Monday, 19 August 2013

What makes a smart phone – The Movie! By Clive Mitchell

“Come to my mobile phone event, it’s going to be ‘smashing – and yes folks, that’s a clue!” was my pitch at the BGS Open Day in Keyworth back in June. A friend of mine, Ed Collard, filmed the event and the movie (well YouTube video) is just out:
Ready for action on the day with my geological hammer!
Earlier this year, Andrew Bloodworth (Science Director for minerals at the BGS) said to me “Clive I’ve got a great idea for an Open Day event and its going to involve you smashing up mobile phones!” What on earth did he mean? Well that became apparent and I’ll explain…
As a minerals geologist at the BGS one of the more interesting concepts we work with is that of critical raw materials, especially metals – so called because of their economic importance and high risk of supply shortage. An event focusing on this for the Open Day would help to explain what this is and why it is not as worrying as it sounds. It would also highlight the minerals work of the BGS. Also, being a closet show off I would get to have an audience and applause….
I prepared thoroughly and even rehearsed the day before. I had a stock of old mobile phones that were surplus to requirements, a hammer and plenty of other props! On the day I repeated my event 5 times (it was only 20 minutes long) and here is the photographic evidence….
My props for the day, the sweets being there to encourage interaction with the audience!
I explained that mobile phones contain a lot of different elements with metals being an important part and that geologists take part in mineral exploration to find deposits of metal-bearing ore.
A piece of Banded Iron Formation containing microscopic gold
Once we have found the ore we dig it out of the ground, process it to extract the minerals and then smelt them to produce metal such as gold.
All that glitters is not gold – teasing the audience with my cardboard gold bar!
One possible solution to a shortage of readily available metals would be to recover them from old mobile phones and that would start with breaking them up.
I didn’t like that phone anyway – trying to recover metals from a mobile!
The end product of a day of talking about critical metals and how we might recover them from mobile phones!
Anyone need a phone?
As a final note, we are not going to run out of raw materials such as critical metals anytime soon. Our capacity to produce them however is another matter with production concentrated in a few countries – see the BGS Risk List to learn more. In the meantime, we will continue our search for new sources of raw materials and as we say around these parts “If it can’t be grown, it has to be mined!”
Twitter @CliveBGS

Thursday, 15 August 2013

Tellus Takes Off! by Dr Andrew Howard

The Tellus South West launch team, (from left) myself [Andy
Howard], Emma Ward, Sonya Cassidy,  Cally Oldershaw
Dr Andy Howard is today's guest BGS blogger and shares with us the latest news about Tellus South West airborne environmental survey and all the events at it's big launch on 8th August:

First off what is Tellus South West and why are we doing it? Essentially we’re scanning  the whole of Devon, Cornwall and parts of Somerset from the air to gather a wealth of new data and knowledge that will extend our understanding of the area’s geology, soils, natural resources and environment.

There’s lots more info at these sources:

Oh Snap! The survey  aircraft in action over Mount’s
Bay Cornwall
This wealth of high-quality data, of large (and often inaccessible) areas can help us make the right decisions about developing resources, managing our environment and growing our economy. Decisions about resources such as tin, copper, tungsten, china clay, geothermal energy and fertile soils. Decisions about managing hazards, such as floods, landslides, groundwater contamination and radon. And decisions about sustaining the environment, economy and landscape for heritage, tourism, investment and jobs. As BBC Spotlight South West observed, ‘It’s quite a list’.

We’ve had a very hectic few weeks pulling together the launch event in Newquay so here’s a glimpse into the week’s events............

Emma Ward (BGS Geoscientist) and I shared the long drive down from Nottingham to the Tellus South West launch in Newquay, arriving on 7 August,  the day before the big event. First up, it was a recorded interview at BBC Radio Cornwall in their Truro studio, to go out on the David White Show the following morning.

