Plant or Animal? Why Not Both!

9 October 2018

Filomena Romano, MixITiN’s ESR5, took the mixotroph paradigm to the 2018 MSCA Researcher’s night celebrations at Crete.

The Hellenic Center for the Marine Research (HCMR), Crete

I attended the MSCA Researcher’s night at the Hellenic Center for the Marine Research (HCMR) on Friday 28th September. I gave a Powerpoint presentation in the hall of the institute. The opportunity to talk about mixotrophs for the first time made me really excited because it was a chance for me to improve my communication skills. At the same time, I was worried about the language. I am not able to speak Greek, to me that represented a major problem. I was afraid to not be able to communicate with young children.

Here you can find the presentation, please have a look!

I also made a poster using the slides from my Powerpoint presentation to attract more people and engage them in discussions about mixotrophs and the oceanic foodweb.

Me and my “mixotroph stand”

My talk and poster were focused on the land and marine-based trophic chains, introducing the concepts of autotrophy and heterotrophy. I did not go into details of mixotrophy. I specifically wanted the audience to form their own ideas of mixotrophy prior to introducing them to the subject. Thus at the end of my talk, I asked all the attendees to draw how they thought a mixotroph could look like.

Some examples of what the audience thought mixotrophs should look like

At my station I had some cards ready with the pictures of different types of plankton including mixotrophs. I used these not just to show examples of mixotrophs but also for playing a “memory” game. This latter activity was particularly useful for introducing the concepts of the microbial food web to the audience.

Talking about mixotrophs

During the evening I interacted with:

  • 7 children (5-8 years old);
  • 5 teenagers (10-15 years old);
  • 11 adults.

… a total of 23 people.

While I delivered an outreach event on mixotrophs to school pupils earlier this summer, I did that with my fellow MixITiN ESRs. At the Researchers’ night I worked on my own. I found the experience interesting and funny. For me, what went well was introducing the mixotrophy concept; people appeared to be really interested. It was also nice to let people draw how a mixotroph could look like. For next time I plan to have more interactive activities. This will help me to communicate directly with all age groups from the very young children to the adults.

Filomena Romano