Tuesday, 31 August 2021

Implantable stimulator device combines with body power to treat disease, damage and sports injury Researchers at CÚRAM, the SFI Research Centre for Medical Devices based at NUI Galway, have shown how the simple act of walking can power an implantable stimulator device to speed up treatment of musculoskeletal diseases. The results of have been published in the prestigious journal Advanced Materials. The research establishes the engineering foundations for a new range of stimulator devices that enable control of musculoskeletal tissue regeneration to treat tendon damage and disease and sports injuries, without the use of drugs or external stimulation. Lead researcher on the study, CÚRAM Investigator Dr Manus Biggs, said: “One of the most exciting parts of our study is that these implantable devices may be tailored to individual patients or disorders and may show promise in accelerating the repair of sport-related tendon injuries, particularly in athletes.” The study investigated whether electrical therapy, coupled with exercise, would show promise in treating tendon disease or ruptures. It showed that tendon cell function and repair can be controlled through electrical stimulation from an implantable device which is powered by body movement. Dr Marc Fernandez, who carried out the principal research of the study at CÚRAM, said: “Successful treatment of tendon damage and disease represents a critical medical challenge. “Our discovery shows that an electrical charge is produced in the treatment target area - the damaged or injured tendon - when the implanted device is stretched during walking. The potential gamechanger here is like a power switch in a cell - the electrical stimulus turns on tendon-specific regenerative processes in the damaged tendon.” The stimulator device uses a fabric like mesh - known as a piezoelectric material - that produces electricity when stretched or put under mechanical pressure. It is made using a scaffold of nano-fibres which are one-thousandth of the thickness of a human hair Dr Fernandez added: “We presented an implantable, electrically active device capable of controlling tendon regeneration and healing. Importantly, our research improved the therapeutic performance of the device by enhancing its structure, piezoelectric characteristics, and biological compatibility. “We also evaluated the individual influence of mechanical, structural, and electrical cues on tendon cell function and were able to show that bioelectric cues contribute significantly in promoting tendon repair.” Dr Biggs added: “This unique strategy of combining a device which is powered through body-movement and which can induce accelerated tendon healing is expected to significantly impact the field of regenerative devices, specifically in the area of sports or trauma associated injuries. “These devices are cost-effective, relatively easy to implant and may pave the way for a whole new class of regenerative electrical therapies.” The research was funded by Science Foundation Ireland and in particular the SFI-BBSRC Partnership programme. Read the full study in Advanced Materials here: https://doi.org/10.1002/adma.202008788 CÚRAM’s research focuses on developing diagnostic devices, biomedical implants, cell-device and drug-device combination products to address unmet clinical needs. The recent announcement of a €46million reinvestment in CÚRAM by Science Foundation Ireland in February 2021, demonstrates the Government's strong commitment to the MedTech industry in Ireland, supporting the continuation of substantial academic, industry and clinical collaborations that are central to CÚRAM's work. Ends

Monday, 30 August 2021

CÚRAM, the SFI Research Centre for Medical Devices at NUI Galway is now enrolling for its Teachers in Residence Programme for the sixth year, with applications being accepted up to Friday, 24 September 2021. The programme, which will be taking place online, has places available for five primary and five secondary school teachers and will run from October 2021 over ten evenings until March 2022. The online sessions will be held twice a month, from 7-8pm. Teachers will receive 10 ECTS through NUI Galway's Centre for Adult Learning and Professional Development, fully funded by CÚRAM. As part of the programme, teachers will have the opportunity to develop a science-inspired mural for their school. During the residency, teachers will speak directly with world-leading researchers to learn about medical device research at CÚRAM to improve the quality of life for patients with chronic illnesses. Teachers from all disciplines are invited to participate, to support and encourage multidisciplinary approaches to teaching science. Participants will learn about and receive resources for the classroom including science engagement activities, science capital teaching approaches, and lesson plan kits developed by teachers for teachers, that are linked with the primary and junior cycle science curricula. Professor Abhay Pandit, Scientific Director at CÚRAM, said: "We are delighted with the innovation and creativity shown by the primary and secondary teachers who have participated in this programme. If we can continue to support and inspire our teachers by providing access to current, cutting edge Irish research and work with them to incorporate it into classroom activities, our hope is that they, in turn, can inspire their students for years to come. We also want to provide practical support through resources that can be used in classrooms and online.” Teachers will work directly with CÚRAM researchers to develop high-quality content for the classroom that is relevant, engaging, and practical to use. The material generated during the residency will be shared with all participants and their schools. Lesson plan kits developed from previous years' teachers, including Irish language versions, can be downloaded at https://curamdevicesengage.ie/teachers-in-residence/. CÚRAM is a partner in the Department of Education and Skills' Junior Cycle for Teachers STE(A)M in Junior Cycle initiative. The goal of the initiative is to provide Professional Learning Experiences for Junior Cycle teachers that allow for interdisciplinary responses to societal challenges in subject-specific and cross-curricular contexts. To apply for a place in the Teachers in Residence Programme or to find out more, please contact sarah.gundy@nuigalway.ie. -Ends-

