Disability, Arts and Wellbeing Workshop with DaDaFest

Bluecoat Gallery. Picture by Kirsty Liddiard

Bluecoat Gallery. Picture by Kirsty Liddiard

Post by Dr. Bethan Evans

On Friday 21st November, Ciara Kierans and I organised a workshop on Disability, Arts and Wellbeing on behalf of the University’s Centre for Health, Arts and Science (CHARTS). This was the second in a series of workshops funded by The Wellcome Trust on behalf of the Northern Network for Medical Humanities Research.  We were delighted that we could hold the Liverpool workshop in collaboration with DaDaFest, an innovative Disability and Deaf Arts organisation based in Liverpool which works across the North West, Nationally and Internationally.

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DaDaFest 2014 programme. Picture by Kirsty Liddiard

The Medical Humanities is an interdisciplinary field that brings perspectives from the arts, humanities and social sciences to questions about medicine, health and well-being. It is a field which often involves a diverse range of perspectives, including researchers, practitioners, patients and artists. Recently there has been a move to develop a more Critical Medical Humanities through engaging with activists and critical theory to question the politics and power of medicine and ideas of health, illness, disability and embodiment.

As a Critical Geographer who works on questions of embodiment and health, I see many parallels between the medical humanities and geography: both involve questioning the relationships between nature and culture (and what we see as ‘natural’) and challenging unequal power relations between different bodies. Importantly, the move to more Critical Medical Humanities has also involved questioning the power and positions from which medical humanities knowledge is produced (who is involved in the production of this knowledge and who might be excluded). This is reflected more broadly in the social sciences and humanities in moves to more participatory models of research (e.g. participatory geographies) and the growth of the para-academic movement.

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It is in light of all of these things that we were keen to host the workshop in collaboration with DaDaFest, to involve people from lots of different disciplines, to hold it in a non-academic space (the workshop took place at The Bluecoat Gallery) and to involve artists. The day involved presentations from people working in different fields researching diverse topics which relate to disability, art, wellbeing and medical power. For example, there were presentations on racism and the historical use of slaves in American medical research, on ideas about ethnicity in organ donation, on dis/ability and sexuality, on the representation of PTSD in romantic novels, on arts practices for wellbeing, on bioart, on cinema and memory and much more. The full workshop programme is available here.

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All of these presentations were fascinating, and were followed by what was the highlight of the day for me, the final session when we were lucky enough to have the Artistic Director of DaDaFest, Ruth Gould speak to us about the history of DaDaFest and give us a guided tour of one of the current exhibitions ‘The Art of the Lived Experiment’ and artist Rachel Gadsden talk to us about her work with disabled artists in the Middle East (there is a video about this work available here) and give us a tour of the exhibition which comes from this work ‘Al Noor- Fragile Vision’.  This was an excellent way to end the workshop and really made clear the value of breaking down boundaries between academics, artists and activists. These exhibitions are excellent and I highly recommend that you take time to visit them and see them for yourself.

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DaDaFest hold a bi-annual festival which showcases the best in Disability and Deaf Arts. The current festival is running 8th Nov 2014-11 Jan 2015.  The DaDaFest programme is available here.

Regional Science Conference in Aberystwyth

My first Regional Science Conference, the 43rd (RSAI-BIS) conference at Aberystwyth, was an eye opener for me. It all started with a long journey from Liverpool with my colleague Kush Thakar. The most important thing I learnt is to expect the unexpected. The A roads to Wales from Liverpool are not always wide and it may make you feel that you are actually in a farm with no GPS signal, but if you trust pre-printed Google maps then you won’t be lost completely at-least!

The Colloquium held at the conference was a place where I felt the importance of attending a conference and presenting. The people I met at conference were down to earth with diverse knowledge in economics and geography with experience more than my age (don’t ask that!). The knowledge and innovative ideas provided by various people triggers new approaches to my research. I was honoured to present my research at the PhD colloquium on Tuesday the 19th of August, which started new conversations and discussion. It made me happy to the see the importance each attendee gave to PhD student research.

Later that evening began with Budweiser in my hand at the Scholar pub in the city centre. I also found that the route between University and town centre was similar to Liverpool wit the university on top of a hill and city centre below (but beware the slope is much greater than Hardman street or Brownlow hill) I had long conversations with different research groups and individuals. The discussions were wide ranging from the ALS bucket challenge to Propensity Score Matching (it’s a statistical method).

