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Biology graduates present their research

Cymbalaria muralis (top) and Sonchus asper (right), two of the 180 species of urban flora recorded in towns in Malta and Gozo in one of the research projects.

Cymbalaria muralis (top) and Sonchus asper (right), two of the 180 species of urban flora recorded in towns in Malta and Gozo in one of the research projects.

Research projects on a wide range of topics were presented at the 2016 Biology Symposium held by the University of Malta’s Department of Biology in collaboration with the Environment and Resources Authority.

The annual event enables the year’s biology BSc and MSc graduates to showcase the results of research work they undertook to fulfil the dissertation requirements of their degree course.

One of the BSc graduates investigated little known crustaceans called ostracods in freshwater pools found in the Maltese countryside and provided an insight into life in this extreme habitat which dries up during the summer months.

Another BSc graduate study involved a preliminary investigation of Malta’s urban flora, in which no less than 180 species were recorded from towns in Malta and Gozo.

An MSc graduate presented an investigation on the effects of curry powder and turmeric on cancerous cells, which were found to induce apoptosis (cellular suicide) in such cells

The effects of feeding frequency on the performance of the gilthead seabream (Awrata) in aquaculture was the subject of a third BSc graduate presentation, in which it was concluded that two meals a day are ideal for growth performance.

Two other BSc graduate projects dealt with the effect of sewage effluent on the fauna and flora of rocky shores. The first showed that the biodiversity along the Xgħajra coast is slowly recovering following the decommissioning of the Wied Għammieq raw sewage outfall. The second study focuss­ed on the effects of effluent from the sewage treatment plant at Ras il-Ħobz in Gozo.

An MSc graduate presented an investigation on the effects of curry powder and turmeric on cancerous cells, which were found to induce apoptosis (cellular suicide) in such cells.

The potential culture of mussels and sea cucumbers under and near existing fish farms was assessed in a second MSc study. Such culture, known as Integrated Multi-trophic Aquaculture (IMTA), has the beneficial effect of reducing the polluting effects of fish farms, which has been very much in the news recently.

In the last MSc graduate presentation the effect of different levels of human activity on fouling by marine algae was assessed by the ingenious method of measuring the degree of fouling on plastic buoys in various bays.

The symposium was opened by Biology Department head Prof. Joseph  Borg. It was also addressed by Prof. Charles Sammut, dean of the Faculty of Science and by Prof. Saviour Zammit, Pro-Rector for Research and Knowledge Transfer.

A booklet containing abstracts of all this year’s dissertations, including those which could not be presented at the symposium, has been published. To buy a copy, call the Department of Biology on 2340 2272.

The symposium and the booklet were supported by Environment and Resources Authority.

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