Research news from Swansea University Issue 35 | Autumn 2020
CoronaDiaries: Living through a pandemic How has lockdown affected physical activity and wellbeing? Vaccines through microneedle skin patches
RISING TO REAL WORLD CHALLENGES
ON THE COVER
IN THIS ISSUE
One of the things that attracted me to Swansea was its commitment to producing research with real world impact. Joining the University this year, in the midst of the pandemic, I have seen our staff and students’ true innovative spirit and support for the local and wider community, demonstrating how our skills and research expertise combined with our compassion come together to make Swansea unique. The University’s ambition is matched by clear successes that can be measured in many ways including the last Research Excellence Framework (REF). The REF assesses the quality of research in UK higher education institutions every seven years. In 2014 we became a UK top 30 research intensive university. As a result of Covid-19, the timetable for REF2021 was paused for a period of four months earlier this year. It was a welcome hiatus, as many colleagues have had to juggle caring responsibilities with delivering their day job. Others in clinical roles were responding to the situation by going on to the front line. Many of our researchers have turned their hands to address significant and real research questions that have emerged during the pandemic. It is possible that some of this research may be included in our impact case studies and the additional time in the REF window will give us more time to follow the impact of our research. I am immensely grateful to the many colleagues who have continued to work hard on all aspects of the REF submission during this difficult time. In the face of extreme adversity this year, the volume of research funding secured from major funding bodies continues to remain buoyant - something we should be extremely proud of. In 2020 (19/20 academic year), Swansea University captured £68m in Research Funding Awards, representing an increase on the £62m captured in 18/19. Included
within this figure is funding for activity with a wide range of public, private and third sector organisations that will drive innovation and growth. This success led to us being named the most successful non- Russell Group University on capturing UKRI funding (Times Higher Education) 19/20, and is a tribute to our research excellence and tireless collaborative efforts across our research community, and the strong and continued support of our key stakeholders. As the media have reported for many months, the greatest challenge facing UK universities is financial, arising from the predicted effects of Covid-19 on international student recruitment. In fact, if I had been asked at the start of the year what challenges are facing the higher education sector, I would have given the same answer - but for different reasons. We have spent the last decades building deep and effective relationships with European partners. Though it looks increasingly unlikely we will be able to secure the same level of funding from Europe, we have capitalised on EU funding whilst it remains available, securing £17m in EU Funding Awards, up from £8m in 18/19, and since 2014, leading 22 European Funded Projects (Structural Funded) and supporting an additional 19, with a grant value of £133m. New funding streams are promised from Government to ensure we can emerge stronger and better placed to address the world’s challenges after Covid-19 and the Brexit transition period. The Welsh Government have also announced a major boost in R&D funding for Welsh organisations, which will now cover 75% of the project costs for Knowledge Transfer Partnerships to enhance industry performance and productivity through collaboration with UK universities. We will remain forward looking and ready to respond to calls for these funds - we have
Welcome to the Autumn 2020 issue of Momentum.
This edition of Momentum highlights particularly the contribution the University has made during the Covid-19 pandemic. The situation has required the best of innovative thinking and throughout the crisis, we have endeavoured to do what we have always done: responded to the needs of those we serve through research. We have been able to apply our knowledge in very specific ways. For example, knowing that their expertise could help support the NHS, staff and students in Swansea University’s College of Engineering began researching designs and specifications for 3D printing protective face visors; one of our solar tech labs temporarily switched to producing 5000 litres of hand sanitiser a week to address a chronic shortage of the product nationwide, and due to the extra urgency in the search for vaccines, and new ways of delivering them, a revolutionary new way to give vaccines through microneedle skin patches is being tested at Swansea University, thanks to £200,000 of EU funding announced by the Welsh Government. We have also been exploring the psychological and physical implications of the virus, researching the effects of social distancing and isolation on people’s mental health and emotional wellbeing, and participating in a new study to examine the effect of the UK Government’s lockdown strategy on the population’s physical activity levels. If Covid-19 has strengthened the sense that we are a global community, it has also strengthened our sense of community as a University, and demonstrated, in very tangible ways, why research is at the heart of everything we do. Momentum is produced by the Strategic Communications Department. Please contact Mari Hooson on +44 (0) 1792 513455 or email firstname.lastname@example.org for further information. ©Swansea University 2020 Swansea University is a registered charity. No. 1138342. For more details about Swansea University’s research:
already secured £20.8m of UK Government Funding in 2019/2020 up from £7.7m in 2018/2019 which is an encouraging and significant increase from a source we may become more reliant on as the Brexit transition phase draws to a close. Over the next five years, my vision is that we will further develop our academic research community, recruiting, developing and retaining talented people into our excellent research environment. Our researchers will be uniquely connected to people who use our research, locally, nationally and internationally and whose lives will be improved by the research that we do. Our ideas, expertise and people will be better known than they are now and will shape our world. To have joined the University at this extraordinary time has demonstrated to me that we are able to weather the toughest of times, yet still achieve so much. This is testament to our ability to innovate at speed and under pressure, and to the resilience and resourcefulness of all our people. I am immensely proud to be part of Swansea University and I look forward to working across our community as we enter our next century.
