30 July 2013
The egg of a long extinct giant bird is the latest cracking teaching aid to be acquired by the University of Derby.
The flightless elephant bird of Madagascar, which could grow to 11 feet tall and looked like a heavily built ostrich, was the world's largest bird until it became extinct in the 17th Century. It also holds the record for the world's largest egg - usually over a foot long from end-to-end and around 100 times the size of a chicken egg.
An undamaged elephant bird's egg sold for £66,675 at auction at Christie's in London in April this year. Now a similar, reassembled egg has been acquired by the University of Derby's Biology Department, as a teaching aid.
Graham Rowe, Programme Leader for Biology, sourced the egg for the University. It was found in the south of Madagascar and, although elephant birds survived until the 17th century, this one is much older, believed to be around 20,000 years old.
Madagascar is a former French colony and the University's egg was obtained from a specialist dealer in France. BBC presenter Sir David Attenborough also owns a reconstructed elephant bird's egg, built from shell fragments collected whilst filming in the former colony in 1961.
Graham said: "I was shocked by the size of the box shipped over to the University from France. Our bubble-wrapped egg had been buried amongst about 100 tightly packed empty Evian mineral water bottles. You wouldn't want something like this breaking again, after the obvious care with which someone has at one time glued the egg back together.
"It's amazing to think that you can hold in your hand the egg of what was once the largest feathered bird on Earth, more than 300 years after it became extinct.
"The University occasionally acquires these sorts of exhibits, as they are great teaching aids to instil that kind of wonder in our science degree students and in the schools' parties we have regularly visiting us. Of course, at £300 our egg cost only a small fraction of what the Christie's one sold for."
Graham added: "To see such an object in real life rather than in a book or on a screen makes Biology teaching at Derby come alive".
For further media information about this press release please contact Sean Kirby, University of Derby Press and PR Officer, on 01332 591891 or email: firstname.lastname@example.org
25 July 2013
Drinking some cheaper supermarket tea blends can push people's fluoride intake over daily recommended levels, and put them at increased risk of skeletal and dental illnesses, a University of Derby study has found.
Levels of fluoride found in 38 tea products were compared with each other and to the US National Academy of Sciences' (NAS) daily dietary reference intake in the research by Laura Chan, Professor Aradhana Mehra and Professor Paul Lynch from the University of Derby. The study is published in journal Food Research International.
Using Ion Selective Electrode (ISE) analysis - which can analyse trace elements, such as fluoride, in a liquid - of the dry tea, and of the tea infusions brewed with boiling water for two minutes, the researchers compared the fluoride levels ingested by someone drinking the average daily intake of tea (four cups or one litre).
Significant differences in fluoride levels were discovered when economy black tea blends from supermarkets Asda, Tesco, Morrisons and Sainsbury's were compared with branded black tea blends such as PG Tips, Twining's, Typhoo; and with green tea blends including Clipper Organic leaf, Green Twining's bags; pure blends such as Assam, Dilmah and Ceylon; and Oolong and Pu'er blends from India and Sri Lanka.
Infusions of economy black tea blends, such as Asda Smartprice, Tesco Value, Morrisons Value, Sainsbury's Basics, and Waitrose Essential, were found to have the highest concentration of fluoride - an average of six milligrammes (mg) per litre. Although, Waitrose Essential was significantly lower in fluoride compared to the other economy black blends.
When compared to the NAS daily dietary reference intake of four milligrammes of fluoride per day, these economy blends of tea contained from 75% to 120% of the recommended daily intake.
Infusions of green tea blends had the next highest concentrations, followed by branded black blends such as PG Tips, Twining's and Typhoo with an average of 3.3 mg per litre, then pure blends.
Oolong and Pu'er teas had the lowest concentrations of fluoride - an average of 0.7 mg/litre or just ten per cent to 16% of the daily reference intake.
Laura Chan, who carried out the study for her PhD at the University of Derby, said: "The tea plant, Camellia sinensis, is a fluoride accumulator, with mature leaves accumulating most of the fluoride.