Monday, 30 August 2021

New NUI Galway programme connects with students in the community to create pathways to university Fourteen Irish Travellers have been recognised at a special ceremony after completing NUI Galway Access Centre’s first Educational Transition Project (ETP). The Traveller students received certificates of completion at a ceremony at the University. Minister for Further and Higher Education, Research, Innovation and Science, Simon Harris T.D., sent a video message to the students, saying: “This is your day and you should be very proud. We are very proud of you and all that you have achieved. I applaud you on reaching this major milestone. “My belief is that further and higher education is for everyone and our mission as a Department is to make sure that no-one is left behind.” Professor Pól Ó Dochartaigh, Deputy President and Registrar of NUI Galway, presented the students with their certificates. “This programme builds on NUI Galway’s values of ambition, creativity, impact, collaboration and integrity through a supportive student-centred approach that connected with students at a community level. It is wonderful to see these 14 students now taking their first steps towards third level education,” Professor Ó Dochartaigh said. The Educational Transition Project (ETP) for Traveller students was developed to build on current initiatives and work directly with community organisations in supporting members of the Traveller community to progress to higher education. NUI Galway’s Access Centre held a series of consultation meetings with stakeholders including Traveller organisations, community groups, Galway Roscommon Education Training Board and Traveller students in order to inform and support the design and implementation of the programme. Dr Mary Surlis, Senior Manager NUI Galway Access Centre, said: “The Educational Transition Project is multi-disciplinary and is designed to support Traveller students to achieve their desired educational goals, whether they are school leavers or mature students. “This programme represents an important intervention in ensuring Traveller students access higher education. The success of this year’s programme and the feedback we have received will enable us to develop the initiative further for next year.” The programme commenced in early June 2021 and was delivered online three days a week over five weeks, due to the Covid-19 restrictions. Owen Ward, Programme Co-ordinator, NUI Galway Access Centre, said: “These students are inspirational role models. Despite the additional obstacles they faced as a result of the pandemic, they remained committed to completing the programme. The Access Centre will continue to support these students as they progress in education. This initiative further demonstrates NUI Galway’s commitment to widening the participation of Irish Travellers in third level education.” The ceremony was organised in line with the current University and HSE Covid-19 guidelines. Ends

Tuesday, 24 August 2021

Study among Irish school pupils aged 15-17 found: 93% of females and 79% of males agreed that consent is always required for sexual activity 98% agreed it is okay to say no 92% agreed there is a need to talk about sexual consent even in a relationship A new Consent Communication Study among Irish teenagers by NUI Galway’s Active* Consent programme has found that 79% of males and 93% of females agree that consent is always required for sexual activity. The results of the study will be launched today (Tuesday, 24 August) along with a report detailing a set of new consent education resources for Irish secondary schools. The programme launch will include contributions from the Ombudsman for Children, Dr Niall Muldoon, Annette Honan from the National Council for Curriculum and Assessment and a number of young people. The Active* Consent for School Communities report is based on original research with pupils, parents and teachers. In particular, the report contains the first in-depth research analysis of consent communication among Irish teenagers from a survey of 613 post-primary students. This research explores findings on attitudes to consent, perceptions of peers, and how young people responded to consent communication dilemmas. This survey found: 93% of females and 79% of males agreed that consent is always required for sexual activity. (18% of males were neutral as to whether consent is always required; 3% disagreed that it is always required. 6% of females were neutral; 1% disagreed). 62% agreed that consent for this activity always needed to be verbal, and 60% said that non-verbal consent to sexual activity is sometimes OK. 51% agreed that their peers think consent is always required for sexual activity, while 37% agreed that their peers think consent should always be verbal. There was a significant gender gap in personal comfort with being sexually intimate with someone they had just met at a party, with females less likely to be comfortable than males. While 7% of females were comfortable with intimate touching, 51% of males said they were comfortable. There was also a significant gap among females between their personal levels of comfort with being intimate with someone they just met at a party, and how comfortable they thought other teenagers were with it. While 7% of females were comfortable with intimate touching, 42% of females agreed that other teenagers would be comfortable with this. 98% agreed it is okay to say “No, I don’t want to” if you don’t want to have sex. 92% agreed there is a need to talk about sexual consent even in a relationship. Nevertheless, being awkward, embarrassed, or being afraid of being judged or ruining the mood emerged as key barriers to consent communication. The survey participants responded to three “consent stories” that explored reactions to someone saying “no” to a partner, to whether a smile constitutes consent, and to how males are perceived if they turn down sex. The report completes a two-year process of developing the Active* Consent programme for schools. This complements the work that Active* Consent carries out with colleges and sports organisations. Based on the research carried out by Active* Consent, the schools programme launched today consists of an integrated package of resources, each of which can also be delivered on a stand-alone basis: A sexual consent workshop for young people aged 15-17 that can be provided in-class or online. Awareness-raising seminars for parents and guardians, along with education/training resources for teachers. Sex on Our Screens, an eLearning resource designed to increase young people’s critical literacy skills on sexual media, pornography, body image, and consent How I Learned About Consent, a new filmed theatrical drama that explores the nuances of consent, how we learn about consent, and the positive changes that take place when we practice active, positive consent. The workshop, seminars and training are available from September, while the eLearning resource and theatrical film will be made available from October onwards. The schools programme can be integrated with existing sexual health initiatives and projects, and the resources are designed to be delivered by teachers or other professionals. The consent workshop was piloted over the past year with 993 students in 10 schools nationally. Workshop survey responses showed significant increases in pupils agreeing that consent needs to be agreed before the start of any sexual activity and that consent should be verbal. The percentage of pupils who agreed that they had the skills needed to deal with sexual consent went from 61% beforehand to 92% afterwards. Some 99% of females, 95% of males, and 100% of non-binary pupils agreed that the workshop was relevant to them, with 90% saying they would recommend the workshop to their peers. The Ombudsman for Children, Dr Niall Muldoon said: “The Active* Consent programme indicates that we are making progress in confronting what is not only a complicated issue, but an extremely important one for developing positive relationships and reducing sexual harassment. The programme will equip secondary school students with self-confidence to speak up if there is something happening that they are not comfortable with. In a perfect world we would like to think attitudes towards sexual harassment are changing but evidence shows us we have a long way to go.” Dr Pádraig MacNeela, Active* Consent Programme Co-Lead, NUI Galway, said: “The Active* Consent schools programme responds to calls from policy makers, researchers, and activists for freely available, research-based tools to support secondary school communities with positive, active consent. Our research tells us that young people, parents, and teachers are all looking for practical advice on open communication that is based on mutual respect. The range of resources we are now providing will help our school communities to address these needs.” Dr Siobhán O’Higgins, Active* Consent Programme Co-Lead, NUI Galway, said: “Our resources aim to build consent competence, which means having the knowledge and skills that enable you to confidently communicate your own boundaries while respecting those of others. We have worked with schools across the country to pilot a new consent workshop that supports not alone teenagers, but also their parents and teachers. We worked with young people to design it, and now, based on piloting with 1,000 of their peers, the Active* Consent workshop is available to schools around the country. “Teachers stated that they want resources to engage pupils in learning about the importance of consent. Parents want support as the primary educators of their children, but many feel they do not have enough information to confidently support their children in this area.” Primary support for the Active* Consent programme comes from Lifes2good Foundation, a Galway-based philanthropic foundation with a primary focus on promoting the rights of women and children through preventative as well as remedial strategies. The programme is also supported by the Rethink Ireland Arts to Action funding scheme, which aims for artistic and cultural contributions to have a significant impact on enhancing Irish society. Over the course of the year, the schools programme will be hosted on the new online learning hub that Active* Consent is providing as a national resource in partnership with the Department of Justice and the Department of Further & Higher Education, Research, Innovation & Science. The Active* Consent schools programme will be launched online at 2pm Tuesday, 24 August. To register visit https://bit.ly/3z7Ihw6 or for more information on the Active* Consent programme visit http://www.nuigalway.ie/student-life/student-support/active-consent/. Ends

