University of Plymouth

Plymouth University is the largest university in the South West of England, with over 32,000 students and is 9th largest in the United Kingdom by total number of students (including the Open University).

Could teeth be on the edge of self-repair with stem cells?

Stem cells hold the key to wound healing, as they develop into specialised cell types throughout the body – including in teeth. Now an international team of researchers has found a mechanism that could offer a potential novel solution to tooth repair. Published today in Nature Communications, the study showed that a gene called Dlk1 enhances

Could teeth be on the edge of self-repair with stem cells?

Ocean acidification could have serious consequences for millions of people globally

Scientists say that only significant cuts in fossil fuel emissions will prevent changes to the environment becoming more widespread Ocean acidification could have serious consequences for the millions of people globally whose lives depend on coastal protection, fisheries and aquaculture, a new publication suggests. Writing in Emerging Topics in Life Sciences, scientists say that only

Ocean acidification could have serious consequences for millions of people globally

Billions of nanoplastics accumulate in marine organisms within six hours

The research, led by the University of Plymouth, examined the uptake of nanoparticles by a commercially important mollusc, the great scallop (Pecten maximus). After six hours exposure in the laboratory, billions of particles measuring 250nm (around 0.00025mm) had accumulated within the scallop’s intestines. However, considerably more even smaller particles measuring 20nm (0.00002mm) had become dispersed

Billions of nanoplastics accumulate in marine organisms within six hours

Robots can significantly influence children’s opinions

A study published in Science Robotics provides an interesting insight into how robots could be used positively within society Young children are significantly more likely than adults to have their opinions and decisions influenced by robots, according to new research.The study, conducted at the University of Plymouth, compared how adults and children respond to an

Robots can significantly influence children’s opinions

Machine learning could predict undiagnosed dementia in primary care

Results from the feasibility study suggest that a machine-learning model could reduce the number of those living with undiagnosed dementia Improving dementia care through increased and timely diagnosis is an NHS priority, yet around half of those living with dementia live with the condition unaware. Now a new machine-learning model that scans routinely collected NHS

Machine learning could predict undiagnosed dementia in primary care

Could robots be counsellors? Could be more realistic than we think

New research has shown for the first time that a social robot can deliver a ‘helpful’ and ‘enjoyable’ motivational interview (MI) – a counselling technique designed to support behaviour change. Many participants in the University of Plymouth study praised the ‘non-judgemental’ nature of the humanoid NAO robot as it delivered its session – with one

Could robots be counsellors? Could be more realistic than we think

Music sessions could be crucial in transforming the lives of millions of people with verbal challenges

Tailored music sessions could be crucial in transforming the lives of millions of people whose speech is impacted by learning difficulties, strokes, dementia, brain damage and autism, a new study suggests. It could enable individuals and their families to feel less isolated or neglected within society, while enhancing their ability to communicate, both with each

Music sessions could be crucial in transforming the lives of millions of people with verbal challenges

An artificial neural network learns to use human language

A computer simulation of a cognitive model entirely made up of artificial neurons learns to communicate through dialogue starting from a state of tabula rasa A group of researchers from the University of Sassari (Italy) and the University of Plymouth (UK) has developed a cognitive model, made up of two million interconnected artificial neurons, able

An artificial neural network learns to use human language

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Minute Plastic Fibres Found in Abundance in the Deep Seas



Around four billion minute fibres could be littering each square kilometre of some of the world’s deep seas, demonstrating that plastic debris is now creating cause for concern in some of the remotest parts of the marine environment.

That is one of the findings of a pioneering international study examining the scale of the presence of microplastics at depths of up to 3500m in parts of the Indian and Atlantic Oceans, and the Mediterranean Sea.

Existing research had shown that in recent decades plastic debris has become almost omnipresent on the world’s coastlines, but the extent of its concentration close to shorelines had not increased in line with predictions based on the production and use of plastic.

However, the current study – led by scientists from Plymouth University and the Natural History Museum – indicates this may be because microplastics have sunk to the ocean floor, with the number of fibres recorded as being up to four times more abundant in the deep seas than in shallow and coastal waters.

In fact, the current study has led scientists to suggest – in areas of the Indian Ocean at least – that around 4 billion fibres per km² would be present in seamounts.

Read more: Minute Plastic Fibres Found in Abundance in the Deep Seas


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European seafloor survey reveals depth of marine litter problem

This shows litter items on the seafloor of European waters. Clockwise from top left i) Plastic bag recorded by an OFOS at the HAUSGARTEN observatory (Arctic) at 2500 m; ii = Litter recovered within the net of a trawl in Blanes open slope at 1500 m during the PROMETO 5 cruise on board the R/V “García del Cid”; iii) Cargo net entangled in a cold-water coral colony at 950 m in Darwin Mound with the ROV “Lynx” (National Oceanography Centre, UK). iv) “Heineken” beer can in the upper Whittard canyon at 950 m water depth with the ROV Genesis. Credit: Image credit: Pham CK et al. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0095839

A major new survey of the seafloor has found that even in the deepest ocean depths you can find bottles, plastic bags, fishing nets and other types of human litter.

