Bangor University scientist left paralysed by virus takes part in global conference  

Reporter:

Arron Evans

A conservation scientist, left wheelchair-bound and dependant on artificial ventilation after suffering viral brain infection while conducting fieldwork in China two years ago, has made a presentation at a global conference.

Dr Sophie Williams, of Bangor University, contracted Japanese encephalitis, which is spread through mosquito bites, and was in a coma for six weeks.

She has nevertheless been determined to get back to her great passions, science and plant conservation, and this week had her research presented at the International Congress of Conservation Biology (ICCB) in Cartagena, Colombia.

Her presentation, entitled 'Would cultivation of a socio-economically important palm take pressure off wild populations?', was presented by video as Dr Williams is still in hospital undergoing rehabilitation.

She was, however, able to attend 'virtually' since the event was streamed live via the internet.

Dr Williams took questions from the international audience of conservation scientists.

She said: “I am so pleased to be presenting my work again.

“Thanks so much to the conference organisers for making this possible. I just wish I could be there in person.” Dr Williams is now an honorary lecturer at Bangor's school of environment, natural resources and geography.

Her colleague, Prof Julia Jones, who worked with her on the presentation, said: “When Sophie was invited to present at ICCB she was delighted and immediately determined to make it happen.

“Thanks so much to Rondo, a local production company, for taking our very unprofessional recording and producing the video.”

Dr Williams was meant to present at the last ICCB meeting in Montpellier in the south of France but at the time her life hung in the balance.

Her friend and colleague, Prof E.J Milner-Gulland, who attended the conference in Colombia said: “Sophie has always been a huge inspiration to everyone she meets; including her classmates, professors and fellow conservationists.

“It is wonderful that through this talk, she can reach out to a whole new group of people, and once again extend her positive influence and share her knowledge on a global scale.”

Dr Williams' family and friends have established a trust to help support her.

Anyone who would like to make a donation is asked to send cheques to The Sophie Williams Trust, co/Sarah Edgar, Tan y Felin Wen, Rhosbodrual, Caenarfon, Gwynedd, LL55 2BB.

Email:

arron.evans@nwn.co.uk

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