Thursday, 11 September 2014

Evidence of ‘super henge’ surrounding Stonehenge

Scientists, including Dr Richard Bates of the Department of Earth and Environmental Sciences, have unveiled a remarkable new picture of Stonehenge and its surrounding areas, including the remains of an even bigger ‘super henge’ nearby.

The mammoth project, led by Prof. Vince Gaffney at the University of Birmingham in conjunction with the Ludwig Boltzmann Institute for Archaeological Prospection and Virtual Archaeology, is likely to transform our knowledge of this iconic landscape.

For the project, Dr Bates used remote sensing techniques and geophysical surveys to discover hundreds of new features which now form part of the most detailed archaeological digital map of the Stonehenge landscape ever produced.

Electromagnetic survey results
showing the outer bank at Durrington Walls
marking the circumference of the new super henge
The startling results of the survey include 17 previously unknown ritual monuments dating to the period when Stonehenge achieved its iconic shape. The project has also revealed completely unexpected information on previously known monuments. Arguably the most significant relates to the Durrington Walls ‘super henge’, situated a short distance from Stonehenge. This immense ritual monument, probably the largest of its type in the world, has a circumference of more than 1.5 kilometres (0.93 miles). The geophysical results have provided a new model of this feature that encompasses the vast monument in one complete picture. Geophysics used in archaeology may never be the same again and the team now hopes to apply a similar approach to other iconic sites. In Orkney, Dr Bates is currently applying some of the new techniques to study the landscapes around the henges of the Ring of Brodgar and Stones of Stenness.

The project is the subject of a BBC documentary Operation Stonehenge: What Lies Beneath, due to be broadcast on BBC Two at 8pm BST on Thursday 11 September. [press release]

Friday, 5 September 2014

New research centre at St Andrews: CATCH

The Centre for Archaeology, Technology and Cultural Heritage (CATCH) is a multi-disciplinary centre that brings together researchers from across the University of St Andrews. The Centre promotes research into all aspects of past human activity from across the globe, with the aim of making our research accessible to the widest audience as possible. The Centre brings together arts and sciences in order to investigate how humans have been influenced by, and changed, their environment.

The Schools, Departments and Units involved in CATCH are: Art History, Classics, Computer Science, Earth and Environmental Sciences, Geography & Sustainable Development, History, Museum Collections Unit and Social Anthropology.
"Digitising cave art will prevent it being lost forever"
New Scientist, April 2014

Friday, 29 August 2014

Two St Andrews scientists to receive Wolfson Research Merit Awards

Prof. Malcolm White
Two leading scientists from the University of St Andrews are to receive Wolfson Research Merit Awards from the Royal Society. ‌ Professor Malcolm White (School of Biology) and Professor Sven Hoefling (School of Physics and Astronomy) are named in an exclusive, recently published list of only14 outstanding UK scientists to receive the honour.

Prof. Sven Hoeling
Professor White’s award, the CRISPR-Cas system for prokaryotic antiviral defence, recognises his research into a recently discovered immune system in microbes. His work is aimed at understanding how these complex molecular machines detect and destroy invading viruses.

Professor Hoefling's award, Quantum engineered semiconducting and transition metal oxide materials, is in appreciation of his work to understand and exploit light-matter interactions.

Jointly funded by the Wolfson Foundation and the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS), the scheme aims to provide universities with additional support to enable them to attract science talent from overseas and retain respected UK scientists of outstanding achievement and potential.
[press release]

Monday, 25 August 2014

New at St Andrews: Institute for Data-Intensive Research

The St Andrews Institute for Data-Intensive Research (IDIR) is a new institute set up to provide a focus for research and teaching activities across the University driven by access to “big data”. 

IDIR will bring the University’s strengths in humanities and social sciences with those in computer, mathematical, life, and physical scientists to share insights and techniques. IDIR results from the enormous volume of activity taking place across the University that could broadly be described as data-driven – from data science, through digital humanities and digital social science, to digital medicine, which all share common characteristics. They are exploring new techniques and opportunities brought about by the availability of large volumes of data and the processing power needed to manipulate them.

