Friday, 20 March 2015

A Life of Variety

Training Workshops, Demonstrating and Conferences

Sometimes I feel like I have all the time in the world, life can be pretty relaxed.  Nobody asks me where I am or what I am doing - well, not very often anyway.  I think everyone should live their life this way - just get the job done, it doesn't matter when or where you are, it's the results that count.

And then at other times I feel like I have a life full of events and commitments - which is why this post has been so long coming.  Actually, on reflection, I think the combination of freedom and commitments is what makes my PhD life so rewarding.

So what are my commitments?  Sit down, make yourself comfortable and I'll begin. (oh, now would probably be a good time to grab a cup of tea... or a glass of wine if it's past 18:00).

Ready?  Ok, then I'll begin.

Training Workshops

This year, I have filled my face with training workshops, provided by NERC, ACCE and York University.  The NERC training courses at the Natural History Museum and Newcastle University were excellent for a couple of reasons.  Importantly, they were useful and I learnt something from them - this has some value.  They also provide a great opportunity to meet and socialise with people outside of your institution, but with similar interests.  I've met some great people and drank some great beer with them - which is probably why I think they're great!  For those of you doing or considering a PhD, take these opportunities, you will not regret it.  I've learnt so much about 'R', ArcGIS, Palaeoecology and even dealing with the dreaded MEDIA!

The advanced ArcGIS gang, showing that nerds can party too!


Demonstrating is great, I love it - even though my experience so far is that it tends to be wet and cold!  I've helped students sample beach fauna in Cleethorpes, in the wind and rain.  I've helped students measure moraines in the Mickleden Glacial Valley, in the wind and rain.  I've even helped students get to grips with ArcGIS, something I would never have imagined being able to do a couple of years ago - thankfully there was no wind and rain in the computer lab!

Moraines at Mickleden in the Lake District                                    Photo: David Rippin

Postgraduate Conference

Here's what the Postgraduate Conference at York taught me, our Environment Department has a massively diverse portfolio of research going on, being done by very talented and excellent people - of which I happen to be one of them. 

Ian Stewart (of Planet Oil fame) was our keynote speaker and gave us a typically charismatic talk on how to best communicate science.  He made some interesting points and really pushed the social media aspect of communication, which really does seem to be the future.  How better to ensure that our science gets communicated in the way that we want it to?

The postgraduate gang at the wine reception, before people started to fall over

That's all I have to say for now and if you've made it this far, thanks for getting through this mash-up of a blog.  I wanted to bring things up-to-date, and get into the habit of writing it.

Stay tuned for more regular updates and keep being curious!  

Tuesday, 11 November 2014

My project - An introduction


 'We then passed over Newgale sands at which place a very remarkable circumstance occurred. The sandy shores of south Wales laid bare by the extraordinary violence of a storm, the surface of the earth, which had been covered for many ages, reappeared, and discovered the trunk of trees cut off, standing in the very sea itself, the strokes of the hatchet appearing as if made only yesterday. The soil was very black and the wood like ebony. This looked like a grove cut down, perhaps at the time of the deluge, or not long after.'  

Giraldus Cambrensis 1188AD 

 Abermawr Beach - Following a violent storm (Gaynor McMorrin)

When Gerald of Wales described Newgale Sands he could just as easily been walking along Abermawr Beach, one of my research sites.  It is difficult to imagine the sandy Pembrokeshire coast was once a forest, economically valuable to the local people.  

And then the sea began to rise.

Not beacause of God's "deluge" as Gerald believed, but because the ice was melting. The age of glaciation was coming to an end and the water, once locked up on the land, was flowing back into the sea. The implications of this, sometimes rapid, sea level rise are of epic proportions. Walking along the pembrokeshire coast, in Gerald's footsteps, demonstrates this.

This flooding has not yet ended, our "deluge" continues and accurate predictions of changes in relative sea-level are essential to help predict and mitigate the impacts upon coastal regions, brought about by climate change. 

The impacts of sea-level rise have been well documented (Kovats et al. 2014) and include such issues as increased flooding and salt inundation into freshwater systems (Nicholls & Cazenave 2010). Further to this, the potential for disruption to the UK’s energy infrastructure is of great significance, with the UK home to three times the number of coastal facilities compared to other European countries (Brown et al. 2013). 
The aim of mywork is to better constrain the Holocene sea-level history of Wales and use this data, in conjunction with the existing data, to refine current glacial isostatic adjustment models and improve predictions of future RSL change for the United Kingdom.

That's the overview of my work.  I'll bring you some more detail in the coming weeks.

References - should you want to read up!

Brown, S., Hanson, S. & Nicholls, R.J., 2013. Implications of sea-level rise and extreme events around Europe: a review of coastal energy infrastructure. Climatic Change, 122(1-2), pp.81–95.

Kovats, R.S. et al., 2014. Climate Change 2014: Impacts, Adaptation and Vulnerability. Part B: Regional Aspects, Contribution of Working Group II to the Fith Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.

Nicholls, R.J. & Cazenave, A., 2010. Sea-level rise and its impact on coastal zones. Science (New York, N.Y.), 328(5985), pp.1517–20.