Monday, 23 August 2021

NUI Galway sponsored research demonstrates that clinicians should treat patients on their stomachs Critically-ill Covid-19 patients are less likely to die or to require invasive ventilation if lying prone on their stomachs while receiving oxygen, a global research project sponsored by NUI Galway has found. The impact of the technique, known as awake prone positioning, was assessed in hospitals in six countries on more than 1,000 coronavirus patients requiring advanced breathing support. The findings are published in The Lancet Respiratory Medicine. The study was the first clinical trial of its kind into the practice of awake prone positioning and ran from April 2020 to January 2021. It showed that treating patients in this position, while they received high flow nasal cannula oxygen, reduced death and the need for invasive mechanical ventilation. Dr Bairbre McNicholas, Honorary Senior Lecturer at NUI Galway and Intensive Care Consultant at University Hospital Galway, said: “Providing an evidence base for what we do in the intensive care unit is critical so that we support and implement recommendations that work. “This study, which was part of a global effort and was sponsored locally by NUI Galway and the Health Research Board-Clinical Research Facility Galway, as part of its response to the Covid-19 pandemic, shows that clinical trials can be scaled up and done properly and efficiently during a pandemic and demonstrates what we can achieve when we work together.” The study involved 1,121 patients in the US, Canada, Mexico, France, Spain and Ireland, and it is the first time awake prone positioning has been studied to such an extent. Some of the key findings: :: Awake prone positioning reduces death and the need for invasive intubation in patients with severe Covid-19 who require high flow nasal cannula oxygen. :: The technique is safe and well tolerated by patients. :: Blood oxygen levels are significantly improved in patients who adopt awake prone positioning. :: The longer patients can sustain being in prone positioning, the greater the success of the treatment and the less likely they were to need invasive mechanical ventilation. :: Given the scarcity of ventilators and oxygen therapy, particularly in low and middle income countries, this study provides welcome data on the efficacy of awake prone positioning which will ensure that the low-cost strategy to invasive mechanical ventilation is supported as a treatment strategy. Dr McNicholas said: “I tell patients that going on your tummy will improve the oxygen levels in your blood, that although it is uncomfortable, the longer you can put up with this position, the less likely you will need to go onto require needing a breathing tube.” Lisa Power was treated using awake prone positioning while being treated at University Hospital Galway for Covid-19. Ms Power said: “I am extremely grateful to all the staff at University Hospital Galway, particularly the medics in ICU and especially as I was awake proned. It really helped my breathing and made me much more comfortable without having to put me on a ventilator. I cannot thank the staff enough for all the care they provided.” Professor Tim O’Brien, Executive Dean of the College of Medicine, Nursing and Health Sciences, NUI Galway and Consultant Physician in Endocrinology and Metabolism, Saolta University Hospital Group, said: “Given the scarcity of ventilators and oxygen therapy, particularly in low and middle income countries, this study provides welcome data on the efficacy of awake prone positioning which will ensure that it is supported as a treatment strategy. “NUI Galway’s approach to global medicine is based on effective collaboration and on bringing together some of the best minds to solve the healthcare challenges of today. Using a new approach, called a meta-trial, teams from around the world united data in a pre-planned analysis from inception. This enabled an accelerated trial with a large number of patients - a global collaborative methodology that is essential during a pandemic.” Ends

