University of St Andrews
  • Saint Andrews, Scotland, United Kingdom
Recent publications
Medieval settlements in Iceland and Greenland were vulnerable to changes in spring (April-June) snow cover duration and depth. These would have adversely affected the viability of their pastoral farming systems, but the impact would have been spatially variable. We use a physical-based model of snow distribution and melt to model spring snow cover and depth at a scale relevant to human activities across four sites: southern and northern Iceland, and inner and middle fjord sites in South Greenland, using both present day and simulated climate data from the HadCM3 GCM-model. Our climate scenarios cover the period CE 1000–1500, encompassing a climate shift to cooler conditions. We find that under average present climate conditions the inner fjord site in Greenland has similar spring snow conditions to sites in Iceland, but that the middle fjord site has notably greater snow cover, and as climate cools spring snow cover at this site becomes extensive (>60 days). The largest increase in snow cover duration between current average climate conditions and the coolest climate scenarios (47 days increase) is experienced at our Iceland sites. Inner and middle fjord sites in Greenland diverge in terms of snow cover under all scenarios, a potential driver of the growing importance of marine wild resources and the end of the Norse Greenland settlement.
This is the fourth data paper publishing lightcurve survey work of 52 Near Earth Asteroids (NEAs) using 10 telescopes available to the EURONEAR network between 2017 and 2020. Forty six targets were not observed before our runs (88% of the sample) but some of these were targeted during the same oppositions mainly by Brian Warner. We propose new periods for 20 targets (38% of the sample), confirming published data for 20 targets, while our results for 8 targets do not match published data. We secured periods for 15 targets (29% of the sample), candidate periods for 23 objects (44%), tentative periods for 11 asteroids (21%), and have derived basic information about 3 targets (6% of the sample). We calculated the lower limit of the ellipsoid shape ratios a/b for 46 NEAs (including 13 PHAs). We confirmed or suggested 4 binary objects, recommending two of them for follow-up during future dedicated campaigns.
Understanding the affective lives of animals has been a long-standing challenge in science. Recent technological progress in infrared thermal imaging has enabled researchers to monitor animals' physiological states in real-time when exposed to ecologically relevant situations, such as feeding in the company of others. During social feeding, an individual's physiological states are likely to vary with the nature of the resource and perceptions of competition. Previous findings in chimpanzees have indicated that events perceived as competitive cause decreases in nasal temperatures, whereas the opposite was observed for cooperative interactions. Here, we tested how food resources and audience structure impacted on how social feeding events were perceived by wild chimpanzees. Overall, we found that nasal temperatures were lower when meat was consumed as compared to figs, consistent with the idea that social feeding on more contested resources is perceived as more dangerous and stressful. Nasal temperatures were significant affected by interactions between food type and audience composition, in particular the number of males, their dominance status, and their social bond status relative to the subject, while no effects for the presence of females were observed. Our findings suggest that male chimpanzees closely monitor and assess their social environment during competitive situations, and that infrared imaging provides an important complement to access psychological processes beyond observable social behaviours. This article is part of the theme issue ‘Cognition, communication and social bonds in primates’.
Opinion piece: ape gestures are made intentionally, inviting parallels with human language; but how similar are their gestures to words? Here we ask this in three ways, considering: flexibility and ambiguity, first- and second-order intentionality, and usage in interactive exchanges. Many gestures are used to achieve several, often very distinct, goals. Such apparent ambiguity in meaning is potentially disruptive for communication, but—as with human language—situational and interpersonal context may largely resolve the intended meaning. Our evidence for first-order intentional use of gesture is abundant, but how might we establish a case for the second-order intentional use critical to language? Finally, words are rarely used in tidy signal–response sequences but are exchanged in back-and-forth interaction. Do gestures share this property? In this paper, we examine these questions and set out ways in which they can be resolved, incorporating data from wild chimpanzees. This article is part of the theme issue ‘Cognition, communication and social bonds in primates’.
