Characterising lake sediments by NIRS: integrating teaching and research in the Universities Central Teaching Laboratory

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A trend of ‘brownification’ identified in surface waters across the UK, North America and Northern Europe has been a growing concern, with the transfer of organic carbon from catchments to lake basins and water courses increasing. To explore this problem, in 2012-3 graduate teaching assistant Fiona Russell began PhD research investigating whether the sedimentary records preserved in lake basins provided new information on the longer term onset of this trend, the nature of any previous events in the last 11,500 years and the causes of browner surface waters. This research has used lakes in the UK Uplands Water Monitoring Network (formerly known as Acid Waters Monitoring Network), who for 30 years have collected data that shows some of these acid sensitive sites are affected by increases in the flux of dissolved organic carbon (DOC) and browner waters. The research involved accessing the sediments from these lakes and exploring for patterns that matched recent increases in monitored DOC and for other changes in the organic stratigraphy that might explain the patterns.
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Humic waters on the edge of Loch Grannoch

 At this time, the award winning state-of-the-art Central Teaching Laboratories (CTL) at the University of Liverpool expanded the Infrared Spectrometry capabilities adding a Near-infrared Diffuse Reflectance machine. The Bruker MPA Diffuse Reflectance Fourier Transform Near Infrared Spectrometer (FT-NIRS) was added to the teaching facility to enable the rapid and non-destructive characterisation of powders including soils and sediments. NIRS has proven to be a valuable tool for quantifying the components present in lake sediments, such as type and quantity of organic and mineral matter. Often the approach uses direct comparison of the NIR spectra to parallel independently measured parameters, for example organic content (loss-on-ignition or total organic carbon). This approach requires the development of an extensive training set of parallel measurements, and one has been developed in the CTL to enable undergraduates and postgraduates to estimate loss-on-ignition by NIRS. The NIRS measurement takes 60 seconds and is non-destructive, whereas equivalent combustion methods take several hours, are destructive and more difficult to accommodate in the time frame of practical classes.
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MPA FT-NIRS in the Central Teaching Laboratory

In developing utilities to support teaching in the School of Environmental Sciences, Fiona Russell began exploring alternative approaches to the handling of NIR spectra to obtain a broader range of environmental information from sediments and soils. The approach developed rather than using a large training set, for example our loss-on-ignition dataset comprises > 200 samples with parallel NIRS and l-o-i measurements, instead uses a library of end member NIR spectra measured for known composition materials e.g. biogenic silica (diatoms), humic/fulvic acids (key components of DOC), rock and mineral types. This alternative approach, recently published in the Journal of Paleolimnology (click here), applies a multiple regression of a selection of known material NIR spectra to a sample set of NIR spectra measured for unknown composition materials, in this research lake sediment samples. The research shows that with appropriate selection of 3-5 end member spectra, the method can reconstruct successfully the proportions that these end members form in the series of unknown lake sediments. This different approach means that environmental reconstructions can be undertaken using 3-5 end member spectra rather than a library of >100-200 parallel measurements and it can reconstruct the proportions of multiple end member materials or sediment components simultaneously.

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To demonstrate the approach, we sampled a 14,500 year duration sediment core from Loch Grannoch in the Galloway Hills (SW Scotland). Loch Grannoch is a small upland oligotrophic lake that has granite bedrock, relatively large catchment area and is one of the lakes in the UK Uplands Water Monitoring Network. Applying our approach reveals a down-core pattern of varying dominance by biogenic silica, organic and mineral content from the late glacial to present. Testing a wider range of end members shows there is sensitivity to the choice of end members, with a local bedrock or sediment end member characteristic of the lake catchment important. The wider generality of the approach, and the utility of our growing library of mineral, organic and biogenic silica end-member materials, is demonstrated by successful ‘blind’ application to additional lake sediment cores from Wales, Norway and Sweden each with differing climate and bedrock.
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Fitting mineral, organic and biogenic silica end members to multiple lakes.

The technique development embedded in this research showcases the importance of integrating teaching and research at the University of Liverpool. The paper is available as Open Access from the Journal of Paleolimnology should you wish to read more about it. The team have made available the library of end member NIR spectra and the multiple regression method code developed using the open source R platform with the the online version of the paper supplementary materials and in the University of Liverpool DataCat archive. The methodology is now being used routinely by colleagues, undergraduate and postgraduate students to characterise materials in their learning and independent research. For further information please contact the authors: Fiona Russell, John Boyle and Richard Chiverrell.

 

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Understanding Polish Migration to the UK

New blog post by Dr Kathy Burrell

In my academic research I have focused on Polish migration to the UK. I have done this largely through interviewing Polish migrants directly – in-depth interviews which allow time to talk about key experiences and feelings related to migrating from Poland to the UK. I have interviewed people who were refugees from the Second World…

Reblogged – follow this link to read the full post Understanding Polish Migration to the UK — Kathy Burrell

‘Knowing me, Knowing you’

 By Mark Green

I have just joined the department to take up a Lectureship in Health Geography here at the University of Liverpool.

