Campus round-up - 3 October 2013

October 3, 2013

Source: Alamy

Ring of bright water

Photographic proof has been found that otters have returned to a tributary of the River Thames in the South East of England. A PhD student at the University of Surrey filmed an otter family by using automatically triggered cameras, providing evidence that otters are breeding around the River Wey for the first time in 50 years. In the 1970s, the species was close to extinction in the UK, but a ban on pesticides and improvements in water quality and related fish stocks mean that numbers are now increasing. Aaron Mason filmed the otters for a research project called Wildsense. He has been working with the Zoological Society of London and Surrey Wildlife Trust.

Southampton Solent University
Business savvy

A university staff member who helps students to set up their own businesses has been named the UK’s Enterprise Society Champion for 2013. Rosy Jones, head of employability and enterprise at Southampton Solent University, received the accolade at the 2013 National Enterprise Educator Awards in Sheffield on 12 September. Ms Jones helped to set up the Solent Entrepreneurs’ Network for Sustainable Enterprises, which allows graduate entrepreneurs to meet each other, share ideas and get advice and support from the university.

Plymouth University
Courting public opinion

Research into the success of a pioneering addition to the legal system is under way. Academics from Plymouth University will consider the level of public confidence in community justice courts, which exist in Plymouth and a handful of other UK cities. The courts aim to listen to local concerns and reduce offending by tackling the underlying causes of crime, but researchers say politicians are not certain that the courts have the confidence of the public. The study, funded by the Economic and Social Research Council, will invite people to observe the operation of Plymouth’s community justice court and share their views, and will look at the effect the system has on offenders.

Wales Trinity Saint David, Swansea
Principality sends aid to emirate

Academics joined a delegation from Wales that visited Qatar to explore business opportunities in the region. The University of Wales Trinity Saint David, Swansea’s pro vice-chancellor Mike Phillips and colleagues from the Faculty of Art and Design formed part of the Welsh government-led trip last week. Professor Phillips said the university has a long-established link with the Gulf state via the Wales Qatar Archaeology Project and its School of Archaeology, History and Anthropology, with one of its archaeologists leading the excavation of the coastal forts of Ruwaydha and Rubayqa, important Ottoman trading bases in the 16th century. Also part of the Welsh delegation were ceramicist Bryan Thomas and fine artist Iwan Bala.

University of Nottingham
Please return to sender

The first conference for Kurdish research students in the UK has been held. Organised by the University of Nottingham’s Kurdistan Society, the event brought together 100 researchers from 17 universities. Most of the students are funded by the Kurdistan regional government, whose representatives also attended the meeting, which was convened to allow students to exchange ideas. The government hopes that the students will return to the autonomous region of Iraq after earning their degrees in order to help rebuild capacity in their areas of expertise including policy, agriculture, medicine, law, security and green technologies.

Salford/St Andrews
Monkeys’ catcalls right on target

Researchers have determined that a species of Brazilian monkey calls out both the location and species of a predator to alert other members of the troop – the first time it has been found that these two elements have been combined. Robert Young, a professor in the University of Salford’s School of Environment and Life Sciences, working with colleagues from the universities of St Andrews and Neuchâtel, visited a nature reserve in Brazil that is home to five titi monkey groups. When confronted by a stuffed bird of prey, the monkeys gave out a call that varied as the bird was moved from the treetops to the ground. Spotting a stuffed oncilla (a type of wild cat) elicited a different sound, which also changed when it was moved to other levels of the forest.

University of East Anglia
Heat wave ahead, but don’t panic

Habitable conditions on Earth will be possible for at least another 1.75 billion years, according to astrobiologists. Research led by the University of East Anglia, and based on our planet’s distance from the Sun, found that the Earth will most likely cease to be habitable between 1.75 and 3.25 billion years from now. “After this point, Earth will be in the ‘hot zone’ of the Sun, with temperatures so high that the seas would evaporate. We would see a catastrophic and terminal extinction event for all life,” said research leader Andrew Rushby, from UEA’s School of Environmental Sciences. The findings are published in the journal Astrobiology.

King’s College London
HIV repellent may be close at hand

Scientists have identified a gene that may be able to prevent HIV from spreading around the human body. The discovery of the MX2 gene, which repels the virus that leads to Aids, opens the door for the creation of less toxic treatments that mobilise the body’s own natural defence system against the disease, say researchers at King’s College London. “Developing drugs to stimulate the body’s natural inhibitors is a very important approach because you are triggering a natural process and therefore won’t have the problem of drug resistance,” said Mike Malim, professor of infectious diseases at King’s, one of the leaders of the study.

Glasgow Caledonian University
Taking Manhattan in style

Glasgow Caledonian University is to become the first UK university to open a satellite campus in New York City. Based in SoHo in Lower Manhattan, GCU New York hopes to begin teaching from next year, and will have an initial capacity for up 100 students. It will offer postgraduate programmes, including courses from the GCU British School of Fashion, which was launched in London in September. Initial subject offerings include the business of fashion and international brand strategy, and plans are in place to launch courses such as television fiction writing and engineering. A small number of staff will be based at the campus full time, a university spokesman said, with key academic posts to be filled via a US-based recruitment process. There are currently no plans to introduce undergraduate programmes.

Royal Veterinary College, University of London
Small creatures, great insights

Veterinary academics from the UK have travelled to Bangkok to meet animal experts from across Southeast Asia. Sixty veterinarians and veterinary academics from Thailand, Vietnam, Malaysia, Indonesia and the Philippines attended talks on small animal care by the Royal Veterinary College’s vice-principal David Church and its director of continuing professional development Jill Maddison in August and September. The lectures, part of a series entitled Educating the Educators, will be followed by seven two-hour webinars by the two academics in mid-November.

UEL/Birkbeck, University of London
Helping the other Stratford’s bards

Theatre directors, poets, charity leaders and academics discussed the future of arts provision in East London at a debate chaired by DJ Henry Bonsu. Participants in the event, held in Stratford at the new £33 million campus developed jointly by the University of East London and Birkbeck, University of London, heard how higher education was supporting arts organisations in the area. The talk, on 24 September, was part of the Birkbeck Connects series. It offered examples of the work of community organisations in deprived areas to engage young people, although efforts were often hampered by short-term, piecemeal funding, said Rob Swain, professor of theatre practice at Birkbeck.

Edge Hill University
Shedding light on deadly flames

An economist has been instrumental in developing a model to help minimise damage from forest fires in Italy. The European Union has placed Italy in the high-risk category for these types of fires, but as yet there is limited scientific understanding of the phenomenon. Mehmet Pinar, a business lecturer at Edge Hill University, has been working with the Euro-Mediterranean Centre on Climate Change to investigate the causes of forest fire frequency and intensity and identify effective solutions. “Our results tell us that the density of railway networks and the presence of cattle and goat farms generate a significant effect on the occurrence of forest fires and their spread,” Dr Pinar said.

University of Glasgow

An academic from a Scottish university is actively encouraging his students to tweet during his lectures. Graeme Pate, who delivers courses in primary education in the School of Interdisciplinary Studies at the University of Glasgow, believes students who use social media while he is lecturing are more likely to learn to interact. He hopes they will tweet questions, raise issues and make comments in the way delegates do at academic conferences. “Social media is something today’s students have grown up with and is an integral part of their life and their education,” said Mr Pate. “Using Twitter can be a mechanism to help students raise questions about material in a non-confrontational way. It is an exciting and logical way to extend the teaching and learning experience.”

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