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Ash dieback disease inspires artistic response from Wymondham High School students

PUBLISHED: 11:00 10 July 2013

Wymondham High School 17-year-old students who are doing both biology and art courses, study ash dieback at Ashwellthorpe Woods. Rachael Haistead with an ash dieback mushroom which will release the spores. Picture: Denise Bradley

Wymondham High School 17-year-old students who are doing both biology and art courses, study ash dieback at Ashwellthorpe Woods. Rachael Haistead with an ash dieback mushroom which will release the spores. Picture: Denise Bradley

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Foraging for evidence of a fungal disease that threatens the nation's ash trees has inspired a group of A-level students to bridge the worlds of art and science.

Wymondham High School students who are doing both biology and art courses, study ash dieback at Ashwellthorpe Woods. Professor Allan Downie talks to Linda Garubova as she studies ash dieback mushrooms under a microscope. Picture: Denise BradleyWymondham High School students who are doing both biology and art courses, study ash dieback at Ashwellthorpe Woods. Professor Allan Downie talks to Linda Garubova as she studies ash dieback mushrooms under a microscope. Picture: Denise Bradley

The 10 biology and art students at Wymondham High School joined scientists from the John Innes Centre in Norwich to search for fruiting fungi that produce the spores that spread ash dieback.

The teenagers found many samples in the undergrowth in Ashwellthorpe Wood, near Wymondham, which last September became the site of the UK’s first confirmed case of the deadly Chalara fungal infection.

The students, who were taking part in the Science, Art and Writing initiative (Saw) which aims to break down barriers between the arts and sciences, then used their experiences to create journalism and works of art.

Ben Durstone, 17, from Wicklewood, near Wymondham, is torn between the science and the arts as he chooses whether to study biological sciences or graphic design at university.

He said: “I think the main thing I got was the different ways of looking at the same thing. Looking from the artist’s point of view and the biologist’s point of view, you see not only they thought differently, but how they are connected.”

Prof Allan Downie, of the John Innes Centre, said the samples collected would help scientists understand what range of fungi had come into the country, and see if they are cross-breeding with fungi native to the UK.

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