Category Archives: Biology

Competition Successes in Biology

Our biology students have been enjoying a lot of success this term. Freya P (Y12) won the Corpus Christi (Cambridge) essay writing competition for her essay “Phantom pain: A ghost in the machine, or a biological basis?” She is attending a prize-giving ceremony at Corpus Christi on Saturday 5th May where she will have a tour of the College, meet undergraduates and will be presented with £250.

In addition to Freya’s success, Rumaisa J’s essay “Viruses in the oceans: could we live without them?” was highly commended in the same competition. Congratulations to both our students for their fantastic achievements!

Not to be outdone, our Y10 GCSE students have also been winning prizes! In the annual MiSAC Competition (Microbiology in Schools) Jenny Z won first prize (£100 and £250 for the department) and Chimno I achieved a commendation. Their work, designing website pages on the topic of “Commercial uses of fungi – what do fungi do for us” will be displayed on the MiSAC website later this term.

There were fantastic entries from younger students too, who will be getting certificates in the next month, and we will be displaying all entries in the biology department.

What fungi do for us essayWhat fungi do for us essay

Professor Lord Winston Visit

On Wednesday 25th April we were extremely lucky to have Professor Lord Robert Winston visit AGGS to speak to the whole of Y10 plus Y12 biology and psychology students. He gave a fascinating lecture that covered a wide range of topics, including the importance of failure and perseverance in scientific research, the collaboration required between the different sciences in order to drive progress, the evolution of humans and their future plus genetic technologies and the ethics of their practice in modern medicine. He also joined a smaller discussion group after school to discuss these issues and more with some keen Year 11, 12 and 13 students. We are extremely grateful for his time and energy and hope he has inspired the students to consider a broad range of scientific careers in their future.

Celebrating India fortnight

Over the last two weeks, pupils have been celebrating the language history and culture of India. This has focussed on our KS3 pupils, with a variety of activities taking place, such as samosa making; jewellery making; sitar playing in assembly; learning new Indian languages; talks about Indian politics, Indian history and Indian religions; Indian dancing; Hinglish; playing Kabaddi and cricket. We are very grateful to departments for coordinating such interesting activities and to the pupils themselves, who have led many of them.

A Celebration of India Fortnight - 16th Feb - 9th March 2018

Celebrating India Fortnight 26/2- 9/3

A Celebration of India Fortnight - 16th Feb - 9th March 2018

We will be running a variety of activities during the fortnight from 26/2 until 9/3 to celebrate the languages, culture, politics and religions of India.

The activities are as following:

  • MFL- KS3- starter activity- learn a new language- to be led by pupils in each class
  • Music- Kumar sisters to play in assembly
  • Citizenship- exploration of Indian politics
  • PE- cricket on both Tuesdays.
  • Sports leaders (Year 10) to teach Kabaddi to KS3 pupils during Wednesday lunchtimes
  • Dance- Year 8 as scheme of work, taster through year group clubs to be led by older pupils.
  • RS- exploration of Indian religion
  • Science society to deliver to Year 7/8 classes- biology- vegetarian diet/ ivory trade, chemistry-   chemicals in curry, physics- light and its effect on flag colours
  • Maths- study of Indian mathematicians.
  • D&T lunchtime Samosa making session; Indian inspired jewellery
  • Art- paper cuts club to produce shadow puppets
  • English- Hinglish with KS5

“Biology A Level Science Live” – inspiring the next generation to look after our world

Professor Steve JonesOn Thursday 1st February 23 of our year 12 students spent the day at Whitworth Hall listening to talks from some of the UK’s top scientists. Speakers such as Professor Robert Winston and Steve Jones led us though some fascinating topics, from the science of laughter and why we laugh, to the problems we do and will face due antibiotic resistance, trying to fathom huge numbers in relation to the different species on our planet and the ethics and issues surrounding cutting edge technologies.

