3D printed soil reveals the world beneath our feet

Soil scientists at Abertay University are using 3D printing technology to find out, for the very first time, exactly what is going on in the world beneath our feet.

In the same way that ecologists study the interactions of living organisms above ground, Professor Wilfred Otten and researchers at the university’s SIMBIOS Centre are taking advantage of the new technology to do the same below ground.

Using X-ray Computed Tomography (CT scanning), the team have already been able to create 3D images of the intricate structure of soil – a network of pores not unlike the holes in an Emmental cheese.

3D image of soil

However, they now want to know how these holes, or “pore spaces”, determine the ways in which the fungi and bacteria living within them interact.

And 3D printing technology has enabled the scientists to start finding out, as they can now turn the 3D images on the computer screen into real-life, hand-held, 3D objects.

The incredibly detailed plastic cubes that are printed out are replicas of the structure of the soil, and are being used by the scientists as experimental systems in the lab.

By inserting microorganisms (such as fungi and bacteria) into the pore spaces within the plastic soil, the scientists can now observe how these microorganisms move through it, survive, find food sources and interact.

Fungus growing in the 3D printed soil

Although 3D printing is becoming more common, and people can buy 3D printers to use at home, it has never been used to print something so intricate and detailed as soil before.

Before CT scanning became available, soil samples were dug up and the structure and pore networks of the soil were disrupted.

This, Professor Wilfred Otten explains, was like studying the rubble of a demolished building:

“In the past, before X Ray CT scanning became available, soil samples were taken back to the lab and studied there. But that’s like studying the rubble of a collapsed building – you would never be able to tell what the structure of the building had been before it fell down, how many rooms it had, or how many people lived in or used it, and all the different things the different people used it for.

“These days we all know about the ways that species interact with each other and their environments above ground, and how sensitive they are to changes in their habitats. What we often forget, however, is that everything above ground relies on the soil it stands on – it plays a major role in food security and the carbon cycle, for example – but we still know very little about what goes on down there.

“What we have become aware of over recent years is that there are millions of organisms living in just 1g of soil. We know that they move around a lot within that environment, and that they interact with each other, but it has always been difficult to study these interactions in the natural environment.

“So 3D printing is a major breakthrough for us, because we now have the ability to examine the structure of soil up close, to see how big the pore spaces within it are, how they are linked together, and how the bacteria move through them as we watch their progress in the lab.”

fungal growth

Dr Ruth Falconer, who works with Professor Otten in SIMBIOS, adds:

“In our experiments, we think of the 3D prints as microcosms and use them to test theoretical models that predict how microbes (like fungi and bacteria) live and survive in 3D structures such as soil.

“We can analyse one species to begin with – providing it with simple food sources – and gradually add more complexity, so that we can eventually get close to replicating the environment they would naturally live in below ground.

“However, it isn’t just the 3D printing which makes all this possible. The CT scanning is how we obtain all the data which shows us what the pore structure looks like so, without it, these live experiments wouldn’t be possible.”

Professor Otten concludes:

“By printing out the structure of the soil in 3D, we are now beginning to find out exactly what is going on in the soil underground and, although we are still in the very early stages of our experiments, we will eventually be able to move away from looking at isolated sections of soil to looking at the bigger picture, as we will have a much better understanding of the implications that our over-use of soil has for food security in an ever growing population, as well as soil’s role in climate change.”

ENDS

For media enquiries please contact Kirsty Cameron T: 01382 308935 M: 07972172158 E: k.cameron@abertay.ac.uk

Notes to Editors:

SIMBIOS – the Scottish Informatics, Mathematics, Biology, and Statistics Centre – is an interdisciplinary research team at Abertay University that focuses on understanding what goes on at a microscopic level so that we can better understand the environment in which we live.

The team are world renowned for their work with soils and ecosystems, with leading academics from around the world having joined the Centre in recent years.

The 3D printer used by Abertay to create the plastic cubes of soil’s structure belongs to the ESPRC-funded Additive Manufacturing Centre at Nottingham University.

A 1cm³ sample of soil is used to create one of the experimental cubes currently used in the SIMBIOS labs.

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Invisible artwork to be created during forensic science residency this summer

Cloud Chamber by Beatrice Haines

Out of over 110 applications, London-based artist Beatrice Haines has been selected to work within Abertay University’s ground-breaking forensic science department this summer, as the University’s artist-in-residence.

Spending up to four days in the lab with Dr Kevin Farrugia, Beatrice will explore the many ways in which print visualisation techniques – such as chemical enhancement and specialised photography – can be manipulated to recover finger- and shoeprints from crime scenes.

The purpose of the residency is to produce a work of art that will be exhibited at the inaugural Print Festival Scotland – a celebration of the cultural diversity, historical significance and future potential of print.

The Festival will run alongside the world renowned Impact8 International Printmaking Conference, which will be held this year in Dundee.

