Community Guidance on Running a Seagrass Conservation Project

Professor of Teaching and Research in Environmental Biology at Edinburgh Napier University, Mark Huxham, recently published a signposting guide with insights on how best to run a community-based seagrass conservation project, using methods such as a Payments for Ecosystems Services (PES) project.

In his report, Prof Huxham focuses on a carbon-based PES as a means to protect seagrass ecosystems and prevent their degradation.

Seagrass meadows appear in 159 different countries and can be found on every continent except from Antarctica. In fact, all-in-all, seagrass covers 30 million hectares worldwide, that’s 10-and-a-half times the size of Hawaii.

These aquatic ecosystems provide an irreplaceable service to our planet. Seagrasses afford valuable nursery habitat to one fifth of the world’s largest fisheries, which helps boost fish population numbers and, in turn, this supports local communities that rely on fish for income and food.

Seagrass also stores up to 18% of the world’s oceanic carbon, helping to mitigate climate change.

These ecosystems therefore play a key role in reducing the impact on climate change, improve water quality, and provide coastal protection against floods and storms.

Now though, like the coral reefs and rainforests, these habitats are being compromised by human activity.

The rapid decline in our global coastal ecosystems is a worldwide problem and the rate of loss of seagrass meadows is alarmingly fast. The most recent census estimates that we are losing 7% of this key marine habitat per year, which is equivalent to a football field of seagrass lost every 30 minutes. Nearly a third of seagrass cover has been lost in the last 100 years-or-so.

The four main culprits behind the destruction of these water-based habitats are overharvesting (humans harvest seagrass for fertiliser, insulation, furniture and more); agricultural and industrial run-off; coastal development; and climate change.

It is a global problem that the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) is keen to tackle. In a separate report that Mark Huxham contributes to, detailing the importance of seagrass and how to protect it, UNEP lays out 13 recommended actions on how to protect this natural resource. The recommendations include:

  • developing a comprehensive map of global seagrass distribution and health;
  • raising awareness of seagrass and communicating its importance to communities;
  • and stimulating seagrass conservation and protection through financial initiatives and incentives.

This is the download for the global UNEP report.

This is the download for Mark Huxam’s report on how to help conserve seagrass locally.

Cover of Guide
The Community Guide

He’s picking up good vibrations

A mountain bike handlebar, released for sale this September, is the first to offer a viscoelastic frame designed to absorb more of the impacts that are an inevitable result when enthusiasts and professional riders alike hurtle down trails.

The innovation has been driven by research conducted by Lewis Kirkwood as part of his PhD at Edinburgh Napier University: commercial endorsement for its long term health implications. “Vibration stimulates muscle and it makes the muscle tense, which is why you get arm pump because your muscle doesn’t relax and it cuts off the blood flow,” explains Lewis.

Initial data gathered by Lewis (alongside Dr Lesley Ingram, Dr Eva Malone, Dr Mark Taylor, and Prof Geraint Florida-James) suggested that mountain bikers can actually experience vibration levels that would exceed levels regarded as safe under ISO standards. These are applied in 164 countries, with the goal of ensuring products and services are safe, reliable and of good quality. For example, ISO 5349 – 1:2001 monitors human exposure to hand-transmitted vibration in construction, and caps vibrations at 5.0 ms^-2. But Lewis found mean values of 5.84ms^-2 on the riders he studied over a day of elite enduro racing.

It was important to investigate further, with exposure to vibration in the workplace linked to musculoskeletal, neuromuscular, vascular and other types of pathologies such as hand-arm vibration syndrome.

“We believe there will be ways of optimising the design of components such as handlebars, grips or even gloves, tyres and spokes, and if we could look at ways to minimize vibration while still keeping or improving the performance then that has to be a good thing,” said Lewis, who is a keen mountain biker himself and also a team mechanic with Norco Factory Team.

Since 2016 he has evolved his PhD research at the Innovation Centre run by Edinburgh Napier University and the Mountain Bike Centre of Scotland, at Glentress in the Scottish Borders. Now, kreuz+quer – the company behind bike brand ARC8 and bicycle.engineering – have launched the Rockstock carbon handlebar using input from the research by Lewis. It is the first commercially available handlebar to integrate a viscoelastic damping layer, which means it is designed with the intention of reducing vibration exposure for riders.