Understanding humans' motivation and capacity for social interaction requires understanding communicative gestures. Gestures are one of the earliest means that infants employ to communicate with others, and showing and giving are among the earliest-emerging gestures. However, there are limited data on the processes that lead up to the emergence of conventional showing and giving gestures. This study aimed to provide such data. Twenty-five infants were assessed longitudinally at monthly intervals from 6 to 10 months of age using a variety of methods (elicitation procedures, free play observations and maternal interviews), as well as via questionnaires conducted at 11–12 months. A particular focus was on pre-conventional, incipient gestures , behaviours that involved some components of conventional gestures, but lacked other important components. We present observational evidence that at least some of these behaviours (observed as early as 7 months of age) were communicative and make the case for how conventional showing and giving may emerge gradually in the context of social interactions. We also discuss the influence of maternal interpretations of these early behaviours on their development. Overall, the study seeks to draw attention to the importance of understanding the cognitive, motor and interactional processes that lead to the emergence of infants’ earliest communicative gestures. This article is part of the theme issue ‘Revisiting the human ‘interaction engine’: comparative approaches to social action coordination’.
The Interaction Engine Hypothesis postulates that humans have a unique ability and motivation for social interaction. A crucial juncture in the ontogeny of the interaction engine could be around 2–4 years of age, but observational studies of children in natural contexts are limited. These data appear critical also for comparison with non-human primates. Here, we report on focal observations on 31 children aged 2- and 4-years old in four preschools (10 h per child). Children interact with a wide range of partners, many infrequently, but with one or two close friends. Four-year olds engage in cooperative social interactions more often than 2-year olds and fight less than 2-year olds. Conversations and playing with objects are the most frequent social interaction types in both age groups. Children engage in social interactions with peers frequently (on average 13 distinct social interactions per hour) and briefly (28 s on average) and shorter than those of great apes in comparable studies. Their social interactions feature entry and exit phases about two-thirds of the time, less frequently than great apes. The results support the Interaction Engine Hypothesis, as young children manifest a remarkable motivation and ability for fast-paced interactions with multiple partners. This article is part of the theme issue ‘Revisiting the human ‘interaction engine’: comparative approaches to social action coordination’.
Joint commitment, the feeling of mutual obligation binding participants in a joint action, is typically conceptualized as arising by the expression and acceptance of a promise. This account limits the possibilities of investigating fledgling forms of joint commitment in actors linguistically less well-endowed than adult humans. The feeling of mutual obligation is one aspect of joint commitment (the product ), which emerges from a process of signal exchange. It is gradual rather than binary; feelings of mutual obligation can vary in strength according to how explicit commitments are perceived to be. Joint commitment processes are more complex than simple promising, in at least three ways. They are affected by prior joint actions, which create precedents and conventions that can be embodied in material arrangements of institutions. Joint commitment processes also arise as solutions to generic coordination problems related to opening up, maintaining and closing down joint actions. Finally, during joint actions, additional, specific commitments are made piecemeal. These stack up over time and persist, making it difficult for participants to disengage from joint actions. These complexifications open up new perspectives for assessing joint commitment across species. This article is part of the theme issue ‘Revisiting the human ‘interaction engine’: comparative approaches to social action coordination’.
This study aimed to examine the association between socioeconomic status (SES) and self-rated health (SRH) among US adults and the extent to which blood and urinary metal mixtures explain this association. We used 14 years of repeated cross-sectional data that consists of seven consecutive NHANES cycles from 2003 to 2016 (n = 9497). SRH was measured using a 5-point Likert scale, and SES was measured by family income to poverty ratio (FMPIR), levels of education, and employment status. Blood concentration of lead, mercury, and cadmium, and urinary concentrations of ten heavy metals (arsenic, barium, cadmium, cesium, cobalt, lead, mercury, molybdenum, thallium, tungsten) were used as metal mixtures. The total effect of SES on SRH was examined by linear regression model. The direct effect of SES on blood and urinary metal mixtures was examined by the weighted quantile sum (WQS) regression with repeated holdout validation method, and the average causal mediation effects of blood and urinary metal mixtures were examined by model-based causal mediation technique. Results showed that SES indicators [education β: 0.17; 95% Confidence Interval (CI): 0.15, 0.18; employment β: 0.16; 95% CI: 0.12, 0.21; and FMPIR β: 0.09; 95% CI: 0.08, 0.11] were significantly positively, and the WQS indices of blood and urine metal mixtures (blood β: −0.04; 95% CI: − 0.05, − 0.03, urine β: − 0.07; 95% CI: − 0.13, − 0.004) were significantly inversely associated with SRH in the US adults. The novel finding was the mechanism between SES and SRH that exposure to heavy metals may explain socioeconomic inequalities in SRH in the US general population. Longitudinal studies are needed to corroborate this study results.
