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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The GPG Experience

Hi.  We’re Elle and Jess.  We’re in our third year of the Geology and Physical Geography (F6F8)BSc degree – affectionately known as ‘GPG’.  Over the summer, the two of us spent three weeks in Cornwall working on our Honours projects.  Elle’s project focuses on the record of Quaternary climate and sea-level change preserved in the cliff sections of Godrevy.  Jess’ project is a study of the Holocene evolution of the coastal lowlands near Gwithian.  We were out in all weathers recording the cliff exposures, coring through the sands, clays and peats of the Red River floodplain, and noting the characteristics of the contemporary beach sediments.  It was a real challenge – both mentally and physically – to get the work completed, but it was really worth it.  We both feel that we’ve achieved a huge amount as a result of our independent fieldwork and follow-up analysis.  It is perhaps the first time where we feel we’ve been a part of the geosciences research community.

That’s us – Elle and Jess – doing what we do best: fieldwork!

Following the field, laboratory and library research, we’ve just completed our Honours project presentations where we give a 15 minute summary of our research findings and how they address our stated project aims.  It was a traumatic experience presenting our results and being quizzed by our fellow students and staff – but it has been really useful in bringing together our ideas on our respective projects.

There is no doubt that the GPG degree is a fantastic opportunity to specialize in geomorphology, sedimentology and the ‘softer’ and applied areas of geology.  We’ve had a great time in learning new material, and in having direct experience of this in the field.  Fieldwork has been probably the best part of the programme – and we’re really looking forward to the 2-week Almeria fieldtrip at Easter in 2013.

The GPG degree has a long history at Liverpool – and it is great that it is a coherent programme accredited by the Geological Society.  This offers us a real advantage, when it comes to jobs, over similar people who have studied either joint or combined degree programmes at other Institutions.  Famous graduates from the GPG programme include, amongst many others, David Hodgson (Reader in Applied Sedimentology at Leeds), Tom Bradwell (Quaternary Geologist at the BGS), Tom Hill (Museum Scientist at the Natural History Museum) and Ian Selby (Head of Minerals and Infrastructure at the Crown Estate).

Year 1 Geology and Physical Geographers on a weekend in Snowdonia 2012

Over the weekend of 20-21st October Year 1 students from the School of Environmental Sciences set off for some autumn fun and relaxation in the mountains of Snowdonia, a parallel trip to the Trawsfynedd weekend taken by Geography, Ocean Science and Ecology students. A happy bunch of Year 1 Geology and Physical Geography (GPG) students, along with fellow year 1 students on other Geology and Geophysics

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degrees and ~9 lecturers to spent two days gallivanting around Cwm Idwal and for some another large hole in the ground (quarry).  Cwm Idwal, a large amphitheatre calved by erosion by ice during the repeated glaciations of the last 2 million years was at its stunning best in the autumn sunshine.

On Saturday after an early start from Liverpool we all congregated at the Llyn Ogwen car park at the foot of the Carneddau and Glyderau mountain ranges. From there Pete Kokelaar led a magical mystery tour through the turbulent volcanic history displayed in the rock record. The geology shows the deposition of huge pyroclastic flows from volcanic eruptions into a marine basin ~450 million years ago, and these strata have been deformed into a large syncline in subsequent mountain building. Outcrop after outcrop were crawled over from the head of the Nant Ffrancon to the foot of the Idwal Slabs. Overnighting in Caernarvon with a good meal, some pretty good beers, vividly colored and tasting shots courtesy of the students (thanks I think…), views of many members of the local constabulary and UK Borders Agency, and some bizarre speckley green-red glitter-ball lighting effects in the chosen hostelry playing havoc with Alan Boyle’s attention span later, a good night’s rest was had by some……

On Sunday the GPG students gained their first immersion into the wonderful world of glacial geomorphology and coring of lake sediments to reconstruct past environments with Rich Chiverrell and Jim Marshall. After a quick introduction to the broad landscape components, the skills of triangulation and geomorphological mapping were introduced, before 2-3 hours of mapping the retreat moraines of the last glaciation to have affect Cwm Idwal 12,600-11,500 years ago. The afternoon saw a switch of focus to the ‘very wet’ marsh surrounding the lake, where a sediment sampler was used to recover ~4 metres of lake deposits. These muds for the upper layers comprise peat and organic lake mud, but quickly give way to blue-grey gritty silts lain down as this last glacier declined and vanished 11,500 years ago.

Physical Geography and Geology interwoven and combined with fantastic weather, great views and some of the finest scenery in the UK; is there a better way to start your degree?