For Lewis, the commercial response to his research has been inspirational. “At Napier, we have a big physiology department where, for example, we can take blood from people, so we can link up vibration doses and changes in the blood to see if there is a relationship with things like osteo-arthritis. We can also test many different products at the Innovation Centre. So if a component manufacturer with different layups of seatposts or frame materials wanted to know which was better in the field then we can reliably measure it.

“That’s what I want to do more of.”

Meeting the demands of a changing world

Dr Janis MacCallum and Dr Graham Wright, Programme Leaders for the School’s Biomolecular MSc suite, outline why this is a good time to become an applied biologist.

Whilst it’s clear the challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic are numerous, we’ve been spending some time trying to understand what the ongoing response by the industry and academia will mean for our graduates. And the answer is resounding, it’s a good time to be an applied biologist. The need for scientists has been brought into sharp focus. Every day we are reading in the popular press about immunology, in the shape of vaccines and antibody tests; molecular biology in shape of diagnostic tests run from nose swabs; pharmacology in the shape of repurposing old drugs and designing new ones… I could go on.

In reviewing our MSc programmes to ensure they were training graduates able to contribute to the global response to COVID-19, we found that without exception our programmes were already doing this. Our suite of programmes already have a strong practical element with a focus on employability skills and all are supported by research academics, with strong links across the bio-medical and pharmaceutical industries and research institutes as well as within the NHS. This, combined with module and lecture topics that are designed to react to emerging research and demands to reflect the field, means that our programmes are already aligned to challenges created by COVID-19 and will be ready for whatever comes after it.

Our Biomedical Science programme, covers fundamental and emerging topics in immunology, toxicology, pharmacology and disease biology and how these disciplines are applied in biomedical science, allowing our students to gain unique insights into the challenges currently facing biomedical science (pandemic anyone?). One example of how COVID-19 will be reflected in our BMS programme comes from Prof. Peter Barlow, Professor of Infection and Immunology, module leader on our MSc programmes and Head of Research:

“I’ve given lectures and tutorials on the potential of host defence peptides for treating viral infections and related topics and covered emerging vaccination technologies that can be rapidly deployed that I’ve published on previously. I’ve also run tutorials where I’ve had MSc students critically review prior funding applications and could incorporate these into my modules now that we are starting to apply for SARS-CoV-2 related funding.”

Dr Peter Barlow

Or there is Drug Design and Biomedical Science, a unique programme which combines biomedicine and pharmaceutical science, focussing on the development and creation of effective drugs, from concept to clinic, including the theories and practical applications of chemical drug design and immunology, pharmacology and molecular biology. Our Head of Synthetic Chemistry, Dr David Mincher highlighted just one of the many areas these programmes that will reflect important aspects in the pharmaceutical response to COVID-19:

“A major topic taught in the Drug Design and Chemotherapy module is the design of drugs to treat viral infections, focussed on clinically successful drugs, exemplified by oseltamivir (Tamiflu) to treat influenza, and SARS. Parallel mechanism-based analysis, using our molecular modelling and computational biology facilities are extendable to the SARS-CoV-2 virus, causing the coronavirus disease COVID-19. Chemotherapeutic approaches are critically important to the treatment of viral disease in the scenario that vaccines are of no use to persons already infected with the virus.”

We also offer programmes in Medical Biotechnology (January 2020 intake) and a 2 year MSc programme in Pharmaceutical and Analytical Science (January intake only). All are designed to support you in gaining the knowledge and skills needed to take on exciting employment opportunities in the pharmaceutical, biomedical and biotechnology fields. Perhaps now is the time for you to explore these opportunities further…

If you are interested in learning more, sign up for our next Postgraduate Open evening being held online on the 21st May via this link: https://www.napier.ac.uk/about-us/events/online-pg-open-evening-may-2020#Form .

A degree designed to suit the needs of full-time athletes

My name is Eoin Flemming and I am a full time international Judo player, fighting for Ireland, and I plan on competing in the 2022 Commonwealth Games as well as the 2024 Olympic Games.

