Northern Ireland's 'Secret Peacemaker' Entrusts his Records to NUI Galway

Northern Ireland's 'Secret Peacemaker' Entrusts his Records to NUI Galway-image

Monday, 8 June 2009

NUI Galway and University of Ulster to Collaborate on Research NUI Galway today announced that the private papers of Brendan Duddy, former secret intermediary between the British Government and the Provisional Republican leadership, have been deposited in the University's library archives. The extensive collection of papers charts Brendan Duddy's involvement, from 1973 to 1993, in the intensive efforts to negotiate an end to the conflict in Northern Ireland. President of NUI Galway, Dr James J. Browne, said: "We are honoured to become the custodians of Brendan Duddy's valuable and unique collection. This archive will provide an extraordinary insight into the making of peace in Ireland, from the perspective of a man who played a pivotal role". NUI Galway, in collaboration with INCORE - the University of Ulster s International Conflict Research Centre, will carry out extensive research on the papers. The documents, which currently fill 30 box files, will be assessed and catalogued. In due course, documents from the archive will be digitised and made available to historians and other researchers in a collaboration between NUI Galway and the Conflict Archive on the Internet (CAIN). Brendan Duddy will speak at NUI Galway's Conference of Irish Studies on Saturday, 13 June, where several documents from the archive will be on display. He commented: "It is a pleasure and a privilege to entrust my papers to NUI Galway, where, I hope, they will be of some value to scholars of Irish history in the generations to come. I am particularly happy that the archive is to be shared with INCORE of the University of Ulster, based in my home town of Derry". A business man from Derry with a desire for peace, Brendan Duddy spent more than 20 years at the centre of extraordinary events in Northern Ireland. Sometimes using his own house as the venue for secret meetings, he acted as the contact between representatives of the IRA s ruling army council and British intelligence officers from MI6 and MI5. He was an intermediary in the negotiations aimed at resolving the hunger-strikes of 1980 and 1981, and also played a central role in the efforts to negotiate the IRA ceasefire in 1994. Brendan's role gradually became public in recent years, most significantly when the BBC aired the documentary The Secret Peacemaker in 2008. Dr Niall O'Dochartaigh of the School of Political Science of Sociology at NUI Galway and author of From Civil Rights to Armalites, an influential academic study of the Troubles in Derry, will be deeply involved in research on the papers. Dr Ó Dochartaigh says: "This is an extraordinary collection, one of the most important sources we have for understanding the Irish peace process. The papers will be an essential resource for any researcher trying to understand how peace was made in Ireland and a focus for historical research for years to come". Dr Brandon Hamber, Director of INCORE at the University of Ulster, said: "We are delighted to be collaborating with Brendan Duddy and NUI Galway on this important project. Rarely, is there an opportunity to get an inside view into how peace is really made. Brendan Duddy's archive does just that and is therefore not only of local but also international importance". The James Hardiman Library at NUI Galway already houses papers belonging to Republican Ruairi Ó Brádaigh, which will complement the acquisition of the Brendan Duddy Archive. The archives service of the James Hardiman Library has over three hundred archival collections, dating from the fifteenth century to the present day. Major collections include manuscript collections of poetry and folklore gathered by Douglas Hyde, the literary papers of John McGahern and the music of Joe Burke. -Ends-

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New Irish Start-up Saving Almost 20% on Fuel Costs

New Irish Start-up Saving Almost 20% on Fuel Costs-image

Monday, 8 June 2009

Technology from a new NUI Galway start-up company, eagleEdge Ltd., is cutting almost 20% off fuel bills in the haulage and transport industries. By installing a 'black box' device, designed and developed in Ireland, the solution helps identify how changes in driver style across vehicle fleets can save fuel. eagleEdge, which was founded by a former NUI Galway research team and came out of the University's business incubation facilities, has been instrumental in reducing the fuel usage of large vehicle fleets by up to 18%. Improvements in individual driver performance of as much as 30-40% have also been achieved. The company's product FuelGauge monitors driving style and habits, and a customised report advises on where fuel is being wasted. This could be through hard acceleration, harsh braking, lack of cruise control usage, excessive speeds or various other factors. Jason Byrne is Director of eagleEdge: "What became evident in our research was the scale of the fuel problem for hauliers and logistics companies. Currently, a typical haulier or coach operator is spending at least 40% of their running costs on fuel, which is just staggering when you consider the tight margins a lot of these companies operate. When you consider the massive cost that fuel represents to fleet managers, it's easy to see why some transport chiefs are looking at innovative ways to turn their biggest cost into their biggest profit maker this year". Dr John Kavanagh is Director of the Technology Transfer Office, NUI Galway: "eagleEdge is a fine example of entrepreneurship leading to a very practical innovation and proves the adage that what gets measured gets done. This is a true Green Technology with cost benefits to the transport sector leading to lower fuel imports and a reduction in Ireland's carbon footprint". -Ends-

