NUI Galway Study Finds Recovery in Numbers of Pine Marten, Ireland’s Most Elusive Mammal

NUI Galway Study Finds Recovery in Numbers of Pine Marten, Ireland’s  Most Elusive Mammal-image

Tuesday, 22 October 2013

NUI Galway and WIT study finds healthy numbers of Pine Marten in the Midlands, but rare in the East An NUI Galway study on Ireland’s most elusive mammal, the native pine marten, is to be published in the European Journal of Wildlife Research. The study, which was collaboration between NUI Galway and Waterford Institute of Technology, was funded by The Irish Research Council and the European Squirrel Initiative, and led by Dr Emma Sheehy and Dr Colin Lawton of the Ryan Institute’s Mammal Ecology Group in NUI Galway.  The study, which involved the use of DNA analysis to assess pine marten population abundance in the midlands and the east of Ireland, found that the pine marten has recovered to healthy numbers in the Irish midlands. “Pine marten numbers in the midlands appear to be slightly higher than other parts of Europe” says Dr Sheehy. “This is likely to be a result of both a lack of competition with other terrestrial mammal species, and the relatively warm winters and lack of seasonality we experience in Ireland, compared with much of the pine marten’s natural range. However, it is important to note that we actually know very little about the true potential of contemporary pine marten numbers in much of Europe, as pine marten populations have been decimated by human impacts historically as a result of hunting, persecution and deforestation.”  The pine marten is a slow breeding species, very sensitive to loss of habitat and persecution and a population can take a very long time to recover from such impacts. In Ireland, the pine marten has been protected by law since the late seventies, and this has helped the population to recover. “However, while we have recorded healthy numbers in the midlands they are still quite rare in the east and still absent altogether from some parts of the country” says Dr Sheehy.   DNA analysis was also used to determine which mammals Irish pine martens were feeding on and where. The woodmouse was found to be the most frequently consumed mammal in the pine marten’s diet, and the first evidence of the pine marten preying upon the invasive North American grey squirrel was also recorded by the group. “We were particularly interested in how often squirrels feature in the diet of the Irish pine marten population” says Dr Sheehy. The study reveals that the native red squirrel has an extremely low frequency of occurrence in the diet, but in areas that the invasive grey squirrel is still present, it features significantly more frequently than the native red. “This is likely to be a result of differences in ecology between the red and grey squirrel. Red squirrels are suitably adapted to living with a tree-climbing predator such as the pine marten and indeed they have co-existed successfully in Ireland and Europe over many millennia. In contrast, the grey squirrel, which originates in America, lives in much higher numbers and is less agile than the red squirrel, making it both an easier prey item to catch, and also much more numerically available too” says Dr Sheehy.  An interesting element of the study was that where pine marten numbers were found to be high, such as the midlands, the grey squirrel was either absent or rare, even in sites where they had previously been very well established. “So much so that we eventually had to use a specially trained scent detection dog from the UK to help us find evidence of pine marten in the east where the grey squirrel was available to eat” says Dr Sheehy.    Dr Sheehy and Dr Lawton expect to have further insights from their research into the relationship between red and grey squirrel distribution and pine marten abundance published later this year. -Ends-

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NUI Galway PhD Student Receives Award at Optics + Photonics Symposium in San Diego

NUI Galway PhD Student Receives Award at Optics + Photonics Symposium in San Diego-image

Tuesday, 22 October 2013

Ronan Havelin, a PhD student from NUI Galway’s Medical Physics research group in the School of Physics, recently received the SPIE-Newport Research Excellence Award. Ronan, from Salthill, Galway City, was awarded the prize for a paper he presented on ‘A SPECT imager with synthetic collimation’ at the Optics + Photonics symposium in San Diego. The Optics + Photonics symposium is one of the two largest SPIE conferences. Dr Mark Foley, Principle Investigator for this research project at NUI Galway, said: “I would like to congratulate Ronan on winning this prestigious international award that recognises his significant contribution as a young research physicist to the development of this novel molecular imaging technology.” Ronan’s paper on ‘A SPECT imager with synthetic collimation’ he said, “is an important contribution to the research into SPECT imaging and is part of a large multidisciplinary collaboration funded by the United States National Institutes of Health, and by Science Foundation Ireland. Key investigators in this project are Prof H Barrett and his CGRI group at University of Arizona and researchers in the Discipline of Surgery and at REMEDI, NUI Galway.” SPIE is the international society for optics and photonics, a not-for-profit organisation founded in 1955 to advance light-based technologies. The Society serves more than 235,000 constituents from approximately 155 countries, offering conferences, continuing education, books, journals, and a digital library in support of interdisciplinary information exchange, professional networking, and patent precedent. SPIE provided over $3.2 million in support of education and outreach programs in 2012. -Ends-

