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Ancient Animal Dung Helps Botanists Unearth Burren's History
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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Third John McGahern International Seminar Opens in Leitrim
Wednesday, 22 July 2009
(Leagan Gaeilge) The third John McGahern International Seminar will be officially opened tomorrow (Thursday, 23 July), by NUI Galway President, Dr James J. Browne, and Cathaoirleach of Leitrim Co. Council, Mr Thomas Mulligan, in the Bush Hotel, Carrick-on-Shannon, Co. Leitrim. The John McGahern International Seminar and Summer School is organised annually in Co. Leitrim to commemorate the work and literary achievements of this distinguished author. In advance of the opening address, President Browne spoke of the relationship John McGahern had with the University over a period of almost 50 years: "In the course of John's interaction with NUI Galway, a deep and close friendship grew with its people, and a shared regard developed between John and the University. There was a sustained rapport between the academy and the artist, based largely I believe on a shared understanding of a sense of place. The writings of John McGahern are inextricably linked with and informed by the writer's own sense of place. Leitrim and the north-west form a unique and important backdrop to the McGahern canon. We at NUI Galway share in this sense of place, and by becoming the repository of the papers of John McGahern in some way maintain for this region an enduring link with the writer and the man". Mr Thomas Mulligan, Cathaoirleach of Leitrim County Council, commented: "Leitrim County Council is delighted to see this project develop in its third year, establishing its own rhythm within Ireland s literary calendar. While retaining its central focus on the work of John McGahern, this year's engagement with themes of the heroic - from the local to the universal - and taking account also the 125th anniversary of the GAA, is a strong expression of the confidence and breadth of vision that Leitrim County Council and NUI Galway share for this important event". The keynote lecture, "The Local and the Universal: Ordinary Heroes in John McGahern", will be delivered at the opening ceremony by Professor Kevin Whelan of Notre Dame University. The second volume of the John McGahern Yearbook will also be launched on the opening evening. The Yearbook, published in a collectable hardback format, is the associated publication of the Seminar and Summer School. The Yearbook is compiled and edited by Dr John Kenny, John McGahern Lecturer in Creative Writing at NUI Galway and Academic Director of the Seminar and Summer School. This year's volume contains all of last year's Seminar lectures as well as a wide range of other essays. Contributions include the keynote address by Professor Gearóid Ó Tuathaigh of NUI Galway and lectures given by Professor David Malcolm of the University of Gdansk, Poland, and Gerardo Gambolini, the Argentinian poet whose Spanish translation of John McGahern's collected stories has recently been published to great acclaim. Writing about John McGahern, Gambolini says: "I see John McGahern as a great writer, not as a great Irish writer. His voice is universal; his undeniably Irish tone and topics are made universal by his talent, not by geography. My dominant experience in translating him was the pleasure of reading day after day over a long time remarkable pictures of the greatness and the abjectness of human soul and flesh, pictures always traversed in the end by compassion, by a joyful or painful form of redemption". The Yearbook specially commissions a short-story writer each year and this year's story is 'White Hitachi' by Irish author Kevin Barry. Speakers during the International Seminar include Professor Liliane Louvel of the University of Poitiers, France, Professor Denis Sampson, Canada, Professor Mike Cronin, Boston College, and Kevin Barry. Panel discussions and readings will also take place