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Largest Ever International Survey of Youth Health to be Planned in Galway

Largest Ever International Survey of Youth Health to be Planned in Galway-image

Monday, 8 June 2009

The largest ever survey of children and young people's health is to be planned by international experts in NUI Galway this week. A hundred scientists will gather to prepare for the next round of the Health Behaviour in School-aged Children (HBSC) study which will take place during 2010 in more than 43 countries and will include over 230,000 children aged 11-15 years. Of particular interest will be the opportunity to listen to the voices of Irish young people, who will showcase their projects and views on children's health and well-being and help ensure that their voices are fully represented in the planning process. Dr Saoirse Nic Gabhainn of the Health Promotion Research Centre, NUI Galway, and Principal Investigator for HBSC Ireland, said: "We are delighted to welcome colleagues from across Europe and North America to Galway, planning the next international survey is a huge undertaking and we need to make sure that the best possible methods are used". The HBSC survey aims for greater understanding of health among young people, both physical and emotional, and includes information on the context of young people's lives including families, school, communities and peer groups. These data sets will be vital to those developing policy, strategy and practice in the area of youth health and well-being in Ireland and internationally. In order to ensure that comparisons between countries are valid, the scientists convening in Galway will discuss and agree how to make sure that all countries follow the same procedures and collect information in the same way. All the questions to be included in the next survey round including the rationale and evidence-base will be discussed. "Young people deserve the best quality, evidenced-based planning for their health and well-being, and they want to be involved in the process – our aim is to make that possible" said Dr Nic Gabhainn. -Ends-

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'Swine Flu' Analysis Nominated for Top US Award

'Swine Flu' Analysis Nominated for Top US Award-image

Monday, 8 June 2009

The Center for Disease Control in the United States has announced that a paper on Swine Flu, co-authored by NUI Galway's Professor Anthony Moran, has been nominated for a prestigious US science award. The manuscript Anti-Ganglioside Antibody Induction by Swine and Other Influenza Vaccines: Insights into vaccine-Associated Guillain-Barré Syndrome, was nominated in the Laboratory and Methods category in the 2009 Charles C. Shepard Science Awards. The research concerns the "swine flu" (H1N1) epidemic of 1976 in the US which has some similarity to the present-day AH1N1 outbreak. Over 40 million US citizens were given a swine flu vaccine in 1976. A very small percentage subsequently reported the development of a paralytic disorder, Guillain-Barré syndrome (GBS), which is a disorder of the peripheral nervous system that may lead to immobility due to paralysis. However, the link between the vaccine and the development of this syndrome remains to be proven. Professor Anthony Moran of the School of Natural Sciences at NUI Galway, explained: "Our paper dealt with a re-analysis of the 1976 vaccine* and its potential to contribute to GBS development. Using more modern approaches retrospectively on these samples, we were able to show that important safety issues should be considered when producing such vaccines to avoid the development of GBS. Thus, our findings will allow the development of even safer vaccines. This is of central relevance at the present time in producing a new flu vaccine for current usage". Since 1985, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR) have presented the Charles C. Shepard Science Award to authors of the most outstanding peer-reviewed research paper published by CDC/ATSDR scientists during the preceding year. The award recognises scientific achievement at CDC/ATSDR and honours the memory of Dr Charles C. Shepard, whose career was marked by the pursuit of scientific excellence. Presently, in addition to honouring publications in three categories – Assessment and Epidemiology, Prevention and Control, and Laboratory and Methods – there is also an award for Lifetime Scientific Achievement. President of NUI Galway, Dr James J. Browne, commented on the prestige and relevance of this award: "The US Center for Disease Control is the leading disease surveillance authority worldwide, so the nomination of Professor Moran and his team for this award is highly prestigious and represents an acknowledgement of the internationally significant research being conducted at NUI Galway. I would like to congratulate Professor Moran and his team and wish him well at the award ceremony in June". The Shepard Science Award ceremony will take place at the CDC's Roybal Campus on Monday, June 29, 2009. This year's keynote speaker will be Nobel Laureate, Professor Paul Krugman. He will speak on "Health and the Economic Future". -Ends-