The litter was found throughout the Mediterranean, and all the way from the continental shelf of Europe to the Mid-Atlantic Ridge 2,000 kilometres from land. Litter is a problem in the marine environment as it can be mistaken for food and eaten by some animals or can entangle coral and fish – a process known as “ghost fishing”.

The international study involving 15 organisations across Europe was led by the University of the Azores, and is a collaboration between the Mapping the Deep Project led by Plymouth University and the European Union-funded HERMIONE Project, coordinated by the National Oceanography Centre, Southampton. Other UK project partners that contributed to the study are the University of Southampton and the British Geological Survey.

Scientists took nearly 600 samples from across the Atlantic and Arctic Oceans and in the Mediterranean Sea, from depths ranging from 35 metres to 4.5 kilometres.

Mr Christopher Pham, from the University of the Azores, said: “We found that plastic was the most common litter item found on the seafloor, while trash associated with fishing activities (discarded fishing lines and nets) was particularly common on seamounts, banks, mounds and ocean ridges. The most dense accumulations of litter were found in deep underwater canyons.”

Dr Kerry Howell, Associate Professor at Plymouth University’s Marine Institute, said: “This survey has shown that human litter is present in all marine habitats, from beaches to the most remote and deepest parts of the oceans. Most of the deep sea remains unexplored by humans and these are our first visits to many of these sites, but we were shocked to find that our rubbish has got there before us.”

Litter was located at each site surveyed, with plastic accounting for 41% and derelict fishing gear 34%. Glass and metal, wood, paper/cardboard, clothing, pottery, and unidentified materials were also observed.

Dr Eva Ramirez-Llodra, Marine Biologist from the HERMIONE project, said: “An interesting discovery was relating to deposits of clinker on the sea floor – this is the residue of burnt coal that had been dumped by steam ships from the late 18th century onwards. We have known that clinker occurs on the deep-sea bed for some time, but what we found was the accumulation of clinker is closely related with modern shipping routes, indicating that the main shipping corridors have not been altered in the last two centuries.”

The report outlines the path that plastics in particular can take, originating from coastal and land sources and being carried along continental shelves and slopes into deep water.

Dr Veerle Huvenne, Seafloor and Habitat Mapping Team Leader at the National Oceanography Centre, Southampton, explains: “Submarine canyons form the main connection between shallow coastal waters and the deep sea. Canyons that are located close to major coastal towns and cities, such as the Lisbon Canyon offshore Portugal, or the Blanes Canyon offshore Barcelona, can funnel litter straight to water depths of 4,500m or more.”

Dr Howell added: “The large quantity of litter reaching the deep ocean floor is a major issue worldwide. Our results highlight the extent of the problem and the need for action to prevent increasing accumulation of litter in marine environments.”

Read more . . .


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Microplastics ‘pose toxic threat to marine biodiversity’


via BBC

Tiny particles of waste plastic that are ingested by shoreline “eco-engineer” worms may be negatively affecting biodiversity, a study says.

So-called microplastics may be able to transfer toxic pollutants and chemicals into the guts of lugworms, reducing the animals’ functions.

An estimated 150 million tonnes vanishes from the global waste-stream each year.

The findings have been published in the academic journal Current Biology.

“We are losing a large volume of plastic and we know it is going into the environment and the assumption being made by policymakers is that this material is non-hazardous, it has got the same ranking as scraps of food,” explained co-author Mark Browne, an ecologist from the US-based National Center for Ecological Analysis and Synthesis.

“The research we have done really challenges that,” Dr Browne added, referring to the findings of lab work carried out by colleagues at Plymouth University, UK, led by co-author Prof Richard Thompson.

“Our findings show that the plastic itself can be a problem and can affect organisms.

“Also, when particles of plastic go into the environment what you find is that they accumulate large quantities of pollutants that are banned. So you have these particles themselves but also a load of nasty chemicals.”

Important role

The team found that the tiny bits of plastic, which measure 1mm or smaller, transferred pollutants and additive chemicals – such as flame-retardants – into the guts of lugworms (Arenicola marina).

This process results in the chemical reaching the creatures’ tissue, causing a range of biological effects such as thermal stress and the inability to consume as much sediment.

Dr Browne explained that this had consequences for the surrounding ecosystem.

Read more . . .


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The Latest on: Microplastic pollution
  • Using microorganisms to address microplastic pollution
    on January 11, 2020 at 9:28 am

    Such is the extent of plastic pollution, that microplastic has now entered the human food chain. In addition, the chemicals leached out from plastic are having an adverse effect on marine life. One ...

  • London is the global capital of micro plastic pollution
    on January 4, 2020 at 7:54 pm

    The research, published in the journal Environment International, adds to a year’s worth of research revealing the scourge of microplastic pollution. Two separate pieces of research published in ...

  • Microplastic pollution is raining down in London
    on January 2, 2020 at 12:48 pm

    Researchers from King’s College London, U.K., sought to document their contribution to urban atmospheric pollutant loads by monitoring microplastic Time-series of deposition rates (n/m2/d) for (A) ...

  • New laws for 2020
    on January 2, 2020 at 9:00 am

    Plastic microbead ban: Personal care products containing plastic microbeads will be banned from sale statewide due to microplastic pollution in bodies of water across California, including local ...

  • Clothing could be to blame for the number of microplastics in our air
    on December 28, 2019 at 8:53 am

    Scientists have also begun to uncover how prevalent they are in the air. Just like microplastic pollution in water, our clothes appear to be a primary culprit. New research from Kings College ...

  • Microplastic raining down on city folk
    on December 27, 2019 at 1:20 pm

    Microplastic pollution is raining down on city dwellers, with research revealing that London has the highest levels yet recorded. The health impacts of breathing or consuming the tiny plastic ...

  • London is the capital city of microplastic pollution, study finds
    on December 27, 2019 at 7:03 am

    The research, published in the journal Environment International, adds to a year's worth of research revealing the scourge of microplastic pollution. Two separate pieces of research published in ...

  • Revealed: microplastic pollution is raining down on city dwellers
    on December 27, 2019 at 3:00 am

    Exclusive: London has highest level yet recorded but health impacts of breathing particles are unknown ...

  • In a first, India-UK study on microplastic pollution will begin from Chennai coast
    on December 19, 2019 at 3:21 am

    CHENNAI: After a few isolated coastal pollution studies in the country showed evidence of tiny plastic pieces in marine organisms, scientists from India and UK will soon dive off the Chennai coast to ...

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Global investigation reveals true scale of ocean warming


Warming oceans are causing marine species to change breeding times and shift homes with expected substantial consequences for the broader marine landscape, according to a new global study.

The three-year research project, funded by the National Centre for Ecological Analysis and Synthesis in California, has shown widespread systemic shifts in measures such as distribution of species and phenology – the timing of nature’s calendar – on a scale comparable to or greater than those observed on land.

The report, Global imprint of climate change on marine life, will form part of the Intergovernmental Panel for Climate Change Assessment Report due for publication in 2014, and is published in this month’s Nature Climate Change. It was undertaken by eminent scientists at 17 institutions across the world, including the University of Queensland, Plymouth University, Aberystwyth University, and the Scottish Association for Marine Science (SAMS).

One of the lead authors of the report, Professor Camille Parmesan, National Marine Aquarium Chair in Public Understanding of Oceans and Human Health within Plymouth University’s Marine Institute, said the study offered a “very simple, but important message”.

Professor Parmesan said: “This is the first comprehensive documentation of what is happening in our marine systems in relation to climate change. What it reveals is that the changes that are occurring on land are being matched by the oceans. And far from being a buffer and displaying more minor changes, what we’re seeing is a far stronger response from the oceans.”

The research team assembled a large database of 1,735 changes in marine life from the global peer-reviewed literature which helped them investigate impacts of climate change. The team found that 81% of changes were in a direction consistent with climate change.

The evidence showed that the leading edge or ‘front line’ of some marine species, such as phytoplankton, zooplankton and bony fish, is moving towards the poles at the average rate of 72km per decade, which is considerably faster than the terrestrial average of 6km per decade – and this despite the fact that sea surface temperatures are warming three times slower than land temperatures.

They also found that spring phenology in the oceans had advanced by more than four days, nearly twice the figure for phenological advancement on land. The strength of response varied among species, but again, the research showed the greatest response in invertebrate zooplankton and larval bony fish, up to 11 days in advancement.

Professor Mike Burrows at SAMS said: “Most of the effects we saw were as expected from changes in climate. So, most shifts in the distributions of, say, fishes and corals, were towards the poles, and most events in springtime, like spawning, were earlier.”

Some of the most convincing evidence that climate change is the primary driver behind the observed changes could be found in footprints that showed, for example, opposing responses in warm-water and cold-water species within a community; and similar responses from discrete populations at the same range edge.

Dr Pippa Moore, Lecturer in Aquatic Biology from Aberystwyth University, said: “Our research has shown that a wide range of marine organisms, which inhabit the intertidal to the deep-sea, and are found from the poles to the tropics, have responded to recent climate change by changing their distribution, phenology or demography.

“These results highlight the urgent need for governments around the globe to develop adaptive management plans to ensure the continued sustainability of the world’s oceans and the goods and services they provide to human society.”

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