With that ‘in the can’, it was off to Camborne to see if we could see the survey aircraft in action. We spotted it in the distance, flying low over Hayle Towans. We tried to get underneath for some good pictures – but, how hard was that? Lots of twisty country lanes with high hedges, and losing our sense of direction. Eventually, after an hour, we gave up, parking up in a lay-by to stretch legs. Then, suddenly, the survey aircraft appeared majestically over the brow of a hill and was above us before I could reach the camera. It was low, 80m altitude and amazingly quiet. A quick u-turn and we were after it, to get a good vantage point for the next survey pass, 200m to the east. Sure enough, 10 minutes later it was back, higher this time, and I’m happy with my cherished bit of shaky smartphone video!

The Team from Fugro Airborne Surveys, and the Reims Cessna F406
aircraft, who are carrying out the Tellus South West Survey for BGS
Then it was off to the hotel and – disaster! No phone reception. So it was off in the car again to the nearest cliff top for a phone interview with Simon Clemison for BBC TV South West Spotlight. An hour later he had a storyboard together for the next day’s filming, all cooked up on the phone overlooking a beautiful Cornish sunset.

So it was up bright and early on the 8th for a live interview on BBC Radio Devon breakfast show,  on the phone from the hotel office with some tea and toast. Then off to the Classic Air Force Museum Newquay for the project launch. First up it was two more radio interviews (BBC Radio Cornwall (again!) and Pirate FM, and then on to the filming with Simon for BBC Spotlight South West. Meanwhile, Emma’s doing a great ‘Krypton Factor’ job, assembling the BGS displays from some deranged poles, screws and washers in the boot of the car, and fielding some tricky questions from the stakeholders while I’m swanning off being interviewed. And back at BGS Keyworth, the  local BBC East Midlands crew is filming some geophysics in 3D, ready for inclusion in the BBC Spotlight piece.

Some young visitors to the Classic Air Force Museum,
at the controls of the survey aircraft
And the launch? Simply great, we had 50 attendees from the media, local government, universities, industry and the media. And all for a project not yet 4 weeks old. Thanks to our Tellus SW Comms manager Sonya Cassidy, and Cally Oldershaw from Camborne School of Mines, for doing a super job with the organisation and guest list. To Jojo and the Fugro Airborne Surveys team for help with organising aircraft flights for the media. And finally to our hosts, the Classic Air Force Museum Newquay - we couldn’t possibly have chosen a better place for the launch. The Museum has some great displays of post war military and training aircraft, beautifully restored and many in flying condition. If you’re  holidaying in Cornwall, do give CAF a visit and take the kids, you’ll have a great day.

………….so, after all this, we’re proud the project is now in full swing and bringing in great data. Keep an eye on the web and the blog for more information and news (and pictures of course).

Tellus South West project manager (among other jobs)

Want to know more?

British Geological Survey
Classic Air Force Museum Newquay

Wednesday, 14 August 2013

BGS Moth Night by Steve Thorpe

The wildlife of the BGS Keyworth site is regularly observed and recorded. Most sections of wildlife that is, apart from one family of creatures. In 2009 as part of National Moth Night, Gemma Purser organised a moth trapping event at the BGS. The results from this fed into the national statistics and since then Steve Thorpe and Gemma, who are both part of the BGS Biodiversity Action Group, decided to make a concerted effort at finding and recording the moths of Keyworth. Last year they began organising moth trapping events which allowed members of staff and outside visitors the chance to see these interesting, sometimes beautiful, mostly intriguing beasts. On Thursday they embarked on the 1st Trap of 2013. Here they give an outline of their findings so far, and provide an insight into the night-time activities of this fascinating subject.

Last week we started our 2013 moth night campaign. And what a night to choose! It was in the middle of a blistering heatwave, it was calm, dry and slightly cloudy. Perfect conditions meaning the moths were out in force. We also had a good number of audience participants to help catch the moths as they flew around us.
The traps were lit around 930pm, with the first moths being spotted only a few minutes later. Moths fall into two categories called Macros and Micros. As you would expect the micros are much smaller than the macros, and as such they have traditionally tended to be under-recorded. The first moths to arrive are usually the micro moths. On this night they included species such as the Grass Veneers and Scopariids. Before too long we had collected some larger specimens including Small Fan-footed Wave and Orange Swift.

