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Irish public asked to help track the Irish Stoat
Wednesday, 20 August 2014
NUI Galway researchers have asked the public to help in a quest to find out more about our elusive and unique Irish stoat. One of Ireland’s true native species, the Irish stoat (Mustela erminea hibernica) has been present on the island since before the last Ice Age. It is recognised as an endemic subspecies, quite distinct from those found in Britain and further afield. The research project is being undertaken by the Animal Ecology and Conservation group at NUI Galway, in collaboration with the Vincent Wildlife Trust, a charity that has been at the forefront of mammal conservation in Ireland and the UK for over 35 years. Stoats are predators and belong to the weasel family, the mustelids. While there are no weasels in Ireland, other mustelids found here include badgers, otters and pine martens. The Irish stoat is an important element of Irish biodiversity and a protected species, yet relatively little is known about them. Currently, there is no population estimate available and there is a real need for information on their distribution, ecology and habitat requirements. The project is being conducted by NUI Galway PhD student Laura O’Flynn and Lecturer in Zoology, Dr Colin Lawton. A key element of their research incorporates the use of ‘Citizen Science’, which is an opportunity for members of the public to pass on their sightings and experiences of the animal. Dr Lawton explains how the public can help: “We are hoping individuals all over the country will contribute to this vital conservation research. Stoats are about a foot long, with orange-brown fur and often their most recognisable trait is their quick bounding movement when running and hunting. Any information on the locations where stoats have been seen, the habitats they most frequently use or any insights into their behaviour will be of great use to the research team.” Dr Lawton added, “We have had great success using Citizen Science in the past to determine the most up to date ranges of grey and red squirrels in Ireland, and in tracking down the dormouse, a new mammal species to the country. Now we hope to find out what we can about one of our true native species, the Irish stoat, and see if they are in need of any conservation help, or indeed if they are causing any problems to farmers or gamekeepers.” There are a number of ways in which you can submit information to the project, by email at firstname.lastname@example.org, by phone on 091 492903 or 086 0660208, or on Facebook at the Irish Stoat Project https://www.facebook.com/irishstoat -ends-
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New atlas of Southern Ocean marine life, from microbes to whales
Monday, 25 August 2014
A new atlas, providing one of the most thorough audit ever of marine life in the Southern Ocean, was launched in New Zealand today. Leading marine biologists and oceanographers from all over the world, including NUI Galway’s Dr Louise Allcock, spent the last four years compiling information on more than 9,000 species. The species, which range from microbes to whales, include seaweeds, crustaceans, molluscs, corals, anemones, worms, moss animals, urchins, starfish, sea squirts, plankton, jellyfish, fish, seals, and birds. In 66 chapters, the scientists examine the evolution, physical environment, genetics and possible impact of climate change on marine organisms in the region. Dr Louise Allcock, a Lecturer in Zoology at NUI Galway, is author of two of the chapters. Her first chapter focuses on octopuses, a subject on which she is one of the world’s leading authorities. In a second chapter she explores bipolarity, the phenomenon where a species exists both in Antarctica, and the Arctic. According to Dr Allcock: “The study of bipolar species is fascinating because it tells us quite a lot about evolution and speciation. There are probably far fewer bipolar species than some people have suggested, but they are a very real transient natural phenomenon. As a species becomes widely dispersed, for a while it can be bipolar, but because of limited gene flow between the polar populations, these populations eventually diverge and each becomes a species in its own right.” Published by the Scientific Committee on Antarctic Research (SCAR), the new Biogeographic Atlas of the Southern Ocean is an unprecedented international collaboration involving 147 scientists from 91 institutions across 22 countries. It is the first time that such an effort has been undertaken since 1969 when the American Society of Geography published its Antarctic Map Folio Series. Chief editor, Claude De Broyer, of the Royal Belgian Institute of Natural Sciences, said: “This is the first time that all the records of the unique Antarctic marine biodiversity, from the very beginnings of Antarctic exploration in the days of Captain Cook, have been