Urban wildlife and the human shield effect

In recent decades, there has been an increasing number of scientific findings that shed light on the extent to which the human race is responsible for the destruction of the Earth’s other species. Not every species, however, suffers as a result of human expansion: those with good adaptability often directly benefit from the proximity of human settlements. A recent study on the subject, published in the journal of the American Academy of Sciences, PLOS Biology, summarized the findings of a research group of international scientists. The ELKH Centre for Ecological Research in Budapest was also involved in the research through the work of László Zsolt Garamszegi.

In recent decades and centuries, increasing urbanization has led to ever more non-domesticated animals living in closer proximity to humans. Urban wildlife has adapted to traffic, noise and human lifestyles. In parallel with this kind of urbanization, however, there is also a drastic reduction of the number of predators for prey animals, the effectiveness of so-called anti-predator behavior.

The researched phenomenon is the human shield effect: when in the presence of humans and their activities, the presence and activity of man eliminates (or greatly reduces) the predatory pressure felt in an animal’s natural habitat, i.e. predators in cities are unable to harm their migratory prey. Of course, you can also find smaller predators living in cities, but their activities are significantly restricted. This means that urban prey do not experience such strong selective pressure as in the wild. In other words, animal species that learn to live close to humans tend to thrive, as humans protect them from other predators.

“We can’t say that for animals the city is like a ‘free-for-all’, nor that there are no dangers in the city. But for many animals (and plants), cities provide tolerable conditions, as long as they can adapt. Though many species aren’t capable, many are, and in this case human beings and the animal kingdom are able to live alongside each other in the long term,” explain László Zsolt Garamszegi.

Research has also shown that these changes occur rapidly over a few generations as a result of anthropocene evolution, meaning that humans inadvertently induce processes that would otherwise occur through domestication: the researchers say there are clear similarities between domestication and the effect of urbanization on selection pressure.

 

Eszter Bánffy chosen as new president at 26th European Association of Archaeologists Annual Meeting, first ever to be held online

This year, the conference of the European Association of Archaeologists (EAA), which has several thousand members, took place online on 24-30 August 2020 due to the global coronavirus pandemic. The event was originally scheduled to be held in Budapest. During the conference, which is one of the most important events in European archeology, the staff of the ELKH BTK Institute of Archeology presented a broad spectrum of bioarchaeological, archaeometric, environmental archeology and landscape history research, dealing with events from prehistory to the Middle Ages and the early modern period.

ELTE, the Hungarian National Museum and Várkapitányság Nonprofit Zrt. were originally responsible for organizing the Annual Meeting with the support of Hungarian experts from a number of different fields. The live conference, however, was postponed due to the coronavirus pandemic, and is now scheduled to take place in 2022.

The scientific program for the virtual conference, though somewhat reduced in comparison to the original plan, still included a total of 1,800 online presentations and posts in more than 150 sessions. The events were followed by more than 2,000 participants via online platforms. The organizers succeeded in creating an unusual yet fascinating and extremely valuable conference, packed full with superb talks and sessions.

Anna Szécsényi-Nagy

In addition to employees from numerous other Hungarian institutions, researchers from the BTK Institute of Archeology presented their findings in several presentations and posts. As one of the conference’s keynote speakers, Anna Szécsényi-Nagy gave a talk with the title “Prehistory of the Carpathian Basin from the perspective of archaeogenetics”.

In addition to the presentations, the staff of the Archaeogenetic Laboratory, Momentum Mobility Research Group and various thematic-based groups also participated in the organisation of different sessions. However, many people were unable to hold their originally planned sessions online. These sessions will now be held in Budapest in 2022.

At the conference, the new president of the association and other officials were chosen. The term of the serving president, Felipe Criado-Boado, had come to an end, and by a majority vote Eszter Bánffy, director of the DAI RGK (German Archaeological Institute), was elected by the members to be the next president of the EAA, the first Hungarian woman to hold the position.

Eszter Bánffy

Eszter Bánffy is the scientific advisor for the ELKH BTK Institute of Archeology, a professor of the Hungarian Academy of Sciences, the director of the German Archeological Institute research center in Frankfurt, and a member of the British Academy. Her research interests include Neolithic and Copper Age archeology, the transition to food production, theoretical archeology, and the archaeological heritage of early religions. She has taken part in and led excavations in Western Transdanubia, and has also led research programs along the Danube.

She has written ten books and edited a further three. She also has more than 100 published scientific articles and chapters to her name, which have been published in Europe, the United States, Russia and Japan. She has held countless talks and courses at various universities in Hungary, Europe and the United States, including Harvard, where she spent one semester as a guest researcher in 2008.

