Meet the committee

The current Geochemistry Group committee are:

Officers

Chair: Dr Christopher Pearce. Senior Research Scientist, National Oceanography Centre, Southampton.

Secretary: Dr Marc-Alban Millet. Lecturer in isotope geochemistry, Cardiff University, Cardiff.

Treasurer: Dr Sam Hammond. Geochemistry project officer, The Open University, Milton Keynes.

Communications: Dr Wesley Fraser. Reader in physical geography, Oxford Brookes University, Oxford.

Ordinary members

Dr Susan Little, Imperial College, London.

Dr Christian März, University of Leeds.

Dr Andrea Burke, University of St. Andrews.

Prof. Craig Storey, University of Portsmouth.

Dr David van Acken, University College, Dublin.

Dr Nicola Potts, University of Edinburgh.

Dr Patricia Clay, University of Manchester.

Co-opted members

Dr Marie-Laure Bagard, University of Cambridge.

Dr Gordon Inglis, University of Bristol.

Post-graduate student representative

Ms. Rachael Shuttleworth, University of Southampton.

 

Goldschmidt 2018, Boston. 

by David van Acken.

The 28th Annual Goldschmidt Conference was held at the Hynes Conference Center in Boston, MA, from August 12th to 17th 2018, assembling around 3500 geochemists from all over the world. With the usual wide spread of topics from the origins of the solar system via biogeochemistry to the management of mining and nuclear waste, this year’s edition had a distinct tilt towards low-temperature geochemistry. Over five days, 16 parallel sessions, plus a joint poster and industry exhibition area allowed for scientific exchange. Plenaries covered topics of exploration of habitable planets, oxygen cycling in coastal waters, inclusivity and diversity, microbial life in planetary interiors and the evolution of Earth’s volatiles. Notably, the poster session on outreach and public education was running on all conference days, highlighting the commitment of the geochemistry community to reach a broader audience than just specialists in the respective fields. Workshops were organized around the conference schedule covering the same wide range of topics presented in the scientific program, and pre- and post-conference field trips allowed for exploration of the geology and marine life of New England.

All-focus

The science presented at the meeting was excellent, with many presentations by students showcasing their projects. Decade-old paradigms such as the Lunar Cataclysm were called into question, showing that the Goldschmidt conference is the prime outlet for new results and hypotheses in geochemistry.

The social events took full advantage of the diversity of the culture and academic landscape of Boston: in addition to the icebreaker and the society receptions, events were held and Fenway Park, home stadium of the Boston Red Sox baseball team, and the Harvard Mineralogical and Geological Museum. The banquet dinner took place in the ballroom of the conference centre.

The conference was a well-organized success, supported by many student helpers and the organization committee. Next year’s edition in Barcelona is eagerly anticipated!

2018 Geochemistry Group Postdoctoral Awards Announced

by Susan H. Little

Winning Geochemists!

For the third year in a row, the Geochemistry Group is thrilled to award two Postdoctoral Prizes, recognizing the outstanding work being carried out by UK-based early career researchers.

We are delighted to announce that the 2018 winners are:

Postdoctoral Medal: Alex J. McCoy-West

ECR Prominent Lecturer: Rosalie Tostevin

ECR Prominent Lecturer

Dr Tostevin is currently a Postdoctoral Research Assistant at the University of Oxford. Her research primarily focuses on the interactions between life and the environment on the early Earth.

She will be offering a choice of two talks on her fully funded (Agilent Technologies) UK-wide tour in 2018-19. Interested institutions are encouraged to contact the Geochemistry Group in the first instance.

The first talk will describe a radical new theory for the genesis of ancient sediments, which transforms our understanding of ocean chemistry and has implications for microbial evolution.

The second lecture will share five years of work tracking the distribution of oxygen in Neoproterozoic basins, and discusses the consequences for early animal life.

Rosalie follows in the footsteps of the successful tours of Dr David Wilson (2017-18) and Dr Kate Kiseeva (2016-17). We can’t wait!

The Geochemistry Group would like to thank Agilent Technologies for generously providing financial support for this award.

Postdoctoral Medal

This year, the Geochemistry Group Postdoctoral Medal was awarded to Dr McCoy-West for the following outstanding paper:

McCoy-West, A.J., Millet, M.A. and Burton, K.W., 2017. The neodymium stable isotope composition of the silicate Earth and chondrites. Earth and Planetary Science Letters, 480, pp.121-132. doi: 10.1016/j.epsl.2017.10.004

This paper presents the first accurate and precise measurement of Nd stable isotope compositions and uses a combination of a double-spike techniques and high-precision TIMS analyses. As such, it marks a significant breakthrough in measuring stable Nd isotopes.

