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Searching for a sunken world

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Reconstructing an ancient landscape: Dr Martin Bates

Reconstructing an ancient
landscape: Dr Martin Bates

AN ARCHAEOLOGIST from the University of Wales Trinity Saint David will be involved in a ground-breaking project to reconstruct an ancient landscape now hidden beneath the North Sea.
Archaeologists, molecular biologists and computer scientists will work together to digitally re-construct a prehistoric country approaching the size of Ireland that, following climate change after the last Ice Age, was covered by rising sea levels and now lies beneath the North Sea.
Dr Martin Bates, a geo-archaeologist at UWTSD in Lampeter, will work alongside the project lead Professor Vince Gaffney (University of Bradford), Professor Robin Allaby (University of Warwick), Dr Richard Bates (University of St Andrews), Dr Eugene Ch’ng (University of Nottingham), Dr David Smith (University of Birmingham) and independent researcher Dr Simon Fitch.
Using modern genetics and computing technologies researchers will digitally repopulate this ancient country, called Doggerland, monitoring its development over 5000 years to reveal important clues about how our ancestors made the critical move from hunter-gathering into farming.
Funded by a prestigious €2.5 million Advanced Research Grant from the European Research Council, the project will transform our understanding of how humans lived in this area from around 10,000 BC until it was flooded at the end of the last ice age around 7,500 years ago.
Dr Martin Bates said: “For the first time in the North Sea, we will be able to carry out a targeted and purposive investigation of a series of sites on the seabed. Previously archaeologists have had to rely on samples from locations selected because of impact on the sea bed. In this project we have the chance to pick our sample locations and this should allow us an unprecedented look at how this landscape changed before and during transgression.
“The team will be using the vast remote sensing data sets generated by energy companies to reconstruct the past landscape now covered by the sea. This will help to produce a detailed 3D map that will show rivers, lakes, hills and coastlines in a country which had previously been a heartland of human occupation in Europe but was lost to the sea as a consequence of past climate change, melting ice caps and rising sea levels.
“Alongside this work, specialist survey ships will recover core sediment samples from selected areas of the landscape. Uniquely, the project team will use the sediments to extract millions of fragments of ancient DNA from plants and animals that occupied Europe’s ancient coastal plains. The cool, underwater environment means that DNA is better preserved here and offers archaeologists a unique view of how society and environment evolved during a period of catastrophic climate change and in a prehistoric country that had previously been lost to science and history.”
The data from seismic mapping and sedimentary DNA, along with conventional environmental analysis, will be combined within computer simulations, using a technique called ‘agent-based modelling, that will build a comprehensive picture showing the dynamic interaction between the environment and the animals and plants that inhabit it throughout the period – around 5000 years.
Professor Vince Gaffney said: “This project is exciting not only because of what it will reveal about Doggerland, but because it gives us a whole new way of approaching the massive areas of land that were populated by humans but which now lie beneath the sea. This project will develop technologies and methodologies that archaeologists around the world can use to explore similar landscapes including those around the Americas and in South East Asia.”

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Education

Free School Meals for Reception, Year 1 and Year 2 from September 2022

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CEREDIGION COUNTY COUNCIL will be offering Free School Meals from the Autumn term onwards to all Reception, Year 1 and Year 2 children.

This comes following Welsh Government’s announcement to offer Free School Meals for primary school pupils across Wales, starting with Reception classes from September 2022.

In response to the current rising cost-of-living, this is a positive step forward in ensuring that no child goes hungry while in school and tackling poverty in our County.

From Monday 5 September 2022 onwards, all Reception, Year 1 and Year 2 Children in Ceredigion schools will be offered Free School Meals, extending the offer beyond what needs to be done by September.

Ceredigion County Council and Welsh Government are committed to implementing this scheme quickly and would ask for your patience as we build catering capacity to ensure a successful phased implementation and work towards a whole school roll-out over the next three years.

The Council are working with Welsh Government to develop a process for you to be able to request a free meal for your child/children in Reception, Year 1 and Year 2 from September 2022, trying to avoid any unnecessary burden for you.

If your child is currently in receipt of free school meals and/or any other associated benefits, these will not be affected.

Wyn Thomas, Cabinet Member responsible for Schools, Lifelong Learning and Skills, said: “The Government’s aim is for Welsh Local Authorities to provide a free school meal for Reception pupils in September 2022. The Council has taken advantage of the flexibility of the scheme and so more pupils in Ceredigion will benefit from the offer of a free meal for Reception, Year 1 and Year 2 pupils in September 2022 in the County’s schools.”

Further information will follow by the end of term.

