Award-winning astrophysicist from Preston is helping to save endangered animals

Posted on - 26th April, 2018 - 7:00pm | Author - | Posted in - Penwortham, People, Preston News, Schools
Dr Claire Burke

A former Penwortham Priory student is leading a pioneering project to track and save endangered animals.

Dr Claire Burke, 31, has been awarded the silver prize for physical sciences in Parliament at STEM for Britain and will be awarded a British Science Association Prize for Digital Innovation in September for her work with drones and animals.

Astrophysicist Burke, who lives in Longton, is leading a Liverpool John Moores University project, using heat seeking drones to differentiate and track rare and endangered species using their heat patterns.

Read more: Two teenagers arrested after burglary in Penwortham

Claire has appeared on the BBC, in the New York Times, on the Discovery Channel and on the National Geographic Channel talking about her groundbreaking work.

She attended Priory between 1998-2003, leaving with three A*s and seven As, before going on to Runshaw College and the University of Manchester to study Physics with Astronomy.

Claire Burke said:

“It’s a dream job really.

“I was definitely inspired by my physics teacher Mrs Gough at Priory – She encouraged us to look at the life cycle of stars as well as space and she inspired me to go into physics.

“I still keep in touch with her now.”

Following university, Claire completed a PhD in Astrophysics at Liverpool John Moores University and got a research job in South Africa with the Square Kilometre Array telescope before returning to England to be a Climate Scientist with the Met Office.

She then saw her dream job advertised, applying techniques from Astronomy to help save endangered species at Liverpool John Moores University.

She continued: “I saw that advertised, I love animals, and it sounded great – luckily I got the job.

“The project was a year old when I started but I have taken the lead on it for the last year.

“We have spent time at Knowsley Safari Park testing our equipment with the animals, it was great getting involved with the rhinos there, and we’re off to Malaysia soon to test them with orangutans.

“It’s so rewarding to make an impact in real life and make a difference.”

Findings of the project have been presented to the Astronomy Conference at the European Week of Astronomy and Space Science in Liverpool.

Claire continued: “I think back to my Priory days and they inspired me.

“It hasn’t always been easy, I didn’t get the top marks at university and I had to work really hard but if you put your mind to it, you can achieve what you want.

“I went back to give a talk recently to the Astronomy Club at Priory and it was a bit strange talking to teachers who used to teach me as an adult but I owe Priory a lot.”

Does your child attend Penwortham Priory? Do you live in the area? Let us know in the comments below

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