Dr Sarah Bennett: Stable Isotope Research Geochemist May 2013
Sarah joins NIGL to carry out research in areas of hydrochemistry, pollution studies and surficial and solid earth geochemistry. Sarahs previous research focussed on the chemistry and biology of deep-sea hydrothermal systems. She joins us from California where she carried out two post docs, one in microbiology at the University of Southern California and one in geochemistry at the NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory. She carried out her PhD research at the National Oceanography Centre, Southampton.
Dr Andrea Snelling: Isotope Apprentice 2013
Andrea Snelling joins NIGL as an isotope apprentice to work on stable isotope analysis and mass spectrometry on a variety of projects.
Dr Nick Roberts: new appointment - BGS-NIGL ICP-MS Laboratory Manager and Scientist - October 2012
Nick manages the BGS-NIGL ICP-MS laboratory, which houses the Attom and Spectro sector-field mass-spectrometers. Nick is involved in developing laser ablation methodologies, for both isotopic and elemental analysis of a range of solid materials; this will include the development of collaborative research between the BGS and NIGL. Since finishing his PhD at the University of Leicester in 2010, Nick has been working in the PIMS facility at NIGL, primarily focussing on LA-ICP-MS U-Th-Pb geochronology.
UK Ex Comm member appointed to ICDP - September 2012
In April this year the BGS invested in membership of the International Continental Scientific Drilling Program (ICDP) on behalf of the Earth science sector to build national capability for the UK geoscience community. Subsequently, Prof Melanie Leng (Leicester/BGS) has been appointed to the Executive Committee (EC) of ICDP to represent the UK membership.
Congratulations to Prof Melanie Leng who has been re-appointed to the Advisory Board of the international multidisciplinary research and review journal Quaternary Science Reviews.
QSR is one of the top Quaternary journals with an impact factor of 3.973.
Melanie Leng: reappointed Honorary Professor August 2012
Mel has been reappointed as an Honorary Professor in the School of Geography, The University of Nottingham, for a further three years from 1/8/12. The appointment is on the basis of Mel being a distinguished practitioner in the field of isotopes in environmental change research and is aimed at strengthening links between the BGS and the university.
Melanie Leng appointed as Professor of Isotope Geosciences - December 2011
Mel has been appointed as a Professor in the Department of Geology, University of Leicester. She will be increasing the already successful application of stable isotope geochemistry to the departments teaching and research portfolio, and will be contributing to the vibrant Crustal Processes research group. She will continue to manage the Stable Isotope Group at NIGL, and aims to strengthen links between BGS and the university sector.
Associate Editor for G3 (Geophysics, Geochemistry, Geosystems) - December 2011
Congratulations to Melanie Leng who has become an Associate Editor for G-cubed for 2 years (2012–14). She will be co-handling papers for the theme "Development of Isotopic Proxies for Paleoenvironmental Interpretation: A Carbon Perspective (DIPPI-C)".
Mineralogical Society Distinguished lecturer 2011-2012: Professor Randy Parrish
The programme aims to promote interest and discussions across the broad field of Mineral Sciences (including all aspects of petrology and geochemistry at the Earth's surface and at depth). The Mineralogical Society has appointed Prof Parrish as one of this season's distinguished lecturers, on the basis of being a good communicator and an expert in his field, to give lectures at universities and related institutions. The lectures will be intended to appeal to undergraduates and research students, as well as to more advanced scientists. The two lectures on offer are: "100 years of geochronology: Arthur Holmes and his legacy to U-Pb dating and Earth history" and "Addressing political agendas, depleted uranium, and nuclear proliferation with mass spectrometry and environmental science".
Jonathan joins NIGL on a one year isotope apprenticeship following completion of his doctoral thesis from Loughborough University (2006–2010) titled 'Holocene environmental change in coastal Denmark: interactions between land, sea and society.' The project involved using a range of palaeoenvironmental techniques (particularly diatoms, sedimentary pigments and isotopes from foraminiferal tests) for reconstruction of salinity, productivity and nutrient status over the last ~9,000 years in three shallow coastal systems in Denmark. At NIGL, Jonathan will be trained as an isotope geoscientist and will work in a technical role on a range of projects, preparing and running isotope samples.
NERC's Peer Review College - September 2011
Congratulations to Dr Tim Heaton and Dr Jane Evans who have been nominated to sit on the NERC Peer Review College from September 2011 to September 2014.
Jane Evans appointed Special Associate Professor - June 2010
Congratulations to Jane Evans who has been appointed Special Associate Professor in the School of Humanities at the University of Nottingham. The appointment is on the basis of Jane being a distinguished practitioner in the field of isotopes in archaeological science and is aimed at strengthening links between BGS and the university.
Dr Laura Bracciali: new PRDA - September 2009
Laura Bracciali has recently joined NIGL as a Post Doctoral Research Associate investigating the evolving composition of the Brahmaputra River sediments through Neogene time by means of a multi-technique provenance study, with the aim of testing competing hypotheses of drainage evolution and erosion-tectonic coupling. Her research background deals with aspects of igneous and sedimentary petrology, including field work, petrography, trace element/isotope geochemistry, as applied to understanding problems of orogenic evolution and palaeotectonic reconstructions.
Her appointment is associated with a three year NERC standard grant awarded to Randy Parrish.
NERC's Peer Review College - July 2009
Congratulations to Randy Parrish who has been nominated to sit on the NERC Peer Review College from July 2009 to July 2012.
Silicon Editorial Board appointment for Prof Melanie Leng February 2009
Congratulations to Melanie Leng on her appointment to the Editorial Advisory Board of Silicon. The appointment is to run for two years. Silicon is an international, interdisciplinary journal solely devoted to the most important element of the 21st Century. Silicons coverage is unique in presenting all areas of silicon research and development across all disciplines. Silicon is a quarterly journal publishing the very latest cutting edge research in materials chemistry, materials physics, materials biology, materials engineering and environmental science.
Professor Sarah Metcalfe awarded Visiting Research Associate November 2008
Sarah Metcalfe (School of Geography, Nottingham University) has been awarded a VRA at NIGL/BGS. Sarah will be spending her time at NIGL working with Melanie Leng on improved understanding of controls on isotopic composition of Mexican lake systems to develop their use to reconstruct changes in the Mexican monsoon. This will also be tied in with their mutual interest in comparing the tropical Americas with the near East and the balance between mid-latitude and tropical climate systems over time.
December 2012 - Congratulations to Katie Egan, who has recently defended her Ph.D. entitled: New insights into Cenozoic silicon cycling in the Southern Ocean: refined application of silicon isotope ratios in biogenic opal".
The marine silicon and carbon cycles are intrinsically linked by a unique group of primary producers; the diatoms. Diatoms play a significant role in carbon export, making them a critical component of the global biological carbon pump with the power to affect climatic change. In this thesis, the silicon isotope composition (δ30Si) preserved in diatom opal is used together with the δ30Si of sponge opal, a powerful new proxy for deepwater silicic acid concentration, to document the Cenozoic Silicon cycle, shedding light on its role in carbon cycling and global climatic change. This study has developed a novel size-separation methodology to produce the first core top calibration of diatom δ30Si. This calibration demonstrates that diatom &delta30Si exhibits a strong negative correlation with surface water silicic acid concentration, supportive of its application as a proxy for silicic acid utilisation. The refined method is used to produce a diatom δ30Si record, for the first time combined with sponge δ30Si, to gain insight into the Southern Ocean silicon cycle over one of the largest Cenozoic
climatic shifts; the onset of Antarctic glaciation (~33.7Ma). The two proxy records yield the first geochemical footprint which demonstrates the coincident proliferation of diatoms with the onset of Antarctic circumpolar flow as a precursor event to the Eocene-Oligocene boundary.
Katie was supervised by Ros Rickerby at the University of Oxford and Melanie Leng at NIGL
November 2012 - Congratulations to Helen Cockerton, who has recently defended her Ph.D. entitled: "Late-glacial and Holocene variations in the Si cycle in the Nile Basin: multi-isotope evidence from modern waters and lake sediments".
Until recently the continental Si cycle at Quaternary (decadal to million-year) time scales has been largely neglected. Emphasis was placed on silicate-rock weathering and resulting CO2 drawdown on geological time scales, rather than on shorter-term biogenic processes occurring along the land-ocean continuum. The ability of some terrestrial plants (e.g. tropical rainforest trees, savanna and wetland grasses, Papyrus) and aquatic organisms (e.g. diatoms in lakes, rivers and swamps) to take up, store and recycle significant amounts of Si is increasingly being recognised, although their impact on the continental Si cycle and Si export to the oceans under different climatic regimes remains unquantified. The main aim of this thesis was to reconstruct spatial and temporal patterns of Si cycling in the Nile Basin during the last 15,000 years.Seasonal variations in hydrology and Si cycling in the Nile Basin were investigated using stable isotope (H, O, and Si) compositions of surface waters, as a basis for interpreting lacustrine diatom sequences. Si- and O-isotope analysis of diatom silica in cores from Lakes Victoria and Edward, in the headwaters of the White Nile, were employed to reconstruct changes in biotic Si cycling and palaeohydrology, respectively. The relative abundances of lipid biomarkers (hydrocarbon-fraction) permitted major changes in terrestrial and aquatic ecosystems to be tracked. During drier conditions (e.g. the last glacial and late Holocene) (high δ18Odiatom), Si cycling was greatly reduced.