As well as representing a major analytical advance, the paper addresses the problem of the non-chondritic neodymium (Nd) 142Nd/144Nd ratio of the silicate Earth, which has been attributed variously to collisional erosion, nucleosynthetic variations between solar system bodies, or segregation of sulphide to the core.

The data show that chondrites and the silicate Earth possess an indistinguishable Nd stable isotope composition, indicating that Earth’s excess 142Nd is best explained by a higher proportion of s-process Nd in the Earth.

Overall, this is a very impressive paper, both technically and scientifically. Congratulations Alex!

Finally, the Geochemistry Group committee would like to thank all the applicants/nominees for both Postdoctoral Awards. Both were extremely difficult decisions!

Deadline for the next round of applications: 15 January 2019

#GGRiP2018 starts with a Bang, a Pop, and a Dance…

by Wesley T Fraser

J_Rae_start

The Geochemistry Group annual Research in Progress meeting got off to a fantastic start with a sell-out public lecture delivered by Dr James Rae at the Byre Theatre on Monday evening.

James told us all about global climate change, with an explosive introduction to the burning of fossil fuels, a balloon-based demonstration of the influence of water on the thermal capacity of our planet, and a groovy energy dance to explain transfer of solar radiation to the Earth.

J_Rae_danceA thoroughly entertaining evening, with a truly interactive spirit, and informative to boot!

Dr James Rae is a Research Fellow at the University of St. Andrews. His research focuses on understanding past climate change, particular glacial-interglacial cycles, and the climate of the Cenozoic.

You can follow updates from this years conference using the Twitter hashtag #GGRiP2018 and follow James on @mudwaterclimate

ChAOS in the Arctic.

by Christian März

The NERC-funded project “The Changing Arctic Ocean Seafloor” (ChAOS) has been going for a year now, and it is one of the most exciting interdisciplinary projects I have ever been a part of! ChAOS will quantify the effect of changing sea ice cover on organic matter quality, benthic biodiversity, biological transformations of carbon and nutrient pools, and resulting ecosystem function at the Arctic Ocean seafloor. We will achieve this by determining the amount, source, and bioavailability of organic matter and associated nutrients exported to the Arctic seafloor; its consumption, transformation, and cycling through the benthic food chain; and its eventual burial or recycling back into the water column.

We will study these coupled biological and biogeochemical processes by combining

  • a detailed study of representative Arctic shelf sea habitats that intersect the ice edge, with
  • broad-scale in situ validation studies and shipboard experiments,
  • manipulative laboratory experiments that will identify causal relationships and mechanisms,
  • analyses of highly spatially and temporally resolved data obtained by the Canadian, Norwegian and German Arctic programmes to establish generality, and
  • we will integrate new understanding of controls and effects on biodiversity, biogeochemical pathways and nutrient cycles into modelling approaches to explore how changes in Arctic sea ice alter ecosystems at regional scales.

We will focus our research on the Barents Sea, a part of the Arctic Ocean where drastic changes in sea ice cover and water mass distribution are the main environmental control. Common fieldwork campaigns will form the core of our research activity. Our focal region is a N-S transect along 30 degree East in the Barents Sea where ice expansion and retreat are well known and safely accessible. In support of our field campaign, and informed by the analysis of field samples and data obtained by our international partners (in Norway, Canada, USA, Italy, Poland and Germany), we will conduct a range of well-constrained laboratory experiments, exposing incubated natural sediment to environmental conditions that are most likely to vary in response to the changing sea ice cover, and analysing the response of biology and biogeochemistry to these induced changes in present versus future environments (e.g., ocean acidification, warming). We will use existing complementary data sets provided by international project partners to achieve a wider spatial and temporal coverage of different parts of the Arctic Ocean.

The unique combination of expertise (microbiologists, geochemists, ecologists, modellers) and facilities across eight leading UK research institutions will allow us to make new links between the quantity and quality of exported OM as a food source for benthic ecosystems, the response of the biodiversity and ecosystem functioning across the full spectrum of benthic organisms, and the effects on the partitioning of carbon and nutrients between recycled and buried pools. To link the benthic sub-system to the Arctic Ocean as a whole, we will establish close links with complementary projects studying biogeochemical processes in the water column, benthic environment (and their interactions) and across the land-ocean transition. This will provide the combined data sets and process understanding, as well as novel, numerically efficient upscaling tools, required to develop predictive models that allow for a quantitative inclusion seafloor into environmental predictions of the changing Arctic Ocean.

