Tuesday, 13 November 2018

Sampling starts on the RRS James Clark Ross: ORCHESTRA part 4…by Melanie Leng



Melanie Leng is currently part taking in an expedition to the Southern Ocean as part of  ORCHESTRA (Ocean Regulation of Climate by Heat and Carbon Sequestration and Transports), a NERC funded programme with partners at the British Antarctic Survey (lead), the National Oceanography Centre, Plymouth Marine Laboratory, and many more including BGS and several UK universities. This is the fourth blog about her trip where the work begins on the RRS James Clark Ross…

Cruising track from the south from the
Burwood Bank (an undersea shallow ridge
off eastern South America) to Elephant
Island (off the tip of the Antarctic Peninsula).
We are currently cruising south from the Falkland Islands, crossing the Drake Passage from the Burwood Bank (an undersea shallow ridge off eastern South America) to Elephant Island (off the tip of the Antarctic Peninsula). We are repeating some established measurements of ocean temperature, salinity, oxygen, and currents that have been made with support from NERC funding since the early 1990’s but we are also adding some new novel measurements, including O, C, N and Si isotopes, nutrients, and micro plastics to help us understand the changes in the ocean. Most of the measurements are made on discrete water samples collected from depth profiles (down to the sea bed which in places is 5km below the sea surface) taken at regular distances along the transect. The water samples are taken using an instrument called a CTD. A CTD is an instrument used to measure the Conductivity (used to determine salinity), Temperature, and pressure of seawater (the D stands for "depth," which is closely related to pressure) of the ocean but also to collect discrete water samples.  The water samples are taken using a rosette or carousel of “Niskin” bottles. Niskin bottles can be opened at both ends. The open bottle is lowered into the ocean on a wire until it reaches a certain depth and then the bottle is closed by a weighted trigger that is sent down the cable from the surface. Our Niskin bottles are set up in a circular rosette of 24 bottles attached around the CTD instrument. This allows us to take samples at different water depths in a way that seals off the sample and allows it to be brought to the surface without mixing with water from different depths. Getting water samples from different depths in the ocean is important to understand how the water chemistry and physical properties changes with depth.

The CDT (all-women!) sampling team
While the scientist work we have a dedicated crew on board that support us, for the sampling we are indebted to the engineers and deck crew for help with the CTD, as well as those responsible for the successful operation of the ship.  

I am tweeting @MelJLeng and @ORCHESTRAPROJ and Facebooking (Orchestra project) during this trip, as well as updating the BGS britgeopeople.blogspot.com and drakepassageblog.wordpress.com when I have time.

Melanie Leng is the Science Director for Geochemistry at the BGS and the BGS lead scientist for ORCHESTRA. 







Friday, 9 November 2018

On board the RRS James Clark Ross: ORCHESTRA part 3…by Melanie Leng

Melanie Leng is currently part taking in an expedition to the Southern Ocean as part of ORCHESTRA (Ocean Regulation of Climate by Heat and Carbon Sequestration and Transports), a NERC funded programme with partners at the British Antarctic Survey (lead), the National Oceanography Centre, Plymouth Marine Laboratory, and many more including BGS. This is the third blog about her trip where she updates us on her arrival on the RRS James Clark Ross…

We arrived on the RRS James Clark Ross a couple of days ago to begin the mobilisation (ie organizing our equipment that we will be using to make measurements and take samples) before we set sail. The equipment has been organised over the summer by numerous science teams (to name a few: BAS, NOC, BGS, University of Exeter, University of Southampton) and loaded onto the ship while it was docked in Harwich. Hundreds of boxes from numerous science teams were stowed in the hold. We had to bring all the equipment up to the dedicated laboratories that we will need for sampling across the Drake Passage. Much equipment remains in the hold for subsequent cruises, following this one, before the ship heads back to the UK. The equipment in the labs has been securely strapped down as we are anticipating rough seas. For my isotope analysis, I will take bottles of ocean water for analysis back in the BGS laboratories. Others make measurements on the ship, as the analysis are either relatively easy or the samples will not preserve till we can get them back to our laboratories in the UK.

We are currently cruising south from the Falkland Islands and will be crossing the Drake Passage to the Antarctic Peninsula in a few days, repeating some measurements of ocean temperature, salinity, oxygen, and currents that have been made with support from NERC funding since the early 1990’s. We will also be adding new novel measurements, including O, C, N and Si isotopes and micro plastics to the arsenal of information we will be gathering to help us understand the changes in the ocean.