Print Festival Scotland events will take place across the country, but Dundee has a particularly rich printing and printmaking heritage, and there is a strong link between these disciplines and the field of forensic science.

A multi-disciplinary artist, Beatrice is keen for the artwork she creates to reflect the scientific nature of the residency.

She intends to do this by creating a series of interactive, and potentially invisible, prints that will undergo a physical change as they are viewed, making the spectator feel as if they have taken part in a scientific experiment.

This will be achieved by treating the prints, made in diluted blood, with a substance such as Acid Yellow 7 – one of many chemicals used by forensic scientists to enhance latent fingerprints in blood at crime scenes.

The presence of Acid Yellow 7 on the print will mean that, when it is viewed under special lighting, it will fluoresce and bring the print to the fore so it can be seen for the first time by the naked eye.

Speaking about what made Bea’s proposal stand out from the others, Clare Brennan, who was a member of the selection panel and is curator of the Hannah Maclure Centre – Abertay University’s exhibition space and art gallery – said:

“There were so many amazing ideas for this residency, so I must first just say thank you to everyone who applied. It really was wonderful reading through such a range of high-quality proposals.

“But Bea’s one stood out from the start, and I think this was mainly because the essence of Kevin’s research was so evidently already embedded in her work.

“She uses prints to record the traces of their lives that people leave behind them, and spoke about how these traces have their own story to tell, just like forensic evidence does.

“It just fits perfectly with the reason that we decided to offer this residency, which was to bring science out from behind closed doors and into a different, and perhaps more easily understandable and engaging, environment.”

Beatrice will have full use of the DCA (Dundee Contemporary Arts) Print Studio to develop ideas inspired by her time in the lab.

The Print Studio has some of the best printmaking facilities in Scotland, from the traditional printing presses right up to the latest digital and electronic forms.

Speaking about why she applied for the residency and what she hopes to create, Beatrice Haines said:

“Scientific enquiry and, more specifically, forensics, has been an underlying inspiration in my artwork for many years, so when I discovered the chance to do a residency in a forensics lab I jumped at the opportunity.

“The links between forensics and printmaking (the study of fingerprints, shoe imprints, tyre prints etc) provides rich ground for an artist, so being able to create my artworks at DCA’s Print Studio and exhibit them at Impact8 is really exciting.

“With the artwork I create, I want the viewer to experience the same sensation that I had looking through a microscope for the first time – that a secret has suddenly been exposed. So the idea of being able to create something that suddenly materialises or, at the very least, changes, right before people’s eyes, will, hopefully, capture their imaginations.

“As well as the prints, I hope to make some sculpture for the residency which, like the prints, will physically change as people look at them. I’m really looking forward to getting started with this – I’ve never witnessed the functionings of a working lab before, so it’ll be fascinating getting to see behind the scenes and getting the chance to experiment with the new techniques I learn about.”

Applications for the residency came from all over the world, including Thailand, Brazil, Australia, the USA, Taiwan, Serbia, Ukraine, Hong Kong and many more.

Proposals were from artists working in sound design, sculpture, print, painting, performance, photography, as well as interactive media.

To find out more about Beatrice, and to view her portfolio, please visit www.beatricehaines.com

A selection of her work includes:

  • Sanatorium, Solo exhibition at Marlborough College, 2011
  • A Place Called Home, exhibition at the Clearlake Hotel in London, 2012
  • The Open West, upcoming exhibition at Newark Park National Trust House and Cheltenham Art Gallery and Museum, July 2013.

She was also winner of The Mann Drawing Prize 2010 and nominee for Best Newcomer at the Royal Academy Summer Show 2007.

ENDS

For media enquiries please contact Kirsty Cameron T: 01382 308935 M: 07922041198 E: k.cameron@abertay.ac.uk

Notes to Editors:

  • The residency opportunity was offered jointly by Abertay University and the art collective Yuck ‘n Yum.
  • Abertay University is at the forefront of forensics research and has made a number of breakthroughs in this field over recent years. For example, the University recently published the UK’s first academic paper on how to recover latent fingerprints from foods.
  • Yuck ‘n Yum has been sponsored by the Hannah Maclure Centre for the past few years and is making waves in the arts world. The black and white zine Yuck ‘n Yum produce comes out every quarter, and is distributed across the UK as well as, more recently, in Europe. They have a huge network of artists who have contributed work to the zine and participated in their many public art projects: http://www.yucknyum.com/
  • Print Festival Scotland will run from August 23 – September 1. It will feature an extensive programme of exhibitions, performances and public print events across the country
  • The Impact8 International Printmaking Conference is an international forum for print artists and artisans, academics and educators, theorists and critics, curators and collectors, and suppliers of printmaking materials and presses. It will take place in Dundee between August 28 and September 1.
  • Now in its 14th year, it is being organised in Dundee by Dr Paul Harrison and Professor Elaine Shemilt from the Duncan of Jordanstone College of Art and Design. The conference is held every two years, with previous editions having taken place in Melbourne, Bristol, Tallinn, Berlin, Poznan, Cape Town, and Helsinki.
  • The theme of this years conference is ‘Borders and Crossings: the artist as explorer’ and is intended to celebrate the practice, concept and application of print and printmaking in its widest possible constituency.
  • It is a celebration of the cross-disciplinary nature of print and fits well with Abertay’s own interdisciplinary approach: the Hannah Maclure Centre is part of Abertay’s Institute of Arts, Media and Computer Games, and the Division of Environment and Forensic Sciences where Dr Farrugia works is part of the University’s School of Contemporary Sciences.
  • There is a strong printmaking heritage in Dundee: the publishing company DC Thomson has been printing newspapers and magazines in the city for over 100 years – and it is from the printing industry that the techniques print artists use originate.