Sarah Aldridge is the alumni winner of Swansea University’s 2019 Research as Art competition. The entry was funded by the European Research Council and undertaken in collaboration with Dr Graziella Iossa, Lecturer in Zoology at the University of Lincoln. This image shows the intricately patterned, golden surface of an egg belonging to a winged animal. Sarah explained: “Though it may look like it could well belong to a dragon, this image’s diameter spans less than one millimetre across. This is a micrograph of a Wood Tiger Moth egg, and demonstrates the beauty, as well as the functionality of patterns such as these. The symmetrical pattern is thought to act as a funnel, channelling sperm towards the pores that lie at the centre of the rosette, influencing the success rate for fertilisation during mating.” Sarah is currently conducting postgraduate research externally at Lincoln University’s School of Life Sciences.
Professor Helen Griffiths Pro-Vice-Chancellor for Research and Innovation
RESEARCH ICONS To illustrate Swansea University’s vast research portfolio, we have established a series of icons - graphical representations of our research areas which you will find at the top of the pages of this magazine. We currently have seven distinct areas of research with one icon for each, as follows:
RISING TO REAL WORLD CHALLENGES
HOW LOCKDOWN HAS AFFECTED PHYSICAL ACTIVITY
SUSTAINABLE FUTURES AND THE ENVIRONMENT
JUSTICE AND EQUALITY
RESEARCH EXPERTISE SUPPORTS NHS WORKERS
£6M FOR NEXT-GENERATION SOLAR TECHNOLOGY
THE MILITARIZATION OF LANGUAGE DURING COVID-19
CULTURE COMMUNICATIONS AND HERITAGE
For more information on our research please see www.swansea.ac.uk/research/research-highlights
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N E W S R O U N D - U P
N E W S R O U N D - U P
UNDERSTANDING MENTAL HEALTH AND WELLBEING NEEDS AFTER COVID Researchers behind a major new study charting how the people of Wales have coped with coronavirus are appealing for volunteers to share their experiences. The study, which is being led by Swansea University’s Professor Nicola Gray, is examining what impact coronavirus has had on the mental health and emotional wellbeing of the Welsh population. All seven health boards in Wales are working together on the project, which is called Wales Wellbeing. Professor Gray said: “This is a very important area of research that will help the NHS to track the wellbeing needs of the population over the different stages of the pandemic. Our findings from this, and the subsequent surveys, will be given to each health board as they become available. They can then use these findings - and the raw data on which it is based - to see where and what kind of support is needed most and for which sectors of the population.” The research group led by Professor Gray, of the University’s College of Human and Health Sciences, also consists of Professor Robert Snowden of Cardiff University and Dr Chris O’Connor, Divisional Director of Mental Health and Learning Disabilities at Aneurin Bevan University Health Board. Professor Gray said the group was grateful for the assistance of online electronic survey provider Qualtrics, and the immense support given by Stuart Williams and three Swansea University PhD students. She added: “It has been heart-warming to see how everybody is working together to try to help the NHS support Welsh people with their mental health and wellbeing needs through this pandemic I feel very proud to be Welsh at this time and to be part of the strong community within Swansea University.”
