetutu, Ngozi and Bimpe playing the heroines respectively. As compared with Awero in Narrow Path, these other three women were such to keep their chastity even when in the midst of men who were willing to offer them ‘the whole world’. All they simply needed to do was receive the extended hands of these men. A king with many wives sought to make Adetutu his queen which she bluntly refused as she was the chosen purity symbol for the Osun River’s goddess amongst other girls in the entire town. Ngozi, though Igbo, got married to her Yoruba husband as a virgin in spite of having many suitors during her higher education days in school and her compulsory one year service to the country. Bimpe was a student-activist who sought to eradicate corruption in the society with other students. She was on an undercover mission to live with a corrupted military officer in his house as a pretend lover. She fulfilled and completed her mission with her virginity intact.

These three movies attest that despite the fact that African societies have embraced a way of life totally different from the indigenous cultural African systems, it is still possible to embrace westernisation and not stay aloof to the African indigenous way of life. Westernisation may be a lure from the cultural, spiritual and indigenous identity of the African woman and her virginity, it is still incapable of dislocating this identity in its entirety.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

WASTE TO WEALTH: IMPROVING QUALITY OF LIFE THROUGH WASTE MANAGEMENT, A MULTI -ACHIEVEMENT APPROACH- Meet Dr. Aderonke Adetutu OKOYA

Good day everyone. All protocols duly observed. I want to appreciate the organizers of this 2020 soapboxscience event for the opportunity to present our activities in our research group (SwWECh) despite the outgoing Pandemic experience. I really appreciate the doggedness of the organizers.

I will be speaking briefly on the title: WASTE TO WEALTH: IMPROVING QUALITY OF LIFE THROUGH WASTE MANAGEMENT, A MULTI -ACHIEVEMENT APPROACH.” . Yes, waste to wealth in the sense that our own raw materials are those things discarded as waste.   Therefore discarded bottled water Plastic bottles, cocoa husk wastes, Snail Shells, periwinkle shells are some of the waste to be turned to new products.

Also, this talk is multi- achievement because it involves conversion /management of discarded solid wastes to useful product such as adsorbents for the treatment of water and waste water. In other words our approach is solving the problem of solid waste management, wastewater treatment and water and sanitation issues.

 Plastic Wastes

The durability and comfort associated with plastic usage and handling has promoted its adoption for use, however, these usage has not come without its challenges, manifested as plastic pollution. Plastic pollution can afflict land, waterways and oceans. Living organisms, particularly marine animals can be harmed either by mechanical effects, such as entanglement in plastic objects, problems related to ingestion of plastic waste, or through exposure to chemicals within plastics that interfere with their physiology. Effects on humans include disruption of various hormonal mechanisms. Primary sources are the waste plastics from the manufacturing industry, and secondary sources are plastic litter – bottles (Polyethylene Terephthalate (PET)), food packaging, polyester clothing, fishing line. An estimated amount of 1.1 to 8.8 million tonnes of plastic waste enters the ocean from coastal communities each year (Jambeck et al., 2015). As of 2018, about 380 million tonnes of plastic is produced worldwide each year.

Environmental impacts of plastics

 Plastics causes nuisance in the environment and damage the aesthetics of the environment.

Burning plastics releases pollutants into the atmosphere that damages air quality, and releases oxides of carbon that in turn drives climate change upon reaction with free oxygen

Plastics blocks the waterways, and disallows free flows, thus causing stagnation of water, which can in turn become breeding grounds for mosquitoes, and consequently malaria, and health impact on humans.

When plastics finds its way into our oceans, it causes impacts like entanglement and ingestion by wildlife in the environment. These plastics and associated chemicals therefore gets when ingested by marine organisms which then bioaccumulates in the food chain (Teuten et al., 2009), and consequently gets passed onto consumers in the higher food chain including humans when they consume these marine lives.