compiled, analysed and mapped by the scientific community. It has resulted in a comprehensive atlas and an accessible database of useful information on the conservation of Antarctic marine life.” The data, and expert opinions, in the Atlas will help inform conservation policy, including the debate over whether or not to establish marine protected areas in the open ocean. Sophisticated environmental models coupled with existing species distribution data provide a valuable outlook on the possible future distribution of key species as they adapt to climate change. New advances in genetics have shed light on some of the best known species from the Antarctic sea floor. The giant isopod crustacean Glyptonotus antarcticus is one of those. The animal lives on the edge of the continent at depths of up to 600 metres. Previously considered to be a single species with a circumpolar distribution, molecular barcoding suggests it may, in reality, be a group with up to eleven species inhabiting much smaller geographic regions. Author, and editor, Huw Griffiths, of the British Antarctic Survey, said: “The book is unique and contains an amazing collection of information and photos. It’s been an enormous international effort and will serve as a legacy to the dedicated team of scientists who have contributed to it. The Atlas is a must-read for anyone interested in the animals living at the end of the Earth.” The Atlas contains around 100 colour photos and 800 maps. It was launched at the SCAR 2014 Open Science Conference in Auckland, New Zealand today. -ends-
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Symposium on Youth and Sport Kicks off Croke Park Classic
Monday, 25 August 2014
A symposium on youth development and sport, organised by UNESCO experts, takes place on Thursday, 28 August. The symposium is organised by three UNESCO Chairs in the field of youth studies from NUI Galway, University of Ulster, and Penn State University. It kicks off the Croke Park Classic Weekend, which will feature an American football clash between Penn State and University of Central Florida. According to the symposium organisers, with half of the world’s population aged 25 or younger, there is a pressing need for innovative strategies to engage youth. And with 85% of all youth living in less developed countries, active engagement of youth is essential to international security, stability, and regional capacity building. Dr Mark Brennan of Penn State University explains how sport can help: “We believe that a dedication to youth citizenship sponsored through sport and recreation will bring communities together and create a prosperous and peaceful environment for all.” ‘The UNESCO Croke Park Symposium on Youth Civic Engagement and Leadership through Sport and Recreation’ will look at the effects sport can have on youth in terms of leadership, peace building, empowering women and social inclusion. Key speakers will include, among others: Professor Mark Brennan, UNESCO Chair in Rural Community, Leadership, and Youth Development, Penn State University. Professor Pat Dolan, UNESCO Chair in Children, Youth and Civic Engagement, NUI Galway. Professor Alan Smith, UNESCO Chair in Pluralism, Human Rights and Democracy, University of Ulster. Don Mullan, author, founder of the Christmas Truce and Flanders Peace Field Project. Alan Kerins, Irish GAA star and founder of Alan Kerins Projects; Hugo MacNeill, Irish rugby star, Managing Director Goldman Sachs; Georgette Mulheir, CEO of Lumos (the organisation founded by J.K. Rowling which works to support children in institutions.) NUI Galway’s Professor Pat Dolan, the first person to be awarded the prestigious UNESCO Chair in Children, Youth and Civic Engagement in the Republic of Ireland, commented: “We are focussed on knowledge creation around ‘what works’ in the real world of practice and on utilising community based approaches to working with and for young people.” Explaining the organisers’ approach, University of Ulster’s Professor Alan Smith, said: “The symposium will bring together a range of voices, from youth involved in citizenship and peacebuilding projects, to policy makers and organisations tasked with building resilient and thriving communities.” The Symposium will result in significant policy initiatives and a major formal declaration on utilising sports and recreation as mechanisms for youth development worldwide. This declaration will be announced at halftime during the Croke Park Classic football match and presented to the UN, UNESCO, and UNICEF as a platform for them to build global programming and policy. The UNESCO Croke Park Symposium on Youth Civic Engagement and Leadership through Sport and Recreation will be held on Thursday, August 28, 2014 from 9am to 4.30 pm at Croke Park, Dublin. Click here for full symposium agenda. ENDS
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Exciting proof-of-concept for acoustic dispensing of single cell stem cells
