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15-12-2015 | illustration © Semiarid landscape in Argentina - Juan Gaitán

New insight into links between biodiversity and climate change mitigation in global drylands

Both tropical forests and areas with extensive forest coverage are fundamental in tackling the effects of climate change on Earth. However, the environmental importance of arid, semi-arid and dry-subhumid ecosystems – also referred to as drylands - is less well known. Drylands cover about 40% of the Earth's land surface and support 38% of human population. With his BIOCOM project Dr Fernando T. Maestre, a 2009 ERC Starting grantee from the Universidad Rey Juan Carlos (Spain), investigates the role of biodiversity in enhancing the ability of drylands to maintain essential functions. Some of these functions have the capacity to combat the consequences of climate change and desertification in drylands worldwide.

14-12-2015 | Illustration © Istockphoto

Factoring in human behaviour during emergencies

Natural hazard combined with human error is what makes many disasters especially serious. ERC-funded research led by Professor Gian Paolo Cimellaro from Politecnico di Torino in Italy promises to create a new method to assess the performance of critical infrastructures during emergencies that takes into account the human factor.

13-11-2015 | © www.istockphoto.com

Interview with Artur Avila, Fields Medal Awardee and Brazilian ERC starting grant awardee

Artur Avila is a franco-brazilian leading mathematician and an ERC grantee since 2010. At the age of 16, he won the International Mathematical Olympic gold medal and before finishing high school, he received a scholarship for the Instituto Nacional de Matemática Pura e Aplicada (IMPA) of Rio de Janeiro. He is now senior researcher both at the National Center for Scientific Research - CNRS and IMPA. In this interview, Prof. Avila tells us about his international career and the research he conducts both in Brazil and France. 

10-11-2015 | Image:©Takashi Ishiuchi & Maria-Elena Torres-Padilla

An international career to push the frontiers of epigenetics

With her degree in biology, Dr Maria-Elena Torres-Padilla left Mexico and embarked on an international career in epigenetics. She completed her PhD at the Pasteur Institute in Paris and then moved to Cambridge University. In 2006 she joined IGBMC in Strasbourg working as a group leader. She has just been appointed Director of the Institute of Epigenetics and Stem Cells of the Helmholtz Zentrum in Munich. Supported by an ERC grant, she studies the mechanisms controlling embryonic cellular plasticity with the aim of shedding new light on today's fertility issues. In this interview she shares her story as a non-European scientist in Europe.

10-11-2015 | Glomerulus, the filtration unit of the kidney © Sanna Lehtonen

New defences against kidney disease in diabetes

Why do so many diabetes patients develop kidney disease, and how can we improve prevention? EU-funded research has examined insulin-related processes at play in impaired renal function — and it may have found a way to protect key cells that help to filter our blood.

09-11-2015 | © picture

Understanding the potential of Africa's digital revolution

In just a couple of years, Africa has gone from possessing a total bandwidth availability comparable to that of Norway to having almost one hundred million internet users and seven hundred million mobile users. Could this growth in access to information and communication technologies (ICT) represent an opportunity for economic development? Many have described this moment of transition as "Africa's century", ERC grantee and Oxford scholar Prof Mark Graham, a leading authority on the topic of technology and development, aims to understand this "digital revolution".

04-11-2015 | © picture

The brain: a tuneable 'hardware'

A crucial discovery of how the brain functions has been made by EU-funded researchers.  ERC Advanced Grant holder Prof. Oscar Marin and his team have shown that brain's 'hardware' - using the computing metaphor - is in fact tuneable and can adapt to internal and external influences. The findings could help develop new therapies for neurological disorders such as epilepsy, which affects around 50 million people globally.

30-10-2015 | image © Istockphoto

Animals "peer-pressured" into reacting to danger

ERC grantee Marta Moita and her team use cutting-edge experimental procedures to investigate how rats and flies learn to appropriately respond to danger from other individuals. The results of her study may teach us a lot about our own brains, and shed light on diseases that impair social behaviour.

27-10-2015 | Image: ©Andrzej Udalsk | Portrait: ©Dr Krzysztof Ulaczyk

Surveying the sky in search for new planets

As empirical experiments are almost impossible in astronomy, research in this field relies heavily on observation. Prof. Andrzej Udalski set new frontiers in observational astronomy, in particular in the search for extra-solar planets, using a cutting-edge gravitational microlensing technique which enables the study of celestial objects irrespective of the light they emit.

27-10-2015 | Image: © CFHT Legacy Survey © VIPERS Collaboration

High precision techniques to measure galaxy clustering

What is the nature of dark energy? How does it relate to dark matter? These are some of the key open questions in cosmology, which Prof. Luigi Guzzo intends to address in his research. Findings of his DARKLIGHT project, funded by the ERC, could add an important piece to the puzzle of the origin and evolution of the Universe.