A Visitor from Notre Dame

Sophie Higham, an A2-level geography student from Notre Dame Catholic College, recently completed a 6-week placement in the Department under the supervision of Tim Shaw and Andy Plater.  Sophie’s placement was funded by the Nuffield Foundation through a bursary scheme that is open to competitive application each year from talented and enthusiastic school students.   The project work focussed on the zonation of saltmarsh foraminifera (or forams) from sites and the Bay of Cadiz, with the purpose of scoping the potential for using forams for historical sea-level reconstruction.  This project links to current research collaborations with IMEDEA at the University of the Balearic Islands who funded an MSc dissertation project in 2011, completed by Frazer Bird.

Sophie Higham from Notre Dame Catholic College proudly displays her gold award-winning poster. Thanks to Suzanne Yee for her assistance in helping Sophie to design the poster.

Sophie learned how to identify different foram species using low magnification microscopy and developed an understanding of the environmental controls on foram distribution, i.e. intertidal exposure, salinity, grain size etc.  The results revealed a very clear relationship between foram distribution and saltmarsh surface elevation – which is the essential basis for sea-level reconstruction using a transfer function approach.  This methodology forms the core of Tim’s PhD research on sea-level trends for the Adriatic coast of Croatia, which in turn follows on from Hayley Mills successful PhD on recent sea-level trends for the Mersey Estuary.

Tim Shaw helped Sophie learn how to identify the various species of saltmarsh foraminifera and to process the results.

Sophie joins a successful cohort of Nuffield Scholars who have been hosted in Geography: Dan Marks (2007), Matthew Sweeney and Matthew Thomas (2008), Stoffer Bruun and Lizzy Goodger (2009).  Their projects have all focussed on coastal evolution and environmental change.  This year, at the Celebration Event Hosted in the World Museum at Liverpool, Sophie received a gold award for her poster describing the outcomes of her research.  Quite an achievement, and very much deserved!

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