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Hunting for Doggerland

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A modern marshland: On the edge of the North Sea

A modern marshland: On the edge of the North Sea

UWTSD’S Dr Martin Bates is a part of a team of university archaeologists working on a £2 million research project to reconstruct an ancient landscape beneath the North Sea.

The archaeologists will use the grant to study the huge area of land called Doggerland, almost the size of Ireland, which was covered by the rising sea levels following the last Ice Age.

Dr Bates, Pleistocene Geoarchaeologist at UWTSD’s Faculty of Archaeology, History and Anthropology, based in Lampeter, said: “Our role in the project is to undertake the recording and sampling of the cores. In order to do this, we have set up a new core storage facility at Lampeter that allows us to store a large number of samples at low temperatures. Storing them in these conditions prevents the decay of material such as plant remains and insects, which are vital to our studies.”

Dr Bates said the project provides a superb opportunity to expand the investigation of submerged landscapes being undertaking elsewhere around the UK. He added: “In this project, we are going to be able not only to model these submerged landscapes remotely but also examine the sediments themselves. This will provide us with information allowing us to recreate the environments in which humans lived immediately before the sea flooded Doggerland.”

The team is being led by Professor Vince Gaffney, anniversary chairman in Landscape Archaeology at Bradford University, who has previously carried out similar work in the English Channel.

The Advanced Research Grant comes from the European Research Council, and could lead to new discoveries about how humans lived in that area from 10,000BC until it was flooded about 7,500 years ago.

Archaeologists, molecular biologists and computer scientists will work together on the new project to digitally reconstruct the area.

Using modern genetics and computing technologies, the researchers will digitally repopulate Doggerland, and monitor its development over 5,000 years to reveal clues about how our ancestors made the critical move from hunter-gathering into farming.

Last February, Professor Gaffney’s team revealed their research into the lost land beneath the water at Bouldner Cliff in The Solent, between the Isle of Wight and England, where they found remains of wheat dating back more than 1,800 years, before history records farming as starting in the area.

On the new grant, Professor Gaffney said: “The only populated lands on earth that have not yet been explored in any depth are those which have been lost underneath the sea.

“Although archaeologists have known for a long time that ancient climatic change and sea level rise must mean that Doggerland holds unique and important information about early human life in Europe, until now we have lacked the tools to investigate this area properly.”

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. The 3D map this produces will show rivers, lakes, hills and coastlines in a country which had previously been a heartland of human occupation in Europe.

Alongside the work, specialist survey ships will recover core sediment samples from selected areas of the landscape, using them to extract millions of fragments of ancient DNA from plants and animals that occupied Europe’s ancient coastal plains.

Professor Gaffney added: “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.”

The research team also includes Professor Robin Allaby of the University of Warwick, Dr Richard Bates of the University of St Andrews, Dr Eugene Ch’ng of the University of Nottingham, Dr David Smith of the University of Birmingham, and independent researcher Dr Simon Fitch.

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Education

Community safety promises as students return to Aberystwyth

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Aberystwyth University has launched five ‘community promises’ as part of its plans to ensure the safety of students, staff and the wider community as it prepares to welcome students back later this month.

The ‘community promises’ outline five pledges for students, staff and the wider town community. The five points are:

1. Maintain good hygiene – wash hands regularly

2. Keep our distance – follow guidelines

3. Know who we are with – test and trace saves lives

4. Protect those around us – wear a face covering where advised

5. Respect each other – be kind

The pledges come on top of the comprehensive safety measures the University has already introduced.

These include introducing one-way systems, classroom layout changes and signage, along with enhanced cleaning and hygiene arrangements, including providing hand sanitizer stations and regular cleaning of frequently touched surfaces.

It has also restructured its teaching timetable to support social distancing, is introducing contact tracing in co-operation with the local council and health board, and expects all staff, students and visitors to wear a face-covering while indoors on all University sites.

Aberystwyth University’s Vice-Chancellor, Elizabeth Treasure, said: “As we bring teaching on-campus later this month, our priority is to ensure the safety and wellbeing of all our students, staff and the wider community. The University has been working very hard over many months to adapt our campus and activities in light of the global pandemic. These comprehensive measures include enhancing cleaning, ensuring social distancing, contract tracing, and expecting all staff, students and visitors to wear a face-covering while indoors on all University sites. These adaptations have been introduced as a result of an extensive programme of risk assessments in order to identify and mitigate risks.

“All these detailed arrangements have been developed in close collaboration with Students’ Union representatives, as well as in discussions with Ceredigion Council, Hywel Dda Health Board, the Welsh Government and UK wide stakeholders. From the outset of the current pandemic, safety has been at the forefront of our thinking and will continue to be so for the new academic year.”

The new commitments have been backed by the Leader of Ceredigion Council, Students’ Union representatives, and the Mayor of Aberystwyth.

