Naomi Rintoul and Beth Gawthorpe took part in ‘Skirting Science’ on earlier this month as part of Folkestone’s celebrations of WOW-2016 (Women Of the World). The day was a partnership project between the STEMettes, the Soroptimists and Folkestone’s Quarterhouse. Around 50 young women from local schools attended the event and took part in workshops let by female scientists from around Kent.

Skirting Science

Skirting Science has been inspiring the next generation of female scientists since 2009. Source: Skirting Science

These included Naomi’s ‘introduction to soil science’, where she told students about current issues related to soil erosion, ecosystem and health effects from contamination, and even the importance of soil quality for sports pitches. Naomi is a lecturer in soil science and environmental management, specialising in soil contamination and mycorrhizal fungi.

dust bowl

The Dust Bowl of the 1930s was caused by unsustainable agriculture, eventually causing large-scale erosion of soil and loss of livelihoods

In Beth’s ‘build a moss pollution-monitor’ session, students learnt about a simple technology that can be used to monitor air pollution and got to make their own moss ball bioindicators. Beth is currently studying a PhD investigating particulate pollution in the atmosphere; focussing on magnetic analysis of bio-monitors to estimate to exposure to fine (PM2.5) particles.

moss ball

Beth’s moss balls are inexpensive and can be hung in public places before being analysed in the laboratory

Students got a taste of current science research and employment, heard some ideas for careers and degrees they hadn’t considered before, and had the chance to hear about day-to-day life as a ‘real’ scientist. Hopefully they’ll be inspired to continue in science education and to aim high in whichever career they choose.