Professor Paul Boyle
CENTENARY FUNDS DIVERTED TO COVID RESEARCH AND STUDENT SUPPORT Swansea University, which this year is marking its centenary, is to channel funds that were previously earmarked for celebration events into fighting Covid-19 and championing innovation. Vice-Chancellor Professor Paul Boyle made the announcement to staff and students saying that due to the Covid-19 pandemic, all physical centenary events had been postponed to keep the University community safe, and instead a series of virtual events to mark the historic occasion would be held. The University has also repurposed £200,000 funding set aside for its centenary celebrations, along with donations received, to support talented academics, students and staff by providing grants for Covid-19 research and boosting the student hardship fund to help students directly affected by the pandemic. Professor Boyle said: “Since opening our doors 100 years ago we have innovated, collaborated and grown into a dual campus, world-class institution which serves its community, educates its people, tackles global problems and provides a home for so many. Our achievements have impacted the world in many ways, and we are extremely proud to have reached this significant milestone in our rich history. “While we are disappointed not to be celebrating in person with our staff, partners, alumni, students and friends, we must ensure the safety of our communities and acknowledge that this is a very difficult time for many of the Swansea family. “We will also start working on a new programme of events which will take place once we can gather together safely in the future. “Despite the challenges currently facing the Higher Education sector, this is an important step which underlines our commitment to impactful research and caring for our students. These principles have been part of our fabric for 100 years and will continue to be as we look forward to our next century.”
USING GAS TO SPEED-CLEAN AMBULANCES
The ambulance cleaning team
A team of researchers from the College of Engineering has won funding to test a new method of sanitising ambulances after carrying a suspected Covid-19 positive patient, which would cut cleaning time from 45 minutes to under 20 minutes. Led by the Small Business Research Initiative Centre of Excellence and Welsh Ambulance Service, the challenge was to reduce the current turnaround time to deep clean a vehicle and get it back on the road. Swansea University was amongst the 12 top ranked bids securing funding. The team’s solution will see them test a new rapid-release gas treatment, which could remove Covid-19 contamination from surfaces and the air in under 20 minutes, eliminating the need for human cleaning. Support for the challenge has been provided by the Defence and Security Accelerator (DASA) and government scientists based at Porton Down. If trials are successful, the method could also be rolled out for other emergency services, public transport and hospital wards. Kirsty Williams, the Welsh Government Minister for Education, said: “Our universities and colleges have been at the forefront of the battle against the coronavirus. I’m proud that a Welsh university has got through to the funding stage of the competition, demonstrating how our universities apply their academic expertise to meet the biggest challenges we face.”
Dr Chedly Tizaoui of Swansea University, chemical engineer and principal investigator of the project, said: “Swansea University is delighted to be working with the support of the Welsh Ambulance Service, Welsh Government and the Welsh SBRI Centre of Excellence to deliver a potential rapid solution for ambulance cleaning. It is a great opportunity for us to assist front line services and our health colleagues in the fight against Covid-19.”
Dr Tizaoui will be working on the project with colleagues Professor Dave Worsley and Professor Peter Holliman.
More information at Wales-wellbeing.co.uk
Dr Karen Perkins, one of the ambulance cleaning team
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F E A T U R E
VACCINES THROUGH MICRONEEDLE SKIN PATCHES
Transdermal patch by Innoture. Credit: Innoture.
A revolutionary new way to give vaccines through microneedle skin patches is being tested at Swansea University, thanks to £200,000 of EU funding announced by the Welsh Government. Hypodermic needles can be frightening and painful. Microneedles could improve patient compliance and therefore yield better health outcomes. Microneedles are tiny needles, measured in millionths of a metre (μm), which deliver medicines through the skin, similar to transdermal patches that deliver nicotine to help people give up smoking. The research is led by Innoture, a UK company with expertise in applying medicines through the skin. They have
worked with Swansea University since 2012. Their R&D department is based in the University’s Institute of Life Sciences, where research has been conducted with the Centre for Nanohealth, which has facilities for microneedle fabrication and transdermal testing. The research will develop and test technology for delivering vaccines through the skin. It will also test a simple and secure disposal process, which would mean patches can be administered at home. Professor Owen Guy, Head of Chemistry and Director of the Centre for Nanohealth at Swansea University, said: “Microneedle vaccine patches are an exciting development of Innoture’s transdermal patch technology”. Dr Michael Graz, Chief Scientific Officer of Innoture, explained: “The patch is painless and minimally invasive for patients to self-administer. At a time when self-isolation is necessary, it can be applied with ease in the home under guidance from a healthcare professional, reducing the need for people to attend
a clinic. In addition, for healthcare professionals, it shortens consultation or appointment times and potentially removes the need for cold-chain storage.” Dr Sanjiv Sharma, Senior Lecturer in Medical Engineering, added: “This project could provide a revolutionary approach to vaccination in the future. As a long-term partner of Innoture, we look forward to supporting this exciting venture”.