About a third of all marine fish in the world are caught in Small-Scale Fisheries (SSF). SSF are increasingly recognised as essential for food security and livelihoods for vulnerable and economically fragile communities globally. Although individual SSF vessels are usually perceived as having little impact on the ecosystem, the cumulative impact of gear type and number of vessels may be substantial. Bottom trawling is a common fishing method that can greatly influence the marine ecosystem by damaging the seafloor and generating high levels of discards. However, appropriate sampling coverage using on-board observer programmes to collect these data from SSF are rare, as they are expensive and pose logistical constraints. A mobile App was used to assess whether self-reporting by fishers could provide reliable fine-scale information on fishing effort and discards over time in an illegal shrimp trawling fishery in northern Peru. Maps depicting the spatial distribution of trawling effort and the proportion of discards from observers and fishers were compared using the Similarity in Means (SIM) Index, which ranges from 0 when spatial patterns differ completely to 1 when spatial patterns are very similar. High levels of agreement between spatio-temporal patterns of effort (SIM Index = 0.81) and discards (0.96) were found between fisher and observer maps. Moreover, far greater spatial coverage was accomplished by fishers, suggesting that self-reporting via an App represents a useful approach to collect reliable fisheries data as an initial step for effective monitoring and management of these fisheries. Supplementary information: The online version contains supplementary material available at 10.1007/s11160-022-09708-9.
Several populations of odontocete cetaceans, including at least 19 species, have modified their behavior and adapted to foraging in association with trawlers. We review information on odontocete interactions with different types of trawlers across 13 Food and Agriculture Organization fishing areas around the world. We also review knowledge gaps, the effects on odontocete ecology, distribution, behavior and social organization, the main mitigation options, and some management avenues that could help reduce incidental mortality. Trawlers involved in the interactions varied greatly in gear and target species, implying odontocetes have developed behavioral specializations to forage under a variety of conditions. Specialized behavior included venturing into a moving trawl net to feed on the organisms trapped in the net, feeding on fish stirred up by the net, extracting fish from the outer mesh, feeding on catch lost during hauling, and scavenging on discarded catch. Foraging behind trawlers facilitates access to prey, and in some instances may compensate for scarcity of natural prey within areas exposed to intensive fishing or environmental degradation. This opportunistic foraging strategy, however, exposes the animals to potential harm and mortality in trawl gear. The combined effect of facilitated foraging and bycatch on the status and trends of odontocete populations is unknown. The economic damage caused by odontocetes, e.g. in terms of loss of marketable catch and gear damage, remains largely conjectural. Attempts to reduce depredation and/or bycatch in trawl gear have included acoustic deterrents and exclusion devices installed in nets, although neither technique has proven to be consistently effective. --- https://doi.org/10.1007/s11160-022-09712-z
Attentional set shifting is a core part of cognition, allowing quick and flexible adaption to new demands. The study of its development during early childhood has been hampered by a shortage of measures not requiring language. This article argues for a revival of the Intradimensional/Extradimensional (ID/ED) shift task by presenting a new nonverbal version of the task (Shifting Tray task). Children (N = 95 3- to 5-year-olds; 49 girls; predominantly European White) were presented with pairs of trays, each filled with a substrate and an upside-down cup on top, and were asked to find stickers. In the pre-switch phase, children learned (through trial and error) which dimension (substrate or cup) was predictive of the rewards. In the post-switch phase, all stimuli were exchanged. For children in the intradimensional shift condition, the dimension predictive of the sticker was the same as the one predictive in the pre-switch phase. For children in the extradimensional shift condition, the previously irrelevant dimension was now relevant. Results showed that most 3-year-olds were able to switch, and older children did not outperform younger children. The easy and flexible nature of the task allows researchers to investigate the impact of labels and instructions and to use it in cross-cultural and comparative research.