"When tea is harvested, these older leaves may be used to produce lower quality, stronger teas such as economy teas, whereas the bud and newer top leaves are used in the manufacture of higher grade and speciality tea products.
"Although fluoride is considered an essential micro-nutrient for human health, in the prevention of tooth decay and promotion of healthy bone growth, excess fluoride in the diet can have detrimental effects. Dental fluorosis, the mottling of tooth enamel, and skeletal fluorosis, pain and damage to bones and joints through calcification, can occur.
"People may be drinking excessive volumes of tea in addition to other dietary sources of fluoride and may not realise these potential health implications. Indeed, there have been cases, in both the UK and the USA, of skeletal fluorosis in individuals who drank more than the average amount of economy tea." added Ms Chan.
"All tea products should be considered as a main source of fluoride in the diet, and we would urge supermarkets and manufacturers of tea to consider stating fluoride concentration as part of the nutritional information found on food packaging."
For more on this study visit website www.elsevier.com/locate/foodres.
For more on studying science at the University of Derby visit www.derby.ac.uk/science.
For further press information please contact Sean Kirby, University of Derby Press and PR Officer, on 01332 591891 or email: email@example.com
26 June 2014
A leading expert on crickets, looking to prove an endangered UK colony had survived the harsh winter, was beaten to finding the insects - by his seven-year-old son.
Professor of Entomology, Karim Vahed, from the University of Derby, was looking for evidence that a colony of Scaly Crickets (Pseudomogoplistes vicentae) had survived the winter's severe Atlantic storms.
The centimetre-long, wingless cricket is unusual, in that it lives among marine shingle and cobbles. It exists in only four known UK locations - Marloes in Pembrokeshire, Chesil Beach in Dorset, Branscombe in Devon and the Isle of Sark - and the species is officially classified as 'endangered'.
But it was Karim's seven-year-old son, Gabriel, who actually discovered that the small cricket had survived the winter bad weather, while on a trip with his father to the Pembrokeshire beaches.
Karim said: "I had been hunting among stones in a spot where the species had been found in previous surveys without much success. Then my son, Gabriel, called me over to a different area, saying 'there's three under this stone'. Further searching amongst the shingle and cobbles revealed the existence of a healthy population.
"I couldn't be prouder of him for beating me to the punch. If I produce a paper on the discovery, I might even have to share credit with him.
"I'm not sure how the crickets survived the winter storms. Judging from the debris on the beach, and the devastation caused to coastal villages and towns further up the coast, the storm waves must have reached right up to the cliff face.
"Scaly Crickets must have survived many severe storms during their evolutionary history. In a way, they rely on the effect of such events, as the banks of cobbles and shingle they inhabit are technically known as 'storm deposits'."
Commenting on the discovery, Dr Sarah Henshall, Lead Ecologist for Buglife, the invertebrate conservation trust, added: "This is great news. The Scaly Cricket is one of our rarest insects and we are delighted that the population remains healthy at Marloes Sands."
Karim - Programme Leader for the University's Masters (MSc ) degree in Conservation Biology - has published a number of research papers on crickets, and is conducting a study of the ecology and life history of the Scaly Crickets, starting with their mating behaviour.
Male crickets usually attract a female by 'singing' to them, a sound made by the male rubbing its wings together, but Scaly Cricket males are wingless, so must have an alternative method of attracting a mate.
For further media information please contact Sean Kirby, University of Derby Press & PR Officer, on 01332 591891 or email: firstname.lastname@example.org
11 June 2013
A University of Derby academic who was asked to share his expertise on the sex lives of insects with Sky TV will be watching closely as his work, and some of his own insects, feature on Sir David Attenborough's brand new 3D nature series which starts on Saturday (June 15 2013).
Micromonsters 3D, produced by Colossus Productions for Sky TV and IMAX cinemas, narrated by Sir David Attenborough, explores the secret world of disguise and espionage, social networking and courtship, and pillage, parenthood and relationships that goes on beneath our feet in the insect world.