Microstructure design of Innoture skin patch. Credit: Innoture.
CORONADIARIES LIVING THROUGH A PANDEMIC
HOW HAS LOCKDOWN AFFECTED PHYSICAL ACTIVITY AND WELLBEING?
Living with isolation and social distancing has inspired many to record their experiences, whether in written diaries, photographs or posts on Tik-Tok and other social media networks. Swansea University’s Dr Michael Ward is leading the first social science study into the current crisis, which looks at how we are documenting our lives during the pandemic. Called CoronaDiaries, it is based in part on the mass observation studies conducted before, during and after the Second World War, which saw volunteers record their experiences. Dr Ward is recruiting volunteers of all ages to take part. As well as traditional diary entries, he is including social media posts, blogs, videos, artworks and any other method that people used to express themselves during lockdown.
He said: “As medical and epidemiological knowledge is being produced, there is also an urgent need to use a social science lens in the response to Covid-19. These diaries will act as a recording of what we are going through for future generations and also as a way to share pain and experiences with others.” Dr Ward, senior lecturer in Social Science, said lockdown has created new modes of behaviour, and different social situations are constantly coming into existence – from Zoom work meetings to virtual coffee mornings via party apps. “People are responding in multiple ways. New interests, new interactions, a different social life is taking shape in both the real and virtual worlds.” He hopes to secure funding to produce a digital archive of the contributions so they
can be used to influence the response to coronavirus and to any future outbreaks in this or other pandemics. All documents will be stored securely in password-protected files, and written documents will be anonymised to protect participants. More information from Dr Ward by email email@example.com, on 07890874188 or on Twitter @mrmwardphd.
A team of researchers from several UK universities, including sports science experts from Swansea, have launched a new study to examine the effect of the UK government’s lockdown strategy on the population’s physical activity levels and wellbeing during the Covid-19 pandemic. The team are recruiting a large sample of adults living in the UK to complete an online survey about physical activity. It asks about habits before Covid-19 and looks at what effect the lockdown has had on people’s physical activity levels and types and, importantly, on their mental wellbeing. The information gathered will help researchers be better prepared to support people in achieving and maintaining
optimal health and wellbeing if the country were to encounter a similar lockdown in the future. It also provides an insight into current physical activity levels, providing vital information for how to promote healthy lifestyles. Dr Kelly Mackintosh of sports science at Swansea University, co-investigator of the study, said: “If nothing else, one positive that has come out of Covid-19 is the government’s promotion of the importance of physical activity. Beyond all the physiological benefits, the mental health benefits of being active are particularly important at the moment. We hope that any positive behaviour changes are maintained when
the lockdown is lifted. This information will be vital across all four home nations, with co-investigator Dr Melitta McNarry and I keen to drive initiatives through the Welsh Institute of Physical Activity and Health.” Dr James Faulkner from the University of Winchester, lead investigator of the study, added: “This survey will allow us to gather important information on whether the specific strategies imposed by the government are having a substantial influence, be this positive or negative, on physical activity and wellbeing of the UK population.”
Dr Michael Ward
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F E A T U R E
F E A T U R E
SANITISER, MASKS AND MIKES RESEARCH EXPERTISE SUPPORTS NHS WORKERS Swansea University researchers have been using their technical expertise to support health and care workers during the coronavirus pandemic:
UNDERSTANDING PUBLIC CONCERN OVER CONTACT TRACING APP A study involving Swansea University researchers suggests that people are torn over whether they will use the Covid-19 contact tracing smartphone app. Roughly one-third of participants say they would not use the app. Many people are concerned that it will not protect users’ privacy or that it will not be used widely enough to make it effective. Many felt that they lacked enough information about the app or were misinformed about how it works. The research is a preliminary report published on medRxiv, a site used by researchers to share new findings on timely issues before they have been peer-reviewed for publication in a journal. It is led by Dr Simon Williams, Senior Lecturer in People and Organisation at Swansea University, in collaboration with Manchester University colleagues and an independent consultant at the World Health Organization (WHO). Dr Williams said: “Public support for, and use of, the app will ultimately determine whether the strategy succeeds or fails. Our study suggests that the government is far from guaranteed the level of support they need to have the kind of uptake that will make a big difference. A lot of work needs to be done to build public confidence and trust in their handling of Covid-19, and to improve communication around the app. We recommend that government should communicate as clearly as possible and using a variety of media. They should switch to a de-centralised approach, focus on reassuring the public over privacy, and promote the key message that using the app is part of a collective responsibility to stop the spread of the virus and can help save lives.”
