Brighton scientists make breakthrough in India

Scientists from the University of Brighton have made a breakthrough in helping combat typhoid among slum dwellers in the Indian city of Kolkata.

Dr James Ebdon (left) and Professor Huw Taylor

Funded by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, Dr James Ebdon, Reader in the university’s School of Environment and Technology, shared Brighton’s microbial source tracking methods with Indian and US scientists and successfully used the method for the first time to identify pollution of human origin in what is India’s second largest city.

Dr Ebdon said: “This breakthrough is an important first step in a three-year project to map environmental transmission routes of typhoid in urban India by combining novel microbiological protocols with social science approaches.”

Typhoid is a bacterial infection that can spread throughout the body, affecting many organs, and without prompt treatment, can be fatal. It remains one of the most serious health burdens in India, particularly for children, and is compounded by poverty, inadequate water supply and poor sanitation.

It is hoped that the breakthrough research by the Brighton scientists will demonstrate how typhoid spreads through poor urban communities so that more effective barriers to the disease can be put in place. The work in India is the latest example of the Brighton team’s efforts to support disease prevention in developing countries. Previously the team played a key role in responding to the 2010 cholera outbreak in Haiti and its advice was later sought by the WHO in response to the West African Ebola outbreak.

Dr Ebdon led the Kolkata work, which is part of the ‘Sanipath Typhoid’ project, run by the Global Centre for Safe Water, Sanitation and Hygiene at Emory University in Atlanta. He works alongside the University of Brighton’s Dr Diogo Trajano, Research Fellow in the School of Environment and Technology, who has made similar progress in Africa, with funding from the Medical Research Council.

Professor Huw Taylor, the University of Brighton’s Professor of Microbial Ecology, accompanied Dr Ebdon in India. He said: “This is a very exciting step forward for water and sanitation research at the university. In recent years we have become widely-recognised for the global impact of our work but James’ success in India, along with Diogo’s advances in rural Kenya, are now using Brighton’s practical knowledge for the benefit of those in greatest need.”

For more information on sanitation research click here.

Government is too slow on car pollution

Our Head of School and a lead researcher on air pollution, Dr Kirsty Smallbone, has urged the Government to bring forwards its plans to ban new diesel and petrol cars from 2040.

She said: “Let’s go for 10 years time, plenty of time for the market to adjust, for a changeover in van and car fleet renewals and plenty of time for the government to develop incentive schemes to encourage vehicle trade-ins to meet the deadline.”

Dr Smallbone said over 50,000 people die each year in the UK from air pollution-related diseases, costing the NHS is around 16% of its total budget: “Why is this not declared a public health crisis public health crisis which demands immediate action?

“After all, liver diseases related to heavy drinking kill 12,300 people per year and this is considered a public health emergency.”

Dr Smallbone and lecturer Dr Kevin Wyche are studying ultra-fine particles which can pass through the lung alveoli and contaminate organs including the brain.

Their data comes from the university’s state-of-the-art £250,000 advanced air pollution monitoring station based at its campus in Falmer and funded by the EU’s Interreg IVB NWE programme and the University of Brighton as part of the Joint Air Quality Initiative (JOAQUIN, www.cleanerairbetterhealth). Continue reading

It’s time to take air pollution seriously

The air monitoring station (LtoR) Kevin Wyche Kirsty Smallbone Keith Taylor and Debra Humphris

Our Vice-Chancellor has called on the Government to take more notice of evidence pointing to an air pollution crisis facing the planet.
Professor Debra Humphris was commenting after scientists from our school presented new research showing how society was facing a “public health timebomb”.
They told how air pollution is linked to 50,000 premature deaths in the UK every year, 9,400 in London and 430,000 in the EU as a whole, through heart disease, asthma, and even dementia.
Lead researchers, Dr Kirsty Smallbone, Head of the School of Environment and Technology, and lecturer Dr Kevin Wyche, are studying ultra-fine particles which can pass through the lung alveoli and contaminate organs including the brain.
Their data comes from the university’s state-of-the-art £250,000 advanced air pollution monitoring station based at its campus in Falmer and funded by the EU’s Interreg IVB NWE programme and the University of Brighton as part of the Joint Air Quality Initiative (JOAQUIN, www.cleanerairbetterhealth). Continue reading

Brighton joins global efforts to tackle antimicrobial resistance

The university’s Professor Huw Taylor has joined world experts to draw up an action plan to fight antimicrobial resistant (AMR) disease transmission through the water cycle.

More than 700,000 people worldwide die every year from infection from antibiotic-resistant bacteria, and the threat is increasing every year. A UK government report warns that by 2050, 10 million people worldwide will be suffering from life-threatening infections from these bacteria if the issue is not urgently tackled.