As the night wore on and darkness spread the moths came thick and fast, along with lots of other bugs and insects such as ladybirds, midges, caddisflies, craneflies and shieldbugs. Our little team of trappers stayed onsite until around 11pm and by that time we had potted up around 60 moths ready for the morning to be identified. The larger macros also tend to be much more ‘cuddly’ with big feathery antennae. A good example of this is this Poplar Hawk Moth (left), of which we caught 4. The wings are folded in such a way that they hide a bright maroon coloured patch on the hindwing which is flashed when the moth is disturbed.

Highlights from 1st August

Vapourer – a common species with an amazing caterpillar. This is the male, the female is virtually wingless and only crawls into trees and awaits the male to mate

Purple Thorn – the diagnostic resting posture of this species separates it from similar thorn species. We caught 5 of these on site

Chocolate-tip – this beautiful little moth has wonderful markings that give it its common name. Its another good record for Nottinghamshire as this moth is fairly uncommon this far north

The delicately attractive Gypsonoma minutana (it doesn’t have an English name). This is an excellent record for the site as it is listed as ‘very local’ for the south east!
Small Bloodvein – named after its larger cousin, the Bloodvein – because of the reddish vein that runs across its wings. This is a fairly common species in the south, so a good find on site.

Orange Swift – this attractive moth is a member of one of the oldest families of moths, very prehistoric with short antennae and clumsy movements. The adults don’t feed, and this male was attracted to the light of our 125W Mercury bulb

Trap totals and results

We ran three different traps and had very different results from each one, including different species found in certain traps that weren’t in others. Two of the traps (the 125W Mercury and the 80W Mercury Blended) were located in the wildlife garden, and the 15W Actinic trap was located by the wind turbine near to the footpath across the back of the site.

The results are as follows:
125W Mercury Vapour = 241 moths of 81 species. Includes 25 species not seen in other traps.
80W MBF = 267 moths of 91 species. Includes 28 species not seen in other traps.
15W Actinic = 196 moths of 76 species. Includes 22 species not seen in other traps.

So you can see that different lights and traps attract different species, and generally speaking the rule is that the brighter the light the more moths. However, the suspicion is that because the 80W trap was the first trap we emptied then a little bit more conscientiousness was applied. It’s hard to concentrate on EVERY moth when they’re all flying around your face as you’re trying to count them!

If anyone has an interest in moths, or anything else natural, then please feel free to get in touch with Gemma or Steve.

Future Events

The Biodiversity Action Group has lots of plans for the Keyworth site such as renovating the pond and wildlife garden area, introducing new bat and bird boxes and creating a ‘wildlife walk’ along the lines of the Geological Walk, to guide staff and visitors to the key hotspots for wildlife on site. If anyone has any other ideas and would like to get involved then please get in touch with either Steve or Gemma.

Friday, 2 August 2013

Reflections on the first year of my PhD: by Jack Lacey

As a PhD student of the British Geological Survey and University of Leicester Jack aims to use lake sediments to reconstruct N Hemisphere/Mediterranean climate change over the past 2 million years. His main study site is Lake Ohrid, on the Macedonia/Albania border, which is not only Europe’s oldest lake but also one of the world’s most biologically diverse in terms of how many unique species call it home. He is investigating past environmental conditions within the larger framework of the ICDP sponsored SCOPSCO project, which looks at linking evolution and climate over the lake’s extended history. Below is Jack’s summary of the first year of his doctoral research: 

In the first year of my research I have been exploring a 10 meter core recovered from the lake which spans the last 12,000 years – covering the time period since the last Ice Age. This has involved preparing samples taken every 2 cm from the core, my record is the highest resolution record to date, I have been processing them to look at both the chemistry of the organic content (mainly from plants and animals) and the carbonate content (ie shells). The results show both the long-term impacts of a changing climate (progressing from colder to warmer) and also short-term events where conditions rapidly revert to a previous state, as well as the introduction of more recent human influences such as widespread forest clearance. These findings set the scene for deeper cores drilled (see below) as part of the International Continental scientific Drilling Program sponsored SCOPSCO project. 

