Friday, 19 January 2018
Taking a career break as an early career researcher could perhaps be viewed as less than smart but sometimes life just works out that way and anyway when is a good time to take a career break? The bigger issue perhaps is how do you get back in again? If you want to return to research following some time out, especially if you haven’t got a job to go back to can be a big challenge. So many doors seem to have closed, techniques have moved on and your publication record has likely gone into dormancy. From personal experience I felt like I’d blown my chances of working in research, I’d made a decision to take some time out, and getting back in was proving difficult. It’s hard not to take job rejection personally, especially when vacancy after vacancy gets filled with others who have more recent relevant experience. Job applications are draining, interviews are nerve wracking and rejections are demoralising, but somehow you keep going, just one more.
I’d got to the “just one more attempt” before facing up to the “I’m going to need to make a career change” place when I found out about the Daphne Jackson Trust Fellowship scheme. They offer a fellowship for people who have had to take a career break of more than 2 years and, along with a host institution provide funding and support, including retraining for a part-time, two year research position in a STEM subject. It seemed to be the perfect opportunity to return to research and there was a sponsored position available at the University of Nottingham. I allowed myself a small sideways look at hope.
Andrea has started her Fellowship working with George Swann at the University of Nottingham and Melanie Leng at the BGS.
Wednesday, 17 January 2018
Why do we need to know what's under our cities? And what's it got to do with Icebergs?! ... by Catherine Pennington
|Drill auger sections and debris on the London |
Underground track (photograph courtesy of Network Rail)
"This was a serious incident that could have ended very differently had it not been for the vigilance and prompt reporting and actions of our drivers. We carry two million people a year on the Northern City Line" First Capital Connect managing director Neal Lawson, as reported by the BBC.The construction site was 13 metres above the tunnel and because the location of the tunnel wasn't shown on any map available to the site developer or the local planning authority, Network Rail was not consulted during the planning application stage. As a result, no one knew the tunnel and the drills were going to collide.
It also turns out that when the Rail Accident Investigation Branch examined the incident, over half the piles intended for the site would have crashed their way through the tunnel, had they been constructed.
You can read more about it in the RAIB Rail Accident Report.
This kind of scenario, where an asset (e.g. railway tunnel) is damaged or affected by something else (e.g. a drill), is known as a strike.
How on earth can a 'strike' happen with today's advanced detailed mapping technology?This situation could have been avoided entirely had the data about the ground beneath the construction site been coordinated and available to the right people at the right time. Sadly, this incident is just one of many.
At the moment, subsurface information is quite tricky to get at unless you know what you are doing. Data quality can be variable - entirely absent or poor. Meanwhile political and organisational boundaries make it difficult to get a wider picture of the subsurface conditions. Ultimately, there is no central digital map showing what is present, exactly where it is and what issues you need to be aware of.
An incomplete view of subsurface data can have costly and far-reaching outcomes. As well as damage to the underground assets themselves, other consequences include environmental costs and economic costs associated with the millions of hours of road disruption, huge repair and replacement costs, project re-designs and overruns. The Department of Transport estimates that street works account for an estimated cost of £4.3bn annually. Meanwhile the Treasury estimated in 2013 that greater cross-infrastructure collaboration can save the economy an estimated £3bn.
Introducing Project IcebergProject Iceberg aims to address the serious issue of the lack of information about the ground beneath our cities and the un-coordinated way in which the subsurface space is managed. This is an exploratory project undertaken by the British Geological Survey, Future Cities Catapult and the Ordnance Survey.
What are we likely to find in the ground beneath a city?The short answer is ... a lot. It's a complex, highly variable environment that has been through multiple phases of development. Not only are the natural ground conditions varied and often highly disturbed, but the ground contains a large number of built structures and utilities. There are gas mains, sewers, water supply pipes, drains, oil pipelines, old mine workings, tunnels, power cables, telecom cables, boreholes, landfills, basements... and the list goes on. These are owned or managed by different entities, making the job of uniting data quite an undertaking. As well as assets, there's geological information that needs to be taken into account for the design of foundations, slopes, retaining walls, tunnels, roads, rail and more.
