Friday, 24 February 2017

Bye Bye to Jonathan Dean...by Jonathan Dean

At the end of February, Jonathan Dean will bid farewell to the Stable Isotope Facility at the British Geological Survey to start a lectureship at the University of Hull, here he looks back on his time in Keyworth... 

I first came to the Stable Isotope Facility (part of the Centre for Environmental Geochemistry at the BGS) in 2010 as an undergraduate from the University of Nottingham to get experience of working in a laboratory. I subsequently moved on to do a PhD at Nottingham and over the next 3 years I was regularly back at BGS, analysing lake sediments for geochemistry from Turkey. We've now published a number of papers on the isotope work I undertook on those sediments, which we used to reconstruct how the climate of the Eastern Mediterranean region had changed between wet and dry over the past 13,000 years (See Dean et al. 2015a Dean et al. 2015b; Dean et al. 2015c).

In 2014, and after I completed my PhD, I started working at BGS as a 'Stable Isotope Apprentice', where I received training in a large variety of lab tasks including the analysis of organic matter in resource type studies for carbon isotopes and the analysis of oxygen isotopes in carbonates for palaeoclimate research. Following my training I was in an ideal position to apply for and obtain a 2 year post-doctoral post associated on a NERC funded grant based at BGS. For the last 2 years I have been analysing the chemistry of lake sediments from Ethiopia in order to reconstruct changes between wet and dry climate over the past several hundred thousand years in eastern Africa (see my update in 2015 on Geoblogy) and link these changes to the movement of hominins out of Africa. The climax of the project came in January this year when over 60 scientists from around the world gathered at Arizona State University in Phoenix to discuss progress of this international effort. We are aiming to test our hypothesis that changes in climate influenced the history of Homo sapiens and our predecessor species. We're hoping to start publishing our results within the next year, so watch this space!

Overall, what an amazing few years it has been, the Stable Isotope Facility at the British Geological Survey has been a great place to work (and get training) and I hope to continue research collaborations for years to come! I am now looking forward to working as a lecturer in Physical Geography at the University of Hull. Thanks to Chris Kendrick, Carol Arrowsmith, Hilary Sloane and Melanie Leng at the BGS who have supported me through the last 7 years.

Monday, 20 February 2017

Investigating Climate and Environmental Change in Eastern Australia (Part 2)...by Melanie Leng

The field team made up of researchers from University of Adelaide,
the Queensland government and Melanie Leng  (BGS/University
of Nottingham) and Andy Henderson (Newcastle).
In May 2016 Melanie blogged about her role in a project led by Dr John Tibby and Dr Cameron Barr (from University of Adelaide) on understanding climate change in eastern Australia. This is difficult because few archives of climate change exist in eastern Australia. The team developed a climate record based on the chemistry (carbon isotope ratios) of the broad-leaved paperbark tree, which they correlated to water stress. As a result of that research, Melanie was invited to the University of Adelaide to discuss future collaboration on recent climate change in eastern Australia and visit North Stradbroke Island which was the focus of the original study. Here Mel tells us about her trip…… 

NASA World Wind Landsat
montage of Stradbroke Island
courtesy of Wikipedia.  
Following on from our recent paper in Global Change Biology, I was invited to visit the University of Adelaide to see what expertise we at the British Geological Survey and the University of Nottingham could provide in studying recent climate change along the eastern Australia coastal margin. Climate change is a current hot topic in Australia as it potentially could lead to significant environmental and economic impacts in water security, agriculture, coastal communities and infrastructure. It is important to understand past climate change especially the causes of past increases in frequency and intensity of extreme weather events.

Scientists from the University of Adelaide are working on the past frequency of climate extremes by undertaking research from the records in lake sediments. The first week in Adelaide was spent in meetings, talking to researchers about their projects, but probably the most important was the work being done on North Stradbroke Island (locally referred to as Straddie). Straddie is the second largest sand island in the world (24 x 7 miles), and lies off the Brisbane coast. The sand island contains both large and small aquifers of water and where these aquifers intersect the sand surface they form small lakes. Sediments have accumulated in these lakes over tens and up to hundreds of thousands of years! We visited several of these lakes to discuss their potential to accumulate sediments (many contain 10s of metres of organic rich muds). These muds contain information through time, the oldest being at the bottom of sediment cores extracted from the lakes, while the youngest are at the top. We are (and will be) analysing some of these sediments for geochemical and biological parameters at the British Geological Survey. These parameters will tell us about changing water quality in the past that is related to water stress (or how dry the climate was in the past).