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The Quiet Man and Beyond: Reflections on a Classic Film, John Ford, and Ireland

The Quiet Man and Beyond: Reflections on a Classic Film, John Ford, and Ireland -image

Friday, 5 June 2009

A new book published by The Liffey Press and co-edited by NUI Galway academics Seán Crosson and Rod Stoneman, is to be launched on Thursday, 11 June at 11am in the Huston School of Film & Digital Media as part of the American Conference for Irish Studies (ACIS) 2009. Seán Crosson is a lecturer on Irish and world cinema with the Huston School of Film & Digital Media at NUI Galway where he is Programme Coordinator of the MA in Film Studies and Rod Stoneman is the Director of the Huston School of Film & Digital Media and was formerly Chief Executive with Bord Scannán na hÉireann/The Irish Film Board. This book, The Quiet Man … and Beyond, involves both critical analysis of aspects of The Quiet Man as myth, commodity and fetish and the celebration of a film that has sustained considerable academic attention and popular appreciation since its release in 1952. Among the topics considered are the complexity of the film's relation to Ireland, Irish literature and to John Ford's other films; its perceived place with regard to indigenous Irish cinema and representations of women; and the phenomenon of its circulation and reception as a cult film over the years. The contributors to the collection include some of the leading scholars of film and Irish studies including Luke Gibbons, John Hill, Ruth Barton and NUI Galway academics Adrian Frazier and Sean Ryder. In 1996, The Quiet Man topped an Irish Times poll for the best Irish film of all time. Almost ten years later, in 2005, with many more Irish (and Irish-themed) films made, The Quiet Man still occupied number four in a poll of 10,000 people across Ireland. John Ford's greatest commercial success, the film also set a template for Ireland's representation, and promotion, for over half a century. ACIS 2009, hosted by the Centre for Irish Studies at NUI Galway, is one of the largest conferences in the humanities in Ireland this year. Speakers from a dozen countries, representing over 100 universities will present up to 250 papers examining themes relating to contemporary Irish culture and society. Delegates attending the American Conference of Irish Studies (ACIS) in conjunction with the Second Galway Conference of Irish Studies (GCIS) will consider issues relating to the key themes of the dynamics of immigration and settlement in modern Ireland, and the concept of the everyday in Irish life and culture. -Ends-

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Career Development Centre to Support NUI Galway Graduates

Career Development Centre to Support NUI Galway Graduates -image

Thursday, 4 June 2009

(Leagan Gaeilge) In response to an increased number of queries from graduates seeking assistance with job searches, NUI Galway will host a Graduate Support day in the Career Development Centre on 11 June from 1.30pm to 4.30pm. John Hannon, Head of the Career Development Centre at NUI Galway, says: "It is without doubt a difficult time for graduates who find themselves navigating the current labour market. We look forward to meeting recent graduates again and we encourage alumni to avail of this unique event". Graduates will have the opportunity to avail of a one to one consultation with a careers adviser which can be pre booked by calling the Career Development Centre in advance. Staff will also be available to review CV's and offer advice on further education options. In addition, the event will include a series of talks on job search, CV advice and tips on keeping motivated in the current climate. For further details or to book an appointment please contact the NUI Galway Career Development Centre on 091 493589 or email pamela.devins@nuigalway.ie An tIonad Forbartha Gairmeacha le Tacú le Céimithe OÉ Gaillimh (View in English) Ó tharla neart fiosrúchán a bheith faighte ó chéimithe ag lorg cúnaimh agus iad ar thóir poist, tá sé beartaithe ag OÉ Gaillimh Lá Tacaíochta do Chéimithe a reáchtáil san Ionad Forbartha Gairmeacha ar an 11 Meitheamh ó 1.30pm go dtí 4.30pm. Dúirt John Hannon, Ceann Ionad Forbartha Gairmeacha OÉ Gaillimh: "Níl dabht ar bith faoi ach go bhfuil an-chuid deacrachtaí le sárú ag céimithe atá anois ag iarraidh poist a aimsiú dóibh féin agus cúrsaí geilleagair mar atá. Táimid ag tnúth le bualadh le cuid de chéimithe na hOllscoile seo agus molaimid freisin do alumni freastal ar an imeacht seo". Beidh deis ag céimithe freastal ar sheisiún comhairliúcháin duine le duine le comhairleoir gairme; is féidir seisiúin mar seo a chur in áirithe roimh ré trí ghlaoch ar an Ionad Forbartha Gairmeacha. Beidh comhaltaí foirne ar fáil freisin le breathnú ar CVanna agus comhairle a thabhairt maidir le roghanna breisoideachais. Chomh maith leis sin, eagrófar sraith cainteanna maidir le conas post a chuardach, tabharfar comhairle agus noda maidir le misneach a bheith agat agus cúrsaí geilleagair mar atá. Má theastaíonn tuilleadh eolais uait nó más mian leat coinne a dhéanamh, déan teagmháil leis an Ionad Forbartha Gairmeacha ag 091 493589 nó seol ríomhphost chuig pamela.devins@nuigalway.ie -Críoch-

