Monday, 27 February 2017

SIGMA training in Chile, the UK and Leanne Hughes

Leanne demonstrating SIGMA in the field in Chile. 
Last month I undertook work which involved me being in three continents within a week. This is not bad going since I had only previously visited three in a lifetime! The first visit was to the geological survey of Chile (SERNAGEOMIN) and ENAMI the National Mining Company, this was part of a collaborative project with BGS to discover how we can use high resolution state of the art remote sensing imagery and elevation models to better define and understand geological problems for further study. For the interpretation of this data we used  virtual field reconnaissance software ‘GeoVisionary’ to enable a team of BGS and Chilean geologists to understand the virtual terrain as a group and record the interpretations as digital lines. This allowed the geologists to make decisions about which field sites needed a visit in order to constrain the remote interpretation. Once the field sites were identified, we flew to the north of Chile near Ovalle to field verify the interpretations using BGS SIGMA mobile.  SIGMA is a GIS-based geological mapping system, which spatially references geological observations interpretations and line work. It allowed us to collect a great deal of data into one system. The temperature in North Chile was in the mid-30s and very dry, there were lots of cactus with vicious spines – one small round variety stuck in my mind as the Chilean name translated as “A cushion for the mother-in-law”!

"A cushion for the mother-in-law"!
Whilst in the north, ENAMI showed us around the copper sulphate and silicate mines in the area and explained how viewing the workings in 3D would be useful to understand the relations of the different deposits. Once fieldwork was completed and we had collected as many interpretations as was practical, BGS and SERNAGEOMIN headed back to the head office in Santiago. By importing the SIGMA field observations into GeoVisionary we were able to discuss the interpretations and decide on what to indicate on the final geological map. The geological map was compiled in small teams who focused on areas of their expertise; I worked alongside Juan-Pablo to create a new geological interpretation of the area north of Ovalle. It was a privilege to have been able to contribute new interpretations and line work to one of their geological maps. At the end of the visit, we presented the work we had done to the department and discussed the merits of workflow we had used.

I then flew back to the UK to spend a few days setting up four tablet PCs to deliver SIGMA training the following week with Eimear Deady.

The third continent was Africa at the Liberian Geological Survey where we were delivering a course on digital geological mapping using SIGMA. I thought I was used to the hot weather after Chile but I was not ready for the hundred percent humidity and the sauna-like working environment in Liberia! With funding provided by the UK Government (DFID), a team from the BGS has been building capacity at the Liberian Geological Survey (LGS) so that staff there are better equipped to manage the country’s land-based mineral resources. The course involved a mixture of office-based training supported by practical exercises undertaken outside at various locations in Monrovia. Some of the office-based training was a little challenging. Several power cuts meant that being adaptable was key!

Classroom training (L) and teaching field skills (R) in Liberia. 
The initial few days of the course focused on familiarity with GIS and downloading the background data needed when undertaking mapping, such as aerial photographs and topographic maps. We then focused on field skills, such as finding your location on a map using triangulation and measuring dip/strike. The final exercises for the  LGS geologists was to then create a geological and topographical map of a compound in Monrovia which had a good outcrop of dolerite with jointed faces that could be measured. This utilised all the skills they had learned during the course.  At the end of the course, the trainees described what they had learned in a presentation to the Director of the LGS.

Overall, working in Chile (S. American Continent) and Liberia (African Continent) (with a few days in the UK (European Continent) between the two), were two very different experiences using SIGMA and provided me with a great opportunity to better understand the geology of these two countries.

Friday, 24 February 2017

Bye Bye to Jonathan Jonathan Dean

At the end of February, Jonathan Dean will bid farewell to the Stable Isotope Facility at the British Geological Survey to start a lectureship at the University of Hull, here he looks back on his time in Keyworth... 