The fascinating six part series will explore the world and the relationships of the most dominant and durable animals on the planet - terrestrial arthropods - for the first time ever in 3D.
Derby's Professor Karim Vahed, who is an expert in the evolution of insect mating behaviour was invited to the film set earlier this year. He assisted in the filming of the mating and nuptial feeding behaviour of the tropical house cricket which is bred at the University.
Fellow of the Royal Entomological Society, Dr Vahed, said: "I am incredibly excited about watching this ambitious new production from Sky. The production company used revolutionary pioneering macroscopic 3D techniques, which will fully immerse viewers in the lives of terrestrial arthropods, including my own crickets.
"One of the most enjoyable aspects of my involvement was spending an afternoon in the production studios watching Sir David Attenborough being involved with the filming.
"Sir David has been an inspiration to me since childhood and helped to foster my fascination with the natural world, so it was an amazing experience to get to see him face to face."
Terrestrial arthropods outnumber people in their hundreds of billions and have survived for 500 million years. They have outlived every catastrophe Earth has thrown at them, seen the dinosaurs come and go, and even witnessed our own arrival.
In Micromonsters 3D Sir David Attenborough will take the viewer deep into the macroscopic world of bugs that deeply fascinates him. He will uncover their marvellous adaptability, from the primitive evolutionary design of the millipede through to the graceful apex predators that exist today.
The programme will descend into the watery depths to witness aquatic battles, explore intricate spider webs, and get closer than ever before to the fangs and claws that create this fascinating world.
You can watch the new series on the Sky 3D channel from Saturday June 15 at 8pm, and in 2D on Sky 1/Sky 1 HD.
Micromonsters 3D has been made by the Bafta and Jackson Hole Award-winning makers of 'Flying Monsters 3D' and 'Kingdom of Plants 3D', Colossus Productions, which is a joint venture between Atlantic Productions Ltd and Sky to develop original 3D programmes.
For more on studying Biology and Zoology at the University of Derby visit www.derby.ac.uk
For more on the programme visit http://sky1.sky.com/sky1hd-shows/micro-monsters-3d-with-david-attenborough
2 July 2014
The University of Derby is set to partner with Slimming World - the UK's leading weight management organisation - in a special new appointment that it hopes will have a real impact on the UK's battle against obesity.
The new partnership will see Professor James Stubbs, research specialist for Alfreton-based Slimming World and a renowned obesity and satiety expert, appointed to the Miles-Bramwell Chair in Behaviour Change and Weight Management at the University.
Figures show the UK has the highest levels of obesity in Europe, with around one in four people having a Body Mass Index of 30kg/m² or more. The National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE) has talked about the importance of long-term behaviour change in its obesity guidance.
At the University, Professor Stubbs will focus research on behaviour change and long-term weight maintenance.
He will look at how to engage more people in making changes to their behaviour as well as promote the long-term maintenance of those changes by helping people to cope with relapses. Professor Stubbs will also find ways to implement these solutions on a national and international scale through this partnership.
Professor Stubbs will mark his appointment with a public lecture on Wednesday, July 9 at the University's Kedleston Road building from 6.30pm until 7.30pm.
Dr Chris Bussell, Head of School of Science at the University of Derby, said: "We are hearing more and more about the need to adopt positive lifestyle choices and currently the debate revolves around the need to more than halve the intake of added sugar in our diets to tackle the obesity crisis.
"Professor Stubbs' appointment means we will be able to deliver multi-disciplinary research that has impacts on real life and will bring together expertise from across the University to focus on and address some of the key questions around behaviour change and weight management.
"This really is excellent news for both parties. The fact we were chosen as a major partner shows that our research team is highly-rated in the commercial world and it gives Slimming World an academic partnership."
The new chair is named after Slimming World's founder Margaret Miles-Bramwell, who started the company in Alfreton in 1969. The company now has an infrastructure of 12,000 community-based support groups nationwide. The chairmanship is initially for two years.