Thursday, 19 August 2021

Kylemore Abbey and NUI Galway have come together to form a new partnership to deliver the Kylemore Abbey Biodiversity Stewardship Programme. The Programme which is a collaboration between Kylemore Abbey and the School of Natural Sciences at NUI Galway, aims to: Document the current biodiversity profile on the 1,000-acre Kylemore Estate. Identify biodiversity projects and research topics which will benefit not only Kylemore Abbey but the wider community. Develop a Biodiversity Management Plan for Kylemore to preserve and safeguard the biodiversity of the Estate. Provide a location and rich ecosystem in which students will be able to study and learn about species, habitats and wider ecological and sustainability topics with practical applications. Conor Coyne, Executive Director of the Kylemore Trust explains that “the partnership between Kylemore Abbey and NUI Galway will allow for research to be undertaken on the extensive range of flora and fauna found in the habitats at Kylemore and eventually the findings of these studies will form a Biodiversity Management Plan for Kylemore Abbey to ensure changes are made for the better of our environment and to safeguard biodiversity”. One of Ireland’s most popular visitor attractions, Kylemore Abbey carefully balances commercial activity with the well-being of the community and environment, aiming to lead the way in sustainable tourism and focusing on enhancing biodiversity. Nestled beneath the Duchruach Mountain, running along the banks of the Dawros River and rich with freshwater lakes and waterfalls, the Kylemore Estate hosts an abundance of habitats. Its soft peatlands are complimented by grasslands and an Oceanic Oak Woodland. Initial work on the programme is already underway and students have already commenced work on a range of research projects. Kylemore Abbey looks forward to strengthening relationships with NUI Galway while preserving and sharing the heritage, beauty, peace and ethos of the Kylemore Estate. A team consisting of a wide range of NUI Galway staff and students, led by Environmental Science Lecturer Dr Gesche Kindermann, will contribute their experience and expertise to the collaboration. This includes staff and students from Environmental Science, Botany and Plant Science, and Zoology, all of whom will bring their individual expertise to support the conservation of both species and habitats at Kylemore. Students from a variety of courses, including the MScs in Biodiversity and Land Use Planning, Environmental Leadership, Sustainable Environments, and the BScs Environmental Science, Botany and Zoology will have the opportunity to use the Kylemore Estate for projects and research. NUI Galway Lecturer Dr Kindermann states that “This stewardship programme offers a wonderful opportunity for us and our students to study the biodiversity at Kylemore while contributing to the conservation and enhancement of our natural environments, habitats and species”. One of the core values guiding the Benedictine Community at Kylemore Abbey is Stewardship where the Kylemore Estate and all things on it have been preserved with care and diligence over the last 100 years. Consequently, environmental sustainability is a deep-rooted objective. Pope Francis’ encyclical Laudato Si’ addresses the environmental challenges being encountered around the World. The significance of this encyclical along with another core value of the Benedictine Community, education, provides the inspiration to drive the sustainability work at Kylemore Abbey and this partnership with NUIG. Sr. Máire Hickey OSB, Abbess of Kylemore Abbey spoke of her enthusiasm about the partnership “We are delighted to be engaging with NUI Galway on this programme. As custodians of Kylemore Abbey and advocates for the protection of the environment and promotion of sustainable practices, the biodiversity stewardship programme and associated partnership aligns seamlessly with our own beliefs and our ethos of education and is a wonderful step forward for the protection and enhancement of biodiversity in Kylemore.” This new biodiversity programme is one of a host of sustainability initiatives, already underway on the 1,000-acre estate, including: Removal of invasive plant species from woodlands and pastures A programme of afforestation with indigenous trees Production of environmentally friendly and peat-free compost for the Victorian Gardens Electrification of the fleet Planning for renewable energy sources Replacement of agricultural stock with indigenous Connemara Ponies Protection measures for the freshwater pearl mussel Supporting local and regional suppliers – to promote the regional economy and cut down on environmental impact of long-haul distribution networks Working towards eliminating Single Use Plastic Ongoing training in sustainability and development of a Green Team Developing a food waste partnership The work is already underway and the newly developed partnership with NUI Galway intends to develop Kylemore Abbey as a centre of biodiversity and sustainability research, education, and promotion. To learn more about the ongoing work, plans, and progress see www.kylemoreabbey.com.  -ENDS-