Here are some thoughts from some of our students who went:

All the lectures were awesome and showed us how biology can be used in research…. They also motivated me to read more into biology, further from what we are taught in the curriculum.” (Urwaa K)

I really enjoyed the biology live and found many of the lectures fascinating. I particularly liked the science of laughter as it was very interesting considering a normal everyday action yet there’s so much more to it that you never think about. I was also surprised at how many species there are and how few we focus on. The lecture about microbes was also interesting, as it is such an important topic that can impact the future, yet there is not that much work being done on it.” (Abigail H)

Each lecture was highly interesting. I particularly enjoyed the lecture about the vast diversity and distribution of species on Earth. The lecture on the science of laughter was very informative and it made me more aware of how human behaviour can be studied in biology.” (Iman G)

Biology Photography Competition Winners

Connie A - Deer 1
First Prize: Connie A – Deer 1

First prize in the Biology Photography competition was won by Connie A, whose photo of a deer lit by a shaft of sunlight at Dunham Massey was superb. Our guest judge Dr Pickering praised its composition and the detail she captured. Connie received her prize, a digital camera, kindly donated by Dr Pickering.

Karis M - Butterfly 3
Third Prize: Karis M – Butterflies mating
Martha W - Little Robin Redbreast
Second prize: Martha W – Little Robin Redbreast

Second and third prize winners were Martha W (Little Robin Redbreast) and Karis M (Butterflies mating)They both received signed copies of Dr Pickering’s book ‘Photosafari’. Also commended were Martha’s pictures of Fighting Grebes and Guillemots and Sudiksha D-K’s Lovers on a Leaf.

Thank you to all those who entered – we had the most fantastic selection of photographs and it was incredibly hard to pick the winners. Next year’s photography competition will be slightly different – we are going for microscopic biology. More information to follow next year!

Biology Photography Competition

Thank you to all the entries in our nature photography competition.

We have had over 80 pictures submitted and our guest judge, Dr Pickering, is currently abroad, but has agreed to judge the pictures and provide a digital camera as a prize. We will announce the winners on course due, but the biology department were extremely impressed by the quality of the submissions.

Please have a look at the gallery below:

