These last eighteen months or so have made us rethink how we teach environmental physiology here at the University of Brighton as we have had to navigate the impact the pandemic was having on delivery. A previous blog post reinforced that we were still going strong, but had to move outside to investigate rewarming techniques post accidental hypothermia experimentally, as part of our Expedition Physiology 3rd year module. Fortunately, the weather was cold and allowed for students to experience what it is like to try and re-warm in the field! However, it was not always easy with multiple lockdowns and restrictions, we had to get creative! This blog post shares and reflects on some of our experiences so that it might help others in the future should you be prevented from teaching and your students learning in the way you/they are used to.
What a year! For obvious reasons linked to COVID, it has been over 8 months since our last Environmental Extremes Lab post of our support to the Dhiman Brothers, but we have still been very active behind the scenes in our teaching and research. As we thankfully close the door on 2020, hoping that 2021 will be better, a quick round-up of some of the activities we have been involved in and few tasters of what is to come!
The Environmental Extremes Lab has invested in a new LED lighting system for our environmental chamber to enable our students to embark upon some innovative and fun research investigations around altering perception and how this might influence behavioural thermoregulation and exercise performance.
Well done to our SI627 – Expedition Physiology – students for another successful expedition, marking the 15th consecutive year since Dr Neil Maxwell started the module and the annual trip in 2004. This year, again led by Dr Alan Richardson, saw us back in Brecon Beacons where we arguably had the most spectacular weather yet. Thirty students, with leaders Dr Alan Richardson, Dr Mark Hayes, Dr Nick Smeeton, Dr Neil Maxwell and Rebecca Relf took to the Black Mountain hills of Wales donned in a multitude of outdoor gear, albeit not with as much suncream as was needed (isn’t that right Frank and Charlotte!).
We have been a bit silent on the Environmental Extremes Lab Blog recently. In part, this has allowed us to recharge the batteries after a very busy last academic year. Nevertheless, plenty has been going on over the summer and early autumn months. We supported nine MSc research projects allied to environmental extremes, with some exciting results coming out of them to share in due course. Dr Alan Richardson and Dr Mark Hayes were interviewed as experts for a Ministry of Defence Service Inquiry into the death of a soldier during an annual fitness test at Brecon in 2016. Mark with Dr Ash Willmott presented to the GB Hockey team around pre and per cooling strategies leading up to Tokyo 2020. We supported another two Para-Monte Altitude Awareness Days for individuals heading to altitude. Well done to our own University of Brighton’s Sally Reeve and her daughter, Marianne, who successfully and safely completed their trek to Machu Picchu, passing Dead Women’s Pass on the way.
Over the past few weeks, Dr Ash Willmott and PhD students Rebecca Relf and Kirsty Waldock, have helped the MSc Applied Sport Physiology and MSc Applied Exercise Physiology students investigate the sudomotor responses while exercising in a hot, humid environment (35⁰C, 60% relative humidity), replicating expected conditions for the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games.
Led by Ash and his current research theme of investigating alternate methods of heat acclimation outside of the traditional lab-based environmental chamber protocols, the students also assessed the efficacy of wearing a sauna suit during exercise in temperate conditions (20⁰C, 40% relative humidity).
As part of our HB710 – Applied Environmental Physiology – Module which sits within our MSc in Applied Sport Physiology or Applied Exercise Physiology we ran a debate yesterday which we have run for the last few years on which environmental extreme is worse – heat, cold or altitude? The idea came from two BBC articles that posed the question of which environment was more challenging. It was a fun activity at the start of the module to help contextualise some of the problems that environmental extremes can bring and allow some of the students who are newer to environmental extremes to become acquainted with the subject and considerations. There is an underlying objective, which is to make the students think more about how they use research evidence, especially in graphical or tabular form to strengthen their arguments and rationales as this will help them later in the module’s assessment, but also stand them in good stead beyond their degree.
Welcome to Ash Willmott who joins our sport and exercise science lecturing team for the next 6 months. As many will know, Ash has been with us for some years now, first as an undergraduate BSc Sport and Exercise Science Student (1st class), then as a PhD student (which he finished, successfully defended and will graduate on the 16th February 2018) and also as a Sport and Exercise Science Support Officer within the Sport and Exercise Science Consultancy Unit (SESCU, 2014-2017). During his time here, he has made a huge difference to so many parts of our environmental extremes provision. He was instrumental in the success of the CAERvest, while we worked with Bodychillz Ltd. and will keep working with them as we continue this relationship. He has also been involved in supporting a number of other industrial partners while working with SESCU testing their products (all legal!). On the research front allied to thermal physiology, he has been a key member of the team for several years and we are now reaping the rewards following all those hours in the labs, with several papers published recently and few more on the way around the theme of heat acclimation.