Monday, 27 February 2012

New research links crop disease and climate change

There is currently considerable debate about both adaptation and mitigation of climate change in relation to controlling crop disease while maintaining food production.  What should governments and the agricultural industry do to prepare for the impacts of climate change particularly where food production is likely to be adversely affected?  What strategies for adaptation to climate change needed to maintain good disease control and crop yields whilst also decreasing greenhouse gas emissions?

Researchers led by Professor Bruce Fitt from the School of Life Sciences have investigated links between crop disease and climate change which impact crop growth and yield.  The team of researchers, in collaboration with Professor Jon West at Rothamsted Research and Dr. Rob Carlton of Carlton Consultancy, have produced two papers which are to be published in a special edition of European Journal of Plant Pathology.

In a paper entitled Comparative biology of different plant pathogens to estimate effects of climate change on crop diseases in Europe, environmental factors that influence the severity of crop disease epidemics are reviewed.

Further research on the environmental impacts and crop production of various arable systems is described in the paper entitled A comparison of GHG emissions from UK crop production under selected arable systems with reference to disease control.

Thursday, 23 February 2012

Students To Drug Screen Athletes for London 2012 Olympics

Research students from the University’s Health and Human Sciences Research Institute have been selected by GlaxoSmithKline (GSK) and trained by King's College London to assist with the preparation of samples in the anti-doping laboratory for the London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games.

GSK and King’s College London have formed a ground-breaking partnership to deliver the anti-doping testing during the London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games, at a World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) accredited satellite laboratory in Harlow. The laboratory operations will be led by Professor David Cowan, Director of the Drug Control Centre at King's, supported by more than 150 leading anti-doping scientists from around the world. The team will carry out more than 6,000 urine and blood tests during the Games, more than any previous Games.

The students will assist senior analysts in the preparation of urine samples for analysis. According to Professor Anwar Baydoun, Head of Research Degrees in the Health and Human Sciences Research Institute, GSK described University of Hertfordshire research students as “well trained at practical skills, well-motivated and known to act in a professional capacity at all times.”

Monday, 20 February 2012

Smart Lab

Johann Siau, developer of the University’s Intelligent Home, and a team have just started work on a new Smart Laboratory to be opened in Autumn this year.  Housing the latest smart technology, the laboratory will use various mobile devices, gesture recognition and brain waves to control, monitor and perform tasks.  This can be anything from turning the lights on; locking the doors; monitoring your home energy usage; communicating between home and car; and even vehicle-to-vehicle communication so that early warning systems and accident reconstruction technologies can be researched and developed.

The Smart Laboratory will be a great opportunity for students and companies to showcase their projects and products in the area of smart and converging technologies.  It is already supported by BRE (Building Research Establishment), Samsung and Microsoft together with research partners at the Centre for Energy, Environment and Sustainability (CEES) at University of Sheffield.

Tuesday, 7 February 2012

New super-Earth detected within the habitable zone of a nearby cool star

I have been working as part of an international team of scientists that have discovered a potentially habitable super-Earth orbiting a nearby star.


The planet's host star is well-established to have a different makeup from that of our Sun, lacking the metallic elements which are the building blocks of terrestrial planets. This means habitable planets could form in a greater variety of environments than previously believed.

The new planet is expected to absorb about the same amount of energy from its star that the Earth absorbs from the Sun. This would allow surface temperatures similar to Earth and perhaps liquid water. Further study will be necessary to understand what the planet's atmosphere but so far this planet is the best bet to host liquid water.

The planet is located in orbit around a nearby red dwarf star and so will be an excellent target for further study. A landmark of this study is the re-analysis and combination of data from two telescopes in Chile and one in Hawaii. Being able to confirm orbits in this way is a very powerful technique to discover signals that are close to the noise signal of a single instrument.

University of Hertfordshire researchers are developing pioneering Bayesian techniques in order to make further exciting new discoveries in this way.

More information on this story, including a link to the research paper can be found on the University's website.