throughout the programme. As in previous years, the Seminar will include guided visits to John McGahern's home places in Aughawillan, Ballinamore and Mohill in Co. Leitrim, and Cootehall in Co. Roscommon A detailed schedule for the Seminar can be downloaded from www.nuigalway.ie/iss/ Tríú Seimineár Idirnáisiúnta John McGahern ar siúl i Liatroim (View in English) Is iad Uachtarán OÉ Gaillimh, an Dr James J. Browne, agus Cathaoirleach Chomhairle Contae Liatroma, Thomas Mulligan, a osclóidh tríú Seimineár Idirnáisiúnta John McGahern anocht (Déardaoin, an 23 Iúil) in Óstán an Bush, Cora Droma Rúisc, Co. Liatroma. Reáchtáiltear Seimineár Idirnáisiúnta agus Scoil Samhraidh John McGahern gach bliain i gCo. Liatroma chun ceiliúradh a dhéanamh ar shaothar agus ar éachtaí liteartha an údair cháiliúil seo. Sular thug sé aitheasc na hoscailte, labhair Uachtarán OÉ Gaillimh, an Dr Browne, faoin ngaol a bhí idir John McGahern agus an Ollscoil ar feadh 50 bliain, nó mar sin: "Cuireadh síol domhain cairdis, de réir a chéile, idir John agus pobal OÉ Gaillimh, agus d'fhás dámh eatarthu. Cothaíodh gaol láidir idir an coláiste agus an t-ealaíontóir, gaol a bhí bunaithe, déarfainn féin, ar chomhthuiscint ar ómós áite. Sníonn ómós áite go dlúth trí chuid scríbhneoireachta John McGahern. Ní féidir Liatroim agus an t-iarthuaisceart a scaradh ó chanóin liteartha McGahern. Tá tuiscint againne, pobal OÉ Gaillimh, ar an ómós áite chomh maith, agus ó tharla gur anseo san Ollscoil atá páipéir John McGahern i dtaisce, táimid ag cothú ceangal buan leis an scríbhneoir agus leis an bhfear féin, ar bhealach". Bhí an méid seo a leanas le rá ag Thomas Mulligan, Cathaoirleach Chomhairle Contae Liatroma: "Tá an-áthas orainn i gComhairle Contae Liatroma go bhfuil an seimineár seo á reáchtáil den tríú bliain as a chéile, agus go bhfuil sé go mór chun tosaigh i bhféilire litríochta na hÉireann. Cé gur ar shaothar John McGahern is mó atá an bhéim, léiríonn téamaí laochais áitiúil agus uilíoch na bliana seo agus ceiliúradh 125 bliain a mbunaithe ag CLG, an mhuinín choiteann atá ag Comhairle Contae Liatroma agus ag OÉ Gaillimh as an ócáid thábhachtach seo agus an fhís choiteann atá acu di". Is é an tOllamh Kevin Whelan ó Ollscoil Notre Dame a thabharfaidh an phríomhléacht, "The Local and the Universal:Ordinary Heroes in John McGahern" i ndiaidh na hoscailte. Seolfar an dara himleabhar de The John McGahern Yearbook tráthnóna na hoscailte chomh maith. Is comhfhoilseachán de chuid an tSeimineáir agus na Scoile Samhraidh The John McGahern Yearbook, foilseachán a bhfuil clúdach crua air agus a mbeidh tóir ag bailitheoirí leabhar air. Is é an Dr John Kenny, Léachtóir John McGahern sa Scríbhneoireacht Chruthaitheach in OÉ Gaillimh agus Stiúrthóir Acadúil an tSeimineáir agus na Scoile Samhraidh a thiomsaigh The John McGahern Yearbook agus a bhí ina eagarthóir air. Tá léachtaí Sheimineár na bliana seo caite ar fad in imleabhar na bliana seo mar aon le rogha leathan aistí eile. I measc na n-aistí atá sa leabhar tá an phríomhléacht a thug an tOllamh Gearóid Ó Tuathaigh ó OÉ Gaillimh agus léachtaí a thug an tOllamh David Malcolm ó Ollscoil Gdansk, an Pholainn agus Gerardo Gambolini, an file ón Airgintín a bhfuil ardmholadh faighte ag an aistriúchán go Spáinnis a rinne sé ar scéalta John McGahern le déanaí. Seo cuid den mhéid a bhí le rá ag Gambolini faoi John McGahern sa leabhar: "I see John McGahern as a great writer, not as a great Irish writer. His voice is universal; his undeniably Irish tone and topics are made universal by his talent, not by geography. My dominant experience in translating him was the pleasure of reading day after day over a long time remarkable pictures of the greatness and the abjectness of human soul and flesh, pictures always traversed in the end by compassion, by a joyful or painful form of redemption". Déantar coimisiúnú ar ghearrscéalaí gach bliain le scéal a scríobh do The John McGahern Yearbook agus is é 'White Hitachi' a scríobh an t-údar Éireannach Kevin Barry gearrscéal na bliana seo. I measc na gcainteoirí ag an Seimineár Idirnáisiúnta beidh an tOllamh Liliane Louvel as Ollscoil Poitiers, an Fhrainc, an tOllamh Denis Sampson, Ceanada, an tOllamh Mike Cronin, Boston College agus Kevin Barry. Beidh plé painéil agus léitheoireachtaí ann i rith an tseimineáir chomh maith. Arís i mbliana, eagrófar turais threoraithe chuig na háiteanna a raibh cónaí ar John McGahern iontu in Achadh an Mhuilinn, i mBéal an Átha Móir agus i Maothail i gCo. Liatroma agus go hUachtar Tíre i gCo. Ros Comáin. Is féidir mionsonraí chlár an tSeimineáir a íoslódáil ó www.nuigalway.ie/iss/ -Crioch-