Aaishah A - Mushroom
Aaishah A – Mushroom
Tabitha H - Journey
Tabitha H – Journey
Tabitha H - Entropy
Tabitha H – Entropy
Tabitha H - Abundance
Tabitha H – Abundance
Sudiksha D-K - Pollination Rounds
Sudiksha D-K – Pollination Rounds
Sudiksha D-K - Lovers on a Leaf
Sudiksha D-K – Lovers on a Leaf
Sudiksha D-K - Jasmine in Bloom
Sudiksha D-K – Jasmine in Bloom
Sudiksha D-K - Inquisitive Honey Bee
Sudiksha D-K – Inquisitive Honey Bee
Sudiksha D-K - Hide and Seek
Sudiksha D-K – Hide and Seek
Shreya D - Wasp
Shreya D – Wasp
Roxy R - Sunset 2
Roxy R – Sunset 2
Roxy R - Sunset 1
Roxy R – Sunset 1
Rishika D - Flower
Rishika D – Flower
Rhea B - Sky on Car Roof
Rhea B – Sky on Car Roof
Rafa A - Sunset
Rafa A – Sunset
Polina P - Droplets
Polina P – Droplets
Parnika L - Leaf
Parnika L – Leaf
Nishi U - Fungi
Nishi U – Fungi
Mr T Copestake, teacher - Pig
Mr T Copestake, teacher – Pig
Mr T Copestake, teacher - Cox
Mr T Copestake, teacher – Cox
Mrs A Hamilton, teacher - Wordsworths grave
Mrs A Hamilton, teacher – Wordsworths grave
Moyosoreoluwa A - Lake
Moyosoreoluwa A – Lake
Martha W - Scotland
Martha W – Scotland
Martha W - Little Robin Redbreast
Martha W – Little Robin Redbreast
Martha W - Guillemot Rock
Martha W – Guillemot Rock
Martha W - Flowers by the Sea
Martha W – Flowers by the Sea
Martha W - Fighting Grebes
Martha W – Fighting Grebes
Martha W - Blue on Blue
Martha W – Blue on Blue
Lucy W - Goat 3
Lucy W – Goat 3
Lucy W - Goat 2
Lucy W – Goat 2
Lucy W - Goat 1
Lucy W – Goat 1
Lucy W - Distance
Lucy W – Distance
Lucy B - Croc
Lucy B – Croc
Lawiza K - Leaf
Lawiza K – Leaf
Karis M - Komodo
Karis M – Komodo
Karis M - Cat
Karis M – Cat
Karis M - Butterfly 3
Karis M – Butterfly 3
Karis M - Butterfly 2
Karis M – Butterfly 2
Karis M - Butterfly 1
Karis M – Butterfly 1
Jemma G - Sunset
Jemma G – Sunset
Jemma G - Statue
Jemma G – Statue
Jemma G - Flower 3
Jemma G – Flower 3
Jemma G - Flower 2
Jemma G – Flower 2
Jemma G - Flower 1
Jemma G – Flower 1
Jemma G - Dog
Jemma G – Dog
Hollie F - Bird
Hollie F – Bird
Gabrielle H - Cow
Gabrielle H – Cow
Freya P - Butterfly
Freya P – Butterfly
Eve G - plant
Eve G – plant
Eve G - Mushroom 2
Eve G – Mushroom 2
Eve G - Mushroom 1
Eve G – Mushroom 1
Eve G - Cone
Eve G – Cone
Eve G - Cat 2
Eve G – Cat 2
Eve G - Cat 1
Eve G – Cat 1
Erin E - Small is Beautiful
Erin E – Small is Beautiful
Emaan A - Sunset
Emaan A – Sunset
Elizabeth P - Swan and Cygnets
Elizabeth P – Swan and Cygnets
Eileen Y - Reflection
Eileen Y – Reflection
Eileen Y - Lake
Eileen Y – Lake
Eileen Y - Bird
Eileen Y – Bird
Connie A - White Flower 2
Connie A – White Flower 2
Connie A - White Flower 2
Connie A – White Flower 2
Connie A - Pink Flower 3
Connie A – Pink Flower 3
Connie A - Pink Flower 2
Connie A – Pink Flower 2
Connie A - Pink Flower 1
Connie A – Pink Flower 1
Connie A - Leaf 2
Connie A – Leaf 2
Connie A - Leaf 1
Connie A – Leaf 1
Connie A - Eye
Connie A – Eye
Connie A - Deer 3
Connie A – Deer 3
Connie A - Deer 2
Connie A – Deer 2
Connie A - Deer 1
Connie A – Deer 1
Alex K - Bear
Alex K – Bear
Abby K - Bee
Abby K – Bee
Aaliyah M - White flower
Aaliyah M – White flower
Aaliyah M - Tree
Aaliyah M – Tree
Aaliyah M - Purple flower
Aaliyah M – Purple flower
Aaliyah M - Pink sunset
Aaliyah M – Pink sunset
Aaliyah M - Pink flower 2
Aaliyah M – Pink flower 2
Aaliyah M - Pink flower 1
Aaliyah M – Pink flower 1
Aaliyah M - Pink blossom
Aaliyah M – Pink blossom
Aaliyah M - Leaf silhouette
Aaliyah M – Leaf silhouette
Aaliyah M - Dead pink flower
Aaliyah M – Dead pink flower
Aaliyah M - Cherry tree
Aaliyah M – Cherry tree
Aaliyah M - Blossom tree
Aaliyah M – Blossom tree

Biology Week – Wildlife Photography Talk Report

A report by Lucy W, Year 9:

Biology week is coming up and, like the majority of the country, Altrincham Girls Grammar School is joining in with the festivities: the first opening for students and teachers alike, was a wildlife photography talk on Wednesday by the esteemed Doctor Pickering.
Before his retirement, Dr Pickering used to work here at AGGS as a head of biology; but now he travels across the globe and therefore has collected a rather respectable photographic collection. In fact, several of his pieces have featured in textbooks across all three sciences, especially the ones capturing extremely rare moments in time. It’s true he’s a very skilled man.

