Skeptics in the Pub, Oxford

Thinking and drinking. That is the unlikely goal of our meeting. Each month we invite a speaker to give a talk and invite critical debate. We encourage sceptical thought and we enjoy challenging discussions. We also welcome humour and we intend to have a good time.

The meetings are open to all, no matter what your prior beliefs. We ask that you come along with a willingness to be challenged in your beliefs and we provide an opportuity for you to challenge others - and to enjoy a drink or two.

Unless stated otherwise, our talks take place on the first Wednesday of every month at St Aldates Tavern and kick off at 7.30PM - please arrive in plenty of time if you want a seat, as we tend to get busy, and let us know in advance if you have difficulty standing so that we can reserve a place for you.

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Our next topic is...

Dr Freya Harrison

When?
Wednesday, June 6 2018 at 7:30PM

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Where?

108 St Aldate's
City Centre
Oxford
OX1 1BU

Who?
Dr Freya Harrison

What's the talk about?

People with the genetic condition cystic fibrosis contract chronic lung infections, which are highly resistant to antibiotics. Different species of bacteria come together to form slime-encased multicellular "biofilms" that clog the airways and protect the microbes within from attack by antibiotics, or by the host's immune system. It can be very hard to predict, from standard diagnostic lab tests, which antibiotics might be able to penetrate biofilm defences and kill bacteria. Further, pathogenic microbes can work together to cause damage to the lung tissues and to protect each other from antibiotics. To better understand how cystic fibrosis lung infection develops, we use lung tissue from pigs slaughtered for meat to build realistic lung biofilms in the lab. In this way, we hope that we can find the Achilles' heel of debilitating and often lethal lung infection - and help researchers work on many different aspects of lung infection microbiology without the need for experiments on live animals.

Dr Freya Harrison is a microbiologist working in the School of Life Sciences at the University of Warwick. She researches how bacterial pathogens interact and evolve during chronic infections, especially in the long-lived lung infections that affect people with the genetic disorder cystic fibrosis. She is also a founder member of the interdisciplinary AncientBiotics consortium​, which seeks to identify, reconstruct and test infection remedies from medieval medical books in the hope of finding new agents to treat antibiotic-resistant infections.

Image: The bacterium P. aeruginosa forms sticky blue-green biofilm around tissue taken from pigs' airways. Credit: Dr Freya Harrison

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Amy Dickman

When?
Wednesday, September 5 2018 at 7:30PM

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Where?

108 St Aldate's
City Centre
Oxford
OX1 1BU

Who?
Amy Dickman

What's the talk about?

Amy is the Kaplan Senior Research Fellow in Felid Conservation at Oxford University, and has 20 years experience working on large carnivores in Africa, specialising in human-carnivore conflict. She has an MSc from Oxford University and a PhD from University College London, and has published over 60 scientific papers and book chapters on large carnivore ecology and conservation. She is a member of the IUCN Cat Specialist Group, the Human-Wildlife Conflict Collaboration, the African Lion Working Group, the IUCN Human-Wildlife Conflict Task Force, and is a National Geographic Explorer. She has received multiple awards for her work, including the Rabinowitz-Kaplan Prize for the Next Generation in Wild Cat Conservation, the St Louis Zoo Conservation Award and the Cincinnati Zoo Wildlife Conservation Award.

Amy established the Ruaha Carnivore Project (www.ruahacarnivoreproject.com), based in southern Tanzania, in 2009, and still directs it today. The Ruaha landscape is one of the most important areas in the world for lions, leopards and cheetahs, but has been largely ignored by researchers, making it hard to develop conservation and management plans. In addition, it has the highest rate of lion killing documented in East Africa, as lions and other carnivores impose high costs on poverty-stricken local people. Amy and her Tanzanian team are researching the ecology of these vital populations, and working to reduce the pressing threat of human-carnivore conflict in this critical area. The project focuses upon reducing carnivore attacks, providing local communities with real benefits from carnivore presence, focusing particularly on improving local schools, clinics and access to veterinary medicine. It has been an extremely challenging endeavour, given the remote location and the initial hostility of the Barabaig, who are the secretive and little-known tribe responsible for most lion-killing. However, the team has made huge progress: since 2011 in the core study area, carnivore attacks on stocks have been reduced by over 60%, people are recognising real benefits from wildlife presence for the first time, and most importantly, lion killings have been reduced by over 80%. The aim now is to continue and expand this work both around Ruaha and beyond, to generate long-term benefits both for carnivores and local communities.

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