Lemur droppings may hold the key to the survival of Madagascar's unique rainforests. A new study by academics at the University of Roehampton found that the seeds of some trees could only be dispersed through the faeces of black-and-white ruffed lemurs, one of 93 types living on the island. "The lemurs here are swallowing a great diversity of seeds and then depositing them whole in their droppings," said Kara Moses, who led the study.
"Some of these seeds are over 4cm long, and it's likely that no other animals are capable of swallowing seeds this big. The survival of the trees in question may be completely reliant on the black-and-white ruffed lemur." Preserving such species of large trees could help to offset global warming, the study adds, because they tend to store more carbon than smaller trees.
Food for thought
A university has become the first to be rated by an industry body for the sustainability of its catering operation, receiving the highest accolade on offer. The University of Winchester was given Three Star Champion status by the Sustainable Restaurant Association, which rated the institution particularly highly in the environment and society sections of its process. The university's approach to "ethical catering" has also landed it on the shortlist for the Environmental Association for Universities and Colleges Green Gown Awards.
Getting ahead of the game
Athletes hoping to win medals for Great Britain at next summer's London Paralympic Games have spent two weeks at a university preparation camp. More than 100 athletes from 11 sports, including archery, boccia and goal ball, took part in the British Paralympic Association's simulation camp at the University of Bath, offering them the chance to experience a multisport environment ahead of the event. The university's Sports Training Village, accommodation and other facilities were converted to create a "distraction-free" environment for the team.
Bucks New/University for the Creative Arts
Cooperation across the pond
An American university with a campus in London has joined forces with two British institutions that will validate its degrees in the UK. Under the partnership, the American InterContinental University's degree in international business will be validated by Bucks New University, while programmes in fashion, interior design and visual communication will be validated by the University for the Creative Arts. A spokesman for the InterContinental said the move would give students in London the chance to register for dual US and UK degrees, as the programmes are also accredited by the Higher Learning Commission in the US.
An academic study of the methods used to diagnose high blood pressure has influenced new National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence guidelines. The University of Birmingham study suggested that the most effective approach was to use ambulatory blood-pressure monitoring (repeated measurements during a 24-hour period), which was more accurate - and cost-effective - than clinic-based measurements. The NICE guidelines now recommend that a diagnosis of high blood pressure should be confirmed using 24-hour ambulatory blood-pressure monitoring.
Blowing in the wind
Astrophysicists have solved a 40-year-old problem with observing turbulence in solar winds. The current understanding that turbulence in solar wind should not be affected by its speed or direction of travel was not observed when the first attempts to measure it were made in 1971. To address the inconsistency between the physical law and observations of a space probe, researchers at the Centre for Fusion, Space and Astrophysics at the University of Warwick created a virtual model of how turbulence builds up in solar wind and then "flew" a virtual space probe through the wind in a variety of directions. The study showed that there was no correlation between changes in the turbulence in the solar wind and the direction of travel.
Archaeologists have discovered a 2,000-year-old Roman port on a dig in South Wales. The port, outside the Roman fortress in Caerleon, is only the second known example in the UK. It was discovered by a team of staff and students from the School of History, Archaeology and Religion at Cardiff University while they were excavating a large Roman suburb discovered last year. The find offers a greater insight into the role of Wales in Roman Britain and how it was connected to the rest of the Empire.
Eyes to the future
Researchers are developing a treatment for complications of a rare disease that affects children. The team from Robert Gordon University won a £100,000 research grant from Sparks, a children's medical research charity, to work on a gel that will help to treat eye-related complications of cystinosis which causes kidney and liver failure and also makes eyes particularly sensitive to light. It is hoped that the new treatment, which will be developed jointly by the university's School of Pharmacy and Life Sciences and Institute for Health and Welfare Research, will relieve pain and also reduce the time it takes to apply treatment, contributing to an overall improvement in quality of life.
Extracts from tropical plants could form the basis of new treatments for ovarian cancer. In initial tests at the University of Strathclyde's Institute of Pharmacy and Biomedical Sciences, some plant extracts were found to kill tumour samples taken from cancer patients. Researchers are now developing a programme to investigate the ability of the extracts to stop ovarian tumours growing in the hope that they could be used in medicines to tackle the disease.
The appliance of science
An academic has developed an iPad application to help Liverpool footballers improve their performance. The app, developed by Grant Abt from the University of Hull's department of sport, health and exercise science, gives coaches a range of feedback about how each player is feeling after each training session or match. Dr Abt said: "If a player is tired or suffering emotional stress, it can have an effect on their performance. Collecting a range of data gives the coaches the chance to gauge how their players are feeling and monitor training more closely."
To boldly diagnose...
A hospital has opened a new high-tech disease detection unit developed by its local university. The facility at Leicester Royal Infirmary integrates a range of non-invasive techniques such as imaging and breath analysis. It was developed by University of Leicester researchers from a variety of fields, including space research, chemistry, engineering and IT, as well as medicine. Mark Sims, a Leicester space scientist and co-leader of the project, said: "In the longer term we would aim to work towards something like the 'tricorder' device seen in futuristic science series like Star Trek. What we have developed so far is more like a first attempt."
Finding a way back in
A university has launched a course aimed at improving the employability of managers who have been made redundant that is free to the over-50s. Manchester Metropolitan University Business School's certificate in professional studies management and leadership is aimed at managers with significant experience but no formal qualifications. It is based on a successful pilot with staff from the local council, police and NHS trust. Dick France, a finance tutor on the course, said: "We have an ageing population in Britain and it's important both employers and employees take steps to prolong productive working life."
King's College London
The coral factor
A sunscreen in a pill could be ready for testing within five years, researchers have said. Scientists at King's College London believe a sun block tablet could be available cheaply within 10 years after discovering how coral protects itself from ultraviolet rays. Samples taken from Australia's Great Barrier Reef showed how the marine organism interacts with algae living within it to produce natural resistance to the sun. Fish eating the coral also acquire the protection and scientists believe that humans could benefit from the same effect from a pill that would provide UV resistance for weeks.
Psychologists are leading a project to improve domestic violence prevention initiatives across Europe. Claire Fox, senior lecturer in psychology at Keele University, and Becky Hale, a PhD student at Keele, are working with criminologist David Gadd, from the University of Manchester, on the Relationship Education and Domestic Abuse Prevention Tuition project. The aim is to help young people cope with domestic violence, and over 2,000 children at 50 schools are due to take part.
1912 and all that
The story of RMS Titanic may have been told more often than most, but there are still facts to learn about the ill-fated ship. A new open learning lecture series at Queen's University Belfast, timed to run ahead of the centenary of the sinking, will focus on the wider significance of the year 1912 for Belfast, where the ship was built. Tess Maginess, senior teaching Fellow and open learning co-ordinator at Queen's School of Education, said: "The lecture series will look at the major events of 1912, including 'The Titanic Story: History and Legacy'. The programme has something to suit everyone. People do not need to have any prior qualifications to participate." The series begins at the end of September.