Face shields to protect NHS staff were designed and 3D printed by a team from the College of Engineering, supported by ASTUTE 2020 from the Future Manufacturing Research Institute, the Accelerate Healthcare Technology Centre and the Welsh Centre for Printing and Coating. After working around the clock, they manufactured an open- source Prusa design for the shield, adding neoprene foam and a wide elastic strap. The visors were sent out to local hospitals for testing and feedback, which the team used to improve the design. The visors have been awarded the CE safety mark, which means they can now be manufactured at larger scale.
Swansea University’s Healthcare Technology Centre has helped develop an award-winning communication aid for frontline health staff forced to wear face masks during the pandemic. The Centre was part of the Welsh-based team behind MaskComms, a microphone designed to be small enough to fit inside a face mask and transmit voice through wireless to a wearable loudspeaker. It means a group of healthcare professionals wearing masks can communicate easily in the hospital environment, such as in an operating theatre during a surgical procedure. The project has won an £8,000 grant at this year’s Welsh Health Hack which aims to stimulate innovation and encourage collaboration between NHS Wales, industry and academia.
Staff at a Swansea surgery with the University-produced sanitiser
A team of 30 volunteers from three of the University’s colleges produced thousands of litres of hand sanitiser, adapting a production line normally used for solar technology. The sanitiser, which meets the standard set by the World Health Organization, is being used by the NHS, housing and care providers, and a dozen local schools. Manufacturing was led by SPECIFIC Innovation and Knowledge Centre, who specialise in solar research and design, and who have expertise in chemical processing. The team adapted and invented as they went along. They devised a multi-head bottling apparatus which can fill a 5L bottle in 20 seconds rather than 60 seconds. They worked closely with local manufacturers to procure the vast quantities of ingredients needed to produce thousands of litres of sanitiser.
The mask communication aid
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F E A T U R E
F E A T U R E
£6 MILLION FOR NEXT-GENERATION SOLAR TECHNOLOGY
A £6 million award will drive next-generation solar technology into new applications. World-renowned research groups from Swansea University, Imperial College London and Oxford University will collaborate to advance organic and perovskite solar cells into applications that current solar technologies are not suitable for. The performance of these new technologies competes with current options, but they are more flexible and lightweight, cheaper to produce, and can be printed directly onto products during manufacture. This makes them suitable for new applications such as: 5G, which requires ultra-lightweight power sources for pseudo- satellites and high-altitude unmanned aerial vehicles; The Internet of Things, for which sensors are embedded into everyday objects; Zero-carbon buildings and vehicles, which could use their roofs, walls and windows to generate power. The award is from the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council. The team will use it to deliver the fundamental science and engineering underpinning these technologies, develop low-carbon, low-cost manufacturing methods to produce them at scale, and build prototypes.
The research programme is called Application Targeted and Integrated Photovoltaics. It will be led by SPECIFIC Innovation and Knowledge Centre at Swansea University in partnership with Swansea’s new Centre for Integrative Semiconductor Materials, the Centre for Processable Electronics at Imperial College, and Oxford University’s Department of Physics. It also involves 12 industry partners from across the supply chain. Professor James Durrant FRS, from SPECIFIC, who will lead the programme, said: “The fact that the EPSRC has chosen to award this Programme Grant is testament both to the expertise of our team and to the UK’s strength in this field. With these three leading centres working together, we will be able to advance the next generation of solar technologies from the lab to the real world more quickly, for the benefit of the UK and the rest of the world.”