The First day of the conference started with little hangover in morning compensated with strong coffee and a refreshing afternoon with good lunch. The topics involving economic and sustainable environmental developments were wonderful. Several presentations made me think of why I haven’t tried those methodologies and approach (Input output Methods, Time based methods, decay approach and list goes on…).

The evening was planned with a city tour, which gave me the opportunity to see the beautiful views of the Aberystwyth and the sea front. The remains of the castle and beautiful green grass were mesmerising, and made me feel bad for not carrying my camera with me. Only few pics with my phone were possible.

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The day ended with an open bar and a Welsh style 2 course dinner at the beautiful hotel on a hill top close to sea front. The view of the sunset was beautiful but still, can’t match the beauty of Liverpool’s sunset (only in summer). This was the day that I was introduced to my research family by my supervisor Karyn Morrissey. Karyn introduced me to her supervisor Professor Graham Clarke (Grandfather) and all my cousins (his other PhD students and their PhD students!). It was an honour becoming a part of this family.

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My presentation at the last day of the conference allowed me to present my finding in calm composed manner, which gave me a variety of feedback and long discussion with fellow researchers. This gave an outside view of my research from an economical point of view. With this experience I returned to Liverpool with a long playlist of songs in the car with my supervisor and colleague, hoping to work on those innovative approaches and methodologies in my future research.

Yogi

Opportunity knocks for Woman scientists: maximise your voice

By Karen Halsall (PhD Researcher in Geography and Planning)

Maggie Aderin-Pocock MBE

Maggie Aderin-Pocock MBE, the new presenter of the Sky at Night

For me, giving presentations is a nerve-racking experience. Although it could be worse, according to Maggie Aderin-Pocock MBE, the new presenter of the Sky at Night, En Hudu Anan, the first woman Astronomer and Babylonian High Priestess had to wear a beard when presenting her studies on the stars so that she looked more like a man. Personally, I am always keen to improve my presentation skills and have often resorted to hiding behind rustling papers and a plethora of PowerPoint slides but perhaps a beard would be one step too far! So I was very pleased to receive a grant from Athena Swan (Charter for women in science: Recognising commitment to advancing woman’s careers in STEMM academia http://www.athenaswan.org.uk) to attend a one day course led by Maggie Aderin-Pocock and Screenhouse Film Company.

The day was in two sections; the morning was spent listening to Maggie and the producer presenting very useful and insightful information into some of the pitfalls and highlights of ‘being on the telly’ with clips of various science experts on news programmes. We also heard that women are currently being sought after by journalists to comment on topical science stories. One of the delegates at the course said she was already promoting herself in this way to the chagrin of her colleagues as she was away from her desk so much! During the afternoon, we were filmed 3 times presenting a 90 second story of our own choosing – no script mostly off the cuff talking. We got feedback after each review on how to improve speech pace, energy and non-verbal skills. This was very useful. I practiced controlling the talk by leaving a few seconds silence between sections (also a useful opportunity to breathe). We talked about the merits of gesticulating and I found that it’s OK to let your arms/hands join in.

So why, you may be asking, is this women only course necessary? Recent research has highlighted that many young female students are not choosing science subjects at A Level. Maggie said “This is because there can be a lack of female role models in schools and that some female students have misconceptions about science being for people who are socially inept”. (Maggie works freelance as a Science Communicator promoting science in schools). So this course was set up to encourage/train more female scientists to stick their head above the parapet and discuss their newsworthy scientific research in a way that is understandable to non-experts.

The day encouraged us to look for opportunities to become more media savvy. For example; by presenting at science fairs, writing press releases and writing blogs (e.g. www.thewomensroom.org.uk/ and www.hersay.co.uk). We gained an insight into the work of a currently sought after scientific expert, Maggie Aderin-Pocock, and I picked up some useful tips that will (hopefully) improve my presentations. So it was all together a useful day that I would recommend to other women. It has certainly encouraged me to look out for opportunities to share my research with a wider audience and the value of being skilled in interpreting and communicating complex scientific concepts to non-experts; so thank you Athena Swan! .

Athena Swan (Charter for woman in science: Recognising commitment to advancing woman’s careers in STEMM academia) supported me by paying for registration and travel through a competitive application. Are you already media savvy? If you are not like Professor Alan King and more like Maggie in this News Night clip then now is the time to be an opportunist!