Diminished biomass, reduced biotic weathering, a declining soil stock of amorphous silica (ASi) and decreased run-off in the catchment resulted in biological demand for Si (high δ30Sidiatom). In contrast, enhanced monsoon rainfall (low δ18Odiatom) during the early to mid-Holocene enabled the proliferation of vegetation in the catchment, which in turn accelerated silicate-rock weathering and the mobilisation of DSi in surface runoff, providing a plentiful supply of Si (low δ30Sidiatom). Both the modern waters and palaeo-records indicate that the riverine flux of Si to the oceans on glacial \ interglacial time scales was not constant; resulting in important implications for the marine Si budget and consequently the global C cycle.
Helen was based at the University of Swansea
April 2012 - Congratulations to Holly Miller who recently passed her PhD entitled "The Origins of Nomadic Pastoralism in the Southern Levant: stable isotope, chipped stone and architectural analysis of archaeological evidence".
Herded sheep and goats were introduced to the steppic region of Eastern Jordan late in the seventh millennium cal BC. The evidence for initial pastoral activities in this arid area, some 500 years after domestic caprines are known to have been kept at large village sites in the neighbouring and more hospitable Mediterranean regions, suggests that these early herding groups began to develop a lifeway that pastoral nomads continue to live in some regions of the world today.
13C/12C and 15N/14N ratios from the bone collagen of animal remains from Mediterranean sites, where C4 plants were less common and water availability was greater, was compared to those of the steppic sites, where C4 vegetation was abundant and water scarce. The results of this study were used to pinpoint the foraging range of the herded animals, suggesting the regions in which they, and their accompanying herders, spent lengths of time. It was determined that differences in the isotopic ratios of animals from two sites in the arid region signify different herding strategies used to bring animals to the area. Animals from one site have indications of a diet that included Mediterranean vegetation, suggesting that their herders had more frequent contact with village groups. At the second site, animal diets, and thus movements, were restricted to the steppe, suggesting the development of a lifestyle based around frequent mobility within the arid regions, and allowing the rejection of a theory that stated early Neolithic Southern Levantine herding was village based.
In combination with chipped stone and architectural analysis, the results of the stable isotope study have allowed an investigation of the social and economic behaviours and practices of the communities that initially saw the potential of the Southern Levantine steppe as an area for pastoral activities.
Liverpool supervisors- Drs Jessica Pearson and Douglas Baird, NIGL- Dr Angela Lamb and Mrs Carolyn Chenery
December 2011 - Congratulations to Michael Wallace who successfully defended his PhD thesis: Crop watering practices in the Neolithic and Bronze Age: the stable carbon isotope approach
In the ancient past, agriculture was central to the daily routines of life and economic organisation. The major limiting factor on crop production in dry regions, such as Western Asia, is the availability of water. In these regions, rainfed crops are susceptible to drought-induced failure and, while farmers can water their crops artificially, this places demands on labour and water supplies. The effort and resources afforded to crops by farmers can indicate the scale of production, whereas the preferential treatment of certain crops over others offers insights into the cultural and economic role of different crops. Charred crop remains are ubiquitous at archaeological sites in dry regions, and this thesis assesses the utility of stable carbon isotope analysis as a means of inferring crop water status. Experiments were conducted to establish the relationship between 13C/12C ratios and water status in modern crops grown under known conditions. Laboratory tests were also undertaken to determine the extent to which the ratios may be altered post-mortem. In light of the findings from these experiments, isotope analysis was carried out on crop remains from nine Neolithic and Bronze Age sites, primarily located in Western Asia. The results showed that while the precision of the method is limited (by natural variations, unknown differences in growing conditions and plant physiology, and small post-mortem alterations), 13C/12C analysis can nevertheless provide a reliable indication of the water status of ancient crops.
On this basis it was possible to develop interpretations regarding agricultural arrangements at individual sites, and to identify regional trends in ancient crop production.
The thesis project was tied to a NERC Standard Grant, on which NIGL were co-investigators. Michael was supervised at Sheffield University by Glynnis Jones, and at NIGL by Tim Heaton and Chris Kendrick.
December 2011 - congratulations to Wendy Austin-Giddings on her PhD entitled "The Deposition and Reworking of Tsunami Sediments in Agaete, Gran Canaria"
Coarse-grained, polymict, deposits, draping hillslopes at high elevations on ocean island volcanoes, have been variously interpreted as sourced either from sea-level highstands or from tsunamis; their origin is thus controversial. A detailed facies analysis of coarse-grained, fossiliferous sediments located at Agaete, on the north-west coast of Gran Canaria, has been undertaken. Previously interpreted as the result of a sea-level highstand, these deposits have recently been re-interpreted as sourced from a tsunami; itself triggered by a volcano flank failure. The Agaete Fossiliferous Conglomerates occur at several locations in the Barranco de Agaete, up to 188m apsl. and 2 kilometres inland from the coast. They comprise seven facies, all of which are variably graded, matrix- and clast-supported, range from ~0.3 to 2 m thick, and contain a diverse assemblage of volcanic clasts, large beachrock boulders and a shallow marine fauna. All the facies have sharp, erosional bases. A facies at one site contains large palaeosol rip-up clasts up to 1.5 m across and at its base truncates plant roots. The upper facies of the conglomerates are all finer-grained, reverse-graded, clast-supported and better-sorted than the lower facies of the group. At one location the upper conglomerates comprise prograding beds that are interpreted as alluvial.
The lower facies of the conglomerates are interpreted as primary tsunami deposits, whereas the upper facies are interpreted as tsunami deposits that have been reworked. The alternative, marine highstand, interpretation of the coarse-grained deposits is discounted on the basis of (i) an absence of supporting geomorphological features such as a marine terrace and/or a wave cut platform; (ii) the composition of the sediments; (iii) diagenetic features; (iv) distance from the coast; and (v) elevation of the deposits. Gran Canaria is in its erosional post-shield stage of development and the north-western coastline has experienced 40-50 m of tectonic uplift over the past 1.75Ma. Thus uplift of highstand deposits cannot account for the occurrence of the Agaete sediments at elevations of up to 188 m apsl. The Güimar lateral collapse event on the neighbouring island of Tenerife, dated at around 0.8Ma BP, is presented as the most likely tsunami source.
Wendy was a BGS BUFI student and supervised by Prof Dave Tappin at BGS, Prof Bill McGuire at UCL, and Prof Randy Parrish at NIGL.
December 2011 - congratulations to Ronan Roche on his PhD entitled "A multi-proxy reconstruction of mid-Holocene environmental conditions at a nearshore Great Barrier Reef site: King Reef, Northern Queensland"
Major changes in sediment and nutrient inputs to Australia's Great Barrier Reef have been documented since European settlement of the region (~1840 A.D.) and the concurrent introduction of modern agricultural methods. This study focussed on King Reef, a mid-Holocene (~5800-4600 yr B.P.) age coral reef in the Wet Tropics region of Australia's Great Barrier Reef. Combined records of Sr/Ca and oxygen isotope ratios of coral skeleton were used to estimate sea- surface temperature and the oxygen isotopic value of the surrounding seawater (δ18Osw ) which is strongly correlated with sea-surface salinity. At 4665 yr B.P. sea-surface temperatures indicated by Sr/Ca ratios were ~1 to 1.4°C higher than modern values. δ18Osw values were slightly higher in winter (+0.1‰) and lower in summer (-0.1‰) resulting in an increased annual range. Overall mean seasonal mid-Holocene δ18Osw values were similar to modern values, however, a comparison of δ18Osw during drought periods suggests enrichment by 0.3 to 0.38‰.
This enrichment suggests that evaporation was enhanced due to higher sea-surface temperatures in the mid-Holocene, which would have resulted in a stronger Australian-Indonesian monsoon system. These results may indicate that riverine influence and associated sediment input at the study site was high during the mid-Holocene, and that nearshore reefs within Australia's Great Barrier Reef have previously experienced conditions of high sediment input during their phase of active accretion.
Ronan was supervised at NIGL by Tim Heaton and Melanie Leng.
November 2011 - Congratulations to Alistair Seddon who successfully defended his PhD entitled: Palaeoecology, Biogeography and Evolution of Benthic Littoral Diatoms from the Galápagos Islands
This thesis presents palaeoecological and biogeographic evidence to investigate whether the Galápagos Islands, famous for their biogeographical isolation in terrestrial organisms, are also isolated for diatoms. Are diatom assemblages principally controlled by environmental changes at the local and regional scale (abiotic processes), or does biogeographical isolation (reshuffling the nature of biotic processes) also play a role? Ten new species of diatom belonging to the genus Navicula sensu stricto were described from coastal lagoons in the Galápagos. Using a multi-proxy approach, these lagoons are dynamic, threshold environments which have exhibited non-linear responses to environmental change over the past 3,000 years. However, ecological turnover, rather than evolutionary processes such as rapid morphological speciation, were the main influences in the formation of Galápagos diatom biodiversity on Holocene timescales. Indeed, newly discovered Galápagos taxa to be restricted to the shorelines of cyanobacterial mats in assocation with a larger number of 'generalist' species. As yet, the true biogeographic extent of the novel taxa are unknown, but it is likely that they are simply 'niche specialists' with smaller global population sizes and, as a result, a limited global distribution.