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Innovation - Smart Thinking for Success

Innovation - Smart Thinking for Success-image

Tuesday, 2 June 2009

To survive and prosper firms need to innovate their current management models, according to international management and strategy expert Professor Julian Birkinshaw. Professor Birkinshaw is co-founder and research director of the Management Lab (M-Lab), a non-profit organisation based in California working to accelerate management innovation, and Professor of Strategic and International Management at London Business School. He will deliver two key note addresses at the InterTradeIreland Innovation conference hosted by the Centre of Innovation and Structural Change (CISC) at NUI Galway on 9 and 10 June. Innovation from Research to Practice is the theme of Professor Birkinshaw's first keynote talk on 9 June. This will focus on the emergence of the 'open innovation' model, how firms can do a better job of managing innovation and the role of the leader in stimulating innovation in a downturn. On 10 June, Professor Birkinshaw's will focus on Innovating your Management Model which will outline the current challenges that managers face and the need for managers and organisations to fundamentally change their management model to survive, prosper and to innovate on a sustainable basis. Delegates will also have the opportunity to put questions to a panel of industry speakers who will discuss "Innovation: Challenges and Opportunities" from their perspective. This conference is being delivered as part of the InterTradeIreland All-Island Innovation Programme. The Programme, a partnership between InterTradeIreland, NUI Galway, University College Dublin and Queens University Belfast, aims to promote and encourage innovation across the island of Ireland. The All-Island Innovation Programme is complemented by a Community of Researchers working on innovation across the island. The aim of this community is to progress the development of an all-island knowledge economy, to align best practice in innovation research with current policy thinking and inform future policy-making and its implementation. InterTradeIreland Strategy and Policy Director Aidan Gough said: "This two-day programme will explore the challenge of delivering innovation for the smart economy. Innovation is more important than ever in the current climate and can make the difference between mere survival and growth. Professor Birkinshaw will provide insights into how embedding innovation into the overall management process can drive success." Anyone interested in attending should contact valerie.parker@nuigalway.ie and online at www.innovationireland.org. Attendance is open to all and the event is free to attend. -Ends-