I chose to study at Edinburgh Napier University as it was the only university that offered a course that was designed to suit the needs of full-time athletes.

The degree course is online and is very flexible when it comes to sitting our modules. This is essential for me, as Judo is a full-on sport with no off season like other sports. I mostly train two or three times a day for six days a week, so knowing this degree is there and understands these demands is great. I was able to complete one recent assignment for university whilst I was on a five-week training camp in Japan. Having the flexibility to study and complete assignments from anywhere in the world is very helpful, especially as my sport requires me to travel a lot.

Edinburgh Napier University has supported me tremendously. They are one of very few universities that truly understand the needs and demands placed on professional athletes. The creation of the course is huge for people like me who want to get a degree without the normal time constraints of normal degrees. I understand the importance of having a degree and furthering my knowledge in today’s society. I have to be prepared for what I am going to do after judo and this degree will give me greater opportunities for when that time comes. It is such a highlight to be given the opportunity to achieve this without it affecting my sports performance.

I have already recommended the BA Business and Enterprise Sport to some of my training partners as I feel this is the perfect course for athletes. The modules are specific to elite sport so I find them really interesting. I’d absolutely encourage other athletes to do the course and enjoy the unique experience of studying whilst being an athletes. You will be opening new opportunities for yourself for life after sport. The university has plenty of support systems in place for us if you ever were to need any help.

Public Perceptions and Responses to Human Trafficking

International Migrant Day – 18 December – was an appropriate day to review the latest research published in Anti-Trafficking Review, at a special event at the Royal Society of Edinburgh.

Published by the Global Alliance Against Traffic in Women (GAATW), a network of over 80 NGOs worldwide, this issue of the quarterly academic journal has been guest edited by Kiril Sharapov, an Associate Professor at Edinburgh Napier University’s School of Applied Sciences, and Suzanne Hoff, International Coordinator of La Strada International. Its focus is on public perceptions and responses to human trafficking.

The theme has emerged from research that identifies that many interventions, globally, are driven by assumptions or ignorance of the issue at a local level. Peter Olayiwola, a PhD student at Nottingham University highlighted that in Nigeria, which is the focus of his ongoing research, most NGO’s perceive the issue of trafficking to be driven by organised networks – a perception driven by the western donors most NGOs rely on to fund their programmes.

There is an obvious danger then that most interventions become necessarily time bound and focused around this single driver. But the reality for those working in exploited roles, many of whom Peter has interviewed directly, is that they are not trafficked into Nigeria by organised gangs, but taken advantage of in their own country, by those who would exploit the extreme poverty of their basic living conditions and the vulnerability it creates.

Caroline Robinson speaking at the launch of the Anti-Trafficking Review focused on Public Perceptions and Responses to Human Trafficking, at the Royal Society of Edinburgh 18 December 2019

Improving public awareness of the issues around trafficking is then, surely, a benefit?

As Kiril Sharapov and Suzanne Hoff write in their editorial however, the answer is not so clear cut. “Most awareness-raising messages continue to deliver simplistic narratives of ‘victims, villains, and heroes,’ while leaving the structural root causes of human trafficking and the systems of domination that underpin them intact.”

The range of research in this edition does point a way forward, and a focus on the broad range of root causes could do much to inform a better debate around how limited funds can be targeted. It is not uncommon for costly public awareness campaigns to be approved just as equivalent direct cuts to front line services are enforced. Strengthened labour inspection systems could also do much to impact the conditions under which currently exploited workers subsist, and anti-trafficking campaigns also need to call for labour protection in unregulated sectors, such as domestic work.

Ultimately, “those of us who hold the power of production and distribution of knowledge must let the people in vulnerable and exploitative situations… demand the change they need.”

Anti-Trafficking Review Issue 13, September 2019 ISSN 2286-7511

Exercise Prescription should be offered as part of cancer treatment

A global panel of exercise oncology experts published new guidance recommending the systematic use of an “exercise prescription” to help cancer patients cope with treatment side effects and lower the risk of developing certain cancers.

