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Education

Searching for a sunken world

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Reconstructing an ancient landscape: Dr Martin Bates

Reconstructing an ancient
landscape: Dr Martin Bates

AN ARCHAEOLOGIST from the University of Wales Trinity Saint David will be involved in a ground-breaking project to reconstruct an ancient landscape now hidden beneath the North Sea.
Archaeologists, molecular biologists and computer scientists will work together to digitally re-construct a prehistoric country approaching the size of Ireland that, following climate change after the last Ice Age, was covered by rising sea levels and now lies beneath the North Sea.
Dr Martin Bates, a geo-archaeologist at UWTSD in Lampeter, will work alongside the project lead Professor Vince Gaffney (University of Bradford), Professor Robin Allaby (University of Warwick), Dr Richard Bates (University of St Andrews), Dr Eugene Ch’ng (University of Nottingham), Dr David Smith (University of Birmingham) and independent researcher Dr Simon Fitch.
Using modern genetics and computing technologies researchers will digitally repopulate this ancient country, called Doggerland, monitoring its development over 5000 years to reveal important clues about how our ancestors made the critical move from hunter-gathering into farming.
Funded by a prestigious €2.5 million Advanced Research Grant from the European Research Council, the project will transform our understanding of how humans lived in this area from around 10,000 BC until it was flooded at the end of the last ice age around 7,500 years ago.
Dr Martin Bates said: “For the first time in the North Sea, we will be able to carry out a targeted and purposive investigation of a series of sites on the seabed. Previously archaeologists have had to rely on samples from locations selected because of impact on the sea bed. In this project we have the chance to pick our sample locations and this should allow us an unprecedented look at how this landscape changed before and during transgression.
“The team will be using the vast remote sensing data sets generated by energy companies to reconstruct the past landscape now covered by the sea. This will help to produce a detailed 3D map that will show rivers, lakes, hills and coastlines in a country which had previously been a heartland of human occupation in Europe but was lost to the sea as a consequence of past climate change, melting ice caps and rising sea levels.
“Alongside this work, specialist survey ships will recover core sediment samples from selected areas of the landscape. Uniquely, the project team will use the sediments to extract millions of fragments of ancient DNA from plants and animals that occupied Europe’s ancient coastal plains. The cool, underwater environment means that DNA is better preserved here and offers archaeologists a unique view of how society and environment evolved during a period of catastrophic climate change and in a prehistoric country that had previously been lost to science and history.”
The data from seismic mapping and sedimentary DNA, along with conventional environmental analysis, will be combined within computer simulations, using a technique called ‘agent-based modelling, that will build a comprehensive picture showing the dynamic interaction between the environment and the animals and plants that inhabit it throughout the period – around 5000 years.
Professor Vince Gaffney said: “This project is exciting not only because of what it will reveal about Doggerland, but because it gives us a whole new way of approaching the massive areas of land that were populated by humans but which now lie beneath the sea. This project will develop technologies and methodologies that archaeologists around the world can use to explore similar landscapes including those around the Americas and in South East Asia.”

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Education

We Swim Wild brings micro plastic research to the Pembrokeshire Coast

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THE PILOT session of Pobl Dwr was filmed for an upcoming episode of ITV’s Coast and Country series with Sean Fletcher and pupils from Castle School in Haverfordwest explored marine and environmental issues affecting the waterways in Wales. 

A pupil from Castle School said “I found 22 pieces of microplastics in one cup of sea water”.

Created by the Wales non profit We Swim Wild, Pobl Dwr has made children aware of the microplastic pollution crisis, while giving them a chance to explore the beautiful coastline and deepen their connection with the ocean environment. 

We Swim Wild aims to educate and empower the younger generation on environmental action and micro plastic pollution.

A pupil from Castle School described their experience as “the biggest eye opener ever”.

The project gives pupils an opportunity to learn about the marine life on our coasts through an immersive snorkeling programme, wellbeing activities such as breathwork and meditation, citizen science microplastic analysis that actually feeds into We Swim Wilds national microplastic database with Bangor University.

We Swim Wild founder Laura Owen Sanderson says “ We have been highlighting the issue of microplastics for the last few years, through adventure activism campaigns and U.K wide citizen science projects to map for microplastics. 

The education programme gives young people the opportunity to experience the magic of wild waters safely, equips them with the skills and tools to analyse water for silent contaminates and the opportunity to see the scale of the problem in real time”. 