Over the centuries, as new inventions and developments were made in the printing industry, artists adopted and experimented with these techniques to make works of art.

Screenprinting, for example – made famous by Andy Warhol’s pop art prints – was initially used for on printing cartons and boxes.

Etching – used to decorate guns, armour, cups and plates – was adopted by artists such as Rembrandt, Goya and Castiglione.

Woodblock printing, used by artists such as Edvard Munch, was originally used for printing the letters in books and newspapers.

And lithography, which was used by Toulouse-Lautrec for his iconic posters of Parisian life, was also originally used as a method of commercial printing.

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Digital storytelling to put compassion back at the heart of social care

Dr Rosie Stenhouse and digital storyteller Rob 2

An innovative new digital resource that puts compassion right at the heart of social care will today (Wednesday, May 29th) be sent to the Nursing Directors of NHS Boards across the United Kingdom.

Entitled “Dangling Conversations”, the resource is a unique collection of reflective digital stories created to help people working in care re-engage with the personal experiences of their patients.

Recent reports – such as the Francis Report into the Mid Staffordshire NHS Foundation Trust – have identified that there is a lack of compassion in the care and treatment of older people within the NHS.

The digital stories offer a practical solution to help address this.

Researchers at the University of Abertay Dundee and specialists from the award-winning Patient Voices Programme created the stories in a Reflective Digital Storytelling workshop with seven patients in the early stages of dementia, and one paid carer.

Each story is unique and is of personal importance to the individual telling it.

There was no obligation for the narrators to talk about their illness, but knowing that the story is told by someone with dementia, shapes how the listener hears and interprets it.

Each story is a blend of their past and present lives, and is accompanied by photographs and a series of reflective questions.

Together, these encourage the listener to think about the person telling the story, and about how they could use the insight the story has given them into the patient’s life, to provide the patient with better care.

Taken as a package, the stories equip the listener with what is known as “aesthetic knowledge” – an understanding of the human experience that is integral to the capacity of nurses to care for their patients.

It is hoped, by drawing the attention of NHS staff to the free availability of this resource, that it will lead to more compassionate care being delivered by both current and future healthcare providers and practitioners.

Dr Rosie Stenhouse, who was part of the team that developed the resource, explains why this is so important:

“In this post-Francis era – where the spotlight is going to be increasingly on nurse education, nursing practice, and how we are going to ensure that compassion is right at the heart of our care system – we need to take positive action to make sure that the type of poor-practice that occurred at Mid-Staffordshire Hospital, and elsewhere, never happens again.

“Policy changes can take months, if not years, but the digital stories in this collection are freely available online right now, so anyone working in a care setting, anywhere in the world, can access them.

“They can be used as a group teaching tool within hospitals, or can be listened to at home, and are as relevant to students as they are to those already working in care.

“We know from research that digital storytelling has a real impact on people’s emotions and helps with the development of empathy, so digital media has opened up a whole new range of teaching and learning opportunities for us.

“Previously, we relied on inviting patients into the classroom to talk about their experiences of healthcare and their health issues, but there have always been a number of ethical concerns about asking somebody with dementia to do this.

“So instead, we’ve relied on videos and other recorded material, where carers, and sometimes people with dementia, have talked about their illness-related experiences in response to interviewers’ questions.

“But with the digital stories there were no interviewers asking questions – each story was chosen and developed by the person narrating it, and each one is personal to the storyteller, so this is very different from what we’ve been able to do before.

“The digital stories aren’t designed to replace current teaching, but they do add a new dimension to it. They don’t all have to be listened to at once – they can be used over a range of different teaching sessions – and, because there are seven of them, it really helps get across the diversity of experiences that dementia brings.

“Because they are the stories of real people – mothers, fathers, brothers, sisters, husbands, wives – who have lives, histories, interests, jobs, and families, they really tap into people’s emotions, and it’s this personal connection that really draws people into the stories when we play them.”

Pip Hardy from the Patient Voices Programme said:

“Patient Voices was initially set up to give a voice to people who are not heard, and to help them tell their stories in such a way that the clinicians, managers and decision-makers listening to them become aware of the effects that the actions and decisions they take have on their patients.

