From phantom limbs to paleobiology

  • November 30, 2013
From phantom limbs to paleobiology

Four Gates Cambridge Scholars will give presentations on their research relating to phantom limbs, paleobiology, rural women’s perceptions of claiming inheritance rights and how different land use affects forest-dwelling animals next week.

Phantom limbs, paleobiology, rural women’s perceptions of claiming inheritance rights and how different land use affects forest-dwelling animals will be the subjects of the last internal symposium this term.

Four Gates Cambridge Scholars will present their research to fellow Scholars and their guests at the symposium on 3rd December.

Kate Crowcroft [2011], who is doing a PhD in English, will talk about conceptions of the extra-bodily experience of the phantom limb in medieval theological and medical texts. She will cite the French surgeon Ambrose Pare who in 1551 encountered a thing ‘wondrous strange’ that he feared would ‘scarce be credited’. He and others had ‘seene with their eyes’ and ‘heard with their ears’ a patient, who, many months after the ‘cutting away of the legge’, felt ‘exceeding great paine of that legge so cut off’. Today, it is estimated that ninety-five to one hundred per cent of amputees experience some form of sensation in the missing limb, and many specifically experience pain in the phantom limb. Kate will suggest that Medieval and Early Modern miracle accounts of limbs returned to the body have their basis in the physiological experience of the phantom.

She says: “Phantom limb syndrome raises fascinating questions that challenge our understanding of the nature of sensory perception and experience, and help researchers to appreciate how, historically, unknown biological processes were adapted to create and proliferate theological cultures.”  Kate recently presented this work at a conference at Cambridge in collaboration with Addenbrookes hospital.

Collin VanBuren [2013], a PhD student in Earth Sciences, will speak about how palaeobiology is seeking to use the fossil record to answer large-scale questions about the evolutionary and ecological history of life on Earth. “It presents the only non-theoretical data available about the world during a variety of climactic scenarios and without the impact of modern human influence. With the development of methods using biomechanics, three-dimensional modelling, phylogenies (evolutionary trees), and isotope data, we are unravelling many informative secrets buried in the past,” he says.

Girija Godbole [2008], a PhD student in Geography, will talk about her research in western Maharashtra, India, into rural women’s perceptions on claiming inheritance rights. She says gender progressive inheritance legislation may not necessarily mean that women will have increased access and control over ancestral land because certain traditional norms related to ‘appropriate’ behaviour for a daughter may make her relinquish the rightful share in parental land. However, she says, expanding land market and escalating prices may bring about changes in this.

David Kurz [2013], an MPhil student in Biological Science, will talk about how different human land-uses are not uniform in their ecological effects on forest-dwelling animals. His research involved studying reptiles and amphibians in forest fragments, pastures, and heart-of-palm (palmito) plantations in northeastern Costa Rica in order to understand how common land-uses influence habitat quality around tropical forest patches. The number of species and the number of reptiles and amphibians within each species were greatest in forest habitats and lowest in pasture habitats.  The results for palmito were intermediate and it was shown to support populations that were similar in composition to those found in forest, particularly for reptiles. He says: “Understanding these differences is crucial for identifying agricultural environments that can complement the natural forest habitats of sensitive reptile and amphibian species.”

The symposium takes place at 7pm in the Gates Cambridge Common Room on 3rd December.

Picture credit: www.freedigitalphotos.net and gubgib.

Latest News

Provost wins top Royal Society award

Gates Cambridge Provost Professor Barry Everitt has been selected for the Royal Society’s premier award in the biological sciences. Professor Barry Everitt FMedSci FRS has been awarded the Croonian Medal and Lecture 2021 for his research on the application of his findings on brain mechanisms of motivation to important societal issues, such as drug addiction. […]

Addressing energy injustice in the Global South

A new framework which uses artificial intelligence to analyse textual data on energy use and behaviour could help policymakers develop a deeper understanding of energy injustices in the Global South. The study, Grounded reality meets machine learning: A deep-narrative analysis framework for energy policy research, was led by Gates Cambridge Scholar Ramit Debnath [2018] and is published in the journal Energy Research […]

Scholar wins top German prize for PhD thesis

A Gates Cambridge Scholar has won a prestigious international award for her PhD dissertation on the relationship between offshore finance and state power. Dr Andrea Binder was named winner of the Körber Foundation’s German Dissertation Award 2020 for social sciences. The prize, one of the most highly endowed for young researchers from Germany, honours excellent PhD research which […]

Developing a farm for impact model

Shadrack Frimpong has not yet started his PhD, but already his and his team’s work has earned him awards from the Queen, the Clinton Foundation and the Muhammad Ali Foundation. The awards are for their outstanding work in creating a potential new development model for rural crop-growing communities starting from Shadrack’s own village in Ghana. […]