Wednesday, 18 August 2021

90% of samples analysed showed traces of microplastics Researchers from Earth and Ocean Sciences and the Ryan Institute at NUI Galway have carried out an extensive study on the microplastic content of sediments at 87 locations in habitats designated as Special Areas of Conservation (SACs) and Special Protection Areas (SPAs) around the coastline of Ireland. Microplastics were detected in 79 of the 87 locations studies representing 90% of samples analysed. Dr Liam Morrison led the study, which has been published in the international journal Marine Pollution Bulletinand was co-authored by NUI Galway PhD student Ana Mendes and Postdoctoral Researcher Dr Nessa Golden. Microplastics were detected in samples from 79 of the 87 locations studies representing 90% of samples analysed. The study showed that microplastic abundance was closely related with distance from known sources and concentrations were greater in intertidal (on the shore, between tides) as opposed to subtidal (below the level of the lowest tide) sediments. The abundance of microplastics in the intertidal zone is partly influenced by movement of the sea, including wave action, tides, and currents, whereas the subtidal zone is a much more stable environment and could be considered a sink for microplastics. It was found that the most common plastic type or polymer was polypropylene (PP) (34%) followed by polyethylene terephthalate (PET) (26%) and polyethylene (PE) (26%), comprising of a total of 86% of all the microplastic detected. The dominant colour observed was clear followed by blue, white and black and the appearance of clear PE/PET fibres may indicate grey-water sources (wastewater from sinks, showers, baths and primarily washing machines), as PE/PET is common in clothing, while PP clear fibres are likely from commercial and/or recreational fishing materials. A relationship between sediment grain size, microplastic abundance and distance from known sources (river/waterways, urban settlements, and wastewater treatment facilities) was established. A higher concentration of microplastics in finer sediments (such as mudflats) within a 2 km distance from a known source, was observed with microplastic concentration decreasing with an increase in sediment grain size or as sediments get coarser (such as sandy beaches) and/or distance from a possible source of microplastics. The results demonstrate that an understanding of potential sources of pollution, sediment type (sandy beaches to mudflats) and hydrodynamic conditions (waves and currents) are very important in terms of MP abundance and distribution in marine sediments and in terms of effective waste management strategies and policy aimed at reducing the global plastics problem. Dr Morrison said: “This study provided a broader assessment of microplastic abundance by representing 87 inshore locations around Ireland. In addition, Ireland is the highest producer of plastic waste per person in the EU and the fourth worst in recycling rate, according to the latest data released by Eurostat. “Owing to their great diversity, ranging from size and other properties, microplastics can effectively penetrate through food webs where absorption and desorption of pollutants and associated chemicals can occur, creating a complex range of potential hazards for biota and humans” This study provides an insight into the state of microplastic debris in Irish coastal sediments and a baseline for further research and policy making towards marine litter and in particular micro-litter in Ireland. Read the full study in Marine Pollution Bulletin here: https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S0025326X21008365 -Ends-

Wednesday, 18 August 2021

A new digital exhibition from a team at NUI Galway has been launched, opening up the archive of renowned theatre and opera designer Joe Vaněk. Drawing on material held at the University’s Hardiman Library, the exhibition offers a unique insight and perspective into the work of one of European theatre’s most highly regarded designers, from Dublin to Broadway, since the 1980s. Made up of more than 300 archive images, from costume drawings to set designs, production photographs and notebooks, the newly digitised material showcases a new history of design in contemporary Irish theatre. It also includes correspondence with directors and playwrights such as Brian Friel, whose work he was closely associated with. Joe Vaněk said: “Over the years, it has been my privilege to work with several esteemed directors - Patrick Mason, Alan Gilsenan, Michael Barker Caven and Annie Ryan. Also, it has been a source of great professional pride, that I have had the opportunity to design premieres of new plays by major Irish playwrights including Brian Friel, Tom Kilroy, Frank McGuinness, and Tom MacIntyre. “Now I find myself with an archive dedicated to my design work in theatre and opera at NUI Galway, and I am honoured to be amongst such luminaries as the novelist John McGahern, actors Barry Fitzgerald and Siobhan McKenna, and director Garry Hynes. My thanks - needless to say - goes to the Hardiman Library of NUI Galway, to Barry Houlihan and colleagues, for their enthusiasm and persistence in getting this digital show on the road.” The online exhibition is curated by researcher Grace Vroomen with a project team from NUI Galway including Dr Barry Houlihan, Dr Cillian Joy, Eimhin Joyce and Aisling Keane. It can be viewed at https://exhibitions.library.nuigalway.ie/s/joe-vanek/page/welcome. The exhibition charts a scenographic journey from page to stage through the theatrescapes of Vaněk’s distinguished career. It also includes newly published materials that show landscapes, architecture and related items that were documented during Vaněk’s early research and ideas for productions. It focuses on key material in the archive, such as design for Friel’s plays, including the Tony Award-winning production of Dancing at Lughnasa, as well as work with theatre companies Druid, Landmark Productions and Corn Exchange, and designing new plays by many of Ireland’s leading writers including Sebastian Barry, Marina Carr, Tom Murphy, Frank McGuinness, Tom Kilroy, Hugo Hamilton and Tom MacIntyre. Opera designs include work for Opera Ireland, Opera Theatre Company, Irish National Opera, Wexford Festival Opera and Opera Collective. John Cox, University Librarian at NUI Galway, said: “We are honoured to hold the archive of Joe Vaněk at NUI Galway and to be able to share insights into his work with an international audience through this online exhibition.” Dr Barry Houlihan, NUI Galway Archivist, said: “Joe Vaněk’s archive of theatre and opera design, and its digital exhibition, are a window into the vibrant world of Vaněk’s set and costume designs for more than three decades. Joe’s kind support of our digitising this remarkable archive means it will inspire students and theatre-makers all over the world.” Professor Patrick Lonergan, Professor of Drama and Theatre Studies at NUI Galway, said: “Joe Vaněk has made an enormous contribution to Irish culture over many decades. The donation of his archive to NUI Galway makes an amazing resource available - a resource that is of national and international significance. These designs and other archival items will inspire our students, stimulate new research, and stand as a lasting testament to the work of a great theatre-maker. We are proud and grateful to host this work.” Ends