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July 2009

Research Projects at NUI Galway Secure SFI Funding

Research Projects at NUI Galway Secure SFI Funding -image

Wednesday, 29 July 2009

Three groundbreaking research projects at NUI Galway secured funding awards when Conor Lenihan T.D., Minister for Science, Technology and Innovation recently announced research funding awards of €20.7million for 22 research projects under the Science Foundation Ireland Principal Investigator Programme. Making the announcement, Minister Lenihan said: "Today's Government investment will enable crucial research to be carried out in Ireland over the next three to five years. The successful 22 projects include medical research into cancer, stroke and brain injury, Alzheimer's Disease, asthma, cystic fibrosis, salmonella, meningitis, pre-clampsia, genetics and medical devices, while other areas to be funded include greenhouse gas emissions, web personalization, cloud computing, cyber security, digital media and semi-conductors." In congratulating the award winners, the Minister added: "The Government remains firmly committed to developing the "Smart Economy". It is research projects such as these that will support the next phase of Ireland's economic development. We must never lose sight of the fact that research and development is primarily about people - the individual and collective talents of our skilled personnel. We must continue to support the best researchers to bring about long-term economic benefits and with the assistance of support structures such as SFI, IDA and Enterprise Ireland, we can studiously bring these concepts to that next level, and through exploitation and commercialisation ensure economic and societal benefits for Ireland." Speaking at the announcement, Chairperson of SFI, and former President of NUI Galway Professor Pat Fottrell said: "To date, the academic and commercial outputs stemming from previous PI funding have been promising, which bodes well for today's recipients under this programme. By subjecting all funding applications to a high level of scrutiny and review by 28 distinguished international scientists, SFI has illustrated its meticulous and exhaustive approach in rewarding ground-breaking research with the greatest potential for commercial and societal benefits." From a total of €20m in funding granted by the SFI Principal Investigator Programme, the following NUI Galway projects received €2.7m: Professor Robert Woods, School of Chemistry and NCBES Virtual Glycan Array Development and Carbohydrate Receptor Engineering Carbohydrates are highly abundant, simple organic compounds and are the building blocks of sugars and starches. Professor Woods aims to use a combination of computer modeling and experimental approaches to design new carbohydrate-based drug therapies and diagnostic agents. The ultimate goal of this research is to develop novel anti-viral medications for treatment of influenza and diagnostics for diseases, such as cancer and diabetes. Professor Corrado Santocanale, NCBES Understanding and exploiting molecular mechanisms of DNA replication in cancer cells Correct duplication of the genetic material (DNA) in each cell of our body is essential for the maintenance of a cancer free state. Uncontrolled DNA duplication is one of the hallmarks of cancer and many established chemotherapeutic agents target this process. Professor Santocanale aims to discover mechanisms that control DNA duplication in human cancer cells and to identify proteins targets for development of novel chemotherapeutics. Dr Henry Curran, School of Chemistry & ECI Combustion Chemistry for Sustainable Energy and Energy Efficient Technologies. Under the Kyoto Protocol, Ireland agreed to limit its Greenhouse Gas emissions to 13% above 1990 levels by 2008–2012. Emissions from transport continue to be the main source of growth in GHG levels in Ireland. Dr Curran will examine how biofuels burn which will assist in making choices on potentially new fuels for energy efficient combustion. The research also aims to develop technologies that will enable safe and reliable gas turbine operation (for power and heat generation) with undiluted syngas. These SFI awards follow from last week's announcement by The Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment, Ms Mary Coughlan T.D., for Government funding of €11.3million for 68 research projects under the Science Foundation Ireland Research Frontiers Programme (RFP) for 2009 of which NUI Galway was awarded over €1million. Dr Harald Berresheim, School of Physics & ECI Variation of the Oxidation Efficiency and Particle Precursor Gases in the Coastal Atmosphere. The atmosphere's efficiency to clean itself from pollutants is linked to the production of OH radicals which react with nearly all pollutants via oxidation. However, this cleansing efficiency can significantly vary depending on UV radiation and atmospheric levels of natural and/or man-made compounds. This project aims to quantify these limitations based on direct measurements of OH in the coastal atmosphere at Mace Head. In addition, the role of OH and sulphur gases as well as other compounds in the formation of new ultrafine particles will be investigated. The project will be supported by two international collaborators. Dr Dimitrios I. Zeugolis, Department of Mechanical & Biomedical Engineering, & NCBES Loading a self-assembled nano-textured matrix for functional tissue engineering In the quest of the ideal raw material for scaffold fabrication, collagen use has been advocated due to its superior mechanical properties and reduced immunogenicity. However, the currently available sources of collagen either harbour concerns for inter-species transmission of disease (e.g. bovine extracted collagen) or are of low yield (human recombinant collagen). Herein, we propose an approach to produce large amounts of collagen that will be host-specific. The resultant scaffolds will be optimally stabilised and functionalised to control structural, physical and biological properties with no inherent toxic effects on resident cells. Dr Anne Marie Power, Zoology & Martin Ryan Institute 'BINDING: Barnacle INspired Design IN Gluing technology' "Developing glues that work in wet environments would be extremely useful in surgical applications. Barnacles have evolved underwater mechanisms to cement themselves to all sorts of surfaces, producing strong bonds which can withstand powerful forces but which are also non-toxic. The molecular methods which produce this attachment will form the basis of this research." Professor Michael Redfern, School of Physics Researchers in the Centre for Astronomy in NUI Galway have developed a unique instrument, for use on the World s largest telescopes, which will now be used to study emissions from collapsed stars in unprecedented detail. It has been known for more than forty years that stars can collapse to a few kilometers across, and can spin at up to 50 times per second - emitting flashes of light like a light-house beam as they do so. What is not understood is why they do so. Our new instrument will provide detailed information to study this emission. Dr Michael Tuite, School of Mathematic, Statistics & Applied Mathematics Vertex Operator Algebras and Deligne s Exceptional Lie Groups A vertex operator algebra is a new mathematical construction very closely related to notions coming from quantum theory in theoretical physics. This project is concerned with an application of some of my recent research in this area to Lie groups in pure mathematics. This work provides a new explanation of very surprising observations made 10 years ago by the Field's Medal winning French mathematician Pierre Deligne. Professor Afsin Samali, Biochemistry & NCBES Accumulation of unfolded or misfolded proteins in the ER triggers the unfolded protein response (UPR). UPR initially attempts to reduce the protein load in the ER and increase its folding capacity. However, unresolved ER stress results in the activation of apoptosis. Loss of UPR protective signalling may underlie the cell death seen in diabetes, congestive heart failure and neurodegeneration. In the recent SFI-RFP proposal we have proposed to study the role of the anti-apoptotic protein Bcl-2, in the regulation of IRE-1 signalling during the unfolded protein response. Dr Adrienne Gorman, Biochemistry & NCBES Novel neurotrophin variants with altered receptor binding Dr Adrienne Gorman received €150,536 from the SFI RFP programme to work on 'Novel neurotrophin variants with altered receptor binding'. Neurotrophins are a small family of molecules that promote neuronal cell survival or death depending on the cell surface receptors with which they interact. The aim of this project is to produce novel neurotrophin variants that retain the neurotrophic activities that are mediated by Trk receptors, while at the same time and prevent cell death signaling through the p75 receptor. These variants could have therapeutic potential to prevent neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer's disease where increased activity at the p75 receptor has been implicated. -Ends-

