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Go wild at the Festival of Nature

Press release issued: 8 June 2015

Bristol is known for its famous Suspension Bridge and maritime history, but just how much of the city we see today was shaped by its rivers? Researchers at the University of Bristol will be uncovering the city’s hidden river history at the Festival of Nature Wild Weekend this weekend [13 and 14 June] as part of Bristol’s European Green Capital 2015 celebrations.

Rivers are just one topic to come under the spotlight at the UK’s largest free natural history event, which offers wildlife enthusiasts of all ages the opportunity to explore our natural world in the heart of the city, with an extensive programme featuring over 100 exhibitors.

The University of Bristol will play a major part in the festival this year with a tent in Millennium Square, coordinated by the University's Centre for Public Engagement. Inside, the public will be able to engage in an interactive showcase of the very latest research.

There will be a range of activities available where the public will be able to explore how genetics can help us fight off the flu, the underground world of roots, how research carried out in Bristol is helping farmers in Africa keep their livestock healthy, and how plants and insects feed each other.

Environmental historians will give visitors to the Festival an insight into how rivers have shaped the landscape and environment of Bristol, what hydro-electric developments such as barrages or tidal lagoons could mean in the future, and the damage being done by plastic waste.

The Rivers Severn and Avon were once busy shipping routes, and Bristol-built ships became famous for their sturdy craftsmanship, spawning the famous saying 'shipshape and Bristol fashion'.

Dr Marianna Dudley, from the Department of History, said: "Although we see far fewer ships and boats nowadays, Bristol's rivers continue to shape the city in various ways. With Bristol being European Green Capital 2015, it seems an apt year to focus on how the city has evolved.

"We'll be giving visitors to the Festival of Nature a unique insight into the city’s hidden river history. The River Frome, for example, has its own fascinating history - from powering corn mills and forming castle moats to being used as an open sewer, until the stench got so bad that the city buried it in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. It still flows today through the city centre, past the Hippodrome - but underground."

Academics from the University's Cabot Institute will be looking at the impact climate change and global warming will have in the future, asking what the world would be like if greenhouse gas concentrations were twice what they are today.

There will be an 'uncertainty wall' for people to write or draw their concerns so that messages from Bristol can be shared at COP21, the 2015 Paris Climate Conference.

Dr James Norman, from the Cabot Institute, will be telling a story about climate change at 2.15pm on Saturday, taking the audience on an amusing adventure complete with monsters, story books and kites stuck in trees.

DigiMakers, a Bristol University team who run community technology events for children, parents and teachers, will provide an introduction into ‘making’ in the digital world. They will be in At-Bristol on Saturday demonstrating how electronics and computers can connect with nature and the environment to the next generation of engineers and technical innovators.

Alongside the University of Bristol, giants of the natural history world including the BBC Natural History Unit, National Trust, Avon Wildlife Trust and RSPB will all be hosting a range of interactive exhibits and activities.

Featuring over 100 organisations, the Festival of Nature Wild Weekend gives wildlife-lovers of all ages a unique opportunity to discover and enjoy the natural world in the heart of the city. With a line-up of hands-on activities, fascinating talks, live entertainment, a market bursting with local produce and much more, the weekend is expected to attract over 12,000 people to Bristol’s Harbourside.

Tweet using the hashtag #UoBGreen and #FON15 or follow @CPE_Bristol on Twitter for updates. Further information is on the Centre for Public Engagement’s website and the Bristol Natural History Consortium website.

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