When it comes to flying, the largest of birds don’t rely on flapping to move around. Instead they make use of air currents to keep them airborne for hours at a time. The Andean condor – the world’s heaviest soaring bird, which can weigh in at up to 15kg – flaps its wings for one per cent of its flight time. This finding was revealed in a study which is part of a collaboration between Swansea University’s Professor Emily Shepard and Dr Sergio Lambertucci in Argentina. They used high- tech flight-recorders on Andean condors to log every wingbeat and twist and turn in flight as the birds search for food. The team wanted to examine how birds’ flight efforts vary depending on environmental conditions. Their findings will improve understanding about large birds’ capacity for soaring and the specific circumstances that make flight costly. The researchers discovered that more than 75 per cent of the condors’ flapping was associated with take-off. However, once in the sky condors can sustain soaring for long periods in a wide range of wind and thermal conditions - one bird managed to clock up five hours without flapping, covering around 172 km or more than 100 miles. Dr Hannah Williams, now at the Max Planck Institute for Animal Behaviour, said: “Watching birds from kites to eagles fly, you might wonder if they ever flap. This question is important, because by the time birds are as big as condors, theory tells us they are dependent on soaring to get around. Our results revealed the amount the birds flapped didn’t change substantially with the weather. This suggests that decisions about when and where to land are crucial, as not only do condors need to be able to take off again, but unnecessary landings will add significantly to their overall flight costs.” DON’T FLAP CONDOR STUDY SHOWS HOW THEY SOAR
Photographer: Facundo Vital
A flexible perovskite solar cell
Professor Emily Shepard
Ms Nasim Zarrabi, Swansea University, working on solar modules with glove box
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F E A T U R E
R E S E A R C H P R O F I L E
HOW SEA TURTLES FIND SMALL, ISOLATED ISLANDS
DR VICTORIA JENKINS
Dr Victoria Jenkins is an Associate Professor in the School of Law. Her research interests lie in environmental law and she has spent more than 20 years publishing in this area. Dr Jenkins is particularly interested in how law and governance can be used to help address complex challenges such as the achievement of sustainable development – or the integration of our economic, social and environmental goals. In 2002, she published a paper entitled “Placing Sustainable Development at the Heart of Government in the UK: the role of law in the evolution of sustainable development as the central organising principle of government”. The paper suggested that “a legal duty in respect of sustainable development would act as a powerful educator of all actors in society and in focusing action in government in particular”. This idea has
been at the heart of new world-leading legislation in Wales - the Well-Being of Future Generations (Wales) Act 2015. In a recent book to mark the fifth anniversary of the Act ( #futuregen: Lessons from a Small Country ) the architect of that legislation, Jane Davidson, described the ‘goose bumps moment’ when she realised that this idea had actually been proposed by Dr Jenkins more than a decade before it was discussed by Welsh AMs. Dr Jenkins continues to work on cutting-edge research in the area of environmental law and now centres on the complex challenges of protecting the values of landscape and achieving sustainable land management. She has presented her work as part of the prestigious Brodies’ Environmental Law Lecture series at Edinburgh University and was awarded a Research Fellowship with the National Assembly for Wales
to consider possible approaches to UK Common Frameworks for environmental protection after Brexit. Landscape and sustainable land management are areas of multi-disciplinary research and Dr Jenkins seeks to collaborate with other researchers and external organisations in pursuing these research agendas. She is currently working on a paper considering the role of law in the protection of peatlands with Dr Jonathan Walker, Research Hub Co-ordinator at the Welsh Peatlands Sustainable Management Scheme. Peatlands are an important carbon store and essential to the ecosystem’s resilience of wetlands in Wales. Together Dr Jenkins and Dr Walker have identified numerous gaps in the current protection afforded to these essential natural resources in law and suggested a series of reforms in both the short and long term to address this.
In 1873, Charles Darwin marvelled at the ability of sea turtles to find isolated islands where they nest. How they do it has been revealed by a pioneering study by scientists from Swansea University with colleagues from Deakin University and the University of Pisa. The team equipped 33 green sea turtles with satellite tags and recorded unique tracks of green turtles migrating long distances in the Indian Ocean to small oceanic islands. The study provides some of the best evidence to date that migrating sea turtles have an ability to redirect in the open ocean. Seven turtles travelled only a few tens of kilometres to foraging sites on the Great Chagos Bank, six travelled over 4,000km to mainland Africa, one to Madagascar, while another two turtles ventured north to the Maldives. Most of the species tracked migrated westward to distant foraging sites in the Western Indian Ocean that were associated with small islands.
