Manchester Science Festival: Wildlife as you've never seen it before

Tuesday 6 October 2015

WILD animals – from bears and wolves, to elk and wild boar – star in an interactive ‘show’ about the astonishing resilience of nature, presented by the University of Salford at this year’s Manchester Science Festival.

Alienated Life captures footage and data about the animals which not only survived the world’s worst nuclear accident at Chernobyl but actually thrived thereafter.

Virtual reality technology at the University’s MediaCityUK campus, allows everyone to ‘visit’ Chernobyl to see for themselves the animals who live in the radioactive ‘exclusion zone’ in Ukraine and Byelorussia.

The exhibition, which starts on October 22, is yet another example of how world-leading science at Salford University is being showcased to the public and media.

The research, featured on the BBC and Channel 4 News, has been led by Dr Mike Wood, a senior lecturer in the School of Environment & Life Sciences, and a leading expert in the effects of radiation on environmental ecology.

New Scientist

Speaking to New Scientist this week, Dr Wood said scientists have long suspected that that the impact of radiation on wildlife within the exclusion zone is much less than the impact of humans, through forestry, agriculture and construction.

But he stresses, the animals are far from being out of danger and more research is needed to extrapolate the negative effects of radiation from the positive effects of human leaving the area.

His ongoing study in Chernobyl has already confirmed the return of the brown bear and the European bison, and now he plans a more extensive survey of animal diversity using visual and acoustic tracking.

Writing in The Conversation, Mike said: “Advances in photographic and acoustic recording techniques means we are now able to estimate the number of animals by observing them directly rather than looking at their tracks. We have embarked on a project using motion-activated cameras and sound recorders to investigate wildlife in different areas of the exclusion zone.

And he added: “Visitors to Alienated Life will be able to get a real sense of a truly unique environment which has been totally vacated by human for 30 years.”

About Alienated Life

Alienated Life is open from Thursday 22 – 29 October from 10 – 4pm each day at The University of Salford, Salford Quays.

The showcase is a team effort from academics at The University of Salford, including:

-       Simon Campion and Michal Cieciura in the THINKLab who have developed the Virtual Reality environment

-       Dr Paul Kendrick (School of Computing Science and Engineering) who is studying the Chernobyl soundscape and will be demonstrating a ‘bioacoustics kit’

-       Prof Andy Miah and Prof Nick Beresford (NERC-CEH and Visiting Prof in Environmental & Life Sciences) have worked with Dr Wood to design Alienated Life, Nick on the research side and Andy  who has managed video content.