“The use of stories as an educational resource is based on the acknowledgment that behavioural and systemic change often stems from a felt understanding of the implications of decisions, rather than from a purely abstract or theoretical one.

“Stories can be used to communicate visions and needs in a powerful way, as they offer a compelling and practical means of exploring issues and experiences from different perspectives, while promoting reflection and stimulating dialogue and debate.

“Robert Francis QC recently wrote in his report on the Mid Staffs scandal that “It is the individual experiences that lie behind statistics and benchmarks and action plans that really matter”, and it is these “individual experiences” that the Patient Voices digital stories get across.

“In the past year alone, we’ve had over 750,000 hits on our website, with a significant number of stories being downloaded for use in education and quality improvement programmes, and we hope that this number will continue to rise, as healthcare workers and management take action in the wake of the Francis report.”

The resource can be accessed on the homepage of the Abertay University website.

ENDS 

For media enquiries please contact Kirsty Cameron T: 01382 308935 M: 07922041198 E: k.cameron@abertay.ac.uk

Notes to Editors:

  • In addition to the NHS Nursing Directors, information about Dangling Conversations will be sent to research institutions, health ministers, local authorities and health care charities across the UK.
  • The digital stories were created by the staff and service users of the Dundee Alzheimer’s Scotland Resource Centre during a four-day Patient Voices workshop facilitated by The Patient Voices Programme and researchers at the University of Abertay Dundee.
  • The Patient Voices Programme was founded by social entrepreneurs Pip Hardy and Tony Sumner in 2003, and aims to facilitate the telling and the hearing of some of the unwritten and unspoken stories of ordinary people so that those who devise and implement strategy in health and social care, as well as the professionals and clinicians directly involved in care, may carry out their duties in a more informed and compassionate manner.

The Patient Voices digital storytelling methodology is recognised by the National Audit Office (NAO), and others, as providing an excellent way to gather qualitative data about what really matters to patients, carers and service users.

The work Patient Voices has done on stories and storytelling in healthcare is a key element in a new initiative concerned with ‘humanising healthcare’ that involves the NAO, the Appointments Commission, the Royal College of Nursing and others.

Dangling Conversations is just one of over 500 stories on the Patient Voices website, that are told by people of different ages, from different cultures, about different experiences and a wide range of conditions.

The Patient Voices Programme won the British Medical Journal Award for Excellence in Healthcare Education in 2010; received a commendation in the 2007 Creating an Interprofessional Workforce (CIPW) Awards, and won the Dartmouth Hitchcock University Clinical Microsystems Conference Award for Minimizing Unnecessary Switching – Patients, Learners, and Professionals – Fewer Handoffs and the People’s Choice (Paul Batalden) Award in 2004.”

  • Aesthetic knowledge was first identified by Carper – an influential nursing education theorist – in 1978 and is now an established academic concept that is increasingly being used in clinical practice and policy-making.

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Forensic scientists recover fingerprints from foods

Onion fingerprint

Forensic scientists at the University of Abertay Dundee have recovered latent fingerprints from foods – publishing the UK’s first academic paper on this subject.

Only two other studies have ever reported successfully recovering fingerprints from foods, but the research for these took place in India and Slovenia using chemical substances that are not routinely used here in Britain.

Foods are notoriously difficult surfaces to recover prints from, so are often overlooked as items of evidence.

However, by modifying an existing technique that was initially designed to recover fingerprints from the sticky side of adhesive tape, the team at Abertay have shown that this need no longer be the case.

The publication of their research – in the forensic science journal “Science & Justice” – means that others will now be able to replicate their results.

Dennis Gentles, a former crime scene examiner and forensic scientist who has worked at Abertay University for the past ten years, explains why this is so significant:

“Although there are proven techniques to recover fingerprints from many different surfaces these days, there are some surfaces that remain elusive, such as feathers, human skin, and animal skin.

“Foods such as fruits and vegetables used to be in that category, because their surfaces vary so much – not just in their colour and texture, but in their porosity as well. These factors made recovering fingerprints problematic because some techniques, for example, work on porous surfaces while others only work on non-porous surfaces.

“Using the right technique is of the utmost importance because if you use the wrong one, it can damage the print and destroy what could have been a vital piece of evidence.

“The fact that we’ve managed to successfully recover prints from such difficult surfaces as foods is another step forward in the fight against crime. It may not seem like much, but a piece of fruit might just be the only surface that has been handled in a crime scene so developing a trusted and tested technique to recover fingerprints from such surfaces is something to be valued by crime scene examiners.”

Because of the differences between the substances available in the UK and those used in the other studies, the team at Abertay began by testing a selection of the techniques currently recommended by the Home Office for recovering fingerprints.

Disappointingly, their results showed that few of these techniques – when applied to foods including apples, tomatoes, onions and potatoes – produced a print of high enough quality for it to be presented as evidence in court.