From L-R: Swallow Lake on Stradbroke Island, one of the contenders to provide a long climate history of eastern Australia;
Fieldwork on 'Straddie' Island, here testing the depth of the sediments within this (currently) dried up lake (Welsby Lagoon).
We visited several lakes including Swallow Lake (the site of the original work on the paperbark tree) as well as Brown Lake (perhaps it got its name from leaching of organic compounds from the peats as the sediments accumulated), and the remarkably resilient Blue Lake which is thought to be untouched by climate change and due to its spectacular setting has been hypothetically referred to as “God’s Bathtub” thanks to Cameron Barr.
One of the locals of a field notebook (note the scale), a fairly
harmless orb-weaver spider.
Through our future collaboration we hope that the team involving staff from the University of Adelaide, the British Geological Survey and the University of Nottingham will be able to make inferences about the controls (local, global, man-made) on the past and future climates of eastern Australia.

The fieldwork was headed by Dr John Tibby and Dr Cameron Barr but included staff from Queensland Department of Science, Information Technology and Innnovation, as well as Melanie and Dr Andy Henderson (University of Newcastle)

Melanie Leng is the Director of the Centre for Environmental Geochemistry at the BGS and University of Nottingham. Follow Mel on twitter @MelJLeng.

Monday, 13 February 2017

Improving the use of geoscience in brownfield redevelopment projects through a NERC Knowledge Exchange Fellowship...by Darren Beriro

In January 2017, the Government released a consultation on its Industrial Strategy. The strategy places science, research and innovation as central pillars. In February, it published its housing white paper, which maintains brownfield redevelopment as one of its foundations. Natural Environment Research Council (NERC) geoscience, principally developed and delivered by British Geological Survey (BGS), crucially underpins these policies.


Brownfield sites are a foundation to UK Government housing policy

These political developments are exciting to BGS as well as to me personally because I have been awarded a NERC Knowledge Exchange (KE) Fellowship. The Fellowship will last for three years and aims to increase the impact of NERC geoscience in brownfield redevelopment projects. Knowledge exchange is a two way process where increased understanding and any associated benefits are expected for all parties. During the Fellowship I will evaluate how NERC stakeholders are using geoscience in brownfield projects and try to enhance its application wherever possible. This will help improve UK competitiveness at home and enhance the potential to export expertise.
Knowledge Exchange Methodology

NERC geoscience is all-encompassing and includes: i) data e.g. geological maps, 3D models and soil geochemistry; ii) spatial decision support tools e.g. the BGS SuDS dataset; iii) applied science e.g. bioaccessibility of potentially harmful substances in soils and sensor technology for measuring sub-surface contamination.


NERC geoscience is all-encompassing

During the Fellowship, I will engage with a range of stakeholders including:
  • Landowners
  • Developers
  • Geoenvironmental consultancies
  • Remediation contracting companies
  • Government
  • Regulators
  • Industry bodies
I am planning to hold regional workshops in the autumn & winter 2017/18 which I hope will improve participant understanding of NERC geoscience and how to optimise their use of it. The workshops will also explore the potential barriers and constraints that limit the impact of geoscience within the land redevelopment sector. This approach is an example of knowledge exchange being a two-way process.

Knowledge exchange is a two way process

The Fellowship will include work-based placements.  I will work directly with site redevelopment managers to identify where in the project life cycle NERC geoscience will have the most impact. The benefits to the economy, environment and society of each project will be monitored, quantified and will guide future work.

The results of the Fellowship will be published as technical case studies and made widely available. In addition, a design guide will help NERC and BGS utilise the results of the Fellowship, particularly in terms of understanding end-user needs and increasing the potential of co-design of future NERC geoscience projects and data.

I hope that relationships developed during the Fellowship will present new opportunities for future collaborative projects that flourish beyond the lifespan of this project.

My intention is to keep you up to date with examples of my knowledge exchange activities during the project via LinkedIn, Twitter (@BGSBrownfields) and BGS blogging at GeoBlogy.