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GEOSWIM 2015 Malta

The Department of Geography of the Faculty of Arts, has once again hosted the Geoswim research project in July 2015, in collaboration with the Department of Mathematics and Geosciences of the University of Trieste, Italy. Dr Stefano Furlani, Italian leader of project named Geoswim 2015 – Geoswim returns to Malta, and Maltese project counterpart, Ms Ritienne Gauci, chose five coastal sites on the north-east part of Malta, to investigate the morpho-bathymetric properties at sublittoral shore levels. The researchers made use of a specifically designed floating platform, named Ciclope II, that was built by Dr Furlani. 



Project leader Dr Stefano Furlani, University of Trieste, checking on Ciclope II, during the GEOswim 2015 Malta. 


Sublittoral observations included also the identification and localisation of submerged rock deposits, presence of tidal/roof notches, submerged platform terraces, sea caves and sublittoral profile mapping. The interaction between these coastal forms and the submarine freshwater input along the islands’ coast were also investigated and the link between these forms and their Holocene evolution will be evaluated.  

Research participants in field observations included Professor John A. Schembri and Ms Joanna Causon Deguara from the University of Malta, Dr Sara Biolchi, Dr Enrico Zavagna and Dr Chiara Boccali from the University of Trieste and Mr Fabio Canziani from the University of Bologna. 

This is the second Geoswim research collaboration of the Department of Geography, with the first one undertaken in 2013 (Geoswim 2.0 – Geoswim comes to Malta). The Italian and Maltese researchers had organised a 7-day snorkelling survey around all the coast of Gozo and Comino (Malta) and investigated 56 kilometres of coastline.  

The preliminary results of the Geoswim 2015 Malta will be presented in October 2015 at the International Congress 2015 GeoSUB, Italy. 


27 July 2015

Findings from the MAMI Study

The effects of smoking, alcohol consumption and diabetes mellitus on the risk of myocardial infarction in the Maltese

Active smoking is a well-known risk factor of myocardial infarction.  Research carried out on the Maltese population, revealed that smokers have three times the risk of myocardial infarction compared with non-smokers.  Smoking cessation decreases this risk, with ex-smokers having a lower risk of myocardial infarction compared with current smokers.  This risk goes on decreasing as more years pass since stopping smoking.  Apart from active smokers, Maltese exposed to passive smoking either in public or at home also have an increased risk of myocardial infarction.  The risk is stronger in a home setting, where even periods of less than 1 hour of passive smoke exposure increase risk.  On the other hand, moderate alcohol consumption protected against myocardial infarction.  However, this beneficial effect depends on the frequency of drinking.  Daily binge drinkers have a five times higher risk of myocardial infarction compared with individuals who drink moderate amounts of alcoholic beverages.  

Similar to active smoking, diabetes mellitus is another strong risk factor of myocardial infarction amongst the Maltese.  A total of 14.2% of the Maltese population are diabetic, out of which 7.9% fail to control their blood glucose levels.  These uncontrolled diabetics have three times the risk of myocardial infarction compared with non-diabetics.  On the other hand, diabetics with good glycaemic controls show no risk of myocardial infarction.  These findings strongly indicate that controlling blood glucose levels eliminates the risk of myocardial infarction associated with diabetes.  Despite population-wide free access to testing, an alarming 2.5% of the Maltese population have undiagnosed diabetes.  The risk of myocardial infarction amongst these individuals is almost four times higher than that of non-diabetics.  These findings highlight the importance of early diagnosis and the benefits of better diabetes control, as such measures can overcome the impact of diabetes on the risk of myocardial infarction.   

This research, presented by Ms Ritienne Attard at the 82nd Congress of the European Atherosclerosis Society, was carried out on the ‘The Maltese Acute Myocardial Infarction Study’ (MAMI Study), a collection of samples from around 1,000 Maltese individuals.  The MAMI Study is a collaboration between the University of Malta and the Department of Health, under the co-ordination of Dr Stephanie Bezzina Wettinger and supported by national funding through the R & I programme (2008) administered by the Malta Council for Science and Technology (MCST), and various MGSS and STEPS students scholarships.  
Both smoking and diabetes mellitus affect the inflammatory state.  Based on these findings further investigation on the impact of inflammation on the risk of myocardial infarction are being conducted.  Inheritance of inflammatory profiles within Maltese families is currently being investigated as part of the Next Generation Sequencing Project, funded through National R & I programme (2012).  