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NUI Galway CAO Figures Soar as it Sets Designs on 'Smart Economy'
Wednesday, 22 July 2009
(Leagan Gaeilge) Following the recent release of final CAO figures for 2009 applications, NUI Galway shows a substantial increase of 13.1% in CAO First Preferences. This growth is more than double that of the University sector (6.2%) and is by a comfortable margin the highest year-on-year increase of all the Universities. Professor Jim Ward, Deputy-President and Registrar at NUI Galway, commented on the increase in CAO applications: "We are delighted that NUI Galway has the highest growth rate in applications; it's encouraging to see we are well above the national average. In particular Engineering applications have jumped by 39% in first preferences as against a drop nationally of 3.4%. Programmes on offer at NUI Galway are designed to develop students academically and personally, and our partnerships with industry and community play a huge part in the overall design of the courses we offer". Almost all subject areas experienced increases in CAO applications, with large demand for Science, Arts and Commerce, and a major rise in Engineering, IT and Medicine. The University sees this growth as a direct result of its response to integrating national priorities into the institutional agenda. The national need for teachers in mathematics has been identified and the new BA programme in Maths and Education is designed to improve the teaching of mathematics, which is key to Ireland s success as a 'Smart Economy'. Demand for this programme has grown 69%. Being responsive to the changing needs of the employment market is also a key focus at NUI Galway. Soaring Engineering applications reflect carefully thought-out new programmes in Energy Systems Engineering, designed in response to a growing demand for professional engineers to work in the energy sector as well as Engineering Innovation, which aims to create a new type of engineer with skills in innovation and entrepreneurship essential to delivering the 'Smart Economy'. Engineering students at NUI Galway will also benefit from the University s new state-of-the-art Engineering Building which is due for completion in 2011. Professor Ward added: "Internationally recognised research in priority areas and partnerships with industry are key at NUI Galway. Growth in the popularity of IT courses is mirrored in tremendous research successes for the University's Digital Enterprise Research Institute (DERI) which is the leading Semantic Web Institute in the world. A Science Foundation Ireland (SFI) funded Centre for Science, Engineering and Technology (CSET), DERI recently hit the headlines when a piece of their web technology was adopted by the Obama administration to bring greater transparency to the new US Government. The area of Biomedical Engineering is also directly linked to Biomedical Science where the University has integrated courses and research to meet the needs of local industry partners such as Boston Scientific and Medtronic". Tríú Borradh faoi Líon na nIarratas CAO ar OÉ Gaillimh agus í ag Díriú ar 'an nGeilleagar Glic' (View in English) Léiríonn na figiúirí deiridh a d'fhoilsigh an CAO le gairid maidir le hiarratais 2009 go bhfuil méadú suntasach 13.1% tagtha ar na hiarratais Chéadrogha CAO ar OÉ Gaillimh. Is ionann sin agus dhá oiread an mhéadaithe ar líon na n-iarratas ar Ollscoileanna trí chéile (6.2%) agus is é an méadú