Some of the Schools included are Computer Science, Mathematics & Statistics, Physics & Astronomy, Medicine, Chemistry, Biology, International Relations, Earth and Environmental Sciences and History.

Wednesday, 13 August 2014

Service sector employer prejudice to visible tattoos

As the prevalence of tattoos in Western societies has increased over the past decade, how does this affect hiring in the service sector? Research conducted by Dr Andrew Timming of the School of Management explored attitudes of hiring managers in the service sector towards visible body art, tattoos that are not easily concealed, such as on the hands, neck and face.  

In general, both hiring managers and the visibly tattooed respondents agreed that visible tattoos tend to be viewed negatively and can be a roadblock to employment. However, it was found that not all tattoos are equal and that factors such as the industry, the proximity to customers, the placement of the tattoo, and the tattoo subject are important. In some industries tattoos can be seen as an advantage, depending on the demographic of customers that the organisation is aiming to reach, such as retail assistants in trendy shops or prison guards. In other service organisations, recruiters were less prejudiced the further the distance between the tattooed applicant and the customers, but this often depended on the content of the tattoo. If a tattoo is deemed as offensive, then access to the labour market was further impaired. [Visible tattoos in the service sector: a new challenge to recruitment and selection, DOI]

Thursday, 31 July 2014

New lab to unravel the mysteries of Earth and life

On Thursday July 17th, Drs Aubrey Zerkle and Mark Claire held a grand opening for their new geobiology laboratory space in the Bute building. Approximately 40 members of staff from the Department of Earth and Environmental Sciences were in attendance, as the laboratory was formally christened the "Peter James Clark Centre for Philosophical Geobiology".

The interdisciplinary laboratory will be dedicated to studying the links between geochemistry and biology over Earth history, as evidenced in modern environments and recorded in the rock record.
 In just two weeks’ time, the lab already has in excess of 15 occupants, including post-doctoral researcher Gareth Izon and PhD student Colin Mettam, who are working with the PIs on a NERC-funded project to unravel the interplay between biological forcing and atmospheric chemistry recorded in 2.5 billion year old sediments from South Africa and Western Australia.

It is also supporting a host of undergraduate researchers starting dissertation projects and summer internships on a wide range of cross-disciplinary projects, including:
  • geochemistry of Mars analog soils from the Atacama desert (Chile), 
  • sulfur cycling in Earth’s oldest well-preserved microbial mats, 
  • nutrient cycling in redox-stratified Lake Kinnert (Israel), and 
  • paleoenvironmental characterization of the world’s first phosphorite deposits (  Exciting stuff! 
    Nicolette Meyer (Geology undergraduate) distilling sulfur
    from 2.6 billion-year-old pyritized microbial mats
    Gareth Izon (right) solving the mysteries of the Neoarchean
    atmosphere and Mark Claire (left) extracting atmospheric salts in
    soils from the driest place on Earth (the Atacama Desert)
The somewhat whimsical name for the lab was chosen to honour Professor Peter Clark, retired Professor of Philosophy and member of the Principal's office, whose efforts were instrumental in pushing the long-awaited project forward. "We will attempt to learn from the philosophers by always asking ourselves and our students to contemplate the larger meaning of our scientific results," said Co-PI Dr Mark Claire upon unveiling the plaque above the door. Dr Tony Prave, Reader in Earth Sciences and Director of Research for the department was also recognized during the short ceremony for his continued support and inspiration.

Wednesday, 23 July 2014

New Fellow of the British Acacdemy

Congratulations to Professor Stephen Halliwell FRSE, Professor of Greek, in the School of Classics, who has been elected as a Fellow of the British Academy. At its Annual General Meeting on July 17, the British Academy elected 42 highly distinguished UK academics from 19 universities as Fellows, in recognition of their outstanding research. Prof. Halliwell's research interests range widely across the interpretation of ancient Greek literature (especially drama) and philosophy (especially Plato and Aristotle), as well as the influence of Greek ideas on later periods of Western culture. He has given invited research papers in 17 countries and four languages. Two of his books have won major international prizes.