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Mark himself!

My research interests lie in two interconnected areas. Firstly, I am interested in how body weight and physical activity vary within the UK population, as well as their association to various health outcomes. Secondly, I am interested in examining how neighbourhoods influence health outcomes and behaviours. I also have a broad interest in social inequalities in health and in understanding the processes through which they persist.

I joined the department having previously been based at ScHARR (School of Health and Related Research, University of Sheffield), where I was a Research Associate in Public Health (2013-2015). I was attached to two large research projects during this post:

  • The Yorkshire Health Study: A survey of residents of Yorkshire collected every three years which began in 2010-2012. The aim of the survey is to better understand the health needs of the population of Yorkshire, as well as investigate the associations between a variety of personal, social and behavioural factors to long term health conditions. The study was funded by the NIHR CLAHRC for Yorkshire and the Humber.
  • An analysis of the associations between the density of different types of shops which sell alcohol and alcohol-related admissions to hospitals at a small geographical scale (2002/03 to 2013/14). The study was funded by Alcohol Research UK.
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Mark is involved in the Global Burden of Disease study, which estimates worldwide trends in health. This figure is of the prevalence of overweight and obesity (source: Ng et al., 2014, Lancet, 384: 766–81).

Despite having a Public Health background, I am a Geographer by trade. I completed my PhD in Geography at the University of Sheffield (2010-2013), entitled ‘Death in England and Wales: Using a classificatory approach for researching mortality’ (supervised by Dr Daniel Vickers and Prof. Danny Dorling). My PhD explored the clustering of mortality patterns at a small scale for England and Wales through the creation of an area classification. I also have a MSc and BA(Hons) in geographical-related disciplines both from the University of Sheffield.

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Mark’s PhD created an area classification of mortality patterns for England and Wales. Of course, as a geographer he loves maps! (Source: Green et al., 2014, Health & Place, 30, 196-204).

A list of my publications can be found here. If you have any questions or fancy a chat, feel free to pop by my office (Room 602c in the Roxby Building), or email me.

Introducing Dr Lucy Jackson, new lecturer in human geography

‘Mad about maps and all things associated with social difference’

Post by Dr Lucy Jackson

Lucy Jackson

About me: I’ve just started as a lecturer in Human Geography in the department of geography and planning, having moved from a post-doc position at the University of Sheffield. I’d describe myself as a critical social geographer with specialist interest in feminist geopolitics (more about my research interests below). I’m currently enjoying getting to know Liverpool a little better and am feeling super welcomed by all of my colleagues in the department (thank you!) I love maps (obviously!) and was recently introduced to the undergrads (by Paul Williamson) as the new ‘resident Singapore expert’ (I will try to live up to that title). I also have a travelling Welsh Dragon, called Norbert, who attends all of my overseas research trips (look out for him below). If you are interested in any of my research then feel free to drop me an email/ find me for a chat (Lucy.jackson@liverpool.ac.uk).

Lucy and Norbert the travelling Welsh Dragon

Lucy and Norbert the travelling Welsh Dragon

Biography: I completed my doctoral research in the Institute of Geography and Earth Sciences at the University of Wales, Aberystwyth in 2012 having also studied for my BA (2006) and MA (2008) at the same institution. My doctoral research, titled ‘Alternative sites of citizenship: emotions, performance and belonging for female migrants’, focused upon ideas of citizenship as a relational practice recognising it’s ever more social and cultural nature.

After leaving Aberystwyth, I moved to the University of Sheffield to work on the ERC funded LIVEDIFFERENCE project, led by P.I Professor Gill Valentine. This project involved five inter-linked projects to explore the extent and nature of everyday encounters with ‘difference’. Each of these projects involved collecting original data in the UK and Poland. My research with LIVEDIFFERENCE was conducted within Project C ‘Contested Spaces: Group Identities and Competing Rights in the City’. Here, I specifically focused on the spaces of conflict and interaction between pro-life and pro-choice groups, and between faith and secular groups in the UK.

After this, I continued working with Professor Valentine on an AHRC project on Intergenerational Justice. This project involved work in Uganda, the UK and China to look at issues around resource use, consumption, and attitudes towards the environment across different generations, involving research with families, communities, and NGOs in each context.

Through this research I’ve developed a broad interest in the field of critical social geographies, though the research I conduct connects across the social sciences. Through my research I aim to re-address questions of ‘the social’, not just in terms of social justice, but in terms of socio-spatial politics and the performative politics of everyday life within different societies. Working with theories around everyday practice such as de-certeau and Lebevre I look to bring political philosophy into human geography. I’ve recently come back from a research trip in Singapore looking at ‘claiming citizenship in a constrained public sphere’ with Dr Dan Hammett at Sheffield. This research was part funded by the Sheffield Institute for International Development (SIID), with a blogpost to arrive shortly on their website.

I Love Singapore Hello Kitty

I Love Singapore Hello Kitty

Specifically, my research interests centre on these core principles (links to recent articles you might find interesting associated with each theme).