is mó go héasca é ó bhliain amháin go bliain eile ar líon na n-iarratas chéadrogha a rinneadh ar Ollscoileanna uile na tíre. Bhí an méid seo a leanas le rá ag an Ollamh Jim Ward, Meabhránaí agus Uachtarán Ionaid OÉ Gaillimh, faoin méadú atá tagtha ar líon na n-iarratas céadrogha CAO: "Táimid thar a bheith sásta gur ar líon na n-iarratas ar OÉ Gaillimh is mó a tháinig méadú i mbliana. Is tógáil croí é go bhfuil an méadú i líon na n-iarratas chun na hollscoile seo i bhfad chun cinn ar an meán náisiúnta. Is cúis suntais, go háirithe, an méadú 39% atá ar líon na n-iarratas céadrogha san Innealtóireacht, réimse a raibh titim 3.4% i líon na n-iarratas inti go náisiúnta. Cuireann cúrsaí OÉ Gaillimh rompu mic léinn a chothú go hacadúil agus go pearsanta agus tá ról lárnach ag an gcomhoibriú a bhíonn idir an Ollscoil, an tionscal agus an pobal i leagan amach na gcúrsaí atá á dtairiscint againn". Tháinig méadú ar líon na n-iarratas CAO i bhformhór na n-ábhar. Tháinig méadú mór ar líon na n-iarratas san Eolaíocht, sna Dána agus sa Tráchtáil, agus tháinig méadú an-mhór ar na hiarratais san Innealtóireacht, i dTeicneolaíocht na Faisnéise agus sa Leigheas. Dar leis an Ollscoil gur toradh díreach an fás seo ar an gcaoi ar chuir sí béim ar thosaíochtaí náisiúnta i gclár oibre na hinstitiúide. Aithníodh go mbeadh éileamh ar mhúinteoirí matamaitice ar fud na tíre agus tá sé mar aidhm ag an gclár nua BA sa Mhatamaitic agus san Oideachas an chaoi a múintear an mhatamaitic a fheabhsú. Tá sé ríthábhachtach go ndéanfaí sin chun go mbainfeadh Éire barr feabhais amach mar gheilleagar glic. Tá méadú 69% tagtha ar an éileamh ar an gclár seo. Cuirtear an-bhéim in OÉ Gaillimh chomh maith ar fhreastal ar riachtanais luaineacha mhargadh na fostaíochta. Tá méadú mór ar líon na n-iarratas Innealtóireachta. Léiríonn sin go bhfuil éileamh ar na cúrsaí nua ar caitheadh an-dua leo, amhail an chéim in Innealtóireacht Córas Fuinnimh, a cuireadh ar fáil le freastal ar an méadú ar an éileamh atá ar innealtóirí gairmiúla le hoibriú in earnáil an fhuinnimh, agus an chéim i Nuálaíocht Innealtóireachta, a bhfuil sé de chuspóir aici cineál nua innealtóirí a chur ar fáil a mbeidh scileanna nuálaíochta agus fiontraíochta acu, scileanna atá riachtanach chun an Geilleagar Glic a chothú. Beidh mic léinn innealtóireachta in OÉ Gaillimh ábalta leas a bhaint as Foirgneamh nua Innealtóireachta na hOllscoile, chomh maith, foirgneamh den chéad scoth a bheidh á chríochnú in 2011. Dúirt an tOllamh Ward an méid seo a leanas chomh maith: "Tá an-tábhacht le taighde i réimsí tosaíochta idirnáisiúnta agus le comhpháirtíochtaí leis an tionscal in OÉ Gaillimh. Is léiriú ar an méadú atá ar an tóir atá ag mic léinn ar chúrsaí i dTeicneolaíocht na Faisnéise a fheabhas atá ag éirí leis an taighde atá á dhéanamh ag Institiúid Taighde na Fiontraíochta Digití (DERI) san Ollscoil, Institiúid atá ar thús cadhnaíochta ó thaobh an Ghréasáin Shéimeantaigh de go domhanda. Bhí an tIonad Eolaíochta, Innealtóireachta agus Teicneolaíochta (CSET) a mhaoinigh Fondúireacht Eolaíochta Éireann (SFI) sa nuacht le gairid nuair a roghnaigh lucht riaracháin Barack Obama cuid de theicneolaíocht ghréasáin an Ionaid chun go mbeidís in ann cur leis an trédhearcacht i Rialtas nua na Stát Aontaithe. Tá ceangal díreach idir réimse na hInnealtóireachta Bithleighis agus an Eolaíocht Bhithleighis, áit a bhfuil cúrsaí agus taighde curtha in oiriúint ag an Ollscoil le freastal ar riachtanais na gcomhpháirtithe áitiúla tionscail, amhail Boston Scientific agus Medtronic." -Crioch-
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Final Call for Entries to Sports Scholarship Scheme at NUI Galway
Monday, 20 July 2009
