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Kyle Smith for Education Officer – Extended Manifesto

My extended manifesto for RUSU elections 2018! If you have any questions about my policies, don’t hesitate to contact me via my email of kyleanthonysmith16@gmail.com 🙂

A Bit About Me…

Hi, I’m Kyle, and I’m campaigning to be your next Education Officer. I’m a third-year Zoology student with a passion for animals, the environment, and student politics. I feel what really sets me apart from the competition is my wealth of experience, and my drive to make change. Here’s what I want to work on over the next year;

>Consistent Study Space

With the closure of the library, the current lack of study space is a problem most of us know only too well. If elected, I would continue to build on our current study space by ensuring completion of The Study 2 and that campus buildings are left open throughout the day for us to study in. Furthermore, I will continually investigate ways to add more study space options, with an emphasis on halls that are situated off-campus.

>Long-term ECF Procedure

For those that suffer from a long term disability or illness, the repeated requirement to fill out a new Extenuating Circumstances Form (ECF) for each assessment can be stressful and expensive. As Education Officer I would seek to complete any work done already on the long term ECF procedure and ensure within my tenure the new procedure is implemented effectively. I would liaise with relevant parties to monitor the new procedure and ensure it is fair and inclusive.

>Unfair Course Associated Costs

We all pay a lot of money to be at University, and so additional costs can be frustrating. Art students having to buy materials, bioscience students having to buy laboratory coats, geography students paying for compulsory field trips and any students having to pay to print out mandatory work all have a right to feel unhappy.  If elected, I will investigate how these costs can be reduced by the University to make our education more affordable, and I aim to introduce an allowance per school that can help to alleviate these costs.

>Academic Representation on the RUSU App

The RUSU App should be in place by the next academic year, and it provides an excellent opportunity for us to promote academic representation. In-app features to anonymously allow you to report positives and negatives of your course, circulate The Reading Rep, and put you in contact with your course rep and school rep can all allow for rapid changes and fixes to your course. The ability to provide feedback at any given time instead of set points in the term means students can fix what they don’t like about their course and actually have the chance to see the changes.

>Student-led Learning Events

For the last two years, I’ve been heavily involved in a careers event within my own school of Biosciences. The Young Biologist Forum (YBF) is an event ran by students, for students, and it gives us a chance to have a say in what opportunities we get. The event has been very popular, and there has been real interest in similar events being held across the University in other schools. As Education Officer by working with next year’s School Reps I can help provide the experience for these to happen, and boost the opportunities Reading students get.

>Transparency

Over the last few years, we have suffered numerous nasty surprises in the sense that students are often late to hear of what is happening behind the scenes at Reading. PAS review, library renovation and industrial action have all caught students off-guard, and I think it is perfectly reasonable for us to expect more transparency from our institution. If I were to be elected, I would ensure students are always prioritised when there are new developments, and that your voice is always fairly represented.

>My Experience + Past Victories

I think it is important any potential new FTO has experience of RUSU. During my time at Reading I have been a Course Rep, a School Rep, and a Part-time Officer, allowing me to learn how RUSU works, how to campaign, how to represent students effectively and how to engage with committees. I’ve loved my time in these roles, and have achieved a number of things; improving dissection alternatives for bioscience students, running a campus-wide photography competition, and lobbying new biodegradable straw policy to name a few. I’ve developed a passion for student politics over numerous years, and I’m really excited at the prospect of continuing my work in RUSU as a full time officer if elected.

Thank you for taking the time to read my manifesto – as I said, if you want to know more about anything, please just get in touch!

Smile, Vote Kyle! 🙂

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Anolis Proboscis – The Lizard That Lies?

An informal review of my first Pinocchio Lizard sighting.

In September of 2016, I was lucky enough to travel to Ecuador; to experience the Amazon, Galapagos Islands and the diverse cloud forests. During this trip, we visited Mindo, an area renowned for its extensive list of bird species. But it was not the birds that would leave a lasting impression on me – rather a small, peculiar lizard.

The Lizard in the Leaves

We were introduced to this lizard when one of our guides from earlier on in the day caught up with our bus, to present to us some sort of creature he had caught and wrapped up in leaves. He said it was a sort of lizard, but not one he had seen before; rather odd it would seem, for someone who lives locally and spends much of his time looking for animal life in the forest. So he peeled back the leafy package and revealed to us this

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Colourful Camouflage. The little lizard’s camouflage allows it to expertly blend in to its surroundings. This, coupled with its small size and limited range, may be why it is sees so rarely. Credit: Will Laird

mystery reptile.

 

The thing that greeted us was cute, but strange, and not a creature any of us were at all familiar with. The most striking thing on first glance was by far the huge rostral appendage the little fellow was sporting. This appendage, which looked like a large nose, resulted in one of the group jokingly naming it the ‘Pinocchio Lizard’. Later research revealed their guess was spot on – it was indeed a Pinocchio Lizard!