The American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM) convened the group, including Professor Anna Campbell from Edinburgh Napier’s School of Applied Sciences, from 17 international partner organisations. The group reviewed the latest scientific evidence and offered recommendations about the benefits of exercise for prevention, treatment, recovery and improved survival.

ACSM Immediate Past President Katie Schmitz, who co-chaired the panel, said: “With more than 43 million cancer survivors worldwide, we have a growing need to address the unique health issues facing people living with and beyond cancer and better understand how exercise may help prevent and control cancer. This multidisciplinary group of leaders at the forefront of exercise oncology aimed to translate the latest scientific evidence into practical recommendations for clinicians and the public and to create global impact through a unified voice.”

Edinburgh Napier’s Professor Campbell has been working in the area of exercise and cancer survivorship for 20 years – particularly in the area of implementation of exercise programmes after a cancer diagnosis.

She said: “These updated recommendations are designed to convince clinicians to refer and to help cancer patients to incorporate physical activity into their recuperation.  These papers demonstrate how much the area of exercise oncology has developed over the past five years in terms of the strength of evidence of the benefits of staying active after a cancer diagnosis, more clarity on specific guidelines and finally how to put a referral pathway and implementation of programmes into practice.”

Turning their theory into practice, Gary MacDougall, a 48-year-old man from Edinburgh who had been diagnosed with pancreatic cancer joined Professor Campbell and her team’s exercise-focused programme in April 2018. He claims that during his first six chemotherapy sessions he “became stronger and fitter.” Remarkably his tumour had shrunk to the point where he was eligible for surgery. He said “Whether it was chemotherapy, fitness, diet or just ‘hope’ – I believe they all played a part – the doctors were exceptionally surprised my tumour shrunk enough in those first six chemotherapy sessions and gave me the chance to have surgery. That operation was a year ago and after six further chemotherapy sessions I am still here, and my cancer markers are looking good.”

The new guidance and recommendations, for use by health care and fitness professionals when creating exercise programmes for cancer patients and survivors, include:

  • For all adults, exercise is important for cancer prevention and specifically lowers risk of seven common types of cancer: colon, breast, endometrial, kidney, bladder, esophagus and stomach.
  • For cancer survivors, incorporate exercise to help improve survival after a diagnosis of breast, colon and prostate cancer.
  • Exercising during and after cancer treatment improves fatigue, anxiety, depression, physical function, quality of life and does not exacerbate lymphedema.
  • Continue research that will drive the integration of exercise into the standard of care for cancer.
  • Translate into practice the increasingly robust evidence base about the positive effects of exercise for cancer patients.

Organisations represented on the international panel include the American Cancer Society, the US-based National Cancer Institute, the Canadian Society of Exercise Physiology, Macmillan Cancer Support and the German Union for Health Exercise.

Full details of the review and recommendations are outlined in three academic papers published in two scientific journals.  Edinburgh Napier’s Professor Campbell co-authored “Exercise Is Medicine in Oncology: Engaging Clinicians to Help Patients Move Through Cancer,” which was published in CA: A Cancer Journal for Clinicians, a flagship journal of the American Cancer Society.

Former Scotland rugby coach reflects on his time at Edinburgh Napier and discusses his new All Blacks role

Ben Fisher may not be the most recognisable name in the sport of rugby but he may well be one of the most influential. After a successful career playing for Boroughmuir RFC and Edinburgh Rugby, Ben took his experience and knowledge to the training grounds, where he has coached Scotland U16, U18 and U20 teams, as well as working as an Academy Manager and Coach for Scottish Rugby for 10 years. While Ben has been instrumental in the development of Scotland’s 2019 Rugby World Cup squad he’s now changed his navy blue colours for an “All Black” one. Upon graduating from Edinburgh Napier University in 2018 with a Master’s degree in Sports Performance Management, Ben was offered the role as a High-Performance Talent Development Manager for the famous New Zealand national rugby union team, also known as the All Blacks.