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Biomedical Distinguished Lecture Series at NUI Galway

Biomedical Distinguished Lecture Series at NUI Galway-image

Friday, 24 July 2009

Spinal cord regeneration will be the first topic of the Biomedical Distinguished Lecture Series commencing on Thursday, 30 July, at NUI Galway. The lecture series will be hosted by the University's National Centre for Biomedical Engineering Science (NCBES), which this year celebrates its tenth anniversary. Over the coming months, a range of international speakers involved in ongoing research collaboration with the NCBES will share their insights and experiences with fellow scientists and the general public. Topics during the seminar series will include: the latest developments in breast cancer research; furthering understanding of the cause of multiple sclerosis and other neurodegenerative disorders; the social-psychology of exercise and its use in helping stroke and spinal cord injury patients; and the discovery of new therapies for the treatment of cancer. According to Professor Frank Barry, Director of the NCBES: "The lecture series will bring some of the most accomplished research leaders to Galway and will provide a forum for discussion of the latest and most significant advances in life sciences research. It will provide good opportunities for NCBES scientists to develop new collaborations and will lead to enhanced quality and productivity in our research efforts". On Thursday, 30 July, a husband and wife team from Arizona State University will provide an overview of a number of projects at the Center for Adaptive Neural Systems. Professor James J. Abbas and Professor Ranu Jung focus on developing systems to promote recovery after spinal cord injury by controlling movements using electrical stimulation of paralyzed muscles. An innovative technology by this prominent engineer-scientist pair, which interfaces with the nervous system, has already benefitted patients with spinal cord injury and with neurodegenerative diseases. Lokesh Joshi, Stokes Professor of Glycosciences at the NCBES, heads up the Centre's collaboration with the team in Arizona. He comments: "A cutting-edge approach is being taken in Arizona to current medical challenges in the areas of spinal cord injury and neurodegenerative diseases such as Parkinson's. The Jung-Abbas team is truly translational and unique because it brings together electrical and mechanical engineering, physiological science and clinical research. This has been tried successfully in patients". In its collaboration with the Center for Adaptive Neural Systems, the team at the NCBES are investigating the role played by the 'sugars' involved in cell to cell communication. These complex carbohydrates or glycans play crucial roles in the development and regeneration of tissues and organs, during growth, disease and injury. As Professor Joshi explains: "The central nervous system (CNS), found in the brain and spine, is a complex organ and does not regenerate after injury at the pace of other organs and tissues. Studies have shown that removal of certain glycans can promote some growth on a cellular level, thereby facilitating CNS regeneration. The burning question is – what exact role do glycans play by inhibiting neuroregeneration? Our project involves the mapping of glycans so we can better understand their presence in healthy, injured or rehabilitating tissue". The field of Neuroglycoscience is rapidly emerging and scientists at NUI Galway are working on discovering novel glycobiomarkers, glycoimaging tools, therapeutic targets and molecules and drug delivery systems to promote neuro-regeneration. The Biomedical Distinguished Lecture Series is being supported by the Galway University Foundation. The first lecture takes place at 10.30am on Thursday, 30 July in the NCBES Seminar Room, Orbsen Building, NUI Galway. For further information telephone 091 495701. -ends-

