Lisa Collins Multi-million pound project to examine the resilience of UK pig industry     

More than £2 million has been awarded to scientists at the University of Lincoln to lead the most comprehensive study of the British pig industry ever conducted.

As part of the Global Food Security (GFS) programme, which examines the resilience of the UK food system in a global context, the project will bring together all existing data with new scientific studies to accurately build an overview of the entire industry.

Led by Principal Investigator Dr Lisa Collins, Reader in the School of Life Sciences at the University of Lincoln, the project represents a major collaboration between academia and industry. Project partners include the University of Reading, University of Leeds and the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine, as well as the Agriculture and Horticulture Development Board, Red Tractor, large-scale producers, pig veterinarians and government executive agencies for animal health.     

New insights into motion-based video game design♦  Dr-Kathrin-Gerling

Computer games controlled through wheelchair movements have the potential to improve quality of life for young people with severe mobility impairments but more needs to be done to consider the needs and preferences of players in game design, new research shows.

Computer scientists from the University of Lincoln, UK, the University of Copenhagen, Denmark, and University College Cork, Ireland, worked with a leading special needs school in Lincoln to examine whether new motion-based gaming technologies and interactive design approaches could make video games more accessible and appealing for children who use powered wheelchairs.

Lead researcher Dr Kathrin Gerling, Senior Lecturer in the University of Lincoln’s School of Computer Science, said young people with special needs often experience barriers when trying to engage in leisure activities, including motion-based video games. She and her co-researchers have previously developed a system called KINECTWheels, which integrates existing motion sensor gaming technology with powered wheelchair controls.

British Council grant supports research into sustainable future for Egypt

Aswan, EgyptGrant funding from the British Council will enable an international team of researchers to address pressing environmental issues affecting poor communities living in underdeveloped areas of Egypt.

Dr Amira Elnokaly, Programme Leader for MSc Sustainable Architectural Design at the University of Lincoln, UK, has been awarded £40,000 to establish a research network for generating new sustainable design strategies and approaches, which will focus on improving the social welfare of low and middle-income communities and benefitting poor and vulnerable populations in urban areas of Egypt.

Video games in care homes: connecting older adults, or exposing age-related vulnerability?Dr Kathrin Gerling

Introducing video games as a means of bringing older adults in long-term care together may not always be an easy task, according to new research. Previous studies have shown the positive effects of motion-based video games, such as those available on the Nintendo Wii or Microsoft Kinect systems, on the cognitive, physical and emotional well-being of older adults in long-term residential care. However, offering stimulating and accessible leisure activities such as this can be difficult for care providers as the impact of age-related changes and impairments on residents grows. A new study has for the first time examined the practical challenges and opportunities that arise when games are integrated into activities for different groups of older people living in long-term care facilities.

Dr Kathrin Gerling, from the School of Computer Science at the University of Lincoln, UK, led the project, which was carried out in collaboration with Dr Regan Mandryk at the University of Saskatchewan, Canada, and Dr Conor Linehan at University College Cork, Ireland.

Children can be trained to improve recognition of other people’s emotions

Recognisning%20emotionsChildren can learn to better recognise other people’s emotions through games which emphasise the significance of the eyes and the mouth in conveying feelings, new research has shown. The study by cognitive neuroscientists at the University of Lincoln, UK, suggests that simple training programmes could help children better understand which expressive facial features offer the most important cues to other people’s emotional state.It is hoped the findings, published in the peer reviewed science journal PLOS ONE, could lead to new or improved interventions for children and adults who have difficulty recognising emotional states in others. Dr Petra Pollux, a cognitive neuroscientist from the University of Lincoln’s School of Psychology, said: “How we recognise and process facial expressions plays a big part in our social interaction skills. We’ve all experienced walking into a room, looking around and immediately understanding that something has happened, and that’s because we’re reading the expressions on people’s faces.”

Remote sensing for diagnostics

Yu ZhangResearch at the University of Lincoln’s School of Engineering is currently being carried out into new techniques of machine fault detection. The project, entitled Remote Sensing for Diagnostics and Prognostics on Industrial Gas Turbines, has been undertaken by Dr. Yu Zhang, a Research Fellow in the School of Engineering, with the support of Siemens Industrial Turbomachinery, Lincoln. Machine fault detection has been an essential part in industrial control systems to assure operational reliability, quality and safety. Electronic equipment now supports almost every technical device and appliance to help a user or operator, with sensors taking the role of localized ‘eyes and ears’, which are of special importance for industrial application. Sensor fault detection has therefore also attracted considerable recent attention, due to the benefits of reducing down-time and loss of productivity. This project aims to work on machine- and sensor-fault detection for industrial gas turbine systems based on signal processing techniques.