To Hell and back: sampling lakes and landscapes on the way to 66° 33’ N

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By Rich Chiverrell.

“If this is hell then you could say, it’s heavenly! Hell ain’t a bad place to be….” (Young, Young and Scott, 1977)

For 16-17 days of July 2012, John Boyle and I led a team from the School of Environmental Science (SoES) on a journey of 5000 km through Sweden and Norway sampling small lake basins from the boreal (coniferous) forests of the Scandes Mountains to lakes north of the Arctic Circle. The research was part of the ongoing Swedish Foundation for International Cooperation in Research and Higher Education (STINT) ‘DYNAMITE’ (DYNAmic Models in Terrestrial Ecosystems and Landscapes) Project, which has supported research and teaching cooperation between and Liverpool and Lund University (Sweden) 2009 – 2013.

I set off with Daniel Schillereff on the day Andy Murray lost the Wimbledon final depriving me of the opportunity to get depressed by the ‘state of British Tennis’, apart from watching the first 2 sets in a terrible pub near the docks in Harwich. We were the advance party taking a people carrier loaded with equipment and fine music from Liverpool to Harwich, the ferry from Harwich to Esjberg (Denmark)  (overnight) where we gorged ourselves on the Smorgasbord, you can never have too many prawns, mussels and langoustines. From Esjberg we drove to Sweden across the humongous bridges that connect the islands of Denmark and SW Sweden to rendezvous with the rest of the team, timed perfectly to avoid the loading of the second vehicle. In Lund we met with the ‘absentee professor’ on secondment to Lund for 12 months and the team grew to include John Boyle, Masters student Fiona Russell, and BSc undergraduates Rachel Devine and Dan Wilberforce, the latter three engaged in fieldwork for their respective dissertations.

After fine dining, hosted by Gina and Richard (Bradshaw), we set off for the North. Commencing in Lund, we followed a route that traced the retreat of the last Scandinavian Ice Sheet from marginal limits 11,500 years ago in southern Sweden to sites further north that became ice-free has recently as 10-9,500 years ago. Our aim was to examine the nutrient dynamics of these small lakes and catchments during the early millennia of the current interglacial where mineral weathering and depletion appears to govern phosphorus supply to the lakes regulating water pH and thus ecosystem functioning.  So starting with Holtjarnen (60°39’N, 15°56’E) 620km north from Lund the team journeyed 320km north to Abborrtjärnen (63° 53 N, 14° 27 E), at both these lakes we bagged 2 long (whole Holocene) sediment cores, shallow surface cores and loads of catchment samples. We also experienced the delights of saunas, cabins, ‘lurve beef’, mosquitoes and loud industrial German heavy metal music.

Meanwhile the final three members of the team, Lee Bradley (post doc) and PhD students Tim Shaw and Jenny Clear began their journey from Liverpool. Flying to Stockholm and catching the night train to Murjek, essentially a hamlet the middle of absolutely nowhere in the northern Swedish forest close to the Arctic Circle populated by more reindeer than people, the lucky three arrived at 8 am and settled in for the long wait to be collected @4pm, more or less. Luckily the station cafe opened serving a nice range of frozen bread and very good value coffee for some.

Further south the rest of the team made the best pace they could to collect them, stopping at strategic burger bars, supermarkets and Systembolaget (State run liquor stores) for three nights in Jåhkåmåhkke, north of the Arctic Circle. There we visited and cored Sotaure Javri (66° 43 N, 20° 34 E), and slightly south Nuortsap-javre (66° 24 N, 20° 27 E), both yielding plenty of sediment. We also expanded our food range to include Char, Elk and Reindeer, before moving west towards the Norwegian border to our last lake ~ Rammstein Javri (66° 24 N, 16° 52 E) and the delightful village of Jäkkvik, where John Boyle treated us to his speciality-de-maison of ‘burnt porridge’.

From there it was the route home taking a very ‘long-cut’ through Norway, four people (Dan S, Tim, Jen and Lee) leaving us in Trondheim. Whereas the rest took in the delights of Hell, the Norwegian mountains including the Jotunheimen (“Home of the Giants”), glaciers (Nigardsbreen), waterfalls, Hytte, Fjords and Stavkirke on the way back to Lund in SW Sweden. In Lund they all abandoned me to drive a car loaded with sediment and rocks back across Denmark and the UK. A stunning trip, great food and the best company…..

References

Young A, Young M and Scott B, 1977. Hell ain’t a bad place to be. Let there be Rock, Atlantic Records.