However, when they modified a substance known as Powder Suspension (PS) – a thick, tar-like substance – they found it produced a clear, high-quality mark on the smooth-surfaced food items such as the onions, apples and tomatoes.

Dennis Gentles continues:

“There are about 15 techniques that are currently recommended by the Home Office for recovering prints – from a variety of surfaces – and research teams are constantly refining them and developing new ones so that the police can get as much evidence of as high a quality as possible to help with an investigation.

“Although Powder Suspension was initially developed to recover prints from the sticky side of adhesive tape, it’s since been found to work on other surfaces, so we wondered whether it would work on foods, as this was something it hadn’t been tested on before.

“The smooth surface of an apple is very different from that of sticky tape though, so such a thick substance wasn’t going to produce the same results on such a different surface. So we tried altering the formulation a bit, making it more dilute than that suggested by the Home Office, and found that it out-performed all the other methods we tested.

“Although there’s still a considerable amount of research to do before we can recommend techniques for all types of foods, we’ve shown for the first time that it really is possible to recover fingerprints from them – something that was previously thought to be unachievable. This means the police will now be able to gather even more evidence to present in court, adding more weight to their investigations.”

The University is currently offering an exciting artist-in-residency opportunity within its forensic science department, as part of the inaugural Print Festival Scotland which will run alongside the renowned Impact 8 International Printmaking Conference in Dundee this September. Further information about the residency and the two events can be found here and here.

ENDS

Notes to Editors:

  • This study – entitled “A preliminary investigation into the acquisition of fingerprints on foods” – was published in the forensic science journal “Science & Justice”.
  • “Science & Justice” is the peer-reviewed academic journal published by The Forensic Science Society.
  • Three fruits (apple, banana and tomato), three vegetables (onion, potato and pepper) and one egg were tested in this study.
  • Bananas and onions (smooth-surfaced foods) were the most successful surfaces to recover prints from, while potatoes (rough-surfaced) and eggs (porous) were the least.
  • The study involved using “loaded” fingerprints, where print donors were asked to rub their forehead and nose to ensure that a strong latent print would be left on the surface of the foods that were being tested. Future studies will examine whether the same results can be achieved using “unloaded” prints.
  • The authors of the paper are: Sarah Ferguson, Lynsey Nicholson, Kevin Farrugia, David Bremner and Dennis Gentles. The research was based on work carried out by Sarah and Lynsey while they were students at Abertay. Dennis Gentles was the supervisor of both projects, and the paper was published after further work was encouraged by the UK Home Office.

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Forensic fingerprint recovery techniques to be turned into art for Scotland’s inaugural print festival

Fingerprint from fabric - Joanna Fraser

As part of the inaugural Print Festival Scotland, the University of Abertay Dundee and the art collective Yuck ‘n Yum are teaming up to offer an artist-in-residency opportunity within the university’s ground-breaking forensic science department.

Working in collaboration with forensic scientist Dr Kevin Farrugia, the selected artist will get to spend up to four days in Abertay’s forensics labs, exploring the ways print visualisation techniques can be manipulated to recover finger- and shoeprints from crime scenes.

Proposals for the residency are welcomed from artists the world over, and there are no limitations as to what form the proposal should take: artists may already be involved in a print-based discipline, but could, equally, specialise in anything from sound installations to technology-driven art.

At the end of the residency, the artist will have the opportunity to exhibit their finished artwork at the inaugural Print Festival Scotland, which will run alongside the acclaimed Impact 8 International Printmaking Conference in Dundee this autumn.

The selection panel for the residency will consist of Clare Brennan and Dr Kevin Farrugia from Abertay University, Morgan Cahn and Alex Tobin from Yuck ‘n Yum, and the renowned print artist Dr Paul Harrison.

Speaking about what they are looking for and what this artist-in-residency opportunity has to offer those who submit a proposal, Clare Brennan, Curator of Abertay’s Hannah Maclure Centre, said:

“We’re looking for everyone and anyone with an artist’s practice to apply, and we’d like people to think as broadly as they can about this opportunity – they could propose anything from a series of prints or paintings, to something more immersive like a performance or sound installation.

“The artwork created during this residency – whatever it turns out to be – will be displayed and distributed within the context of the inaugural Print Festival Scotland, as well as shared with over 300 delegates who are coming to the Impact 8 conference, so it’ll be a great platform for an artist to showcase the work they do to a wide and varied audience.”

Dr Kevin Farrugia, whose work inspired this residency, explains why he got involved:

“My job involves developing techniques that enable us to visualise the prints people leave behind them, and I just thought there seemed to be a lot of overlap between the festival and the work that I do.

“People leave prints everywhere they go but often don’t realise they do this, because the prints aren’t always visible to the naked eye.

“We mostly use chemicals to enhance the prints, but there are specialised types of lighting and specialised photography we can use as well, so there’ll be a lot for the artist who comes over in June to learn about and experiment with.