Take a look at this:
©Future Cities Catapult
And what's it got to do with Icebergs?It's well known that a large proportion of an Iceberg lies below the surface (Isostasy). The same is true of our cities. We rely on the ground for a wide range of applications: for example provision of natural resources and housing of critical infrastructure and utilities. When it comes to planning, we often focus on the visible parts of our towns and cities and forget the complex and valuable ground beneath our feet – the name Project Iceberg is a reminder not to forget what you can’t see!
ContactFor more information, you can contact Stephanie Bricker at BGS or see Project Iceberg
Friday, 12 January 2018
The geotechnical industry has for some time adopted the Association of Geotechnical and geoenvironmental specialists (AGS) digital format for borehole data. Transferring borehole data in this format allows the industry to share data more easily, load it into a range of software types, create bespoke graphical logs and also re-use the data for creating 2D cross sections and 3D geological models. The AGS format has been specifically designed for the sharing of geotechnical data and thus our project aimed to make this a reality from the BGS archive; we wanted the ensure that the National Geoscience Data Centre not only archived and shared analogue borehole data, but also digital AGS data.
The solution moving forwards…
Sharing is key here
So now the proof will be in the pudding…
I have data but it’s not mine, can I upload it?
How many AGS files can I download at any one time?
Can I access the originally deposited AGS file?
If I state that the data is confidential what happens?
Wednesday, 10 January 2018
|Elephants within the Kruger National Park|
The working hypothesis for this project is that African elephants (Loxodonta Africana) are being drawn towards a mining area just outside the Kruger National Park in South Africa, due to the unique geochemistry of the area. Previous studies have suggested that the soil in areas surrounding the mine, and associated plant and elephant faecal samples may be low in minerals such as phosphorus, causing a deficiency in the plants, and driving the elephants to seek these minerals elsewhere. It is therefore thought that the elephants may be attracted to the mining area due to the mineral provision in the plants, soil and water. Unfortunately, elephant incursion into the mine and nearby human settlements has resulted in human-elephant conflict, causing risk of injury and loss of income. It is hoped that the results of the project may help to inform key locations in the elephants’ home range where mineral-supplemented forage or mineral licks may be placed to reduce the drive to seek additional sources of minerals, thereby reducing human-elephant conflict.
|African elephants on land next to direct mine site|
The project is very fortunate to have access to banked blood and tail hair samples from the Kruger National Park BioBank, collected opportunistically from elephants within the Kruger National Park, banked tail hair, toenail and blood samples from collared elephants monitored by Elephants Alive (EA), as well as tracking data from seven animals collared by EA on the mine site. These data greatly inform elephant movement and thus the sampling strategy for environmental sampling in the area, as well as providing a baseline level for minerals in African Elephants (Loxodonta Africana). I am very much looking forward to processing and analysing these samples in the coming months and pairing the data with the appropriate environmental samples.
I would like to thank the fantastic field team and especially our game guard Desmond who gave great reassurance during long bush walks – his knowledge and experience was phenomenal. I would also like to thank all of the staff at SAEON who gave up vast amounts of time to assist with fieldwork, scientific services and Peter Buss & the veterinary department at SANParks (KNP) and collaborator Michelle Henley from Elephants Alive.
I would like to take this opportunity to extend my thanks to all five of the UK zoos which have assisted with this project to date; Colchester Zoo, Knowsley Safari, Twycross Zoo, Noahs Ark Zoo Farm and ZSL Whipsnade Zoo, to all the elephant keepers for collecting the samples and acting as an endless bank of knowledge for the animals they care for, the vet and research teams for assisting with logistics, and of course the elephants themselves. I am enormously excited to visit each zoo in the coming year and explain the results obtained, to provide a profile of the mineral status of each animal and hopefully give the zoos valuable data, to aid them in continuing to advance the captive care of these phenomenal animals.
Friday, 5 January 2018
|One of our collaborators from China (at the|
back) and me collecting sediment core
|Fuchi dam constructed at the confluence of the Yangtze River and Honghu Lake in 1971|
At the moment the analysis of the carbon and nitrogen isotopes is underway at the BGS and it is hoped that these will help to track the source of organic matter in ecosystem state change and provide information about the productivity of these shallow freshwater ecosystems.
Linghan Zeng is a PhD student in the School of Geography, University of Nottingham working within the Centre for Environmental Geochemistry.