In addition to the European Archaeological Association, she is a member of the European Academy of Sciences and Arts, the Hungarian Society of Archeology and Art History, and a founding member of the Association of Hungarian Archaeologists. Her work has also been recognized with a Révay Award and a Kuzsinszky Bálint Commemorative Medal.

Strategic partnership between Széchenyi István University in Győr, the Institute for Computer Science and Control (SZTAKI) and the Eötvös Loránd Research Network Secretariat

A strategic partnership has been agreed between Széchenyi István University (SZE), the Institute for Computer Science & Control (SZTAKI), which belongs to the Eötvös Loránd Research Network, and the Eötvös Loránd Research Network (ELKH) Secretariat. The agrement was signed by Dr Péter Földesi, rector, Dr Bálint Filep, president and Dr Zsolt Kovács, chancellor, on behalf of the university, Dr László Monostori, director, on behalf of SZTAKI, and Dr. Miklós Maróth, president, on behalf of the ELKH Secretariat.

The collaboration means that the parties have entered into a partnership regarding professional matters related to education, research and tendering associated with autonomous vehicles, e-mobility, intelligent transport systems, precision crop production, infocommunications, artificial intelligence and industry 4.0.

The objective of this partnership – while keeping in mind the vision and program of the implementation of the Science Park to be built leveraging the capabilities of SZE – is the development of an innovation ecosystem. On the basis of this partnership and the initial technological foundation previously established with a partnership between SZTAKI, the Széchenyi István University and Audi Hungaria Zrt. to produce the INDUSTRY 4.0 Center of Excellence for Research and Innovation, which functions as a model laboratory, the program will promote the transfer of knowledge and technology in the field of robotics for Hungarian small and medium-sized enterprises. Other important elements of the program include the support of cooperative industrial PhD research and new researchers, with the aim of involving talented young people in scientific life.

The strategic partnership will bring a number of mutual benefits to all parties, support the widest possible social and economic exploitation of basic research findings and help all parties to prepare effectively for the next cycle of European Union Horizon Europe tenders.

ELKH to be main sponsor of this year’s Hungarian STEM Festival in Budapest

Following the success of previous years, the fourth annual STEM Festival will be held in Budapest on Saturday 17 October 2020. In the world of Hungarian science and technology, this is the most exciting event to promote and popularise the sciences. This year, the Eötvös Loránd Research Network is participating as the main sponsor and professional partner of the festival, with Dr. Miklós Maróth, president of ELKH, serving as the chief patron.

In light of the coronavirus situation, this year’s events will be held online via live video streaming. The recordings will be available on the festival’s website for a year.

Given the nature of the online format, the organisers’ target audience is between the ages of 12 to 32. The program is geared towards those deciding their future and those looking to continue their studies by highlighting the many opportunities available in STEM. However, anyone and everyone interested in the sciences is welcome to participate, regardless of age.

This year’s event will once again feature inspiring presenters covering numerous subjects in cooperation with ELKH’s researchers. But, in keeping with tradition, leading Hungarian R&D companies, other research institutes, universities, science and tech companies and scientific representatives from various organisations will also be giving presentations.

All are welcome to participate in the Hungarian STEM Festival 4.0 between 10 am and 8 pm on Saturday 17 October 2020.

Online streaming will be available on the following platforms:

Hungarian STEM Festival Facebook Event

Hungarian STEM Festival Website

Hungarian STEM Festival YouTube Channel

The development of the concept of European studies – a publication of the researcher of KRKI

The study of Zoltán Grünhut (research fellow, ELKH KRTK RKI) titled “The ‘Expertisation’ of European Studies. A Critical Perspective on Discursive Institutionalism” has been published in the Eastern Journal of European Studies Q1 journal. The paper puts into perspective the conceptual evolution of European Studies and one of its latest theoretically based approaches, Discursive Institutionalism. 

It argues that in the field of European Studies expert frameworks aiming for ‘answers’ are overshadowing the intellectual efforts striving for ‘questions’. This tendency undermines the proper identification of problems and it also erodes the effectiveness of proposed policy solutions as these recommendations lack the appropriate conceptual foundations. The paper stresses that this negative trend of ‘expertisation’ is particularly relevant nowadays, when the European Union is undoubtedly struggling with challenges of social disengagement, and that research projects are required to apply approaches that can adequately reveal people’s cognitive-normative understandings and ideationally driven praxes, as well as, most importantly, the generative causes behind EU-sceptical attitudes.

