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History of Welsh sheep uncovered

Credit: Nick Potts/PA Archive/PA Images

They may have been domesticated 10,000 years ago but the genetic past of Welsh sheep has been uncovered by researchers at Aberystwyth University.

They studied eighteen native breeds and found four distinct groups.

Some breeds, like the Black Welsh Mountain Sheep, saw their genetic history mapped back to Scandinavia. They were brought here by the Vikings.

The Llandovery White Face saw its roots traced back to Roman times.

The study even found that one particular breed of sheep, exclusively from the Llyn peninsula in northwest Wales, can trace its genetics back to a single, small flock of sheep in Galway, Ireland from the early 19th century.

Credit: Tim Ireland/PA Wire

“These findings provide the basis for future genome-wide association studies and a first step towards developing genomics assisted breeding strategies in the UK.”

– Sarah Beynon, Aberystwyth University

Aberystwyth scientist to lead team combating deadly parasite

Credit: Angelika Warmuth/DPA/PA Images

Scientists say infections by parasitic flatworms in tropics and sub-tropics cause some of the most debilitating diseases on the planet.

They attack both humans and livestock and with climate change the parasites are extending their range into Europe.

Traditional control methods rely on chemical treatments but a generation has evolved which is resistant to the limited drugs available.

Now an international team of scientists led by Professor Karl Hoffman at Aberystwyth University has been awarded almost £4m to fund a different approach.

The team will produce tools to manipulate the genetic structure of the parasites.

It is hoped new ways will then be found of controlling the diseases.

Creation of these molecular and cellular tools will attract new investigators into our field and increase the rate and number of significant biological discoveries; many of which will lead to the identification of novel control strategies.

– Professor Karl Hoffmann, Aberystwyth University’s Institute of Biological, Environmental and Rural Sciences


Welsh glaciologists to study huge Antarctic lakes

Scientists will drill deep into the ice shelf. Credit: Prifysgol Aberystwyth University

Glaciologists from Aberystwyth University will fly to Antarctica at the beginning of November to study large lakes forming on the surface of ice shelves.

Professor Bryn Hubbard and Dr David Ashmore from the Department of Geography and Earth Sciences’ Centre for Glaciology will be working with collaborators from Swansea University on the Larsen C ice shelf.

Larsen C covers an area two and a half times the size of Wales

It's a long, fringing ice shelf in the northwest part of the Weddell Sea, extending along the east coast of the Antarctic Peninsula.

Professor Hubbard and Dr Ashmore will be using hot water to drill up to 150m down into the 200m deep ice shelf to study the many layers of ice that make up Larsen C.

The ice shelf is significant for scientists trying to understand the effects of climate change on Antarctica.

Two other ice shelves in the area, Larsen A and B, have broken up and disappeared since 1995 and scientists have been trying to understand why.

“Despite its accessibility, this region of Antarctica is surprisingly poorly known on the ground. Dark patches on satellite images appear each summer and these are interpreted as large surface melt ponds, but no one has actually studied them on the ground; to date we don’t even have a photograph of the lakes we believe we will see on Larsen C.

– Professor Bryn Hubbard Aberystwyth University
  1. Kevin Ashford

High-five or fist-bump 'more hygienic' than handshake

The traditional greeting of a handshake could be responsible for spreading bugs and bacteria, according to a study by Aberystwyth University.

Scientists there carried out research, published today in an American scientific journal, which revealed up to ten times more e-coli can be passed on by a handshake, compared to more modern greetings of a high-five or a fist-bump.

Let's not shake on it: Hygiene concerns over traditional greeting

Bumping fists may be a more hygienic greeting than shaking hands, experiments at Aberystwyth University have revealed.

Credit: Oli Scarff / PA Wire

Using rubber gloves and a thick layer of E. coli, scientists at the university exchanged handshakes, high-fives and fist-bumps.

Their results revealed the transfer of potentially disease-causing bacteria is highest during a handshake.

This was reduced by more than half in the high-five, with germ transfer a whopping 90% lower when bumping fists.

US President Barack Obama is a fan of the fist-bump Credit: PA Images

"People rarely think about the health implications of shaking hands. If the general public could be encouraged to fist-bump, there is genuine potential to reduce the spread of infectious diseases."

– Dr Paul Whitworth, Aberystwyth University


Young scientists demonstrate robot building skills

The 'humanoid' robot has been on display in Aberystwyth this weekend. Credit: ITV News

Young scientists in west Wales have been demonstrating their robot building skills to the public this weekend.

The Technocamps Beach Lab in Aberystwyth showcases creations they've made at after-school clubs organised by the local university.

One of their creations is a robot whose body parts can be 'printed' using a 3D printer and is the first full-size adult 'humanoid' in west Wales.

Wales from space - thanks to schoolchildren's camera

These photographs were taken by a camera launched more than 15 miles up by primary school pupils at Ysgol Gymraeg Aberystwyth.

With the help of experts from Aberystwyth University, they build a capsule and launched it from the playground with a helium balloon on Thursday morning.

The camera photographed Cardigan Bay, the Llyn Peninsula and the south west of England, before the balloon burst.

After a journey lasting 2 hours and 51 minutes, it landed in a field near Llandrindod Wells.

Scientists develop grass which could reduce flooding

The 'supergrass' could help prevent flooding by absorbing more water. Credit: ITV News

Scientists at Aberystwyth University's Institute of Biological, Environmental and Rural Sciences (IBERS) are partly developing a so-called 'supergrass' which could help reduce flooding.

The 'supergrass' will enable soil to retain more water and could help prevent some of the devastating flooding seen at the beginning of this year across Wales and the UK.

The new type of grass is being developed as part of a £2.5m project and could be in fields in five years time.

Aberystwyth students leave as high tides forecast

Tides are expected to peak tomorrow morning and evening. Credit: PA

Aberystwyth University has cancelled all teaching activities today and again on Monday, as more high tides and strong winds are forecast.

The University has warned students that the new band of stormy weather is likely to make the Promenade area a 'hazardous place' this weekend.

Seafront University Residences will close at 4pm today and students have been asked to inform the University of their planned whereabouts over the weekend.

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