Ben’s new position within the All Blacks setup sees him managing the 14-strong Provincial Union Academy structure across New Zealand.  He said, “We have around 400 players in those academies, aged 18 – 21. I work to ensure the players’ holistic development is catered for and that the curriculum delivered in the academies, and personalised player development plans are all of a high standard. The aim is to ensure a steady supply of high-quality professional players; great people, and future winning All Blacks.” Other parts of his role see him perform ambassadorial duties, as he recently embarked on a trip to Japan, ahead of the Rugby World Cup, to represent the All Blacks on promotional duty.

While the All Blacks are currently in Japan, looking to retain the World Cup for a third consecutive time – a feat that has been unrivalled so far – Ben believes his time at Edinburgh Napier has prepared him for such a high-profile position. He said “I chose to study at Edinburgh Napier University as it offered an excellent programme that was tailored to fit the needs of my learning. The university is very supportive of Rugby in general and its collaboration with Scottish Rugby is excellent. They help develop coaches and players in Scotland via the Edinburgh Academy partnership, the UKSS Level 4 coaching course, and also two Super 6 teams.

During my time at university, I learned a lot of new skills and the course also reinforced a lot of the things that I was doing. Critical analysis and reflection skills were well practised, to dig deep into what I do as a practitioner and why. As a coach, you take on a wide range of roles and the course helped to broaden my understanding of sports psychology, pedagogy, leadership and talent development environments. It was excellent to be able to talk and share experiences with other students and the relationships I formed through my research helped to open my eyes to new ideas and gave me confidence in my own coaching behaviour. This has now given me the confidence to challenge current practice based on what I learnt in the course and the experience I gained in my research.”

After many successful years in Scotland, Ben is now back in his native New Zealand, with his family, a globally recognised Master’s degree, and a highly sought-after position at one of the most successful sport squads of all time. So, what would he recommend for anyone who may be interested in following a similar path? “Experience. Gain as much experience as possible through working, but also volunteering in your community.  Learning doesn’t stop: so listen, read, watch and most of all ask people about what they do and why. Don’t be afraid to share your ideas. The more you share, the more the ideas will grow & develop and refine.”

Understanding the health benefits of exercise and physical activity

Due to the prevalence of long-term health conditions in our modern society, and our developing understanding of the health benefits of exercise and physical activity, there is an important need to develop highly skilled postgraduates in Clinical Exercise Science.

The School of Applied Sciences at Edinburgh Napier University has a unique course that can provide the specialised, evidence-based, clinical exercise science knowledge, and the applied skills required to work with both healthy and clinical populations.

On the MSc in Clinical Exercise Science you can expect to learn about many long-term conditions such as diabetes, cardiovascular diseases, neurological conditions and different types of cancer and the role that physical activity and exercise can play in both the prevention and treatment of such conditions.

We want our students to have as much hands on experience as possible, to enhance their career prospects. With that in mind the Clinical Exercise Science MSc includes a large practical component where students will learn to run exercise tests, screen patients, prescribe exercise programmes and learn motivational interviewing techniques. We think it is important that our graduates not only know the physiology of exercise and physical activity, but also have an excellent understanding of what motivates people and how people can be helped to incorporate physical activity and exercise into their lives. Clearly we are very concerned with research, but more importantly we are concerned with the impact that research has in the real world and what this does for the health of both general and clinical populations. The most important thing that a clinical exercise scientist does is make a positive difference to peoples’ lives. This course will give you the knowledge and skills required to go out and do this confidently.

Whether your background is sport/exercise science, psychology, physical activity and health or perhaps you work as a healthcare professional we want to hear from you. Our students come from a very wide variety of backgrounds. In addition to your academic qualifications you will also be given the opportunity to sit the REPS and CIMSPA Validated Level 4 Cancer and Exercise examinations. We want to offer you learning experiences which will enable you to be in the best possible position to exploit the increasing career opportunities as an exercise professional, whether as a physical activity coordinator, a health and well-being physiologist; a clinical exercise physiologist or an exercise referral coordinator.

Dr Melanie Leggate PhD, Programme Leader MSc Clinical Exercise Science

Research targets a cheap and fast method for rapid environmental assessment in coastal restoration

Mangroves protect the coastline. Here we can see old trees that protect the coast of Bunaken island in north Sulawesi, Indonesia.