Researching renal disease in diabetes sufferers
A stained kidney cell

Understanding and ultimately preventing renal damage in diabetes sufferers is a key aim for two new academics at the University of Lincoln, UK.
Professor Paul Squires and Dr Claire Hills, who both came from the University of Warwick, have joined the School of Life Sciences in the new multi-million pound state-of-the-art Joseph Banks Laboratories. Their joint research aims to better understand the sub-cellular mechanisms that regulate how people with diabetes can end up with diabetic nephropathy (kidney disease).
First evidence that reptiles can learn through imitation
Norbertright Samantha PenriceNew research has for the first time provided evidence that reptiles could be capable of social learning through imitation.
The ability to acquire new skills through the ‘true imitation’ of others’ behaviour is thought to be unique to humans and advanced primates, such as chimpanzees.
Scientists draw an important distinction between imitation and emulation when studying the cognitive abilities of animals. In true imitation, the individual ‘copying’ another’s behaviour not only mimics what they see, but also understands the intention behind the action. In emulation, an animal copies a behaviour without understanding its deeper significance: for example, a parrot reciting the words of its owner. [Photo: Norbert. Credit: Samantha Penrice]
Some dogs find kennels exciting, not stressful
Dog in kennel. Credit: Jerry Green Dog Rescue

New research suggests that dogs who spend a short time in boarding kennels may not find it unduly stressful and could in fact find the change of scenery exciting.
This hypothesis directly contradicts previous research which suggests that dogs experience acute stress following admission to kennels, and chronic stress in response to prolonged kennelling.
The study, published in the journal Physiology & Behavior, also suggests that dogs may even view kennelling as an exciting change of scene, at least in the short-term.
The lived experience of asthma

Jaqui AC DartmoorResearchers from the University of Lincoln’s Health Advancement Research Team (HART), directed by Dr Jacquelyn Allen-Collinson, have recently commenced an interdisciplinary, multi-institutional research project, which aims to undertake an exploratory, phenomenological investigation into sportspeople and serious exercisers’ lived experience of asthma and asthma self-care. The project is being contributed to by a number of HART team members, including Dr. Jacquelyn Allen-Collinson (PI), Dr. Lee Crust, Dr. Adam Evans and Ms Rachel Williams. The team also includes Dr. Helen Owton of De Montfort University and Professor Niro Siriwardena from the University of Lincoln’s School of Health and Social Care.

The project aims to help improve the health and wellbeing of asthma sufferers by identifying factors influencing participants’ adherence to asthma treatments and to self-care prescribed by healthcare professionals. By analysing and understanding how the lived experience of asthma might impact upon individuals’ engagement with prescribed asthma treatments and self-care, it aims to enhance GPs’ and other healthcare professionals’ understanding of the lived experience of asthma from the perspective of patients, so as to promote the provision of more targeted and appropriate treatments and self-care plans.

Tortoises master touchscreen technology
Wilhelmina Peter BaumberTortoises have learned how to use touchscreens as part of a study which aimed to teach the animals navigational techniques.
The research, which was led by Dr Anna Wilkinson, from the School of Life Sciences, involved red-footed tortoises, which are native to Central and South America. The brain structure of reptiles is very different to that of mammals, which use the hippocampus for spatial navigation.
Instead, it is thought that the reptilian medial cortex serves as a homologue, however very little behavioural work has actually examined this. To understand how tortoises learn to navigate around their environment, the researchers tested how the reptiles relied on cues to get around [Photo: Wilhelmina. Credit: Peter Baumber]
Changing the reward – understanding the response

Sarah EllisBBSRC grant-funded research into developing an understanding of how animals respond to unexpected changes in rewards is being carried out by Dr Sarah Ellis, a Research Fellow in the School of Life Sciences. Her work, entitled Sensitivity to reward change: a novel cognitive approach to understanding and measuring affective state in animals, aims to gain a greater awareness of how animals respond to unexpected changes in a range of rewards, whether they be an unexpected loss of a preferred to a non-preferred food reward, or an unexpected gain of contact with a preferred person over a non-preferred person.  “What is really exciting is seeing whether such changes in response are influenced by the animals’ background emotional state,” Sarah explains, “I very much enjoy being part of a research team whose goal is to improve animal welfare through their research practice.”

Paint box pigments from the early 19th century – are they for real?