“I only really look at the prints from a scientific perspective, so an artist will have a different take on the whole process, and it’ll be interesting to see what they come up with – not just for me, I hope, but for the people who come to Dundee for the Impact conference and for the print festival as well.”

The selected artist will have full use of the DCA (Dundee Contemporary Arts) Print Studio to develop ideas inspired by their time in the lab.

The Print Studio has some of the best printmaking facilities in Scotland, from the traditional printing presses right up to the latest digital and electronic forms.

There is a strong printmaking heritage in Dundee: the publishing company DC Thomson has been printing newspapers and magazines in the city for over 100 years – and it is from the printing industry that the techniques print artists use originate.

Over the centuries, as new inventions and developments were made in the printing industry, artists adopted and experimented with these techniques to make works of art.

Screenprinting, for example – made famous by Andy Warhol’s pop art prints – was initially used for printing cartons and boxes.

Etching – used to decorate guns, armour, cups and plates – was adopted by artists such as Rembrandt, Goya and Castiglione.

Woodblock printing, used by artists such as Edvard Munch, was originally used for printing letters in books and newspapers.

And lithography, which was used by Toulouse-Lautrec for his iconic posters of Parisian life, was also originally used as a method of commercial printing.

Artist and member of the selection panel, Dr Paul Harrison, talks about printmaking in Scotland:

“Scotland has a wonderful tradition in print – as is highlighted in the early development of the network of public print workshops, for example – and Dundee has benefited from it’s outstanding public print facility at the DCA which attracts artists from across the country.

“Duncan of Jordanstone College of Art and Design is internationally recognised in the art world, with printmaking being an integral facet of it’s continued success. Current research in print practices is at the leading edge, building upon Dundee’s history and tradition whilst pushing the boundaries of innovation and new technologies – synthesising the historical with the contemporary.

“The hosting of the Impact 8 International Printmaking Conference in Dundee is recognition of the work that is taking place here, and this residency has a great deal, both culturally and professionally, to offer any interested artists.”

Morgan Cahn, from Yuck ‘n Yum, added:

“The Impact 8 conference coming to Dundee is a huge coup for the city, and is a testament to the quality of research and work being developed here.

“The theme of this year’s Impact conference is exploration, which fits really well with this residency– the artist is an explorer within these new forensic science techniques.

“The festival’s themes of exploration and interdisciplinary collaboration fit well with Dundee’s moniker as the ‘City of Discovery’. They highlight the city’s rich history of advancement in both printmaking, and science.

“We’re really excited to be able to offer this residency when so much creativity and innovation is happening in Dundee – I can’t wait to see what people will come up with.”

Submissions for this residency are now open. The deadline for submissions to reach the selection panel is April 19, 2013. The residency itself will take place the week beginning June 17.

Full guidelines and submission details are available here.

ENDS

Notes to Editors:

  • The Hannah Maclure Centre is Abertay University’s exhibition space and art gallery. It works with contemporary and interdisciplinary cultural producers and artists from around the world, supports teaching activity, and develops opportunities with staff and students.
  • Yuck ‘n Yum has been sponsored by the Hannah Maclure Centre for the past few years and is making waves in the arts world. The black and white zine Yuck ‘n Yum produce comes out every quarter, and is distributed across the UK as well as, more recently, in Europe. They have a huge network of artists who have contributed work to the zine and participated in their many public art projects.
  • The IMPACT 8 International Printmaking Conference is an international forum for print artists and artisans, academics and educators, theorists and critics, curators and collectors, and suppliers of printmaking materials and presses.
  • Now in its 14th year, it is being organised in Dundee by Dr Paul Harrison and Professor Elaine Shemilt from the Duncan of Jordanstone College of Art and Design. The conference is held every two years. In 2011 it took place in Melbourne, Australia, and in 2015 it is expected to be held in China.
  • The theme of this years conference is ‘Borders and Crossings: the artist as explorer’ and is intended to celebrate the practice, concept and application of print and printmaking in its widest possible constituency.
  • It is a celebration of the cross-disciplinary nature of print and fits well with Abertay’s own interdisciplinary approach: the Hannah Maclure Centre is part of Abertay’s Institute of Arts, Media and Computer Games, and the Division of Environment and Forensic Sciences where Dr Farrugia works is part of the School of Contemporary Sciences.
  • The inaugural Print Festival Scotland will take place alongside Impact 8, which runs from August 28 – September 1.
  • Events connected with the print festival will be taking place across Scotland. In Dundee, all the major arts organisations are taking part including Dundee University, The McManus, the V&A @ Dundee, and the DCA.

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Mystery First World War nurse’s suitcase discovered at Abertay University

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Nursing staff at the University of Abertay Dundee are appealing for more information about the owner of a mystery suitcase.

It was discovered at the back of a cupboard in the University’s Psychology department, and is filled with nursing memorabilia from the First World War.