Also, there are several chemicals within plastic material itself that have been added to give it certain properties such as Bisphenol A, phthalates and flame retardants (Das and Kumar, 2015). These all have known negative effects on human and animal health, mainly affecting the endocrine system. There are also toxic monomers, which have been linked to cancer and reproductive problems (Koushal et al., 2014).

These unwanted realities suggest the need to manage plastic wastes in our environment. Eradicating the production and even single usage of plastic seems to be the best option to eliminate the menace of plastic in the environment. However, accepting this option is taking longer time for adoption, thus the need to find alternative usage for plastics, to reduce its environmental and health impacts, and we have identified activating it for use as adsorbent.

Production of PolyethyleneTerephthalate (PET):

This involves processes such as sorting, cutting, washing , drying, impregnation with alkali and washing to neutral off, oven drying and carbonization. The powder obtained from carbonization process can be used for adsorption purposes. This process is used to cleanse our water supply and wastewaters, by removing contaminants (organic and inorganic) from them even at low concentrations, before being discharged to our water bodies.

Production of PET based Activated Carbon

Cocoa Pod Husk

Nigeria is a major producer of cocoa. The husk is a major constituent of the cocoa pod and extracts from has numerous applications in textile manufacture, pulp and paper production, reclaiming of rubber, food production, detergents and soap production as well as laboratory reagents. Generally cocoa is processed by rural farmers, mainly women especially in soap production. The husks are heaped and allowed to undergo natural decay, constituting an environmental nuisance by impairing on the aesthetics of the environment and unpleasant to sight, serving as breeding ground for mosquitoes, contributing to the emission of greenhouse gases like methane, which is a major driver of global warming, with a heat trapping potential that is over 20 times more than carbon dioxide. Ash from cocoa pod has been the main source of alkali for the production of the local black soap in Nigeria. However, the black colour of the soap does not make it attractive and acceptable to all. This limits the sales of this product to the society who use imported products as alternatives. In our project, the cocoa pod husk has been processed to alkali quality with enhanced aesthetics that will not make the soap black. The equivalents of our product to the imported potassium and Sodium hydroxides are also known.  250g of sodium hydroxide costs 44.8 EuR and 500g costs 80.2 EuR.

Our alkali has been used successfully as activating / impregnating agent in the production of adsorbents for water and wastewater treatment. The environmental problem caused by the heaped decomposing cocoa husk can therefore be solved by extracting caustic alkali for industrial applications without the attendant black colour (Okoya (1987); Okoya and Ogunkoya, 2009)  

The production of caustic alkali involves collection and sorting out of the husk followed by processes such as drying, pulverizing, sieving, ashing, evaporation.

Production of Caustic Alkali from Cocoa

Periwinkle Shells Periwinkle shells are waste obtained from periwinkle. Periwinkles are marine mollusks (gastropods) with thick spiral shells. As they grow, gastropod shells follow a mathematically regular pattern. Thus, as they increase in size, they retain their basic form [Agbede and Manasseh, 2012]. Although, few people utilize the shell as coarse aggregate in concrete in areas where there are neither stones nor granite for purpose such as paving of water -logged areas [Olutoge et al. 2012]. The use of periwinkle shells will add economic value; provide a potentially inexpensive material that will be used for the removal of metal ions from aqueous media and help reduce the cost of waste disposal. Therefore, our research group has produced the expensive chitosan from both periwinkle and snail shells and used same as adsorbents and also as adsorbent modifier for water treatment (Okoya et al., 2016). Also periwinkle shells alone has been developed as  low-cost adsorbent for the recognition and removal of Cr (II) and Zn (II) ions from aqueous media. (Awokoya et al., 2016). The  production of chitosan encompasses the following processes: Grinding of the Periwinkle shell, Sieving, Deproteinisation, Demineralisation, Decolourisation, and Deacetylation. The Chitosan formed can be used for remediation of both organic contaminants and inorganic contaminants from waste water. They can be individually used as an adsorbent and can also be blended with other materials to form composites that enhance sorption properties.

Processes Involved in Chitosan Production

REFERENCES

Okoya, A.A. (1987): Extraction of Caustic Alkali from Cocoa-pod husk. B.Sc. Project.