Wednesday, 27 August 2014
The Regenerative Medicine Institute (REMEDI) at NUI Galway and Irish start-up Poly-Pico Technologies Ltd. have successfully executed a new and exciting scientific proof-of-concept involving the use of sound waves to dispense living stem cells. Using the Poly-Pico micro-drop dispensing device, the researchers were able to isolate individual adult stem cells from a bone marrow sample. The ability to isolate individual stem cells in a quick, scalable and cost-efficient manner is attractive to scientists working in the field, as current methods are often time-consuming and costly. Individual cells can then be replicated into exact copies of themselves for experimental purposes, or various drug compounds could be applied to the individual cells to see what effects occur. Further down the line, there is the tantalising prospect of perhaps being able to use such dispensing devices as a form of tissue engineering. Poly-Pico Technologies Ltd. is an Enterprise Ireland High Potential Start-up (HPSU) company, which spun out from the University of Limerick and is now based in Galway. The company has developed a unique, accurate and highly versatile device, which uses sound energy to accurately dispense a wide range of fluid / materials at very low volumes (picolitre to nanolitre). The novel technology uses disposable cartridges to dispense materials such as proteins, antibodies, DNA and other compounds for biological applications as well as providing industrial solutions for the precise dispensing of adhesives, lubricants; and coatings. Now, for the first time, REMEDI scientists have successfully used the same technology to dispense stem cells, thereby demonstrating a capability of the instrument which will open up further applications in life sciences. In the proof-of-concept experiments, living stem cells were dispensed one at a time onto different surfaces using the sound wave technology. The delicate stem cells remained viable and continued to grow after being dispensed. “This gives us some ideas about new uses for the instrument”, says Frank Barry, Scientific Director of REMEDI at NUI Galway. If we can deliver stem cells accurately and rapidly, we can potentially engineer new tissues in the laboratory based on complex arrays of dispensed cells. If we try to look into the future, it is possible to envisage that human tissues could be manufactured using this kind of technology, thus avoiding the need to identify tissue donors for transplants.” Alan Crean, CEO of Poly-Pico Technologies, commented: “We are delighted to see this new technology opportunity emerge at the interface between biology and engineering. We look forward to working with REMEDI and NUI Galway on developing stem cell applications using our acoustic methods. There are other exciting applications of Poly-Pico’s unique technology in, for example, drug screening and DNA amplification. Our objective here is to make our technology available to companies, and researchers, and add value to what they are doing. This is one example of such a success.” This proof-of-concept was carried out under the Enterprise Ireland Commercialisation Fund. The technology was then advanced using an Innovation Voucher, an Enterprise Ireland initiative developed to build links between Ireland’s public knowledge providers (i.e. higher education institutes, public research bodies) and small businesses. ENDS
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GAA seen as ideal model for engaging youth with society
Thursday, 28 August 2014
The GAA was put forward as a shining example for fostering youth engagement at an international UNESCO symposium in Croke Park today. The symposium was organised by three UNESCO Chairs in the field of youth studies from NUI Galway, University of Ulster, and Penn State University, USA. Professor Mark Brennan, UNESCO Chair in Rural Community, Leadership, and Youth Development at Penn State University, believes other countries can learn from the GAA’s model. According to Professor Brennan: “The Gaelic Athletic Association is a true grassroots organisation. It empowers, involves and invigorates not just individual young people but their families and wider communities. We hear a lot about the ‘fabric’ of society. Organisations such as the GAA are examples of a wonderful type of clever stitching which can make this fabric strong and support young people as they develop. Sport has such potential to strengthen society around the world by engaging young peoples around the world and nations can learn from each other about what works best.” Speaking at the symposium, NUI Galway’s Professor Eamon O’Shea, who is also the Tipperary Hurling Manager, spoke of the importance of sport. “How we contextualize a child’s engagement with sport can impact how they learn about success and failure. Sport is mainly about failure - learning to go back on the pitch and say, ‘look, things will get better’. If at the end