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Image of newspaper front page reading 'The Good News #25' on a cream background.
September, 2020

The Good News #25

Our return to the office was sweet but short-lived like a British summertime… We may have returned to the world of kitchen table offices, but there’s still lots of exciting developments to discover. Read some of our favourite recent news stories below.

Say hello to the Bristol Beacon
In recent months, Bristol has seen a great deal of changes that have been a long time coming. Among these changes, the venue formerly known as Colston Hall has revealed its new name…the Bristol Beacon!

Bristol Music Trust, which runs the venue, said it hoped the renaming would be “a fresh start for the organisation and its place in the city”. Bosses originally announced plans to change the venue’s name back in 2017. However, renaming such an iconic music venue has been no small feat. More than 4,000 people across the city were consulted about their hopes for the new venue and thoughts on a name.

The name Bristol Beacon was developed in a process led by London and Hong Kong-based branding agency, Saboteur. Saboteur said that the name was chosen “because it describes a focal point, a gathering place and a source of inspiration – a place that will be visible beyond the boundaries of the city – which everyone involved in the project felt encapsulated what this venue means for the city, and set music free”.

Many Bristolians chose to boycott the Bristol Beacon under its former name, most notably Bristol legends Massive Attack refused to play there. Might we see a celebratory post-pandemic Massive Attack gig there in the future? Let’s hope so!

Image of the newly named 'Bristol Beacon' live music venue in Bristol

COVID sniffer dogs
Our canine friends are coming to the rescue once again… Sniffer dogs are often spotted at airports and events around the world to detect illegal substances and contraband. Now some of our furry friends are using their noses for a different purpose. Dogs, specially trained to detect COVID-19 in humans have started sniffing passengers as part of a trial at Finland’s Helsinki-Vantaa airport.

Volunteers are training a team of 15 dogs and 10 instructors for the research programme. The trained dogs can detect coronavirus in humans five days before they develop symptoms. Anna Hielm-Bjorkman, the University of Helsinki professor who is running the trial, told Reuters news agency “They are very good [at detecting coronavirus]. We come close to 100% sensitivity.”

Passengers wipe their necks with cloths, which are then placed in a can and put in front of dogs to sniff. A canine test can deliver a result within minutes.

However, while the trial has shown great early promise, there still needs to be more research to prove the efficiency of canine testing. At the moment, passengers taking part in the trial are also instructed to take a swab to confirm the result is correct. Fingers crossed following further research we’ll see more of these trained dogs implemented in airports as a quick canine sniff sounds a lot more pleasant than a swab!

COVID-19 sniffer dog in action at Helsinki airport

UWE Bristol student helping to monitor endangered species
Beckie Green, a UWE Bristol master’s student, is building a prototype of a handheld device that extracts DNA from the air to determine what animal lives in a habitat. The airborne DNA sampler consists of a vacuum pump that pulls air through a filter. The user just needs to place the nozzle of the device inside a small space such as a furrow, tree hole, or crevice when the animal is absent, and DNA that is present in the air from its fur or skin etc will get caught in the filter and can be sent to the lab for testing.

Green thought of the idea during her dissertation as part of her MSc Advanced Wildlife Conservation in Practice programme, after she realised that no device to extract DNA in such a way existed. The device will present conservationists with a simple and non-invasive system to monitor and hopefully protect species.

Green said: “It has previously been hard to capture DNA samples because if we take bats, for instance, they sometimes live in small and awkward holes that are hard to access. The usual method is to use an endoscope with a light on the end, but this is very invasive and expensive because it takes time.”

The device could be used for a variety of animals such as badgers, mice, meerkats and eventually nocturnal primate species. It is seen as especially important for use with certain species where data is lacking. On the IUCN Red List, almost a third of species are considered to be data deficient, meaning there is insufficient information for an accurate assessment of conservation status to be made. Many of these, including over 700 mammal species, fall within the hard-to-survey category.

The design has already made it to the final of the Con X Tech Prize, an international competition that calls for innovative ways to solve conservation challenges.

Woman in blue helmet climbing tree and using device to monitor animal habitat

Earlier this year, when it became increasingly clear physical events were no longer any option, we worked with our client, cloud software company Nutanix to develop an on-demand Virtual Masterclass, read all about it here.