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'Too few young women' studying science in Wales

Boys 'continue to dominate scientific subjects at A Level'. Credit: Klaus OhlenschlÀger/DPA/Press Association Images

The Welsh Conservatives say fewer young women are studying science subjects at A Level.

Boys outnumber girls by five to one.

The Chief Scientific Adviser for Wales says a science plan's being developed.

It'll include actions to address the low take up of girls for A level physics.


Welsh scientists use seaweed to battle diseases

Seaweed compounds are being used in clinical trials. Credit: Eye Ubiquitous/Press Association Images

The disease-fighting qualities of seaweed compounds are being investigated by an international network of scientists including experts from Cardiff University and Swansea University.

They say trials for new inhalation therapies for people with cystic fibrosis are already underway.

The condition affects 10,000 people in the UK alone and leads to those with the disease being hospitalised up to three times a year.

Scientists say research conducted by the universities has shown that some seaweed compounds are capable of combating multi-drug resistant infections.

Studies are also paving the way towards the improved treatment of chronic non-healing skin wounds.

Fungus fight against mosquitos

'One of the most dangerous animals on Earth.' Credit: Uwe Anspach

Scientists say a ground breaking study, by a team of academics led by Swansea University, could have far-reaching implications for the control of mosquito larvae across the world.

They say the study, into the mechanisms by which the insect fungus Metarhizium anisopliae kills mosquito larvae, has been published by the PLOS One research journal.

Professor Tariq Butt:

'The results from the study show that by simply casting the fungus spores on water we should be able to help to defeat troublesome life threatening colonies of mosquitoes which have been gradually moving north into Europe as the climate warms up.'

'Trials are currently taking place in Africa and the findings would have important consequences for tackling malaria and other mosquito transmitted diseases.'

Noble gas molecule found in space with Welsh help

The white areas show dust and argon hydride. Credit: See Below

Picture Credit: ESA/HERSCHEL/SPIRE and PACS/MESS GTKP supernova remnant team. NASA/ESA/Allison Loll/Jeff Hester (Arizona State University). Acknowledgment: Oli Usher (UCL).

Scientists say a molecule containing a noble gas has been discovered in space by a team which included astronomers from Cardiff University.

The find was made using SPIRE the Cardiff-led instrument aboard Europe's Herschel Space Observatory.

The molecule, argon hydride, was seen in the Crab Nebula, the remains of a star that exploded 1,000 years ago.

Noble gases rarely interact in chemical reactions and before the discovery, molecules of this kind have only been studied in laboratories on Earth.

The Crab Nebula is relatively close, at just 6,500 light years away, so it provides an excellent way to study what happens in stellar explosions.

Scientists using SPIRE were able to analyse the light emitted by spinning molecules. It has a very specific wavelengths, or colours, called emission lines.

Two of these lines proved the existence of Argon Hydride.

Bangor scientists predict sea states

A computer simulation predicting tides around Anglesey. Credit: Bangor University

Scientists at Bangor University are working to maximise the efficiency of tidal and wave energy generating equipment.

They say computer modelling at the SEACAMS programme accurately predicts tidal currents, wave heights and other important measurements through the water column.

The UK's first tidal energy converter is planned for North Wales. Credit: Paul Faith/PA Wire

That helps identify the best sites for energy schemes.

They say one project is a 10MW tidal energy converter planned for The Skerries off the North West coast of Anglesey.


Glaciers "harbour a wealth of microbial life"

There are around 51 million cubic km of glacier ice on Earth. Credit: Hinrich Basemann/DPA/PA Images

Scientists at Aberystwyth University have calculated there may be around a septillion, that's a trillion trillion, microbes living in the uppermost 2m of Earth’s glaciers.

They say there may be as many microbes at glacier surfaces as there are in the top 200m of the world’s oceans.

Dr Arwyn Evans (L) Dr Tristram Irvine-Fynn (R) Credit: Aberystwyth University

Drs Tristram Irvine-Fynn (Department of Geography and Earth Sciences) and Arwyn Edwards (Institute of Biological, Environmental and Rural Sciences) have presented revised estimates of the number of microbes in Earth’s glaciers and ice sheet.

Their findings are in a paper published online this week in the journal Cytometry Part A.

Dr Tristram Irvine-Fynn:

“Most of life on Earth is microscopic, and we know there are more microbes on planet Earth than stars in the observable Universe.”

Ivy "has great potential"

Ivy extract is being investigated. Credit: Jon Buckle/EMPICS Sport

Scientists at Bangor University are investigating ivy as one of a range of plants which could provide compounds currently derived from crude oil.

Work at its BioComposites Centre is underway to find new uses for natural resources.

Development Chemist Dr Dave Preskett:

“We’ve used ivy extract as a slug killer in place of slug pellets and trials using it as a fungicide to treat potato blight, in place of oil derived chemical sprays, proved very effective in protecting crops.

"The same extract also has great potential to be developed in products for treating dandruff and athlete’s foot."

"An oil produced from the berries is edible, as ivy is not poisonous, contrary to popular belief, and has all the health giving properties of olive oil but has the more solid consistency of butter or lard.”

Wales has some "important and diverse habitats"

Fungi have intriguing names like waxcaps, fairy clubs and earth tongues. Credit: Prifysgol Aberystwth University

Researchers at Aberystwyth University say Wales has some of the most scientifically important and diverse habitats for grassland fungi in the world.

Writing in the journal Mycosphere Dr Gareth Griffith and his international team recorded fungi at 48 grassland sites in all parts of Wales, from Flintshire and Anglesey to Pembrokeshire and Monmouth..

Sites stretch from Cardiff to Llanwchllyn. Credit: Prifysgol Aberystwth University

They compared data with other areas in Europe and beyond and showed that several of the best sites for grassland fungi in Europe and most of the best sites in the UK are in Wales.

Several are now protected as SSSIs (sites of special scientific interest).

Land on Welsh hills is "important for fungal rich areas" Credit: Prifysgol Aberystwth University

Dr Griffith and his colleagues hope the study will lead to wider public recognition of the global significance of these Welsh habitats and fungi in general to biodiversity conservation.

The study was funded by the Countryside Council for Wales (now part of Natural Resources Wales) and NERC, the Natural Environment Research Council.

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