What Science Already Nose

Anolis proboscis, often called the Pinocchio Lizard, is a small green Anole lizard native to the tropical cloud forests of Ecuador, found specifically within the Mindo region. First described by science in 1953, researchers only had access to six male specimens, which lead them to wonder whether the rostral appendage was specific to

 

males, or found across the whole species. It has a very small range, and the animal itself is very small, which is probably why it has eluded us for the past few decades – sightings have been few and far between, with claims of extinction also being circulated for the years between 1960s and 2005, where no one saw the lizard. Luckily, a group of bird watchers got more than they bargained for when they spotted a bizarre looking lizard crossing the road near Mindo; sharing the photo to online forums allowed herpetologists to positively identify the lizard as a Pinocchio Lizard. Visits by scientists followed, and we now know that the extended snout is a feature specific to males. But this doesn’t reveal all about the lifestyle of this animal, and we still have much more to learn.

 

Face-Sword? Or Do Girls Like Big Bills?

So why do these lizards have these spectacularly long snouts?

The appendages must have a specific purpose, as they are most likely physically a drawback for the animal in day to day life. For Anolis proboscis, hitting your hooter on the dense foliage of the cloud forest is probably a daily struggle. Eating must be more difficult than it needs to be; there are few things worse than chowing down on some food whilst your snout gets in the way. Maybe there is some truth in the common name, and Pinocchio Lizards have evolved a phenotypic feature that prevents them lying to each other.

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Why The Long Face? Pinocchio Lizard seems like a very appropriate name for this reptile. But what is the appendage for? Fighting, or flirting? Credit: Phoebe Harris

Scientifically speaking, there is no evidence to support the idea that this little reptile’s snout grows when he’s bluffing. Instead, scholars have suggested its use is as a weapon, a sort of face-sword that allows the lizards to fight and compete with each other. Further study showed that the appendage wasn’t rigid, and was bendable, which would make it pretty useless as a sword. Instead, due to fact the appendage is specific to males, it most likely plays a role in sexual selection. In other words, female Pinocchio Lizards like boys with big… snouts.

Conservation Status – A Cause For Concern?

My experience with this little lizard was by far one of the most magical of the whole trip. Not only were we incredibly lucky to see such a rarity, but the information I found when I got back to the hotel made the issues of deforestation and habitat destruction seem very real. This elusive anole lives in a small area and is highly specialised to survive there; continued habitat destruction in the Mindo area could destroy this species before we’ve had a chance to fully understand it. The IUCN has already listed A. proboscis as endangered, which is worrying for lizard enthusiasts worldwide.

The Pinocchio Lizard, and its brilliant beak, needs us to conserve as much of the Mindo forest as possible. Because who knows – if the appendage is indeed down to an evolved gene that detects the lizard’s lies, this gene could be isolated, and we could genetically engineer politicians to have it. Imagine the impact that would have on global politics!

Featured image credit; Phoebe Harris

My Environment and Ethics Officer Campaign

Hi, my name is Kyle, and I am running for Environment and Ethics officer for 2017/2018 in RUSU.

About Me

I am a year 2 Zoology student originally from the Forest of Dean, in Gloucestershire. I have grown up surrounded by wildlife, and felt the benefits of living alongside nature. I find it relaxing, and the fresh air and scenery can be an excellent place to study in the summer.

As the course rep for part 2 Zoology I have experience in student representation. I regularly liaise with the other reps, the school rep and the staff head of school to fix issues and suggest improvements. An example of this is a new dissection scheme I am working on, that is designed to make it easier for those that do not believe in dissection to access alternative methods of approaching the assessments. On top of this I am working alongside some other students to help deliver a careers and employment event in the spring. I am not content with just sitting back, and I consider the individual opinion of every student I represent – this is something I would carry through to the position of Environment and Ethics officer.

 

What I Want To Do

If I were to be lucky enough to be elected to this position I would focus on A) supporting the biodiversity on campus and B) promoting student involvement by designing and hosting events, competitions and speakers which relate to the environment. How will I do this?

  • Addition of new wildlife habitats and homes, such as nest boxes (early morning bird song makes it that little bit easier to get to that 9am!) and bee houses for solitary bees.
  • Design and future implementation of ‘wild zones’, small areas of grass that are designed to act as miniature ecosystems supporting a variety of plant life, insect life and as a result, bird life.
  • Promoting our campus as a natural haven through regular photography competitions and other wildlife events (e.g birdwatching).
  • Using my connection with Dr Elsa Sattout, a lecturer in Environmental Ethics, to bring in speakers and set up activities related to global environmental events such as Biological Diversity week in May.

I intend to bring these ideas to life by working closely with staff with backgrounds in ecology, local organisations and the various social clubs associated with our wildlife. With your help I can do this – if you build it, they will come!

 

Why I Make A Good Candidate

As I have previously said, I am not content with sitting by, and when given the opportunity to represent people I will wholeheartedly do so. I like making things better and improving the university experience for my fellow students. I am experienced and highly driven, with a small network of respected contacts, and I will listen to and consider everything I am told, no matter how small it may be. It would be an honour for me to represent you as your Environment and Ethics officer, and I hope you will consider casting one of your votes to me!

 

Thank you for reading!