July 2011 - Congratulations to Katy Wilson who successfully defended her PhD thesis entitled: Plio-Pleistocene Reconstruction of East African and Arabian Sea Palaeoclimate
Superimposed upon a long-term trend of aridification, the climate history of Africa was punctuated by episodes of extreme variability, characterised by the precessionally-forced appearance cycling of large lake systems within the East African Rift Valley. In order to investigate the nature of low-latitude climate variability during the Late Pliocene and Early Pleistocene, high-resolution analyses from one of the lake phases were combined with the reconstruction of long-term changes in the transport of wind-borne terrigenous dust to the Arabian Sea. Climate in both regions is strongly influenced by relative changes in the strength of the Indian Ocean monsoons, which determine rainfall distribution in equatorial East Africa and generate the low-level winds which transport dust offshore from the Arabian Peninsula. The Baringo-Bogoria basin in the East African Rift Valley contains a well-dated package of fluvio-lacustrine sediments and diatomite units documenting a major humid phase between 2.7 and 2.55 million years ago (Ma). Stable oxygen isotope measurements of diatom silica, combined with the XRF analysis of whole-sample geochemistry, reveal that the deep lake phase was characterised by wet-dry cycles lasting, on average, 1,400 years.
Over longer timescales, variations in the aeolian delivery of lithogenic matter to the Arabian Sea, reflected in the normalised flux of titanium, show that monsoonal circulation prior to 2.6 Ma was highly variable and primarily driven by orbitally-forced changes in tropical summer insolation, modulated by the 400,000 year cycle of orbital eccentricity. Millennial-scale fluctuations in the dust record also support the evidence of abrupt wet-dry cycles in East Africa. Such high-resolution cycles are rarely found in older records, thus giving a valuable insight to the nature of short-term fluctuations in Plio-Pleistocene climate.
Katy was supervised by Mark Maslin and Ans Mackay at UCL and Melanie Leng at NIGL
June 2011 - Congratulations to Gareth Preston who successfully defended his PhD these entitled: From Nomadic Herder-Hunters to Sedentary Farmers: the relationship between climate, environment and human societies in the United Arab Emirayes from the Neolithic to the Iron age
Owing to its archaeological and climatic history, the United Arab Emirates (UAE) acts as a natural laboratory in which to examine the relationship between climate, the environment and early human populations from the onset of the Neolithic to the termination of the Iron Age (~11 500 - 2300 cal. yr BP). Despite this, such studies have to date been hindered by the paucity of high-quality palaeoenvironmental data from the region. To help fill this gap in knowledge, this thesis reports the results of high-resolution, multi-proxy investigations (bulk physical, geochemical and isotopic) carried out on two palaeolake sediment sequences in the Emirate of Ra's al-Khaimah, UAE; Awafi (25° 42' 57" N; 57° 55' 57" E) and Wahalah (25° 38' 48Ë N, 55° 47' 26Ë E). The new data reveals that climate has varied greatly between ~8500 - 4200 cal. yr BP, with periods during which conditions were more pluvial than the present punctuated by phases of intense aridity. It is demonstrated that this variability had a considerable impact on the natural environment of the UAE, resulting in significant changes in landscape stability, water availability, and vegetation over both long and short-term timescales. Furthermore, it is suggested that abrupt increases in aridity recorded in the palaeolake sediments between ~8000 - 7800 cal. yr BP, from ~5900 cal. yr BP and at ~4200 cal. yr BP, reflect the response of the regional landscape to global climatic variations.
By placing the archaeological record of the UAE into this detailed framework of landscape evolution it is demonstrated that the region's early Holocene populations adapted with the prevailing climate by altering their subsistence strategies (e.g. from hunter-gatherer to animal husbandry and eventually sedentary agriculture) and settlement patterns (e.g. by moving between the interior, Arabian Gulf, and Gulf of Oman coasts), as well as utilising new technologies (e.g. irrigation). Indeed, this study provides compelling evidence for the potential of climatic-environmental change to influence the behaviour of early human societies. Understanding this relationship is made all the more imperative given the growing concerns over contemporary climate change.
Gareth was supervised by Adrian Parker and Martin Hodgson at Oxford Brookes and Melanie Leng at NIGL.
May 2011. Congratulations to Tom Broadbent who passed his PhD: Low latitude Pacific palaeoceanographic change across the Eocene/Oligocene boundary
Evidence from both terrestrial and marine environments indicates a cooling of Earth's climate across the Eocene/Oligocene boundary (EOB), with the likely development of continental scale glaciation. The most geographically widespread and persuasive line of evidence for the shift in Earth's climate comes from variation in stable isotopes measured from benthonic foraminiferal carbonate, with a geologically rapid and globally observed >1 ‰ increase in δ18O. Increasing foraminiferal δ18O reflects either a cooling in the deep ocean or an increase in the δ18O of seawater, which is related to removal of light oxygen isotopes through continental glaciation. However, despite the global recognition of an increase of >1.0 ‰ in benthonic foraminiferal δ18O and fundamental change in Earth's climate, the proportion of change, i.e. temperature decrease and/or ice volume development, is poorly constrained.
Deconvolution of the foraminiferal δ18O requires and independent proxy to isolate the temperature or ice-volume change, one such proxy is foraminiferal Mg/Ca ratios. Foraminiferal Mg/Ca ratios are a palaeotemperature proxy, however, their application has lead to the observation of bottom-water warming and thus suggesting bipolar glaciation; a scenario inconsistent with a warmer Earth and unsupported by sedimentary evidence. The warming observed in bottom-water Mg/Ca palaeotemperatures, however, was determined from a deep-ocean site that experienced significant deepening of the carbonate compensation depth (CCD) concomitant with Mg/Ca increase, leading to the hypothesis increasing carbonate ion saturation (Δ[CO32-]) caused enhanced foraminiferal uptake of Mg and thus the observed temperature increase. This study aimed to deconvolute the foraminiferal δ18O record using paired benthonic foraminiferal records from a site with minimal change in Δ[CO32-] amongst other proxies.
Tom was supervised at Bangor University by Leon Clarke and at NIGL by Melanie Leng and Ian Millar.
May 2011. Congratulation to Chris Brodie who successfully defended his PhD thesis: The effect of acid treatment methods on bulk organic materials, and a long-core geochemical palaeoenvironmental reconstruction from South China.
The first aim of this thesis was an investigation of the effect of acid treatment on C/N, δ13C and δ15N of organic materials. Three common acid pre-treatment methods were compared (capsule method; rinse method; fumigation method), using a range of acid reagents (HCl; H2SO3; H3PO4), on a range of terrestrial and aquatic, modern and geological sample materials. An inherent assumption of these acid treatment methods is that any offsets in C/N, δ13C and δ15N are linear and proportional, and that any bias is not greater than instrument accuracy and precision. The C/N, δ13C and δ15N values of OM are not just dependent upon environmental processes but also on acid treatment method, which adds significant non-linear biasing to the OM signal several orders of magnitude above instrument precision. This biasing is caused by the inefficient removal of IC from sample materials and the alteration of OM by the acid treatment process. Consequently, this can significantly alter the environmental interpretation of these proxies. The second aim of this thesis concerned a reconstruction of palaeoenvironmental change from Lake Tianyang, Leizhou Peninsula, south China (20°31'1.11" N, 110°18'43.02" E) using a suite of geochemical proxies (δ13C of bulk OM; XRF elemental ratios, magnetic susceptibility).
The lake sedimentary sequence is substantially older than previously reported, with the upper ~40 m representing ~30 ka BP. In addition, the δ13C (taken to be an aridity indicator where values are above known inaccuracy and imprecision) show a striking glacial - interglacial imprint. The sedimentological evidence suggest the lake has been continually silting up since Marine Isotope Stage 9. The Tianyang δ13C record and elemental ratios (MIS 9 - MIS 6 inclusive) show a strong glacial - interglacial imprint, though the elemental ratios lose this imprint during MIS 5 likely due to an increase in catchment erosion.
Chris was supervised at Durham University by James Casford, Jerry Lloyd and at NIGL by Melanie Leng, Tim Heaton with support from Chris Kendrick.
April 2011. Congratulations to Melanie Bugler who has successfully defended her PhD: An investigation into use of the freshwater gastropod Viviparus as a recorder of past climatic change
Through isotopic analysis of Viviparus lentus (V. lentus) a high resolution record of stepwise changes in δ18O and δ13C across the Eocene / Oligocene transition and Oi-1 glacial maximum has been produced for the continental Solent Group strata, Isle of Wight (UK). Comparison of this V. lentus δ18Ocarb. record with high resolution marine δ18Ocarb. records shows that similar isotopic shifts exist in the near coastal continental and marine realms. In order to calculate palaeotemperatures from this new continental record an investigation into the biology of modern Viviparus and its effect on the isotopic composition of its shell carbonate was undertaken. Experimental measurements of the 18O/16O isotope fractionation between the biogenic aragonite of Viviparus and its host freshwater were undertaken on samples derived from the Somerset Levels in order to generate a genus specific thermometry equation. The results from using this new Viviparus equation on fossil V. lentus shell fragments suggests that aquatic and terrestrial biota were being affected by climate change associated with the Late Eocene Event. This coincides with a decrease in mammal species richness in the Osborne Member, reaching its climax at the end of the Osborne / Seagrove Bay Members.
This event is followed by a brief warming in the Bembridge Limestone which was marked by a within-Europe mammal turnover involving dispersal from the south and an increase in species richness, concurrent with this is an increase in size of Harrisichara gyrogonites. An additional investigation into seasonal isotopic variability using whole well preserved V. lentus specimens has also revealed a shift from tropical /subtropical to temperate climatic zones occurring before the Eocene /Oligocene boundary and Oi-1 glacial maximum. Overall the evidence provided by these investigations would suggest that climatic change was already in progress prior to the build up of glacial ice on Antarctica.
Mel was supervised by Stephen Grimes at Plymouth and Melanie Leng at NIGL.