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Tropical disease research boosted with ”future leader” joining Aberystwyth University

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A WORLD-LEADING study of tropical diseases at Aberystwyth University has received a major boost with an internationally-recognised scientist joining from The Wellcome Sanger Institute, Cambridge.
Dr Gabriel Rinaldi, from Aberystwyth University’s Institute of Biological, Environmental and Rural Sciences (IBERS), has been awarded the prestigious Future Leaders Fellowship by the UK Research and Innovation body (UKRI). He will join the university in August to take up the fellowship.
The award celebrates leading early career academics in the UK and provides them with support to continue their research into society’s biggest problems.
Dr Rinaldi’s ambitious research project, which will take place over the next four years, will be focused on better understanding the biology of blood fluke schistosomes, parasitic flatworms that are responsible for a major neglected tropical disease affecting low and middle-income countries.
Schistosomiasis affects more than 250 million people per year worldwide, in particular developing countries in the tropics. The number of deaths is hard to estimate but it can cause liver, intestine and urogenital damage, as well as having a detrimental impact on child development, including their ability to learn.
Treatment relies on a single drug but signs of resistance to it are emerging. This means that new strategies for controlling the disease are urgently required.
Dr Rinaldi’s research will focus on the early intra-mammalian development of the parasite and its unique sexual biology. By using cutting-edge molecular biology approaches, he aims to reveal key factors involved in the early development of male and female parasites and their interaction with the host. This will ultimately reveal vulnerabilities that will be exploited with novel control strategies, including drugs and vaccines.
He will enrich the existing parasitology strengths within Aberystwyth University and contribute to the Barrett Centre for Helminth Control’s efforts in controlling parasites responsible for agricultural, veterinary and biomedical diseases.
Dr Rinaldi said: “This distinguished fellowship will enable my transition from a staff scientist working within a team to an innovative leader of my own helminth developmental biology programme at Aberystwyth University. The scale and duration of the fellowship allow for a very ambitious research project, facilitating the generation of novel lines of research.
This opportunity will also broaden my professional foundations for a long-term research program focused on schistosome development, its unusual sexual differentiation among other parasitic flatworms and interaction with the hosts.”
UKRI Chief Executive, Professor Dame Ottoline Leyser, said: “The Future Leaders Fellowships provide researchers and innovators with the freedom and generous long-term support to progress adventurous new ideas, and to move across disciplinary boundaries and between academia and industry.
“The fellows announced today provide shining examples of the talented researchers and innovators across every discipline attracted to pursue their ideas in universities and businesses throughout the UK, with the potential to deliver transformative research that can be felt across society and the economy.”
Karl Hoffmann, Director of Barrett Centre for Helminth Control at Aberystwyth University, said: ”We are incredibly pleased that Gabriel has been successful in securing this prestigious UKRI Fellowship and are thrilled to welcome he and his research team to Aberystwyth. Gabriel’s team will join an established infectious disease research community at the University and lead to expanding our international reach and reputation in this area.
“Importantly, outcomes of Gabriel’s research will lead to urgently-needed new strategies for controlling schistosomiasis in people living in some of the most resource-poor communities on the planet. This research is essential to meet the World Health Organisation’s goal of schistosomiasis elimination in the next decade.
“Gabriel is well positioned to meet this challenge head-on and we can’t wait to begin working with him on this international agenda.”
Dr Iain Donnison, Head of Department – Biological Environmental and Rural Sciences, added: “Dr Rinaldi’s award is well-deserved recognition of his enormous talent as well as the importance of the research project. Aberystwyth University undertakes world-leading research in parasitology, and this project underlines the importance of such work to addressing the impacts of schistosomiasis. The development of new disease management policies and therefore reduction in transmission of such a neglected tropical disease, has the potential to deliver significant societal benefits.”
Dr Rinaldi received his MD degree in General Medicine and PhD degree in Molecular Parasitology from University of the Republic, Uruguay. Thereafter, he worked as postdoctoral Research Fellow at George Washington University and most recently as Senior Staff Scientist in the Parasite Genomics team at the Wellcome Sanger Institute.

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Education

Professor of Medieval History takes on Society Presidency role

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PHILIPP SCHOFIELD, Professor of Medieval History and Head of the Department of History and Welsh History at Aberystwyth University, has been elected as the President of the Economic History Society.
Established in 1926, the Economic History Society is the leading learned society for economic and social history.

Its primary purpose is to support research and teaching in economic and social history.

The Society publishes The Economic History Review: a Journal of Economic and Social History, one of the world’s highest-rated social science and history journals.

The organisation also runs a major annual international conference, sponsors a variety of scholarly publications, promotes economic and social history in schools, provides postdoctoral fellowships and promotes the role of women in the field.

Working alongside other societies and professional bodies, the Society also acts as a pressure group to influence government policy in the interests of history.

Professor Phillipp Schofield will serve as the President of the Economic History Society for a period of three years, having been elected in April 2022.

Professor Schofield commented: “It’s an honour to have been chosen by my peers to lead this important organisation and help implement its strategy and policies. I also look forward to using the role to promote the study of economic history and to support this important subject area.”
Professor Phillip Schofield.

Phillipp Schofield is Professor of Medieval History and Head of the Department of History and Welsh History at Aberystwyth University. He received his D.Phil. from the University of Oxford in 1992, having previously completed his degree in Ancient and Medieval History at UCL. His research focusses on the medieval agrarian economy, with particular reference to the medieval English peasantry.

His current projects include investigation of the response to dearth and famine in medieval England and litigation over debt in interpersonal pleadings in manorial courts. He was an editor of the Economic History Review from 2011 to 2017.

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