Slightly battered after so many years, it appears to have once belonged to a nurse from Paisley called Margaret Maule who looked after badly wounded German soldiers at the Dartford War Hospital in Kent.

She also cared for wounded British soldiers at the Shakespeare Hospital in Glasgow, and later did her training to qualify as a Queen’s Nurse in Greenock.

However, why the suitcase has turned up at Abertay, nobody knows.

Robin Ion, Head of Abertay’s Nursing and Counselling Division, was intrigued by the discovery and is keen to hear from anyone who can shed more light on who Nurse Maule was:

“The contents of this suitcase are absolutely fascinating, but we know very little about the person who owned it. There’s no record of her ever having been to Abertay, so how it came to be in our possession is a complete mystery.

“All we know about her is what we’ve been able to piece together from the things we found in her suitcase. It contains documents dating back to 1914, including her diary and an article she wrote for a newspaper called The People’s Journal.

“There’s also an autograph book filled with detailed sketches drawn for her by her patients by way of thanks for the care she gave them, and a number of faded photographs of her and her fellow nurses dressed in their pristine white uniforms.”

From her diary it is clear that Nurse Maule initially had misgivings about having to care for German prisoners of war. However, she was able to overcome these feelings and provide a very high level of care for her patients, something Robin Ion feels made her an exemplary nurse:

“When she graduated as a nurse at the age of 30 in 1917, after three years of training in Glasgow, she became part of Queen Alexandra’s Imperial Military Nursing Service (QAIMNS) and signed up instantly to be sent overseas.

“From the documents in the suitcase, we know that her brother had been killed in action, and that she was desperate to do her bit for the war effort. So it came as a shock when she learnt she was to be sent to Dartford to care for prisoners of war.

“However, the fact that she managed to carry out her duties in spite of her misgivings, and that she did so in such a way that her patients went to the trouble of crafting gifts for her to show their appreciation, indicates that she was one of the best.

“Nursing has always been about showing compassion – without prejudice – and Nurse Maule showed an enormous depth of feeling to her patients under very difficult circumstances.

“If anyone knew Nurse Maule, or has any information about where the suitcase might have come from, I’d be very keen to hear from them – she’s a fantastic example of what nursing is all about and it would be wonderful if any of her relations alive today could tell us more about her.”

If anyone has any information they would like to share with Abertay about Nurse Maule, please send an email to communications@abertay.ac.uk

ENDS

Notes to Editor:

1. Abertay University has been teaching nursing since the mid 1970s and is set to create a centre of excellence in mental health nursing over the coming years.

2. Very little is known about nursing during the First World War, and there are few published sources of information. However, it is an active area of research, and two books dedicated to the subject have recently been published:

  • “Containing Trauma: Nursing Work in the First World War” by Christine Hallett (Manchester, Manchester University Press, 2009)
  • “Its A Long Way to Tipperary: British and Irish Nurses in the Great War” by Yvonne McEwen (Dunfermline, Cualann Press, 2006)

There is also an invaluable website dedicated to sharing information about British military nursing from 1880 onwards, run by Sue Light: www.scarletfinders.co.uk

The little that is known about nursing during that period has been put together from gathering information about the lives of individual nurses, so Nurse Maule’s suitcase and its contents are an important historical record.

3. The following information is known about the history of military nursing:

  • Queen Alexandra’s Imperial Nursing Service (QAIMNS) was formed in 1902, replacing the Army Nursing Service (ANS) which was formed in the 1850s as a result of the Crimean War where there were a large number of casualties who needed expert care.
  • The ANS was originally made up of only six nurses, but by 1898 there were 72.
  • However, during the Second Boer War (1899-1902) it was difficult to train and maintain a large military nursing service, so a major reorganisation and expansion of military nursing took place, and the QAIMNS was established.
  • According to scarletfinders.co.uk, “members of the QAIMNS were all over the age of 25 (or just possibly widowed), educated, of impeccable social standing, and had completed a three year course of nurse training in a hospital approved by the War Office.”
  • Nursing, therefore, was still a relatively new profession, and the QAIMNS was the first “official” nursing service in the UK.
  • Although the recognised training for civilian nurses at this time was also three years training in a hospital with a recognised training school, there was no actual register for civilian nurses, so a lot of women practiced as ‘nurses’ in the community without actually having official training. In addition, one of the most prestigious schools, The London Hospital, only had a two year training course.
  • However, all of these issues were resolved when nurses got their own professional register in December 1919, largely thanks to the exemplary work of the QAIMNS during the Great War. All nurses (military and civilian) from that point onwards had to have the full three years training and enter their names onto the register.

4. It is possible to search for information about trained nurses on The National Archives website – where official documents are stored – using the series code WO399. Enter the nurse’s surname into the “Word or phrase” box, then enter “WO399″ into the “Department or Series code” box. Click on “Search”, and any records held will be listed for you.