The samples I am collecting are for oxygen and carbon isotopes. The oxygen isotope data will tell us about how much freshwater to seawater there is at particular locations (which will help us understand melting of the Antarctic ice mass and therefore heat) and the carbon isotopes will tell us where the carbon is from and how the ocean uses the carbon. These measurements are particularly important to understand because of the significant changes the Earth is experiencing during the Anthropocene period we are living in.

While the scientist work we have a dedicated crew on board that support us, these are engineers, deck crew and stewards to name a few. The crew, often overlooked, have significant responsibilities which are integral to the successful operation of the ship and our research.

So far the weather has been good to us, blue skies and calm seas, hopefully it will continue!

I am tweeting @MelJLeng and @ORCHESTRAPROJ and Facebooking (Orchestra project) during this trip, as well as updating the BGS britgeopeople.blogspot.com and drakepassageblog.wordpress.com when I have time.
 
 
Melanie Leng is the Science Director for Geochemistry at the BGS and the BGS lead scientist for ORCHESTRA.

Wednesday, 7 November 2018

I am in Stanley: ORCHESTRA part 2... by Melanie Leng


Melanie Leng is currently part taking in an expedition to the Southern Ocean as part of ORCHESTRA (Ocean Regulation of Climate by Heat and Carbon Sequestration and Transports), a NERC funded programme with partners at the British Antarctic Survey (lead), the National Oceanography Centre, Plymouth Marine Laboratory, and many more including BGS. Here she updates us on her journey so far...



Image (clockwise from top left): Stanley main street, a working UK phone box,
the jetty from the Falklands museum, daffodils flowering in the cemetery,
sulphur loving lichens on the sea wall.
After a long flight to the Falkland Islands, via Cape Verde, we (about 30 scientists and logistical staff) are waiting to board the RRS James Clarke Ross currently docked in the Falkland main port, Stanley. Stanley is a vibrant little town of around 2000 people laid out in a grid pattern along the sea shore, facing into the midday sun the town slopes up a hill. The mainly wood and tin homes and businesses have brightly coloured roofs and sit amongst historic cottages and administrative buildings from the time of the main settlers in the 1800’s. Today the weather is very spring like, around 5oC but bight and sunny. It doesn’t feel much different to the UK but the daffodils flowering in the cemetery prove that its spring here and not autumn! Tomorrow we board the ship to begin the mobilisation of the equipment, ready to set sail by the end of the week.

Since this is geoblogy, a bit about the rocks! So far I have only seen quartzite and basalt. The quartzite is a hard, grey, layered rock (Silurian and Devonian sandstones?) which outcrops within Stanley. Many of the older houses are built from it. The basalts sit on top of the quartzites in the surrounding hills - and are therefore younger. Between 1996 and 1998 the BGS re-surveyed the islands and produced the first modern geological map.

I am tweeting @MelJLeng and @ORCHESTRAPROJ and Facebooking (Orchestra project) during this trip, as well as updating the BGS Geoblogy and drakepassageblog.wordpress.com when I have time.

Melanie Leng is the Science Director for Geochemistry at the BGS and the BGS lead scientist for ORCHESTRA.

Tuesday, 6 November 2018

Do you have an image that means geological macroscope?…by Thomas Galley

Presentation slide at the Cheshire Energy Research Field Site technical briefing
I’ve been afforded the space and time to develop my interest in visual communications during my career in communications and marketing. Also, I love a challenge. So you can see why I jumped at the chance to respond to an interesting request from Mike Stephenson, our Director of Science and Technology at BGS. He contacted me just ahead of the UK Geoenergy Observatories technical briefing. This project will establish new centres of world-leading research into the subsurface environment and the knowledge they generate will contribute to the responsible development of new energy technologies both here in the UK and internationally. The request went something along the lines of:

“Do you have any images of compressed air energy storage?”

I hadn’t.

Mike was preparing his presentation for the event which was to be held at Jodrell Bank and attended by scientists from across the UK and representatives of businesses and industry in Cheshire.

As it was a Friday afternoon, any excuse to drag myself away from my desk was very welcome so I walked over to go and find out exactly what was required. I spied an opportunity to create some really useful visual assets for use in UK Geoenergy Observatories communications. I thought that maybe they could be packaged up for use elsewhere too.