Marco Fusi is a post-doctoral fellow in a research group led by Dr Karen Diele at Edinburgh Napier University. He completed his PhD at the University of Milan, studying mangroves and other coastal ecosystems around the Indian Ocean, in countries such as Sri Lanka, Seychelles, Kenya, Mozambique and South Africa.

Following his PhD, Marco has continued studying mangroves, with his post-doctoral fellowship research focusing on the Red Sea mangrove and seagrasses ecosystem.

Marco believes marine life is a natural laboratory, where environmental stressors shape and guide the evolution of life, especially in the light of the dramatic changes led by rapid global warming; and he has a strong passion towards his subject. His most current research project is the NERC project 2018-2021 – As Good as (G)old, which is led by Dr Karen Diele at Edinburgh Napier University.

The aim is to understand the ecological processes in coastal restoration. This will be achieved by comparing coastal areas in North Sulawesi, Indonesia that were previously exploited by intensive and unregulated shrimp farming activity, but which have now been restored to natural mangroves.

The project involves a diverse and multi-disciplinary team made up of scientists from both the UK and Indonesia who aim to understand the biological process that characterise restored mangroves in depth, in order to assess if they regain the full functionality of the natural mangrove.

Marco hopes the research project will deliver two major achievements. The first is to deliver a high impact case study on how the restoration process affects the ecological interaction amongst the species that live in the mangrove – from animals to bacteria.

The second major achievement would be to develop a cheap and fast method for rapid environmental assessment in coastal restoration.

The hope is to implement a conservation strategy that is able to monitor the health of the mangrove ecosystem to protect the sea and the people living nearby.

“Marine life is a natural laboratory where environmental stressors shape and guide the evolution of life, especially in the light of the dramatic changes led by rapid global warming.”

Left: Mangrove root create the right habitat to act as nursery habitat of fishes. In this picture you can see little cardinal fishes that find shelter among the mangrove roots.

Right: Mangrove root host a very diverse community of marine species. In this picture you can see a rich community of algae, sponges, tunicates that lives on a mangrove root. Bu creating structurally complex habitat they enhance the marine biodiversity.

 

Make a positive difference to peoples’ lives through Clinical Exercise Science

Due to the prevalence of long-term health conditions in our modern society, and our developing understanding of the health benefits of exercise and physical activity, there is an important need to develop highly skilled postgraduates in Clinical Exercise Science.

To enhance your career prospects, Edinburgh Napier has developed a unique course that will provide you with specialised, evidence-based, clinical exercise science knowledge, as well as plenty of hands on experience and the applied skills required to work with both healthy and clinical populations.

On this course you can expect to learn about many long-term conditions such as diabetes, cardiovascular diseases, neurological conditions and different types of cancer and the role that physical activity and exercise can play in both the prevention and treatment of such conditions.

We want our students to have as much hands on experience as possible. With that in mind the Clinical Exercise Science MSc includes a large practical component where you will learn to run exercise tests, screen patients, prescribe exercise programmes and learn motivational interviewing techniques. We think it is important that our graduates not only know the physiology of exercise and physical activity, but also have an excellent understanding of what motivates people and how you can help people to incorporate physical activity and exercise into their lives. Clearly we are very concerned with research, but more importantly we are concerned with the impact that research has in the real world and what this does for the health of both general and clinical populations. The most important thing that a clinical exercise scientist does is make a positive difference to peoples’ lives. This course will give you the knowledge and skills required to go out and do this confidently.

This course is designed to allow our students to gain the professional skills and knowledge that are required to work in the area of Clinical Exercise Science.

Whether your background is sport/exercise science, psychology, physical activity and health or perhaps you work as a healthcare professional we want to hear from you. Our students come from a very wide variety of backgrounds. In addition to your academic qualifications you will also be given the opportunity to sit the REPS and CIMSPA Validated Level 4 Cancer and Exercise examinations. We want to offer you learning experiences which will enable you to be in the best possible position to exploit the increasing career opportunities as an exercise professional, whether as a physical activity coordinator, a health and well-being physiologist; a clinical exercise physiologist or an exercise referral coordinator.

Get more details: https://www.napier.ac.uk/courses/msc-clinical-exercise-science-postgraduate-fulltime