we can say we stayed the course, took the knocks, were resilient, it doesn’t matter how we end up. The journey is the critical piece in how children develop in sport.” Delegates heard that involvement in sport is key for positive youth development. Apart from obvious physical health gains through fitness, it also has a positive effect on mental health and enables both dealing with stress and coping. Sport enables young people to learn and deal with success and disappointment, which is a useful preparation for later life. Of particular importance, delegates heard, was the mentoring aspect of sport and also the potential for developing emotional intelligence. Other speakers at the event included Professor Pat Dolan, UNESCO Chair in Children, Youth and Civic Engagement, NUI Galway and Professor Alan Smith, UNESCO Chair in Pluralism, Human Rights and Democracy, University of Ulster. Some of the representatives from sport included Alan Kerins, former GAA Intercounty hurler and footballer, and founder of Alan Kerins Projects, and Hugo MacNeill, Irish rugby star and Managing Director Goldman Sachs. Attendees heard that youth citizenship, sponsored through sport and recreation has the power to bring communities together and create a prosperous and peaceful environment for all. A declaration was put forward, which contained a ‘call for all youth worldwide to receive the attention needed for them to be empowered to take ownership for their lives and development of their societies’. The declaration will be signed on Saturday, at half time during the American football clash between Penn State and University of Central Florida. -ends-
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Tánaiste Eamon Gilmore Opens Symposium on The Role of Women’s Leadership in the Democratic Republic of the Congo
Tuesday, 1 July 2014
UN Special Envoy for the Great Lakes Region of Africa and Former President Mary Robinson is among the keynote speakers at NUI Galway Symposium An Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade Eamon Gilmore TD today opens an international symposium on Women's Leadership, Peace and Sustainable Livelihoods in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) and Region at NUI Galway, organised in partnership with Georgetown Women’s Institute, Washington DC. The symposium will mark the first year of former President Mary Robinson’s role as UN Special Envoy for the Great Lakes Region and will hear from global experts on the conflict. Two decades of conflict in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) have resulted in the loss of up to five million lives. Hundreds of thousands of people, mostly women and children, have been subjected to sexual and gender based violence. Emerging from the conflict presents massive and complex challenges for the region. In February 2013 a new Peace, Security and Cooperation (PSC) Framework for the DRC and Region was agreed by the Congo and its neighbouring countries. Former President of Ireland, Mary Robinson, was appointed UN Special Envoy for the Great Lakes Region in March 2013, with a wide-ranging mandate to support and encourage signatories to implement the PSC Framework. Speaking about the NUI Galway Symposium, the Tánaiste Eamon Gilmore said: “Ireland has always supported the most vulnerable populations during conflicts; in particular women and children. This unique event will shine a light on the appalling suffering and turmoil in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) and surrounding region. Women and children have borne the brunt of this terrible conflict, and as such, it is fitting that this international gathering will examine the vital role of women as leaders in managing the transition towards a brighter future for the coming generations.” At the end of the first year of the mandate of the UN Special Envoy, the two-day symposium at NUI Galway focuses on women’s leadership and participation in the implementation of the Framework for peace in the DRC region. Speaking at the symposium, UN Special Envoy, Mary Robinson commented: It is much harder in practice rather than in theory to engage women fully in peace making and peace building, yet their role is essential for sustainable peace. We need to be determined, creative and imaginative to ensure the full involvement and empowerment of women in conflict resolution.” The role of women in leading the peace process in the DRC region has emerged as a prominent theme of Mary Robinson’s first year as UN Special Envoy. As symposium organiser, Dr Niamh Reilly of NUI Galway explains: “This unique event in Ireland shines a light on the root causes of the appalling suffering and turmoil in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) and surrounding region. Women and children have borne the brunt of this terrible conflict, and as such, it is fitting that this international gathering will examine the vital role of women as leaders in managing the