The images that Mike had at his disposal just didn’t seem suitable for the presentation. We had a mix of googled images, BGS graphics and images, and diagrams from various other sources. When we looked at some of the icons that already existed on the internet, it was clear that many of them had been designed to convey concepts through the lens of environmental issues, or the energy industry. There weren’t many icons covering geology or themes from a geological perspective. This meant it was hard to design with consistency, and it was frustratingly hard to achieve a professional looking and sufficiently simple set of slides. The effect was a kind of visual clutter that could act as a distraction from the key messages that Mike wanted to convey.

Simple is hard to do.

We quickly sketched out a few ideas. It was decided that I would work with Debbie Rayner, one of our Graphic Designers at BGS, to produce a set of icons. These would be used as a kind of visual shorthand for some of the concepts that Mike wanted to convey, and we would use them in the slideshow that accompanied his presentation. We didn’t have much time.

It was time to write a design brief and get designing.

Tea break challenge


Why don’t you have a go?

Task:
You have ten minutes to complete both challenge one and challenge two.

Materials required:
Pen.
Small square post-it notes (other brands of sticky adhesive notepads are available) to draw on.

Part one:
Design (draw) a way of conveying in each icon a common visual shorthand for the subsurface. Once you have refined your idea draw it on several of your post-it notes so you are ready for part two.

Part two:
Choose a few geological concepts from the following list and draw each one in to the design of one of your icons.
  • A geological macroscope
  • Seismicity
  • Hydrocarbons
  • Compressed air energy storage
  • Geothermal
  • Geological data
  • Groundwater
  • Carbon Capture and Storage
  • Geology of the UK
For the purpose of this exercise, an icon:
  • Has the minimum number of visual components required to convey the concept.
  • Has an aspect ratio of 1:1.
  • Is drawn in only one colour. For example you could use black on a white background or blue on a yellow background.
  • Does not contain any words. It should work in any language.
Now share them with your colleagues. Ask them if they can tell you what each of the icons you’ve designed means.

The delegation at the Cheshire Energy Research Field Site technical briefing.

The designs


So, now you’ve had some experience of the design process and getting feedback, this seems like a good time to see how we did.
Here’s a selection of the icons that Debbie designed:


We used a simple line: curved to denote the earth, and a non-descript building and tree as visual shorthand for the surface. This leaves plenty of space to convey each concept in the area below. The top section of each icon represents our attempt to depict an area of land that could be anywhere.

The bottom section differs each time.

Hopefully the icons convey that the compressed air, the groundwater or the hydrocarbons are underground. This is enough. The context in which the icon is placed will do the rest.

A geological macroscope


I’m particularly pleased with this icon.

It felt impossible to the concept of a geological macroscope inside an icon: The concept is defined by distributed sensors working as one instrument, positioned in arrays to optimise the collection of data. The positioning is not random, but does not adhere to an easily recognisable pattern either.

This finished design has dots to symbolise sensors. There are many of them and their situation in the design has order, but begs the question: What kind of order? This indicates a degree of complexity that is unique to the macroscope concept. It describes to some extent the design of the macroscope planned for the Cheshire Energy research Field Site, yet is non-specific enough that it could represent a future geological macroscope elsewhere.

Design decisions were made that prioritise simplicity. For example it was decided that a sensor drawn as a dot works as well as a drawing of a sensor. We also used white space to depict both the subsurface and that which is above ground: highlighting the concept being conveyed rather than burying it in the dark.

You can see for yourself how Mike used the icons in his presentation at the technical briefing here.

Download all of the icons

You can find all the icons here in the downloads section of the BGS web site.

Feel free to use these icons in your presentations or reports. We hope that they will be a useful resource for people working across the BGS, and people working with and learning about geological concepts elsewhere too.

Please…

Please consider these icons a work in progress. We know they are not perfect and we would be more than happy to hear your feedback, and any suggestions you may have for geological concepts that we haven’t covered for a future release.

Thomas Galley is the Communications and Engagement Officer for the UK Geoenergy Observatories. Please contact Thomas if you’re interested in the Observatories, or communicating ideas visually.

