Archive for January 25, 2018

New Chernobyl grant for Salford researchers Apr 06, 2017


Dr Wood (second from left) and Dr Entwistle (4th from left) with some of their ‘RED FIRE’ collaborators at the edge of the Red Forest

Award-winning researcher, Dr Mike Wood, is back in Chernobyl.  This time he’s accompanied by fellow Salford academic, Dr Neil Entwistle, as they undertake fieldwork in Chernobyl’s ‘Red Forest’ for their latest NERC grant.

The Red Forest is the most anthropogenically contaminated radioactive ecosystem on earth.  Located just a few kilometres from the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant where the 1986 accident occurred, this 4 – 6 square kilometres area of coniferous forest was killed by high radiation levels.  Before the trees died, their needles turned a red/orange colour and the area was named the Red Forest.  In the 30 years since the accident, the area has transitioned into a deciduous woodland (deciduous trees are more resistant to radiation than conifers).

A severe fire in the Red Forest during July 2016 was reported to have burnt approximately 80 percent of the forest. This presented a unique opportunity to study the effect of fire on i) radionuclide mobility/bioavailability and ii) the impact of radiation on the recovery of the forest ecosystems exposed to another stressor (ie. fire).

The new NERC grant, RED FIRE (Radioactive Environment Damaged by Fire: a Forest in Recovery), is funding an international research team to study the aftermath of the fire. Dr Wood and Dr Entwistle, both from the School of Environment & Life Sciences, are working in collaboration with the Centre for Ecology & Hydrology, University of Nottingham, Chornobyl Center, the Ukrainian Institute of Agricultural Radiology and the Norwegian University of Life Sciences.

The team are using a combination of techniques, from soil analysis to drones, to study the fire damages area.  The project builds on Dr Wood’s previous radioecology research collaborations, including those developed through the NERC TREE project (  Dr Entwistle, an expert in drone-based research, is a new and valuable addition to the research team due to his specialist expertise.

RED FIRE is led by Prof Nick Beresford at the Centre for Ecology & Hydrology.  Initial findings from the project will be reported at the 4th International Conference on Radioecology and Environmental Radioactivity (ICRER) in Berlin in September 2017.

Mike will be doing a special Alumni Lecture in London on Thursday 25th May (6-8.30pm) at The Royal Institution, 21 Albemarle Street, W1S 4BS. In his lecture ‘Life in the shadow of Chernobyl’ he will take you on a journey through this environment, introduce you to some of the animals that live there and explain how his team’s findings are challenging some recent publications on the effects of radiation on Chernobyl wildlife.


The Salford Lecture Series: How the environment affects the immune system Jul 14, 2017

Professorial Inaugural Lecture: Professor Joseph Jackson

Tuesday 18 July 5.30pm Peel Building, Room 337

Join us for the inaugural lecture of Professor Joseph Jackson, Chair in Parasitology in the School of Environment & Life Sciences.

Joe gained his PhD in Parasitology from the University of London, and took up his post at Salford in December 2015, joining us from Aberystwyth University.

Joe’s research looks at how the immune system is affected by the environment we inhabit and should be defined as a “real-world trait”. He says:

“The immune system is a key determinant of individual health, but has evolved to function in a natural environment – rather than in the artificial environments that we live in today. Furthermore, most of what we understand about immunology comes from unnatural laboratory models that don’t allow for the effect of realistic environmental variation.  Studies in naturally-occurring vertebrates are helping us to understand how immunity is adapted to respond to the natural environment. This knowledge may, in turn, help us tailor our environments and lifestyles (or those of other animals of interest) in ways that lead to a healthier immune system.”

Environmental regeneration partnership Aug 01, 2017

Last month, colleagues from the Ecosystems and Environment Research Centre (EERC) in the School of Environment & Life Sciences visited the new Mersey Gateway Crossing between Widnes and Runcorn.

As part of our ICZ partnership with the Mersey Gateway Environmental Trust (MGET), the area around the new toll bridge will be a ‘living laboratory’ to monitor saltmarsh changes and effects on grazing cattle.

Professor Philip James, Leader of the EERC said: “For over a decade now we have been working in the Upper Mersey Estuary. Four PhD projects have been successfully completed and three more are currently underway, two of which are supported by i-Case funding.

“One of the aims of the visit was to agree the location for a 5km x1km RAPELD module, the first site in the UK to be part of the international Programa de Pesquisa em Biodiversidade (PPBio). This will offer University of Salford students excellent opportunities to carry out biodiversity surveys and contribute to an international biodiversity monitoring programme.”

The team was given a tour of the insides of the bridge, something that won’t be possible once it’s operational in the next few months. They were also able to take a lift to the top of the north tower from which they were able to see the Upper Mersey Estuary and begin locating the sampling points for the monitoring programme. They then visited various parts of the estuary at ground level to examine the sites in greater detail.