Prior to becoming the research specialist at Slimming World in 2006, Professor Stubbs spent 13 years at the Rowett Research Institute, which he joined after receiving his PhD from Cambridge University.
He said: "This appointment represents a great opportunity to bring together academic insight and commercial application to generate new solutions that can make a real difference to the health and wellbeing of the general public.
"By working together we can combine the best applied research with large scale delivery of evidence-based behaviour change solutions to make a real difference to people's lives and help improve the health of the nation."
For further press information please contact Jamie Oliver, University of Derby Press & PR Officer, on 01332 591187 or email: email@example.com
17 October 2014
On Wednesday evening (15 October), Graham Rowe, Programme Leader for Biology at the University of Derby held a public lecture in support of Biology Week 2014. Biology Week is part of a series of national events that takes place each year to celebrate Biosciences. 85 people attended the lecture at the University's Kedleston Road campus in Derby.
The lecture titled 'As Dead as a Dodo?' explored the evolutionary origins of the Dodo and its relationships with other birds revealed through scientific studies on the skeletal anatomy, and DNA research on the mummified remains.
During the lecture Graham examined the representation of the Dodo from the 17th century to 20th century by looking at a range of scientific studies, literature and films including Carroll's 1865 novel, 'Alice in Wonderland'. History fanatics were able to see a live reconstruction of a Dodo skeleton cast from existing specimens.
Genetic research shows that the Dodo was actually a large, flightless pigeon. The closest living relative to the Dodo is the Nicobar Pigeon; found on the Nicobar Islands, more than two thousand miles from Mauritius.
Callum Evans, a second year Zoology student at the University of Derby said: "Graham Rowe's lecture on the history of the Dodo was brilliant. Graham was excellent at engaging everyone in the audience, making them laugh and get involved.
"I particularly enjoyed his references to the famous depictions of the Dodo, and how he chose paintings and literature that most people were familiar with."
Graham said: "The Dodo is a fascinating creature and one that deserves to be remembered. It is a shame that they were driven to extinction. The last recorded living specimen was in 1662.
"There are multiple 17th century descriptions of the Dodo; however we cannot rely entirely on their validity alone, as more often than not these recorded sightings took months before they were actually committed to paper. Rare skeletal remains and literature help give us some indication into this phenomenal bird."
For further press information contact Kirsty Reynolds, University of Derby Press and PR Assistant, on 01332 591187 or email: K.Reynolds1@derby.ac.uk.
22 August 2014
The University of Derby is hosting a free event next month focusing on nature and the outdoors.
On Thursday, September 4, a 'Bring out the Wild Child' forum is staged at the University's Kedleston Road site from 1-5pm and will include a screening of the film Project Wild Thing.
It will also provide a platform to share ideas and discuss the barriers which can limit young people's enjoyment of the outdoors.
Directed by David Bond, Project Wild Thing looks at how children are becoming increasingly detached from nature through lack of 'wild play' time. It follows the publication of the Natural Childhood Report by Stephen Moss, commissioned by the National Trust in 2012.
The report and film have sparked the Wild Network campaign which aims to get children and their parents outdoors having fun together in nature through 'wild play'.
Dr Miles Richardson, Deputy Head of Life Sciences at the University of Derby, said: "People working with or supporting families and children are invited to join us and discover inspiring relevant and achievable ways of improving their quality of life through outdoor play."
In association with Derbyshire Wildlife Trust and other local organisations, there will be a screening of the film and a chance to try out activities based on the Wild Time app, which allows users to share ideas.
The event will also be held at the University of Derby's Buxton site on Thursday, September 11. Places must be booked in advance and this can be done by contacting Derbyshire Wildlife Trust on 01773 881188 or email firstname.lastname@example.org
For further press information please contact Jamie Oliver, University of Derby Press & PR Officer, on 01332 591187 or email: email@example.com
20 August 2014
A fresh approach to studying the impact of a fertility-damaging condition on women's quality of life has been completed by a University of Derby post-graduate research student.