Friday, 2 November 2018

Hunting for critical metals in the south-west Atlantic (Part I): RSS Discovery research cruise to the Rio Grande Rise…by Paul Lusty


Location of the Rio Grande Rise and the MarineE-Tech
project research area (red box).
We departed Santos, Brazil on the RRS Discovery (DY094 cruise) on the 20 October heading to the Rio Grande Rise, which is about 1300 km offshore, in international waters. This is the second British-led cruise of the of the ‘Marine ferromanganese deposits - a major resource of E-tech elements (MarineE-tech)’ project. The project is funded by the NERC Security of Supply of Mineral Resources (SoS Minerals) Research Programme, which aims to understand ‘critical’ metal cycling and concentration in natural systems, and determine how to minimise the environmental impacts of extraction. Critical metals are mineral raw materials (e.g. cobalt, tellurium, niobium and the heavy rare earth elements) vital to technologies (e.g. components of electric vehicles: motors/batteries; renewable energy generation: photovoltaic cells, wind turbines) for transition towards a low carbon future, and for which concerns about security of supply exist. Demand for some critical metals is expected to grow by orders of magnitude as manufacturing of green or low-carbon technologies expands globally. All these materials are ultimately derived from the Earth and MarineE-tech aims to improve understanding of the geological and oceanographic processes controlling the concentration of critical metals in deep-ocean mineral deposits.

A typical example of a ferromanganese crust: the dark layer,
deposited on a sedimentary rock substrate
Some critical metals, notably cobalt and tellurium, are highly concentrated in hydrogenous ferromanganese (Fe-Mn) crusts, which form directly from seawater, on virtually any hard substrate in the oceans. They are particularly common on deep-ocean plateaus and seamounts. During 2016 the MarineE-tech project undertook the most comprehensive study of Fe-Mn crusts on a single seafloor edifice, at Tropic Seamount in the north-east tropical Atlantic. As a follow-up to the Tropic study the current expedition is investigating Fe-Mn crusts on the Rio Grande Rise (RGR) in the south-west Atlantic.

The RGR is the largest bathymetric feature on the oceanic part of the South American plate and is located about 2000 km west of the Mid-Atlantic Ridge. The RGR is divided into a number of sub-regions and is intersected by a major north-west south-east-trending submarine graben structure. The current expedition focuses on a small area on the western side of the RGR, investigating the 25 km wide graben and its adjacent Fe-Mn crust covered plateaus. The origin of the RGR is the subject of continued debate. It is an aseismic, volcanic oceanic plateau that is likely to have formed on or close to the Mid-Atlantic Ridge, and may have a common origin with the Walvis Ridge, which extends off the coast of Africa. Basalt ages suggests these deep-sea plateaus principally formed between 89 and 78 million years ago. 

Extensive Fe-Mn crust deposits are known from the RGR and the area is the focus of commercial mineral exploration. The study area was selected to improve understanding of the local-scale controls on Fe-Mn crust formation and metal concentration, and associated marine ecosystems. The Discovery cruise involves researchers from the National Oceanography Centre, British Geological Survey, University of Edinburgh and the University of São Paulo. We have a diverse range of scientists on board, including geologists, biologists, geochemists and oceanographers. Pierre Josso from BGS, a MarineE-tech post-doc researcher, is also attending the cruise. Pierre’s research focuses on improving age models for Fe-Mn crusts by combining a range of techniques including cobalt-chronometry, LA-ICP-MS studies and Os isotopes.

From L-R: The RRS Discovery preparing to depart from Santos Brazil. The autonomous underwater vehicle Autosub 6000
 is installed in its launch and recovery system on the back deck; The screens in the main laboratory on the RRS Discovery
 from which HyBIS is controlled and the mission is run.
A joint University of São Paulo and National Oceanography Centre research cruise to the RGR in January 2018 provides important background information for planning the current expedition, including ship-based bathymetry (25 m resolution) and data obtained from a number of dredge lines and gravity coring. During the current cruise we plan to examine two areas identified by the previous work in much greater detail. We will be mapping the seafloor to identify areas of Fe-Mn crust using the autonomous underwater vehicle Autosub 6000. This will provide high resolution swath bathymetry (1 m resolution), sidescan sonar (5 cm resolution), sub-bottom profiles (10 cm resolution) and magnetic data. This data will be interpreted on the ship and used for planning dives with the robotic underwater vehicle (HyBIS). We will undertake 12 hour missions with HyBIS to ground truth the autonomous underwater vehicle data, create geological and ecosystem maps from the high definition camera observations, and collect rock and biological samples with its manipulator arm. Seafloor dredging will be used to collect additional samples across the mapped areas. All rock and biological samples are initially processed on the ship. For the geological material, this involves photographing the samples, cutting the rocks to expose the Fe-Mn crusts and making initial sample descriptions.  We are likely to have about 14 days on station at the RGR and have 24 hours of operation on the ship to maximise the use of our time at sea and the amount of data collected. This study will provide new insights into crust formation on the RGR and allow the MarineE-tech team to make comparisons with the crusts they have studied in the north-east Atlantic.