Friday, 13 August 2021

Removal of moisture has a 100% success rate on killing Japanese knotweed plants and regrowth under lab conditions  A research study from NUI Galway in collaboration with multinational infrastructure consulting firm AECOM and University of Leeds has found that the removal of moisture could act as a potential control strategy for smaller infestations of Japanese knotweed, which are particularly common in urban settings. Findings show that incorrect herbicide treatment cannot control the growth and regeneration of this invasive plant, but that fully drying the plant material in a lab environment allowed it to be returned to the soil without risk of regrowth. The research also showed that if there are no nodes attached to the rhizomes (root like underground shoots), there is no regeneration. Japanese knotweed (Reynoutria japonica) is a problematic invasive plant found in many areas of Europe and North America. Notably, in the UK, the species can cause issues with mortgage acquisition. It can grow up to two to three metres in height and can dominate an area to the exclusion of most other plants. Control of Japanese knotweed is complicated by its ability to regenerate from small fragments of plant material; however, there remains uncertainty about how much rhizome is required and how likely successful regeneration is under different scenarios. The study, published in the journal PeerJ today (12 August 2021) investigated the ability of crowns (underground mass from which rhizomes and shoots emerge) and rhizomes with different numbers of nodes to regenerate successfully from three sites in Yorkshire and Lancashire in the north of England. Two of the sites had been subject to herbicide treatment for two years prior to sampling and the third site had no history of herbicide treatment. The study found that the success of regeneration is related to plant fragment size, with larger fragments more likely to successfully regenerate and, for rhizomes, if there is no node, there is no regeneration. Additionally, it was found that the removal of moisture on living material resulted in 0% regeneration after plant material was dried and replanted. Senior author of the study, Dr Karen Bacon, Lecturer in Plant Ecology, Botany and Plant Sciences, Ryan Institute, NUI Galway, said: “Japanese knotweed is one of the most invasive plant species in the world and has major negative impact on ecology and biodiversity. The findings of this study that showed virtually no difference between the regrowth of treated and untreated Japanese knotweed samples suggest that herbicide treatment, which is often the most suitable approach to tackle the species, is not always being done effectively. “We also show clearly that the size of the plant fragment is critical to the initial regrowth, with smaller fragments producing much smaller regrown plants. Additionally, if there are no nodes, there is no regeneration, which may suggest potential management strategies in the future. This also highlights that small infestations and plants should not be viewed with the same concern as larger ones and that rapid management should be a goal of tackling this problematic species.” Dr Bacon added: “Our finding that the removal of moisture has a 100% success rate on killing Japanese knotweed plants and preventing regrowth after they were replanted also raises an important potential means of management for smaller infestations that are common in urban environments. This requires additional field trials, which we hope to undertake in NUI Galway soon.” When crowns and rhizomes were planted in lab conditions, no significant differences were observed in the new stem diameter, maximum height of stem or maximum growth increments among crowns, when comparing plants that had been treated with herbicide for two years to plants that had no history of herbicide treatment. This shows the importance of monitoring treated areas for regeneration and sustaining treatment over longer periods. Crown material had a higher regenerative capacity, with all traits measured from the planted crowns being significantly greater than those of the planted rhizome fragments. At least one node was necessary for successful regeneration (regrowth) of rhizomes and the smallest initial fragment weight to regenerate and survive the experiment was 0.5 grams. 0.7 grams was the previously reported smallest fragment to regenerate. It should be noted that such tiny fragments produced only very small and weedy plants that would take many years to regain health and spread significantly, if they survived. After the 60-day growth experiment, all plant material was subjected to the removal of moisture through air drying by sitting on the lab bench for 38 days until all plant fragments were at their dry weight. They were then replanted in soil and provided with the same nutrient, water and light conditions as the growth phase of the experiment. This resulted in no regrowth (emergence or regeneration) after replanting. These findings suggest that the removal of moisture could be a valuable addition to management strategies for small to medium scale infestations of Japanese knotweed common in urban settings, by providing a new option for dealing with plant material removed from the soil (the disposal of which can be costly). Dr Mark Fennell, Associate Director at AECOM and co-author of the study, said: “Our latest research sought to add to existing knowledge about how to manage and remove Japanese knotweed. Our key finding, that drying out the plant effectively kills it, should provide reassurance to landowners that the plant is not as indestructible as is often stated. While this invasive species remains a problem plant that can have a negative impact on biodiversity, our research provides a better understanding of the plant, paving the way for the development of more efficient and cost-effective ways of dealing with it. We hope our research helps to challenge some of the popular stigma that surrounds Japanese knotweed.” The findings from this study coincide with a UK-based review of the advice around how to manage Japanese knotweed in the built environments. Dr Karen Bacon and Dr Mark Fennell are both members of the Japanese knotweed specialist group advising the Royal Institute of Chartered Surveyors. The new guidelines are currently out for public consultation with the hope that final versions may be released later in the summer or early autumn. Read the full study in PeerJ here: https://peerj.com/articles/11783/.  -Ends-