I first came to the Stable Isotope Facility (part of the Centre for Environmental Geochemistry at the BGS) in 2010 as an undergraduate from the University of Nottingham to get experience of working in a laboratory. I subsequently moved on to do a PhD at Nottingham and over the next 3 years I was regularly back at BGS, analysing lake sediments for geochemistry from Turkey. We've now published a number of papers on the isotope work I undertook on those sediments, which we used to reconstruct how the climate of the Eastern Mediterranean region had changed between wet and dry over the past 13,000 years (See Dean et al. 2015a Dean et al. 2015b; Dean et al. 2015c).

In 2014, and after I completed my PhD, I started working at BGS as a 'Stable Isotope Apprentice', where I received training in a large variety of lab tasks including the analysis of organic matter in resource type studies for carbon isotopes and the analysis of oxygen isotopes in carbonates for palaeoclimate research. Following my training I was in an ideal position to apply for and obtain a 2 year post-doctoral post associated on a NERC funded grant based at BGS. For the last 2 years I have been analysing the chemistry of lake sediments from Ethiopia in order to reconstruct changes between wet and dry climate over the past several hundred thousand years in eastern Africa (see my update in 2015 on Geoblogy) and link these changes to the movement of hominins out of Africa. The climax of the project came in January this year when over 60 scientists from around the world gathered at Arizona State University in Phoenix to discuss progress of this international effort. We are aiming to test our hypothesis that changes in climate influenced the history of Homo sapiens and our predecessor species. We're hoping to start publishing our results within the next year, so watch this space!

Overall, what an amazing few years it has been, the Stable Isotope Facility at the British Geological Survey has been a great place to work (and get training) and I hope to continue research collaborations for years to come! I am now looking forward to working as a lecturer in Physical Geography at the University of Hull. Thanks to Chris Kendrick, Carol Arrowsmith, Hilary Sloane and Melanie Leng at the BGS who have supported me through the last 7 years.

Monday, 20 February 2017

Investigating Climate and Environmental Change in Eastern Australia (Part 2) Melanie Leng

The field team made up of researchers from University of Adelaide,
the Queensland government and Melanie Leng  (BGS/University
of Nottingham) and Andy Henderson (Newcastle).
In May 2016 Melanie blogged about her role in a project led by Dr John Tibby and Dr Cameron Barr (from University of Adelaide) on understanding climate change in eastern Australia. This is difficult because few archives of climate change exist in eastern Australia. The team developed a climate record based on the chemistry (carbon isotope ratios) of the broad-leaved paperbark tree, which they correlated to water stress. As a result of that research, Melanie was invited to the University of Adelaide to discuss future collaboration on recent climate change in eastern Australia and visit North Stradbroke Island which was the focus of the original study. Here Mel tells us about her trip…… 

NASA World Wind Landsat
montage of Stradbroke Island
courtesy of Wikipedia.  
Following on from our recent paper in Global Change Biology, I was invited to visit the University of Adelaide to see what expertise we at the British Geological Survey and the University of Nottingham could provide in studying recent climate change along the eastern Australia coastal margin. Climate change is a current hot topic in Australia as it potentially could lead to significant environmental and economic impacts in water security, agriculture, coastal communities and infrastructure. It is important to understand past climate change especially the causes of past increases in frequency and intensity of extreme weather events.

Scientists from the University of Adelaide are working on the past frequency of climate extremes by undertaking research from the records in lake sediments. The first week in Adelaide was spent in meetings, talking to researchers about their projects, but probably the most important was the work being done on North Stradbroke Island (locally referred to as Straddie). Straddie is the second largest sand island in the world (24 x 7 miles), and lies off the Brisbane coast. The sand island contains both large and small aquifers of water and where these aquifers intersect the sand surface they form small lakes. Sediments have accumulated in these lakes over tens and up to hundreds of thousands of years! We visited several of these lakes to discuss their potential to accumulate sediments (many contain 10s of metres of organic rich muds). These muds contain information through time, the oldest being at the bottom of sediment cores extracted from the lakes, while the youngest are at the top. We are (and will be) analysing some of these sediments for geochemical and biological parameters at the British Geological Survey. These parameters will tell us about changing water quality in the past that is related to water stress (or how dry the climate was in the past).