27 July 2015

The CoCoNet Project: Highlights and Key Achievements

The CoCoNet ("Towards COast to COast NETworks of marine protected areas -from the shore to the high and deep sea - coupled with sea-based wind energy potential”) project has brought together scientists from 39 different institutions in 21 countries, including Malta (represented by the Department of Biology of the University of Malta), to work on producing guidelines for the design, management and monitoring of a network of marine protected areas (MPAs) in the Mediterranean and Black Sea basins, based on connectivity. The novelty of CoCoNet lies in its assessment of large-scale connectivity patterns by integrating results from different methodologies, including assessment of current regimes and propagule transport, genetic analysis, and identification of patterns of change in species diversity (beta-diversity).



Snapshots from the documentary film “From hotspots to nets”, produced as part of the CoCoNet project. The film, which can be viewed below, may be used for various outreach and dissemination activities.


This research project, which is funded under the European Union’s Seventh Framework Programme, is now in its fourth and final year. During the first three years, the Maltese researchers contributed extensively to synthesising existing knowledge relevant to the setting up and management of MPA networks, through their participation in over a dozen workshops as well as by compiling information on habitat classification systems and habitat mapping, on patterns of distribution of biological assemblages, on the sensitivity of MPAs to anthropogenic threats and pressures, on the socio-economic implications of MPA networks, and on best practices for the management of MPAs, for network monitoring and for management effectiveness. Based on inputs from all partner institutions, a geodatabase has been created to store all the information on habitats, biodiversity, human impacts, etc., collected through the project. 

The final phase of the project entails looking at the emerging patterns (e.g. habitat distribution) and processes (e.g. connectivity) in order to identify natural networks, not only in coastal areas but also in the high and the deep seas. To this end, two synthetic workshops were recently organized; the first was held at the beginning of February in Paris, while the second was held in Athens at the end of May. These workshops provided a forum for technical discussions on how the project results obtained so far can be translated into guidelines on the design and establishment of a network of MPAs, which would enable a holistic approach towards the protection of marine ecosystems in the Mediterranean and Black Sea. 

Besides developing knowledge for establishing MPA networks, several educational and dissemination activities have also been organised as part of the CoCoNet project in order to develop a strong communication line with stakeholders and the public at large. As a part of this outreach program, a 30-min documentary film on CoCoNet, directed by Roberto Rinaldi, has recently been produced. It includes information on MPAs, ecosystem functioning, and offshore wind farms, with captivating footage shot in various Mediterranean and Black Sea localities. The film, which can be viewed below, may be used for various outreach and dissemination activities.

For more information, contact Professor Patrick J. Schembri at the Department of Biology, University of Malta or visit the University of Malta website

The CoCoNET website may be accessed here.

View the documentary film “From hotspots to nets” below: 



22 July 2015

Europe's World

Europe’s World is the only independent Europe-wide policy journal, produced in association with some 100-plus leading European think tanks and academic institutions. Since its launch in 2005 it has become the premier ideas platform for new thinking on political, economic and social issues, read by over 100,000 of the most influential decision makers and opinion formers across Europe.

Published every 4 months, Europe’s World’s objective is to stimulate the much needed debate over topical policy issues by encouraging citizens and stakeholders within civil society, media, academia, business and government, to engage in a series of genuine and informed political debates which reach beyond the Brussels village.

To date over 300 authors, including Heads of State, corporate chiefs, top academics, leading NGO activists or policymakers, have contributed articles, firmly cementing Europe’s World’s reputation as a platform for new thinking and ground-breaking ideas.

Europe’s World’s newly extended website,, is designed to further promote debate on the policy challenges facing Europe. It spans articles and reactions to articles published in Europe’s World, but is not limited to the journal since it also features studies and reports from think tanks throughout Europe.

Its aim is to give readers direct access to the latest in policy thinking across the EU, and encourage visitors to submit their own reports and comment on any of the contributions featured on the website. 


06 November 2009


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