The project in Pembrokeshire is in collaboration with The Big Retreat Community, the non profit arm of The Big Retreat Festival in Pembrokeshire, one of the top adventure and wellbeing festivals in the UK. 

Festival founder Amber Lort-Phillips says “Wellbeing in nature is at the heart of everything we do. As a result of the pandemic, we know that young peoples’ mental health has suffered significantly. We want to give them the skills to improve their own mental and physical health whilst learning how to protect the planet for generations to come, and there is no better place to do it than in our home, the Pembrokeshire Coast National Park.”

“Plastic can commonly be found in our water, soil and air,” explains Laura. “Crucially, we now know it is in our bodies as we breathe in, eat and drink plastic particles every day. As plastic production grows, so does our exposure. There is growing concern that it may be harming our health.”

Laura adds  “We know that the presence of microplastic and nano plastic in our bodies can’t break down and is associated with chronic disease and pressure on our immune systems, such as arthritis, diabetes and cardiovascular disease. The truth is there is currently not enough money invested in Plastic research and its impact on our health. Our citizen science campaigns and education programme go some way towards mapping current UK levels for this emergent contaminate”.

We Swims Wild’s ultimate goal is to get the UK government to start testing regularly for microplastic levels as an emergent contaminate and to put greater restrictions on plastic production and its use. 

A group of MP’s including MP Mike Penning has also called on the chancellor to commit to a £15 million fund to examine the potential health impacts of plastic.

The Pembrokeshire project has been sponsored by the National Lottery community fund. We Swim Wild will be bringing this programme to coastal communities across Wales over the coming months. 

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Education

Secondary School places deadline

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PARENTS of Year 6 pupils in Pembrokeshire will need to apply for a secondary school place for September 2022 by the closing date of 20th December, 2021.

There is no automatic admission to a secondary school, even if they are living in catchment – an application must be made.

Applications received after this date will be considered late which may have a bearing on whether the child gets a place at his / her preferred School.

It is important to note that a school place will not be allocated unless a formal application is received.

The online application form can be found on the Pembrokeshire County Council website: www.pembrokeshire.gov.uk/schools-and- learning under ‘Apply for a School Place’. 

Parents of pupils in Year 6 at Ysgol Penrhyn Dewi or Ysgol Caer Elen do not need to apply as they are attending 3 to 16 schools and it is assumed they will remain in their current schools. 

However, if parents wish to apply for a different secondary school they must apply within the deadlines noted above.

Parents / guardians will be informed of the allocation of places on the common offer date of 1 st March 2022.

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Education

County Councillors approve massive investment for Pembrokeshire schools

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PEMBROKESHIRE COUNTY COUNCILLORS have this week recognised the need for further significant investment in local schools. The decision was taken on Thursday (Oct 14).

Councillors have backed proposals to invest £62.4m in the community of Milford Haven with the creation of new-build primary and secondary schools in the town through the use of the Welsh Government Mutual Investment Model (MIM).

This decision recognises the educational need to provide the learners of Milford Haven with 21st Century School environments that will enhance the development of the Curriculum for Wales over the coming years and enable every learner, regardless of their background, to become the best they can be.

Council also agreed the teaching and learning environments for children who attend Portfield School in Haverfordwest and the Pembrokeshire Learning Centre (PLC) in Neyland need to be significantly improved, with a £38.5m investment into the two sites. This work will be funded under Band B of the 21st Century Schools Programme.

A total of £20.3m will be invested at Portfield School, which provides education for pupils with statements of special educational needs aged between 3-19 years.

Meanwhile £18.2m will be spent on improving the Neyland site of the Pembrokeshire Learning Centre, which provides education for pupils aged between 11 and 16 with complex needs.

Cllr Guy Woodham, Cabinet Member for Education and Lifelong Learning, said: “While there are further stages as part of both the Band B 21st Century Schools funding and separate MIM proposal that we now need to successfully complete in partnership with Welsh Government, today represents a significant positive step forward in achieving Cabinet’s commitment to delivering all 21st Century School capital projects and significant investment in Milford Haven, Portfield School and the PLC.

“My thanks go to all those who have worked very hard to get us to where we are today, and I look forward to continuing to work with all those now involved in successfully delivering these exciting school capital projects that will provide the best educational facilities for learners.”

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