We use the newly introduced spanning stress tensor trajectory Uσ-space construction within next generation quantum theory of atoms in molecules (NG-QTAIM) for a chirality investigation of singly and doubly substituted ethane with halogen substituents: F, Cl, Br. Singly substituted ethane was overall achiral comprising cancelling chiral components in Uσ-space. The resultant axial bond critical point (BCP) sliding responded more strongly to the increase in atomic number of the substituted halogen than the chirality. The presence of the very light F atom was found responsible for a very high degree of achiral character of the doubly substituted ethane.
The Cryogenian-Ediacaran transition represents a pivotal geological period in the evolution of global climate, ocean chemistry, and early organisms. The transition is concurrent with the change from Marinoan glacial deposits to overlying cap carbonate/dolomite, which is followed by the appearance of novel animal and algae fossils. Unusual carbon cycling during the deposition of cap carbonate/dolomite is recorded by prominent negative carbonate carbon isotope (δ¹³Ccarb) anomalies. The mechanisms which drove melting of the Marinoan icesheets remain uncertain. To explore the cause of this dramatic climate warming and its effect on oceanic biogeochemical cycles, we measured Hg concentrations and isotopes, along with major and trace elements, of the sedimentary succession across the Cryogenian-Ediacaran boundary at the Jiulongwan and Huajipo sections, South China. Hg concentrations show spikes with a ∼ 2 times increase at the top of the Marinoan Nantuo Formation at both sections, which are likely associated with organic matter drawdown rather than enhanced volcanism as indicated by increased TOC contents and similar Hg isotopic signature as those of background Hg deposition. A conspicuous negative shift in δ²⁰²Hg along with a positive shift in Δ¹⁹⁹Hg are observed in the cap dolomite of the Doushantuo Formation at both sections, which are ascribed to contribution of Hg from anoxic deep water and Hg associated with dissolved organic carbon (Hg-DOC), due to upwelling and oceanic oxygenation after deglaciation. Our Hg data argue against a sudden large igneous province (LIP) event causing Marinoan deglaciation. Results also indicate enhanced upwelling and oceanic oxygenation event during the Cryogenian to Ediacaran transition.
Solvent accessibilities of and distances between protein residues measured by pulsed-EPR approaches provide high-resolution information on dynamic protein motions. We describe protocols for the purification and site-directed spin labeling of integral membrane proteins. In our protocol, peptide-level HDX-MS is used as a precursor to guide single-residue resolution ESEEM accessibility measurements and spin labeling strategies for EPR applications. Exploiting the pentameric MscL channel as a model, we discuss the use of cwEPR, DEER/PELDOR, and ESEEM spectroscopies to interrogate membrane protein dynamics. For complete details on the use and execution of this protocol, please refer to Wang et al. (2022).
Background There remains a considerable concern among both patients and oncologists that having a live birth (LB) after breast cancer might adversely impact survival. Methods analysis of survival in a national cohort of women with breast cancer diagnosed at age 20–39 years between 1981 and 2017 (n = 5181), and subsequent LB using Scottish Cancer Registry and national maternity records. Cases had at least one subsequent LB, each was matched with up to six unexposed cases without subsequent LB, accounting for guaranteed time bias. Results In 290 women with a LB after diagnosis, overall survival was increased compared to those who did not have a subsequent LB, HR 0.65 (95%CI 0.50–0.85). Women with subsequent LB who had not had a pregnancy before breast cancer showed increased survival (HR 0.56, 0.38–0.82). There was a progressively greater interaction of subsequent LB with survival with younger age, thus for women aged 20–25 years, HR 0.30 (0.12–0.74) vs. those aged 36–39, HR 0.89 (0.42–1.87). In women with LB within five years of diagnosis, survival was also increased (HR 0.66; 0.49–0.89). Survival following LB was similar to unexposed women by ER status (both positive and negative) and in those known to have been exposed to chemotherapy. Conclusions This analysis provides further evidence that for the growing number of women who wish to have children after breast cancer, LB does not have a negative impact on overall survival. This finding was confirmed within subgroups, including the youngest women and those not previously pregnant.