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Ancient Animal Dung Helps Botanists Unearth Burren's History

Ancient Animal Dung Helps Botanists Unearth Burren's History-image

Thursday, 23 July 2009

Botanists from NUI Galway have used a most unlikely source – fungi that grow on cattle and sheep dung – to shed new light on farming and its impact on the Burren, County Clare, the best developed karstic region of western Europe. Using old and new techniques, including analysis of fossil spores produced by fungi that grow only on herbivorous animals' dung, the study – published in the British Ecological Society's Journal of Ecology – shows how farming waxed and waned over the past 3500 years and how this shaped Burren's extraordinary plant life. Dr Ingo Feeser and Professor Michael O'Connell from the NUI Galway collected peat and soil samples from upland areas of the Burren. It is well known that peat, because it preserves pollen, archives long records of past plant life. But scientists have only recently realised that peat also preserves other fossils such as fungal spores. By using both these techniques and radiocarbon dating, Feeser and O'Connell have uncovered the history of upland farming in the Burren and the major role that cattle and sheep grazing has played in shaping the area s flora and landscape. According to Professor O'Connell: "Spores from fungi that grow on dung of cattle and sheep are really useful for two reasons: they preserve well and, since they are produced at ground level they stay put. That means when we find them as fossils, we can be sure that grazers were present at the sampling site all those years ago. Together with fossil pollen, they help us distinguish between the impact of factors such as climate change and upland grazing on species composition and biodiversity." The fossil pollen reveals that pinewoods once grew on the exposed north-western Burren hills that face the Atlantic Ocean on the southern side of Galway Bay until around 500 BC, when increased farming by Iron Age peoples resulted in pine no longer being the dominant tree. "Present-day open pinewoods on limestone soils in Scandinavia, with a ground flora that includes many typical 'Burren' species, are the closest analogy to these former pinewoods on the coastal Burren uplands," says O Connell. This means it is no longer necessary to invoke special conditions, such as persistence of open, treeless conditions since the retreat of the ice sheets, to explain the presence of arctic-alpine species in the Burren; rather these plants found favourable conditions, and thus survived, within open pinewoods. The study also emphasises the highly dynamic nature of the relationship between humans and nature in the Burren since farmers first arrived about 6000 years ago. While open pinewoods dominated coastal uplands, hazel scrub was important in inland areas such as Corkscrew Hill where farming impact was higher. Hazel was also highly dynamic and sensitive to farming pressures. When farming declined at the end of the Iron Age (about AD 300), hazel replaced grasslands in what the researchers refer to as the 'Late Iron Age Lull'. The reverse occurred in the late eighteenth/early nineteenth century when population levels rose dramatically and the Burren became so bare that the woody stems of the mountain avens (Dryas) were used as a substitute for wood. This, in turn, contrasts with the present-day situation when farming is on the decline and the spread of hazel reduces the habitat available to the typical Burren flora and hides the rich archaeology of the region. However, vegetation and farming are not the only dynamic features of the Burren. The placename 'Burren' denotes a rocky place that aptly describes this extensive area of bare limestone rock. "That the Burren landscape always had this lunar-like appearance is not true," says Professor O'Connell. By radiocarbon dating charcoal contained in eroded soils recovered from grykes (deep fissures in the limestone), the NUI Galway researchers have shown that substantial loss of soil through erosion followed not only the clearing of primeval woodlands by the early farmers, i.e. the megalith tomb builders, but continued to be a feature of the Burren until well into medieval times. Ingo Feeser and Michael O Connell (2009). Fresh insights into long-term changes in flora, vegetation, land use and soil erosion in the karstic environment of the Burren, western Ireland, Journal of Ecology, doi: 10.1111/j.1365-2745.2009.01533.x, is published online on 22 July 2009. -ends-

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