Field trip to the Cloud Forest, Ecuador

As part of study at the University of Lincoln, students within the School of Life Sciences have the chance to go on optional overseas field trips. The most recent group visit took place in July this year, to the Cloud Forest in Ecuador.

These student trips provide the opportunity to do research in a novel environment and to study local plants and animals, with previous field trip destinations have included Portugal, South Africa, Chile and Scotland.

Students who visited Ecuador in July learnt about plants in the forest and also improved their insect identification skills, pictured below. Also pictured is a very rare sunset the group witnessed together outside their lodge; the climate in the Cloud Forest means that it’s either foggy or rainy at the end of the day.

Also pictured are the University of Lincoln vs Santa Lucia football teams lining up for a very exciting match (they won 5-2!).
Students were able to work in the field microbiology lab to look at plant antimicrobial properties, learn about sugar-cane production and make fake frogs to examine predation patterns in the Cloud Forest.

They were able to visit a local waterfall and had the opportunity to swim in the river, later looking for tarantulas on a night walk!

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Find out more about the optional overseas field trips that are currently available.

Life Sciences at Lincoln ranked number 1 in NSS

Life Sciences at Lincoln has ranked number one in the latest National Student Survey!

Our third year students have rated us number one in the UK for Biochemistry, Bioveterinary Science and Animal Behaviour & Welfare, and Zoology in the National Student Survey.

The National Student Survey is completed by final year students and is a measure of how satisfied students are with their university education. These are wonderful results and as a School we are very proud! 

Head of School, Libby John would like to thank the third years who took the time to complete the survey and feed back to us on their time here.

“I think much of our success comes from the fantastic support we get from our student reps who let us know how things are going and how we can improve the experience for all students – so I want to give all our reps a huge thank you.

I look forward to seeing most of you in September – either at graduation as you move on to the next stage in your career or when you are back at Lincoln as returning students.

I hope you enjoy the rest of the summer in the meantime.”

Read more about the University of Lincoln’s Success in the NSS


New study to examine cell communication in the diabetic kidney

A scientist from the University of Lincoln has won a prestigious funding award from the national Physiological Society to launch new research examining cell-to-cell communication in the diabetic kidney.

Dr Claire Hills from Lincoln’s School of Life Sciences will explore the underlying mechanisms which contribute to altered cell communications and loss of function in the kidneys of people with diabetes.


“Our kidneys are complex organs, tasked with multiple functions including filtering of our blood, the removal of waste products, and regulation of blood pressure and hormone synthesis,” Dr Hills explained. “To work appropriately and perform these tasks efficiently cells in the kidney need to talk to each other and their surrounding environment, adapting in times of stress and responding to any detrimental changes. This cell-to-cell communication is made possible via pores or channels found in the cell membranes. The pores are composed of proteins called connexins, whose altered expression and function has been linked to the development and progression of several secondary complications of diabetes. Evidence that connexin expression is linked to renal damage has led to suggestions about possible new therapeutic targets in the treatment of diabetic nephropathy, and this is what our new research will explore.”

Diabetic nephropathy is a progressive kidney disease caused by damage to the capillaries in the kidney. One of the complications caused by this disease is renal fibrosis (the formation of excess connective tissue during the body’s repair process). Dr Hill’s work – the latest study in an extensive portfolio of diabetes research at the University of Lincoln – will aim to develop an understanding of what exactly happens to cells during this process, and in turn identify future therapeutic targets for alleviating renal fibrosis.

Dr Hills said: “Diabetic nephropathy represents the leading cause of End Stage Renal Disease and accounts for almost a quarter of those entering the kidney transplantation programme. In diabetes, kidney cells are exposed to high levels of glucose and must respond accordingly to ensure that function is maintained. To do so, cells must communicate with each other and their surrounding environment.

“Our current research examines how high levels of glucose and modification of a cells surroundings can alter the ability with which cells talk to each other and respond to incoming ‘danger’ signals from their environment. Understanding the mechanisms by which glucose drives altered cell behaviour is essential in establishing novel therapeutic strategies for the prevention of the disease.”

Current treatments focus on regulating both blood glucose and blood pressure to slow disease progression, however many patients still develop kidney failure in the face of good glycemic control. A deeper understanding of the basic mechanisms that prevent kidney cells from functioning correctly is therefore needed to develop new treatments and preventative measures.

Using biopsy material from the kidneys of patients both with and without diabetic nephropathy, Dr Hills’ preliminary data suggests that patients with diabetic kidney disease exhibit elevated levels of two key connexins. She will now work with a collaborative team of clinicians and scientists to better understand how these connexins represent potential therapeutic targets for the treatment of diabetic nephropathy.

Dr Hills’ study, entitled United we stand, divided we fall: Glucose, TGF-beta and connexin mediated cell-communication in the diabetic kidney, is one of 10 UK projects selected by the Physiological Society to receive funding from its prestigious Research Grant Scheme.

Dr Hills has also previously secured funding from the European Foundation for the Study of Diabetes, Diabetes UK, and DRWF, to research the role of the kidney in diabetes and diabetic nephropathy.

Ecology field trip to Malham

Life Sciences students taking the Evolution and Ecology module took a beautiful field trip to Malham, in Yorkshire to study field ecology, landscape and conservation.

Around 100 first year students spent 3 days on site studying the habitats and nature and saw some wonderful sights.

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They looked at different groups of organisms in different habitats including ferns living in cracks in the limestone pavement, aquatic invertebrates in streams, and terrestrial invertebrates inhabiting forests and meadows.

One activity consisted of investigating the ferns found in the limestone pavement. The limestone pavement is an unusual geological formation found in few places around England.

After a relatively short walk from the Youth Hostel where the group stayed, they arrived in front of Malham Cove, a former waterfall with an impressive view, house of a pair of peregrine falcons with their two chicks.

The group were able to observe the birds thanks to some volunteers with telescopes, very eager to share they knowledge about these fantastic creatures with visitors.

Climbing the stairway to the top of the Cove, where the limestone pavement is found, students had to find and identify three different fern species (Wall rue, Hart’s tongue, and Maidenhair) and take several measurements to determine the environment they grow in.

Another activity was to sample aquatic invertebrates found in streams and compare their diversity levels in different parts of the river. Students had to wear wellingtons and get into the stream to collect samples that later on they identified.

The third activity consisted of collecting terrestrial invertebrates from a forest and a meadow using sweep nets, identified them, and compared the diversity levels found in both environments.

On the last day, the students presented their findings with wonderful presentations.