Professor Taylor, Professor of Microbial Ecology, in 2015 led an international team that advised the World Health Organization (WHO) on how to address the potential spread of Ebola through the water cycle through improved emergency sanitation measures.

He is now lending his expertise to this new world-wide effort to tackle the problem of antimicrobial resistance and recently joined a host of experts at a meeting in the Netherlands organised by the WHO and KWR, a leading international water research institute.

Continue reading

Brains at the Bevy

Join Dr Kirsty Smallbone, our Head of School, for a talk and a bevy at the next Brains at the Bevy event on 26 July, 6-7pm. Kirsty will be talking about ‘Local Air Pollution: Our Health and Our Environment.”

“Those most at risk from local air pollution are the elderly, children and those with heart or lung conditions. Without preaching, I would like to talk about the problems of air pollution, where it comes from, how it affects us, our children, our parents and our environment and importantly, discuss what may be the best ways to reduce our exposure to it,” explains Kirsty.

Brains at the Bevy are a series of short and enlightening talks from local academics and all are welcome to attend. The talks take place at The Bevendean Community Pub in Moulsecoomb and each talk will last around an hour with plenty of time for questions and discussion. 

These free talks are organised by the Bevy and Community University Partnership Programme at the University of Brighton and funded by the Sussex Learning Network. Tea and coffee will be provided during the talk and everyone is welcome to stay on afterwards to enjoy the lovely food and drink available at the Bevy.

See you there!

“Air Pollution – Plans to Tackle a Public Health Emergency” Monday 17 July 2017 – 18.00 – 20.00 hours – Brighthelm Centre

Venue:  Brighthelm Centre, North Road, Brighton BN 1YD (Stanmer Room)

You’re invited to a public meeting to discuss one of the most pressing environmental and health issues in Britain today; air pollution.

Air pollution is a public health emergency. Poor air quality is linked to diseases such as stroke, lung cancer, respiratory diseases and heart disease as well as 40,000 premature deaths in Britain every year. Levels of nitrogen dioxide, primarily from diesel traffic, have exceeded EU legal limits in almost 90% of urban areas in the UK since 2010 – they are particularly bad across Sussex and the South East.

Join Keith Taylor, Green Party MEP for South East England and Dr Kirsty Smallbone, Head of School at Brighton University’s School of Environment and Technology to discuss how we can clean up our air.

Here is an abstract from Keith Taylor’s keynote speech

“As a member of both the European Parliament’s Transport and Environment committees, I am confronted on a daily basis with the discrepancy between the current approach to ensure mobility across Europe and the pressure this puts on our air and resources and the planet’s climate. Brussels and London, two cities between which I regularly travel, are proven to be among the most polluted and congested cities in all of Europe. Our transport sector is on an unsustainable path that puts at stake our climate, public health and life quality.

It is crystal clear that we are facing a very serious public health crisis. Air quality finally and urgently needs to be put at the core of the Government’s agenda. There is no more time to waste – we need bold policies and stringent implementation of measures to reduce air pollution.”

Our expert panellists will address the urgency with which we need to tackle the air quality challenge we face and discuss measures that can reduce dangerous air pollution levels in Brighton, and across the country.

Refreshments will be provided.

This event is FREE to attend, but places are limited, so please register your interest via Eventbrite http://: https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/air-pollution-plans-to-tackle-a-public-health-emergency-tickets-34514246039.

Speakers:
Keith Taylor, Green MEP for South East England
Dr Kirsty Smallbone, Head of School at the School of Environment and Technology, University of Brighton

Moderator: Jo Prior, Regional Liaison Officer to Keith Taylor MEP

 

 

Castles and Roses: University of Brighton research project

University of Brighton research project helps Canal and River Trust develop canal heritage in post-industrial Manchester 

As part of the European Waterways Heritages project, SECP researchers Abigail Wincott and Paul Gilchrist, with PI Professor Neil Ravenscroft, have unveiled three new canal heritage trails for three under-appreciated areas of Manchester.

For the two-year project, the team looked at everything from developers’ brochures to 19th century novels to understand how canal heritage heritage has been envisioned in post-industrial regeneration projects. The research has been used to identify untapped resources which can help local groups use heritage for leisure, tourism and community-building projects.

The team found that existing local development of these inland waterways as heritage assets has  emphasised a particular kind of Victorian industrial heritage, with an almost complete neglect of other forms, in particular the heritage of the canal boats and the people who have lived and worked on the canals, and used them for leisure, even in the industrial heyday. Why many towns and cities have 19th century industrial and mercantile heritage, canal boats are unique to canal network and their omission is a wasted opportunity.

The canal boat aesthetic challenges the dominant aesthetic of industrial heritage in two ways. It appears domestic and feminine, painted in pretty, clashing colours with floral scenes. Intimate domestic details are often on display on the outside of the boats, like plant pots, shoes and mugs of tea.