Me on night shift duty on the drilling platform in May
I travelled to Macedonia in May this year to assist in the drilling of the long cores from Lake Ohrid, in collaboration with 45 other students, scientists and drillers. The project was a resounding success, we drilled a total of over 2750 meters from four separate sites in the lake. The longest continuous core was 570 meters from a water depth of 250 meters. Drilling in deep water is technically very challenging but the drilling team (DOSECC) assisted by the UK’s drilling manager (Ali Skinner) did a fine job. We will obtain information from the sediments from the cores on for example: the age and origin of the lake, the controls on evolution within the lake, as well as past lake level fluctuations and active tectonics (e.g. earthquakes). 

A sunset over Lake Ohrid in Macedonia
Currently, I am writing up my findings from the 10 meter core data and will present them at the Quaternary Postgraduate Symposium in late August, then I plan to submit my findings as a paper for publication. Going through into my second year I will receive material from the SCOPSCO long cores and can start processing and analysis to see how the climate and environment of Lake Ohrid has changed over the past 2 million years. 
The drilling platform whist on Lake Ohrid
I created a blog whilst in Macedonia which contains lots of information and photos of the drilling process, the local area, and lots of stunning sunsets - take a look! It can be found: here.

This project is funded by the British Geological Survey University Funding Initiative (BUFI). My supervisors include Prof Melanie Leng from Leicester and the BGS as well as Dr Bernd Wagner in Cologne. 


Twitter: @JackHLacey

Thursday, 1 August 2013

A day in the field..... for the G-BASE A-Team

The Geochemical Baseline Survey of the Environment (G-BASE) began in the late 1960’s and started in the north of Scotland with the overall aim of creating an ultimate geochemical map of the UK. This summer is the last year the project is running with two teams of around 12 people sampling stream sediment and waters in the south of England. Team A is covering Hampshire, Dorset, Devon, Somerset, Wiltshire and Gloucestershire. Here  Rebecca Brownlow and Rosie McKay let us in on what a typical day in the field is like for our intrepid Team A........

Above: The G-BASE team of the first six weeks of sampling 2013. From top left; Doug Watson, Chris Gardiner, Paul Everett, Elaine Burt, Peter Heath, Peter Gough, Emily Carter, Rebecca Brownlow, Rosie McKay, Pamela Rattigan and Charlotte Green.

The Beginning

After planning a route with your allocated G-Base team member we tackle between seven and ten stream sample sites a day. We leave the field base at 8am with the navigator of the minibus getting the opportunity to become a world class DJ whilst dropping off the teams.

The Quest for sediment

Once in the field a typical day involves walking approximately ten to fifteen kilometers whilst overcoming various obstacles such as curious cows, barbed wire, electric fences, horse flies, vegetation, getting stuck in bogs and even farmers! After navigating through fields of nettles and thorns to reach the site, teams work efficiently to obtain the samples and site details. These samples include; sediment, pan minerals, and filtered and unfiltered water.

The sampling process

One person digs the sediment, rubs it through the coarse sieve and then through the fine sieve. The sediment is then left to settle whilst panning the material left in the fine mesh sieve to expose any heavy minerals. During this time the second sampler fills in the site details and collects the water samples.
Above: Emily Carter sieving the sediment and Below:  Peter Heath bagging it up.

Time off

We’re out in the field most of the week and so make the most of our time off. Past adventures have encompassed visits to local towns/cities, beaches, museums, beer festivals, chilling at the accommodation, paintballing, the odd bit of fossil hunting, and of course nights out!
Team A for the second half of the season after a paintballing session. From left to right: Jack Richardson, Rebecca Brownlow, Alex Williams, Lauren Marshall, Ronnie Guthrie, Peter Heath, Paul Everett, Tom Gwilt, Sean Jefferson and Heather


Of course we couldn’t possibly do this without the visionary leadership and unwavering commitment of our team leaders Paul, Pete and Elaine. Overall G-BASE is an exciting and rewarding experience, where many lifelong friendships and crazy field memories are created!!
by Rebecca Brownlow and Rosie McKay