Wednesday, 11 August 2021

The IPCC have published their landmark AR6 report on climate change which states: “It is unequivocal that human influence has warmed the atmosphere, ocean and land. Widespread and rapid changes in the atmosphere, ocean, cryosphere and biosphere have occurred.” Wednesday, 11 August 2021: ICHEC, Ireland’s high-performance computing authority, established in and hosted by NUI Galway, completed a large ensemble of global climate simulations which comprise Ireland’s contribution to the international Coupled Model Intercomparison Project (CMIP6). The datasets and results were included for assessment in the recently released IPCC AR6 Reports. The simulations place Ireland amongst leading international scientific researchers on climate change.  ICHEC’s work was carried out in collaboration with Met Éireann and is funded by the EPA, Met Éireann and the Marine Institute. The global climate simulations, carried out by ICHEC, are described in this report.  The future global climate was simulated using the EC-Earth climate model, which was developed by a consortium of European institutes, of which ICHEC is a member. The updated CMIP6 climate projection data provide more detailed projections of the future global climate and will lead to a better understanding, not only of the physical climate system, but also of the climate impact on the environment and societies. Visualisations of EC-Earth global projections can be seen here; 2m temperature change, precipitation and September sea ice fraction. “Spiral animations” of the full CMIP6 global temperature datasets can be viewed here and here. The large datasets (~1500TB) are hosted on the ICHEC ESGF (Earth-Systems Grid Federation) node for sharing with the international community and will feature in many future studies on the environmental, social and economic impacts of climate change. Since 1995, the CMIP has co-ordinated climate model experiments involving multiple international modelling teams. The CMIP project has led to a better understanding of past, present and future climate, and CMIP model experiments have routinely been the basis for future climate change assessments carried out by the IPCC. ESGF is an international effort of climate centres with a mission to support CMIP and future IPCC reports. The climate team at ICHEC are currently running regional climate models to dynamically downscale the global CMIP6 data to provide detailed climate projections for Ireland (https://tinyurl.com/u2m8sk2y). These simulations are run on the ICHEC supercomputer, Kay. This research, and the resulting regional projections, will continue to inform national climate change policy such as the various governmental sectoral adaptation plans. Commenting on the results of the work, Dr Paul Nolan, Climate Science Programme Manager, ICHEC, said: “The global climate projections comprise Ireland’s contribution to the Coupled Model Intercomparison Project and the results were included for assessment in the recently released IPCC AR6 Reports. In addition, the large datasets are shared with the international community and will feature in many future studies on the environmental, social and economic impacts of climate change.” Alastair McKinstry, Environmental Programme Manager, ICHEC, said: “The Coupled Model Intercomparison Project experiments are a crucial part of the IPCC AR6 report. At ICHEC, the EC-Earth results are standardised and published via the Earth System Grid to enable automated comparisons with observations and other model projections from international climate modelling institutes. The standardisation and sharing of data have been key to quantifying the uncertainty in the climate projections and enabling the attribution of extreme events to climate change.” Professor JC Desplat, ICHEC Director, said: “ICHEC has the modelling capabilities, high-performance computing resources and international reach to ensure Ireland can participate in CMIP modelling experiments. This research ensures Ireland remains at the forefront of global climate change research and continues its involvement with future Coupled Model Intercomparison Projects and IPCC reports. Our climate projections, combined with those of the international community, will inform global climate policy over the coming years. Requirements for participation in CMIP include an internationally respected model, access to a powerful supercomputer and substantial data storage resources. ICHEC currently meets these criteria in its ability to participate in projects of this scale.” For more information about ICHEC, visit: www.ichec.ie. -Ends-

