20th QRA Annual International Postgraduate Symposium...by Jack Lacey

In early September, the Quaternary Research Association (QRA) hosted their annual symposium exclusively for postgraduate (PhD and MSc) students at the University of Cambridge. Over 45 delegates from 24 universities presented and discussed their diverse research on the Quaternary (the most recent period of geological time covering the last 2.6 million years) from sites around the world covering ice, land and sea.
Symposium group photo outside the Scott Polar Institute, Cambridge.
#QRAPG15 kicked off with a tour of the British Antarctic Survey (BAS). We learned how BAS create maps using satellite imagery, visited the cold marine aquarium containing animals brought back from Antarctic waters, and were shown the drilling equipment used to recover ice cores. There was also the opportunity to see thinly sliced sections of ice that visibly enclose small bubbles of past atmosphere frozen in time (scientists can use this trapped air to understand more about Earth’s past climate).

Conference dinner at the Riverside Restaurant.
The main symposium had a variety of talks split into sessions covering a broad range of research themes, including ice cores, ocean circulation, and palaeoclimate reconstructions. I presented some of my recent PhD work on Lake Ohrid, including a talk on a 640,000 year record of Mediterranean hydroclimate variability and a poster on a high resolution record of environmental change over the last 12,000 years. We also had some great keynote lectures from Robert Mulvaney (BAS) on the ice core evidence of climate change and deglaciation, Babette Hoogakker (University of Oxford) on determining past ocean oxygen concentrations and Lucy Gonzalez (Anglia Ruskin University) on research funding opportunities.

The prize for best presentation was awarded to Alwynne McGeever (Trinity College Dublin) for her excellent talk on modelling tree populations in Europe and best poster was awarded to Francesca Falcini (University of York) who used 3D images to showcase her interesting research into the roughness imparted onto surfaces by past ice streams.

Francesca with her prize-winning poster
(Photo: @Lauren_Knight).
The QRA postgraduate symposium exists to provide students a forum to present their research in a relaxed and supportive environment, and the University of Cambridge team (led by Jenny Roberts) did an excellent job of upholding this tradition. This was one of the largest meetings to date, and a great success!

The next symposium will be hosted by the Centre for Environmental Geochemistry at the University of Nottingham in summer 2016. For more information on #QRAPG16, keep an eye on the QRA meetings page, Facebook or Twitter.

Jack Lacey (PhD student at the British Geological Survey and the University of Nottingham)

Twitter @JackHLacey