Firstly, he started by displaying an immense humility by showing the first picture he ever took of wildlife with his first camera at 14. The was grainy and the image ambiguous in detail but the bird erect in the centre gave us a phenomenal insight into how much he has improved since then – he deplaned to us that much of his work is accomplished through luck and chance. Also, that via risk taking, for instance: a rapid fire shot when out on a safari drive, could turn out to find a treasure trove.

With this promised understanding ensured, he moved on to the technicalities. Stating with the subject’s roll in any image. On the one hand, he told us that the rarity of the animal and moment greatly impact the need for the photo. For example: he showed us a brilliant image of a blue tongued skink with its mouth open which he had taken. Because snapping such a picture is remarkably rare the picture took off much faster than he anticipated. With a constant want for it from every side. Furthermore, he explained the need to understand why people want the picture.

Another vital part which he greatly emphasised was the effect of an environment of control on the validity of the picture – you just tell people that the photo was taken in such a way that the animal was not entirely free so that people don’t believe incorrectly despite the possibility that it may look so. Otherwise the image could be discredited when discovered. Moreover, you must debate whether control is appropriate for that specific animal and the conventions of the photo. Although it usually is.

Secondly, we discussed the importance of knowing your kit. A moment you wish to capture could disappear in the time it takes to blink, as he said, so it is nigh impossible for any human to have reflexes to capture. Therefore, being able to handle your camera without attention is an invaluable asset. This then led on to a section on exposure and finally composition.

According to Dr Pickering, how you use exposure is vital to the final product of an image because it concerns how much light is let through which in turn effects the result of the many colours (or reflectants) in an image. In his booklet “Handbook of zoo photography” he specified the three different types of exposure: partial, spot and evaluative as well as the details of the exposure triangle which is comprised of aperture, shutter speed and ISO (or sensitivity). He also managed to detail the three types of exposure: partial, spot and evaluative which each differ depending on not only how much light it lets in but what part of the image it using to decide that with spot using a section in the middle and evaluative miraculously taking data from several parts of the image to produce a better quality, realistic picture. This is especially useful for white animals to make sure they don’t appear grey. It is useful to know that evaluative is the best technically however, spot is useful if you want to put emphasis on a specific section just like blur is useful to suggest movement and atmosphere.

Finally, there’s the question of composition. Apparently, images are more captivating and interesting if, instead of having the subject being in the middle you split it into a 3 by 3 grid and put the points of focus in the thirds as well as using diagonals to create realistic variety and interest. Especially, because the brain instinctively enjoys that structure more than another. Furthermore, making something unusual is fantastic, especially for primates due to the rarity of capturing such moments. It also adds a reliability to the image which would otherwise be lost.

Amazingly, all this thought goes into every picture Dr Pickering takes and each is a success due to such a brilliant technique. Hopefully, this will help many more generations experience wildlife like never before and appreciate the work of a truly phenomenal man and the nature we are surrounded by.

Written by Lucy W, Year 9

Biology Week – Postmortem

Postmortem, Biology week 2017

On Saturday 14th October 98 keen biologists, from Y11-Y13, came into school for a postmortem study day to finish our Biology Week activities. Over the course of four hours, they watched a postmortem of a semi-synthetic cadaver. They were able to get hands-on experience of handling brains, lungs, digestive systems and much more (from ethically sourced animal remains) whilst learning a huge amount about human body systems, the causes and treatments of disease and the language that forensic scientists and medics use when describing injuries and incisions. No-one fainted, despite some pretty pungent moments, and this invaluable experience will be really beneficial to many hoping to pursue scientific careers in the future.

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Enhancing Photosynthesis Talk

Enhancing Photosynthesis Talk
Enhancing Photosynthesis Talk

Dr Hartwell from Liverpool UniversityOn Thursday 12th October, Dr Hartwell from Liverpool University spoke to biologists about the problems we face in food production if global warming continues. He explained that his lab is attempting to genetically engineer crops to carry out alternative mechanisms for photosynthesis that have evolved in cacti, that allow crops to withstand droughts and produce a greater yield. After the talk, Dr Hartwell emailed school to compliment our sixth form students, saying “You should be very proud of such a bright set of students; they were asking questions that were comfortably at second year undergraduate level!