More information can be found at https://www.changing-arctic-ocean.ac.uk/

‘Green Prince’ campaigns for ‘Blue Economy’

by Susan H. Little

The Grantham Institute Annual Lecture 2018

His Serene Highness Prince Albert II of Monaco

1 March 2018

In 2017, the BBC’s Blue Planet II plunged viewers to new, murky depths. Breaking hearts with stories of plastic waste and baby pilot whales, it swept to the National Television Awards Special Impact Award.

The Oceans, and human impact on them, were suddenly thrust to the centre stage of public consciousness.

Now it’s 2018, and this month the Grantham Institute for Climate Change and the Environment at Imperial College London, hosted His Serene Highness Prince Albert II of Monaco to deliver its 10th Annual Lecture.

Appropriately, the affectionately titled ‘Green Prince’ spoke about the Oceans. His focus? The threat of Climate Change, and a suggested new way forward: a sustainable ‘Blue Economy’.

After campaigning for over 25 years on environmental issues, including setting up his Foundation whose purpose is to protect the environment, Prince Albert II has certainly earned his nickname.

His Serene Highness also stands out as the only head of state to visit both poles. And, obviously a fan of cold climes, he competed in bobsleigh for Monaco in five successive Winter Olympics … so luckily wasn’t put off by the polar conditions that greeted him in London!

HSH Prince Albert began the lecture with a plea: now is the time for scientists, policy leaders, economic players and civil society to devote the time and effort needed to safeguard our oceans.

Why? Because the oceans are a key player in global climate, absorbing more than a quarter of anthropogenic (human-produced) CO2 and 93% of the excess heat caused by human activity.

The health of our oceans is suffering from the effects of climate change. The warming of the waters greatly endangers ecosystems and damages their biodiversity. Ocean acidification affects certain species… and the melting of glaciers increases sea level and damages the health of polar ecosystems.”

Yet it was only in 2015 at COP21 in Paris, 23 years after the Rio Earth Summit and 18 years on from the Kyoto Protocol, that the Oceans even made it ‘onto the negotiating table’ as a relevant player in global climate.

Three years on from Paris and great strides have been made, culminating in a new UN Special Envoy for the Oceans (Mr Peter Thompson of Fiji).

Nevertheless, HSH Prince Albert argued that much more must be done; and efforts are being held back as some states fail to act.

HSH Prince Albert attributed scientists (that includes Geochemists!) a central role in the effort to convince sceptics. It’s time to step up our efforts to provide the data that will direct future policy and investment decisions.

Like Blue Planet II, His Serene Highness highlighted plastic pollution as one area of growing public awareness, urging action, including an expansion of wastewater treatment. According to the UN, 52% of the world’s wastewater is currently left untreated.

Despite the challenges, HSH Prince Albert also highlighted the ocean of opportunities that awaits a civilisation that loves and respects the sea.

Like a ‘green economy’ has sprung up around renewable energy and sustainable development, so ‘blue growth’ is ripe to be invented.

This blue economy may include initiatives such as solar- or hydrogen- powered shipping, harnessing ocean-based renewable energy sources like the wind and waves, and promoting tourism and managed fishing in newly created Marine Protected Areas.

Sir Brian Hoskins, Chair of the Grantham Institute, said:

“Thanks to progressive international agreements informed by scientific evidence, and humanity’s sense to do the right thing, there is a new hope in the notion of the blue economy, the sustainable use of ocean resources for economic growth, improved livelihoods and jobs.”

Or, as His Serene Highness ended, with Winston Churchill:

“What is the use of living if it be not to strive for noble causes and to make this muddled world a better place for those who will live in it after we are gone?”

Meet the committee

The Geochemistry Group committee are:

Dr Jason Harvey (Chair): Lecturer, University of Leeds

Dr Christopher Pearce (Secretary): Senior Marine Geoscientist, National Oceanography Centre, Southampton

Dr Sam Hammond (Treasurer): Project Officer, The Open University

Dr Wes Fraser (Communications officer): Senior Lecturer, Oxford Brookes University

Ordinary members:

Dr Pallavi Anand: Lecturer, The Open University

Dr Christian März: Associate Professor, University of Leeds

Dr Andrea Burke: Senior Lecturer, University of St. Andrews

Prof. Craig Storey: Professor, University of Portsmouth

Dr David van Acken: Postdoctoral Researcher, iCRAG, University College Dublin

Dr Nicola Potts: Postdoctoral Researcher, University of Edinburgh

Dr Patricia Clay: Research Fellow, University of Manchester

Co-opted members:

Dr Marc-Alban Millet: Lecturer, Cardiff University

Dr Susan Little: Leverhulme Research Fellow, Imperial College London

Student Representative:

Rachael Shuttleworth: Research Student, University of Southampton