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

Centre for Global Eco-Innovation: Environmental Researchers talking about how their passion drives their work

Last week the Centre for Global Eco-Innovation (CGE) held its third annual boot camp for Graduate Researchers based here at the University of Liverpool, and Lancaster University.  The CGE currently funds 50 PhDs in across a host of university departments including Engineering, Chemistry alongside 4 PhDs based in Geography and Planning.

Decamping to Ribby Hall, just outside Preston, the CGE researchers participated in a host of sessions all aimed at helping them to develop their skills in post-PhD life, either presenting research to other academics, putting together a business pitch, or marketing their ideas using video.  We also heard from guest speakers including Mark Shayler from the Royal Society’s Great Recovery Project, who spoke about the circular economy, and how important research is in filling that role, as well as Gary Townley from the Intellectual Property Office who spoke about IP in all its forms.

One of the major draws of the bootcamp was a session held by Bellyflop TV, which was aimed at GRs who wanted to produce videos that could either demonstrate their research, or market a new idea or business idea that they might have upon graduating.  To help illustrate how a video was put together, our researchers were asked ‘What made you want to do a PhD?’, with the resulting footage being compiled.  The result is the video below.

Combined, the research completed by the PhD researchers, working with their companies and the CGE will be responsible for the mitigation of 60,000 tonnes of carbon dioxide emissions, 725,000 tonnes of water and over 13,000 tonnes of material diverted from landfill by the project’s end.  Importantly, however, while the video does a great job of showcasing the range of innovation that the CGE supports, what it really shows is that each PhD has its own story and that often research is driven by a passion that goes beyond 9-5, and that ultimately it is this passion that has driven the success of the CGE’s projects.

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…

Mission Possible: Scoat Tarn Boot Camp

By Fiona Russell (PhD researcher and Graduate Teaching Assistant)

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2st July 2014, the day we conquered Scoat Tarn!

Your mission, Fiona Russell, should you wish to accept it is…… compile a group of eight willing volunteers, two boats, paddles, 8 life jackets (must be safe), two corers, 350m of rope, 10 litres of drinking water, a ladder, some dodgy knees, sunshine and some cling film, then tackle one of the highest lakes in the Lake District to recover 1000 years of mud from beneath 18m of water. This message will self-destruct in 30 seconds.

After some last minute alterations due potential 40 kph winds on Thursday, we set off for an epic coring trip to Scoat Tarn, a typical mountain cirque basin at 600m altitude in the Lake District National Park, UK. Scoat Tarn is small (5.2ha), deep (<20 m), lies in a west facing valley at an altitude of 602 m to the north and above Wastwater, England’s deepest lake. The catchment comprises steeply sloping walls; with summits in excess of 825 m. Scoat Tarn shows a sediment signature of severe acidification in recent years as a direct result of human-induced acid deposition, and the location is one of the UK Upland Waters Monitoring Network of sites, whose data show the lake has recovered to some extent the last two decades.

Seven of the group sensibly met at the Wasdale Head Inn where we set up camp and spent an enjoyable evening in the pub eating drinking and watching Belgium knock USA out of the World Cup. The eighth decided to play a league tennis match til 8.30pm and then drive to the Lake District arriving just in time for last orders and a welcome pint of Lakeland Ale already purchased by the team.

In the morning, after a quiet night’s sleep accompanied by incessant bleating sheep, squawking birds, cuckoos and general noisy countryside, the reality of it all struck home and the tough fieldwork we had come here for arrived. A short drive along the edge of Wastwater and we arrived at the car park. Eight rucksacks packed to the brim with boats, ropes and coring equipment, we set off into the hills for a slightly daunting 500m climb over 4km.

Several hours and several miles (or km) later we reached Scoat Tarn. The aim was to collect 3 short gravity cores and a longer sediment record using a piston corer. To get the latter, we had to set up a rig with a stable working area from which we could operate the piston from. Our design was successful (it was worth carrying the ladder all that way!) and we managed to extract a one meter core from 18 m of water that will probably encompass the last 1000 years of environmental history for this upland catchment and what a catchment a stunning cirque basin in the southwest fells of one of the most beautiful valleys in England…..

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We returned home to Liverpool the next morning with bags of sediment and a huge sense of achievement, my first PhD samples in the bag! Thanks to the team; Richard Chiverrell, John Boyle, Daniel Schillereff, Jen Clear, Hugh Smith, Amy Lennard and Agata Marzecova.

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

Almeria Field Class 2013

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Post by Jonathan Dale and Laura Hardy, 3rd year BSc Geography

‘This must be just like living in paradise’ sang Van Halen lead singer David Lee Roth in 1988. South East Spain used to be just like living in paradise, with relics like the one in the picture below remaining as a haunting reminder of this time.

Almeria 3

A relic of paradise in South East Spain

 

Ghostly constructions such as this well are scattered across the landscape, but for some imaging the villages, farms and livestock that once accessed a sufficient water supply to survive in what is now the driest part of Europe comes with extreme difficulty. Human influence has transformed this landscape on a scale beyond imagination to allow for agricultural development and, although it is not a dust-bowl to a ‘Grapes of Wrath’ extent, questions have to be asked regarding the sustainability of water management strategies in this region.

We spent two weeks in a landscape so different to any other seen on previous field classes investigating the influence of geomorphology, lithology, topography and anthropogenic activity on the SE Spain landscape with almost all conclusions suggesting water was the primary control. These investigations included measuring rates of erosion and the associated management strategies such as check dam construction (seen in the picture below) and afforestation.

A check dam constructed to reduce rates of erosion and stabilise the river channel.

A check dam constructed to reduce rates of erosion and stabilise the river channel.

We investigated the effects of these management practices on infiltration rates and connectivity of the landscape with the dry and barren river beds – yes that means we studied rivers without getting wet feet!! Furthermore, the temporal scale on which water influences the landscape is not just a recent thing. Water controls the geomorphological features we see around SE Spain, including large river terraces, alluvial fans and river captures which have resulted in mass movement events and the death of river channels. All this, without even seeing a drop of the wet stuff!

Knowing that the extraction of groundwater was suggested as a causative factor for a local fatal earthquake in 2011 and that a flood in September 2012 also lead to fatalities and destruction of everything in its path, it is obvious that an immediate solution to this water deficit and resultant water management practices is required. We spent some time questioning such solutions and we welcome any suggestions, but take our word for it there is no easy answer. For more information regarding possible field work in SE Spain contact Prof. Janet Hooke or for information on the ENVS380 Almeria Field Trip see Dr. Barbara Mauz.

Almeria 2

Jonathan Dale

Almeria 1

Laura Hardy