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NFB Researcher Secures Marie Curie Career Integration Grant

NFB Researcher Secures Marie Curie Career Integration Grant-image

Tuesday, 22 October 2013

Dr Manus Biggs, a Science Foundation Ireland (SFI) investigator with NUI Galway’s Network of Excellence for Functional Biomaterials (NFB) is one of six Irish researchers to receive a prestigious Career Integration Grant (CIG) award from the Marie Curie Research Fellowship Programme. Dr Biggs will initiate a new research programme which will focus on the development of nanobiomimetic electrically active scaffolds for bone regeneration, with an aim of regulating cellular recruitment to a site of injury.   Bone tissue regeneration remains an important challenge in the field of orthopaedic surgery and sees a transplantation frequency second only to that of blood. Bone grafting is the current standard treatment; however, given the inherent limitations of this approach, bone tissue engineering and advanced biomaterials that mimic the structure and function of native tissues hold potential as alternative strategies to regeneration. Current studies in orthopaedics suggest that further biomimicry is required before a complete solution to bone regeneration can be delivered. Furthermore, evidence is gathering apace on the importance of minute electrical cues on cell differentiation and function, thus, new research must focus on understanding the cellular response to subtle changes in electric fields and how these influence cell function and tissue regeneration. Professor Abhay Pandit, Director of the NFB said: “This Marie Curie award is further indication of the relevance of NFB’s research within Europe and the importance of NFB’s translational research programmes, which are focused on developing novel and exciting biomimetic materials for the next generation of medical devices. We look forward to developing this research in conjunction with our industrial partners in the very near future.” Dr Biggs’ recently funded CIG project will focus on creating nanoscale fibres from piezoelectric polymers and incorporating these into a mesh-like scaffold that mimics the natural bone matrix. Importantly, these scaffold materials can be utilised for the regeneration of large bone defects, which do not undergo spontaneous regeneration normally. -Ends-

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Convention on the Constitution to hold public meeting in NUI Galway

Convention on the Constitution to hold public meeting in NUI Galway -image

Wednesday, 23 October 2013

The Convention on the Constitution is preparing to hold its first meeting west of the Shannon in Galway next week. The meeting will take place in NUI Galway (Áras Moyola Lecture Theatre, North Campus) on Wednesday, 30 October at 7.30pm, and members of the public have been invited to attend. The meeting in Galway is one of 9 public meetings across Ireland in October and November. These meetings will help to set the agenda as the Convention selects a number of constitutional issues to look at in the final module of its work programme. The next plenary meeting of the Convention (in Dublin) is on November 2nd and 3rd to discuss the removal of the offence of blasphemy from the Constitution. Following this meeting, the Convention will be free to make recommendations for further constitutional amendment as it sees fit. The meeting in NUI Galway will be addressed by guest speaker Professor Donncha O'Connell who is Head of the School of Law at NUI Galway. Professor O’Connell is an expert on Constitutional Law and European Human Rights. Speaking today, he said: “The Convention on the Constitution has made some very worthwhile recommendations for constitutional reform in the past year. The Convention is to be commended for organising a series of meetings around the country to ascertain the views of citizens and members of the public on what other issues of constitutional reform it should address in the remaining period of its existence. Every effort at deliberative democracy should be valued. Citizens of Galway and the surrounding areas should avail of the opportunity to have their views heard in a forum in which those views will be respected and valued. I hope there is a great attendance with vibrant and challenging contributions from members of the public.” The Chairman of the Convention on the Constitution, Tom Arnold, said: “I am delighted to announce that we will be visiting Galway to listen to the wide range of issues which citizens believe that the Convention on the Constitution should consider. Over the last year we have received many thousands of submissions and we are looking to forward to hearing the detail of these issues first-hand from members of the public. The Convention on the Constitution is citizens’ forum and it is essential that Irish citizens are able to make their views known and have their say. Members of the Convention are very keen to hear citizens' views and I would like to welcome people living in Galway to come along and get involved in the process.” The Convention session hosted by the School of Law at NUI Galway will be streamed live on Wednesday October 30th beginning at 7.30pm at www.nuigalway.ie/constitutionalconvention. Further information: www.constitution.ie -Ends-