A full list of publications can be found in the NIGL Annual Reports. This section
highlights some of our high-impact papers as they go to press. A full list of NERC staff publications and outputs can be found in the NERC Open Research Archive (NORA)
Journal of Paleolimnology – May 2013
Isotope geochemistry is an essential part of environmental and climate change research and over the last few decades has contributed significantly to our understanding of a huge array of environmental problems, not least in palaeolimnology and limnogeology. Here we describe some of the recent developments in the use of stable isotopes in palaeo-lake research. These are: better preparation, analysis, and interpretation of biogenic silica oxygen and silicon isotopes; extraction and characterisation of specific compounds such as leaf waxes and algal lipids for isotope analysis; determining the excess of 13C-18O bonds in
clumped isotopes; and the measurement of multiple isotope ratios in chironomid chitin. These advances have exciting prospects and it will be interesting to see how these techniques develop further and consequently offer a real advancement in our science over the next decade.
Leng, M.J. and Henderson, A.C.G. 2013. Recent advances in isotopes as palaeolimnological proxies. Journal of Paleolimnology, 49, 481-496.
Encyclopedia of Quaternary Science, 2nd Edition – April 2013
The second revised edition of the Encyclopedia of Quaternary Science, provides both students and professionals with an up-to-date reference work on this important and highly varied area of research. There are lots of new articles, and many of the articles that appeared in the first edition have been updated to reflect advances in knowledge since 2006, when the original articles were written.
Leng, M.J., Barker, P.A., Swann, G.E.A., Snelling, A.M. 2013. δ18O Records. In: Elias, S.A. (ed). The Encyclopedia of Quaternary Science, vol. 1, pp.481-488. Amsterdam: Elsevier.
Paleoceanography – April 2013
The development of a permanent, stable ice sheet in East Antarctica happened during the middle Miocene, about 14 million years (Myr) ago. The middle Miocene therefore represents one of the distinct phases of rapid change in the transition from the “greenhouse” of the early Eocene to the “icehouse” of the present day. Carbonate carbon isotope records of the period immediately following the main stage of ice sheet development reveal a major perturbation in the carbon system, represented by the positive δ13C excursion known as carbon maximum 6 (“CM6”), which has traditionally been interpreted as reflecting increased burial of organic matter and atmospheric pCO2 drawdown. More recently, it has been suggested that the δ13C excursion records a negative feedback resulting from the reduction of silicate weathering and an increase in atmospheric pCO2.
Here we present high-resolution multi-proxy (alkenone carbon and foraminiferal boron isotope) records of atmospheric carbon dioxide and sea surface temperature across CM6. Similar to previously published records spanning this interval, our records document a world of generally low (~300 ppm) atmospheric pCO2 at a time generally accepted to be much warmer than today. Crucially, they also reveal a pCO2 decrease with associated cooling, which demonstrates that the carbon burial hypothesis for CM6 is feasible and could have acted as a positive feedback on global cooling.
Badger M, Lear C, Pancost R, Foster G, Bailey T, Leng M, Abels H. 2013. CO2 drawdown following the middle Miocene expansion of the Antarctic Ice Sheet. Paleoceanography 28, 42–53.
Over the past 50 years, warming of the Antarctic Peninsula has been accompanied by accelerating glacier mass loss and the retreat and collapse of ice shelves. A key driver of ice loss is summer melting; however, it is not usually possible to specifically reconstruct the summer conditions that are critical for determining ice melt in Antarctic. Here we reconstruct changes in ice-melt intensity and mean temperature on the northern Antarctic Peninsula since AD 1000 based on the identification of visible melt layers in the James Ross Island ice core and local mean annual temperature estimates from the deuterium content of the ice. During the past millennium, the coolest conditions and lowest melt occurred from about AD 1410 to 1460, when mean temperature was 1.6°C lower than that of 1981–2000. Since the late 1400s, there has been a nearly tenfold increase in melt intensity from 0.5 to 4.9%.
The warming has occurred in progressive phases since about AD 1460, but intensification of melt is nonlinear, and has largely occurred since the mid-twentieth century. Summer melting is now at a level that is unprecedented over the past 1,000 years. We conclude that ice on the Antarctic Peninsula is now particularly susceptible to rapid increases in melting and loss in response to relatively small increases in mean temperature.
Nerilie J. Abram, Robert Mulvaney, Eric W. Wolff, Jack Triest, Sepp Kipfstuhl, Luke D. Trusel, FranÃ§oise Vimeux, Louise Fleet & Carol Arrowsmith. 2013. Acceleration of snow melt in an Antarctic Peninsula ice core during the twentieth century. Nature Geoscience. Online.
The Antarctic Peninsula is one of the fastest-warming regions on Earth, but its palaeoenvironmental history south of 63° latitude is relatively poorly documented, relying principally on the marine geological record and short ice cores. In this paper, we present evidence of late-Quaternary environmental change from the Marguerite Bay region combining data from lake sediment records on Horseshoe Island and Pourquoi-Pas Island, and raised beaches at Horseshoe Island, Pourquoi-Pas Island and Calmette Bay. Lake sediments were radiocarbon dated and analysed using a combination of sedimentological, geochemical and microfossil methods. Raised beaches were surveyed and analysed for changes in clast composition, size and roundness. Results suggest a non-erosive glacial regime could have existed on Horseshoe Island from 35,780 (38,650–33,380) or 32,910 (34,630–31,370) cal yr BP onwards.
There is radiocarbon and macrofossil evidence for possible local deglaciation events at 28,830 (29,370–28,320) cal yr BP, immediately post-dating Antarctic Isotopic Maximum 4, and 21,110 (21,510–20,730 interpolated) cal yr BP coinciding with, or immediately post-dating, Antarctic Isotopic Maximum 2. The Holocene deglaciation of Horseshoe Island commenced from 10,610 (11,000–10,300) cal yr BP at the same time as the early Holocene temperature maximum recorded in Antarctic ice cores.
Late Quaternary environmental changes in Marguerite Bay, Antarctic Peninsula,inferred from lake sediments and raised beaches. (2013) Dominic A. Hodgson; Stephen J. Roberts; James A. Smith; Elie Verleyen; Mieke Sterken; Minke Labarqueb; Koen Sabbe; Wim Vyverman; Claire S. Allen; Melanie J. Leng; Charlotte Bryant. Quaternary Science Reviews 68: 216–236.
Journal of Climate “ The Freshwater System West of the Antarctic Peninsula ” – April 2013
Climate change west of the Antarctic Peninsula is the most rapid of anywhere in the Southern Hemisphere, with associated changes in the rates and distributions of freshwater inputs to the ocean. Here, results from the first comprehensive survey of oxygen isotopes in seawater in this region are used to quantify spatial patterns of meteoric water (glacial discharge and precipitation) separately from sea ice melt. High levels of meteoric water are found close to the coast, due to orographic effects on precipitation and strong glacial discharge. Concentrations decrease offshore, driving significant southward geostrophic flows (up to ~30 cm sâ1).
These produce high meteoric water concentrations at the southern end of the sampling grid, where collapse of the Wilkins Ice Shelf may also have contributed. As the regional freshwater system evolves, the continuing isotope monitoring described here will elucidate the ongoing impacts on climate and the ecosystem.
Michael P. Meredith, Hugh J. Venables, and Andrew Clarke, Hugh W. Ducklow and Matthew Erickson, Melanie J. Leng, Jan T. M. Lenaerts and Michiel R. van den Broek. 2013. The Freshwater System West of the Antarctic Peninsula: Spatial and Temporal Changes. Journal of Climate, 26, p. 1669-1684.
Special issue of the journal “Quaternary Science Reviews: Isotopes and Lakes” edited by Prof Melanie Leng – March 2013
Isotope geochemistry is increasingly an essential part of environmental and climate change research and now routinely contributes to our understanding of many critical environmental problems, which span the whole of Earth system science and not least in palaeolimnology and limnogeology. The International Association of Limnogeology organises an international conference every four years. The fifth International Limnogeology Congress, ILIC V, was held in Konstanz, Germany, from August 31st - September 3rd, 2011. During this congress we identified several papers where isotope methodologies were used in a particularly novel way, or provided an ‘added value’ data set.
Many of these are brought together in this volume as a series of state-of-the-art papers dealing with various aspects of isotopes in lake sediment archives. These papers are themed under isotopes in contemporary processes, isotopes in diatom silica from lake sediments, isotopes in organic materials in lake sediments, and isotopes in carbonates from lake sediments. The journal editors of this volume are Prof Melanie J. Leng (British Geological Survey and University of Leicester), Prof Phillip A. Barker (Lancaster University) and Prof Antje Schwalb (Universität Braunschweig,Germany).
The Early Jurassic Epoch was a predominantly greenhouse phase of Earth history, but a comprehensive understanding of its climate dynamics is hampered by a lack of high resolution multi-proxy environmental records. Here we report a geologically brief (approximately several hundred thousand years) negative carbon isotope excursion in both marine and terrestrial materials, recognised for the first time for the Late Sinemurian Substage (Early Jurassic, ~194 Ma) of eastern England. The Late Sinemurian carbon isotope excursion,
which is termed the S-CIE, is accompanied by peaks in the abundance of various pollen grains...
Riding, J.B., Leng, M.J., Kender, S., Hasselbo, S.P., Feist-Burkhardt, S. 2013. Isotopic and palynological evidence for a new Early Jurassic environmental perturbation. Palaeogeography, Palaeoclimatology, Palaeoecology, 374, 16-27.
