Reflections on the MSc fieldclass of 2015: environmental changes in Cumbria

9th to the 16th October 2015

Each the MSc programmes in Climate and Environmental Change and Environmental Sciences begin with a 7 day fieldclass to the English Lake District. The programme involves a research training in techniques of Environmental Reconstruction and Characterisation focused on coastal (saltmarsh), lacustrine and wetland environments. The following slide-shows showcase the field activities

Day 1 the late glacial climate and environmental changes at Hawes Water (Lancashire)

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Day 2 climate histories from lowland raised mires (Leven Estuary)

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Day 3-4 sediment dynamics and environmental changes at Brotherswater

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Day 5 saltmarsh evolution and radionuclides in the Irish Sea (Walney Island)

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Days 6 and 7 involve small group work on individual projects presented on the last evening, before home and some deserved rest……

MSc class of 2015

MSc class of 2015

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Cruise 1: Days 1-6 trials, tribulations and triumphs

Gallery

This gallery contains 7 photos.

Originally posted on Britice-Chrono NERC Consortium:
By Rich Chiverrell and co from the edge of the shelf Developed as a concept 3-4 years ago, and planned over the last 2 years with massive input from across the Britice-Chrono team and…

Apply Now Deadline 10th Feb: NERC Studentships in Physical Geography

The NERC Funded Manchester & Liverpool Doctoral Training Programme ‘Understanding the Earth, Atmosphere and Ocean’ which links the Universities of Manchester and Liverpool, together with the National Oceanographic Centre to providing funding for doctoral research. Opportunities in Physical Geography are listed under the Earth and Environmental Sciences pillar and in the theme Surface Earth and Palaeontology. Deadline for Applications is 09.00am 10th February 2014.

Some of the Physical Geography topics available are listed below. Click here for further information and to apply for each topic.

  • Taking useful climate data to the business community Supervisors: Andy Morse and Andy Heath
  • Catchment to basin sediment flux: a simulation framework. Supervisors: Prof Richard Chiverrell, Drs John Boyle and Hugh Smith (CASE Partner Lake District National Park)
  • Holocene landscape P dynamics and modelling for the Cheshire and Shropshire Meres. Supervisors: Dr John Boyle, Profs Richard Chiverrell & Andy Plater (CASE Partner Natural England)
  •  Developing a ‘tool box’ for natural flood risk management. Supervisors: Dr Karen Potter & Dr Neil Macdonald
  •  Dynamics of Overland Flows on Hillslopes.‌ Supervisors: Dr Karen Potter & Dr Neil Macdonald
  • Effects of climate and hydrological change on river channel stability. Supervisors: Professor Janet Hooke, Professor Andy Morse, Dr Neil Macdonald
  • Are there relationships between flood frequency, seasonality and large scale climatic drivers? Supervisors: Dr Neil Macdonald & Dr John Boyle
  • Locating ‘Hot Spots’ of Contaminated Sediment in Rivers. Supervisors: Dr James Cooper, Prof Janet Hooke and Dr Hugh Smith (Geography and Planning)
  •  Modelling movement of large sediment in river flows. Supervisors: Professor Janet Hooke and Dr James Cooper
  •  Residence times of contaminated sediment in river floodplains. Supervisors: Hugh Smith, Janet Hooke, James Cooper, Richard Chiverrell
  •  Soil Deterioration under a Changing Climate. Supervisors: Dr James Cooper, Prof Janet Hooke and Prof Andreas Lang (Geography and Planning)

We welcome applicants for our Doctoral Training Programme in Understanding the Earth, Atmosphere and Ocean. Further information: Interviews will take place on the 26th & 27th February 2014.  Applicants must have, or be about to obtain, a first class or upper second degree.  If you have a lower second degree, but have also obtained a masters qualification, you are also eligible. If you do not have these qualifications but you have substantial relevant post-graduate experience please contact the School holding the studentship to find out if your relevant experience is sufficient. Our studentships are funded by NERC and are available to UK nationals and other EU nationals that have resided in the UK for three years prior to commencing the studentship.  If you meet this criteria, funding will be provided for tuition fees and stipend.  If you are a citizen of a EU member state you will eligible for a fees-only award.

The Anthropocene Review: Issue 1 Content

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Following the recent announcement that the new, peer-reviewed journal The Anthropocene Review has launched (based from the Department of Geography and Planning, School of Environmental Sciences), we are delighted to confirm the Table of Contents for Issue 1 of our journal. These contributions will present research on many aspects of the Anthropocene ensuring the journal lives up to its transdisciplinary remit.