Sophie Williams, 26, explored how women with polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) perceive the impact of the condition on their lives via the use of a photographic diary known as 'photovoice', making it the first PCOS study of its kind.
Participants' feedback focused on themes such as symptom management, feminine identity and relationships and Sophie hopes her research will help healthcare workers to further understand the impact of PCOS on those who have it.
It is estimated that around one in every five women in the UK has polycystic ovaries, although more than half of these people show no symptoms.
When symptoms do show, they can include hirsutism (excessive hair on the body and face), insulin resistance, infertility and obesity. It has been suggested that PCOS has a greater impact on women's psychological wellbeing than illnesses such as asthma, epilepsy, diabetes, back pain, arthritis and coronary heart disease.
Derby-based Sophie herself has the condition, as does her elder sister, making it a matter very close to her heart.
She explained: "I was driven to do my PHD in this subject by my knowledge and experience of the condition, although I don't experience the symptoms as much as some people do.
"PCOS can have a massive negative impact on people and my research project found that some participants feel as though they are not supported by healthcare professionals.
"And the fact that women are treated symptomatically can be a problem as it is only addressing one problem at a time, not the whole condition. This can infiltrate every part of a person's life and leave them feeling socially isolated.
"One woman even said, '(the) doctor only really offers to address one symptom at a time - it's like you can either not look like a monkey under your clothes, or have a greater chance of starting a family later. Pick one'.
"However, some participants perceived their situation in a positive way and described how certain situations or behaviours helped them to develop a more positive outlook. One said swimming helps her to feel that she is 'combating' her PCOS and in turn this helps her to feel more positive.
"I am hoping that my research will increase awareness of the condition and at the very least help develop practitioners' understanding of PCOS."
Sophie says the 'photovoice' method has never been used before in women with PCOS, and the study itself is one of only a handful of qualitative pieces that currently exist.
'Photovoice' is able to uncover descriptive information and can be widely adapted to fit the needs of research. Sophie recruited participants via a post on the website of a popular PCOS charity network called Verity.
A study pack, containing a disposable camera, notebook, consent form, letter of instructions and an in-depth information sheet, was sent to participants, who were asked to take photographs of anything they felt related to their PCOS and its impact on quality of life.
They were also asked to write a diary entry for each photograph taken in the notebook. The entries were analysed using inductive thematic analysis and three major themes emerged: 'control', 'perception' and 'support'.
Sophie added: "Although previous research has discussed similar themes to those of 'symptom management' and 'feminine identity'; this research is the first to present the role and importance of support through online methods, such as social networking websites, for women with PCOS.
"I also discovered the supporting role that pets play in the lives of women with PCOS. Overall, this study allows for an in-depth insight into the experience of living with PCOS which may aid in furthering understanding of this condition and will provide new knowledge for health professionals."
Sophie's research is being published in the Journal of Health Psychology.
For further press information please contact Jamie Oliver, University of Derby Press & PR Officer, on 01332 591187 or email: firstname.lastname@example.org
6 August 2014
A University of Derby student will represent Team England after landing a place in the Commonwealth Rowing Championships* in Scotland.
Yasmin Marks has been selected to race in the Women's lightweight double scull (two rowers) and Women's quadruple scull (four people), at the regatta to be held at Strathclyde Park in Motherwell this Saturday and Sunday (August 9 and 10).
The 22-year-old from Chellaston, who is about to embark on the final year of her BSc (Hons) Psychology degree, has received coaching from the University's Team Derby sports development arm whilst also competing for Nottingham Rowing Club's High Performance Centre.
She said: "It is so exciting to be selected as part of the team. I am really looking forward to my first international event and eager to represent my country. I will put everything I have into the event so that I can come home with a medal around my neck."
Yasmin started building her reputation at Derby Rowing Club before moving to neighbouring Nottingham. She was awarded a bursary by the University of Derby as a contribution to her training costs and she competes in British Universities & Colleges Sports events for Derby.
