When scientists bake – viva cakes reloaded

IMG_1951Another PhD student from my lab, the awesome Dr Rebecca Thomas, defended her PhD thesis in May 2017. Her work focused on the molecular epidemiology of Trichomonas infections in turtle doves, and this time the wonderful Liz Morgan (@ElalmoLiz) excelled herself again, with this amazing turtle dove cake, complete with a complement of trichomonid parasites in white chocolate…


This work of art was too delicious to last long, and as you can see, was soon demolished, being reduced to a pile of crumbs and fragments of icing…

I do hope this tradition will continue among our grad students as a celebration of defending PhDs. Liz recently completed her own PhD thesis and is off to work with the British Antarctic Survey on Bird Island, so the cake bar is set very high for the students following on behind.

For those of you thinking that biologists must spend all their time baking cake representations of obscure species and their parasites (OK… we do spend a fair amount of time doing that…), and should get on with some research instead, Rebecca’s work actually had quite a serious purpose. Turtle doves are one of the country’s most endangered native bird species, and is in serious risk of extinction from the UK. Trichomonas is a potentially lethal parasitic infection, and so Rebecca was using DNA based methods to trace the sources and transmission pathways of trichomonas in turtle doves and other species, to assess whether it could be implicated in turtle dove declines. The results have important implications for turtle dove conservation and management of bird populations in general. There should be some exciting papers from Rebeca’s thesis coming out soon.

Rebeca’s PhD was sponsored by the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB) science division.


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