University of St Andrews
 
 

School of Biology News Centre

item 111
[28-07-2008 to 29-08-2008]


News Item:
New infectious disease lab opens

A new state-of-the-art facility for investigating the cause of a range of infectious diseases has opened at the University of St Andrews.

The new labs, built at a cost of nearly £1M, will be used for fundamental research into both established and newly emerging viral and parasitic diseases such as influenza and sleeping sickness. In addition, a major injection of £1.25M just awarded from the Medical Research Council (MRC) will fund investigation into hantaviruses, a group of potentially deadly viruses passed onto humans by rodents.

The work of the lab will be directed by Professor of Virology at the University, Richard Elliott. He said, "The establishment of the containment labs at St Andrews signals the University's commitment to the study of virology, and these labs are not just a first for St Andrews, but a first for Fife."

see here for further details
contact: Prof Richard Elliott


 

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    Whether speciation is gradual or sudden remains debated. Darwin’s view of gradual speciation predicts slight changes in polygenic traits, genome-wide differentiation, and an interconnected speciation continuum. In contrast, modern theory predicts that speciation can be a more punctuated process involving genome re-arrangements, heterogeneous genomic differentiation, and ephemeral intermediate forms. I will present our recent theoretical and empirical work that helps to unify these extreme views.


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    Humans are changing the environment at unprecedented rates, which can put intense ecological and evolutionary pressures on wildlife. One of the most prevalent yet relatively understudied forms of anthropogenic change is noise pollution. Here I will give an overview of the effects of noise pollution on birds, focusing on our group’s studies of zebra finches’ and eastern bluebirds’ communication strategies in the face of noisy conditions. These studies indicate that individual birds show substantial flexibility in their vocal strategies, but that withstanding noisy environmental conditions carries developmental and fitness costs. As noise imposes costs, I will also discuss our emerging line of research whereby we are deliberately deploying spatially-controlled “nets” of masking sound, which make it hard for birds to hear each other or predators, to displace nuisance birds from sites of economic importance—such as farms and airports, where birds can cause tremendous damages. Initial studies indicate we can decrease the presence of pest birds by more than 80% for prolonged periods of time while not harming the birds nor degrading surrounding habitat.

     

    John P. Swaddle Short Bio

    John Swaddle has been at the College of William & Mary since 2001 and is a professor of biology. He studies how human alterations of the environment impact wildlife and, in turn, how these changes affect human society. In a rapidly changing world, these multi- and interdisciplinary questions are increasingly important. John has been awarded several prizes by his international academic societies, such as the Young Investigator Prize by the American Society of Naturalists and the Most Outstanding New Investigator Prize by the Association for the Study of Animal Behaviour. He’s also a previous Royal Society of London University Research Fellow and NERC postdoctoral fellow. He teaches courses in introductory biology, evolution, and environmental science. At William & Mary he has also served as the Dean of Graduate Studies and Research and was the Director (Chair) of the interdisciplinary Environmental Science & Policy program. This year, John is on sabbatical at the Cornwall campus of the University of Exeter collaborating with colleagues in Centre for Ecology and Conservation.


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