The full text of the paper is available through this link:

http://ejes.uaic.ro/articles/EJES2020_1101_GRU.pdf

The coronavirus may be more resilient and resistant than previously believed

Researchers from Semmelweis University, together with researchers from the National Security Laboratory of the Hungarian Public Health Center, are the first to successfully study the structure of an active and infectious coronavirus. According to their results, the crown-like spikes covering the virus are extraordinarily flexible, while the virus itself is capable of self-healing, which likely makes it one of the most resilient viruses known to humanity. Their study proved that the coronavirus is easily flattened, but then springs back into its original shape like a rubber ball, and physical impact to its structure does not cause damage. These factors may contribute to the unusually high infectivity of the virus.

Illustration source: https://www.biorxiv.org/

Much has been discovered about the novel coronavirus (SARS-CoV-2) over the past six months, but there are still many unanswered questions regarding its properties and how it functions. With this study carried out by researchers at Semmelweis University, however, we have come one step closer to better understanding this virus: Dr. Miklós Kellermayer, Dean of the Faculty of Medicine at Semmelweis University (and a member of ELKH’s Governing Body) led the research group, including researchers from the National Security Laboratory of the Hungarian Public Health Centre, in examining the structure of the coronavirus. They were able to probe the surface of the SARS-COV-2 virus using an atomic force microscope. The probe revealed that the crown-like spikes covering the virus are extraordinarily flexible and the virus is uniquely resilient: it can be easily flattened, but then pops back into its original shape like a rubber ball, but this physical impact does not cause damage to its structure, nor its substance. According to Dr. Miklós Kellermayer, the mechanical and self-healing properties of the virion may allow it to adapt to a wide range of environmental conditions, which may also contribute to its particularly infectious nature.

Photo by Zoltán Tuba

This study by researchers at Semmelweis University is unique because research results published up until now were based on examining inactivated, chemically treated or frozen samples of the virus. Dr. Miklós Kellermayer and his research group, however, examined active and infectious coronavirus samples, which was made possible with a protocol designed for its specific measurement along with the use of an atomic force microscope (AFM).

This microscope is used to study the topography and nanomechanical properties of atoms, molecules and cells. The method was developed by Gerd Binning and Heinrich Rohrer, earning them the Nobel Prize in 1986. According to the Dean of the Faculty of Medicine at Semmelweis University, the AFM is the only microscope capable of capturing high resolution images of native pathogens because the particle does not need freezing or fixing, as it would with an electron microscope.

To examine the approximately 80-nanometer-wide SARS-CoV-2 virus, the researchers pierced it with an even smaller needle. They pushed the needle in from top to bottom, flattening the virus. As soon as the needle was removed, it sprang back into shape. They repeated this process 100 times on the same sample, but the virus remained almost entirely intact. This supports the hypothesis that SARS-CoV-2 may be one of the most physically resilient and resistant viruses known to humanity.

The researchers of Semmelweis University and the National Security Laboratory of the Hungarian Centre for Public Health also examined other structural properties of the virus. Viruses generally become vulnerable after leaving the host. However, SARS-CoV-2 may well persist on surfaces for a long time while maintaining infectivity. The study suggests that the flexible spikes covering the particle may contribute to this factor.

Results of previous studies differed on the number of crown-like spikes covering the outer surface of the virus. A study at the University of Cambridge counted around 24 spikes, while the Max Planck Institute in Germany estimated around 40. The virus examined by Hungarian researchers in this study had 61 spikes. According to Dr. Miklós Kellermayer, this may also prove that the structure of the virus is much more versatile than previously believed.

The proteins constituting the spikes were also closely examined. On physical impact from the needle the crown-shaped spikes started vibrating at such high frequency that the AFM, capable of taking 300 images per second, could only capture blurry images. The researchers suspect that this rapid movement enables the virus to find and connect to host cells more easily.

The heat resistance of SARS-CoV-2 was tested as well. The researchers discovered that its general appearance was barely altered even after being exposed to 90°C (194°F) for ten minutes. The virus lost a few spikes, but remained structurally intact. This might help explain why it remained highly contagious despite the summer heat or in countries with warmer climates.

Ádám Szabó

Source: semmelweis.hu

CSFK FGI researches have created a database of amount weighted annual mean precipitation tritium activity values for the Adriatic-Pannonian region (1976-2017)

The researchers of the Institute for Geological and Geochemical Research at the Research Centre for Astronomy and Earth Sciences (ELKH CSFK FGI) have created a database of amount-weighted annual mean precipitation tritium activity isoscapes for the Adriatic-Pannonian region covering the second half of the 20th century and the first decades of the 21st century, a period that has not been represented by the available global models to date.