It shows that the turtles can travel several hundred kilometres off the direct routes to their goal before reorienting, often in the open ocean. The study also showed that turtles frequently struggled to find small islands, overshooting, and/or searching for the island in the final stages of migration. These satellite tracking results support the suggestion, from previous laboratory work, that turtles use a crude true navigation system in the open ocean, possibly using the world’s geomagnetic field. Swansea University’s Dr Nicole Esteban, a co-author in the study said: “We were surprised that green turtles sometimes overshot their ultimate destination by several hundred kilometres and then searched the ocean for their target. Our research shows evidence that turtles have a crude map sense with open ocean reorientation.”
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F E A T U R E
SOLDIERING A PANDEMIC THE THREAT OF MILITARIZED RHETORIC IN ADDRESSING COVID-19
Health Service’s Nightingale emergency hospital in London, which the British Army helped construct within a matter of days, are visual testimony to this militarized response to the ongoing pandemic. The frequent use of a militarized rhetoric in the coronavirus crisis also forms part of a personal politics of uncertainty that plays to public emotions and is intended to send a strong message of effective political leadership to the electorate. One example is British Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s frequent invocation of the “Blitz spirit”, an attempt to secure broad public support at this time of international crisis. To suggest that the use of such militarized language in response to an unknown threat is new would be a misnomer. In the early days of the Cold War, according to Whittier College’s Professor Laura McEnaney, who focuses on the history of the US after World War II, civil defense drills in the US led to a “militarization of everyday life.” In Britain, historian David Edgerton exposed the existence of a “warfare state,” challenging popular notions about the post-war welfare state. In the 1980s, feminist scholar Carol Cohn pointed out the limitations gendered militarized language imposes on our policy imaginations. Militarized responses make it difficult to lessen the chances of facing this kind of widespread lack of preparedness in the future. Militarized rhetoric can lead to fear and then to panic and panicked responses, making a terrible situation even worse.
Dr Christoph Laucht
Dr Susan Jackson
Dr Christoph Laucht is a senior lecturer in modern history at the University’s College of Arts and Humanities. Dr Susan Jackson is a researcher at the Department of Economic History, Stockholm University, focusing on militarization and international relations. Perhaps the dominant feature of the novel coronavirus pandemic is the many uncertainties that it creates for governments and their publics. These extend well beyond public health concerns, prompting governments to take drastic measures to save lives. Common among leaders, journalists and the general public alike has been to draw on a highly militarized - often nationalistic - rhetoric when both justifying and critiquing the pandemic situation. Take for example the following:
To start with, we recommend:
A sewing army, making masks for America (The New York Times, March 25th)
Reimagining how we talk about the heroes. We don’t need to place our healthcare workers, supply chain managers, migrant agricultural labourers, protective gear makers, and grocery store cashiers on the “front lines” in order to value the service they provide to keep society going even in non-pandemic times. Stopping talking about war casualties. To grasp the magnitude of this crisis, we should compare the numbers of Covid-19 dead to other pandemics/epidemics in the past. And we need to gather real-time data and write gender into responses. The material effects are more widespread than those who die from the virus. We know, for example, that domestic violence increases in times of stress. The promotion of cross-border solidarity and internationalism. By removing war rhetoric, we can move from heightened nationalistic hoarding to a cooperative approach of distribution. Since a pandemic does not stop at national borders, neither should our efforts to contain it and recover from it.
Doctor: I am a soldier in coronavirus battle, and I am scared (CNN, March 27th) Army prepares for battle against “invisible enemy” as Nightingale Hospital set to open (The Independent, April 1st) Militarized language evokes an us/them tension that is inherently problematic, not least when the “them” is a virus. The zero-sum insinuations in militarized language make it difficult to generate solidarity between people living in different national settings. This predicament can have negative material impacts, eg dangerous competition between and within states over what are now scarce resources. The use of militarized language plays a crucial part in mapping the unknown and unfamiliar onto a familiar, comprehensible thing: by portraying the coronavirus as an “invisible enemy” that “we” can “combat,” this uncertain threat appears to become containable, manageable, destructible even - in military and healthcare terms. While stories about “front line healthcare staff” and the “deployment” of new medical equipment appeared in the media, the mayor of New York City declared 5 April 2020 – the day when hospitals there were estimated to run out of sufficient numbers of ventilators for patients with severe Covid-19 complications – “D-Day.” The military have also supported civilian authorities in the “battle” against the coronavirus. Images of the US Navy hospital ship USNS Comfort docking in New York City or the opening of the National
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