Tuesday, 3 August 2021

Researchers at NUI Galway and Athlone Institute of Technology have launched a survey to better understand Irish consumers knowledge of seafood packaging and its waste management. The survey is being carried out simultaneously in Spain and Portugal and is led by the Portuguese Institute of the Sea and the Atmosphere. Ireland has one of the lowest levels of consumption of seafood in Western Europe, with very different consumption patterns than other countries. For example, Ireland tends to consume on average higher portions of packaged or frozen seafood whereas in other European countries, fresh seafood is consumed. In 2017, it was estimated that seafood consumption in Ireland was 23 kg/capita. Whereas in Portugal, which has the highest consumption rate for seafood in Europe at 57 kg/capita. The results of the survey will be used to aid in a better understanding of the differences in seafood consumption and waste management in Ireland, Spain and Portugal. Ultimately, the results will support the development of public policies that will promote efficient use of seafood packaging. The study is part of NEPTUNUS, an Interreg Atlantic Area funded project that aims to support the sustainable development of the seafood sector in the Atlantic area (Ireland, France, Spain, Portugal and the UK) by developing tools for eco-labelling and low impact strategies for production and consumption. Dr Eoghan Clifford, senior lecturer in the College of Science and Engineering at NUI Galway and NEPTUNUS principle investigator, said: “Given these large differences in consumption and the type of seafood products purchased the results of this survey can help to close a knowledge gap in Irish seafood consumption trends, behaviours, and knowledge of seafood packaging. These results will be useful for policy makers and for future research into how Irish consumers can increase their intake of this nutritious food and add to their understanding of seafood packaging.” The survey, which is made up of 25 questions and takes less than 10 minutes to complete, is available in both Irish: https://survey.ipma.pt/index.php/597922?newtest=Y&lang=ie ,  and English: https://survey.ipma.pt/index.php/597922?newtest=Y&lang=en To learn more on the project visit www.neptunus-project.eu -Ends-

Tuesday, 3 August 2021

Tá suirbhé seolta ag taighdeoirí in OÉ Gaillimh agus in Institiúid Teicneolaíochta Bhaile Átha Luain chun tuiscint níos fearr a fháil ar eolas tomhaltóirí ar phacáistíocht bhia mara agus ar bhainistíocht a dramhaíola. Tá an suirbhé á dhéanamh go comhuaineach sa Spáinn agus sa Phortaingéil agus tá sé á stiúradh ag Institiúid Mara agus Atmaisféir na Portaingéile. Tá Éire ar na tíortha a bhfuil na leibhéil is ísle iontu maidir le tomhailt bhia mara in Iarthar na hEorpa, agus tá treochtaí tomhailte le sonrú inti atá an-éagsúil le macasamhail tíortha eile. Cuir i gcás, is gnách go dtomhlaítear líon níos airde de bhia mara atá pacáistithe nó reoite ar an méan in Éirinn, san áit a dtomhlaítear bia mara úr i dtíortha Eorpacha eile. In 2017, measadh gurbh é 23 kg/capita an tomhailt bhia mara in Éirinn. Sa Phortaingéil, tá an ráta tomhailte is mó maidir le bia mara san Eoraip mar atá 57 kg/capita. Bainfear úsáid as torthaí an tsuirbhé le cuidiú le tuiscint níos fearr a fháil ar na difir idir tomhailt bhia mara agus bainistíocht dramhaíola in Éirinn, sa Spáinn, agus sa Phortaingéil. Ar deireadh thiar, tacóidh na torthaí le polasaithe poiblí a fhorbairt, polasaithe a chuirfidh chun cinn an úsáid éifeachtúil as pacáistíocht bhia mara. Is mar chuid de NEPTUNUS an staidéar seo, tionscadal i Limistéar an Atlantaigh atá á mhaoiniú ag Interreg a bhfuil d’aidhm aige tacú le forbairt na hearnála bia mara i limistéar an Atlantaigh (Éire, an Fhrainc, an Spáinn, an Phortaingéil, agus an Ríocht Aontaithe) trí bhíthin uirlisí le haghaidh éic-lipéadaithe agus straitéisí le haghaidh táirgthe agus tomhailte a fhorbairt. Bhí an méid seo le rá ag an Dr Eoghan Clifford, léachtóir sinsearach i gColáiste na hEolaíochta agus na hInnealtóireachta in OÉ Gaillimh agus príomh-imscrúdaitheoir NEPTUNUS: “Mar gheall ar na difir mhóra maidir le tomhailt agus cineál na dtáirgí bia mara a cheannaítear is féidir go mbeidh torthaí an tsuirbhé seo ina gcuidiú chun an bhearna eolais sna treochtaí a bhaineann le tomhailt bhia mara, iompar, agus eolas ar phacaistíocht bhia mara in Éirinn a líonadh. Beidh na torthaí seo úsáideach do lucht déanta polasaithe agus do thaighde amach anseo ar an gcaoi ar féidir le tomhaltóirí na hÉireann a n-iontógáil den bhia folláin seo a mhéadú agus cur lena dtuiscint ar phacáistíocht bhia mara." Tá an suirbhé, ina bhfuil 25 ceist agus nach nglacann 10 nóiméad le líonadh ar fáil i nGaeilge: https://survey.ipma.pt/index.php/597922?newtest=Y&lang=ie , agus i mBéarla: https://survey.ipma.pt/index.php/597922?newtest=Y&lang=en Le tuilleadh eolais a fháil faoin tionscadal téigh chuig www.neptunus-project.eu -Críoch-

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