transition towards sustainable peace for the coming generations.” The two-day symposium reflects the growing partnership between NUI Galway and the Mary Robinson Centre in Ballina. Speaking at the event, President of NUI Galway, Dr Jim Browne, said: “This important symposium represents the first major academic showcase of the NUI Galway-Mary Robinson Centre partnership. We are delighted to host this timely review of the tremendous work Mary Robinson has done as UN Special Envoy for the DRC region, and look forward to developing an extensive academic programme with the Centre.” Keynote speakers at the Women’s Leadership symposium include: MARY ROBINSON, UN Special Envoy of the Secretary General to the Great Lakes Region and former President of Ireland MELANNE VERVEER, Director, Georgetown Institute for Women, Peace and Security and first United States Ambassador-at-Large for Global Women's Issues ROSE MUTOMBO KIESE, President, Cadre Permanent de Concertation de la Femme Congolaise (National Network of Congolese Women’s Organisations) BINETA DIOP, African Union Special Envoy for Women, Peace and Security and founder and Chair of the Executive Board of Femmes Africa Solidarité (FAS). A new research report, “Women’s Leadership and Participation in the Peace Security and Cooperation Framework for the Democratic Republic of the Congo and the Great Lakes Region: Achievements, Challenges, and Opportunities", will be launched at the symposium. This joint NUI Galway-Georgetown University report, by Niamh Reilly at NUI Galway and Roslyn Warren at Georgetown University, documents Mary Robinson’s work on the ongoing implementation of Peace, Security and Cooperation (PSC) Framework for the DRC and Region and makes recommendations for the year ahead. -ends-
Irish Higher Education Institutes Partnership Leading a National Education Revolution
Tuesday, 1 July 2014
Minister for Education and Skills Ruairí Quinn T.D. acknowledged the role of NUI Galway in revolutionising education in Ireland at the ACE (Accelerating Campus Entrepreneurship) Conference at Farmleigh House in Dublin yesterday. Over the last six years, NUI Galway has worked with seven other Irish Higher Education Institutes as part of the ACE Consortium, to introduce enterprise and entrepreneurship education in non-business courses. “We all know that business students learn valuable financial and management skills. But it is also vital that those studying other disciplines such as engineering, creative industries and healthcare learn essential business skills. By learning to think in an entrepreneurial way, graduates are better prepared for the world of employment or self-employment” explained Michael Campion of NUI Galway’s Discipline of Management. At the ACE Conference the CEEN (Campus Entrepreneurship Enterprise Network) was established. This will provide a network for educators to share resources and support the introduction of enterprise education in non-business disciplines across their campus. In addition to driving the entrepreneurship agenda in third level education, the CEEN will work with primary and secondary educators to integrate entrepreneurship and enterprise education into Irish education. “Irish education must be innovative. It needs to adapt to meet the changing needs of graduates. It is not enough to teach technical skills. Entrepreneurship is a mind-set. It is a suite of skills. It is an ability to assess problems and find solutions. By teaching entrepreneurship, we give our children the toolkit they need to design their own future. This is the era of the ‘Entrepreneurial Graduate’ in Irish Education and NUI Galway is proud to lead this way in this major educational change” concluded Mr Campion. -Ends-
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NUI Galway Students Receive Merit Award at Enterprise Ireland Student Entrepreneur Awards
Tuesday, 1 July 2014
Two final year BSc (Business Information Systems) students at NUI Galway were awarded a Merit Award at the recent Enterprise Ireland Student Entrepreneur of the Year Awards. Lorcan Farrell and Domhnall Walsh, both from Galway City, received the award for their project ‘Ice Eyes’. ‘Ice Eyes’ the is an innovative solar powered cat’s eye road marker that is equipped with the technology to identify the temperature of the road and signal to drivers via a blue LED light when the temperature of that road has fallen below freezing. The aim of the project was to reduce the amount of accidents on Irish roads and all over the world during the cold seasons. Mary Dempsey, College of Engineering and Informatics, NUI Galway said: “This success reflects how our students expand existing technology boundaries and it demonstrates the richness of their innovative capacity. I am very proud of our students and their achievement of a merit award.” This year celebrates the 32nd year of the Enterprise Ireland Student Entrepreneur of the Year Awards. The Awards are part of a major drive aimed at tapping into the potential for students and young people to turn their entrepreneurial ideas into commercial businesses. This is Ireland’s largest and longest established third-level student enterprise competition. The awards are co-sponsored by Invest Northern Ireland, Cruickshank Intellectual Property Attorneys, Intel and Grant Thornton and are open to all third level colleges across the Island of Ireland. The awards were presented by Tom Hayes, Head of Micro Enterprises and Small Business at Enterprise Ireland and Dougie Howlett, from Munster Rugby. Each team received a tablet from Intel and Intellectual Property Consultancy from Cruickshank. -Ends-
