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Largest ever study reveals globally protected areas benefit broad range of species

Credit: University of Sussex

Swansea University scientists have been involved in a collaborative study which reveals for the first time that the world’s protected areas do benefit a broad range of species

The study, published in Nature Communications, led by the University of Sussex working together with the Natural History Museum, the UNEP - World Conservation Monitoring Centre and Swansea University, is the largest ever analysis of globally protected areas.

By analysing biodiversity samples taken from 1,939 sites inside and 4,592 sites outside 359 protected areas, scientists have discovered the protected area samples contain 15 percent more individuals and 11 percent more species compared to samples from unprotected sites.

Protected areas are considered a quintessential measure for biodiversity conservation and many nations have committed to increase them to cover at least 17% of the terrestrial area (‘Aichi biodiversity targets’ of the Convention on Biological Diversity). It was hence timely to carry out a comprehensive global evaluation of the effectiveness of protected areas.

– Associate Professor Luca Börger , Swansea University


Study explores concerns about medication errors

Credit: HENRIK MONTGOMERY/TT News Agency/PA Images

Confusion between look-alike and sound-alike medication names accounts for up to one in four medication errors, threatening patient safety. A Swansea University led team of scientists has explored the main reason for the confusion.

It says errors can occur during prescribing, transcribing, dispensing, and administration of medicines. Some errors will result in overdose, adverse drug reactions, or under-treatment, and cause serious harm to patients.

The study explored the medication naming process to identify the reasons for confusion.

It found that compliance with World Health Organisation naming guidelines was inconsistent and recommended that the stem system should be clarified and better ordered to avoid risk of confusion.

Swansea team head to Antarctica

Midnight at the MIDAS field camp in 2014 Credit: Swansea University

A team of scientists from Swansea University is returning to Antarctica to study lakes under the ice.

Melt water forms lakes that have been growing on the world’s fourth largest ice shelf.

This is the second of two expeditions the first of which, in 2014, discovered frozen melt lakes up to 45m deep.

Moving camp in 2014. Credit: Swansea University

The Larsen C Ice Shelf, where the team will be based, covers an area two and half times the size of Wales.

It's the largest on the Antarctic Peninsula and scientists are keen to find out if it's changing. The formation of surface lakes is believed to have played a part in former ice shelf collapses.

Research finds number of bird strikes 'increasing'

Research by academics at Swansea University shows collisions between birds and buildings, power lines, wind farms and aircraft are increasing.

It suggests better management of the increasingly crowded airspace is needed to help animal conservation and reduce the human and monetary cost associated with collisions.

A paper by Professor Rory Wilson and Doctor Emily Shepherd from the Department of Biosciences with Sergio Lambertucci of the National University of Comahue, Argentina, has been published in the journal Science.

Credit: Niall Carson/PA Archive/PA Images

The study says bird strikes generally happen within 100 metres of the ground, where most flying animals operate and human activity is concentrated.

It says this is also where the majority of bird- aircraft collisions occur, which have led to more than 200 people being killed, thousands of aircraft being damaged, and which costs more than $900 million a year in the USA alone.

The research team also says there are strong arguments for establishing airspace reserves in aerial wildlife hotspots and temporary reserves could be introduced to protect birds when they migrate while permanent ones could be used could protect daily animal movements.

It is interesting to note that more is known about the routes of migrating animal that cross continents than those taken by animals in parks or towns.

But detailed data on how animals use space is now needed which can help guide local planning decisions, building designs and measures that protect our wildlife.

– Professor Rory Wilson


Swansea University helps Bili the chimp

Bili is around 33 years old. Credit: Swansea University

Researchers from Swansea Universities have stepped in to help a chimpanzee from a local sanctuary, who was suffering from a swollen jaw, after his keepers highlighted his plight.

Clinical imaging staff at the College of Medicine learned from Jan and Graham Garen, the owners of Wales Ape and Monkey Sanctuary in Abercrave, that Bili, an ex-circus Chimpanzee has been suffering with a swollen jaw for several months and was in need of a diagnosis.

Bili came to Wales Ape and Monkey Sanctuary in September 2011 and keepers say he's a calm and friendly chimp that settled quickly with other chimpanzees but is more sociable with people.

The veterinary surgeons that were caring for Bili had carried out various tests but lab reports showed nothing conclusive. A closer look was needed and so his keepers approached Swansea University for help.

Using specialist imaging equipment, the team identified Bili’s problem was due to a thickening of his jaw and overlying swelling of his facial muscles. This is likely to be from an abscess of his wisdom tooth.

Following the radiological diagnosis, Bili’s veterinary surgeons and keepers can treat the infection with long term antibiotics to try to initiate a healing process. Albeit it seems Bili is not keen on taking tablets despite the keepers’ best attempts to disguise tablets in various foods.

‘It was a unique humanitarian opportunity for our staff who were delighted to have helped Bili and we hope that he gets better and can enjoy the rest of his retirement in comfort at the sanctuary.’

– Dr Rhodri M Evans, College of Medicine

We are very grateful to the staff at Swansea University for their expertise and their compassion in unhesitatingly offering help to Bili. Thank goodness there is a facility locally in Wales that could help Bili.’

– Graham Garen Wales Ape and Monkey Sanctuary

Long term shift work 'linked to impaired brain power'

Researchers studied more than 3000 shift workers. Credit: Julian Stratenschulte/DPA/PA Images

Long term shift work could be linked to impaired brain power, according to a study carried out by scientists from Swansea University and other European Universities.

They say shift work, like chronic jet lag, is known to disrupt the body’s internal clock and it has been linked to a range of health problems, like ulcers, cardiovascular disease, metabolic syndrome and some cancers.

But little is known about its potential impact on brain functions, like memory and processing speed.

The study published in ‘Occupational & Environmental Medicine’ suggests the impact seems to be most noticeable over a period of 10 or more years, and although the effects can be reversed, this may take at least five years.

“The study shows the long term effects of shift work on the body clock are not only harmful to workers’ physical health, but also affect their mental abilities. Such cognitive impairments may have consequences for the safety of shift workers and the society that they serve, as well as for shift workers’ quality of life.”

– Dr Philip Tucker, Professor of Psychology, Swansea University

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

Swansea scientists develop new sensor

Graphene sensors are 'five times more sensitive'. Credit: Adrian Wyld/The Canadian Press/PA Images

A team of researchers from Swansea University, using the University’s Centre for NanoHealth, say they have developed a highly sensitive graphene biosensor with the capability to detect molecules which show signs of increased cancer risk.

They say the newly developed graphene biosensor could ultimately help to provide a rapid diagnosis at the point of care.

In comparison with other bioassay tests, the sensor was over five times more sensitive.

Conventionally, graphene is produced by stripping layers from graphite.

However for a biosensor, a large substrate area is required in order to produce patterned graphene devices.

The researchers used conditions of low pressure and very high temperatures in order to grow graphene on a substrate of silicon carbide.

The graphene devices were then patterned by using methods similar to those used when processing semiconductors.

The team then attached antibody bioreceptor molecules that could bind to specific target molecules in urine, saliva or blood.

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