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NUI Galway Student Awarded Prestigious Google Anita Borg Memorial Scholarship

NUI Galway Student Awarded Prestigious Google Anita Borg Memorial Scholarship-image

Wednesday, 23 October 2013

Arjumand Younus, a Computer Science PhD student at NUI Galway has won the Google Anita Borg Memorial Scholarship in the Europe, Middle East and Africa (EMEA) region. This is the first time someone from Galway has won this prestigious award and an honour for the College of Engineering and Informatics and the University.  The Google Anita Borg Memorial Scholarship aims to encourage and support women to excel in computing and technology and become active role models and leaders in the field. Arjumand grew up in Pakistan which is well-known for providing outsourcing services in information technology. Arjumand’s passion for Mathematics since she was young has led her to Computer Science. She is the recipient of an NUI Galway Hardiman Scholarship led which allowed her to undertake a PhD in computing at the University. Dr Colm O'Riordan, Arjumand’s supervisor at NUI Galway, said: “I am delighted to have the opportunity to advise and work with a student of Arjumand’s calibre. She is very deserving of this prestigious scholarship and I know Arjumand will continue to achieve further success in the field of Computer Science in years to come.” -Ends-

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Seimineár ar an gCeathrú Rua

Seimineár ar an gCeathrú Rua  -image

Tuesday, 29 October 2013

Reáchtáladh Seimineár Cumarsáide in Acadamh na hOllscolaíochta Gaeilge, An Cheathrú Rua le deireanas. Ba é an fear gnó agus an ceamaradóir aitheanta, Cian de Buitléar, a d’oscail an Éigse go hoifigiúil ar an Aoine, 18 Deireadh Fómhair agus bhí deis ag na mic léinn agus ag an bpobal casadh leis féin agus leo siúd atá ag saothrú i réimsí difriúla d’earnáil na meán. Orthusan a bhí i láthair bhí an t-iriseoir / craoltóir Róisín Ní Eadhra agus an t-eagarthóir físe Conall de Cléir. Roinn iar-mhic léinn de chuid an Acadaimh/ OÉ Gaillimh a n-eispéireas leis an slua agus ina measc bhí Gearóid Mac Donncha, Eagraí Stiúrtha Nuachta RTÉ Raidió an Gaeltachta, Muireann Ní Chíobháin, taighdeoir agus láithreoir teilifíse le RTÉ, Loretta Ní Ghabháin, comhfhreagraí sóisialta Nuacht TG4 agus stiúrthóir an chomhlachta LorGMedia; Eoin Ó Loideáin, scríbhneoir leis an iris Nós agus Katie Ní Chonghaile atá ag obair leis an gcuideachta Carr Communications.  Is faoi chathaoirleacht Norita Ní Chartúir, Feidhmeannach Cumarsáide in Acadamh na hOllscolaíochta Gaeilge a bhí an ócáid seo. Chuaigh na haoichainteoirí go mór i gcion ar an lucht éisteachta agus léirigh siad dóibh an éagsúlacht, na dúshláin, na scileanna agus dar ndóigh an buntáiste a bhaineann leis an nGaeilge sa réimse fostaíochta seo. Mhínigh siad gur iomaí cor atá i saol na cumarsáide agus mhol siad do na mic léinn gach uile dheis a thapú agus dua a chaitheamh lena gcuid oibre. D’fhéadfá a rá go raibh an teachtaireacht chéanna acu ar fad: “An té a chuireann san Earrach, baineann sé san Fhómhar!” Tá beagnach 100 mac léinn ag staidéar ar bhonn lánaimseartha ar champas Acadamh na hOllscolaíochta Gaeilge, OÉ Gaillimh faoi láthair mar atá siad ag tabhairt faoi BA sa Chumarsáid i measc cúrsaí eile. Tuilleadh eolais ó Odí Ní Chéilleachair, odi.nicheilleachair@oegaillimh.ie, 091 595101/ 086 8643125 nó Aoife Ní Ghabhann, a.smith16@oegaillimh.ie, 091 595101. -Críoch-