The current issue of Elements Magazine is entitled ‘100 years of Isotope Geochronology’ and is co-edited by Dr Dan Condon (NIGL) and includes a several papers co-authored by Dan Condon and Matt Horstwood.
Earth and Planetary Science Letters – January 2013
Understanding the response of the Antarctic ice sheets during the rapid climatic change that accompanied the last deglaciation has implications for establishing the susceptibility of these regions to future 21st Century warming. A unique diatom δ18O record derived from a high-resolution deglacial seasonally laminated core section off the west Antarctica Peninsula is presented. By extracting and analysing single species samples from individual laminae, season-specific isotope records were separately generated to show
changes in glacial discharge (comprised of both glacial and iceberg sourced meltwater) to the coastal margin during spring and summer months...
Swann, G.E.A., Pike, J., Snelling, A.M., Leng, M.J., Williams, M.C. 2013. Seasonally resolved diatom δ18O records from the West Antarctica Peneinsula over the last deglaciation. Earth and Planetary Science Letters, 364, 12-23.
This paper describes a multi-proxy palaeoecological investigation of lake sediments undertaken in conjunction with an archaeological survey of the Upper Sangro Valley in the Abruzzo National Park, Central Italy. The data show how cultural factors had a profound effect on this mountainous region which, in this case, outweighed the effects of climatic fluctuations which are known to have occurred locally and across the wider region. These findings have positive implications for the
conservation of top predators which require large wooded ranges.
Brown, A.G., Hatton, J., Selby, K.A., Leng, M.J., Christie, N. 2013. Multi-proxy study of Holocene environmental change and human activity in the Central Apennine Mountains, Italy. Journal of Quaternary Science, 28, 71-82.
The Antarctic Peninsula Ice Sheet is the most northerly of the Antarctic ice sheets and the most vulnerable to climate warming. In light of recent instrumental records of warming along the Antarctic Peninsula, there has been much debate about what has influenced rising temperatures along the west Antarctica Peninsula (WAP) during the Holocene, with terrestrial and oceanic proxies often suggesting different, sometimes opposing, mean conditions. Here, we present a Holocene glacial (terrestrial ice) melt water record derived from marine δ18Odiatom from Palmer Deep, west Antarctic Peninsula. Our results provide a unique opportunity to assess atmospheric versus oceanic influence on melting along the WAP. We demonstrate that since approximately 5.0 ka the increasing occurrence of La NiÃ±a, as recorded in the lower latitude Pacific, and increasing summer insolation at 60ºS have had a stronger influence on glacial melt water inflow to the WAP margin than oceanic processes driven by the southern westerly winds.
Pike, J., Swann, G.A.E., Leng, M.J., Snelling, A. 2013. Glacial discharge along the west Antarctic Penninsula during the Holocene. Nature Geoscience. Online.
The late Mesoproterozoic Sveconorwegian orogen in southwest Baltica is traditionally interpreted as the eastward continuation of the Grenville orogen in Canada, resulting from collision with Amazonia, forming a central part in the assembly of the Rodinia supercontinent. We challenge this conventional view based on results from recent work in southwest Norway demonstrating voluminous subduction–related magmatism in the period 1050–1020 Ma, followed by geographically restricted high–T/medium–P metamorphism between 1035 and 970 Ma, succeeded by ferroan magmatism over large parts of south Norway in the period 990–920 Ma.
This magmatic and metamorphic evolution may be better understood as reflecting a long–lived accretionary margin, undergoing periodic compression and extension, than continent–continent collision. This study has implications for Grenville–Sveconorwegian correlations, comparisons with modern continental margins, Rodinia reconstructions and how we recognize geodynamic settings in ancient orogens.
Slagstad, T., Roberts, N.M.W., Marker, M., Røhr, T., Schiellerup, H. 2013. A Non-Collisional, Accretionary Sveconorwegian Orogen. Terra Nova 25, 30-37.
Precambrian Research – January 2013
We present a study of the position, nature and geochronology of the eastern margin of the Tanzania Craton near Mpwapwa, which yields new constraints on Archaean to Neoproterozoic orogenesis of central Tanzania. The eastern margin of the Tanzania Craton is a ca. 1960 Ma top-to-the-NW ductile thrust zone. Orthogneisses of the eastern part of craton were dated by U–Pb zircon at ca. 2.7 Ga. High grade paragneisses to the east (Mpwapwa Group) are also Archaean (>ca. 2.6 Ga) and thus do not belong to the Usagaran belt, but to the “Western Granulite” of the East African Orogen. Charnockites in the south have been dated at 2701 ±
21 Ma and point to a third Archaean assemblage. A post-Usagaran granite dated at 1873 ± 31 Ma shows Neoproterozoic metamorphic zircon rims that grew during the East African orogenic event.
A sliver of southern tonalitic orthogneiss, entrained in the craton margin shear zone, is an igneous rock of probable early Palaeoproterozoic or Archaean age (>ca. 2300 Ma) with a strong metamorphic overprint at ca. 1960 Ma (zircon), confirmed by a metamorphic titanite age of ca. 1990 Ma, this is believed to date the initial phase of craton-margin shearing and juxtaposition of the Archaean crustal blocks.
Thomas, R.J., Roberts, N.M.W., Jacobs, J., Bushi, A.M., Horstwood, M.S.A., Mruma, A. 2013. Structural and geochronological constraints on the evolution of the eastern margin of the Tanzania Craton in the Mpwapwa area, central Tanzania. Precambrian Research 224, 671-689.
Geochimica et Cosmochimica Acta - November 2012
Despite a growing body of work that uses diatom δ30Si to reconstruct past changes in silicic acid utilisation, few studies have focused on calibrating core top data with modern oceanographic conditions. In this study, a microfiltration technique is used to divide Southern Ocean core top silica into narrow size ranges, separating components such as radiolaria, sponge spicules and clay minerals from diatoms. Silicon isotope analysis of these components demonstrates that inclusion of small amounts of non-diatom material can significantly offset the measured from the true diatom δ30Si. Once the correct size fraction is selected (generally 2–20 μm), diatom δ30Si shows a strong negative correlation with surface water silicic acid concentration (R2°=°0.92), highly supportive of the qualitative use of diatom δ30Si as a proxy for silicic acid utilisation. The core top diatom δ30Si matches well with mixed layer filtered diatom δ30Si from published in situ studies,
suggesting little to no effect of either dissolution on export through the water column, or early diagenesis, on diatom δ30Si in sediments from the Southern Ocean. However, the core top diatom δ30Si shows a poor fit to simple Rayleigh or steady state models of the Southern Ocean when a single source term is used. The data can instead be described by these models only when variations in the initial conditions of upwelled silicic acid concentration and δ30Si are taken into account, a caveat which may introduce some error into quantitative reconstructions of past silicic acid utilisation from diatom δ30Si.
Egan, K., Rickaby, R.E.M., Leng, M.J., Hendry, K.R., Hermoso, M., Sloane, H.J., Bostock, H., Halliday, A.N. 2012. Silicon isotopes as a proxy for silicic acid utilisation: a Southern Ocean core top calibration. Geochimica et Cosmochimica Acta, 96, 174-192.
Geochemistry, Geophysics, Geosystems - September 2012
This study summarizes organic carbon isotope (δ13C) and total organic carbon (TOC) data from a series of tests undertaken to provide an appropriate methodology for pre-analysis treatment of mudstones from an Upper Carboniferous sedimentary succession, in order to develop a consistent preparation procedure. The main treatments involved removing both inorganic carbonate and hydrocarbons (which might be extraneous) before δ13C and TOC analysis. Overall we show that the most accurate assessment of bulk organic carbon isotopes and concentration in these samples can be achieved through decarbonating the material prior to measurement via the 'rinse method'. However, our results support recent findings that pre-analysis acid treatments can cause variable and unpredictable errors in δ13C and TOC values.
We believe that, despite these uncertainties, the findings presented here can be applied to paleoenvironmental studies on organic matter contained within sedimentary rocks over a range of geological ages and compositions.
Könitzer, S.F., Leng, M.J., Davies, S.J., Stephenson, M.H. 2012. An assessment of geochemical preparation methods prior to organic carbon concentration and carbon isotope ratio analyses of fine-grained sedimentary rocks. Geochemistry, Geophysics, Geosystems, 13, 12pp.0.
Earth and Planetary Science Letters - September 2012
Highlights: We identify the carbon isotope excursion from the North Sea in exceptional detail. We document changes to ocean stratification well before atmospheric carbon release.Precursor stratification may be associated with the trigger for carbon release. Increased precipitation and runoff likely occurred along with carbon release. We document a rapid change to regional vegetation during carbon release.
Kender, S., Stephenson, M.H., Riding, J.B., Leng, M.J., Knox, R.O'B., Peck, V.L., Kendrick, C.P., Ellis, M.A., Vane, C.H., Jamieson, R. 2012. Marine and terrestrial environmental changes in NW Europe preceding carbon release at the Paleocene-Eocene transition. Earth and Planetary Science Letters, 353-354, 108–120.
Rapid warming over the past 50 years on the Antarctic Peninsula is associated with the collapse of a number of ice shelves and accelerating glacier mass loss. In contrast, warming has been comparatively modest over West Antarctica and significant changes have not been observed over most of East Antarctica, suggesting that the ice-core palaeoclimate records available from these areas may not be representative of the climate history of the Antarctic Peninsula. Here we show that the Antarctic Peninsula experienced an early-Holocene warm period followed by stable temperatures, from about 9,200 to 2,500 years ago, that were similar to modern-day levels. Our temperature estimates are based on an ice-core record of deuterium variations from James Ross Island, off the northeastern tip of the Antarctic Peninsula. We find that the late-Holocene development of ice shelves near James Ross Island was coincident with pronounced cooling from 2,500 to 600years ago. This cooling was part of a millennial-scale climate excursion with opposing anomalies on the eastern and western sides of the Antarctic Peninsula. Although warming of the northeastern Antarctic Peninsula began around 600 years ago, the high rate of warming over the past century is unusual (but not unprecedented) in the context of natural climate variability over the past two millennia.
