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Montage showing an structure in Mayapan, a 4D fetus scan and researchers in Antarctica

Welcome to the second part of our end-of-year review reflecting on some of our major research projects and achievements of 2022.

Ancient and modern climate change, and unborn babies’ tastes

If you haven't read the overview of the first six month's of the year, you can catch up here.

We pick up in July – a month that saw record-breaking temperatures in Durham as the UK basked in a summer heatwave.

And the soaring temperatures provided a fitting backdrop to the work of Professor James Baldini from our Earth Sciences department.

He is part of a team studying the impact of climate change on the collapse of the prehistoric Maya city of Mayapan in Mexico, which was deserted in 1461.

The multi-disciplined research discovered that lack of food due to drought had enormous social implications for Maya and likely contributed to its demise.

From the red-hot to the ice-cold, our Geography researchers reported in August that the fate of the world’s biggest ice sheet is still in our hands.

Scientists carrying out fieldwork in West Antarctica.

Their study revealed the worst effects of global warming on the East Antarctic Ice Sheet could be avoided if temperatures don’t rise by more than 2°C above pre-industrial levels.

Their research emphasised the need to protect the planet for future generations, while at the same time, our Psychology academics were busy studying the next generation before they were even born.

Durham’s Fetal Neonatal Research Lab used 4D ultrasound scans of fetuses to examine how babies reacted to the taste and smell of carrot and kale capsules while in the womb.

Their research provided the first direct evidence that unborn babies react differently to various smells and tastes while in the womb.

Origin of Earth’s Moon, a new Chancellor and the Earthshot Prize

Meanwhile, scientists from our Institute for Computational Cosmology were helping shed new light on the Moon’s origin.

They used supercomputer simulations to reveal an alternate explanation for the origin of the Moon by creating the highest resolution simulations ever produced to study its formation 4.5 billion years ago.

Moon simulation

Back on planet Earth, our Business School worked with academics in China and the USA to discover how people’s attitudes to their home country affect how they collaborate with other nationalities.

Their research found that having a less positive attitude to your birth country means you’re more likely to work with people from other countries.

They also discovered that women were more likely to collaborate internationally than men.

November was an exciting time for the University with the announcement that former US presidential advisor Dr Fiona Hill is to be our new Chancellor.

Dr Hill is, and will remain, a senior fellow in the Center on the United States and Europe and will be officially installed as Durham’s Chancellor in a ceremony next summer.

The following month saw us join the Nature Positive Universities Alliance as a founding member – further demonstrating our commitment to protecting the environment.

Staying with the green theme, the year was nicely rounded off by a Durham University start-up, Low Carbon Materials, making the international finals of the world’s most prestigious environmental prize; The Earthshot Prize 2022.

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