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NUI Galway researchers publish new findings on the brain’s marijuana-like chemicals in stress-pain interactions

NUI Galway researchers publish new findings on the brain’s marijuana-like chemicals in stress-pain interactions  -image

Wednesday, 30 October 2013

New findings investigating the influence of a stress-sensitive genetic background on pain have been published in the leading journal in the field Pain, by NUI Galway researchers. The work, funded by Science Foundation Ireland and the Irish Research Council, was carried out by Dr David Finn and his research team in Pharmacology and Therapeutics, Centre for Pain Research and Galway Neuroscience Centre at the National Centre for Biomedical Engineering Science, NUI Galway. Heightened pain in individuals who are stressed, anxious or depressed is a widely recognized but poorly understood phenomenon. A key factor is the contribution of genetic background and its influence on stress responding and emotional processing. A particular genetic background can predispose individuals to higher stress, anxiety and pain responses but it is not known why.  Previous findings have shown that pain is subject to influence by marijuana-like chemicals called endocannabinoids in a brain region called the rostral ventromedial medulla.  Working with Dr Finn, first author Dr Kieran Rea was able to show that a genetic background associated with higher stress and anxiety responses was associated with a greater pain response and a blunted response of these endocannabinoids in the part of the brain called the rostral ventromedial medulla. Furthermore, this enhanced pain response was prevented by a drug that increased levels of these endocannabinoids in this part of the brain.  Further experimentation revealed that blockade of the cannabinoid CB1 receptor, at which these endocannabinoids act, exacerbated the pain response. An increased understanding of how genetic background associated with stress and anxiety can influence pain is important from a fundamental physiological perspective and may also aid the identification of new ways of treating  persistent pain and the impact of  stress-related psychiatric disorders such anxiety or depression. Dr David Finn, Leader of the Galway Neuroscience Centre, Co-Director of the Centre for Pain Research at NUI Galway and study leader says: “The link between emotionality and pain is fascinating and highly complex.  This research suggests a key role for the brain’s endocannabinoid system in a genetic background prone to heighted stress or negative emotion. This research, which was funded by a grant from Science Foundation Ireland, advances our understanding of the neurobiology of pain and may facilitate the identification of new therapeutic targets for the treatment of pain and psychiatric disorders.” Rea K, Olango W, Okine B, Madasu M, McGuire IC, Coyle K, Harhen B, Roche M, Finn DP (2013) Pain; Online publication: 24 Sept 2013; DOI: 10.1016/j.pain.2013.09.012 -ends-

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New Technologies Make Online Communities Happier

New Technologies Make Online Communities Happier-image

Wednesday, 30 October 2013

NUI Galway Researchers part of ROBUST, an EU project to capture business community relationships Online communities and enterprise social networks help employees and customers connect and collaborate. They allow employees and customers to talk about their experiences and find answers to questions about company products and services.  Ensuring the success of such online communities is a crucial problem for companies. How can a company make sure that the needs of hundreds of thousands or even millions of members are satisfied? The EU project ROBUST provides novel analytical tools that uncover the parts of a community that are successful and the areas that exhibit problems. To achieve this, ROBUST investigated the objectives of users in business communities and how these users interact with each other. For example, users often know exactly the information that they are looking for. If they repeatedly cannot find this information, they will reduce their activity, will collaborate less with others and eventually leave the community. The project offers a dedicated website to demonstrate, with example applications and videos, how ROBUST technologies can identify dissatisfied users and how different strategies can be applied to determine trends within communities Using a novel visualisation metaphor, ROBUST presents the opinions of users on company-relevant topics as an aquarium. A bad atmosphere in the social network, which means that many negative statements are encountered, is visualised by turbid water and many cavorting sharks. Clicking on the surrounding corals reveals the topics that are being discussed in a negative or positive way. This visualisation provides an intuitive and immediate insight into the state of the community. Using a demonstrator application of ROBUST technology, the software provider SAP AG, one of the project partners, reveals insights into the SAP Community Network (SCN) – a community with more than 2 million members. The ROBUST demonstrator identifies the forums that are flourishing, those that will become unpopular and the underlying trends. Even in large networks this technology allows community managers to keep track of the situation and developments and to identify experts and influential users. More than 600,000 employees of IBM use the IBM Connections platform to exchange ideas and business-relevant information. ROBUST analyses how these business communities develop. The application identifies the branches of the company that are collaborating well and the users that play a central role in this process. Although the "ROBUST" project officially finishes on the 31st of October, its technology will continue to make many communities happier into the future. Further information is available at http://www.robust-project.eu or http://www.robust-project.eu/videos-demos. For more information contact Professor Steffen Staab at staab@uni-koblenz.de -ends-