Okoya, A. A. and Ogunkoya L. (2009): Environmental management and evaluation of Cocoa-pod husk waste. In: Proceedings of the Third World Organization for Women in Science. (TWOWS) African Regional  Conference. Theme: Gender and the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) (eds.) November 16th – 20th, 2009,   ECOWAS Commission, Asokoro, Abuja, 481-488, NIGERIA.

Agbede OI, Manasseh J. Suitability of periwinkle shell as partial replacement for river gravel in concrete. Leonardo Electronic Journal of Practices and Technologies. 2009; 15:59-66.

 Olutoge FA, Okeyinka OM, Olaniyan OS. Assessment of the suitability of periwinkle shell ash (PSA) as partial replacement for ordinary portland cement (OPC) in concrete. International Journal of Research and Reviews in Applied Sciences. 2012; 10:428-433,

Okoya, A. A. , Akinyele, A. B., Amuda, O. S. and Ofoezie, I. E. Chitosan-Grafted Carbon for the Sequestration of Heavy Metals in Aqueous Solution American Chemical Science Journal 11(3): 1-14.

Awokoya, K.N.,  Sanusi R. O. and Oninla  V. O. and Olumuyiwa M. Ajibade (2016) Activated Periwinkle Shells for the Binding and Recognition of Heavy Metal Ions from Aqueous Media International Research Journal of Pure &Applied Chemistry 13(4): 1-10.

Jambeck, Jenna R., Geyer, Rowland, and Wilcox, Chris (2015). Plastic waste inputs from land into the ocean. Science. 347 (6223):768-771.

Das, M. P., and Kumar, S. (2015). An approach to low-density polyethylene biodegradation by Bacillus amyloliquefeciens.  Biotech 5, 81-86.

Kousal, V., Sharma R., Sharma M., and Sharma V. (2014). Plastics: Issues, Challenges and Remediation. Inter. J. of Waste Resources 4:134. Teuten, E. L., Saquing, J. M., Knappe, D. R., Barlaz, M. A., Jonsson, S., Björn, A., Rowland, S. J., Thompson, R. C., Galloway, T. S., Yamashita R., Ochi, D., Watanuki, Y., Moore, C., Viet PH, Tana TS, Prudente M, Boonyatumanond R, Zakaria MP, Akkhavong K, Ogata Y, Hirai H, Iwasa, S., Mizukawa, K., Hagino, Y., Imamura, A., Saha, M., Takada, H., Philos Trans, R. Soc Lond, B. (2009). Transport and release of chemicals from plastics to the environment and to wildlife. Biol Sci., 364(1526):2027-45.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

INSECTS AS ALTERNATIVE SOURCES OF FOOD AND FEEDS- Meet Dr. Alafia Azeezat Oyindamola

Not everybody can afford to eat healthy diet all the time, some cannot even get sufficient nutrient in their only meal. With the world population increasing at an exponential rate, it is expected that by 2050, human population will be about 9 billion, thereby increasing the rate of food insecurity. Food is an important determinant of mental health.  Studies have shown that one major nutrient lacking in the diet of people in developing countries is protein.

Insects to the rescue

Why suffer in the mist of plenty. You can get a good source of protein from those yucky insects.

Insects are known for many things, generally, as agents that cause diseases and should be avoided at all cost, these has made them undesirable even from their beneficial values. But do you know that feeding on insects can serve as a very good source of protein.        

The practice of eating insects is known as ENTOMOPHAGY. Approximately 2000 species of insects are consumed globally and serves as a good source of lipids, proteins, amino acids and minerals (Dickie, et al, 2019).