Ellen ap Gwynn, the Leader of Ceredigion County Council, said: “Ceredigion County Council has been working closely with Aberystwyth University over the last few months in ensuring that arrangements are in place to welcome students back safely to the County. We support the range of safety measures that Aberystwyth University has put in place, as well as the ‘community promises’ so that the students can return and once again become part of the community in Aberystwyth. We will continue to work closely with Aberystwyth University over the coming months to ensure the safety of the students and the local community.”

Aberystwyth Mayor Cllr Charlie Kingsbury added: “I’m very grateful for the hard work the University has undertaken to ensure that students return safely to Aberystwyth. Sensible measures, which are cognisant of the risk are essential as we welcome students back, and I have every confidence in the University’s commitment to support the health of the community in Aberystwyth.”

President of Aberystwyth Students’ Union Nate Pidcock commented: “These commitments are an important part of a package of adaptations which are being made in light of the pandemic. With students gradually returning to campus, these changes are going to be relatively new to everyone. We are going to do our very best, alongside other partners, to ensure that students are aware of this new normal. We are going to do all we can to work together to protect all the people and communities of Aberystwyth and Ceredigion as a whole.”

Since the outbreak of the pandemic, the University has been working with a wide variety of local and national partners to keep infection rates low in the Ceredigion, including providing facilities to the local health board and producing and supplying PPE. The University has also planned for a more gradual return of students this month, including making special provision for students who may need to self-isolate on arrival.

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Education

Vital support for job seekers and employers in West Wales

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TO MATCH job seekers with employers and career agencies across West Wales, a virtual jobs fair is taking place on Wednesday 9 September.

The free online event will be hosted by Working Wales, which is delivered by Careers Wales, and is in partnership with Job Centre Plus teams across West Wales and the south west and mid Wales Regional Learning and Skills Partnership.

Now, more than ever, job seekers and employers are relying on online support to find jobs and fill vacancies.

The event will run through Working Wales’ Facebook channels and will be split into two regional events covering West Wales mid and south. 10am-11am is for job seekers and employers in Bridgend, Rhondda Cynon Taff, Powys and Neath Port Talbot. 2pm-3pm will focus on Carmarthenshire, Pembrokeshire, Ceredigion and Swansea.

Attendees for the free event will have access to a wide variety of job vacancies from many sectors across West Wales as well as expert careers advice to support with job applications.

Working Wales is funded by the Welsh Government and the European Social Fund and was launched by the Minister for Economy, Transport and North Wales, Ken Skates in May 2019.

Within the first year the service has directly assisted over 37,000 people across Wales. Careers Wales chief executive, Nikki Lawrence said “We are delighted to be working with our partners in the west to deliver a virtual jobs fair. Our careers advice and guidance is a vital part of supporting the economy during this pandemic, and these online events allow us to effectively and safely continue reaching and supporting our customers during these challenging times.”

To register your interest in these events, follow Working Wales on Facebook @WorkingWales. If you are an employer with vacancies to fill please also get in touch.

Available to anyone over the age of 16, Working Wales provides a one-to-one, tailored employability advice and guidance service, supporting people across Wales with job searching, CV writing, interview preparation, training and upskilling as well as with redundancy support.

For more information on Working Wales visit: www.workingwales.gov.wales or call 0800 028 4844

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Education

Ceredigion ready to welcome pupils back safely

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Ceredigion pupils will return to school gradually from September onwards.

The autumn term begins on 3 September 2020, with pupils gradually returning until everyone is back on a full-time basis by 14 September 2020.

Ceredigion County Council would like to thank all staff for their hard work over recent weeks in ensuring that the appropriate arrangements are in place to safeguard the health and welfare of staff and pupils.

One-way systems will be in place in schools, bubble groups by year and class groups, and pupils will sit facing the front of the class, rather than facing each other, and scattered break and lunch times. Staff will also continue to take the temperature of each pupil as they arrive on site. We will ensure good hygiene by ensuring regular hand washing opportunities throughout the day and a supply of hand sanitizers in places where hand washing is not possible, as well as ensuring adequate fresh air within classes. In addition, the schools will be cleaned during the day and after school hours. The Contact Tracing system will be used in the event of any coronavirus case, and each school will have a dedicated isolation room if a pupil or member of staff feels unwell during the day, with clear signs placed around the sites to emphasize the importance of hygiene and keeping a social distance. Secondary schools will also be asking all pupils to carry face coverings with them and they will be expected to use them in line with the school’s Risk Assessment policy.

Transport arrangements will continue in Ceredigion for pupils who are eligible for school transport, in accordance with the county’s Transport policy. Ceredigion County Council expects pupils to wear face coverings on school transport. It will be the duty of parents/carers to provide a face covering for their child. Social distance is not a requirement on school transport and therefore the Council believes that wearing a face covering on school transport should be taken as one means of reducing risks.

The situation will be continually reviewed, and we thank everyone for their patience and co-operation as we prioritise the health and safety of all pupils and staff. We aim to ensure that our pupils receive as full an educational experience as possible within these circumstances.

The Headteachers of each school will be on hand to reassure pupils, parents and carers of any aspect of these preparations.

We look forward to welcoming old and new faces back to the schools in September, and we wish everyone a successful term, brimming with education.

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