Nurse Maule’s record contains 24 pages and, together with the information in the suitcase, tells us the following about her:

  • She was born in Paisley and lived at 5 McKerrell Street, went to the East Public School in Paisley and trained as a nurse at Merryflatts Hospital – now the Southern General Hospital in Glasgow – from 1914 to 1917.
  • She then became a member of Queen Alexandra’s Imperial Military Nursing Service and was sent to care for seriously injured prisoners of war at the Dartford War Hospital in Kent. She began her duties there as a Staff Nurse on September 25, 1917.
  • When the war ended she resigned from her post in Dartford and went to work in a hospital in Glasgow known as the Shakespeare Hospital. This was once the Shakespeare Street School in Maryhill, which was turned into a hospital during the First World War when more beds were needed to treat wounded service personnel. She began working there on August 1, 1919.

5. The autograph book found inside Nurse Maule’s suitcase was signed by German prisoners of war. According to the Imperial War Museum, they hold a considerable number of similar autograph books within their collection, but those containing entries made by German POWs are quite unusual. However, they are not looking to acquire any further samples.

6. As well as the autograph book, diary and newspaper article, the suitcase contains a signed photograph of Queen Mary – who came to visit the Dartford War Hospital – Nurse Maule’s qualification certificates, letters, and one of the gifts the prisoners of war made for her, that she mentions in the newspaper article.

7. After the war, Nurse Maule went on to train as a Queen’s Nurse at the Greenock District Nursing Association from 18th November 1919 to 17th May 1920.

8. She retired in 1969. A letter of appreciation for her service from the Ministry of Defence was sent to her at her home at number 46 Dunchurch Road, Oldhall, Paisley.

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Quail reveal secrets of their camouflage success

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A new paper published in Current Biology has shown that female quail “know” what the patterning on their eggs is going to be before they lay them.

The study has also revealed that this helps the birds decide where they should lay their eggs and that – when given a choice – they most often choose the laying location that offers their eggs the best camouflage.

They do this by selecting one of two camouflaging techniques: ‘background matching’ or ‘disruptive colouration.’

Lead author of the study, Dr P. George Lovell from the University of Abertay Dundee, explains why this is so interesting:

“Quail eggs vary hugely in appearance: some are pale with a few spots and speckles, while others are covered in large, dark brown splotches.

“The eggs are laid on the ground or in open grassland, so the threat from visual predators is very high. This means that being well camouflaged is vital if the eggs are to survive, and our study showed that the quail try to maximise egg camouflage by choosing locations appropriate to their own individual egg patterning.

“When we gave the birds a choice of where they could lay their eggs, they most often chose to lay them in the location that offered them the best camouflage – or, in other words, that made them most difficult to see.

“We also found that the camouflaging technique they selected differed, depending upon how much speckling their eggs were going to have: when they laid an egg with just a few spots or speckles, they used a technique known as ‘background matching’, where they chose somewhere that matched the background colour of the egg.

Background-matching-example

“But when they laid an egg with more than 30 per cent speckling, they used a technique called ‘disruptive colouration’, where they chose a location that was more similar in colour to the speckling, rather than the background colour.

“These techniques work in different ways: disruptive colouration breaks up the outline of the egg so that it’s more difficult to see which edges belong to the egg outline, while background matching works by making the egg’s outline harder to see.”

Disruptive-colouration-example

When the research team conducted the study, they had no idea about the extent to which the birds “knew” their own egg patterning and were able to make decisions about camouflage based upon that knowledge.

Until now, there has been very little evidence in any species that animals are aware of their individual patterning and that they choose an appropriate environment within which to hide.

However, this study has shown that it is actually the patterning on the egg that informs the quail’s decision about where to lay it.

Dr Lovell continues:

“From an evolutionary perspective, what you can and cannot see is of the utmost importance – predators need to be good at detecting their prey in order to survive, but the prey also need to be good at hiding their eggs, if they want to avoid predation.

“So the whole point of camouflage is to disrupt the visual perception of the predator, as this will enhance the survival of the species being hunted, and it seems that, when it comes to camouflage, quail really know what they’re doing.

“Although we don’t yet know for certain what the mechanism for this is, it’s likely that it is something that they learn: in the wild, first time breeders across many species are often unsuccessful, so the ability to choose an appropriately camouflaging nesting position is probably based upon seeing what their first egg looked like.”

ENDS

Notes to Editors:

The trial involved 16 female Japanese quail, and a total of 179 eggs were collected over a two week period.

During the trial, the quail were each given a choice of four different coloured sands on which they could lay their eggs.

The eggs were then photographed in the location on which they were laid. This was sometimes in the gaps between the sands – it really depended on where the quail felt its egg would be most difficult to see.

The other locations were also photographed, and the research team developed a model predator that attempted to find the outline of the egg in each of the four locations.

When they compared the results, they found that each time, out of all the options the quail could have chosen, they most often chose the location that offered their egg the best camouflage.

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