A lot of benefit accrue from consumption of insects as food and feeds, most importantly it increases food opportunity for consumers, while having low environmental impact due to the limited requirements for arable land and water (Madau, et al, 2020). Feeding on insects will help to achieve the sustainable development goals, SDG 2 (Zero hunger), 3 (good health and wellbeing), and 11(sustainable cities and community),

Insects such as crickets, cockroach, grasshoppers, beetles and ants has found their way into our plates and they are not there to contaminate the food. The major species of insects commonly eaten in Nigeria, includes; Palm beetle, Termites, Grasshoppers, Crickets and Locust. Palm beetle Rhynchophorus phoenics larvae known as Kokoro muni muni or Ogongo in Yoruba has a high protein, Iron and Zinc content. Palm beetle protein contain polyunsaturated fatty acids such as omega-3 and omega-6 which are recommended for diabetic and hypertensive patients with heart disorders (Finke, 2002). Black soldier fly larvae Hermetia illucens has also been used as feeds for poultry reducing the need for other food substitutes. Cricket farming is another big business idea which can generate good income, this delicious delicacy can be made into Cricket bread, Liquorice,and  Cricket chocolate (Mikkola, 2019).

Farming this insects in small and large scale is easy, they can be reared on honey, banana and vegetables and leafy greens. If you are looking for a way to increase your monthly income, insect farming is the way to go. Cost of production is low and income generated can be as high. Turn over time is also fast, laboratory reared palm beetles mature within three to six months depending on the species and the diet. 

Although it is generally acceptable to feed on insects, indeed some soldiers are trained to feed on insects in case they are caught behind enemy line without food and supplies.  In Africa, insects is a major source of protein in the diet of village dwellers, however, some people still find it disgusting, this singular factor forms a major challenge to the profitability of commercial rearing of  the insects (Mikkola, 2019). So while you consider the prospect and possibility of getting involved in the eating and farming of insects, I leave you to enjoy this meal of egusi garnished with crickets.                                                                                           

References                                                                                                     

Dickie, F, , Miyamoto, M and Collins, C.M.(2019), The Potential of Insect Farming to Increase Food Security. DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.5772/intechopen.88106  

Finke,  M. D. (2002) Complete nutrient composition of commercially raised invertebrates used as food for insectivores. Zoo Biology. 21:269-285         

Madau, F.A., Arru, B., Furesi, R., and  Pulina, P. (2020) Insect farming for feed and food production from a circular business model perspective. Sustainability 12 (13):5418

Mikkola, H. (2019) Introductory Chapter: Is the Insect Food Boom over or when it Will Start? DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.5772/intechopen.89801                                                  

www.eatcrickster.com/blog/              

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

CHALLENGES FACED BY WOMEN IN STEM: THE WAY FORWARD- meet Dr. NseAbasi NsikakAbasi Etim

The challenges faced by women in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) has been an issue of global concern among researchers. It is no longer news that women have been subjugated throughout the globe particularly when it comes to the contributions they have made. Although women are playing an increasing role in STEM today, there are still barriers circumventing them from achieving success comparable to their male counterparts. Regrettably, women continue to have an incredibly difficult time being treated unfairly due to the unfair system. In the developing world, Nigeria inclusive, women scientists face several challenges peculiar to their cultural, societal and institutional norms. These challenges have adverse effects on the overall performance of these women in the pursuit of their career goals. To address the challenges encountered by women in STEM and to formulate policies aimed at supporting them, identifying the obstacles is required. Research done to determine women’s opinion on the challenges they face revealed that women in STEM encounter several difficulties, including inability to balance work with family, especially, when it involves leaving their families with children to attend scientific conferences and post-doctoral fellowships. Women also complain about experiencing some forms of discrimination ranging from delayed promotion to duties or responsibilities assigned to them; lack of institutional support and some forms of sexual harassments, in the form of inappropriate and repugnant remarks, sexual advances and actual unapproved physical contact by men in positions of authority while performing their duties. To solve these problems, the following are recommended: increased duration and frequency of Leave for women in STEM, strict punishment for sexual offenders, policies to stop gender discrimination and support women in STEM through access to funding and research grant, hiring women and nominating women for leadership positions and awards. Mentorship should also be provided for women in STEM, especially, those in the early stages of their careers.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment