Tag Archives: Biological Biomedical & Environmental Sciences

How DNA evidence could be a game-changer in monitoring freshwater fish

Water may well be everywhere, but freshwater lake ecosystems are among some of the most vulnerable on Earth. In recent decades, freshwater species have suffered double the rate of decline of land species. And nearly 50% of fresh water lakes, rivers and streams across Europe failed to meet the EU Water Framework Directive, which aimed to achieve “good ecological status” of freshwater in Europe by 2015.

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University of Hull Proud to Announce Published Study into Evolution of Parental Care in Male Mammals

Dr Isabella Capellini, Senior Lecturer in Vertebrate Zoology and Hannah West, PhD Student at the University of Hull, have had their paper Male Care and Life History Traits in Mammals published in Nature Communications, the 3rd world ranking discovery journal.

Nature Communications is an open access journal that publishes high-quality research from all areas of the natural sciences.

Dr Capellini says: ‘In most mammals, males do not provide any care for their offspring but in about 10% of species males provision, carry, groom or huddle with them, and so spend substantial amount of time and energy in parental duties. So we were interested in finding out which potential benefits male parental care might have for mothers and offspring’.

Little is known about the substantial benefits that males may provide to females and offspring. Male care has energetic and opportunity costs, and is more likely to evolve when males gain greater certainty of paternity or when future mating opportunities are scarce.

The study aimed to determine the benefits males provide to females and offspring through male care. Phylogenetic comparative methods were used on a sample of 500 mammalian species.

The Results show that when males carry offspring a shorter lactation time occurs which leads to more frequent breeding, while litters are larger when males provision the mother. Offspring of species with male care grow faster.

The study proposes that males provide an energetic contribution during the most expensive time of female reproduction, which is lactation, and that different male care behaviours increase female fecundity, which in turn helps males offset the costs of caring.

Miss Hannah West says: ‘Surprisingly, we found that regardless of the specific behaviour – carrying heavy offspring or provisioning the mother – male care ultimately has the same ‘effect’ on female reproduction: when males care, females have more numerous offspring. This in turn helps males offset the costs of parental care as they can father more offspring’.

The study has been funded through a Hull Postgraduate studentship.

For more information visit, http://www2.hull.ac.uk/science/bbes.aspx



Dr Katharine Hubbard – Winner of the 2016 HE Bioscience Teacher of the Year Award.

We are delighted to announce that Katharine Hubbard is the winner of the 2016 HE Bioscience Teacher of the Year Award.

Dr Katharine Hubbard, Lecturer at the University of Hull School of Biological, Biomedical and Environmental Sciences is the winner of the 2016 HE Bioscience Teacher of the Year Award. Katharine was named as the winner during the Heads of University Biosciences (HUBS) Spring Meeting. The Royal Society of Biology offers the annual award to teachers who have shown an outstanding contribution to higher education in the biosciences. The scheme rewards lecturers who have developed innovative and inspirational teaching methods, as well as undertaken professional development and supported colleagues.

Chair of the judging panel, Peter Heathcote FRSB, professor of biochemistry at Queen Mary University of London said, “In a competitive field Katharine impressed the judges with both her enthusiasm for student-centred teaching, and her work with four undergraduate interns to prepare questions and videos to improve the student experience of first year practicals. This is a significant problem for universities, as students arrive with a very diverse range of experience and knowledge of practical teaching.”

Katharine was absolutely delighted to win the award, “To have my teaching recognised in this way is fantastic, and I am so thankful to all the students I have worked with – they are at the heart of everything I do and I couldn’t have won without them”

One of Katharine’s first year students commented “Katharine approached lectures with an energy and passion to teach like no other. We all felt like she personally cared that everyone in the room achieved their absolute best.”

Of the three finalists this year two were from the School of Biological, Biomedical and Environmental Sciences. Dr Lesley Morrell, a senior lecturer in evolutionary biology also received high praise from the judging panel for her case study on enhancing feedback.

For more information about our finalists, visit


Grants awarded in November 2015 (over £10k)

Miss K L Hemingway, Mr N D Cutts, Prof M Elliott, £10,000, Environment Agency, Assessment of Saltmarsh Development in the Alkborough MR Site for WFD Compliance

Prof L Ingle, £16,532, City Health Care Partnership CIC, Research Assistant in Exercise

Dr M Hird, £51,385, EPSRC, The British Liquid Crystal Society Annual Training Workshop

Dr B Hänfling, Dr L Lawson Handley, £55,829, Scottish Environment Protection Agency, The Development of an eDNA-Based Approach for Fish Sampling in Lochs for WFD – Phase 2

Can trees really cool our cities down?

WanderingtheWorld (www.ChrisFord.com)/Flickr, CC BY-NC

Editor’s note: This article was originally published on The Conversation.

By Roland Ennos, Professor of Biomechanics

In cities around the world, trees are often planted to help control temperatures and mitigate the effects of the “urban heat island”. But while trees have been called “nature’s air conditioners”, in practice, scientists often have difficulty demonstrating their cooling properties.

The most obvious way to measure the cooling effect of trees would be to compare the air temperature in parks with that in nearby streets. But this method often comes up with disappointing results: even in large, leafy parks, the daytime air temperature is usually less than 1°C cooler than in the stuffy streets, and at night the temperature in parks can actually be higher.

To explain this contradiction, we need to think more clearly about the physics of heat flows in our cities, and the scale of the measurements we are taking. Read more

New brochure showcases world-leading science and engineering research

A new brochure from the University of Hull offers an insight into the pioneering research undertaken by staff and postgraduate research students across its Faculty of Science and Engineering.

Research in Focus 2016 showcases the work of a range of leading-edge researchers and its real life impact.

Following interest in the first publication of this type from 2014 – ‘Inspired in Hull’, which highlights examples of exciting research from all departments in the Faculty – the new brochure also features PhD students describing the research they are undertaking, and a selection of exciting research news from across the Faculty.

Research in Focus 2016The publication, available online or in print format, has already been shared with other Universities and their students, from as far afield as China and Malaysia.

Professor Stephen Kelly, Dean of the Faculty of Science and Engineering said: “Our 2016 research brochure highlights some of the novel and exciting research being conducted across the Faculty. I am immensely proud of our diverse and collaborative research that is addressing real world problems, from understanding how the Earth is responding to climate change to breakthroughs in ‘bench-to-bedside’ cancer treatments.”

Professor Dan Parsons, Associate Dean for Research and Enterprise, added: “We are committed to conducting excellent, world-leading research that addresses critical challenges in today’s world. Our most recent 2014 Research Excellence Framework results reflect the work of our staff, researchers and research students in pushing the boundaries of science and engineering that is making a difference in the world.”

Research in Focus also includes the latest information about the high quality research environment at the University, and the investment in facilities such as the world-class Brynmor Jones Library and the Allam Building which houses a revamped biomedical research facility with two research centres – one focusing on cardiovascular and metabolic disease and the other on cancer. These are just two of the areas in which the University has an international reputation.

To request free printed copies of the brochure please email science@hull.ac.uk

Animals are evolving faster than you think – here’s the living proof

Galapagos finch: evolution in action? Paul Krawczuk/flickr, CC BY-SA

Editor’s note: This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

By Hugo Dutel, Post-doctoral Research Fellow, Medical and Biological Engineering Research Group

Biological evolution, the changes in living organisms over time, is often considered an elusive and long process that cannot be observed during a human lifespan. But is that really the case? And is there evidence that we can see it happening right before our eyes?

Evolution is a process that occurs at a different pace in different organisms. For instance, paleontologists have shown, thanks to the fossil record, that it took a million years for whales to evolve from their land-dwelling mammalian ancestors.

But evolution can also be observed and monitored in living organisms within a human lifetime. This is true for infectious agents, such as bacteria and parasites, that can evolve extremely quickly to resist the drugs we use to fight them. But it is also the case for larger organisms, such as vertebrates – the back-boned animals. Read more

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