Whilst the full issue will appear in print in April 2014, articles will appear as OnlineFirst versions as soon as the proofs have been accepted by the authors. These will be hosted on the journal website. We would particularly like to highlight that SAGE are currently offering free online access to The Anthropocene Review.

Interested readers can subscribe to RSS notifications or email alerts via this website and it will also contain information about the journal that is not hosted by our blog, including specific details on manuscript submission, how articles are indexed by SAGE as well as information on permissions for posting reprints of manuscripts.

Lastly, we are continuously searching for contributions to future Issues. Why not consider submitting a manuscript to this important new journal?

Issue 1: Table of Contents

Oldfield F, Barnosky AD, Dearing J, Fischer-Kowalski M, McNeill J, Steffen W and Zalasiewicz J.  The Anthropocene Review: Its significance, implications and the rationale for a new transdisciplinary journal.

Barnosky AD and Hadly EA. Problem solving in the Anthropocene.

Barnosky AD, Brown JH, Daily GC, Ehrlich AH, Ehrelich PR, Eronen JT, Fortelius M, Hadly EA, Leopold EB, Mooney HA, Myers JP, Naylor RL, Palumbi S, StensethNC and Wake MH. Scientific Consensus on Maintaining Humanity’s Life Support Systems in the 21st Century: Information for Policy Makers

McMichael AJ. Population Health in the Anthropocene: Gains, losses and emerging trends.

Biermann FH. The Anthropocene: a governance perspective.

Malm A and Hornborg A. The Geology of Mankind?  A Critique of the Anthropocene Narrative

Zalasiewicz J, Williams M, Waters CN, Barnosky AD and Haff P.  The technofossil record of humans.

Fischer-Kowalski M, Krausmann and Pallua I. A socio-metabolic reading of the Anthropocene: modes of subsistence, population size and human impact on Earth.

Oldfield F and Steffen W. Anthropocene climate change and the nature of Earth System Science

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

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

Sea level is rising: get out of the way!

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Post by Dr. Claire Mellett

In April this year The Geological Society of America and American Geophysical Union joined together to hold the first Penrose/Chapman conference in Texas, USA, under the theme of; Coastal processes and environments under sea-level rise and changing climate: science to inform management. The meeting’s main objective was to raise awareness of the vulnerability of coastal environments to climate and sea-level change and to bridge the gap between science and policy to ensure informed management of the coastal environment. The meeting brought together 80 scientists (including myself) from around the world to discuss the impacts of sea-level rise, climate change, storms and human activity on the coast.

The meeting kicked off with a number of talks looking at records of past sea level. In the past sea-level rise was not linear and there was some degree of natural variability. However, recent rates of sea-level rise are higher than they have been during the last 2000 years. Whilst globally sea-level is currently rising (eustatic), the effect of this rise on the coast varies locally depending on whether the land is rising or falling (isostatic). In the Gulf of Mexico, lowering of the land (subsidence) due to the extraction of oil, gas and water, sediment loading and sediment compaction means that in this area the coast is experiencing even higher rates of sea-level rise making it more vulnerable to the impacts of storms. Here human activity is exasperating the impact of sea-level rise on the coast and billions of dollars are spent trying to protect or repair infrastructure in these low lying areas. The question facing policy makers now is will the economy be able to sustainably support such investment in coastal protection in the future?

Galveston, Texas

Whilst sea-level rise is a major threat to the future of coastal environments, a number of talks highlighted other environmental variables of equal importance. Of these, variations in sediment supply appeared the most significant. In areas where high amounts of sediment are being delivered to the coast, the coast may be able to keep up or even grow despite rising sea-levels. However, in many places humans are interfering with the sediment budget by damning rivers (e.g. Yangtze River, China) or nourishing beaches (e.g. The Netherlands). The meeting highlighted the delicate relationship between sea-level and sediment supply in determining how a coast will respond.

As the meeting drew to close, we were working towards a consensus based on the best available science to present to governments and policy makers outlining the biggest challenges for coastal environments in the future. My personal interpretation of this consensus is that sea-level rise and the impact of climate change at the coast are not something to worry about in the future but something that is happening now. I feel the perception that sea-level rise will slowly encroach the coast at a snail’s pace is misguided. A more realistic view when trying to visualise the impacts of sea-level rise is to think of episodic events such as storm surges and hurricanes which have instantaneous and devastating effects on the coast (and economy). It is therefore important to recognise that in order to secure a sustainable future at the coast, society must learn to adapt to (or get out the way of) rising sea levels.