Paul Oldfield from the Mersey Gateway Environmental Trust said: “We would not be able to do this without the support of the University of Salford. Becoming part of an international programme exceeds our expectations of where we thought we would be at this stage of our development.”

New research on radiation and health in Chernobyl Sep 01, 2017

The University’s radiation research continues to expand, with Prof Joe Jackson, Prof Richard Birtles and Dr Kevin Bown from ELS joining Dr Mike Wood’s team of researchers studying the effects of radiation in the Chernobyl Exclusion Zone.

Their inclusion in the team brings leading expertise in parasitology and immune system function, opening new opportunities to explore the influence of radiation on the health of wildlife in the world’s most radioactively contaminated terrestrial ecosystem.

Funded through one of Mike’s NERC grants, which supports research in Chernobyl’s ‘Red Forest’, Joe and Mike have just completed a 10 day programme of fieldwork in the Zone. Working with Prof Nick Beresford (NERC Centre for Ecology & Hydrology) and Dr Sergey Gashchak (Chornobyl Center, Ukraine), they have collected extensive data on mammal populations within the Red Forest and associated health information.  They have also used radiation monitoring technology, including drone-mounted equipment, to quantify the radiation exposure of these Red Forest mammals. The team has returned to the University with a wealth of data, which they will be analysing over the coming months.

Mike’s award-winning research in Chernobyl has achieved significant international impact and has catalysed the development of new collaborations, including Fukushima research with the University of Tokyo. His world leading expertise in environmental radiation protection also led to his appointment as Chair of the Government consultation on new radiation protection legislation for the UK.

“The University of Salford is now recognised internationally as a centre of research excellence in environmental radioactivity.  Our growing team of experts from across the University is working together with our external collaborators to tackle fundamental questions about radiation in the environment and its effects on wildlife.  Our work is informing policy developments, underpinning international radiation protection guidance and making significant scientific contributions across a range of disciplines.” said Mike.

“I am delighted with what we have achieved to date and see this as the start of a much larger programme of radiation research at Salford. There are many excellent researchers within this University, with skills and expertise that could significantly enhance our current activities as well as opening up new opportunities. If colleagues have suggestions of ways in which they could contribute to this research area then I would encourage them to contact me to discuss.”

Mike returns to Chernobyl in early September to undertake the final sampling activities in a 12-month study of the influence of radiation on the soil system.  Prior to this he will be delivering a presentation in Berlin on use of novel technologies in radioecological research, an area in which other Salford-researchers, including Dr Simon Campion (SOBE), Dr Neil Entwistle (ELS) and Dr Paul Kendrick (CSE), have been collaborating with Mike.

You can contact Mike by emailing

Manchester Science Festival 2017 – still lots going on! Oct 23, 2017

As lead Educational Sponsor of Manchester Science Festival, we are hosting some exciting interactive events as part of this creative celebration of science.

Produced by the Museum of Science and Industry, Manchester Science Festival is the largest science festival in England beginning last Thursday and running through to 29 October. The range of events and activities that make up the festival cater for all ages and a whole host of interests – there really is something for everyone, not just those interested in ‘the science bit’.

Throughout last weekend, as part of Manchester Science Festival, we transformed our campus into a massive science experiment over three floors, bringing together interactive and immersive experiences. From controllable floating fish to the latest virtual reality from VR Manchester, eSport demos, retro platforms and interactive VJ events, there was lots to do and see.


2017 Professorial and Readership promotions announced

Helen Marshall

Professor Helen Marshall

Dear Colleagues,

I am delighted to announce our new Professors and Readers for 2017. All have proved their sustained and recognised leadership and I warmly congratulate each one of them for achieving these well-deserved promotions. I am particularly pleased to see eight of the candidates are women, which ties in with our Athena SWAN objectives to promote gender equality in the career paths of our academics.

Personal professorships have been awarded to Dr Anya Ahmed, Dr Jia Liu, Dr Sue McAndrew, Dr Niroshini Nirmalan, Dr Federica Sotgia, Dr Andy Willis and Dr Mike Wood. You can read their biographies here.

Dr Clare Allely, Dr Paul Comfort, Dr Robert Jehle, Dr David Kreps, Dr James Mulkeen, Dr David Pye, Dr Leslie Robinson, Dr Mo Saraee, Dr Mark Wilding and Dr Heather Yates have been made Readers. You can read their biographies here.

Yours sincerely

Professor Helen Marshall


Congratulations to Jim Newell, Italian Politics Specialist Group

The Italian Politics Specialist Group has been awarded £1,000 towards: ‘Italy in a world of uncertainty and change: getting to grips with the general election of 2018’.