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NUI Galway and Dalian University China Secure Funding to Examine New Sugar-Coated Antibody Drugs

NUI Galway and Dalian University China Secure Funding to Examine New Sugar-Coated Antibody Drugs-image

Wednesday, 30 October 2013

Award is funded by the National Natural Science Foundation of China (NFSC) Drugs with an increased lifetime in the circulation and improved activity for a broad range of medical conditions are the goal of a strategic new funding award to researchers at NUI Galway and Dalian University in China. Dr Gerard Wall, based in Microbiology and the Network for Excellence in Functional Biomaterials (NFB), a Science Foundation Ireland funded strategic research cluster, and Dr Xuejun Hu, of the Dalian University Medical School, will coordinate the prestigious grant from the National Natural Science Foundation of China (NSFC). The award will fund a four-year research programme, beginning in January 2014, to investigate the expression of glycosylated antibody fragments in E. coli and study the effects of engineering the attached sugar components on their therapeutic potential. Antibodies are naturally occurring proteins that are produced by the immune system to protect against pathogens and other foreign substances in the body. Due to their high specificity and strength of binding to their targets, they have enormous potential in the delivery of cytotoxic drugs to cells such as cancer cells, or in targeting of regenerative therapeutics to particular tissues or cells. The focus of the present funding will be to develop improved antibody fragments, expressed in Escherichia coli, with increased stabilities and improved efficacies in vivo through the attachment and manipulation of glycan (sugar) molecules. Attached glycans are known to affect the physicochemical and pharmacological properties of protein-based drugs in the circulation and glycoengineering can be used to tailor drugs to meet specific delivery needs. The work will also have application in immunodiagnostics and monitoring fields. Welcoming the funding announcement, Dr Gerard Wall said “This support will enable us to develop improved, longer-lived biopharmaceuticals using cutting edge protein engineering approaches. The work will complement established research strengths at NUI Galway in biomaterials, drug delivery and glycobiology. The award also establishes an important strategic link between biosciences research at NUI Galway and a major Chinese University and Medical School.” The NSFC funds a combination of basic and applied biological research focusing on research promotion, talent fostering and infrastructure construction for basic research. It provides dedicated support structures for fundamental research, individual awards and infrastructure and has an annual budget in excess of 10 billion RMB (€1.2 billion). Drs Wall and Hu were previously awarded funding from the NSFC in 2010 to establish a research team and carry out pilot work on the current project. The present funding will allow their joint research programme to be significantly expanded and will also see continued, reciprocal research exchanges between the Chinese and Irish laboratories. -Ends-

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September 2013

NUI Galway Students and Alumni Among All-Ireland Senior Hurling Finalists

NUI Galway Students and Alumni Among All-Ireland Senior Hurling Finalists -image

Monday, 2 September 2013

NUI Galway will have twelve current and former students making up a significant contingent of the Clare Senior hurling panel for this Sunday’s (September 8) All-Ireland Final against Cork. NUI Galway students and alumni representing the Banner County are Pat Kelly, Domhnall O’Donovan, Cian Dillon, John Conlon, Colin Ryan, Conor McGrath, Liam Markham, Aaron Cunningham, Fergal Lynch, Donal Touhy, Colm Galvin and Seadna Morey. In the hurling quarter-finals, Clare proved too strong for a Galway side, which included current NUI Galway students Joseph Cooney and Niall Burke, whilst the semi-final success over Limerick guaranteed Clare their place in the final. Dr Pat Morgan, Vice-President for the Student Experience at NUI Galway, said: “I am delighted that our students continue to excel, both on and off the field of play, and we wish them the best in their quest to bring the McCarthy Cup back to Clare.” -ENDS-

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