The connection shown here between past temperature and ice-shelf stability suggests that warming for several centuries rendered ice shelves on the northeastern Antarctic Peninsula vulnerable to collapse. Continued warming to temperatures that now exceed the stable conditions of most of the Holocene epoch is likely to cause ice-shelf instability to encroach farther southward along the Antarctic Peninsula.
Mulvany, R., Abram, N.J., Hindmarsh, R.C.A., Arrowsmith, C., Fleet, L., Triest, J., Sime, L.C., Alemany, O., Foord, S. 2012. Recent Antarctic Peninsula warming relative to Holocene climate and ice-shelf history. Letter to NATURE.
Here we present Holocene organic C, N, S, C-isotope and macrofossil data from a small freshwater lake near Sisimiut in southwest Greenland. The lake was formed c. 11 cal. ka BP following retreat of the ice sheet margin and is located above the marine limit in this area. The data suggest a complex deglaciation history of interactions between the lake and its catchment, reflecting glacial retreat and post-glacial hydrological flushing probably due to periodic melting of local remnant glacial ice and firn areas between 11 and 8.5 cal. ka BP. After 8.5 cal. ka BP, soil development and associated vegetation processes began to exert a greater control on terrestrial-aquatic carbon cycling. By 5.5 cal. ka BP, in the early Neoglacial cooling, the sediment record indicates a change in catchment-lake interactions with consistent δ13C while C/N exhibits greater variability. The period after 5.5 cal. ka BP is also characterised by higher organic C accumulation in the lake.
These changes are most likely the result of increasing contribution (and burial of) terrestrial organic matter as a result of enhanced soil instability, as indicated by an increase in various macrofossil remains. The impact of glacial retreat and relatively subdued mid- to late-Holocene climate variation at the coast is in marked contrast to the greater environmental variability seen in inland lakes closer to the present-day ice sheet margin.
Leng, M.J., Wagner, B., Anderson, N.J., Bennike, O., Woodley, E., Kemp, S.J. 2012. Deglaciation and catchment ontogeny in coastal southwest Greenland: implications for terrestrial and aquatic carbon cycling. Journal of Quaternary Science, 27, 575-584.
Palaeogeography, Palaeoclimatology, Palaeoecology - August 2012
A stratigraphically and temporally ordered sequence of channel calcretes preserved along the Wadi Dana, Southern Jordan, records the Quaternary evolution of the formation and infilling of rock-cut channels and their subsequent incision in a tectonically subsiding basin. It is currently unknown under what palaeoenvironmental conditions these non-pedogenic (alpha) calcretes formed. Stable isotope analyses have been used to investigate whether any past topographical, hydrological, vegetational, diagenetic, temporal and/or climatologic signatures can be identified from the channel calcretes.
McLaren, S.J., Leng, M.J., Knowles, T., Bradley, A.V. 2012. Evidence of past environmental conditions during the development of a calcretised Wadi System in Southern Jordan using stable isotopes. Palaeogeography, Palaeoclimatology, Palaeoecology, 348-349, 1-12.
The mid-Holocene East Asian Monsoon history was reconstructed using bulk organic carbon isotopes and concentration data from the Pearl River estuary, southern China. The data are indicators of changes in monsoonal precipitation strength, e.g. sediments buried during a period of high precipitation exhibit a high proportion of terrigenous sediments, and have low δ13C and high C/N, and vice versa. Results suggest a general decreasing trend in monsoonal precipitation from 6650–2215 cal yr BP due to the weakening insolation over northern hemisphere most likely related to the current precession circle. Superimposed on this trend are apparent dry-wet oscillations at centennial to millennial timescales most likely in response to solar activity.
Yu, F., Zong, Y., Lloyd, J.M., Leng, M.J., Switzer, A.D., Yim, W, W-S., Huang, G. 2012. Mid-Holocene variability of the East Asian monsoon based on bulk organic δ13C and C/N records from the Pearl River estuary, southern China. The Holocene, 22, 705–715.
Boreal ecosystems are highly vulnerable to climate change, and severe ecological impacts in the near future are virtually certain to occur. We undertook a multiproxy study on an alpine lake at the modern tree-line in boreal, southern Siberia. Steppe and tundra biomes were extensive in eastern Sayan landscapes during the early Holocene. We conclude that lakes in continental, boreal regions undergo different models of lake ontogeny than oceanic boreal regions. Unlike other regions discussed, climate is a more important driver of ecosystem change than catchment changes. We also demonstrate that the start of the period coincident with the onset of the Little Ice Age resulted in important thresholds crossed in catchment vegetation and aquatic communities.
Mackay, A.W., Bezrukova, E.V., Leng, M.J., Meaney, M., Nunes, A., Piotrowska, N., Self, A., Shchetnikov, A., Shilland, E., Tarasov, P., Wang, L., White, D. 2012. Aquatic ecosystem responses to Holocene climate change and biome development in boreal, central Asia. Quaternary Science Reviews, 41, 119-131.
Science — 238U/235U Systematics in Terrestrial Uranium Bearing Minerals — 30th March 2012
Minerals, such as zircon, naturally capture uranium when they form, which in turn undergoes a chain of radioactive decays to other elements, ending with lead. Dating of zircon and other minerals underpins much if what we know about geological time. This new research has shown that, by more accurately measuring the relative amount of the uranium isotopes 238U and 235U, we now have a better understanding of how much time has passed since a mineral or rock has formed. We have measured, for the first time, 238U/235U in a suite of U-bearing minerals, including 45 zircon samples typical of those dated to quantify geological time in a wide range of rock types. A major impact of this work is an 'average zircon' 238U/235U to replace the 'consensus value' of 137.88, the accuracy of which could not be verified. Using this new value will decrease all previous zircon uranium-lead (U-Pb) age determinations, by up to 700,000 years for samples that are about 4.4 billion years old — the age of the Earth's oldest minerals.
The new 238U/235U ratio will allow geologists to place more accurate limits on the exact timing of a broad range of geological processes, from the initial formation of our planet, continents and economic mineral deposits, to past evolutionary events and climate changes. In addition to the implications for U-Pb zircon geochronology, this study provides insight into uranium isotopic fractionation processes at magmatic temperatures, the possible role of weathering to driving changes of 238U/235U in seawater, and comparison of the terrestrial 238U/235U database to extra-terrestrial meteorite samples.
The volume of Earth's continental crust depends on the rate of addition of continental crust from the mantle compared to the rate of continental loss back to the mantle, which at present is roughly balanced. Models for the growth rate of continental crust vary, with isotope data suggesting various episodes of increased growth rate throughout Earth's history; these episodes have been correlated with the supercontinent cycle, but may be a consequence of preferential preservation of continental crust during these cycles. The global balance between addition and loss of continental crust is controlled by: 1) the extent of internal orogens versus exterior orogens, with the latter favouring continental addition, and 2) the balance between exterior orogens in retreating mode versus those in advancing mode, with the latter favouring continental loss. A greater balance of continental addition versus loss should exist during supercontinent break-up, due to a high magmatic flux in retreating accretionary orogens, whereas the amalgamation of supercontinents should involve increased continental loss due to increased sediment subduction and tectonic erosion. Zircon U-Pb and Hf isotopes provide insight to models of crustal growth rate since they sample the continental crust at their time of formation. Using the distribution of data within εHf(t)-time space of a global zircon database, it is demonstrated that the data are in accord with the concept of increased continental loss during supercontinent amalgamation.
Periods featuring increased continental addition relative to continental loss, and hence increased continental crust growth rate, occur at ~ 1.7–1.2 Ga, ~ 0.85–0.75 Ga, and ~ 0.45–0.35 Ga, and follow the formation of the Columbia (Nuna), Rodinia and Gondwana supercontinents respectively. Distinct increases in continental loss compared to continental addition, i.e. decreased continental growth rate, occur at c. 1.0–0.9 Ga, and ~ 0.6–0.55 Ga, correlating with the periods of Rodinia and Gondwana amalgamation respectively. Formation of Pangea by introversion rather than extroversion, means that continental addition in exterior orogens was concurrent with continental loss in interior orogens; a similar process may have been responsible for formation of the Columbia supercontinent. Peaks in the compilation of U-Pb zircon ages correlate with the timing of supercontinent amalgamation, and are likely to be a consequence of preferential preservation of continental crust during this part of the supercontinent cycle.
Roberts, N. M. W., 2012. Increased loss of continental crust during supercontinent amalgamation. Gondwana Research 21, 994-1000.
Palaeogeography, Palaeoclimatology, Palaeoecology - February 2012
We aim to reconstruct the climatic and environmental conditions in the Valsequillo Basin during the deposition of the Valsequillo gravels between c. 40 000 and 8000 years ago, when large mega-fauna and potentially humans occupied the basin. Fossil freshwater (Fossaria sp. and Sphaeriidae (Family)) and terrestrial (Polygyra couloni, Holospira sp. and Cerionidae (Family)) snail shells from sections within the Barranca Caulapan were collected for oxygen and carbon stable isotope analysis. Oxygen and carbon isotopes in terrestrial and freshwater snail shells relate to local climatic parameters and environmental conditions prevailing during the lifetime of the snail. Whole shell isotope analysis showed that c. 35 000 years ago climate in the Valsequillo Basin was similar to the present day. Between c. 35 000 and 20 000 BP conditions became increasingly dry, after which conditions became wetter again, although this record is truncated. Intra-shell isotopic analyses show that the amount of precipitation varied seasonally during the late Pleistocene. If people did reach this part of the Americas in the late Pleistocene they would have experienced changing long-term and seasonal climatic conditions and would have had to adapt their life strategies accordingly.