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International Experts to Gather to Discuss Chemistry of Sugars
Tuesday, 1 July 2014
Numerous scientists around the world are working to better understand the complex sugars, or glycans, which coat every living cell in our bodies. Glycans are involved in the interactions between cells and physiological processes, such as fertilisation, cancer, and stem-cell differentiation. Some of the leading experts in this field will convene at NUI Galway from August 6-9, 2014. The goal of the 5th Warren Workshop will be to highlight the capabilities and limitations that exist in the detection, identification, and quantification of these carbohydrates. Professor Rob Woods, School of Chemistry, NUI Galway, explains the complexities involved in understanding the chemistry involved in glycosience: “Glycans are very complex and each one is unique. It’s almost like our cells are covered in snowflakes, each having its own unique fluctuating shape. So how do proteins or anitbodies identify and bind to glycans? If we could better understand this, we could use this this knowledge to develop carbohydrate-specific biosensors for use in disease diagnosis and treatment”. The driving force for the Warren Workshop series is the need for detailed structural analysis of glycans in the context of complex biological systems. The workshop will bring together experts from around the globe in the discipline to establish workflows for tackling these huge challenges. Speakers will be coming from Ireland, the US, Switzerland, England, Japan, Australia, Sweden, Taiwan, the Czech Republic, Germany, the Netherlands, and Israel. Professor Pauline Rudd, National Institute for Bioprocessing Research and Training (NIBERT) notes that NUI Galway, DCU, UCD, TCD and NIBRT all have strong programmes in applied glycoscience, especially in technology development, analytics, molecular modelling, carbohydrate recognition, oligosaccharide synthesis and glycan pathway modelling. In addition, bioinformatics programmes have been pioneered by Irish scientists. This meeting focuses on many of these topics, and particularly on new technologies of direct relevance to Pharmaceutical companies. In light of the 2013 Nobel Prize in Chemistry being awarded for Computational Simulations, the 5th Warren Workshop will also include a session on computational glycoscience. Professor Woods’ research group at NUI Galway is supported by Science Foundation Ireland and closely integrates strong computational and experimental skill sets: “Because of the mind-blowing complexities involved, we need the most advanced computational simulations to help us better understand how glycans are interacting and communicating within our bodies”. The team in Professor Wood’s lab is investigating antiviral agents to block viral infections and applying their findings to influenza; chosen because of the potential for a pandemic. The group is also working on the development of diagnostics for cancer markers with a focus on pancreatic cancer, one of the more virulent forms of cancer with a mortality rate of over 90%. Early detection of all cancers, preferably by non-invasive surveillance, is needed for all cancers, but particularly for the most aggressive forms. For further information on the 5th Warren Workshop visit http://glycomics.ccrc.uga.edu/warren-workshop/ -ends-
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Secure Bicycle Compound at NUI Galway
Tuesday, 1 July 2014
The new secure bicycle compound at NUI Galway was officially launched on the 18th June. Coinciding with this year’s National Bike Week the compound is open to staff and students who want to cycle to work and leave their bike in a secure location. A University ID card is all that is required to access the facility. With space for more than 320 bikes there are separate entrances and exits for cyclists use only with a permanent pumping station due for installation in the coming weeks. The high security compound is one of a number of facilities aimed at encouraging staff and students to cycle to campus. Bicycle lockers are currently on trial and additional bike racks are being installed at a variety of locations around the campus.
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