Marine-terminating outlet glacier terminus traces, mapped from satellite and aerial imagery, have been used extensively in understanding how outlet glaciers adjust to climate change variability over a range of timescales. Numerous studies have digitized termini manually, but this process is labor intensive, and no consistent approach exists. A lack of coordination leads to duplication of efforts, particularly for Greenland, which is a major scientific research focus. At the same time, machine learning techniques are rapidly making progress in their ability to automate accurate extraction of glacier termini, with promising developments across a number of optical and synthetic aperture radar (SAR) satellite sensors. These techniques rely on high-quality, manually digitized terminus traces to be used as training data for robust automatic traces. Here we present a database of manually digitized terminus traces for machine learning and scientific applications. These data have been collected, cleaned, assigned with appropriate metadata including image scenes, and compiled so they can be easily accessed by scientists. The TermPicks data set includes 39 060 individual terminus traces for 278 glaciers with a mean of 136 ± 190 and median of 93 of traces per glacier. Across all glaciers, 32 567 dates have been digitized, of which 4467 have traces from more than one author, and there is a duplication rate of 17 %.
A new saltmarsh soil dataset comprising of geochemical and physical property data from 752 soil samples collected through a sampling program supported by citizen scientists has been brought together with existing data to make the first national estimates of the surficial (top 10 cm) soil OC stock for Great British (GB) saltmarshes. To allow the inclusion of secondary data in the soil stock estimate a new bespoke organic matter to organic carbon conversion for GB saltmarsh soil was developed allowing organic matter data measured using loss-on-ignition to be convert to organic carbon content. The total GB surficial soil OC stock is 2.320 ± 0.470 Mt; English saltmarshes hold 1.601 ± 0.426 Mt OC, Scottish saltmarshes hold 0.368 ± 0.091 Mt OC, and Welsh saltmarshes hold 0.351 ± 0.082 Mt OC. The stocks were calculated within a Markov Chain Monte Carlo framework allowing robust uncertainty estimates to be derived for the first time. Spatial mapping tools are available to accompany these stock estimates at individual saltmarsh habitats throughout GB. This data will aid in the protection and management of saltmarshes and represents the first steps towards the inclusion of saltmarsh OC in the national inventory accounting of blue carbon ecosystems.
Purpose Vitrification permits long-term banking of oocytes and embryos. It is a technically challenging procedure requiring direct handling and movement of cells between potentially cytotoxic cryoprotectant solutions. Variation in adherence to timing, and ability to trace cells during the procedure, affects survival post-warming. We hypothesized that minimizing direct handling will simplify the procedure and improve traceability. To address this, we present a novel photopolymerized device that houses the sample during vitrification. Methods The fabricated device consisted of two components: the Pod and Garage . Single mouse oocytes or embryos were housed in a Pod, with multiple Pods docked into a Garage. The suitability of the device for cryogenic application was assessed by repeated vitrification and warming cycles. Oocytes or early blastocyst-stage embryos were vitrified either using standard practice or within Pods and a Garage and compared to non-vitrified control groups. Post-warming, we assessed survival rate, oocyte developmental potential (fertilization and subsequent development) and metabolism (autofluorescence). Results Vitrification within the device occurred within ~ 3 nL of cryoprotectant: this volume being ~ 1000-fold lower than standard vitrification. Compared to standard practice, vitrification and warming within our device showed no differences in viability, developmental competency, or metabolism for oocytes and embryos. The device housed the sample during processing, which improved traceability and minimized handling. Interestingly, vitrification-warming itself, altered oocyte and embryo metabolism. Conclusion The Pod and Garage system minimized the volume of cryoprotectant at vitrification—by ~ 1000-fold—improved traceability and reduced direct handling of the sample. This is a major step in simplifying the procedure.
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Michael Nevels
  • BioMedical Sciences Research Complex
David A Jaeger
  • School of Economics and Finance
Ken Aitken
  • School of Medicine
Martin Denis Ryan
  • School of Biology
John Blayney Owen Mitchell
  • School of Chemistry
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