Western Ireland Excursion: the Grand finale of the DYNAMITE project (DYNAmic Models in Terrestrial Ecosystems and Landscapes)

Connemara coastline, stunning bays, headlands and sea food

Connemara coastline, stunning bays, headlands and sea food

The four-year DYNAMITE project (DYNAmic Models in Terrestrial Ecosystems and Landscapes), a teaching and research cooperation programme between the School of Environmental Sciences, University of Liverpool, UK and the Departments of Geology and Physical Geography and Ecosystem Science at Lund University, Sweden, recently ended with an excursion for PhD students, postdocs and academic staff from both institutions to western Ireland in September 2013 and organised magnificently by Prof Richard Bradshaw (University of Liverpool).

A brief report from the trip offers an excellent overview of the breadth of Quaternary Science as a discipline, illustrating how we integrate geomorphology, archaeology, geology and palaeoecology, to foster better understanding of local- to global-scale environmental change at varying temporal scales through the Holocene and Pleistocene.

Archaeology

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Our trip began (Day 1) in The Burren, an extensive karstic landscape composed of remarkable limestone pavements and that supports many rare species. Michael Gibbons guided us around a number of fascinating archaeological sites, many of which feature in this detailed report from the Burren Landscale and Settlement Project. We visited impressive hill forts, court tombs and exposed oyster middens, many of them dating from Neolithic, and in some cases Mesolithic age. Many sites in the Burren have yet to be excavated, including these stone piles in the tidal zone; what was their purpose and when were they constructed remains to be discovered.

The trip also ended (Day 6) discussing archaeology, specifically the Céide Fields Neolithic complex at Ballycastle, County Mayo. These field systems enclosed by stone walls represent the most extensive Neolithic Stone Age monument in the world, dating to 5000 – 6000 years ago, and is today mostly covered by extensive blanket peat except for a few isolated areas currently undergoing excavation. The age of the walls is determined by applying radiocarbon dating to fossilized pine stumps preserved in the bog. Seamus Caulfield (Archaeology, University College Dublin) who has focused much of his research career on these sites led an extensive guided tour of the excavations, where the peat has been removed at various intervals revealing the abandoned stone walls.

While individually the piles of stone do not initially appear tremendously impressive, when the spatial extent (>10 km2) and perfectly parallel construction of the walls is considered, the enormous scale of Neolithic agriculture in the region is unveiled. What is also of great interest is the rarity or lack of preservation of a monument of similar age elsewhere in northwest Europe. It appears most likely that a regional decline in pine forests (indicated by pollen reconstructions) meant stone walls were constructed at great effort, instead of the log walls constructed from forest timber at the time elsewhere in Europe.

Palaeoecology

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A short boat ride on Day 2 took us to Inis Oírr, the smallest of the Aran Islands, led by Karen Molloy (National University of Ireland, Galway). The small field boundaries struck me as unusual but apparently such land division has a long history in western Ireland (as we discovered at the Céide Fields). Karen presented the impressive lake sediment sequence of An Loch Mór; the unique setting of the lake means the >13 m of sediment deposited here records a fascinating story of palaeoecological change (e.g., Holmes et al. 2007, QSR) through the late-Glacial and Holocene periods, including insight into local ice retreat at the end of the last glaciation, sea-level and salinity changes, vegetation history and phases of exceptionally high windspeed due to its exposure to the Atlantic Ocean.

Later in the trip (Day 4) we tracked down a small exposed organic deposit exposed in a fluvial terrace at Derrynadivva that contained many large plant macrofossils. It turns out these deposits are not Holocene in age; rather, they are remnants of plants growing during a previous Pleistocene interglacial. It remains uncertain which interglacial is represented here however based on analysis of the pollen and plant macrofossils, the deposit possibly represents Oxygen Isotope Stage 11 (Hoxnian; e.g., Coxon et al. 1994 JQS).

Glacial Geology and Geomorphology

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We visited a number of sites around Co. Galway, Co. Mayo and Connemara (Days 3 – 5) with Professor Peter Coxon (Geography, Trinity College Dublin) and Dr Richard Chiverrell (Environmental Sciences, University of Liverpool) to examine the complex, fascinating and still-unresolved history of Late Glacial ice-retreat in western Connemara. The stunning landscape of Connemara bears vast evidence of ice-sculpting during the last glacial period, including the elongated fjord of Killary Harbour, the Twelve Bens mountain massif that rises almost directly from the sea and the partly submerged drumlin field at Clew Bay.