Roundtable: “Italy in a world of uncertainty and change: getting to grips with the general election of 2018”

Room: Room E, City Hall
Time Slot: Wednesday 28th March 13:30 – 15:00

Panel Chair:
Dr Arianna Giovannini (De Montfort University)
Panel Members:
• Professor James Newell (University of Salford)
Dr Simona Guerra (University of Liecester)
Dr Davide Vampa (Aston University)
Professor Anna Bull (University of Bath)

The Italian general election of 2018 looks set to be one of the most uncertain and at the same time dramatic contests in the country’s history, coming as it does against the background of a new electoral law; sustained and growing support for the populist Five-star Movement, and other ‘populist revolts’ elsewhere (one thinks, here, of the Brexit referendum, the election of Donald Trump in the US, the surprise outcome of the 2017 general election in the UK and now, the events in Catalonia). Simulations carried out by mapping current voting intentions as revealed by surveys onto the corresponding seat distributions that would result from applying the new electoral law suggest the absence of a parliamentary majority for any party or coalition though the Five-star Movement is currently the most-supported party. The outcome of post-election coalition negotiations in such circumstances will be highly unpredictable; though with the Five-star Movement emerging as the largest formation – while being almost certainly unwilling to coalesce with other parties to form a majority – a continuation of political instability, of widespread anti-political sentiments and of weakness of the country’s political parties seems almost inevitable.
In this context, the Italian Politics Specialist group wishes to host a roundtable on an electoral contest which must take place early next year, at the end of the current legislature’s term, and which will therefore roughly coincide with the Cardiff conference itself. Either because it will have just taken place, or because it will be due to take place shortly, the election will be dominating headlines (in Italy, of course, and, given the current international context, abroad as well). This roundtable will thus provide a timely forum for discussion, with inputs from leading experts, on the distinctive features of the campaign, the outcome and implications of this momentous political event.

Workshop on the dynamics of competition between populist challengers and mainstream parties in Europe today

22-23 January 2018, University of Birmingham
A Workshop co-organised by the PSA’s Italian Politics Specialist Group, the “Parties, Voters and Elections Research Group” of the Department of Political Science and International Studies of the University of Birmingham, and the Department of Politics and International Relations at Aston University.
Room: 429, fourth floor, Muirhead Tower

Session 2
Chair and discussant: Jim Newell
Gilles Ivaldi – Crowding the market: the dynamics of populist and mainstream competition in the 2017 French presidential elections
The 2017 French presidential elections have seen a considerable rise in support for populist actors at the periphery of the party system, challenging the dominance of the more established parties of the mainstream. The electoral success of Jean-Luc Mélenchon’s France Insoumise (LFI) has expanded the political space for populist politics to the left of the political spectrum, competing with Marine Le Pen’s Front national (FN) to the right. Meanwhile, the emergence of Emmanuel Macron as a politically viable centrist alternative has dislodged further the traditional bipolar dynamics of competition in French politics, resulting in a significant reshaping of the party system. Based on a national survey of French voters conducted in 2017, this paper will examine the dynamics of electoral support for populist candidates in the presidential election, looking at commonalities and differences between the left and right-wing manifestations of the populist phenomenon, and to which extent these differed from the mainstream. In doing so, the paper will position itself in the current comparative literature on populism, addressing in particular how populism interacts with other dimensions of competition, most notably globalization and European integration which were paramount in the 2017 elections in France.

The great illusionist: Silvio Berlusconi and Italian politics, James L. Newell,Manchester University Press, 2018

This book is about one of the most remarkable European politicians of recent decades, the four times prime minister and media mogul, Silvio Berlusconi, and about his contribution to the dramatic changes that have overtaken Italian politics since the early 1990s. Since 2013, Berlusconi’s career seems to have entered a new and possibly final phase, in which he is occupied less frequently in setting the political agenda than in reacting to agendas set by others. Consequently, the time is now right to consider his legacy and how and why he has changed, or failed to change, Italian politics in the period since his emergence. The basic question underlying the text is thus: from the vantage point of 2017, would Italian political history of the past twenty-five years look substantially different had Berlusconi not had the high-profile role in it that he did? Ultimately, we can never conclusively answer such a question; but asking it makes it possible to contribute to a broader debate of recent years concerning the significance of leaders in post-Cold War democratic politics. Having considered Berlusconi’s legacy in the areas of political culture, voting and party politics, public policy and the quality of Italian democracy, the book concludes by considering the international significance of the Berlusconi phenomenon in relation to the recent election of Donald Trump, with whom Berlusconi is often compared. The book will appeal to anyone with an interest in Berlusconi the man, in Italian politics or in the growing significance of populist leaders.