Stevens, R.E., Metcalfe, S.E., Leng, M.J., Lamb, A.L., Sloane, H.J., Naranjo, E., Gonzalez, S. 2012. Reconstruction of late Pleistocene climate in the Valsequillo Basin (Central Mexico) through isotopic analysis of terrestrial and freshwater snails. Palaeogeography, Palaeoclimatology, Palaeoecology, 319-320, 16-27.
Rapid Communications in Mass Spectrometry - February 2012
Stable isotope analysis of cellulose is an increasingly important aspect of ecological and palaeoenvironmental research. Since these techniques are very costly, any methodological development which can provide simultaneous measurement of stable carbon and oxygen isotope ratios in cellulose deserves further exploration. A large number (3074) of tree-ring a-cellulose samples were used to compare the stable carbon isotope ratios (δ13C) produced by high-temperature (1400 °C) pyrolysis/gas chromatography (GC)/isotope ratio mass spectrometry (IRMS) with those produced by combustion GC/IRMS. Although the two data sets are very strongly correlated, the pyrolysis results display reduced variance and are strongly biased towards the mean. The low carbon isotope ratios of tree-ring cellulose during the last century, reflecting anthropogenic disturbance of atmospheric carbon dioxide, are thus overestimated. The likely explanation is that a proportion of the oxygen atoms are bonding with residual carbon in the reaction chamber to form carbon monoxide. The 'pyrolysis adjustment', proposed here, is based on combusting a stratified sub-sample of the pyrolysis results, across the full range of carbon isotope ratios, and using the paired results to define a regression equation that can be used to adjust all the pyrolysis measurements. In this study, subsamples of 30 combustion measurements produced adjusted chronologies statistically indistinguishable from those produced by combusting every sample.
This methodology allows simultaneous measurement of the stable isotopes of carbon and oxygen using high-temperature pyrolysis, reducing the amount of sample required and the analytical costs of measuring them separately.
Woodley, E.J., Loader, N.J., McCarroll, D., Young, G.H.F, Robertson, I, Heaton, T.H.E., Gagen, M.H. and Warham, J.O. 2012. High-temperature pyrolysis/gas chromatography/isotope ratio mass spectrometry: simultaneous measurement of the stable isotopes of oxygen and carbon in cellulose. Rapid Communications in Mass Spectrometry, 26, 109-114.
A shell of Gigantoproductus okensis shows twenty growth lines with marked changes of fabric, indicating periodical reduction of growth rates caused by environmental perturbations. The number of growth lines suggests a lifespan of 20 years in agreement with the survival rates of extant brachiopods, and with spiral deviation analysis. Geochemical analyses across the growth profile show a heterogeneous distribution of stable isotopes and trace elements. It is possible to distinguish primary from altered carbonate, and to interpret the isotopic data. The oxygen isotope signal in the unaltered parts is periodical and annual, with oscillation of 1.1 per mille. The higher values are at the growth lines (winter), and therefore most likely related to monsoon circulation during the Visean. The annual periodicity seems also present in the altered part of the shell, suggesting that diagenesis could have reset the primary values, but preserved their cyclicity.
Angiolini, L., Stephenson, M., Leng, M.J., Jadoul, F., Millward, D., Aldridge, A., Andrews, J., Chenery, S., Williams, G. 2012. Heterogeneity, cyclicity and diagenesis in a Mississippian brachiopod shell of palaeoequatorial Britain. Terra Nova, 24, 16-26.
This paper presents a significantly simplified method for in-situ U-Th-He dating removing the need to know any absolute concentrations. This is done by calculating the normalised U, Th, and He concentrations of a conventionally dated calibration standard from its measured Th/U ratio and known U-Th-He age, and scaling these concentrations to the raw U, Th, and He signals of the sample. The Th/U ratio of the standard can be determined from its measured 208Pb/206Pb ratio, removing the need to use NIST glass as a reference material. We introduce an LA-ICP-MS-based method to correct for variable ablation depths between the standard and the unknown, using the strength of the ablated 29Si signal. Finally, we propose a pseudo-depth profile method to assess the effects of compositional zoning on the accuracy of in-situ U-Th-He data.
The effectiveness of the proposed method has been demonstrated on three samples of gem-quality Sri Lanka zircon, which yield ages that are in agreement with previously published conventional U-Th-He measurements.
Vermeesch, P., Sherlock, S. C., Roberts, N. M. W., Carter, A., 2012. A simple method for in-situ U-Th-He dating. Geochimica et Cosmochimica Acta 79, 140-147.
Stable carbon isotope time-series (δ13C) from tree-rings are capable of providing valuable palaeoclimatic information, but analysis of individual tree-rings is time consuming and expensive. Pooling material from several tree-rings prior to isotopic analysis reduces costs, but does not allow the magnitude of uncertainty in the mean δ13C chronology to be calculated unless the pool is broken and each tree-ring measured individually at regular intervals. Here we use a comparison of pooled and mean individual (the arithmetic mean of isotopic data from tree series measured individually) δ13C records between AD 1650 and 2007, comprising cores from 21 Scots pine (Pinus sylvestris L.) trees growing in the western Highlands of Scotland. The aim is to determine whether the true error structure of the time series is better captured by using the overall mean error estimate for the entire time series or by linear interpolation between the equally spaced measurements.
We conclude that where autocorrelation exists within the error structure of a chronology, annual estimates of 95% confidence intervals, developed through linear interpolation at 5-year or 10-year intervals, are preferable to using the overall mean uncertainty. The method outlined increases the viability of pooled δ13C records for palaeoclimatic research by retaining error structure whilst reducing analytical time and costs. The method is applied here using tree-ring data, but could theoretically be applied to any well-replicated time-series.
Woodley, E. J., Loader, N. J., McCarroll, D., Young, G. H. F., Robertson, I., Heaton, T. H. E., Gagen, M. J., 2012. Estimating uncertainty in pooled stable isotope time-series from tree-rings. Chemical Geology 294-295, 243-248.
Levels of nitrate in Malta's groundwater are amongst the highest in Europe (median concentrations of 14 mg NO3-N L-1 in the main sea-level aquifer, and 37 mg NO3-N L-1 in the younger groundwaters of the perched aquifers). As part of a Rural Development Programme for Malta, the British Geological Survey was contracted to investigate the source/s of this nitrate, with specific emphasis on a combined 15N/14N and 18O/16O study. In addition to analysing a wide variety of groundwater samples, a special feature of the study was a determined effort to measure, rather than assume (as is common in many studies) the 15N/14N and 18O/16O compositions of the major potential sources of nitrate: fertilizers, septic and sewage wastes, animal manures, and soils. The data allowed the former two sources to be ruled out and, whilst some direct leaching of manure-derived nitrate could not be discounted, the data suggested that soil nitrification is the major source of nitrate in the groundwaters. Malta has a very long history of cultivation, during which time the soils may have developed high 15N/14N values reflecting greater mobility of nitrogen in soils with low C/N ratios.
The 15N/14N and 18O/16O values of nitrate in the groundwaters suggest that it is derived by microbial nitrification of organic N in these soils, with virtually no reduction in nitrate levels by denitrification.
Heaton, T.H.E., Stuart, M.E., Sapiano, M. and Micallef Sultana, M. 2012. An isotope study of the sources of nitrate in Malta's groundwater. Jounal of Hydrology, 414-415, 244-254.
April 2013 BGS GeoBlog - Final steps of our South Georgia expedition by Mel Leng
I am back on board the Polarstern after an amazing few weeks on South Georgia. Today we visited the old whaling station of Grytviken next to the British Antarctic Surveys research base at King Edward Point
April 2013 BGS GeoBlog - Sightseeing in South Georgia by Melanie Leng
II have finally arrived on the Falkland Islands after an epic field trip to South Georgia. We have been dropped off by the Polarstern and this is the final step before we leave for the UK in a few days
April 2013 BGS GeoBlog - The End of the South Georgia expedition
A BGS blog by Melanie Leng: We are almost at the end of our expedition to South Georgia. Worsening weather around the South Sandwich Islands has meant that the Polarstern has had to abandon some of its seabed surveying
March 2013 BGS GeoBlog - Preparing for an expedition to South Georgia
A BGS blog by Melanie Leng: In a few days I'll be following in the footsteps of James Cook (1775) and Ernest Shackleton (1916) and embarking on an adventure in the South Atlantic. I'm bound for fieldwork on South Georgia, a remote and inhospitable island with no permanent inhabitants, approximately 200km SE of the Falkland Islands
March 2013 BGS GeoBlog - Drilling through 3 million years of Earths history in the Mediterranean by PhD student Jack Lacey
Meet Jack .a PhD student from University of Leicester looking into 3 million years of the Earths history. His BGS/NIGL sponsored PhD is part of a multi-million dollar campaign to investigate the evolution and climate of Lake Ohrid through the drilling and recovery of a 750 meter-long sediment core. Amazingly that's the length of 90 double decker buses or 37 cricket pitches!! Here Jack introduces the project and explains what he'll be up to over the next few months (and years)
March 2013 BGS GeoBlog - Can clam shells explain the demise of a civilisation?