Tritium is a radioactive isotope of hydrogen with a half-life of 12.32 years. Tritium is introduced into the hydrological cycle following oxidation. Due to its relatively short half-life, it is ideal for studying processes (such as the mixing and the flow of waters) that occur on a time scale of fewer than 100 years. However, a crucial prerequisite for its application is to know the spatial and temporal changes of tritium activity in precipitation, something which is not readily available on a global scale. As a result, currently the application of tritium activity of water samples in hydrological sciences can only be achieved with great compromises.

In a Slovenian-Hungarian bilateral research project, researchers have collected more than 8,000 pieces of data on tritium activity of monthly precipitation from more than 40 precipitation monitoring stations across the studied region, representing a temporal coverage of approximately 60 years (1961-2017). After investigating the temporal and spatial characteristics of the compiled dataset and identifying and removing the outliers, it was possible to derive the final findings of the project, annually interpolated tritium isocapes for the Adriatic-Pannonian region (called the AP3H_v1 database) for the period of 1976-2017 were derived.

The details are presented in an article published in the journal Earth System Science Data under the title “Isoscape of amount-weighted annual mean precipitation tritium (3H) activity from 1976 to 2017 for the Adriatic–Pannonian region – AP3H_v1 database” by authors Z. Kern, D. Erdélyi, P. Vreča, I. Krajcar Bronić, I. Fórizs, T. Kanduč, M. Štrok, L. Palcsu, M. Süveges, G. Czuppon, B. Kohán and I. Gábor Hatvani. The 1×1 km grid resolution database is available for download in an open access format.

The AP3H_v1 database provides great opportunity for the hydrological modeling community to use site-specific or watershed specific interpolated values instead of using remote station data or ad hoc composite curves. This means that these isoscapes serve as a reference dataset for studies on infiltration dynamics, water transport through various compartments of the hydrological cycle, mixing processes and run-off modeling, for example, to estimate mean residence time in surface waters and groundwater.

The video supplement of the article prepared by D. Erdélyi et al. shows in annual increments how the mean tritium activity in precipitation changed between 1976 and 2017. It clearly mirrors the well-known decadal decline in precipitation tritium activity indicating the depletion of radioactive hydrogen released to the atmosphere during the thermonuclear tests in the 1960s. It should also be noted that besides this overall temporal trend, clear sub-regional spatial patterns can also be observed.

A new procedure developed by Hungarian researchers can significantly increase the efficiency of experiments aimed at getting a better understanding of brain function

Researchers at ELKH’s Institute for Experimental Medicine and Semmelweis University have developed a new, unique procedure worldwide that allows CT and MRI measurements to be used to determine the location of instruments implanted in the brains of mice for experiments to understand normal and abnormal brain function with high accuracy before the experiment starts. The new procedure, based on an imaging technique, will significantly increase the efficiency of mouse experiments and thus greatly accelerate nervous system research. The new procedure developed by Bálint Király, Balázs Hangya, Krisztián Szigeti, Domokos Máthé and their colleagues was published in the highly prestigious Open Access Nature Communications.

A more accurate understanding of the normal and abnormal functioning of the brain is an extremely important task that can bring us closer to more effective treatment of serious diseases affecting humanity, such as Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s diseases. This requires mouse experiments in which measuring devices even thinner than a hair, such as electrodes or optical fibers, are implanted in the brains of mice. However, due to the small size of the mouse brain, this procedure is a major challenge even for experienced surgeons.

Previously, histological tests were used to determine whether the implants were implanted in the appropriate location in the mouse brain after the experiments. However, thanks to the new procedure equivalent to the accuracy of histological tests, this examination can now be performed quickly and accurately before the start of the experiments, which increases the efficiency of mouse experiments and significantly accelerates nervous system research. One of the important features of the new procedure, based on in-depth knowledge of structural pet CT-MRI and neurophysiological methods, is that the location of implanted measuring devices is determined while keeping the radiation exposure associated with CT measurements below safe levels.

The researchers also assessed the possibilities for widespread application of the new procedure. Most of the leading English and American universities in the field of medical and biological sciences have access to the tools needed for the new procedure, and this is also the case for Hungarian medical universities.

The reviewers of the article published in Nature Communications noted, among other things, that by sharing their CT-MRI data, the authors also provided other researchers with the opportunity to examine individual variations in the shape of different brain areas.