The Ballyconneely Bay drumlin was particularly impressive with excellent coastal erosion exposing the innards of the feature with a length-wise cross-section through the middle of the drumlin. One can thus walk along the beach examining its internal sedimentology in great detail. The sharp contact to angular facies at the head of the drumlin, suggesting coarse debris flow / meltwater processes that occurred in a cavern beneath the icesheet, was especially neat.

We visited quarries at Tullywee cut into a subaqueous fan fed by a series of anastomosing eskers related to ice retreat from the last glacial maximum (~25 k years ago) that imply a water-surface of 60-65 m above IOD. In addition the large ice-contact deltas at Leenaun at the fjord head of Killary Harbour and exhibit a classic Gilbert-style structure implying a high shore-level of 78 m IOD. Further deltas were visited at Srahlea Bridge and in the Glennacally Valley, you can never have too many deltas. The causal mechanism(s) for this high water-levels have yet to be fully deciphered, but probably relate to ponding of lake waters in and against the mountains of Connemara by more dominant ice orginating the Irish Midlands and penetrating through and around the Connemara Mountains via Galway Bay, Killary Harbour and Clew Bay, whilst the mountain glaciers were in a reduced state during deglaciation (~20 – 18 k years ago) . This hypothesis seems more plausible than the alternate glacio-marine hypothesis which requies much higher local sea-level than models or other reconstructions possibly suggest. More discussion of these implications can be found in Thomas & Chiverrell, 2006 Quaternary Science Reviews.

Many pristine examples of glacial geomorphology were observed during the trip, for example the eskers at Tullywee, as well as much smaller features such as this ‘dropstone’ in a small exposure in the Leenaun delta. One could easily stroll past and not realise the significance of this cobble; the deformed sediments indicate we were adjacent to a calving margin and this cobble exited the iceberg as it floated seawards and was deposited in the soft sediments. The precise timing and rates of ice retreat in this part of the world are the subject of on going research in the NERC Consortium Project BRITICECHRONO.

Summary

It was a wonderful trip, tremendously educational and certainly a place I’d love to visit again for its visual beauty and ideally for the purpose of research as there is much yet to be understood about the Quaternary environments of western Ireland. For interested readers, the Quaternary of Central Western Ireland (edited by Professor Pete Coxon, 2005) contains a wealth of further information on many of these sites and other case studies.

Mostly written by Daniel Neame Schillereff

Dan Schillereff waxing lyrical #guinnesshelps

Dan Schillereff waxing lyrical #guinnesshelps

Low Carbon Liverpool final event.

 

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Pete North, Alex Nurse and Tom Barker from the Department of Geography and Planning have been working with partners across the city for the past four or so years on a project “Low Carbon Liverpool“, funded by the ESRC.  The project has been examining the extent that the city has the right policies to secure its prosperity with what we need to do to avoid dangerous climate change.   Last Thursday, we held the latest in our funded seminar series, given to a packed house at the Foresight Centre.

 

After a welcoming address from Cllr Tim Moore, cabinet member for Climate Change for the City of Liverpool, the first of our speakers was John Flamson, director of Partnerships and Innovation at the University of Liverpool, who formally launched the Liverpool Green Partnership.   A coalition of actors and institutions from around the city including the University, Liverpool Vision, Liverpool Chamber of Commerce, Liverpool NHS Clinical Commissioning Group and the Eldonians, the Green Partnership seeks to build a greener city by working together to join up our policy working.

 

Following this, we heard from Peter North who talked about Low Carbon Liverpool’s progress over the life of its recent ESRC funding period, and emphasised some of the key messages – particularly how those cities perceived as being the most successful are equally those taking action on environmental and sustainability issues.

 

Then, we heard from our keynote speaker Krista Kline, managing director of the Los Angeles Regional Collaborative (LARC) on Sustainability and Climate Change.  Krista spoke to us about the key lessons that can be taken from LA – which faces its fair share of climate related issues – and how they can be applied to Liverpool.  In particular, Krista emphasised the need for collaboration on policy making, as well as the need to effectively connect abstract ideas of climate change to citizen’s everyday lives.