A BGS blog by Melanie Leng: Clam shells used for food, jewellery and in the wall covering of shelters found at the world famous Çatalhöyük UNESCO archaeological site in Central Turkey between 8-9,000 years ago give a unique insight into the demise of a short lived civilisation
WalesOnline (Western Mail) – Evidence of continued climate change for thousands of years – January 2013
As Wales continues to endure freezing temperatures after a year of extreme weather a study by a Welsh university has revealed continued patterns of climate change over the past 12,000 years Read more: Wales Online
January 2013 BGS GeoBlog - Tiny fossils reveal evidence for climate change and melting of Antarctica
A BGS blog by Melanie Leng: The Antarctic Peninsula Ice Sheet is one of the most rapidly warming areas of the planet. This is causing concern as it contains enough water to raise global sea levels by 5m. By analysing the chemistry of microscopic marine algae that lived in the ocean surrounding Antarctica, scientists have created a record of the amount of melting of the ice sheet that stretches back 12,000 years. This window through time has already unlocked hidden patterns in our past climate
July 2011 Planet Earth News Ethiopian lake reveals history of African droughts
The summer 2011 edition of Planet Earth reports on a new survey of Lake Tana in Ethiopia (the source of the Blue Nile), the study shows that drought may have contributed to the demise of the Egyptian Old Kingdom, around 4 200 years ago.
June 2012: NERC Small grant: Climate, disease, and lake sediments
There are concerns that in the future changes in climate might increase the spread of diseases and threaten human health. A new NERC-funded project involving Plymouth, Birmingham and Nottingham Universities along with the NERC Isotope Geosciences is examining the changes in climate that took place at the same time as the Plague of Justinian. The team will use evidence of past climate preserved in lake muds. The muds at the bottom of Nar lake in central Turkey are annually-banded, similar to tree rings, which offers the chance to reconstruct year-by-year variations in climate. Sediment core samples from Nar show that the onset of the plague coincided with a very large switch from a drier to a wetter climate. The wetter climate would have increased the numbers of rats and other rodents which carry fleas, which in turn carry the plague bacterium. In order to test this idea more rigorously, they will measuring climatic indicators in the cores for each individual annual layer during the critical time period around the start and end of the plague, then using the chemistry of the lake sediment layers to reconstruct how fast the climate changed and whether there was any lag between this and spread of the disease. The cores will also tell them, indirectly, about the consequences of the plague for rural agriculture, via the different types of pollen that are preserved.
The project is being led by Prof Neil Roberts (University of Plymouth) in collaboration with Dr Warren Eastwood (Birmingham), Dr Matt Jones and Jonathan Dean (Nottingham) as well as Prof Melanie Leng (BGS).
June 2012: NERC Consortium grant: The Mid-Palaeozoic Biotic Crisis - Setting the Trajectory of Tetrapod Evolution
This recently funded NERC grant will shed light on a key stage in the evolution of life on Earth. The advent onto land of limbed vertebrates (tetrapods) was an event that shaped the future evolution of the planet, including the appearance of humans. The process began about 360 million years ago, during the late Palaeozoic, in the early part of the Carboniferous Period. Within the 20 million years that followed, limbed vertebrates evolved from their essentially aquatic and fish-like Devonian predecessors into fully terrestrial forms, radiating into a wide range of body forms that occupied diverse habitats and ecological niches. We will use stratigraphical, sedimentological, palynological, geochemical and isotopic data to establish the conditions of deposition that preserved the fossils, the environments in which the organisms lived and died, and the precise times at which they did so.
This project is headed by Jenny Clack (Cambridge) in collaboration with Nick Fraser and colleagues (NHM), Dave Millward and Tim Kearsey (BGS), John Marshall (Southampton), Sarah Davies and Cary Bennett (Leicester) and Melanie Leng (BGS/Leicester).
February 2012: NERC Standard grant: Silicon isotope records of recent environmental change and anthropogenic pollution from Lake Baikal, Siberia
NIGL have secured a NERC Standard Grant in collaboration with other scientists at Nottingham University and University College London to investigate the impact of recent environmental change and anthropogenic pollution on Lake Baikal, Siberia.
Lake Baikal is the world's oldest lake in south eastern Siberia that began to form over 20 million years ago. A key feature of Lake Baikal is the high degree of biodiversity with over 2,500 flora and fauna, the majority of which are endemic. Such high levels of endemicity have led to the lake being cited as the "most outstanding example of a freshwater ecosystem" and resulted in the site being designated a World Heritage Site in 1996. Industrial development and changes in catchment land-use since the 1950's, however, pose real and serious threats to the stability of the lake's ecosystem with pollution entering the lake from major conurbations, industrial centres, mining and agricultural practises.
This project will develop the application of silicon isotope measurements in Lake Baikal to provide information on changes in biogenic nutrient utilisation in association with forcings such as: global warming, increases in water temperatures, ice cover and ice thickness.
October 2011: AHRC grant "Dama International: fallow deer (Dama dama dama) and European society 4000 BC - AD 1600"
Congratulations to Dr Naomi Sykes (Nottingham University), Dr Jane Evans (NIGL) and Prof Alan Hoelzel (Durham):
Visit any stately home and you will find a herd of European fallow deer (Dama dama dama). These elegant animals are one of natural history's puzzles because, despite their name, they are not of European origin: they are native to Turkey from where people have gradually transported them around the globe. The distribution of fallow deer is thus a direct record of human population movements, trade and ideology with the potential to provide cultural evidence of the highest quality and relevance for a range of disciplines and audiences. There are many publications devoted to fallow deer but these largely recycle 'received wisdom'. In fact, astonishingly little is known about fallow deer; their history is obfuscated by ambiguous linguistic, textual, iconographic and archaeological evidence. To rectify this situation we carried out a pilot study, The Fallow Deer Project, whose results have challenged established theories about the species' history and provided new insights into Roman, Anglo-Saxon and Norman society. It also highlighted the scarcity of scientific work on fallow deer and demonstrated how a new dataset will enable us to explore some of the highest-profile issues in European archaeology: e.g. the nature and spread of the Neolithic in the eastern Mediterranean and the structure and worldview of societies in the Bronze Age Aegean, Iron Age Greece and Gaul, and the Roman, Byzantine, Islamic and Norman Empires.
To realise this potential, our transdisciplinary team will employ methods proven by our pilot study - e.g. the integration of archaeology, history, geography and anthropology with genetics, stable isotope analysis and osteological research - to answer the following questions:
Were fallow deer domesticated?
Under what circumstances were fallow deer established across Europe?
Did the collapse of the Roman Empire cause extirpation of fallow deer?
Did the Normans reintroduce fallow deer via Islamic influence?
5) How do human-Dama relationships reveal worldview?
May 2011: Congratulations to Matt Horstwood for his contribution to the most cited article 2005 to 2010 in Chemical Geology:
Thomas F.D. Mason, Dominik J. Weiss, John B. Chapman, Jamie J. Wilkinson, Svetlana G. Tessalina, Baruch Spiro, Matthew S.A. Horstwood, John Spratt, Barry J. Coles. Zn and Cu isotopic variability in the Alexandrinka volcanic-hosted massive sulphide (VHMS) ore deposit, Urals, Russia Original Research Article. Chemical Geology, Volume 221, Issues 3-4, 5 October 2005, Pages 170-187.
The oxygen isotope composition of phosphate: a potential tool in UK freshwater studies?
High concentrations of phosphate are a primary cause of 'eutrophication' in water: an over-enrichment in nutrients leading to excessive growth of algae, which can be very damaging to the aquatic environment. Many rivers in the UK, and other parts of the world suffer from this problem because phosphate-rich waters from sewage works or from farming activities are pumped or drain into the rivers. Dealing with this problem involves knowing where the phosphate comes from, and understanding what happens to it when it gets into the river.
The project is headed by Tim Heaton (NIGL), with Daren Gooddy and Dan Lapworth (BGS), and Roland Bol and Steve Granger (Rothamsted Research).
The phosphate ion contains oxygen atoms which can be of different isotope types: oxygen of atomic mass 18 and oxygen of atomic mass 16 (both are naturally-occurring, non-radioactive isotopes). Preliminary studies have shown that the proportions of these two isotopes differ depending on where the phosphate came from (e.g. sewage compared with agricultural fertilizer), and that changes in the proportion of the two isotopes indicate the way in which the phosphate is being used in the water. However, this preliminary work has been mainly done in saline waters in estuaries and coastal areas, and we want to see if it might work in fresh water environments in the UK.
The plan is therefore two-fold:
to analyse the proportions of oxygen-18 and oxygen-16 in phosphate from a small number of sewage and agricultural effluents, to see if they differ. If they do, we may be able to use such measurements to determine where phosphate pollution is coming from
to see if the proportions of oxygen-18 and oxygen-16 in phosphate coming from a point-source (e.g. the outfall of a sewage works) change as the phosphate is carried downstream. If they do, we may be able to use such measurements to determine the phosphorus demand or 'limitation' of the system — an important factor in controlling eutrophication.
Quaternary Research Association Postgraduate Symposium
The annual Quaternary Research Association Postgraduate Symposium is being held this year at the University of Southampton from 28th-30th August 2013. There are keynote talks from Professor Melanie Leng (BGS/U of Leicester) who will discuss stable isotopes as palaeoenvironmental indicators and Professor Iain Stewart (U of Plymouth) will be talking about geoscience and the public. Both will discuss career paths and give an insight into a career in academia.