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Competing microbes on grass: Taken using a Hitachi S-4700 FESEM scanning electron microscope by Alan Cookson at the IBERS Advanced Microscopy and Bio-Imaging Laboratory

of the micro-organisms that have an essential role to play in everything from human health to earth system processes.” It has long been thought that

ecological principles developed for the study of large organisms should also be applicable to micro-organisms and while processes such as successional change and competition are known to occur in microbial communities, identifying signatures of niche specialisation remains a challenge. Professor Mike Gooding, Director


Aberystwyth University’s Institute of Biological, Environmental and Rural Sciences (IBERS) have been working with the Agriculture and Food Development Authority in Ireland (Teagasc) to develop a new way of identifying how different types of microbes can survive when competing for resources in the same environment. The paper on this new method

of identifying what is known as ‘niche specialisation’ by Dr Chris Creevey’s team at IBERS is published in the Nature Publishing Group (NPG) ‘Multidisciplinary Journal of Microbial Ecology’ Niche specialisation is the process

by which, through natural selection, a species becomes better adapted to the specific characteristics of a particular habitat.

These organisms can be the

principal drivers of important processes in the community and therefore are prime targets for researchers looking to engineer microbial communities to achieve desired outcomes. Funding from the Biotechnology

and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC), EU Seventh Framework Programme and Science Foundation Ireland has enabled the

Dr Chris Creevey: Reader in Rumen Systems Biology, IBERS, Aberystwyth University

researchers to use an evolutionary approach to identify the genes and functions that play an important role in maintaining niche specialisation. Dr Chris Creevey said: “We were

looking to identify what resources different micro-organisms compete over when they are present in the same environment. Developing such an understanding is essential to meet many of the major challenges facing human society today, such as management of natural ecosystems and mitigation of climate change. Despite the large numbers

of microbiome studies that have been generated from the microbial populations found in the gut, the soil, the sea and human skin, we still lack a clear understanding of the ecology

of IBERS, said: “Our scientists are leading the way in research to tackle methane emissions and climate change. This study examined the signatures of niche specialisation between some of the most abundant organisms in the rumen microbiome of cattle, a major source of methane - the second most significant greenhouse gas in the UK.” The results identified the specific

functions important for each organism within the microbial community to maintain its niche in the rumen of cattle and represent novel targets for engineering this microbiome for desirable outputs (such as reducing greenhouse gasses). This represents the first use of

evolutionary approaches in this context and will allow researchers to both identify niche specialisation in any microbiome and to identify the organisms important for specific functions in any microbial community.


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Microbes carve out a niche Love is in the air at Aber

Eurig Salisbury and Rhiannon Parry: On their wedding day in 2013, they returned to the lecture room where they’d met as undergraduates

AS WALES celebrated St

Dwynwen's Day on Wednesday (Jan 25), Aberystwyth University is on the lookout for romantic stories of past students, couples who met on campus and where love blossomed in the lecture hall. From now until St Valentine’s Day

(Feb 14), couples who came together when studying at Aber are being encouraged to post their stories and pictures using the #loveaber hashtag. The aim is to create a visual record

of the relationships which have started in the college by the sea over the years. They could include promenade

walks as the sun sets over Cardigan Bay, a picnic on Pendinas or a memorable meal in one of the town’s many restaurants. Angharad Jones and Llyr Evans

will tie the knot later this year having met as students ten years ago when they both stayed at Pantycelyn. Llyr even organised to return there with Angharad for a surprise wedding proposal. "I'd spoken to the university

and managed to get into the room where Angharad stayed during her time at Pantycelyn. I'd redecorated the walls with some of the posters from our time there and popped the question. Aberystwyth University has a reputation for being a friendly and welcoming place and our student memories are certainly very fond ones."

Eurig and Rhiannon Salisbury also

met at Aber and recently celebrated the first birthday of their son, Llew. On their wedding day in 2013, they made sure their wedding photos also included the lecture room where they were first introduced. "The Old College at Aberystwyth is a magical place; it has such a

wonderful history and highlights the importance of the university to the town. Rhiannon and I both treasure the memories we have of our time studying here and our wedding photos taken at the Old College are a constant reminder of those wonderful times," said Eurig, who now works as lecturer in the university’s Department of Welsh and Celtic Studies. As part of the 2017 Santes

Dwynwen celebrations, representatives from Aberystwyth’s Welsh students’ union UMCA roamed the campus handing out special postcards and heart-shaped chocolates. UMCA President Rhun Dafydd

said: “Aberystwyth University attracts students from all over the world and not everyone is familiar with Welsh traditions. The legend of Dwynwen is ingrained in our folklore so today’s another great opportunity to celebrate our culture and share this special love story with our wider student community.” Louise Jagger, Director of Development and Alumni Relations at Aberystwyth University, said: “Aberystwyth is an exceptional place to learn and live. Students not only have access to an excellent, research- led education, they also live in a very special place and are part of a very special community. It’s not surprising therefore that so many long-term partnerships are forged between our students. “We have alumni all over the world

who met here and who look back with very fond memories at their Aber days. We look forward now to hearing more stories about how they met and to see some of their memorable photos either from their time as students or their wedding day.”

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