 

Following Krista’s talk and a brief Q&A, we heard from Walter Menzies, the former head of the Mersey Basin Campaign and now of the Atlantic Gateway, as well as being a visiting Professor in the Department of Geography and Planning.  In an inspiring talk, Walter spoke of how a long-term project can realise ambitious policy objectives, providing the right structures are in place.  In particular, Walter emphasised the importance of leadership, vision, including business interests, good communications and professionalism.

 

Finally, we heard from Colleen Martin, assistant Director for the Environment from the City of Liverpool, who outlined Liverpool City Council’s own work and agenda moving forward, including plans for the upcoming Mayoral Commission on the Environment.  In her talk, Colleen emphasised that there is already much going on within the city that we can celebrate – a fact highlighted in our recently published Environmental Audit.

 

All of Thursday’s speakers were hugely inspiring, in arguably our most successful event to date.  We’d like to thank everybody who came along, and we plan to make further announcements soon as the project evolves into a Green Partnership for Liverpool, and continues to discuss the possibility of Liverpool bidding to be a European Green Capital as well as mainstreaming the transition to a low carbon economy into the city’s economic development strategy.

 

 

Visit to Japan to present research on Fukushima impacts

JpGU annual meeting

Post by Dr Hugh Smith

I recently revisited Japan as part of my involvement in research on the radioactive contamination of rivers after the Fukushima nuclear disaster. Since the disaster in March 2011, an extensive river monitoring network comprising 30 stations has been established across the fallout region. I contributed to the selection of monitoring locations for a second phase of installations in 2012. At all stations, radiocaesium fluxes associated with suspended sediment are measured. The monitoring network provides critical data on radiocaesium transfer from headwater streams to lowland rivers and inputs to the coastal zone. It also forms part of a wider program of environmental research being coordinated by the University of Tsukuba in response to the disaster.

View of one of the rivers being monitored

View of one of the rivers being monitored

I returned to Japan to present the first results from the large-scale river monitoring effort. I was invited to speak in a special session on the environmental redistribution of radionuclides emitted by the power plant at the Japan Geoscience Union (JpGU) annual meeting held near Tokyo. I am collaborating with colleagues from the Universities of TsukubaKyoto and Plymouth in the analysis of this large and globally unique dataset. During the visit it was also confirmed that the river monitoring will continue for another year, with funding available for data analysis at Liverpool.

Suspended sediment sampler

Suspended sediment sampler

In addition to participating in the JpGU meeting, I also made two trips to the impacted region around Fukushima. This provided the opportunity to visit several newly established monitoring stations. I also collected soil samples with Japanese colleagues for a pilot study, which may develop into a new project investigating sources of contaminated sediment within the largest river basin (Abukuma River) affected by the fallout.

QWeCI Final Project Meeting – Barcelona

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Post by Andrew McCaldon

I am the Project Secretary for the EU–funded, QWeCI Project: Quantifying Weather and Quantifying Weather and Climate Impacts on Health in Developing Countries. The project is coordinated by Professor Andy Morse of the Department of Geography and Planning, School of Environmental Sciences, University of Liverpool.

QWeCI held its final annual project meeting in Barcelona, Spain, from 16th–18th May 2013 and over 40 academics and researchers were in attendance. Speakers from across the 13 participating European and African institutions presented papers covering, not only the progress of the individual work packages, but the cutting–edge science that QWeCI had produced.

In addition, the project was glad to welcome a distinguished team of external reviewers including: Jan Polcher from the Catalan Institute of Climate Sciences; Laragh Larsen from Trinity College, Dublin; the University of Burgundy’s Nadège Martiny; and Nick Ogden of the Public Health Agency of Canada.

Dr Larsen said, “I really enjoyed hearing more about QWeCI project” and Dr Ogden said, it is clear the “project has been well–managed” and the “highly qualified personnel will be a legacy of the QweCI Project”.

The meeting was a great success and an excellent opportunity to showcase the world leading science QWeCI has produced.

Science presentations can be found here and the conference programme can be downloaded here.

In the QWeCI Project, researchers across 13 European and African research institutions work together to integrate data from climate modelling and disease forecasting systems to predict the likelihood of an epidemic up to six months in advance.  The research, funded by the European Commission Seventh Framework programme, focuses on climate and disease in Senegal, Ghana and Malawi and aims to give decision–makers the necessary time to deploy intervention methods to help prevent large scale spread of diseases such as Rift Valley fever and malaria.

More information on the QWeCI Project can be found here and you can follow us on Twitter: @QWeCI_FP7