The vivid and clashing colours and the castles and roses style of decoration have also often been assumed to be foreign in origin, but they are part of a long British tradition of working people decorating the vehicles of their trades with impressive carving and art work.

Together with a range of local community groups and the Canal and River Trust, who manage the waterways, the Brighton team have produced multimedia heritage trails that put the boats back into canal heritage.

These local stakeholders hope the trails will tempt locals to walk the canals and reclaim their very special canalside heritage.

The trails are available on the Izi.travel website and mobile app, and will soon be released on a bespoke app, designed by colleagues in the Netherlands. The materials have been uploaded to a database and GIS maps, which can be handed over to local organisations to continue to produce their own heritage itineraries and allow them to capitalise on the unique heritage of Britain’s canal network.

The trails can be found on the project blog:

https://waterwaysheritage.wordpress.com/

Twitter updates: @wwheritage

 

Dinosaur expert’s double award

The University of Brighton’s dinosaur expert, Dr Susannah Maidment, has won two top awards.

Dr Susannah Maidment has collected the Palaeontological Association’s Hodson Award for her 10 years research following her PhD and her contribution to science.

Her nominee said: “Susie is an outstanding early career palaeontologist who has made several highly significant and substantial novel research contributions. She has developed a strong international research reputation, generated significant external grant funding, and played an important role in promoting palaeontology through her outreach and media activities.”

Dr Maidment has also received an award from the Geological Society’s Lyell Fund, given to contributors to the earth sciences on the basis of noteworthy published research.

Her nominee said: “Susie is an outstanding palaeontologist with a track record of collaborative, multidisciplinary research that spans biology, palaeontology, sedimentology, and stratigraphy.

“She has already made numerous significant achievements in her career, as demonstrated by a series of well-regarded and cited high-profile papers. She brings a rare combination of laboratory and fieldwork skills to her research, and is an excellent communicator of her science to academia and the wider public. Susie is firmly on course to develop into a true international leader within palaeobiology

Dr Maidment’s research hit the headlines in 2015 when she and a collaborator discovered blood cells preserved in 75-million-year-old dinosaur bone.

She said: “I’m extremely honoured and absolutely delighted to receive these awards. As a new member of staff, I hope to be able to build on these awards and develop an internationally-recognised research group in palaeobiology at the University of Brighton.”

For more information on Dr Maidment’s research click here

Source: Dinosaur expert’s double award

Our INTREPID Dr Geary

Barcelona’s water of life: el agua de la vida!

Dr Geary travelled to Barcelona last month as part of an EU ‘Co-operation in Science and Technology’ initiative called the INTREPID training school. Here is her diary of the trip.

In the famous Catalan fairy story ‚‘The Water of Life‘, also known by its original name ‘El agua de la vida’, only the deliverance of the water of life, sourced from a magic spring in the hills, can save a family from being turned to stone by an evil giant. It is the daughter of the family who outsmarts the ogre and restores life with the water. The life of her own family, of her petrified neighbours and of her surroundings are all rejuvanated as the water she spills on the return from the mountain turns everything green and fecund and frees the people from the giant’s curse. That water is still seen as the very essence of Catalan life is clear throughout the urban fabric of its capital city.

Wedged between the Mediterranean Sea and the estuaries of the Llobregat and Besos rivers and with the Serra de Collserola mountain range as its backdrop, Barcelona is a water-centric city fiercely proud of its heritage. As the economic powerhouse of Catalonia, its historic wealth was built around its port, driving its shipping, mercantile, leather and textile industries. The evidence of that financial prowess – Barcelona’s architectural splendour – attracts millions of tourists every year. Power, water, wealth have historically connected together to forge a city of almost 2 million residents; whose population rises threefold every year with almost 6 million visitors per annum.

As one of those 6 million visitors I travelled to Barcelona in early February this year as part of an EU ‘Co-operation in Science and Technology’ initiative called the INTREPID training school. My fellow Sustainable Futures researchers and I were collaborating to work together in a four day workshop, sharing experiences and learning together how interdisciplinary collaboration is at the heart of undertaking sustainability research. Working across disciplines – we were a disparate group of ecologists, urban planners, civil engineers, environmental lawyers, social scientists amongst others –we discussed how it is possible to try to make connections amidst and outside of our own scientific perspectives to find holistic pragmatic solutions to urgent, real world problems. As a Research Fellow based in SET, understanding how communities understand, articulate and action changes in their local water environments is crucial. It helps me contextualise how macro influences are interpreted and responded to, and what steps and strategies policy makers and governance bodies need to undertake to make sustainability science comprehensible and relevant. Continue reading