Ollie Shearer, Sports Development Manager at the University of Derby, said: "We are all delighted for Yasmin - she trains extremely hard and is committed to the cause. This is a great achievement for her and she will be heading into the championships with Team Derby's full support."
*A Commonwealth Rowing Championships regatta has been organised in the year of the Commonwealth Games since 1986, although rowing is not currently included in the Games themselves.
27 August 2014
Rugby players who suffer injuries similar to car crash victims while playing the sport have been offered a better chance of recovery thanks to research led by the University of Derby.
Professor Nick Draper, Head of Life Sciences at the University of Derby, and PhD student Angus Lindsay, have designed a way of testing the impact of what is a physically tough game on the players themselves.
The project - a collaboration between the University of Derby and University of Canterbury in New Zealand - has been investigating the impact on Canterbury rugby players for two years, working with researchers at the New Zealand Rugby Union and the Canterbury Health laboratories.
Steve Gieseg, Associate Professor of Biological Studies at the University of Canterbury, who led the New Zealand branch of research, said: "Our team found levels of damage occurring in Canterbury rugby players after games which were in the ranges expected from serious trauma.
"The level of damage was greater than could be predicted from GPS (global positioning system) - see notes to editors - or video analysis. The measurements also show that some players could heal from this damage remarkably quickly."
The researchers developed a set of non-invasive and stress-free biochemical tests to measure the level of damage occurring in rugby players using only urine and saliva, enabling them to investigate 44 samples per game (before and after the game for each player), without the need to draw large amounts of blood for tests.
The international research team optimised and refined proven measurements of stress-load while treating the players' data as if they were car accident victims.
Professor Draper said: "Our research measured several bio-chemicals in the urine and saliva to gain a global view of how players responded to the physical stress of an individual game.
"For instance, when a player damages a muscle, a bio-chemical marker of this damage can be traced in the urine using high-performance liquid chromatography. We can then interpret this to examine the extent of such damage for an individual player.
"During the research, the measurements tested the level of muscle damage, inflammation, immune resistance and mental stress. The measurements can be used to assist coaches and medical staff to manage players' recovery and training during different phases of competition."
The findings form a substantial part of the research by Angus Lindsay and Professor Draper, which has been sponsored by St George's Hospital in Christchurch and part-funded by a private donation.
John Phillips, University of Derby Buxton Community Liaison Officer
Direct dial: 01298 330461
11 September 2014
They say an elephant never forgets - it appears that tortoises can lay claim to that too!
A research project at the University of Derby has found that the reptiles use signs as cues to choose which direction to head in.
The study was conducted to determine if Greek tortoises could discriminate between different shapes, enabling them to navigate their way to freedom. A number of wild Greek tortoises were placed in a box with four exits, each with a different shape on it and only one of which opened.
Each tortoise was tested ten times and the time it took them to escape was significantly reduced by the last trial. The results suggest that the tortoises used the shapes as cues, enabling them to escape more quickly each time.
The research was conducted by Derby Zoology graduate Alexandra Glavaschi and Lecturer in Vertebrate Biology, Nel Beaumont, as part of Alexandra's independent studies project. It has since been accepted for publication in the journal Basic and Applied Herpetology.
Alexandra comments: "We were amazed with the results generated from my independent studies project, not only did we generate some insightful findings but it's a fantastic achievement to have been included in the Basic and Applied Herpetology journal."
Previously, not many studies have been carried out on learning and memory in reptiles. Nel adds: "This was the first experimental work exploring such cognitive processes in this species, and we are pleased with the results.Alexandra has been an outstanding independent studies project student, really wanting to find answers to interesting questions in reptilian cognition. I hope future work will expand on the ecological significance of the results and further develop this insight."
For further press information please contact Jenny McNicholas, University of Derby Press Officer, on 01332 592279 or email: J.McNicholas@derby.ac.uk