From L-R: Swallow Lake on Stradbroke Island, one of the contenders to provide a long climate history of eastern Australia;
Fieldwork on 'Straddie' Island, here testing the depth of the sediments within this (currently) dried up lake (Welsby Lagoon).
We visited several lakes including Swallow Lake (the site of the original work on the paperbark tree) as well as Brown Lake (perhaps it got its name from leaching of organic compounds from the peats as the sediments accumulated), and the remarkably resilient Blue Lake which is thought to be untouched by climate change and due to its spectacular setting has been hypothetically referred to as “God’s Bathtub” thanks to Cameron Barr.
One of the locals of a field notebook (note the scale), a fairly
harmless orb-weaver spider.
Through our future collaboration we hope that the team involving staff from the University of Adelaide, the British Geological Survey and the University of Nottingham will be able to make inferences about the controls (local, global, man-made) on the past and future climates of eastern Australia.

The fieldwork was headed by Dr John Tibby and Dr Cameron Barr but included staff from Queensland Department of Science, Information Technology and Innnovation, as well as Melanie and Dr Andy Henderson (University of Newcastle)

Melanie Leng is the Director of the Centre for Environmental Geochemistry at the BGS and University of Nottingham. Follow Mel on twitter @MelJLeng.

Monday, 13 February 2017

Improving the use of geoscience in brownfield redevelopment projects through a NERC Knowledge Exchange Darren Beriro

In January 2017, the Government released a consultation on its Industrial Strategy. The strategy places science, research and innovation as central pillars. In February, it published its housing white paper, which maintains brownfield redevelopment as one of its foundations. Natural Environment Research Council (NERC) geoscience, principally developed and delivered by British Geological Survey (BGS), crucially underpins these policies.

Brownfield sites are a foundation to UK Government housing policy

These political developments are exciting to BGS as well as to me personally because I have been awarded a NERC Knowledge Exchange (KE) Fellowship. The Fellowship will last for three years and aims to increase the impact of NERC geoscience in brownfield redevelopment projects. Knowledge exchange is a two way process where increased understanding and any associated benefits are expected for all parties. During the Fellowship I will evaluate how NERC stakeholders are using geoscience in brownfield projects and try to enhance its application wherever possible. This will help improve UK competitiveness at home and enhance the potential to export expertise.
Knowledge Exchange Methodology

NERC geoscience is all-encompassing and includes: i) data e.g. geological maps, 3D models and soil geochemistry; ii) spatial decision support tools e.g. the BGS SuDS dataset; iii) applied science e.g. bioaccessibility of potentially harmful substances in soils and sensor technology for measuring sub-surface contamination.

NERC geoscience is all-encompassing

During the Fellowship, I will engage with a range of stakeholders including:
  • Landowners
  • Developers
  • Geoenvironmental consultancies
  • Remediation contracting companies
  • Government
  • Regulators
  • Industry bodies
I am planning to hold regional workshops in the autumn & winter 2017/18 which I hope will improve participant understanding of NERC geoscience and how to optimise their use of it. The workshops will also explore the potential barriers and constraints that limit the impact of geoscience within the land redevelopment sector. This approach is an example of knowledge exchange being a two-way process.

Knowledge exchange is a two way process

The Fellowship will include work-based placements.  I will work directly with site redevelopment managers to identify where in the project life cycle NERC geoscience will have the most impact. The benefits to the economy, environment and society of each project will be monitored, quantified and will guide future work.

The results of the Fellowship will be published as technical case studies and made widely available. In addition, a design guide will help NERC and BGS utilise the results of the Fellowship, particularly in terms of understanding end-user needs and increasing the potential of co-design of future NERC geoscience projects and data.

I hope that relationships developed during the Fellowship will present new opportunities for future collaborative projects that flourish beyond the lifespan of this project.

My intention is to keep you up to date with examples of my knowledge exchange activities during the project via LinkedIn, Twitter (@BGSBrownfields) and BGS blogging at GeoBlogy.