Authors:

Bálint Király, Diána Balázsfi, Ildikó Horváth, Nicola Solari, Katalin Sviatkó, Katalin Lengyel, Eszter Birtalan, Magor Babos, Gergő Bagaméry, Domokos Máthé, Krisztián Szigeti & Balázs Hangya: In vivo localization of chronically implanted electrodes and optic fibers in mice.

https://www.nature.com/articles/s41467-020-18472-y

 

Pictures:

3 dimensional MRI image of the mouse brain
3 dimensional MRI image of the ventricles of the mouse brain
dapiMRI – Comparison between a histological slice under microscope (left) with the MRI image of the corresponding slice from the live animal (right)

A new procedure developed by Hungarian researchers can significantly increase the efficiency of experiments aimed at getting a better understanding of brain function

Researchers at ELKH’s Institute for Experimental Medicine and Semmelweis University have developed a new, unique procedure worldwide that allows CT and MRI measurements to be used to determine the location of instruments implanted in the brains of mice for experiments to understand normal and abnormal brain function with high accuracy before the experiment starts. The new procedure, based on an imaging technique, will significantly increase the efficiency of mouse experiments and thus greatly accelerate nervous system research. The new procedure developed by Bálint Király, Balázs Hangya, Krisztián Szigeti, Domokos Máthé and their colleagues was published in the highly prestigious Open Access Nature Communications.

A more accurate understanding of the normal and abnormal functioning of the brain is an extremely important task that can bring us closer to more effective treatment of serious diseases affecting humanity, such as Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s diseases. This requires mouse experiments in which measuring devices even thinner than a hair, such as electrodes or optical fibers, are implanted in the brains of mice. However, due to the small size of the mouse brain, this procedure is a major challenge even for experienced surgeons.

Previously, histological tests were used to determine whether the implants were implanted in the appropriate location in the mouse brain after the experiments. However, thanks to the new procedure equivalent to the accuracy of histological tests, this examination can now be performed quickly and accurately before the start of the experiments, which increases the efficiency of mouse experiments and significantly accelerates nervous system research. One of the important features of the new procedure, based on in-depth knowledge of structural pet CT-MRI and neurophysiological methods, is that the location of implanted measuring devices is determined while keeping the radiation exposure associated with CT measurements below safe levels.

The researchers also assessed the possibilities for widespread application of the new procedure. Most of the leading English and American universities in the field of medical and biological sciences have access to the tools needed for the new procedure, and this is also the case for Hungarian medical universities.

The reviewers of the article published in Nature Communications noted, among other things, that by sharing their CT-MRI data, the authors also provided other researchers with the opportunity to examine individual variations in the shape of different brain areas.

Authors:

Bálint Király, Diána Balázsfi, Ildikó Horváth, Nicola Solari, Katalin Sviatkó, Katalin Lengyel, Eszter Birtalan, Magor Babos, Gergő Bagaméry, Domokos Máthé, Krisztián Szigeti & Balázs Hangya: In vivo localization of chronically implanted electrodes and optic fibers in mice.

https://www.nature.com/articles/s41467-020-18472-y

Pictures:

3 dimensional MRI image of the mouse brain

3 dimensional MRI image of the ventricles of the mouse brain

dapiMRI – Comparison between a histological slice under microscope (left) with the MRI image of the corresponding slice from the live animal (right)

Power supplies developed by Wigner FK’s researchers to go to Jupiter in 2022

Two power supplies for the PEP Plasma Physics Instrumentation (PI Stas Barabash, IRF, Kiruna, Sweden) have been developed by the Space Engineering Research Team of the ELKH Wigner Physics Research Centre. The integration of the first flight unit began at the University of Bern in early August. The PEP will be launched on its nine-year journey on an Ariane rocket in May 2022 as part of the ESA Juice project. The aim of the project is to research Jupiter and its moons.

The task of the two power supplies developed by the Hungarian group led by János Nagy, the NU_DCC and JDC_DCC  (Nadir Unit Direct Current Converter, Jovian Plasma Dynamics and Composition Analyzer Direct Current Converter) is to provide power for two processor cards and four sensors. The integration started after the three shipped cards of the NU_DCC were installed in the mechanical frame. Based on the tests, so far all devices are operating properly. The integration will last until the end of September. The PEP’s goal is to study the interaction between Jupiter’s magnetosphere and its moons as well as the effect of the solar wind around Jupiter.

János Nagy and Rynö Jouni (FMI, Helsinki) in a high purity laboratory.

Photo: Wigner Physics Research Centre