Feminist geopolitics, gender and everyday practice

G Valentine, L Jackson, L Mayblin (2014). Ways of Seeing: Sexism the Forgotten Prejudice? Gender, Place & Culture 21 (4), 401-414. DOI:10.1080/0966369X.2014.913007

Winiarska, A, Jackson, L, Mayblin, L and Valentine, G (2015). ‘They kick you because they are not able to kick the ball’: normative conceptions of sex difference and the politics of exclusion in mixed-sex football. Available online: DOI:10.1080/17430437.2015.1067778

Reproductive politics

Jackson, L and Valentine, G (2014). Emotion and politics in a mediated public sphere: Questioning democracy, responsibility and ethics in a computer mediated world. Geoforum, 52, 193-202. doi:10.1016/j.geoforum.2014.01.008

Citizenship

*Just out* Jackson, L (2015). Intimate citizenship? Rethinking the politics and experience of citizenship as emotional in Wales and Singapore. Gender, Place & Culture, available online: DOI:10.1080/0966369X.2015.1073695

Migration

Jackson, L (2015). Experiencing exclusion and reacting to stereotypes? Navigating borders of the migrant body. Area, available online: DOI: 10.1111/area.12146

Home, belonging, emotions

Jackson, L (2014). The multiple voices of belonging: migrant identities and community practice in South Wales. Environment and Planning A, 46, pages 1666–1681. doi:10.1068/a46248

Methodological innovations

Harris, C, Jackson, L, Mayblin, L, Piekut, A and Valentine, G (2014). ‘Big Brother welcomes you’: exploring innovative methods for research with children and young people outside of the home and school environments. Qualitative Research, available online: 10.1177/1468794114548947

Postdoctoral Research Associate job opportunity

Come join the team at Liverpool Geography! We are seeking a Postdoctoral Research Associate to work on a recently awarded Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC) Secondary Data Analysis Initiative Phase 2 project ‘Population Change and Geographic Inequalities in the UK, 1971-2011’. You will join the project team (Principal Investigator Dr Chris Lloyd; Co-Investigators Drs Gemma CatneyAlex Singleton and Paul Williamson) to explore geographic inequalities in the UK and how these have changed over the last 40 years. The project will involve the development of a set of population surfaces for a wide array of socio-economic and demographic variables for the UK Censuses of 1971-2011. These population surfaces enable the assessment of changes over small geographical areas. The production of surfaces will allow detailed analysis of, for example, the persistence of social deprivation at the neighbourhood scale or the ways in which housing tenures have changed across the regions of the UK.

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You should have a PhD in Population Geography, Geographic Information Science, or the broader Social Sciences (with a quantitative focus). Experience in manipulating large datasets and some programming experience would also be desirable.

The post is available until 31st July 2016. Deadline for applications: 23rd January 2015. For more information and to apply see http://www.jobs.ac.uk/job/AKG036/postdoctoral-research-associate/

Top Ten Blog Posts of 2014

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As we enter 2015 we look back at the top 10 most viewed blog posts of 2015. These include posts by current and past undergraduate and postgraduate students and staff and give a good idea of some of the things that we do here in Geography at University of Liverpool. We look forward to more posts in 2015 and wish you all a happy new year.

 

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10. In Tenth place, a post from February 2014 by PhD student Madeleine Gustavsson on her first publication: First publication – ‘Procedural and distributive justice in a community-based Marine Protected Area in Zanzibar, Tanzania’

 

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9. In Ninth place, a post from June 2014 by James Wilford who graduated with a BA (Hons) Geography in July this year on the Singapore Field Class 2014

 

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8. In Eighth place, a post from June 2014 by Dr. Paul Williamson on the winners of the Edinburgh Field Class 2014 Photo Competition

 

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7. In Seventh place, a post from May 2014 by Samantha Brannan who graduated with a BSc (Hons) Geography in July this year on Geographers on Tour: Santa Cruz Field Class 2014

 

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6. In sixth place, a post from January 2014 about Lisa Reilly who graduated in July this year about her success as National Student Award Winner

 

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5. In Fifth place, a post from December 2014 by Dr Bethan Evans on a Disability, Arts and Wellbeing Workshop with DaDaFest

 

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4. In Fourth place, a post from October 2014 by Sean Dunn who graduated with a BSc (Hons) Geography in July this year and is now studying for an MSc. His post is about the final year Santa Cruz field class on California Field Class and Travel

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3. In Third place, a post from August 2014 by Alexandra Guy, currently a second year BA Geography student on A Year in the Life of an Undergraduate Geography Student

 

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2. In Second Place, a post from August 2014 by PhD student Natalie Robinson on her research with homeless people in Chicago ‘This is My Story: A Photographic Exploration of Chicago’ – Notes from the field.

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1. And in First place, our most viewed blog of 2014 is a post from February 2014 by Jonny Clark who graduated in July with a BSc (Hons) Geography on How a work-based dissertation re-affirmed my confidence in my subject, my own ability and my future

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.