NUI Galway has issued a final call for applications to its Sports Scholarships Scheme for 2009/2010. With a strong reputation in sport, the University is committed to supporting and encouraging promising athletes to pursue their sporting careers. The deadline for application for current and prospective students is Thursday, 30 July. The Scholarship Programme is aimed at student-athletes of outstanding calibre who register as students of the University. In the current academic year, student athletes at NUI Galway received over €100,000 in scholarships to help them to continue to develop their sporting prowess. Through the Sports Scholarship Scheme some 80 students were supported in sports such as Athletics, Basketball, Gaelic Football and Hurling, Rock Climbing, Rowing, Rugby, Soccer, Swimming and Tennis. Applicants for sports scholarships must satisfy the academic criteria for entry to NUI Galway and must have applied to the CAO in the usual manner. Gary Ryan is Elite Sports Development Officer at NUI Galway: "The Scholarships are aimed at those with the potential to achieve a high level of performance in sport and, at the same time, be academically successful. Each scholarship is available for the duration of a student's studies. Our approach focuses on developing the athlete so that they are in a position to achieve sporting success and development during and after their time in NUI Galway". A former Irish Olympian and record-breaking sprinter, Gary Ryan sees a bright future for the NUI Galway sports scholarships; "The Irish Olympic team in Beijing had four NUI Galway graduates and shows that students who come to Galway can succeed in their chosen sport and course of study. We are developing an integrated approach to student athlete support that will create a high performance environment around the athlete and enable them to train and study effectively". For the Scholarships, students who meet the University's entry requirements will be selected on merit by an independent panel. In addition to the scholarship, students will receive specialist support including physiotherapy, treatment of injury, fitness training, coaching and travel to national and international competitions. More details on the Sports Scholarship Scheme or an application form are available from the Sport and Recreation Unit at NUI Galway by phoning 091 493482. -ends-
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Chief Justice Roberts Teaching at NUI Galway
Monday, 20 July 2009
Chief Justice of the United States John G. Roberts, Jr., enters his final week of teaching at NUI Galway today as part of the New England Law Boston Summer School. The Irish Centre for Human Rights at NUI Galway has hosted the summer school every year since 2001 and Chief Justice Roberts is one of a series of distinguished lecturers through the years. This year, 56 students from US law schools attended the programme, the overall focus being International and Comparative Human Rights Law. As well as providing a venue for the programme, several members of the Irish Centre for Human Rights faculty also deliver courses for the programme that are credited towards American Bar Association approved law degrees. Dr Ray Murphy of the Irish Centre for Human Rights at NUI Galway, comments: "The Irish Centre for Human Rights is tasked with the study and promotion of human rights and humanitarian law. Our brief is international and the opportunity to engage with the New England Law summer school provides an added dimension to our work. We meet not only the next generation of legal professionals from the US but also some of its leading law academics. This year we are further informed by the presence of Chief Justice Roberts". Justice Roberts' class, 'The United States Supreme Court in Historical Perspective', examines changes in the Supreme Court since the nation's founding, with particular emphasis on the role of the Chief Justice and how several of them, from John Marshall to William Rehnquist, have influenced the Court's role. The course also reviews the changes that advocacy before the Court has taken over time. "We are honored that Chief Justice Roberts is participating in our Galway programme," said Dean John F. O'Brien of the New England Law Boston Summer School, "and proud to be able to offer our students this extraordinary opportunity". -ends-
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