Dr Lynda Skipper 3Researchers from the University of Lincoln are working to determine whether pigments found in an early 19th Century paint box are the original pigments, or later replacements. The work is being carried out by Dr Lynda Skipper from the School of Art and Design (Conservation and Restoration), alongside Natalia Sancho Cubino – a conservation volunteer within the School.

The paint box is believed to have belonged to British portrait artist John Opie, presented to him by the Royal Academy in 1806, a year before his death. Opie was made Professor of the Royal Academy in 1805.

New research to explore genetic causes of aggressive behaviour in dogs Dogs walking
A new study by academics at the University of Lincoln, UK, is looking at genetic factors that may contribute to impulsive aggression in dogs. Some dogs may be predisposed to act aggressively with little warning, which can lead to people being injured and the dogs then being rejected by their owners and euthanised without treatment.
Life Sciences PhD student Fernanda Fadel is trying to identify the genetic risk factors of dog aggression. She said: “While aggressive behaviour is a normal part of every animal’s make up, it is important to identify individuals who represent a higher risk, in order to manage this risk effectively”.


Students present at world-leading conference  

Nicole and Ami in New Jersey

Two Life Sciences PhD students were chosen to present their research at an international conference for analytical chemists.
Ami Pass and Nicole Fielding were two out of 16 students invited to give a talk in the Heritage Science section of the Eastern Analytical Symposium and Exposition (EAS2013) in New Jersey, US.
The EAS is one of the largest analytical chemistry conferences on the US East Coast, and is held each year to provide professional scientists and students continuing education in the analytical and allied sciences through symposia of research papers, workshops and short courses.


Leading the way in analysis of ‘legal highs’

BZP crystals under a light microscope

A testing method to identify substances in ‘legal highs’ devised by a research team from the School of Life Sciences, is being used in drug analysis laboratories across the world. Leonie Elie has been involved in research to improve and modernise the techniques used in microcrystalline testing. The research group has published microcrystalline tests for three relatively new substances and legal highs, including mephedrone, MDAI and BZP.


Teaching children to stay safe around dogs 

Child and dogChild development experts have launched a major new research project aimed at reducing the risks of young children being bitten by dogs.

Dr Kerstin Meints from the School of Psychology at the University of Lincoln, UK, is leading the study, which examines how children aged three to five interpret the warning signs dogs display when they feel threatened of distressed.

Does owning a dog improve your health?

Do dogs improve physical health?Animal behaviour experts are investigating whether dog ownership could bring physical benefits to the lives of older people.Academics from the University of Lincoln and Glasgow Caledonian University are investigating healthy activity patterns and sedentary behaviour among older people who own dogs.
The teams were given the award for their proposal to investigate this important topic by the International Society of Anthrozoology and WALTHAM®, as part of a competitive call for research proposals into human-animal interactions, with a particular focus on the role pets play in the lives of older adults.


Can you love cats too much?
A cat at homeA study into cat ownership looks at whether people who own an excessive number of cats are on the slippery slope to becoming animal hoarders.
The research investigated whether owners of 20 or more cats were more likely to share the often detrimental psychological and demographic profile of animal hoarders, compared to owners of one or two cats.
Dr Sarah Ellis, from the University of Lincoln’s School of Life Sciences, was a co-author on the paper which was published in Human-Animal Interaction Bulletin.The study was carried out in collaboration with the University of São Paulo, Brazil.


Combating threat from mercury in museums
Dr Vicky PurewalA safe and cheap procedure to aid the reduction of harmful levels of toxic pesticides in museums’ plant specimens has been discovered. Historically, museums applied pesticides to botanical materials to prevent insect and fungal damage, commonly using highly toxic compounds of mercury and arsenic. These poisons remain in the collections today, potentially causing serious health and safety concerns in museums across the world. School of Life Sciences academic Professor Belinda Colston and PhD graduate Dr Vicky Purewal have now developed an innovative and economical method to detect harmful mercury in preserved plant specimens.


First ever UK-based language tool to decode baby talk

Toys for child language learning

A tool which could radically improve the diagnosis of language delays in infants in the UK is being developed by psychologists.
A £358,000 grant to develop the first standardised UK speech and language development tool means that for the first time, researchers will be able to establish language development norms for UK children aged eight months to 18 months.


Does working full-time affect your dog?

Dog with laptop

Animal behaviour experts from the University of Lincoln are looking for dog owners who work full-time to take part in a survey about what usually happens to their pets while they are out at work.
Many dog owners who work full-time have to decide what to do with their pet during the working day. Some leave their dogs at home, some take them to work, while others may make alternative arrangements such as utilising dog day care or dog walking services.